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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:

Mon, 17 Jun 2002 11:54:09 +0200

Content-Type:

text/plain

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text/plain (75 lines)

> De : Dennis King <[log in to unmask]>
> Objet : Re: Druid - Magus
>>> To what extent was
>>> transmigration/reincarnation a legitamate theological argument
>>> within Christianity at that time, say, around the 7th century?
> Francine:
>> ... what looks like transmigration may be shape-shifting the way
>> the sidhe often do in the tales.
> Alexis:
>> I don't think that the Christian writer of these texts would have
>> understood it as tales of transmigration/reincarnation, but only
>> successive transformations.
> I see what you're both saying.  I suppose that even in the cases
> of Tuán mac Cairill and of Étaín, who were physically reborn as
> squalling infants, it is possible to read the event as shape-shifting,
> since an earlier physical form was ingested and transformed.  Each
> of them in fact gets swallowed: the first as a salmon (having been
> cooked first), the second as a fly (having fallen into a mug of
> buttermilk).  Each then grows in the womb of the women who swallowed
> them, and each is born in the usual way.  The Tuán-salmon at least
> was (arguably) visibly dead at one stage in the process, while the
> Étaín-fly may not have actually drowned in the buttermilk.  Can you
> reincarnate if you don't die first? ;-)

I am not sure that conception by ingestion could be considered as
reincarnation or transmigration. For example, many saints are conceived by
ingestion of ink, sperm, stars... Would that mean that they were
reincarnated ? The provenance of the soul, and at what time it went in the
body was always a problem a subject to debate for the Christians. These
exceptionnal birth (or rebirth) concerns only exceptionnal being, it is a
mark of the exceptionnality. Always playing with Chriatians dogmas, Rabelais
made Pantagruel being conceived by the left ear of Gargamel (a bit like
Christ), not to talk of his noisy and smelly birth !
 
> Carey is fairly clear that he interprets stories such as these as
> reincarnation.  In the tale of the mysterious youth who converses
> with Colum Cille, the young man describes Lough Foyle of long ago,
> when he frequented it as a stag, a wolf, a seal, a salmon, and a
> man, and says:
> 
> Ro gabus fo thríb seólaib: seól    I have landed there under three
> mbuide beres, seól nglas bádas,    sails: the yellow sail which
> seól nderg foa combretha feóili.   bears, the green sail which drowns,
> the red sail under which flesh was
> conceived.
> (Carey's edition and translation)
> 
> Carey says of this that "Columba has, in fact, elicited from him
> an account of transmigration; and when the youth speaks of having
> travelled in a ship with three sails -- the yellow sail of birth,
> the green sail of death, and the red sail of a new body's conception
> -- we may hear echoes of symbolic language once used by the druids
> in speaking of the journeys of the soul."
> 
> The writers who created these tales may have claimed, and believed,
> that they were merely poetic flights of fantasy, but at the same
> time they and everyone else in that time and tradition was quite
> used to expecting hidden meanings and esoteric interpretations --
> our recent work with I2T has certainly sensitized me to that --
> so I would expect that some of those guys must have wondered "Hey,
> could I die and be reborn on earth?  As a seal?  As a salmon?  As
> Mrs. Macintosh's next filthy brat?"

As far as I know, esoterism (in a strict sense of something being reserved
only for a small part of initiated people) is not part of any Christian
doctrine. But an allegoric or mystic way of understanding the episode could
be that whatever transformation affects you, the soul is always one and the
same. I don't think that the way Carey is interpreting this poem is the way
in which it was written. By the way, we have many stories about travelling
souls, but I am not sure that they can be interpreted as tales of
transmigration, or shamanic practices...

Amicalement ;-)
Alexis.

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