From the accounts I've read about Balor and his 'evil eye' which none may look upon without being blasted by a laser or some sort of energy ray. It seems that this represents some sort of ancient technology and not a physical eye. The word 'eye' was probably used as a metaphor. Afterall it says in the accounts it took four of Balor's men to raise the lid of this 'eye' - It sounds like it was a portable machine-like object. Does anyone agree, the ancients were not so stone age as we presume and may have surpassed some of our own technologies?
By Shae on Wednesday, November 29, 2000 - 10:43 am:
An interesting suggestion and it would be great if an archaeoligist somewhere found some physical evidence to support it. In the case of Balor, though, I think the significance of the single eye has to do with magic. In Irish mythology, a one-eyed person could 'see' into the Otherworld and could make prophesies and cast spells. The children of wossname (I can't remember), who eventually killed CuChulainn, deliberately blinded themselves in one eye so they could harness the magic necessary to overcome CuChulainn. St. Brigid, if she ever existed, deliberately blinded one of her eyes. According to the Christian scribes, it was done to make herself unattractive to men but the deed is much more reminiscent of pagan practices. People casting a curse or making a prophesy often covered one eye with a hand and stood on one foot while doing so. This posture is descriptive of the Fomorians who had just one leg and one eye. Balor, being their king, would have to have been more powerful than the others and, so, his eye would have to have been larger and more potent.
For early Irish audiences, then, a single eye equated to magical power.
By Guest on Wednesday, November 29, 2000 - 10:30 pm:
But were the fomorians not nto a race of sea pirates and also asssociated with the scandanavians.And reputed to having semi-supernatural characteristics.Being the sonof net could account for balors stature and the one eye could have been no more than a concentration of energy of that magic within a single orb.
By Guest on Wednesday, November 29, 2000 - 10:34 pm:
But is it not true to say that it was due to a billow of smoke from some of his fathers'driud potions which penetrated his eye whgich gave it its power.
By Hilary on Wednesday, November 29, 2000 - 11:53 pm:
Thanks for your answer Shae, I still believe that there was a lot of technology that we now know nothing about being used in ancient times. Have you ever read any of Erik Von Daniken's theories about 'Gods From OuterSpace'? The Tuatha Dé Danann landed on Sliabh an Iarainn in Leitrim in a ship of some sort as described in the Lebor Gabala, for instance and How were monuments like Newgrange constructed and aligned to times of the sun's rising or setting on a particular day of the year. These are the things that make me wonder.
By Shae on Thursday, November 30, 2000 - 01:59 pm:
Hi Guest and Hilary
It's a while since I've read about Balor and the Fomorians but, yes, they were sea pirates and they extracted a terrible tax from the people of Ireland until Lugh drove them away. The point I was trying to make is that a single eye is always associated with magic throughout Irish mythology and that Balor's huge eye need not necessarily have been a reference to a ray gun, or similar device. Other such conventions in Irish mythology include the colour red, which is an Otherworld colour - for example, a white cow with red ears is always an Otherworld animal - , and the number three and its multiples is a magic number. For example, the guy whose name I couldn't remember was Calatin Dana. CuChulainn killed him and his 27 sons (3x3x3). His wife was pregnant at the time and she later bore three sons and three daughters who blinded themselves in one eye so they could harness the magic that was the only way to overcome CuChulainn. So, there are lots of conventions in Irish mythology that don't need extraterrestrial explanations.
Yes, I've read Von Daniken and Berlitz (Bermuda Triangle guy) and I have to admit to great admiration for them. They were able to hoodwink so many people, and make a fortune doing so. I wish I had thought of it first. As for the alignment of Newgrange and the other monuments, it's not always easy for us today to see things as the ancients did. Their lives revolved around, and depended on, the seasons and it was necessary for them to observe natural phenomena much more closely than it is for us today. They needed to know when days were starting to lengthen again, so they would have watched for the mid-winter solstice. The regularity of cycles would have puzzled them and, in the absence of any natural explanation, they would have put it down to supernatural causes. Yet another reason to observe things closely. To me, it would have been surprising if they DIDN'T acknowledge such things when building sacred monuments.
It's also easy for us to forget that people then were just as intelligent as we are today. Look at the symmetry and alignment of the pyriamids, for example, the earliest of which is only a few hundred years younger than Newgrange. In my view, the ancients were able to get along quite well by themselves, without any help from extraterrestrials.
Sorry for ranting on so long.
By Hilary on Thursday, November 30, 2000 - 11:56 pm:
Thanks again for your insights Shae. I think the ancients were well able to get by without extra-terrestrial aid too. I think that magic and the use of the natural energies such as 'chi'(I dont know an irish term, so I use the chinese) were a part of the daily life of the ancients. Can you translate this spell of the God Lugh's which he performed with one eye closed, one arm behind his back and on one leg hopping around the battlefield before the Second Battle of Magh Tuireadh - Arotroi cath comartan, Fo Fo, Fe Fe, Amainsi - the word cath means battle that's all I know. As for ranting on, All these stories are relatively new to me and are therefore fresh in my mind, I've been doing a lot of research lately for a website I'm working on, It is still under construction at the moment. (www.shee-eire.com)So that is why I can rant on a bit myself, sorry.
By Shae on Friday, December 1, 2000 - 01:57 pm:
'Draíocht' is the Irish word for magic, but I don't know if it has the same connotations as 'chi.'
Sorry, I can't translate what Lugh said just now, but I have the Irish version of Cath Magh Tuireadh at home and I'll check over the weekend. I don't remember Lugh doing that either. Yet another reason to check.
If anyone is interested in reading about this battle, there's a translation at http://www.ncf.carleton.ca/~dc920/tured.html
By Hilary on Saturday, December 2, 2000 - 02:02 am:
Hello Shae, I checked out that translation of the battle of Magh Tuiredh and it is a lot more comprehensive than the translation I have, I forget the source I got it from now but it seems to have extra bits added in. The Spell of Lugh being one of them. 'anam' might be a good irish word for 'chi' seeing as it means soul/spirit.
I find it very difficult to get access to the ancient texts and then I wouldn't be able to translate them even if I did. there is a lot more out on the web now though. There are a good few versions of tales with both irish text and translation out there. Bhuel, go raibh maith agat arís agus slán.
By Guest on Saturday, December 2, 2000 - 07:15 pm:
were emain macha,cruachan et cetera sanctuaries or kings's residence?gratiae(how well I know latin!)
By Guest on Saturday, December 2, 2000 - 07:17 pm:
what was the Tanistry?was it utilized in ireland?
By Shae on Monday, December 4, 2000 - 10:07 am:
Hi Hilary and guest(s). I've had a look through all my sources for the incident you described, Hilary, and haven't been able to find it anywhere. Please let me know if you do find your source.
There's a lot of debate going on at the moment about the function of Emain Macha, Cruachan, Temair, etc. None of them seems to have any archaeological evidence to show they were occupied on a permanent basis and the general concensus seems to be that they were used for ritual purposes. One such ritual was the innauguration of the king. This view may change as more work is done on the sites.
By Guest on Thursday, December 7, 2000 - 02:48 pm:
did a king's mandate last for all king's lifetime or not?
By Hilary on Friday, December 8, 2000 - 01:39 am:
Hello Shae, I still haven't got the source, It was a book I borrowed from the library. I think the author's name was Andrew Folan and it was a new compilation of Celtic Myths including Welsh and Scottish tales. I will post the information to you when I get the chance. I have read a few versions of the Magh Tuiredh story and that was the only one that used that saying so the author may have used a bit of poetic licence - I think he used the version in Cross & Slover's Ancient Irish Tales as his own source but just changed it to suit himself. That is why I think it would be a good idea if someone from our century could gather the ancient irish texts into a modern anthology and do translations, Whitley Stokes and people like him did a great job for their time, but with prudery and all I wonder if some of the texts were translated properly from the originals. The originals may have been transcribed by monks but they did not censor the tales as much as the nineteenth century writers did. I believe there are still many manuscripts that have yet to be translated, some to be found in the vaults of the British museum. As I dont know ancient irish myself I would love if there were more up to date translations available of the ancient texts. If you hear of any available in book or on the web I'd be grateful if you'd let me know about them. Thanks - and its good to have a discussion forum like this on your site. Slán.
By Guest on Friday, December 8, 2000 - 11:40 am:
is the 8th of december holyday in Ireland,too?
By Shae on Friday, December 8, 2000 - 02:38 pm:
Hello Guest(s) and Hilary.
Usually, a king ruled for his lifetime which, quite often, was ended abruptly by somebody else. One of the few things that made a king relinquish his role was if he developed a blemish of some kind. Loss of a limb in battle, for example, would cause a king to resign.
And yes, today is a Holy Day for Roman Catholics in Ireland.
Thanks for the note, Hilary. One of the big problems with accurate translations from early Irish into English is that the resultant English seems quite archaic and is not easy to read. So, writers looking for a wider audience have to elaborate and introduce inaccuracies to make the stories more readable. Those of us who can't read Old Irish don't know which is original and which is invention. You are right too about some of the earlier translations being "sanitised." Stokes' (I think) description of the red woman in the "Destruction of Dá Derg's Hostel" is quite inoffensive. I don't think the real description would be appreciated here, though. Lady Gregory was one of the worst offenders. She omitted whole passages from "CuChulainn of Muirthimne" because she felt her readers didn't need to know about "that sort of thing." There are accurate translations out there, though. Kuno Meyer's are very good, and the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies brings out one or two new translations each year. You can check their publications at www.dias.ie
Patrick Brown who is, I think, in Belfast has a very good site devoted to the Ulster Cycle at http://ireland-now.com/ulstercycle/
Oh, and it's not my site. Our genial host is Accassbel who has only one fault. He's from Cork.
By Guest on Friday, December 8, 2000 - 05:17 pm:
-who,when and why had to respect a geis?
-in Brown's site there's this sentence:"Eocho Bes mac Coirpre,king of the land of Cliu in Munster...".Who or what was Cliu?
By Hilary on Sunday, December 10, 2000 - 03:12 am:
Hello Shae, Thanks for all the information. I have already visited The Ulster Cycle site and think Patrick Brown has done a great job. And sorry to Accassbel but I think his is a good site too. But you seem to answer everyone's questions! anyway I'll probably be back again to pick your brains. Slán for now.
By Shae on Monday, December 11, 2000 - 01:55 pm:
Geasa were obligations to either do something or refrain from doing something. They were imposed on people, usually kings or heroes, and inevitably led to their downfall. Often they were contradictory. For example, CuChulainn was forbidden to eat dog flesh nor could he refuse an invitation to a meal. Just before his final battle, he met three crones cooking a dog which they offered to share with him. He refused at first but they reminded him of his geis. Either way, he had to break one of them, so he had some of the dog meat. As soon as he touched it, he lost the strength in that hand.
The story of the Destruction of Da Derga's Hostel is a good example of geasa in action.
I don't know who or what Cliu was. I'll let you know if I find out.
By Guest on Friday, April 7, 2006 - 07:58 pm:
Does anyone know the title of a book of myths of ireland-written(collected) by an american and cross referenced with similar stories from other lands all the stories have a ref. nr. like Child's Ballads?