Blog Post 3

One factor that sets Irish mythology apart from other mythic traditions is the lack of a creation story.  In Greek mythology there is the story of Ouranos and Gaia, the birth of the Titans, and the separation of Earth and Sky.  In Egyptian Mythology there is the creation of the first gods including Atum, Shu, Tefnut, Geb, and Nut.  And in Christianity there is the creation of the Earth by God over those seven days.  However, in Irish mythology, there is no story that dictates the creation of the world.  Whether it never existed, was erased by the scribes of their stories, or was lost to time is unknown.  The closest thing that exists to a creation story in Irish myth is the Lebor Gabála Érenn, or the Book of Invasions of Ireland.

 

The manuscripts for the Lebor Gabála are incomplete and have had to be restored by the historians who found them, however much of the story was able to be pieced together, showing it to be a history of the settlers of Ireland and the wars that were fought by the early Celts and the faerie people known as the Tuatha Dé Danann.  It is clear from the very beginning of reading the Lebor Gabála that there has been heavy Christian influence given to the settling of Ireland.  Despite the fact that Ireland existed as a pagan society for thousands of years (with the settling of Ireland generally agreed to be around 4000 BCE) until Christianity arrived with Saint Patrick around 432 CE, the beginning of the Lebor Gabála speaks of the Holy Scripture, and the stories of Adam through Abraham all the way to the Birth of Christ.  Through the Lebor, it is implied that Ireland was settled during the great flood, a specifically Christian event.  While many mythologies have flood stories or other natural disasters caused by the god(s), the Lebor Gabála makes it very clear that it is the very same flood as in the Bible.

 

The Lebor Gabála begins by following Cesair, the daughter of Bith and the granddaughter of Noah, as she leaves on her own boat to escape the flood.  Bith was one of Noah’s sons who God did not allow on the ark with Noah, and so he joined Cesair along with two other men and fifty women.  While Cesair told the men to make idols and to forsake the God of Noah in order to survive the flood, the Christian influence of this tale is undeniable.  The altering of the Book of Invasions to start off so blatantly Christian and then try to transition into including the síde (the Tuatha Dé Danann) and other magical elements of Irish mythology and folklore feels so strange.  It’s clear that the monks who wrote down the Irish stories wanted to make it clear that the Irish people came from Christians, and yet they did not erase every aspect of the more pagan side of Ireland, rather leaving it ambiguously magical without the explicit presence of pagan deities.

 

This is the most explicit Christian influence that I have found so far, and it affects the entirety of the rest of Irish mythology.  Knowing that it was altered so that the original Irish settlers were Christians adds a different tone to all the other myths.