tower_of_babel_paintingThe tower of Babel

(This early Israelite myth tells the story of the advent of many languages.)

Now the whole earth had one language and the same words. And as they migrated from the east, they came upon a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there.  And they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.” And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar.   Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves; otherwise we shall be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth.”
God came down to see the city and the tower, which mortals had built. And God said, “Look, they are one people, and they have all one language; and this is only the beginning of what they will do; nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. Come, let us go down, and confuse their language there, so that they will not understand one another’s speech.”
So God scattered them abroad from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city. Therefore it was called Babel, because there God confused the language of all the earth; and from there God scattered them abroad over the face of all the earth.                        Genesis 11:1-9 (NRSV)

The many talents of Lugh

(This Irish myth is centred around the Celtic god/hero Lugh. Lugh’s name may be associated with light and lightening and in the ancient world he was likened to the Roman trickster-god, Mercury. Lugh’s father was one of the Tuatha de Danaan, the tribe of the goddess Danu, and he later led them into battle.)

At the same time, another assembly was also being held at Tara, the capital of the Tuatha Dé Danann. Nuada was celebrating his return to the throne by a feast to his people. While it was at its height, a stranger clothed like a king came to the palace gate. The porter asked him his name and errand.

“I am called Lugh,” he said. “I am the grand-son of Diancecht by Cian, my father, and the grand-son of Balor by Ethniu, my mother.”

“But what is your profession?” asked the porter; “for no one is admitted here unless he is a master of some craft.”

“I am a carpenter,” said Lugh.

“We have no need of a carpenter. We already have a very good one; his name is Luchtainé.

“I am an excellent smith,” said Lugh.

“We do not want a smith. We have a very good one; his name is Goibniu.”

“I am a professional warrior,” said Lugh.

“We have no need of one. Ogma is our champion.”

“I am a harpist,” said Lugh.

“We have an excellent harpist already.”

“I am a warrior renowned for skilfulness rather than for mere strength.”

“We already have a man like that.”

“I am a poet and tale-teller,” said Lugh.

“We have no need of such. We have a most accomplished poet and tale-teller.”

“I am a sorcerer,” said Lugh.

“We do not want one. We have numberless sorcerers and druids.”

“I am a physician,” said Lugh.

“Diancecht is our physician.”

“I am a cup-bearer,” said Lugh.

“We already have nine of them.”

“I am a worker in bronze.”

“We have no need of you. We already have a worker in bronze. His name is Credné.”

“Then ask the king,” said Lugh, “if he has with him a man who is master of all these crafts at once, for, if he has, there is no need for me to come to Tara.”

So the door-keeper went inside, and told the king that a man had come who called himself Lugh the Ioldanach, or the “Master of all Arts”, and that he claimed to know everything.

The king sent out his best chess-player to play against the stranger. Lugh won, inventing a new move called “Lugh’s enclosure”.

Then Nuada invited him in. Lugh entered, and sat down upon the chair called the “sage’s seat”, kept for the wisest man.

Ogma, the champion, was showing off his strength. Upon the floor was a flagstone so large that four-score yokes of oxen would have been needed to move it. Ogma pushed it before him along the hall, and out at the door. Then Lugh rose from his chair, and pushed it back again. But this stone, huge as it was, was only a portion broken from a still greater rock outside the palace. Lugh picked it up, and put it back into its place.

The Tuatha Dé Danann asked him to play the harp to them. So he played the “sleep-tune”, and the king and all his court fell asleep, and did not wake until the same hour of the following day. Next he played a plaintive air, and they all wept. Lastly, he played a measure which sent them into transports of joy.

gerard7When Nuada had seen all these numerous talents of Lugh, he began to wonder whether one so gifted would not be of great help against the Fomors. He took counsel with the others, and, by their advice, lent his throne to Lugh for thirteen days, taking the “sage’s seat” at his side.

Lugh summoned all the Tuatha Dé Danann to a council.

Taken from “The mythology of the British Isles” by Charles Squire 1905

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