Saturday, September 27, 2014

Who Were The Fomorian Giants?

Who Were The Fomorian Giants?

From the annalistic point of view the Fomorians are sea demons or pirates, their name being derived from muir, "sea," while they are descended along with other monstrous beings from them. Professor Rh[^y]s, while connecting the name with Welsh foawr, "giant" (Gaelic famhair), derives the name 
from fo, "under," and muir, and regards them as submarine beings. Dr. MacBain connected them with the fierce powers of the western sea personified, like the Muireartach, a kind of sea hag, of a Fionn ballad. But this association of the Fomorians with the ocean may be the result of a late folk-etymology, which wrongly derived their name from muir. The Celtic experience of the Lochlanners or Norsemen, with whom the Fomorians are associated, would aid the conception of them as sea-pirates of a more or less demoniacal character. Dr. Stokes connects the second syllable mor with mare in "nightmare," from moro, and regards them as subterranean as well as submarine. But the more probable derivation is that of Zimmer and D'Arbois, from fo and morio(mor, "great "), which would thus agree with the tradition which regarded them as giants. They were probably beneficent gods of the aborigines, whom the Celtic conquerors regarded as generally evil, perhaps equating them with the dark powers already known to them. They were still remembered as gods, and are called "champions of the síd," like the Tuatha Dé Danann. Thus King Bres sought to save his life by promising that the kine of Ireland would always be in milk, then that the men of Ireland would reap every quarter, and finally by revealing the lucky days for ploughing, sowing, and reaping. Only an autochthonous god could know this, and the story is suggestive of the true nature of the Fomorians. The hostile character attributed to them is seen from the fact that they destroyed corn, milk, and fruit. But in Ireland, as elsewhere, this destructive power was deprecated by begging them not to destroy "corn nor milk in Erin beyond their fair tribute." Tribute was also paid to them on Samhain, the time when 
the powers of blight feared by men are in the ascendant. Again, the kingdom of Balor, their chief, is still described as the kingdom of cold. But when we remember that a similar "tribute" was paid to Cromm Cruaich, a god of fertility, and that after the conquest of the Tuatha Dé Danann they also were regarded as hostile to agriculture, we realise that the Fomorians must have been aboriginal gods of fertility whom the conquering Celts regarded as hostile to them and their gods. Similarly, in folk-belief the beneficent corn-spirit has sometimes a sinister and destructive aspect. Thus the stories of "tribute" would be distorted reminiscences of the ritual of gods of the soil, differing little in character from that of the similar Celtic divinities. What makes it certain that the Fomorians were aboriginal gods is that they are found in Ireland before the coming of the early colonist Partholan. They were the gods of the pre-Celtic folk—Firbolgs, Fir Domnann, and Galioin—all of them in Ireland before the Tuatha Dé Danaan arrived, and all of them regarded as slaves, spoken of with the utmost contempt. Another possibility, however, ought to be considered. As the Celtic gods were local in character, and as groups of tribes would frequently be hostile to other groups, the Fomorians may have been local gods of a group at enmity with another group, worshipping the Tuatha Dé Danaan.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Ghosts and Fairies and the Tuath De De Danaan Burial Mounds


The meaning formerly given to Tuatha Dé Danann was "the men of science who were gods," danann being here connected with dán, "knowledge." But the true meaning is "the tribes or folk of the goddess Danu," which agrees with the cognates Tuatha or Fir Dea, "tribes or men of the goddess." The name was given to the group, though Danu had only three sons, Brian, Iuchar, and Iucharbar. Hence the group is also called fir tri ndea, "men of the three gods." The equivalents in Welsh story of Danu and her folk are Dôn and her children. We have seen that though they are described as kings and warriors by the annalists, traces of their divinity appear. In the Cúchulainn cycle they are supernatural beings and sometimes demons, helping or harming men, and in the Fionn cycle all these characteristics are ascribed to them. But the theory which prevailed most is that which connected them with the hills or mounds, the last resting-places of the mighty dead. Some of these bore their names, while other beings were also associated with the mounds (síd)—Fomorians and Milesian chiefs, heroes of the sagas, or those who had actually been buried in them. Legend told how, after the defeat of the gods, the mounds were divided among them, the method of division varying in different versions. In an early version the Tuatha Dé Danann are immortal and the Dagda divides the síd. But in a poem of Flann Manistrech (ob. 1056) they are mortals and die. Now follows a regular chronology giving the dates of their reigns and their deaths, as in the poem of Gilla Coemain (eleventh century). Hence another legend told how, Dagda being dead, Bodb Dearg divided the síd, yet even here Manannan is said to have conferred immortality upon the Tuatha Dé Danann. The old pagan myths had shown that gods might die, while in ritual their representatives were slain, and this may have been the starting-point of the euhemerising process. But the divinity of the Tuatha Dé Danann is still recalled. Eochaid O'Flynn (tenth century), doubtful whether they are men or demons, concludes, "though I have treated of these deities in order, yet have I not adored them." Even in later times they were still thought of as gods in exile, a view which appears in the romantic tales and sagas existing side by side with the notices of the annalists. They were also regarded as fairy kings and queens, and yet fairies of a different order from those of ordinary tradition. They are "fairies or sprites with corporeal forms, endowed with immortality," and yet also dei terreni or síde worshipped by the folk before the coming of S. Patrick. 

Even the saint and several bishops were called by the fair pagan daughters of King Loegaire, fir síde, "men of the síd," that is, gods. The síd were named after the names of the Tuatha Dé Danann

 who reigned in them, but the tradition being localised in different places, several mounds were sometimes connected with one god. The síd were marvellous underground palaces, full of strange things, and thither favoured mortals might go for a time or for ever. In this they correspond exactly to the oversea Elysium, the divine land.
But why were the Tuatha Dé Danann associated with the mounds? If fairies or an analogous race of beings were already in pagan times connected with hills or mounds, gods now regarded as fairies would be connected with them. Dr. Joyce and O'Curry think that an older race of aboriginal gods or síd-folk preceded the Tuatha Déa in the mounds. These may have been the Fomorians, the "champions of the síd," while in Mesca Ulad the Tuatha Déa go to the underground dwellings and speak with the síde already there. We do not know that the fairy creed as such existed in pagan times, but if the síde and the Tuatha Dé Danann were once distinct, they were gradually assimilated. Thus the Dagda is called "king of the síde"; Aed Abrat and his daughters, Fand and Liban, and Labraid, Liban's husband, are called síde, and Manannan is Fand's consort. Labraid's island, like the síd of Mider and the land to which women of the síde invite Connla, differs but little from the usual divine Elysium, while Mider, one of the síde, is associated with the Tuatha Dé Danann. The síde are once said to be female, and are frequently supernatural women who run away or marry mortals. Thus they may be a reminiscence of old Earth goddesses. But they are not exclusively female, since there are kings of the síde, and as the name Fir síde, "men of the 
síde," shows, while S. Patrick and his friends were taken forsíd-folk.
The formation of the legend was also aided by the old cult of the gods on heights, some of them sepulchral mounds, and now occasionally sites of Christian churches. The Irish god Cenn Cruaich and his Welsh equivalent Penn Cruc, whose name survives in Pennocrucium, have names meaning "chief or head of the mound." Other mounds or hills had also a sacred character. Hence gods worshipped at mounds, dwelling or revealing themselves there, still lingered in the haunted spots; they became fairies, or were associated with the dead buried in the mounds, as fairies also have been, or were themselves thought to have died and been buried there. The haunting of the mounds by the old gods is seen in a prayer of S. Columba's, who begs God to dispel "this host (i.e. the old gods) around the cairns that reigneth." An early MS also tells how the Milesians allotted the underground part of Erin to the Tuatha Déa who now retired within the hills; in other words, they were gods of the hills worshipped by the Milesians on hills. But, as we shall see, the gods dwelt elsewhere than in hills.

Tumuli may already in pagan times have been pointed out as tombs of gods who died in myth or ritual, like the tombs of Zeus in Crete and of Osiris in Egypt. Again, fairies, in some aspects, are ghosts of the dead, and haunt tumuli; hence, when gods became fairies they would do the same. And once they were thought of as dead kings, any 
notable tumuli would be pointed out as theirs, since it is a law in folk-belief to associate tumuli or other structures not with the dead or with their builders, but with supernatural or mythical or even historical personages. If síde ever meant "ghosts," it would be easy to call the dead gods by this name, and to connect them with the places of the dead.

Many strands went to the weaving of the later conception of the gods, but there still hung around them an air of mystery, and the belief that they were a race of men was never consistent with itself.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Celtic Goddesses of Rivers, Springs and Wells

Celtic Goddesses of Rivers, Springs and Wells

Goddesses, the earlier spirits of the waters, protected rivers and springs, or were associated with gods of healing wells. Dirona or Sirona is associated with Grannos mainly in Eastern Gaul and the Rhine provinces, and is sometimes represented carrying grapes and grain. Thus this goddess may once have been connected with fertility, perhaps an Earth-mother, and if her name means "the long-lived," this would be an appropriate title for an Earth-goddess. Another goddess, Stanna, mentioned in an inscription at Perigueux, is perhaps {43}"the standing or abiding one," and thus may also have been Earth-goddess. Grannos was also associated with the local goddesses Vesunna and Aventia, who gave their names to Vesona and Avanche. His statue also stood in the temple of the goddess of the Seine, Sequana. With Bormo were associated Bormana in Southern Gaul, and Damona in Eastern Gaul—perhaps an animal goddess, since the root of her name occurs in Irish dam, "ox," and Welsh dafad, "sheep." Dea Brixia was the consort of Luxovius, god of the waters of Luxeuil. Names of other goddesses of the waters are found on ex votos and plaques which were placed in or near them. The Roman Nymphæ, sometimes associated with Bormo, were the equivalents of the Celtic water-goddesses, who survived in the water-fairies of later folk-belief. Some river-goddesses gave their names to many rivers in the Celtic area—the numerous Avons being named from Abnoba, goddess of the sources of the Danube, and the many Dees and Dives from Divona. Clota was goddess of the Clyde, Sabrina had her throne "beneath the translucent wave" of the Severn, Icauna was goddess of the Yonne, Sequana of the Seine, and Sinnan of the Shannon.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Celtic Danu was an Early Earth Mother

Celtic Danu was an Early Earth Mother

Danu gave her name to the whole group of gods, and is called their mother, like the Egyptian Neith or the Semitic Ishtar. In the annalists she is daughter of Dagda, and has three sons. She may be akin to the goddess Anu, whom Cormac describes as "mater deorum hibernensium. It was well she nursed the gods." From her name he derives ana, "plenty," and two hills in Kerry are called "the Paps of Anu." Thus as a goddess of plenty Danu or Anu may have been an early Earth-mother, and what may be a dim memory of Anu in Leicestershire confirms this view. A cave on the Dane Hills is called "Black Annis' Bower," and she is said to have been a savage woman who devoured human victi.   Earth-goddesses 

usually have human victims, and Anu would be no exception. In the cult of Earth divinities Earth and under-Earth are practically identical, while Earth-goddesses like Demeter and Persephone were associated with the underworld, the dead being Demeter's folk. The fruits of the earth with their roots below the surface are then gifts of the earth- or under-earth goddess. This may have been the case with Danu, for in Celtic belief the gifts of civilisation came from the underworld or from the gods. Professor Rhys finds the name Anu in the datAnoniredi, "chariot of Anu," in an inscription from Vaucluse, and the identification is perhaps established by the fact that goddesses of fertility were drawn through the fields in a vehicle. Cormac also mentions Buanann as mother and nurse of heroes, perhaps a goddess worshipped by heroes

Monday, September 1, 2014

Comparative Table of Divinities with Similar Names in Ancient Ireland Britian and Gaul


Italics denote names found in Inscriptions.
AnuAnna (?)Anoniredi, "chariot of Anu"
Beli, BelinusBelenos
BronBranBrennus (?)
LugLlew or Lleu (?)LugusLugores
Mabon, MaponosMaponos
MiderMedros (?)
ModronMatrona (?)
NuadaNodons, Nudd
Hael, Llûdd (?)
Totatis, TutatisTeutates