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Subject: Re: The Fates
From: Francine Nicholson <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Francine Nicholson <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Wed, 23 Sep 1998 12:33:02 -0400

text/plain (61 lines)

Ruadh wrote:

        >The concept of "The Fates" doesn't seem very Celtic to me.

        It's not, except for the figures who have power to end lives.

> Geasa don't come from specific God/dess forms, but often from the
> mouths of Druids and Bards,
> and seem to have more to do with the fates of prominent Celts than the
> traditional Greco/Roman concept of the Morae (sp?) who spin, measure
> and cut a
> person's life.  The Celtic hero is given one or more fairly enigmatic
> "Thou
> shalt nots", and it is up to him to follow them or be destroyed.
Geasa are not fate or destiny. Powerful people--especially but not only
kings--are given geasa or taboos to prevent them from coming into
contact with forces that will cause an unintended release or decrease of
that power. Violating geasa releases destructive powers, diminishes
one's protection against negative powers, imbalances any territory in
one's jurisdiction, and brings death and destruction. For example, one
of C/u Chulainn's geasa is not to eat the flesh of his totem animal, and
when he does, he immediately experiences a severe reduction in his power
that makes it impossible for him to survive battle against his enemies.

The other thing about geasa is that if one fails to live a "right" (as
in "cert") life, the forces of balance will fail and the universe--or
deities, if you like--will conspire to force one to violate geasa and be
destroyed. This is what happens to Conaire M/or: he settles a case badly
AND violates one of his geasa. Together these actions bring about the
collapse of the balance previously known in his territory (fate of king
and tuath and land are inextricably linked) and he is forced to violate
one geasa after another until his really awful death ensues.

        There is some free will here, although there seems to inevitably
come that time when he
is trapped into breaking one or more of these restrictions.

Trapped? Not really. In each case, the character makes the *wrong*
choice which triggers violation of geasa and eventual death. Conaire
M/or judges badly. C/u Chulainn chooses to go into battle even after
being warned that it will lead to his death (and the Morrigan even
breaks the wheels of his chariot in a last-ditch effort to dissuade
him). One wrong choice leads to another and then to violating geasa
until the protection the hero formerly had against negative forces is
gone. Most of C/u Chulainn's poor decisions could be blamed on
youth--but also remember that he deliberately chose a "d/an" that would
bring everlasting fame AND a short life.

> BTW...I can't remember a woman being placed under a geas in mythology,
> can you?
        What purpose would there be in this? In Indo-European thought,
women are the sources of power, not the wielders. Therefore, they are
*supposed* to give their power to those around them.

        However, women are supposed to give their power to the *right*
men. Deirdre is a "wicked woman" because she resists giving her power to
the king and instead gives it the lad who takes her fancy.


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