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The Religion of the Ancient Celts

Page: 29

Professor Rh[^y]s makes Bile, ancestor of the Milesians who came from Spain, a Goidelic counterpart of the Gaulish Dispater, lord of the dead, from whom the Gauls claimed descent. But Bile, neither a Fomorian nor of the Tuatha Dé Danann, is an imaginary and shadowy creation. Bile is next equated with a Brythonic Beli, assumed to be consort of Dôn, whose family are equivalent to the Tuatha Dé Danann. Beli was a mythic king whose reign was a kind of golden age, and if he was father of Dôn's children, which is doubtful, Bile would then be father of the Tuatha Dé Danann. But he is ancestor of the Milesians, their opponents according to the annalists. Beli is also equated with Elatha, and since Dôn, reputed consort of Beli, was grandmother of Llew, equated with Irish Lug, grandson of Balor, Balor is equivalent to Beli, whose name is regarded by Professor Rh[^y]s as related etymologically to Balor's.195 Bile, Balor, and Elatha are thus Goidelic equivalents of the shadowy Beli. But they also are quite distinct personalities, nor are they ever hinted at as ancestral gods of the Celts, or gods of a gloomy underworld. In Celtic belief the underworld was probably a fertile region and a place of light, nor were its gods harmful and evil, as Balor was.

On the whole, the Fomorians came to be regarded as the powers of nature in its hostile aspect. They personified blight, winter, darkness, and death, before which men trembled, yet were not wholly cast down, since the immortal gods of growth and light, rulers of the bright other-world, were on their side and fought against their enemies. Year by year the gods suffered deadly harm, but returned as conquerors to renew


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