> Date: Sat, 7 Jun 1997 18:48:42 PST
> From: James J Cain <[log in to unmask]>
> I was thinking that we really need to draw some definitions before attempting
> comparisons. So, I snipped everything but the Subject for this one.
> I did get your's and will respond. In fact, a "call and response" might
> be nice...I send you something about the tribes as I know them...as I
> can find references...and you send me the equivalent Celtic take on the
> Definitions... I think we should scrap "barbarian" and "heathen" and
> "pagan" [I respond badly to the latter term because my great grandmother
> Kane was Mary Fagan from County Meath...and Fagan is a Norman corruption
> of "paganus" according to MacLysaght.]
> Also, where do we draw the boundaries for difference and similarity? We
> can draw them so narrowly that nothing is similar, all is difference...we can
> draw them so broadly that any and everything is similar and nothing
> is different [I feel like Plato looking at Parmenides and Hericlitus
> vis-a-vis change and permanence.].
A good question. Probably it would make more sense to look at the
development of certain practices, and compare the whole development,
to get a better impression of a cultural practice. Then it is
probably easier to see if it is similar or different. On the other
hand, this would make the whole discussion rather cumbersome, as it
would involve a lot of work to get a detailed enough picture of such
So I guess the best would be if we just point out our opinion if
something should be considered similar or different on a certain
level of generalisation or detail that we can accept.
> Or, maybe with the "call and response" we don't need boundaries. It
> becomes a matter of "this fits/matches" or "this fits/matches except..."
> or "this doesn't/fit/match". Does that sound like a fair way to proceed?
Yes, I think it does.
> One thing not related to this topic. A week or so back, you responded to
> my quote from Powell regarding ritual regicide to the effect that there
> is no evidence of same. I recognize that it is very possible for one
> scholar to head off in an erroneous direction and for others to go
> bravely marching after, so the fact that I have read that elsewhere
> doesn't necessarily prove much.
> However...let me ask this: I have also read, in almost every source, that
> Celtic king ruled for as long as he was physically fit...ie: as long as
> he had no physical imperfection [I assume they made allowance for some
> battle scars.], had all his extremities, both eyeballs, etc. and could
> still father children. This certainly suggests that, short of being
> killed in battle, few died on the throne unless fertility lasted longer
> or lives were shorter or both. Doesn't it?
Yes, that's in a lot of sources. Actually, this is taken from the
Irish tales mainly, where such limitations to kingship applied . It
already becomes less clear in the Welsh literature. The point is,
did this "legendary" practice have any impact on Celtic reality? And
what level of king was it which was bound by these limitations? As
far as it seems, this limitation was restricted to the High King in
Tara, which was a ritualistic function in the first place, without
much actual political weight deriving from his position in Tara. Now,
as only little actual political power could be derived from this
function, it is quite possible that the one holding that office
really stepped back if he suffered from any of the above mentioned
deficiencies. Oh, and male fertility usually lasts quite into old age
up to and beyond the 70th birthday, and only very few people lived to
this age in prehistoric and early historic times, so only very few
would have had a problem with that at all.
> So, if they didn't practice
> ritual regicide and read the future in the death throes and blood trails,
> how did a king "step down"...and what might this say about "King
> Lear"...if not Shakespeare's rendition, his source in Geoffrey of
> Monmouth's "Chronicles"?
Well, judging from what Nuadu of the TD does after the first battle
at Mag Tuired, where he lost his arm, he simply stepped back. Of
course, some kings may have tried to hold onto power too long, an din
such cases actual regicide could have occurred.
> Not a challenge...I'm genuinely curious as to how the limits on the
> physical appearance and abilities of a Celtic king were carried out in
> practice is not through regicide.
Above all that we should also not forget that the position of
kingship was a political matter in Celtic societies, as in most cases
a number of competitors for the kingship would try to accieve this
position, and usually the one with the greatest number of followers
would make it to the position. Given this, the central question is:
How much political (and by this also military) support of his followers
would the king loose if he showed one of the mentioned deficiencies?
And would this allow for one of the competitors to rise to the
position of king, treating his precedessor in whatever way
appropriate to the situation (from ritual sacrifice over
assasination to simple voting down)? I think that, given such a
situation arose, what followed was a political question, regardless
to what was given as "the right way to proceed" in literature and
mythology. If the old king still could muster enough political
support, he would stay in his position. If not, he would either have
to step down, or would be desposed of in some way, depending on how
much support he could still muster. With still a lot of supporters,
given that he didn't step down on his own, the situation would be
decided in battle or assasination attempts be carried out against
him, with only a few to none he would probably either be voted down
or suffer a ritual death.
> And weren't there early Greek
> Societies who had a "King for a Year" and then ritually killed him?
RAY (Raimund Karl,University of Vienna,Dep.of Prehistory)
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