Celts and oral history

Discussion in 'Celtic Mythology' started by Chintai, Nov 26, 2010.

  1. Chintai

    Chintai Member

    My friend and I disagree about the amount of trust we can out into Celtic myths. She thinks that because of their preference for oral history as a way of passing on information that it is inevitably corrupted in the telling. I, on the other hand, believe that most history is subject to this issue, whether written or spoken. What's your take?
  2. Rhonda Tharp

    Rhonda Tharp Active Member

    I agree with you. "Until lions have their historians, the hunt will always glorify the hunters."

    In my US History class I point out stuff like that all the time. After the Civil War, people did not learn about Jamestown being the first colony because it was in the South - Virginia... Whoever wins the war, gets to write the history. So no telling how much has been biased, changed, altered...
  3. Isabelle

    Isabelle Member

    Not only that Rhonda but nearly all history was passed down orally at least for awhile before it was written down. I have always questioned even the Bible because even as the Word of God it was written by men and men are fallible.
    Rhonda Tharp likes this.
  4. Camma

    Camma New Member

    I tend to believe that because their laws, traditions and religious beliefs were primarily transmitted orally our knowledge of pagan Celtic culture cannot be compared in terms of trustworthiness with those cultures that did keep accurate written records such as Ancient Rome, Greece and Egypt. However, this doesn't distract from the wonderful mythology.
  5. Goddess2u

    Goddess2u Member

    I found this about the writings and why Celts passed things on by using oral history at first.

    The earliest Irish authors
    It is unclear when literacy first came to Ireland. The earliest Irish writings are inscriptions, mostly simple memorials, on stone in the ogham alphabet, the earliest of which date to the fourth century. The Latin alphabet was in use by 431, when the fifth century Gaulish chronicler Prosper of Aquitaine records that Palladius was sent by Pope Celestine I as the first bishop to the Irish believers in Christ.[1] Pelagius, an influential British heretic who taught in Rome in the early 5th century, fragments of whose writings survive, is said by Jerome to have been of Irish descent.[2] Coelius Sedulius, the 5th century author of the Carmen Paschale, who has been called the "Virgil of theological poetry", was probably also Irish: the 9th century Irish geographer Dicuil calls him noster Sedulius ("our Sedulius"), and the Latin name Sedulius usually translates the Irish name Siadal.
    Two works written by Saint Patrick, his Confessio ("Declaration", a brief autobiography intended to justify his activities to the church in Britain) and Epistola ("Letter", condemning the raiding and slaving activities in Ireland of a British king, Coroticus), survive. They were written in Latin some time in the 5th century, and preserved in the Book of Armagh, dating to around 812, and a number of later manuscripts.[3] The 6th century saint Colum Cille is known to have written, but only one work which may be his has survived: the psalter known as the Cathach or "Book of Battles", now in the Royal Irish Academy. Another important early writer in Latin is Columbanus (543-615), a missionary from Leinster who founded several monasteries in continental Europe, from whose hand survive sermons, letters and monastic rules, as well as poetry attributed to him whose authenticity is uncertain. The earliest identifiable writer in the Irish language is Dallán Forgaill, who wrote the Amra Coluim Chille, a poetic elegy to Colum Cille, shortly after the subject's death in 597. The Amra is written in archaic Old Irish and is not perfectly understood. It is preserved in heavily annotated versions in manuscripts from the 12th century on.[4] Only a little later, in the early 7th century, Luccreth moccu Chiara, a Kerryman, wrote poems recording the legendary origins of Munster dynasties, including Conailla Medb michuru ("Medb enjoined illegal contracts"), which contains the oldest surviving reference to characters and events from the Ulster Cycle.[5]
  6. Dianna

    Dianna Member

    I think oral history is equally important as written history. For me, truth lies at the meeting point between the two. Because the "winner" writes history and because oral history changes each time the story is told I think you have to find the element of truth in both. Where you make oral and written history meet is where you may find truth.

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