CALLING YOURSELF IRISH TODAY
Recently the Dalai Lama found himself in hot water for suggesting that “Europe belongs to the Europeans”. Nowadays it has become trendy to call any defence of borders, any species of national identity, “fascist”, the obsession of those who risk being called “the far right”.
Back in 1972 Paul and Linda McCartney were targets of criticism for singing “Give Ireland back to the Irish”. How might they answer postmodern trolls of the hard left today for the same sentiments? They would probably be assured that – really – there is no such thing as Ireland or the Irish to give or return anything to. As early as 1988 and just ahead of the Celtic Tiger years of a Europeanizing or just borderless Ireland, such was almost but not quite the message of the ground breaking, ultra-scholarly, widely praised R F Foster ‘s Modern Ireland (1600 -1972). This was effectively an economic and statistical history of Ireland. Its chronicle was so dense in its chosen emphasis it sidelined theories about Ireland and the Irish as virtual irrelevance, sometimes “Anglophobia” itself as against the shifting allegiances, regroupings of people and parties, fluctuating economic trends that compose the true picture, the “real” story.
At one level you can’t dispute the truth that across recent centuries, behind all the national myth, dreams, and political rhetoric, grim fact opposed much that was declared and hoped for. But no new and revisionist data can quite alter the fact that, just as a sense of home is natural, every society automatically and from psychological necessity, will define itself, the Irish perhaps especially so. Anciently, the chief deity of the Celts appears to have been a version of Mercury, god of speech and persuasion, who is portrayed taking people captive by his words. Yet even eschewing Mercurial rhetoric, it must be conceded, and ironically so, that in the case of Foster’s new style historiography, the picture finishes Irish of a sort almost despite itself in that it has unintended affinities with the more shape-shifting elements of Celtic myth. And questions can well be asked about that, because myths are revealing for the societies which entertain them.
So I will examine, sometimes from the little explored angle of the symbolic and archetypal, just what “being Irish” means and why both in the past and present it has represented a tenacious ideal but one curiously difficult to define and realize in practical terms. Which also means, despite the cultural and psychological importance of what’s involved, any idea of Ireland and Irish identity is threatened anew and increasingly today, not just by the deconstruction of intellectuals but by the current social picture with its controversial patterns of Irish emigration outwards and EU migration inwards.
THE IRISH PSYCHE and THE DREAM FACTOR
Influenced by the writings of Joyce, Freud notoriously maintained you couldn’t psychoanalyse the Irish. Jung was more optimistic he could get to grips with at least the mind of Joyce, and it is by more Jungian means we should progress towards understanding. But of that presently. I will begin with a simple point of basic psychology which some Irish and Celtic people I have discussed this with have found illuminating.
I suggest for that a significant number of Irish (and Celts generally, especially Gaelic Scots) the music of the bagpipe can symbolize something about the psyche itself. Behind the tunes played on the instrument there is a single, one note drone. Visually it can be thought of like a permanent dark screen across which play the light and movement of life as expressed in melody; but it’s the screen is the core reality. That indelible impression is arguably the source of the Celtic dream which has affinities with the Hindu notion of world dream or Maya. The permanence and prominence of the “screen” as somehow what’s most true, is liable to render everything else relative (or even unreal), more or less a projection only, sometimes futile (extremely so in the case of such as Samuel Beckett) and fit in one’s waking mode for ironic dismissal and satire. The latter is an Irish art form in itself. This negativity or just doubt in the face of the normal course of life and events is often only redeemable by particularly brilliant symbols temporarily overwhelming the dark like so many deities of light – Yeats’ Cathleen ni Houlihan crossing the stage as though an incarnation of Ireland itself! This mindset encourages asking with Joyce the questions in Ulysses like: “Signatures of all things I am here to read….Am I walking into eternity along Sandymount Strand?”. I would take the implications of the assumed affirmative response rather sensationally further.
Unmanaged by mental exercises or mystical teachings, the more fundamental “drone” side of the Celtic mind may be identical with the Hindu notion of the personal atman which is said to be identical (could one but realize it) with Atman of God/Soul in the Upanishads beloved of Yeats. The similarity is quite likely valid and a case of real affinity because there is plenty of evidence that ancient Ireland preserved elements of myth and law with parallels in the Vedic tradition which represents the furthest east expansion of the Indo-European tribes who spread as far as northern India three thousand or so years ago. The physical transformations of the Ulster hero Cuchulainn recall the shape shifting of some Hindu gods and more generally Celtic myth has something of the jungle-like quality of much Indian myth.
(There is a more secular version of this mental division. It has been noted in the poetry of for example Louis MacNeice that there is a certain juxtaposition of inner and outer, observation of the flux of images (in effect Kant’s phenomenal world) as against the noumena, the unknowable things in themselves. The main point, no matter how one describes or evokes it, is that the Irish mind is not firmly placed in the here and now, never completely and rigorously materialistic).
AN ISSUE OF RACE?
I would not insist, and have no evidence for a claim, that all Celts experience the drone phenomenon; but I believe they do have some sense of intense transcendence I shall mention later. But keeping to the drone factor, here we immediately run into a major problem. You don’t catch the Celtic dream by infection and only little by cultural assimilation (though Jung might allow anyone could pick up on the spirit of place). It is almost certain that it derives from that mostly forbidden source of anything today, namely race, and with the most unmentionable of reasons too, because isn’t “ Indo-Aryan” race theory what fascism is about?
But even if one can allow a race dimension to the picture, superficially there would anyway seem to be certain practical objections to it. Those Aryans beloved of fascist theory and the early Celts according to Roman report (plus even a few indications from Irish myth), were predominantly blue eyed and blond to order. So how could there be genetic inheritance? And then, as Oliver St John Gogarty once remarked of even Irish nationalist Yeats, despite what the poet claimed, he was English, not Irish anyway. So genetics might seem irrelevant.
Gogarty’s charge is actually rather misleading because whatever intermarriage may or may not have taken place and effected among Yeats’ Anglo-Irish forebears, we do know that the Pollexfens of Yeats’ mother’s side were of Cornish stock. Celtic Cornwall is probably the most dream fed, occult inclined quarter of England and this could explain the Yeatsian mindset at the more “racial” level. Likewise, despite claims to be Irish, Yeats’ own idol, Maud Gonne, may not have been this, but she did have an ancestry in the north of Scotland.. I would judge that – usually – a strong vein of Celtic feeling can be associated some degree of genetic input.
Round Galway there are many “black” Irish of Mediterranean appearance, almost certainly testimony to intermarriage over the centuries with the merchants from Spain. The very fact most Irish are not blond and blue eyed could actually be because (apart from many Irish Gaels apparently anyway deriving less from Ukraine and Austria than from Galicia in Northern Spain and being perhaps related to the darker Basques) as is well known, blue eyes and blond hair represent recessive genes. Yet we repeatedly hear of Viking and Norman invaders and some English settlers becoming “more Irish than the Irish” within a generation or two following intermarriage. And do we not see the part Irish individual turn out oddly strong-to-type like the Greek-Irish free speech advocate, Milo Yiannopoulos (Hanrahan) whose personality is extravagant enough for Cuchulainn and Irish myth itself. (For the curious or unaware where Milo is concerned, the following YouTube can supply an idea https://goo.gl/GwZ57r ; to be noticed is the refusal to be PC and so attack whatever’s off limits like feminism and Islam etc. There’s a touch of Oscar Wilde’s will to dazzle and shock).
A reasonable inference would be that the mental characteristics of the Celts on the genetic plain are the opposite of recessive. Something genetic goes on. Why did we hear some years ago that rural Cavan is so high in the nation’s academic and IQ stakes? Possibly because, as historicans know, it was the original centre of Irish druidism which produced the main scholars of the society. Sometimes, just occasionally, it can be even fair features and red hair are retained in parts of northern Iran, India and Pakistan and right up to the borders of West China where Celtic type burial relics and custom have been found. Once upon a time Indo-European tribes went very far. (My original interest in this subject was prompted back in the seventies and in the Himalayas when to my astonishment I found myself in front of a Nepalese who might have been Ireland’s Free State leader, Michael Collins).
As a footnote to any search for the Celts since Mil and the Milesians arrived from Spain, it should be noted that a variety of features in the art, music and even Celtic languages as they differ from the European, point to what DNA research somewhat substantiates. While the Irish are not Arabs, they do have traces of North African, Berber/ and Egyptian (Coptic?) Cretan and even Middle Eastern peoples in the mix, all of them able to reach ancient Ireland by sea from Phoenicia, Egypt and Morocco This might shed more light on the builders of dolmens and the mythologizing genealogies which look back to Greece, Egypt and Mesopotamia. I find significance in Bel being a Celtic sun god with Beltaine his feast, because it is widely accepted Bel is or echoes Baal. Arguably a couple like Maeve and Ailill bespeak an ancient Mesopotanian, quasi-matriarchal type, (biblically like King Ahab dominated by his persecuting queen Jezebel). When not directed at Baal, Israel’s apostasy was in service of Baal’s Asherah denounced by the prophets. This echo of the remote Middle Eastern past is suggestive for the Irish cult of trees in which the Ash was the druid Tree of Life..
The majority Celtic input as regards population and culture cannot be passed over, but questions can well be asked about what looks to be some inconvenient truths in the realm of ethnic inheritance. Whether genetics applies or not, I shall now turn to what I consider one or two enduring features about the Irish.
It can seem odd to propose, but on examination it seems true enough to state, that almost the most essential character of the Irish is “difference”-in-itself. Difference would appear to be a relative value rather than any fixed and permanent one, but I suggest the Irish, (rather like gays in relation to straights), are definable by precisely a sort of permanent alienated difference from the Other, or Others; they are the eternal variation on a theme, having like Joyce’s Jewish Bloom a sense of being liminal. (What really is more permanent exists at a Platonic, symbolic level that underlies the ninth century philosophy of Erigena. It is a subject in itself and functions sometimes a basis of Irish wit, a sense of the absurd and paradox as ideal and real clash).
The Jews have been called a “feminine” race as being the bride or handmaid of God. The Celts have always liked to travel (but rather less when forced by emigration as the home turf also counts!) because new places present new ideas and possibilities to absorb into whatever the energies of their core being are. In short, their development is dialectical – thesis, antithesis, synthesis. (Arguably Irish history itself progresses in antithetical waves, one generation more revolutionary, another more constitutional). And what prevents movement is bad almost by definition. Joyce’s Dubliners is very much a portrayal and protest against stasis and stagnation. (Even given more opportunity, it is unlikely architecture would have been a leading Celtic art if only because of stone’s permanence as against the impermanence of wood said to have been favoured by the druids – evidently a touch Buddhist on that point).
Only very recently in the work of the late John O’Donohue has as emphasis on the dialectic and other more Mitteleuropa ideas as from Goethe been imported into Irish thinking at the more conscious level (see https://wp.me/p2v96G-126 They have of course long been a principle at more unconscious levels where they have been in suppressed conflict with what was often the straightjacket of Catholic Thomist/Aristotelian values. In fact, the swirling decorations of everything from La Tene art to the Book of Kells bespeak the dialectical impulse further implied by the ancient Celtic obsession with the number 3.
By contrast, England would present less a dynamic (in effect extraverted) contrast such as at least sometimes Italy and Dante, so important to Joyce and Beckett, represent, than a wholesale denial. Those who rather cynically maintain that England was necessary to Ireland’s development, ignore how exceedingly difficult England was to adjust to with it’s almost automatic repression of the possibility of any substantial variation upon itself – it even worked to abolish the native language and laws along with appropriating national land and uprooting whole populations on it The home turf, natural scenery and nature are something many Celts have been almost mystically attached to, but if you believe in Locke’s tabula rasa minds that can be ignored..
Despite inevitable cultural percolation over time, Shakespeare, Dickens, Shelley (the latter strongly protested England in Ireland) being prominent at the literary level, more essentially England presented a series of psycho-social exclusions with values almost too opposite to ever quite assimilate. Everything from its most representative philosophy, the materialist, Lockean empiricism with its tabula rasa of mind abominated by Yeats, to its social organization in cliques which would permit an empire to expand everywhere but be ruled by a virtual caste system, all was a tough nut to crack. You needed to become English to socially interact at all – in order to shine, Oscar Wilde promptly disposed of his Irish accent upon arriving in England, Yeats never had one. But a century after Irish independence, from his professorial position in Oxford, Foster refers to the voices of historic Irish nationalism as “Anglophobic”.
If “difference” was a core value often repressed, less repressible and arguably another genetic feature, is access to a certain unique rhythm which others may appreciate but not quite have in the blood. Some of it is, after all, almost manic, Dionysac. Over the centuries even hostile reports of Ireland conceded the Irish love of and skill with music (albeit liable to be regarded as an aspect of lazy national dolce far niente values!). Within and beyond the music is not infrequently a quite special driving energy, well reflected in the thunder and lightning of the modern Riverdance phenomenon which freed Irish dance from the no arms polker skipping originally imposed by careful priests. Dancing is in fact behind quite a lot of what the Irish do and not just in the lilt of the linguistic expression. A surprising phenomenon of recent years is the Irish OTT wrestling which has a lot of virtual dance in its unusual expression in variance on a common theme.
The rhythm points to an ongoing, implicitly eternal energy symbolized in the eternity knots and circles of traditional Irish patterning, and while this can be associated with a quieter, sometimes plaintive, melancholic strain of feeling and music, more essentially (if one wants to make the often meaningful Indian comparisons) it is a dance of Shiva whose Celtic equivalent would appear to be the horned Cernunnos who sits Shiva-like cross-legged on the Gundestrup bowl. (Some scholars regard this figure as the Irish Jupiter, but I doubt it and the fact we don’t know more about this figure at the literary level, is because he was almost certainly a rural, Pan-like deity of the third order or farming class rather than the druid elite).
The rhythm is simply everywhere from the earliest flowing artwork to the lilt of the largely discarded language which still echoes into the English as spoken and which is incidentally oddly distinct from the harsher tones of Ulster accents. The latter accompanies the more “no nonsense”, iconoclastic attitudes of the Scots Irish which, if one reached back far enough, might take one to the blue faced Picts renowned for a bellicosity the English and Romans could never tame and raised a wall against. Ulster was at least notionally the centre of ancient Ireland and associated with the High Kingship. Tudor English policy could hardly have chosen a more sensitive area for Plantation or selected more fortress mentality agents of a colonization away from any Gaelic world. To this day there is intense Ulster resistance to any proposal Irish language might be taught in schools as helping make any bridge between north and south.
Last and briefly in this section I would add intuition as a core characteristic. It could hardly be quantified and made a statistic, but it seems fair to say the intuitive function is more used and represented among the Celts than many European peoples. Telepathy, prophetic dreams, water divining, sometimes apparent healing ability, reading symbols and directing “second sight” upon affairs are fairly common. They are often seen as inherited and running more in some families than others, which if so would again tend to support a rather ethnic as opposed to purely cultural view of the people. The high status originally enjoyed by poetry and the poet in the traditional society was tied to assumptions that the extreme intuition of vision/prophecy was involved. To the extent Yeats laid much emphasis on these factors he is the truest Irish poet within modern times and see re Yeats also under archetypes.
For what the point is worth, those rare people who claim to be able to perceive auras maintain people of Celtic extraction have a strong green ray in the aura, the real basis of Irish green obsession, not just the often electric green of grass in Eire! Whatever is or isn’t involved, it often seems stronger than in many other places. People swear by the gifts of past and present figures like Biddy Early (a witch), Joe Cassidy (a diviner and healer), and Lorna Byrne (a psychic) the latter exceptionally claims to see angels and entities not now and again but all the time. (See my Joe Cassidy, an Irish phenomenon https://wp.me/p4kNWg-bA ). At this point one borders less intuition than something more purely occult. In this connection I suspect that elements of the St Patrick story, which have him challenging druids claiming to levitate and fly, may not be pure fancy but reflects conditions and people of an ancient society with something of Alexander David- Neel’s celebrated reports of magic and mystery in traditional Tibet.
ARCHETYPAL AND SYMBOLIC EMPHASIS IN CELTIC THOUGHT
Before turning to what perhaps most neatly describes who and what the Irish are today, I shall turn to the more historical question of archetypes and archetypal emphasis, something always crucial in understanding people psyches. We have a description, of sorts, of Celtic religion from the Romans from Caesar to Lucian. It is thought to be fairly reliable but it remains suspect to the extent it can seem too easy to parallel certain deities with leading Roman ones, like Mars or Mercury when archaeology and art appear to indicate quite a few additional deities. These fit nowhere, unless perhaps they belong to the quasi-Hindu “jungle” of much native myth. Moreover what myth comes down to us scarcely concentrates on divine figures in their own right but emphasises rather issues like kingship, just rule, land possession, warriors and healing.
I think however the Roman view need not be too distrusted, especially not on the basis that the classical world represents centralized stateism so that Celtic fluidity of myth reflects nothing but Celtic anarchy. Given anything like a Jungian concept of a collective unconscious, one will support the notion that in all myth everywhere there will be, or ought to be, and as primary, gods of sun and moon, Mars and Venus types etc, namely archetypes related to the visible planets and which function as trans-cultural, universal symbols. Any absence of or variation upon this root pattern can be significant and demands explanation.
So….all that can really differ as regards a Celtic pantheon is:
a) the just mentioned plethora of local deities of hill, stream and wells, these being much akin to and precursors of later cults of the saints. This is what we might expect of an originally nomadic society which is making sense of things as it goes along. Also a society with often rather fluid tribal boundaries. The tribe itself will have its particular god or gods, but these can be changeable following the tribe’s fortunes.
b) a greater fluidity in definition and function of the major, trans-tribal gods. For example, according to Caesar the chief god of the Celts was Mercury, (Ogmios, Lugos, Lugus, Lugo, Luga across Europe but in Ireland Lugh). A confirmation scholars miss for Lugh having to be more essentially Irish Mercury than anything is that he is “Long Arm” and hand and arm are ruled by Mercury/Gemini). While Irish Mercury can function conventionally as the usual symbol/patron of roads, communication, commercial transaction and various arts, he can have a touch of Mars about him too when the category of arts extend to making implements of war. Also when he is sometimes a light and kingship factor merging with the solar god Bel or Belenus (of the Beltaine festival). Lugh, whose festival of Lughnasa fell in August (i.e under the ultra solar sun sign of Leo) Lugh is often regarded as the Irish sun god……It is incidentally my guess, that the lack of Irish cosmology and origins myth as opposed to intricate concern with mythologized genealogies, is involved not simply with clerical editing (monks have recorded and preserved the creation myths of many societies) or even tribalism, than with the native Mercurial sense of continuous creation and, where possible, identity with, participation in creative flow rather than any process considered wholly from outside. Then too, as perhaps the most dramatically inclined of the known Celtic groups, Irish feeling for interchangeability among the roles of divine figures could reflect a native desire to assume all roles within the drama of existence.
c) By contrast to the fluidity of the Celtic gods, the chief deity for the Romans was Jupiter who as thunder bearing Taranis is a lesser figure for the Celts. A fairly benign and versatile but not creator father god, The Dagda (the good god), possibly represents a Jupiter figure for Ireland, especially as he controls weather and is a druid, a religious function. Dagda exemplifies a Jupiterian bounty and fortune through especially his famous, (proto grail) magic cauldron. However, he is not any powerfully cosmological, philosophical or refined Jupiter but a more Falstaffian, Rabelaisian one. If Rome regarded Mercury as effectively chief god of the Celts. that impression seems right as reflecting the restlessness and general eloquence (“gift of the gab”) of Celtic culture. Also, if we allow possible Indo/European connection, Mercury is the wisdom of the mind. In Hindu religion, rather surprisingly it’s Mercury, not religious and philosophical Jupiter (named Guru in India), is arbiter of wisdom and even of ultimate “enlightenment”. This is because it supports “discrimination” between types and levels of thinking.
While much could be said about Celtic myth and Gaulish custom before and beyond it (all significant for Ireland in its way – the Tain epic has warriors fighting in chariots which happened in Gaul rather than Ireland), the following is what seems distinctive about pagan Celtic religion and thus ruling archetypes psychologically.
1) There is no completely distinct Celtic sun god (it could be Bel or in Ireland Lugh), nor a Mars whose role seems distributed around various deities like power around the tribe.
2) The existence of Angus (Mabon in Wales), a god of love, beauty and youth – like Yeats the Celts can rage against age. This god may or may not be an aspect of youthful Mercury but especially as the child who tricks his illegitimate father, The Dagda, he gives the impression of being Ireland’s trickster figure. Though he brings couples together and is entranced by a woman, at another level he may represent a type of the (Uranian) Puer (boy/child) archetype Jung associates with homosexuality. (I use my intuition here which years ago, so a Buddhist scholar assured me, correctly guessed the esoteric secret most Buddhists don’t know, namely that Manjusri/Monju, a rather similar figure, is the gay god). The Ancients did regard the Celts as considerably same sex inclined, something they never ceased to be – report of same sex unions was one of the reasons the only English pope gave England the right to invade medieval Ireland. (It looks as though Ireland accepted “marriages of brethren” along the lines of some eastern churches, Ireland having had more contacts with the East than post Patrick Roman officials cared to admit). If the depiction of depression is a feature of Irish myth (see below), then Angus could be a kind of redemptive, surprise and change bringing influence, an Eros as against a Thanatos (Death) principle. Insofar however as versatile Lugh and not Angus is Mercury, it is noticeable how much Yeats (himself a Mercurial Gemini like an earlier national poet in English, Thomas Moore) is related to the Lugh archetype. Asteroid Lugh conjuncted his rising moon, while Luga,, a continental variant name, squared his moon at birth).
3) Despite the radiant glamour of some Celtic goddesses and the existence of a few potent, fate ridden love stories – tragic Deidre anticipates tragic Isolde, Irish princess of Cornish lore – there is no clear Venus/Aphrodite equivalent serving the love principle fully (or very cheerfully!). There are only minor Minerva type figures of wisdom or healing, or goddesses of wells and rivers like Boann (Boyne) the mother of Angus, and then a goddess of the Sovereignty of Ireland. She herself is a triple goddess, Eriu, Fodla and Banba (or she is Morrigan who might be all three together). Quite simply, Irish myth seems more linked to nature than to society and the relation to the goddesses ( who may appear temporarily as hags) could well reflect need, desire and struggle in relation to an originally difficult terrain. Divinity as a smiling or playful Venus is more likely to emerge in sunnier climes as of southern Europe.
4) There are also numbers of Celtic lunar goddesses, some of them again trinities like supremely the Sovereignty of Ireland. There are a variety of goddesses associated with motherhood and/or fertility, chief among them for specifically the Irish, Danu. But as with Mercury’s overlap of functions, goddesses may also be involved in war, death and destruction (Some Celtic women, Amazon-like and like the British Boudicca, did venture into battle and a small minority of Irish women like child abusing nuns or singer Sinead O’Connor’s sadistic mother, can have a very dark side). Such lunar divinities hark back to pre-Venus figures like Babylonian Ishtar who served both eros and war. The mythology suggests matriarchal tendencies at some level, but despite even the apparently woman favourable to permissive Brehon laws, the reality on the ground, was that the majority of the women who weren’t wealthy and privileged, suffered disadvantage – many of St Patrick’s first converts were women including because the faith appeared to favour women rather than otherwise.
5) A sort of shadowy, sinister male Trinity group Taranis, Teutates and Esus, a Trinity whom Lucian even regarded as the chief gods of the Celts (though they are not clearly so for the Irish), and who allegedly required human sacrifice.
6) A shadowy Dispater or Pluto figure, “father” of the Celts according to Caesar, and possibly a version of the withdrawn Creator god or “the unknown god” St Paul refers to among the Greeks at Athens. The dark and hidden nature of this Gaulish god with no clear Irish version might have bearing on what I am calling the Celtic atman or drone factor. If there is an Irish equivalent it would perhaps be Midir, a lord of the Underworld and foster father to Angus rather than progenitor of the whole race. But if Midir is a Pluto variant this could explain his unexpected relation to Angus, especially if the latter is once seen as a Uranian, naturally ascensional, brightness-surrounded archetype who would resist age, and any lasting dark and downward motion. Despite his centre of power, where he appears Midir is not a notably sinister figure like classical Pluto, but merely mysterious; nonetheless, in his insatiable desire for compensation for an accident occasioned by Angus, there may be suggestions of remorseless, inescapable Plutonic demands and insistence, ultimate fate.
7) An Irish god of the sea Lir or Ler and his son Manannan mac Lir may equate with Poseidon/Neptune. The archetypal fits are that one of the saddest Irish myths is The Children of Lir, and Neptune (especially in astrology) is sorrow and tears, while Poseidon is a god of horses or perhaps the waves ridden as such and the Irish sea god, associated like Poseidon with horse imagery, leads to the final point.
8) Finally, and in view of what’s mentioned later, I note there is more than one horse goddess (Macha and Epona) and in Gaul a male deity Atepomarus, a healing god with some associations with the classical sun god Apollo but perceived as a great horseman. This has some connection with the otherwise mostly absent or invisible Celtic Jupiter given the ancient and perennial connection of Jupiter with religion and Sagittarius with the horseman.
What if anything might all this point to on the archetypal, psychological plain? To the extent, love and benevolence, even good fortune and material wealth are worldwide associated with Venus and Jupiter, the Celtic emphasis, even though Mercury is commercial, is quasi-ascetical in line with historical fact and self image as in “land of saints and scholars”. Knowledge and self-realization have usually counted for more with the Celts than financial success of the more notable kind. And the saying “happy wife, happy life” will not readily apply in this society. We know from earliest myth as of the Tain that it doesn’t. King Ailill and Queen Maeve are not on good terms and Maeve is no Venus but a virago and a bully. However, note she is really a type of lunar goddess since, again suggesting the mystery of Indian affinities, her husband’s 27 window palace is redolent of the 27 lunar mansions of Vedic astronomy/astrology. The druids were reported to be great astronomers.
It remains hard to determine how much in the Irish record of tribal invasions how much we are reading a mythologized history and something more psychological. It is possible a symbolization of a Celtic war with depression through figures like the dark Fomorians and Balor; but given that the Celts do appear to have a depressive vein too often :”cured” by alcohol, the psychological dimension, a war between conscious and unconscious, cannot be ruled out and possibly as one of the more distinguishing features of Irish myth for which darkness may not be just something seasonal and wintry, or deathly and irremediable but a sense of defeat and living death.
Weakness of solar emphasis could owe to little more than Irish cloud and rain, but coupled with a “distributed” Mars too, it could favour a degree of matriarchy that hands things over to the lunar factor which like Mercury is changeable. It can be women who stir the men to Martian activity. Although the Celtic raids to Rome and Delphi were dramatic and long remembered, overall the Celtic impulse has not been imperial unless at the remote beginnings of Indo-European expansion, violence historically having more by way of tribal raids and skirmishes about it. One could almost say Irish Mars is Mars negative, more defensive than offensive; and if that seems a bit generous in the light of history, it must be recalled, and despite Lucian’s mention of human sacrifice in Gaul, that Ireland is the only country in the world where Christianity managed to be introduced without producing martyrs. Also early Irish myth likes to think of the Fenian band as defenders not extenders of the kingdom.
It would be a bold thesis, but I can’t help wondering if what distinguishes and confuses Irish myth away from many norms, is its intimations of the archetypes now more clearly associated with the outer, previously invisible planets, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto. In modern psychological astrology which emphases the archetypes, these planets register forces more generational and spiritual than the inner planets. Main features of classical mythology rather neatly equate with the visible planets. It would be consistent with both the tribal element of Celtic thought plus a heightened spirituality if there were to be more reflection of outer planets drives and symbolism.
HOME TRUTHS AND FATED FACTS
If he couldn’t fathom a patient and make them speak their problems, Jung would resort to what would disclose the problem and make them talk, namely their horoscope. We shall do the same with the riddle and often hidden facts of (modern) Ireland. I shall take the uniquely fated crossroads moment between past and present when after eight hundred years Ireland (more or less) obtained what it wanted. A return of its land through a divorce from England via achievement of a Republic status. (18th April, 1949, 00. AM . UT , Dublin)
It is remarkable how accurate the picture is. I can only describe salient features of a detailed pattern of huge significance.
The moment in time is shown by asteroid IRELAND in the house of leadership and destiny, conjunct of all things, THE PART OF DIVORCE while several planets fill the opposite fourth house of land, origins and history. The land is what Ireland desires to regain, so this house contains all of Sun, Mars, Venus and the fated nodes in a new beginnings sign, Aries. Since by long tradition Ireland was always represented by home loving, musical and earthy Taurus, which was suitably the sign of the sun at the time of the Easter Rebellion in 1916, there is a message for the future, of which presently, in the strong Aries input for the Republic. However, noteworthy is that the Taurus tradition continues to the extent all-important Mercury falls in the sign in the creative fifth sector conjunct asteroid YEATES (sound vibe, not spelling, determines asteroid meaning and usage). This is as good as to define Yeats as the truest to tradition for modern Ireland, something I have always maintained against certain claims to the contrary. See for example: Why Ireland needs Yeats 2015…and more https://wp.me/p2v96G-xA
FROM THE FLIGHT OF THE EARLS
The crossroads moment also looks back to the past – vividly. There is no Ulster asteroid but I knew if an O’NEILL asteroid existed it would be meaningful. The greater part of Ireland’s problems in recent centuries go back to the fatal Tudor plantation of Ulster and the Flight of the Earls in 1607, especially clan O’Neill and Hugh O’Neill of Irish High King lineage, a departure which effectively lost Ireland its ruling elite and with it something of its identity and culture.
I am not a romantic, uncritical admirer of the old clan system which could have used some reform, but deceit and wrong was nonetheless practiced upon O’Neill and the clans. This is clearly shown by asteroid O’NEILL in the house of the land and origins at 12 Aries opposed to a Neptune at 13 Libra in the destiny and rulership house suggestive via this “afflicting” opposition aspect of precisely deceit, theft, and/or suffering imposed. Yet by extension even the new leaders could well confuse or fail to defend past legacies of identity and culture. The marks of the past overshadow present and future.
Ever since the Flight of the Earls, the Irish have had to find their way amid disadvantage as much socio-cultural as economic. It is generalization only, but broadly what would happen is that while the peasant and farmer on the land (Celtic society’s traditional third order) would be symbol and protester of many things and supposed bearer of tradition, power went to a half hidden, town and village based rising commercial middle class. This could only thrive under existing restrictive laws by a degree of shady dealing which become ingrained would compromise the standards of Irish life and politics for generations. Their mouthpiece and deliverer was the rather brash and loose living Daniel O’Connell (it was joked you couldn’t throw a stone over the workhouse wall without hitting one of Dan’s bastards).
Asteroid O’CONNELL from the house of lawyers (he was a lawyer) is tellingly in affliction square the Republic’s would-be socially unifying Venus and exactly square its fatal Saturn in Leo in the house of religion which is the promise of the eventual end of Catholic triumphalism and hegemony in Ireland.
The as, when and how of Catholic Emancipation and its achievement ahead of the catastrophe of the Great Famine, put Catholicism, O’Connell’s class and especially the priests (acting now as a substitute Celtic elite) into power in a way that would subsequently choke national life at every level, worsening relations between north and south. It would identify being Irish almost wholly with being Catholic when ironically a lot of Irish nationalism and modern culture would subsequently derive from Irish Protestant sources – necessarily so as Catholicism would not allow the independence and modernity of thought involved. In the 1930s in shocking betrayal of values and promises of the 1916 revolution, De Valera virtually reduced Ireland legally to an arm of the Vatican and there was a major exodus of Protestants, artists and writers. The emphasis on Aries in the Republic’s chart is, I believe, a key to the fate of the increasingly rejected Catholicism within Ireland as suggested below.
CELESTIAL MARKS OF DIFFERENCE AND STYLE
The theme of Irish “difference” that I have stressed, is superbly shown by the status of Jupiter. This planet is symbol of a person or nation’s philosophy, beliefs and the basis of freedom. Placed. in the second house of personal values (as much as wealth), it is strong on 0 degrees of independent, freedom loving, would-be different Aquarius. This signals emphatic difference, but besides that something of the shocks and surprises of the Celtic Tiger years are anticipated by this additionally wealth-registering factor in an erratic sign in the possessions house.
Although the Celts historically didn’t – consciously – stress any Jupiter deity or factor, this Jupiter is still crucial for defining the (modern) Irish including the perennial wit (which often has a sharp edge and the (sometimes helpless) laughter – Swift, suitably for an adopted if reluctant Irishman, was a Sagittarian. Jupiter is theoretically ruler of the whole pattern because Sagittarius, (“ruled” by Jupiter), rises over the horizon at its birth. This rising point will define the body of the people, their persona, temperament and mythos. At one level Sagittarius is the priest, the philosopher, the prophet and pilgrim. At another level it is the sportsman and undeniably Irish sports, especially Gaelic football and hurling, are defining for Ireland and influential on the international level. Temperamentally, Sagittarius is the Irish as ”broth of a boy” or “the wild Irish girl” type who can never have enough of the fun. Except that Ireland can’t quite have all the fun of the fair. 5 degrees of Sagittarius rises, but behind it at 8 degrees rises the planetoid, Chiron, the wounded healer, insuring tears may accompany laughter and melancholy visit the party and never quite be banished. Even so, the intensely “Sagittarian” approach to life and luck is reflected in the Irish expression of “Good luck”. This is “Go n-eiri an bother leat” which means, “may your journey be successful”, the quest, the trip, the adventure rated higher than, say, the acquirement of worldly goods.
With the body involved in the ascendant, classic Irish beauty among the women from Maud Gonne (Yeats’ own Cathleen ni Houlihan) to Edna O’Brien, to singer Sinead O’Connor whose 5 Sagittarius ascendant degree exactly conjuncts Ireland’s, is essentially the Sagittarian one. (Tragic Sinead who now wants to work for the dying, with her Venus and Sun below her ascendant seems to embrace the nation’s suffering, wounded Sagittarian Chiron). Recall amid all this, and bespeaking Sagittarius, there were the Irish horse goddesses and that from the Gauls onwards many observers, like Richard Stanihurst in the sixteenth century, have been declaring the Irish make fine horsemen (they needed to be so since the Irish traditionally resisted any use of the saddle!). But Jupiter and Sagittarius transcend so that, even if and when the drone psychology doesn’t apply to them, many Irish, especially men, feel a sort of higher self and wider existence upon them through the racing and riding of horses and national sports generally which are almost a substitute or supplementary religion.
So…the restless Irish who travel, go on pilgrimage or who, through desire for adventure or from economic necessity, emigrate far and wide and who seek fun, all this is covered by shades of Sagittarius. And the horseman is the distance traveller as opposed to the more local one of Gemini and Mercury. But above all, Sagittarius is the sign of belief and organized religion, and of course the Irish are traditionally and typically religious, so unsurprisingly the rising 5 degrees of Sagittarius positively trines asteroid CHURCH in the ninth house of beliefs and religion. We are now ready to cover those most vexed subjects, religion and sex.
THE IRISH AND SEX
Astrology may suffer misinterpretations but the skies don’t lie and they tell the truth about the Irish and sex. EROS at 5 Aquarius is loosely conjunct expansive Jupiter but in exact favourable aspect to both the image-giving ascendant and the marriage and unions associated descendant. This reflects the Irish mostly reckon to keep sex within bounds (and might even expect of it little short of the alchemical wedding itself!); but since Aquarius is many ways different/queer, it’s a promise that one day Ireland could accept gay unions as is also the fact that the gay planet, Uranus, is in the nation’s house of marriages. (It could equally and also indicate that divorce would eventually be legalized and perhaps rather easily had recourse to once instituted)
Sex strictly speaking nevertheless belongs with Ireland’s eighth house which holds Pluto. This can involve very intense sex and, some maintain, it rules pornography. As symbol of transformation generally, Pluto is certainly a promise of profound changes that personally and/or socially the Irish can and will undergo regarding sex. With Cancer on the cusp of the house this sector is ruled by the moon.
The Republic’s moon is in steely conservativeCapricorn. This fits for the more familiar side of things, the Ireland set up by De Valera and rather mercilessly portrayed in Patrick Kavanagh’s poem The Great Hunger, with its the cold world of the lonely bachelor, unromantic and frustrated, “married” to his mother and patting his horse for comfort. But if lunar Capricorn at its Saturnian worst risks being this, notoriously it can manifest as its extreme opposite, the libertine like the supposedly life and sex-hating Samuel Beckett who used prostitutes and had marathon sex (some said three days with just intervals to eat and drink) with the nymphomaniac Peggy Guggenheim.
Though these are two extremes, it seems fair to say there aren’t just Italian stallions. Ireland of the horses can be exciting in its own way. Within the eighth house Eire has the wow factor of all of CERNUNNOS, SIVA and MAEVA (i.e. Maeve). (Even in the fifth sector of love affairs and romance there’s DIONYSUS!).
All this rather points to huge reserves of raw sexual energy, though I believe MAEVA has a lot to do with bestselling novelist, Maeve Binchy, feminist recorder of an Ireland in social and sexual transition. Binchy regarded herself as a modern mouthpiece of mythic Maeve and went annually to Lisdoonvarna, home of Brian Merriman the eighteenth century poet whose Midnight Court poem protests Irish sex repression, to recharge batteries as Maeve’s voice to the modern Irish. However….raw energy (backed up by the addictive, exaggerating quality of the Celtic dream function) can still be dangerous and not everyone really wants or needs it. So I suspect, rather as some rabbis have discovered a few tantric principles to channel sex better for the sometimes insatiable and Freudian-minded Jews, Ireland might use a bit of tantra to achieve especially the full body orgasm that among gays has been found to cure their too frequent and dangerous sex addiction. See article What gays want and need https://goo.gl/ZVxWR9
As it is, the relations between partners in Ireland remains, as it always has been, a little strange due to its high degree of independence. Husbands and wives rarely seem close and intimate, a characteristic reflected in cool, different and gay-inclined Uranus in the nation’s marriage house, but conjunct PAN. While this combination could again indicate couples might use some tantric relating, if partners seem so self-contained, hardly needing one another, this may be because the Irish are almost pre-wedded to nature or their “soul” function stressed by John O’Donohue and here symbolized by the conjunction to PAN. This incidentally fits my speculation about a real difference between soul and spirit that O’Donohue’s theology fails to grasp; soul, even among Christians, is always somewhat pagan and nature-bound in contrast to Spirit with which O’Donohue confuses it. See my Ireland’s Old/New Spirituality Problems https://wp.me/p2v96G-126the
THE IRISH AND RELIGION
Finally, what about religion? With the ascendant exactly trine CHURCH, the society was and always will be somewhat church associated, though never to the extent it once was. In the house of religion stands a dangerous Saturn in Leo, a warning within any pattern to any kind for leaders and leading authorities (“Saturn in Leo, king dies” – Hitler had it and eventually lost and died) and since Saturn is order but also restriction, the church could be oppressive of the society and was.
But ultimate spiritual scandal was waiting to bring down Irish religion in the Catholic mode. The late Fr Malachi Martin, once a Jesuit Vatican insider, shocked many by claiming Satanic rites took place in the higher echelons of the church. I can’t tell if some of the patterns of abuse and cover-up in Ireland that, finally revealed, would traumatize the nation, occasioning distrust and lapse from faith, had any similarly dark and occult meanings. However, I do notice something remarkable in the Eire pattern the likes of which I have never found elsewhere before. The asteroid THEOTES (Godhead/Trinity) conjuncts LUCIFER. Conjunctions represent what is either very joined or opposed. The message seems to be that God and devil are in outright spiritual war over Ireland and it could suggest what has been involved in recent scandals is sometimes more than just sexual.
The sun represents the ultimate will, life direction and identity and unless and until the nation formally redefines itself, Aries, the self made man, represents that will. Unless you care to say Aries could represent “the fighting Irish”, as said, a Taurus sun that shone on 1916’s Easter Rising might have better represented the national mind, the “matriarchy” and culture generally and especially the arts; but with Aries, the patriarchal sign, attention shifts towards the more gritty writers like the overrated Seamus Heaney and the nihilist Samuel Beckett and the Judas sympathizing poet Brendan Kennelly (see my article, Judas Stopped at Dublin. https://wp.me/p2v96G-Bm ) These were all Ariens. Aries tends to be either very evangelical like General Booth of the Salvation Army (and Ulster’s Ian Paisley), or militantly atheistic like America’s Madilyn Murray O’Hare, or both, a sort of “evangelical” atheist like Richard Dawkins.
Here then is the basis for Irish secularization and revolt against Catholicism. It began with the young men of Ireland who refused the mothers of Ireland about going to mass. The priests weren’t worth it. Finish! The only trouble is that – looked at from the Protestant sidelines as I do – what you also get is Rob Doyle’s nihilistic, anarchic, aggressive, Here are the Boys and a considerable breakdown in the society with all the usual chaos of problems, drugs, crime, STDs etc. Even those one time rebels like Edna O’Brien who spoke for a greater freedom, are unhappy with what Ireland has become and is becoming. A dose of secularism may be useful to change a few archaic laws and free a few minorities, but the Celtic world has been consistently and insistently too spiritual and Christian too long to lose faith without losing its compass and suffering harm. Some religious renewal or truce with the spiritual past is needed, and even some truce with the right of people post post modernism to define themselves – it has anyway been an Irish obsession and reflex action since at least the times of St Colombanus who was an original in defining Europe too.
The slide from Catholicism when not into indifference into some form of neo-paganism is nonetheless simpler than a surprised world might be imagined. It results from how for too long the Catholic emphasis has been upon symbol and ritual rather than history and theology – biblical literacy and a firm grasp on a Judaeo-Christian tradition is largely absent, a reason an element of anti-Semitism easily finds expression (see below). The individual slips into a kind of Jungian universe of floating symbols, none more significant than another but some more attractive for the purpose of experiment and new invented rituals. I am not certain if it’s coincidence or not, but with Lora O’Brien one of the more vocal and published writers on an Irish return to the old gods, we see asteroid O’BRIEN opposite that dangerously over confident, tradition bound Saturn in Leo in Ireland’s house of beliefs. But then didn’t Edna O’Brien, author of A Pagan Place , though not herself finally pagan, question the role of the church in Irish life? Watch those O’Briens!
LUCK OF THE IRISH
Amid its diverse messages it must be admitted the Republic’s chart is not an especially fortunate one. Under the usual rules it cannot hope to be so when its crucial Part of Fortune exactly conjuncts of all misfortune-registering features, black moon Lilith, (notorious among continental astrologers for trouble), the goddess whom early Irish monks once identified with the Irish Morrigan, figure of death and battle. As I stressed in Ireland’s Old/New Spirituality Problems https://wp.me/p2v96G-126the refusal, or just inability, to somehow banish or transcend this too central archetypal influence is an element within a haunting side of the national picture that makes for block, for depression and failure . Not to do this, not to understand itself more and so not to be more understood by others, is regrettable because the Irish difference is not just any difference such as might separate Belgium from Holland, Norway from Sweden. It has value as being a real exception (at points almost quasi-Asian) within the West which represents quite other, certainly more this-worldly and matter-of-fact inclinations.
Douglas Murray has written persuasively of The Strange Death of Europe. It might not be inappropriate to speak of a dying Ireland. At any rate it’s hard to be optimistic of much future change either from what one observes is going on or from the telling celestial pattern I have interpreted. Especially if one of Ireland’s prophets, St Malachy of Armagh, is to be believed, we are anyway supposed to inhabit the end of days, the present Pope being the last in his line and hence the appearance of the Antichrist pending – though an alleged prophecy of St Patrick from a seventh century biography has it Ireland won’t suffer the false prophet’s rule anyway because it will disappear beneath the waves! If Malachy’s prophecy has any validity, the new leadership Ireland supposedly wouldn’t see would automatically entail the kind of attempted New World Order that would abolish all borders and disregard all differences.. But without considering the most drastic of prophecies, Ireland has already lost borders enough, perhaps to the point of no return for a small nation.
It is true that there have been times in its history when Irish society seemed to have been brought to near ban and extinction and it has more or less recovered. It might even rally again. But there are limits and the international outlook is not helpful to any self-assertive and descriptive project. Around one in five people in Ireland are now migrants from wildly different cultural and religious backgrounds. It shouldn’t be called racist to notice that in tourist spots in the West or even in central Dublin, souvenir shops can be incongruously manned by migrants from Asia and around the world. Not necessarily those persons but some new migrants to Ireland are said to have illegally entered the Ireland through the ineffective border of British Ulster. I don’t suggest those in the souvenir shops and elsewhere in Ireland are in any way dishonest or disagreeable as individuals; many are perfectly pleasant and helpful, but that’s not quite the point. Same goes for the many pleasant and enterprising Poles who immigrated in large numbers in the 2000s. Irish is theoretically the first language of Ireland, but practically it is no longer the second but the third spoken language of modern Ireland because there are so many Polish speakers.
All one can say is that Ireland struggled valiantly for centuries to achieve some degree of independence, to have borders and the freedom to express a distinctive, separate cultural expression. This was something many and sometimes reluctant members of the Irish diaspora in America and beyond, looking for a point of reference, a sort of mental homeland, (if not somewhere they might actually return or retire to) hoped Eire could one day achieve. But within only a few decades the country finishes in virtual rejection of its historic strivings with a more than generous multiculturalism, the price its leaders have paid to have an Ireland of (admittedly needed) motor roads plus some subsidies from the EU, that organization of fanatic bureaucrats and reckless globalists. Ireland is even due, unwisely in comparison to Austria, Australia and other nations, to expose itself to still further meltdown and dissolution by signing on this year to a UN agreement that all and any migration is an absolute human right to be always assisted.
Though what passes for good literature in contemporary Ireland raises a few questions, there are real strides made in the realms of art and music; and now that it’s not a compulsory subject, enthusiasm for Irish language is actually increasing. But it’s only really like the last burst of a candle flame before an almost inevitable extinction. Except that like preserving ancient art works it’s important to know the anthropology of people groups, the shape and pattern of their traditions, there’s little left to say or do about the Irish idea – except as individuals to carry and represent the remains of a culture in, as it were, a portable ark for the interest of whoever it may serve. The reality is that by now a lot more than just the romantic Ireland of O’Leary is in the grave as Yeats lamented. It’s more like an Ireland of any description is in a box on the way to cremation and at the hands of Rob Doyle’s aimless rebels (along with the too many dubious politicians, some of them, as the academic Denis MacEoin has been highlighting, rather anti-Semitic too. ( https://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/10126/ireland-anti-semitism). It’s a tragic shame, a huge irony and a great loss but, as the very un-Irish T.S. Eliot might say, “This is the way the world ends, not with a bang but a whimper.”