Women in Celtic Society

It is a stereotype that women in the Dark Ages (and the Middle Ages for that matter) had two career options: mother or holy woman, with prostitute or chattel filling in the gaps between those two. Unfortunately, for the most part this stereotype is accurate. The status and role of women in any era prior to the modern one revolves around these categories. This is one reason that when fiction is set in this time, it is difficult to write a self-actualized female character who has any kind of autonomy Read More…

The Norman Conquest of Ireland (part 1)

The Normans were conquerors. Even more, they conquered. It was what they did. It was only natural, then, that eventually one of them would set his sights on Ireland.  That someone, in this case, was Richard de Clare, otherwise known as Strongbow. Now, Strongbow wasn’t entirely at fault for what came next. In fact, in 1169 he was invited into Ireland by the ousted king of Leinster, Diarmait Mac Murchada. Murchada had been removed from power by the High King of Ireland, Rory O’Connor, and, naturally, he wanted his lands back. Read More…

How did the potato get to Ireland?

One of those anachronisms that can trip up an author of medieval fiction is the nature of medieval food. In particular, the potato, a ubiquitous British food these days, comes from the “New World” and didn’t arrive in Britain until after the Spanish conquest. “The potato was carried on to Italy and England about 1585, to Belgium and Germany by 1587, to Austria about 1588, and to France around 1600. Wherever the potato was introduced, it was considered weird, poisonous, and downright evil. In France and elsewhere, the potato was Read More…

The Irish in Wales

The Irish, Welsh, and Scots all have a Celtic ancestry, but they settled their respective regions before the Roman conquest of Britain.  There is an amazing amount of debate as to the origin of the Celts:  were they Phoenician?  stocky and dark?  tall and blonde?  as culturally cohesive as the label suggests?   The standard theory is that the Celts were an Indo-European group that gradually migrated across Europe and Asia, with an identifiable, distinct culture by 750 BC.  As a group, they were well-known to the Greeks and Romans. http://archaeology.suite101.com/article.cfm/archaeology_and_the_celts Read More…

Demons of the Ancient World

The Dark Age Celts had their share of supernatural creatures within the various mythologies (Welsh/Brittany/Ireland/Scotland), in addition to the pantheon of actual gods and goddess (for Wales, see Children of Don; Children of Llyr:  http://www.sarahwoodbury.com/the-sidhe/). Here are some notable demons from Celtic mythology: Cwn Annwn (Welsh hellhounds):  Yes, they really do exist outside of the TV show, Supernatural (great show, by the way.  Watch it at Netflix).  The Cwn Annwn are the hunting dogs of Arawn, Lord of the Otherworld and are associated with the Welsh form of the Wild Hunt.  “The Read More…

Bards and Poets

In Welsh society before the conquest–in all Celtic societies in fact–the bard/poet played a very important role in the life of society. “The three principal endeavors of a Bard: One is to learn and collect sciences. The second is to teach. And the third is to make peace And to put an end to all injury; For to do contrary to these things Is not usual or becoming to a Bard.” ~THE TRIADS OF BRITAIN http://www.joellessacredgrove.com/Celtic/history.html “In the Celtic cultures, the Bard/Filidh/Ollave was inviolate. He could travel anywhere, say anything, Read More…

Danish Bones Found in Oxford

There’s a new article in The Oxford Student which describes a recent find of bones, determined to have belonged to Danes and the result of a massacre ordered by King Ethelbert in 1003 AD.  It sheds some light on an early period in British history and points to something that is easy to forget as you work your way through the Early Middle Ages:  that the “Saxons” from literature and mythology were not monolithic, but comprised of different ethnic groups and nationalities.  What this find reveals is that the Saxons, who now Read More…

Women in Celtic Myth

Women in Celtic societies had more freedom and autonomy than women in feudal Europe.  It is not surprising, then, that women play an important role in Celtic myth, beyond the wives, lovers, and mothers of male gods. Within Celtic myth, warrior goddesses such as Babd, Aoifa, and Scathach have a significant role; Don (Danu in Ireland) was the mother goddess, giving birth to male and female goddesses such as Gwydion and Arianrhod.   The Irish word, Tuatha de Dannan means “Children of Danu”, the equivalent of the Welsh “Sons of Don” Read More…