This time last year, I was struggling with what felt like an impossible task. I was asked to come up with a scripted screenplay for the Rathcroghan Visitor Centre, Roscommon. This short animation was commissioned by Nollaig Feeney, the Roscommon Heritage Officer and was a direct outcome of the Schools workshops undertaken in the county in support of the annual Tain March event. (I will be writing about this event in a subsequent post.)
I was keen to tell part of the Fled Bricrenn story. There was a problem in that Bricriu’s Feast is a long and complex text full of convolutions and duplication. It took Story Archaeology four full episodes to tell the story. I had created a telling adapting it for a modern audience and much loved by Primary aged children but it would be a huge challenge to condense it to under tn minutes. Eventually, I settled for telling only the section of the story that concerned Medb and Rathcroghan.
As I am sure you are aware, and we soon discovered, animation is costly to produce and basic flash was all that the budget allowed for simple 2D graphics. I think that Pink Kong did a great job and we are pleased with the results. We had hope to make some of the children’s poetry integral to the story telling but the script had to be kept tight. We managed to include a short selection along with the credits. The film was completed last October but was released this May at the culmination of the 2019 Tain March event.
Our regular listeners will recognise that Medh is played by our own Isolde. We had fun getting the wheelchair into the recording booth but all went well eventually. I have now produced a full written and audio version of Bricriu’s Feast for a family audience and this will be published shortly.
In the audio article ‘The Dadga’s Cauldron’ I was speculating, in a somewhat lighthearted moment, that the transformative element of the Dagda’s wonderful cooking pot from which no-one went away unsatisfied might have been connected to memories of early fermentation processes, i.e. the brewing of beer. There has been plenty of evidence for feasting at midwinter in Neolithic times, and earlier. The excavations at Durrington Walls, (near Stonehenge), England, have provided plentiful evidence for mid-winter pig roasts for a start. Maybe they also had beer to wash it down.
It is hardly surprising that the brewing of alcohol, especially simple beers was a skill that an early ‘art’. It has been said that the pyramids in ancient Egypt were built on beer, the mainstay of the willing and skilled workers was largely quid bread. However, in recent years archaeologists have been coming to the realisation that the brewing of beer may have been one of the kick starters that began the long and on-going process leading to the cultivation of crops and domestication of animals.
It is not hard to imagine that if places were needed for hunter-gathers to meet, trade, celebrate, then exchange and sharing of ideas and stories might have been smoothed and encouraged by the availability of a safe (safer than water) and nourishing drink with pleasant additional effects. It is also possible to speculate that the groups of people responsible for gathering and processing the wild grain might have soon realised that settling down close to these celebratory enclosures, perhaps even planting the grain where they needed it would saved a lot of time and effort. They might have even discovered that the left-over mash was a suitable feed for cattle. Hmm! now they would be able to offer meat, cheese, milk and beer without hunting or gathering themselves.
And so it all began! I kind of like the idea that the first people might have settled in order to provide celebratory parties rather than to create spaces where people might gather merely to placate gods. There is evidence that the enclosures at Gobekli Tepe, in Eastern Turkey which date from Mesolithic times, provided beer for their visitors. This site is astonishing. I visited it a few years ago while Klaus Schmidt was still alive. I have included a few pictures below. They are not all mine. They were just creating a wooden cover at the time. It was hard to get good photos. I have also included a couple of excellent articles, about the site including one which refers to the evidence for beer production.
A few years ago, I remember Isolde and I discussing the possibility of the Dagda’ cauldron as a leather bag used for brewing beer, a genuine ‘Santa sack’ indeed. However, since then I read about a couple of Irish experimental archaeologists, Billy Quinn and Declan Moore, from Galway, who were already on the case. They had been speculating that the commonly found ‘Fulacht Fiadh’ field monuments could have been ideal for beer brewing. You can read about their findings through the link below.
Now I am a wimp and a lightweight when it comes to alcohol but I think I could manage to open a good Irish craft beer this Solstice and raise a toast to the Dagda and his Cauldron of Abundance!
The Dagda with his cauldron of abundance, from which none leave unsatisfied, epitomises the deep and ancient yearning we feel for mid-winter indulgence and good company. It may be that the cauldron had more to offer than just a solid meal. Join Chris, from the Story Archaeologists, as she dips into this extravagant cooking pot.
This audio article is based on a piece published in the new book Harp, Club and Cauldron: A harvest of Knowledge published by Eel and Otter Press. It is an entrancing and informative anthology, well worth adding to your physical or digital library and the Story Archaeologists were proud to be asked to offer three articles to the book.
I will be adding further picture articles connected to The Dagda’s Cauldron article: .(Images of Gobekli Tepe and information on recent Iron age Feasting finds), shortly.
Harp, Club and Cauldron A harvest of Knowledge:
Addendum: I haven’t checked but I think I referred to the German archaeologist who was responsible for the dig at Gobekli Tepe, for so many years, as ‘George’ rather than ‘Klaus’ Schmidt. I can’t imagine why I said that. Klaus Schmidt sadly died in 2014.
Music: “Tam Lin” by Gian Castello
What did happen to Midir? Why does he appear in so few stories? It is a mystery. A murder mystery? Could be. Certainly Midir’s reputation was usurped and he, himself, seems to have been, effectively, ‘disappeared!
For a more ‘in depth’ examination of this topic go to:
This short recording was originally made for an on-line conference hosted by Vyviane Armstrong. The weekend conference was entitled “Tuatha Dé Danann. Our Tribe and Theirs”. Some of you may have already heard this presentation but, for our other listeners, I thought I would upload the recording. It is good to get Isolde back ‘on the mike’ and your donations have helped her to find new equipment that allow her to record lying down. We hope to record the promised, Q &A very soon.
This was the seventh conference in the series ‘A Year With The Gods. There was a very interesting and varied programme and Isolde and I were delighted to be involved.’ If you would like to know more more about Vviane’s future events, do contact her for more details.
Land Sea Sky Travel
So many of the old Irish stories tell of an Otherworld that lies so close to our own. If you want to discover what the stories have to say about getting there, what you might find when you arrive, and when, or if, you might return, then join Chris in this audio-article exploration.
Apologies for the quality of recording in Isolde’s opening message. When we have fully implemented the new recording set-up, allowing effective recording while Isolde is lying down, it will be much improved.
Links to podcast episodes referenced in this audio-article.
- Cormac’ s Adventures in the Otherworld
- The Instructions of King Cormac
- The Adventures of Nera: The Cow and the Time Machine
- Another take on Echtrae Nerai: Corpse Carrying for Beginners
- The voyage of Brain Mac Febul
- The story of Mongán and his wife:
- The pursuit of the Gilla Decair
- Tocmarc Étaíne 1 – A Fly On The Wall,
- Tocmarc Étaíne 2 – The Reborn Identity
- Tocmarc Étaíne 3 – A Game of Fidchell
- The article on Underworlds
- If you want to find out about more about Leprechauns! A Crock of Old Cobblers
- And for source material on the Irish Otherworld: Space, Time and the Otherworld: by Professor John Carey. Source: Proceedings of the Harvard Celtic Colloquium, Vol. 7 (1987), pp. 1-2Published by: Department of Celtic Languages & Literatures, Harvard University
Don’t forget to subscribe to get the latest posts!
Story Archaeology is run on a voluntary not-for-profit basis. If you can afford a donation towards our running costs, we would be very grateful. The “Donate” button is on the right-hand-side of each page, or e-mail us for other ways to support our work.
Check our Reading List for further reading and resources.
Music: “Tam Lin” by Gian Castello