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Telergic
02-05-2014, 07:02 AM
Let us say an ancient Celtic high king, of Ireland or Wales, wanted to send an emissary to command or request his subordinate petty kings to do something extraordinary. This might be to muster their men, to attend the court, or to contribute an unusual tax, but it would be in an emergency.

He gives one of his own household men a token of his authority to display to the petty kings as he rides around the realm.

What would that token be? A seal-ring or a brooch-pin? A torc or a lunula? A famous sword? Or maybe a special stone or gem like a portable version of the Lia Fail? The idea is it should be something like one of those mythical notes written by more modern kings in Dumas stories saying "aid him" that would turn the emissary into a plenipotentiary with the power to command these petty kings to obey or at least to make his request in the name of the high king.

Are there any examples of something like this in the various Irish or Welsh chronicles and storybooks?

milkweed
02-05-2014, 07:20 AM
I thought the celts originated on the Iberian Pennisula? Guess it's time for me to go out and do some research, but great questions.

Telergic
02-05-2014, 07:23 AM
I thought the celts originated on the Iberian Pennisula? Guess it's time for me to go out and do some research, but great questions.

There were Celts in Iberia, though I'm pretty sure they didn't originate there. However, those aren't the ones I'm asking about here, but rather the Brythonic and Goidelian types.

shaldna
02-05-2014, 01:24 PM
Let us say an ancient Celtic high king, of Ireland or Wales, wanted to send an emissary to command or request his subordinate petty kings to do something extraordinary. This might be to muster their men, to attend the court, or to contribute an unusual tax, but it would be in an emergency

He gives one of his own household men a token of his authority to display to the petty kings as he rides around the realm.

What would that token be? A seal-ring or a brooch-pin? A torc or a lunula? A famous sword? Or maybe a special stone or gem like a portable version of the Lia Fail? The idea is it should be something like one of those mythical notes written by more modern kings in Dumas stories saying "aid him" that would turn the emissary into a plenipotentiary with the power to command these petty kings to obey or at least to make his request in the name of the high king.

Are there any examples of something like this in the various Irish or Welsh chronicles and storybooks?

Celts were most likely to be fighting each other - tribal warfare was a huge thing. Yes, there were some kings and tribes that were more powerful than others, but it's not really a feudal system as in more modern history. There were minor kings, but they were still kings of their own territory and were just as likely to team up with then enemy against other tribes. Now, this wasn't usually for territorial gain - after all, it's hard to maintain control of a larger area, but normally for political or economic reasons.

I'm not sure about the ins and outs of how they would team up with other tribes, although I would expect that some sort of emissary would be sent - others would be able to advise you better, sorry.



I thought the celts originated on the Iberian Pennisula? Guess it's time for me to go out and do some research, but great questions.

Don't confuse Insular and Continental Celts.

Wilde_at_heart
02-05-2014, 06:30 PM
There might be something useful for you in the myths of Cú Chulainn - many of those tales involved the rivalry between the Irish and the Ulstermen (and yes, the rivalry pre-dated the English using Northern Ireland as a dumping ground for wayward Scots).

I can't point you to anything specific within those tales because my copy has long been missing, unfortunately, but there's probably online copies on Gutenberg somewhere.

As for the origins of the Celts, they're believed to have come from Austria initially.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hallstatt_culture

Telergic
02-05-2014, 07:20 PM
Celts were most likely to be fighting each other - tribal warfare was a huge thing.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High_King_of_Ireland

Yes, they fought, but the system of a high king ruling or at least senior over other petty kings was a real thing.

Karen Junker
02-06-2014, 10:53 AM
In my imagination, he would send a druid carrying an enscorcelled staff marked in ogham. If you could get your hands on The Ancient Laws of Ireland (I forget the authors' names, but it was translated by them in the mid-1800s), I'm pretty sure this eventuality would be covered. Best wishes!

ETA: A book similar to what I'm thinking of is here: https://archive.org/details/ancientlaws01hancuoft

King Neptune
02-06-2014, 06:24 PM
Let us say an ancient Celtic high king, of Ireland or Wales, wanted to send an emissary to command or request his subordinate petty kings to do something extraordinary. This might be to muster their men, to attend the court, or to contribute an unusual tax, but it would be in an emergency.

He gives one of his own household men a token of his authority to display to the petty kings as he rides around the realm.

What would that token be? A seal-ring or a brooch-pin? A torc or a lunula? A famous sword? Or maybe a special stone or gem like a portable version of the Lia Fail? The idea is it should be something like one of those mythical notes written by more modern kings in Dumas stories saying "aid him" that would turn the emissary into a plenipotentiary with the power to command these petty kings to obey or at least to make his request in the name of the high king.

Are there any examples of something like this in the various Irish or Welsh chronicles and storybooks?

As I recall it, a bare branch held overhead would have been a sign that someone was there to talk, rather than to attack, but I have never seen anything about specific tokens of authority.

Telergic
02-06-2014, 07:03 PM
Thanks for the suggestions. I'll look at that link.

Koschei
02-06-2014, 07:21 PM
It's thought that the torc was a status symbol so that idea could work. You could show it as having a specific and distinctive design that would show belongs to your king. Maybe a design that's particular your king's tribe.

shaldna
02-06-2014, 08:13 PM
There might be something useful for you in the myths of Cú Chulainn - many of those tales involved the rivalry between the Irish and the Ulstermen (and yes, the rivalry pre-dated the English using Northern Ireland as a dumping ground for wayward Scots).

Bear in mind that at that time it was all Ireland, Ulster is simply a province in Ireland, and had many kings of it's own. So it wasn't like Ulster against Ireland.


As for the origins of the Celts, they're believed to have come from Austria initially.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hallstatt_culture Again, be careful with the difference between insular and continental celts.



http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High_King_of_Ireland

Yes, they fought, but the system of a high king ruling or at least senior over other petty kings was a real thing.

Interesting link. I'd be wary of relying on Wikipedia for info though. I'd seriously recommend speaking with a scholar or researcher who specialises in this period. Most universities will have someone or a department who would help - in my experience people love to pass on their knowledge.

Other than that, many universities will allow access to non-students for research etc for a small annual fee, although you may want to contact them in advance, making clear what you are looking for to make sure they have it.

ECathers
02-11-2014, 03:10 AM
Torcs are very personal, and probably not something the ruler would take off to have sent around. My vote would be a brooch, ring or druid w staff,

Medievalist
02-11-2014, 03:39 AM
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High_King_of_Ireland

Yes, they fought, but the system of a high king ruling or at least senior over other petty kings was a real thing.

A real thing in terms of history? No, not so much.

Historically speaking, there wouldn't really have been a symbol of the sort you're describing.

If you want something from a myth, there are a couple of possibilities, but were I you, I would have the king send an emissary in the form of a druid. A druid of the highest rank would be able to both judge and negotiate.

The druids in their ability to recite laws, curse those who didn't obey their injunctions, and aid in the selection of the king were a force to reckon with.

Medievalist
02-11-2014, 03:42 AM
I'd be wary of relying on Wikipedia for info though.

That wikipedia entry is a bit of a mixture of historical data and things asserted in medieval Irish literature.

Medievalist
02-11-2014, 03:44 AM
As I recall it, a bare branch held overhead would have been a sign that someone was there to talk, rather than to attack, but I have never seen anything about specific tokens of authority.

I suspect this is the idea of the bell-branch, which is largely associated with prophecy, the speaking of truth, and a trip to the otherworld.

Telergic
02-11-2014, 06:27 AM
Thanks. This story doesn't actually take place in historical Ireland or Wales, it's in the otherworld where the Irish and Welsh mythology about an enduring series of high kings is actually true as regards themselves.

I agree a torc seems rather personal as a token to hand around, since apparently many people just never took them off at all, so perhaps a brooch-pin with a famous gem in the setting would be a better idea. This particular version of the fairy realm doesn't actually have any sort of priesthood, and so the druids, who would otherwise make sense as emissaries, are not a possibility.

Medievalist
02-11-2014, 06:54 AM
Thanks. This story doesn't actually take place in historical Ireland or Wales, it's in the otherworld where the Irish and Welsh mythology about an enduring series of high kings is actually true as regards themselves

Then consider a bell-branch, like that carried by the mysterious other-world warrior in Echtra Cormac. The warrior mysteriously appears on Múr Tea, the wall or rampart surrounding Tara on the eve of Beltane

The warrior carries a magically musical silver branch, adorned with three gold apples. Shaking the the branch generates music that charms the listener to sleep. There are similar magical branches used as tokens in other texts.

Alternatively, rings are used as tokens in a couple of Irish tales to "prove" that a child was his father son, as in Cath Maig Tuired, when Elatha mac Delbaith, king of the Fomoire, fathers Bres in a liason with Eriu the daughter of Delbaith.

I'd be cautious though, about the sources you're using for Irish tales; there are a lot of public domain sources from the nineteenth century that are less than accurate about Welsh and Irish texts. They both insert things from other texts (like Germanic myths) and leave out incidents considered indelicate.

Note though that the druid caste consists of bards, filli and ollam—it was the caste of poets, prophets, and messengers.

Telergic
02-11-2014, 11:34 AM
Then consider a bell-branch, like that carried by the mysterious other-world warrior in Echtra Cormac. The warrior mysteriously appears on Múr Tea, the wall or rampart surrounding Tara on eve of Beltane

The warrior carries a magically musical silver branch, adorned with three gold apples. Shaking the the branch generates music that charms the listener to sleep. There are similar magical branches used as tokens in other texts.

Alternatively, rings are used as tokens in a couple of Irish tales to "prove" that a child was his father son, as in Cath Maig Tuired, when Elatha mac Delbaith, king of the Fomoire, fathers Bres in a liason with Eriu the daughter of Delbaith.

I'd be cautious though, about the sources you're using for Irish tales; there are a lot of public domain sources from the nineteenth century that are less than accurate about Welsh and Irish texts. They both insert things from other texts (like Germanic myths) and leave out incidents considered indelicate.

Note though that the druid caste consists of bards, filli and ollam—it was the caste of poets, prophets, and messengers.

Thanks again. I'll think about the bell-branch or a ring, and will look up some of those myths. The effect of the bell-branch turns out to be related to a key plot point, so perhaps I can make use of it in a different way. I don't suppose there is any way to connect that mysterious warrior from Echtra Cormac to one of the principal female figures like Brigid or Rhiannon?

Fortunately it's factual in this other otherworld :) that our myths and chronicles are mostly wrong, just fabulist inventions that get some of the names and ideas right, but often screw up the facts. And since you mention it, this is not a pure Celtic otherworld (not that a mix of mythical types from the different Celtic nations would be pure in itself anyway), but blends into other sorts of fairy/mythical areas from region to region. The action is set in a primarily Celtic area which combines various Brythonic and Goidelic elements, but it abuts and overlaps a Germanic area. In this world the Seelie Court is more or less only Celtic, but the renegade Unseelie Court established themselves to the east and incorporated some German notional folks. So stirring a pinch of Wayland and a heaping tablespoon of kobolds into the mix along with the Tylwyth Teg or Aos Sí is actually acceptable here.

But that being said, there's no point to using mythic and historical elements and deviating accidentally from the written records. I want all my deviations to be deliberate, hence questions like this one.

Maxx B
02-11-2014, 01:24 PM
If it's not based on reality, I'd go with branding. It's painful and permanent, you would have to be pretty committed to want to fake it. Branded skin takes a while to heal and also if the housemen were branded when they came of age, the brands would age with them, even harder to fake a brand that would have been burned in 10-20 years ago.

Medievalist
02-11-2014, 10:22 PM
Thanks again. I'll think about the bell-branch or a ring, and will look up some of those myths. The effect of the bell-branch turns out to be related to a key plot point, so perhaps I can make use of it in a different way. I don't suppose there is any way to connect that mysterious warrior from Echtra Cormac to one of the principal female figures like Brigid or Rhiannon?

Well, yeah; Ethne is one of the names associated with the Sovereignty of Ireland, mythologically—the idea that the king was picked by a Sovereignty goddess like Eriu, or in Welsh/Gaulish Rhiannon/Riganta, etc.

The bell-branch is associated with the telling of a truth, or verifying the truth.

There's often an association with the goddess and horses (Rhiannon, Macha, etc.).

I wouldn't go with branding; it's what you do to animals and thieves.

If you want a visible marker that's permanent, tattooing would work, and was in fact used by the Celts in Ireland and Britain based on bog bodies. Don't suggest using woad as a tattoo media; it doesn't work well.

You might want to look for Rees and Rees Celtic Heritage; this is a discussion of Celtic myths, Insular and Continental, in the context of Indo-European myths. There's a good English version of the original Welsh published by Thames and Hudson. It's a solid well-respected scholarly book that's quite readable.

Wayland is absolutely Germanic, but he's an example of the way Indo-European myths work; he shares similar traits with the Irish Goibniu and the Welsh Gofannon (these words are cognate).

Telergic
02-11-2014, 11:07 PM
Wayland is absolutely Germanic, but he's an example of the way Indo-European myths work; he shares similar traits with the Irish Goibniu and the Welsh Gofannon (these words are cognate).

Yes, and "Wayland's Forge" right near the presumably Celtic White Horse at Uffington is really an ancient site, probably pre-Celtic, not just pre-Saxon, just taking on that name at some point the Saxons were in control of it. So they all sort of mix together, not just due to mythic archetypes recurring, but due to cultural diffusion.

Anyhow, if I can find some way to connect a bell-branch to Rhiannon despite what I suppose to be the total lack of such in the Mabinogi I'm golden as far as that reference goes, because magical sleep is a big deal at one point in the story.

By the way, what do you think of what I believe is Evangeline Walton's notion that Rhiannon and the Babd Catha (or some other monstrous bird who appears in her version of Pwll's visit to Annwn) are two faces of the same personage? That passage in her book on the first branch is not entirely straightforward, so I might not have read it quite right, but apart from horses Rhiannon is also connected to birds, so that may be where she got the idea from, though songbirds are different from crows.... Of course Walton's genius was that she didn't just literally retell the 4 branches but invented all kinds of other cool stuff along the way, mixing in some new-age spiritual concepts as well as elements from all kinds of other mythos.

Medievalist
02-12-2014, 01:01 AM
Anyhow, if I can find some way to connect a bell-branch to Rhiannon despite what I suppose to be the total lack of such in the Mabinogi I'm golden as far as that reference goes, because magical sleep is a big deal at one point in the story.

Manawydan uses a wand in the third branch of the Mabinogi; so there's something to work with there.



By the way, what do you think of what I believe is Evangeline Walton's notion that Rhiannon and the Babd Catha (or some other monstrous bird who appears in her version of Pwll's visit to Annwn) are two faces of the same personage?

I would direct you to the dissertations of my friends and colleagues:

Macha and Conall Cernach: A Study of Two Iconographic Patterns in Medieval Irish Narratives and Celtic Art. Department of Folklore dissertation, UCLA, 1995.

War goddess: the Morrígan and her Germano-Celtic Counterparts. Department of Folklore dissertation. University of California at Los Angeles, 1998.

The generally agreed upon theory is that there are I.E. connections between the Germanic Valkyrie, Macha/Morrígan/Badb, etc., Rhiannon, and Epona.

I'm making giant leaps here, but you might find the work of Patrick K. Ford interesting as well; I'm exceedingly fond of his translation of The Mabinogi and Other Medieval Welsh Tales.

eoficon
02-13-2014, 07:22 PM
Let us say an ancient Celtic high king, of Ireland or Wales, wanted to send an emissary to command or request his subordinate petty kings to do something extraordinary.

How about the severed head of a petty king that is outspoken against the high kings commands?

Originally i thought a good idea would be the severed head of some demon or some obviously otherworldy creature to prove that dire times were ahead (not an intentional pun) but that would depend on the specifics of your story. and would subsequently reveal my obvious genre bias. A severed head in general though, provided it is recognizable as of import, will do wonders to get peoples attention. Without knowing the specific politics of your story I cant say more than that. or rather than this

Severed head.

Telergic
02-13-2014, 07:59 PM
Don't have one at hand :) The Celts did like cutting off heads, though.

Medievalist
02-14-2014, 12:01 AM
There are references in at least two tales to "brain balls"; the preserved head/brain of an enemy, coated or sometimes, the brain removed and mixed with lime and used as prophetic talisman.

There's a bit of "yo mama" dialog in Scéla Mucce Mac Datho, where the Connacht warrior Cet engages in verbal slanging with the Ulster hero Conall Cernach; Cet acknowledges that Connall is the better warrior but says if Cet's brother were present, he would be a match for Connall.

Connall says, roughly, "Funnily enough, I happen to have him right here," and brings forth the brother's severed head or, in some versions, his brain-ball, and tosses it at Cet. There's a similar tale about Connall and the brain ball of Meis Gegra, which was hurled at the King of the Ulstermen, Conchobor, and lodged in his head, eventually killing him.

Telergic
02-14-2014, 12:43 AM
Mixed with lime? Ew. On the other hand, if it was mixed with quicklime, it might actually catch fire from the exothermic reaction. That would be one scary missile.

King Neptune
02-14-2014, 01:23 AM
There are references in at least two tales to "brain balls"; the preserved head/brain of an enemy, coated or sometimes, the brain removed and mixed with lime and used as prophetic talisman.

There's a bit of "yo mama" dialog in Scéla Mucce Mac Datho, where the Connacht warrior Cet engages in verbal slanging with the Ulster hero Conall Cernach; Cet acknowledges that Connall is the better warrior but says if Cet's brother were present, he would be a match for Connall.

Connall says, roughly, "Funnily enough, I happen to have him right here," and brings forth the brother's severed head or, in some versions, his brain-ball, and tosses it at Cet. There's a similar tale about Connall and the brain ball of Meis Gegra, which was hurled at the King of the Ulstermen, Conchobor, and lodged in his head, eventually killing him.

I like Connall, and some of my ancestors were followers of him. I'd back him up, if he needed it.