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Author Topic: The transition from pagan to christian in Ireland  (Read 2175 times)

llwynog

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The transition from pagan to christian in Ireland
« on: May 01, 2014, 06:15:16 pm »
I took the recommendation to read Celtic Mythology by MacCana from a member of the forum (excellent recommendation). The book is excellent but I wanted to know if anyone is familiar with the conversion from pagan to Christian. I read several discussions from this forum about the goddess Brighid and the associated St Brighid as well as others with similar connections between pagan and Christian. The author discusses the different fates of the druids vs the filidh with the later continuing long after the druids disappeared. He says that the filidh continued druid functions and privileges into the first few centuries when Ireland changed to Christianity. Does anyone know a source or can some insight to this transition?

Phouka

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Re: The transition from pagan to christian in Ireland
« Reply #1 on: May 01, 2014, 07:50:39 pm »
Quote from: llwynog;146537
I took the recommendation to read Celtic Mythology by MacCana from a member of the forum (excellent recommendation). The book is excellent but I wanted to know if anyone is familiar with the conversion from pagan to Christian. I read several discussions from this forum about the goddess Brighid and the associated St Brighid as well as others with similar connections between pagan and Christian. The author discusses the different fates of the druids vs the filidh with the later continuing long after the druids disappeared. He says that the filidh continued druid functions and privileges into the first few centuries when Ireland changed to Christianity. Does anyone know a source or can some insight to this transition?


Of course, there are the stories about St. Patrick explaining the trinity with a shamrock and also lighting a paschal fire on Slane Hill before the Ostara fire was lit at Tara.

However, the conversion of the Irish was one of the few (if not only) group of pagans that were converted with no violence or bloodshed.

Phouka

Oíche

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Re: The transition from pagan to christian in Ireland
« Reply #2 on: May 01, 2014, 10:10:45 pm »
Quote from: Phouka;146542
However, the conversion of the Irish was one of the few (if not only) group of pagans that were converted with no violence or bloodshed.

Phouka

 
This.
Christianity is thought to have come via trade to Ireland in the early centuries AD- we had much contact with the Roman world, etc so it was only natural that Christianity would make it's way here.
There's a lot of good information out there but here's a few basics :D
Rome sent a bishop named Palladius long before Patrick to 'the Irish who believed in Christ'- most of us take this as meaning there was a large enough group in Ireland to require a bishop. He just isn't as well known as Patrick.
The oldest church sites in the country are in Co. Kerry.
When it comes to druids and such, there are legal references to them in later centuries AD (after Ireland became Christian) as being a class of 'nemed' and there are also references to them still holding societal roles, albeit of a much lower standing. Off the top of my head, I think the last reference I've seen dates to the 7/8th century or so in the form of a list of nemed in reference to early Irish law. A good book for law is Fergus Kelly's A guide to Early Irish Law- I highly recommend that for getting an idea of how society functioned :)

It also might be worth it for you to look at Hagiography (Saint's Lives). This is the branch of Celtic Studies which deals with the manuscripts and texts regarding various saints and their stories. The popular myths about Patrick, such as him slaying druids and whatnot come from these texts. In Patrick's case, the embellishment of his story was done in order to help boost his popularity and standing for the church at Armagh (basically they were in competition with other places such as Kildare and Clonmacnoise etc. for money and support from local kings- what better way to gain support than give your saint an extra boost/powers? :) ).

I'm always happy to see people look more into the history :D It's quite a vast area but I'd like to help in any way and I can and try and answer questions.
I'm in exam-mode for this very material at the moment, so ask away! (I'll count it as study :P )
'You're my friend, and I love you- but you really look like a witch!!'

Micheál

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Re: The transition from pagan to christian in Ireland
« Reply #3 on: May 02, 2014, 03:32:59 am »
Quote from: llwynog;146537
I took the recommendation to read Celtic Mythology by MacCana from a member of the forum (excellent recommendation). The book is excellent but I wanted to know if anyone is familiar with the conversion from pagan to Christian. I read several discussions from this forum about the goddess Brighid and the associated St Brighid as well as others with similar connections between pagan and Christian. The author discusses the different fates of the druids vs the filidh with the later continuing long after the druids disappeared. He says that the filidh continued druid functions and privileges into the first few centuries when Ireland changed to Christianity. Does anyone know a source or can some insight to this transition?

 Dáithí Ó hÓgáin's "Sacred Isle: Belief and Religion in pre-Christian Ireland" covers that. He was a folklorist so in other areas of Celtic studies may not be the best, however in covers druids v filidh, and conversion to Christianity there.

To get more technical,  F.J Byrne's "Irish Kings and High-Kings" is mostly about tribal kingship, but also covers the same, and mentions Brighid, the mantle of druids, and their roles in pre-Christian and in transition times.

Oíche

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Re: The transition from pagan to christian in Ireland
« Reply #4 on: May 02, 2014, 10:03:16 am »
Quote from: Micheál;146565
Dáithí Ó hÓgáin's "Sacred Isle: Belief and Religion in pre-Christian Ireland" covers that. He was a folklorist so in other areas of Celtic studies may not be the best, however in covers druids v filidh, and conversion to Christianity there.

To get more technical,  F.J Byrne's "Irish Kings and High-Kings" is mostly about tribal kingship, but also covers the same, and mentions Brighid, the mantle of druids, and their roles in pre-Christian and in transition times.

 
Both these books are very good- especially Irish Kings and High-Kings :D:
'You're my friend, and I love you- but you really look like a witch!!'

Micheál

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Re: The transition from pagan to christian in Ireland
« Reply #5 on: May 02, 2014, 10:05:33 am »
Quote from: Cág;146573
Both these books are very good- especially Irish Kings and High-Kings :D:

I think that one's brilliant! :D:

Oíche

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Re: The transition from pagan to christian in Ireland
« Reply #6 on: May 02, 2014, 08:12:48 pm »
Quote from: Micheál;146574
I think that one's brilliant! :D:

 
Oh definitely! It's on my little list of books to pick up a personal copy of next year. I'm tired of having to go to the library for certain books all the time so I'm making a list for the next Book Depository order XD
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llwynog

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Re: The transition from pagan to christian in Ireland
« Reply #7 on: May 05, 2014, 06:03:54 pm »
Quote from: Cág;146604
Oh definitely! It's on my little list of books to pick up a personal copy of next year. I'm tired of having to go to the library for certain books all the time so I'm making a list for the next Book Depository order XD

 
Thank you both for the input. It is especially nice coming from someone living in the country at question and I will see if I can get a hold of those books. Considering the transition was not so violent and the transformation of pagan symbols were converted to Christian then how blended was the resulting religion? Was there some blending of the two religions even if they ultimately considered themselves Christian.  From what I have learned so far and knowing how people in general tend to avoid drastic change to beliefs I would think they may have some form of blend of beliefs, but what one thinks and what was is not always the same.

Micheál

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Re: The transition from pagan to christian in Ireland
« Reply #8 on: May 05, 2014, 07:03:29 pm »
Quote from: llwynog;146887
Thank you both for the input. It is especially nice coming from someone living in the country at question and I will see if I can get a hold of those books. Considering the transition was not so violent and the transformation of pagan symbols were converted to Christian then how blended was the resulting religion? Was there some blending of the two religions even if they ultimately considered themselves Christian.  From what I have learned so far and knowing how people in general tend to avoid drastic change to beliefs I would think they may have some form of blend of beliefs, but what one thinks and what was is not always the same.

No bother.....yea with any culture that adopts or succumbs to another influential faith there's a certain amount of syncretic blending with indigenous practises that happen as well. One only has to look at books like the Carmina Gadelica to see that folk Catholicism in Gaelic lands have retained many pagan undertones, with some practises obviously carried on from remnants of their pre-Christian origins.

Oíche

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Re: The transition from pagan to christian in Ireland
« Reply #9 on: May 06, 2014, 08:00:44 pm »
Quote from: llwynog;146887
Thank you both for the input. It is especially nice coming from someone living in the country at question and I will see if I can get a hold of those books. Considering the transition was not so violent and the transformation of pagan symbols were converted to Christian then how blended was the resulting religion? Was there some blending of the two religions even if they ultimately considered themselves Christian.  From what I have learned so far and knowing how people in general tend to avoid drastic change to beliefs I would think they may have some form of blend of beliefs, but what one thinks and what was is not always the same.

 
Quote from: Micheál;146895
No bother.....yea with any culture that adopts or succumbs to another influential faith there's a certain amount of syncretic blending with indigenous practises that happen as well. One only has to look at books like the Carmina Gadelica to see that folk Catholicism in Gaelic lands have retained many pagan undertones, with some practises obviously carried on from remnants of their pre-Christian origins.

 
No bother! :D:
Basically what Micheál said. Religious belief would have been part of the over-all culture probably, just like today, so a blending would have occurred to a certain degree culturally. :)
Also, the monks and scribes found the old stories important enough to record so likely they probably still held a certain amount of interest.
'You're my friend, and I love you- but you really look like a witch!!'

llwynog

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Re: The transition from pagan to christian in Ireland
« Reply #10 on: May 07, 2014, 02:47:52 pm »
Quote from: Cág;146961
No bother! :D:
Basically what Micheál said. Religious belief would have been part of the over-all culture probably, just like today, so a blending would have occurred to a certain degree culturally. :)
Also, the monks and scribes found the old stories important enough to record so likely they probably still held a certain amount of interest.

 
That seems much more probable that the image I was taught the past. The presentation I was given (and not someone from Ireland) was the conversion complete and the old pagan religion was completely removed from the society and replaced with Christianity which saved the people of Ireland. We know from Native Americans that their conversion to Christianity was not so complete despite considerable pressure. Many did convert, but many superficially went along to avoid to avoid conflict and practice their traditional ways and maintain the language. It seems reasonable that the Irish people especially in more isolated palaces would continue the traditions and rituals they were familiar with just a new main god at the top. Do you know any of the rituals that did continue despite the fact they were not specifically Christian?

Phouka

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Re: The transition from pagan to christian in Ireland
« Reply #11 on: May 08, 2014, 10:08:45 am »
Quote from: Cág;146552
This.
 )

 
Thanks Cag. I should just come to Ireland and study with you. It would make my life sooo much easier. You have access to literature I would kill to have. Oh, I know, after I finish my degree in Psychology I'll get a Master's in Library Science and come to Ireland and become a Librarian at Trinity.:)

Phouka

Oíche

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Re: The transition from pagan to christian in Ireland
« Reply #12 on: May 11, 2014, 11:45:28 am »
Quote from: llwynog;147012
That seems much more probable that the image I was taught the past. The presentation I was given (and not someone from Ireland) was the conversion complete and the old pagan religion was completely removed from the society and replaced with Christianity which saved the people of Ireland. We know from Native Americans that their conversion to Christianity was not so complete despite considerable pressure. Many did convert, but many superficially went along to avoid to avoid conflict and practice their traditional ways and maintain the language. It seems reasonable that the Irish people especially in more isolated palaces would continue the traditions and rituals they were familiar with just a new main god at the top. Do you know any of the rituals that did continue despite the fact they were not specifically Christian?


That tends to be the outdated presentation a lot of people who don't really know about tend to give. XD It's the same as the 'Celtic Invasion' theory- outdated and not supported by any evidence :)
Well many saint's days and holy days have older and traditional customs attached, especially in rural areas (although many are dying out with time)- a good book to check out would be The Year in Ireland by Kevin Danahar. We don't have any evidence for the older pre-Christian rituals that may have taken place but customs change and get passed down so I'd imagine some things might have an older background, but it's hard to say :)
 
Quote from: Phouka;147067
Thanks Cag. I should just come to Ireland and study with you. It would make my life sooo much easier. You have access to literature I would kill to have. Oh, I know, after I finish my degree in Psychology I'll get a Master's in Library Science and come to Ireland and become a Librarian at Trinity.:)

Phouka


Oh that library is beautiful! :D: A lot of the literature I study is available online via CELT :)
'You're my friend, and I love you- but you really look like a witch!!'

Phouka

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Re: The transition from pagan to christian in Ireland
« Reply #13 on: May 12, 2014, 12:38:41 pm »
Quote from: Cág;146552
This.
Christianity is thought to have come via trade to Ireland in the early centuries AD- we had much contact with the Roman world, etc so it was only natural that Christianity would make it's way here.
There's a lot of good information out there but here's a few basics :D
Rome sent a bishop named Palladius long before Patrick to 'the Irish who believed in Christ'- most of us take this as meaning there was a large enough group in Ireland to require a bishop. He just isn't as well known as Patrick.
The oldest church sites in the country are in Co. Kerry.
When it comes to druids and such, there are legal references to them in later centuries AD (after Ireland became Christian) as being a class of 'nemed' and there are also references to them still holding societal roles, albeit of a much lower standing. Off the top of my head, I think the last reference I've seen dates to the 7/8th century or so in the form of a list of nemed in reference to early Irish law. A good book for law is Fergus Kelly's A guide to Early Irish Law- I highly recommend that for getting an idea of how society functioned :)

It also might be worth it for you to look at Hagiography (Saint's Lives). This is the branch of Celtic Studies which deals with the manuscripts and texts regarding various saints and their stories. The popular myths about Patrick, such as him slaying druids and whatnot come from these texts. In Patrick's case, the embellishment of his story was done in order to help boost his popularity and standing for the church at Armagh (basically they were in competition with other places such as Kildare and Clonmacnoise etc. for money and support from local kings- what better way to gain support than give your saint an extra boost/powers? :) ).

I'm always happy to see people look more into the history :D It's quite a vast area but I'd like to help in any way and I can and try and answer questions.
I'm in exam-mode for this very material at the moment, so ask away! (I'll count it as study :P )

 
I have to meet you when I come to Ireland. I've got a savings account and am planning to come after I graduate from college in 2017. Actually I have to meet all Cauldronites who live in Ireland. If my 63 old bod lets me.
Phouka

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