Urthona Issue 25

CELTIC CONNECTION

Issue (25) June 2008

Urthona 25 An exploration of the myths of the celtic world, their enduring appeal and their continued relevance. This issue is for those who are trying to make connections with the pagan roots of our culture, who want to make these wonderful old stories meaningful for their lives, and who want to make links with the pre-christian ways of spirituality which existed in the British Isles before the Roman invasion.
2 TRISTAN AND ISEULT
Dhivan discovers the relevance of this ancient romantic story
8 TALIESIN FOR THE 20TH CENTURY
Scholar Anne Skea reveals how Ted Hughes belongs in the Bardic tradition
16 HERMIT ISLAND
A new Haibun (Haiku sequence) by Jane Whittle
17 LOVE AND ZEN
Interview with Hebridean Zen poet Kevin MacNeil
20 REFLECTIONS ON THE GODDESS
Poet Grevel Lindop meets the goddess
25 JOHN MEIRION MORRIS
The distinguished sculptor writes about his work
36 BRIGIT THE TRIPLE GODDESS
Hilaire Wood on the Irish Goddess
42 THE IRISH IN HOLLYWOOD
Ed Piercy on Hollywood's generally failed attempts to represent Irishness
PLUS FEATURES and REVIEWS

EDITORIAL

Welcome to our Celtic issue. A few years ago I decided to do a university English degree as a mature student. One of the first lectures I went to sticks in my mind. The lecturer strode up to the podium and began to warn us about mythology. 'Myths', he declared, 'are dangerous'. They could be used by unscrupulous people to manipulate us, to deprive us of our reason. To open oneself to the power of myth was to be but a few steps away from the mass rallies of the Nazis. One of purposes of the course, it seemed, was to inoculate our impressionable minds against such dangers! Well, of course myths are dangerous, but they are also the source of life itself, without them we live, eat, love and hate, grow old and die, in a one dimensional, utilitarian world, in which our values are nothing more than pragmatic expedients, designed to make life a bit less painful. But there is no getting away from it, for most of us the gods and heroes are not the vivid immediate presences that they were for our ancestors. We may have read about Odysseus, Beowulf or Cuchulain, but we do not think through myth. Seamus Heaney once said that as DNA is the genetic code for the human body, so myth is the poetic code for the human spirit. However, it seems that code is largely lost to us, its meanings buried beneath many cultural strata. To re-discover its healing powers we need to engage in a process of excavation. We may also need some guides to help us, people from our own times who have started on the same path. This issue of Urthona is dedicated to cultural archaeology of exactly that kind. We investigate one of the most mysterious and powerful mythological traditions of western culture, that of the Celtic peoples. We start by looking at the tragic story of Tristan and Iseult. Dhivan asks what it can tell us about the need most of us feel for grand passion in our lives, beyond all bounds and conventions. We will also approach cautiously the Great Goddess herself, both as the healing lady Brigit, and the figure of terrible beauty in Robert Graves' classic of imaginative anthropology The White Goddess. Grevel Lindop, who edited the modern edition of this seminal work addresses the vital question of how we can approach the old gods and goddesses with reverence, but avoid the kind of blind worship that deprives us of our reason and opens us to the manipulations of mass psychology. Then the distinguished scholar Anne Skea shows us how Ted Hughes was able to bring the mythic world into his quest for an authentic modern response to the age old desire for spiritual regeneration. His path poetic path was to align himself with the ancient Bardic tradition of the British Isles, while at the same time revealing the full horror of the spiritual wasteland into which we have fallen. Other artists have found the healing power of myth more immediately accessible, and we look at the work of one such, the Welsh sculptor John Meirion Morris, whose evocative works in bronze seem to speak to our times in a timeless symbolic language.
Ratnagarbha - editor