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OLD-IRISH-L  June 2002

OLD-IRISH-L June 2002

Subject:

Re: Druid - Magus

From:

Francine Nicholson <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

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

Date:

Sun, 16 Jun 2002 12:13:25 -0400

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (113 lines)

>From: Alexis <[log in to unmask]>

>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".

Alexis, please note: the medieval Irish monks called these beings *de/ithe*.
It translates today as "gods" and it translated then as "gods." It comes
from the Indo-European root for gods and is cognate with the words in all
the other IE languages for gods.

The Irish mionks also called the de/ithe other things, but they called them
de/ithe and they speculated endlessly, over hundreds of years, as to what it
meant for a being to be called de/ and yet not be equal to the Christian
"DE/." *Eventually,* people stopped calling them de/ithe, but the process
took hundreds of years. As late as the 12th c. they were still calling them
de/ithe.

During that process, the monastic scribes and writers repeatedly and
consistently demonstrate immense concern to convince the general public that
these figures did not deserve to be *treated* as gods--that means the
scribes were operating on the premise that the figures were once *treated*
as gods (whatever that once meant to the pre-Christian Irish--which is
another topic). To deal with that perception, the scribes offered
alternative explanations as to what the figures might be.

>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.

She was not considered something equivalent to the Christian "God"--and I
never said she was. And *all* converted "pagans" took new names. That's why
they called them "baptismal names." The practice of having one name for all
time came with baptising children (and even they might add names at
confirmation. "Baptizing the gods" involves transforming their image into
something other than a god. That's why they always die immediately after
being baptized: they lose their immortality. So I think your statement
supports John Carey's contention rather than contradicting it.

>This is an old paper, and not his best one for its conclusions (in my
>opinion).

Pádraig Ó Riain, “Traces of Lug in Early Irish Hagiographical Tradition.”
ZCP 36 (1978), 138-156. I don't think much of your discarding an argument
simply on the basis of its being "old"--and I myself am old enough to feel
that 25 years old is not very old! ;) But if ideas are simply to be
discarded on the basis of age, then I think your notion of the nephilim
should be tossed out since I think it was first suggested in the 19th c. or
earlier, iirc. ;)

>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.

Sometimes it can mean exactly that, if people do not name their children
after gods. Also, I think the name bit formed only part of the argument. I
think his point about the genealogies has merit: if people have a habit of
tracing their ancestry to ancestors who appear in myths as god-like figures
and those figures sometimes are saints with god-like names, and the sites
with which they are associated have ritual/cultic/folkloric associations
with certain festivals, then I agree with Professro O/ Ri/ain: something
more than coincidence is going on.

>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 !

It is indeed a problem, but it still remains that the saintly figure draws
on prior traditions. Some can be traced to other saints and those figures
can be traced to evidence that suggests local pre-Christian figures. It's
complex, and it cannot be simply tossed out as irrelevant to your point
becasue it is a "problem." Where's there's smoke, there often is fire.

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

I'm sorry--my comment about Cro Magnon and Neanderthal didn't translate very
well. I wasn't suggesting that ideas about evolution were involved. What I
meant was that Kirk was restating a long-held notion: that what he called
the "fairies" were another type of created being who, for some reason (and
he speculates on what those reasons might be) were not visible to most
people. This is very similar to what we find in a lot of medieval Irish
stuff, which is why I mentioned it.

>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.

You don't take so much trouble over debating the nature of something unless
you believe it exists. They believed that the figures existed. They just
weren't sure what they were. At first, most of the Irish monks apparently
believed that these beings were knowledgeable or strong enough to wield the
power of the forces of nature to the same degree that the gods of Rome and
Greece did. *They called these beings gods*--de/ithe--native and classical
alike. They also believed that all these gods were inferior to the Christian
GOD. They sought to prove that their GOD was better, more powerful, nicer,
more reliable--so they depict saints like Patrick (in this corner we have
Patrick appearing for GOD and Christ) squaring off against druids (and in
this corner we have Druid X for the Tu/atha De/ Danann) and the saint always
wins. They're trying to prove that their God is better, not that the other
gods didn't exist or that they weren't powerful. They keep trying on
different ideas about what these "gods" are and how they got to be so
powerful. There are many ideas, and *eventually* they call them something
other than de/ithe, but in the Old Irish period, they are still being called
de/ithe.

Francine Nicholson


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