There exists a difference between Gnosticism on one side, and the troubadours and poets of love on the other, as whereas Gnostics believed that nature was corrupted and that the lure of the senses was to be repudiated, in the poetry of love with its troubadours and harpists, in stories such as Tristan and the work of Gottfried above all, nature in its realisation of love is an end glory in itself, being the senses, ennobled and refined by courtesy, art, loyalty, courage and temperance, the guides of this realisation. As examples of poets of love we find Bernard de Ventadorn or Guiraut de Borneich. In Germany, the singers of Minne (Amor) also appeared as singers of love poems.
All of this happened on an age of treachery, arson, pillage and massacre everywhere. An age in which love was corruption, a world in which social relationships were based on business interests, castes, social classes… Instead, all these new writers believed that not heaven but this blossoming earth was to be recognised as the true domain of love, as it is of life, and the corruption ruiners of love were not of nature but of society, both lay and ecclesiastical, especially the public order and most immediately its sacra-mentalised loveless marriages.
For the absolute lover, as for the saint, the world with its values of honour, justice, loyalty and prudence is well lost in the realisation of desire. This ecstasy, experienced with love, had never being part of the knight-lady type of chronicles, either of the french courtesy. This love poetry started being experienced in some old Irish stories of the love spot, such as the one of Diarmuid O’Duibhne, in which the clues of love-magic and forest themes appear for the first time. It is on these stories that also appear the boar-slain god and hero-king of the old megalithic pig-god complex: the ever-dying, ever living-son, consort and lover of the goddess-queen of the universe: Dumuzi-Osiris-Adonis. There is a contrast between the story of Theseus and the Minotaur in one side and this Celtic tale, which was written 200 years before Saint Patrick, on the times of the high king of Ireland, Cormac, son of Airt, son of Conn of the Kundred battles, who ruled in Tara. This Celtic love story involves Grianne as the female love character and the just mentioned Diarmuid O’Duibhne, as her male partner. The tale can be compared to the classical greek story of Theseus in many ways, but we won’t go into that in this article. Instead we will look at some similarities and differences. Theseus shows us that greek stories stress on society and achievement, ethical values and common day, while the Celtic tale empathise on this abyss of inwardness, erotic-personal value and the realisation of rapture.
The poem of Grianne and Diarmuid O’Duibhne brings up the idea of a love-magic potion of irresistible force. It brings up also the flight from the community and the forest years. The classic heritage is reflected on the characters who were on the king’s side, for whom duty and honour, social ties and service, were the measures of personal merit. Instead, the Celtic and romantic works of the northern poets have another song connected with nature: a lyric learnt in silence, alone, by one, or by two together of the noble hearts unafraid of the unmarked way. Those new characters follow intuition, follow nature and allow the senses to guide them. In the poetry of Gottfried’s, love is born from the eyes, in the world of day, in a moment of aesthetic arrest, but opens within to a mystery of night.
Celtic mythology believed on an immanent being, who was within and part of nature. In Irish mythology existed the trickster, Manannan Mac Lir, a sea-god, who through magic concealed from human eyes fairy hills. Under this mythology, the sea is seeing as nature’s womb. The mystery of the ultimate nature of a divine being, beyond the steadily mounting tension between polarities, joy and sorrow, love and honour, death and life, light and darkness, is pictured a mighty goddess like a womb that gives all life. The self-surpassing power of love, if wakes up on the noble heart, brings pain to the entire system of fixed concepts, judgements, virtues and ideas of the mortal being assaulted. Mannanan, though is similarly characterised as Poseidon or Shiva, who bears in the right hand the trident, and who is recognised in some stories as the lord of beasts, the player of the lyre, seems to be characterised as one side of this divine nature.
All these mythological stories incorporate the force of destiny in the shaping of life, but also instinct and character, which contrasts with influence of the outer circumstance. According to these mythological structures, our acts are the product of two factors: our intelligible character and our motivations, which come to us from without, working on our character. The ego is the critical observer of both factors and of their effects. Interestingly, the divine appearing on these Celtic tales is connected to other similar characters, and can also be linked to the god of the boar, the guide to the underworld, and the vital force of nature, with the eyes of the grandmother engraved, who is the king of the land below the waves and who controls the destiny of nature.
So on one side we find the horse sacrificing, symbol of the sun and the king, in contrast to the heroism of the son of the abyss, Dumuzi-Absu: the ever dying, self-resurrecting son, who is the bull of his own mother and whose sign is the orb of night, whose world is not of history but of nature and its mystery, nature without and within. This divine being, encountered in Egypt, with Osiris and Horus, points us out also into the phoenix Bird, a multi coloured soul-bird, which resurrects of itself from the ash of its self-immolation.
Alchemists believed on the nigred (blackness) or the melanesis (blackening), which was characterised by the decay or disintegration of the materials in the retort and their reduction thus to the condition of elementary matter (prima materia), which was to say, the undifferentiated state of the primal energies or waters out of which the world first came into being. For at the end of each aeon, the forms of all things must disintegrate and dissolve into this primal state before a new universe can arise, and analogously when the womb is fertilised, the substance within it, breaks down to be reformed into the new life. The period in between those ends and its resurrection, the locals believed were a chaos of opposites (the paradox of the monster serpent eating its tail). This chaos of pairs of opposites, where all coalesce, in human psycho pertains to the period when regression begins, a backward period of this civilisation to the idyll of paradise and beyond that, the primal abyss.
Most ancient cultures bear testimony of the idea of the two that on the pit of darkness again become one for the renewal of the flow of the forms of time, which in their separateness hold fixed the life that in flow is the substance of all. These two opposites in some cultures have been drawn using left and right. The left side, seeing as the way of the heart, the shield side, has been symbolic of feeling, mercy and love, vulnerability and defencelessness, the feminine virtues and dangers: mothering and seduction, the tidal powers of the moon and substances of the body, the rhythms of the seasons: gestation, birth, nourishment and fosterage, yet equally malice and revenge, unreason, dark and terrible wrath, black magic, poisons, sorcery and delusion, but fair enchantment, beauty, rupture and bliss. And the right side symbolises the male: action, weapons, hero-deeds, protection, brute force and both cruel and benevolent justice. The masculine virtues and angers are: egoism and aggression, lucid luminous reason, sunlike creative power, but also cold unfeeling malice, abstract spirituality, blind courage, theoretical dedication and sober unplayful moral force.
Under this world of opposites and chaos, flourishing out of this constant contradiction, god and the divine are an absolute ground, in which all otherness is unity and all diversity is identity. This is a world that nourished in primitive mythology, with the beginnings of agriculture, a world in which we are all one, we are part of a whole and all is on us.
Based on Dr Joseph Campbell “The Masks of God: Creative Mythology”
Picture taken from: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diarmuid_Ua_Dui