Thursday, May 2, 2013

Oengus: Celtic Love God

Oengus: Celtic Love God



The beautiful and fascinating Oengus is sometimes called Mac Ind Oc, "Son of the Young Ones," i.e. Dagda and Boand, or In Mac Oc, "The Young Son." This name, like the myth of his disinheriting his father, may point to his cult superseding that of Dagda. If so, he may then have been affiliated to the older god, as was frequently done in parallel cases, e.g. in Babylon. Oengus may thus have been the high god of some tribe who assumed supremacy, ousting the high god of another tribe, unless we suppose that Dagda was a pre-Celtic god with functions similar to those of Oengus, and that the Celts adopted his cult but gave that of Oengus a higher place. In one myth the supremacy of Oengus is seen. After the first battle of Mag-tured, Dagda is forced to become the slave of Bres, and is much annoyed by a lampooner who extorts the best pieces of his rations. Following the advice of Oengus, he not only causes the lampooner's death, but triumphs over the }Fomorians. On insufficient grounds, mainly because he was patron of Diarmaid, beloved of women, and because his kisses became birds which whispered love thoughts to youths and maidens, Oengus has been called the Eros of the Gaels. More probably he was primarily a supreme god of growth, who occasionally suffered eclipse during the time of death in nature, like Tammuz and Adonis, and this may explain his absence from Mag-tured. The beautiful story of his vision of a maiden with whom he fell violently in love contains too many Märchen formulæ to be of any mythological or religious value. His mother Boand caused search to be made for her, but without avail. At last she was discovered to be the daughter of a semi-divine lord of a síd, but only through the help of mortals was the secret of how she could be taken wrung from him. She was a swan-maiden, and on a certain day only would Oengus obtain her. Ultimately she became his wife. The story is interesting because it shows how the gods occasionally required mortal aid.

Celtic-Druid God of Fertility

Celtic-Druid God of Fertility




If Dagda was a god of fertility, he may have been an equivalent of a god whose image was called Cenn or Cromm Cruaich, "Heador Crooked One of the Mound," or "Bloody Head or Crescent." Vallancey, citing a text now lost, says that Crom-eocha was a name of Dagda, and that a motto at the sacrificial place at Tara read, "Let the altar ever blaze to Dagda." These statements may support this identification. The cult of Cromm is preserved in some verses:
"He was their god,
The withered Cromm with many mists...
To him without glory
They would kill their piteous wretched offspring,
With much wailing and peril,
To pour their blood around Cromm Cruaich.
Milk and corn
They would ask from him speedily
In return for a third of their healthy issue,
Great was the horror and fear of him.
To him noble Gaels would prostrate themselves."
}
Elsewhere we learn that this sacrifice in return for the gifts of corn and milk from the god took place at Samhain, and that on one occasion the violent prostrations of the worshippers caused three-fourths of them to die. Again, "they beat their palms, they pounded their bodies ... they shed falling showers of tears." These are reminiscences of orgiastic rites in which pain and pleasure melt into one. The god must have been a god of fertility; the blood of the victims was poured on the image, the flesh, as in analogous savage rites and folk-survivals, may have been buried in the fields to promote fertility. If so, the victims' flesh was instinct with the power of the divinity, and, though their number is obviously exaggerated, several victims may have taken the place of an earlier slain representative of the god. A mythic Crom Dubh, "Black Crom," whose festival occurs on the first Sunday in August, may be another form of Cromm Cruaich. In one story the name is transferred to S. Patrick's servant, who is asked by the fairies when they will go to Paradise. "Not till the day of judgment," is the answer, and for this they cease to help men in the processes of agriculture. But in a variant Manannan bids Crom ask this question, and the same result follows. These tales thus enshrine the idea that Crom and the fairies were ancient gods of growth who ceased to help men when they deserted them for the Christian faith. If the sacrifice was offered at the August festival, or, as the texts suggest, at Samhain, after harvest, it must have been on account of the next year's crop, and the flesh may have been mingled with the seed corn.
Dagda may thus have been a god of growth and fertility. {}His wife or mistress was the river-goddess, Boand (the Boyne), and the children ascribed to him were Oengus, Bodb Dearg, Danu, Brigit, and perhaps Ogma. The euhemerists made him die of Cethlenn's venom, long after the battle of Mag-tured in which he encountered her. Irish mythology is remarkably free from obscene and grotesque myths, but some of these cluster round Dagda. We hear of the Gargantuan meal provided for him in sport by the Fomorians, and of which he ate so much that "not easy was it for him to move and unseemly was his apparel," as well as his conduct with a Fomorian beauty. Another amour of his was with Morrigan, the place where it occurred being still known as "The Couple's Bed." In another tale Dagda acts as cook to Conaire the great.

Dagda: An Early Celtic Chief of Gods

Dagda: An Early Celtic Chief of Gods



An early chief of the gods is Dagda, who, in the story of the battle of Mag-tured, is said to be so called because he promised to do more than all the other gods together. Hence they said, "It is thou art the good hand" (dag-dae). The Cóir Anmann explains Dagdaas "fire of god" (daig and déa). The true derivation is from dagos, "good," and deivos, "god," though Dr. Stokes considers Dagda as connected with dagh, whence daghda, "cunning." Dagda is also called Cera, a word perhaps derived from kar and connected with Lat. cerus, "creator" and other names of his are Ruad-rofhessa, "lord of great knowledge," }and Eochaid Ollathair, "great father," "for a great father to the Tuatha Dé Danann was he." He is also called "a beautiful god," and "the principal god of the pagans." After the battle he divides the brugs or síd among the gods, but his son Oengus, having been omitted, by a stratagem succeeded in ousting his father from his síd, over which he now himself reigned—possibly the survival of an old myth telling of a superseding of Dagda's cult by that of Oengus, a common enough occurrence in all religions. In another version, Dagda being dead, Bodb Dearg divides the síd, and Manannan makes the Tuatha Déa invisible and immortal. He also helps Oengus to drive out his foster-father Elemar from his brug, where Oengus now lives as a god. The underground brugs are the gods' land, in all respects resembling the oversea Elysium, and at once burial-places of the euhemerised gods and local forms of the divine land. Professor Rh[^y]s regards Dagda as an atmospheric god; Dr. MacBain sees in him a sky-god. More probably he is an early Earth-god and a god of agriculture. He has power over corn and milk, and agrees to prevent the other gods from destroying these after their defeat by the Milesians—former beneficent gods being regarded as hurtful, a not uncommon result of the triumph of a new faith. Dagda is called "the god of the earth" "because of the greatness of his power." Mythical objects associated with him suggest plenty and fertility—his cauldron which satisfied all comers, his unfailing swine, one always living, the other ready for cooking, a vessel {}of ale, and three trees always laden with fruit. These were in his síd, where none ever tasted death; hence his síd was a local Elysium, not a gloomy land of death, but the underworld in its primitive aspect as the place of gods of fertility. In some myths he appears with a huge club or fork, and M. D'Arbois suggests that he may thus be an equivalent of the Gaulish god with the mallet. This is probable, since the Gaulish god may have been a form of Dispater, an Earth or under-Earth god of fertility.

The Celtic Druid God of Medicine

The Celtic Druid God of Medicine



Diancecht, whose name may mean "swift in power," was god of medicine, and, with Creidne's help, fashioned a silver hand for Nuada. His son Miach replaced this by a magic restoration of the real hand, and in jealousy his father slew him—a version of the Märchen formula of the jealous master. Three hundred and sixty-five herbs grew from his grave, and were arranged according to their properties by his sister Airmed, but Diancecht again confused them, "so that no one knows their proper cures." At the second battle of Mag-tured, Diancecht presided over a healing-well containing magic herbs. These and the power of spells caused the mortally wounded who were placed in it to recover. Hence it was called "the spring of health." Diancecht, associated with a healing-well, may be cognate with Grannos. He is also referred to in the S. Gall MS., where his healing powers are extolled.

Celtic Druids Gods of Arts and Crafts

Celtic Gods of Arts and Crafts




Among other culture gods were those associated with the arts and crafts—the development of Celtic art in metal-work necessitating the existence of gods of this art. Such a god is Goibniu, eponymous god of smiths (Old Ir. goba, "smith"), and the divine craftsman at the battle of Mag-tured, making spears which never failed to kill. Smiths have everywhere been regarded as uncanny—a tradition surviving from the first introduction of metal among those hitherto accustomed to stone weapons and tools. S. Patrick prayed against the "spells of women, smiths, and Druids," and it is thus not surprising to find that Goibniu had a reputation for magic, even among Christians. A spell for making butter, in an eighth century MS. preserved at S. Gall, appeals to his "science." Curiously enough, Goibniu is also connected with the culinary art in myth, and, like Hephaistos, prepares the feast of the gods, while his ale preserves their immortality. The elation produced by heady liquors caused them to be regarded as draughts of immortality, like Soma, Haoma, or nectar. Goibniu survives in tradition as the Gobhan Saer, to whom the building of round towers is ascribed.
Another god of crafts was Creidne the brazier (Ir. cerd, "artificer"; cf. Scots caird, "tinker"), who assisted in making a silver hand for Nuada, and supplied with magical rapidity parts of the weapons used at Mag-tured. According to the annalists, he was drowned while bringing golden ore from Spain. Luchtine, god of carpenters, provided spear-handles {}for the battle, and with marvellous skill flung them into the sockets of the spear-heads.