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The Celtic Art Coracle Volume 1 Issue 7

EDITORIAL

In Come All Ye: The Vancouver Folk Song Society Journal, Vol.3., No. 11: November 1974., John Bartlett wrote:

Children's songs are an underground river running through the centuries, and (together with scatologia) form the only area of unconscious folklore that we have left in western industrial society...The secret world of children - of ritual, game, and language - has not always been such. Indeed the very concept of childhood is a fairly modern one. It is the thesis of Philippe Aries that until about the seventeenth century, the only significant social division was between what we now call "babies" (who have always needed special attention) and everyone else. Games such as hide-and-seek and leap-frog were not restricted to children (see, for example the paintings of Breughel), and the great festivals and celebrations of the year were not limited solely to adults.

John's point that the concept of childhood is a relatively modern one is supported by a reference in Maria Gimbutas'  The Goddesses and Gods of Old Europe, describing the festival of  Dionysus.

On the second day of the festival, the Day of Cups, Choes, wine was taken from the jars and brought to the sanctuary of Dionysus where it was silently distributed in small jugs among all citizens "over the age of four".

Evidently the rites of the ancient Goddess, especially with her symbolic, shape-shifting capacity to turn into bee, dog, hare (a lunar animal in many widespread cultures, fish, bird, etc., survived into early Celtic Christian times, and flourished to the extent that 9,000,000 women were burnt to death during the extermination of the old practices, remnants of which were what became condemned as "witchcraft". The dramatic reconstruction by Robert Graves of the seasonal changes as personified by the Goddess' changing forms, and her Lord's ever hot pursuit is based on an old ballad, "The Twa Magicians". Folklore indeed is a river that runs deep.

As conservative as folklore, if not more so, is iconography, especially the iconography of  Celtic art. On top of the Christ monogram page of the book of Kells there is the head of the Virgin.  On the same page we find cat and mouse, trout and otter, and two butterflies courting. A few folios on we find the hound and the hare.

I hope that the two articles in this issue provide some useful insights into the significance of these particular images, as well as inspiration to Celtic artists. We hope to hear from you, your comments and reflections on this valuable material, so please feel free to write, c/o the editor of the Coracle, Aidan Meehan.

 

Copyright Aidan Meehan 1983

 

The Celtic Art Coracle Vol 1
Contents Coracle Press 1983
ISSN 0828-8321 
All Rights Reserved
10.02.01edition
coracle@thecoracle.tripod.com

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