These are posts about Celtic myth. Much of what we know about early Celtic myth is derived from monastic scribes writing in Medieval Irish and Medieval Welsh. We also have earlier fragments of curse tablets and iconographic data from metal and stone objects, which often contain names of deities mentioned in the medieval texts. We have many more Irish and Welsh medieval texts than we have Breton, Cornish, or Manx texts, and Irish manuscripts outnumber those of any other Celtic language. While the monks who preserved Medieval Irish and Welsh mythological texts were Christian, they clearly also valued the Celtic myths of their pagan past. The best known Welsh myths are collectively referred to as the Mabinogion, and the four central mythic texts as the Mabinogi . We also have references to myths in the Welsh triads. The Irish contributions to Celtic Myth are the epic Táin Bó Cúailnge, a large group of tales associated with the Táin, and many tales that aren’t directly tied to the Táin but are clearly mythological in nature.
Bridget Cleary: Fairy Intrusion in Nineteenth Century Ireland
Are you a witch? Are you a fairy? Are you the wife Of Michael Cleary? —Children’s rhyme from Southern Tipperary, Ireland I promised in my first post on fairies as other to look at a fairy intrusion in nineteenth century Ireland, specifically, the fairy burning of Bridget Cleary. In March of 1895 Bridget Boland Cleary (Bríd Ní Chléirig) was a trained seamstress, with a good eye for fashion, who owned her own Singer sewing machine. She lived with her husband Michael Cleary and her father Patrick Boland in a small cottage in Ballyvadlea, Tipperary, Ireland. Michael, like his wife, was atypical in that he could read and write; he worked…
Medieval Fairies as Other
MacAllister Stone has been posting a series about the roles of the other in spec fic. I wanted to pick up on two observations MacAllister makes that particularly intrigued me because they deal with the role of fairies as the øther in medieval literature. It’s something I’ve been thinking about quite a lot. First, MacAllister Stone defines Other as a term to describe the phenomenon of the outsider, particularly in fiction, who represents some kind of threat to the community—but often, also serves as the agent for the community’s salvation/redemption. The best example of medieval fairy Other I know of is the c. 1400 Middle English anonymous poem Sir Gawain…
JKW on Culwch ac Olwen
Jeffry Jerome Cohen, medievalist and blogger at In the Middle, is on vacation, so guest blogger JKW who usually blogs at Pistols in the Pulpit is filling in. JKW says of himself: My dissertation, which I’m beginning this summer, is about political language, specifically the language of kingship, in England and Wales in the age of Chaucer. Thus far he’s blogged about Culwch ac Olwen and the implications of the “oldest animals” here.
The Perfect Corpse: Nova on Bog Bodies
Yes, it’s tonight, and no, I hadn’t heard about it before. But PBS’s science show Nova is airing a documentary on bog bodies, featuring Tollund man, described on the program’s web site as “the most famous bog body of all” (he isn’t). The Nova shows usually repeat so I expect there will be other opportunities.
At this time of year there are always a lot of web pages and blog entries about Halloween, the night before All Saints day, and its origins in the Celtic feast of Samain. A number of them are daft, and many are just plain idiotic. I thought I’d make use of one of the bits I’m cutting from the . . . thing, and call it a blog post. In 609 Pope Boniface IV designated November 1 All Saints’ Day, or in Middle English Alholowmesse. The night before, October. 31 was thus All-Hallows Eve, or Halloween. In A.D. 1000, the church made November 2 All Souls’ Day, a day to…
Matthews’ Song of Taliesin
The Green Man Review has published my review of John Matthews The Song of Taliesin: Tales from King Arthur’s Bard here. It’s hardly the worst Celtic book I’ve ever read, but I’m not wildly enthused about it. In fact reviewing two Neo Pagan books about Taliesin has inspired a bit of a rant about Neo Pagan Scholarship masquerading as an FAQ.
My review of John Matthews Taliesin: The Last Celtic Shaman is up at The Green Man Review. I’m not overly impressed with Matthews’ Taliesin as a scholarly work. I do think a case can be made for Celtic poets engaging in and writing about shamanic behaviors, and I’ve written about some of the standard scholarly sources regarding Taliesin here.
A Circle of Stones
According to AP, by way of Yahoo, Professor Judith S. Young, Department of Astronomy, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, has built a sun circle, a celestial computer along the lines of Stonehenge, or Avebury. I’ve taken pains to point out elsewhere that Stonehenge, like Avebury, or the passage tomb at Brugh Na Boine (that’s Newgrange, Ireland to you), wasn’t built by the Celts (its earliest stage predates their arrival in Britain by over a thousand years) but Stonehenge and other megalithic monuments are too deeply entrenched with things druidic and Celtic in the popular imagination to ever be disassociated. Stonehenge looms large in our imaginations—even though Averbury—the largest such circle in…