It’s a well known fact that the Celts – and later the early Christians – in Ireland were extraordinarily creative people, regularly expressing their philosophies, beliefs and histories through art. At first this was done through stone carving, metalwork and most likely wood. Celtic society revolved around the concepts of war and wealth, so they spent much of their time creating intricately decorated weapons and jewellery from bronze and gold, to show off their fighting prowess and status in society. They were also a highly spiritual society with an astronomical and seasonal calendar, various ritualistic festivals throughout the year, and revered burial practices. At sites where these ceremonies took place stone monuments were very common and often featured elaborate carvings, sculptures and the like.
Áine is the Celtic Goddess of love, the sun, fertility, water, summer and sovereignty. She is honored for her ability to grant abundance and fertility over the land. Being a Goddess of the sun Aine is said to have been given the nickname “bright”.
Scota appears in the Irish chronicle Book of Leinster (containing a redaction of the Lebor Gabála Érenn). According to Irish Folklore and Mythology, the battle of Sliabh Mish was fought in this glen above the town of Tralee, where the Celtic Milesians defeated the Tuatha Dé Danann but Scotia, the Queen of the Milesians died in battle while pregnant as she attempted to jump a bank on horseback. The area is now known as Scotia’s Glen and her grave is reputed to be under a huge ancient stone inscribed with Egyptian hieroglyphs. She was said to be a Pharaoh’s daughter and had come to Ireland to avenge the death of her husband, the King of the Milesians who had been wounded in a previous ambush in south Kerry. It is also said that Scotland was named after Queen Scotia.
The god who is willing to play a high price for justice, for the protection of his tribe, is found in many Indo-European religions. In the Irish pantheon we find Nuadhu, often known as Nuadhu Airgetlam (Silver Hand or Arm)…
Ireland is ‘The Land of Saints’. The Catholic Online website lists 331 of them, but some get much better treatment than others. Last week we celebrated St Patrick – the news was full of it, as it always is on 17 March. Yet, just five days after Patrick’s Day – on 22 March – I was at a schoriacht and asked the assembled crowd who was the Saint for that day: nobody knew. It was the day for St Darerca and she is, unfairly, much neglected, especially since she is St Patrick’s sister. In order to redress the balance I have put together everything I can find on the story of St Darerca, and – because she has never been pictured (as far as I can tell) – I have illustrated it with some general Irish Saintly connections.
Land of the Saints: header picture – Clonmacnoise, Co Offaly –…
The Irish Badb was one a number of terrifying goddesses of war. She could work battle magic to terrify the enemy, or just kill them with her terrifying shrieks. Badb could be one or many, and sometimes teamed up her sisters the Morrigan and Macha to wreak destruction.
The name badb comes from a Celtic root meaning “fury” or “violence”, from the Celto-Germanic *bodou, battle. The carrion crows that appeared at battlefields led to the other meaning, crow, and the idea of a crow goddess, so that Badb Catha meant “Battle Crow”. (Heijda: 12)
The Dagda is the head of the Irish pantheon, whose name means the “Good God”. He is head of the Tuatha de Danann, and was king of Ireland between Nuada and Lugh, but he can also take on the appearance and manners of a peasant farmer. He has been compared to his fellow Celts Sucellos and Cernunnos, but he also resembles the Norse god Odin, being changeable and tricky as well as a great magician.