Looking again at the cover image to the first fitt of a Gest of Robyn Hode, I suddenly realized that some people might be confused at seeing an English hero posted on a site with an Irish title.
Let me explain.
The word seanchas is a magnificent word that means more than history, lore, traditional stories, orally communicated folklore (bealoideas in Irish) or ‘tall tale.’ Literally, it could be translated as ‘old stuff,’ since — so far as I can tell — it is an abstract noun built off of an adjective that denotes someone in possession of lots of old stuff (like perhaps seanach), but the term is very specific in Gaelic usage. It’s not just the old stories passed down accurately but also the meaning of them: the world-view, mentality and values — i.e. the ethos — that they communicate. I intend for this site to take seanchas as I receive it and bring it as honestly and lovingly into our modern context.
Of course, that isn’t easy. Anyone familiar with any kind of history will know that Irish, Scottish and English culture have not exactly gotten along over the last few centuries. Between religious wars, cultural oppression, political villainy and ultimately cultural dissolution on every side, there’s a lot of bad blood running across the Atlantic. Now, speaking as a white male of European extraction and thus somehow personally responsible for all of the evil committed over the last five centuries, I can see the appeal of turning our back on the past. Even though our lives should not be shackled to the distress of our forebears, neither should we be blind to those things that were magnificent and beautiful. Studying medieval culture in the North Sea, it is clear to me that we have lost way too much of value — things that now we hunger for and invent anew as fantasy and Science-Fiction.
Well, this site is where I mean to carve out a bit of modern media for myself and breathe life back into the lost and forgotten … without reanimating a Frankinstein’s monster, of course.
Now, I could make this site strictly Gaelic in focus, excluding anything that smacked of English culture, but that isn’t the reality of our lives. Most people, particularly those who are very interested in Gaelic culture, live their life through the medium of English. Rather than try to create a kind of Gaelic Pale, I would rather celebrate The Cool Stuff in both Gaelic and English and thereby begin to bridge the gap. (Of course, there’s simply more Cool Stuff in Gaelic than English, but let’s not make English Departments feel too bad about themselves. I mean, it’s not like the Gaelic world taught the Anglo-Saxons how to read … oh, wait …)
Put simply, the more Coolness people see, the more they will want to go deeper into it.
And anyway, there’s just a lot of great storytelling in English tradition that has been lost amid the insanity that was the Early Modern period. Heroes like Robin Hood and King Arthur are just great characters, and represent an ethos that predated the vanity of the Tudors and Stuarts. (I won’t mention that King Arthur isn’t really English anyway — he’s Welsh.)
In the end, my loyalty is to Gaelic culture, but our culture now is a giant mess of Old Stuff. Let’s honour it all and see where it leads.
Oh, and here’s a video made by the band Clannad back in 1996. The lyrics bear on all this, so you might just have a look at them over at the Celtic Lyrics Corner.