>From: Alexis <[log in to unmask]>
>I have this article, and found it very interesting. But I am afraid that
>its title is a bit misleading : the Irish did not "baptized" the old gods,
>they just tried to find some explanations concerning their history.
Actually, I think that if you look at a wide range of evidence, you'll see
that the medieval Irish monks did not have a single way of dealing with the
old gods. Carey is right that sometimes they baptized them, quite literally,
as in the case of Li/ Ban, who is one of the old order but is found trapped
in her semi-fishy form, along with her lap-dog who, most appropriately, had
become an otter, literally, a water puppy (madra usice); after conversing
with a saint, she agrees to baptism and dies--goes to heaven--becomes *St.*
Li/ Ban, a member of the calendar. In other cases, gods are transformed into
saints by less obvious means--see O/ Ri/ain's studies of Lugh->Molua as an
example. Of course, there's Brigid, for whatever one wants to conclude about
that figure, there's a strong correlation between the cults of earlier
goddess figures and the legends that have come down to us about the saint.
Baptizing gods and making saints of them was not the only approach, as your
suggestion of the nephilim model indicates. But neither is the nephilim
model the only one used by the Irish monks. And I would suggest that they
used the nephilim model in the sense that it was regarded by other
medievals: as a story about the "neutral" angels. This is partly what's
behind the idea of the gods as angels shut out of heaven for being neutral
in the Great War. (Edmund Lenihane, the modern Irish folklorist, tells
stories of the gods being angels accidentally locked out, rather than being
deliberately evicted for not picking sides.) However, this is only one of
several other approaches used. Marina Smyth (_Understanding the Universe in
Seventh Century Ireland_) dug up a bit that *may* suggest that at least some
monastic thinkers considered that tales of people living at the "Antipodes"
(a notion about people living in a kind of parallel universe under the
earth) might explain the gods. Some outright demonized them. Robert Kirk
(the 17th c. Scottish cleric) suggested that the "fairies" were simply
another part of creation not well understood by humans--Cro Magnons to our
Neanderthals, perhaps, depending on whom you want to consider more advanced.
;>) While Kirk dates from long after the medieval Irish, one can find traces
of such attitudes in the medieval materials, too. And some simply denounced
notions of the gods as dreams and fantasies of fools--as you quoted earlier
in this thread (no one mentioned nephilim or neutral angels in those
I think the most important thing is to understand that there wasn't a single
notion of or approach to or treatment for what was--and remained--an
important issue because, by and large, the Irish monks were apparently
unwilling to simply deny the gods existed.
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