Saturday, July 31, 2010

Long was the sorrow, long the weariness of Tailtiu

"Great that deed that was done with the axe's help by Tailtiu, the reclaiming of meadowland from the even wood by Tailtiu daughter of Magmor.

When the fair wood was cut down by her, roots and all, out of the ground, before the year's end it became Bregmag, it became a plain blossoming with clover. Her heart burst in her body from the strain beneath her royal vest; not wholesome, truly, is a face like the coal, for the sake of woods or pride of timber.

Long was the sorrow, long the weariness of Tailtiu, in sickness after heavy toil; the men of the island of Erin to whom she was in bondage came to receive her last behest. She told them in her sickness (feeble she was but not speechless) that they should hold funeral games to lament her - zealous the deed.

About the Calends of August she died, on a Monday, on the Lugnasad of Lug; round her grave from that Monday forth is held the chief Fair of noble Erin. White-sided Tailtiu uttered in her land a true prophecy, that so long as every prince should accept her, Erin should not be without perfect song.

A fair with gold, with silver, with games, with music of chariots, with adornment of body and of soul by means of knowledge and eloquence. A fair without wounding or robbing of any man, without trouble, without dispute, without raping, without challenge of property, without suing, without law-sessions, without evasion, without arrest.

A fair without sin, without fraud, without reproach, without insult, without contention, without seizure, without theft, without redemption: No man going into the seats of the women, nor woman into the seats of the men, shining fair, but each in due order by rank in his place in the high Fair."
— excerpted from Metrical Dindshenchas. ed and trans. Edward Gwynn. 1925. Dublin: Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies: 1991. (Read Online Here.)


  1. I have some questions.

    1. Do Gaelic Polytheists worship Tailtiu?
    2. What does it mean for a God or Goddess to "die" in Gaelic religion? Does that mean they are gone forever?

  2. Déithe dhuit, a Jeremy,
    I'll try my best to answer your questions :) My replies might be a little lengthy so I'll answer them in separate replies.

    1. Do Gaelic Polytheists worship Tailtiu?

    Worship is really not the correct word. Since we build a relationship of reciprocity and kinship with the déithe (gods), better word choices are honor, respect and reverence. The déithe we honor are those traditionally worshiped by the Gaelic peoples before the arrival of Christianity. They include divinities from the races of the Tuatha Dé Danann, Fír Bolg, Mílesians, and Fomóiri.

    Honoring Tailtiu is not a part of my daily ritual—though I have a statue on my altar which represents the many goddesses that have ties to the land of Ireland itself—but I do revere Her every Lúnasa for certain. I definitely cannot speak for all Gaelic Polytheists but seeing as how the Lúnasa mythos are so strongly associated with Her, it’s only natural that honoring Tailtiu would be a part of the festivities.

    Gaelic Polytheists should always strive to acknowledge and honor all the déithe and pay Them respect, but as to having personal one-on-one relationships with each and every one, that is nigh impossible. Most GPs have a few household déithe which they are especially close to and honor daily. And some déithe are specifically honored when the time calls for it.

  3. 2. What does it mean for a God or Goddess to "die" in Gaelic religion? Does that mean they are gone forever?

    We do not look to myth as literal interpretations of history. Myths do, however, embody spiritual truths which are articulated through allegory, metaphor and symbology. Myths help us to understand the déithe, the cosmos and they express morals as well. They are a key piece in reconstructing a Gaelic cosmology and practice.

    Technically speaking, though, no, the déithe do not die. The above story of Tailtiu is not literal. The numerous déithe who have died in myths (Airmed, Tailtiu, Cú Chulainn, Miach…) are still very much alive and well today, and many GPs have relationships with Them to prove it.

    And this is just my take on this, but I think through this myth Tailtiu teaches us that one needs to sacrifice in order to harvest. Just as the land needed the right conditions (trees cleared) in order to produce food for the tribe, so do our lives need the right conditions in order to produce what we need. Living an ethical life—full of honor, honesty, truth, loyalty, courage, justice and hospitality—provide these right conditions.

    But this is just the message I get from the myth, I can only speak for myself.