The Sounds of Celtic Myths

  • By: Thorsten Meyer
  • Date: Wednesday, 14 September 2022
  • Time to read: 6 min.

The Sounds of Celtic Myths feature the musical instruments used by the gods in Irish mythology. One such instrument is the flute. The flute is a low-status-string instrument, while the timpani is a high-status instrument. Both instruments play important roles in the story.

The sounds of Celtic mythology bring these stories to life and can speak to people of all ages. The tales include giants, fairies, druidical magic, impossible deeds, and humor. Listeners will be taken on a musical journey that will leave them breathless and wanting to know more.

Another example of Celtic mythology involves the banshee, a female spirit believed to be the cause of death. In one Irish version, the banshee is said to scream and wail to warn its victims of impending death. In another version of the legend, a banshee is accompanied by an evil spirit called Dullahan. The Banshee can take the shape of an ugly old hag or a beautiful young woman, depending on the version of the story.

The Celtic culture was dominated by oral tradition, so no written records of their myths exist. The Seanchaí were bards responsible for recording history and passing on the stories of heroes and gods. Myths were passed down as songs or epic poetry; many of these poems survive in medieval manuscripts like the Book of Leinster (11th century). Other sources include Triads (a collection ancient Welsh maxims), Prose Tales from the Red Book of Hergest (13th century), and The Cattle Raid of Cooley manuscript (6th/7th century).

When it comes to Celtic myths, most of them were passed down orally and were not recorded until they were almost lost forever. This is because the Celts did not have a written language until the Roman conquest in the first century BCE. Even then, their written records are scant and often fragmentary. As a result, much of what we know about Celtic mythology comes from later sources, such as Christian monks who wrote down the old stories to preserve them.

Cuchulainn
Cuchulainn

Celtic Culture Was Oral

It’s important to remember that Celtic culture was oral, not written. As such, there are no written records of the myths themselves. Some Irish monks recorded many myths during the medieval period but were not available until much later.

Most of our knowledge comes from other cultures that wrote about the Celts or archaeologists who have uncovered artifacts relating to them.

Myths Were Passed Down in Song or Epic Poetry

Myths were passed down in song or epic poetry. The central way myths were passed down was through the bards of the time. The bards, called Seanchaí, were poets and historians who sang stories from memory and written manuscripts. The training of these poets was rigorous: they had to memorize hundreds of songs that told tales of heroes and battles, love stories, legends, and folklore. Nowadays, we call them minstrels or troubadours! They were adept at playing instruments like harps and drums and singing melodies with complex rhythms for dancing (sometimes for hours).

They also acted as advisors to kings because they knew so much about their history; often this meant advising them on where best to go hunting or what crops should be planted next year…even how best to fight off invaders!

The Seanchaí, a Kind of Bard

The Seanchaí, a kind of bard, often served as a historian or advisor to a king. They were poets who wrote poems in praise of their leaders and kept track of their people’s history and genealogy. Because they were blind, they memorized everything without writing it down—much like the ancient Greeks and Romans did with Homer’s epics.

Irish Monks Recorded Myths

Many of the myths we have today were written by Irish monks. Not just monks but historians, teachers, and storytellers. These early writers were truly unique.

Monks wrote down the myths because they wanted to preserve them for future generations and share them with people outside their monasteries. They did this so everyone could read about their gods, goddesses, and heroes. These stories had been passed down from generation to generation for hundreds of years before the arrival of Christianity in Ireland (more on this later).

The monks who recorded these tales were known as fili or ollamh fili (“wise man”). They were considered very wise because they knew how to read and write Latin and Irish; they could also recite many long poems from memory!

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The Sounds of Celtic Myths 4

The Medieval Irish Manuscript the Book of Leinster Is One of These Sources

The Book of Leinster, compiled in the 12th century, is one of these sources. It contains many myths and legends that are not included in other Irish medieval manuscripts and was written in Old Irish.

The Swedish scholar Rudolf Thurneysen was the first to notice that there were two distinct types of recitation as he studied the text of this manuscript: one was mainly monotonous with short sentences and long pauses between words; the other type had longer sentences but with strong rhythmical patterns and alliteration.

​The oldest surviving text in Irish literature is called the Táin Bó Cúailnge, which translates to “The Cattle Raid of Cooley.”

The Táin Bó Cúailnge is an Irish epic about Queen Medb and her husband Ailill trying to expand their kingdom by stealing a sacred bull from Ulster. It’s one of the most important sources of Irish mythology. It was written down as early as the 9th century CE, making it one of the oldest surviving texts in Irish literature.

Queen Medb and Her Husband Ailill

The story begins with Queen Medb and her husband, King Ailill, trying to expand their kingdom. When they learn of a sacred bull in Ulster, they decide to steal it by sending a group of warriors disguised as cattle herders.

As the disguise is lifted, three men from Ulster jump into action: Cuchulainn (a warrior), Conchobar (a king) and Fergus Mac Roich (a poet). After defeating all but one of the men from Connacht — who escapes back home — the four men have an epic battle that lasts several days. The final scene shows another man riding on top of the bull: Fer Doirich, who wants to eat it!

Without Written Records

Without written records, most myths were passed down orally and were not recorded until they were almost lost forever. For example, the Irish language was not written until the 5th century at all. So, how did these stories get out there? Well, many of them were recorded by monks who spoke Latin as their native language and wrote down what they heard from others in their monasteries.

Fortunately, there are still some Celtic myths that have been preserved. One of the most famous is the story of Cú Chulainn (Cuchulainn), a hero born with superhuman strength and fought against great odds to defend his people.

Taking it to the Current Modern Time

The Sounds of Celtic Myths feature many of the gods in ancient Ireland. Some of the most prominent gods of Ireland are Lugh and Scathach. In addition to Lugh and Scathach, Irish mythology also features many powerful women in the warrior world. The Ulster Cycle, Darragh O’Gill and the Little People have a strong female presence.

The Fenian Cycle features many stories written in the third century AD. It has much to do with Munster, Leinster, and Scotland. The protagonists were warriors and heroes, but animals also played an important role. Oisin, the Fish of Knowledge, and Finn MacCumhail are all characters in the Fenian cycle.

finding nemo celtic
Nemo Celtic

Finding Nemo uses Irish mythology to explore the relationships between two children. The music plays an important role in the film and becomes a significant part of the storyline. It acts as a surrogate voice for Saoirse and as a connection between Ben and his mother. The song also serves as a vehicle for emotion and healing. The music was specially composed for the film.

Celtic mythology also features many lesser-known stories. Bards were a powerful force in Celtic tradition. These legendary stories can be compelling in satirical ways. They have the power to satirize rivals. They also can tell stories about losers.

Conclusion

I hope you’ve enjoyed learning about how the stories of ancient Celtic culture went from being passed down orally to becoming written works. I think it’s important to remember that this was a time before there were books or even paper! This means that these stories were told from person to person, much like we tell each other jokes today.

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