Story Archaeology

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

The Landscape of a Story ~ notes to accompany the podcast episode

Notes intended to be read as an accompaniment to the podcast episode

As we mentioned in the podcast, examining the story of Moytura is somewhat like staring into the reflecting levels of a lake. You may focus your vision on the ripple-transformed surface or look deeper into the shadowed depths for hidden treasures.

Observing and sorting each reflecting level is a complex process and we promised a simple bulleted list of the areas covered in the episode.

So here it is.

Firstly, let’s look at Mirroring and or duplication of names in the saga,

  • Dé Danann / Dé Domnann
    “The people of craft” (Dé Danann) stand in opposition to  “The People of the World” (De Domnann)
  • Shared ancestry:

> Mac Delbhaith : Both sides have people of this ancestry, especially Elatha and Érú. The  Dagda is a Mac Delbáeth in other texts

> Uí Nét: Balor is Uí Néit, but could be related to Edleo Mac Aldai – Aldai is given as “brother” of Néit.

>  Ogma / Omna: Each is a “strong-man”, one from each party.

> Tailtiu / Tethra: Tethra, (elsewhere female). Both are pre Dé Danann queens.

> Octriul / Octriulach : Octrial is a son of Dían Cécht, one of the healers at the well. Octrialach is the son of Indech who leads the destruction of the well.

There is also mirroring and  duplication of places

  • The Couple’s Strand where the Dagda meets with Indech’s daughter can be matched with the “Couple’s Bed”,  where the Dagda meets with “his woman”. the Morrigan.
  • The Well of Healing stands in stark contrast to the destructive cairn that replaces it.

We can find mirroring and duplication of characters

  • Lug / Bres: These are usually contrasted. However, “King Lug Good, King Bres Bad”, although apt, is a bit of a simplification.  The Moytura story is not about a battle between good and evil.  It is not even about a feud between two separate peoples.  However, the births of the two characters certainly mirror each other.
  • Lug / Rúadán: It is possible to see Rúadán as taking the role of “the lost twin”, as Dylan is to the Welsh Lleu. Go to the podcast episode for further information.
  • Elatha / Cian: Both have contrasting stories of their begetting of hero-sons.
  • Érú / Eithliu: Two mothers – the Land and the Kernel

Perhaps most important  is the mirroring and duplication of themes. A selection of those, discussed in the podcast episode, is listed below.

  • Two pairs of opposing peoples
  • Two battles
  • Two musters
  • Two satires
  • Birth of two hero babies
  • Three mother-son relationships [duplication]: Érú & Bres / Eithliu & Lug / Brig & Rúadán
  • Destiny of twins – Lug and Rúadán
  • Meetings and matings: Érú & Elatha, Dagda & Morrigan / Indech’s daughter

These might represent a selection of the main themes

  • The reflection of the Dé Danann and the De Domnann: The Dé Danann come from over the seas – Dé Demnann are people rooted in This World.  But Domnann also carries a sense of “depth”, and that depth shifts from land to sea.   They become the “people under the sea”. The stories of the Gobbán Sáor. refer to the Fomoire as being from the  “Land Under Wave”.
  • The contrast between water and dry land: Some of the Dagda’s titles reference the importance of these themes. There is a strong emphasis on protecting the land from Inundation.
  • The natural balance:   This story is not just a heroic epic – it is also mythic, with a timeless quality.
    It is telling the story of the need for constant maintenance of natural balance.

The cyclical process of balance followed by imbalance and re-balance is inevitable. However, “the people of Craft” see themselves as having an active role in this process. Order cannot happen on its own. Every now and then, the world needs to be tidied up.  You have to throw everything out of the cupboard before you re-order it:
This can be seen clearly in the negotiations between Lóch and Lug. It also illuminates the double nature of the poetry with which the Morrigan brings the saga to a close.

These notes do not constitute a fully argued article. They are just intended as a menu to a podcast episode which has a rich content.

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