Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Irish Legends

Since today is a day when many thoughts turn to Ireland, here are a few interesting stories to consider. I personally will skip the green beer in favor of one of those wonderful microbrewed ales or a shot of Irish whiskey.

Ireland is considered to have been settled by successive waves of invasions of different people. Some say that the druids were more than simply the priests of the ancient pagan religion, but rather remnants of an earlier race of people who lived there before the Celts arrived.

Among the earlier races of people, there were some who were literally smaller, like the Picts of Scotland. one legend has it that the succeeding waves of invaders drove them underground, hence the beginning of the tales of the little people.

Often, we picture the progression of evolution of mankind to be orderly and linear, with people in each generation getting bigger and smarter than their ancestors. however, it is possible that different races co-existed for a time, such as the Cro-Magnon and the Neanderthals. Perhaps giants and little people were populations who intermingled and interacted. Today, we still have midgets, and there are also people who are over seven feet tall, although the vast majorityof us fall in between there.

Millennia ago, the tribe known as the Tuatha de Danaan, the children of the goddess Danu, were told that their future homeland was to be a beautiful isle top the west on the great ocean. These people named a might river that ran through their homeland after Danu, the river Danube, in what is now Germany. The isle to the west was Ireland. The final battle to determine rulership of Ireland was between the Tuatha and the Milesians, Celts who lived in what is now Spain.

One of the leaders of the Milesians was Amergin, said to have been the first poet of Ireland, and the beginning of the great legacy of Irish poets and storytellers. His poem, The Song of Amergin, was said to have broken the magical spell cast by the Tuatha and led to their successful landing and invasion of Ireland.

Amergin, Bard of the Milesians, lays claim to the Land of Ireland

I am a stag: of seven tines,
I am a flood: across a plain,
I am a wind: on a deep lake,
I am a tear: the Sun lets fall,
I am a hawk: above the cliff,
I am a thorn: beneath the nail,
I am a wonder: among flowers,
I am a wizard: who but I
Sets the cool head aflame with smoke?

I am a spear: that roars for blood,
I am a salmon: in a pool,
I am a lure: from paradise,
I am a hill: where poets walk,
I am a boar: ruthless and red,
I am a breaker: threatening doom,
I am a tide: that drags to death,
I am an infant: who but I
Peeps from the unhewn dolmen, arch?

I am the womb: of every holt,
I am the blaze: on every hill,
I am the queen: of every hive,
I am the shield: for every head,
I am the tomb: of every hope.

Song of Amergin translated by Robert Graves, from The White Goddess

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