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Ireland Calling Me Home Sonnets


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Folk-lore

The most frequently used animal symbols of the boar, fish, serpent, bird, and herd animals are closely connected with the physical well-being of the tribe. Divination of future events and past wisdom can be gained through proper use of animals. Very powerful opponents take the shapes of animals for extra power. Spirits and supernatural beings also take animal forms, often temporarily, before being reborn to guard a land or clan and thus its fertility. Thus, animals symbolize the essence of fertility and vitality in Welsh and Celtic mythology.

Shape changing is another theme generally involving animals. Sometimes humans are changed into the shape of other humans. Merlin, King Uther Pendragon, Pwyll, and King Arawn are examples. However, the forms changed into are most often those of animals. MacCulloch and Davidson make several references to people being changed into animals as punishment. This happens in the story Math Son of Mathonwy. Generally, the animal shape is usually taken voluntarily in order to guard something or to gain an advantage in combat.

Spirits and supernatural beings also take animal forms to guard something. According to Celtic myths, each holy place generally has a spirit guardian in the form of an animal. Each well, a spring, a river, a mound, or a grove often is likely to have its own spirit. Water places would have a guardian in the form of a fish (MacCulloch, 186). Gods from the other world can assume animal forms for other reasons, also. The god Lug may have become the small life that Deichtine consumed in order to become Cúchulainn, the guardian of the tribe of Ulster.

Animals appear as an omen by their appearance and activity through a symbolic message. The type of animal and their activity is the substance of the message. On the eve of his battle with Sir Mordred, King Arthur dreamt of being devoured by serpents, dragons, and other water beasts. The serpents and dragons alone mean great troubles within the land. King Arthur was destroyed by this mass of troubles, because the next day, he was defeated in a battle during the civil war with Sir Mordred (Baines, 497-498). Another example of an omen is Deirdre’s dream of the three great birds. They arrived bearing honey and left with blood, symbolizing treachery on the part of king Conchobar (Pilkington, 177). Movements of smaller animals, such as birds and rabbits, have also been interpreted to divine the future (Davidson, 11, MacCulloch, 219, 247).

Birth and rebirth are fertility. The Celts believed that souls were manifested as tiny animals or beings (MacCulloch, 160). Lleu Llaw Gyffes was grown from “some little thing” (Ford, 98-99). If such a magical being was eaten by a female, then it would grow until she gave birth to it. This is illustrated in the rebirths of Taliesin, Sétanta, Finnebach Ai, and Donn Cuailnge who were all consumed by their mothers as tiny creatures and then reborn. Taliesin had been Gwion Bach disguised as a grain of wheat (Ford, 164, 173) and Sétanta, later known as Cúchulainn, had been a vague, tiny creature in a drink, possibly the soul of the god Lug (Kinsella, 23). Both Taliesin and Cúchulainn had extraordinary abilities extending to the supernatural, and Taliesin even described himself as having previously been Gwion Bach. Friuch and Rucht changed into maggots, very small creatures, and were consumed by cows while fighting each other in a battle of magic. They became reborn as the extraordinary bulls Finnebach Ai and Donn Cuailnge. They continued to escalate their combat by involving the tribes of Ireland, suggesting at least partial survival of their personalities.

Animals in Celtic and Welsh mythology are tied in with fertility and vitality, because they are living, moving, and growing. They also provide vitality and continued life for the tribes through their meat, skins, and bones. In addition, they are a connection to the realm of spirits and the gods. This connection is seen through their use in the hunt, search for secrets and wisdom.

Specific animals have specific associations depending on the characteristics of the type of animal. Birds, fish, serpents, deer, cattle, swine, and so on all tend to be used as symbols. Boars, fishes, serpents, birds, and herd animals are the most frequently described.

Irish dancing or Irish dance is a group of traditional dance forms originating in Ireland which can broadly be divided into social dance and performance dances. Irish social dances can be divided further into céilí and set dancing. Irish set dances are quadrilles, danced by 4 couples arranged in a square, while céilí dances are danced by varied formations (ceili) of 2 to 16 people. In addition to their formation, there are significant stylistic differences between these two forms of social dance. Irish social dance is a living tradition and variations in particular dances are found across the Irish dancing community; in some places, dances are deliberately modified and new dances are choreographed.

Irish dancing, popularized in 1994 by the world-famous show "Riverdance", is notable for its rapid leg and foot movements, body and arms being kept largely stationary.

Most competitive dances are solo dances, though many step dancers also perform and compete using céilí dances. The solo step dance is generally characterized by a controlled but not rigid upper body, straight arms, and quick, precise movements of the feet. The solo dances can either be in "soft shoe" or "hard shoe".

The dancing traditions of Ireland probably grew in close association with traditional Irish music. Although its origins are unclear, Irish dancing was later influenced by dance forms from the Continent, especially the Quadrille. Travelling dancing masters taught all over Ireland, as late as the early 1900s.











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