|a Childcraft book from the mid 1950s|
Do you remember the old Childcraft Books we used back in the 1950s. Probably so. I certainly do. I was a Tow-headed boy of four or so when the books came into my home. The books had a place of prominence in the living-room book case. I can still see them sitting there in my mind's eye. The books had vividly coloured, wonderful illustrations, that stimulated and multiplied my neurons each time I opened a book. For me, the Childcraft books were not only a catalyst, but the catalyst, that turned me into a life long reader and searcher for the truth. They began me on my journey to be a reader, historian, and writer.
My favourite thing in the books were the old tales from our ancient past. In the books I learned about our mythology, lore, fables, and old tales. In the books I found the old Indo European tales about the gods and goddesses, Odin, Thor, Balder, Zeus, Heracles, etc. As I grew older my love of lore also grew and I moved on to the tales of the Celtic gods and heroes, and there I knew I was home. Here I am, over a half century later and I still love to read and research the Old tales.
As I learned about Celtic mythology I gravitated to the the Gods of the Gael of course. I have that ethnic connection of being a descendant of the Gael and naturally enough I was drawn to them; my people, my blood. My surname McCain is anglicised from the Gaelic name Mac Eáin. This surname taken in the AD 1300s and from DNA testing I know I descend from the Mac Ailpín families of mid Argyll, from the parish of Kilmichael Glassary. This sort of thing sharpens one's interest in things Gaelic. There are genetic and even epigenetic factors at work there.
My favourite Gaelic god and the one I found most interesting was Dagda. He is the father god to the Gaelic Celts of Ireland, Scotland, and the Isle of Man. Dagda is a very old name dating back to Indo European roots, from Dagos (good) Deivos (god). His Continental cognate is Sucellos. So Dagda is the Good God, he is also known as Crom, and in the time just prior to and after the Gaelic conversion to Christianity, he was normally called Crom.
Our knowledge of him is known from the misty twilight of the distant past, but there is still enough to give him form and function. Most of the primary source data, if it can be called that, comes from medieval manuscripts written by Christian clerks and monks. The best known of these is the Lebor Gabála Érenn (Book of Invasions of Ireland). It is a collection of prose and verse narratives the gives a mythological history of Ireland and the Gaelic people in general. There are a number of versions of it and the book was written (copied down) in the 11th Century. The stories in the book are of course much older. The mere fact that the Christian monks took the time and effort to record the old pagan stories is a testament to how important they still were to the Gael, even centuries after the conversion to Christianity.
The Gaels converted to Christianity in the 5th to 7th centuries, sort of. They certainly converted, but many of the old pagan ways and beliefs continued. In many ways, one could call the Gaels a Dual Faith people. There was a conscious and sometimes, unconscious, preservation of pagan beliefs and ritual practices, but within a 'Christian' community. Lughnasa, Halloween, Christmas, and Easter, all come with very thinly veiled Old Faith trappings. The Faerie Faith, which lives to this day, is nothing more than the old gods still around. There are Holy Wells, that date to pagan times, but with a Christian Saint's name attached to it. There are still rituals, such as the blessing of the fleet in the Hebrides to Seónaidh (Shoney), i.e. Manannan Mac Lir, the Gaelic sea god (taboo to say his name outright).
Most impressive is the old Lughnasa Festivals. On the face of it, Lughnasa is a festival for the Gaelic god Lugh and is celebrated from late July through August. There is feasting, dancing, bonfires, and competitions, including an arts festival, with music and readings. The festival managed to survive the 20th century and is even making a comeback here in the 21st century.
|Dagda, by a Japanese illustrator|
There are older versions of Lughnasa however.... and more magical ones. In some versions it is Crom Dubh, not Lugh, who presides over the harvest. In Cloghane, Crom Dubh's image is seen in the local church where it is an object of luck and healing. The Lughnasa festival in Cloghane village is still called the Domhnach Chruim Dhuibh, i.e. Crom Dubh's Sunday. There is still a saying in the Gaeltacht there, said when someone is pronouncing something is true... Dar Chruim, which means, 'For Crom.'
So, from Childcraft book to a reader and writer, to long stays in Ireland, to speaking Gaelic, it all started with the Childcraft books way back in Ouachita parish, Louisiana. Reading has power and magic... Dar Chruim.
This article is just my thoughts put down as I work on my next book. I am in the process of reading, taking notes, etc., as I write the book down and prepare for publication. As you might have guessed, the theme of Gaelic myth, the Faerie Faith, etc., are in the next book.
If you enjoy these blog post, do not be shy about dropping some coins in the tip bucket. It is part of the magic.
© 2018 Barry R McCain