Thursday, March 22, 2018

The Celtic God of Eloquence

In the satires of Lucian of Samosata, a Celtic man comments on a painting of Ogmios, a Celtic deity who looks like Heracles in his lion skin. He is depicted smiling and leading a smiling crowd with chains of the finest gold flowing from his tongue to their ears. It is explained that while Heracles conquers through strength, Ogmios wins through eloquence, which has the power to hold everyone in thrall.

Stranger, I will tell you the secret of the painting, for you seem very much troubled about it. We Celts do not consider the power of speech to be Hermes, as you Greeks do, but we represent it by means of Heracles, because he is much stronger than Hermes. So if this old man Heracles, the power of speech, draws men after him, tied to his tongue by their ears you have no reason to wonder, as you must be aware of the close connection between the ears and the tongue. ...In a word, we Celts are of opinion that Heracles himself performed everything by the power of words, as he was a wise fellow, and that most of his compulsion was effected by persuasion. His weapons ... are his utterances which are sharp and well aimed, swift to pierce the mind: and you too say that words have wings.

Albrecht Dürer depicted Ogmios with the caduceus and winged helmet and sandals of Hermes in psychopomp role, leading willing souls by chains of finest gold that stream from his tongue with his golden words. In lion skin or winged sandals, Ogmios is a god of eloquence I am ready to honor. His name first came to me in a dream. Though that name is largely forgotten, I find his spirit abroad, especially among those of us with Celtic ancestors, goading us to tell better stories and come up with fresh words.

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