I became fascinated with Ireland and Scotland sometime in my teens. Not too many years had passed before it became known to me that many of my ancestors came from these countries. Naturally, I went through a phase of considering it a matter of heritage, as so many Americans do, before escaping the romanticism of that notion and properly considered it as a matter of ancestry. I am still unclear why we do this, but perhaps it because America is such a young country and lacking in the depth of history as those countries? A need for a sense of belonging to be proud of or boast over? It’s almost a fetishization to claim kinship to nobility, or celebrities, or, a personal favorite, a blood kinship to Native American chiefs and/or princesses. No one makes exorbitant claims of being related to Archie the cesspit cleaner.
Anyway, after grounding myself to the reality that I am neither an Irish- or Scots-American, the fascination remains. The mythology and legends alone are enthralling, but there is a solemnity or respect given to words. In the Ulster Cycle of Irish mythology, there is Bricriu, the satirist. He is a Trickster character, known for being so contentious that his voice could spoil milk and cause discord even amongst the most loving of bonds. A marvelous fellow to invite to a party! Yet, he was, because the consequences could be worse than having him under your roof. Masculinity and martial prowess were so prized, that the humiliation of being brought low in such a way troubled their minds.
Words were powerful and this can be seen in these myths and epics through druids, vates, fili, bards, and, of course, satirists. As these cultures committed nothing to writing, knowledge was passed on through oral tradition. Tales were told to educate, but could also serve as entertainment. The Gaelic word Seanchai is basically translated as storyteller. As all these things I have been speaking of relating to words and their power, in my mind at least, Seanchai is a title of merit and one that I have long desired to earn. To be able to draw out connections with others through wordplay, either written or oral, poetic or fiction, is a dream that consumes me, but an aspiration it feels I could never earn.
Yet, I dream.