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CELTIC-L  August 2010

CELTIC-L August 2010

Subject:

Re: Green Martin

From:

"[log in to unmask]" <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

CELTIC-L - The Celtic Culture List.

Date:

Sun, 8 Aug 2010 15:06:40 GMT

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (138 lines)

Hi John and Bernard,

My apologies for waiting so long to reply to Bernard, but I have a few minutes and just read John's posting.  Bernard, where I think you are having trouble is in how to use folklore as a source.  No one is saying for you to toss your books, but rather to rethink how you are using them and what they are telling you.  

Take MacNeill's book for instance.  A wonderful work, but written in the early 20th century from her collection of folklore.  What can be said about this collection?  I would argue that you can safely say that it reflects the oral tradition going back to the grandfathers of the elderly at the time she collected the material.  Maybe back one or two more generations, but beyond that you enter into a period where you would need some documentation.  Why?  Because stories come and go, additions and subtractions are made.  What was a current event at some time in the past becomes embellished by the teller, perhaps modifying things to please the audience at hand.  

One of the reasons such great weight is placed on the written sources of the Middle Ages is because (a) when the stories are set down in writing, it ossifies them at that time point and (b) there was a professional set of bards who took an active interest in transmitting the stories from generation to generation.  By the time you get the 18th or 19th centuries, the bardic tradition was dead and the few were interested in Gaelic stories or the rural stories of the countryside in English.  This only picks back up towards the very end of the 19th and into the 20th century.

Thus, what you can learn from the folklore is the rural culture of Ireland during this period--something of no little importance, given the oppressive atmosphere of English domination.  What you ought not do is to try to use this material to leap back to the early periods of Irish history and hope to somehow find pre-Christian religious motifs.  Understandably, the latter is often seen as more exciting, though, IMHO, the former is more important to Ireland and the diaspora today.

The second problem with what you have been posting is your willingness to jump around from culture to culture.  Cultures, while they may borrow and have similarities, develop their own language/history/traditions within the context of their individual situations.  For example, you reference a Danish tradition.  Denmark is nothing like Ireland, other than being surrounded by water.  It's farming system was different, it's political and historical lines of development were different and its cultural influences (from Scandinavia, the Baltic lands and Germany) would have been different.   It's just simply not good form to parachute into Denmark in the 17th century and hope to make some kind of connection to Ireland.   This is even more true of say, Syrian connections you made recently from Frazer's Golden Bough.  

Finally, we come to the issue of Martinmass.  St. Martin of Tours was a real person and someone who was very popular throughout Europe.  This is probably due to his tie-n to Rome, his being a soldier, his giving away of his cloak to the poor, etc.  He provided a good example to Christians everywhere of how to act charitably and, as he was a soldier, provided fodder for missionaries.  His feast day is based on a reliable textual account of his death.  His death, however, happens to fall at the very time of the calendar when the fattened animals are slaughtered in most of Europe for the winter months.  Thus, the eve of his feast day became a day of celebration and the period after his feast day one of remembrance, fasting and piety (this eventually gets turned into Advent on the liturgical calendar).  Given the convergence of the Martinmass ecclesiastical traditions and the culture of the harvest/preparations for winter, it's no surprise that traditions and lore would grow up around that day/period, particularly for cultures with more pastoral farming practices.  Also, Martin being widely known, he is bound to pop up in a number of places/references that have little to do with his historical reality (see the stories surrounding Charlemagne or Arthur or St. George).  

So, the point of all of this is to say that you have to take each tradition within its own context, with the understanding that Martin's cult was widespread, as opposed to trying to find some sort of pre-Christian connection.  Again, see the discussion of Ronald Hutton in The Rise and Fall of Merry England or  Stations of the Sun.

BTW< poking around on Amazon, I see that he has since published a couple of books.  Two are on the Druids:The Druids (2008) which is a look at how the Druids were imagined in European culture since 1500 and Blood and Mistletoe: The History of the Druids in Britain, which focuses specifically on the Druids and the memory of them in Britain (Yale, 2009).  He also wrote The Triumph of the Moon: A History of Modern Pagan Witchcraft (2001).  I would think all of these would be useful to many on this list.

Best,

Dave

 

"Some men see things as they are and say 'Why?' I dream things that never were and say, 'Why not?'" George Bernard Shaw/Teddy Kennedy at the eulogy of RFK, 1968

---------- Original Message ----------
From: Caer Australis <[log in to unmask]>
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: Green Martin
Date: Sun, 8 Aug 2010 05:27:07 +0100

Interesting to see the way the seasonal imagery is so simply associated with
the mood of the timing of Martinmass:

"Martinmass" by John Clare written on 11 Nov 1841.

    &#65533;Tis Martinmass from rig to rig
    Ploughed fields and meadow lands are blea
    In hedge and field each restless twig
    Is dancing on the naked tree
    Flags in the dykes are bleached and brown
    Docks by its sides are dry and dead
    All but the ivy-boughs are brown
    Upon each leaning dotterel&#65533;s head

    Crimsoned with awes the awthorns bend
    O&#65533;er meadow-dykes and rising floods
    The wild geese seek the reedy fen
    And dark the storm comes o&#65533;er the woods
    The crowds of lapwings load the air
    With buzes of a thousand wings
    There flocks of starnels too repair
    When morning o&#65533;er the valley springs

http://wdtprs.com/blog/2009/11/martinmass-2/

The context of a feast prior to a fast is articulated by comments at same site:
"In medieval Europe, St. Martin&#65533;s day (Martinmas) was a carnival-like feast
because it preceded the Nativity Fast&#65533;- something that disappeared in the
West after the Renaissance. The Nativity Fast is still observed in the East;
it is like a little lent: shorter and not quite as strict."

"St Martin&#65533;s Day is traditionally the day for slaughtering hogs in Spain
(and other parts of Europe, too, I believe). The day itself and several days
afterwards are the &#65533;matanza,&#65533; the slaughter, and this is also the time when
people make sausages, blood pudding, etc. There is a saying associated with
the day that I have always liked, in a vindictive sort of way. It is often
used when talking about offensive politicians and others of that stripe: &#65533;A
cada cerdo le llega su San Martin,&#65533; literally, &#65533;To every pig comes his St.
Martin&#65533;s Day.&#65533; In other words, sooner or later, this person is going to get
what&#65533;s coming to him."


But as to any connection to a Celtic system? About all there is to be found
appears to be the appropriate feast meat, as it *happens to* fall at the mi
gam slaughter, but the context is Christian and the meaning is internal to
that religion.

JB




On Mon, 2 Aug 2010 19:34:59 +0000, Bernard Morgan
<[log in to unmask]> wrote:

>
> 
>I cannot say that Irish folklore is unchanging. Yet if I was to accept the
that there is no value in the Irish folklore tradition, then I should throw
away my copy of M&#65533;ire MacNeill ''The Festival of Lughnasa&#65533;. Being it is a
collection of Irish folklore&#65533;.  Yet as with MacNeill&#65533;s collection folktales
the St Martin tales are repetitive in nature. I cannot give a geographical
distribution of these tales to see if they are localized, but at the same
time I find no miller must grind his corn nor no wheel be moved in the
Western Isles on St Martin&#65533;s day. 
> 
>We knew from written sources (sauch as the 10th century &#65533;Tripartite Life of
Patrick&#65533;) that  Martinmass was important blood day in the early medieval
period. (I understand eating meat was a rarity in the past.)  
> 
>Early medieval sources also provide us with a murdered god who had power
over the corn (i.e. barley) crop. "Let their ploughing be on a Tuesday, and
their casting seed into the field on a Tuesday, and their reaping on a
Tuesday" the secret as relived by Bres to his murderer Lugh.
>(Robert Graves makes a claim that Lleu is Amaethon (farmer god) in
comparing lines of a poem.)
> 
>Now the St Martin and milling is harder. The earliest connection I found is
reference to a 17th Danish account of the Devil grounding a miller between
mill stones of St Martin&#65533;s Day. While an undated French tale has St Martin
cheating the Devil in a trade of mills on St Martin&#65533;s Day. But then again I
haven&#65533;t come across Continental references of Calleach-like figure (until I
reach the Slavs, who also have a Vegetation god that meets a gruesome death
at Harvest time).
> 
>It is not hard to imagine that personification of the barley/corn crop, for
we have by the Scottish Reformation period (i.e. 16th century) a version Sir
John Barleycorn in such a mode. 
> 
>And as such a character is well known amongst their fellow Indo-Europeans,
I would be hard pressed to understand what such a figure as a Green-man
would not be known of in Gaeldom?
> 
>What would nice and I doubt exists is further reasearch into the
distribution and history of Gaelic St Martin tales...
>  		 	   		  
>You can unsubscribe yourself by logging in on the list archives page at
https://listserv.heanet.ie/cgi-bin/wa?A0=CELTIC-L&X=36DAE1476AF514EF73,
selecting the 'join or leave Celtic-L' link and going through the
unsubscription routine there.
>

You can unsubscribe yourself by logging in on the list archives page at https://listserv.heanet.ie/cgi-bin/wa?A0=CELTIC-L&X=36DAE1476AF514EF73, selecting the 'join or leave Celtic-L' link and going through the unsubscription routine there.

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