Gods, Goblins, and Phantoms

From A Smaller Social History of Ancient Ireland 1906

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CHAPTER V....continued

4. Mythology: Gods, Goblins, and Phantoms.

Gods in general.—In the Irish language there are several names for God in general, without reference to any particular god. The most general is dia, which, with some variations in spelling, is common to many of the Aryan languages. It was used in pagan as well as in Christian times, and is the Irish word in universal use at the present day for God. In Irish literature, both lay and ecclesiastical, we sometimes find vague references to the pagan gods, without any hint as to their identity or functions. The 'gods' are often referred to in oaths and asseverations: and such expressions as "I swear by the gods that my people swear by" are constantly put into the mouths of the heroes of the Red Branch.

Individual Gods.—But we have a number of individual gods of very distinct personality who figure in the romantic literature, some beneficent and some evil. The names of many of them have been identified with those of ancient Gaulish gods—a thing that might be anticipated, inasmuch as the Gaelic people of Ireland and Scotland are a branch of the Celts or Gauls of the Continent, and brought with them, at their separation from the main stock, the language, the traditions, and the mythology of their original home.

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