Jul 19, 2010

Celts and Creation

Let’s begin at the beginning, long before the man who became known as St. Patrick left Britain to spread Christianity to the Emerald Isle. The beginning is when the earth was created and we have an account of creation in the Bible in the Book of Genesis. It is the story the ancient Celts related to and repeated in their own books. They had no creation myth of their own. Perhaps that is because their history is one of migration—at least that is where their early myths begin.

The Celts (admittedly a modern word used to refer to the people of the Celtic nations) originated in Central Europe or perhaps even India. What is clear is they were not of Greco-Roman origin. In the centuries before what is now called the Common Era, they came eastward from such regions as Germany, France or Gaul, and Spain, according to archeological evidence and language patterns. Irish myth as recounted in the Lebor Gabála (The Book of Invasions) states that tribal groups (or gods) came from Spain under the direction of Nemed mac Aganomain. The Fir Bolg came from Greece along with others. Then the tribe of the Tuatha Dé Danann (literally the tribes of the goddess Danu) came and conquered the others. Lastly the sons of Mil, or the Milesians, came to Ireland and defeated the Tuatha Dé Danann—assumingly bringing Christianity along with them—and the Tuatha Dé Danann were forced to live underground. These are the people who eventually evolved into the mythical fairy race living in hill forts and in other underground places.

These stories reside right along beside the Biblical account of Creation in the Irish texts. Were these myths then Christianized? Perhaps, but an actual starting point for the creation of the world did not seem to be essential to the pre-Christian Celts’ storytelling.

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