Guide Celtic Religion in Pre-Christian Times

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In dealing with the subject of ‘Celtic Religion’ the first duty of the writer is to explain the sense in which the term ‘Celtic’ will be used in this work. It will be used in reference to those countries and districts which, in historic times.
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But Julian was not a loner: she was part of an often-forgotten British phenomenon of mediaval mystics.

Pre-Christian Celtic Culture & Religion | Synonym

In all cultures, mystics have been remarkable for their freedom of expression; in 14th Century England, mysticism gave voice to a section of mediaeval society that was effectively silenced by the Church - women. William Dalrymple finds out how it became the vehicle of self-expression for mediaeval English women, what use they made of it, and how their legacy still inspires people in their search for the divine today.

Reaching the 14th century, we begin the bumpy ride through the Reformation. It threatened the whole structure of the church both theologically and artistically. We've sanitised the Reformation. And so he changes the church, and then we go 'Ho, ho, ho - isn't that funny? Y'know the Church of England is founded on adultery,' which is to some degree true.

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What we forget is that what it unleashed over the next 30 years was the most Perhaps more than at any other moment in the country's religious history since Christianity arrived in these islands, the Reformation marked an irrevocable break with the past. In many ways, the modern age started here.

For although still far from the largely secular world of today, a process of detachment - even disenchantment - with traditional religion was set in train, whose results form the world in which we still live. William Dalrymple explores the effect the Reformation had on popular conceptions of the Divine, on our place in the world and in making us the people we are. He asks whether the Reformation is still central to our national identity, or whether its effects are now being finally unravelled. The execution of Charles I was one of the most traumatic episodes in English history, an act that was seen as religious by those who supported the Regicide as well as those who opposed it.

William Dalrymple visits the scene of the execution at London's Banqueting House.

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The director of English Heritage, Simon Thurley, explains how the concept of the divine right of kings, expressed in the building's painted ceiling, is shattered by Charles' death. Social and spiritual anarchy follows - the abolition of the Church of England makes way for a proliferation of bizarre religious sects and dissenting churches who see in the chaos the signs of the end of the world or the possibility of building the Kingdom of God on earth.

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We have arrived at the Civil War and a puritanical state under a Calvanist dictator - but despite the prevalent Christian fundamentalism it was the beginning of a new phase of pluralism. I think that it's that tradition Which is why when Judaism returned in the 17th century and when Islam first started coming here in the 18th century, and when Hinduism and Buddhism first arrived here in the 19th century — nobody batted an eyelid. One person in ten is killed in the Civil War, which leaves deep scars and provides a fertile soil for new religious groups springing up in the chaos of the mids.

The Restoration period brings with it a flourishing of the New Science. In this episode William Dalrymple gets to grips with one of the earliest pieces of experimental equipment - Robert Boyle's air pump - and learns about the theological controversy it caused.

While we tend to think of Newton and Boyle as the founders of modern science, they were also deeply religious men who saw their search for the natural laws of science as a spiritual quest. In pursuing their discoveries they were also asking some of the most profound questions of their age - about the existence of spirits and fairies, the meaning of the philosopher's stone, and about how God intervenes in the world. Throughout history and particularly at times of political and social upheaval, people have looked to a deliverer - or Messiah - to right the world's wrongs and inaugurate an era of peace and justice.

The violence and bloodshed of the French Revolution was interpreted by many observers on this side of the Channel as a sign that the new messianic age was at hand. In this programme William Dalrymple encounters two very different eighteenth century visionaries - the artist and poet William Blake and the Devonshire prophetess Joanna Southcott. Both drew on the apocalyptic image of the woman clothed with the sun and on the millennial longings of their age to articulate their vision for a new Jerusalem in England.

For William Blake, the Messiah is collective humanity, who - given the commitment and mental fight - can build Jerusalem in England's green and pleasant land. For Joanna, the Messiah is the long-awaited Shiloh to whom she will give birth, notwithstanding the fact that she is sixty four years old and a virgin. For many evangelical missionaries in the nineteenth century God was British, and the Empire provided a divine opportunity for them to convert its colonial subjects to Christianity. In this programme, William Dalrymple looks at how the evangelical campaign to win freedom for slaves led in turn to a campaign that seems rather more suspect to modern eyes - the mission to free the so-called "heathen natives" from the superstitious chains of their native religions.

The belief in this God-given mission is reflected in many of the most famous hymns of the era, sung to William by Noel Tredennick, organist at All Soul's church, Langham place - From Greenland's icy mountains , Thy kingdom come, oh God and God is working his purpose out as year succeeds to year. By the beginning of the 19th century, the impact of the two revolutions - one in France, one in industry - had turned Britain into a more modern, educated, technologically advanced, urban society where the old social, political and religious certainties were questioned.

After Catholic emancipation in and the influx of Irish Catholics into Britain after the Famine of the s, the nature of English Catholicism changes from a Patrician clique to a proletarian mass movement - so how does the Church adapt? A similar trend arises in the Jewish community when the comfortable lives of the Anglicised 'Brotherhood' of British Jews are thrown into disarray by an influx of poor, dispossessed Jews fleeing the pogroms of Eastern Europe.

The 20th century sees two World Wars, the dismantling of Empire and decolonisation - all of which impact on the religious landscape of Britain, ushering in an era of secularisation and a breakdown of traditional religious authority. But this era also brings larger communities of Muslims, Sikhs, Hindus and Black Christians from far-flung parts of the Empire to help with the post-war reconstruction of Britain. Today, our Sacred Nation incorporates a huge number of belief systems carrying on side by side in apparent harmony and is more like Roman Britain than at any other time in history.

Generations of Sunday school children have sung Mrs Alexander's famous hymn, "All things bright and beautiful.

One of the central questions for the Victorian period concerned the nature of humankind; are we material or spiritual beings? To the Victorians, who aspired to be angels, the idea that they had apes for ancestors was horrifyingly crude. In this programme William Dalrymple visits Oxford's natural history museum, scene of the notorious "monkey" debate between Bishop Samuel Wilberforce and Scientist Thomas Huxley.

And in London's Science Museum, historian Richard Noakes shows him the instruments developed by the Victorians to detect spirits. The folklorist Edward Lovatt crammed his house full of the amulets and charms he collected from Londoners in the early part of the twentieth century. Now housed in Southwark's Cuming museum, they reflect the diversity of folk beliefs and rituals which gave meaning to the lives of local traders.

The same people who wore charms to protect themselves against the evil eye would also marry in church and attend watchnight services without seeing any contradiction in these practices.

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Today, in spite of the supposedly secular age in which we live, people continue to select those beliefs and practices which nourish them spiritually. The standard story told of the twentieth century has been one of a gradual decline of religious faith and practice. Certainly there has been a dramatic drop in churchgoing. But all the surveys show that the majority of people still believe in God, and Britain has evolved into a multi-cultural and multi-faith society. Search term:. Read more. This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets CSS enabled.

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