Thursday, April 21, 2005



Moccus (2004)

From Jones' Celtic Encyclopedia:

Moccus, AKA Mercury Moccus, M. the Boar: Continental god; his name means "boar" or "pig." The pig was a divine animal in Celtic myth, said to have come from the Otherworld, usually as a gift of the Lord of the Otherworld to a particularly good king. The boar hunt is as much a part of Celtic myth as the cattle raid; Arthur and Fionn in particular have early myths associated with this sport. In other places, such as the Mabinogion, there is no mention of Druids, yet "swineherds" are held up as advisors to the kings--again, this could be indicative of the divine place of the pig in Celtic myth.

A god Moccus, "swine," was also identified with Mercury, and the swine was a frequent representative of the corn-spirit or of vegetation divinities in Europe. The flesh of the animal was often mixed with the seed corn or buried in the fields to promote fertility. The swine had been a sacred animal among the Celts, but had apparently become an anthropomorphic god of fertility, Moccus, assimilated to Mercury, perhaps because the Greek Hermes caused fertility in flocks and herds. Such a god was one of a class whose importance was great among the Celts as an agricultural people.


A cult of a swine-god Moccus has been referred to. The boar was a divine symbol on standards, coins, and altars, and many bronze images of the animal have been found. These were temple treasures, and in one case the boar is three-horned. But it was becoming the symbol of a goddess, as is seen by the altars on which it accompanies a goddess, perhaps of fertility, and by a bronze image of a goddess seated on a boar. The altars occur in Britain, of which the animal may be the emblem--the "Caledonian monster" of Claudian's poem. The Galatian Celts abstained from eating the swine, and there has always been a prejudice against its flesh in the Highlands. This has a totemic appearance. But the swine is esteemed in Ireland, and in the texts monstrous swine are the staple article of famous feasts. These may have been legendary forms of old swine-gods, the feasts recalling sacrificial feasts on their flesh. Magic swine were also the immortal food of the gods. But the boar was tabu to certain persons, e.g. Diarmaid, though whether this is the attenuated memory of a clan totem restriction is uncertain. In Welsh story the swine comes from Elysium--a myth explaining the origin of its domestication, while domestication certainly implies an earlier cult of the animal. When animals come to be domesticated, the old cult restrictions, e.g. against eating them, usually pass away. For this reason, perhaps,the Gauls, who worshipped an anthropomorphic swine-god, trafficked in the animal and may have eaten it. Welsh story also tells of the magic boar, the Twrch Trwyth, hunted by Arthur, possibly a folk-tale reminiscence of a boar divinity. Place-names also point to a cult of the swine, and a recollection of its divinity may underlie the numerous Irish tales of magical swine. The magic swine which issued from the cave of Cruachan and destroyed the young crops are suggestive of the theriomorphic corn-spirit in its occasional destructive aspect. Bones of the swine, sometimes cremated, have been found in Celtic graves in Britain and at Hallstadt, and in one case the animal was buried alone in a tumulus at Hallstadt, just as sacred animals were buried in Egypt, Greece, and elsewhere. When the animal was buried with the dead, it may have been as a sacrifice to the ghost or to the god of the underworld.

The image is deliberately filled with earth tones and was meant as a collage of the various physical and spiritual manifestations of Moccus: the fury of the hunt, the emblematic fertility symbol, the crop fertilizer, the afterlife preservative, the ghost guide.

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