>From: Domhnall Ó Bia <[log in to unmask]>
>I know I'm nit picking here but the nom. sg. should be "día" in Old Irish
>"dia" in Modern Irish. The nom pl in Old Irish was "dé" in Old Irish and
>Modern "déithe". (orthographica variation aside)
You're right--thank you for pointing that out.
>I don't believe that Francine is claiming they were still worshipped or
>that she is suggesting that the Irish of the Old Irish period believed they
>were gods in the upper case "g" sense of the word. But that they used the
>word día/dé (dia/déithe) to describe at least some of them cannot be
>denied. Am I off base, Francine?
Slightly off-base. Also, it partly depends on how you define terms. Is
polytheism "worshipping" gods (plural) or believing that they exist? What
I'm suggesting is that for many people, they didn't much worry over the
nature of God vs. gods--they worried over making sure that their prayers
were answered when their best milch cow was ill or their child was dying or
they were in pain from some malady. For example, the charms they used to
bring relief or healing sometimes invoked both God/the Trinity *and* Dian
Cecht. What the average person worried about was whether it *worked.* Did
that constitute "worship"? If it did, then at least some medieval Irish
Christians were not monotheists. But I'd suggest that it wasn't that simple.
I think they invoked "God and Dian Cecht" in the same way that they invoked
"God and St. Patrick" without thinking of it as polytheism--just as asking
for any help that might be available. However, if you define polytheism as
believing that the TDD existed, then the Irish were and--some still
are--polytheists. And one might point out that polytheistic systems
frequently think of greater and lesser gods (to use Roman terms), so belief
in God as the most powerful plus the TDD as lesser beings would be
consistent with that approach. And if one defins things from a functional
viewpoint, saints pretty much fill the same *functional* role that gods do
in some systems.
One might mention in this context a story told by Gregory of Tour--though
it's not Irish. A bishop was upset because each year his people had a huge
festival associated with a place called Mons Helarion at which they made
offerings to seek favors. So the bishop set up a chapel conscrated with the
relics of St. *Hilary* of Poitiers and he promised the people that if they
made their offerings to St. Hilary, their prayers would be answered.
According to Gregory, the substitution was successful, the bishop was happy,
the people were happy.
As far as the Irish monks (as opposed to the rank-and-file laity) were
concerned, I think they distinguished between God and gods, and I think the
biggest distinction they made was that "God" was more powerful--the "Master
of the Elements" was and is a popular title used for the Christian God.
Alongside this, I think there was an ongoing debate that lasted for hundreds
of years as to what the "gods" were. And I think there were also debates as
to what made someone a "true" Christian, whether it was who you called on
when you were ill or when you celebrated Easter.
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