Monday, 1 August 2016

St Andrews Church, Clevedon

At the end of a warm but blustery day trip to Clevedon, I discovered St Andrews Church. On a notice board showing points of interest, was a mention of its amazing stone carvings.....So before the trip home I called by to see them.

St Andrews is thought to have Saxon origins and has been extended throughout the years, but both the outside and inside still have interesting Celtic stone carvings depicting two headed men, animals and birds.

Each carving may have had significant meanings which have been lost throughout the centuries, but some are still recognized. The Raven frequently appears in Celtic mythology. Bran Fendigaidd (Blessed Raven) is written about in the Welsh Triads, These are set of medieval manuscripts that include Welsh folklore. In Ireland their mythology tells of a war goddess called Badb, who takes on the feature of a raven when she creates havoc and terror amongst Queen Medb of Connuaghts army during the battles against Cu Chulainn and Ulster. In Cornwall , King Arthur is thought to have changed into a Chough in his last battle, and in Norse mythology Odin was known as the Raven God. The yearly Viking festival of Up-Helley-Aa in the Shetland Islands of Scotland still uses the image of a raven.

Above is the two headed man. These are sometimes seen as a figure with two heads, one male and one female. Originally there was the Phoenician two headed god El, then the two headed god Janus in Rome but Celtic gods often have three heads.  One Celtic story tells of Dian Cecht ,the god of healing and medicine, a god held highly by Druids. Weirdly, in his story, he was so jealous of his son Miach, because he had better healing powers than himself, that he killed his son by slicing his head in two. 
365 herbs grew in the ground above his grave all with healing and medicinal powers. The two headed man could have been any of these, including good and evil, or any opposites.
Sheela na gig
Sheela ni gig's are carvings of naked females holding their vagina open and may be symbols of fertility, life and birth. The true meaning has been lost and many have been disfigured or thrown away because people thought they were too rude. In some parts of Ireland they were linked with the wise women, healers and midwives.

Wheel of Life or Celtic cross

The Celtic cross, is a symbol of the Celtic Christian Church, and was originally the emblem of the sun god Taranis. The animal above it could be a boar, dog or horse,....I'm not quite sure. The dog was a symbol of loyalty and good luck. The Boar was the companion of Diana the Celtic goddess, and the horse was linked to quite a few war goddesses.

Moustaches are a sign of Celtic man but the carving above looks more like a cat. Cats were guardians of the underworld or otherworld.  Teutates the father-god often appears as a bearded horse.....just to confuse matters......They are all wonderful, but I'm not knowledgeable enough to know what their true meanings are...I just enjoy the craftmanship and artistry.

The church is also known for featuring in Broadchurch. an English TV series. My next church must be Kilpeck in Herefordshire. The carvings look amazing.

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