I came to Celtic mythology by way of research into the validity of the Arthurian legend & I came to Arthur via fairy tales so this has been a lifelong obsession.
Central to the Arthurian tales is the story of Merlin but one doesn't have to read very far to realise that in Celtic mythology the real power is held by women. Oh the warriors strut their stuff & the bards prate about bravery but it is the women who drive the story lines. Men forsake honour for them (Deidre), fall helplessly in love with them (Grainne), are trained by them (Scatha), terrified by them, (Morrigu), or are simply at the mercy of her whims as the Cailleach, the washer woman at the well, or any of the dozens of denizens who inhabit the half world of the sidhe. Ganeida is another of them. Her name means morning star so is associated with Venus & with the guardian of the doorways of time & culture. She was the (twin?) sister of Merlin, was ban file in her own right & poems under her name have come down the centuries to us. No, I haven't been able to turn one up as 1/2 my books seem to be missing.
Now odd as it might seem given my topic matter & the content of this blog, when it comes to history I actually prefer reality when I can get it. In my digging round into obscure matters I came upon the druids. NOT, I hasten to add, the modern sort in their funny white sheets prancing round ancient sites doing peculiar things & while I'm sure their spiritual ancestors did equally peculiar things I have no interest in that at all. No, I refer to the Aos Dana, the people of art.
There were 3 main branches of druids ~ seers (we won't go there, very yucky), the brehons (lawyers) & the file (poets). As a poet no prizes for guessing what attracted me. Again, this was, for the most part, not poetry as we understand poetry. The poet's role was more that of historian; to record & preserve the language, history, genealogy & heraldry of a people. They were the intellectual classes, a role passed down through families. They studied for 20 or more years & were usually better educated than the kings they served. Their role was perhaps more along the lines of a noted journalist with their own column to chronicle & comment upon the events of the day, satirise the culture, sway public opinion. They held untold amounts of power.
The Gaelic peoples have a long & rich history of intellectual passion, setting up schools for the training of their elite as far back as memory goes. No wonder that, in the end, the bards were way out of control, thrice being banished in Ireland for demanding things like even the king's crown. Arrogant. They existed & trained their young long before Christianity arrived & when it did there was no real shift in power. The druids, who had a quite liberal theological viewpoint, embraced the new religion, wedded it to the old & the Culdees were the result.
So when I come to my Celtic past I rest (in the best Celtic tradition) upon the threefold heritage of history, mythology & literature that has amused & tantalised my small mind for most of my life. It is a rich tradition that has contributed more to our modern world than most people know. If it wasn't for the Irish & that strange Celtic obsession with evangelizing much of European civilisation & intellectualism would have been lost ~ but that is another topic entirely.