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Author's Comment's

Dearbháil's Song

For millennia before there were televisions, motion pictures and iPhones, people amused themselves by listening to stories told while sitting around a fire at night. In Ireland, the traditional story tellers were called seanchaithe. They had a massive oral tradition passed down from generation to generation. In time, literate men, mostly monks, wrote these stories down and collected them into books.

However, careful reading of these books suggests that the scribes who wrote them down a millennium or more ago had their own religious agendas as well. For one thing, there is no Celtic pantheon of gods such as there are in the Greek, Roman, Norse, and Germanic mythologies. And magic is downplayed as well. The Druids are relegated, when they appear, to being evil wizards who cast "spells".

While censorship is a harsh word, it certainly appears that the monks writing down the deeds of the ancient Celtic warriors left a good deal of the stories untold for whatever reasons they had. And it is also clear that they inserted obviously Christian concepts, such as angels, Saints and blessings. Undoubtedly, they felt compelled to do so for their goal was to spread Christianity and not pagan beliefs.

However, it would appear that this editing and censorship was less than perfect. There are numerous loose ends. One day, while reading about the Second Battle of Mag Tuiried in Lebor Gabála Érenn, I came across this interesting entry:

Ogma fell, without being weak
at the hands of Indech son of De Domnann:
breasted Casmael the good fell at the
hands of Oichtriallach son of Indech.

An interesting juxtaposition — just who was this Casmael and why was his death reported in the same breath as that of Ogma, perhaps one of the greatest warriors of the era? Something does not add up here. A bit of research quickly disclosed that Casmael was supposed to be a bard, poet, and satirist, but nothing of his activities is reported. So just who was Casmael and why is he mentioned at all?

That nagging question gave rise to other, more serious questions. First, what happened to the pantheon of gods that the Celts undoubtedly had? There can be no question that such a pantheon must have existed given the well developed Druid religion and their very close association with the Romans, Gauls, Teutonic and Norse peoples. One would expect some form of cross pollination from those cultures. And through out the annals of the Irish Celtic tradition, there are repeated — very heavily repeated — references to their origins in "Greek Scythia" which is generally considered today to be the region to the north and northeast of the Black Sea. It is also intimately intertwined with Greek mythology, playing key roles in the tales about Zeus, Prometheus, Hercules as well as the Amazons. Yet there is no indication of Zeus or any of the Greek pantheon of gods and goddesses in the written Celtic sagas.

Returning to the question of just who was Casmael, in my mind he must have been a great warrior in his own right to have earned a mention in Lebor Gabála Érenn. And given that Ogma was both a great poet — indeed he invented the Ogham alphabet — and fearless warrior, there is no reason why Casmael could not have been both as well.

Assuming that, just what did Casmael do to warrant being expunged by the monks when they wrote down the sagas? We will never know the answer to that question, but my guess is he became involved with the Celtic pantheon of gods so deeply that it was simply easier for the monks to expunge his feats than to try to write around whatever it was he did that they objected to.

So began the saga of Casmael, or to use the modern spelling of his name, Cassmail. However, it did not long last that way. First, Cassmail needed to perform heroic deeds, and what better than proving himself worthy of marrying a lovely princess. Thus Dearbháil entered the story. However, the story quickly evolved from there to be more and more about Dearbháil and so was transformed from a warrior epic saga and into a fairy tale. And given the Irish roots in Greek Scythia, I simply borrowed the pantheon of gods from the Greeks and tied them with those from the Norse and Germanic traditions into a sort of United Nations of deities. Then in the second quest, Cassmail runs into Ailbe, a síofra or elf, who pretty much enmeshed herself into the remaining half of the tale. Clearly she was inspired by J. R. R. Tolkien.

While I tried to give the writing a Hiberno-English favor, the language was toned down a great deal to make it easier reading for the non-Irish reader.



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