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I’m grateful of receiving a free copy from the publisher/author in exchange for an honest review of this book. –
Today I’m delighted to be on the ‘Hammer’ blogtour, organised by The Coffee Pot Book Club.
To promote this book I’ll be sharing a guest post written by the author, but first I have some information
About the Author :
Micheál has been an author for many years. He studied Classics and developed a love of Greek and Roman culture through those studies. In particular, he loved their mythologies. As well as a classical education, bedtime stories consisted of tales read from a great tome of Greek Mythology, and Micheál was destined to become a storyteller from those times.
Amazon Author Page
About the Book :
Genonn’s tired and dreams of a remote roundhouse in the Cuala Mountains.
However, sudden rebellion in Roman Britain destroys that dream because the Elder Council task him with delivering Lorg Mór, the hammer of the Gods, to the tribes across the straits of Pwll Ceris. Despite being torn between a waning sense of duty and his desire to become a hermit, Genonn finally agrees to help.
When his daughter follows him into danger, it tests his resolve. He wants to do everything he can to see her back to Druid Island and her mother. This new test of will means he is once again conflicted between duty and desire. Ultimately, his sense of duty wins; is it the right decision? Has he done the right thing by relegating his daughter’s safety below his commitment to the clans?
Hammer is available to read on #KindleUnlimited.
And now it’s finally time for the
Irish Mythology: all Smoke or is there Fire?
I am a classicist. Greek and Roman culture fascinated me from when my father read bedtime stories in front of a roaring fire. The stories always came from a great tome of Greek and Roman mythology. My early exposure to Irish mythology was limited to stories about Cú Chulainn and Fionn mac Cumhaill. That was until I was browsing in a Limerick bookshop many moons ago and came across a Penguin Classic, Early Irish Myths and Sagas.
After I finished reading that book, I knew I was hooked. Irish mythology is so much more touchable than other traditions. The most famous of the legends are based around the time of Christ when Rome was conquering the known world or later (fourth century) when Rome was in decline. How can there not be any truth in them? How are they myths rather than history?
How is there smoke without fire?
First, the mythology
Irish mythology is a subset of Celtic mythology particular to Ireland. It was maintained as a verbal tradition in prehistoric times (pre-Christian) and later transcribed by monks, perhaps as early as the 8th century, although definitely from the twelfth century onwards. The myths are grouped in four cycles but do include other tales. The cycles are not how the stories were classified historically but a modern categorisation. The original categories were based on births, cattle raids, and destructions, to name but a few.
The classifications are the Mythological, Ulster, Fianna and King’s cycles.
The Book of Invasions, the Lebor Gabála Érenn, describes the development of Irish ancestry from before the time of Noah. The invaders comprised Cessair and her followers, the Fomorians (portrayed as monsters), the Partholinians, the Nemedians, the Firbolgs, the Tuatha Dé Danann, and the Milesians (the Celts). Each successive invader vanquished those who came before. The mythological cycle deals mainly with these conflicts. Probably the most well-known aspect of this category is the Tuatha (immortalised by Robert Jordan as Travellers in The Wheel of Time books). After their defeat by the Milesians, the Tuatha Dé Danann (people of the Goddess Danu) retreated into the Sidhe (fairy mounds) and became the Fae, the immortals of Irish mythology. Fae is the source of such commonplace words as fey and fairy. Unlike little fairies with gossamer wings and do good character, the Fae were often depicted as mischievous and sometimes even evil.
The mythological cycle also includes legends of Ireland’s High Kings, such as The Destruction of Da Derga’s Hostel, where King Conaire dies at the hands of a British Reaver, Ingcél. At this juncture, it is important to note that many of the characters in Irish mythology appear in more than one cycle. For instance, Queen Medb and her husband, King Ailill, are in The Destruction of Da Derga’s Hostel and The Cattle Raid of Cooley, spanning the mythological cycle and the Ulster Cycle.
The Ulster Cycle includes tales of the Ulaid, heroes of Ulster, such as Cú Chulainn and Conall of the victories. The Táin Bó Cúailnge (The Cattle Raid of Cooley) – perhaps Ireland’s most famous legend – recounts the tale of King Conchobar of Ulster in his fight against Queen Medb of Connacht. The cattle raid involved such warriors as Cú Chulainn – who single-handedly held up the march of Medb’s army. The cattle raid is covered extensively in my novel Milesian Daughter of War, August 2020.
The Fianna Cycle includes tales of the Fianna, roving warriors who protected the clans of Ireland in selfless acts of heroism. The Fianna were thought to have started as roving bands of lawless mercenaries. Fionn mac Cumhaill is said to have organised one band as a force for good and given them a code of practice. Another band was Clan Morna, led by Goll mac Morna. Goll killed Fionn’s father, Cumhal, in battle. Fionn was brought up in secrecy. While being trained in the art of poetry, Fionn burned his thumb cooking the Salmon of Knowledge. After that, sucking his thumb gave him wisdom rather than the goofy teeth our mothers warned us about. Two of the most famous tales from the Fianna are Tóraigheacht Dhiarmada agus Ghráinne (The Pursuit of Diarmuid and Gráinne) and Oisín in Tír nÓg.
The King’s Cycle comprises legends written by bards in later Irish history. A bard’s duty was to record the genealogy of kings and chieftains as poems and tales. One of the better Kings’ Cycle tales is the Buile Shuibhne (The Frenzy of Sweeney), a 12th-century story told in verse and prose. Suibhne, king of Dál nAraidi, was cursed by St. Ronan and became a half-man, half-bird, condemned to live in the woods.
The principal deities include The Dagda (the cheerful God), The Morrígan (the Goddess of war and fate), Manannán (the God of the sea), Dian Cécht (the healer) and Goibniu (the smith).
Female deities play a prominent role in Irish mythology. They are usually depicted as being of the land, the water, and sovereignty. They are often portrayed as the oldest ancestors of the people. Not only are they shown as maternal they are also defenders, teachers, and warriors. The Goddess Brigid is linked with poetry, healing, and smithing. The Cailleach (Veiled One or Queen of Winter) lived many lives ending with her set in stone.
Warrior goddesses guard the battlefield and warriors. In the Táin Bó Cúailnge the sisters The Morrígan, Macha, and Badb cause battle. They often assume the form of animals (zoomorphism).
From what we know, female equality was a mainstay of the Celtic culture of Britain and Ireland, such as the warrior queen Boudica. This is also true of their mythology. Many of Ireland’s great mythological heroes were trained by warrior women or druidesses. Cú Chulainn was taught by the mother and daughter team Scathach and Uathach on the Isle of Skye. Liath Luachra trained Fionn mac Cumhaill, and Dornoll trained Conall of the Victories.
The heroes of Irish Mythology are legion. I have covered many already, such as Cú Chulainn, Conall of the Victories and Fionn mac Cumhaill. I could list their heroic deeds, but it would be a better use of the limited space to write about their humanity. Unlike classic heroes, those of Irish mythology have their figaries. For instance, Fergus Mac Roi had an illicit affair with Queen Medb. Cú Chulainn was prone to overreact, like when he murdered 150 women after the death of Dervla, his first love.
Monsters in Irish Mythology are not many. Perhaps the most famous are the banshee.
The word banshee derives from Ban Sidhe, meaning woman of the Sidhe or the Fae. The banshee were not initially considered to be monsters. They morphed into how we see them today because it is said we can hear them wail at the imminent death of a family member.
So, is there fire, or is it all smoke
Whenever I am asked the question, I respond in the same way – using the same cliche – there’s never smoke without fire. I usually then cite the Iliad as a perfect example. Homer was thought to have been an ancient poet with a vivid imagination until the discovery of Troy and the death mask of Agamemnon. And Troy was so much further in the past. The stories of Ireland’s heroes are not prehistoric in absolute terms, but only because they were told as an oral tradition and not written down. After all, history denotes the advent of written records, which did not arrive in Ireland until Christianity got a firm grip (around the seventh century).
And therein lies the issue. The tales were passed on through the oral tradition until monks began to transcribe them. It is difficult to determine how trustworthy the monks were during those transcriptions. They were prone to over-embellishment and perhaps guilty of moulding them to fit into Christian dogma.
However, I believe there is more fire than most scholars will allow. That could be because I write novels based on those eras and use the characters of those myths. I have also transcribed the tales taking out the talking trees and the Fae, leaving what I hope might be close to historical records.
The Magic of Wor(l)ds