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Subject:

re: the alterity of Celtic

From:

"Sarah L. Higley" <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

CELTIC-L - The Celtic Culture discussion list.

Date:

Thu, 4 Jul 91 10:40:14 EDT

Content-Type:

text/plain

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>Sarah: I noticed you used the compound "wisemen" in reference to
> participants in Solomonic dialogues. Are these invariably male in the Welsh
>texts?
 
> -- Rick Russom
 
Just about. That is, insofar as these texts are usually associated with
a named poet (usually Taliesin, Merlin, Lailoken), who are male. I have
not run across any medieval Welsh wisdom figures who were female; I would love
to, as there is, of course, the tradition of Sophia in the gnostic
texts, and Isis in the Isis aretalogies, along with a host of divine
women of wisdom, like lady Philosophy, who counsel men in visions in
other literature. Wisdom is female in the apocryphal text
_Ecclesiasticus._ But the "agonistic" encounters that Melcir was
querying about in early Celtic literature almost invariably involve men.
To be sure, there are powerful female opponents (Aranrhod in the Fourth
Branch of the Mabinogi, the Morrigan, Medb, etc.) but these figures,
unless I'm mistaken, are not often associated with the empowering realms
of esoterica, no matter how strong their magic. As for the Old English
(Maxims, Solomonic dialogues), the heavyweights are men: _gleawe men
sceolon gieddum wrixlan_. "Wise men should exchange sayings." _ic
flitan gefraegn on fyrndagum / modgleawe men_. "I have heard
in olden days wise men contesting." I'm familiar with the now
specious argument that "man," being the generic pronoun, "embraces
woman" in its semantic arms. I think this is not particularly the case
in the Old English wisdom poems (_gleawe men_ means "wise MEN," not
"wise persons, male or female") and it is certainly not the case in
discussions with men and women on Celtic-L. :-)
 
S. Higley
 


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