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OLD-IRISH-L  June 2002

OLD-IRISH-L June 2002

Subject:

Re: Druid - Magus

From:

Alexis <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Scholars and students of Old Irish <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Sun, 16 Jun 2002 08:02:01 +0200

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (91 lines)

> De : Francine Nicholson <[log in to unmask]>
> Objet : Re: Druid - Magus
>> 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.

Right, they used all the way they could and created some new in order to
deal with their history. It is just that I don't think that they perceived
these characters as being "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.

Right again, but at the time the story was written she was not considered
anymore as a goddess (if she was ever). Therefore, she could be baptized and
become a true Christian. She even took a new name in order to show this
profound transformation : Muirgein.

> In other cases, gods are transformed into
> saints by less obvious means--see O/ Ri/ain's studies of Lugh->Molua as an
> example.

This is an old paper, and not his best one for its conclusions (in my
opinion). If my memory is good (???), his arguments relies essentially on
genealogies and the fact that Molua is a hypocoristic form of Lugh. Having
the same name as a god does not make you the tranformation of a god.

> 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.

Brigid is a "cas d'école" concerning how a saint is constantly suspected of
being the successor of a god. Everything we think we know about the goddess
comes from the saint (or eventually from other goddesses) : this is a
problem !
 
> Baptizing gods and making saints of them was not the only approach, as your
> suggestion of the nephilim model indicates.

Sorry, I did not intend to be so affirmative.

> 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.

Thanks, I will go and check this reference.

> 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.

I am less convinced by that, human evolution was unknown at that time.

> 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
> colophons, BTW).
> 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.

I agree with the multiple approach, but not with the fact that "the Irish
monks were apparently unwilling to simply deny the gods existed". In all
cases, they were denying them the status of gods.

Friendly,
Alexis.

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