Part Two of my “Herself Long Ago” essay: Why no Irish Goddess of Love?

The voices of 6 Irish women a thousand years ago.

This is Part Two of the essay that you read Part One of yesterday (qv).

“That there is no Irish Goddess of Love is often attributed to the Irish “inclination” to chastity, celibacy, and the maternal. But to my mind it is better explained that the continuum of love, sexuality, nurturing, are to be found, well-integrated, in many of the Irish godesses. And Gods.

Writing –fairly new in Ireland, caught on fast, judging by the unmatched body of early literature. One poem goes:
“My hand is weary from writing….my slender-beaked pen juts forth a beetle-hued draught of bright blue ink…a steady stream of wisdom springs from my well-colored neat fair hand.”

We owe a great deal to the early monks for recording this “steady stream.” Otherwise we would have no link to these endearingly exuberant forebears –and would be none the wiser of our impoverishment!

But the church influenced the lives of these women. How beneficial was its influence?

Liadan, a poet, meets Cuirithir, also a poet. He makes an ale-feast for her. [Note: sounds good, doesn’t it ?] He says: “Why should we two not unite, Liadan?” She say “yes” but instead takes a vow odf chastity. At a monasrtery, the abbot, St. Cummin, imposes probation: they may talk, but not see each other.

Liadan challenges Cummin, he grants a “perilous freedom”. Cuirithir is banished; he renounces love. Liadan sits on a stone, mourning her love. She dies. Cummin lovingly places the stone on her grave.

Of course, Liadan chose chastity, but her reason, “fear of the King of Heaven,” makes us sad. So, there is another new import in Ireland: the heavy trip! And like the stone on her grave, it is laid on Liadan. Our hearts go out to her.

Eve in the next poem has bought the most virulent version of the new anti-female gospel in her hymn to low self-esteem. Think of a beloved daughter being taught thus: we wouldn’t accept it for a moment!

As I examine this poem, it looks more and more to me like “male fraud”. Could a woman really write this?

In the third poem, Gormflaith tells about her life. Daughter of a High King; twice married, to kings. They die. She meets her true love, Niall. He is slain by Vikings, who come to plunder Kells monastery in 919 A.D. There is a new high cross at Kells, and a hundred foot round tower, just built. Christianity is new: Niall tells Gormflaith to go to the temple where they worship the Son of God. But now Gormflaith, once so generous, is poor and rejected: “at Kells it matters not that I am, without food.” She reflects on the bitter truths of her vulnerable situation.”

[More soon about the six women in this fascinating group of women poets.]

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One Response to “Part Two of my “Herself Long Ago” essay: Why no Irish Goddess of Love?”

  1. Kevin T, McEneaney

    The Irish goddess of love was Brigid whose mythology became Christianized about the sixth century. The fertility festival of Imbolc contains the sexual symbolism of lighting the sacred fire in her honor, thus propigating crops and sexuality. Her older Celtic symbolism has been somewhat preserved in Haitian Voodoo where she’s married to Baron Samedi (Lord of the Jewish Sabbath), overlord of the underworld, enhancing his virility so much that he can enact a ressurection from the foot of his cross in the cemetery.