The Building Blocks of Irish Mythology
Irish mythology is the mythology of the island of Ireland that has been preserved in the oral tradition, and later in the manuscripts of early Celtic Christianity. These tales and themes have continued to be developed over time in the living folklore of the country Irish mythology is composed of
myths, legends, folk memories, cultural beliefs and customs. Irish myth is irreducibly complex due to this variety of origins, but can be seen to include three main types:
BREHON LAW is a system that sets out how society should be governed according to Gaelic traditions developed during pre-Christian times. They are named after traveling judges known as “Brehons” who made rulings based on local customs or by precedent rather than statutory law which meant they varied from place to place within Ireland while being written down over time between 700 – 1600 A.D. These recorded documents helped to form stories and ideas that eventually worked their way into the Irish mythos.
PAGAN MYTHS – Pagan myths are irish mythological stories, which concern irish culture and irish paganism. Such irish folk tales include the irish god of agriculture, celtic deity of fertility, earth mother goddess
CHRISTIAN MYTHS – Christian myths are irish mythological stories that were created by irish christian monks. A major irish myth that is connected to irish christianity is the irish creation myth, which is the irish irish paganism creation story
These three types interweave their customs and traditions together, proving irreducible complexity.
Irish mythology is usually set around the time of the pre-Christian Gaelic Ireland, so there are a number of war gods and goddesses in Irish mythology. The greatest of these was Nuada, either of the Fir Bolg or later Celts (he lost an arm at the first battle of Moytura but replaced it with a working one made from silver), who led his people into battle against their enemies the Tuatha Dé Danann. Later mythologies were drawn on for new material: for example, Lugh’s father Cian (Old Welsh: Kên) appears to be a deformation of Nuada’s name (Welsh: Cynan). Berrihert refers “to his swarthy complexion and his irascibility”. This may be a late addition to the deity’s character, since he is often said to be Nuada’s son and his name is explained in many stories: either Cian raped Bóand’s wife who was also Ethniu (the mother of Lugh) or Máth(athair), or Cian abducted her for himself.
The most well-known irish god of irish mythology is celtic deity of fertility, earth mother goddess Bóand who represents all things bountiful and beautiful. Her name is interpreted as “white cow.” Bóand is said to be extremely beautiful with long golden hair, wearing irish jewellery and a blue dress – she was married to irish war god Nuada of the Silver Hand (the same mythological figure who lost his arm at the first battle of Moytura). She had many lovers which angered her husband. Once while out hunting, he was killed by a magical deer and then born again from its ashes. As such, the irish god of agriculture represents crops, cattle and fertility while also being irish mythology’s very first irish heroine.
Irish mythology has been an inspiration for many writers, artists and musicians with numerous mythical characters appearing – either directly or indirectly – in works by J. R. R. Tolkien, T. S. Eliot and Seamus Heaney among other. Irish mythology also plays a role within Wicca religious beliefs as well as Celtic Reconstruction Paganism, especially in their use of the Ulster Cycle tales – primarily used for their elements of heroic struggles against external enemies and the tragic lives of its main characters.