Monday, March 17, 2014

Lunedi Lunacy

The tradition of the seanchaithe is as old as the history of Ireland - and in fact they were the folk history of Ireland from the earliest times.  Some were servants of the tribal chiefs and it was their duty to keep track of the history and stories of their clan and in absence of written records to pass them on.  Some were itinerant travellers, moving from community to community offering their abilities in exchange for food, shelter and, in times of war, protection.  Others were members of established settlements who told and retold the histories and tales of the community and the country at ceremonies, feasts and events. Their stories, and the art of telling them, were passed on from one to another without being written down in an oral tradition that stretches to the earliest days of settlement on the island.

They should not be confused with the fili or bards, who in pre-Christian Ireland were magicians, lawgivers judges, counsellors to the chief or king and poets.  Over time their function came to be solely that of official poets and philosophers.  Though like the seanchaí a fili was expected to improvise and embellish their position required that they retain the "facts" of history in their telling.   

The seanchaí used many things to tell his story - styles of language, changes of voice patterns, intensity and rhythms and gestures.  Here is the late Eamon Kelly, one of the great modern seanchaí, telling what amounts to a "travelling salesman" story.

While watching the following clip (and listening I might add very carefully as Kelly's accent is that strong) I mentioned to Laurent that it reminded me an old TV programme,  La Soirée canadienne  on Télé-Métropole on Saturday nights.  Louis Bilodeau would go to small towns throughout Québec and townspeople would sing, play, dance and tell stories.  Gaelic traditions that acknowledge neither borders nor language barriers.

 **BAN-ukh-tee nuh FAY-leh PAH-drig ur-iv (St. Patrick’s Day blessings to you!)

*Yahoos - disgusting unkempt hairy creatures from Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels; they flung their own filth at each other and dug in the mud for pretty pieces of shiny glass.

March 17 - 1337:  Edward, the Black Prince is made Duke of Cornwall, the first Duchy in England.
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Im a I don't celebrate St. Patrick's Day..besides he wasn't even Irish...sigh

Ur-spo said...

I celebrated the day listening to irish music, reading Yeats, and a nip of T. Dew.