Luck of the Irish
Yesterday we discussed the discrimination towards women and the female Scottish warrior who victoriously led her troops in a charge that rebuked the advancement of the Roman Army into Scotland which in turn prevented their attempting to invade Ireland. However, Ireland was invaded, according to Irish mythology.
The ancient lands of the island we know as Ireland were supposedly invaded a series of times. Each invasion resulted in a new leader. The Tuatha De Danaan invaders were a race of godlike people, skilled in magic, led by the king Daghda or “the Good God”. Daghda was famous for having a very large cauldron and an equally large club. Legend claims that the cauldron would feed all, regardless of the number present. The club was noted for both taking lives and bringing the dead back to life.
Daghda was an unusual god in that while his followers respected his skills in magic and other occult arts, they also endued him with humor. He was often portrayed wearing a tunic that barely reached the bottom of his gluteus maximus and he was well-known for his comic behavior. The Irish are known for being a culture that enjoys having fun; perhaps Daghda was the beginning of this.
It is said that one day while out for a walk, Daghda came upon the goddess Morrigan. She was the patron spirit of both war and fertility and legend held she could change herself into the shape of a raven. As a raven she was said to visit battlefields and often affect the outcome of the fighting. Daghda and Morrigan agreed on a truce and Morrigan promised to protect the Tuatha De Danaan forever.
Another legend tells of an upcoming battle between the Tuatha De Danaan and their opponents the Fomhoire. The outcome would determine who would control Ireland. Fearing his men were not prepared for the battle Daghda asked for a truce. The Fomhoire promised but then threatened his life unless he ate an enormous bowl of porridge. Daghda licked the bowl clean and fell asleep amid the laughter of the Fomhoire. The Irish god of love was Daghda’s son Angus who would become famous for helping others in their love life.
These early legend or mythologies bear little resemblance to those of classical times. The emphasis on these ancient Irish legends centered more on how the gods and goddesses helped the average man in his daily life. They were not so much an answer to the eternal question of Who am I? but more a path for the question How do I live? However, it is in Ireland that the real reasons for such stories still exist. Children are still warned of the banshee, a terrifying woman who lives amongst the faeries or a pooka, a shape-changer in order to encourage them to behave. Modern life is evident in Ireland but the culture continues on with the same mythologies being told in the evening at family homes and in the local pubs.
Artifacts have been found in Great Britain that date back to the Stone Age but the earliest of such found in Ireland are from the Mesolithic time period. It was not until the Christian missionary known as Saint Patrick that Irish history became written so much has been lost or changed with each retelling. The legends serve today the same purpose they did when they first were begun. They unite the people and carry the culture from one day to the next.
Our own spiritualities and religious choices provide the same for us in this modern world. Our same basic questions and needs have remained unchanged throughout the history of mankind. We need to continue the search for answers because it gives us reason to continue our living. One legend maintains that the Creator needed laughter in the world so He/She made the Irish race. They carry on today as their earliest gods were portrayed – generous of spirit, brave in battle, and always willing to help another.
All too soon mankind would weave the stories of the gods that waged war upon mankind and the punishments for man . We should remember, though, that the earliest mythology told of a benevolent, generous god named Daghda, who entertained as well as protected. This Irish phrase not only sums up Ireland today, it tells of the spirits the earliest mythologies disclosed: “Deep peace of the running waves to you. Deep peace of the flowing air to you. Deep peace of the smiling stars to you. Deep peace of the quiet earth to you. Deep peace of the watching shepherds to you. Deep peace of the Son of Peace to you.”