Showing posts with label Maeve. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Maeve. Show all posts

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Loughcrew & a rose bouquet

Less known, harder to reach, more intimate than Newgrange, Loughcrew needs as of yet no replica mound, no twinned museum, no solstice lottery. On Meath's highest hill, Carnbane East invited us, with a practical and symbolic key, into its narrowed womb-chamber.

Of course, as on Tara's softer declivity a few hours before, the rain lashed us mightily. Our host, who took a few of us from Maynooth's Alternative Spiritualities conference that weekend concluded, later wrote me of Terry Pratchett's musing that the forces always conspire against those who strive to enter pagan places. Whether out of defence, or out of challenge heightening reward, who knows? Ritual retreats: by us long denigrated, demolished, or transformed utterly.

About 280 meters above the plains of fertile Meath and overlooking Cavan's lakes, 17 counties are said to be seen, besting Tara's 16. However, at both sites, an All Saint's Day storm raged. The Hiberno-Norman family the Plunketts owned this demesne once. Riding into the valley below, I watched mists rise as if to shroud newer venerated sites, such as Oldcastle's parish church where St Oliver Plunkett was born (whose head I'd seen enshrined in a later sacred edifice in Drogheda a few days before), sufficiently to allow older spirits to emerge on the determined wind to surround us. We'd studied that weekend at Maynooth the entry of New Age and "new religious movements" into Ireland recently, and now we found ourselves alone this Sunday afternoon which soon turned grey, blustery, and battering.

By Californian standards, at least. Wearing glasses and a waterproofed thin jacket with a scarf wrapped around my neck to keep out the drops and the chill, I ascended the gradual slope. I chatted with an Australian medievalist as she recommended a book "Modern Paganism in World Contexts," for I wondered how the Old Beliefs revived or revised were faring abroad. In our own small ranks, at least one youthful practitioner from Tipperary had already at Tara's Lia Fáil quietly carried out his own private ceremony, and he'd be the last one left, chanting nearly inaudibly, within the summit named "Carnbane" ("White Cairn") we were off to visit, holding the key to fabled Cairn T.

I've cited in my Tara entry Anthony Murphy & Richard Moore's argument, discovered in full only after my return from Ireland, about the ancient patterns set up on the heights of the Boyne river valley to match the Bóthar Bó Finne, the road of the illuminated Cow, that worshipped Bóann, the cow-goddess. The triple hills that comprise Slaibh na Caillaighe (or Caillí), the "Mountain of the Witch or Hag"-- now revamped by New Agers into "wise woman healer" as my own research presentation into "Celtic Buddhism" had noted at Maynooth-- mythically arose when the woman dropped her stones there. Out of her "divine womb, translated into the language of dress," as Michael Dames in "Mythic Ireland" parenthetically puts her magical feat, the "Witch's Hops" of three spaced hills arose, so folk belief had it.

Dames argues for a midsummer solstice fire-kindled alignment for Loughcrew with Uisneach, the "tree" centrally located as island hub, with Cairn T as a "hag-shaped tomb" penetrated by the sun-god. Murphy & Moore, building on Martin Brennan's theories, sketch an even more elaborate schema. Murphy, photographing the backstone (pictured above) brightened as its patterns inscribed tracked the sun's passage entering on the autumnal equinox, happened to look tilted up on his back within the cairn's uttermost chamber, backward towards the door. It's a tight fit as we could attest, waiting so three or so of our party could squeeze under the limbo-low lintel into the inner recesses.

Murphy witnessed what probably few before him would have noticed, their eyes naturally face front. The door aligned with the Hill of Slane, another Boyne site, one where Patrick a few days after his Easter triumph had lit in 432 the paschal fire to roust the pagans. This cairn, these Drogheda-based researchers surmised, revealed a equinoctial orientation within the horizon, even 32 miles away to Millmount which had guided me to my host's home in Drogheda. Murphy and Moore's knowledge of their local Louth lore, additionally, revealed Millmount as the missing link. Unfortunately, just as at Tara misguided British Israelite-misled excavators had damaged sites a century ago, so at Millmount the Martello Tower's bulk, erected after 1798's rising-- above what's rumored as Amergin's tomb, this Stone Age mound-- amidst fears of French coastal invasions, long after the Sons of Mil, continued to impose the modern fear over the ancient ground, as the motorway below Tara shows.

Lots of ifs, lots of qualifiers. Still, scholarship the past thirty-odd years has moved towards a recognition of the Boyne Valley as a massive astronomically aligned configuration of womb-tombs and holy sites. Amergin ca. that legendary 1694 BCE uttered: "Who but I knows the place where the sun sets? Who but I knows the ages of the moon? What land is better than this island of the setting sun?" Seeing the Sons of Mil were said to have left Spain for Eirinn, high praise indeed.

As I trudged up the hillside, around puddles and over mud, I met finally my host about whom my entry on Downpatrick will tell more. We'd corresponded on line after an amazing configuration of my own. Over the years, entries on this blog on Horslips, John Moriarty (I'd quoted an article of this host, a journalist-poet-novelist whom I'll keep anonymous as he works in Belfast; old reticence dies hard for me), Francis Stuart, and finally the band The Fall. Quite an unlikely pattern, speaking of cosmological formations on the Net if not Bó Finne. Yet, it brought us together, and straightaway, recognizing each other from the photos-- and who else would approach a band of academic misfits on a stormy Sunday in the back of beyond?-- we struck up conversation.

I asked him if that was Drogheda far off. He said no, but I wondered, when later studying Murphy & Moore, if that Boyne Valley set-up pulled me at least in the right direction. I saw wind-generating towers, so much for Bronze Age cairns, on the hills far away. We could see a bit of the Irish Sea; supposedly Ballysadare Bay the other side below Sligo town can be discerned, but you'd need the sharp eye of Amergin to make that out even under a clear sky. After we had entered Cairn T, we noted how similar the floral drawings carved within seemed to the untutored gaze like a hippie child's fingerpainted flower, or a Native American's rock art pictograph. We tried, with flashlights, to shine some light on a dark chamber.

Cary Meehan in her fine "Traveller's Guide to Sacred Ireland" notes 27 inscribed stones within. I felt intruding on a venerable place, which oddly reminded me of the fake Injun Joe's cave on Tom Sawyer's Island at Disneyland, an attraction I'd long liked as it had no time limit. Unlike the Frontierland site, this Neolithic one, perhaps as old as 3000-3500 BCE, makes it older than the pyramids of Giza, or Newgrange itself, let alone Stonehenge.

A candle burned in an outer chamber. As the young neo-pagan stuck his head, faintly chanting, into the farthest recess where Murphy had looked away from, the rest of us tried to poke and peer a bit, feeling awfully enormous in this small space. When I exited with my new friend, the rain pummelled us.

I spider-crawled up the cairn. Usually I would not, as I sense I'm scaling a tomb. But certainly whatever remains were within had long since entered their own reunion with the elements that thrashed about us. A miracle this solid stone mound had survived the course of civilization, millennia before what motorways and traffic-- which to be fair brought us to and from such sites today in relative comfort-- sought to speed us past.

On top of Cairn T, on Carnbane East, what's called "the Hag's Chair" surmounted the small hillock. It opened down on the chamber, to allow rain in and smoke out, I suppose, with a welcome bit of sun. The stone lap atop Cairn T cradled, flooded by a small accumulation of rainwater, a fresh bouquet of roses left by an earlier pilgrim.

The force of the gusts up there intensified. I felt full impact of the wind as it roared in from the Atlantic side, eastwards slashing the island at Meath's tallest summit. I turned away to the west, gazing across at the more brushy, less raw, third hill, Patrickstown, tellingly named for he who drove out druidry. Over 30 chambered cairns sit here on the witch's triple hops, where most tombs have never been opened.

Down the hill, we walked, not able to talk much due to being wrapped up in our jackets and hoods. It made me again appreciate, for all my grousing, the technology of the present, and I kept imagining how soaked I'd've been as an ancient devotee. Intruders had long been imposing themselves upon these airy, isolated redoubts. Meehan notes that the Iron Age-- which banished the old ways as the Celts advanced with weapons, male-oriented pantheons, and an upending of the maternal alignments-- often made these hills, legendarily the haunts of fairy women, the Sí, the last bastions of the goddess, if now warped into hags rather than "wise healers." Mebdh reduced to Queen Mab; the Wife of Bath's tale of a loathly lady's entreaty.

A later tradition-- if one around three thousand years ago said to have been instituted is newer this tells how long this site has been commemorated-- claims that Ollamh Fódhla, poet-king and law-giver, who started the triennial féis at Tara, was buried at Cairn T. Underneath where I stood, above the path I now climbed down, the sun, another brighter day, would pass again along a diagonal route over the backstone. Images of a rayed star, spirals tripled and swirling like a nebula, reminded me of the simplest art we fingerpaint as children, and of the most complex, via Hubble Space Telescope transmitting to us today. We love to look up at the sky, and in it, as Flannery O'Connor wrote, we try to figure out our central mystery-- no less or more clear after all our inventions and measurements than it was to nameless ancestors on my mysterious isle-- to puzzle out "the position of our human life."

Photo at the equinox of the backstone, Cairn T.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Tara & a traveller's tale

Only 300 feet elevated, but Tara's eminence does appear, once you're on it, to expand. 16 counties from this navel, this fifth province, supposedly can be seen, but not when I stood there. An Atlantic storm had washed over Meath, neither mountain nor bog. Gales scoured tourists off the hill, but left a few (neo-)pagans.

And/or those who had studied them that weekend before this excursion. Among them, recalling (if not a Facebook one done today that defined me for my "God can neither be proven nor disproven" assertion as bonafide "atheist/agnostic") my recent quiz scoring me a hundred percent as "neo-pagan" and a "Mahayana Buddhist," I heard on the way over Tara's background. An ancient coronation site-- likely far older than the Celts who spread its fame. We were told of its past rumored glory and its present predicament-- as it borders a new motorway-- by a practicing dharma follower. He'd preceded me in our panel on Irish Buddhism panel at the NUIM conference on Alternative Spiritualities he'd organized at Maynooth.

Palisades and piers, of course, by millennia of rain as we encountered had long blown away, but ceremonial ramparts and ditches remained. The Mound of the Hostages upon which I first scampered upon chilly arrival was perhaps raised over a passage-tomb in 2500 or as long ago as 3200 BCE, when the Boyne monuments, Tara, Newgrange, nine km. away from there at Millmount (a new one to me, but I'd seen it-- still thinking it only a Martello Tower and not bard Amergin's supposed tomb after the Milesian landing in Eirinn ca. 1694 BCE in lore-- as a landmark to guide myself by when disembarking from Drogheda's bus station, and over its summit I'd see my last sunrise over Ireland two days later as I waited at that same terminus), Loughcrew, Slane: these too were orientation lines down to the Irish Sea, aligned by Stone and Bronze Age peoples about which we know nearly nothing but their stones and spiral scratches.

These guided my ancestors along the maternal path of the stars called not the Milky Way but Bóthar na Bó Finne, "the road of the illuminated cow" along the Boyne river valley down to Drogheda and the Irish sea, so Anthony Murphy and Richard Moore argue in a book I'd consulted before my trip about the derivation of "Tara," their "Island of the Setting Sun: In Search of Ireland's Ancient Astronomers." If I had looked further into Murphy & Moore, as they summarize at Murphy's "", my perambulation around what I figured just another Norman-Cromwellian-Imperial tower of subjugation overlooking Drogheda might have been more cautious, or more inspired. Still, as it was that last morning, I noticed the conjunction of road sign for Newgrange with the day-star's ascension over Millmount, and I basked my pale face in its welcome glow.

Back to where I'd wound up after Drogheda and Maynooth, Tara, as our host told us on the bus, while it had succumbed despite long protest to the M3 motorway thanks to a greedy landowner connected with the government's right of way through the valley, still remained at least somewhat vindicated. Soon, closer than my home is to the world's first freeway, visitors to the hill will be able to hear (as I do here) the hum of traffic piercing the calm. The motorway waits 2.2 km. away, ready to ease congestion of Meath as it suburbanizes, as does Drogheda along its own new highway, and the pressures of a wealth undreamed of by Tara's assemblies of three thousand, with three hundred cooks to sustain them, in fabled if still mysterious days of yore.

The challenge lies for those who must dig and discern. The British Israelites damaged the site a century ago in their foolish insistence that Tara equated with Téa who came with eponymous Scotia from Scythia via Pharaoh's Egypt of the Exodus. The motorway did its own destruction, as it had with the infamous Wood Quay demolishment when that Viking-era site on the Liffey had to go the way of the valley below Tara to satisfy earlier scions favored by a nation's leaders more engaged with money than dúchas, heritage being less a value and more a marketing scheme. "Save Tara" failed against Celtic Tigers. Still, the salvage archeologists hired by the same Republic did their best for their masters in their doomed project. (I recall Brian Friel's 1975 play "Volunteers" about the Wood Quay destruction, and the digs done on Liffey''s shore, in his drama, by prisoners there.)

A few of us from the Alternative Spiritualities conference-- all students (at least) of neo-paganism more than Catholic pilgrims, befitting our weekend's exploration of New Age and 'new religious movements' in the changing Ireland that led to Wood Quay and Tara Valley's erasure and also their mourning by such as us a saving remnant of keeners-- heard from the organizer a telling tale. A few Buddhists on reverting to an earlier practice than the indigenously implanted Catholicism, a few years ago, had defied Patrick's decree. They buried on Tara a snakeskin. They proclaimed the return of the repressed, the triumph of what 1500 years had failed ultimately to banish from the Emerald Isle of now saints pursuing shamanism, healing arts, and druidry, and scholars such as we studied them.

Our teller's daughter, four-year-old Alannah, was as I told her aptly named for one of the Irish words for beauty. She and her minder walked about the blustery hill. Nobody else I could make out was on it. It did seem to stretch out much farther than you'd expect, once you scaled its gentle slope, barely noticeable. A couple of Travellers, New Age more likely than native, offered a Scottish scholar, an expert on cults, a homemade oatmeal and chocolate biscuit after she talked with them. They stood at a tent over a fire.

We trooped past after a stint in the dreadful teashop-cum-gift shop that I will not dignify with a name. My Downpatrick host noted later a fine used bookstore's nearby, and I wished I'd spent my time there rather than wandering ruefully its few square feet. One section, candle-scented and unattended off to the backside, filled with wraps and bric-a-brac you might find in a Keltick Mall ("mall"="slow" in the Irish) out of an airline shopper's catalogue in your seat pocket. The other, where I stationed myself after foregoing tea (I take it easy on the road, remembering well a time two years ago from Glencolmcille to Ballyshannon when the bus had no time to stop for me to stop in Donegal Town; under an an hour later on the weaving road I was about to burst and-- mortified-- had to dash off to the jakes, begging the driver and passengers to wait.), boasted such a selection of misguided New Age gimcrackery that it made my hometown's shop, The Bodhi Tree, look as serious as the Bodleian Library at Oxford, I hazarded.

The only semi-respectable book on Tara, Michael Slevin's illustrated guide, was what you'd expect, but that was it. All the rainbowed, crystalline, astrologically aligned auras and baubles and gee-gaws you'd desire filled the other shelves. As our guide mused, "twenty years ago, you'd never've seen this in Ireland." I looked for a tea-towel, standard of an earlier brand of kitsch, for my wife, but the single one on sale failed to move me. No State-approved map, no visitor's guide, and the audiovisual center that took over the old C of I church up the hill--talk about prime real estate-- tellingly was open only in a sunnier tourist's season.

My own Maynooth talk had loads of pseudo-scholarship cited; I have always had sympathy for misguided autodidacts like British Israelites I confess. So, I glanced in what soon turned to disdain rather than delight in what I will not name by author, titled "The Lost Magic of Christianity: the Celtic Essene Tradition." Even by New Age teashop standards, disappointing. To my dismay, the expert on cults bought it, I had a feeling not for novelty's sake, and a colleague who studied circles from an anthropological perspective sprung, despite her skepticism, for said self-published scholar's (the book jacket noted he was of Anglo-Irish gentry descent so his inevitable coming to live on an island off his family's former colony's coast was foreshadowed I suppose) companion volume full of spirals and circles galore.

Maybe I was to blame or credit for those two purchases by curious scholars. I'd told them on the bus, after that expert's query, that although Tara's naming as bodhisattva of compassion and Meath's omphalos seemed fortuitious, my own forays into many scholars, degreed and self-taught, failed to show more than happy coincidence, unless "teamhair" as "eminence" and "sTAR" and Hindu status for the goddess beloved by Aryans and Tibetans could make a very attenuated Indo-European match made in heaven. I wish I could have proven this. Surely the teashop benefits from such imagined conjectures by many who visit Tara during equinoxes, solstices, and cross-calendrical times the eight seasons of the neo-pagan commemorations.

I scanned the trinkets but was depressed by the Cadburys, Chinese-made trash, and soulless Green Man zodiacal "crafts" that lacked any "mana," any spirit, any genuine pagan spark. The clerks did a boom business, even in the damp, for where else were the few visitors an All Saint's morning going to go until-- and if-- the sky cleared?

I figured my change should go to a better cause on Tara. I've always left coins in the Guide Dogs for the Blind figurines on my British and Irish travels; I did then. I'm a soft spot for totemic appeals to charity. If beggars dressed up in animal costumes, I'd probably donate more to their pet causes.

Once outside, I did see a rainbow to the south-east. One of six I'd see that day, easily a record for me from "the land of little rain." It occured to me for the first time that such apparitions might appear always at a certain angle to the sun. But I lacked the astronomical expertise that Murphy & Moore documented among our forebears here along the Boyne. I contented myself by showing the rainbow to Alannah on the bus, where some had retreated for shelter before we faced the pagan forces who kept so many from easily enjoying Tara that morning.

I told Alannah's minder, as we tried to talk about the Irish prison system (she was studying the juvenile incarceration-rehabilitation there), about the even more dismal American equivalents. But, the weather discouraged advanced discourse. "At least it's not rainy, cold and windy," Maria commented as gusts slapped even native Irish faces silly. "It's only two out of three," I sighed. My Southern Californian nature had won out over my genetic disposition. It was brisk, even natives concurred.

We academics marched out, finally, and the wind hit me hard as we faced the hill itself among the mud and grass. Cattle grazed as they may always have among whomever scaled Tara long before teashops in the Old Age. We closed gates to keep them in or out, and we soon faced "Dumha na nGall," that hostage's mound, and other fancifully named (by antiquarians determined to make the nondescript surface remains match the scraps of Iron Age sagas) sites, such as An Forradh, the king's seat, and Rath Righ, the fortress of the kings, and Teach Chormaic, Cormac's house. I tried to scurry up that last one, but as the wind roared, I admit it was difficult. Still at its small summit, I made out even in the mist a panorama that seemed to encompass the horizons as I swooped around 360 degrees, a splendid sight, if one's imagination was kindled.

The site's rich, if you harbor that kind of mindset as I indulge-- for research purposes only-- in sexual and potent allure, if subtly so after so much Christian revision. The 'Bán Fheis,' euphemistically called the "sacred marriage" said to have been granted by Medb or Maeve to nine successive suitors seeking the symbolic kingship over the isle, here was said to have been consummated. Michael Dames wonders if the cry of the standing stone when it approved a claimant might recall the orgasm-labor cry twinned of a woman transformed into a goddess, a faint gasp of Neolithic ritual.

The position of the Lia Fáil (although moved from its original site where it'd been found fallen) and the night sky, Murphy & Moore suggest, hold an alignment of release into the Bó Finne, the Milky Way, the path for the Bóinne, the cow-goddess of fertility that even in Stone Age times four millennia before Christ may have guided early settlers along this sacred route towards and from Drogheda from Millmount along Newgrange, Slane, and the next place we'd visit, Loughcrew.

Alannah's father asked a few of us outliers making our own confused pilgrimage in the whirling breezes if we'd want to see a sheila-na-gig. The C of I graveyard, that well-chosen plot, stood on an older site, naturally. Two small standing stones in it rested near a ruin that was a church wall from who knows when, the visitor's center being locked up. Near the base of one stone, the sheila-na-gig rested, if unseen to the likes of my eye. On what to me looked like a slightly raised bit of lichen, but what the expert told us was beneath one of these caricatures as if from a medieval bestiary, much debated by feminists, New Age devotees, archeologists, and folklorists still.

I can direct you to a Wikipedia entry easier than I can explain these explicit, disturbing, but still, to my warped sense of humor, amusing creations. "Figurative carvings of naked women displaying an exaggerated vulva," as the definition primly puts 'em. Made famous for many impressionable hipsters by a P.J. Harvey song, as my Drogheda host and her big fan might second. Underneath the stone, I was touched. Three tiny pink petals, trefoils smaller than periwinkles, rested, and one white. Despite the nasty weather that "soft day," they nestled in a row securely beneath and among the elements. I'd see no such floral tribute left before Patrick's supposed tombstone the next day in Downpatrick.

It helped to have so much noisy air about and so few companions. One fellow from the conference, a young, earnest autodidact from Clonmel down in Tipperary who to my earlier delight had the same name as my older son and had worn a Lakers cap like my younger would, circled and quietly recited as he dipped his walking stick into the puddles. I respected his ritual. Yet, he also jammed with his foot what looked like to me a purple child's purse into the grass in front of Lia Fáil, the stone of destiny. That puzzled me. Next to the half-buried phallic pillar in commemoration stands a hideous marker raised for Patrick. This juxtaposition alone made me want to see the eradication of papal priestcraft in this snakeskinned demesne.

The daughter danced about, chanting too. Her minder encouraged her to keep hoping as she asked the Lia Fáil: "I want to be a princess." The stone answered the royal petitioner-- a man back then in less enlightened times-- by shrieking approval for the claimant to the throne. I assured the four-year-old girl that the wind was too loud for her to make out the stone's approbation, and with that diplomatic judgement she was well pleased.

I found out on that hill a bit of my own connection to a mystery from the past. NUIM's Attracta Brownlee had researched not New Age but indigenous travellers in my ancestral maternal territory of East Mayo. I went up to her by the Mound of the Hostages and asked her about my great-grandmother's surname. I had suspected it to be a Traveller name, but I had doubted any intermarried back around 1880. Still, then as now, a few do, she told me with authority.

Like pagans, perhaps not the most popular group to ally with even in today's Ireland, but Travellers until recently stayed, or were made to stay away, rooted in what so many in today's Ireland reject at their peril, as plastics replace tin, cars turn plastic. My Irish cousins rush to pave over their past and make it to me an all-too-familiar parking lot. Coming from L.A., take my caution as a warning, will yiz? Attracta confirmed it was all but certain given the name and provenance and time that I am a direct descendent of a people still argued over today, as to when and where and why they came to wander, once, these roads. Roads less crowded if no less dangerous than today's superhighways. Romanticizing our heritage runs its own risks.

So, I left Tara's hill with my own small share of acquired wisdom. Granted with a scholar's judgment, I accepted my smidgen of folkloric Irish heritage. It rests within a family tree, far off, but I claim it as Alannah did her reign over Tara.

Photo from a good overview on "Mythical Ireland: Tara". Hard to get a sense of this site from the air or from illustrations. I've seen it all my life in books or on screens, but still, you get a liberating sense from standing on Tara, I swear. Defying I pray even the motorway's arrival, there is a magic power there. Even for cynics like me.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Werewolves of Ireland

And as to Irish werewolves mentioned in the previous entry... I posted 2/27 on CBH after a couple of hours fact-hunting a summary of my hunt that I also had shared among a few off-list CBHers what has become under Lee's sowing the acorn of another Branch of the Irish mythic cycle Horslit: Literary Roots of Horslips' Music.

This just in re: "werewolves, Irish." Now, our English word is simply "vir," Latin for "male" plus wolf. Looking at Irish, "wolf/ wild thing" is "faol"; but "conriocht" appears in this particular context. Irish for wolf is also "mac tíre," a figurative way of saying "son of the land!" But the werewolf comes from a different mindset, emphasizing the shape-shifting rather than the Animorph! "Con" is the compound form for "Cú" (as in a certain hero and yours truly), "dog/ hound" and then a metaphor for "warrior". "Riocht" means "adapting- changing- transforming", so "conriocht" is "hound- morphing." There seems one reference in ancient name-lore of persons, "Cóir Anmann," or "Fitness of Names." Translated 1897 by Whitley Stokes, but you'll forgive me for not having a copy on my shelf!

After I laboriously but slightly erroneously translated a Modern Irish version of the Old Irish "Cóir" citation, I found an accurate rendering!

"Laignech Fáelad, that is, he was the man that used to shift into fáelad, i.e. wolf-shapes. He and his offspring after him used to go whenever they pleased, into the shapes of the wolves, and, after the custom of wolves, kill the herds. Wherefore he was called Laignech Fáelad, for he was the first of them to go into a wolf-shape."

Ossory was Ireland's Transylvania, apparently. Here's more from an OI version of the historian Nennius' early medieval British chronicle: "There are certain people in Eri, viz.: the race of Laighne Faelaidh, in Ossory, they pass into the forms of wolves whenever they please, and kill cattle according to the custom of wolves, and they quit their own bodies; when they go forth in the wolf-forms, they charge their friends not to remove their bodies, for if they are moved they will not be able to come again into their bodies; and if they are wounded while abroad, the same wounds will be on their bodies in their houses; and the raw flesh devoured while abroad will be in their teeth."

Giraldus Cambrensis, Gerald of Wales, in his famous Topography of Ireland ca. 1170, also talks about werewolves. Vereticus is mentioned at the site on "Celtic Werewolf Geekery" in a summary of quotes (from which I take the above) of a 2006 paper by Phillip A. Bernhardt-House delightfully called "The Legend of Vereticus: An Ancient Celtic Tale from the 1860s." Apparently Sabine Baring-Gould, Victorian vicar and teller of venerable tales, erred in his collation of Celtic wolf stories, according to the new Dr. Phil. His dissertation: "Canids in Celtic Cultures: From Celtiberia to Cú Chulainn to the Kennels of Camelot, unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, University College Cork, 2006." All that can be summed up about this topic so far, pending his diss. becoming a book, is at:

My footnote: Maev is derived from, so quoth many, "wolf-queen" and/or -- this latter I suspect of Connacht-bashing chauvinists-- "drunken queen." A more refined version: "She who intoxicates." I knew I liked that spirited gal. The 'wolf- drunk female' etymological connection, I aver, demands primary research and diligent fieldwork. Any CBH volunteers? "Named after the Celtic goddess of Intoxication," according to this site [blog note: seems to have vanished over the past two months, alas], where you can buy your own Action Hero(ine) figurines painted by "experienced Irish artists":

[Blog update: Googling for non-existent images of Irish werewolves, I did find this promising site, a peer-edited academic on-line enterprise:]

Which God/ Goddess/ Mythic Character Are You?

Last February 26, I took at the Mythological God Test and then the Mythological Profile one. Here from ComeBackHorslips Guestbook are my posts to the CBHers about my results. Many of us took this and shared our results with the class.


Mythological Profile (i.e., character):

Profile: Literally, or literarily, I am yclept Ormus Cama, pretty dismal. But I do "have a musical talent to die for." When do I get torn apart by Harpies on a Syrian river and dismembered? Orphic derivations admittedly suit me here on CBH.

What's with these testing cohorts? I scored higher for OC than 99% of "other people my age and gender" in all 4 categories: tragedy, brilliance, soul, and, dumbfoundedly, eroticism. Contrast that to my numbers mere moments before: 4% cohort for sensuality as Odin and my 54% score as the werewolf, apparently for us a popular Horslips-related category. Lee and KK, I wish I was hooked up with Maeve [note: image on blog is J. Leyendecker's 1916 romantic icon] too, but I would want to be first in line and not, say, number sixteen not to mention thirty-two! (There was a gangbang option for response on that Literary Character test that I did not pick; I did not understand that choice in its context, I recall. Back to pillow talk by myself in the chilly dun in my non-ancestral West, ochone.)

Call me Mythological God Odin...eagerly erudite (79%, which is a relief vs. 39% cohort, many of whom are lying). 54% somewhat sensual. (Higher granted my honestly provided "sexual experience" on the initial questionnaire than I'd've ever imagined, thus that anemic 4% cohort. Blame it on Irish Catholicism when that term guaranteed sexual repression at my Jesuit college days long after Vatican II.) 66% majorly martial (if only in my vengeance-soaked meditations, apparently more than 80% of my cohort), and 45% sulking saturnine, where I should've batted 1000% (and again befuddled at the 31% cohort-- and I thought only I needed anti-depressants.... )

I too am a profiled werewolf. 80% Esoteric, but all CBHers would fit here. (83% cohort-- is this good or bad?) 34% Power, (31 % cohort as we "mature"?) as I tend to skulk and observe on the fringe of the hubbub. 54% Malevolence, given my gallows humor and misanthropy rather limp. Still, I'm sweeter than my average middle-aged cohort, plotting craftily at 79%!

On my God List, some Celtic matchups: Cernunnos, Lug, Dagda.

My son asked me two days ago in fact if there was an Irish word for zombie or werewolf. All I could say is there's no Z in Irish; I'd look up lyncanthropicii Celticae. He definitely inherited my interest in the darker side. So many girls and guys at his school into punk-goth couture that it's standard issue for teens today. Hot Topic: at your local mall. Emily's Strange lunchbox-purse and Misfits t-shirts on sale. Wish there were that many goth babes in my college days; back then truly all but an invisible cultish subbaculture-- albeit in sunny Los Angeles.

Well, thanks for the tips to test. Maybe we CBHers should all form a coven at the cupid site and flirt. Redundant, perhaps. Occam's razor (the questions did include philosophy, ok?) proven. What an embarassingly fun site to rise up on screen when I am supposed to be working. Felt like I was 12. I fled to an anonymous public computer once I figured out it was a dating site, as I skulk, rapparee- like, from administrative retribution &/ legal surveillance! It'd be fun to hang out at if I was single. Or, would that mean me and my avatar would be all the lonelier? Sigh.

P.S. Lee responds to my reaction to all the self-aggrandizing mythologizing by me and CBHers:

And Fionnchu! This is all YOUR fault. You were the one who brought the link into the four-directioned circle. If it makes you feel better, Wikipedia tells us that, in addition to the usual booty-call activities, the singles site "also offers social networking features including user-generated content. OkCupid has spawned numerous relationships, marriages, and children."

This makes it a venerable cousin of the Web 2.0 phenom. Or go for the Lisdoonvarna matchmaker vibe if you need to.

And I cannot let your son feel that there are no indigenous Goth roots for him to tap into. While werewolves seem French to me and Zombies are somewhat New World, the Isle of Saints and Scholars is also the unquestionable home of that most Goth creature of all. As I explored some time ago in an essay entitled Lesbian Vampires in 19th Century Literature.

And, thanks to Charles O'Connor, there's even a Horslips connection!

Back to me. KK from CBH was looking for a "weekly" Celtic Tree calendar. I did research but none seems to have existed. She shared with us another site: For your Celtic sign and profile, go to

My CBH reply 2/27:

It's me, Oak. Like any fortune-teller, throw enough general genialities at the innocent quester and he'll take the bait. Astrology's always frightened me a bit. That site's full of portent. Half of what Oak represents is utterly incompatible with me; but I do like this blurb: Amergin Verse: "I am a God who sets the Head afire with Smoke"-- shades of Celtic Cheech & Coyote Trickster Chong.

KK on 2/28 (February's almost over), posted in reply to my calendrical quest:
Thanks for trying, Fionnchu, but the weekly tree calendar is the same kind of thing as the monthly tree calendar. Donnacha has the right of it when he refers to all this stuff as faux Celtic shite. It’s more New Age than old, and being an old hippie/history major myself it used to get on my last possible nerve when people started spouting this crap to me. Then I figured out if I removed the beam from mine eye and the cob from mine arse, there was some fun to be had with it, and have tried to keep that perspective ever since. In that spirit I passed it on to you all, as you were having such a ball with the personality quizzes.

Sadly our knowledge of real Druidic culture will always be somewhat limited, since theirs was a mostly oral tradition and their story was written by hostiles: the Roman military conquerors and priests of the new religion, Christianity. Now scholars try to reconstruct their world with minimal clues. Newgrange seems to offer proof that they made use of astronomy and possibly its parent pseudo science astrology, and I spotted an intriguing looking book on this subject at Lee’s Kenny’s Irish Bookstore link. The only thing I put up yesterday that’s even remotely relevant to ancient Irish culture is the 13 moons thing, as most ancient societies, including American Indians, used that system to mark a year rather than the artificial 12-month calendar we use today.

The astrology site is also sound, and rather different from the pop astrology most people encounter. I have textbooks by both Robert Hand and Liz Greene, who designed the personality and relationship analyses on offer there. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to study astrology and Tarot with two other professionals, Robert and Emma Belle Donath, in Yellow Springs, Ohio, during the late 1970’s and early 80’s. Yellow Springs is home to that hotbed of 60’s radicalism and rebellion, Antioch University, and a strong and vital occult community dating back to the days of the Golden Dawn. I’m sure you all know many of the Irish writers, particularly William Butler Yeats, were up to their eyeballs in that movement. I got interested in it when I found out they were. Alas the Donaths were never able to turn me into a competent professional reader, and I couldn’t make myself like the idea of charging people who come to me for help. But for their first step into the world of real astrology, I send them to this site to do the personality profile. If they’re having relationship troubles, and they are about 90% of the time, I have them do the compatibility profile as well. It strips away all the ‘I want, I love, I need’ and general subjectivity, and so provides an objective look at emotional issues. Very useful, it is…

[P.S from your host on this blog: my image of Maeve is from one J.Leyendecker, 1916. From a fine mythological reference site via]