Voyages from I to Thou.

Location: Skellig Michel, Ireland

Monday, January 31, 2005

Anchoring (On the Precedents for this Work)

As with other traditional cultures, Celtic society could not function without precedents. A dispute over boundaries could not be settled on grounds of expediency; the oldest and most learned historians had to be called upon to recount how ireland was divided in the beginning. When the original model had been recalled, there could be no more further argument: “It is thus it has been, and will be forever.”

That the need for archetypal precedents of this kind persisted even when the old tradition had been supplanted by Christianity is clearly seen in the incantations and charms of Scottish crofters. Cures derive their efficacy, and daily activities their meaning, by being regarded as repititions of what members of the Holy Family and the Saints did once upon a time:

“I bathe my face
In the nine rays of the sun
As Mary bathed her Son
In the rich fermented milk ...”

“I am smooring the fire
As the Son of Mary would smoor ...”

“I will pluck the gracious yarrow
That Christ plucked with his one hand ...”

This is the way of all ancient cultures. Life is meaningful in as much as it is an imitation or reenactment of what the gods did in the beginning: “reality is acquired solely through repetition or participation; everything which lacks an exemplary model is “meaningless,” i.e., it lacks reality.”

-- Rees and Rees, Celtic Heritage
(the concluding quote is from Mercea Eliade’s The Myth of the Eternal Return


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