SR Meyrick and CH Smith. Chief Druid in Judicial Vestments
Article Celtic time we talked a little about this people, whose tribes at the peak of their expansion inhabited vast territories of Europe. Now we will continue this story and talk about the culture of the Celts and its influence on the European literature of the Middle Ages, modern times and our days.
As we remember, the Celts of mainland Europe were assimilated by other peoples. And only on the outskirts of their habitat - in Ireland, Scotland, Wales, French Brittany, they managed to save historical memory and some national identity.
Regions of residence of peoples of Celtic origin
The Irish managed to preserve the most complete and integral Celtic epic. The main legends here were created in prosaic form (which is not quite typical - after all, poetry is easier to memorize). It is known that Celtic bards also composed songs that were performed to the harp, but they had nothing to do with the epic. These were songs of three types: crying, laughter and sleep. According to the legends, the most skillful bards sang a song of crying in such a way that the listeners died of grief. Only in the XNUMXth century, after acquaintance with the Norman sagas, short songs-ballads were written on old epic plots. And under the influence of the Christian Church, attempts were made to get rid of the pagan elements. It was not possible to completely remove them, and the appearance of the same Merlin, probably, remained almost unchanged. But the images of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table were strongly Christianized. The plots, apparently, have changed little, but the symbolism has been replaced by Christian ones.
In Ireland, their epic legends are called "tales", in our country for some reason they were called sagas. This title is extremely unfortunate and disorientates readers, who involuntarily put these works on a par with the sagas of the Scandinavian countries. Meanwhile, the Scandinavian sagas are absolutely different from the Irish "stories", and their compilers would be outraged by such a comparison.
The "Sagas of Kings" or Icelandic ancestral sagas are emphatically documentary. Their authors constantly invite their readers to check the story, referring to the testimonies of reputable and well-known people. They illustrate the narration of the skalds with visami, who could not lie by definition, and the peculiarities of versification are such that it is impossible to replace even one letter in a line. Describe in detail the genealogy of the heroes.
There is nothing like this in Irish stories, and their authors do not even try to portray plausibility. In addition, Irish authors clearly used the traditions of the indigenous Pictish tribe who inhabited the British Isles before the arrival of the Celts. Even the protagonist of the Irish epic Cuchulainn is endowed with Pictish features. He is described as a small, nondescript man, dark-haired and dark-skinned. The Celts were tall, red-haired, and looked more like the Germans. Polybius wrote about the Celts:
"These people are tall and hardy, beautiful and blue-eyed."
But the vivid plots and poetry of these works, as we have already said, made a great impression on European authors. And they had a significant impact on the formation of Western European literature.
Druids and bards
How did the Celtic tribes, who did not know writing, manage to preserve the legends that arose at the beginning of the new era and existed only in oral form for 7-8 centuries?
The keepers of mythical and ancestral heroic legends all this time were pagan priests, called bards. And the druids were the highest caste of bards, their authority was incredibly high, among the people they were revered above kings. And, according to Julius Caesar (who fought a lot with the Gauls), the main center for training druids was in the British Isles.
It was the Druids who kept old legends in their memory, and also performed religious rites in sacred oak groves, made sacrifices (the Romans argued that the sacrifices were sometimes human).
Joseph Martin Kronheim. Druids with wreaths of oak leaves while collecting mistletoe
Diodorus Siculus argued that the Druids considered the souls of people to be immortal, capable of acquiring life in another body, and compared the religion of the Celts with the teachings of Pythagoras.
In addition, druids served as judges.
Archdruid in judicial vestments. Illustration from the book "Old England", 1845. Archdruid wore yellow clothes, other druids - white, students - brown
Druids were often asked to name a child or a new village or city. The ceremony of naming the baby was accompanied by the prediction of his future. In order to correct his fate, the child was assigned ritual taboos for life - gays. Additional gays could be imposed upon marriage or a change in social status (for example, during a coronation). Sometimes these prohibitions were completely unobtrusive, for example, not to wear clothes of a certain color. But sometimes a person because of them faced big problems.
It was the gays that caused the death of Ireland's greatest hero, Cuchulainn. He was forbidden to eat dog meat, as well as food cooked on the side of the road. But at the same time, it was impossible to refuse the treat. On the eve of the battle in which he died, he was offered dog meat cooked on the sidelines. And then there were geese, similar to modern "challenges". The same Cuchulainn once cut down a trunk with four branches, stuck it in a sandbank by the ford, and planted a bloody head on each branch. Then he imposed on the warriors of the Queen of Connaught Medb geis: do not cross the ford until someone rips out the barrel in the same way as it was stuck - with the fingers of one hand.
J. Leyendecker. Cuchulainn in battle
In modern Irish, the word "druid" means "sorcerer." Currently, two versions of its origin have been put forward.
According to the first, it comes from the Celtic words "dru -vid -es": vid literally translates as "knowledge", dru is suggested to be translated as "oak".
According to another version, the word "druid" is also compound: vid in this case is considered a root with the same meaning ("to know, to own knowledge"). And the first part of the word is dru, supporters of this version consider a prefix expressing the superlative degree of something.
Archdruids and Druids, illustration from Old England, 1845
Druids, bards, and healers all learned from the same teacher. But bards and healers did not necessarily become druids. And the druid was also a healer and a bard.
Only druids could be teachers, and it was they who were the keepers of ancient traditions, which they learned by heart. The most distinguished, perhaps, composed their own works of a religious nature.
Having captured the southern part of Britain, the Romans considered the Druids their main enemies, brutally persecuted them and cut down the sacred groves.
One level below the druids, there were bards who praised heroes and battles. And finally, the bards of the third, lower order served kings. They praised their ancestors, as well as the wealth, strength and bravery of their master.
How did the training of bards go?
The candidates lived with their teacher, who at the end of the training period could accept them into the caste of bards or let them go without giving them such a title. A slave who was chosen to be a disciple immediately received freedom. Since he now had the right to wear a wreath of birch leaves on his head, it was said in Ireland:
"A birch branch breaks the fetters from your feet."
The bard reached the highest rank through poetic competition.
Once every three years, in the presence of the king and the heads of the clan clans, as well as numerous spectators, the bards who appeared at the competition in turn sang songs composed by them. The winner sat on a gilded chair, he was declared the country's chief bard and the bard enthroned. After this, the royal judge handed him a silver harp. In the next three years, it was he who evaluated the poetry of other bards, and received double payment for his songs. Every girl who got married was obliged to give him a gift. There was a separate room in the royal palace, which could only be occupied by the head bard. It was considered a great honor if he agreed to the position of educator of children from the most noble families or heir to the throne.
However, any other bard could become a guest of the king. In this case, the king was obliged to give him a harp, a horse from the royal stable, as well as clothes worth three cows - to the bard himself and his wife. And the queen gave a gold ring on her behalf.
At feasts, the king would place the bard next to him. For this, at the request of the king or courtiers, he was obliged to sing three songs on different topics (sadness, laughter and sleep), and at the request of the queen - three songs about love. But for ordinary people, the bard had to sing "to the point of exhaustion."
The personality of any bard was inviolable, even for a verbal insult, the offender was obliged to pay the virus - 6 cows and 120 coins. Nobody even thought about physical violence against the bard. In the entire centuries-old history of the existence of this caste, only one case of the murder of a bard has been recorded. The perpetrator was brutally executed, the murder weapon cursed.
Bards were not allowed to wear weapon, however, they went on military campaigns: they sang before the battle and during the battles. In addition to the share of the booty that was due to each warrior, they also received a bull. Also, they were not allowed to engage in physical labor.
Celtic motives of Western European literature
The first to fall under the charm of Celtic heroic legends were the conquerors of the Angles, and then the Normans who seized England. The first attempt to write them down was made in the first half of the 1136th century. Between 1148-XNUMX Bishop Galfried of Monmouth, commissioned by King Henry II of England, wrote The History of the Kings of Britain in Latin. He began his story with a detailed story about the first British king - Brutus, the great-grandson of Aeneas (!). As you probably guessed, this piece was clearly influenced by ancient sources.
But much more famous and interesting is another chapter in which Galfrid retold some of the Celtic heroic legends. It was in it in Western European literature that the names of King Arthur (whose image Galfrid romanticized and significantly ennobled) and his faithful knights, who were destined to become beloved heroes of many generations of Europeans, were first heard.
Galfried of Monmouth continued his work in 1140-1150. literary processed almost all Welsh legends, which are now known under the names "Life of Merlin" and "History of Tallesin".
Galfridus Monemutensis, a monument in Tintern, Wales
Already in 1155, the monk Weiss of Jersey translated the works of Galfrid into French. But he did not limit himself to a simple translation: he came up with original storylines and supplemented the narrative with new details. One of Weis's major literary finds was the story of King Arthur's famous Round Table.
The Novel on the History of the Grail, written later by Robert de Boron, states that King Arthur's Round Table is the last of the three sacred Grail tables. During the first of them the Last Supper was served. And the second belonged to Joseph of Arimathea - on it he put a cup with the blood of Christ.
Winchester Castle Round Table, about 5,5 meters in diameter. It is believed to have been made for a tournament hosted in April 1290 by King Edward I
In the second half of the XNUMXth century, legends about King Arthur also spread to the south of France - to Aquitaine, which was destined to become the birthplace of the classical knightly tradition. In the novels of Chrétien de Trois ("The Knight of the Cart, or Lancelot," "The Tale of the Grail, or Perceval"), readers found not just a retelling of the works of Galfried of Monmouth, but a manifesto of the ideals of chivalry. This is a unique case of such a significant influence of fiction on the real political and military history of an entire continent.
Under the clear influence of the novels of Chrétien de Troyes around 1215-1235. in Old French, an unknown author (or - authors) wrote a cycle of novels called "The Vulgate": "The History of the Grail", "Merlin" (attributed to Robert de Boron), "The Book of Lancelot Ozernom", "The Search for the Holy Grail", " Death of Arthur ". Other names for this cycle are "Lancelot in Prose" and "Lancelot-Grail".
And in Germany in 1210, Wolfram von Eschenbach's poetic novel "Parzival" was published (in which the Grail unexpectedly turned out to be "a stone that fell from heaven"). R. Wagner, by the way, left the Grail as a cup in his famous opera.
"Scene from the opera Parzival", photo postcard, Berlin, 1908
By the way, Eschenbach's novel takes place in France and Camelot ended up in Nantes.
In the 1485th century, having made a circle around Europe, these stories returned to the British Isles - here, too, the first romances of chivalry appeared. And finally, in XNUMX, Thomas Mallory's famous novel The Death of Arthur was published, which contained the most complete retelling of the legends of the Arthurian cycle. And Ulrich von Zatsikhoven wrote a novel about the life of Lancelot.
The legends of the Arthurian cycle continued to live on. Over time, there were also parodies, such as the novel by Mark Twain "The Connecticut Yankees at the Court of King Arthur." Then the heroes of chivalric novels boldly stepped onto the theatrical and operatic stages. And since the twentieth century, they have become heroes of a huge number of films and cartoons.
The first of the films, Parzival (based on Wagner's opera), was released in the USA in 1904. It is interesting in that they tried to synchronize the action with the arias that were recorded on the records. At the moment, the number of film adaptations is difficult to count.
The most titled of these films was the musical Camelot (1967, directed by Joshua Logan, three Academy Awards and three Golden Globes). Two more films received awards at the Cannes Film Festival: Lancelot Ozerny (1974, directed by Robber Bresson, special prize) and Excalibur (1981, directed by John Burman, prize for artistic contribution to the development of cinema).
In addition, Celtic ethnic music, which is performed not only by folklore ensembles, but also by rock groups, is quite popular all over the world now. It can be modern arrangements of old melodies, and new stylized compositions. There are such groups in our country as well.
Natalia O'Shea, better known as Helavisa. PhD in Philology, linguist, specialist in Celtic languages, culture and folklore of the Irish peoples
In the next article we will continue the story about the heroes of the Arthurian cycle and talk not only about this king, but also about some of the knights of the Round Table, about Merlin and two fairies - Morgan and the Lady of the Lake, Lady Vivienne. And then we'll talk about the Grail.