📗 Read pages 1-37 of The Celtic Myths by Miranda Aldhouse-Green

Book cover of The Celtic Myths

📖 Read pages 1-37 of The Celtic Myths: A Guide to the Ancient Gods and Legends by Miranda Aldhouse-Green (Thames & Hudson, , ISBN: 978-0500252093)

I picked this up the other day while browsing at the library. It’s turned out not to have some of the actual mythological tales I was expecting, but, even better, it has some preparatory history and archaeology which I suspect will make my later reading of them more fruitful and interesting.

Highlights, Quotes, & Marginalia

Prelude & Chapter 1

Myths flourish in societies where such issues are not answerable by means of rational explanation. They are symbolic stories, designed to explore these issues in a comprehensible manner.

Highlight (yellow) – 1. Word of Mouth: Making Myths > Page 15

This makes me think of complex issues of modern science like people (wrongly) believing that vaccines cause autism or in our current political situation where many blindly believe the truth of the existence of “fake news” when spewed by politicians who seem to be modern-day story-tellers.
Added on Monday, December 25, 2017 night

Medieval Welsh storytelling was close kin to poetry, and often the poet and the cyfarwydd were one and the same. Of course, modern audiences can only access the tales through their written forms but, even so, their beginnings as orally transmitted tales are sometimes betrayed by various tricks of the trade. Each episode is short and self-contained, as though to help listeners (and the storytellers themselves) remember them. Words and phrases are often repeated, again to aid memory. A third device also points in this direction, and that is the ‘onomastic tag’, the memory-hook provided by explanations of personal and place names.

Highlight (yellow) – 1. Word of Mouth: Making Myths > Page 22-23

This is interestingly relevant to some of my memory research and this passage points out a particular memory trick used by storytellers in the oral tradition.
Added on Monday, December 25, 2017 night

The Classical mythic centaur, which melds the forms of man and horse, has its Celtic counterpart in the Welsh horse-woman, Rhiannon.

Highlight (yellow) – 1. Word of Mouth: Making Myths > Page 22-23

Origin of the name Rhiannon
Added on Monday, December 25, 2017 night

The weapons used were words and they could literally sandblast a man’s face, raising boils and rashes. The power of words to wound was a recurrent bardic theme in medieval Ireland; […]

Highlight (yellow) – 1. Word of Mouth: Making Myths > Page 34

I can’t help but think of the sharp tongued William Shakespeare or old barbs I’ve read from this period before. Obviously it was culturally widespread and Shakespeare is just a well-known, albeit late, practitioner of the art.
Added on Monday, December 25, 2017 night

So gessa [singular geis] acted as a device to keep listeners interested, and one can imagine how, perhaps, a storyteller would break off his tale at a crucial moment, leaving his audience to wonder how it would end, avid for the next episode in the ‘soap opera’.

Highlight (yellow) – 1. Word of Mouth: Making Myths > Page 36

This passage makes me think of the too-oft used device by Dan Brown’s Origins which I read recently.
Added on Monday, December 25, 2017 night

… red was the color of the Otherworld.

Highlight (yellow) – 1. Word of Mouth: Making Myths > Page 36

This is a recurring thing in myths. The red flames of Hell spring to mind.
Added on Monday, December 25, 2017 night

[…] this took place at the end-of-the-year festival of Samhain, the pagan Irish equivalent of Hallowe’en, at the end of October. Samhain was an especially dangerous time because it took place at the interface between the end of one year and the beginning of the next, a time of ‘not being’ when the world turned upside-down and the spirits roamed the earth among living humans.

Highlight (yellow) – 1. Word of Mouth: Making Myths > Page 36

Cultural basis of Hallowe’en? This also contains an interesting storytelling style of multiple cultural layers being built up within the story to bring things to a head.
Added on Monday, December 25, 2017 night

Guide to highlight colors

Yellow–general highlights and highlights which don’t fit under another category below
Orange–Vocabulary word; interesting and/or rare word
Green–Reference to read
Blue–Interesting Quote
Gray–Typography Problem
Red–Example to work through

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