A Tale of Great Love (a reconstructed Gaelic creation myth) v1.0
by Iain MacAnTsaoir
Religion has distinct purposes. Amongst the primary purposes religions tell us how the world came into being and how we got here (where we came from), what is our relationship with the world around us (why am I here), what is the ultimate end of the world and we as individuals within it and how to get there (where are we going). It can be shown that there is an intimate relationship between these three basic questions. From these relationships religion derives it's final primary purpose, the establishment of ethical values.
One thing common to religions, as a response to the first question, "from whence did the world and we come from", is the development of "creation myths." All religions have them, that is, all religions that have not had that important thread in their tapestry removed have them. While the original creation myth of the Classical Age Gaels has not yet been found, we can rather be sure that at one time this story existed. Celtic cultures are an Indo-European culture, and obviously the other IE cultures had creation myths that were themselves reflexes of an earlier proto-IE mythos. Thus, we can be relatively certain that such a story did in fact exist at one time. There are inferences still to be found in extant written and oral lore that give us indications of what it's components probably were. As Gaelic culture is a Celtic culture, we can see other items reflected in the reflexes of other Celtic cultures, who themselves have been shorn of the whole story as well.
There are some who are of a Classical mindset who would state that the Classical Age religiosity of the Gael has not been adversely effected by the loss of the creation myth. This is arguable, but such an argument is not the purpose of this treatment. At least to myself, the establishment of a carefully reconstructed and culturally pertinent creation is myth is important. This, if for no other reason than to try to gain a deeper understanding of how the minds of the ancestors worked. Though, for those who seek to be sincere in their pursuits of traditional religions, such a task as this also has high merit for it was an inherent part of that religion.
Yet, to engage such a task is fraught with problems. The exact myth we are trying to recreate has not yet been found transcribed anywhere or we would not be doing this. We thus must attempt to forbid modern sensibilities, politics, theological movements, and agendas into the mix. We in fact can only go by what solid literary evidence we have (ancient texts such as the Lebar Gebala Erenn, Meterical Dindsenchus, Irish Myth Motif Index, etc, as well as still extant oral lore), what solid archeological evidence we have, and the items inferred in those two sources, to recreate what we hope is at least a close facsimile of the original.
This is no doubt a work that will hopefully expand, and even become more accurate as time goes on and more work is done both with Old Irish as well as the translation of as yet untranslated ancient texts. Thanks to Dawn for her digging up quotes and challenging me to support various ideas herein. While great care is being given to this work, and I hope you read it with an open mind, as well as a skeptical mind (this is after all a hypothetical work dealing with metaphorical material).
The Reconstructed Creation Tale:
I. Long long ago, back before the coming together of the worlds, there was nothing but the Void (1). Over the eons of eternity past, the Void longed in it's slumber. The longing within the Void caused It to ponder the emptiness of the chaos about, and even more did the Void long deeply for companionship solitude of oneness(2). So intense was the longing that eventually the Void dropped from slumber into a deep sleep, and while there, the Void received a vision. In this vision it was relayed how all the things that should be, could be, and the beauty of it brought joy to the very heart of the Void (3). Alive with a joy radiating from a newly blazing heartfire (4), the great Void awoke with a wondrous war cry (5). "ABU" was the roar, as the Void stretched out in nine waves (6) against the dark chaos around.
II. So great was the love that the Great Void felt for what had been seen that the Void divided, and from within there emerged two children (7), Danu and Donn (8)(9). Stepping out from nothingness into somethingness, Danu and Donn looked about. Then turning back to the center from where they emerged, they espied each other in the mirror of the shining Void. Instantly the sacred flame of the center ignited in their own hearts as well and they became locked in a loving embrace from which they could not be moved. (10)
III. In time their embrace brought forth children. Amongst the children were three sons, Briain, Iuchar, and Iucharba, who were giants amongst the children. None of these children could not find room for their lives as they were bound between their interlocked parents. One of the children, Briain, looked about him and declared that the end of he and his siblings would surely come soon, if Danu and Donn were not parted. Hard it was for he and these two other brothers who were with him, as they contemplated their idea. But as they saw no other chance of survival, they did speak amongst themselves concerning what they felt they should do. In the end a mothers love for her son, and he for her won out, and Briain decided to take it upon himself to slay his father.
IV. Thus he did with an abandon born of desperation. So great was his fury that he did not stop with one cut. Yea, he did cut his father thrice three times, so all that was left was in nine parts (11). Taken aback at what She had seen, Danu stood motionless, for the horror of what She had witnessed. In a flash the horror gave way to dread, and then to sorrow. The sorrow started Danu to crying, and the tears swelled in a flood. So great was the flood that it immediately swept away Briain, Iuchar, and Iucharba, who became known as the Three Landless Princes, and the rest of the first children. Hence did Danu become known as the "Waters of Heaven" .(12) Out and away these did ride the tide of tears to where those tears accumulated as the seas. There, to this day the siblings live, as the Fomorraig of the Sea. (13)(14)
V. Not only were the Fomorraig washed away, but so to were the parts of Donn. These each came to rest, one part in each wave that had echoed out when the Void first awoke. The Crown of Donn became the skies; his brain the clouds; His face the sun; his mind the moon; his breath the wind; His blood mixed with the tears of Danu and became the seas, His flesh the soil; and his bones the stones. Of His seed two remained, one red and one white, and these fell into the soils that was the flesh of Donn.(14A)
VI. Danu looked down from afar and saw the seeds, and did recognize her beloved within one of them; the red acorn seed of the Oak tree. Again she cried Her tears, sorrow for the distance between them, joy that he would again be, and mostly adoration for him who She loves. Thus there again started from the sullen heavens, a trickle of water. First one drop, then another and another, Her essence rained down in torrents upon the dead world. The divine Waters from Heaven flooded downwards and soaked into the parched soils, the seeds and soils moistened in the rains of Her love, and life began to spring forth from the seeds, and then all across the Land. The first life on the earth being the Nemedians, the people of the soils and sands and divers places, kindred of the next children of the Divine Waters, but also different from Them. There they lived on a plain in the Northern parts of the World, that plain being called the Plain of Adoration. The people who lived were called Nemed for sacred was the place of their being. From this one People, two Peoples eventually emerged, the Fir Bolg of the lands, and the Tuatha De Dannan of the skies who did bring culture and laws, but this is much later and the great deeds of their own are told of them.
VII. In the soil fertilized by the tears of Danu, the red acorn also took root, and grew into a marvelous tree which was called Bile Magh Adhair. The Divine Waters from Heaven, nurtured and cherished the greater tree which became the sacred Oak tree(15), and it became a king amongst the peoples, and amongst them He became known as Eochaidh. The other seed became his brother, who himself became a priest, for noble was his heritage, though imperfect was he in the gnarled Yew. (16)17)
VIII. Recognizing His beloved, now His Mother, afar off, the Oak seed did stretch upward, striving to again be with Her. Up he pushed himself so that He could caress Her face with his limbs, and dry Her tears with his leaves. Perfect in the arts was Eochaidh, a fitting craftsman, a fearless and cunning warrior, and a master in the hidden arts (18). Nurtured by the Waters of Heaven, the Oak did grow many berries, which then fell and grew into wondrous shining beings. These include Oengus Mac Og, the Rowan which is a delight to the Tuath De Dannan, and the Bride Herself who is the Fire in the Heart of Women. Yet in all of this perfection he saw his people around him slip into lethargy, into stagnation, into a condition of living rot because there was no death in those days. Thus the world around them was used to excess, and so it withered from depletion. And so to did the People wither and become sickly, yet never to die.
IX. Donn, seeing the lingering desolation about him, counseled with his brother the priest about what could be done. Finn had no answer but prepared a journey for Himself, an Imrama across the waves to see what the other lands there were, and if some answer for their trials might be found there. Across the waves Finn then traveled, but no where did He see a newness, in life the world was dead. Thus upon his return, he proclaimed that there should be a time of death, so that there could be renewal; that the ancient magic would again be worked and that Donn would die, His body renewing the world, with His spirit going to the Sea to there build a new land for those who would come during their resting time.
X. Donn would have none of it, as he would not see his brother become stained by fingal, kin-killing, and he would not be even more separated as he was from his Beloved. Finn pressed the matter, supported by the Peoples. In a great rush the two did combat there on the Plain. Great was the battle, and the feats were beyond compare. Eventually though, as two bulls plowing the whole day, exhaustion overcame them. First to feel the pangs was Finn, who in the moment of weakness, found Himself impaled on the blades of Donn. Thus did Finn go off to scout beyond the nine waves. Seeing His brother dead at His feet, Donn was overcome with anger and pain, and for the mighty victory, joy and pride. So much pain and pride did the mighty warrior Donn feel that His heart burst apart, even so did His whole being. Donn then fell from the Plain into the seas, and the parts of His body did again go to renew the world, while His Spirit went to build His house in the Sea. (19)
XI. At the death of Donn the three mighty roots of the Oak did delve deep and grow in strength and girth, a dun each. Thus was the third realm created, and so did the spirit of Donn go to be there, to dwell in his house Tech Duinn, where all Gaels go at their death. Yet in all three realms was Donn, as the wondrous World Tree, which amongst the Gael is called the Bile. This is the Oak whose red acorns are yet a delight to the Tuatha De Dannan, and whose parts have yielded sustenance and protection to mortals (20). Even to this day, great is the love between the White Cow of Heaven and the Dark Bull of the Otherworld; and by their love do they continue the cosmos.
VII. The brother of Donn, Finn who did go and see into the abyss, and who did battle with his brother for the renewal of the cosmos, never did leave the service of His King. Because He did first explore those unknown places, He knows the pathways, thus does Finn guard the portals to that Other land, and with His Finnians and hounds collect the souls of the newly dead in a Great Hunt. Thus do humans to this day find the Yew tree in graveyards, and burry black dogs in graveyards as well. These that the hound Bran who delivers death and his master Finn find the beloved departed before they tarry long. When the souls are found, those who are worthy are announced by the howls of Finns hounds, and are guided with honors as they are safely delivered to the doors of Tech Duinn. There they become charges of Donn, compatriots of the Daoine, and Donn shall again deliver these His children to the gates of world of mortals in their time as children of the Land.(21) Those that receive not the howl remain doomed to roam as the Slough. But the tales of the Fhianna are yet other stories.
(used with permission from http://www.clannada.org/docs/creation.html)