Archive for the ‘Celtic Myth’ Category

The Big Bear bit the Sailor’s Only.   Leave a comment

(267.22- 274.27)

In this passage all directions are whispered; all section “headings” are read loudly; and the footnotes are read all together at the end!

I’m fazed by this chapter. It is hard. The format reminds me of Ponge’s text La Seine, with the text flowing between wide white margins. And the italicised and the capitalised texts that crop up on the right and left hand sides of the page respectively, seem to bend the flow and direction of the central prose in unexpected ways. And then there are the foot notes: do they bob in front of the main current? Or are they underneath it – in another world?

After stories about trees on Friday, I’m now researching stories about snow, for a Pro Natura storytelling session in December. Today, I tried looking in Peter Berresford Ellis’s Celtic Myths and Legends for snow: nothing there so far. However Ellis’s introduction taught me more about about the Celts, their rivers, wakes, and metempsychosis:

“Death is never the conqueror…the ancient Celts were one of the first cultures to evolve a sophisticated doctrine of the immortality of the soul, in a form of reincarnation… The Celts taught that death is only a change of place and that life goes on, with all its forms and goods, in the Otherworld and when a soul dies in the Otherworld, it is reborn in this one. Thus birth was greeted with mourning and death with exaltation and celebration.” (19-20)

Ellis goes on to say:

“It is important to remember that, for the ancient Celts the soul reposed in the head… Sometimes the heads were placed in sanctuaries, or more often, were placed in the sacred Celtic rivers as votive offerings.” (20)

Finnegans Wake, isn’t it both head and river?

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Night Lessons/ Sloe Reading   Leave a comment

(260.1 – 267.21)

In this passage all directions are whispered; all section “headings” are read loudly; and the footnotes are read all together at the end!

…I walked in the woods today, to practice a few forest stories for a storytelling session I’m doing tomorrow night.  Gaelic stories and the training of the seanachie (storyteller) provide a contextual background for the Wake. The stories I’m working with are from the Western Highland Tales collected and retold by Sir Fitzroy Maclean; and they show the influence of both Celtic and Norse cosmologies (Joyce similarly notes this interplay of Celtic and Norse in Irish vernacular in the section of Wake I read today, 265 – footnote 2).

With regard to the interplay between Irish and Scots Celts, the introduction to the story about Diarmid and the Great Boar in WHT, tells how “Diarmid O Duibhne’s mother was sister to the Irish hero Finn MacCoul” (33). Note, Finn MacCool is the answer to the very long squirming question number  1 in the radio quiz in Finnegans Wake (126.10-139.14).

Another link: in his general introduction Sir Fitzroy Maclean talks of the importance of the clann (children) in Scots and Norse stories; and the genealogical sense of relatedness to a patriarchal chief in both these cultures (13;15). This reminds me of how the Wake’s “narrative is articulated around HCE.

And finally to the sloes. I was delighted to find them, as I thought I’d missed out of my sloe gin making for this Christmas. But, I have a big plastic bag full of them now. Hurray! I’ve stuck them in the freezer, to burst their cell walls, before I macerate the fruit in gin. I’ve been wanting to make more sloe gin since I read that this thick “syrupy liquor” is what Blazes Boylan orders for himself in the bar of the Ormond Hotel, in the “Sirens” episode of Ulysses (254, in the Oxford edition).

I’ve never seen sloe gin in a pub myself. But, in the Lake District you can find damson gin in the public houses of the Lythe valley. I wonder how many pubs served sloe gin in Dublin, in the early 20th century? Presumably it was produced on a cottage industry scale? Doing my best crone impression, I picked mine from stunted bushes on a wind blown heath overlooking Geneva.