Monday, February 20, 2012

This Could Be Gre--No, It's Probably Gonna Suck

So I come across this today:
Michael Fassbender and screenwriter Ronan Bennett are developing a feature film about the legendary Celtic warrior Cuchulain, with Fassbender set to play the leading role.

Cuchulain is the central character in the Ulster Cycle, an epic series of Old Irish legends that date from around the 8th century.

Set in the northern part of Ireland, the saga relates the story of the Ulaid tribe headed by King Conchobar, and particularly its conflict with the rival Connachta tribe led by Queen Mebh.

The most prominent figure in the legends is Conchobar's nephew Cuchulain, who has semi-divine ancestry and superhuman fighting skills. In the most famous story, known as the Cattle Raid of Cooley, he is the only man capable of resisting the vast army sent by Medb to steal Conchobar's prize white bull.

Now, this isn't meant to be a knock on Fassbender or Bennett, but it's not as if there've been many successful adaptations of mythology lately--not the dreadful remake of Clash of the Titans, nor the inexplicable Immortals, and especially not 2004's laugh-fest King Arthur.

I'm always wary of adapting mythology--which ultimately was (and still is) someone's religion. Usually in these big-budget adaptations, the gods are an evil to be defeated by mortals (which is an ugly bastardization of the meanings of those myths), or they're written out altogether (as in the otherwise watchable Troy). I can easily see this as being a "defeat the gods" film, given that the Morrigan is an antagonist, while Lugh, Cuchulain's divine father, could easily be ignored or forgotten. Really, the only film that hasn't been automatically dismissive of gods was Thor, and they aren't exactly gods, but aliens with god-like abilities.

And while ancient stories are all the rage, it's rare they aren't big, bloated, painful messes. I rather liked Tristan and Isolde--it wasn't a great film, but because the action was smaller and the conflict personal, it wasn't a terrible film, either. I dread to think of the Cattle Raid of Cooley being turned into 300.

On the other hand, the last film I saw that delved into Irish myth and history was the absolutely fantastic Secret of Kells, so it's not as if the task is impossible.

New Link - Tairis Tales

I'm adding a link to Tairis Tales, a new(ish) blog by Seren (of the site Tairis), which will
collate all of the tales, myths, legends, lore and more from the Gaelic countries – those of Ireland, Scotland, and the Isle of Man 
 Already she's covering stories I've never gotten to, and will be linking to from my own site.

The Road Goes Ever On and On

So this has been and will be a season of traveling. Last October, I drove up from Florida with my sister on an errand; and recently (as in last week) I was in California:

Why yes, California *does* know how to party

In the spring, I'll be in Ireland with my family, and in September, I'll be down the shore.

This is my half-assed way of explaining the recent lack of posting, and upcoming lack of posting; not that it explains the overall lack of posting--that's mostly laziness mixed with a lack of inspiration.

If you're interested, some pics from my trip are over at my Tumblr.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Rethinking Imbolc

Weaving St. Brigit's Cross from JustWeaving

Today is the feast of St. Brigit, which coincides with Imbolc, a Ráithí Fírinneacha na Bliana--"One of the True Quarters of the Year" (along with Samhain, Beltane, and Lughassadh, and as opposed to the solstices and equinoxes). It's the first day of spring by the Irish reckoning, and given that it's in the mid-sixties here in Philly, it certainly feels like spring.

Groundhog's Day is definitely related to Imbolc, and if that damned groundhog says we have six more weeks of winter, when we haven't had even one week, it's time to string up the rat.

Anyway, I wrote a paper on the Irish holiday of Imbolc; here's a taste:

While Imbolc is undoubtedly a feast of spring, and a feast celebrating Brigit, there is, I think, a third element to the feast which is sometimes overlooked—it is likely that Imbolc is a feast of purification, and perhaps represents a longer period of purification, analogous to several other Indo-European and even Christian festivals. Moreover, this feast of purification is intimately bound up with the holiday’s other meanings honoring spring and Brigit—that all three are important to understanding the origins of Imbolc. 
The four main feasts of the Celtic calendar—commonly known by their Irish names Samhain, Imbolc, Beltane, and Lughnassadh—when their themes are examined, form a series of corresponding concepts. Samhain is a feast of winter, death, and the ancestors, while Beltane is a feast of summer, sexuality, and fertility.

If Hamp is right, and Imbolc is analogous to the February period of purification found in Roman and Christian tradition, then perhaps Imbolc, like Lughnassadh, was a period and not a single day. It is currently impossible to prove that the pre-Christian Irish observed Imbolc as such a period, but as we have seen, we have analogous ideas in neighboring cultures, and even a Gaulish month called “purification” which falls around the time of February

You can read the whole thing at Scribd