Saturday, November 22, 2014

Three Fairies that Appear at the Birth of a Child

Three Fairies that Appear at the Birth of a Child


Popular superstition has preserved the memory of these goddesses in the three bonnes damesdames blanches, and White Women, met by wayfarers in forests, or in the three fairies or wise women of folk-tales, who appear at the birth of children. But sometimes they have become hateful hags. The Matres and other goddesses probably survived in the beneficent fairies of rocks and streams, in the fairy Abonde who brought riches to houses, or Esterelle of Provence who made women fruitful, or Aril who watched over meadows, or in beings like Melusine, Viviane, and others. In Gallo-Roman Britain the cult of the Matres is found, but how far it was indigenous there is uncertain. A Welsh name for fairies,  Y Mamau, "the Mothers," and the phrase, "the blessing of the Mothers" used of a fairy benediction, may be a reminiscence of such goddesses. The presence of similar goddesses in Ireland will be considered later. Images of the Matres bearing a child have sometimes been taken for those of the Virgin, when found accidentally, and as they are of wood blackened with age, they are known as Vierges Noires, and occupy an honoured place in Christian sanctuaries. Many churches of Nôtre Dame have been built on sites where an image of the Virgin is said to have been miraculously found—the image probably being that of a pagan Mother. Similarly, an altar to the Matres at Vaison is now dedicated to the Virgin as the "good Mother."
In inscriptions from Eastern and Cisalpine Gaul, and from the Rhine and Danube region, the Matronæ are mentioned, and this name is probably indicative of goddesses like the Matres. It is akin to that of many rivers, e.g. the Marne or Meyrone, and shows that the Mothers were associated with rivers. The Mother river fertilised a large district, and 
exhibited the characteristic of the whole group of goddesses.
Akin also to the Matres are the Suleviæ, guardian goddesses called Matres in a few inscriptions; the Comedovæ, whose name perhaps denotes guardianship or power; the Dominæ, who watched over the home, perhaps the Dames of mediæval folk-lore; and the Virgines, perhaps an appellative of the Matres, and significant when we find that virgin priestesses existed in Gaul and Ireland. The Proxumæ were worshipped in Southern Gaul, and the Quadriviæ, goddesses of cross-roads, at Cherbourg

Saturday, November 15, 2014

The Coming of the Fomorians to Ireland

The Coming of the Fomorians to Ireland


Two hundred years before Partholan's coming, the Fomorians had arrived, and they and their chief Cichol Gricenchos fought Partholan at Mag Itha, where they were defeated. Cichol was footless, and some of his host had but one arm and one leg. They were demons, according to the chroniclers, and descendants of the luckless Ham. Nennius makes Partholan and his men the first Scots who came from Spain to Ireland. The next arrivals were the people of Nemed who returned to Spain, whence they came (Nennius), or died to a man (Tuan). They also were descendants of the inevitable Noah, and their sojourn in Ireland was much disturbed by the Fomorians who had recovered from their defeat, and finally overpowered the Nemedians after the death of Nemed. From Tory Island the Fomorians ruled Ireland, and forced the 
Nemedians to pay them annually on the eve of Samhain (Nov. 1st) two-thirds of their corn and milk and of the children born during the year. If the Fomorians are gods of darkness, or, preferably, aboriginal deities, the tribute must be explained as a dim memory of sacrifice offered at the beginning of winter when the powers of darkness and blight are in the ascendant. The Fomorians had a tower of glass in Tory Island. This was one day seen by the Milesians, to whom appeared on its battlements what seemed to be men. A year after they attacked the tower and were overwhelmed in the sea. From the survivors of a previously wrecked vessel of their fleet are descended the Irish. Another version makes the Nemedians the assailants. Thirty of them survived their defeat, some of them going to Scotland or Man (the Britons), some to Greece (to return as the Firbolgs), some to the north, where they learned magic and returned as the Tuatha Dé Danann. The Firbolgs, "men of bags," resenting their ignominious treatment by the Greeks, escaped to Ireland. They included the Firbolgs proper, the Fir-Domnann, and the Galioin. The Fomorians are called their gods, and this, with the contemptuous epithets bestowed on them, may point to the fact that the Firbolgs were the pre-Celtic folk of Ireland and the Fomorians their divinities, hostile to the gods of the Celts or regarded as dark deities. The Firbolgs are vassals of Ailill and Medb, and with the Fir Domnann and Galioin are hostile to Cúchulainn and his men, just as Fomorians were to the Tuatha Dé Danann. The strifes of races and of their gods are inextricably confused.