Monthly Archives: April 2012

Nazis Take Power.

Here we shall explore why the Weimar Republic collapsed and how Hitler came to power. What was it that caused the Germans to vote for him and how he went about creating levers of power for himself. It will also elaborate on how Hitler crushed opposition even within his own party.

At the start of 1933, the Weimar government, after 15 years in office, had little real support in the country. Although the Nazis did not have an overall majority, they were the largest single party. No other party could match them in their propaganda or in their loyalty of support. Regardless of actual figures the Nazis could project the illusion of superiority over their rivals. This was because the people of Germany wanted change and had become more than disillusioned with the Weimar government. The communist threats, the Jewish menace, unemployment, the injustice of the Versailles settlement, the uncertainty of the economy were all contributing factors to the rise of Nazi-ism.

Hitler’s ability to appeal across the range of classes had already borne fruit in the Harzburg Front of October 1931, a grouping of the various conservative forces on the political right. The Front brought the Nazi party was come forums and gave it the air of respectability it needed in order to ultimately secure power. The July 1932 election indication of how far the National Socialists had gained in popularity; they doubled their previous vote and won twice as many seats in the Reichstag. However, it must be said, the rise of the Nazis was not inevitable and under a different economic climate may not have ever secured power. This fact is borne out by the November 1932 election in which the National Socialists saw the loss of 34 seats. Only two months later, Hitler was to take office as Chancellor. Hitler’s success was not, therefore, simply a matter of popular support. It owed as much to his skill as an opportunist in outmanoeuvring a set of conservative politicians who thought they could render him harmless by inviting him into office. Events were to prove that they had toolkit misjudged Hitler and the situation.

The aging Weimar president Von Hindenburg refused to acknowledge Hitler and the Nazis and tried by juggling his ministerial appointments to keep the conservative character of the government, knowing that if the Nazis were admitted to power they would destroy the Weimar Republic. From 1930 to 1933 three different chancellors tried, without much success, to govern through a series of coalitions. The Nazis grew impatient and Hitler refused to yield to their desires to overthrow the government by force arguing that legal power was the only way forward. He had, since 1924, advocated this route to power and always believed that sooner or later the Nazis would have the majority and after that – Germany.

In January 19 turkey tree Hindenburg agreed to appoint Hitler as Chancellor but only after he had been assured by cabinet ministers that Hitler would be far less dangerous in office then out, because it would be easier to control him but, as time would tell, Hitler was far beyond control. Hitler introduced an Enabling Act which suspended the Weimar Constitution and granted him full power to govern in his own right. Two significant events accord in the prelude to the final ascension to power Adolf Hitler and his Nazi party; the burning of the Reichstag building and Nazi success in what was to prove the last Reichstag election.

On the night he became Chancellor Hitler declared war on spiritual, political and cultural nihilism. He further demanded the Germany should not sink into communist anarchy. Less than a month later and Hitler had a golden opportunity to demonstrate his resolution when a Dutch communist set fire to the Reichstag building in Berlin. The arsonist was allegedly working alone and so it was not difficult for the Nazis to denounce the act as part of a large-scale communist plot.

Joseph Goebbels, Nazi Propaganda Minister manipulated Hitler’s fury and declared that only the Nazi party could save Germany from a red Revolution. Hermann Goering used the SA to terrorize other political parties and the campaign proved highly successful. The party fold increased and it is now beyond doubt that the Nazis had more popular support than any other party, resistance to Hitler within the government collapsed.

In the early 1930s the Weimar Republic had been deemed a failure and the intense nationalism of the Nazi party seemed a better proposition the Germans than any other pro-Soviet regime. Hitler had convinced the nation that he understood the needs of the people and promised salvation. The German middle classes and industrialists were already angry with the Weimar governments when Hitler proffered redemption from an ever deepening recession that was crippling the country. People admired Hitler’s stand on the rights of Germany as a nation in Europe and his condemnation of that Versailles Treaty. He further promised full support to the millions of Germans who by the terms of the 1919 peace settlement had been placed under foreign governments not of their choosing. The entire deal was far too attractive for all those disillusioned by the Weimar Republic’s failure to defend German interests abroad.

In Mein Kampf Hitler insisted that one person must have absolute authority and bear all responsibility. This was a basic principle of Nazi-ism and he quickly made himself the absolute leader by using a mixture of bribery and threats to dissuade opponents from attending the Reichstag. The result was that the Enabling Act, which would allow him absolute control was passed by an overwhelming majority. There was now no restriction on Hitler who had no reservations about destroying the power of the Reichstag. It has served its purpose and from now on it was simply be a chamber for endorsing his policies and a platform from which he could address the nation. Hitler was quick to build on his success. Within a year of the Enabling Act, he had destroyed trade unions and brought all Parliaments in all the individual German states under total Nazi control and, by outlawing all opposition groups, turned Germany into a one-party state. The end of democracy had arrived.

In June 1934 in what was later labelled “the Night of the Long knives”; Hitler moved to rid himself of his old friend and comrade in the Munich putsch and now leader of the SA Ernst Rohm. Hitler had fears that Rohm had plans of his own and rather than wait for these plans to transpire he orchestrated a fake scenario that culminated in Rohm losing his life. These events clearly demonstrated Hitler’s ruthlessness and were a clear signal to the German people, to whom he publicly admitted the events, but justified them by declaring he had the right to delete execute traitors because he was now the Supreme Judge.

Following the death of Hindenburg in August 1934 Hitler added the Presidency to his Chancellorship. His supreme power was recognized in his adaption of the title Führer, which, from this time on, was his official title. Hitler was now absolute ruler and Supreme Commander of the German Armed Forces and as such was now in total political and military control. The German Army adopted an oath of unconditional loyalty to the Fuehrer which meant this loyalty was to Hitler personally, not simply to him as head of state. Hitler and his armed forces had a special relationship that was ultimately to prove tragic, since military loyalty prevented any challenge to the Fuehrer’s decisions even when these were militarily absurd.

In the elections of March 1936, a mockery of democracy, Hitler won 98.9% of the vote in a contest in which the Nazis were the only contenders. However, what is significant here is the fact that the overwhelming majority of the German people idolized Hitler who had led them, or so they believed, into new levels of national pride.




The Coming of Nazism.

Hitler was one of many Germans who believed 1918 marked a betrayal of Germany by its leaders. Corrupt politicians, not army, were accountable for Germany’s sufferings. Hitler’s contempt for bureaucracy was expressed when he wrote; “Was this the meaning of the sacrifice which the German mother made to the fatherland when with sore heart she let her best-loved boys march off, never to see them again? Did all this happen only so that a gang of wretched criminals could lay hands on the fatherland? (Hitler 1925-1926) Hitler’s sense of betrayal was potent because of the aspirations of the German nation.


Germany became a unified sovereign state in 1871 after Otto Von Bismarck led, through clever manipulation and deceit, Prussia to victory over Denmark, Austria and France; these successes persuaded Germans to accept the King of Prussia as emperor of a United Germany; “From a pessimistic perspective, even the triumph of 1871, as time passed, seemed an incomplete victory and only a partial fulfilment of German ambitions in Europe.” (Cramer 2006). Germany came into being as a powerful military ‘Reich’ under Prussia. After 1870 the new German nation competed with other European countries for new territories including the scramble for Africa.

Imperial rivalry was not a creator of war but most certainly was a major influence upon it in the lead up to World War One.  When war broke out in 1914 the Germans embraced the opportunity with intense commitment and they saw this as a golden opportunity to prove the greatness of their nation with a mighty victory which, in the fullness of time, never occurred.  In fact, Germany had to engage in a bitter war of attrition with Russia on the east and France and Britain in the west.  Drained and exhausted Germany were forced to agree to an armistice and the struggle into which the German people had entered with such enthusiasm and confidence had brought them not triumph but disaster.

Germany were punished by the victors of World War I, principally France, Great Britain, Italy and the USA under the terms of the Treaty Of Versailles of 1919. The main terms of this treaty included Germany having to give up parts of France, Germany to be demilitarized and placed under occupation, Germany to lose West Prussia, Posen to Poland which denied the Germans access to parts of the Rhineland through the Polish corridor. Furthermore, the treaty deprived Germany of 4 million citizens by declaring Danzig an international city. Germany also had to surrender all its overseas colonies, and was to be deprived of its warships and aircraft and to have its army limited to 100,000 members. On top of all this Germany also had to pay reparations eventually amounting to in excess of 6 million pounds. What the Germans resented most was the manner in which they were not allowed to negotiate any terms and were forced to accept all conditions under threat of further warfare. The Germans were also angered by the fact that they had to accept full responsibility for the war.

Young Hitler

All of these humiliations became a source of strength to Hitler and turned him from a failed Bohemian to an aggressive military dictator. Hitler, an Austrian citizen in 1914, signed on as a member of the German army and won the Iron Cross for bravery later that year. He was very much disliked by his comrades who saw him as a weak coward showing little ability for leadership or oration.

The National Socialist German Workers Party (NSDAP or Nazi) came into being in 1919 and quickly attracted Hitler with his extreme nationalist ideas. The key demands of the Nazi party included the unification of Germany based on the right of self-determination, the revocation of the Versailles Treaty, land and territories to feed the German people and settle its surplus population, the recent tradition of state citizenship to those of German blood and Jews to be denied membership of the nation. Hitler joined the fledgling party and very quickly rose to a dominant position. He developed his skills for public oration and rabble rousing which perfectly suited the atmosphere of the beer halls where the party held its meetings. There was always an aggressive air around Hitler’s speeches and he could capitalize on this by whipping up he’s audiences into a frenzy of hatred and contempt for those who had betrayed the Fatherland in recent years. Violence was central to Nazism and Hitler portrayed the party as being at war against the nation’s enemies both internal and external. Under Hitler, National Socialism was essentially organized hatred and it drew its powers and inspiration from the desire to destroy. It would be a mistake to differentiate between Naziism and Communism in this era. Both parties were anti-each other and both equally as brutal and violent. However, in Germany, it was simply that the Nazis won anti-Communists lost. Nazis and Communists were so alike that day detested each other.

Hitler was more than impressed by Mussolini in 1922 when he heard about that “March on Rome” and its success as to dictator took over Italy. In November 1923 Hitler attempted to seize power in Munich, with Mussolini’s success in mind, he would then “march on Berlin”. However, Hitler had miscalculated as the Bavarian police stayed loyal to the government and fired on the Nazi marchers killing 16 of them. Hitler was arrested, brought to trial and sentenced to five years imprisonment for treason. Hitler was not unimpressed at the failure of the putsch and saw it as an excellent way to spread Nazi propaganda. Hitler only served less than a year in prison and this convinced him even more that not only was the putsch a success but his power and influence were on the rise.

Mein Kampf

During his time in Landsberg Castle prison Hitler wrote ‘Mein Kampf’, and mixture of autobiography and ideology in which he set out his main political ideas. The book would become a Bible for National Socialism; it elaborated, in extraordinary detail, on Germany’s destiny as a great Aryan nation, rejection of the Versailles Treaty and a profound hatred for Jews and Communists. The book was an emotional appeal to the German people to identify their enemies and follow the Nazis in destroying them.

German Depression (c.1930)

In the early 1920s Germany was in the depths of a depression but as the decade progressed the depression receded as industrial production increased and unemployment fell. Germany was also enjoying better relations with its wartime enemies, which allowed it to come to more reasonable terms regarding reparations payments. In this prospering economic climate the Nazis made little headway. However, by 1930 Germany begin to feel the impact of the global recession that had started in the USA and all but destroyed the demand for manufactured goods. Despair was rampant throughout Germany and the Weimar government rapidly lost the confidence of the German people who were feeling angered and impoverished and demanded change.

The recession was the redemption of the Nazi party and they rose in popularity amongst the lower middle classes who felt most threatened by the economic collapse. Frustrated at the Weimar system, weak political parties and poor decision-making, the petite bourgeoisie elevated the Nazis to the status of the redeemers of the German economy. This class provided the backbone of Nazi support from this point until its demise at the end of World War II.

The Whiteboys.

Agrarian Disturbances

Agrarian Disturbances

The great tradition of the Whiteboys in the south of Ireland had its beginnings in Tipperary in 1761. They always assembled at night with their shirts over their clothes, which caused them to be called the Whiteboys. The exactions of tithe-farmers and the enclosure of commonage sparked the initial oath bound combination in parts of Munster in southern Ireland. The Whiteboys were also known as ‘Levellers’ and they gave forceful expression to grievances that were widely shared, and their example was quickly imitated in adjacent parts of neighbouring counties. Large groups of Levellers, connected by the blowing of horns, mobilized in great numbers and fired guns as they marched along in their white shirts demolishing in the night-time the fences of the enclosures of many persons and swearing fidelity to each other and secrecy.

In the early stages the agitation was most formidable in County Waterford where 18 men met in 1762 and decided to form an oath bound secret society to combat enclosures and tithe-farmers (Tithe payment was an obligation on those working the land to pay ten per cent of the value of certain types of agricultural produce for the upkeep of the clergy and maintenance of the assets of the Church.); they did so, as one of them later confessed, because similar groups had partly succeeded in redressing some of the grievances they complained of. Once lit, the fires of revolt were carried far and wide throughout Munster. Although membership was secret their activities were very much in full public view. The Whiteboys moved through the countryside, administering oaths and fully living up to their other name by levelling ditches, hedges, walls, and fences. Frequent nocturnal meetings with as many as 500 white shirted insurgents in attendance took place at various locations in Munster.

Smaller bodies of Whiteboys participated in many minor offenses in themselves but, as in one case, resulting in the public execution, by way of warning, of two young men found guilty of membership of the Whiteboys. It must be remembered that this time in history an oath was deemed sacred and unbreakable. If these men had identified other members their lives would have been spared by the Crown but obliterated by their fellow members.

After months of extraordinary outbursts of activity affecting most of Munster the agitation abated in intensity and then went into temporary eclipse as the government responded with military and judicial repression. Except for a few isolated incidents, areas that had previously seethed with discontent remained almost eerily quiet from Midsummer 1762 until 1763. When activity resumed the geographical range of the agitation was much more restricted. The Whiteboys of County Limerick abandoned their insurgency altogether, and those of Cork and Waterford, though capable of seizing the offensive occasionally, mounted no sustained campaigns. Whiteboy operations were first reported in Kilkenny in March 1763 but they apparently ended abruptly with the jailing of many members. It took at least another year for Whiteboyism to expand in Kells to significant figures. Judging from their actions, the Whiteboys of Kilkenny were concerned not at all with enclosures and not very much with the farming of tithes but rather with the rates charged for the tithes of corn and potatoes. Most of the reported incidents involve attacks on the persons or property of those who had refused to comply with the regulations of Whiteboy combinations against payment of the usual rates.

Tipperary was really the heartland of Whiteboyism and what was most remarkable in these years was there wide geographical extent and massive membership. The agitation did not long remain confined to the poor lands but soon struck deep in the rich districts in the county. Rather than execute two Whiteboys in their hometown of Clonmel the authorities deliberately chose to have them hanged near Nenagh because that town was notorious as a place where Whiteboys were strongest.

Among the features which differentiated the Whiteboy movement from earlier combinations was the almost universal use of oaths to bind its adherents together. Every member was compelled to take an oath and those who refused to swear, were threatened with being buried alive. Of the 14,000 insurgents estimated to be in arms in County Tipperary in 1763 practically all were sworn to be true to the cause. Though scholars have so far discovered no clear examples of secret societies that were oath bound before the Whiteboys, the notion that earlier associations of peasants or urban tradesmen had never implied such a simple device seems on its face highly improbable. But even if oath bound popular organizations did exist on at least a local scale before the early 1760s, the Whiteboys should still be considered innovators because they invested oaths with great practical and symbolic importance in fusing local activists into the wider network of a regional movement.

Some oaths expressed specific aims of the insurgents, while others dealt with matters of organization and discipline, as did one oath found in the possession of a number of Whiteboys apprehended in April 1762. This source and other contemporary documents indicate many Whiteboys enrolled under the banner of the mystical leader Sieve Oultagh, whom they designated their queen. Precisely how this usage originated is unknown, but it almost certainly derived its currency from the popular tradition in song and poetry of personifying Ireland as a woman and its people as her children.

The Whiteboys had other symbols and customs that were explicit and functional. The Levellers of Waterford and other counties erected gallows, made coffins, and dug graves in the public roads, all obviously intended as portents of the fate awaiting those who refuse to obey their mandates. To a number of prominent Whiteboy practices some contemporaries also attributed a revolutionary meaning which in all probability they did not possess. Many of the Whiteboys sported white cockades which carried an implication of Jacobitism. Some saw in this agrarian movement a popish plot to overthrow, with French help, the Protestant constitution in church and state. The Whiteboys attire was patterned after the dress of the French Camisards who had rebelled in the year 1702. No doubt, some Whiteboys, expecting a foreign invasion, boasted they would change or put down governments. But the cry commonly heard from many Whiteboys was long King George III and Queen Sive, more accurately, if still somewhat ambivalent, reflected their political sentiments.

The Whiteboy movement coincided with a period of agricultural prosperity, but the very nature of that prosperity produced extensive economic changes in the south of Ireland that helped to trigger and sustained the outbreak of agrarian unrest. From this we can conclude that hunger did not drive the Whiteboys to revolt, though the price of provisions occasionally featured among their grievances. Exports were brisk to the North American colonies and the West Indies and also to Britain and her allies and troops. Thus, while the Whiteboys grievance on the score of enclosures was linked primarily to the encroachment of dairy and beef cattle on commonage, sheep were also a threat in the mid-1760s.

The closing of what were loosely called Commons was bound to arouse resistance because it challenged well-established usages within pasture farming. In the letting of choice land for dairying and feeding of dry cattle and sheep, it had long been customary in many parts of the South for landlords to attach inferior ground without making any specific addition to the rent, though the rents reflected the enhanced value of the enlarged farm. When land values began to increase sharply around mid-century and especially during the Seven Years War, landlords withdrew much of this commonage from current holders and either stocked it themselves or relet to new tenants who did so. The hedges, fences, and ditches which kept out the cattle and sheep of the former occupiers, as well as the impounding of trespassing livestock, constituted major provocations to violence. Besides seeking to regain their lost rights by destroying the physical obstacles, the Whiteboys also attacked the stewards placed on the grounds by landlords or the new tenants whom the landlords had introduced. In extremities as standard weapon against these intruders was to burn or pull down their dwellings. By no means had all of the houses raised by Whiteboys been inhabited by caretakers or recent occupiers of commonage, but the determination to repel such people was the dominant motive in numerous instances.

Much of the levelling activity of the Whiteboys, however, was not a response to the enclosure of commonage at all, as many upper-class complaints about ‘pretended commons’ obliquely testified. Rather, it was an expression of intense popular resentment against the keeping of land from tillage and they campaigned against the tithe of potatoes. Admittedly, this particular clerical impost, almost unique to Munster and parts of Leinster, was not the only aspect of the tithe system against which the Whiteboys battled. They were also determined in many places to end the farming of tithes. It must be remembered that these tithes were a form of taxation paid to the Protestant church in the form of a generous share of produce or income yielded from same. It must have been very irritating to say the least for the suppressed Catholics to have to finance the church of the elite. In South Tipperary, where the farming of tithes was unusually prevalent, the Whiteboys were especially active against these obnoxious middlemen. Whether the Whiteboys also desired to eliminate proctors as well as tithe farmers is doubtful. Only a few instances were ever reported of attacks on the persons or property of proctors.

Any attempt to illuminate in detail the social composition leadership of the earliest Whiteboys is severely handicapped by the complete absence of official government documents relating to the hundreds of persons who were apprehended and committed for trial as Levellers.

How members were recruited still remains something of a mystery. Teachers were considered one possibility and Catholic priests another. Large farmers were generally the victims rather than the allies of the Whiteboys, since, along with the great graziers, they kept land in pasture that might otherwise have been let in conacre, paid wages that the Whiteboys deemed much too low, and sometimes enclosed ancient commonage. Small farmers and their sons provided many activists. In districts where farms of large acreage were commonly taken in partnership by groups of tenants and sometimes by the inhabitants of an entire village, the landholding arrangements themselves could furnish a basis for Whiteboy organization.

Protestants were of the belief that rich Catholics were directing the Whiteboys but the only way the Catholic brought to trial before 1766 was a manufacturer from Waterford who was later acquitted. In spite of many infamous prosecutions there is little evidence to corroborate Protestant charges that prosperous Catholics supported the Whiteboys.

The attempted repression of the Whiteboy movement, while not Savage, was severe. The on-going insurgency had grown far beyond a level the local magistrates could control and a large number of elite troops were drafted into the disturbed parts of four Munster counties. Interestingly, such troops had previously been engaged in anti-smuggling operations on the coasts of Dublin and Down and as such were an intimidating force to be reckoned with. In some places all the young men fled in terror at the approach of these troops and in a matter of weeks the prisons were full. Meanwhile, Protestants remained convinced that these movements were primarily motivated by the desire to raise a rebellion and when the Crown investigated this, by talking to prisoners, they too were convinced that an insurrection had been contemplated. However, it was also realized that all the outrages, regardless of their specific nature, where the result of some local dissatisfaction and as such could not be interpreted as disaffection for the crown, government are to laws in general. The only risk was that with such a large movement in existence any foreign invasion would radically change this situation.

Of those who had been imprisoned, nearly 500 in all, some fared out better than others depending on geographical location and willing witnesses. Some were condemned to death, some found guilty of riot, and many more of minor offenses such as cutting down trees, burying a victim up to his chin in unmarked graves, and tendering unlawful oaths which led to fines or torture. The dozen or so executions exercised a significant, if temporary; check on the Whiteboy movement. In fact, the degree of repression necessary to destroy the Whiteboy movement was actually beyond the reach of the central and local authorities as long as they continued to rely on traditional legal methods for maintaining order. Voluntary and unpaid witnesses for the crown were exceedingly difficult to find because of intimidation, bribery, or sympathy with Whiteboy aims.

It is not effective repression which brought the first Whiteboy movement to a close by early 1766, but rather economic conditions bordering on mass starvation. Extreme droughts took place in the previous year and consequently huge losses accumulated in all sectors of agriculture. For many months the food situation steadily deteriorated and prices went so high that it was impossible for poor people to purchase food. A widespread epidemic of smallpox aggravated their plight and throughout the summer of 1766 small-scale food riots took place at thousands of locations throughout the country. In the struggle for the means to preserve life, agrarian grievances temporarily ceased to be important.

Until the arrival of the Whiteboys never before in the South had agrarian rebels been so numerous, operated over such a broad area, or displayed, though for a limited time, such a high degree of organization and coordination. On the other hand, the Whiteboys of the early 1760s were less widespread, addressed a narrower range of issues, and included fewer farmers than their successors in the 1770s. The Whiteboys lacked the coherence in aims, methods, and organization that was to distinguish later clandestine groups. Indeed, the earliest Whiteboys preserved a strong regional movement only until the spring of 1762. Thereafter, Whiteboyism became much less formidable. Paradoxically, this reversion towards the older pattern of rural protest did little to cure Protestant paranoia of popish insurrection in alliance with foreign Catholic powers and efforts continued to permanently terminate all riotous behaviour no matter what its form. Though Whiteboyism activated the sectarian reflex of some upper-class Protestants, for the great majority it had become all too apparent that agrarian rebellion was so firmly rooted on Irish soil that it needed no water from France or Spain to nourish its growth. The experience of the 1790s, of course, changed many minds, and with good reason.

Primary Source:

Irish Agrarian Rebellion: The Whiteboys of 1769-76

J. S. Donnelly

Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy.

Section C: Archaeology, Celtic Studies, History, Linguistics, Literature , Vol. 83C, (1983), pp. 293-331

Published by: Royal Irish Academy

Article Stable URL:

Irish Catholic Question.

How Deep Is The Divide?



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.

Protestant Ethos.

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.

Anglo-Irish Relations.

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.

Empire Expansion.

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 Relief.

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.

French Revolution.

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.

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. 


Primary Source:

The Catholic Question in the Eighteenth Century

Thomas Bartlett

History Ireland , Vol. 1, No. 1 (Spring, 1993), pp. 17-21
Published by: Wordwell Ltd.

Catholicism And Penal Laws (1695)

Penal Laws 1695.

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.


Primary Source:

Securing the Protestant Interest: The Origins and Purpose of the Penal Laws of 1695

Charles Ivar McGrath

Irish Historical Studies , Vol. 30, No. 117 (May, 1996), pp. 25-46

Vocabulary Lessons.

Sample Vocabulary Lessons.


A Vocabulary lesson is a way of teaching new words to students. When introducing new words it is a mistake to resort to long boring lists of words and simply having the class read them, the teacher to translate them and have students memorise them. This process of teaching new words can be dull and tedious for both teacher and students. This approach is also limited in its impact and allows for very little student involvement.

When dealing with new vocabulary ‘visual strategies’ can be very effective. Students will associate words with pictures and is a common and very successful technique. However, it is not the only technique available to teachers. There are many such devices available to teach new words in an effective way.

Students should be guided into the following:

  1. Students can be encouraged to interpret the meaning of the word.
  2. The shape of the word can be taken into consideration.
  3. The pronunciation of the word.
  4. The utility of the word.

The more ways the teacher can get the students to look at a word the better the chance they will have to remember it and retrieve it later if and when the need arises.

A simple set of procedures can be applied when teaching new words:

  1. Place the list of new words on the board for all to see.
  2. Invite students to group them in categories of their own making.
  3. Find rhyming or similar looking words.
  4. Find words they like the sound of.
  5. Find strange looking words.
  6. Vote on the most difficult to spell.
  7. Find synonyms and antonyms.

There are two basic types of Vocabulary class and these are known as ‘passive’ and ‘active’ lessons. In ‘passive’ the teacher encourages students to recognise words on a given text and it normally applies to reading and listening. In the ‘active’ style which is related to writing and speaking English the vocabulary is taught to students who are then invited to reproduce it.

Corpus research advises us that over 2000 words are used in everyday English conversation and these are sufficient for most ordinary conversation. Such research can help educators at all levels of English teaching. It demonstrates how words are organised into patterns which students can learn by understanding combinations of words. These combinations are known as ‘Collocations’ and ‘Chunks’ which come in patterns of 2, 3,, 4, 5 and 6 word sentences. (For example; “If you know what I mean?”).[1]

Active And Passive Vocabulary Lessons.

1. Sample ‘Active’ Vocabulary Lesson.

The most common method of ‘’active vocabulary lesson’ is to show a detailed picture (poster) in relation to the words being taught and to have students select details from the picture and relate these concepts in English. With the poster in full display a series of leading questions can be asked to encourage conversation. As in this example where the aim is to teach words related to building and construction:

The words being taught in this lesson are:

  1. Cranes.
  2. Builders.
  3. Construction Site.
  4. Workers.
  5. Bulldozers.
  6. Hard Hats.
  7. Foreman.
  8. Wheelbarrow.
  9. Tyres.
  10. Digging.
  11. Drills.
  12. Fencing.

Additional words will inevitably crop up n the duration of the class as students try to establish the English name for something they recognise in the picture. The teacher will remain in full view of the class and encourage such contributions by elicitation of questions.

The Building Site.

Sample Questions:

1       How many CRANES?

2       How many WORKERS on the nearest building?

3       How many BULLDOZERS?

4       How many HARD HATS do you see?

5       Which one is the FOREMAN?

6       What colour is the WHEELBARROW?

7       How many TYRES do you see?

8       How many men are DIGGING?

9       What colour is the DRILL?

10   Why is there FENCING around the SITE?

Students would also be invited to make observations about the picture and to exchange views and opinions on detail. Conversation is encouraged to increase maximum use of English throughout the lesson. It is further necessary to inspire students to ask questions related to their own lives but connected in some way to the picture. These questions are more ‘academic’ than ‘visual’ based and as such allows the students to use the information they have acquired from the lesson. Such questions can be as follows:

Additional Conversational Questions:

  1. How many people have a friend or relative in construction?
  2. What is your favourite building in this city and why?
  3. Do you like modern or old architecture?
  4. Do you live in a nice building?
  5. Where is the ugliest building in the city?
  6. What building would you most like to live in?
  7. Compare Churches to Museums and Office Blocks?
  8. Which are the oldest buildings in the world?
  9. Are ‘Pyramids’ buildings?
  10. Have you ever been on top of a skyscraper?

2.     Sample ‘Passive’ Vocabulary Lesson.










Once Upon a time there was a PRINCE making his way through the FOREST. As he rambled slowly he seemed sad and confused. He found a small STREAM and went to drink some water from it. Having sipped the water he sat back on a small rock and began to weep. As he sat alone weeping he failed to notice the GURU approach him.

The GURU paused for a moment and touched the PRINCE on the shoulder. “Why, asked the GURU, do you weep?” The PRINCE shook his head and said, “I have travelled the world, walked every city, looked in every FOREST, searched every street but nowhere can I find Love.

I weep now because in this world there is no Love for me so I must venture through my life and not experience the magic of true Love and for this I am sad and I shed the tears of a heart-broken man.”

When the PRINCE finished speaking the GURU smiled and whispered, but loud enough to be heard, the words ‘What a silly Man you are my friend to think such foolish thoughts.’ The PRINCE was confused and offended at the GURU’s reply and insisted that his sorrow should not be ridiculed without some further explanation.

The GURU sat down on the bank of the STREAM and told the PRINCE to listen carefully. “Can you see the BUTTERFLY in the flowers on the other side of the STREAM?” the GURU asked. The PRINCE looked across and saw a big beautiful yellow BUTTERFLY hovering over the yellow daffodils. “I see him, yes!” the PRINCE replied. “Well, said the GURU, Love is very much like a BUTTERFLY, my friend, when you chase it, it shall fly away, but if you stand still, it shall land on you”.[2]

Class Objective:

Students are presented with this text (on projector and/or as a hand out). They are not expected to understand the text but are invited to collaborate on piecing it together like a jigsaw. With the help of the picture students can look for clues as to the meaning of the story and the characters, locations and sentiments expressed.

The teacher can get the discussion going with such questions as:

  1. What words are familiar here?
  2. What ‘chunks’ and ‘collocations’ are in action?
  3. What ‘basic’ words are in most use and what does this tell us?
  4. What are the meanings (guessed) of new words?
  5. Where can we find streams, rivers or oceans?
  6. Are there any slang words or idioms?
  7. How can we use hyponyms, synonyms or antonyms to assist us in translating this text?
  8. Is the old man right?
  9. What contextual (past, present or future) tenses are at work in the text?

10. What other observations/conclusions can be drawn from structure and layout of words and sentences?


 Vocabulary teaching is necessary for teaching core English words. When teaching vocabulary it is best to focus on Form, meaning and usage. ‘Form’ focuses on pronunciation, spelling, inflections and derivations; ‘Meaning’ includes basic and literal meanings, derived and figurative meanings and semantic relation and connotation. Finally, Usage will focus on sub categorization, collocation, sociolinguistic and stylistic restrictions and slangs and idioms.

Teaching Vocabulary relies on presentation; definitions should be clearly demonstrated using examples (eg; hyponyms), illustration, demonstration, context, synonyms, opposites (antonyms), and translation and associated words (collocations and chunks). Incidental vocabulary acquisition should be encouraged for further lexical and semantic development of the words learned through explicit instruction and for learning additional vocabulary.

[1] Dr. Anne O’Keefe (Moodle) Accessed On: 04.04.2012 Gerard J. Hannan.

[2] The Butterfly © Gerard J. Hannan 2005.

Role Play In Class

Role-Play Is Vital To The Learning Experience.

Role-Play Introduction:

Including role-play into the classroom activities adds diversity, a change of pace and occasions for a lot of language production. It can be an essential part of the class and used for a wide variety of learning procedures.

Simply put; Role-play is any speaking activity when a student either put themselves into somebody else’s shoes, or when they stay in their own shoes but put themselves into a make-believe situation.[1]

With role-play students can ‘become’ anyone they like A film star, a pop star, a sports star or some such celebrity they care to be, the choice is entirely their own. Role-play can also be used by splitting the class into two and creating ‘for’ and ‘against’ teams and given a statement, non-political (preferably humorous) and as harmless as possible, which they have to support or refute.

Some Sample Statements Are:

  1. Coffee should be banned.
  2. Smoking in public bars and cafes should be allowed.
  3. Couples holding hands in public should be banned.
  4. People under 50 should not be served alcohol.
  5. Women would make great Builders.
  6. Police should all dress in pink Kilts to stand out more.
  7. Learning ‘English’ is very easy.
  8. Babies should not be allowed in public places.
  9. Watching Television is a waste of time.
  10. Men should wear dresses if they want.

In a one-to-one situation Students can take on the opinions of someone else. The purpose here is to create a realistic situation or environment where the student is forced to use English to negotiate a target solution to a given problem.

Harmer On Role-Play.

Jeremy Harmer advocates the use of role-play for the following reasons:

  1. It’s fun and motivating.
  2. Quieter students get the chance to express themselves in a more forthright way.
  3. The world of the classroom is broadened to include the outside world – thus offering a much wider range of language opportunities[2]


 In addition students are placed into English-speaking situations and are given a chance to prepare their English in a safe environment. Real situations can be created and students can benefit from the practice. Mistakes can be made with no harsh consequences.

The Teacher (During Role-play) Becomes:

  1. Facilitator – students may need new language to be ‘fed’ in by the teacher. If rehearsal time is appropriate the feeding in of new language should take place at this stage.
  2. Spectator – The teacher watches the role-play and offers comments and advice at the end.
  3. Participant – It is sometimes appropriate for the teacher to get involved and take part in the role-play.[3]

Rules Of Role-Play Scenarios:

  1. Regalia and props can really bring a role-play to life; For example, using props such as trays with cups (for a coffee shop ordering situation) can be useful because they allow greater material for discussion.
  2. Rearranging the furniture can also help: In a coffee shop scenario tables can be moved to create an environment similar to that of a coffee shop. Counters, tables and, if possible, cups and saucers etc.
  3. Keep it real and relevant: it is necessary to ensure that all given scenarios are realistic and possible situations students could find themselves in if they travel to English speaking countries. There is no point in a student pretending to be, for example a ‘Brain Surgeon’ because the language necessary is not relevant. It is best to have students look for directions, order food or explain an illness or pain to a listening Doctor. Such situations can and do happen on a regular basis and as such are more appropriate for students to learn.

Further Points To Consider:

It is also a good idea to record role-plays, if possible, and allow the students to listen to themselves communicating. They can learn how and where they went wrong in the process.

Fellow students should be instructed to make notes as the role-play proceeds and document newly learned language (phrases or words) during the role-play.

The teacher should ensure to ‘correct’ in a friendly and informative way and not create embarrassment for the student. It may be best for the teacher to make notes as the role-play progresses and then, at the end of the session, discuss rather than correct errors.

Sample Role-Play Scenario:

The following role-play is a customisation of a game outlined by BBC (British Council For Teaching English)[4]:

Visiting A Restaurant In Ireland.


  1. Make “menus” for a restaurant and choose foods, that are not familiar to students and not in their native language.
  2. Make some fake money to make the situation more realistic and demanding of greater interaction between students.
  3. Separate students into groups of 3 or 4 and have them sit around one table per set as if they were eating together in a real restaurant. Pass out the menus and have students look them over.
  4. The teacher becomes the server and goes around each table and takes the students’ food and drink orders. Each student should be allowed to ask a set amount of questions about the items on the menu.

Sample questions are:

  1. a.   Is it spicy?
  2. b.   Does it have Onions?
  3. c.    How much is it?
  4. d.   Is the coffee (wine) part of the meal?
  5. e.    Is tipping allowed?
  1. It is also a good idea to have the person pay for the meal using the fake money. The use of Monopoly money is perfectly acceptable as it is a currency most students will be familiar with but not too sure how to use.

Alternative Role Play Game Strategy (Scenario):

It is also interesting to have one group of 4 or 5 students come to the front of the class at a pre-constructed counter (from classroom desks) to ask the teacher (now Waiter or Barman) any questions they may have about ordering a meal or drinks. In this scenario it is helpful if one of the students should be a spokesperson for the others, who may speak their native language (if possible) and have the spokesperson translate it in English with the assistance of other members of the group.

Note: When choosing who should come out to the front of the class we need to be careful not to choose the shyest students first, and we need to work to create the right kind of supportive atmosphere in the class.

Materials Required.

Given the scenario of this ‘Restaurant’ example of role-play it is necessary to make some adjustments to the lay out of the class using existing furniture. One should create tables for diners, a counter for restaurant ‘staff’ and a number of menus (one for each table). Any other props that are available and can be used will assist in creating new language situations for the students.

Role-Play Advantages.

There is no question that role playing can provide powerful and significant learning opportunities. These advantages are as follows:

1.    Creates greater involvement in the learning process.

2.    Teacher can observe and identify ‘problem’ areas.

3.    Provides opportunity for practise without consequence.

4.    Class can be segmented and students learn from each other.

5.    Students can be encouraged to take an opposite standpoint to                      their own point of view in order to enhance the learning                                        experience.

Other Sample Role-Play Scenarios:

  1. Student in a Taxi looking to go to Dublin City Centre.
  2. Student with no passport trying to buy alcohol.
  3. Student lost in City and wants to find hotel.
  4. Student feels ill and wants to find Doctor.
  5. Student wants to know Train/Bus Times at a Depot.
  6. Student wants to find an Internet Café.
  7. Student has lost his/her passport at Hotel.
  8. Student wants a cheap room in a B&B.
  9. Student wants to find a good Bar or Nightclub.
  10. Student wants to exchange currency at a Bank.

Sample Questions For ‘Restaurant’ Scenario:


1.   Can I see your menu?

2.   How much for a sandwich and coffee?

3.   I do not want Onions in that.

4.   Can you recommend a good wine?

5.   Is there a discount for groups of four or more?

6.   Is the cheese/meat local?

7.   Is the Chef Irish?

8.   Can we take some away if we don’t finish it here?

9.   Do you have any (condiments) Garlic or Herbs?

10. What is the tipping policy in this restaurant?



There is a popular belief that learning should be solemn in nature and if one is having fun then it is not learning. This is a misconception. It is possible to learn a language and enjoy oneself at the same time. One of the best ways of doing this is through games and role-play.

It is vital that the teacher be creative when producing games. Daring to deviate occasionally from routine and do something refreshing in the class is very important in the learning process. It requires little effort, and the rewards are plenty and the enthusiasm generated is dynamic. Finally well conducted role-playing and games show that the teacher is totally committed and enthusiastic.

[1] BBC (Accessed 02.04.2012 Gerard J. Hannan)

[2] The Practice of English Language Teaching – Jeremy Harmer (Longman 1989)

[3]  Role Play – Gillian Porte Ladousse (Oxford 1987)

[4] Sourced At:

(Accessed On 03.04.2012 Gerard J. Hannan)

Games In Teaching.

A Sample Language Game



The Yes/No Quiz.


When selecting games for TEFL (Teaching English As A Foreign Language) classes, one must take a much wider look at how the students came to be there, and what English they need to survive. When TEFL students are learning the playing of games can relieve stress, and allow them to laugh and have fun while still gaining new words and getting to know one another as they go along.

The following game is an example of a fun game (or exercise) to play with students and it’s most significant element is that it totally reduces Teacher Talking Time and allows the students to interact with each other and share the learning experience.

Rules Of The Game.

1. All students must participate.
Note: Teacher should encourage participation from quieter or shyer students. Teacher resists urge to participate thereby encouraging maximum SST.

2. Teacher writes (or projects) sample questions for all students to see. This demonstrates the simplicity of the game to the students.
(See sample questions below.)

3. Teacher provides a Box of Verbs printed on small cards which the leading student dips into to take one at random.
(To select the first candidate Teacher should ask for a volunteer).

4. Student can only answer with YES or NO to any question. If the question can not be answered in this way then the student says PASS.

5. Each member of the class is allowed ask one question (and all students are allowed to take notes); all students will thereby accumulate information about the VERB as the game progresses.

6. The roles then reverse slightly and the leader asks each member of the class do you know the mystery verb. Each student proffers an answer and the first one (though not yet announced) to get it right takes the next turn to lead or nominate one other to do so.
(Note: It makes the game more interactive if all nine answers are heard before declaring the winner or winners).

7. As the game begins to flow the teacher can ‘step back’ and allow the students to interact with each other or, if so desired, become a contestant themselves.

Materials Required.

1. Projected list of proposed questions.

2. One shoebox of VERBS on small printed cards.

3. One empty shoebox for used VERBS.

Game Explanation.

The following game is called BLEEP1 and is sometimes known as “COFFEEPOT” or ‘BLIP’ and the object of the game is to guess the VERB. However, the game, with some amendments, can also be played for all parts of speech including adjectives, adverbs, nouns, pronouns but in this case we will use the game to teach at INTERMEDIATE level the concept of VERBS.

In this game each student is given a VERB suitable for the level of the class being taught which, in this case, is INTERMEDIATE. The class is either divided into pairs or, if the group is small, invited to work as one group. The purpose of the game is to get the pairs or group to discover the VERB by asking a series of relevant questions.

In this example we will assume a group of 10 students are participating in the class. One student is given a card (Leading Student) with a VERB printed on it and he or she stands at the front of the class. The remaining nine stay seated and each one is allowed to ask only one question but nobody is allowed to take a guess until all nine questions are asked. Students are instructed to make a note of what they believe the VERB to be. At the end of the questioning session the teacher asks for a show of hands as to who thinks they have the correct VERB. Neither the teacher nor the leading student reveals the VERB.

The aim of the game is to guess the meaning of the word BLEEP but not straightaway but to prolong the game for all members of the group to pose at least one question. When a class member thinks they know the meaning of the word they can still ask further questions which make the meaning of the word clear to the rest of the class or will amuse the student who is answering the questions.

Sample Questions.

The use of a nonsense word BLEEP is substituted for the target VERB. Before the game begins the teacher must write (or project Powerpoint Slides) some sample questions as follows;

1. When do you BLEEP?

2. Where do you BLEEP?

3. How do you BLEEP?

4. Did you BLEEP with somebody in the last 24 Hours?

5. Can you BLEEP someone?

6. Do you often BLEEP?

7. Did you BLEEP yesterday?

8. Are you BLEEPING now?

9. Are you going to BLEEP this weekend?

10. Have you BLEEPED since you arrived in class?

11. Do you like BLEEPING?

12. If I saw you BLEEPING would I be embarrassed?

13. Have you ever seen me BLEEP?

14. Do you prefer to BLEEP on your own or in mixed company?

15. Is BLEEPING something a lot of people do?

16. If I BLEEP can I be heard?

17. How many times a day do you BLEEP?

18. Do you BLEEP when you are socialising?

19. Are you good at BLEEPING?

20. Can you teach me or anyone else how to BLEEP?

Sample Verbs.






(Of course, the game works perfectly for all Verbs).


Ultimately, all TEFL students want to learn English, and using games will help them to achieve their goals with more fun, laughter, and ease than any workbook or lecture ever could. All it takes is a little forethought, a wide variety of games to choose from, and sensitivity to the needs and experiences of the students.

Hitchcock: Reluctant Auteur.

Hitchcock: The Reluctant Auteur


‘Jeff, do you think a murderer would let you see all that?

That he shouldn’t keep his shades down and hide behind them?’


‘That’s where he’s being clever.


(Hayes 1953)

This paper will consider two Alfred Hitchcock (1899-1980) films; Rear Window (1954) and Vertigo (1958) to explain how ‘acting nonchalant’ the ‘Catholic guilt ridden’ (Richie 2012), Hitchcock who grew up in a strict Roman Catholic family, manipulated audiences into recognizing their own moral dilemmas and forcing them to acknowledge a dark side which, Hitchcock implies in most post ‘Rebecca’ (1940) films, exists within all human beings. ‘Though his films were controlled environments, the subject of a Hitchcock picture was typically loss of control, tossing of a more or less innocent person into the vortex of guilt and intrigue’ (Corliss 1999).

’Hitchcockian themes of voyeurism, rescue and disability are most evident in both films’ (Cohen 1995) and exploration of writings of leading auteur theorists we find that the ‘relutant auteur’ Hitchcock’s motives were not alone self-serving but unintentional master classes in auteur cinema. Hitchcock’s films, where he himself made a cameo, are autobiographical and confessional but also quintessential ‘self-created’ examples of auteur cinema. The two films; Rear Window and Vertigo are Hitchcock’s loudest ‘auteuristic’ confessions; ‘Modern art is often seen as the product of impulse and compulsion, of the divine creative whim that reveals the turbulent depths of its creator’s spirit’. (Corliss 1999)

Both films are consistent with his theme of the characters inability to escape the past and the haunting power that the dead have over the living these ‘psychological ingredients’ Hitchcock once admitted began in 1940 with Rebecca (Adair 2002). Rather than being about active male heroes using their gazes to control passive, ‘to-be-looked-at’ women, Vertigo and Rear Window, show ambivalent, less-than-powerful heroes struggling to resist patriarchy, struggling to wrest control of the gaze from the world around them.’ (Manlove 2007).

Gaze Theory is a psychoanalytical term brought into popular usage by Jacques Lacan (1901-1981) who contends that the scopic drive (the eyes and the gaze) relate to human desire; ‘If the drives are closely related to desire, they are the partial aspects in which desire is realized—desire is one (with the gaze) and undividable,’ (Doyle 2001). Since the early 1990s, something akin to ‘gaze theory’ has coalesced, in large part, because of the wide influence of Feminist theorist Laura Mulvey’s 1975 essay, ‘Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema.’ in which she uses the gaze to examine male pleasure in narrative cinema; ‘Rather than being about active male heroes using their gazes to control passive, ‘to-be-looked-at’ women, Vertigo and Rear Window show ambivalent, less-than-powerful heroes struggling to resist patriarchy, struggling to wrest control of the gaze from the world around them’ (Mulvey 1975).

In Lifeboat (1944), Rope (1948) and Dial M For Murder (1954) Hitchcock worked on a single set and for Rear Window he revisits this challenge again. As the film unfolds we witness a variety of ‘mini dramas’, ‘behind’ glass walls, that entertain the protagonist and the audience he represents. Hitchcock used what he described as the ‘subjective technique’, (Adair 2002) a method of filming that creates the protagonists point of view by intercutting shots of what he sees and how he reacts. The audience are thus compelled to identify with the protagonist and to experience and share feelings of suspicion, curiosity and fear. Underneath the simplistic plot lie some serious concerns.

A romance between Jefferies (James Stewart) and Lisa (Grace Kelly) is clearly meaningless to Jefferies who is too focused on his ‘peeping tom’ activities where he prefers to look at other people’s lives than to put his own in order. The murder he ‘witnesses’ mirrors his love life. Jeffries readily identifies with the murderer as he assumes that the salesman wants rid of his irritating wife; ‘Can you see me rushing home to a hot apartment every night to listen to the automatic laundry, the electric dishwasher, the garbage disposal and a nagging wife?’ (Hayes 1953). It is established from the opening scenes that Jeffries is anti-marriage and cynical towards women and the love they proffer to ensnare him. Once again, this plot device of ‘doubles’ between Hero and Villain is not new to Hitchcock as he used it before in Shadow Of A Doubt (1943) and Strangers On A Train (1951).

According to Dan Auiler’s book about the making of Vertigo, Hitchcock produced a masterpiece through his professionalism and aura as an auteur (Auiler 1998). In ‘Vertigo’ the main protagonist is a man haunted by his own human frailty: his vertigo. Viewers identify with this vulnerability and instinctively sympathize because of their own restrictive flaws. (Berman 2000) It is such weakness that gives Hitchcock his power over his audience as they suffer while witnessing the consequential chaos of human frailty. The spiral descent of the protagonist as a consequence of his own desire to regain control of his life, robbed by his vertigo, this motive becomes distorted as he makes the fatal mistake of becoming emotionally entangled with the object of his rescue and ultimately his demise.

As the story unfolds the audience will learn that the ‘brave hero’ is flawed as he displays cowardice, emotional trauma and seems beyond rescue as he enters the abyss of insanity. In a mentally frail condition Scottie starts to hunt down the source of his insanity and lands upon a new target for the restoration of his delusional mind. It is here that Hitchcock pulls a cruel trick on his audience by allowing them into the secret of truth that eludes the protagonist. We learn that Scottie has been manipulated to witness the suicide of his old friend’s wife. And so, we abandon the protagonist and dismiss him as naïve, delusional and beyond redemption.

As he proceeds in a Pygmalion fashion, parallel with the ‘Frankenstein’ theme of creating a monster that ultimately destroys its creator, to transform the object of his obsession into the object of his desire we start to feel empathy with Judy (Madeline), played by Kim Novak, a former Grace Kelly stand-in (Hitchcock allegedly obsessed over Kelly in the same way as Scottie obsesses over and transforms Judy and used the actress to ‘punish’ Kelly for deserting him) who clearly loves Scottie for himself but he refuses to accept her beyond what he wants her to be.

She ultimately relents and makes the fatal mistake of going a step too far by wearing a necklace which betrays her and, in a moment of clarity, he arrives to a new reality in which he becomes the killer rather than the Saviour. Beauty and the Beast switch roles. However, having been forced to return to the scene of the crime she too falls to her doom to reveal to the audience in the final seconds that it was not the ‘fear of heights’ that was the cause of Scottie’s self annihilation but his own sexual fetishes and an erotic obsession disguised as Vertigo.

The camera in Vertigo, as with Rear Window, is voyeuristic. In fact, the protagonist is a passive character moving within a world in which he has no control. He rejects ordinary love for the love of a dead person; ‘Scottie rejects existential reality in order to live within mythic non-reality’ (Berman 2000). Scotties ‘contempt’ for women demonstrated by his need for omnipotent control of the love object in order to deal with the terror of the object loss is related to Hitchcock’s own ‘lifelong struggles with dependency, women and sadism’ (Gabbard 1998).

A key question concerns Hitchcock’s attitude toward women. Do films such as Vertigo, Rear Window, Psycho (1960) and Frenzy (1972) which depicts shocking acts of violence against women reveal a man with a hatred of the opposite sex?; ‘but on closer analysis in all cases we find that an alliance with a stronger risk-taking woman helps save the hero’s skin.’ (Adair 2002).

Auteur theory became prominent in the 1950s in France and most notably articulated by Francois Truffaut; “Hitchcock’s reputation from popular entertainer to distinguished auteur over the years is usually attributed to the efforts of some admiring European film figures” (Kapsis 1989). When Truffaut was writing critical essays on auteurs like Hitchcock he had already hatched the project for his single most sustained piece of critical writing, the conversations with Alfred Hitchcock. (Anzalone 1998) Auteur theory describes the mark of a film director in terms of theme, style, aesthetic, technique and control.

The films of the Director are ‘stamped’ with the personality of the creator as is the case with Alfred Hitchcock; ‘In 1954, Truffaut wrote an article called A Certain Trend of French Cinema (New Wave Film 2012) which resulted in a storm of controversy. Truffaut later devised the auteur theory, which stated that the director was the ‘author’ of his work; that great directors such as Jean Renoir (1874-1979) or Hitchcock has distinct styles and themes that permeate all of their films.’ (Rovi 2012). Truffaut says Hitchcock  is  one  of  those  rare film-makers who  is  able  to  please  everyone; “I  am  convinced that  his  procedure  is  applicable  to  all  films,  or to be precise, to those which are made coldly.  I believe that Vertigo is not made interesting to the general public through concession or compromise, but rather through supplementary discipline”. (Ronde and Truffaut 1963).

Alfred Hitchcock, himself a European with Germanic influences is therefore acknowledged as the perfect example of auteur cinema as his name evokes immediate expectations in terms of themes and techniques; ‘the European influence on Hitchcock came as a result of the German Expressionists, and he admired their ability to express ideas in purely visual terms’ (Spoto 1991).

Hitchcock’s films are intricate in cinematic technique, camera viewpoints, editing and suspense construction by music. His vision of his world is reflected in his films and each one offers an analysis of life’s cruel jokes from wrongful accusation, imprisonment and mistaken identity. He visually expressed his themes using staircases, sinister houses, chasms, mothers and the ‘McGuffin’; “Hitchcock’s narrative gimmick that motivates the characters’ behaviour (a search for a secret formula, an impending assassination) but is of secondary interest to the audience.” (Nixon 2012) Hitchcock further elaborates on his technique with his ‘Bomb Theory’ a phrase which he coined to explain his method of creating suspenseful rather than surprise cinema. Simply put he suggests that if the audience does not know there is a bomb under the table then this is a fifteen second ‘surprise’ when it goes off, if they do know we can provide them with fifteen minutes of ‘suspense’. The conclusion is that whenever possible the public must be informed” (Hitchcock. 1970).

Spoto writes that the Hitchcock’s touch was evident in all his films: “structure, screenplay, plot, theme, images, cast, setting; lighting, mood, audience manipulation, wit, pacing and rhythm; “Hitchcock was able to transcend artistic constraints and make highly personalised films that bear the stamp of his artistic personality.” (Spoto 1991).

And Hitchcock is certainly known for his highly personal style, as described by François Truffaut in the introduction to his famous conversation with Hitchcock: “Because he exercises such complete control over all the elements of his films he is one of the few filmmakers whose screen signature can be identified as soon as the picture begins”. It was Truffaut’s publication in 1967 of his interviews with Hitchcock that established Hitchcock as the `quintessential auteur’ (Spoto 1991).

However, Hitchcock was a ‘reluctant auteur’ judging from his contradictory comments in relation to collaborative scriptwriting in which he indicates that his artistic vision was not his alone and was often reshaped by writing. Discussing the Hitchcock-Hayes collaboration on ‘Rear Window’ the Director said; ‘People embrace the auteur theory, but it’s difficult to know what someone means by it. Very often the director is no better than his script.’ (Burnett 2001) However, Hitchcock did little to dispute his own cinematic mastery when interviewed by Truffaut; he downplayed the role of Hayes labelling him ‘a radio writer who wrote the dialogue.’ (Telegraph 2008)

Hitchcock’s career as a film maker can be best understood by his desire for a good story, good actors and creative contributions from his crew. The consummate perfectionist planned every shot and guided the film development from start to finish. This is the primary reason why all his films had his stamp. He was justifiably motivated by ‘control’ and arrogance based on his expertise and belief that he alone, beyond all others, understood his audience.

What really distinguished Hitchcock as an auteur are his cameo appearances to promote his own image as the sole creator of the piece. He is justified, as is any other artist, to ‘sign’ his own masterpieces. While the contributions of his crew are important they are as insignificant to the final product as the canvass, paints, brushes or materials used in the creation of any work of art.


Adair, Gene. Alfred Hitchcock: Filming Our Fears. New York: Oxford University Press, 2002.

Anzalone, John. “Heroes and Villains, or Truffaut and the Literary Pre/Text.” The French Review (American Association Of Teachers Of French), 10 1998: pp. 48-57.

Auiler, Dan. The Making of a Hitchcock Classic. New York: St. Martins Press, 1998.

Berman, Emanuel. “Psychoanalysis And Film.” Edited by Glen O. Gabbard and Paul Williams. International Journal Of Psychoanalysis (Key Papers Series), 2000: 43.

Burnett, Allison. “Writing with Hitchcock: A Collaboration of Alfred Hitchcock and John Michael Hayes.” variety, 06 01, 2001.

Cohen, P. M. Alfred Hitchcock: The Legacy Of Victorianism. Lexington: University Press, Kentucky., 1995.

Corliss, Mary. “Alfred Hitchcock: Behind the Silhouette.” MoMA (The Museum Of Modern Art) 2, no. 5 (1999).

Doyle, Laura. “Matrixial Gaze and Screen: Other than Phallic and Beyond the Late Lacan.” Bodies of Resistance. (Northwestern University Press.), 2001.

Gabbard, G. O. “Vertigo: Female Objectification, Male Desire And Object Loss.” Psychoanalysis Inquirer, 1998: 161-7.

Hayes, John Michael. Rear Window (Final Draft). 12 1, 1953. (accessed 04 03, 2012).

Hitchcock., Alfred, interview by AFI. Alfred Hitchcock On Mastering Cinematic Tension YOUTUBE. 1970.

Kapsis, Robert E. “Reputation Building and the Film Art World: The Case of Alfred Hitchcock.” The Sociological Quarterly (Blackwell Publishing & Midwest Sociological Society) Vol. 30, no. No. 1. (Spring 1989): pp. 15-35.

Manlove, Clifford T. “Visual “Drive” and Cinematic Narrative: Reading Gaze Theory in Lacan, Hitchcock, and Mulvey.” Cinema Journal Vol. 46, no. No. 3 (Spring 2007): 84.

Mulvey, Laura. “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema.” Screen (Vol. 16 – Iss 3) , 1975: 6-18.

New Wave Film. New Wave Film. 2012. (accessed 04 04, 2012).

Nixon, Rob. Notorious – TCM. 2012. (accessed 04 04, 2012).

Richie, Matthew. The Coast. 03 01, 2012. (accessed 04 02, 2012).

Ronde, Paul , and François Truffaut. “François Truffaut: An Interview.” Film Quarterly (University of California Press), 1963: pp. 3-13.

Rovi. All Movie. 2012. (accessed 04 04, 2012).

Spoto, Donald. The Art Of Alfred Hitchcock. New York: Anchor Books (Random House), 1991.

Telegraph, The. “John Michael Hayes (Obituary).” The Telegraph (The Telgraph), 12 2008.

Mickey Mouse And Globalisation.

Mickey Mouse Is Out To Get You.


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.

Birth Of Modern Europe.

Napoleon Arrives


This document aims to introduce the main features of European History in the period 1815 to 1848 and to understand and assess key events and to evaluate and analyse how Historians explain these events. The document is a step by step account of the History of ‘Modern’ Europe from the final defeat of Napoleon in 1815 to the outbreak of World War 1 in 1914.

Rapid Change: The first part of the document deals thematically with the attempts to reconstitute European politics along Conservative lines after the fall of Napoleon’s Empire and also assesses the impact of rapid social, Political and economical developments in the first half of the 19th Century which led to the Revolutions of 1848.

Assessing Reform: The second part of the document takes a national or regional approach, assessing reform (or the lack of it) among the great European powers (Britain, France, Austria and Russia) and the emergence of two powerful new states (Germany and Italy).

Rising Conflicts: Finally, the document explores the very profound changes that occurred in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, including the emergence of international tensions and conflicts that led to the outbreak of the First World War in 1914.

Understanding Europe: By completion, we should have a sound understanding of the main events and developments in European History including Political, social and economic history. We should also be able to contextualise explain and assess the main events in European History. Furthermore, we should also be able to analyse and evaluate evidence, including primary sources and historiographical trends in relation to the main events and developments in European history.

Restoration Or Not: After the defeat of Napoleon the question of what happens next in Europe arises. For Many French people the concept of full restoration seemed a logical choice. However, there were too many socio and economic problems in pre-Revolution France so full restoration was not really an option. There had to be changes but this time around, it had to be changes that resulted in a better Society for all.

Concert of Europe: The European restoration is an umbrella term for the French restoration, the Bourbon restoration, the Swiss restoration and Christian restoration. The process finds it’s foundations  with the ‘Concert of Europe’ (after the Congress of Vienna) or Congress System which established the Balance of power that existed in Europe from the end of the Napoleonic Wars (1815) to the outbreak of World War 1 (1914), albeit with major alterations after the Revolutions of 1848. Its founding powers were Austria, Prussia, the Russian Empire, and the United Kingdom, which were collectively known as the ‘Quadruple Alliance’. The Alliance was responsible for the downfall of the first French Empire. In time, France was established as a fifth member of the Concert. At first, the leading personalities of the system were Lord Castlereigh (UK), Austrian Chancellor Klemens Von Metternich, and Russian Tsar Alexander I.

Age of Metternich: The age of the Concert is sometimes known as the age of Metternich due to the influence of the Austrian Chancellors Conservatism and the dominance of Austria within the German confederation. The rise of nationalism, the unification of Germany, the ‘Risorgimento’ in Italy and the Eastern Question were among the factors, which eventually brought an end to the Concerts effectiveness.

The Napoleonic Code: The idea of a European federation was not new. The Concert of Europe drew upon ideas and notions of a balance of power in international relations; that the ambitions of each great power were curbed by the others. Europe had been constantly at war and Liberalism was spreading across the continent, which resulted in many states adopting the Napoleonic Code, which had been enacted in France in 1804 and forbade privileges based on birth, allowed freedom of Religion, and specified that Government jobs go to the most qualified. It was the first modern legal code to be adopted with a pan-European scope and it strongly influenced the law of many countries formed during and after the Napoleonic wars. The code was a major step in replacing Feudal laws and one of the few documents that have influenced the world.

Restoration Initiation: Largely as a reaction to the radicalism of the French Revolution, the victorious powers of the Napoleonic wars decided to suppress Liberalism and Nationalism, which were perceived as war and Revolution mongering philosophies. A reversion to the status-quo of Europe prior to 1789 seemed to be the best way forward. Prussia, Austria, and Russia formed the ‘Holy alliance’ with the expressed intent of preserving Christian social values and traditional Monarchism. Every member of the Coalition promptly joined the alliance, except for the United Kingdom.

Demise of The Concert of Europe: After an early period of success, the Concert began to weaken as the common goals of the great powers were gradually replaced by growing Political and economic rivalries. Further erosion by European Revolutionary upheaval in 1848 with demands for revision of the Congress of Vienna’s frontiers along national lines the Concert unravelled and was gone by the latter half of the 19th Century amid successive wars between its participants. The Congress had a significant achievement in the form of Congress of Berlin (1878) which redrew the Political map of the Balkans, by the early 20th century, the powers were split in two, and World War 1 began.

European Unification: The Concert of Europe was the system where the great powers of Europe maintained peace and prosperity for over a century. These were maintained by careful Management of the balance of power so that when one country ‘bullied’ another then the remaining countries would come together in diplomatic and military alliance. This was a forerunner to the modern United Nations.

Sharing Europe: The primary objective of the Congress was to settle the many issues arising from the French Revolution, the Napoleonic wars and the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire. This objective resulted in the redrawing of Europe and establishing the boundaries of countries primarily France, Poland, The Netherlands, Germany, and Italy. The Congress was somewhat informal in that all of its meetings occurred face-to-face between the members with little or no representation by smaller states.

Napoleons Legacy: Napoleon considered his greatest achievement that of establishing and consecrating the rule of reason. His Napoleonic code proclaimed the equality of all people before the law (but favouring men over women), personal freedom, and the inviolability of property. Napoleon furthered the myth of the ‘career open to talent’, which aided both middle classes and peasants. Property ownership was essential to the Political life of the nation; the accumulation of property was the accumulation of wealth, power, Political influence, and status. Napoleon helped to turn nationalism into an aggressive secular Religion by manipulating this patriotic energy and transforming it into a popular ideology.

Napoleons reforms extended into states conquered by France. The French imposed constitutions and state control over clergy and judicial systems. He created new forms of tax, standardised weight and measures, ended internal customs barriers, abolished guilds and proclaimed equality, freedom of worship and advocated personal freedom. Napoleon claimed that he was trying to liberate Europe but had only replaced old sovereigns with new ones, himself, or his brothers. He conquered countries for France and not for the good of the country but only for the glory of France. He pilfered valuable art and treasures by the wagon load and kept them himself or for the state. French conquests awakened nationalism in the German states and in Spain. Over 90,000 of his men died in battles and triple that number perished from wounds and disease.

Of the changes in the post Napoleonic period that profoundly transformed Europe, none had more important social, Political, economical and cultural consequences as the Industrial Revolution. Having begun in England in the middle decades of the 18th century, it accelerated in that country during the first decades of the 19th Century. It spread to Western Europe in particular, but affected other regions as well. The Industrial Revolution and its critics would help shape the modern world.

Metternich, Conservatism & Restoration: The feeling of anti French Revolution was strong in Political circles across Europe. The idea of a reoccurrence of these events anywhere else in Europe was to be avoided at all costs and the upper echelons’ of European politics needed to develop a plan to ensure that such events would never happen again. There needed to be a restoration of Monarchy, church and aristocracy in Europe but, this time around it had to be different from pre-Revolutionary times in order that disharmony was not inadvertently encouraged. Restoration had to be moulded to fit the demands of the Revolutionaries, reconstruct Monarchical power, control the church, and keep the aristocracy satisfied. Some thinkers felt that such changes would occur organically and very slowly without human interference. The post-Revolutionary Society would develop, in time, to become a Society acceptable to all citizens. Such changes would be natural and normal. However, the question of Religion remained an important one. What role should it play in the new Society if indeed it should play any role at all? Some theorists had their own ideas on ‘what happens now in Europe?’ and the most important of these were Edmund Burke, Joseph De Maistre, and Klemens Von Metternich.

Edmund Burke (1729-1727): Burke was an Irish political leader who served in Great Britain as a member of the Whig party. He was opposed to the French Revolution and is generally viewed as the philosophical founder of modern Conservatism as well as a representative of classical Liberalism. His publication ‘Reflections on the Revolution in France’ (1790) is one of the best-known intellectual attacks against the French Revolution in the 20th century. It much influenced Conservatism and classical Liberal intellectuals who saw it as a critique of communism and socialist Revolutionary programmes. He vigorously defended Constitutional limitation of the Monarchy, denounced religious persecution, complained about British colonial control in America (supported American independence) and was widely respected by Liberals. He felt the French Revolution would fail in time because it ignored the complexities of human nature and Society. His contention was; “a Man’s right to food does not provide it.” He wanted Constitutional reform (not Revolution) and he further contended that the pursuit of liberty and rights of Man could be abused to justify tyranny.

Joseph De Maistre: De Maistre was a philosopher and one of the most influential representatives for a hierarchical Monarchical state after the French Revolution. He regarded Monarchy as both a divinely sanctioned institution and as the only form of stable Government. He called for the restoration of the House of Bourbon to the throne of France and also for the ultimate authority of the Pope. He argued that only a Christian Constitution could avoid the disorder and bloodshed of a Revolution. His theories influenced Conservative thinking and left wing intellectuals like utopian socialists. Along with Edmund Burke, he has been described as one of the founding fathers of European Conservatism.

Klemens Von Metternich: Metternich was a German born philosopher and important diplomat. He led the Austrian delegation at the Congress of Vienna, which divided post-Napoleonic Europe between the major powers. A committed Conservative he was keen to maintain the balance of power and he intensely disliked Liberalism. He was happy to apply underhanded means to achieve his ends. He was instrumental in the enforcement of ‘The Karlsbad Decrees’ (1819) which used censorship and a wide ranging spy network to suppress Liberalism and planted student spies in university lecture theatres to monitor and report radical opinion sharing. However, historians defend his policies as reasonable attempts to defend the balance of power in Europe and the preservation of the status quo in the face of Revolutionary challenge.

The Karlsbad Decrees (1819): The Karlsbad Decrees were a set of reactionary restrictions introduced in the states of the German confederation in 1819 after a conference held at Karlsbad, Bohemia. They banned nationalist fraternities, removed Liberal university professors, and expanded the censorship of the press. The meeting of the states representatives was called by Metternich after a series of events related to student unrest in Europe. Metternich feared Liberal and national tendencies at German universities, which might conduct Revolutionary activities threatening the Monarchy. The three main outcomes of the Karlsbad Decrees were press censorship, state supervision of universities and a central investigation commission. State officials had to ‘proof read’ anything that went to press prior to publication. The ‘diet’ (Parliament) could stop any publication that it felt was Revolutionary. The placement of spies at universities to ensure suppression of radicalism meant that no student or academic could encourage Revolutionary thinking under fear of severe punishment of expulsion and no further placement. An extraordinary commission of investigation to root out Revolutionary plots and preserve international peace within the German confederation had many powers to control Revolutionary movements, clubs, societies, or organisations.

The Congress System: There were a number of significant conferences in the process of establishing the Congress System. They began in 1818 at Aix La Chappelle and continued to St. Petersburg in 1825.

Aix La Chappelle (1818): The conference at Aix La Chappelle was held in the autumn of 1818 and was primarily a meeting of the Allied powers of Europe, which included Britain, Austria, Russia, and Prussia. The purpose of the meeting was to decide the question of the withdrawal of the army of occupation from France and the nature of the modifications to be introduced in consequence into the relations of these four powers toward each other, and collectively toward France. The quintuple alliance was endorsed at this conference.

Troppau (1820): This was a conference of the quintuple Alliance to discuss means of suppressing a Revolution in Naples (July 1820) and at which the Troppau Protocol was signed. This protocol stated that any European country, which underwent a Revolution, forced Government change would be expelled from the alliance. If the Revolution threatened the peace of Europe then war would be declared. The purpose of such wars would be state restoration.

Laibach (1821): The Congress of Laibach was a conference of the allied sovereigns held as part of the Concert of Europe. As a result of Troppau (1820) the three autocratic powers (Russia, Austria and Prussia) had issued a circular letter in which they reiterated the principles of the Troppau Protocol namely, the right and duty of the powers responsible for the peace of Europe to intervene to suppress any Revolutionary movement by which they might conceive peace as being endangered. Britain protested at Troppau and differentiated between the objectionable general principles advanced by the three powers and the unrest in Italy, which threatened only Austria and not Europe. The conflict did not prevent Austria from intervening in Italy but with Britain’s neutrality intact. The revolt in Italy was suppressed as a result of negotiations at Laibach by Austrian troops.

Verona (1822): While Britain and other European powers acted largely in Concert to date it was not until Verona that the unravelling of the Congress began to show. This was apparent in the way in which the main questions before this Congress were handled by participants. The Italian question, the Turkish question, and the Spanish question. The matter of Austrian rule in Italy was handled in the absence of Britain’s representatives, the Greek war of independence was justified in the view of Britain who recognised the Greek right of independence (British representatives were instructed not to commit beyond a supporting role) and a proposed intervention by France in Spain with uncompromising opposition by Britain to the intervention. Clearly from this Britain was starting to reconsider its role within the alliance and this was further aggravated by the fact that by withdrawing from the decision making process it remained without influence in the workings of the Congress Britain’s ‘neutrality’ did not stop the alliance from proceeding as it wished and this begged the question as to why Britain needed to be involved at all.

St. Petersburg (1825): This conference resulted in the final breaking down of the Concert of Europe. The five major powers met at this Congress but Britain had become very disillusioned and branded the Congress a ‘witch hunting organisation’ and departed. The other four continued their meetings and broke up in very bad terms. The main point of contention was how the Congress could enforce its powers. Member’s differences widened on different interpretations of peace and how it should be sustained. The outbreak of revolts also led to the final disintegration of the Concert of Europe. Two significant revolts were taking place in Spain and Naples in 1820 and it was these revolts that finally brought the Concert of Europe to its end.

The 1820 Revolution in Spain: The ‘Liberal’ Revolution in Spain was a Revolution that erupted and ran for five years. It started as a military insurrection in Porto that quickly spread nationwide. French forces invaded Spain three times to suppress the Revolution and the royal family went to Brazil to reign over the Kingdom from a Trans-Atlantic throne for thirteen years. After the defeat of the French, the Revolutionaries recalled the Monarchy and they returned to Portugal. The Liberal Revolution initiated the ratification of the Constitution that gave Spain its independence from France. The movements Liberal ideas had an important influence on the Portuguese Society and Political organisation. It caused a constitutional Monarchy to be set up in Portugal. The Revolutionaries also organised the election of a constitutional assembly, which debated the nature of a new Government. Professionals were elected and not merchants who had organised the Revolution.

Revolution in Naples 1820: This Revolution is important because the Kingdom of the two Sicilies was ruled by a restored Bourbon Monarch Ferdinand 1st. Revolutionaries (including the Carbonari) forced Ferdinand to accept the Spanish Constitution. The Kingdom of Naples was within Austria’s ‘sphere of influence’ as assigned by the concert of Europe. The suppression of Liberal opinion caused an alarming spread of the influence and activity of a secret society known as the Carbonari, which, in time, took its toll on the Army. In a short time, a military Revolution broke out and Ferdinand was terrorised into signing a new Constitution. At the same time in Sicily, recovering its independence, a revolt had been suppressed by Neapolitan troops. These events alarmed the ‘Holy Alliance’ (a Coalition of Russia, Austria, and Prussia) who feared it might spread to other parts of Italy. The Revolution was eventually suppressed and an era of ‘savage persecution’ began.

The Demise Of The Congress System (1820-1822):  In 1820 Austria, Prussia and Russia form the Holy Alliance and unite in an attempt to eliminate the possibility of another Revolution in Europe as had taken place in France. The Troppau Protocol of 1820 gave the Holy Alliance the right to intervene to protect a legitimate Monarch and the Vienna settlement. In 1821 at Laibach, Ferdinand 1strequests intervention to restore his power in Naples but Britain objects on the basis that it was not a threat to security in Europe and the alliance was acting outside its remit by intervening. At Verona in 1822, the holy alliance opts to proceed with intervention and Britain splits with the other European powers over further intervention in Spain. The system of international cooperation instituted at Vienna had broken down in the early 1820s and the split between Britain and the alliance was the start of the demise. New economic, social, and political forces would further challenge the alliance.

Revolutions of another Kind: Three Revolutions had already begun in Europe since 1800. These were the Demographic Revolution, the agricultural Revolution, and the Industrial Revolution and all of these had social and political consequences.

1. Demographic Revolution: The post French Revolutionary peace that took place across Europe meant that less people were dying in warfare. Families were spending more time at home together and were more united. Along with these factors, there were serious advances in medication, which resulted in less people dying from plague or disease or illness. A significant fall in death rates meant that people were living longer and proliferating across Europe. As the Industrial Revolution progressed it meant that the food supply as more efficient and a dramatic reduction in subsistence problems. The combinations of peace, medicine, and food availability were the main contributing factors to the Demographic Revolution.

2. Agricultural Revolution: The agricultural Revolution was a period of agricultural development between the 18th century and the end of the 19th Century, which saw a massive and rapid increase in agricultural productivity and vast improvements in farm technology. Some of the most significant inventions that were either created or greatly improved were new ploughing machines, tools, harvesters and seed sowing equipment. Along with these tools and machinery there were also new attitudes to farming, specialisation and communal farming (land sharing). Governments also became more generous with common land and the benefits of self-sufficiency were appreciated by Europeans. As subsistence increased so did the accumulation of capital and suddenly small farmers were moving into earning extra income by starting small cottage businesses. The agricultural Revolution was well underway and heralding in the Industrial Revolution.

3. The Industrial Revolution: This is thought to have begun in the mid 1700s and continued for a century to the mid 1800s. It began, not in the cities but in the rural communities already reaping the rewards of the agricultural Revolution. More rural people benefiting from rural development had extra time and income to create new sources of wealth and started small home based businesses to bring in extra cash. These businesses were to be the inspiration for larger scale urban based Manufacturing that was both mechanised and bigger. The causes of the Industrial Revolution were a combination of factors but primarily the availability of new capital to invest in Manufacturing and technology.

At various locations throughout Britain, which led the way for the rest of Europe, the natural resources were ideal. With the ever-expanding population created by the Demographic Revolution there was no shortage of available workers. These workers were, for the most part, overworked and underpaid. They had moved from the rural communities to the urban areas where work was more available as their cottage industries were victim to large scale Manufacturing. New technologies meant production and the economy expanded rapidly. New machinery such as Hargreaves Spinning Jenny (1765) advanced the Revolution.

The ‘Jenny’ meant a faster process of creation and output at an industrial level that had deprived the farm workers of their source of additional income. The skilled weavers moved to work on the production line and left their own spinning wheels at home to gather dust. Arkwright’s ‘water frame’ (1769) meant that the spinning wheel became automated and consequently human input was diminished even more but, to the joy of the Manufacturers, so were costs. Communications and transport were also improving with the arrival of the steam engine, which brought new goods and public transport systems. Steamboats, steam engines, and railway track were all signs of the new, progressive industrial age. Finally, urbanisation had its consequences with social stratification problems, poor living conditions, and crime and health issues on the increase. The Industrial Revolution had arrived and brought with it a very high price.

Film Studies.

Citizen Kane

Citizen Kane

Citizen Kane and The Maltese Falcon.

  1. 1.        Jump Cut: A jump cut in film editing is when two sequential shots of the same subject are taken from camera positions that vary only slightly. For example, In the Maltese Falcon we see two characters walking down the street, water walking in the same direction and the use of the jump cut allows plot continuity. This type of edit causes the subject of the shots to appear to jump position in a discontinuous way. The camera is following or tracking characters and why it music stitches the images together the jump cut allows the passing of time to appear seamless.
  2. 2.        Dissolve: A dissolve is a gradual transition from one image to another. The terms fade out and fade in are often used to describe a transition to and from a blank image this is in contrast to a cause worker is no transition. A dissolve overlaps two shots for the duration of the effect, usually at the end of one scene and the beginning of the next, but may be used in montage sequences as well.
  3. 3.        Fade to black; if it is a gradual increase or decrease of the intensity of life and term refers to gradually changing the lighting level from complete darkness to a predetermined lighting level.
  4. 4.        A straight cut is a basic one when one shot abruptly ends and another begins.
  5. 5.        Continuity editing is a style of film editing what the purpose of smoothing over the inherent discontinuity of the editing process and to establish a logical coherence between shots.

Maltese Falcon

  1. 6.        In the Maltese Falcon in certain sequences we hear wavering music which creates uncertainty and implies sinister consequences to what we are watching on screen.
  2. 7.        A number of different so-called wipes are also used and these include; the straight cut, the wipe, dissolve and fade to black.
  3. 8.        In The Maltese Falcon which is primarily a mystery movie each sequence delivers enough information so as the viewer knows exactly where they are in the story and we mostly see things to Sam’s eyes. From the opening sequence when we see the bridge of San Francisco and on to Sam’s office the viewer is clear as to where the action is taking place. However, in Citizen Kane we are not quite sure from the opening sequence as to where we are. The first words we read off the screen are No Trespassing which implies that the viewer is allowed access to a place or time where they should not be. This suggests that the viewer is being left in on a secret. When we get a tight close-up on Orson Welles slips as he mumbles his last words Rosebud the secret is revealed. The viewer is drawn into the significance of the word and the entire movie is based on its meaning as the viewer searches for its significance. In the opening sequence the viewer is presented with a series of questions; who lives in this house, what type of person, what is the significance of the final words, and why this lack of concrete information. The clever use of mirrors as a visual device in the movie implies depth of character. This is a common device and one in which audiences are previously trained to interpret as suggesting depth of character. In Citizen Kane there is no clear protagonist as is the case in Maltese Falcon with Sam Spade. From the outset of Citizen Kane the main character is dead and so we can only learn about him from the words of others who perceive him in many different ways. By the end of the film we have many different impressions of the hero of the piece but these impressions are entirely based on hearsay.
  4. 9.        Both films are shot in Black & White and the use of shadows, depth and angles are necessary (in the absence of colour) to make numerous suggestions or observations about the characters or the scenes. Techniques include mirrors, deep focus and shadow casting to suggest eeriness, strange behaviour or eccentricity.
  5. 10.     Deep focus is a photographic and cinematographic technique using a large depth of field. Depth of field is the front-to-back range of focus in an image — that is, how much of it appears sharp and clear. Consequently, in deep focus the foreground, middle-ground and background are all in focus. This can be achieved through use of the hyper focal distance of the camera lens. Unlike many of his contemporaries, Welles gained international prominence on the basis of only one film, Citizen Kane (1941). The film is full of technical innovations, including crane shots, overlapping dialogue, multiple audio tracks, purposely grainy film stock, and low-angle photography. It explores themes that Welles would revisit throughout his career: the corruption of power and wealth, the fine line between desire and obsession, the precariousness of knowledge, and the limits of ego and ambition. Welles’s use of deep focus, long takes, and chiaroscuro lighting, which located meaning in Mise-en-scène rather than editing, influenced a generation of filmmakers working in the post-war film noir and realist styles.

The Searchers

The Searchers And The Western Genre.

  1. 11.     Westerns primarily tell stories set in the latter half of the 19th century in the American old West, hence the name Western. This genre of film often portrays how desolate and horrid life was for American families. These characters are faced with change, conflict, aggression and, in many cases, the forthcoming Industrial Revolution.
  2. 12.     There are many ways of reading the Western genre and these include; American Indians as savages, Cowboys, for the most part, hard working and progressive, and subservient [with few exceptions] domesticated women doing all in their power to keep household and family together in the face of all adversity.
  3. 13.     The Searchers (1956) relates the story of a middle-aged Civil War veteran searching for his abducted niece. John Wayne (Actor ) and John Ford (Director) worked together in numerous Westerns before and after The Searchers and both men, along with a familiar Western genre cast, gave the film many iconic images and motifs.
  4. 14.     The visual composition of the opening sequence deals with many Western themes; expanse of the American West, the domestic female, the stark contrast of colors, the frame in frame shot at the doorway creating the illusion of depth and the approach of the main character entering a domain to which he does not belong.
  5. 15.     There is a circular structure to the film which is a common characteristic of Westerns and the film has the classic beginning, middle and end storyline with relevant plot points to carry the viewer through the sequence of events. The arrival to the homestead, the attack on the homestead, the search, the finding of the lost girl and the conclusion all combine to complete the story.
  6. 16.     The film is ‘racist’ in that Indians are the bad guys (shot in the head to stop their spirits from roaming free), Hero’s nephew is half-cast and treated with contempt, Indians are depicted as terrorists and murderers and ultimately defeated by the ‘good guy’ and all ends very happily for everybody as the hero departs to re-enter his own domain.
  7. 17.     The themes of western include the conquest of wilderness, the subordination of nature, the elimination of savagery and the preservation of social order in the absence of structured law.
  8. 18.     In the Western the main characters are usually cowboys, gunslingers, bounty hunters who uses revolvers to achieve their objectives by force as they ride their horses from one part of the old west to another and conquering adversity along the way.
  9. 19.     Western films often depict conflicts with Native Americans. While early Westerns frequently portray the Injuns as dishonourable villains, the later and more culturally neutral Westerns (notably those directed by John Ford) gave Native Americans a more sympathetic treatment.
  10. 20.     Other recurring themes of Westerns include Western treks or perilous journeys (e.g. Stagecoach) or groups of bandits terrorising small towns such as in The Magnificent Seven. In the 1930s and 1940s, John Ford became the genre’s leading practitioner. His films reveal the gradual transformation of the western toward ever more benign (if still inaccurate) portrayals of Native Americans, such as in Cheyenne Autumn (1964). In Ford’s The Searchers (1956), the protagonist is as morally flawed and complex as his film noir contemporaries.

Double Indemnity

 Film Noir & Double Indemnity.

Film Noir is a series of films of the 1940s and 1950s exploring the darker aspects of modernity and usually set in the criminal world or exploring the fallouts of a criminal act.

  1. 22.     It is unlikely that the film makers of this era were intentionally making Film Noir movies but merely appealing to a growing demand for subversive dramas depicting the fragility of the human experience.
  2. 23.     Love, lust and greed destroying lives are the main component of the Film Noir plot but such films were already in abundance in the 1930s.
  3. 24.     World War II had a deep influence on the creation of new more modern style gangster films and the emergence of European Directors such as Fritz Lang and Alfred Hitchcock brought with them a new darker style and sense of ominousness to American filmmaking.
  4. 25.     Film Noir flourished to more than just gangster films and in the 1940s some psychological dramas were also classed as legitimate adherents to the rules of the Genre.
  5. 26.     In Film Noir the dialogue is often colourful because they were adapted from novels by established writers. The protagonist is often hard nosed and sexist while the femme fatale is evil, cunning and manipulating to achieve their own ends using sex, love and physical attraction to get their way.
  6. 27.     The meanings of the subtext are rarely obvious as the female suggests (as in Double Indemnity) that if you want me then you must first of all do something for me. The hero (led by animal instincts) falls for the ploy and usually ends up in trouble or dead.
  7. 28.     In the 1940s and 1950s, gangster films became much darker, adopting a film noir style that was defined by low-key lighting, a claustrophobic urban setting, a morally compromised protagonist, and seductive, deceptive female characters known as femme fatales. In these psychologically complex films, such as Fritz Lang’s The Big Heat (1953), the line between criminality and law and order is blurred beyond distinction.
  8. 29.     Hollywood played host to an influx of German expatriates in the Twenties and Thirties, and these filmmakers and technicians had, for the most part, integrated themselves into the American film establishment. Hollywood never experienced the Germanization some civic-minded natives feared, and there is a danger of over-emphasizing the German influence in Hollywood.
  9. 30.     The actors and setting are often given equal lighting emphasis. An actor is often hidden in the realistic tableau of the city at night, and, more obviously, his face is often blacked out by shadow as he speaks. These shadow effects are unlike the famous Warner Brothers lighting of the Thirties in which the central character was accentuated by a heavy shadow; in film noir, the central character is likely to be standing in the shadow. When the environment is given an equal or greater weight than the actor, it, of course, creates a fatalistic, hopeless mood. There is nothing the protagonist can do; the city will outlast and negate even his best efforts.

Imitation Of Life


1.In Film Theory ‘Melodrama’ can be loosely defined as a film that embellishes plot and characters in order to appeal to the emotions. Douglas Sirk directed comedy, western, and war films, he was most distinguished for his convoluted melodramas that exposed unpleasant emotional turmoil lurking beneath the smokescreen of American upper-middle-class life.

  1. 32.     Imitation of Life’s true theme is captured in its final scene when Sara Jane cries over her mother’s coffin. The image is the characteristic melodramatic depiction of Sirk’s women constricted and alienated in terms of gender and race.
  2. 33.     Plot: In the quintessential melodrama ‘Imitation of Life’, we witness the lives of four women and their attempts to make their existence more than mere imitations of life. Two unmarried mothers of young girls, one Negro, one White, befriend each other and together they struggle to live in 1950’s New York City; a realm over which they have no control.
  3. 34.     This melodramatic woman’s film was aimed mostly at female audiences; it presents a significant formula for female happiness to its viewers. It suggests that happiness for women is only found in more natural domestic roles as mother and wife; To women who rebel against the limitations placed on them because of sex or race, it recommends the path of least resistance, acceptance of society’s view of women (and women of colour) as different and inferior.
  4. 35.     The film’s colour design submits an attempt to create a complete iconography with which the emotional patterns of the characters are imitated. The use of wide-angle lenses create space between characters who are emotionally separated; The depth of space created by Sirk’s use of wide angle lenses also establishes a sense of receding boundaries in the world the characters inhabit
  5. 36.     All of Sirk’s melodramas involve the destruction of cosmopolitan women living in ultra-modern, upper-class, and wealthy but tortured lives. This setting in a multi-coloured pastiche of life suggests to the female viewer that money does not solve all problems; it is a vivid example of Sirk’s turning towards a heraldic mode of signification.
  6. 37.     Imitation of Life is unquestionably a pronounced example of melodramatic mise-en-scene as every detail of the film is extreme. The colours brashly indicate the emotional state of the characters, the music is appropriately majestic to clearly direct the emotional response required from the audience and; the themes of love, death, social status, loose morals and despair are all principles of the genre.
  7. 38.     Throughout the film, as with all of Sirk’s melodramatic work, the characters actions and identity can be established from the mise-en-scene. Sirk’s films are disturbing because the characters are real people besieged in life’s perplexities and the characters in ‘Imitation of Life’ are no exception.
  8. 39.     Most interestingly in Sirk’s work is how forces of repression are signalled through his imagery. His mise en scène is as crucial to his films as narrative form, his often baroque visual style points to the ways in which human ambition is largely determined by the mood of its environment. Homes are havens that turn to prisons, loved ones become emotional enemies, and Objects that are meant to be comforts become onerous. Character’s traumas become the rational consequences of the uncontrollable world around them.
  9. 40.     Key Characteristics of melodrama are: Legibility: everyone can read it; Expressiveness: given to exaggeration: everything brought into the open; Simplification of roles: good and evil clearly delineated; Strong identification: emotions alive w/high suffering; Devaluation of language: language less important than mise-en-scene.


Expressionism And Cinema In 1920s Germany: Metropolis.

German Expressionism refers to a number of design and performance cultures in 1920’s Germany, such as art, architecture and dance. German Expressionist Cinema was part of this movement in the 1920’s in Germany through to the 1930’s, although only a short period of cinematic history, it has left its mark on history and inspired many filmmakers that followed.

  1. 42.     Key Characteristics of German Expressionist Cinema: German Expressionist movies were created during the silent movie period, meaning the movies feature music and sound effect instead of dialogue; traditionally films were played alongside live music, such as piano.
  2. 43.     German Expressionist cinema created a theatrical look to its films. Using dramatic, painted scenery and exaggerated make-up, as used in theatre, this was an inexpensive way of making films, but created very iconic results. Examples of this can be seen in many of the German Expressionist movies, most famously The Cabinet of Dr.Caligari (1920) and Nosferatu (1922).
  3. 44.     The design of German Expressionist sets, or the mise en scene, mirrored the changes in German art of the time, therefore created using geometric shapes, painted on objects and high contrast between black and white, creating the effect of exaggerated shadow and light.
  4. 45.     The movement used symbolism and icons to create meaning, often focusing on gothic themes such as the supernatural, insanity and betrayal. This was a refreshing change to the usual linear story telling of action movies and romance movies.
  5. 46.     Although early German Expressionist films were working on a very low budget due to the economic climate of the time, some of the movies later in the period worked on a higher budget, although still fitting in with the look of German Expressionism.
  6. 47.     Fritz Lang’s Metropolis is a key example of a German Expressionist movie on a high budget, and is one of the most iconic films of the decade, as well as one of the first ever science fiction movies. It was the most expensive silent movie ever made!
  7. 48.     Although the German Expressionist movement was short lived, it had a massive impact on film makers and movements that followed.
  8. 49.     The film noir movement took inspiration from the German Expressionist films, using real lighting to create contrast between shadow and light, as opposed to the expressionist’s use of lighting through painted sets.
  9. 50.      Inspiration from German Expressionism can be seen in the work of modern day film maker Tim Burton, in many of his films. Most recognisably, Edward Scissorhands is inspired by the character of Cesare in The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, his make-up and characteristics are taken directly from the German Expressionist movement. The German Expressionist movement also influenced the whole development of the horror genre and iconic film makers such as Alfred Hitchcock, Orson Welles and Billy Wilder.

French New Wave Cinema

French New Wave Cinema And Auteur Theory


  1. 51.  The origins of the Auteur Theory lie in the critical output of the Cahiers du Cinema, an influential French film magazine co-founded by Andre Bazin. In particular, Francois Truffaut’s seminal article “A Certain Tendency of the French Cinema” established a wary and denunciatory distance from the French film establishment (the “Tradition of Quality”, as he addresses it).
  2. 52.  This movement, initially championed by postwar critics working for the French film journal Cahiers du Cinéma, was introduced to America by Andrew Sarris.
  3. 53.  Auteurism considers the film director not merely a mechanical recorder of reality but rather a legitimate artist whose personal vision battles the institutional limitations imposed by industrial modes of film production.
  4. 54.  Influenced by romantic notions of the artist and by canonization studies in the other arts, auteurist critics hailed previously neglected Hollywood directors, such as Nicholas Ray and Samuel Fuller, as exemplary artists whose personal experiences, convictions, and obsessions imbue each of their films with an idiosyncratic style.
  5. 55.  In film criticism, auteur theory holds that a director’s film reflects the director’s personal creative vision, as if they were the primary “auteur” (the French word for “author”). In spite of—and sometimes even because of—the production of the film as part of an industrial process, the auteur’s creative voice is distinct enough to shine through all kinds of studio interference and through the collective process.
  6. 56.  In law, the film is treated as a work of art, and the auteur, as the creator of the film, is the original copyright holder. Under European Union law, the film director is considered the author or one of the authors of a film, largely as a result of the influence of auteur theory.
  7. 57.  Auteur theory has influenced film criticism since 1954, when it was advocated by film director and critic François Truffaut. This method of film analysis was originally associated with the French New Wave and the film critics who wrote for the French film review periodical Cahiers du Cinéma. Auteur theory was developed a few years later in America through the writings of The Village Voice critic Andrew Sarris. Sarris used auteur theory as a way to further the analysis of what defines serious work through the study of respected directors and their films.
  8. 58.  The auteur theory was used by the directors of the nouvelle vague (New Wave) movement of French cinema in the 1960s (many of whom were also critics at the Cahiers du Cinéma) as justification for their intensely personal and idiosyncratic films. One of the ironies of the Auteur theory is that, at the very moment Truffaut was writing, the break-up of the Hollywood studio system during the 1950s was ushering in a period of uncertainty and conservatism in American cinema, with the result that fewer of the sort of films Truffaut admired were actually being made.
  9. 59.  The “auteur” approach was adopted in English-language film criticism in the 1960s. In the UK, Movie adopted Auteurism, while in the U.S., Andrew Sarris introduced it in the essay, “Notes on the Auteur Theory in 1962”. This essay is where the term, “Auteur theory”, originated. To be classified as an “auteur”, according to Sarris, a director must accomplish technical competence in their technique, personal style in terms of how the movie looks and feels, and interior meaning (although many of Sarris’s auterist criteria were left vague. Later in the decade, Sarris published The American Cinema: Directors and Directions, 1929–1968, which quickly became the unofficial bible of auteurism.
  10. 60.  The auteurist critics—Truffaut, Jean-Luc Godard, Claude Chabrol, Éric Rohmer—wrote mostly about directors, although they also produced some shrewd appreciations of actors.

Alfred Hitchcock

Hitchcock & Vertigo.


  1. 61.  One of Vertigo’s main themes—the attempt to create the ideal woman—has roots in the Roman myth of Pygmalion and Galatea in which the sculptor Pygmalion uses his art to create an ivory statue of the perfect woman and then tragically falls in love with it. But the film has roots in reality as well. There are parallels between the Vertigo protagonist’s quest for the ideal woman and Hitchcock’s relationship with Grace Kelly, an actress who appeared in three of his films. Hitchcock felt that Kelly’s blond beauty and distinct acting style made her the standard by which all other actresses should be judged. Her departure from the film world in the mid-1950s to marry Prince Rainier of Monaco led Hitchcock to attempt to mold other actresses in her image. Kim Novak, the blonde co-star of Vertigo, was one of these Grace Kelly stand-ins.
  2. 62.  Motifs are recurring structures, contrasts, or literary devices that can help to develop and inform the text’s major themes. In Vertigo these include Power and freedom which are held up as privileges men had in the past, but presumably do not have in the present. Tunnels and corridors repeatedly represent the passage to death. In one scene, Scottie follows Madeleine to a flower shop, where she purchases a small nosegay. Its fragile perfection is an ideal representation of Madeleine herself. Spirals evoke the literal and figurative feelings of vertigo that hound Scottie and Madeleine/Judy.
  3. 63.  Symbols are objects, characters, figures, or colors used to represent abstract ideas or concepts: The color green appears frequently throughout the film, typically in association with eerie or uncanny images.
  4. 64.  Perhaps the most obvious mythological influence on the film is the Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, in which the musician Orpheus loses his wife, Eurydice, to death and ventures into the underworld to rescue her, only to lose her again.
  5. 65.  Alfred Hitchcock was known for his deep involvement in the screenplay-writing process, a fact that accounts in part for the distinctly recognizable quality of all his films. Viewers are treated to a visual reminder of Hitchcock’s presence in each film when they spot the director in one of his famous cameo appearances.
  6. 66.   Major conflict: Scottie cannot accept the death of Madeleine and struggles to re-create her in another woman who, unbeknownst to him, was behind Madeleine’s death.
  7. 67.   Rising action: Scottie gradually descends into madness as he falls in love with Madeleine, loses her to an apparent suicide, and then attempts to recreate her in Judy.
  8. 68.   Climax: The world of illusion Scottie has created for himself is permanently shattered when he discovers that Judy had duped him by playing the role of Madeleine and faking a suicide as part of a plot to murder the real Madeleine Elster.
  9. 69.   Falling action: In an effort to free himself from the acrophobia and romantic delusions that led him to this point, Scottie drags Judy/Madeleine to the scene of the crime at the top of the bell tower; Judy confesses to the crime and falls to her death when she is startled by the shadowy figure of a nun.
  10. 70.   Themes: Death as both attractive and frightening; the impenetrable nature of appearances; the folly of romantic delusion. Motifs are Power and freedom; tunnels and corridors; bouquets of flowers, spirals. Symbols include Sequoia trees; the colour green. Foreshadowing: in the opening credits, the mysterious woman’s face drenched in red is a foreshadowing of the murderous role a mysterious woman will play in the film. When Scottie faints in Midge’s arms while attempting to conquer his acrophobia on a step stool, it prefigures his more significant incapacitation when his acrophobia prevents him from stopping Madeleine’s suicide. A close-up shot of Madeleine’s tightly wound hair—a spiral—hints at the chaos into which she will lead Scottie.

Saints In Hibernia.

Order Of The Saints Of Hibernia.

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.

St. Patrick

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.


One of the areas looked 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 that there is not a lot of archaeological clues but the few we have available to us are worthy of close analysis. 

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 the Celts densely populated this area. 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. 

Irish Historical Sources.

The Brehons

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.

The Annals Of The Four Masters

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.

Celtic Myths And Sagas

Celtic Myths And Sagas

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.

The Cathach

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.

Book Of Armagh

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.

Book Of Dun Cow

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.

Irish Evidence To Celts.



In County Roscommon, near the village of Tulsk is the Cruachan which is a complex of archaeological sites in what is described as the capital of Connachta. It hosted some of the main ritual gatherings in ancient times and is important to mythologists as the seat of Ailill and Medb (the intoxicating one – related to Meade), King and Queen of the Connachta in the Ulster cycle. This site is also known as the ‘Cave of the Cat‘, an entrance to the other world and at Halloween all sorts of spirits came out of this portal to and from the underworld. Another interesting way of tying Archaeology to Mythology is that here at Cruachan were found a number of Ogham Stones; the first alphabet in Ireland, dating back to 5th or 6th Century and names were recorded on these stones in an earlier form of Irish and it is quite unusual to have mythological figures recorded on stones.

The Ring Barrows

The Ring Barrows are mounds of earth heaped over burial places in use from Neolithic times, though they were typically of the Bronze Age and usually covered a single or at most two people buried in each one. We don‘t find swords, jewellery or tools in these types of graves which implies that they occurred prior to the coming of the Celts with their tradition of the burial of possessions with the deceased. Ring barrows date back prior to the Celts in Ireland and are another good argument against the theory that a huge wave of Celts showed up into Ireland because continental burial traditions were far different from those used at the Ring barrows.

Petrie Crown

1. Petrie Crown (George Pitrie) – This piece of high status metalwork was very much an elaborate headdress and extremely well made piece of La Tene style sophisticated work discovered in County Cork and influenced by Greek art forms. It exhibits the repetitive symmetrical design popular with both Hallstatt and La Tene craftsmen.

Bann Disc

2. Bann Disc – A bronze disc about four inches in diameter found during digging in River Bann in 1939. The design features of an Irish version of Celtic art. We have no clue what it is but it has been speculated that it may have been some kind of warrior jewellery piece.

Tandragee Idol

3. Tandragee Idol. – Found in Co. Armagh this curious piece may have deeper significance than just a common statue. The nubs of horns on this figures head and the cross arm are directly related to what experts suggest may be an image of Nuada, popular King of the Tuatha De Danaan, who had his arm cut off by the Firbolgs during a battle for control of Ireland, but later has the arm replaced by a silver arm by skilled physicians. If so, then here is an example of reality intermingling with mythology.

Tricephalic Head

4. Tricephalic Head – Depicts three faces that probably represented a ‘Trinity’ of some kind. This dispels the popular myth that St. Patrick used the shamrock to demonstrate what a trinity was to the pagan natives because they already knew what a trinity was. It may have represented three divine persons in one or it showed a God who could see in three directions (past, present and future perhaps) at once. We can only speculate as to which.

Beltany Stone Circle

5. Beltany Stone Head – With it‘s ‘Bealtaine’ inference and found in Donegal at Beltany Stone Circle the name implies the festival of May 1st (Bealtaine) which may mean it was some kind of sacrifice and dates from the Bronze Age and thousands of years prior to the arrival of the Celts. We cannot rely totally on the evidence presented to us by Archaeologists because stones are silent and all we can do is try to interpret their meanings as best we can but such interpretations are always left open for further investigation and thinking. We must then look elsewhere for further evidence and thus we turn to the early Irish myths and sagas.

Celtic Conundrum.


It was during the Iron Age that Celtic culture was first introduced to Ireland. There were both similarities and differences between Irish Celtic culture and continental cultures of that period. Archaeology and history combine to give us a vivid picture of the Continental Celts but is that picture accurate when it comes to Ireland? Were the Irish really part of that culture?
It must be remembered that there were two different Celtic cultures coming from Western Europe during the Iron Age, the Hallstatt Celts, the earlier ones and the La Tène Celts who arrived much later. There is little evidence of the Hallstatt Celts in Ireland and with the exception of a few small artefacts such as the swords and bits of jewellery that tell us very little about how they got here and where they came from. Even if they were made in Ireland they were copies of European designs. But, chances are, they may have been imported.

Hallstatt, Germany.

In the period 600 to 300 BCE Ireland would have been in line with the introduction of Iron in Western Europe in the Hallstatt period. This is often described by historians as the Irish Dark Age because very little is known about this period in ancient times but there is some evidence to suggest that the Hallstatt Culture had arrived in some form by virtue of the fact that implements made of Iron began to appear.
These implements indicated the presence of Iron in Ireland and include items such as the Gundlingen Sword, a bronze copy of an Iron sword found in Athlone, Leech Fibula, a broach found in County Clare. But the existence of these items is not really evidence of the coming of tribes in the in the early Iron Age to Ireland.

La Tene Celts

We do know that from the little use of various metals, including Iron, that it is highly unlikely that there was any kind of invasion of Celtic culture but there was some influence. In about 300BC we start to see the influence of the La Tène Celts and this had a big impact on Ireland. Items such as the Knock buffer Torc which was similar to what one would expect to find in the Rhineland (the general name for areas of Germany along the river Rhine). Other objects considerably more La Tène start to appear after 200BC and this suggests to us that there is an influx of Celtic culture into Ireland and manifesting itself in art, jewellery and tools. But what can this tell us about the people?

Firstly, from the evidence we can see that Celtic religion is starting to thrive in Ireland and furthermore, because many inscriptions are in the Celtic language, the arrival of Gaelic to Irish shores has occurred. Interestingly, we don‘t find great graveyards or chariots or other significant symbols of Celtic cultures to the same degree as in Western Europe and this seems to imply that it was small groups who came to the country and because they were skilled with Iron the rest of the culture quickly became Celtic. It is difficult to interpret what really happened but the small group‘ theory, such as the Brigantes, seems to be the most credible theory. In any case, Ireland shows very little evidence for mass migration.


The relatively small amount of Torcs, necklaces and jewellery discovered further implies that those who were coming here were part of the elite classes who enjoyed finery and functionality in their adornments. A brilliant example of this is the Broighter Hoard of County Derry. This find offered good evidence that the richest, most powerful people were coming from Britain and Western Europe.

Why was such very valuable jewellery buried in the ground, not only in Derry, but at random places all over Ireland? Historians suggest that perhaps it was buried as an offering to the Gods and this implies that other world spirits were being acknowledged and sacrifices including very expensive (in terms of time and effort and craftsmanship) trinkets were handed over to the spirits for one reason or another. In Loughcrew, Co. Meath, hundreds of decorated cat’s bones were found and this not only gave an indication of sacrificial ceremonies but also pointed us in the direction that places of burial were used and reused throughout the centuries by numerous different cultures. It begs the question were the people of the latter burials attempting to reconnect in some way with those who were buried in these sites in the past? Some of the expanses of time which occurred between burials can be thousands of years; yet, these sacred sites were being used over and over again.

Turoe Stone

The Turoe Stone located in Co. Galway is one of the most instantly recognisable examples of ancient art of the La Tene culture and is assignable to c.300BC. Its phallic shape implies it may have been in some way associated to a fertility cult. Other stones with La Tène art Castlegrange, (Roscommon), Kilcluggin (Cavan), Mullaghmast (Kildare) and Derrykeighan (Antrim). These were carved between 2nd Century and 1st Century BCE and have been likened to Delphi in Ancient Greece. Delphi was considered to be the very center of the ancient world and here there were similar phallic like stones of similar age. This suggests a clear link between Greek and Celtic cultures.

Lisnacrogher Scabbard

Other pieces of evidence that have come to light in recent decades include the Lisnacrogher Scabbard and numerous other swords, the Loughnashade trumpet, Four trumpets were found but only One survives, the others are supposed to have been given as gifts to visiting foreign nobility. The Corlea Bog Road in County Longford is a tantalising discovery dating back to around c.150BC– the age of the road was ascertained by Archaeologists by checking the age rings in the wood in the Oak used for the actual track way. What makes this so interesting, apart from its immediately obvious historical significance, is that it may link history with mythology because it suggests comparisons with the myth of Etain where King Eochu Airem sets Midir tasks such as planting a forest and building a road across a bog where none had ever been. It‘s fascinating that something in reality ties in so well with mythology.

The Dorsey, County Armagh

The Dorsey, County Armagh is an earthwork, great big banks, constructed in the Iron Age and part of that is one of the most significant finds to demonstrate the clear existence of a strong La Tène culture was what has been named the Black Pigs Dyke. It consists of a shallow ditch and seems to have been defensive perimeters. This is provoking some debate in relation to reality and mythology in Irish history too because stories in mythology regarding raids and battles going on around these types of tribal construction.

Black Pigs Dyke

It is important for us to look closely at the Archaeology of the Iron Age to discover what it may tell us about the so called Mythological Cycle. When we look at areas such as the Hill of Tara we can immediately see significant spiritualistic influences. There are similar sites worth looking at such as Black Pigs Dyke, Dorsey and the Doon of Drumsna.

Hill Of Tara

The Hill of Tara is significant spiritually and is essentially a series of earthworks. It was important spiritually, politically and religiously. It covered a multitude of different dates and one of its most historically significant locations is the Mound of the Hostages. In the Bronze Age it was an important burial ground and in the Iron Age it retained its importance and continued to be used for religious and spiritual purposes.

Mound Of The Hostages

The Mound of the Hostages was a Stone Age tomb and burials of high status burials took place here. In the Iron Age it was also used for the burial of nobility. It is of some significance that the storytellers (Dindsenchas) who assigned the names to these places merely speculated and perhaps made things up about what actually occurred at Tara. It is a place that was used over and over again and each culture gave it new stories. Inevitably, over centuries, fact was convoluted by fiction and mythology emerged.

Stone Of Destiny

When we look at the famous Lia Fail (Stone of Destiny) at Tara, it was said, that when a true King stood on it that it would cry out to confirm the presence of nobleness. This demonstrates elements of mythology and reality and complicates the true purpose of the site. In fact, Lia Fail (best known for its phallic shape) was also known as Bun Fhearghasa (Fergus’s Penis) which may very well be a symbol of fertility, strength, leadership and Kingship.
Tara is a very complex place with lots of differences influences from different times and was shaped by each culture by its own influences. It throws up unusual questions because when it was excavated some Roman relics were found there. Some important figures from History that are very much associated with Tara are Cormac, Maeve (Medb) and St. Patrick. Tara has remained as a site of extreme importance throughout History and that is still the case today.

Emhain Macha

Tara was the centre of Ireland which, at the time constituted not four but five provinces which were Crachain (Connaught), Caiseal (Munster), Leinster (Dun Ailinne & capital was Kildare) and Ulster (Emhain Macha – capital was Navan) and Cuige (Meath) or the fifth province of which Tara (Tamhair) was the capital. The borders of these provinces shifted and changed in time until Meath was absorbed into Leinster. One of the more unusual places of interest at Tara was Eamhain Macha (Navan Fort) which was a large structure built at c.98BC and what was different about this was that shortly after it was built it was immediately destroyed by fire. Nobody knows was the entire structure built as a sacrifice to God or if it was a deliberate act of destruction. We know it was a temple of some kind. Maeve, Queen of Ulster was at war when her enemy at the time so it‘s not beyond the realms of possibility that it was a deliberate destruction of the temple.
In the medieval period they imagined that Tara was the palace of a King and it was the centre of the Kingdom of Ulster. Conchobhar Mac Nessa allegedly lived here according to mythology and thus Tara became the centre of the Ulster Cycle of Mythological stories.

Caesar On The Keltoi.

Caesar Wrote Extensively On The Celts (Keltoi).

They worship as their divinity, Mercury in particular, and have many images of him, and regard him as the inventor of all arts, they consider him, the guide of their journeys and marches, and believe him to have very great influence over the acquisition of gain and mercantile transactions.

Next to him they worship Apollo, and Mars, and Jupiter, and Minerva; respecting these deities they have for the most part the same belief as other nations: that Apollo averts diseases, that Minerva imparts the invention of manufactures, that Jupiter possesses the sovereignty of the heavenly powers; that Mars presides over wars.

To him when they have determined to engage in battle, they commonly vow those things they shall take in war. When they have conquered, they sacrifice whatever captured animals may have survived the conflict, and collect the other things into one place. In many states you may see piles of these things heaped up in their consecrated spots; nor does it often happen that any one, disregarding the sanctity of the case, dares either to secrete in his house things captured, or take away those deposited; and the most severe punishment, with torture, has been established for such a deed.
All the Gauls assert that they are descended from the god Dis, and say that this tradition has been handed down by the Druids. For that reason they compute the divisions of every season, not by the number of days, but of nights; they keep birthdays and the beginnings of months and years in such an order that the day follows the night.
The nation of all the Gauls is extremely devoted to superstitious rites; and on that account they who are troubled with unusually severe diseases and they who are engaged in battles and dangers, either sacrifice men as victims, or vow that they will sacrifice them, and employ the Druids as the performers of those sacrifices; because they think that unless the life of a man be offered for the life of a man, the mind of the immortal gods cannot be rendered propitious, and they have sacrifices of that kind ordained for national purposes.

Caesar‘s writing of the Celtic religion and politics was known as Interpretatio Romana in which he writes; “The God Mercury plays a big part in Caesar‘s understanding of the religion of the Celts”.  Rome at this time worshiped stone Gods (statues) while the Celts thought that depicting these Gods in this way was not good. Caesar continues, “This God is considered to be the God of Journeys. He was first identified in Lyon, France at a now well known Fort known as Lughduna where archaeologists found artefacts and relics associated with travelling”. This is relevant because Caesar‘s description of Celtic law in relation to oaths and pledges was imperative to understanding how all contracts in Celtic law were accomplished. Interestingly, Mistletoe was a plant depicted on inscriptions and statuary associated with both the God Lugos and the Goddess Rose Mertha who is seen holding a cup, chalice which depicts Kingship or a higher force.


The term Interpretatio Romana derives from Tacitus Germana (Chapter 43) wherein he describes two German Gods worshipped as brothers and youths – twins – as being like Castor and Polloux.11 These young Gods filtered through the Roman Culture.

Celtic Religious Festivals.


We can infer certain things about the religious beliefs of the Celts from the nature of their festivals. To get accurate information about these festivals historians usually turn to the Coligny Calendar which appears to be written in Gaulish by the people of France before the coming of the Romans and this language continued on alongside Latin into the 5th century.

The calendar was clearly influenced by Romans in that, although it was written in Gaulish it used the Roman alphabet. Romans had kept calendars and the Coligny Calendar is based on a Roman prototype. It is what is called a Lunisolar calendar which meant it was based on both the Moon and the Sun. The months would go by the movements of the Moon but every two and half years they would put in an extra month and this would keep it on track. It seems, according to the calendar, that the first month was called Samonios (Summer End) and if we are to interpret this correctly then we may conclude that the Solar year began in Halloween (October 31st to November 1st) which ties in well with Caesar‘s idea that when the Celts celebrated time they celebrated the dark before the light (night before day – a festival began at sundown of a given day and end at sundown of the following day.) It follows then that if the day began with the dark half it is fair to conclude that the year began with the dark half beginning at Halloween.

Halloween was clearly a major festival in Ireland in pre-Christian times and Samonios was considered to be the beginning of the Celtic year. The months in the Calendar were divided into two halves and were also arranged into lucky – 30 day months and unlucky months. They described the lucky months as ‘Mat‘ and the latter as ‘Anm‘ or ‘not good‘.

The whole cycle runs for about thirty years and then starts over again.

To the Celts, time was circular rather than linear. This is reflected in their commencing each day, and each festival, at dusk rather than dawn, a custom comparable with that of the Jewish Sabbath. It is also reflected in their year beginning with the festival Samhain (Halloween) when nature appears to be dying down.

The Months were as follows:

1. Samonios – Seed Fall – Oct/Nov

2. Dvmannosios – Darkest Depths – Nov/Dec

3. Rivros –Dec/Jan – Cold Time

4. Anagantios – Jan/Feb – Stay Home Time

5. Ogronios – Feb/Mar – Ice Time

6. Cvtios (Sonnocingos) – Mar/Apr – Windy Time

7. Giamonios – Apr/May – Shoots Show

8. Simivisionnacos – May/Jun – Bright Time

9. Eqvos – June/July – Horse Time

10. Elembivios – July/Aug – Claim Time

11. Edrinios – Aug/Sept – Arbitration Time

(The translations are based on those of Caitlin Matthews)

When we study the Coligny Calendar we can see certain dates are marked. It is thought that these marks indicate important points in the Celtic year. When we look at Irish tradition we see that these same dates are included in the Irish Celtic calendar:

1. Samhain – Oct 31st – Halloween.

2. Bealtaine – May 1st – Bonfire Night.

3. Lughnasa – Aug 1st – Lughnasa.

4. Imbolc – Feb 1st – St. Brigid‘s Day. (1st Day Of Spring)

12. Cantlos – Sept/Oct-Song Time

Gaulish Influence On Celts

Sculpture Of An Armoured Torc-Wearing Gaul


Generally speaking the basic tenet of Celtic religion was polytheist (belief in many Gods) as opposed to monotheist. We can clearly see from the number of Gods worshipped by the ancient tribes that they were polytheists. It seems that they were also an animist culture – which means they believed that not only people but also animals, places and objects had a soul. They had basically an inherent spiritual presence of some kind. But we see that they worshipped in places of natural beauty which implies they were close to nature in their religions. We find evidence for ritual objects in ritual places and vice-versa. They imbued the world around them with religious significance. Things like the sky and the sun would have been associated with religious ideas. They had a concept of the underworld. They communicated with the underworld through the burial of objects and this was their way of interacting with the realm of the dead which they clearly acknowledged.

Sacred spots in the landscape included rivers and springs, which seemed to have great importance both in Irish and Gaulish religion. Rivers are normally associated with Goddesses; all the rivers of Ireland are given grammatically female names. For example, the River Shannon was associated with the Goddess Sionna.

The people for the most part were rural agrarians and this comes through in their deities of fertility, nature and agriculture and similar themes. Animals were also important to the tribes and we see this when we look at the God Artio (a sacred Bear), dogs and wolves held great importance too, probably associated with the warrior tradition in Celtic society. There was a warrior class within Celtic society and war and the creation of war was a significant part of life.

They had specific sites for religious practise and worship and they named these locations Nemeton (sacred place amongst the Oaks) which is related to the Gaelic words for holy and place. It was in such forests that they conducted their rituals. There is a very interesting account of Druid rituals to do with Oaks and this is by the 1st Century CE natural historian Pliny who recounts that; “The druids – that is what they call their magicians – hold nothing more sacred than the mistletoe and a tree on which it is growing, provided it is Valonia Oak. Mistletoe is rare and when found it is gathered with great ceremony, and particularly on the sixth day of the moon. Hailing the moon in a native word that means healing all things, they prepare a ritual sacrifice and banquet beneath a tree and bring up two white bulls, whose horns are bound for the first time on this occasion.

A priest arrayed in white vestments climbs the tree and, with a golden sickle, cuts down the mistletoe, which is caught in a white cloak. Then finally they kill the victims, praying to a god to render his gift propitious to those on whom he has bestowed it. They believe that mistletoe given in drink will impart fertility to any animal that is barren and that it is an antidote to all poisons.

This testimony is much debated and arguably fanciful on Pliny‘s behalf but it can still be accepted at face value. There is very little written about the Druids so it remains one of the few pieces of documented testimony available and as such has some merit.

We can conclude from Pliny‘s evidence that Mistletoe is sacred amongst the Celts. Further to this we also find in certain pillars and statutes we see embedded carvings of mistletoe and in one case we even find what has been interpreted as a crown of mistletoe leaves.

We also find great importance was given to bog lands and lakes which implied that natural water was extremely important to them. They often placed objects of religious significance into the water perhaps by way of returning a gift for the gifts given by water. (Other sacred elements were the Sky, the Sun – the wheel in the sky – and Lighting and Thunder). Danu was an important God of water and the fertility it brings about. Moisture and fertility went hand in hand and the Gods, such as Danu (The Danube), had rivers and other expanses of water named after them. One of the more important Celtic Goddess was Sequena (fast flowing one) and she was a Goddess of healing and water and often depicted standing in a boat. In 2nd Century BCE there was a shrine dedicated to her.

In fact many of the offerings, over 900 in all, found at her shrine indicated that it was a shrine of healing (as in Lourdes). The relics were mostly statues of body parts. Interestingly there were also statues of internal body parts such as livers and lungs which remains a mystery as to how they could have been depicted. In short, she was perhaps one of the most important of many of the European River Goddess and very much worshiped. These cults and customs may have come about from the fact that the Gauls were animists (everything had a soul) and that included rivers and these souls are the basis of these deities. It is possible that local deities eventually became bigger deities through word of mouth and thus, Goddesses evolved.

Some other shrines or temples have been discovered and one of the most notable one is known as Roquepertuse which is near Marseille, then Marcillary, a Greek town, in Southern France. The statuary discovered here was Celtic in origin. Evidence suggests that because few homes were found nearby that this was not a place of general worship but one used exclusively by the Druids themselves.

Yet another shrine of note was Gournay Sur Aronde in Northern France was a site similar to Stonehenge and was near a marchland and excavators found that a perimeter was built round it and within the area they were digging pits and burying Oxon. These animals may have been sacrificed. The reason why Oxon were sacrificed was to ensure new herds would thrive. What is interesting here is the fact that excavators found human remains which implies that human sacrifice was not beyond the Celts. On this particular site a number of pillars were constructed and on spiked on top of these poles they had warriors. It suggests that both people and animals were slaughtered at this site and then sacrificed. It seemed that the site had a military theme to it but it remains uncertain whether the humans who were sacrificed here were tribe members or enemies or victims of war. There was also weaponry destroyed and buried in the ground and so we know that these weapons were being ritually damaged and perhaps the souls destroyed or somehow rendered powerless in this world. Over 500 warriors were sacrificed and buried at Gournay Sur Aronde.

Decapitation of those sacrificed was a very common practise and at sites such as Gournay Sur Aronde many of the bodies excavated had their heads chopped off. No real significant conclusions can be drawn from this fact because this practise by modern standards is barbaric but perhaps this was not the case at all for the Celts. It may very well have been the case that the already deceased warriors were decapitated as a matter of honour. We can‘t know if such an honour was something the warriors wanted, it is possible, and maybe decapitation was part of the burial process for a warrior. There is evidence to suggest that it may not have been against the persons will because it may have been part of their religious belief. Maybe they considered decapitation to be part of a greater good or way to be united with the Gods in the next world. In short, the process of decapitation does not imply barbarism or bloodlust. With the passage of time what seems barbaric to one society may very well have been natural to another. There is no real evidence to suggest either way. Other cultures were also carrying out beheadings as much as the Celts. It was a way of life. We are not entirely sure if in Celtic tradition the beheading of somebody clearly indicated a barbaric act. It is possible that in their culture it may have been a way of honouring them, or a cult tradition but there is sufficient evidence to suggest that this was also another form of human sacrifice in the fact that decapitation seemed to be commonplace. Scholars are somewhat divided on this point but there is strong evidence that it did definitely take place. If it was not an object of veneration the head seemed to have symbolically represented the whole person and thus the taking of the head perhaps meant somehow disempowering the whole person. Livy (a Roman Historian 59BC/AD17 – Titus Livius) records that in 216 BCE a Roman general called Postumius met his end at the hands of the Boii. (A Gallo-Celtic Tribe located in Central Europe but mostly in Bavaria, Bohemia) After he was killed they: stripped his corpse, severed the head, and bore their prize in triumph to their most sacred temple. There, according to their habit, they cleaned it, decorated the skull with gold and employed it as a sacred vessel for the pouring of libations for the priests and acolytes of the temple to drink from.‖15 From this we can ascertain that beheading should not be seen as entirely barbaric, it may have been done out of a mark of respect for warriors but this is very unlikely.

Diodorus Siculus, (A Greek historian) in the 1st century had this to say about Celtic head-hunting: “They cut of the heads of enemies slain in battle and attach them to the necks of their horses. The blood-stained spoils they hand over to their attendants and carry off as booty, while striking up a paean and singing a song of victory; and they nail up these first fruits upon their houses, just as do those who lay low wild animals in certain kinds of hunting. They embalm in cedar oil the heads of the most distinguished enemies, and preserve them carefully in a chest, and display them with pride to strangers, saying that for this head one of their ancestors, or his father, or the man himself, refused the offer of a large sum of money. They say that some of them boast that they refused the weight of the head in gold; thus displaying what is only a barbarous kind of magnanimity, for it is not a sign of nobility to refrain from selling the proofs of one’s valour. It is rather true that it is bestial to continue one’s hostility against a slain fellow man.”16

So obviously the Celts were being judged pretty harshly by implying that the Celts continued their hostility towards those they conquered by keeping their heads as trophies. There is some direct evidence for this as well. When we look at some of the statuary we find niches are often cut into stone and heads were put into these niches. Whether these were the skulls of persons captured in war or part of the group or tribe we are not entirely sure and so we can only see it as a piece of evidence in defence of what the Romans were saying at the time.

The pillar at Entremont has heads carved into it and there were skulls found in this place and there were holes in the skulls which suggested that they may have been pierced and descended on spikes of some kind.

Further evidence of the use of heads as objects of adoration can be found in Ireland, specifically the famous triple Corleck Head which has three faces on it. Whether this represents the trinity or some kind of God we don‘t know. But it probably recognises some kind of cult activity.

Celtic Gods.

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.

Dis Pater

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.

Camas (Or Camulus)

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.

Nanto Suelta

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.

Tarous Trigaranus

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.

Celtic European Influences.

The Celts Brought European Culture To Ireland.


In order to fully understand Irish Celtic history we must also understand how the people of the time were influenced by fellow Europeans. For example, Julius Caesar, fuelled by propaganda, who fought the Gaul‘s (or Gallicos) of France, wrote extensively about them. Our main focus is on the Celtic Period or, as it was better known, the Iron Age and to fully understand the traditions of this age and how they came about we need to look at what was going on in other European Countries.

The Celts can be best described as a people from Western Europe who spoke a language known as Gaulish. The earliest known Celts can be traced back to 600BC and came from the small town of Hallstatt in Austria where they controlled large salt mines. The wealthy Chieftains at Hallstatt were trading salt in Europe which meant that they travelled extensively, primarily by boat, across the continent. To an extent the Hallstatt Chieftains adopted the popular Greek style of language which was a precursor to other European languages including Gaulish and Lepontic. It must also be remembered that there were basically two different types of Celt and they were known as Q-Celts and P- Celts. It seems that at some time in the past the Celts split and subsequently both were categorised primarily by the sounds they emphasis was on the P. The most common dialectics of the Celts were, Irish, Manx Welsh, Cornish, Breton, Welsh, Scottish and in the ancient world, Gaulish, Leponic and Celtic Iberian.

A Celt is normally defined by historians as someone who speaks any of the main Celtic languages of Welsh, Breton, Scottish, Gaelic, Manx Welsh, and Cornish and in the ancient world Gaulish, Leponic or Celtic Iberian. 19th Century language scholars and archaeologists mostly agree that at some stage in pre-history that the Celtic race spoke the Celtic language, used Celtic objects, lived in the French Alps from where they invaded Europe and finally settled in Ireland, Britain, Spain and France. The Archaeologist‘s definition of a Celt is someone living in the Iron Age who used objects from the continental Hallstatt or La Tène cultures, emanating from the Alps, or is buried with rituals associated with these cultures.

The Le Tène Culture in 300BC in Lake Neuchâtel, the Celts, deliberately put ornaments into the Lake in offering to the Gods. This was done in relation to pleasing g the Gods and sometimes they would destroy the ornaments perhaps as a mark of respect for the dead or some sort I of disempowerment of weaponry i.e.: bent swords or implements and tools. It must be remembered that this was a stereotypical ‘animate’ culture which meant that everything had a ‘soul’ and that the soul of the tools or weapons passed to the next world with the owner.

The Gauls and the Celts were on the move on a regular basis i.e.: Germany, Spain, Switzerland (Alps), Asia, so these tribes did not write down their own history, the people around them did. One particular tribe the Keltoi, a name of Gaulish origin would be described as ‘barbarian’ and animal like by it‘s contemporaries who deemed the Romans and Greeks as civilised and respectful. Julius Caesar names them at the beginning of his ‘De Bello Gallico’ (Gallic War). He refers to the Gauls as those who are called Celts in their own language. So, it appears, and logically so, that ‘Celt’ was a name that the Celts called themselves. The Romans were greatly disturbed by the ornaments and battle noise of the Celts. Also terrifying was the appearance and rapid manoeuvring of the naked warriors in front, men at the prime of their strength and magnificence; “The Gauls are tall with moist white flesh; their hair is not only naturally blond, but they also make artificial efforts to lighten its colour, their hair thickens until it is just like a horse‘s mane and they wear amazing clothes: tunics dyed in every colour and pin striped cloaks. The whole race, which they call both Gallic and Gallatin, is war-like, both spirited and quick to war. De Bello Gallico continues; “they worship as their divinity, Mercury in particular, and have many images of him, and regard him as the inventor of all arts, they consider him, the guide of their journeys and marches, and believe him to have very great influence over the acquisition of gain and mercantile transactions. Next to him they worship Apollo, and Mars, and Jupiter, and Minerva; respecting these deities they have for the most part the same belief as other nations: that Apollo averts diseases, that Minerva imparts the invention of manufactures, that Jupiter possesses the sovereignty of the heavenly powers; that Mars presides over wars.

To him when they have determined to engage in battle, they commonly vow those things they shall take in war. When they have conquered, they sacrifice whatever captured animals may have survived the conflict, and collect the other things into one place. In many states you may see piles of these things heaped up in their consecrated spots; nor does it often happen that any one, disregarding the sanctity of the case, dares either to secrete in his house things captured, or take away those deposited; and the most severe punishment, with torture, has been established for such a deed.

All the Gauls assert that they are descended from the god Dis, and say that this tradition has been handed down by the Druids. For that reason they compute the divisions of every season, not by the number of days, but of nights; they keep birthdays and the beginnings of months and years in such an order that the day follows the night.

The nation of all the Gauls is extremely devoted to superstitious rites; and on that account they who are troubled with unusually severe diseases and they who are engaged in battles and dangers, either sacrifice men as victims, or vow that they will sacrifice them, and employ the Druids as the performers of those sacrifices; because they think that unless the life of a man be offered for the life of a man, the mind of the immortal gods cannot be rendered propitious, and they have sacrifices of that kind ordained for national purposes.

One such historian and documenter of Celtic traditions was Julius Caesar who led the campaign against the Gauls in France. Caesar‘s writing of the Celtic religion and derives from Tacitus Germana (Chapter 43) wherein he describes two German Gods worshipped as brothers and youths – twins – as being like Castor and Polloux. These young Gods filtered through the Roman Culture. Mercury; the God plays a big part in Caesar‘s understanding of the religion of the Celts. Rome at this time worshipped stone Gods (statues) while the Celts thought that depicting these Gods in this way was not good.

The God Lugos is considered to be the God of Journeys. He was first identified in Lyon, France at a now well known Fort known as Lughduna where archaeologists found artefacts and relics associated with travelling. This is relevant because Caesar‘s description of Celtic law in relation to oaths and pledges was imperative to understanding how all contracts in Celtic law were accomplished. Interestingly, Mistletoe was a plant depicted on inscriptions and statuary associated with both the God Lugos and the Goddess Rose Mertha who is seen holding a cup, chalice which depicts Kingship or a higher force. There are a few different types of evidence that we can use to establish what Gods and Goddesses were believed in by the Celts.

Inscribed Dedications were a practise whereby people used inscriptions to write dedications to their Gods and Goddesses. This was a common practise particularly after the Romans had come and invaded the area in which such inscriptions can be found. This is interesting because it further complicates the issue in that we now also need to understand the influence of Roman Religion. However, it also gives some indication as to the influence of this, by then, advanced religion on the Celts. Along with the Romans came literacy thus empowering the written word and consequently these inscriptions began to appear. The Statuary was very much influenced by the Romans. The Celts started to produce Statues in a very classical style. The Classical Accounts were also a source of information and primarily of these classical accounts was the “Interpretatio Romanio‘ (Roman Interpretation) which was a Roman account and was therefore somewhat biased. However, it still remains a source of evidence worthy of consideration.

When we examine the Classical Accounts we discover that most of these are all based on one particular source, Roman classical writers were notorious for copying, and thus the reliability of source is considered questionable. Bad information was reported and re-reported over and over again. The final significant sources are archaeological Sites and names and place names. These would give us some hints; names of rivers, wells, shrines, towns and cities usually had suggestions of Celtic deities. Finally, it is also worth noting that, with very few exceptions, names of male Gods usually end in ‘OS‘ while Goddesses names end in ‘A‘. These are our primary sources of evidence.

Four Celtic Cycles.

Four Celtic Cycles.

The Irish evidence and international evidence as to how life must have been, not only for the Celts resident in Ireland, but also for international Celts living across Western Europe is mostly based on mythology. The international evidence can show us, for example, what kind of religion the Celtic speaking people of Europe believed in. The first thing we must do is define what exactly we mean by the word ‘Celts’, what exactly is a Celt? It is after all, a rather complex term worthy of close analysis.

We need to understand the Celtic societies all across Europe, not only in Ireland, but also in France, Spain and Germany. Looking at the Gods and Goddesses of the Celtic tradition we can ascertain many of the religious beliefs of the Celtic peoples. One of the areas most fruitful in our understanding of the Celts 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 these people.

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. One needs to also look at history which includes pseudo history, tribal names and place names. This ‘pseudo history’ came about long after events took place and, with the passing of time, stories became somewhat romanticised or, depending on the agenda of the storyteller, would have a political or religious spin to it. Tribal names and place names can tell us a lot about certain different cults and figures. However, our primary source is Mythology.

There are four main cycles in time to be concerned with when trying to understand the Celts but when we talk about some of these cycles we have a problem in that the information available to us was, more than likely, prepared long after events actually took place. In many cases, evidence suggests, that such stories were relayed thousands of years later. In fact, some of the mythology available only came to us in the medieval period. But the fact is that the mythology survived in medieval manuscripts for the most part and modern scholars have broken it up to four different strands. Four different areas of mythology which are known as the Mythological cycle, the Ulster cycle, Fenian cycle and the Historical cycle.

Mythological Cycle.

The mythological cycle, which is mainly based on the contents of a book known as ‘The Book Of Invasion’ which was not really a history book but it discusses at great length the different tribes, one after another, which came to Ireland until eventually the final wave of invaders arrived to conquer the land, the Gael, who became the masters of the Ireland. One of the most important tribes to arrive prior to ‘The Gael’ was a tribe known as the ‘Tuatha De Danaan’ who were presented in ‘The Book Of Invasion’ as a group of magicians or magical figures whereas, in reality, they were a pantheon of Gods.

Ulster Cycle.

The ‘Ulster Cycle’ concerns a warrior and aristocratic society in the province of Ulster and is supposed by historians to have taken place around C.1 CE. It is primarily concerned with a mystical King known as Conchobhar MacNeasa (one who is desirous of warriors) and the various different peoples of his kingdom and rival kingdoms as well. There is a single story that is very important to this cycle and is known as the Brown Bull of Cooley. This tale is significant because it introduces a character known as Cu Chulainn who single handedly defends the province of Ulster against a great army. In any study of Irish Mythology one should be concerned not so much with the stories themselves but with the symbolism used in them. One should try to understand from where these symbols came and what is their true meaning or substance in history. For example, Cu Chulainn probably represents the warrior cult that came to Ireland from parts of Liverpool in the 1st century CE and the Kings may have represented a phase of kingship in Ulster in the centuries BCE. In short, if we break open the stories we can see clues to the realities of history within their meaning. We should never take the stories at face value. We could always examine them and try to find out that‘s underneath.

Fenian Cycle.

The next wave is known as the Fenian Cycle has a lot to tell us about certain cult figures. These stories are basically about Fionn Mac Cumhaill and the Fianna (Young Hunters). The story of the Salmon of Knowledge tells us of Fionn sticking his thumb into a salmon and tasting the juices thus gaining great knowledge. This can be interpreted as the salmon, having it‘s origin in the mystical world, and Fionn acquiring mystical knowledge by tasting the juices, and is therefor in some way super powerful. There are many stories in the Fenian Cycle of Fionn and the Fianna going to the mystical world and fighting supernatural warriors and it is from such stories that we can acquire a greater knowledge of how the Celts may have lived and what beliefs they may have had.

Historical Cycle.

The historical cycle is also known as the cycle of the King‘s because it mainly deals with kingship, how King‘s are viewed, what powers King‘s had in both mortal and spiritual worlds. There are lots of stories of Kings taking trips to other worlds or encountering visitors from other worlds who were to bestow the role of Kingship upon them. It‘s all essentially political propaganda but these stories can tell us a fair amount as well about the Druids and the Druidic rituals.

Pre-Christian Ireland.

Early Medieval Ireland.

Historians and Mythologists often disagree in relation to when the Celts first arrived in Ireland. Very little was documented prior to the C.600 BCE and this, according to historians, is taken as an indication that this may very well have marked the arrival of the Celts. It was somewhere about 600-500 BCE that the race perhaps most associated with the early Irish history first appeared on the scene.

The Celts, as they were known had been living in central and Western Europe, prospering as both farmers and fighters. From these locations they had begun to fan out across the continent and beyond, eventually ending up in Ireland. These Iron users were soon to become the dominant people on the island. They spoke a form of Gaelic and, although they had no written language, they developed a system of writing that we know as Ogham. This was made up of the series of straight and angled lines of varying lengths, which were carved onto large standing stones. Initially the Celts were pagan and celebrated the great festivals of Imbolg, Bealtaine, Lughnasa and Samhain. By about 400CE, however, they had begun to accept Christianity. That said, many of the deeper pagan practices were slow to die out.
The history of human life in the island of Ireland begins in C.7500 BCE with the arrival of hunters, gathers and fishermen. It is thought by Historians that the first farmers did not come to Ireland until around C.4000BCE and Bronze appeared on or about C.2000BCE. The Celts may have arrived in Ireland at around C.600BCE and they brought with them Iron tools and weapons. Mythologists seem vague in relation to whether the Celts were here or not prior to C.600BCE. The races that occupied the land when the so called Milesians, named after Milerius of Spain whose sons invaded and conquered the country in 1000BCE, were chiefly the Firebolg and the Tuatha De Danaan both of which were not exterminated by the conquerors. Prior to the Iron Age, according to legend, three tribes of the Celtic family who had separated from the main stem and blended into Gaels came across Europe to end up on Irish soil. The Firbolg came first from Greece where they had been enslaved and they were followed by the Fomorians who landed on Tory Island but the Firbolg were defeated by the capable and somewhat cultured Tuatha De Danaan (people of the Goddess Dana).

However, what is relevant for now is that documented history began in C.300BCE and so when we discuss pre Christian religions of Ireland we are usually talking about an era known as the Iron Age which was the years from C.300 BCE to C.500 CE. In point of fact, the Iron Age actually may have started around C.600BCE but Historians have little or no idea of what was going on in Ireland at that time but they do suspect that Celtic speaking people were not present in the country priorto 300 BCE. It was indeed a very long period of time and very little remained static. Very little was documented in any way, shape or form prior to the arrival of the Celts.

In general, during the Mesolithic Period (8000BC – 4500 BCE) it is most likely that the native Irish were not agricultural but Hunter/Gatherer tribes. They probably did not have hugely complex societal structures but Historians can tell a little bit about their religious beliefs from shrines, monuments and graveyards. Archaeologists have found mass graves in which burned remains of humans were found clutching stone tools and this demonstrates that funeral pyres not only destroyed human remains but also any flammable attachments to the stones. It shows that objects were placed in the hands of the dead prior to cremation. It seems then that the dead were treated in an extraordinary way in that bodies were not abandoned but cremated and buried. Unlike modern cremation techniques, it was not a dust that remained but bones and these final remains were interred in shallow graves.

The Dying Celt.

The objects buried with the dead were expensive objects in that they took some time to make and were deemed to serve some purpose in the other world. This indicates some kind of sophisticated belief about the dead and the post-death journey and the afterlife. This is the earliest evidence that exists about religious beliefs in Ireland. This period happened around 4500 BCE to 2500 BCE and from this period there still exists different types of tombs in different parts of Ireland. For example a Court Tomb had a U-shaped area on the front of the tomb and is known as the horseshoe shaped tomb and was more than likely used, not only for burial of the deceased but also as a sacred space for the adoration of the Dead. It clearly shows that the Neolithic people were going to great effort to take care of their ancestors. There was also ‘portal tombs’ or ‘Dolmens’ and they varied in size and one of the best examples of this still stands in Ballyvaughan in Co. Clare.

Poulnabrone Dolmen, Co. Clare, Ireland.

Again, this demonstrates that sophisticated tombs indicate a reverence for the dead and the journey in which they are embarking. The most prominent of the passage tombs in Ireland is Newgrange and uses over two hundred thousand tons of stone and soil and is a massive construction. It had taken over thirty years to build. If the average age of a person was fifty or so then this clearly indicates a very significant commitment.

Newgrange Passage Tomb.

These tombs are best known these days for how the sun beams its light down the otherwise pitch dark passages at certain times of the year and again this indicates religious symbolism of some kind. Adoration of a Sun or Sky God influencing celestial events and linking such events up with the realm of the dead involved a very sophisticated set of religious beliefs.

It can be argued that these ancient societies were every bit as complex as today‘s society. They came up with as interesting, complex ideas and designs as modern human beings can produce in modern-day life. If such societies were capable of such sophistication then it is also possible that they were capable of intricate and abstract ideas such as the existence of superior other world powers of some kind. Furthermore, such massive commitment from the workers of these civilisations was clearly encouraged by superior members, such as priests, Druids or Kings, or High Priests perhaps proffering eternal reward in the afterlife in exchange for dedication in the construction of these massive tombs. We also get powerful art like engravings on the tombs and these were possibly in some way related to their mythology. Some beautiful objects were found inside of these tombs. This, again, may indicate an acknowledgement of some sort of purpose for such beauty in the afterlife and indeed the existence of the afterlife being somehow beautiful.

Stone Circles At Grange Co. Limerick.

With the Bronze Age came stone circles, a tradition which continued into the Iron Age and nobody really knows the true purpose of Stone Circles, as in Grange, Co. Limerick, where the biggest stone circle has been located, and any conclusion is no more than guesswork. Archaeologists suggest they are probably some form of religious expression but there is no real evidence to prove or disprove this theory. It is possible that these stone circles were some kind of burial ground and there are examples of human remains buried in pots or urns within these circles. These pots suggest, from remains, that gifts of food and tools or weapons were interred with the dead, just as in Ancient Egypt, so perhaps there is a basis to believe that religion had a role to play in this society.

In short then, relics and tombs from both the Mesolithic and subsequent Neolithic ages clearly show an acknowledgement of the existence of some kind of mystic belief in relation to the afterlife. Death did not seem to indicate the end of life but a step into the next life or realm. Just as politics and religion interweave in the Modern world, evidence suggests that this was also the case in those times. The existence of a societal stratum of some kind whereby workers made enormous lifelong efforts at the behest of their overseers for eternal reward may demonstrate religious belief.

In order to better understand the Celts we should try to understand their religious beliefs and the main religious festivals‘ were:

1. Spring – 1st Feb – St. Bridget‘s Day – Imbolc.

2. Summer – May 1st – Bonfire Day – Bealtaine.

3. Autumn – August 1st – Lughnasadh.

4. Winter – November 1st – Halloween – Samhain.

The calendar the Celts followed was mainly an agricultural calendar‘ with festival days to mark the start of each season. In Winter, the grass stops growing and the harvest is in, Lughnasa is when the crops are ready to toil, Imbolc was when the ploughing and planting began and Bealtaine was mostly about Animals and care for them. It can be therefor concluded that as a well as religious, spiritual and mythological elements to the calendar there was also some very practical components to it. It clearly indicates how the Celts considered farming a very significant part of their lives.

Understanding Semiotics.


Understanding Semiotics.


How we communicate with each other, from passing each other on the street, to the more complex forms of communication is the essence of what we will understand by the study of media and communications. When there is a breakdown in communications within any relationship the penalties can be disastrous. More significantly this breakdown in communications, when it occurs in the media can often have disastrous consequences.

In the media there is always a message and successful communications is most important. To understand communications we must study the works of the theorists. Theories are constructed to establish the quality of a specific model of communications. Some theories are, in the modern age, considered out-dated but still retain significance because they help us to understand how we got to today’s thinking.

This article on media and communications will focus on both the communicator and the recipient. The study of this co-relationship between both elements of the communicative process is necessary because the former needs to understand the needs of the latter and vice versa. To understand this relationship we need a number of tools. Once these tools are applied any form of media can be analysed regardless of it being audio, video or print.

As communicators we need to understand the essential elements of the science of communications and the ‘texts’ it uses. The concept of text is not necessarily about wordage but the message the sign is sending us. We need to fully comprehend not only what is being said but also what is not being said. We must keep in mind that the media has an agenda that is constructed and we need to know what this agenda is and why it is constructed in a particular fashion. Nothing is as it seems and there is always something else going on. It is our task to explore these questions.

If we are successful in our understanding we begin to ask questions about what media messages are telling us about ourselves and others. We get our opinions from the media and as such we must evaluate them in the context of their source. We get our knowledge from the media and we are saturated by it. We are constantly subjected to media forces. As a result of this we have to approach it with an open mind. These messages we are receiving are delivered to us with numerous constraints and this inevitably means these messages may be, in some way, contaminated. We are continuously exposed to media in all its forms. We need to explore how the media will package its message in a saturated environment. Media professionals working in the media industry and producing professional products are doing so in specific ways and for specific reasons.

Semiotics is a radical way of thinking about what we see and hear going on around us. It is an analysis of the generation of meaning in all forms of communication. Semiotics focuses on the signs that flash by us as we move through our daily lives. It is also the study of the codes which can be deconstructed, using various tools, to help us ascertain in which codes are organised. Signs and codes are at work all around us all the time. We hear new terms all the time as the media becomes more complex a new language is required. In semiotics we look at signs, signifiers, signification, denotation, connotation, icon, index and symbol.

The main theorists in Semiotics are Ferdinand de Sassure who focused on the language and linguistics of signs, Charles Pierce who studied images and non-verbal signs and Roland Barthes who focused on Contemporary Media. The word ‘Semiotics’ is from the Greek word ‘semeion’, meaning sign. It is a study of signs with society. It can be applied to a wide variety of media texts. It investigates the complexity of media messages and can be understood (partially) by a theory of signs. Semiotics can assist us as Media Students in many ways. The process of signing is closely tied up with questions of textual power. It shows how meaning is made or produced and it further shows how all our knowledge, values and beliefs are social rather than individual. Semiotics gets us thinking about representation, how texts (messages or signs) can be examined, not just for obvious content but for what these ‘texts’ have to say.

Saussure was a Swiss Linguist who was interested in the language of signs and the complexity of sentence construction and how signs relate to each other. He argues that the arbitrary nature of the sign is at the heart of human language. One of the things that characterises verbal language, in comparison to pictures, is that the relationship between signifiers and signified is an accident or arbitrary. This actually means there is no direct relationship between the signifier and the signified; the relationship is determined by convention, rule or agreement among the users.

Signs are organised into codes. The notion of code is very important when it comes to semiotics because it is connected to cultural communities that share conventions. Culture is a community of codes and a code, in this context, is a convention that associates a signifier with a certain signified or meaning. An example of this would be if you visit another country you may become lost in terms of dress, manners and greetings and so on.

When the credits go up on the screen we know the film is over. We just know that, as cinema goers we are used of these conventions, they are predictable and convey meaning to us. If we go to see a horror movie then convention dictates that we will become ‘scared’ and this is often indicated by the posters outside the door, the name of the movie, a certain cast member perhaps or any other messages ‘encoded’ from to the signified (you) by the signifier (the movie maker). The codes built into the advertising, for example, a bloody hand, a chainsaw with blood dripping from it, a dark graveyard or a man with a baseball mask on holding a pickaxe are the codes sent to the signified by the signifier that the movie promises to deliver terror. In watching the movie the codes are at work again as tension is piled onto the signified using the language of signs such as headless carriages, flying bats, bloody crucifixes and neck bites to imply that this movie is a horror about Vampires. These ‘codes’ are built into the Vampire genre and if they do not emerge in one way or another then we can feel cheated or we may have misread the signs. If it is a ‘comedy’ about vampirism but we misread the signs and expected a horror then the coded language may have broken down in your case because you may be the only one in the cinema expecting to scream while others are laughing.

The male and female signs on toilet doors do not really resemble men and women but we recognise them as conventional signs, not restricted by wordage or language, and we know what goes on beyond the door. These types of signsare often referred to as ‘motivated signs’ and they give us hints and motivate us toward the intended meaning. Come this way if you are a Lady and need to use the toilet and go that if you are a gentleman and need to use the toilet is easily stated by symbols of Male and Female forms. This clearly demonstrate that the relationship between signifier and signified can be not only motivated but also based on conventional standards within a specific society.

The notion of ‘Difference’ is crucial to semiotics. The sign acquires its meaning through its relations with other signs. For example, we understand the ‘light’ because it is not dark, we know it is morning because it is not night. This concept of ‘difference’ works as an organising ‘principle’ in social life and extends all the way from letters and words to questions of cultural difference. Everything exists is terms of opposites, it is not hot so it must be cold.

Difference is organised along two dimensions and these are Syntagms and paradigm. A syntagm is the same as a sentence, it is linear (moves horizontally), one word follows another to the end of a sentence, where we arrive at a meaning. This can also be extended to the linear dimensions of a text. The point is it provides a wide variety of possibilities when constructing sentences. The syntagm is the sentence designed to move us in a specific way, to react in a specific way or to behave in a specific way. The paradigms are the categories from which we make choices. Language, clothes, food, characters are examples of ‘paradigms’. These paradigms may be violated by the wrong selection of styntagms.

The concept can be simplified in the following way. In poetry there are two simple principles and these are ‘verse’ and ‘poem’. The poet uses his poem to communicate a message to his reader. With the verse, there are lines and within the lines there are words and within the words there are syllables and within the syllables there are letters. In this example then we see a selection of syntagms (pronounced sin-ta-jims) within the paradigm (pronounced par-a-dime) of poetry.

Producers select from various paradigms in order to put together a meaningful whole (Syntagm). For example, if I want to write a poem about poverty, there are endless options that I can take as the signifier, if I want the signified to get a particular meaning I will have to be very selective and choose from particular paradigms in order that the syntagm/the final product or poem will be as I intended. The concept of syntagmatic and paradigmatic relations is central to Sausseurs idea of language as a form of communication.

In fact, this is the key to what a text means at a deep level. Think of Soap Operas on TV and the choices that have been made in relation to the paradigm or characters – the choice of characters chosen are crucial to the theme. In most soaps the producers have chosen a variety of age groups, youths, middle agedmen and women and the elderly. Many of the elderly characters are involved in jobs and we have to ask what is this saying? Does it tell us something about the elderly in our society? Here we can see syntagms and paradigms at work.

Roland Barthes was a French literary scholar and cultural critic and a follower of Saussure. He extended semiotics to the life of signs in society, applied to visual images. He simplied his thinking as ‘Denotation vs. Connotation. This distinction is important because the ‘signified’ are fluid (a variable). His thinking was simple in that he suggests that connotative meanings are regulated by codes or conventions that link the signifier to the signified.

We see a sign, we think about it and we link or associate it with something in reality. So, from this we see there are two steps involved, although they happen simultaneously. We see a chair, it sends us a sign – the sign says ‘I am a chair’, so we automatically sit down. This is called ‘denotation’. It can be said then that ‘denotation is the first and direct meaning. Connotation is the indirect meaning or, what the chair implies or what thoughts or feelings it conjures within any individual. A stool in a bar may denotes numerous things like a soft seat, good company, a drink and so on while a chair in a classroom denotes study, teaching, long winded concepts and so on and so forth. Our denotation of the chair is influenced, for example, by its location. By bringing signs and connotations together, myth is in the making. The illusion is created by the combination of signs and connotations.

We see a sign, think about it – link or associate it with something in reality. So, there are two steps involved although they do happen simultaneously (together).

Barthes work brings us closer to semiotic analysis of the media. The distinction between denotation and connotation developed because the meanings (signified) of signs change with time and place. They are not fixed. The same signifier (sign) can mean different things to different people at different times in different locations.

For example, in the 1970’s platform shoes were ‘cool. The American eagle denotes a bird but connotes pride/power and a willingness to use violence if necessary to feed and defend itself. At first semiotic level it is a motivated sign for a particular kind of bird, it denotes the kind of bird we know as an eagle. At second semiotic level the figure of the eagle connotes pride and power. In this way it can be used as an arbitrary symbol for the United States of America.




Culture Of Celts.

The Culture Of The Celts

There are very few clues as to the lifestyle and culture of the people who inhabited Ireland at the end of the Stone Age. Far away in central Europe at the north of the Alps, at around 1000 BCE there lived a warlike people, named by their enemies as Keltoi tribes, a name they also adopted for themselves. Linguistics research relates this word to “warriors”. These peoples, according to evidence found, were uniquely horse riders which had given them an advantage in warfare and travel.

They journeyed across Europe and fortified and conquered large areas which they made their own. One of these areas was Hallstatt in Austria where large-scale salt mining took place which made the location a most important trading area. Those who lived and worked in Hallstatt were an enormously prosperous people who made great ceremony of displaying wealth and opulence in their attire, jewellery, tools, customs and burial ceremonies. The power base of these warlords extended along the valley of the upper Danube progressively, over a century, moving east to west to create an area known as the country of the Keltoi. The development of trade routes meant further prosperity for these tribes of metalworking, cattle, slave and gold trading entrepreneurs.

Lust for land was the primary motive of the aggressive Celts clearly satisfied to eliminate all in their path to accumulate land, wealth and power. However, around the ninth century BCE, with the arrival of iron and its use in weapon manufacturing, came the true source of power for Celtic expansion. Large iron working centres were established, around the 6th century BCE to manufacture weapons, tools and jewellery all adorned with gold and silver. These aesthetic but functional items were uniquely Celtic in design, shape and appearance. This is known as the ‘La Tene’ period when the Celts were renowned for power, wealth, brutality and desire for artistic beauty in clothing, jewellery, armoury and transport.

It was perhaps inevitable that Celtic tribes conquering Europe were not only at war with their common enemies but also at war with each other. The great migrations from the 6th century BCE meant that many of these tribes crossed paths and went to war to secure territory. A rapid increase in populations meant that ambitious younger male tribal warriors had desires to form their own tribes and acquire their own lands. This, in fact, means that as these tribes slowly but surely crossed Europe they also segmented as parts of the tribe move forward while others stayed behind. Some tribes headed north to now modern day Paris while others went east re-crossing the Rhine. Burial customs along these routes suggest the interconnection between these tribes. The northern tribes sought new territories and moved westward and as they spread their settlements they would have encountered indigenous peoples who had been descendants of the original Celtic tribes of some six centuries earlier.

The Romans tended to call the Celts by the name “Gauls” which was a corruption or slang form of “gal” meaning one of ability or valour. Those tribes that remained in France were known as Gauls. Meanwhile the new tribe known as ‘Belgae’ or ‘furious ones ‘ emerged from central Germany and quickly gained a reputation of being barbaric, brutal and bloodthirsty land grabbers. All across Europe new tribes were increasing in strength and influence at such a pace that the Romans saw them as a single Celtic culture even though many of these tribes where independent of each other were independent of each other. The Celtic influence soon spread in all directions but mostly West and South Europe as the tribes established themselves in strong hill forts scattered in thousands of locations across mainland Europe. These populations grew so rapidly that a 5th century BCE population explosion meant tribes were rapidly advancing toward European coastlines.

The first written reports of the geography of Europe concerns a voyage around part of the Atlantic Coast sometime around the year 530 B.C.E. which was later reported upon in Greek and this text gives a few insights into prehistory. It’s accuracy in relation to the size of Europe and the islands beyond is far from correct. In relation to Britain and Ireland the text is extremely vague and difficult to decipher boss, interestingly, some historians argue that there are references within the text to the Cliffs of Dover. Ireland, which they referred to as ‘Hierni’; a word derived from an old Celtic language meaning land or soil. The Greeks called the island ‘Hivera’ meaning “sacred isle”; an island rich in green pastures amid the  waves. Britain was heavily populated with tribes who had arrived earlier from northern France in the fourth century B.C.E. and these migrants became known in time as Brigantes or ‘high ones’ naming themselves after the Celtic mother goddess Briganti. These tribes brought with them iron weapons and tools similar to those later found across the sea in Ireland. Archaeological evidence suggests that warriors used such weapons in the fifth century B.C.E. but it is most likely that these weapons came from displaced peoples from Britain who were pushed forward by the arriving Celts. The full impact of Celtic culture was not felt in Ireland for another century or so.

The social structure of Celtic society was tribal which most Celts considering themselves to be descended from the same divine ancestor which was their common bond and right to be members of their tribe. The social structures varied from tribe to tribe boss each tribe had three distinct classes; the nobility, commoners and slaves or bondmen who were captives taken in war. Economic pursuits were mostly agricultural but also there appears to have been a significant amount of trading between tribes who met at places of public assembly used for seasonal religious ceremony and bartering. To the Greeks the Celts were a bewildering race who were unprejudiced and vegetarians. The Greeks wrote that the Celts were ‘fat conscious’ people who punished and a young man with a big belly. However, such tall tales were perhaps the propaganda of enemy tribes. Aristotle praised the Celts for their courage but added that they were rash to the point of madness. Aristotle also questioned the sexual mores of the Celts, claiming that they openly approve of physical connection with their fellow males. Celts were often portrayed as uncivilized, Plato saw then as drunkards and Ephorus castigated them for going to war with the sea to prove that they are unafraid of any enemy. However, the ferocity of the Celts in battle can not be doubted and this late to great demand for their warriors.

From most accounts it seems that the Celts were tall in stature with moist white skin. They had golden hair and cultivated beards and used gold for personal ornamentation. They wore tunics dyed in various colours, striped cloaks, trousers and straps, buckles, belts and chains. The dining habits of the Celts are also well documented and it seems feasting was a common occurrence. While some accounts claim that the Celts were vegetarians other accounts are emphatic that they were ardent meat eaters. They were also very heavy drinkers and aggressive drunks who went into duals to the death rather than prolonged verbal argument. They considered it a glory to die and a disgrace to survive without victory. In the event of a battle they would lay down their weapons and retire if their leader was defeated. They were generous by disposition and every man’s house was open to all comers and food would be shared as if the stranger were a member of the family. The writer Strabo thought them naïve but subservient and loyal to their leaders. Pytheas, a mariner and explorer,  thought them as exotic and from a sacred place where the sun sleeps. The ancient Greeks, from Homer spoke of them coming from Elysian, a heavenly place, and the Greeks themselves were influenced by this thinking and from this came the characterisation of Ireland as a sacred island. Reports such as this lead to the imaginations of classical writers who depicted a ‘strange island’ inhabited by strange people in the Celtic mist. The Celts were primarily sun worshipers but they also talk of rivers as being a principal fertilizing aspect of life and were worshiped by naming them after their goddesses. There was also widespread tendency to associate wells and springs with goddesses, paired with male deities and the importance of this appears to be the coupling of the male sky with female or so as to ensure fruitfulness. Each deity had a specific function such as the production of rain, sun, crops, fertility and the guaranteeing of social and commercial contracts. The sound was the ultimate father and ear was the ultimate mother and this doctrine was protected by the wise men of the Celts. These wise men were the singers and poets known Bards, Vates who acted as communicators with the Gods to determine sacrifice and Druids who were experts in the science of nature. The most prestigious of these were the Druids. They were divinely inherited ‘mediators’ with the spirit world and held in supreme esteem. A King functioned as a substitute for a deity and was the ‘husband’ of the earth goddess but the elevated position of King was very much controlled and dictated by the Druids. If the King was doing his job properly then the tribe would be happy and the reverse could result in the removal of the King by the Druid. It is clear from this that the Celts were a very superstitious people vulnerable to the mercy of the Druids which placed them at the centre of the social order an in control of the space between the King and the Gods. The Druids had, according to some accounts, magical powers and could cast spells over warrior tribes that prevented warfare. However, such power is invested in the Druids by the commoners terrified of offending or provoking the Gods by ignoring the Druids. One has no way of tracing how these Druids became so powerful within their tribes or what is the chronology of the Celtic religion, myths and practises. The Druids assembled at locations such as forest clearings known as Nemeton (sky-place) where the trees climbed upwards and connected the sky to the earth. It is also interesting that the Druids thought (according to Caesar) that all people are descended from one divine ancestor and for this reason they count periods of time not by number of days but by the number of nights. The night is followed by the day and not the other way around. This implies a connection between the darkness of night and the ancestral lord. It also implies that time is absent with the sun as it sunk to abide with the dead. The Celts, according to some Greek writers, spent their nights near the tombs of their dead where they awaited inspiration which emanated from darkness and thus reconciled the living with the dead. There were separate deities for daylight and night-time hours and the latter seemed to have dark powers while the former had powers of fertility and life giving influences. The Druids taught that life is eternal, even after death, and thus disposed of the earthly possessions of their dead. They even allowed tribesmen to defer debt or completion of business until their arrival in the next world. The afterlife was not perceived as sad and dreary but happy and a new and valuable place of existence. Such beliefs may account for the valour of the Celts who have a disregard for life and will fight to the death just to make passage to the next world. According to Diodorus Siculus , the Celts were wont to resort to fighting on the least provocation, regard their lives as nothing.

Primary Source

The Celts – A Chronological History

Dáithí Ó Hógáin.

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