Ireland: Land of Mossy Mists and Ancient Myth
Similar to Greece, Ireland is also a land of ancient myth and folklore. But the difference between myth and folklore is that folklore has its roots in the popular music, dance and ballads of the culture, but myth involves the stories about the divine and are considered sacred by the ancient peoples. However, these ancient Celtic myths were not actually written down until the advent of Christianity because with Christianity, a written language and an alphabet was introduced to the indigenous people of isle. And until then these stories were handed down by an oral tradition called Bealoideas.
Irish myth is divided into four basic cycles, three being per-Christian and one being medieval. These four cycles are the Mythological cycle, the Ulster cycle, the Fenian cycle and the Historical cycle. The Mythological cycle are the tales of the ancient Celtic gods and goddesses and the godlike peoples that originally invaded the isle called the Tuatha De Danann, who were the supernatural people of the goddess Danu. The Ulster cycle are the legends of the many heroes of eastern Ulster in Northern Ireland, and the Fenian cycle tells of the trials, tribulations, and exploits of one hero Finn and his army called the Fianna. These stories were written in verse form and are also found in Scotland and the Isle of Mann. The Historical cycle is also known as the Cycle of Kings which chronicles the stories of the legendary kings of Ireland in the Middle Ages. And these particular stories were recorded by the court poets serving the kings in those days. And of course they mixed the truth with fictional embellishments in order to please the kings because, no doubt, a king could order “Off with his head.” if the great man was not pleased.
Some more gods and goddesses of the original Mythological cycle include Aine, goddess of love, summer and prosperity, Lir, god of the sea, Brigid, goddess of healing, fertility, and poetry, Dian Cecht, god of healing, and a whole other pantheon of gods whose names I will never be able to pronounce. The ancient people of Ireland have their roots in a polytheistic religion similar to the Greeks and the Romans and other ancient peoples of the world, with the Jews being the only ancient people, barring the Egyptians for a short period of time, who only had one God.
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