|So-called Celtic "ritual" spoons|
© Trustees of the British Museum
First, let us look at what is implied by the use of the word "ritual" in much archaeological writing. Many archaeologists condemn its usage explaining, and rightly so, that anything that cannot easily be interpreted can be described as "ritual" with no further explanation, a cop-out, in other words. Rituals are actions that are commonly observed or undertaken with little conscious knowledge of their history and significance, so saying "of probably ritual significance" can be widely accepted as-is. It takes an inquiring mind to then say "but what does this really mean? In matters of religious iconography, an extraverted thinking type would never even ask that question. Jung says of this type: "Irrational phenomena such as religious experiences, passions, and suchlike are often repressed to the point of complete unconsciousness" (General description of the types).
|Lituus on a Judean coin issued under|
photo: Classical Numismatic Group Inc.
"Immediately after midnight, or at the dawn of the day on which the official act was to take place, the augur, in the presence of the magistrate, selected an elevated spot with as wide a view as was obtainable. Taking his station here, he drew with his staff two straight lines cutting one another, the one from north to south, the other from east to west. Then to each of these straight lines he drew two parallel lines, thus forming a rectangular figure, which he consecrated according to a prescribed form of words. This space, as well as the space corresponding to it in the sky, was called a templum. At the point of intersection in the centre of the rectangle, was erected the tabernaculum. This was a square tent, with its entrance looking south. Here the augur sat down, asked the gods for a sign according to a prescribed formula, and waited for the answer." (Augures)You will note that the augur would make the familiar sign of the cross with the lituus staff and we must wonder about syncretism in its later Christian application. Also, remember that insular Celtic huts where this act might take place are circular while continental huts were rectangular. Insular rectangular structures not built by the earlier Belgae immigrants, such as at early Silchester were small shrines. We must also understand that the place within this cross where the templum was subsequently marked could be in any quadrant of that cross and perhaps there was a method to determine which quadrant it was drawn in.
The next question to ask is: "Did the Druids around the time of these spoons engage in augury?" Cicero says yes:
"Not even among barbarians is the practice of divination neglected since there are Druids in Gaul, one of whom I knew myself your guest and eulogist Diviciacus the Aeduan. He claimed to have knowledge of nature, which Greeks call 'physiologia' and he used to tell the future partly by means of augury and partly by conjecture." De Divinatione I, 90
image: Henri Moreau
The lituus is also shown on some Coriosolite coins as with the nose of the obverse head to the left, and possibly also with what are called the "whisks" around the head. The "leaf" attached to the curl in the whisks corresponds with some forms of the lituus shown in the Ambos and Krauskopf paper above. note also, the cross in front of the pony.
In front of the pony on the coin to the right, we see both a lituus spiral shape and the cross.
The name "lituus" was also adopted by the astronomer Roger Cotes (1682-1716) and it has strange similarities to what I have been discussing as the illustration below shows. I have no way of knowing how much of his naming decision and discovery was conscious and how much was due to its archetypal imagery.