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Celtic Myths


During their times the Celts talked about their myths and legends since it was obviously commonplace in a world in which they lived. Some of the most popularly studied myths are those of the Irish and their creation myths. Below is one of them I inserted in my research paper. There will be links to more in the future. The following is the myth of The Coming of the Gaels:

In the myth Lebor Gabala Erenn (The Book of the Taking of Ireland) we find out how the Milesians attempt and claim Ireland from the Tuatha De Dannan. The Milesians first attempt to invade the land of Ireland, but are deterred by the magical powers of the Tuatha De Dannan and their druids. After encircling the island in their ships three times, they are able to break the spell and reach the shores and attempt to further gain their prize (Matthews 6,7).

As they approach the shore a rowing contest is held between Ir and Eber Donn, both brothers. Eber Donn has the power to ill-wish his brother and coincidentally, Ir dies. This contest of reaching shore first is also present in the other tales of invasions of Ireland. Amairgin, the pride of the Milesians, lost his wife in the invasion as well. Scene died giving her name to the place of Inber Slaine which is now called Iverskena in Kerry. The tales of the seven chief wives of the Milesians, all of whom have places named for them in Ireland or in Scotland as in Scotas case is one of the main focuses of this tale as well as the invasion because of its role in names. Scota is the daughter of the Pharaoh Nectanebus, married to Milesius on his journey to Egypt. This piece of information reads implausibly, perhaps, yet there were two pharaohs of the name Nectanebus in the Thirtieth Dynasty, and so the Celts memories and system of verbal history is accurate (Matthews 7).

The stories of the seven wives may seem irrelevant at first glance, but later however, we find that they become important to clues about the dates on the Milesians and previous invasions of Ireland. They are dated by the cycles or days of the moon: the Fir Bolg arrived on the nineteenth and waning day of the moon, while the Dananns landed on the ninth and waxing day; the Milesians arrive just after the full moon on the seventeenth day. We speculate that juxtaposition of the seven wives with these landing dates may indicate that they themselves are associated with the phases of the moon. Amairgin greeted Ireland from his ship speaking in his wonderfully poetic tongue words to gain access, introduce himself and the Milesians to Ireland, and becoming one with all aspects of his soon to be new home (Matthews 7).

Amairgin in all his mysticism identifies with Ireland and introduces his shaman abilities to his new homeland as well. After the Milesians finally land on the shores of green Eire they immediately begin to wage their war against the Tuatha De Danann. Eremon loses his horse in battle, and gives its name to the River Liffey, Gabar life. This shows that the love for ones steed is present in Celtic custom since it probably came from the Indo-European method of invasion which included letting ones horse loose upon the earth and lay claim to the land it galloped over as it ran. They Milesians also laid claim to Ireland, but did so by leaving he dead bodies of their comrades as a marker for the land they lay claim to as a sacrifice unto the land to win its favor (Matthews 7,8).

Amairgin then petitions the three major Goddesses of Ireland and tells Banba and Folta that he will use their names as names for Ireland. He however tells Eire that he will forever use her name to refer to Ireland and thus, this is why Erin, Eire, or Eriu is often called the poetic name for Ireland since Amairgin was a poet and thus so named Ireland that way (Matthews 8).

After Amairgin makes his deals with Banba, Folta, and Eire, the Milesians then march on to the kings thrones at Tara. The kings propose a guise (a magical promise or agreement held in very high trust often resulting in death if broken) of a truce lasting three days. Amairgin seeing through it already has a backup plan since he knows that it is a trick. The Tuatha plan to put a magical spell on the island to keep the Milesians from returning. Ogmas three sons marry the three ancient goddesses of Ireland behind the kings back thanks to Amairgin and this gives him some power later to overcome the kings. As the Milesians are out at sea and are being battered by a druidic wind, Amairgin sings an incantation to Ireland (Matthews 8,9).

The Milesians then return to Ireland and after the death of Eber Donn, who tries to use military tact as opposed to magic, the Milesians take Ireland and force the Tuatha to retire and live with the Sidhe or Fairies (Matthews 9).

Coming of the Tuatha de Danaan

Other myths include The Birth of Fin MacCumhail, the Cattle-Raid of Cualnge, the Leeching of Kayns leg. Story of MacDathos Pig, the Voyage of Bran, and the Welsh myth entitled Melbinogian