Post 1

For the beginning of my project, I focused on immersing myself in Irish myth, keeping an eye out for anything that I recognized as familiar to Christianity, using my background knowledge and the knowledge I gained from preliminary readings of a few Bible stories.  I focused first on the Penguin Classics publishing of Early Irish Myths and Sagas.  In this collection was stories such as The Wooing of Etaín, a classic myth, and The Birth of Cú Chulaind, the beginning of one of the more prominent mythic heroes in Irish culture.  Throughout my reading of these myths, I did notice key points that piqued my interest in regard to the connection to Christianity.  For one, there is an odd pattern that had occurred in many of the myths where the people will say “I swear by the god my people swear by.”  I will need to look more into this, but it is my hypothesis that this phrase was a way for the scribes that wrote and edited the oral stories to remove the mentions of the pagan deities while still keeping it separate from Christianity.  This works to create the illusion of monotheism without forcibly converting the myths to swear by God, which would be frowned upon by Christians anyway.

 

Another point that definitely requires more fine-tuned research into the mythic usage of numbers in Irish culture is the extreme use of the number seven.  In a large number of the stories, there is a constant mention that things come in sevens.  While numbers are very prominent in all the stories, with hundreds of cows being traded and three-fifties of boys learning to fight, the most prominent number I have come across is seven.  And knowing the Book of Genesis from my own Christian upbringing, the number seven has great theological important to Christianity.  This might be just a coincidence, but it happened too often to not pique my interest.  The third major thing that caught my eye as I read the collection was the casual mentions to things rather specifically Christian.  In The Wooing of Etaín, the man Míder recites a poem in order to steal Etaín’s heart, which has this stanza:

 

We see everyone everywhere,

            and no one sees us:

the darkness of Adam’s sin

            prevents our being discerned

 

            Adam and the original sin is a tale entirely immersed within Christianity and very exclusively associated with the monotheistic God rather than the pagan deities of early Ireland.  There was also a man in the myth The Tale of Macc Da Thó’s Pig who claimed, “I am the priest who baptized your father with that name.”  Again, the idea of baptism is a very Christian notion.

 

For the next leg of my research, I will be reading The Táin, a story from the Irish epic Táin Bó Cuailnge, and then doing separate research into the deities of early Ireland and the more general aspects of Irish mythos.  There is no Irish creation myth, but there is the story of the founding of Ireland, which also connects to Christianity in the form of a flood story.

Comments

  1. acwoods says:

    Hello! I took Celtic Narratives last semester and absolutely love your project! The book of the takings of Ireland (the Lebor Gabála Érenn) has a lot of obviously Christian stories in it which could be really useful to you, and the Tain will tie in really well to the Birth of Cu Chulainn becuase they’re both in the Ulster Cycle. Additionally, the Cath Maige Tuired (Second battle of Magh Tuireadh) has a lot of great characterizations of the older gods and godesses, and the prologe to the Seneches Mar encapsulates the trasition from a pagan governing body to a christian one. I can send you pdfs of all of these if you’d like and I still have all my textbooks from the class if you want to borrow them (my email is acwoods@email.wm.edu). You’ve caught some great similarities in the older traditions to the more modern christian ones and I’m excited to see what else you find!

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