> De : Francine Nicholson <[log in to unmask]>
> Objet : Re: Druid - Magus
>> From: Alexis <[log in to unmask]>
>> Then, I suppose that it shows that the Irish were not so conservative (and
>> proud of their pagan past) : they regarded their pagan priests as their
>> colleagues on the continent, magus. I do agree with this non-nativist (and
>> non-nationalist I must add !) view of the Irish (Christian) literati.
> I could be wrong, Alexis, but my impression is that the scholarly opinion
> has always been that the Christian prists considered all pagan
> practitioners, native or not, to be the competition and, in many cases, the
> agents of diabolic forces in the same way that Simon Magus is depicted in
> Christian literature (especially the apocrypha). I don't think this idea was
> introduced by the nativist/non-natvisit controversy. The difference of
> opinion over the years has concerned the degree to which "magus" referred to
> all pagan priests and ritual practitioners or only certain categories.
That's right. But I was doing reference to the fact that many people, and
among them some scholars not so long ago, thought that Irish (Celtic ?)
Christianity was drawing a lot from the druids and their beliefs : if soem
thing seemed a little bizarre, it was often supposed that it was because it
originated in pagan practices. They were just forgetting that for the Irish
clerics, paganism was evil (even if sometimes, some pagan characters could
have been inspired by God) and so what we think we know from this paganism
was distorted by their prejudices. Plus, I would add that acculturation is
also a creative process, during which everything new in Irish Christianity
is not to be understood as a survival (in a culture, nothing survive,
everything is living and meaningful).
> I'm not sure that equating druids with magi has anything to do with being
> "proud of their pagan past" or not proud. My sense is that the attitude of
> the medieval Irish "literati" was far more complex than you're presenting
Of course, the one who thinks that he can summarize the attitude of anyone
in one sentence is nothing but a fool.
> For one thing, not all the "literati" were clerics, so not all had the
> same need to separate themselves from "pagan" associations.
But all of them were Christians, educated in religious schools it seems.
Even the filid show a good knowledge of the Christian dogmas and books.
> But even if one
> considers only the clerics, I think the two colophons you quoted in an
> earlier post are good indications of the extremes of opinion that could
> exist within the clerical communities, and I doubt that it's accurate to
> classify all literati as one thing or the other. I think the lines between
> acceptable and unacceptable were constantly being drawn and redrawn.
Right, this is called history : nothing is static, but evolves ; even the
apparently more static things are changing and subject to negociation and
competition. For example, the canon of the Bible was more or less definitly
posed only in the 16th century, but there are still some discussions about
it, and some differences among the Churches.
> Do you
> recall Alcuin's letter complaining about the Irish monks who listened to
> harpers singing tales of "pagan" heroes during their meals when he thought
> they should be listening to the stories of saints being read? I think that
> even within a single story, any cleric might find elements both acceptable
> and objectionable to his personal criteria or those of his community. From
> what I've seen of marginalia, Irish and Irish-trained monks frequently--and
> passionately--disagreed about the details of stories, the etymologies of
> words, the origins of names, and to what degree demons were involved in the
> supernatural events described in mythological tales. The colophons you
> quoted are just a tip of the iceberg of the ongoing--and sometimes
There are some interesting views about that in POPPE, Erich, ³Reconstructing
Medieval Irish literary theory : the lesson of Airec Menman Uraird maic
Coise, in CMCS, 1999, n°37, pp33-54 ; and in TONER, Gregory, ³The Ulster
Cycle : historiography or fiction ?², in CMCS, 2000, n°40, pp1-20.