Story Archaeology

Uncovering the layers of Irish Mythology through a regular podcast and related articles.

Author Archive: Chris Thompson

A Pilgrimage to Abydos

Getting to Egypt had always been the goal of a pilgrimage for me. This had been the case since my uncle, a very scholarly man, with a wonderful sense of humour and a gift of teaching, first took me to the British museum. I was ten and putting together a school project on 12th century illuminated …

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John Barleycorn

John Barleycorn is the titular character of a popular English and Scottish  folk-song,  found in a number of versions  going back, at least, to the sixteenth century. John Barleycorn is given as  the personification of  ‘the nut brown ale’ (or the uisce beatha) and all the process the grain goes through in order to provide the welcome drink.  The …

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Airmed’s Story

The green grey morning is soft with mist. Airmed sits on the soft earth of the mound, her yellow cloak spread empty before her covering the damp earth. All around her lie green herbs, no longer fresh and growing for they were harvested in hope and are now scattered in sadness. Airmed gathers the measure …

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Jeremiah Curtin and the Oral Tradition

In our update on Ethliu, Mythical Women revisited: Series 5.3, we discussed the story of the birth of Lugh. The only available version of this story, Balor on Tory Island is to be found in “Hero Tales of Ireland” a book of orally narrated stories collected by folklorist and ethnologist Jeremiah Curtin and published in 1894. Jeremiah …

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The Birth of Lugh ~ a story

  The air was rippled with watery sunshine. But through one small round window shone a bright brave sunbeam, clear and golden, cutting its way into the dim glow of the room. And in its cutting sat Ethlinn. She sat still, facing the window, facing the clear light, the fresh air; and a tear flowed …

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Navan Fort – Stories and Archaeology

Emain Macha, known as Navan Fort, is one of the main settings for the great heroic tragedies of the Táin Bó Cullainge, as well as many other stories of great feats and tragic losses. Here we find Conchobar mac Nessa, the legendary king of Ulster, the poison-tongued Bricriu, Cathbad the druid who foretells the fate of Deirdre …

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The Mabinogion and the story of Rhiannon

Our podcast Macha – revisited refered to similarities between the tale of Rhiannon and Macha.  . You can read the full story of  Pwyll, son of Dyved and the story of Rhiannon  in a translation by Will Parker,  on his ecxcellent site  Mabinogi.net. A brief  background  to these medieval Welsh texts The stories, now known as …

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The Story Of Macha ~ revisited

Three and a half years on from our first examinationof Macha, I am still happy with my re-telling even though it id a touch fanciful.Near Armagh is the green mound of mysterious Emain Macha. This is the story of its naming. In my mind I still hear the rhythmic drumming of many hooves, the thrumming …

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Origin stories – revisited

Virtually all cultures have creation stories… There are two main types of creation myth: the cosmogenic, which is about the creation of the universe or the world; and those that concern the creation of human beings.  The stories of the creation of humans often comes in the same package as that of the creation of …

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How long can a story last?- revisited

Defining the longevity of information passed orally from group to group, and from generation to generation, is hard to quantify. Stories change and grow. Their sources become lost in the mists of time, and yet they continue to have significance. Back in 1998, “The Year of The French”, commemorating the bicentennial of the political events …

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