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23 September 2014 @ 01:30 pm
Irish-Celtic Theogony  
I've decided that I'd like to dedicate some time to writing my own version of a Irish pagan-inspired theogony. I plan on dedicating some time to researching some Hellenic and Indian theogonies in order to gain a broader understanding of Indo-European beliefs, as well as more thoroughly engaging with the Book of Invasions in order to determine which elements seem vital and which might not be necessary (like perhaps Noah's flood). I'm interested in making a story that best reflects my own religious understanding of beginnings, endings, and the nature of the universe. I'm not necessarily trying to make an incredibly detailed myth, but at least something that covers the broader strokes. And I'm not trying to retell the Book of Invasions or necessarily expand on it. I'm just trying to make something that is "True" to me.

That said: does anyone have any advice about things I might want to check out? Like anyone else who may have tried something similar (I had a book of Celtic myths once where somebody tried something like this, but after reading more source material, I'm not very satisfied with it)? Or other sources that might help me refine my philosophy? If anyone has any other Celtic sources (perhaps from the Welsh) or artifacts (like from the continental Celts) that shine any light on these issues, I'd be interested in those too. Or any published articles that might shine some light on the issue would be interesting as well.

Thanks, all
 
 
 
放縱瘋狂的結wire_mother on September 24th, 2014 10:49 am (UTC)
There's a lot in the Lebor Gabala that would be of interest to such a project. Or, at least, there has been a lot there that I've found useful in my own ongoing Irish Gaelic polytheist theogony. One impression that I've gotten is that the first (Cessair) and second (Partholon) invasions are perhaps different, possibly local, versions of an original primordial "invasion" story.
放縱瘋狂的結wire_mother on September 24th, 2014 11:01 am (UTC)
You're also going to want to look at Death, War, and Sacrifice by Bruce Lincoln. Celtic Heritage by Alwyn and Brinley Rees should be extremely helpful. It's a little embellished, but Michael Dames's Mythic Ireland should also be of interest. You're almost certainly going to want to compare material in the History of the Kings of Britain by Geoffrey of Monmouth (and possibly Nennius's Historia Brittonum).
mattyg7mattyg7 on September 25th, 2014 03:50 am (UTC)
Thanks! I have Celtic Heritage, but I'll have to check out the others. I think that Cessair probably does have some aspects that should be enlightening. In your opinion, do you think that Cessair might be a model of an original Mother goddess, or would you take the theogony back further? It's hard to tell where to stop, since it probably doesn't make sense to go all the way back to Noah.
finnchuill: ravenheadfinnchuill on September 25th, 2014 09:23 pm (UTC)
Jaan Puhvel's Comparative Mythology will give you a good Indo-European comparative study with which to work.
mattyg7mattyg7 on September 26th, 2014 11:50 pm (UTC)
Thanks!
mattyg7mattyg7 on September 26th, 2014 11:54 pm (UTC)
Has anyone read this attempt at a reconstructed Irish creation myth (http://www.irishtribes.com/articles/2012-11-lost-celtic-creation-myth-in-english.html)? If so, what do you think? I have some opinions on it, but they're probably more of my personal opinions rather than a critique on it as a piece of reconstructionism.
gilla1982gilla1982 on October 12th, 2014 03:38 pm (UTC)
Sounds like an interesting project, I suppose it depends on how realistic you want your (re)construction to be. Presumably a good starting point for any theogony is knowing exactly what is meant by god or gods, what their powers are, and the basis of their relationship to mankind. Fortunately, early Irish sources are pretty coherent and consistent on all these points. Maybe worth starting by setting out exactly what you are looking for in a theogony and thinking about what the early Irish were looking for as well. Mary Helms doesnt really touch on the Irish but her books 'The Kingly Ideal: Art, Trade, and Power' and 'Access to Origins: Affines, Ancestors, and Aristocrats' are extremely interesting when read against early Irish material. The below papers specifically address some of the Irish origin stories themselves and Carey also has some interesting things to say about some of the Welsh material --


R. Mark Scowcroft:

Leabhar Gabhála Part I: The Growth of the Text

Leabhar Gabhála Part II: The Growth of the Tradition

Abstract Narrative in Ireland


John Koch:

New Thoughts on Albion, Iernē, and the Pretanic Isles


John Carey:

The Origin and Development of the Cesair Legend

A British Myth of Origins?

The Irish National Origin-Legend: Synthetic Pseudohistory

Time, Space, and the Otherworld


Grigory Bondarenko:

Autochthons and Otherworlds in Celtic and Slavic

Fintan mac Bóchra: Irish Synthetic History Revisited


Bart Jaski:

"We Are of the Greeks in Our Origin": New Perspectives on the Irish Origin Legend

The Irish Origin Legend: Seven Unexplored Sources


Apart from Carey's 'Cesair' paper and Jaski's 'Greeks' paper you will find these all free online and before its really possible to try to work with this material in the wider IE or PIE context it would be helpful to have a good grounding in the Irish context first (otherwise you will end up with something cringingly contrived like Gerald Kelly in your link there). There are also traces of pseudohistories and ethnic histories relating to continental Celtic peoples from classical times which are worth considering when it comes to thinking about what they wanted from their origin stories
mattyg7mattyg7 on October 15th, 2014 10:43 pm (UTC)
Wow! That's great. Thanks a lot.

I think the main questions I want to answer with this project include:

1) What is the relationship between people and the gods? As I understand it, the nature of the spirits seems pretty similar to what Shinto teaches about the spirits: that is that humans are related to the gods and are essentially of the same kind.

2) How did the universe come to be the way it is and where is it going? I believe the universe to be fairly cyclical, and I'm not sure that there's a distinct beginning or end: rather periods of order and disorder. I don't know if there's one overarching principle (like Brahma maybe?) that rules over each period of order. I'm interested in finding the language to artistically describe how we moved into this period of order.

3) How are the gods related to each other? The trouble with this one is how many contradictory sources there are in Irish genealogies. I don't think that having a clearly defined genealogy is important for a religion, but it would be nice to at least settle on something for my own artistic use. Also, it would be nice to settle on who the first gods were. Is it still common to find Danu and Bile posited as the first gods? I'm really finding myself drawn to the Dagda as a first god, as his mythical profession of digging trenches around forts seems to indicate drawing boundary lines to me, like when Odin creates the borders between the nine worlds.
gilla1982gilla1982 on October 31st, 2014 09:53 am (UTC)
Is it still common to find Danu and Bile posited as the first gods?

I don't know whether or not it is still common but this would go back to what I said about how realistic you want your (re)construction to be I think this was a rather fanciful product of 20th century imaginations

What is the relationship between people and the gods? As I understand it, the nature of the spirits seems pretty similar to what Shinto teaches about the spirits: that is that humans are related to the gods and are essentially of the same kind.

I'd have said they seem to be like Us but not Us but they're definitely written about in terms of being relatable to medieval tuatha. That's quite important they're different in some very fundamental ways and Jean Pierre Vernant has some helpful insights on this in his collection of essays 'Mortals and Immortals'. That distance is important because its from within that that some of their authority is drawn especially in their dabblings in human affairs.

I'm really finding myself drawn to the Dagda as a first god, as his mythical profession of digging trenches around forts seems to indicate drawing boundary lines to me,

Well the Dagda is one of the offspring of Elatha and that grouping seems to be kinda significant to the early authors' understanding and use of the TDD which I suppose means that the rather abstract Elatha would need to come first, but the Dagda does certainly come across as perhaps larger and more 'cosmic' than his brothers so maybe he developed in power and prominence over the course of their lives? Or maybe it was innate?

I always thought his broadness and size were supposed to reflect his immense power and that he was 'great-father' or 'greater-than-his-father' -- I thought that it was that and his timelessness that lent him an obvious role in placename lore: this giant figure of a man at work in the world from time immemorial. Interestingly there's at least one example of the name 'Dagda' for the biblical God in respect to the hebrew tribes in Egypt so to what extent the authors perceived him to prefigure their own Christian notion of 'God' for their 'gentile' predecessors is anybody's guess...

The children of Elatha would definitely be worth looking at for your cosmogony I think, have you read John Carey's 'Myth and Mythography in Cath Maige Tuired'? Its free online and looks at Bres (and a little bit of Ogma) and Elatha in some detail... read the notes as well. Will you be posting more thoughts as your project comes together?

I don't know if there's one overarching principle (like Brahma maybe?)

This is a quote from Cicero which comes from a bit closer to home:

So I perceive that it has been the opinion of the wisest that law has not been invented by the minds of men nor is it some kind of decree made by peoples, but something eternal, which rules the whole cosmos by the wisdom of its commands and prohibitions. Thus they say that the first and final law is the mind of god, compelling or forbidding everything by means of reason.

Also Marcus Aurelius:

You should know that no other kind of discussion brings nobler things to light: what gifts are given to man by nature, how much ability of the greatest kind the human mind contains, what office we have been born and brought into the light to strive for and to perform, what the unity of men is, what the natural community is between them - only when this is clarified can the origin of law and justice be discovered.

The conflation of law, reason, nature, and divine governance in Roman worldview is explored really well by Daryn Lehoux in 'What Did the Romans Know?' definitely worth checking out for a good way of breaking away from a 21st century mindset and getting to know what was thought of as 'real' in antiquity.
mattyg7mattyg7 on November 4th, 2014 06:59 am (UTC)
"I don't know whether or not it is still common but this would go back to what I said about how realistic you want your (re)construction to be I think this was a rather fanciful product of 20th century imaginations"

I wouldn't say that I'm necessarily aiming for a reconstruction, necessarily, though I would prefer to use more authentically Celtic material in this project. I am drawn to the idea of the universe emerging organically (like through reproduction), but I'm not sure who to look at as the generative gods. "A Circle of Stones" was one of the first books I got when becoming a Celtic pagan, so I'm used to working with the idea of Danu and Bile, but I'd like to know what some other cosmological theories are.

"I'd have said they seem to be like Us but not Us but they're definitely written about in terms of being relatable to medieval tuatha. That's quite important they're different in some very fundamental ways and Jean Pierre Vernant has some helpful insights on this in his collection of essays 'Mortals and Immortals'. That distance is important because its from within that that some of their authority is drawn especially in their dabblings in human affairs."

That seems to be a fair distinction. I was thinking more about distinguishing them from the Greek gods where there is a clear articulation between creator and creation. That is, I don't see humans as being created, like the Prometheus myth demonstrates, but produced organically. That is, we would be related to the gods, even if they are a different class of being. That's a fairly important aspect of my understanding of the divine.

"have you read John Carey's 'Myth and Mythography in Cath Maige Tuired'? Its free online and looks at Bres (and a little bit of Ogma) and Elatha in some detail... read the notes as well. Will you be posting more thoughts as your project comes together?"

I'll definitely check that out. Thanks for the source. And I will post information as it develops, but this is a bit of a long term project. I'm currently in grad school for English lit, so my spare time is fairly limited and I don't know when I'll have alot to focus on this project.

"The conflation of law, reason, nature, and divine governance in Roman worldview is explored really well by Daryn Lehoux in 'What Did the Romans Know?' definitely worth checking out for a good way of breaking away from a 21st century mindset and getting to know what was thought of as 'real' in antiquity."


Those are great quotes. Thanks! As someone who identifies as an ethical utilitarian, I find the conflation of reason and law pretty compelling.
gilla1982gilla1982 on November 15th, 2014 06:17 pm (UTC)
"distinguishing them from the Greek gods where there is a clear articulation between creator and creation. That is, I don't see humans as being created, like the Prometheus myth demonstrates, but produced organically. That is, we would be related to the gods, even if they are a different class of being. That's a fairly important aspect of my understanding of the divine."

I'll throw a couple of pennies in, the Irish dee ('gods') and duini ('men') are demonstrative of the normal IE linguistic opposition of 'heavenly' immortals and 'earthly' mortals so I'm not sure you can completely escape having separate origins for gods and men, with humanity working the soil and perhaps being born from it in some way (not necessarily 'created' like in the Greek story as we don't specifically know what idea was popular in this part of Europe) but in any case this doesn't mean that men were not thought in some way to share in the form of the gods or the mind of the divine (with some born or becoming more godlike than others and perhaps joining them in death or in cult), or that gods and men don't converge on each other (cf. Gaulish teuoxtonion, 'gods and men'), or mix genealogically somewhere along the way, or that some people aren't born with a gift/art (dán) from heaven flowing through their veins, etc. Twinned peoples in many respects.

I think the medieval authors do present gods and men as more equal, in the LG tradition when the TDD and fomoire get inserted into the migration model, the TDD are made to be descendants of Nemed, like the British and the Fir Bolg (themselves the ancestors of the medieval aithechthuatha), who had went away and become amazing before returning, and the TDD are both conflated with the Milesians' (the ancestors of the medieval sovereign tuatha, the saerchlanna) role with regard to the FB and also opposed to the Milesians because they were inserted in between. This is not the only time the medieval authors present them as our 'cousins' either, a kind of separate branch of humanity, with another vein of storytelling suggesting that they were of the race of Adam but untouched by sin and the Fall. So maybe this 'separate branch' stuff might be food for thought to provide possible frameworks to work from while staying close to native Irish works.

I think Nuadu and Lug in particular crop up in clusters of names in genealogies and saints lives (what Kim McCone uncharitably calls 'filler') and I think these should be considered as informative of them as the CMT/LG stories and their babies without giving the latter primacy. They stand out a little because they're not back-engineered from placenames or ethnic groups or common words as a lot of mythological figures are and I think stories here can go both ways from gods to men and vice versa. And you've got Donn as well who may have a bigger role to play than what survives in our medieval stories of Milesian conquest.
mattyg7mattyg7 on November 25th, 2014 11:01 pm (UTC)
>the Irish dee ('gods') and duini ('men') are demonstrative of the normal IE linguistic opposition of 'heavenly' immortals and 'earthly' mortals so I'm not sure you can completely escape having separate origins for gods and men

Perhaps, but I have trouble seeing the gods as particularly heavenly from what's given in the surviving mythology. The only real myth that seems to imply their celestial nature, to me anyway, is their travel to Ireland in the clouds. If they came from the heavens, I think the myth shows them as coming and becoming an intrinsic part of the Earth. Their homes in the Sidhe, under the waves, or across the ocean seem to place them more in the terrestrial.

I've recently been considering articulating the nature of the gods by looking at how their deaths are fundamental in the creation of different aspects of the world. Often the goddesses die during the creation of some natural feature, like Boann, Clíodhna, or Tailtiu (I'd count clearing fields under that category), though occasionally it is gods as well. I recall reading somewhere that certain lakes or bogs are described as arising from Manannán's grave and the story of the healing herbs coming from Miach's body has always been powerful to me. I'm considering describing the world as the physical bodies of the gods while their spirits travel back and forth between here and the Otherworld.

>I think the medieval authors do present gods and men as more equal

I do tend to be drawn to the surviving myth. It's easier for me to work with that. Additionally, I tend to view the relationship between men and the gods as being more contract based than other religions, which only really works if there is some more equality between us.

>So maybe this 'separate branch' stuff might be food for thought to provide possible frameworks to work from while staying close to native Irish works.

I think this is what I trend towards. I'm not sure how to articulate how the branches separate though. I'm kind of drawn to the Greek Gaia, where the Titans and Olympians both descend from an Earth goddess, maybe extending that idea to humanity also descending from her, but I'm still skeptical about how that might work artistically.

>I think these should be considered as informative of them as the CMT/LG stories and their babies without giving the latter primacy.

Thanks! I'll make sure to check these out as well.

>I think the Irish and even their continental cousins were more interested in more immediately relevant stories like the origins of nations and migrations of peoples.

Ohh, definitely. I am wondering if it would be possible, or perhaps advisable, to try to extend to particular into the general. That is, from looking at particular acts of creation find the inspiration to describe more universal acts of creation.

>Either way, whatever names they would have had its safe to say they weren't Danu and Bile

Question: I'm pretty solid on why Bile isn't really considered convincing, but I'm not entirely clear on why Danu isn't? It seems like there's a lot of cross-cultural evidence for goddesses with similar, if not identical names, serving as the mother of gods, if not necessarily the whole universe. Are you saying that she's just not convincing paired with Bile, or simply that she not convincing at all?
gilla1982gilla1982 on January 25th, 2015 02:14 pm (UTC)
"Perhaps, but I have trouble seeing the gods as particularly heavenly from what's given in the surviving mythology. The only real myth that seems to imply their celestial nature, to me anyway, is their travel to Ireland in the clouds. If they came from the heavens, I think the myth shows them as coming and becoming an intrinsic part of the Earth. Their homes in the Sidhe, under the waves, or across the ocean seem to place them more in the terrestrial."

Heavenly gods in better documented paganisms are frequently situated in the world as gods-on-earth as the participants/recipients of cult, as inhabitants of particular spaces, as founding ancestors of particular families, and even as participants in legal proceedings. In fact, cognates to the word síde ('seats') are used in Greek and Sanskrit for the material places where the heavenly gods (often more-than-material) can be reached on earth or perceived by mortal eyes. There are a number of references (in addition to the normal IE word for god and its heavenly connotations) to the TDD being from heaven or seeming to be, existing outside of or since the beginning of time, having walked the earth and now living in the síde, which I don't take to be contradictory with each other. This is not in any way to downplay their chthonic nature or their association with 'this-worldliness' or materialism both of which would be central to their cults and to their precedence over particular places and the temporal worlds of men.

"I've recently been considering articulating the nature of the gods by looking at how their deaths are fundamental in the creation of different aspects of the world. Often the goddesses die during the creation of some natural feature, like Boann, Clíodhna, or Tailtiu (I'd count clearing fields under that category), though occasionally it is gods as well. I recall reading somewhere that certain lakes or bogs are described as arising from Manannán's grave and the story of the healing herbs coming from Miach's body has always been powerful to me. I'm considering describing the world as the physical bodies of the gods while their spirits travel back and forth between here and the Otherworld."

I think this is a worthwhile approach as a modern CR 'take' on the sorts of ideas that medieval authors use in their landscape narratives. As a useful read try googling "Landscape and lamentation: constructing commemorated space in three Middle Irish texts" by Joanna Huckins MacGugan which is available to read online as a PDF.
mattyg7mattyg7 on March 24th, 2015 06:40 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the reply! Sorry it took me so long to respond. My last semester of grad school started up right about the time you sent this and it totally slipped under my radar. I really appreciate it. What you said makes a lot of sense, and I should have some time this summer to actually get started on this project (school is such a free-time vacuum. Thanks again!
gilla1982gilla1982 on May 3rd, 2015 08:23 am (UTC)
I have to retract an objection to a more archaic history for Bile in Irish and Beli Mawr in Welsh.

While they are both given as royal ancestors it has normally been assumed that the root *beliyos which gives Irish bile ('tree') and so the name Bile cannot also yield Beli in Welsh and so they would be unrelated.

However I note with interest Peter Shrijver's suggested derivation (https://www.deepdyve.com/lp/de-gruyter/on-henbane-and-early-european-narcotics-wrQ6L0YxIW/28) for the name Bile from *Belesos from an attested -s- stem *beles ('henbane') which would also yield Welsh Beli Mawr and Gaulish Belisa- (as in the theonyms Belisamarus, Belesama). The attested -n- stem version *belen ('henbane') would also satisfactorily yield the theonym *Belenos.

He argues that if tarano- ('thunder') and epo- ('horse') can yield theonyms then there is no reason why beles-/belen- ('henbane') couldnt if it was thought to be socially significant or powerful. We know the plant's effects as a medicine (inducing analgesia and sleep) were well known in antiquity, and also as a poison, an agent to induce madness, and even as an agent to induce divine states of mind associated with the cult of Apollo at Delphi and named after him in Greek. Shrijver suggests that all of the above would explain the association of *Belenos with Apollo Beleno as a putative medicinal god perhaps also associated with altered mental states (this is opposed to the more well-known suggestion that Apollo Beleno derives from *bheleg- 'shine' which is a common root in other IE languages but not Celtic).

This divine henbane also works for the Irish term beltaine if they had burned that particular plant in 'fires the druids made with great spells and each year they brought the cattle between them against pestilence' as henbane has been recorded as being used in just such a way to fumigate cattle against disease and witchcraft in more recent folklore in Germany. It is interesting that both Sanas Chormaic and Tochmarc Emire personify the first element as Bel or Bil usually dismissed as medieval etymologizing but which would actually be entirely consistent with the way it may have been used originally as the name of a magico-medical herb and also a divine personification to whom you are consecrated by the smoke of the herb. Whether such a figure may also provide the name of a divine royal ancestor is open to speculation but its an interesting idea.
mattyg7mattyg7 on May 3rd, 2015 10:44 pm (UTC)
Thanks for that. I'll have to read that once the semester is over.

I've been ruminating a bit on how this will take shape, and I have a few ideas on how the theogony might begin. I still want to do more research and stuff, but how does this sound to you guys:

The universe beings as a deep, dark sea with a single, brilliant flame hovering above it (fire out of water). Eventually, the fire stirs the sea into generating the first being - Ernmas and a giant/serpent/serpent-legged giant (like those that the Gaulish Jupiter was depicted as defeating) or an octopus (like the one the Dagda defeated to clear Mag Muirthemne)

The two entities breed forth many Fomoire, though the giant devours most of them in his hunger. Eventually, several Formoire escape his grasp, including Balor, Elatha, and Tethra.

Somehow, Balor has Eithne as his daughter (I'm not positive who his wife is) and Elatha begets the Dagda, Oghma, and Nuada (I've not found better parents for Nuada. He's very mysterious). The Dagda fights the giant/serpent/octopus and defeats it, in the process freeing a number of other children of Ernmas, including Anu, Macha, and Badb. Together, they convert the giant's body into the universe (like the Norse Ymir).


This isn't complete, but I have this in mind as a rough outline that might explain how the universe is created. I think that the most difficult thing is simply creating a genealogy for these gods. Everything is so contradictory and convoluted that it's hard to decide which family tree to go with.
gilla1982gilla1982 on May 4th, 2015 10:23 pm (UTC)
"The universe beings as a deep, dark sea with a single, brilliant flame hovering above it (fire out of water). Eventually, the fire stirs the sea into generating the first being - Ernmas and a giant/serpent/serpent-legged giant (like those that the Gaulish Jupiter was depicted as defeating) or an octopus (like the one the Dagda defeated to clear Mag Muirthemne)"

I like the idea of a great ocean with a huge sea creature or perhaps several of them in it as the start. There is a Middle Irish text which features such a great beast of dreadful appearance (although probably from classical and biblical influences) causing tides by swallowing and then spewing forth the waters of the ocean and it repeatedly tries to swallow the sun but is repelled by its heat; it is paralleled in a depiction of Leviathan from Germany as a serpent encircling the world causing floods by spewing water from its mouth, which when burned by the sun it tries to seize it and earthquakes result from its convulsions. John Carey compares this to a passage from Pomponius Mela where the world is a huge animal whose breathing brings about the tides. Jacqueline Borsje discusses some of these in From Chaos to Enemy: Encounters with Monsters in Early Irish Texts which might be worth reading to lift some descriptions?

Rather than pairing this beast with the sorceress Ernmas ('Iron-Death') though, who seems to fit rather later, perhaps the primordial figure might be a giant woman born to one of the monsters? There is a woman named Ambia who appears in Sex Aetates Mundi who has the shape of a woman and the tail of a fish so she can travel on land and through sea and one day a trout squirts its spawn into her mouth while she is asleep underwater and from this she gives birth to two fomoire and twenty lucrupain ('small bodies') from whom these monstrous races and others later descend. Introduce Neit at this point to either mate with her or her offspring and who has a son named Doit ('Upper Arm'?) who has a son named Balor ('Throws, Dies'?) quite an aggressive lot.

Perhaps Neit ('Battle, Fighting') slays one of the sea monsters and one of his other sons Delbaeth ('Shapes, Forms, Delineates, Constructs, Conceives'?) skins it and makes the sky over their heads, etc? Delbaeth's son Elatha ('Art') then has 5 sons

Dagda
Bres
Ogma
Alla/Elloth
Delbaeth

who eventually come into conflict with their semicousins Balor and the fomoire when they are arrogantly put under tribute by them?

Elatha's sons in this scenario would be the equivalent to the Greek or Roman gods and the fomoire would be equivalent to the gigantes in the classical Gigantomachy. It is the gigantes who have their legs as snake scaled or else turned into snakes in standard iconography and this is the origin of the depiction on the Jupiter-Giganten-Gruppe columns you mentioned.
mattyg7mattyg7 on May 5th, 2015 02:19 am (UTC)
Thanks so much for the response. I think that, from a narrative standpoint, there is going to need to be some trimming of characters. We've got three Delbaeth's in the first few generations (including Delbaeth mac Ogma).

"Jacqueline Borsje discusses some of these in From Chaos to Enemy: Encounters with Monsters in Early Irish Texts which might be worth reading to lift some descriptions?"

Absolutely! Though, I do have to say that I am quite devoted to a primordial octopus. Too much HP Lovecraft for me :P

"Rather than pairing this beast with the sorceress Ernmas ('Iron-Death') though, who seems to fit rather later, perhaps the primordial figure might be a giant woman born to one of the monsters? There is a woman named Ambia who appears in Sex Aetates Mundi who has the shape of a woman and the tail of a fish so she can travel on land and through sea and one day a trout squirts its spawn into her mouth while she is asleep underwater and from this she gives birth to two fomoire and twenty lucrupain ('small bodies') from whom these monstrous races and others later descend. Introduce Neit at this point to either mate with her or her offspring and who has a son named Doit ('Upper Arm'?) who has a son named Balor ('Throws, Dies'?) quite an aggressive lot."

I do like the sound of Ambia as a primordial woman. However, I am having some difficulty thinking about where to put Ernmas. She seems fundamental to the cosmology, seeing as she's mother to at least six of the most important goddesses, so putting her later seems problematic. Especially if Neit goes first, seeing as Badb is his wife. And I believe that she's supposed to be Nuada's grandaughter, which makes it even more difficult since I still don't know where to fit him. I feel like figuring out where to put him is probably going to make a lot of the rest of the genealogy fall into place. Bouncing off of your ideas, I kind of like the idea of making him the third son of Neit. First Doit as a less perfect son who goes to live among the Fomoire, then Delbaeth as a son good enough to shape the new world, and then Nuada as a perfect model of justice, capable of governing the new world. Though that then has the narrative problem of Babd showing up about four generations after most of Neit's activity..

"Dagda
Bres
Ogma
Alla/Elloth
Delbaeth"

I believe I read somewhere that Elloth is the father of Manannan mac Lir. Does that sound right, because he's also pretty important to place.

I am fairly interested in finding a role for the Dagda in the creation as well. With his harp that puts the seasons in order, I find him to be pretty important as a figure who guides the workings of the universe. I suppose that Delbaeth does make more sense as a shaper, but the Dagda does seem important as an instructor of sorts.

Edited at 2015-05-05 02:19 am (UTC)
gilla1982gilla1982 on May 5th, 2015 06:05 am (UTC)
"I do like the sound of Ambia as a primordial woman. However, I am having some difficulty thinking about where to put Ernmas. She seems fundamental to the cosmology, seeing as she's mother to at least six of the most important goddesses, so putting her later seems problematic. Especially if Neit goes first, seeing as Badb is his wife. And I believe that she's supposed to be Nuada's grandaughter, which makes it even more difficult since I still don't know where to fit him. I feel like figuring out where to put him is probably going to make a lot of the rest of the genealogy fall into place. Bouncing off of your ideas, I kind of like the idea of making him the third son of Neit. First Doit as a less perfect son who goes to live among the Fomoire, then Delbaeth as a son good enough to shape the new world, and then Nuada as a perfect model of justice, capable of governing the new world. Though that then has the narrative problem of Babd showing up about four generations after most of Neit's activity.."

I don't think the Badb is supposed to be Nuadu's grandaughter.

But for the rest what if you make Neit ('Battle') and Ernmas ('Iron-Death') a primordial brother and sister who originate from the huge sea creature who they later slay and who becomes the world, but enemies to their sibling(?) Ambia wandering through the ocean (from Latin ambio 'go round, visit in rotation, circle'?) and her monstrous children the fomoire among who Neit's son Doit and grandson Balor live as exiles? The slaying of the sea creature and exile of Doit and Balor could serve as pretext for the fomoire invading and placing them under tribute? You could even make Ambia the original sea creature who they slay rather than their sibling.

"I believe I read somewhere that Elloth is the father of Manannan mac Lir. Does that sound right, because he's also pretty important to place.

I am fairly interested in finding a role for the Dagda in the creation as well. With his harp that puts the seasons in order, I find him to be pretty important as a figure who guides the workings of the universe. I suppose that Delbaeth does make more sense as a shaper, but the Dagda does seem important as an instructor of sorts."

Yes Oirbsen or Manannan is said to be the son of Elloth.

The Dagda needn't be directly involved in the original cosmogonic act in your story but rather he could be the son of Elatha son of Delbaeth who surpasses them both in power and rules over and continues the creation - Cóir Anmann toys with Ollathair as meaning 'Great-Father' or 'Greater-than-his-Father'?
mattyg7mattyg7 on May 5th, 2015 04:45 pm (UTC)
I want to thank you so much for your help here. This is great. I'll probably be picking this up in a few weeks, once finals are over. For now, I need to stew on some of these things.
gilla1982gilla1982 on January 25th, 2015 02:14 pm (UTC)
"I do tend to be drawn to the surviving myth. It's easier for me to work with that. Additionally, I tend to view the relationship between men and the gods as being more contract based than other religions, which only really works if there is some more equality between us."

Yes, I definitely think that although there is a certain asymmetry between the powers of gods and men they would have owed each other legalistic dues indistinct from the legal dues that other members of society owed one another. This is the relationship which is usefully documented in Roman paganism (cf. 'What Did the Romans Know' by Daryn Lehoux; 'The Matter of the Gods' by Clifford Ando). With the Irish sources being on a mythological scale, this is mostly presented on a political/aristocratic level with the gods as members of coeval tuatha, treaties, political intrigues, etc and there seems to be little differentiation between kings and princes marrying and being counseled by politically important women from their own tuath or other tuatha alongside marrying and being counseled by supernatural women from the síde, from the TDD (or 'Hebrew women' in one version), etc as part and parcel of the business of being a legitimate political ruler more generally, these ideas seem to exist on a continuum.

"I think this is what I trend towards. I'm not sure how to articulate how the branches separate though. I'm kind of drawn to the Greek Gaia, where the Titans and Olympians both descend from an Earth goddess, maybe extending that idea to humanity also descending from her, but I'm still skeptical about how that might work artistically."

Cormac explains the Irish legendary figure Ana by comparing her to the common word ana (cf. Latin Ops and ops) and the constellation of classical goddesses of the earth in Isidore, Servius, Macrobius, etc (mater deorum/deum, etc). These earlier writers had already been conflating the goddesses of the primordial Earth with the goddesses of the fruits of the earth in classical paganisms and Cormac is specifically alluding to this background so you have this as a pedigree to work with for a 'Gaia' in 9th century Ireland if you want to use it. How much of this is 'native' for Ana and how much is Cormac's medieval etymologizing is unclear though, I would however note that Cormac's Ana entry is borrowed across for 11th century Danann but in the process dropping any semantic link to the word ana, 'mater deorum' is simply transliterated as 'mathair na ndee' dropping any link with the associations of 'mater deorum-as-Earth-goddess' in classical sources or their medieval commentators and just being literally 'mother of the gods' in Irish, and Danann is given as one of the daughters of the witch-like Ernmas ('Iron-Death') who's other daughters are associated with warfare, territoriality, fighting for the right to rule, as opposed to any active hand in the goodness of the land itself (which will become good under the right ruler). Make of that what you will. As an alternative to Ana/Irish 'Gaia' you could look at Eithne who is massive in the texts as mother/wife/daughter of both gods and royalty and is reviewed by Claire Dagger in 'Eithne - The Sources' which I think you can read online on Deepdyve. Maybe she has a story to tell?

"Question: I'm pretty solid on why Bile isn't really considered convincing, but I'm not entirely clear on why Danu isn't? It seems like there's a lot of cross-cultural evidence for goddesses with similar, if not identical names, serving as the mother of gods, if not necessarily the whole universe. Are you saying that she's just not convincing paired with Bile, or simply that she not convincing at all?"

As the supposed source of the early legendary figure Anu/Ana, the later name TDD, and the subsequent legendary figures Donann/Danann/Anann, some sort of proto-*Danu is completely superfluous and I would say considerably less likely than the alternatives put forward by more nuanced (ie less 19th/early 20th century and naive) readings of the texts themselves with an eye on their chronology and development.

As always all the above are just my own personal points-of-view and further discussion is always helpful :-)
gilla1982gilla1982 on November 15th, 2014 06:17 pm (UTC)

"I am drawn to the idea of the universe emerging organically (like through reproduction), but I'm not sure who to look at as the generative gods. "A Circle of Stones" was one of the first books I got when becoming a Celtic pagan, so I'm used to working with the idea of Danu and Bile, but I'd like to know what some other cosmological theories are."

I think an origin for the universe based on an analogy with primordial cosmic incest and other dangerous sexual liaisons comparable to Indian and Greek materials could be well argued from evidence in Irish and Welsh texts although I've never seen it done convincingly in print. But I think the Irish and even their continental cousins were more interested in more immediately relevant stories like the origins of nations and migrations of peoples. Either way, whatever names they would have had its safe to say they weren't Danu and Bile although I have seen some attempts to post-rationalize this idea which don't really work in my view. But that's just my personal opinion, and to be fair I'm a bit biased anyway towards material worked and re-worked in the Old and Middle Irish periods and its physical and social contexts being more acceptable and 'native' to me, as opposed to some of the hypotheses from 19th/20th century scholars which if they were made today they would be dismissed as badly argued, and yet nevertheless seem to keep hold of their tenure in certain quarters (even in academic circles). Let alone getting down to the cases made for the names Danu and Bile in this respect.
mael_brigdemael_brigde on October 3rd, 2014 04:43 pm (UTC)
Very interesting project, and the piece you linked us to is delightful.

I can tell you a most recent form of Fionntain, though. He died recently in the form of my white, red-eared cat, having kept that shape for seventeen years. (Though admittedly, as he aged the red spread from his ears to his back.)

I would be interested in seeing what you come up with.