Pagan Studies


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Studies Blogs

Advanced and/or academic Pagan subjects such as history, ethics, sociology, etc.

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Pangur Bán

This is a translation I did in 2016, but I thought it would be fun to share here today. Its a well known 9th century Irish poem about a scholar and his cat called. The following original Irish is from Stokes' 1903 Thesaurus Paleohibernicus; the English is my own.



Messe ocus Pangur bán,cechtar nathar fria saindán;bíth a menma-sam fri seilgg,mu menma céin im saincheirdd
(Myself and Fair Pangurboth of us with our tasks;for his mind is on hunting,my mind on each separate art)
Caraim-se fós, ferr cach clú,oc mu lebrán léir ingnu;ní foirmtech frimm Pangur bán,caraid cesin a maccdán.
(I love the quiet, better than fame,and my book zealously I studyno envy against me has Fair Pangurhe loves his own youthful skill)
Ó ru-biam ­scél cén scis ­innar tegdias ar n-oéndis,táithiunn ­ dichríchide clius ­ ní fris 'tarddam ar n-áthius.
(Where we are adventuring without rest  here in our house, the single pairwe have unlimited featsof acuteness to apply against something)
Gnáth-huaraib ar greassaib galglenaid luch ina lín-sam;os me, du-fuit im lín chéindliged ndoraid cu n-dronchéill.
(Usually his furious attackcatches a mouse up in his net: my eye, my own net, reachesa difficult concept that is well hidden)
Fúachaid-sem fri freaga fála rosc a nglése comlán;fúachimm chéin fri fégi fismu rosc réil, cesu imdis.
(He sharpens his skill against thesehis eye is the perfect tool for thisI direct my clear eye, though very weaktowards sharpening knowledge)
Fáelid-sem cu n-déne dul,hi nglen luch ina gérchrub;hi-tucu cheist n-doraid n-dil,os mé chene am fáelid.
(He rejoices with his swift snaringCleaving a mouse in his sharp clawsI grasp a question, difficult, dear,and my mind in that time is happy)
Cia beimini amin nach réní derban cách a chéle;mait le cechtar nár a dánsubaigthiud a óenurán.
(Even if we work thus every timeneither hinders the other one;good we each are at our skillrejoicing when alone)
Hé fesin as choimsid dáuin muid du-n-gní cach óenláu;do thabairt doraid du gléfor mumud céin am messe.
(He himself is capable of the purposeat the work he does every single day;to bring a dark thing to lightat my own work, am I)

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Through The Mist

Its said in Irish mythology that the Aos Sidhe have the power to conjure a mist, the ceo draiochta, which hides them from mortal sight and allows them to pass through the human world as they will without human interference. They teach this magic to the Tuatha De Danann when those Powers go into the sidhe so that they too can pass unseen when they will. 

For someone studying fairies or seeking a path that is based in fairy belief this magical mist may or may not be a factor in physically seeing fairies but on a figurative level it certainly seems to be an issue in finding out anything about them. Information is hard to find and often distorted, like the image of a landscape through a heavy mist, and terms are fluid and hard to define. The more you walk into the mist the more lost you feel. The more you learn the more questions you have. 

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white candles on black surface

 

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Some Brighid and Imbolc Facts
With Imbolc fast approaching there is a lot of information going around about both the holiday and the goddess. I thought it might be helpful here to offer some basic information about both, sourced from the original texts.
 
The name Brighid comes from the older name Brig or Bric, which means power, vigour, strength, authority according to the electronic Dictionary of the Irish Language. It is in this form that we find older references to the goddess, such as in the Cath Maige Tuired. In later use, such as the Sanas Cormaic we see it spelled Brigit and there are now several variants. Its suggested the earlier root in proto-Indo-European would mean high or height giving us 'exalted one'. The popular idea that Brighid comes from Breo-saighead or Breo-aighead meaning "fiery arrow" is a fanciful folk etymology from Cormac's Glossary. This is the full entry: "Brigit .i. banfile ingen in Dagdai. is eiside Brigit baneceas (ł be neicsi) .i. Brigit bandee noadradís filid. arba romor ⁊ baroán afri thgnam. is airesin ideo eam (deam) uocant poetarum hoc nomine cuius sorores erant Brigit be legis Brigit bé goibnechta .i. bandé .i. tri hingena in Dagdai insin. de quarum nominibus pene omnes Hibernenses dea Brigit uocabatur. Brigit din .i. breoaigit ł breoṡaigit." (Brigit - a poet, daughter of the Dagda. This Brigit is a woman of poetry (female poet) and is Brigit the goddess worshipped by poets because her protection was very great and well known. This is why she is called a goddess by poets. Her sisters were Brigit the woman of healing and Brigit the woman of smithcraft, goddesses; they are three daughters of the Dagda. Almost all Irish goddesses are called a Brigit. Brigit then from breoaigit or breoshaigit, 'fiery arrow').
 
Its unknown what Imbolg means but the leading suggestion is i-mbolg "in the belly" although alternatives have also been suggested over the years. The name is referenced in the Táin Bó Cuiliagne and Dindshenchas, usually as a time marker, ie "luan samain sáinriuth cossin cetáin iar n-imbulc" (monday of Samhain particularly until the Wednesday of Imbolg). We also find this reference to Imbolc in the Dindshenchas: "iar n-imbulc, ba garb a ngeilt" (after Imbolc, rough was their herding). There is no information as far as I am ware of older celebration practices for this holiday.
 
An alternative name for the holiday is Oimelc or Oimelg, possibly meaning "ewe's milk", oi meilg, although this name appears to be later and less common. We see a reference to Oimelc in The Wooing of Emer: "55 To Oimolc, i.e., the beginning of spring, viz., different (ime) is its wet (folc), viz the wet of spring, and the wet of winter. Or, oi-melc, viz., oi, in the language of poetry, is a name for sheep, whence oibá (sheep's death) is named, ut dicitur coinbá (dog's death), echbá (horse's death), duineba (men's death), as bath is a name for 'death'. Oi-melc, then, is the time in which the sheep come out and are milked, whence oisc (a ewe), i.e., oisc viz., barren sheep."
We also have this about Oimelc in the Sanas Cormaic: "oimelc .i. oimelg .i. isí aimser andsín tic ass caerach." (Oimelc that is oimelg that is the season when the sheep are in milk.)
 
I know this is a lot of references and facts to throw out there but beyond the huge array of personal practices and folk customs these are the main factual items that I see coming up either skewed or inaccurately relayed. I hoped it would help to provide some basics for people to work outwards from.
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When we look for sources of information about fairies we often, logically, turn to folklore and anecdotal accounts. And so we should as these are good, solid sources of information. But we do have another sources about the Irish Good Folk, and arguably an equally important source: mythology. In Irish culture these beings aren't limited to later folklore but appear throughout written mythology as well, going back to the 5th* century Echtra Condla.

In the earliest account, the aforementioned Echtra Condla, we find a story of a woman of the Otherworld who appears to Connla, son of the king. No one else can see or hear her but they can see Connla's interaction with her. She tells him that she is of the people of the fairy hills and describes the place as "an immortal land where there is no death or the sin of transgressions. We have our harvest feast without labor; peace cloaks us without strife". She then invites Connla to go with her, his father's druid intervenes, blocking her for a time, but eventually Connla does indeed go with the fairy woman, never to be seen on earth again. 

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