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Author Topic: Are associations in Irish myth representative of genuine belief?  (Read 2156 times)
Last Login:June 18, 2011, 08:45:00 am
Angola Angola

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« Topic Start: June 04, 2011, 02:41:31 pm »

Ive been kicking this around in my noggin today while crashing out on the grass in the rare bit of sun we're having in Ireland. Are the plant and animal associations given to deities in medieval irish lit purely serving a literary function or is there a blend?

Theres arguments for both

For an association representing genuine totemism say take Donn being a Bull and the Dagda being an Oak... theyre both ancestral deities of regional peoples but the way theyre represented is different. So could that be respresentative of a regional totemisms influence on the literature...?

For the literary origin Eochaid - Horse lord could be pure literature by the time we meet it in the lit. Its a name applied widely in medieval Irish lit to kingly charactors but while they serve a purpose in the storyline they arent generally fleshed out as individuals so we might be expected to learn all we need to know about them from their name... So because the charactors serve literary function - to progress the story line ...and through the usage of the term Eochaid to give them a rough charactor outline we might say Eochaid in most cases is more a literary device then an association originating in a genuine totemistic association for a deity.

Originally [where the name] Eochaid [was applied it]may have been [representative of] a genuine horse totem but by the time it appears in medieval literature its probably lost that function in society and become a metaphor for kingship [given its usage in lit.]so we probably wouldnt be able to rely on its presence being representative of an existing belief that a person called Eochaid has a totemistic association with horses.

Would anyone say thats true of some or many of the associations given to deities?

« Last Edit: June 04, 2011, 02:43:58 pm by Nuadu_Of_Kildare » Logged

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Vella Malachite
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« Reply #1: June 08, 2011, 02:43:28 am »

Hm.  That's interesting.  I haven't heard of literal totemism in Irish myths - I've heard a lot of symbolism, especially if the symbol is some form of avatar of shapeshifted version of a deity or what have you.  I'd be inclined to lean more towards the association without totemism end, but if anyone has any lit on the subject, I'd be interested.

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« Reply #2: June 09, 2011, 04:14:34 pm »

Would anyone say thats true of some or many of the associations given to deities?

Can you elaborate on what you mean by "totem" and "totemism"?

Are you talking about objects that are symbolically associated with specific deities -- f'ex, like an anvil might be associated with Brighid because of Her link with smithcraft?  Or the different forms taken by specific deities in the myths -- like Ceridwen turning Herself into a hen in the Tale of Gwion Bach?  Or something else?

~ Aster

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Last Login:June 18, 2011, 08:45:00 am
Angola Angola

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« Reply #3: June 09, 2011, 08:03:10 pm »

Can you elaborate on what you mean by "totem" and "totemism"?

Say in a tribal society each group might have a totem that works to highlight them as a distinct entity from other groups. An animal, a plant, a moutain... they are the people of x and the neighbouring group are the people of y. Take the Ulaid and their rivals the Eoghannacht in early medieval Ireland. The Ulaid might have Daire the Oak (possibly another name for The Dagda) as their ancestral deity and maybe they were "the people of the Oak" and the Eoghannacht their largest rival could have been the people of Eo - the Yew...

Thats only a functionalist approach to totemism. Totems wouldnt JUST have been a simple way of saying we are different to you. They may have had a much greater religious significance that might interest neopagans. But... is that what is represented in medieval literature? We werent a tribal culture when the lit was written...


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