Originally Published July 2014.

Celtic “Suttee”?

The practice of suttee or “Sati” in Sanskirt is the term used for the Hindu ritual where a wife would either sacrifice herself on the pyre of her dead husband, or kill herself in some other fashion soon after his death. Although it was never as widely practiced as some claim, it was an “ideal” of certain Brahman and royal caste Hindus. Mentions of the practice date back as far as the first century B.C. through a Greek writer. Herodotus (c. 484 to 425 B.C.) mentions a similar practice among the Indo-European Thracian tribes where the most honored wife had her throat slit before being buried with her husband.

There also have been some academics who have suggested that a form of “suttee” may have also practiced among the Celtic tribes. There are a number of double and multiple burials known from Celtic sites across Europe. Some of them seem to be mass graves related to battles, or war and should be excluded from the idea, but some of the other graves may bear examination.

At Velka Mana, in Slovakia, a double burial was excavated which included both female and masculine clothing and jewelry suggesting a man and woman buried together. Other double burials were found in the area, but the evidence showed that the bodies were not buried at the same time. The woman was buried at a slightly higher level than the male who had been first buried at the bottom of the grave.

Other locations of multiple Celtic grave sites in Slovenia and Hungary have been examined, but relatively few are double graves, and of those that contain evidence more than one body, they sometimes include adults with children, or in one case two women. So the evidence to-date seems to point more toward family members who perhaps died at the same time, possibly of natural causes such as disease, and were therefore buried together, or spouses would were eventually laid to rest in their husband’s grave at a later date, rather than the ritual suicide, or murder of the wife.

Brooches & Kilts
Swords in the Devil’s Hand: The Myth and the Evidence

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