Celtic Myth Podshow News

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Category: Saints (Page 1 of 4)

New Mabinogion Show, Episode 40, ‘Betrayal in the Nursery’!


The latest episode in the First Branch of the Mabinogi – Betrayal in the Nursery – is now out and available for you to download or listen to. This is part 11 of the First Branch of the Mabinogion. Doubt begins to enter the minds of the people of Dyfed as their Lord and his Lady show no signs of producing an heir. The High Council of Druids put pressure on Pwyll to divorce his Fairy Bride and take a more ‘fruitful’ woman to his bed! Sadly, in an unexpected twist they are overtaken be events of unspeakable horror!

Damh the Bard’s new album, Sabbat!

Damh the Bard and his new album, Sabbat

Damh the Bard and his new album, ‘Sabbat’

We’re proud to announce the release of Damh the Bard’s fabulous new  studio album, Sabbat. After 18 months in the making, this album is launched today and we’re lucky enough to bring you two fantastic songs from it to celebrate its launch. As you can see, Damh is just as chuffed as we are with this album (if not more!). A superb collection of mythic music that shows his talent and style are really developing. This album has to rank among his very best! Well done, Damh!

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St. David’s Day and the Symbols of Wales


St David of Wales or Dewi Sant, was a saint of the Celtic Church. He was the son of Sandde, Prince of Powys, and Non, daughter of a Chieftain of Menevia whose lands included the peninsula on which the little cathedral town of St David’s now stands. St David is thought to have been born near the present town of St David’s. The ruins of a small chapel dedicated to his mother, Non,  may be seen near St. David’s Cathedral.David became the Abbot of  St David’s and died on 1st March 589. A.D. An account of his life was written towards the end of the 11th century by Rhygyfarch, a monk at Llanbadarn Fawr near Aberystwyth.

Many miracles were attributed to him. One miracle often recounted is that once when Dewi was preaching to a crowd at Llandewi Brefi those on the outer edges could not hear, so he spread a handkerchief on the ground, and stood on it to preach, whereupon the ground rose  up beneath him, and all could hear.
March 1st , St David’s Day, is now the traditional day of the Welsh.  March 1 is the date given by Rhygyfarch for the death of Dewi Sant, was celebrated as a religious festival up until the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century. In the 18th century it became a national festival among the Welsh, and continues as such to this day.

The Harp

The harp is regarded as the national instrument of Wales. By the end of the 18th century, the triple harp – so called because it had three rows of strings – was widely known as the Welsh harp on account of its popularity in Wales. The harp has been used through the ages as an accompaniment to folk-singing and dancing and as a solo instrument.

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The Story ”Cath Almaine” as a Window on Early Christian Ireland


Early Irish Man
Pic: Irish Tribes
Thanks to the Irish Tribes website, specialists in Irish Genealogy, for this article exploring the story of the ‘Cath Almaine’  or ‘The Battle of Allen’ and what it shows us about early Ireland. the story of this battle is fascinating and reveals much about the early Christian celtic traditions. They begin with:-

The Story


Cath Almaine” or ”The Battle of Allen” is a story written in Middle Irish which was composed some time after 950 A.D. based on a battle which was fought in 722 A.D.  In that year, the High-King Fergal mac Máele Dúin demanded the bóramha or ”cattle-tribute” from the Laighin.  The Laighin and their king Murchad mac Brain refused.

The High-King called on Conn’s Half (i.e., on the Uí Néill, the Airghialla, and the Connachta) to come together to invade Leinster.  But, according to the story, the warriors of the North were reluctant.  They said that they should wait to see what Donn Bó would do, the young man who was best in Ireland for the composition of lays, the telling of stories, the harnessing of horses, the riveting of spears, and the plaiting of hair.  But Donn Bó didn’t get permission from his mother to go on this hosting until she got a promise from Máel mac Failbe, coarb of St. Colm Cille, that Donn Bó would return to her safe and sound.

The host of Conn’s Half entered Leinster.  The host insulted Áedán, a leper in Cluain Dubhail.  Áedán said that God would avenge him upon the Uí Néill forever.  Donn Bó became terribly discouraged.  He refused to sing or recite for Fergal that night, but he promised that he would sing a song for him the next night no matter where they might be.

St. Brighid Appears

The hosts came together on December 11, 722 at the Hill of Almhaine, Co. Kildare.  St. Brighid showed herself over the hosts for the sake of the Laighin and St. Colm Cille showed himself above the hosts for the sake of the Uí Néill.  Brighid won the day.  The battle was broken on the Uí Néill.  Fergal mac Máele Dúin was killed along with thousands of others on the Uí Néill side.  Many of them were beheaded, including Donn Bó.  That night while the Laighin were celebrating, the Laighin warrior Báethgalach went out to the field of slaughter.  There in the dark, he heard the head of Donn Bó singing sweetly for Fergal in fulfillment of his promise.  At last, through a miracle of Colm Cille, the head of Donn Bó was placed back on his neck and he came home safe and sound to his mother.

A Window on Early Christian Ireland

For a good part of the ancient beliefs, norms, relationships, and rituals found in the story called “Cath Almaine”, we can find corroboration in various fields such as archeology, DNA research, and European history. Let’s look at some of these cultural characteristics, particularly those which are corroborated by new research.

A.  Donn Bó and his Hair

…is uad bud ferr rann espa ocus ríg-scéla for doman. Is é bud ferr do glés ech ocus do innsma shleg ocus d’fhige fholt. (1)

…is é ba fhearr ar an domhain do laoithe a chumadh agus rí-scéalta a insint.  Is é ba fhearr do chapaill a ghléasadh, sleánna a inseamú, agus folt a thrilseánú.

… he was the best in the world in composing lays and telling royal stories.  He was the best at harnessing horses, rivetting spears, and plaiting hair.

We can see from these lines that the Gaeil had significant interest in the appearance of their hair in the early Christian period. We now have definite evidence that such interest came down from the centuries before Christ.

Specifically, a human sacrifice was found in 2003 in a bog in Clonycavan, Co. Meath. According to radiocarbon dating done on this “Clonycavan Man”, he was alive at some time between 392 BC and 201 B.C. During his lifetime, he gave much attention to his hair and he used a kind of hair-gel made from plant oil and resin imported from SE Europe.

We know that the human head was important in the religion and ritual of the Celts as the seat of the soul.  It is easy to understand, therefore, that hair and its appearance were also important.

There were others in Europe in the Iron Age who were interested in hair-plaiting and hair-styles. In 1948, “Osterby Man” was found in a bog near Osterby, Germany. He was a warrior of the Suebi, a warrior of the Germanic tribe mentioned by Tacitus and renowned for the ‘Swabian Knot’ in their hair. “Osterby Man” was alive about the first century after Christ.

B.  Connachta, Uí Néill, Airghialla, and DNA

Ba trom trá la Fergal sin .i. Laigin do nemchomall a n-gellta fris, co rofhuacrad sluaiged dírecra dímór uad for Leith Chuinn .i. for Eogan ocus for Conall ocus for Airgiallaib ocus Mide … do thobach na bórama.  (2)

Ba throm le Fergal é sin, .i. nár chomhlíon Laighin a ngeall leis, agus d’fhógair sé slógadh ollmhór ar Leath Chuinn, .i. ar Chinéal Eoghain agus ar Chinéal Chonaill agus ar Airghialla agus Mhíde …  chun an Bhóramha a thobhach.

That was onerous to Fergal, i.e., that the Laighin did not fulfill their promise to him, and he called on Conn’s Half for a great hosting, i.e., on the Cinéal eoghain and Cinéal Chonaill and the Airghialla and Míde… to levy the Bóramha.

In this sentence, we can see reference to the “official genealogy” of the Dál Chuinn created by the seanchaidhthe of the Uí Néill which claims that the Connachta, Uí Néill In Tuaiscirt (with Cinéal Chonaill and Cinéal Eoghain among them), Clann Choirpre mhic Néill (which is not mentioned in this sentence), Mide (.i. Uí Néill in Deiscirt), and Airghialla, descend from Conn Chéadchathach.

In 2006, geneticists at Trinity College, Dublin, suggested that most of the Uí Néill descend from someone who lived some 1700 years ago and that person was the “most fecund” man in the history of Ireland.  Many immediately assumed that this was Niall Naoighiallach.

Between 2006 and 2009, it was confirmed that most of the Uí Néill and Connachta descend from one common ancestor.  In those studies, the geneticists had plenty of DNA samples from the Uí Bhriúin and the Uí Fhiachrach, but it was difficult to find DNA samples from the Uí Ailella and the Uí Fergusa.  In Fergus’ case, only the Síl Fergusa Cháecháin descend from him.

In the genealogies, as we know, Eochu Mugmedón was the common ancestor of the Connachta and Uí Néill. But it is also possible that this common DNA comes down from an ancestor of Eochu, unknown or legendary (e.g. Muiredach Tírech, Fiachu Sraiptine, Cairbre Lifechair, 7rl.).

The Uí Ruairc are an important exception. We expect from Seanchas that they would descend from the Uí Bhriúin, but they have a distinct DNA ‘haplogroup'; i.e., they do not descend from the Uí Bhriúin.  Also, despite the official genealogies of the Uí Néill (and as predicted by T.F. O’Rahilly and other scholars), there is no blood relationship between the Airghialla and the Connachta.  And as Byrne shows with the following verse (written in a text of Féineachas in the 8th Century), there was no consanguinity either between Dal Chuinn (i.e., the Féini) and the Ulaidh, or between the Dal Chuinn and the Laighin:

Batar trí prímcheinéla i nHére, .i. Féini 7 Ulaith 7 Gáilni .i. Laigin.   (3)

Bhí trí phríomhchinéal in Éirinn, .i. Féini agus Ulaidh agus Gáilni, .i. Laighin.

There were three primary kinships in Ireland, i.e., the Féini and Ulaidh and Gáilióin, i.e., the Laighin.

C.  The Human Head as a Trophy

Is ann-sin roráid Murchad mac Brain: “Do-bérainn carpat ceithre cumala ocus mo ech ocus m’errad don láech noragad isin n-ármach ocus do-bérad comartha chucainn as.”   “Ragat-sa,” ar Báethgalach …  (4)

Is ansin go ndúirt Murchad mac Brain:  “Do bhéarfainn carbad ceithre cumhal agus m’each agus mo chathéide don laoch a rachadh in áit an áir agus do bhéarfadh comhramh chugainn as.”  “Rachaidh mé,” ar Báethgalach…

Then Murchad mac Brain said:  “I would give a chariot worth four cumhal and my steed and my battle dress to the warrior who would go into the place of slaughter and who would bear a trophy to us out of it.”  “I will go,” said Báethgalach…

Perhaps it is not an exaggeration to say that we can find head-hunting or head-taking in virtually every early Irish story except in those of naomhsheanchas. (Even in the area of the Faith, we can see images of heads on churches as at Díseart Uí Dheághaidh.) There is corroboration for our head-taking among the Celts outside Ireland in accounts written by Poseidonius, Strabo, Livy, Ammianus, Diodorus Siculus, and others. Celts took the heads of famous commanders such as the Roman general Postumius and the Greek king Ptolemy Keraunos.

But in the story “Cath Almaine”, when the warrior Báethgalach said he would go out to bring back a trophy from the field of slaughter, Murchad mac Brain said nothing about a human head.  Based on newly-discovered remains in a Celtic sanctuary at Ribemont-sur-Ancre, France, we can imagine that the word “comartha” was non-specific, just as is the word ‘comhramh’ in Modern Irish and the word ‘trophy’ in English. In this  sanctuary, built around 260 B.C. in honor of a Celtic god and in memory of a battle in which tribes of the Belgii won a victory over Armorican tribes, the enclosure is crowded with row on row of hundreds of warriors, decapitated but still in their battle-armor.

D.  Pious Lepers

I did an electronic search in the annals for “clamh”, “lobhar”, “leper” and their variations. There is no reference to any leper in the Annals of Tigenach or the Annals of Loch Cé, but I found the following references in other annals.

1.  Annála Ríoghachta na hÉireann:

551.2   S. Neasan Lobhar d’écc.
551.2  Fuair Naomh Neasan an lobhar bás.
551.2  St. Neasan the leper died.

722. For this year, a summary of the story “Cath Almaine” was written in which we find reference to “the cow of the leper”, but Áedan the leper is not named.

2.  Annála Uladh:

A.D. 921.8  Indredh Aird Macha … o Gallaibh Atha Cliath, .i. o Gothbrith oa Imhair, cum suo exercitu, …  & na taigi aernaighi do anacal lais cona lucht de cheilibh De & di lobraibh…

A.D. 921.8  Invasion of Ard Macha … by the Foreigners of Áth Cliath, .i. by Gothfrith grandson of Ímar, with his army, … and the houses of prayer were spared by him with their culdees and of lepers…

A.D. 952.3  Cele clam & ancorita ..
A.D. 952.3  Fuair Céile, lobhar agus ancairít, bás…
A.D. 952.3  Céile, leper and anchorite, died…

3.  Annála Inse Fáil:

A.D. 556.1  Nistán leprosus obíit.
A.D. 556.1  Fuair Nistán (.i. “San Neasan”) bás.
A.D. 556.1  Nistán (St. Nessan) died.

4.  Annála Chonnacht:

A.D. 1232.9  Fachtna h. hAllgaith comarba Dromma Mucado & oificel h. Fiachrach, fer tigi aiged & lubra & leginn & lesaigti tiri & talman, in hoc anno quieuit.

A.D. 1232.9  Fachtna Ó hAllgaith, coarb of Drumacoo and Official of the Uí Fiachrach, who kept a guest-house and a leper-house and was (a man) of learning and a benefactor of the countryside, rested this year.

5.  Chronicon Scotorum:

A.D. 557   Nessan leprosus quieuit.
A.D. 557  Nessan (.i. San Neasan) rested.

As we see above, there is a close link between lepers and Christianity in the Annals.

E. Brigid and Colm Cille making war on each other

The monasteries (and saints) made war on each other often enough in the early Christian period. For example, in the Annals of Ulster:

A.D. 760.8  Bellum hitir muintir Clono 7 Biroir i mMoin Choisse Blae.  (5)

A.D. 760.8 Cath idir manistir Chluain Mhic Nóis agus manistir Bhiorra i Móin Choise Blae

A.D. 760.8 a battle between the monastery of Clonmacnoise and the monastery of Birr in Móin Choise Blae

A.D. 764.6  Bellum Arggamain inter familiam Cluana Mocu Nois 7 Dearmaighe ubi ceciderunt Diarmait Dub m. Domnaill 7 Dighlach m. Duib Liss 7 .cc. uiri de familia Dermaige.  Bresal m. Murchada uictor exstetit com familia Cluana.  (6)

A.D. 764.6  Cath Argamain idir familia Chluain Mhic Nóis agus (mainistir Choilm Cille ag) Darú inar thit Diarmait Dub mac Domnaill agus Dighlach mac Duib Liss agus 200 fear saor de familia Dharú.  Tháinig Bresal mac Murchada agus familia Chluain Mhic Nóis as an gcath mar bhuaiteoirí.

A.D. 764.6  The Battle of Argamain between the family of Clonmacnoise and (the monastery of Colm Cille) at Durrow in which fell Diarmait Dub mac Domhnail and Dighlach mac Duib Liss and 200 free men of the family of Durrow.  Bresal mac Murchada and the family of Clonmacnoise came out of the battle as victors.

And it was said that Colm Cille made war for the sake of Cinéal Chonaill through the ages each time the Uí Dhomhnaill brought his Cathach into battle with them.


“Cath Almaine” is a wonderfully rich story, filled with the world-view (. i. ‘weltanschauung’) of the Gaeil.  With improvement in areas like archaeology and DNA research almost every day, I expect we will learn more about this story and its ancient beliefs, practices, relationships, and rituals in the coming years.


1   Cath Almaine, edited by Pádraig Ó Riain,   Baile Átha Cliath: Institiúid Ard-Léinn Bhaile Átha Cliath, 1978.
Corpus of Electronic Texts Edition (CELT), paragraph 3 on http://celt.ucc.ie/published/G302022/index.html .  I am
grateful to Professor Tomás Ó Cathasaigh for his translation “The Battle of Allen”, Coursepack,   Celtic E-  114,
Early Irish Historical Tales, Spring Term, 2011
2   Cath Almaine, edited by Pádraig Ó Riain, CELT edition, paragraph 2
3   Byrne, p. 106
4   Cath Almaine, edited by Pádraig Ó Riain, CELT edition, paragraph 15
5   Annals of Ulster, edited by Seán Mac Airt and Gearóid Mac Niocaill, Part 1.  Baile Átha Cliath:
Institiúid Ard-Léinn Bhaile Átha Cliath, 1983.  p. 214
6   Ibid., p. 216


With thanks to Gerald Kelly for his research. We are a little confused as to the freedom to use this piece as it is listed here as a “Free Article” and here as written permission needed. We have chosen the route most obvious to spread the word of Mr. Kelly’s research, but if he should wish that this article be withdrawn we will most happily do so and apologise for any misunderstanding or inconvenience caused.


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The Lorica of St. Patrick or St. Patrick’s Breastplate


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St. Patrick's Breastplate

St. Patrick’s Breastplate

Pic: Faerie Factoid

Saint Patrick’s Breastplate is a Christian hymn whose original Old Irish lyrics were traditionally attributed to Saint Patrick during his Irish ministry in the 5th century; however, it was probably actually written later, in the 8th century.

It is written in the style of a druidic incantation for protection on a journey. It is part of the Liber Hymnorum, a collection of hymns found in two manuscripts kept in Dublin. This beautiful prayer of St. Patrick, popularly known as “St. Patrick’s Breast-Plate”, is supposed to have been composed by him in preparation for this victory over Paganism. It’s fascinating to compare the structure of this prayer with many of the incantations found in the Carmina Gadelica as well as many of the meditations and rituals seen in Druidry, Wicca and Ceremonial Magic today.

The words were translated into English verse by Cecil Frances Alexander in 1889 and set to two traditional Irish tunes, St. Patrick and Deirdre. The hymn, also known by its opening line “I bind unto myself today”, is currently included in the Lutheran Service Book [Lutheran Church- Missouri Synod], English Hymnal, the Irish Church Hymnal and The Hymnal (1982) of the U.S. Episcopal Church. It is often sung during the celebration of the Feast of Saint Patrick on or near March 17, as well as on Trinity Sunday. In many churches it is unique among standard hymns because the variations in length and metre of verses mean that at least three different tunes must be used – different in the melody sung by the congregation.

The prayer known as “Faeth Fiada“, or the “Lorica of St. Patrick” (St. Patrick’s Breast-Plate) was first edited by Petrie in his “History of Tara”. Scripture references may include Ephesians 6:10-17 (“God’s shield to protect me … from snares of devils”).

The Most Commonly Heard Modern Version

I arise today
Through the strength of heaven;

Light of the sun,
Splendor of fire,
Swiftness of wind,

Depth of the sea,
Stability of earth,
Firmness of rock.

I arise today
Through God’s strength to pilot me;
God’s might to uphold me,
God’s wisdom to guide me,
God’s hand to guard me.

Afar and anear,
Alone or in a multitude.

Christ shield me today
Against wounding:

Christ with me,
Christ before me,
Christ behind me,

Christ on my right,
Christ on my left,

Christ beneath me,
Christ above me,
Christ in me.

I arise today
Through the mighty strength
Of the Lord of Creation.


The literal translation from the old Irish text

I bind to myself today
The strong virtue of the Invocation of the Trinity:
I believe the Trinity in the Unity
The Creator of the Universe.

I bind to myself today
The virtue of the Incarnation of Christ with His Baptism,
The virtue of His crucifixion with His burial,
The virtue of His Resurrection with His Ascension,
The virtue of His coming on the Judgement Day.

I bind to myself today
The virtue of the love of seraphim,
In the obedience of angels,
In the hope of resurrection unto reward,
In prayers of Patriarchs,
In predictions of Prophets,
In preaching of Apostles,
In faith of Confessors,
In purity of holy Virgins,
In deeds of righteous men.

I bind to myself today
The power of Heaven,
The light of the sun,
The brightness of the moon,
The splendour of fire,
The flashing of lightning,
The swiftness of wind,
The depth of sea,
The stability of earth,
The compactness of rocks.

I bind to myself today
God’s Power to guide me,
God’s Might to uphold me,
God’s Wisdom to teach me,
God’s Eye to watch over me,
God’s Ear to hear me,
God’s Word to give me speech,
God’s Hand to guide me,
God’s Way to lie before me,
God’s Shield to shelter me,
God’s Host to secure me,
Against the snares of demons,
Against the seductions of vices,
Against the lusts of nature,
Against everyone who meditates injury to me,
Whether far or near,
Whether few or with many.

I invoke today all these virtues
Against every hostile merciless power
Which may assail my body and my soul,
Against the incantations of false prophets,
Against the black laws of heathenism,
Against the false laws of heresy,
Against the deceits of idolatry,
Against the spells of women, and smiths, and druids,
Against every knowledge that binds the soul of man.

Christ, protect me today
Against every poison, against burning,
Against drowning, against death-wound,
That I may receive abundant reward.

Christ with me, Christ before me,
Christ behind me, Christ within me,
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ at my right, Christ at my left,
Christ in the fort,
Christ in the chariot seat,
Christ in the poop [deck],
Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks to me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.

I bind to myself today
The strong virtue of an invocation of the Trinity,
I believe the Trinity in the Unity
The Creator of the Universe.



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Watch Chicago go Green on St. Patrick’s Day 2014


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Jet Propelled Leprechaun 2013

Jet Propelled Leprechaun 2013

Pic: Global Change-Makers

It’s nearly St. Patrick’s Day. Starting today. here’s a rundown from the Courier News of events this weekend to help everyone feel a little bit Irish. For those who don’t know about St. Patrick’s Day, it’s a holiday which celebrates Irish heritage and culture and the arrival of Christianity to the Emerald Isle. In Chicago, it’s an excuse to drink green beer, go to a pub, and pretend you’re Irish even if you aren’t.

Chicago St. Patrick’s Day Parade

Noon, March 15


Come at 10 a.m. to watch the Chicago River get dyed green, stay for the city’s official St. Patrick’s Day parade. The best place to watch the river getting dyed is at the intersection of Michigan Avenue, Wacker Drive and the river. This year’s grand marshal John McDonough, president and CEO of the Chicago Blackhawks. The parade starts at Balbo and Columbus and proceeds north on Columbus to Monroe. The viewing stand will be located in front of Buckingham Fountain.

South Side Irish Parade

Noon, March 16

Western Avenue from 103rd to 115th streets, Chicago

The South Side Irish Parade is now a family-friendly event with a zero-tolerance policy for alcohol along the route, although some responsible pre-gaming in one of the watering holes along Western Avenue is not discouraged.

(773) 916-7757


The Chicago Stockyard Kilty band

The Chicago Stockyard Kilty band

Pic: South Side Irish Parade

Last year’s parade attracted 90 participants, from kilted bagpipers to rosy-cheeked dancers and even a pack of Irish Wolfhounds.

The day kicks off with a one-mile fun run called The Emerald Isle Mile.

Northwest Side Irish Parade

10 a.m. March 16

William J. Onahan School, 6634 W. Raven St.


The Northwest Irish Parade is a celebration of faith, family and heritage now in its 11th year. The parade includes face painting, balloons and features dancers from the Dillon-Gavin School of Dance. The official After Party starts at 1 p.m. at Immaculate Conception Recreation Center, 7211 W. Talcott Ave., Chicago. Tickets are $10 for 12 and over; children under 12 are $5. The party includes traditional corned beef and cabbage meal with live entertainment.

St. Patrick’s Festival

Irish American Heritage Center

Irish American Heritage Center

Pic: Irish American Heritage Center

March 15-17

Irish American Heritage Center, 4626 N. Knox Ave.

(773) 282-7035


The Irish American Heritage Center hosts three days of St. Patrick’s Day follies starting immediately after the city’s parade March 15. This annual family-friendly event includes traditional and contemporary Irish music, dance, food, children’s activities and an Arts and Craft Fair, with vendors selling Irish gifts. Tickets are $12-$15.

On March 16, stop in for a pint, live music, NCAA games on the large TV screens, darts and a limited traditional Irish menu. Hours are from 1 to 8 p.m. 21 and over only.

Come back March 17 for the St. Patrick’s Day Celebration. The party runs from 12 to 10 p.m. and includes music, dance and face painting for children. There will be a mass at 11 a.m. $10 at the door; kids are free.

Shoreline Sightseeing River Cruise

March 15


Last year, I took my family downtown to see the green Chicago River. It was a raw, grey day, we had to walk forever (not fun with young children) and on more than one occasion I had to cover the kids’ ears from hearing too much o’ the blarney.

Learn from my mistake and get an up-close view of the green Chicago River via a Shoreline Sightseeing Cruise.

Departures for the 90-minute cruise are before and after the city’s St. Patrick’s Day noontime parade March 15, and it includes a traditional Irish buffet with corned beef and cabbage and all the trimmings. You can even get an Irish coffee or a pint at the cash bar. Tickets are $49.



St. Patrick’s Day Parade and St. Paddy’s Day 5K

March 15



Everyone’s Irish at the 21st annual West Suburban Irish St. Patrick’s Day Parade on March 15. The parade kicks off at 10 a.m. from Naperville North High School at 899 N. Mill St. The parade continues south on Mill Street, east on Jefferson Avenue, south on Main Street and west on Water Street to the Municipal Center.

West Suburban Irish

West Suburban Irish

Pic: West Suburban Irish

All residents are encouraged to donate a non-perishable food item to benefit the Loaves and Fishes Community Food Pantry.

The parade steps off immediately following the Rotary Club of Naperville/Sunrise St. Paddy’s Day 5K. The fun continues at Quigley’s Irish Pub after the parade. The parade will include nearly 100 entries comprised of marching bands, youth groups, local businesses, politicians and other groups.

Of course there will be traditional Irish trappings, like six different pipe and drum groups and two schools of Irish dancers, said West Suburban Irish president Chuck Corrigan.

At the end of the parade this year, we are going to have some interesting things. We will have the Aurora Area Shrine Club with their small cars and the Medinah Motor Corp, which is some Harley motorcycles that drive in precision units and do little tricks. We’ll also have Mongo Man from bd’s Mongolian Grill.

No matter the weather, the crowds are always enthusiastic, he said.

I think they enjoy getting outside. It feels like the kickoff to spring for a lot of folks.

The grand marshal is Mike Reilly, who serves on the Naperville Park Board and is a member of West Suburban Irish.

St. Charles St. Patrick’s Day Parade

Downtown St. Charles Parade

Downtown St. Charles Parade

Pic: Downtown St. Charles

March 15


The St. Patrick’s Parade goes down Main Street (Route 64) at 2 p.m. and features Irish dancers, Irish music, floats and more. There will also be a Deck Out Your Lucky Dog contest; register at the tent in front of the Municipal Center between 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. Before that, come to the Arcada Theater for a St. Patrick’s Dance show at 10 a.m. Several local dance studios will perform.

East Dundee St. Patrick’s Day Parade

March 15

Downtown East Dundee


There will be a celebratory fireworks show on March 14, and the parade is at 11 a.m. The grandstand is at Barrington Avenue and River Street. There will be bands, step dancers, stilt walkers, horses, cavalry, green footballs and an Irish Princess contest for 12-16-year-old girls living in Dundee Township. The FISH Food Pantry will be accepting food and cash donations during parade.

Irish Jig Jog 5K Race

March 15

St. Catherine of Siena, 845 W. Main St., West Dundee


The 10th Annual Irish Jig Jog kicks off at 8:30 a.m. March 15 at St. Catherine of Siena. The event includes breakfast, a beer tent, bagpipers, Irish dancing and a $10,000 Shamrock Raffle.

Irish Jig Jogging

Irish Jig Jogging

Pic: Irish Jig Jog

Shamrock Scramble

10-11 a.m. March 16

Schaumburg Park District, 505 N. Springinsguth Road, Schaumburg

(847) 490-7020


Geared to the 6-and-under set, children can make a St. Patrick’s Day craft and have a snack before heading out into field of green clovers. Each clover includes a treat. Find a four-leaf clover and win a prize. Wear your best St. Patrick’s Day attire. Pre-registration is required by March 14. $5-$7.

This list of events has been sourced from the ‘Go Irish’ column of the Courier-News.


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On the run-up to St. Patrick’s Day, did you know he’s in Parliament?


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St Patrick, St Brigit and St Columba

St Patrick, St Brigit and St Columba

Pic: Explore Parliament

St Patrick stands with his hands clasped. Behind him the Rock of Cashel, one of Ireland’s earliest and holiest Christian sites. The word Banba written above his head is the Erse for Ireland. St Patrick is flanked by St Brigid, with an Irish harp at her feet, and St Columba, representing the North of Ireland.At his feet is a shield with the Red Hand of Ulster.


Unfortunate experiences with frescoes at the Palace of Westminster led the Fine Arts Commissioners to change their original plan, and commission mosaics for the four patron saints in the Central Lobby.

Interest in mosaics in the 19th Century had been growing, fuelled by the enthusiasm of Dr Salviati, the man responsible for restoring the mosaics at St Mark’s in Venice. (see below)

Saint Patrick in Ireland

Saint Patrick was a 5th-century Romano-British Christian missionary and bishop in Ireland. Known as the “Apostle of Ireland”, he is the primary patron saint of the island along with Saints Brigit and Columba.

The dates of Patrick’s life cannot be fixed with certainty but, on a widespread interpretation, he was active as a missionary in Ireland during the second half of the fifth century.


He is generally credited with being the first bishop of Armagh, Primate of Ireland.When he was about 16, he was captured from his home in Great Britain, and taken as a slave to Ireland, where he lived for six years before escaping and returning to his family.

After becoming a cleric, he returned to northern and western Ireland. In later life, he served as an ordained bishop, but little is known about the places where he worked. By the seventh century, he had already come to be revered as the patron saint of Ireland.

St. Patrick Mosaic

St. Patrick Mosaic

Pic: Explore Parliament

Saint Patrick’s Day is observed on 17 March, the date of his death. It is celebrated inside and outside Ireland as a religious and cultural holiday. In the dioceses of Ireland, it is both a solemnity and a holy day of obligation; it is also a celebration of Ireland itself. [wiki]

The Mosaic in Parliament

Dr Salviati’s firm was then commissioned by the Fine Arts Commission to undertake the implementation of mosaics in Central Lobby – from the designs of Sir Edward Poynter (1836-1919). Saint George and Saint David were installed in 1869.

However, by the 1920’s the decoration of the Central Lobby had fallen into abeyance, and Dr Salviati had died. So the commission for the remaining two Patron Saints was awarded to Robert Anning Bell (1863-1933), who was also responsible for two large mosaics in St Stephen’s Hall. Bell worked on the spot, rather than in the studio, and the mosaics of Saint Andrew and Saint Patrick were finally unveiled in 1923.

See the animated film and explore more of Parliament’s art and architecture on the Explore Parliament website.


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St. David’s Day celebrations roll out across the World for 2014


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Welsh Children in traditional costume

Welsh Children in traditional costume

Pic: Wales.com

Show your Welsh spirit on Wales’ national day and proudly wear that daffodil or wave your Welsh flag with passion at Cardiff’s official St David’s Day Celebrations in 2014. Dydd Gŵyl Dewi Sant, St. David’s Day, is famous for letting children take part in the Eisteddfodau. From the 27 February – 2 March, Cardiff Council with partners the St David’s Day Committee have put together an exciting and cultural festival in honour of St David and all things Welsh!

Who was St. David?

Saint David (Welsh: Dewi Sant) was born towards the end of the 5th century. He was a scion of the royal house of Ceredigion, and founded a Celtic monastic community at Glyn Rhosyn (The Vale of Roses) on the western headland of Pembrokeshire (Sir Benfro), at the spot where St David’s Cathedral stands today. David’s fame as a teacher and ascetic spread throughout the Celtic world. His foundation at Glyn Rhosin became an important Christian shrine, and the most important centre in Wales. The date of Saint David’s death is recorded as 1 March, but the year is uncertain – possibly 588. As his tearful monks prepared for his death Saint David uttered these words:

“Brothers be ye constant. The yoke which with single mind ye have taken, bear ye to the end; and whatsoever ye have seen with me and heard, keep and fulfil.”

St. David from Jesus Chapel

St. David from Jesus Chapel

Pic: Wiki

For centuries, 1 March has been a national festival. Saint David was recognised as a national patron saint at the height of Welsh resistance to the Normans. Saint David’s Day was celebrated by Welsh diaspora from the late Middle Ages. Indeed, the 17th-century diarist Samuel Pepys noted how Welsh celebrations in London for Saint David’s Day would spark wider counter-celebrations amongst their English neighbours: life-sized effigies of Welshmen were symbolically lynched, and by the 18th century the custom had arisen of confectioners producing “taffies”—gingerbread figures baked in the shape of a Welshman riding a goat—on Saint David’s Day.

Saint David’s Day is not a national holiday in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Similarly in the United States of America, it has regularly been celebrated, although it is not an official holiday. It is invariably celebrated by Welsh societies throughout the world with dinners, parties, and eisteddfodau (recitals and concerts).

Where did the Red Dragon Banner come from?

In the poem Armes Prydain, composed in the early to mid-tenth century AD, the anonymous author prophesies that the Cymry (the Welsh people) will unite and join an alliance of fellow-Celts to repel the Anglo-Saxons, under the banner of Saint David: A lluman glân Dewi a ddyrchafant (And they will raise the pure banner of Dewi). Although there were periodic Welsh uprisings in the Middle Ages, the country was not united as a kingdom. In 1485, Henry VII of England, whose ancestry was partly Welsh, became King of England after victory at the Battle of Bosworth Field; his green and white banner, with a red dragon, was adapted in 1959 to become the new Flag of Wales. Henry was the first monarch of the House of Tudor: during this dynasty the royal coat of arms included a Welsh dragon, a reference to the monarch’s origins. The Flag of Saint David, though, is a golden cross on a black background: this was not originally part of the symbolism of Henry VII of England. [Wiki]

World-Wide Celebrations, starting in Wales..

St. David's Parade

St. David’s Parade

Pic: Cardiff Council

Cardiff – The annual St David’s Day parade takes place on 1 March each year. A colourful parade takes place in the city centre. See pictures of previous year’s parades on the Wales.com Flickr page. In 2014 the parade takes a different route from usual, with musical entertainment in Cardiff Castle. The Wales Millennium Centre in Cardiff Bay will be marking St David’s Day with a weekend celebrating Wales’ past, present and future.

In the evening the BBC National Orchestra of Wales will perform a Gala Concert at St David’s Hall. On 2 March St David’s Day Road Races – 5k and 10k take place in Bute Park. In Pontypridd there will be entertainment in the town centre and Tom the musical about Tom Jones premieres on 1 March. The Porthcawl Interceltic Festival starts on St David’s Day and runs until Sunday 3 March. Its Redhouse Open Day at Merthyr Tydfil with lots of activities in the Old Town Hall that has been reopened as a new arts and creative industries centre in the heart of the town.

The annual Oriel y Parc Dragon Parade is taking place in St Davids on 1 March, as part of a packed schedule of events. There will be parades across Wales including in Aberystwyth, CaernarfonLlandudno and Wrexham, plus a variety of St David’s Day Celebrations in Bargoed, Blackwood, Caerphilly And Risca Town Centre, Caerphilly. In Swansea there’s a variety of things going on including a cookery workshop and an opportunity taste some local delicacies in Swansea Market and the Get Welsh Food Festival in Castle Square.

There are St David’s Day walks including a snowdrop walk and a mystery walk (both organised by the Ramblers Cymru). In Bala there’s a world record attempt for the biggest Welsh cake! Welsh museums are holding events to celebrate the National Day. The National Botanic Garden of Wales has a daffodil festival throughout March, with a mixture of guided tours, an indoor talk, exhibition and outdoor trail spread across 5 weekends. On St David’s Day there will be a special talk and family activities.

In Crickhowell there’s a Walking Torchlight procession and singalong Crug Hywel, Tablet Mt, Crickhowell as part of the Crickhowell Walking Festival. The Orient Express has a Welsh-themed lunch, with a round trip through the beautiful countryside time in Fishguard where the Northern Belle arrives, or join the coach transfer and spend time in St Davids.

In the rest of the UK

Many buildings in the UK fly the Welsh flag and restaurants create special Welsh menus. In Sussex there’s an opportunity to meet Rugby legend Scott Quinnell on 28 February. Bradford & District St. David’s Society – will meet the deputy mayor of Bradford on 1 March at city hall for morning tea. Y Ddraig Goch will fly over city hall and its bells will play a medley of welsh tunes. In the evening there will be a lively Noson Lawen. 2 March the society has a gala luncheon for members, guests and friends to celebrate all things Welsh. The Green Man Festival is decamping to Cecil Sharp House in London to celebrate St David’s Day with BBC Radiophonic Workshop, 9 Bach, The Gentle Good and more.
Welsh Daffodil & Dragon Symbols

Welsh Daffodil & Dragon Symbols

Pic: Cardiff Council

The Hwyl event takes place on 1 March 2014 with a full 10-hour programme of music, storytelling and Welsh food and ales. St David’s Day Dinner, London at the Royal College of Surgeons, Lincoln’s Inn Fields, London, Speakers: Professor Dai Smith, Chair of the Arts Council of Wales, Historian and Novelist Gwyneth Lewis, Poet. Artists: Performance from Joshua Owen Mills and Charlotte Skidmore, Accompanist: Meirion Wynn Jones.

In London there will be events and special Welsh menus at some restaurants. There are a variety of events at the London Welsh centre in the lead up to and on St David’s Day.

Celebrations around the world

Welsh Traditional Costume

Welsh Traditional Costume

Pic: Cardiff Council

There are a variety of events in North America. Los Angeles St David’s Day Fest – Participants from Wales, Welsh descendants and Welsh ex-pats will all converge on the Cinefamily Silent Movie Theater in Hollywood, California on Saturday 1 March 2014 for the 2014 Los Angeles St. David’s Day Festival featuring Meinir Gwilym. In Washington DC on 22 February there’s a St David’s Day celebration banquet with Welsh soloist Ellen Williams. The Welsh Society of Western New England has a St. David’s Day luncheon on Saturday, March 1st The Nutmeg Restaurant, East Windsor, Connecticut, USA.

Daffs and Leeks, Salmon, Y Ddraig Goch, The National Anthem. Contact WelshWNE@gmail com for tickets, membership info. The Welsh Society of Central Ohio is raising the Welsh flag at the Ohio Statehouse on Friday 28 February and hosting a luncheon on St. David’s day. In Chicago it’s The Chicago Tafia’s annual St. David’s Day party “Cawl & Cocktails”. The Wrigley Building will be lit up in white, red and green to celebrate St David’s Day.

People in Patagonia will celebrate St David’s Day in the Andes at the Patagonia Celtica. The two day festival celebrates all Celtic countries. Disneyland Paris will host a St David’s Welsh festival from 7-9 March 2014. In Melbourne, Australia the Victoria Welsh Male Choir and Ceredigion Women’s Institute Choir perform at the St David’s Day Celtic Concert on 28 February 2014. In Sydney, Australia on 1 March there’s a special St David’s day celebration concert by the Sydney Welsh Choir also featuring special guest soloist from wales: Menna Cazel Davies.

The details for this article have been sourced from Cardiff Council, Wales.Com and Wiki.


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Is the name Hy Brazil of Celtic origin? By Seán Mac Mathúna

Layered Sunrise

Layered Sunrise

Pic: Chris Gin

Mystery has always surrounded the how a country in Latin America ended up with a name of Celtic origin. In traditional Irish legends, the phantom island of Brâzil was believed to lie off the south-west coast of Connacht in western Ireland. It was named after Bres, the son of Ériu whose father was a Formorian sea god, Elatha. Consequently, according to Michael Dames “Bresil” was a magical realm – neither sea nor land, yet both. According to Dames:

“Brazil, South America, was named after it”. (Mythic Ireland (Thames and Hudson, London, UK, 1992).


Apparently well into the early 20th century, the Gaelic speaking people of the Aran Islands in Galway Bay believed that what they knew from legend as the mythical land of Brazil was visible every seven years. To earlier generations of people living in Connacht (the province of which Galway is the capital), Brazil was known as the Isle of the Living, the Isle of Truth, of Joy, of Fair Women, and of Apples. Other early Celtic legends also say that the island only appeared at sunset in the mists of the Atlantic and they called it:

“The blessed stormless isle, where all men are good and all the women pure and where God retreats for a recreation from the rest of us”. (Summer of the Red Wolf by Niorris West, William Heinemann Ltd, UK, 1971)

In one account from the 17th century recounted by Dames, Captain John Nisbet of Lisneskay, Co. Fermanagh, claimed to have landed on the island and found cattle, sheep, horses, black rabbits, and a strong castle. Nisbet knocked on the door in vain – but there was no answer. When night came he made his way to the beach with his eight companions and lit a fire. Then a “hideous noise” ensured and they fled to the boat. When they returned the next day, the found an old Scottish gentlemen and servants on the shore, dressed in outdated clothes and talking “old fashioned speech”. The old man claimed to have been imprisoned there by a necromancer and confirmed that the island was indeed “O Brazile”.

Some also believe that the Brazil was is the disputed island of Rockall in the Atlantic Ocean (a small island some 84 feet wide and 70 feet of so above sea level), that was annexed by the UK in 1955 and is claimed as Irish territory, is the last remaining part of the lost land of Brazil.

Another hypothesis is that an Irish monk – Saint Brendan, had been to a land he called Hy Brazil. The island of Saint Brendan or Brazil of Saint Brendan was one of the names that could be seen in maps found in the early Middle Ages-around the 9th Century. This island was a mythological place:

“Where bells tolled over the old sea and the island seemed to vanish in the horizon every time the sailors tried to reach it”

According to this version of the legend, Hy Brazil was discovered by Saint Brendan, who left Ireland in 565 A.D. In my view, if St. Brendan visited any island, he may have found the island of Rockall and assumed that it was part of the mythical land of Brazil, which he would have known about as it had been mentioned in Irish legends going back some 3000 years. Bres after all was the son of Eriu, the mythical Goddess who gave her name to Eire (Ireland), which indicates that this was one of the earliest Irish legends.

Brazil was certainly well known during medieval times when explorers from Europe where setting out to discover what they called the “New World”: In the period of 1351 up to around 1731, the name Hy Brazil could be found on most European sea maps, always showing it as an island in the Atlantic Ocean. According to A Russell-Wood:

Fourteenth century maps carried the reference to Insule Sancti Brandani, recalling the legendary voyages of the sixth century Irish monk in search of the “Promised Land of the Saints” which were to be recorded in Latin prose in the ninth century Navigatio Brendani. These islands ‘migrated’ from north of Europe to the west. Since the early fourteenth century, there had been references to an island called Brasil not far west of Ireland. Both name and island moved westwards, being transformed into a landmass and recognized as such by Duarte Pacheco Pereira in his Esmeraldo de situ orbis.

The mythical island of Hy Brazil appeared out in the Atlantic to the west of Ireland in charts as early as 1325, as well in the famous Catalan Atlas dated 1375 and, subsequently, on numerous maps for the next 200 years, including Waldseemuller’s map of the British Isles issued at Strassburg in 1513 and its later editions. It was also shown on Toscanelli’s chart dated about 1457 which was said to have been used by Christopher Columbus on his first voyage in 1492. This is highly significant as it indicates that if Brazil was known to Columbus, then it would almost certainly have been known to Pedro Alvares Cabral (1460-1526) who “discovered” Brazil in 1500.

To add to the confusion that faced early explorers using these maps, some early charts also depicted the mythical land of Brazil far out in the ocean half way to Zipangu (Japan). Apparently Brazil been ‘sighted’ so often that early geographers were reluctant to abandon the possibility of its existence. In fact, it was not finally removed from British Admiralty charts until the 1865.

So how did the country called Brazil end up with it’s name ? One theory says that Brazil was initially colonized by people coming from Viana do Castelo (in northern Portugal), and that through the knowledge of legends from the Celts in Galicia, they would have been aware of the lost continent of Brazil. And not only Columbus, but other early explorers from England knew about the lost land of Brazil. According to”The Island of Brazil”, a contemporary account written by William of Worcester (and published in the late 18th century) recalled that when word of a “new land to the west” reached Bristol in the late 1470s this was presumed to be Brazil. In 1480, a Bristol merchant John Jay outfitted at great expense an 80-tonne ship to sail to the island of Brazil, described as “a name often given in medieval European tales to a land far to the west of Ireland”. Setting sail in July 1480 from Bristol, Jay’s ship voyaged west, intending to “traverse the seas.” But the journey ended in failure. English crews had yet to master the new methods of astronomical navigation devised in Portugal and Spain: open, oceanic voyaging – as opposed to island hopping by way of Iceland and Greenland.

In the Welsh and Cornish myths, Bresal was a High King who made his home in the Otherworld “which is sometimes called Hy- or I-Breasal in his honor”. Like in the Irish myth, “His world is visible on only one night every seven years”. Thus, it is clear that the Celts of Galicia, Cornwall, Wales, Ireland and sailors from England all knew of the legend of the lost land of Brazil. Would it then be unreasonable to assume that when Portuguese explorers reached South America they mistakenly thought they had landed on Breasal’s world and named the land they discovered “Brazil” in his honour ?

Of course, it is possible that the name of the country called Brazil is not connected with the Celtic myth – but in my opinion this theory is not convincing. In this account, the word “Brazil” is derived from the Portuguese and Spanish word “Brasil”, the name of an East Indian tree with reddish-brown wood from which a red dye was extracted. The Portuguese found a New World tree related to the Old World brasil tree when they explored what is now called Brazil, and “as a result they named the New World country after the Old World tree”. The authors are clearly not aware of how most of the Celtic nations (especially Galicia) – themselves with a history of seafaring as old as the Portuguese and Spanish – had there own legends of the mythical continent of Brazil.

Of course, we do not know if Cabral in 1500 knew about the legends of the lost land of Brazil from the of the Celt’s of Galicia when he claimed the land of Brazil for the Portuguese Crown in 1500. It is interesting to speculate as to whether Cabral himself was of Celtic origin. Some writers believe that the Cabral family in Portugal came originally from Galicia, from one of two towns of that name, and that they arrived in Portugal very early presumably before the Islamic conquest of the Iberian peninsula. Another link is that Irish legend records that the Irish people are themselves descended from the Milesians who with their King, Heber, and the Bard AmergIn, came from Galicia around 1268 BC and conquered Ireland, as noted by Robert Graves in his classic book The White Goddess (1961, 1972 Farrar, Strauss and Giroux New York, USA).

Either way, it is my view that most evidence concerning the origin of the land of Brazil suggest that it was of Celtic origin, and that this same name ended being given to the land of Brazil when it was “discovered” by Cabral, as it featured on most nautical maps at the time, and because the Celtic myth of the lost land of Brazil was certainly known to Spanish and Portuguese explorers.



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Women of the Celts in Myth, Legend and Story

Pic By Hans Feuer   http://jeremydante.com/2011/03/28/editorialesque-sasha-pivovarova-for-french-vogue-2Pic By Hans Feuer The Celts were an ancient, elusive people, who occupied the central stage of Europe and the British Isles for about 800 years, between 700 BC and their almost complete assimilation into the Roman Empire around 100 AD. The Celts built no cities, founded no empires and never developed a written language, but, although their world is now dead, their culture influenced a good part of the continent and spread all the way from Ireland to the shores of the Black Sea.Their name derives from the Greek ‘Keltoi’, meaning ‘hidden people’ -a reference to their lack of a written language and all tales were memorised and passed down through the generations by the Druids or ‘wiseman’ who studied long years to commit all their knowledge to memory.

Although these learned men, who functioned as lawgivers as well as priests, could read and write Greek and Latin, they chose to pass on the chronicle of their people’s existence orally in the form of verse. It wasn’t until the 6th and 7th centuries AD that Irish monks began to transcribe Celtic history and law, and the famous collection of legends known as the Ulster Cycle which is thousands of years old, it is from them that we learn of the old traditions of law, the concepts of kingship, of truth and of the ‘fitness of things’ which held their society together.

The gods and goddesses of the ancient Celts were living forces in their imagination and worship, and although Victorian scholars thought their savage war-goddesses; their barbaric sea-gods and the mysteries of the Otherworld, quaint, barbaric and often incomprehensible, these myths reveal the beautiful and often profound beliefs of a passionate, resourceful and creative people. For the pagan Celt, the essence of the universe and all its creativity was female and they left permanent traces of a culture in which women were the spiritual and moral pivot. The mother goddess and all her personifications of fertility, sovereignty, love and healing, was an essential basis of their very role in the world. Women feature prominently in Celtic myth and their goddesses occupied positions that represented women of practical, everyday Celtic life. They were free to bear arms, become Druids and engage in politics unlike their Greek sisters, who were highly idealised in myth but not representative of the reality governing the lives of Greek women.

The very phrase ‘Celtic women evokes all kinds of images – fearsome warriors, romantic heroines and tragic, wronged queens – goddesses by the score, from old hags to screaming harpies, to beautiful wise women and learned Druidesses, to the great female saints of the early Celtic church. The women of the Celtic myths are a reflection of the historical women of early Celtic society with all their problems, loves, heartaches and triumphs. They display a range of characters and positions in society being powerful weak, serious, capricious, vengeful and ambitious – there are no empty-headed beauties. As Moyra Caldicott says in ‘Women in Celtic Myth’ . . . “one of the things I find so refreshing in the Celtic myths is that the women are honoured as much for their minds as for their bodies. The dumb blond would not stand much of a chance in ancient Celtic society”.

Celtic women then achieved high positions in society and a standing which their sisters in the majority of other contemporary European societies did not have. They were able to govern; they played an active part in political; social and religious life. They could be warriors, doctors, physicians, judges and poets. They could own property and remain the owner even when married. They had sexual freedom, were free to choose their partners and divorce, and could claim damages if molested. Celtic women could, and often did, lead their men into battle. The Roman Deodorizes Sickles observed –

“The women of the Celts are nearly as tall as the men and they rival them also in courage”.

Yet another report by Amicus Marcelling states –

“A whole troop of foreigners would not be able to withstand a single Celt if he called his wife to his assistance”!

So women went to war in the ancient Celtic world and took command of men. The, training of a warrior was a long task, frequently undertaken by warrior women who were responsible for teaching boys the arts of combat and of love. Specific titles were given to these classes of female warriors such as BAN-GAISGEDAIG (BAN-meaning woman and a derivative of GAS which means young warrior) and BAN-FEJNNIDH (which combines BAN with FEINNIDH meaning ‘band of warriors’) so it seems they were classed according to age and experience, possibly starting their training as very young girls.

Women warriors even appear on Celtic coins as a common iconographic theme. BOUDICCA, the great warrior-queen of the Iceni was a ruler of her people in her own right, and accepted as a war leader against the Romans not only by her own tribe but by the Triumvirates and other neighbouring tribes who joined her, such as the Cretan. Less well-known is our own warrior queen SGATHAICH who presided over a famous military academy at the South end of Skye. Near to Tarscavaig and overlooking the bay of OB GAUSCA VAIG (Whale Bay) stand the ruins of Dunscaith Castle, said to mean ‘the Fort of Shadows’, a stronghold of Sgathaich.

A Skye legend tells of how the castle was built in a single night by a witch or faerie “All night the witch sang and the castle grew up from the rock with tower and turrets crowned; All night she sang, when fell the morning dew ‘Twas finished round and round”. Dunscaith is described as being.. .”surrounded by seven ramparts crowned by iron palisades and protected by a pit full of snakes and beaked toads”…
Dunsgiath Castle

Dunsgiath Castle

Pic: http://blog.robertstrachan.com/archives/date/2009/06/

It is believed that the castle was, in fact, a great deal larger than the remaining fragments would indicate, but even these serve to show what an impregnable fortress it must once have been~en. It is built upon a rock with precipitous sides, and approached by a causeway, partly natural, which leads to a bridge over a gully in the rock. The floor of the bridge is missing and it is safer to view it from the main-land rock.

Most Skye duns have their origin in Neolithic, or even earlier times, and history shows this site to be a vitrified fort of early importance. For several centuries it was the stronghold of the MacLeods and the MacDonalds of the Isles, but in fact it is much older than any clan. It was to this fortress that the hero Cu Chulainn (the ‘Hound of Culann’ and the archetypal superhuman champion of epic tradition) came to complete his training in arms under the guidance of Sgathaich who instructed men in the martial arts. Sgathaich was a formidable woman, a teacher of war-craft and a prophetess (Druid?) who foretells Cu Chulainn’s future through divination. She was reputed to be the matron of self-defence and female independence as well as the guardian of young people who seek to know their full potential. Men came from further afield than Gaul to train with. her, and if they passed her rigorous tests they were more feared than any other fighting men.

Cu Chulainn’s intended bride EMER, niece to Ulster’s KING TETARA, had refused to marry him unless he proved himself in this way. She said to her father .”He is a green boy. If I wed it will be to a man who can match me in every way. I am tired of boasting youths and their tedious feats of arms. The man I marry must be the greatest champion ever. He must be capable of protecting me from every danger” And so Cu Chulainn journeyed to Skye, (known as the Isle of Shadows) to seek this warrior-queen and learn her skills. The way to her castle was dangerous and Cu Chulainn’s journey was full of strange and magical happenings but although filled with fear and wonder he acquitted himself with honour, and on his third attempt managed to cross the perilous bridge of Dunscaith which threw off all those who failed to get across in two strides! Sgathaich taught Cu Chulainn the martial arts, his famous ‘salmon leap’ and certain tricks and feats of strength as well as giving him magical weapons and armour for battle including her famous GAE BOLGA (the ‘belly ripper’) – a barbed spear which inflicts only fatal wounds. (This can also be interpreted as GATH BOLAG – Spear of Light). Cu Chulainn also received a magic visor, gift of MA NNA NAN the Celtic Sea-God, and his charioteer LAEG protected him with powers of invisibility.

Was it Sgathaich who taught Cu Chulainn his famous ‘battle-rage’? It was said that when the rage was on him he went into ‘warp-spasm’, a beserk fit which prevented him from telling friend from foe. His enemies were terrified by the sight of such uncontrolled passion but this defence mechanism was to bring Cu Chulainn the greatest grief in his life, as this tale relates. In return for tuition, Cu Chulainn fought battles for Sgathaich as she was constantly at war with her sister AOIFE (Reflection) herself a notable and fearsome warrior. AOJFE proved a formidable opponent, and Cu Chulainn was well matched. He finally secured her surrender by means of a trick, and peace was restored between the two women.

The Death of Aoife’s only son

The Death of Aoife’s only son

Pic: http://www.suidakra.com/index.php?page=crogacht

Soon after, Aoife seduced Cu Chulainn and was pregnant by the time he completed his training with Sgathaich and returned to Ulster. Before leaving he gave Aoife his gold ring for their son so that she could send the boy to him in the future. The ring would confirm his identity. Cu Chulainn then left, and Aoife was certain he would return one day. Time passed, the boy CONLAOCH grew to be an amazing fighter like his father, but when Aoife heard that Cu Chulainn had married Emer and would not come back to Skye, she became bitter and angry, planning revenge. She sent Conlaoch to Ulster under GAES or taboo. He was not to reveal his identity to anyone, no matter who asked, and was never to refuse to fight.

The youth arrived at Cu Chulainn’s court and refusing to name himself was immediately called arrogant and drawn into combat. After defeating several of his father’s men, he was eventually challenged by a very angry Cu Chullain, who, in his famous battle-rage struck down Conlaoch with Sgathaich’s gift, the Gae Bolga. As his son lay dying, Cu Chullain finally came to his senses and recognised his ring and the boy’s identity. His grief was terrifying. Cu Chulainn, who had tremendous resources as a warrior of worldly battles, couldn’t cope with the loss of his only son, and was to spend the rest of his short life learning to handle his passions, doubts, and fears. He never fully recovered from his loss and Aoife’s revenge was complete.

One of the major features of Celtic goddesses is a fusion of fertility powers with those of war. These goddesses were in effect the Openers and Closers of The Way of Life: the Givers and Takers. The apparent conflict between a goddess ruling both fertility and death presented no problem to the Celt who knew that death comes from life and life from death. Although the later eastern concept of dominant hero and swooning maid is not inherent in Celtic myth, heroes were drawn into the “Otherworld” by beautiful young maiden-type goddesses. The Celts had no straightforward Goddess of love, such as the classical Venus or Aphrodite, but they seem to have worshipped nature goddesses, often portrayed as beautiful and desirable young women. They set tasks, not as mere tasks of manhood, but to send the ‘improved’ hero back to his tribe or clan having achieved something, or gained some higher state of being which would benefit them all. It was often a dangerous task and in many ways the hero was considered a sacrifice for the good of his people.

NIAMH OF THE GOLDEN HAIR, was one such maiden goddess, daughter of Mannanan, the Celtic God of the sea who roamed our west coast waters and gave his name to the Isle of Man. It was Leod (Liotr) grandson of Godred the Black, King of Man, who established Dunvegan castle as the seat of Clan MacLeod. Niamh is described thus:

her golden hair hung in tresses, and at the end of each plait hung a bead. To some men her hair was the colour of the yellow flag iris which grows by summer water; others thought it like ruddy polished gold. Slender and exquisite as a birch tree, of shape as sweet as the fine clover, of colour as fair as a summer morning, she is the type of the glory of all lands.

Niamh chose a mortal man, OISIN son of FINN chief of the legendary Fenian warriors of Celtic Ireland to be her lover, and took him to Tir-nan-Og, the Celtic “Land of the Ever Young” which lies somewhere in the western sea. The Otherworld was a timeless, ageless, happy place, a source of all wisdom, peace, beauty, harmony and immortality -a world full of magic, enchantment and music. Earthly time has no relevance. If humans visit it they remain young while there, but age catches up if they return home. Oisin, despite all he learns and the happiness he enjoys with Niamh, becomes homesick and plans a visit,to the upper world. Niamh warns him not to set foot on land or he will not return to her. In the upper world Oisin, travelling on horse-back, finds 300 years have passed. His harness breaks, he falls from his horse, and crumbles to dust. This story, like so many others in mythology, is about the inner journey of the human soul/psyche/ spirit – the facing of tests and trials for initiation into the higher or better state of being.
Oisin and Niamh

Oisin and Niamh

Pic: http://www.elfwood.com/~bokica/Oisin-and-Niamh.2581257.html

Niamh’s father was sometimes known as Mannanan Mac Lir, a name meaning Son of the Sea, or as Barmnthus, the primal god of the ocean deeps, and as such he is associated with stellar navigation. Mannanan appeared in many guises, and as a monk called ‘Father Barinthus’ he visited St Brendan and told him to travel west-wards to the ‘Island of Promise of the Saints’. In the 9th century AD StBrendan of Clonfert in County Galway, Ireland, set out in a skin boat with 14 monks to accompany him to search for this land across the ocean. His voyage of discovery has been claimed as the first visit by a European to America. Mannanan is also referred to in the 12th century ‘Vita Merlini’, when he ferries the wounded King Arthur, accompanied by the prophet Merlin and the bard Taliesin, to the other world for his cure.

The Cells had no religious dogma that we can trace, though accompanying everything they did was a strong sense of holiness and sacredness of all existence. To them animals and trees had souls and immortality and reincarnation were facts of life, and different levels of reality were taken for granted The old role of the animals was to link man, through the collective myth of dreams, to be mediators between him and his gods, and they were considered sacred.

Many of the gods and spirits of the Celtic world were represented with bird and animal parts, and birds of every kind wing their way through the divine world of the Celts. Indeed birds were generally thought to be bearers of divine information, and their calls and flight patterns were commonly interpreted by the druids for insights into the future.

To the Celts the land itself was a living sacred entity. There was no intellectual separation between religion and living, all life, all acts, all relationships were essentially religious; not in any formal senses but as a matter of simple fact.


Our Lady of the Snows

Our Lady of the Snows

Pic: www.artofamaryknollsister.com/

There is no clear cut boundary between the end of paganism and the beginning of Christianity in Celtic Europe. The old gods lingered long, but during the 4th century Christianity was officially adopted as the state religion of the Roman world, and in Britain and Ireland, where Celtic traditions were arguably sustained longest, the Celtic church was established during the 5th century.When he came to England St.Augustine is said to have been advised by Pope Gregory to “accommodate the ceremonies of the Christian worship as much as possible into those of the heathen, that the people might not be too much startled by the change”, and he seems to have followed these instructions to the letter. Therefore, when the Christian movement at the Council of Ephesus in AD 431, made Mary officially the Mother of God , the Celts turned to her enthusiastically as the replacement mother goddess,

seeing in her the goddesses of fertility, love and healing. The early Celtic Christians pictured Mary as the eternal mother figure, encouraging men and women to turn to her in times of trouble..

It is interesting to note that at the time when the Celts began to accept Christianity, Celtic women, as in pagan times, were equal to men in preaching religion. We are told that both Brigid of Kildare and Beoferlic (St Beverley of York) of the Celtic church in Northumbria, were ordained not simply as priests but as bishops as well. A far cry from the situation today!

And so the Celtic world slowly began to change and with it the major pagan-celtic ceremonies which were gradually assimilated into the Christian calendar. Festivals such as SAMHAJN, which was celebrated on November 1st, the beginning of the Celtic year. This was the day of changes, of births and deaths when the gate between the worlds is open and spirits can pass freely from one to the other. We celebrate it as All Saints day and even now some people fear the walking ghosts of Halloween. The Spring Equinox is called ALBAN

EILER – or the Light of the Earth – among the reformed orders of Druidry. It marks the mid-point between the suns least and strongest appearance at Midwinter amd Midsummer respectively. The Celts welcomed the sun with a glad heart, for its dancing rays awakened the seemingly dead earth to new life and signalled the ending of the long, cold winter. “As the light lengthens, so the cold strengthens”, goes the old saying. The stark coldness of February seems winter-locked until the emerging tips of snowdrops herald the return of spring. ~ The pagan Celts celebrated the season IMBOLC as spring approached and it encompassed the sprouting period of young growth when the earth emerges from the introspection of winter into the fresh hope of the newspring. This festival coincides with the birth of lambs and the lactation of ewes, which underlies the meaning of the word Imbolic. It was simple to assimilate this pagan festival into the Christian calendar as EASTER.

Easter, though in name entirely pagan, now describes only the Christian festival of the Resurrection. Many explanations of the origin of this word have been put forward, but that generally accepted is the earliest, given by Bcde more than a thousand years ago. Writing of April he says it was called “Eostur-Monath, which is now rendered the Paschal month and formally received its name from a goddess of spring called EOSTRI, worshipped by the ancient nations of the north in whose honour a festival was celebrated at the vernal equinox”.

Although little is known about her cult it seems likely that she was once a dawn goddess as she was connected with ideas of rising and new life. The ancient Sanskrit word for dawn was USRA and from it most certainly came both Easter and the east, the direction from where the sun is known to rise. Since spring with its increasing light and warmth is “the dawn of the living year” it was natural that a dawn goddess should be worshipped then.

The Irish cleric Sedulius Scottus wrote. .”Christ the true sun rose from the dark last night. . . may Heavenly Easter joy gather you to the threshold of light”. The Germans have a similar name for this season – OSTERN or OSTERFEST -deriving in part from OSTARA, another version of Eostre. In various parts of Germany stone altars called Easter-stones can still be found dedicated to the fair goddess Eostre.

The Celts believed that Eostre’s favourite animal and attendant spirit was the hare. Everywhere it represented love, fertility and growth and was associated with the moon, dawn and Easter – the enlightenment of the soul through death, redemption and resurrection. The goddess changed into a hare at the full moon and even to this day there is a superstition that hares carry the souls of the dead. Tradition also has it that the hare was sacred to the White Goddess – the Earth Mother – and as such was considered to be a royal animal. The warrior queen Boudicca took a hare into battle with her to ensure victory and it was said to have screamed like a woman from beneath her cloak. Legend relates how that same Celtic warrior Oisin, beloved of Niamh, hunted a hare and wounded it in the leg, forcing it to seek refuge in a clump of bushes.


Pic: Helena Nelson Reed

When Oisin followed it he found, in the thicket, a door leading down into the ground and eventually emerged into a huge hail where he found a beautiful young woman sitting on a throne bleeding from a wound in her leg. The transmigration of the soul is clearly seen in Celtic lore; the life of the body is not the end of the soul, which is understood to take other forms successively..

In Europe there are wide-spread remnants of a cult of a hare goddess and man has for centuries feared the hare because of the supernatural powers with which he has endowed her solitude, her remoteness and her subtle, natural skills. Active at night, symbolic of the intuitive, and the fickleness of the moon, the hare is an emblem of inconstancy. Like the moon which is always changing places in the sky, hares have illogical habits and are full of mystery and contradictions. Certainly it has never been regarded as ad ordinary creature in any part of the world, and in ancient Egypt the hare was used as a Hieroglyph for the word denoting . existence. . Many divergent cultures link the hare with the moon and Buddhists have a saying about the “shadow of the hare in the moon” instead of the man in the moon. They see the hare as a resurrection symbol. The moon is perhaps the most manifest symbol of this universal becoming-birth, growth, reproduction, death and rebirth. The moon disappears, dies and is born again, and this underlies most primitive initiation rites- that a being must die before he can be born again on a higher spiritual level.

The Celts counted time not by days, but by nights, and made their calendars (Coligny) not by the sun, but by the moon. Fortnight means 14 nights or half a lunar cycle.

In some parts of Skye, old and young kept a coin in their pockets to hail RIOGHA INN NA H-OIDCHE (the queen of the night) as the moon was called. The coin,PEIGHINN PISICH (propitious penny) was turned three times in the pocket when the new moon was seen. (from the Carmina Gadelica, collected by Carmichael)

“Hail to thee, Jewel of the night!

Beauty of the heavens,

Jewel of the night!

Mother of the stars,

Fosterling of the sun, Majesty of the stars!

Glory to thee for ever

Thou bright moon,

This night

Thyself art ever

The glorious lamp of the poor”.

The symbol of the hare was used deliberately to transfer old pagan religion into a Christian context, and the Albrecht Durer woodcut of the Holy Family (1471-1 528) clearly depicts three hares at the family. s feet. Later superstition changed the Easter hare into the Easter rabbit or . bunny.- far less threatening than the ancient pagan symbol and very few people will be aware that the hare ever held such standing, and why.

As the ancient beliefs died, superstitions about the hare were rife and many witches were reported to have hares as their familiars. In the . 17th Century Witch Trials. quoted by Margaret Murray, one of the old women chants…

“Hare, hare, god send the care

I am in a hare’s likeness now,

But I shall be in a woman’s likeness even now.

Today we talk of a lucky . rabbit’s foot. but for many generations a hare’s paw or footwas a much used charm against evil, a throw-back to the long forgotten belief in Eostre the Celtic dawn goddess. By AD 410 when Celtic Britain had emerged from the long centuries of Roman occupation, the Celts were struggling to balance the original co-equal society with male dominance.

The Romans had been horrified by the social status of Celtic women as they enjoyed privileges that would have made Roman women, of the same period, green with envy. This was subversive to the patriarchal paradigms of Greece and Rome and had to be destroyed. The destructive influence of the Roman empire, then of Christianity, when women were no longer allowed sexual freedom, coupled with the cultures of the Anglo Saxons and the Franks, certainly forced the Celts into fundamental change. They clung to the old ways but finally that harmony between the roles of men and women. The harmony that was no dependent on the superiority of one over the other, but on an equality in which each could feel comfortable and the feminist concept of a descent into (modern) civilization is reasonable.


‘Macha’ by Angie Spencer

‘Macha’ by Angie Spencer

Pic: http://www.angiespencer.co.uk/

MACHA the Celtic horse goddess, who gave her name to Cu Chulainns war horse, the Grey of Macha, cursed the patriarchal age that had just dawned, with these words…”Although you may develop sophisticated doctrines of rebirth; although you may have taken on yourselves the right of life and death; although your efforts may seem logical and plausible in the light of a patriarchal culture; your efforts cannot but be doomed to failure as long as they are based on the subordination of women” The story did not end with the conquests of Rome.

The Celts continued to exist over Europe, although the language died out in most areas, their ideas, their beliefs and folk festivals, and place names, survived. Ireland and much of Scotland were not conquered by the Romans, an there as in Wales and the Isle of Man, Celtic culture continued to exist, retaining its art, its religion and its language.

By Pamela Budge


Exploring Scotland’s Heritage. by Ritchieand Harman.

Celtic Women. by P.Berrisford Ellis

The Leaping Hare. by G. Evans and L Thomson.

Women in Celtic Myth by Moyra Caldicott.

The Mediaeval Castles of Skye. by D. Roberts and R. Miket.

Carmina Gadelica.by A Carmichael

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‘Cá bhfuil tú, a Phádraig?’ – Save Tara for the Young Irish

'Cá bhfuil tú, a Phádraig?'

‘Cá bhfuil tú, a Phádraig?’

Pic: Laura Geraghty

One of the news sources I regularly read is the TaraWatch mailing list and this morning, I was pleasantly surprised to read something by ‘ghoop’, a regular contributor, that delighted me. He/she says that on Tuesday last (the 15th December 2009), the Pat Kenny radio show on RTE covered children’s books written in the Irish language on the “battle to save tara”.

Ghoop says that the

names of the books are likely to be available from the Kenny show if someone contacts them and could be put on the blogs for those who might like to know and even buy them for their kids..

Spread it around. The new generation are entitled to know from an early age what a battle is and has been fought. Posterity demands it. With these books the battle guarantees this posterity.

I’ve only managed to find one of these books but it looks amazing. It’s called Cá bhfuil tú, a Phádraig?, which means ‘Where are you, Patrick?’ and tells the story of a young girl and her friends who are protesting about the construction of the M3 motorway. Written and beautifully drawn by Laura Geraghty, she quotes from Inis Magazine who say:

A topical story, beautifully laid out and designed, about Aoife and her friends who are protesting about the building of the M3 motorway near Tara. They are surprised to receive a visit from an unlikely guest, St. Patrick, who suggests that the problem maybe be solved by a very traditional method.

The review on the Pat Kenny part of the RTE site says:

Cá bhfuil tú a Phádraig?
Published by An Gúm
Written and illustrated by a young artist called Lára Nic Oireachtaigh
Illustrations are beautiful and very striking.
It deals with the topical issue of the M3 being constructed through Tara, and the characters in the story are doing their best to protect Tara’s heritage and to prevent its destruction.
This is not the first story for children in the Irish language to deal with this issue – the well known poet Biddy Jenkinson published a children’s book, An Bhanríon Bess agus Gusaí Gaimbín, on the same topic two years ago. It’s obviously an issue that is close to the heart of several Irish-language writers.
Suitable for 8-12 year olds.

Laura says:

This book is written in Irish and illustrated in mixed-media style using a mixture of drawing and photography. The book is aimed at Irish-speaking children aged between 7 and 10 years, or at a slightly older age children who attend English-speaking schools and take Irish as a subject. The book deals with the subject of the M3 motorway that passes through the Skryne Valley near the historical site of the Hill of Tara. In the book, St. Patrick hears about this new motorway and returns to Tara to help the protesters to stop it from being built. My intention is that the book will promote the Irish language by dealing with a topical issue in a visually interesting way that will capture the interest and imagination of readers.

It strikes me that not only is this book an excellent way to maintain awareness of the Tara problem but a superb resource for adults like myself wanting to learn the Irish language! I’ll see if I can find some more Irish texts for  a later post.

Thank you ‘ghoop’ for this info.

You can get hold of the book from Amazon, or from Amazon UK, under the name Lara Nic Oireachtaigh.

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