Tuesday, July 3, 2018

OMG: Celtic Mythos, Part 1

Brigid. Imbolc by TerraIncantata
Welcome back to another edition of "One Man's God".  Today I want to cover something very near and dear to my heart; the Celtic Myths.

The Celtic Mythos from the Deities & Demigods is an interesting combination Irish and Welsh gods.  Truthfully, this is no big deal. There was a lot cross-pollination between Irish, Scots, Welsh and Manx cultures.  Even the first page of this section features an Irish god, The Dagda, and a Welsh one, Arawn.

While I could go on (and on) about the Celtic gods, the point of this series is talk about demonized gods.

We do know that when the Christian monks settled in Ireland and Wales they did a fantastic job of saving these old oral traditions.  Not only did they take them down, but they were immortalized in such remarkable in their own right texts such as The Book of Kells.  Maybe because of the literacy of these monks and their obvious love for their country and these stories we do not see the demonization of these gods the same way as we do in other cultures.
Instead of becoming demons these gods often became faeries or other creatures of fey.

Not to say there are not monsters!  I am beginning to think that Ireland is the home to more types of Undead than anyplace I have ever seen.  I might follow up with that.   But let's talk about the gods and heroes in the book now.

Irish Ways and Irish Laws

The section on the Celtic Gods is smaller than some of the other gods here.  This is not a big surprise.  There have been some fairly major changes to how scholars see the Gaelic world since 1988 and on to today.

In Irish myth, we learn that Ireland was invaded many times.   Some of these invaders are viewed as gods, or at least some of their offspring are.  We can read this in the Lebor Gabála Érenn, or "the book of the taking of Ireland". There are four major groups (there are others, but these groups also connect to the Mythological Cycle of Ireland), the Fomorians, the Fir-Bolg, the Tuatha Dé Danann and the Milesians.
Of these, the Formor and Fir-Bolg are at least quasi-divine.  The Tuatha Dé Danann are seen as gods, but mortal gods and the Milesians are human.

Most gods, namely the ones associated the most with the Tuatha Dé Danann,  diminished in power with the coming of the Milesians.  They become the sídhe or the fairy folk living under the mounds.
We have to assume that the Milesians are there since Cú Chulainn is listed as a hero and that puts us in the Ulster Cycle of Myths (the one after the Mythological Cycle).

Of course, some gods are still gods.  The Morrigan, for example, is a goddess and features prominently in the Ulster cycle.

Other gods went in the opposite direction.  The goddess Brigit (Brigid, Bri, Bride, among others) was not later demonized. Quite the opposite. She would later become Saint Brigid.

What About the Fomorians?

If there was a case for a demon in Irish myth it belongs to the Fomorians.  Giant, supernatural, ugly and representing the destructive side of nature, their king is even named Balor.
To me though the Fomor were always closer in nature to the Greek Titans.  Yes they are evil, but Brigit is the daughter of a Fomorian king.  There are many blood ties between the Fomor and the Tuatha as well.  This makes their relationship more like Tolkien's Orcs and Elves.




Next time, no demons?  No problem! The celts have enough troubles with the undead!

No comments:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...