Monday, February 20, 2012

Mythic Ireland

The early morning fog lifts off the sea at the south of Ireland. From their ships, the Milesian Celts of the Galician coast of Spain see their new homeland for the first time. Inisfail, they call it, fabled Land of Destiny. Among them stands a poet. His name is Amergin (pronounced Ah ver geen). He looks farther, sees farther than his warrior brothers. At the headland high above the beach, he sees that the land is already occupied. There, ranged against the wild sky, are little people five feet tall, dressed all in white, surrounded, or so it seems by dawnlight, in shining auroras of light.

Perhaps Irish history begins here.

Perhaps what begins is the intersection - the place and time in Ireland when the real began to fold into the unreal, when the line between the two first grew blurry, then formed itself into the curling ribbon of Irish mythohistory.

The Milesians of Spain were real. Legend has it that they came to Ireland in a huge fleet of ships somewhere around 500 B.C. Evidence indicates a much smaller “invasion” - perhaps of a clan group or family.

But, as you know if you’ve ever visited Ireland, there were dwellers on the land long before that time. The dolmens and passage graves, the mysterious wood and stone henges are much much older than the Milesians, many contemporaneous with the pyramids of Egypt from around 3000 B.C.E.

So who were these ancient people? Legend says that there were successive races in Ireland - the architectural Partholon, the fearful Nemed, the warlike Fomorii with their baleful one-eyed leader, the boggy and backward Fir Bolg. Last in the mythical list, but oh so certainly not least, came the Tuatha de Danaan, the people of the mother goddess Danu, the magical little people of the light.

Myth tells us that the Milesians engaged these little people in battle on those fateful first encounter days in 500 B.C. Myth says that although they were defeated, Amergin the Poet allowed the little Tuatha de Danaan to stay, to inhabit the hollow hills and thus keep the magic in Ireland.

And what do you say?

As for me, having spent time in Ireland, I am with Irish poet Nuala ni Dhomhnaill, who says that “Even the dogs in West Kerry know that the Otherworld exists and that to be in and out of it constantly is the most natural thing in the world.”

What I hope to do in this blog is to open a portal for you - a door that will take you in and out of the Celtic world constantly - through myth and history, through quirks and miracles, through that most beautiful of all gifts from the Creator - storytelling.

I invite you to join me on the journey.