The Morrigan – Part I

28 May, 2018

The war goddess, The Morríghan, is The Mor-Ríghan or ‘The Great Queen’, and She is the dark face of Sovereignty. Remember, these are not, and never were, names. They are epithets/descriptions that tell you ‘who’ they are from the centre of their souls. Sometimes, the name is translated as ‘The Phantom Queen’, with the idea that those phantoms are similar to the ghosts of the dead or the things that go bump in the night.

She is one of a triad of sisters, although that triad varies from source to source. The other issue of identity is that many people view the sisters as overlapping so much, that they must be the same person. The Morrigan has many epithets, but her own identity.

My first point is that her main purpose is not as ‘a war goddess’, although that is how She is often viewed. Her main and most powerful purpose is that of Sovereignty, which allows her to choose those that She will empower and to engift with authority and leadership along with that power. In its most basic sense, She is The Land. She is the spiritus anima of the Kingdom.

She is The Land. She is The Mother. She is The Great Queen. She is The Power of Life. Everything about her is tied up in life and renewal. She is fertility and womanhood in all her guises. She is represented by the crow or the raven, but also by the snake, the powerful, chthonic symbol of the Otherworld.

What most of us do not grasp in this day in age is how the ancient Celts and Picts viewed women, although they left information enough for us to know. A Neopagan feminist will give you the spiel about the Patriarchy attempting to suppress the former powerbase of the Matriarchy, blah, blah, blah, but that is a modern viewpoint and not germane to the Dark Ages. Yes, there was a large political shift in the 6th Century, but if you research Ireland and Scotland, you will discover that was one family, the UíNeíll, mounting their strategy to remove the Cruithenach from power as they usurped their mythos and ran them off the island and over to Alba (Scotland). They created a High Kingship and they wanted to keep the power in their family’s hands, so they rejected any ideas of matrilineal kingships. It is no coincidence that one of their family members, St. Columba, went over to make it easier for the DálRiada to move into Scotland among the Cruithenach and Picts, or that St. Patrick, the family’s adopted religious leader, was given credit for chasing the ‘snakes’ out of Ireland. I believe those ‘snakes’ were the Pictish that demanded that Sovereignty came through the female line and not from Niall Noígíallach, the UíNeíll patriarch.

There were three categories of persons who were considered both vitally helpful—and dangerous. They also shared many of the same qualities and powers.

Harpers were considered sáernemed, a term that meant both ‘free-man’ and ‘sacred-man’. Their talent was considered to be a gift from the Otherworld, and their music could make one weep, laugh, sleep…or die. Harpers kept the stories of the Kingdom. Poets were also considered to be sáernemed  and gifted by the Otherworld, where their words could praise and lift up a king—or render him a humiliated failure. Their poems were magical and thought to be able to heal or harm. Poets kept the genealogies of the Kingdom. This dichotomy of a powerful, necessary skill that made one both essential and more or less beyond the reach and control of even a king made most Celts look at them askance. They never felt comfortable around these people, who were imagined as standing in the gap between This World and The Otherworld. Somehow, they were not quite totally human.

That third category of person was women. Women were all about life and death, because they could give birth to life—and they laid their lives down and challenged death in order to do it. Childbirth was never a safe process and remains so today. The fact that so many women still arise from their birthing beds does not negate the fact that it is still a life-threatening act and that not every woman who goes into labour will come out on the other side. Men in Northern Europe were unaware of how procreation truly worked for many centuries, and the idea that a man’s ‘seed’ was the determinant causing pregnancy was not widely understood until later in the Dark Ages. Often, those children were considered to have come through from ‘the other side’, and mostly ‘from the mother’. Fathers were not thought to be part of the child until they had the knowledge of it.

Worse, women could somehow bewitch a man, even if she was not trying. Men liked the advantages of having a woman, both for sex and for the fact she could make his living environment full of food, clothing, and even happiness. But women were always suspect, because they also stood ‘between the worlds’ and were not quite human, either. They were not understood by their men, and there were always suspicions that any woman might be conjuring the powers of the Otherworld.

The Morrigan was not actually a member of the Tuatha DéDanann. If you read the stories that have survived their tellings into the stories written down by Middle Age clerics, She was here before each ‘Invasion’ of a new people, and every time She would choose one of the new race of men to rule and empower him to be King of the Land. It is significant that She chose one from each of the waves of invaders, through the coming of the Nemedians, the Fir Bolg, and even the Tuatha DéDanann. There were no kings before Her.

Sovereignty is often misunderstood. In the basic understanding, She mates with the future King and that ‘anointing’ makes him King. She is the Power behind him; She entrusts him to rule In Her Name and to protect the Land and all that is required to nurture Life. As King, he can never trump Her; She remains Sovereignty. And it is Her choice to choose another if and when Her King fails to protect Life and the Land. In so very many ways, this is an echo and a symbol for the coming together of Man and Woman as well—because the woman surrenders her power to him, but he only fools himself if he thinks he is ultimately in control. A wise man recognises that his Soulmate is what makes him powerful.

The Morrigan is the Maiden and the Mother. She is also the Warrior who will scream and fight for Her Land alongside Her King and Her People. This only takes a negative turn when She finds that She can no longer support that King. When he fails, when he convinces himself that only HE rules, then he is no longer a proper King and must be removed. If he broke the rules/geasa he was given, he was also unworthy.

There were times when a King could step down, and there were those that did, either so that their heirs could take over (as they often did in Wales), or because they wanted to retire to seclusion. But those Kings who did not step down once they became unworthy owed The Land their blood. If they broke their taboos—their geasa—then they were culpable, and every warrior and King had geasa. It was the mark of being empowered—to wield the power he must be constricted by a geas. And She would come to take his blood and his life if the geasa were broken. This is the real meaning of the ‘war goddess’; She protects The Land, to the point where She will turn on Her Own if they no longer serve.

This is also not an unusual thing; even the Christian Jehovah demands blood to pay for sin. In Ireland, blood for sin or failure was a standard in the worship of Crom Cruach and its extension to The Morrigan is not so strange.

 

 

Copyright  2018 Greyson Stoehr All Rights Reserved

 

 

 

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So, Why are We Talking About Myths and Legends Rather Than Stars?

17 March, 2018

Beyond the idea that star constellations/asterisms would be based upon mythology and legends of a people, there’s a general lack of understanding of Celtic/Pictish Myths and Legends in specific. And, I want to stress, although I do believe mythological history is an important part of archaeology (and further on to astroarchaeolgy), it is not in and of itself the final answer. Language, culture, artwork and styles (which are predominantly what we have as far as a Pictish record) are very important.

However, I do give much less credit to contemporary observers from Classical Greece and Rome as being the authorities that most historians insist they are. They wrote what they saw, heard, overheard, and various hearsay. They were nothing like the Celts or the Picts, and they did not fully understand what they were seeing and hearing, because they spent their words describing them in relationship to what they thought it all meant by Greek and Roman terms/names.

Shall we begin?

Fact Number One: ‘Celtic’ is still a relatively fluid term.

All things Celtic are not necessarily Pictish, and all things Pictish—besides being a bit dodgy to lock down based on the historical record—are not necessarily Celtic. But we do know that both cultures lived closely together. Different, but neighbours within the same areas. And we do know they intermarried, because Celtic Princes often mated with, if not married, Pictish Princesses, both because of the royal lines that ran through them, and the power and authority that could come through them, too. If the nobles did this, then so did the common people.

We also know from vague legends and archaeological evidence like the Ice Mummies in the Steppes of Russia/Asia, there were two different ‘races’ among the Pazyryk/Scythian horsemen. One small and dark, and one taller and red- or fair-haired. They migrated together on the Steppes and depending on the sources you read, most likely moved down from the Black Sea, down into Eastern Europe and Greece. Later migrations of Celtic tribes also made similar migrations, passing on through the Middle East and Egypt, or going west through to Spain and then over to Scotland via the Irish Sea. Scythian art has so many reflections in Pictish symbol stone carvings that it is difficult not to believe that one grew out of the other, underlining my belief that the Scythians were the ancestors of the Picts. Given also that the Scyths disappear from the historical records just before the Picts make their appearance, it seems quite likely.

We also know both mythically and historically that King Maelgwn Gwynedd, the Gwledig of Britain (and possibly the model for Mordred in the Arthurian stories, as he both murdered his uncle to attain the man’s wife and position, and was known to kill any and all rivals to his throne) had a Pictish mother and two famous sons: Rhun Hir (the Tall) ap Maelgwn who went on to become King of Gwynedd and North Wales, and Bridei MacMaelchú (Maelcon), the Rex Potentimus of the Northern Picts and the first ‘historical’ King of the Picts on the Pictish Kings List. Two young kings ruling two different people from the same sire. We also know Pictish was unintelligible to Gaelic speakers, and we are reasonably certain it was very like an ancient form of Welsh.

If you are thinking that Wales is a long way from Inverness, it should be pointed out this royal line emerged from the original Men of the North/The Gododdin, based in the Lothians of Scotland. Maelgwn’s line, the Sons of Cunedda, were asked to move back down to Wales to guard and protect that land from incoming Irish. But at least at one point, these Britons/Celts were living side-by-side with the Picts. That is a single historical proof of the theory, although I believe there were many more examples like this that have been lost over time.

Because I study both Welsh and Scots Gaelic, I also notice that there is a lot of Cymraeg within ‎Gàidhlig…but Irish Gaelic often has quite differing terms. I believe there’s more ‘Welsh’ within the Picts than we give credit for and one of the things that endured over time were these words within the Scots language.

These words are easy to overlook because of the consonant exchanges and differences in spelling. It is when one pronounces the Welsh and the Gaelic words. that the realisation that they are the same word comes home.

Gs in Welsh are often Cs in Scots. For example, ‘son’ is ‘(m)ap’ in Welsh and ‘mac’ in Gaelic. Pictish did not have the letter B or its sound—it was considered a ‘soft P’ and you hear it within words like ‘Alba’, the early designation for Scotland, which is pronounced “Al-e-pa” (that middle pause is very quick; one glissandos through it.) A B in Irish Gaelic is generally a V sound. This is also why the word ‘mabon’ in Welsh is also ‘son’—which one expects should be spelled ‘mapon’, but it’s that ‘soft P which is b’ rule here.

My pet theory is that because the Druids prohibited writing down their language, and they only committed things in writing in Greek, that the spelling was developed much later and hence, tends to be a bit loose when it comes down to it.

(The second part of that pet theory is a bit facetious in that the Cymry sat down as a group when the Anglo-Saxons began demanding standardisation and things written down, so they deliberately made the spellings as difficult as possible, knowing the Saeson would tend to mess it all up. Perhaps it was a dare: ‘Let’s see what they make of our throwing in more than the usual amount of Ws and Ls!!’)

Fact Number Two: Proper names are a relatively new convention.

In the beginning, there were no ‘family names’. People, particularly common people, did not have ‘last names’ as we do now. Tom, who was David’s son, might have been called ‘Tom Davidson’, or by an epithet like ‘Tom the Brewer’ or ‘Tom the Miller’, or even ‘Mad Tom’. Tom’s son John would have been John Tomson. ‘Last names’ were fluid, and they could change with a change in status in public, with an occupational change, with a change in their lives, or for any number of reasons.

Among the Celts in Scotland, it became a mark of honour to take on one’s Laird’s or ruler’s or Clan Chief’s name as their own, so despite the ideas of clanship and families with (relatively recent) tartans, not ever Fergusson was, in fact, a Son of Fergus. My mother’s family name was Carlyle, which might mean they were distantly related to the noble family that carried the name Carlisle, or it might mean they originally came from around Carlisle in the Borders. We might one day hope DNA would prove a few things about family lines, but the science is young and the questions are very long in the tooth.

Fact Number Three: ‘Names’ were not always ‘names’ and still are not.

There are many, many examples in both the myths and legends and in real life histories where Celtic people—particularly warriors and nobles, but likely also the more common men and women—would change their names after significant events, or whenever they passed a signpost in their lives. Demne became Fhionn; Setana became CúChulainn, and a god or goddess might be known under a friendly name…until such time as they became unfriendly.

This is because there was a very strong superstition about naming things, and this still clings to the more traditional areas where you find Celtic languages. To name something was to call it into being, or to summon it, or to have power over it. It was not wise to offend the gods by presuming to use their names, and up until recent memory, old people in the wilds of Scotland would still refuse to call the Moon the Moon—she was The Gleaming One or The Bright One or any other descriptive epithet, but they would never call that glowing orb ‘The Moon’.

In today’s world, except where people make up names or alter spellings in order to ‘be original’, most of our names mean something. They can be traced back to old words in older languages, so that Stephen meant ‘crowned’, or Fallon meant ‘wolf’. We have forgotten that even our own names were meant to be epithets or descriptions of what our parents hoped for us.

The largest mistake people make in reading Celtic myths and legends is thinking those are the ‘names’ of those gods and goddesses. They are EPITHETS. They are DESCRIPTIONS. And this is because the Celts would not dare to say the actual, hidden names of such powerful beings, even if they knew them. So ‘Demne’, ‘The Dark One’, became ‘Fhionn’, ‘The Light or White One’ when he tasted the Salmon of Knowledge; the name denoted his gained wisdom in the change he had undergone. We appear to have lost the original meaning of ‘Setana’, but it did not mean ‘mythical son of Sualtam’ as the internet would have you believe, but we do know that he was called ‘The Dog of Culann’ because of the period he fulfilled the job of the blacksnith’s dog after he had killed it.

So, when you read a myth about Lugh, you are reading about ‘The Light, Shining One’. The war goddess The Morríghan already tells you it is an epithet, because it begins with ‘The’. The Mor-Ríghan is ‘The Great Queen’, and she is the dark face of Sovereignty. She has a lighter face, when she is welcoming and open and nonviolent, and she is then called by other epithets. But these are not, and never were, names. They are descriptions that tell you ‘who’ they are from the centre of their souls.

Ready to start seeing the skies for what they are?

 

 

 

Copyright  2018 Greyson Stoehr All Rights Reserved

 

Why the Stones Must Wait

1 January, 2018

In many ways, I both agree and disagree on what some of the Pictish Symbol Stones might mean.

I agree with Iain W.G. Forbes in his book The Last of the Druids; the Mystery of the Pictish Symbol Stones that the Pictish Symbols relate to stars. It would be stupid and impossible to think the skies were not important to nearly all of the Celtic cultures. Most of their current homelands are sprinkled throughout with Neolithic standing stones and circles that are aligned to sky events. Rising and setting suns and moons have been connected to most of them, but even major ‘stars’ such as Venus and Mars were also likely well-noted and marked out in various landscapes.

But before I can address the Stones more fully, I have to address Celtic gods and myths.  Why? Good question!

Most of the current work out there focuses on what most of us think of as standard constellations. However, all of us tend to think in terms of Greek and Roman constellations, with the occasional Arabic one thrown in for good measure. While I recognise that the learned in those Celtic countries where druids held the laws were prohibited from writing down their secrets, most of them could write in Greek or Latin. But I do not believe that any of them looked up into the night skies and automatically saw Andromeda floating in there, and I fully know without a shadow of a doubt that they did not see Hercules.

What people do, particularly in a pre-printing press, pre-internet, and pre-satellite culture, is to look up into the night skies and see their own images in the pictures they imagine the stars draw for them. They see their own gods, their own heroes, and their own stories. For proof of that, you can look up Chinese constellations on the internet and you’ll see starcharts that match our own, but with entirely different asterisms (constellations) drawn out.

If Pictish designs represent Pictish constellations, then we need to know what they were looking at when they drew those designs.

So, the very first step is to look at the Celtic gods first. Heroes might have made it up into those stars at a later date, but initially, it is going to be their gods that they see. I have read many books stating there is no clear correspondence between the traditional gods found in the extant stories of Ireland and Wales, and in fact, the Welsh stories were recorded later and most of their gods have been reduced to heroic status. No one knows what the Picts believed, because they did not and would not write it down. Scots were not Irish and the Welsh were the quite different nutters in the southwest. But these are also all presumptions. I believe modern historians have forgotten quite a bit of what we know about ancient peoples—and human nature in general.

For example, while all of our currently extant written documentation is of fairly recent dating (generally 10th Century through 12th Century or so), this does not mean this is the sole corpus of Celtic knowledge. However, much of what is left for us are the fragments that were overlooked or missed during the many pogroms where an Overlord Culture did their best to wipe out the language and culture of those they were conquering. This surely points to England as an amalgamated Anglo-Saxon culture, who quickly figured out that taking away the signs, symbols, and meanings of the native Britons (Welsh), Irish, Pictish, and other cultures throughout the former Empire was a good way to remove the standards and ideas that rebellion often formed around. So too, the Church, where different schisms were intently devoted to destroying all of those who did not agree, which during the Jacobite Rebellion also extended to ‘Irish’ books, manuscripts, and etcetera that were owned by the Scots. Worse still, the larger bulk of Welsh documents and many Irish ones are not yet translated, and it is not common for most of us to learn all of these languages to enable our reading of ancient documents.

There are those who will tell you that if you only rely on translations, you might as well not read them at all. But even a translation is better than the dearth of the knowledge to be had within these scraps and dusty old documents.

We know the druids prohibited putting their information in writing for a long time, but this information was stored safely within the memories and recitations of poets, bards, and storytellers who were trained to learn things word-for-word and to recite them precisely. Their peoples were told that there were blessings to be had in listening to these stories, and they were repeated and retold over centuries. As modern people we tend to dismiss this sort of thing as highly unlikely and open to alteration and change over time, but that was not how these stories were taught. We no longer know what it is to be able to commit many books and documents to memory; we rely on our books, our computers, and our televisions. However, it was a point of pride with those who learned these stories to learn them precisely and not to change them, and the people who heard them, over and over again, also learned the stories and what they meant. While less accurate,  we know these stories were handed down and retold during harvests, festivals, and long winter nights. Only a hundred years ago people could still relate a few of these stories to us, although they were dying out with the elderly.

Men like Alexander Carmichael travelled throughout Celtic areas and wrote down what they were told from the middle to late 19th Century, because the gathering Celtic societies recognised these stories were being lost to time and mankind no longer keeping these stories alive. Folk tales, family traditions, and quaint country customs also helped preserve many things that would have otherwise been lost.

Sadly, there is so much that was lost. But we do have what we have, and there are clues left behind that many historians used to believe, but now dismiss as no longer being found to be ‘historical’, and therefore, unviable. Often, this bias is fuelled by the historical prejudice of wanting everything verified and recorded by Classical sources of Greek and Roman provenance.

I have to say, other than the pain of having to throw out the Romans for their cheek at wanting to try to conquer the British Isles, most Celtic cultures went along just fine without any Greek or Roman influence. Their precursors, the Gauls, also preferred to be left alone by the aggressive Latins, but even as they fell to the dust fighting for their freedom, their descendants were fleeing into the Isles for safety and a measure of their own autonomy. Therefore, the idea that something historically Gaulic, Celtic, Irish, Welsh, or whatever else you like had to be verified by the Romans in particular, or the Greeks, before it could be believed is absurd. It is time we insisted those writing our histories stop pretending the Classical period was the apex of culture and learning and to understand that any people have a right to the truths of their own culture. NONE of us are a reflection of the Romans or the Greeks unless we indeed come from Italy or Greece.

I also think it is time we start believing someone when they tell you what they hold sacred. The Gauls told Caesar about their gods—and Caesar automatically rendered them into Roman Gods in his journals. Which is cultural arrogance.

When the Scots released the Declaration of Arbroath on 6 April 1320 and stated to Pope John XXII, that they recognised they were descended from the ancient Scythians, we should believe them. I quote:

“Most Holy Father and Lord, we know and from the chronicles and books of the ancients we find that among other famous nations our own, the Scots, has been graced with widespread renown. They journeyed from Greater Scythia by way of the Tyrrhenian Sea and the Pillars of Hercules, and dwelt for a long course of time in Spain among the most savage tribes, but nowhere could they be subdued by any race, however barbarous. Thence they came, twelve hundred years after the people of Israel crossed the Red Sea, to their home in the west where they still live today. The Britons they first drove out, the Picts they utterly destroyed, and, even though very often assailed by the Norwegians, the Danes and the English, they took possession of that home with many victories and untold efforts; and, as the historians of old time bear witness, they have held it free of all bondage ever since.”

When the Welsh said they had escaped to the Isles from the Trojan War, we should pay attention to that. When the Irish identified the different waves of ‘Invasions’ that settled Erin as coming from areas of Spain or Greece, we should take them at their word. They might have had proofs of this back then that have disappeared since, but it is unlikely that generations of any people would adopt an origin so very far away from their own if there had not been actual links back to those places. Native peoples have no need to lie.

So let us see what the Celts say about themselves.

 

 

 

 

Copyright  2018 Greyson Stoehr All Rights Reserved

 

 

Some Notes About What I am Doing and Where I Stand

1 January, 2018

Before I can begin to bring forth some of my observations, I need to explain from where I started and where I am going.

I have spent a great portion of my life studying what I will familiarly call ‘Celtia’; that is, essentially anything and everything to do with Celtic culture, history, mythos, legends, and the ‘race’ of those who anciently banded together and are today descended from the ancient Celtic peoples who began as migrant horsemen, travelling warriors, and creatively passionate individuals with soaring imaginations. There are arguments throughout academia about all of this; from the idea that a ‘culture’ is solely defined by its language, to DNA tracking through bloodlines.

I began all of this in 1981. While I might be one of the more stringently logical sorts in so many ways, both from being diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome to the way my mind works, but I am also wise enough to know that intimate perceptions and instinctual reactions can and do account for much more than modern opinions might credit.  But long before the early 80s I had begun to recognise certain landscapes, often as the background of a film, or the ‘pretty view’ chosen behind a video. Something deep inside of me insisted: “This is My Homeland!” despite my never having been to any of those areas depicted. Many times, the locations ended up being identified toward the end in the credits—they were all, to the last example, in Scotland. There were no rational reasons for me to believe I belonged in Scotland, because I grew up in a dysfunctional family where I only knew my father’s lines of descent. Those were all quite firmly German. The one time I discovered part of the mystery behind my mother’s background, I thought the last name was a French one, despite her having come from the house of a German family. Until only recently, I would have told anyone asking that I was perhaps 85% German and the rest some questionable French stock.

That recognition of Scotland from out of my inner soul continued for decades, often making me laugh because of my inherent ‘Germanness’. And while my obsession with Celtic culture might have started much earlier but for my unfortunate exposure to The Chieftains when I was aged ten (and I apologise, because I cannot stand that sort of Irish-jiggy music), the moment I discovered the rich, yet fragmented myths of Wales and Ireland and the remarkable sweetness of bands like Clannad and the harp. I collected all the books I could find locally and sent away for others, and my first harp was made of walnut and strung with nylon strings. My second was an oak clarseach with brass strings. I traded in my bass guitar for a bodhrann. I even joined the Society for Creative Anachronism so that I could explore the ‘Big Three’: Wales, Scotland, and Ireland…and later the other three: Cornwall, Brittany, and the Isle of Man.

It would be 2014 when my distant uncle talked me into taking a DNA test, where I found I was predominantly Scots Briton from the area of Strathclyde. I learned that ‘Carlyle’, my mother’s name, was actually Welsh and meant “The Strength/Stronghold of Llew”. Not only that, but unlike most family names, the likelihood of most of the people named Carlyle being directly related is very high, much like the British name Sykes. Which is fairly remarkable. My DNA also gave me as being 3% Asian, from Northern Persia where the Scythians used to ride, which I like to think might give me a trace of a Pictish background.

Because this is All About the Picts, of course. While I focused on the Kingdom of Gwynedd in Wales and tracing out the UíNeíll kings in Ireland, I kept amassing information on the Picts, those mysterious people of Scotland. After some years of research, I began to focus on the Picts more than anyone or anything else. In fact, I wore a Pictish pendant of the Tree of Life for years, not recognising it was Pictish until the idiot boyfriend to whom I gave it, lost it. Or ate it; I would not put it past him.

So this is all quite personal, but also a continuing quest for knowledge.

Welcome to the Magical Mystery Tour!

 

 

Copyright  2018 Greyson Stoehr All Rights Reserved

 

 

 

 

Unspeakable

7 May, 2012
However, you surprise me with your levels of idiocy at every turn.

Go away now and leave the rest of the thinking public alone, please.

 

Just Another Refugee From Live Journal

2 October, 2006

And how crappy is it that WordPress thinks they should do your first post FOR you?

Sheesh.

Nechtan