Sunday, October 26, 2014

Duality - telling stories

  • And he came his way towards a river valley, and the bounds of the valley were forest, and on either side of the river, level meadows. And one side of the river he could see a flock of white sheep, and on the other side he could see a flock of black sheep. And as one of the white sheep bleated, one of the black sheep would come across, and would be white; and as one of the black sheep bleated, one of the white sheep would come across, and would be black. And he could see a tall tree on the river bank, and the one side of it was burning from its roots to its tip, and the other half with green leaves on it.
    • "Peredur son of Efrawg" (Jones and Jones, 1989, p. 211)

The Voyage of Maldun;  There is an Irish Celtic story about this young man Maldun who sets forth to avenge a death, during his journey he comes across many islands, mythical places  in which to have adventures with red eared cows and giant horses that eat each other.  But there is a small story about black and white sheep, and I have read a different version than this one, but to put it simply in its narrative, the shepherd had two flocks of sheep, one was white, the other black, and every now and then he turns one  sheep around from flock to flock and this turns them from black to white.  Now you can ponder that story, and its implied philosophical thought, and in this instance this interpretation taken from this blog....

 "On this island, the duality of black and white is reconciled, and it is demonstrated how things are far more shifting and fluid than that. This then is the nature of the Otherworld; it reconciles duality. 
 Due to this nature of the Otherworld it would be impossible to say that it is very distant, because in the same breath we must also acknowledge the closeness of the Otherworld. To dwell solely in either of the two extremes would be to deny its own nature. Certain psychologies might tend to identify the Otherworld with our psyche; the inner realm of the human mind and soul, and that the going-ons there are reflective of our own processes. Other people might lean towards the more spiritual or mystical understanding of the Otherworld as an actual place, a spirit-world, inhabited by very real beings. However, I think that neither of these views are incorrect. Both are attempts to pigeon-hole the Otherworld into one or another extreme; real or imaginary. We have seen from the island of the black and white sheep, however, that the distance between these seeming opposites is only as far as the other flock. What is actually important is that no matter how we understand the Otherworld, in all the stories in which it plays a part, those who experience it are transformed."

The quotation at the top is also of a second duality, this time the burning tree, one half burns the other half stays green,, Conjure that image in the mind for a while, this time the interpretation is of the two sides of the year, the dark side or winter, which we are now entering, and the light side of spring and summer.  All these Celtic myths were translated from the early Christian church monks copying the tales of the pagan world, And it must not be forgotten that christianity also placed its belief system on a whole lot of stories from the past, conjured from thin air? who knows but less spiritual than the pagan world strangely and this paganism has its roots in nature and the creatures that lived alongside the humans, so different from the all powerful god who dominated the Christian world with its tales of sin and redemption.
So although I love these stories, even if it just to muse on them and venture into a world of strange creatures, the thing that brought it to mind was a story in this modern world.  When the M3 motorway beneath the  Hill of Tara was eventually built it is well to remember that a lot of people were angry about this assault on a 'sacred place' the same romantic urge to protect and save a history ran through their veins.  A video records some of the images that flowed through this time, a time when I followed this news with a sinking heart because, as you will see from the security guards that surrounded the protestors this road would be built!  Carmel Diviney one of the protestors has just written a book on the subject 'Tara Calling', to be released in the early days of November, it is well to record modern history as well,,,,,,


  1. The black and white sheep is my favorite part of the Mabinogion.

    1. Haven't read it for a long time, black and white arguments (which I never use) of course reflect a similar idea....

  2. One sometimes has this feeling that things should never change and that everything should be left just as it is forever - but of course this cannot be. Whether such things are progress or not is a matter of opinion - and that will be always be divided.

    1. Yes Pat, for me recording history as it happens is also important. Drawing a parallel between the new pagans and the old celtic myths, on which they rely so heavily, points to the fact that in reality nothing is new. Today's pagans draw their stories from the old fanciful histories, the motorway is destructive but probably needed in the economy. To me the choices are always made by other people and not forgetting for the people as well. There is a lot of discord in the country at the moment, a cuckoo's sanctuary in a wood near Hampshire I believe is to be bulldozed for new houses, and then there is a quarry ready to destroy another ancient relict woods somewhere else . You are lucky up in Yorkshire ;)