Final Summary

Going into my project, I wasn’t sure exactly what I was going to find.  I knew that there had to be some aspect of alteration to the Irish myths, given the lack of information about the old Irish deities, but I didn’t know how much or how obvious it would be as I read through the myths.  And when I first started out reading, I realized that it most likely would be very subtle changes.  For the most part, that was right, there were a lot of things that could very well be edits by the Christians that I only noticed due to it not feeling right.  For instance, the repeated use of the number 7 in a lot of the myths just seemed weird to me, because I already knew that number held a significance in Christian stories.  With further research, I found that the main sacred numbers of Irish mythology were three and five, with the importance of the trinity and the five provinces of Ireland being some of the reasoning behind that importance.  Due to this, it was a reasonable theory for me to make that the abundance of the usage of the number seven was an alteration by the Christian monks who wrote down the Irish stories.

 

Due to the nature of the research that I did, and the fact that the manuscripts of old Irish myths are only the versions written by the Christian monks due to their solely oral tradition before the Christians, I knew that I would not be finding concrete evidence that proves without a doubt that the myths were edited.  I knew that it would be theories and evidence that shows there was a possibility they were altered, but that it wouldn’t be a definitive answer.  And, for most of my research, that was very true.  I had questions raised about how things could have been changed, and I had points in the myths where I knew something had to be missing, but I knew that there was the chance that I was reading too much into it.  In my earlier post, Post One, I noted the repetition of the line ‘I swear by the god my people swear by’ and how it felt like an erasure of the pagan culture without making it explicitly Christian.  While I still believe that, and I believe that the continued usage of it and the simple fact that we know the Irish people were pagan and had more than one god means that there had been something else there, there is still no explicit proof and there will never be.  Until time travel is invented and we can hear the myths from the mouth of an early Irishman, there will be no way to know for sure what was changed or if anything was changed.

 

Despite that, there is undeniable Christian influence to the very beginning of Irish mythology that, logically, could not have been there before the Christians came to Ireland.  In the story of the first settlers of Ireland, it is explicitly said that Cesair is the granddaughter of Noah, and that she and her father and their companions fled to the island of Ireland to escape the great flood.  Given that there are over four thousand years between the agreed date of the settling of Ireland and the arrival of Christianity in Ireland, it is logically not possible for the Irish to believe that Cesair was related to Noah, or that the next settler, Partholon, was the great-great-great-great-great-great grandson of Noah.  While there is still no way to prove the influence beyond a shadow of a doubt, I find it very hard to believe that those figures were related to such a prominent member of Christian religion in the original versions of the myths.

 

There could be arguments made with every piece of evidence that I found to say that I’m reading too deep into these myths and that even the Adam and Eve references that I found were coincidence or that the influence of Christians doesn’t have a deeper meaning behind it.  But I think that throughout my research, it has become clear to me that even if it was purposefully subtle and woven into the myths, there was an influence by the monks who wrote down the stories.  And to that, I feel there is a greater significance, because through the Greek myths and Egyptian myths and Norse myths, we earned a greater understanding of their culture and their beliefs, and they acted as a gateway into their society.  Due to these alterations and these small omissions of gods, goddesses, and origins, we lost that connection to the ancient Irish society, and that it something that is incredibly difficult to get back, if at all possible.

Comments

  1. ctbrickhouse says:

    Hi! I’ve found your work and posts very intriguing. It must be a difficult process to try and extract the Christian influences and modifications from Irish myths, and I respect your goal of seeking to discover versions of the myths that are more true to their original form. I like how you make parallels between Irish myths and Christian ideologies in order to get a sense of which aspects of the myths may have been distorted over time by outside influences. I also like how you acknowledge the uncertainty of finding out which myths were altered. It is unfortunate that we may never get back the true forms of the myths from ancient Irish society.