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An Introduction to Mythology

Page: 131

THOR

Thor, the god of thunder and lightning, possesses a hammer which symbolizes the thunder, as the spear or arrow of some other gods typifies the lightning. The hammer sometimes symbolizes the world-shaping god, the creative divinity, but perhaps not in regard to Thor. His red beard is probably symptomatic of the lightning, like the red limbs of some American thunder-gods. He is the foe of the Jötunn or giants, and he[Pg 294] bulked very largely indeed in the myths of the Norsemen. At the same time, like most thunder-gods who bring in their train the fructifying winds and rains, Thor presided over the crops and was thus the friend of peasants. Indeed his wife, Sif, is usually portrayed as a peasant woman of the Scandinavian type. He is the patron of countrymen, slow of speech and wit, if quick to strike with his hammer Mjolnir.

CELTIC MYTH

The mythology of the Celts shows an early connexion with that of the Teutons on the one hand and the Græco-Roman races on the other. Perhaps originally all possessed a common mythology, which altered upon their geographical separation. The priestly caste placed many of the old myths upon a definite literary footing, but these again were manufactured into pseudo-history by Geoffrey of Monmouth and kindred writers, so that it is often impossible to discover their original significance except by analogy. Animistic myths, however, survived the establishment of anthropomorphic gods among the Celts. Agricultural and seasonal deities were in the ascendant, as became an agricultural people, but not to the exclusion of totemic influences. Later, culture-gods of music, poetry, and the manual arts sprang up or were developed from existing deities. In the Gaulish pantheon, concerning which we have little information, we find Cæsar equating no less than sixteen local gods with the Roman Mercury, many with Apollo (among chem Borvo, Belenos, and Grannos), while with Mars other writers equate Camulos, Teutates, Albiorix, and Caturix, probably tribal war-gods. With Minerva was compared the horse-goddess Epona, while Berecyntia, a goddess of Autun, is compared by Gregory of Tours with the Italian Bona Dea. Inscriptions make Aeracura the equivalent of Dispater. Turning to Ireland, we possess later and therefore more satisfactory data, based on mythic tales of a far earlier date. These stories speak of immigrant races named the Tuatha de Danann (children of the goddess Danu), the Fomorians, the Firbolgs, and Milesians, of whom the first two classes are divine. Among these warring elements the Fomorians are a race of Titans. Balor, one of[Pg 295] their leaders, is a personification of the evil eye; nothing could live beneath his glance. Bres seems to have been a deity of growth—a vegetation-god. Dea Domnann was a species of Celtic Tiawath (Babylonian goddess of the abyss). Tethra was lord of the Underworld. Nét was a war-god. These were all gods of an early aboriginal race, and in later Irish myth are regarded as uncouth giant monsters.

THE CHILDREN OF DANU

Danu, mother of the race, was considered as a daughter of Dagda. She seems to have been an Earth-Mother.

The Tuatha de Danann, or Tribe of the Goddess Danu, have many congeners in British myth, and their worship appears to have been brought from Gaul or Britain. They were conquered by the Milesians and, retiring to the Underworld, appear to have taken the place of fairies, for they are later called sidhe or 'fairy folk.' Dagda (the 'good hand' or 'good god'), father of Danu, played the spring season into being with his harp. He fed the whole earth out of an immense pot or cauldron called Undry, the symbol of plenty. His was the perfection of knowledge and understanding. He is undoubtedly the great Celtic god of growth, and was probably originally a sun-deity, as his harp and his wisdom show, Ængus, his son, who supplanted him, resembled him. Nuada of the Silver Hand is a culture-hero and a cunning craftsman. He has a British equivalent, Llud Llaw Ereint, the 'silver-handed,' and both, like all culture-heroes, were connected with the sun and with growth. Manannan is a sea-god, and the Isle of Man may perhaps have taken its name from him when it was regarded as an Elysium. He is the same as the British Manawyddan. Lug (Welsh


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