History Hoydens


Historical Romance Writers Dishing the Dirt on Research

15 December 2006

Oh, Those Celts!

Did you know that the Nevada Burning Man festival derives from the ancient yearly Wicker Man ceremony in pagan Celtic lands?
While researching pagan rituals for The Norman’s Bride, my medieval set in 11th century England, I found more than I bargained for. Wicker Man was a giant wicker humanoid figure used by the ancient Druids for human sacrifice!

Apparently once each year, Druidic cultures built a figure out of flexible sticks, such as willow, and placed living men inside, then set the whole shebang afire to honor the gods. Generally thieves and criminals were used, but when no delinquents could be found, the Druids chose innocent men. (No mention is made of women.)

Today, a Wicker Man is still burned as part of neo-pagan ceremonies, particularly Beltane, which is a rite of spring. The Wickerman Festival in Kirkcudbrightshire, Scotland, is an annual rock and dance music event; the main feature is burning of a large wooden effigy on the last night. Also, a Wicker Man is burned each year at Butser Ancient Farm in Hampshire, England, as part of their pagan-themed ceremonies.

Source: Wikipedia
–Lynna Banning


Blogger Unknown said...

Regardless of origin, I LOVE Burning Man, I've been going for years and years and years (I have to do something on the cutting edge to offset all that research, LOL!).

If you have no idea what we’re talking about (and I just realized on a recent trip to New York that Burning Man is not universally familiar) check out Lenny Jones’s amazing 300+ page web comic of the 2005 event.

5:15 PM  
Blogger Kathrynn Dennis said...

Wow, Lynna. I had no idea the Burning Man ritual was based on Celtic ritual. Very interesting. What kind of 11th century text mentioned it? Did they have images?

8:24 PM  
Blogger Julia Templeton said...

VERY interesting! I'd love to attend one day.

10:34 PM  
Blogger Lynna Banning said...

Kathrynn, my main source for the Wicker Man description is Wikipedia, and its main reference is Julius Ceasar "Commentarii de Bello Gallico) Commentary on the Gallic Wars."

Apparently no written evidence beyond Ceasar's account, but Cicero, Suetonius, Lucan, Tacitus and Pliny the Elder also refer to human sacrifice among the Celts.

12:37 PM  

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