Monday, June 15, 2015

Irish - Native American Parallels - 7

Some of the parallels are subtle, and likely could be true of most cultures when considered with another. But I looked deeply into the Irish and the indigenous people of the western hemisphere, ( I will reluctantly use the term of common usage, i.e., "Indian"), simply because they have long been of interest to me.  This posting will consider some of the lesser similarities which I found intriguing.

Both cultures were highly social, and gatherings were enhanced with music and story telling.  Both the Irish ceilidhs and the Indian 'pow-wow, are joyous events.  For the Irish, story telling was the oral process of passing the culture to the next generation.  And each new generation with evolving creativity embellished the stories of heroes and saints, fairies and banshees, and they would never let the truth get in the way of a good story.  Mystical beings populated the stories of both cultures  Leprechauns and the sidhe,fallen angels, harbinger of doom filled the Irish tales, just as the Iroquois tales told of shape changers and little people.  The Indians held that stories help 'shorten the night', and many of the tribes had similar creation stories embedded in their culture over generations, so conversion by early missionaries was a daunting task.  But more on that later.  

The ceilidhs and the pow-wows had to have music.  Singing and chanting added sophistication to the story telling, and instruments added aural enhancement.  And the music helped create a mood for acceptance of spirituality. For the Irish, harps and whistles, bodhrans and fiddles celebrate life and mourn death, and as a call to arms.  Similarly, Drums and whistles, rattles and bells raised the spirits and motivated the Indians to hunt or fight.  And both cultures used music, chanting or keening to aid in entering a state of meditation.  Food at the socials would find bread without yeast. Soda bread for the Irish, and from the woodland tribes in the Southeast, maize bread mixed with a dash of wood ashes.

The gatherings were also to celebrate the changing seasons.Beltane and Lughnasadh festivals in Ireland, and corn dances, rain dances and a dance for a successful hunt in the tribes of the Americas.  The elders at these celebrations were held in high esteem, for it is they that hold the treasured stories.