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Author Topic: Eiocha? Historical evidence?  (Read 973 times)

Kasmira

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Eiocha? Historical evidence?
« on: July 28, 2017, 01:55:12 pm »
*I should begin by confessing almost complete ignorance of Celtic mythology and folklore. Despite being of majority Celtic heritage, I've only recently begun trying to learn about that heritage. I apologize if I make any stupid mistakes or am asking about something 101 level. I have tried to answer this question with the assistance of google but haven't had much luck... So thanks in advance for any assistance!*

I recently read an interesting Celtic creation myth about a goddess called Eiocha (short summary below). It's mentioned with a few slight variations in content in several places online but none of them cite primary sources and I can't seem to find it mentioned anywhere that seems historically authoritative. Most info I can find on Celtic mythology overall also seems to challenge whether there are any extant Celtic creation myths at all. I'm feeling a strong pull to learn more about this particular goddess but given the lack of good information am concerned she may be another figment of the Victorian (or more recent) imagination and accompanying romanticisation of all things Celtic...

The short version of the myth goes something like: a mare made of sea foam (Eiocha) was born from the point where the ocean meets the land; she in turn birthed Curnunnos after eating the tears of the sea (mistletoe berries) from an oak tree; and together they bore several other gods who in turn made humans.

Several years ago I made a ceramic piece that was a set of interlocking 3D tiles depicting the metamorphosis of a fish into a woman and back into a fish. At the time I was just trying to express in clay how I felt about the ocean and nature more generally, but since reading that myth I've begun to think of both the original feeling I was trying to express and the resulting ceramic piece as being tied to this myth and this goddess.

Does anyone here know anything about this goddess and/or myth? Could anyone point to relevant primary sources (and/or reliable secondary ones) or confirm that she is a modern invention? Thank you so much!

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Owl

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Re: Eiocha? Historical evidence?
« Reply #1 on: July 28, 2017, 03:31:00 pm »
*I should begin by confessing almost complete ignorance of Celtic mythology and folklore. Despite being of majority Celtic heritage, I've only recently begun trying to learn about that heritage. I apologize if I make any stupid mistakes or am asking about something 101 level. I have tried to answer this question with the assistance of google but haven't had much luck... So thanks in advance for any assistance!*

I recently read an interesting Celtic creation myth about a goddess called Eiocha (short summary below). It's mentioned with a few slight variations in content in several places online but none of them cite primary sources and I can't seem to find it mentioned anywhere that seems historically authoritative. Most info I can find on Celtic mythology overall also seems to challenge whether there are any extant Celtic creation myths at all. I'm feeling a strong pull to learn more about this particular goddess but given the lack of good information am concerned she may be another figment of the Victorian (or more recent) imagination and accompanying romanticisation of all things Celtic...

The short version of the myth goes something like: a mare made of sea foam (Eiocha) was born from the point where the ocean meets the land; she in turn birthed Curnunnos after eating the tears of the sea (mistletoe berries) from an oak tree; and together they bore several other gods who in turn made humans.

Several years ago I made a ceramic piece that was a set of interlocking 3D tiles depicting the metamorphosis of a fish into a woman and back into a fish. At the time I was just trying to express in clay how I felt about the ocean and nature more generally, but since reading that myth I've begun to think of both the original feeling I was trying to express and the resulting ceramic piece as being tied to this myth and this goddess.

Does anyone here know anything about this goddess and/or myth? Could anyone point to relevant primary sources (and/or reliable secondary ones) or confirm that she is a modern invention? Thank you so much!
Have you tried:
Http//www.libraryireland.com/folklore.php
That might have something. Focus on the whole creation myth thing


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Kasmira

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Re: Eiocha? Historical evidence?
« Reply #2 on: July 28, 2017, 09:05:33 pm »
Have you tried:
Http//www.libraryireland.com/folklore.php
That might have something. Focus on the whole creation myth thing

Oooh, *shiny*. A quick scan through the chapter titles of each of the sources available there doesn't turn up anything obviously directly relevant to this myth, but definitely lots of context and other myths I'm looking forward to digging through. Who knows, maybe I'll find a reference to Eiocha in there somewhere but either way it looks like interesting reading material! Thanks!

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Re: Eiocha? Historical evidence?
« Reply #3 on: July 28, 2017, 10:38:59 pm »
The short version of the myth goes something like: a mare made of sea foam (Eiocha) was born from the point where the ocean meets the land; she in turn birthed Curnunnos after eating the tears of the sea (mistletoe berries) from an oak tree; and together they bore several other gods who in turn made humans.
<snip>
Does anyone here know anything about this goddess and/or myth? Could anyone point to relevant primary sources (and/or reliable secondary ones) or confirm that she is a modern invention? Thank you so much!

This looks like a job for Mary Jones.

But on the face of it, I'm dubious. 'Eiocha' appears to me* to be an Irish word/name, while I take 'Curnunnos' to be a respelling of 'Cernunnos' which is continental (Gaulish I think). That suggests it's meant to be a pan-Celtic creation myth, which would certainly be a modern construction; pan-Celticism is very much a product of the Romantic conception of the Celt, not the historical reality of the various Celtic-speaking peoples.

(*IANALinguist, nor Irish except in the ancestry sense, nor a Celtic Polytheist except in the very loosest sense, nor do I speak any Celtic language, but I've been reading material that includes words in various Celtic languages for a lot of years now, and have what I think is a fair sense of the differences.)

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Kasmira

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Re: Eiocha? Historical evidence?
« Reply #4 on: July 29, 2017, 10:45:00 am »
This looks like a job for Mary Jones.

But on the face of it, I'm dubious. 'Eiocha' appears to me* to be an Irish word/name, while I take 'Curnunnos' to be a respelling of 'Cernunnos' which is continental (Gaulish I think). That suggests it's meant to be a pan-Celtic creation myth, which would certainly be a modern construction; pan-Celticism is very much a product of the Romantic conception of the Celt, not the historical reality of the various Celtic-speaking peoples.

(*IANALinguist, nor Irish except in the ancestry sense, nor a Celtic Polytheist except in the very loosest sense, nor do I speak any Celtic language, but I've been reading material that includes words in various Celtic languages for a lot of years now, and have what I think is a fair sense of the differences.)

Sunflower

"Curnunnos" would be me having sticky fingers and poor proof reading abilities. I went back to check I had the right number of Ns in the right places but didn't notice I'd typed the wrong vowel at the start... Still, the pan-Celtic concern stands. To the extent that any of the online references to Eiocha give her a location, it's Gaul. However, I hadn't previously thought about whether that would make any sense given her name...

At any rate, I've dropped Mary Jones a line and will see if she has any thoughts. In the meantime, her site looks amazing! Since I'm just getting my feet wet with learning about Celtic mythology and folklore, I've been regularly coming across things that I don't recognize which has thus far meant a fairly stilted reading process punctuated by lengthy tangential research sessions. I'm looking forward to having that site available as a quick reference resource!

On a different note, long time no see! Apologies for falling completely off the edge of the map for *checks own post history* nearly three years. In truth, my activity here's been way down since before we left the old board... I can't promise I'll be super active from here on out but I do have an excuse to prioritize TC more given my day job is now focused on religious study. At any rate, I hope all is going well with you IRL and looking forward to (virtually) seeing you around more!

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Re: Eiocha? Historical evidence?
« Reply #5 on: July 29, 2017, 08:25:38 pm »
"Curnunnos" would be me having sticky fingers and poor proof reading abilities. I went back to check I had the right number of Ns in the right places but didn't notice I'd typed the wrong vowel at the start... Still, the pan-Celtic concern stands. To the extent that any of the online references to Eiocha give her a location, it's Gaul. However, I hadn't previously thought about whether that would make any sense given her name...

After I'd made the earlier post, I decided to apply a bit of search-fu of my own (I generally use DuckDuckGo, and did in this case) to 'Eiocha'. One thing that struck me extremely strongly was what wasn't in the results: no scholarly sites, no Celtic Recon sites, none of the major Druid organizations, no known-to-be-generally-reliable non-recon Celtic Polytheists (not even bloggers), no familiar sites (other than the brief, badly-sourced, 'multiple issues'-flagged Wikipedia page), no tourist-bureau-type 'our region's Celtic history' sites even. While absence of evidence is not evidence of absence (by definition, it's not really evidence of anything), that's very suggestive.

I did find this recounting of the story, which is both slightly different from the one you found, and explicitly identifies it as Irish. There I was halted, because searching 'Oran Mór' inundates one in modern uses (restaurants! pubs! session music! meaderies!) - it might well be of value to figure out additional search terms to help weed out those results, but it'd involve more time than I have to spare. That version, and the way it's presented, seem to me to, very faintly, suggest it might not be a modern story, but it's likely post-Christianization.

I surmise - at least as one possibility - that it's an authentically Irish story, though not necessarily an authentically ancient/preChristian one, but that has relatively recently been discovered and passed around by folks who fail to distinguish 'Irish' in particular from 'Celtic' in general (assuming that anything Irish is typical of all Celtic peoples), and who threw Cernunnos in as a name for the otherwise-unnamed 'first god' because that better matches their entirely-modern misconceptions about very early Celts as a unified culture and of what the religion of that culture must have been, and they think they're 'reconstructing' how that myth must have once been.

As a side note, I had wondered if 'Curnunnos' was your own error, and once I began searching, I realized that was likely the case. It's an understandable misspelling, especially since you're so new to this. I do recommend Wikipedia's article on Cernunnos as a reasonably good start point, especially as it has a good explanation of the etymology that will likely help you fix the spelling in your mind, and as it's such a strong contrast to Wiki's article on Eiocha, which will give you a bit of an idea how to tune your bullshit filters when dealing with Celtic material.

Actually, I'm inclined to recommend that you take some time to get a basic grounding in the range of ways 'Celtic' is or has been used, by (among others) linguists, archaeo-anthropologists, Romantic nationalists, and Romantic/Victorian literary figures; doing so will be quite effective as a bullshit detector. I don't have time to elaborate just now myself, but Wikipedia will likely cover much of what that archive-board link I gave you earlier doesn't, and I'll give you a bit more when I have time. One caveat: it can turn into a very very deep rabbithole.

Sunflower
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Kasmira

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Re: Eiocha? Historical evidence?
« Reply #6 on: July 29, 2017, 09:45:31 pm »
After I'd made the earlier post, I decided to apply a bit of search-fu of my own (I generally use DuckDuckGo, and did in this case) to 'Eiocha'. One thing that struck me extremely strongly was what wasn't in the results: no scholarly sites, no Celtic Recon sites, none of the major Druid organizations, no known-to-be-generally-reliable non-recon Celtic Polytheists (not even bloggers), no familiar sites (other than the brief, badly-sourced, 'multiple issues'-flagged Wikipedia page), no tourist-bureau-type 'our region's Celtic history' sites even. While absence of evidence is not evidence of absence (by definition, it's not really evidence of anything), that's very suggestive.

I did find this recounting of the story, which is both slightly different from the one you found, and explicitly identifies it as Irish. There I was halted, because searching 'Oran Mór' inundates one in modern uses (restaurants! pubs! session music! meaderies!) - it might well be of value to figure out additional search terms to help weed out those results, but it'd involve more time than I have to spare. That version, and the way it's presented, seem to me to, very faintly, suggest it might not be a modern story, but it's likely post-Christianization.

I surmise - at least as one possibility - that it's an authentically Irish story, though not necessarily an authentically ancient/preChristian one, but that has relatively recently been discovered and passed around by folks who fail to distinguish 'Irish' in particular from 'Celtic' in general (assuming that anything Irish is typical of all Celtic peoples), and who threw Cernunnos in as a name for the otherwise-unnamed 'first god' because that better matches their entirely-modern misconceptions about very early Celts as a unified culture and of what the religion of that culture must have been, and they think they're 'reconstructing' how that myth must have once been.

As a side note, I had wondered if 'Curnunnos' was your own error, and once I began searching, I realized that was likely the case. It's an understandable misspelling, especially since you're so new to this. I do recommend Wikipedia's article on Cernunnos as a reasonably good start point, especially as it has a good explanation of the etymology that will likely help you fix the spelling in your mind, and as it's such a strong contrast to Wiki's article on Eiocha, which will give you a bit of an idea how to tune your bullshit filters when dealing with Celtic material.

Actually, I'm inclined to recommend that you take some time to get a basic grounding in the range of ways 'Celtic' is or has been used, by (among others) linguists, archaeo-anthropologists, Romantic nationalists, and Romantic/Victorian literary figures; doing so will be quite effective as a bullshit detector. I don't have time to elaborate just now myself, but Wikipedia will likely cover much of what that archive-board link I gave you earlier doesn't, and I'll give you a bit more when I have time. One caveat: it can turn into a very very deep rabbithole.

Sunflower

Turns out this particular rabbithole does have an end and it's your Oran Mór discovery that helped me find it - Eiocha and the Oran Mór creation myth are fabrications of neo-druid Frank Mills in the 90s (at least according to Quora which is obviously a super authoritative source...). Since the most comprehensive version of the myth I've been able to find also cites Frank Mills (providing dead links) and the limited info online on the guy doesn't support him being a very authoritative source, I'm inclined to consider the Quora entry as probably accurate.

Darn. I really wanted that myth to at least have real roots somewhere... Then again, that feeling of wanting it to be true was also what set off some red flags in terms of thinking it might just be too neat and tidy... Most of the better sourced mythology I've been coming across seems to be less shinily packaged and require more work to relate to.

Thanks so much for your help with this! And for pointing me to that DuckDuckGo search engine. I have a love-hate relationship with Google and would love to find a more privacy respecting alternative.

Flying is learning how to throw yourself at the ground and miss - Douglas Adams
To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all - Oscar Wilde

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