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The Stations of the SunA History of the Ritual Year in Britain$
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Ronald Hutton

Print publication date: 1996

Print ISBN-13: 9780198205708

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198205708.001.0001

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(p.218) 22 Beltane
The Stations of the Sun

Ronald Hutton

Oxford University Press

In this chapter, two themes must be uncomfortably obvious. One is the almost total absence of concrete evidence concerning pre-Christian seasonal rituals in the British Isles. The other is that the overwhelming majority of material for a history of the calendar of British customs derives from the southern half of the island. When dealing with the major Celtic feast that opened the warmer half of the year, both those considerations are firmly negated. It is best known today by a variant of the Gaelic name for its main custom: out of about a dozen different spellings, the very influential scholar Sir James Frazer selected one Scottish example which, being itself an Anglicized version, was best for English readers. In popular literature in the English language it has thus, ever since, been ‘Beltane’. The earliest reference to it is probably in Sanas Chormaic, an early medieval glossary of Ireland attributed to the Munster churchman Cormac of Cashel.

Keywords:   rituals, British Isles, Britain, customs, James Frazer, Beltane, Sanas Chormaic, Ireland, Cormac of Cashel

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