Thursday, April 09, 2015

Mythology and Meaning - Lady Gregory

Head and shoulders profile of a dignified older woman with hair swept back and a slightly prominent nose. Underneath is the signature "Augusta Gregory".

Lady Gregory (nee  Isabella Augusta Persse) was an Anglo-Irish aristocrat who fell in love with Irish legends and Celtic mythology through her Irish Catholic nanny.  This was a kind of Celtic Uncle Tom's Cabin. Like Harriet Beecher Stowe, a New England Yankee steeped in firebrand abolitionism, Lady Gregory was well-meaning do-gooder with a splendid ear and wicked sense of humor.  Women on the outside of of historical issues who very much wanted to break some glass, Lady Gregory and Beecher Stowe are credited with two civil wars.

Lady Gregory sparked not only the Celtic Revival in literary art, but also inspired generations of Fenians.  Harriet Beecher Stowe, President Lincoln was reported to have said upon meeting her in 1862, "so you are the little woman who wrote the book that started this great war."

However, both women managed to create human archetypes.  Harriet Beecher Stowe's characters Uncle Tom, Little Eva and especially Simon Legree became part of the American vernacular.

I found this passage from Lady Gregory quite interesting -

And it is what the poets of Ireland used to be saying, that every brave man, good at fighting, and every man that could do great deeds and not be making much talk about them, was of the Sons of the Gael; and that every skilled man that had music and that did enchantments secretly, was of the Tuatha de Danaan. But they put a bad name on the Firbolgs and the men of Domnann and the Gaileoin, for lies and for big talk and injustice. But for all that there were good fighters among them, and Ferdiad, that made so good a stand against Cuchulain, in the war for the Bull of Cuailgne was one of them. And the Gaileoin fought well in the same war; but the men of Ireland had no great liking for them, and their Druids drove them out of the country afterwards. from Gods and Fighting Men, by Lady Gregory
Lady Gregory offers a psychological taxonomy:
Gaels - tough guys what don't talk about it.  Sportsmen, soldiers, cops, firemen, nurses, bartenders:  heroes and legends.
Tuatha de Danaan - poets, bards, scholars.  Teachers, writers and priests
Firbolgs - Politicians, grifters, opportunists.   Advocates, activists and anchor persons
I do not believe that this classification is limited to Celts.

Some folks sure do make themselves known, by how they behave.

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