This paper begins by assessing Roland Barthes theory of ‘Mythologies’ and its primary elements and uses these tools to analyse recent Irish media texts successfully advocating the consumption of Irish foods. However, while the ‘Buy Irish’ campaign has been successful in creating demand the Irish economy has failed in delivering Irish product to demanding consumers by ignoring the confusion as to ‘what is’ and ‘what is not’ Irish product. Using the examples of ‘Siucra’ Irish sugar and ‘Lyons Tea’, both publicly perceived as Irish but, in fact, imported goods and how each of these are marketed and promoted Barthes theory of Mythologies can demonstrate how myth can be exploited for commercial gain.
Roland Barthes classic ‘Mythologies’ (1984) while not explicitly focused on media has contributed a way of looking at language, images, signs and symbols that have helped media analysts to consider the ways in which our responses to media texts are framed by our reading of a symbolic language that is entirely cultural and based on oppositions and relations between significations. In other words, it is the difference between things, not the properties of individual things, that constructs meaning and Barthes’ ‘myth’ can be used to decode a single sign. (McDougall, 2012)
According to Roland Barthes his notion of Mythologies stems from his feeling of impatience at the sight of the ‘naturalness’ with which newspapers, art and common sense constantly dress up a reality which, even though it is the one we live in, is undoubtedly determined by history. Thus, he argues, nature and history are confused by ideological abuse. The notion of myth, he contends, seems to explain examples of the falsely obvious.
Myth, for Barthes, was a mode of representation characterised above all by its self evident truth, its naturalness. The origin of Mythologies lay in Barthes’ rejection of the way in which newspapers, magazines, films and exhibitions represented social constructions – the outcome of historical and political struggles – is simply natural or common sense. (Masterman, 1984) For Barthes’s, the production of myths is conditional upon two, linked repressions of history and of politics. The transformation of history into nature was, for Barthes, “the very principle of myth” (Masterman, 1984).
Language is a corpus of prescriptions and habits pervading the signifier’s expression without endowing it with form or content: “language is an abstract circle of truths” (Barthes, 1953) Barthes further states that ‘mythology’ is a language surrounding social phenomena in contemporary society. (Barthes, 1991) Myth, then, is a type of speech, a system of communication, a message. It is a mode of signification. Everything can be defined as a myth because there is no law forbidding discourse on any subject or matter. “A tree is a tree” but it is no longer a tree when it becomes the subject of the Romantic poets. It is a tree which is decorated, adapted for consumption and laden with literary self-indulgence. Some, but not all, objects created in mythical language become permanently mythological. Myth is a type of speech chosen by history and cannot possibly evolve from the ‘nature’ of things.
The media has served as a support to this mythical language. The images we are exposed to are given for specific purposes of signification. (Barthes, 1991) Pictures and words are predetermined texts distorted by mythology and decipherable by semiology. Such texts are no longer concerned with facts except inasmuch as they are endowed with significance. Semiology studies signification and is not a science that is necessary but sufficient in the deconstruction of these texts. Semiology postulates a relationship between signifier and signified but takes little account of the sign itself. There are functional implications to this distinction which are of capital importance for the study of myth as semiological schema.
Semiology is restricted because it knows only one operation: reading, or deciphering. (Barthes, 1991) This concept is best understood by looking at any text used for the purpose of public consumption. For example, the image of Mickey Mouse standing outside Disneyland in a wizards outfit waving a wand with magical stars flying all around him is an image constructed to signify that a holiday in Disney World will be magical. However, to each individual the signification is a mythological interpretation influenced by nature and history. The meaning of the myth has its own value; it belongs to a history which postulates a kind of knowledge, past, a memory, and a comparative order of facts, ideas, and decisions. It is this confusion between meaning and form which defines myth. The signifier, personified by Mickey Mouse, is the accomplice of the artificial concept. In relation to the signified, now motivated by a seemingly unambiguous text, is caused to unconditionally accept and utter the perpetrated myth. A whole new history is implanted into the myth and the signified becomes the signifier and this repetition of the concept through different forms is precious to the mythologist determined to decipher the myth. Myths are organic in that they grow, change and alter as history progresses and thus the deciphering of myths requires neologism to identify concepts that are not arbitrary. The association of signifier and signified and the relationship between the two can be defined as the signification. This signification is the myth itself and it too has characteristic modes of correlation of the mythical concept and the mythical form. The function of myth is to distort and deform but not obliterate or abolish the meaning. The mythical signifier is formless and based on historicity and as such is flexible.
Deciphering a myth is not a challenging process. “Disneyworld is magical” is a signified myth produced by the symbol of Mickey Mouse. The myth is perpetuated by the Media seeking a form for it. The creation of such form distorts the meaning and an ambiguous signification is transmitted. Myth transforms history into nature but to understand clearly how this process works a more appropriate and Irish example is needed.
One of Ireland’s most pervasive consumer myths in relation to food is ‘if it looks Irish, it is Irish’ and by patriotically consuming these products local and national economies will prosper, jobs will be created and ultimately an autonomous society can better endure the assault of globalisation. This successful myth, created by Media texts, propounds the virtues of Irish foods, shopping local and buying Irish. Consumers responded and market research suggests the demand for Irish products is escalating. However, the global economy has, perhaps deliberately, retaliated by filling market shelves with counterfeit Irish foodstuffs that are near impossible to differentiate from national produce.
A cursory search of any Irish newspaper reveals editorial, advertorials, advertising and reports on success stories of the Irish food industries luminary manufacturers reaping rewards of national and international recognition. “The strength of Ireland’s food industry is evident in the latest directory of the Top 100 food and drink manufacturers in Britain and Ireland” (ISSUU, 2011) According to the publication; “There are three Irish companies in the top 10”. (Irish Times, 2012). Such glowing accolades for the industry have perpetrated a myth to Irish consumers regarding the alleged superior quality of Irish food, endorsed by superior forces, which consequently enrich the demand for Irish home-produced foods. The campaign is successful in that the demand has increased.
Irish supermarket chain Dunnes Stores highlight their Irishness with the epitaph “The difference is we are Irish” while International Supermarket chains such as Tesco, Lidl, and Aldi are going to strains to create a mythological Irishness to consumers. The media is saturated in News articles reporting the latest of the innumerable ‘Irish’ food awards being presented to these international chains and their ‘local’ suppliers. Blatant headlines such as; “Aldi’s Suppliers Success At National Irish Food Awards” (Nenagh Guardian, 2012), and “Great Times For Irish Cheese Makers” (Digby, 2012), are highlighting awards for Irish food companies such as Knockdrinna Gold, Killeen, Burren Gold and Dingle Peninsula Cheese. Such reports maintain an impression that Irish food is freely and readily available but this impression is not entirely accurate.
In an Irish Times report Manchan Magan challenged himself to “eating only Irish food” to determine is it possible to survive on Irish-made produce alone. “I turned to the supermarkets for Irish food and realised how complicated this was going to be.” (Magan, 2012) In his article he reveals that Boyne Valley Honey is not Irish, Donegal Catch fish is Chilean, Siucra Irish Sugar is British, Guinness’ main ingredients are Australian and Chips, as in Supermacs, an Irish fast-food chain which claims in their logo to be “100% Irish”, actually import Belgian potatoes. Magan concludes “If Irish goods were not so difficult to find, I’d never buy an imported product again.”
An estimated 45% of branded grocery food products sold in 2011/2012 was imported according to research which found that Ireland’s total grocery market was worth €7.1 billion with branded products making up 47% of that. However, 45%, of the branded products sold in Ireland in 2011/2012 were actually imported (Kantar Worldpanel, 2012). Irish research has also uncovered “considerable confusion” (Love Irish Food, 2012) about well-known Irish brands. 80% of those surveyed believed imported ‘Siucra’ was produced in Ireland. Some 77% believed Lyons Tea was produced in Ireland and 71% thought the HB ice-cream brand was Irish. (Healy, 2012)
These results prove confusion over the origin of Irish foods. Imported brands with Irish-sounding names are confusing people. These foodstuffs might best be referred to as ‘mythical Irish’. There is also confusion about brands that might have been manufactured in Ireland previously but have moved their manufacturing facilities abroad. “These results give indication as to the confusion which exists” (Love Irish Food, 2012). The market for mythical-Irish foods is vibrant due to the demand for genuine Irish food. Research by Bord Bia found 85% of shoppers were loyal towards Irish brands. (Bord Bia, 2011) However, this research found half of branded products purchased as Irish were, in fact, imported. International manufacturers are clearly aware of the demand for genuine Irish food and have responded with branding foreign products with an artificial Irish identity.
This difficulty in finding Irish produce on supermarket shelves was highlighted by the Irish Food Writers’ Guild at its 18th Annual Awards. Myrtle Allen, “one of the pioneers of the movement to promote locally produced Irish food” (Irish Foodwriters Guild, 2010) claimed Irish farmers and growers produced some of the highest quality food in the world and yet it was often a challenge to find something as simple as an Irish apple in Irish shops. (Healy, 2012)
From this example we can understand clearly how the myth reader is led to rationalise the signified by means of the signifier; namely Irish consumers seeking Irish goods (the signified) and believing that they are buying genuine Irish goods presented to them by international companies, endorsed by Media texts (signifiers). Large print Newspaper headlines such as “Retaining Loyalty to Irish Brands” and “Irish consumers spending an estimated €1.5bn on imported food brands” imply that there is urgency for government, always presented by the press as the essence of efficacy, to legislate to protect the Irish economy. The signification of the myth follows clearly from this: genuine Irish foodstuffs are suffering because the government is allowing fake Irish foodstuffs to be readily available to consumers. The myth is imperfectible and unquestionable; time or knowledge will not make it better and worse. (Barthes, 1991) Also, because the signifier and the signified have a natural relationship, the consumer takes the signification as factual. The availability of fake Irish foodstuffs is either due to the demand for cheaper home produced food or governments alleged choice not to protect the Irish food industry. In either case the government is accountable.
In any everyday situation we are likely to be confronted by thousands of signifying systems and instances of signifying output. We call these signs. These signifying systems include the language we use to communicate with, the signs that direct us to destinations, to the myriad of media texts that are presented to us or merge into the background of our everyday lives. (Long & Wall, 2009) We are relentlessly exposed throughout a normal day to these signs that plaster our environment and compete for our attention.
The Siucra and Lyons Tea advertisements are two such media text that might appear on a billboard or perhaps in a glossy magazine we might buy intentionally or browse to pass the time while waiting at the doctor’s surgery or hairdressing salon. We might pay them some close attention in a magazine or newspaper or glimpse them as we drive by or opt to ignore them if they appear as a pop-up as we surf the web. In all cases we rarely have to stop to pick up meaning and so all of the factors in these text works together in their impact.
Any analysis must begin with the text and what we make of it. The logic here is that for textual meaning to work we already know what it means; the object is to understand how it means what it does and how meaning is marshalled, organised and anchored in order to make each text effective. The meaning of the Siucra branding is clear, obvious and incontrovertible; by virtue of its name alone this product is Irish. Lyons Tea, previously manufactured in Ireland but capitalising on its historicity, in its ongoing campaign focuses on the idea that ‘talk’ is the secret ingredient in its tea; “It’s no secret that Irish people are both big talkers and big tea drinkers. The secret is we, at Lyons, have been adding talk to the tea” (Hurley, 2010). The encoded message is in the ‘we’ as one of ‘us’ Irish. Ireland’s king of talk radio Joe Duffy spearheads the campaign to reinforce the message. In both cases the images and words shown in the text is a combination of complex signs that are designed to sell more product but he subtext is ‘we are Irish’. Neither advertisement spells out anything directly or plainly for a reader but both remain loaded with significance. The ads have been constructed to have a certain affect. They both elevate brand recognition and urge us to buy the ‘Irish’ product. Closer examination of these subjectively constructed adverts demonstrates allegiance to the convention that the logo is clearly obvious thus suggesting Irish pride. Here then, at the level of mythology, nature is invoked in excess, but clearly not spoken about in an obvious way (‘Siucra is a natural Irish product and Lyons Tea enhances one’s communication abilities because ‘good Irish talkers’ drink ‘good Irish Lyons’ tea). The products are presented not as manufactured, artificial goods but as ‘natural’ and more desirable. The ‘Irish’ images become pawns of economic exchange. The products are not only desirable but also are accessible for all who can afford them. For the consumers who are the intended audience for these adverts, they are asked to recognise the images as natural Irish and therefore more desirable. Furthermore, we should not forget the alibi here that the denotative meanings confer upon the connotative aspects of the signs. These are, after all, just adverts and images, without hidden meanings, asking us to buy these products that will naturally enhance our lives but, in both cases, not only can we achieve these enhancements but also demonstrate patriotism and loyalty to our national identity.
In Roland Barthes essay on his concept of mythology ‘Myth Today’ (Barthes, 1991) he considers media images in his reading and his aim is to make a point about the nature of texts and the ideas they present, how they are all around us in everyday life and he saw media messages as never-ending rather than reducible to any one instance. At the level of connotation we can appreciate that such images, as demonstrated by Siucra and Lyons, present us with an association of patriotism by supporting Irish brands and, by such, there is already a symbolic aspect to the signs. However, if we consider the nature of myth the literalness of the images offers what Barthes calls an ‘alibi’ for any further interpretation or accusation that these are something more than innocent adverts; “it is again this duplicity of the signifier which determines the characters of the signification…myth is a type of speech defined by its intention…much more than by its literal sense…and in spite of this, its intension is somehow frozen, purified, eternalised, made absent by this literal sense. This constituent ambiguity of mythical speech has two consequences for the signification, which henceforth appears both like a notification and like a statement of fact” (Barthes, 1991).
Such mythological moments are part of a chain of signification in a culture (in this case Ireland of the 2000’s) and not an isolated case but part of a whole social context in which such meanings have value. It is an example of what Barthes calls a ‘type of speech’ in which ‘culture’ is turned into nature.
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All Irish history from around 1550 onward can be regarded as an extended comment on the Catholic question. However, contemporary historians use the term the ‘Catholic question’ in reference to the readmission of Catholics to full civil, religious and political equality in three ways, which were timing, terms and sponsorship. At what point could such concessions with safety be made and with what safeguards and under whose auspices should these concessions be made.
18th-century Ireland was a Protestant country in which all political power and most social and economic consequence was confined to those who conformed to the established church; Irish Protestants were keenly aware that they constituted a minority of the Irish population. The “Protestant Nation” as they considered themselves were well aware that the sole basis of their claim to be not just ‘a people’ but ‘the people of Ireland’ lay in the destruction of Catholic power, the confiscation of Catholic land and concurrent denial to Catholics of social and political authority. They had every right to be deeply concerned when something called ‘the Catholic question’ emerged in Ireland in the late 1760s.
The emergence of the Catholic question which would progress to dominate the Anglo-Irish political agenda, cannot but have alarmed Protestant opinion in Ireland. The penal laws had been enacted to ensure the hopes of a Catholic recovery would be forever forlorn. English opinion of the so-called Catholic menace augured well for Irish Protestants. Given that the Catholic question appeared to have been once and for all resolved by the beginning of the 18th century, how then can its re-emergence be explained by the 1760s? One answer would be that Catholics had shown by their good behaviour conduct that they felt deserved favour.
The ideas of Enlightenment were having an influence on Ireland and notions of persecution for religious belief were generally reprobated throughout Europe. It is important to realize that Enlightenment was, more or less, anti-Catholic and the teachings of the Catholic Church were cast as the biggest obstacle to the spread of enlightened ideas. In short, Irish Protestants could legitimately comfort themselves that the Penal Laws, by putting dependency on adherence to superstition and general ignorance, were actually forwarding the work of the Enlightenment.
Another reason frequently advanced for the emergence of the Catholic question around mid-century was the perception that a wealthy Catholic merchant class had grown up and that Catholic money, because of the penal laws, was shut out of the Irish economy, the land market in particular.
It may be that the chief reasons for the emergence of the Catholic question by 1760 Leidy in changes within the political world of Protestant Ireland and also in developments within the Anglo-Irish relationship itself. In the history of the rise of the Catholic question, the Money Bill dispute of the 1750s marked a watershed for it sowed divisions among Irish Protestants and arouse suspicions in the minds of British ministers about the reliability of Irish Protestants. In creating these tensions between governing elites the Money Bill dispute gave Irish Catholics their chance to stand forward. It comes as no surprise to learn that it was at the time of the Money Bill dispute that a Catholic committee of sorts was convened to consider Catholic grievances and to seek redress.
The chemistry of the Anglo-Irish relationship was changing with the growth of a Protestant nationalism which alarmed English politicians and led them to believe that new alliances in Ireland should be contemplated in order to restrain the exuberance of Irish Protestant self-assertion. There was never any question of replacing the Protestant interest with the Catholic one but British ministers saw it as common sense to keep on good terms with Irish Catholics, if only to remind Irish Protestants that, though they might called themselves the people of Ireland, there was another people on the island who could equally lay claim to that title.
The fears of Irish Protestants took second place to the very real needs of the Empire and also to the requirements of the Armed Forces of the crown. The scale and extent of warfare along with the expansion of empire may offer good reasons for the emergence, at this time, of the Catholic question. There is a certain irony in this; the Catholic question in the early 18th century had also been linked to the trash of war, Irish Catholics had been seen as Jacobites in sympathy and thus inherently disloyal; they maintained what amounted to a standing army abroad; the so-called Irish Brigade in the service of France which recruited clandestinely among Irish Catholics; and when wars did break out, as for example in 1743 at the start of the war of the Austrian succession, it was usual for extra security precautions to be taken against them. Military necessity, essentially the manpower requirements of the British Army, provides the context for the Americans of the Catholic question in the 1760s and its persistence thereafter.
Catholic recruits were taken into the armed forces in increasing numbers. Irish Protestants grew restive at this development and suspected that the British government in its eternal quest for troops was not above offering Catholic relief in return for Catholic recruits. These suspicions were not groundless; for there was in fact a plan to offer concessions to the Catholics of England, Scotland and Ireland, and this scheme formed the background to the Catholic Relief Act of 1778, the first major breach in the penal code. This act repealed some of the penal laws concerning ownership of land by Catholics but its main aim was to encourage the Catholic gentry to beat the recruiting drum and enlist their co-religionists into the British Army.
Towards the end of the American War, another major Catholic Relief Act was passed and this act effectively repealed those penal laws directed specifically at the practice of the Catholic religion. This time, however, the concession was not granted with an eye to recruits but with an intention of keeping Irish Catholics detached from the Volunteers.
In the highly charged atmosphere produced by the French Revolution, the matter of relief for Catholics was once again actively canvassed. In the 1780s the Catholic question had remained in abeyance, because of Catholic support for Volunteers in 1782. The Catholics, having been courted by the volunteers, has soon been abandoned by them: the volunteer plan for parliamentary reform made no attempt to include Catholic franchise or representation. This parliamentary reform campaign which to volunteers embarked on in the early 1780s quickly ran out of steam but from the failure of that campaign certain lessons were learned by the more committed reformers. Any future reform movement had to enlist the support of the Catholics if it was to make any headway. In this realization lay the seeds of the future Society Of United Irishmen.
This society was set up in Belfast in 1791 and aimed to curb the influence of England in the government of Ireland through parliamentary reform. Theobald Wolfe Tone stressed that no reform is practicable if it does not include the Catholics. The British government were alarmed at the rise of the United Irishmen and urged that major concessions being made the Catholics in order to head off future problems. Dublin Castle resisted and concessions offered fell far short of those demanded. British government responded by repealing penal laws and by extending the parliamentary franchise to Irish Catholics on the same terms as Irish Protestants: it seemed to be only a matter of time before Catholics were restored to full political equality in Ireland.
Catholic Relief Acts.
The scale of concessions were revolutionary and one can find explanation for this generosity in that area where political considerations and military requirements intersected. British government were alarmed by the United Irishmen and hence no steps were spared to stop the popularity of this organization. United Irishmen were harassed, suppressed and banned. However, the ever-expanding group could bring pressure on England desirous of conciliation with Catholics rather than provocation leading to association with the enemy. Within a generation, the British state had gone from a policy of firm exclusion of Catholic soldiers to one of forced inclusion; from fear of Catholic numbers to reliance on them to meet the needs of war.
Closing The Concession Account.
With Irish Catholics now having the vote on the same terms as Irish Protestants, and with their playing a front-line role in the defence of Ireland in the event of a French invasion, it might have been assumed that the Catholic question was now over. But this was not to be the case. The right of Catholics, if elected to take their seat in Parliament, proved elusive. Mounting violence in Ireland, widespread evidence of a well organized conspiracy to subvert the government, and the prospect of a long war against France combined to make British ministers close the concession account where Irish Catholics were concerned. Catholic emancipation, as it was now called, remained so elusive that it was becoming clear that it would never be given; it could only be taken. And this could only be achieved when the Catholic question was divorced from party politics and from questions of defense and military strategy. The Catholic question could only be addressed properly when it was finally recognized for what it now was – are in fact may have been all along – the Irish question.
The Catholic Question in the Eighteenth Century
This essay shall explore the purpose and origins of the Irish penal laws which have always been subjects of contention amongst historians. These laws have been viewed as ruthless in their primary purpose of the suppression of Catholics. It has been argued that the penal laws were tolerated by an Irish Parliament greedy for land and wealth. However the first two Irish penal laws of 1695 allegedly aimed at disarming Catholics and prohibiting foreign education were the result of a definite policy which existed in Ireland from the time of the Williamite war. These laws were based on English statutes and Irish proclamations and their primary motive was the security of the Protestant interest.
Fear of Catholic Europe remained constant as long as England was at war with France and in the search for greater security a policy developed for disarming Irish Catholics, which was actively supported by William III and his government. The core of this 1695 security legislation comprised two penal laws, one for disarming and dismounting Catholics, the other for prohibiting foreign education. In order to understand the development and implementation of these first two penal laws, the prevailing attitude among Irish Protestants towards Catholics from the outset of the Williamite war must be explored.
A full body of penal legislation existed in England dating back to the reign of Elizabeth but the Irish experience was very different. In England the penal code covered vast areas relating to Catholic worship, organization and personal rights. The main impetus for the most repressive acts stemmed from fears for state security. These fears were in existence since the gunpowder plot and Parliament wanted to act to prevent and avoid dangers which grow by popish recusants imposing the fullest range of disabilities on Catholics within the entire penal code. These acts were to play an important role in the formulation of the Irish penal laws of 1695. Catholics in Ireland did not escape this anti-papist hysteria.
In general the Irish government tended to follow the English feed in taking repressive action. The influence of the English anti-Catholic tradition and fitful penal repression upon the minds of the Irish government and Irish Protestants during the restoration and, most importantly, after the reign of James II was to be significant. After the Williamite war securing the Protestant interest in Ireland became of paramount concern for the Irish government and Irish Protestants, creating a new dynamic within the Protestant political nation for security-based penal legislation. The Irish government and Protestant nation used past proclamations, existing English penal laws and past experience to create a modus operandi for the first Irish penal laws. Ultimately the two penal laws of 1695 were an integral part of the efforts to secure the Protestant interest against internal discontent and external interference.
From a Protestant perspective Irish Catholics were the enemy while at the same time the war with France kept alive fears of a French invasion and subsequent Catholic insurrection in Ireland. While Irish Protestants were perceived in England as having affection for King William the same could not be said for Irish Catholics who were considered papist Jacobites engaged in the cause of King James and justifying their violent ways by their bigotry to their false religion.
Add to this the fact that there was a close affinity between Irish Catholics and the papist anti-William French revolutionists and it seemed that Protestants beliefs were beyond doubt and fully justified. The Irish Parliament of 1692 would be predominantly anti-Catholic and the threat of Catholic Ireland had have to be combated in order to secure the Protestant interest.
Efforts to secure the English and Protestant interest in Ireland took various forms. The most immediate issue at the end of the war was the safe dispersal of the Jacobite army. Many had gone to France with Sarsfield but there was a fear that the remaining forces would turn their attentions against King William. Attempts to recruit ex-Jacobite soldiers in Ireland were resisted by Irish Protestants and by the Irish and English governments. The plan did not succeed and the outlaws prospered as growing tensions between Catholics and Protestants all over Ireland gave credibility to new fears that a Franco-Jacobite force could invade Ireland at any moment. As long as England remained at war with France, the possibility of such an invasion was widely credited and served far defied the resolution of the English and Irish governments and Irish Protestants to settle the Catholic question permanently. Growing evidence of Irish recruitment to the French and Jacobite forces aligned against William ensured that Irish Protestants were confirmed in the belief that coercive measures were necessary for the security of the English and Protestant interest.
In any assessment of the forced penal laws, it must be remembered that the overriding motivation behind them was fear for the safety of the Protestant interest in Ireland. Irish Protestants viewed the upkeep of their interest based upon hegemony over Catholics, as not just a bid for wealth and power, but primarily as a prerequisite for survival. Hence the urgency for penal legislation can be seen as one of the main reasons, alongside financial concerns, for the calling of Parliament of 1695 and the final formulation of the penal measures of that same year.
The three main aspects of the penal legislation which would eventually be introduced in 1695 were outlined by Lord Capell as being necessary for the final settlement of Ireland; these included disarming Irish papists, prevention of keeping horses above five pounds in value and restraining foreign education. However, it must be said, that these three objectives were by no means new but what was unique here is the fact that Capell gave each of them equal importance and placed them side-by-side in any attempt in the settlement of Ireland. Capell believed it necessary for the settlement of Ireland to pass laws relating to religion, peace and secular interest. In June 1695 an initial 14 bills were transmitted to England by Capell and the Privy Council including a bill for disarming papists. Although there was some debate the bill was accepted in an amended form and passed in September 1695.
The second of the three coercive measures recommended by Capell in July 1694 was that for preventing Catholics from keeping horses above 5 pounds value or 13 hands and a half high. For Capell it was not to know just to dismount the rebels during times of danger they begin to feel the need to make it a permanent arrangement, ensuring security for the future. Furthermore, as with the disarming policy, the dismounting policy was to be directed at the whole Catholic population. The close in the penal law passed in 1695 for restricting Catholics to owning horses work 5 pounds or less adheres to this estimation of the relative values of horses fit for military service, which in turn is a copy of the 5 pounds or less value system used in the English penal laws of 1689.
Capell’s recommendation in July 1694 that a law be introduced in Ireland for preventing Catholics from keeping horses above 5 pounds value reflected the Protestant desire for laws relating to religion, peace and secular interest. The English House of Commons also insisted that the Irish Parliament should be called in order to pass such laws as shall be necessary for the security of Protestant interests. Ultimately Capell’s reference to the need for a law dismounting Catholics, as with that for disarming them, represent the fusion of the will of the Protestant interest and the perceived logical conclusion of previous Irish government policy in the early 1690s. The bill caused little debate in the Irish Parliament and passed without difficulty.
The third and final coercive measure relating to Catholics, which Capell specified was that for restraining foreign education. Capell pointed out that the bill for disarming Catholics would secure the Protestant interest but that the bill for restraining foreign education would secure the Protestant religion. From the outset the motivation for the disarming policy had been specific, tangible threats to the security of the Protestant interest. In the case of the prohibition of foreign education, concern for security against a general threat of European counter-reformation Catholicism was allied with the advent of a longer-term policy for undermining the institution of the Catholic Church in order to secure the Protestant religion. Capell’s proposal of a law specifically restraining foreign education for Irish Catholics was the first definite acknowledgment of such a singular need. The desire for such a measure was motivated not only by an awareness of the fact that Irish Catholics receiving religious education on the continent ensured the survival of the Catholic Church in Ireland, but also by the knowledge that Irish Catholics being educated abroad were in contact with exiled Irish Jacobites, many of whom were fighting in French armies under the nominal leadership of the Stuarts. These exiles kept alive Protestant fears of the Jacobite invasion and represented the spirit of resistance to Protestant rule. Contact with such individuals was detrimental to the security of the Protestant interest, as it encouraged disloyalty to the English Crown, the government and the established church. The prohibition of foreign education, while protecting the Protestant religion, would also help to secure the Protestant interest by encouraging greater loyalty from Irish Catholics and, where possible, their conversion to Protestantism. The prevailing attitude of Protestants was that foreign education for Catholics was a threat to the Protestant interest and should be prevented whenever possible. There was little controversy in relation to the bill which was returned to Ireland and presented to the Irish Parliament, where it was enacted, along with the disarming bill, in September 1695.
These three penal measures specified by Capell as necessary for the settlement of Ireland had passed to the Irish Parliament without great difficulty. They represented the logical, formulated conclusion to an amalgam of Irish Protestant attitudes towards Catholics and developing government policy, both in England and Ireland during the years immediately following the Williamite war. On the matter of security, they were part of the answer to the threat of external invasion and internal turmoil. France and England were at war and the threat of counter Reformation Catholicism and French style absolutism kept alive the constant fear for the security of the Protestant interest in Ireland. The penal laws of 1695 were an attempt to lessen that trait and to secure the benefits of the Glorious Revolution. Ultimately the first penal laws were an integral part of the securing of the Protestant interest in Ireland.
Securing the Protestant Interest: The Origins and Purpose of the Penal Laws of 1695
Charles Ivar McGrath
Globalisation is the transformation of our experiences in our local lives influenced by global forces. In our local lives we are influenced by international news, foreign music, foreign films, food, greater communications and Internet interaction. We are now connected with every other small community in the world and as such we are part of the great global community.
For example, the Americanisation of local society manifests itself in TV shows, movies and fast food. Walt Disney and Coca Cola are as much part of Irish society as they are American society. It can be said we are becoming at one with Americans. One Irish Euro sceptic Irish politician recently stated, ”We have more in common with Boston here In Ireland than we do with Berlin.” Thus, maybe the Americanisation of Irish Society is almost complete.
The question is, can this Globalisation be perceived as an attempt at American Imperialism? Deregulation has cleared the way for international trading and movement of people and products from one culture to another. Consequently, Irish culture has been so saturated by American culture that the nations true cultural identity is under threat.
There is little or no real effort to slow down this cultural exchange process. For example, in Muslim countries there is a form of protectionism, a recent ban on TV satellite systems, is a clear attempt at cultural protection.
Multiple culturalism is a feature of all modern states and restriction of any form is often regarded as tyranny or anti-capitalism dictatorship. Is this really true? Is there some authenticity to the attempt to protect ones own culture?
Procedures of rarefaction as a means of regulating discourse from within is an attack on freedom of expression but can also be seen as an attempt to protect the culture cherished by elected representatives who act on behalf of the people and only do so in the interest of a perceived common good.
American Imperialism, the domination of lesser countries by American culture, is easily perceived as the advocating of the idea that American culture is superior to any other. The mass media are the selling agents of this process of Americanisation of foreign cultures. The idea that the Big Mac is the best burger, Coca Cola is the best soft drink, Mickey Mouse is the best childrens icon, Fried Chicken is the best kind of chicken, may be no more than capitalistic promotion but, if so, it’s by-product is Americanisation.
Transnational capitalism regulates cultures. What is being globalised is capitalism as the ideal philosophy. But globalisation causes destruction of traditional cultures in the name of capitalism (consumerism). Buy the burger and support the philosophy and at the same time abandon local fare. Irish culture is sacrificed with every Euro exported to America and the process is moved a little further ahead with every Euro spent on American product.
Americanisation aims at a future of Big Macs, Coca Cola and Mickey Mouse. A global Disneyland. Is this really for our good? Should it be stopped? Should Irish society be protected from Alien influences on it’s culture?
Protectionism is a means of caretaking culture from cultural assault and spreading of American propaganda that the great American dream is the only way forward for the world and is the only true formula for a successful society.
East versus West and the reverse also applies. Islamic ideals do not get much airtime on Western television. We hear about Islamic terrorism from Hollywood and American News networks but hear very little about American terrorism on Islamic soil. Hollywood versus Bollywood and the former is winning the propaganda war. Some people have openly admitted to being nervous when they see a Muslim going in the same flight. Do Muslims feel the same way when they see a Catholic in the seat on front of them. There are Catholic terrorists too. Why are people not afraid of them?
The Americanisation of global culture is achieved at a price. Coca Cola and Big Macs are sold according to local Market forces and the same can be said for American movies and TV shows or stations. Price altering per country for American films means it is cheaper to show a movie than to make one. This is a direct assault on, for example, Irish cinema and filmmaking, where TV broadcasters are happy to import product rather than finance creation of home produced product.
Western, better described as American, culture is the most predominant one. The advance of American culture can be seen in ne Blockbuster Movie outselling the last one or when we see CNN or FOX as the primary news source superimposed over local logos in TV news bulletins.
New data shows that local TV attracts the biggest audiences while imported American shows a now being screened at less significant times during the day. For example, Britains ‘Coronation Street’ is more local to Irish society than Australias ‘Home And Away’ and will command a bigger audience and is given Prime Time. However, Irelands FAIR CITY is more attractive to Irish audiences but even more attractive to the people of Dublin, where it is based, than to the people of Cork or Limerick.
A key issue to be considered here is how American culture is influenced by other cultures. For example, Hip Hop music is a mix of Carribean music and Black Blues but is marketed as American Music. On TV we see more and more remakes of British TV shows like X Factor, Weakest Link and Pop Idol but marketed as American product.
The start of Irish History is usually considered by historians to have happened the 5th century CE with the arrival of St. Patrick because with him came the first written documentation. The language spoken was Celtic and we know this because when St. Patrick arrived he could communicate with the natives. This documented history is our primary source of information in relation to early Irish society.
Our Main Sources For Documented History Are begin with Brehon Law which was a form of law brought about by tradition within the tribes. A sort of natural law that was similar from tribe to tribe. The law was enforced by local Judges known as Brehon. This law is best defined as Early Irish Law. These laws were, more or less, agreed upon by the people and are therefor based on customs, traditions and practises. The Bretons memorised the laws and the information was passed from father to son which made the Bretons a privileged class in early Irish society.
The Bretons were guardians of the law but it was the people, through custom and practise, which created it. It is also worth remembering that while the laws were not imposed they were practised. In the 5th Century AD Ireland was a Celtic country and the language spoken here was of Celtic origin. It is not yet finally established as to how the Celtic language arrived here but there are numerous theories but these are only theories. One of the best sources for exploration of Irish history is Early Irish Law. Also known as Brehon Law but scholars don‘t like this title because it suggests the laws were created by the Brehons and, in fact, this is not the case at all. The Brehons were the nobles of Early Irish society and were more guardians of the law then creators of it. Law was created through customs and traditions within a society and over time the Brehons committed these laws to memory and were practitioners of it. This skill was passed from father to son as time passed and thus the laws were carried from generation to generation prior to the arrival of literacy to the country.
When we think of Law today we think of it as being imposed. This was not the case in medieval times. The laws were brought about in the interests of the maintenance of the group that operated within it. The law came from the bottom up. It was the customs and practises of the ordinary people of the community. These were agreed upon by all as the best way to live their lives.
There is a whole range of laws that covered every aspect of society and these laws give us an excellent insight to medieval society. It is not a perfect source because there are no case histories as is the case today. Nothing was documented as to what happened in each case.
The study of Brehon law is actually relatively new. The first major steps were taken with the production of the six volume Ancient Laws of Ireland from 1865 to 1901.
The translations in these volumes are no longer considered to be wholly reliable. But they do represent a goodly part of the available Brehon law texts and they stimulated the slow, patient production of further scientific editions during the 20th century. The major breakthrough came in 1978 with the production of DA Binchy’s transcription of almost the entire corpus of vellum manuscript materials for Brehon law. These also fill six volumes. But they extend way beyond the selective coverage offered by the Ancient Laws of Ireland. Binchy’s Corpus Iuris Hibernici runs to 2343 pages (or around 1.5 million words of text).
It contains numerous ancient tracts and digests that are mostly in the Old Irish language of the 7th to 10th centuries. These are supplemented by glosses and commentaries in Middle Irish (dating to the end of the 12th century) and Early Modern Irish. (There are also occasional snippets of Latin.) Binchy’s Corpus Iuris Hibernici contains no translations. It is a scholarly transcription of the medieval manuscripts. However, the publication of Binchy’s work in 1978 came only two years after the completion of the Royal Irish Academy’s Dictionary of the Irish Language, which concentrates on the ancient and medieval forms of the language. And one year earlier, in 1975, an English translation of Thurneysen’s masterful Grammar of Old Irish was also published. Suddenly, scholars had ready access not only to the ancient legal materials themselves, but to the chief linguistic tools for their translation.
Since then, the acceleration in published research on Brehon law has been quite remarkable. By 1988 Professor Fergus Kelly of the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies was able to publish his remarkably wide-ranging Guide to Early Irish Law. The first edition of Nery‘s Patterson’s Cattle Lords and Clansmen followed in 1991. More recent volumes include Robin Chapman Stacey’s The Road to Judgement: from Custom to Court in medieval Ireland and Wales (1994). In addition, numerous journal articles have appeared in the Irish journals Peritia, Ériu and The Irish Jurist (the leading Irish academic law journal, published by University College Dublin). What all this research has revealed is a legal system of extraordinary sophistication. The English common law only emerged with the development of a professional judiciary, and the emergence of a professional bar, in the late 12th and early 13th centuries. But both had been part and parcel of Brehon law from at least the time of its earliest texts (composed in the 7th century). The development of degrees of intent in the English common law was a slow process. The concepts of accident and self-defence did not emerge until the 13th century; those of mistake and negligence finally took root in the 16th century. At that time the common law finally reached the level of development displayed in the Brehon law texts of almost a thousand years earlier. For example, the treatment of women under the ancient laws speaks to their sophistication: “The care which is evident for the individual personality of the woman in Irish marriage law is a widely shining landmark in this period of history as compared with the unrespected position of women in earlier times and in other societies.
Our next source for Irish history are The Annals of the Kingdom of Ireland are a chronicle of medieval Irish history. Compiled in the 17th Century in Co. Donegal. The task was to compile all the existing known history for future generations. They were put to writing in final form by the Four Masters in the Franciscan Monastery in Donegal, starting in 1632. The work was completed in 1636.
Many of the sources they drew from are no longer available. It tracks history from c.2000 BCE to c.1600 CE ―The Chronicle of Ireland is the modern name for a hypothesized collection of ecclesiastical annals recording events in Ireland from 432 to 911 AD. Several surviving annals share events in the same sequence and wording, until 911 when they continue separate narratives.
They include the Annals of Inisfallen, the Annals of Ulster, the Chronicon Scotorum, the Annals of Clonmacnoise, the Annals of Tigernach, the Annals of Roscrea, the Annals of Boyle, and the Fragmentary Annals of Ireland. “The Chronicle of Ireland” represents the scholarly consensus solution to this Gaelic synoptic problem.
Events are listed in separate entries under the heading of a single year. Most entries consist of only one or two sentences, and some years contain only one or two entries. The Viking raid on Iona Abbey in 806, in which the entire population of the abbey was massacred, is recorded with typical brevity: “The community of Iona was killed by the gentiles, that is sixty-eight (referring to the number of dead) There is no direct evidence for the identity of the Chronicle’s authors at any given point in time, but scholars are confident that it was produced by annalists working in churches and monasteries and was intended for an ecclesiastical audience.
The Chronicle was written in different places at different times; the earliest evidence for one of its authors places it in Iona sometime after 563, continuing until about 642. Around 639, another chronicle of uncertain origin was begun elsewhere and merged in with the Iona chronicle in the second half of the 7th century.
The chronicle was then continued until about 740. From about 740 to 911, the Chronicle’s annalist was working in the Irish midlands, probably in the midland province of Brega (sometimes Breagh) but possibly in the monastery at Clonard. Some scholars believe that work may have moved to Armagh by the beginning of the 9th century, and debate continues on this point. After 911, the Chronicle’s descendants break into two main branches: one in Armagh, which was integrated into the Annals of Ulster; and a “Clonmacnoise group” including the Annals of Clonmacnoise (an English translation), the Annals of Tigernach (fragmentary), the Chronicum Scotorum (an abbreviation of Tigernach), and the Annals of the Four Masters.
Most surviving witnesses to the Chronicle’s original content are descended from the Clonmacnoise chronicle. A large number of the Chronicle’s entries are obituaries. The cause of death was significant to the annalists as an indicator of the death’s “spiritual quality”; they felt it indicated whether the deceased would go to Heaven or Hell. After 800, records of Viking raids (as in the example above) also make up a large number of entries. Other entries include observations of astronomical events, such as a solar eclipse that took place on June 29, 512. Some events outside Ireland also appear in the Chronicle; during some parts of the eighth and ninth centuries, its chronology for certain events in England is more accurate than that of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. As of the middle 7th century, the Chronicle’s dating scheme “consisted of a kalend (Kl) followed, until at least the mid-seventh century, by the ferial of 1 January”. This scheme, and much of the Chronicle’s witness to world history prior to 400, was based on the chronicle of Rufinus of Aquileia who wrote in the early 5th century.*
(*Source: ‘The Chronology and Sources of the Early Irish Annals’ by D. Mc Carthy, Early Medieval Europe 10:3(2001)323-41.‖27
St. Patrick is rightly styled the Apostle of Ireland. The Faith, no doubt, was preached and known by many before he began his mission. It is recorded that an Irishman, a Roman soldier, was present at the Crucifixion, who, after the completion of his military service, returned home, preached the faith and converted many.
Christianity was solidly established in Britain and Gaul long before the coming of our Apostle; and it is quite certain that there was considerable intercourse between these countries and Ireland during the first centuries of our era, so the faith must have been made known and embraced by many. Paladius came some short time before St. Patrick, but, while he must have converted some, his mission was not a success. Patrick made his studies at Lerins, now St. Honorat, South of France, and next under St. Germanus.
Lerins was the alma mater of many bishops and saints. Being a relative of St. Martin of Tours, he must have spent some time at Marmoutier, a famous monastery founded by that saint. In those institutions he learned the discipline and constitution of the Church, and organised the Irish Church accordingly. The Church of France was even then divided into dioceses, and the dioceses sub-divided into parishes. Each diocese was territorial and governed by its own bishop.
This was the mode of Church government St. Patrick introduced into Ireland—an episcopal Church governed by successors of the Apostles. St. Patrick could not introduce all at once perfect church government. His principal work at first was to convert and baptise. As the tribal system then prevailed he adopted the policy of addressing himself first to the chiefs or heads of the tribes.
The conversion of a chief soon brought about the conversion of the whole tribe. When the chief and tribe were converted the next step was to appoint a bishop over the territory occupied by the tribe. Thus in the early Irish Church bishoprics in Ireland were conterminous with tribal lands. Our Saint did the best he could, but the plan was a bad one. In course of time bishops multiplied unduly. Some assert that there were one hundred bishops in Ireland at the time of St. Patrick, and long after; there were without any doubt at least fifty. This at the time was a necessary evil, for every tribe of any importance should have their own bishop, as they would not submit to the jurisdiction of a bishop belonging to another tribe. Thus the nation was kept divided.
The multiplicity of bishops gave offence to the rest of Christendom, and at the Synod of Rathbrasael, held 1115 A.D., they were reduced to 26, besides Dublin and Waterford, under the jurisdiction of the Archbishop of Canterbury—28 in all. There are 26 dioceses at present. The system of tribal dioceses produced another evil effect: members of the families of the chiefs were raised to the episcopate without the necessary qualifications. The abuse was carried so far that many of the occupants had received no orders at all and enjoyed the benefices without performing the duties attached to them. All this produced nepotism, corruption, and disorders in the Irish Church. At the time of St. Patrick, however, it would seem that many of the bishops wereforeigners—Britons, Franks, and Romans. This would appear from that important document known as a Catalogue of the Orders of the Sts. in Hibernia. After giving the number of the first Order of Sts. the text adds: “And these were for the most part Franks and Romans and Britons and Scots by birth.
Here begins the Catalogue of the Orders of the Saints in Hibernia according to different periods:
The first Order of the Saints was in the time of Patrick, and then all the bishops, 350 in number, were famous and holy and full of the Holy Spirit. They were founders of churches, worshipped one head, Christ, and followed one leader, Patrick. They had one tonsure, one celebration of Mass, and celebrated one Easter, namely, after the vernal equinox. And what was excommunicated by one church, all excommunicated. They did not object to having women as housekeepers and companions, because founded on the rock, Christ, they did not fear the wind of temptation. This Order of Saints lasted during four reigns: to wit, from the time of Laoghaire, the son of Niall, who reigned thirty-seven years; and Olioll, styled Moll, who reigned thirty years; and Lughaidh, who reigned seven years; and this Order of Saints lasted to the very end of Tuathal Maelgarbh, and all remained throughout holy bishops, and these were for the most part, Franks and Romans and Britons and Scots by birth.
The Second Order of the Saints was like this. In this second Order now there were few bishops and many priests, 300 in number. They worshipped one head, God, and had different rituals or rites of celebration, and different rules of living, and celebrated one Easter: to wit the 14th of the moon. And they made a uniform tonsure from ear to ear. They shunned having women as companions and housekeepers, and excluded them from the monasteries. This lasted for four reigns also …. Those (saints) received the ritual of celebrating Mass from holy men of Britain; to wit, from St. David and St. Gildas and St. Cadoc. And their names are these: to wit, Finian, Endeus, Colman, Congal, Aedh, Kieran, Columba, Brendan, Brechen, Caineoh, Caemgin, Laidrean, Laisre, Lugeus, Barrideus, and many others who were in the second grade of the Saints.
The third Order of the Saints was like this. Now they were holy priests and few bishops, 100 in number, who used to dwell in desert places. They lived on vegetables and water and on the alms of the faithful, and held earthly things of no account, and wholly shunned back-biting and slander. These had different rules (of living), and different rituals of celebration, and also different tonsures, for some had the coronal tonsure and some the hair. And they had a different Paschal Solemnization, for some celebrated on the 14th and others on the 13th moon. This Order lasted through four reigns…..And their names are—Petran, bishop; Ultan, bishop; Colman, bishop; Edan, bishop; Lomnan, bishop; Senach, bishop. These were all bishops and many more. And these now were the priests—Fechan, priest; Airendan, Failan, Commian, Ernan, Cronan, and many other priests.
Note that the first Order was holiest, the second very holy, the third holy. The first glows like the sun, with the heat of charity; the second like the moon sheds a pallid light; the third shines with the bright hues of the dawn. When a bishop was appointed over the new diocese his first and most important work was the construction of a church. The churches of the 5th, 6th, and 7th centuries were very small and rudely built. The first churches were of wood and circular in shape, and there are 110 remains of these, but we have the remains of stone churches of the period, and we find they were built without cement, and the stones used were very large, from 6 to 17 feet long, which would take four men to lift.
The Tripartite Life of St. Patrick furnishes us with the dimensions of the churches he used to build:—”In this wise then St. Patrick measured the ferta, namely, seven score feet in the enclosure, and seven and twenty in the great house (tig mor), and seventeen feet in the chule (kitchen), and seven feet in the aregal, and in that wise it was he used to found the congabala always.” The ” great house ” was the church, which at the time was circular, and the diameter used to be 27 feet. The roof was formed by overlapping. The doorway was placed at the west-end and covered by a lintel and was broader at the bottom.
Churches with arches and semi-circular window heads were erected in the early part of the 9th century. Recessed semi-circular arches belong to the 10th century. The walls built in this period lose much of massive stone work, and are higher, and cement was used. The windows exhibit a slight recess upon the exterior, and were of greater size. As style advances the sides of the doorways become cut into a series of recesses, chevron and other decorations are commonly found, and various mouldings of doors and windows become rich and striking. The term Irish Romanesque has been applied to this style of architecture. The transition can be traced to the beginning of the nth century, but was not fully developed till a century later. Between the 10th and 13th centuries, decorated art reached a high state of perfection in this country. Cormac MacCuillenen’s chapel on the Rock of Cashel, which was consecrated in the year 1134, presents a specimen of Irish architecture which has not been excelled. Donough O’Brien, King of Thomond, founded the cathedral, 1152. It consists of nave and chancel, with a square tower at each side, 55 and 50 feet high. The walls of nave and chancel are ornamented with a row of semi-circular arches slightly recessed, and enriched with chevron, billet, and mouldings. We have remains of many churches scattered through the country which exhibit the highest degree of art. These and the beautifully sculptured crosses and metal work which still remain afford ample evidence of the skill the Irish attained in various departments of art prior to the Anglo-Norman invasion.
The training of the clergy was an important matter for the consideration of St. Patrick and his successors. Colleges or seminaries had to be established for the education and training of young levites to fit them for their future mission. St. Patrick again followed the practices that prevailed in France, where monasticism was the established system. The monks founded in that country schools and colleges in which the future clergy were trained in the practices of discipline and piety. Monasticism was thus introduced into Ireland by St. Patrick, and became an important factor in the Irish Church. Monasteries sprang up in different parts of the country. Clerics and others not only from Ireland but from Great Britain and the Continent flocked into them, and received gratis their education. Some of those institutions contained as many as 3,000 pupils. This may be the place to describe the origin of monasticism.
Propaganda is a form of communication that is aimed at influencing the attitude of a community toward some cause or position. As opposed to impartially providing information, propaganda, in its most basic sense, presents information primarily to influence an audience. Propaganda often presents facts selectively (thus possibly lying by omission) to encourage a particular synthesis, or uses loaded messages to produce an emotional rather than rational response to the information presented. The desired result is a change of the attitude toward the subject in the target audience to further a political agenda. Propaganda can be used as a form of political warfare. While the term propaganda has acquired a strongly negative connotation by association with its most manipulative and jingoistic examples, propaganda in its original sense is neutral, and may also be construed to refer to uses which are generally held to be relatively benign or innocuous. In the study of Irish history propaganda sources are, for example, the words of the pagan Bards as transcribed by the Monastic Monks, such words may not have been without Bias and, as such, contain some propaganda.
One of the areas we will be looking at is archaeology where we can find physical examples such as Temples, ritual objects, and statues, and other types of artefacts and burial places, which can tell us a little bit about the religious beliefs of the people of the time. It must be said from the outset that there is not a lot of archaeological clues but the few we have available to us are worthy of close analysis. The application of Genetics as a reliable source of stabling history is not a reliable one for many reasons.
In the case of the Celts it proves very little. As stated earlier Archaeologists contend that there are too few objects found in Ireland to prove any invasion of Celts actually occurred. Interesting, Geneticists support the Archaeologists theory. Geneticists say the Celts share D.N.A. and had a pre disposition to Cystic Fibrosis and were usually of the ‘O’ type Blood Group. In the 1960‘s there were Blood Group studies and the distribution of Blood types and the results may indicate where Celts located. Munster has the strongest distribution of Blood Type O and this may indicate where the Celts had located. In the 1990‘s Studies In DNA And Chromosomes showed that ‘Y’ Chromosomes are Inherited from the father while Mitochondrial DNA is Inherited from the Mother.
However, this can not be deemed a totally reliable source for accurate information and most Scientists are dubious, to say the least, about the results of DNA research because samples have been contaminated both inside and outside of the laboratory. In short, Genetics is far too young a discipline to draw any firm conclusions. Geneticists contend that there is little or no evidence to conclude that there was, in fact, a prehistoric Celtic invasion which leads us to the problem of why then do we speak a form of Celtic language. In point of fact we do know that C.400 CE when St. Patrick arrived on Irish soil he could communicate with the natives in some form of Celtic. From the point of his arrival history started to be documented.
Through the centuries many events and stories change in the retelling for many reasons. Exaggeration, bias or perhaps hostility to the subject matter or the outcome of the event led to inevitable distortion and misrepresentation of the reality. We must allow for this fact as we study ancient documents relating the events of the distant past.
Manuscripts started to emerge from Monks and Monasteries hundreds, and in some cases a thousand years or more after certain events were documented by them. One can only imagine what happened to these stories before the Monks and Scribes began to recount them in document form. It is a difficult job to interpret these stories. Nonetheless, these stories are a rich source of information as to the beliefs and religions of the Celts.
We find our information in manuscripts and the earliest of these is the Cathach of St. Columba of Iona which is kept in the Royal Irish Academy, Dublin and comes from the late 6th or early 7th Century in date, almost two hundred years after St. Patrick arrived in Ireland (c.400 CE) and is a copy of the Old Testament Psalms and written in Latin. The manuscript known as the ‘Cathach’ ‘, a psalter or book of the Psalms. It is conceivable that this, the earliest surviving Irish manuscript, was written in the lifetime of the saint, if not as traditionally claimed by Columba himself. (Columba died in 597 CE.) The decorative features which characterised the later magnificent manuscripts are already present in simple form in the Cathach.
The earliest known manuscript of Native Stories was The Book of Armagh (C.808 CE) and was kept in a leather satchel. It was a small personal copy of the Old Testament written for the leader of the Armagh community that included a number of stories about St. Patrick and written in Irish and Latin and this makes this document of great help to us. The St. Patrick that emerges from this manuscript is far different from the St. Patrick we learn of from his own manuscripts (St. Patrick‘s Confession, which appears to be a genuine copy written by him). In the former he emerges as a sort of mystical warrior, a hero figure, and in the latter a hard working gentle and humble man. What is really important here is the fact that The Book of Armagh is the first book we have that is a book written in Irish by Irish people. This demonstrates that even though the stories in this manuscript are about Saints some of the material to do with them, appear to be borrowed from earlier stories of earlier Christian mythology.
The earliest manuscript relating stories of Ireland‘s warrior society that we know of is The Book Of The Dun Cow which was compiled in 1106AD, The Book of Leinster around 1150AD at the same time as another book known simply as Rawlinson‘s Manuscript.
The Book of Ballymote was written in 1390/91 and was produced by scribes and remains to this day at Trinity College, Dublin and is an invaluable source of information for historians.
We must remember when we start to interpret ancient texts that three dates need to be applied:
1. The date of when the text was published.
2. The date the text was written
3. The date of when the story of which the text relates is set.
When we look at, for example, a manuscript written in the 14th century, the events depicted in this hypothetical manuscript may be copies of earlier texts written, let‘s say in the 13th Century, but relating to events in the 10th Century and thus confusion and disinformation is entirely possible. The first date we can be sure of and the second date more difficult because they may be copies of copies and so on and so forth, copying was very common in ancient Ireland and thus the third date is completely wild because the storytellers set things in the ancient past at supposed dates. All we really know about the third date is that this was what the story tellers choose as the date. Thus, for the most part, the real dates of events are beyond our knowledge.
However, many of these stories are mythological which renders the date unimportant. The stories can still tell us many things about the culture, traditions, religions and beliefs of ancient Irish society and this is where these myths and sagas have their real significance.
The earliest known tales of Irish tradition in terms of language are from the 8th Century just before the arrival of the Vikings. We will be looking at four different strands of Mythology (A modern classification techniques which was different from pre-modern methods. We will characterise the stories by the Characters involved rather than the events they describe which was how the pre-modern documents categorised them.
1. The Ulster Cycle.
2. The Fenian Cycle.
3. The Cycle Of The Kings
4. The Mythological Cycle.
The Mythological Cycle is a cycle is very much concerned with tales from the Book of Invasion which documented how various tribes came and settled in Ireland down through the centuries. Our interest in this book for now is what it documents in relation to a tribe known as the Tua De Danaan. They are portrayed as a tribe of people with magical powers but realistically we can infer with some confidence that these were the Gods and Goddesses of pre-Christian Ireland. There are no dating indications with this grouping and we can not imply dates but we can have early or late stories in the Mythological Cycle. These stories were mainly composed by Christians so they naturally embedded religious elements into the stories.
The medieval manuscripts, primarily the Lebor Gabála Érenn imply that the first ever groups of immigrants who arrived in Ireland were some of the descendants of Noah. They tell of a woman named Cessair, a granddaughter of Noah who arrived here along with forty-nine women and three men prior to the Biblical flood which was to eventually sweep all of them away with the exception of Fintan who survives in various guises by becoming a shape-shifter and turning into a salmon for the duration of the flood and eventually, after a series of animal transformations, he becomes a man again and tells his people‘s story.
The next group to settle in Ireland were led by Partholon who supposedly arrived after the Biblical Flood with a thousand followers who multiplies to four thousand and then all were dead within a week after a plague. All of which were buried in Tamhlacht (Tallaght) – the plague grave. Interestingly, many of the stories were tied to real place names and this gave them an element of substance. The story of Partholon was relayed by the lone survivor of the plague and his name was Tuan mac Cairill through a series of animal transformations he survived into Christian times and relayed his tale to St. Finnian. (The story is documented in The Book of Dun Cow).
Tuan told St. Finnian that he witnessed many of the waves of invaders including the Nemedians, Firbolg and the Tuatha De Danaan. He claimed he crawled off to a cave as an old man and went to sleep. When he awoke he was a young stag and this process kept repeating itself each time he became old and he was reborn as a boar, an eagle and eventually as a salmon. During his life as a salmon he was eaten by the wife of a chieftain and passed into her womb to be reborn as Tua mac Cairill (son of Cairill.)
The tale of the Nemed was recounted in some detail to St. Finnian by Tuan. They were the third group (according to the Book of Invasions) to come to Ireland. The country had been empty for many years when Nemed sailed to Ireland to settle at Tory island. His wife Macha died and was buried at Ard Macha (Armagh).
He went to battle with the Formorians (a divine race said to have inhabited Ireland in ancient times) and was victorious but soon after he fell victim to plague, along with 3,000 others and died. The survivors separate into three different tribes, Fir Bolg, Fir Domnainn, Fir Galeoin and all depart Ireland (Eriu as it was known then) to different lands. The Fir Bolg went to Scandinavia and learned magic and decided to return to Ireland where they ruled until the arrival of the fifth group to settle here, according to Lebor Gabhala Erenn, the Tuatha De Danaan.
They went to war with the Fir Bolg in Sligo and the latter were defeated but The Tuatha De Danaan was led by their first King Nuada who lost an arm in the battle which meant he was no longer eligible for Kingship, according to the rules of the Tuatha De Danaan, and he was replaced by King Bres.
The new king was not at all popular because he lacked generosity and hospitality. Under his tyrannical rule times were not good in the Kingdom of Ireland and revolution was inevitable. The people started to manufacture weapons and in time Bres was removed from Kingship and Nuada, who had had his arm restored by physicians, and he ruled for many more years. He eventually became known as Nuada of the Silver Arm and is, perhaps, the statue we still see at Tandragee in County Armagh. Bres, assisted by the Formorian Balor attempted to retake the Kingship and war followed. When the youthful Lugh joined Nuada‘s court he stood down to allow the youthful warrior to lead the attack against the Formorians and during this battle Nuada was killed and beheaded but Lugh led the Tuatha De Danaan to victory.
The Druid priests of the Celts did not write down the stories of their gods and goddesses, but instead transmitted them orally, so our knowledge of the early Celtic deities is limited. Romans of the first century B.C. recorded the Celtic myths and then later, after the introduction of Christianity to the British Isles, the Irish monks of the 6th century and Welsh writers later wrote down their traditional stories. Here are some of these Gods. Some of them were stolen and raised to Sainthood by Catholicism in order to begin the conversion of Ireland. Those left behind (according to legend) were cast underground and turned into Leprechauns.
Gods Of The Celts.
1. Lugos: There are hundreds of inscriptions across Europe and Britain to a God known as Lugos whose name is dedicated to Contracts and Commerce and was also a God of travelling and a patron of the arts which included the art of Commerce. Mistletoe was sacred to Lugos.
2. Dis Pater (Father God or The Good God): Other Gods were descended from Dis Pater and was named by the Romans and not by the Celts. We can conclude from this that he was a teutilary or God of the Tribe‘ (Teutonic God) deity. Julius Caesar called him Dis Pater and linguists have concluded that this name is a derivative of Good Sky or Good God. This is very significant to us when we look at Irish Mythology because there is a similar God known as Daghdha, a leading mystic character in Irish literature, one of the Tua De Danaan, who was demonstrably the principal deity in ancient times.
The greatest of the Gods was Daghdha (Dagda), who had beaten off the monster Formorians when they attacked, in a mystical mist. He is usually referred to with the definitive article; namely, the Daghdha (the Daghdha). He was the founder or the father of the tribe of Tua De Danaan and so, indirectly, we can link Dis Pater as described by Julius Caesar.
This seems a logical step but is not inconclusive evidence. In fact, when we look at the Irish image of an Daghdha we see many Romanic motifs and ideas. Dis Pater is depicted in Roman accounts as an underground God and people would make Oaths or promises to him. In Roman Mythology he is sometimes associated with the Dead and the underworld. In Ireland an Daghdha was related to another God called Donn‘ (Brown or dark, or Dead) and is God of The Dead. When we look at Gods or Goddesses we find that many of them can manifest in different ways. The same God can sometimes have different names so, sometimes, we can find the same Gods with different functions.
3. Camas (Or Camulus): When we look at Continental material in relation to Camas we are still somewhat unclear as to who or what he may have been. We take our definition from Irish mythology because it is somewhat clearer and better defined.
4. Epona/Equna: She was a horse Goddess and her name would have been pronounced in two different ways. As mentioned earlier there were two different types of Celts, Q-Celts and P- Celts. The former laid more emphasis on Q and thus Epona became Equna while the reverse occurred with the P-Celts. Epona was a horse Goddess and in her depictions she is often seen riding side-saddle on a horse and holding a Cornucopia, a basket with corn coming out of it, a symbol of fertility, life, grain, fruit and drink, which featured heavily in all Mythology. It seems that Romans adopted her from the Celts probably because they were great admirers of horsemanship. She was a very popular Goddess and what is interesting here is that the Romans adopted her from the Celts whereas with other Gods the opposite was often the case. In fact, there have been statues and plaques found in Rome depicting Equna and in many cases these artefacts are found in stables.
5. Matres (The Mothers): A triple Goddess (Trinity) and depictions in the classical style show three women side by side and is clearly Romano-Celtic (deeply influenced by Roman Celts) in design. However, regardless of the style of the depiction, it is still generally agreed that the Celts worshipped Matres long before they ever encountered the Romans. Not a lot is known about the Matres but they were depicted as triple Goddesses and this idea of triple form (or trinities) is something that crops up in Celtic mythology regularly. In the statues the three women are often sitting down while one on left, often bare breasted, is holding a baby, the one on the right is holding loaves, bread or cakes, the one in the centre is holding a scroll of some kind perhaps depicting knowledge. The Matres may very well be a tripe-form of three Goddesses, it could be one or all of them but it is not really known if this is, in fact the case.
6. Brigantia (The Exalted One) – St. Bridget: Under the Interpretatio Romana where she was referred to as Victoria and they see her as dictatorial because she ensured victory to warriors. There were tribes known as Brigantes who mostly came from France and Britain arrived in Ireland in the 2nd Century. They were the followers of the Goddess Brigantia. Most of the information we know about her comes from the Irish material to do with St. Bridget. It is thought that the St. Bridget that we know was a follower of Brigantia; she may have been a priestess of the Goddess who later converted to Christianity and is now more famous for bringing this new cult of Christianity to Ireland. We know that Brigantia was worshipped in Gaul, Britain and Ireland and possibility as far as the Iberian Peninsula as well. We do find coins and artefacts depicting her image in many parts of Europe. There are a few place names that remember her name including Brigantio in Hungary. Brigantia was also a Goddess of healing, of blacksmiths and is very much steeped in folklore and tradition. She is also very much associated with Poetry and Poets who were deemed to be very important people who could see into the mystical world. Their poetry was a mystical language and they spoke the language of the Gods.
7. Ogmios: (Ogmios Herakles) – God of Eloquence – Was said to be very strong and associated with Hercules. His name comes from ―Leading One‖ because he could lead people around with words or the Golden Chain which was a chain of Gold from the tip of his tongue to the ears of a merry band of his followers which implied that he may have had a amazing word power. Being that public speaking was the only real form of communication having a Golden Tongue may very well have given one enormous power. The Irish equivalent to Ogmios was Ogham who it is believed brought writing to Ireland and the first Irish Alphabet was known as Ogham‘s Alphabet. Ogmios was said to be physically very strong and the Romans associated him with the God Hercules. He is depicted carrying a club, as did Hercules, and he sometimes was described as bald and his name Og came from the Celtic word Leading One. In an oral culture – public speaking was of paramount importance and the fact that we find a God dedicated to oral power is important.
8. Taranis – (Thunder God as with Jupiter) – Taranis was a merciless God who required sacrifice. He is not a very well known Character but is mentioned by Roman Poets who depict him as merciless. In the 9th Century a trio of Gods, of which Taranis is one, Asos and Toutates the others, were appeased by human sacrifice. We know little about Asos while Toutates was a God of Tribal protection and in Interpretatio Romano he was associated with Mars. He was a Teutonic God (Germans in pre-history but referred to as Teutonics because they lived in Tribes). He may very well have had some sort of war function as well.
9. Cernunnos: (Horned God) –His named only once on the Pillar of The Stone Men. He is very much associated with animals and holds a Torc in his right hand and about him is a purse, usually overflowing with money, which implies he is a God of wealth. In Irish mythology he is linked with Derg, a God of poetry and wisdom and wild deer but the evidence for this is pretty scant.
10. Maponos: (P Celts: Maponos/ Q Celts: Maqungs) – Mostly found in Britain and has its origins in Gaullist French tradition. There is not a whole lot of information about Maponos but what we do know is that he is a youthful God mostly associated with the God Apollo and that his name suggests that he may have been a divine Son. When we look at other similar son images in Irish mythology we see that there are parallels in the figure of the divine son. According to a sacred 12 line prayer text known as Chamalieres found in France the ancient Gauls regularly prayed for help to Maponos.
11. Rosmerta: This Goddess is often shown embracing a Cornucopia or a purse with coins coming out of it or a petera (plate) with food on it and she is a God of fertility and abundance, as is the case with most female deities, she is also best known as a carer of people. There are many examples of inscriptions where people literally wrote to her for their requests. Her name in Gaulish means the great provider or carer. People often wrote to both Mercury and Rosmerta so, if we take Mercury as being another Gaulish God then it may be safe to assume that both these Gods appeared together.
12. Sucellus: Is related to other Gods in European mythology and is known as a good Striker. He is often depicted with a massive hammer perhaps symbolising hard work, blacksmithing, axe wielding or some such activity. Perhaps a working class God and seems to be adored by ordinary working people in farming, forestry and, interestingly enough, alcohol. He is not associated in any way, like Thor, to Thunder, as the hammer may suggest but what we do find is that he is more than likely in some way connected to a Roman God named Sylvanus who was a God of forestry and wild places and both these Gods are interlinked in the Interpretatio Romano.
13. Nanto Suelta (Nantosuelta): In Gaulish religions she is a Goddess of Nature, the earth and fire. Her name means the sun worn valley and she was a Goddess of fertility and abundance. Her imagery shows her surrounded by greenery, trees and fine-looking meadows. In general she is associated with fertile places.
14. Esus: His name means the Lord and is most often portrayed as a woodman, forester or lumberjack. He was associated with strength and would give strength to those who prayed to him. In Interpretatio Romanio he is most associated with Mercury or Mars. He is interesting in that he was one of the Gods that appeared to be worshipped with human sacrifice.
15. Tarous Trigaranus: We don‘t really know much about this God. Esus seems to be somehow connected to Tarous Trigaranus and this has been established through imagery whereby both Gods are depicted falling trees or depicted as lumberjacks or woodsmen.
There are, of course, many more Gods but these seem to be the ones that had widespread following and were believed in by lots of different tribes. There were also lots of local Gods that would be purely belonging to a given tribe. There are over two hundred different deities recorded but these seem to be the most widespread and consequentially influential Gods.
On analysis of the available evidence, surviving documentation and archaeological inscriptions, it can be seen that Ireland had two contemporaneous evangelists advocating Catholic philosophy but both coming from entirely different standpoints. Both missions were conducted in an apparently Christian conscious Ireland by the early 5th century CE. It is also clear that these missionaries proclaiming equal faith, first Palladius (as advocate of Pope Celestine), then Patrick (as advocate of God), had some impact on their own co-existing communities. With the rise of Catholic historical documentation, monastic propaganda reduced the efforts of Palladius’ ‘failed’ mission and, for no reason other than expediency, merged all credit for Christian conversion exclusively to Patrick, whose ‘successful’ mission was better serving the purposes of the advocations of Catholicism.
By the 5th century CE Pelagianism (and paganism) were proliferating in Western Europe and Ireland to such effect that Roman Catholicism, led by Pope Celestine I (Celestine the Deacon) (422-432 CE), himself a Roman and zealous for orthodoxy, sent Palladius as a Bishop to Ireland in 431. The chronicle of the contemporary St. Prosper of Aquitaine presents two important entries relating to Palladius. Under the date of 429 it has, “Agricola, a Pelagian, son of Severianus, a Pelagian bishop, corrupted the churches of Britain by the insinuation of his doctrine; but at the insistence of the Deacon Palladius (ad actionem Palladii Diaconi), Celestine sends Germanus, Bishop of Auxerre as his representative to root out heresy and direct the Britons to the Catholic Faith”. Again under the date of 431, in the consulship of Bassus and Antiocus: “Palladius was consecrated by Pope Celestine and sent to the Scots believing in Christ, as their first bishop” (Ad Scotum in Christum credentes ordinatur a Papa Celestino Palladius et primus episcopus mittitur).
It is clear then that by ordaining a bishop for the Irish (Scotis), whilst he laboured to keep the Roman Island (Britain) Catholic, he made also the barbarous Island (Ireland) Christian. The words of the second entry to the chronicle, “to the Scots believing in Christ” can only have the meaning that when the chronicle was being written in 447, the Irish had become a Christian people. Another relevant source to the authenticity of Palladius’ papal authority is The Seventh Century Life Of St. Patrick by Muircu Maccumachthenus in the “Book of Armagh” which expressly styles Palladius “Archidiaconus Papæ Coelestini urbis Romæ Episcopi”, repeated in several of the other lives of St. Patrick.
The conversion of Ireland was very significant to Celestine because, according to the writings of St Jerome (c.347-420), an Illyrian Christian priest and apologist , we suspect that Pelagius himself was of Goidelic-Celtic origin, q-Celt, (perhaps Irish), “He tells us that he was descended from the Scots (Irish) de vicinia Britannorum, and that he was “reared on Scotch porridge.” This simple fact feasibly meant that if Celestine could conquer the homeland of Pelagius, ‘the seat of his realm’, this may discredit his philosophy. Palladius soon abandoned the mission and was quickly replaced by an ostensibly self-appointed evangelist calling himself Bishop Patricius. In his ‘Confessio’ he elaborates in some detail as to the success of his mission (he attributes this success to God) when he writes, “’it is not you who speaks but the Spirit of your Father speaking in you.’ (Confessio Vs 20) This proved an ideal declaration of divine faith and his successful work was endorsed by his Roman contemporaries. The efforts of his predecessor, whose contribution to Irish Christianity was minimal, were inexplicably obliterated.
Christian inscriptions in Irish began about the middle of the 5th Century CE and are primarily located in the south-eastern side of the country. They show that Christian teaching must have been accepted among the native Irish, of this region, prior to the arrival of both missionaries. ‘The chiefs of the pre-Patrician saints include St. Ailbe in Co. Tipperary, St. Ibar of Wexford, St. Declan of Waterford, …..the controversy between Cashel, as the premier home of the Christian church and Armagh as the latter implies that it is possible two evangelists were at work in the country. Palladius to the South and Patrick to the North, “it is exactly the sort of controversy that was inevitable if these Southern Churches looked back to an independent origin and an earlier date than that of the apostle of Ireland, whose later glory had obscured their own”.
With St. Patrick came flourishing literacy and the subsequent documentation of reality, by his cohorts, was inexorably biased in favor of the message advocated their apostle. The primary strategy of Patrick was to introduce an episcopal church which indicates that he had some papal influences. In the ‘Catalogue Of The Order Of The Saints’ for the period 432-543 it is clearly stated that there were founders of churches who worshipped Christ and followed one leader, Patrick, and this clearly implies that in his lifetime he was undoubtedly held in high reverence by his contemporaries and immediate generations to follow. This loyalty manifested itself in propaganda that all but eliminated the presence and influence of Palladius. Interestingly, these passages also indicate that the Roman Church tradition was firmly in place, “one tonsure, one celebration of mass, one Easter” It is fair to conclude from this that Patrick’s mission had deep long lasting impact and was far more significant than that of Palladius.
While academics often give credit to both these men for the introduction of Christianity the more common view is that Patrick was indeed the true Apostle of Christ regardless of papal appointment or not. There is still good reason to debate the timeline of Palladius and Patrick, with ‘possibility’ being a significant part of the deliberations. By considering the surviving documentation, The Chronicles Of Prosper Of Aquitaine, The Annals Of The Irish Churches and Patrick’s own writings, it can be seen that the papal commission of Palladius coincided with the mission of Patrick though only the latter reaps commendation.
To track the short timeline of Palladius’ mission we turn to the ‘Chronicles of Prosper of Aquitaine’, “Ad Scottos in Christum credentes ordinatus a papa Caelestina Palladius primus episcopus mittitur”, Palladius was sent to Ireland by Pope Celestine as the first bishop to the Irish who believe in Christ in 431 AD. In 434 Prosper again wrote regarding Palladius, that Pope Celestine ‘having ordained a bishop for the Irish, while he labours to keep the Roman island [Britain] Catholic, has also made the barbarian island [Ireland] Christian’ in his Contra Collatorem. These two passages place Palladius in Ireland evangelising to the Irish from 431 onwards. In Ireland, church Annals record Palladius’ arrival. The Annals of Ulster show Palladius, having been approved by Pope Celestine, is sent to Ireland in the consulship of Aetius and Valerius in 431 while the Annals of the Four Masters say that Palladius landed in the county of Leinster in 430. With these pieces of evidence added to the writings of Prosper it verifies that Palladius was in Ireland fulfilling his papal commission in the early 430’s.
In order to establish Saint Patrick’s time in Ireland, the surviving sources are principally recorded internally by the Irish church Annals. The Annals of the Four Masters also go on to record that Patrick arrived in 432 and proceeded to baptize and bless the Irish. The Annals of Ulster confirm that Patrick reached Ireland in 432 the ninth year of the reign of Theodosius Mino. These church writings firmly place Patrick arriving in Ireland and converting the people at the same time as Palladius.
To corroborate this we can garner some facts from Patrick’s own writings in his Letter to Coroticus demanding the release of enslaved, by Tyrannus, Irish Christians and his later life biographical Confessio both of which survive in the Book Of Armagh.
According to RPC Hanson, there are two men who could have gone by the name Tyrannus, the son of a man called Cuned from North Wales who had a child possibly named Coroticus or the King of Dumbarton on the coast of Scotland. Either of these still place Patrick in Ireland writing this communication in the first half of the fifth century. In his Epistola, Patrick mentioned “…with many thousand solidi, to redeem baptized captives…” This solidi was a gold coin reintroduced by Constantine the Great in 312 and remained in circulation throughout the supremacy of the Roman Empire. The fact is that the coins were last minted in 411 so circulation had diminished. The further into the fifth century, the less likely it is that Patrick would refer to the coin in his letter. Passages of Saint Patrick Confessio have an eschatological tone and it is obvious from this that his mission was based around the fall of Rome which occurred in 410. R.P.C. Hanson states that this tone places Patrick in Ireland in the early half of the fifth century. The information gathered from the surviving evidence of the Confession of Saint Patrick and his Letter to Coroticus points to him writing these letters from Ireland in the first half of the fifth century. The same time that Palladius was converting the Irish to Christianity.
Palladius mission in Ireland is clearly recorded internally by the Annals of the Irish churches and externally by the chronicles of Prosper of Aquitaine. These sources place Palladius converting the Irish to Christianity from 431 onwards. There is reliance on deductive reasoning in determining a timeframe for Patrick’s mission based on his own writings. The answers gathered from those deductions point to the first half of the fifth century and corroborate Patrick’s mission with the recorded dates of the Annals of the Four Masters and the Annals of Ulster. By not getting immersed in the theories of Patrician scholars and remaining within the confinement of surviving evidence, it is provable that the mission of Palladius to convert the Irish to Christianity must have been at the same period of time as that of Saint Patrick.
With Thanks To:
Dr. Liam Irwin.
This paper is a short exploration of ‘The golden age of Irish art’ (c.650 – 950 CE) with consideration to the art style of the period, its various elements and its origins in antiquity. “The early eight century saw the perfection of Irish art.” The Romans had left Ireland two centuries past but had left behind a highly creative ‘La Tene’ pastiche relying heavily on Greek models that would never entirely vanish from insular Irish art.
Following the collapse of the Roman Empire, early medieval Ireland, like other regions of north-west Europe, saw a dramatic development of independent kingdoms; “The ideology which underpinned these kingdoms was constructed from a mixture of native traditions and systems of knowledge from the Mediterranean world acquired through Christianity.”
The ‘golden age’ was a time when Religious Monasteries were flourishing across Ireland. These monastic settlements, combined with Romanesque techniques, influenced the aesthetic beauty of artistic architecture and design defining their impact as an imperative part of cultural life. This influence is immediately obvious even in self-adornment, “The pennacular brooch – a form adopted earlier from the Romans – became the high status garment par excellence.”
Art was very much existent in the minds and hearts of these primeval people and it manifested itself in illuminated manuscripts, metalwork and stone sculpture. Ireland was saturated in examples of the artistic achievements of this culture. Buildings and high crosses, precious jewellery, ornaments and adornments, manuscripts with intricate and sophisticated detail using materials and tools which were, by modern standards, primitive yet, in the hands of nascent man fashioned such complex work that it remains a perplexity as to how such exceptional creation was achieved.
Fine metalwork, manuscript painting and sculpture by the mid-8th Century had come to a level of excellence demonstrable with the appearance of certain pieces such as the Tara Brooch which reveals that Irish artists were inspired and imaginatively fertile; “The form of this brooch is in fact one of the finest representatives of shapes composed with a complete coherence – an ‘endless knot’ – of geometrical ratio.”
The artisan feat of elaborate decorations of circular arcs, straight lines and geometric patterns remains to defy explanation or definition but implies a long term development in craftsmanship dating back into antiquity. It further infers that this complex form of design was prevalent across Irish artistry; “That form shares the principles of design which were employed regularly in the creation of early high crosses of Ireland, and the magnificent illuminations in early insular gospels manuscripts.”
A further example of this artistic expertise can be seen in the design complexities of both the Derrynaflan Paten; “The Paten is an extremely complex structure consisting of many separately manufactured components” and The Ardagh Chalices. These are examples of a range of elaborate techniques of ornamentation based on imported inspiration yet customised to a developing Irish distinctiveness; “The elaboration of the filigree, the stamped ornaments of the side of the paten, the glass settings, and the knitted mesh of its rim and the organisation of the ornament place the paten clearly within the same aesthetic as the Ardagh Chalice.” The Derrynaflan and Ardagh silver chalices are strikingly similar.
Both are complicated in their design and construction and, “What is obvious about these chalices is the essentially Irish character of their manufacture and design.” These chalices are evidence of the fading Romanesque influence to make way for a unique developing Irishness in artistic pursuits; “The native metal working traditions enjoyed a new vogue, but in a modified form.” The commissioning of extravagant sacred objects such as the chalices from Derrynaflan and Ardagh demonstrates not only a desire for artistic splendour but an unparalleled ability to achieve it.
Some of the best examples of early Christian fine art were the Irish illuminated manuscripts dating from the mid 6th Century CE. These beautifully illustrated books were produced by scribes and artist monks in the scriptoriums of abbeys and monasteries all over Ireland. The monks made little money and no acknowledgement from their work but the Church had no hesitation in heaping money on the works of art themselves; “materials in regular use were gold dust, foil or leaf, silver and other precious metals and expensive natural colour pigments.” The accomplishment of Manuscript painting as an art form remains enigmatic.
The Book of Kells (Leabhar Cheanannais) brings together the traditions of animal ornamentation, interlacing and scrollwork combined with both decorative text and narrative scenes. It was created by Celtic monks and is a masterwork of calligraphy and epitomises the pinnacle of insular illumination. “The manuscript itself contains a clue indicating that those who produced it held Saint Columba in the highest veneration.” The curious feature about the Book Of Kells is that it is written with a unique ‘Irish’ hand defined as ‘half uncial, derived from Roman cursive, an advanced and uniquely developed form; ‘the Irish Hand attained a perfection and beauty which still dazzles the eye.’ The full, rotund form of the half-uncial was typically used in the transcription of Latin tracts notably, in the earliest known Irish manuscript, the Cathach, and, magisterially, in the Book of Kells. From this we can see why the ‘Golden Age of Irish Art’ was a carefully nurtured era of artistic perfection and excellence.
This concept is further enforced by The Book of Armagh, a near complete copy of the New Testament, with its sophisticated and elegant pen and ink illustrations; The text is written in two columns in a fine pointed insular minuscule’ and though it lacks the artistic enthusiasm of the Book of Kells it remains an exquisite masterpiece of Irish medieval art. “(It) shows the other side of artistic activity from the exuberance of Kells.”
Throughout the 8th Century the most affluent and honourable members of society adorned themselves with precious metals befitting their status. The Ballinderry Brooch (c.600 CE) and The Tara Brooch (c.700 CE) were both ambitious pieces of their time and worthy specimens of the magnificence of the art form of early medieval jewellery making. Clearly the advancing design complexities combined with fading Romanesque influences replaced with Anglo Saxon inspiration had occurred over the century between the two pieces. The development of craftsmanship is clearly visible.
The Ballinderry Brooch was an efficient and primarily functional pennacular piece which had an incomplete circular clasp at the top and was used as a clothes fastener. Its highly ornate design implies its use by the elite of medieval society. The Ballinderry Brooch clearly marks the beginning of a process that would culminate, over a Century, with the creation of The Tara Brooch.
The progressive artistic golden age was fuelled by new tastes and desires, “New types of objects had come into fashion; pennacular brooches decorated with spiral scrolls and enamels; hand-pins, sometimes enamelled or decorated with millefiori.” The Tara Brooch, found near the River Boyne in County Meath is consistent with the progressing Irish design; “Like many early high crosses and Gospel illuminated pages, the ‘Tara’ Brooch has a form consisting of circular arcs and straight lines.” Both these pieces yet again show Ireland’s artistic individuality emerging and developing to an advanced and idiosyncratically Irish stage.
Celtic High Crosses are a form of functional free standing sculpture which were mostly constructed on sites of religious significance. These crosses fall into two different groups, firstly there are crosses decorated with circular patterns and the second group being those decorated with Biblical scenes. It is still uncertain as to whether these crosses were painted but it is most likely that they were. With the addition of colour many of the designs on the crosses would have greater clarity.
The ‘High (Celtic) Crosses’ demonstrate a high point in Irish sculpture and the oldest, estimated 9th Century, are located at Ahenny in Co. Tipperary. The North and South crosses are carved with intricate geometrical Celtic designs and also Biblical scenes on the base. Scholar of early Irish art Franoise Henry, inspired at Ahenny, introduced her publication on Irish High Crosses with a chapter on ‘General Features’, where she offered an unchallenged description of the form of the monuments; “These high crosses are self-contained monuments, articulated into various elements: a large, somewhat cubic or pyramidal base, a separate block of stone indented with a deep rectangular hollow at the top, into which the stem of the cross can fit securely. The cross itself has a nearly square or rectangular section. The shaft tapers slightly towards the top. The stone ring which often connects the arms is usually in open-work, but in some cases it has been left as a sort of solid wheel. It is not necessarily always present, but occurs often enough to be considered as a characteristic feature of the Irish crosses.” Her writings clearly indicate that, although High Crosses are found across Europe, the Irish High cross is both distinctive and unique.
This paper through exploration of the output of ‘The Golden Age Of Irish Art’ has shown that the early eight century artisans accomplished the perfection of Irish art. By looking at an evolving innovative artistic culture in Ireland, with its origins in antiquity, traced through its metalwork craftsmanship, manuscript artistry, jewellery making and sculpture we can see that Ireland was not lacking in individuality and was feasibly a more cutting-edge artistic culture than other European countries.
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3. Form Of The Tara Brooch. Robert D. Stevick. The Journal Of The Royal Society Of Antiquaries Of Ireland, Vol. 128 (1998), P.5
4. The Menagerie Of The Derrynaflan Paten. Ryan, M. Irish Arts Review Yearbook, Vol. 11 (1995), P.84
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