The Role of Mythologhy in Celtic History Essay

The Role Of Mythologhy In Celtic History Term paper

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The Celts were a people of ancient, Indo-European origin. Until about 500 BC, most Celts lived in what is now southwest Germany. They then began settling throughout western Europe, especially the British Isles. Most of what I know about the Celtic civilization is based on the mythical characters and events of the British Isles, particularly those of Ireland. During the Middle Ages, Irish monks preserved many ancient collections of Celtic myths and legends. The myths and legends that I managed to ascertain and study have left me with a sense of male superiority. Take the story The Saving of Tara for instance. Fionn Mac Cumhal, a great warrior, saved the village of Tara from Aillen, son of Midhna, and as a reward for his noble actions, was given leadership of the Fianna by the High King. The Fianna’s main function was to uphold order in Ireland in the form of, basically, a police force. In order to become a member of the Fianna, several requirements had to have been met. First of all, you must have been versed in the twelve books of poetry, and second and most important, you had to be a man. If these two necessary requirements were met, a strenuous set of initiation test followed. At the beginning of the initiation, the man stood in a pit dug knee deep. To defend himself, he had only a shield and a hazel rod. These were to be used to deflect spears thrown by nine other men. All spears were cast simultaneously at the potential warrior. If he failed to deflect these spears, he was rejected. The next test consisted of a chase through the forest, hunted by armed men. The candidate had to avoid being captured or harmed in any way. "Indeed, if he had a lock of his braided hair loosened or if he had broken a branch on the forest floor in his hasty flight he was rejected" 1. After all this, if his hands could not be seen to be shaking, if they were he was rejected. On top of this the man had to crouch under a branch his own knee height, leap over a branch his own head height, and be able to pull a thorn from his foot while running full speed. All these tasks seem to be impossible, but they perfectly illustrate the idealistic nature of the Celtic people. Let us have a closer look at The Legend of leader of these perfect warriors and how, exactly, he managed to become their leader. "The High King and all the nobles of Ireland were gathered together at the great hall of Tara for the feast of Samhain. But the king's heart was sore, and the reason for this is not difficult to tell. Every year for nine years past, the Fear Sidhe had come out of the fairy hill in the north to burn down Tara. He was Aillen, son of Midhna, from Sid Fionnachaidh. He would come playing the sweet music of his clarsach that wooed to sleep maidens, kings and warriors alike. None could resist the music, such was its power over the mortal race. Then Aillen would blow flames of crimson fire from his mouth, bright dancing flames that burned everything, from the four great ramparts, to the last blade of grass. The king was desperate. He pledged that if he could find one among the men of Ireland who could keep Tara standing until the dawn, he would give to that man whatever was his rightful inheritance. No sooner had the king spoken when Fionn stepped forward and agreed to do this. The king gave him the assurances of the four kings of the provinces, and of the Druids, that he would keep his word if Fionn fulfilled the task. Then secretly Fionn went to seek out Fiacha, the son of Conga, that had been a friend to Fionn's father. Fiacha offered him a deadly spear that would never make a false cast, and instructed him in how to use it: "When you will hear the music of the Sidhe, let you strip the covering off the head of the spear and put it to your forehead and the power of the spear will not let sleep come upon you". So Fionn stepped out, armed with the spear, to make a tour of Tara. It was not long after the sun had set that he heard sweet sorrowful music, lulling, wooing to sleep. Fionn remembered the words of his friend and swiftly uncovered the spear. He held it tightly pressed to his forehead, while all around him, as if in a dream, Aillen wove his charm of sleep, slow, steady, growing stronger. One by one the men of Ireland surrendered to the Fonn Sheen, the enchanted music of Faerie. But Fionn alone stood fast, holding his ground. Aillen shot a flame of crimson fire from his mouth, but Fionn held up his four folded cloak against it. He caught the flame and brought it down, burying it deep within the earth. Then Aillen saw that he had been defeated, and turned to go back to Sid Fionnachaidh, but Fionn would not let him escape. He followed close on his heels, and as Aillen was going in through the doorway of the Sid palace, Fionn made a cast with his spear. The spear went through Aillen's heart and he fell dead. Fionn struck off his head and took it back to Tara, and claimed the leadership of the Fianna from that day forward."2 Fionn Mac Cumhal was not the physically strongest of them all,
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