The Dúile

Ancient Ways or 20th Century Neo-Paganism?

In this written piece, I am not deliberately trying to dispell notions that are modern ideals of neo-paganism believed to be that of ancient paths, but tracing their origins. In this one in particular, the Dúile or the Nine Elements will be examined. It is important to remember that in Ireland, in particular, there is no written evidence handed down through the generations as everything was transferred from generation to generation orally. Ogham is believed by the archaeological community to date back as far as the 5th Century, used as commerations of names on stone and monks transcribed the sagas of old onto manuscripts from the 8th Century onwards. They also got a Christian twist over time to suit the intergration and establishment of the new religion. In the 17th Century, John Aubrey (1626-1697) brought an interest into the mega and neolithic monuments surrounding the Engilsh countryside (see https://orderofcelticwolves.com/2020/08/03/john-aubrey-founder-of-druid-renaissance/?fbclid=IwAR2PKpFaGS09j2zMKWgt-nJRVVgwvTkA9vcPWPItkBP-k08WrGcQlFwipMQ for more details) and in the late 19th and early 20th Century WB Yeats (1865-1939) (https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/william-butler-yeats) brought a renewed interest in Irish mythology through his works in literature and the Arts. Because of these two figures and others, we can try to piece together the jigsaw of how our ancient ancestors society worked through prose, folklore, the old saga’s and archaelogical finds, but there are missing pieces still to be filled. Because of these missing pieces, we all (myself included) try to fill in the gaps with resonating parts of our own personal paradigms. There is no harm in that as long as we are able to accept that we may be wrong when new evidence surfaces and change our perception if need be. The damage that becomes is when we step on a soapbox and beat the air fanatically stating that “this way is the only way” and try to convert a flock of followers into your way of thinking. The true art of imparting wisdom is that others use the knowledge gained in their own way and not become a diluted carbon copy of your path.

So what are the Dúile? These are the Celtic nine elements. Accrording to ‘Foclóir Gaeilge-Béarla’ Ó Dónaill 1977, the word could be the plural form of element, creation or life depending on how it is used in a sentence (see https://www.teanglann.ie/en/fgb/D%C3%BAile ).This extract from ‘The Summerlands’ Searle Ó Dubhain 1997 will give an example of what the neopagan idea of these elements http://www.imbas.org/articles/elements_duile.html . We know that Tree-Ogham is a modern construct as the archaelogical finds on Ogham are not all tree related and in some modern texts there are additions that have no historical value except for that of modern divination. In fairness, Ó Dubhain does refer to the archaelogist Macalister’s translation of ‘An Lebor Gabala’ but he has made a mistake. Fintan of the Caesarians narrates the saga, not Ollamh of the Milesians. I believe this to be an unintentional error in Ó Duhnain’s perception of ‘Lebor Gabala’ to suit his ideal of the old ways as it is mixed with mythology of mainland Britain and possibly ‘The White Goddess’ Robert Graves 1948.

The Song of Amergin

Am gáeth i m-muir,
Am tond trethan,
Am fuaim mara,
Am dam secht ndirend,
Am séig i n-aill,
Am dér gréne,
Am cain lubai,
Am torc ar gail,
Am he i l-lind,
Am loch i m-maig,
Am brí a ndai,
Am bri danae,
Am bri i fodb fras feochtu,
Am dé delbas do chind codnu,
Coiche nod gleith clochur slébe?
Cia on co tagair aesa éscai?
Cia du i l-laig fuiniud gréne?
————————————-
I am wind on sea
I am ocean wave
I am roar of sea
I am the stag of seven battles
I am an eagle on the cliff
I am a tear of the sun
I am the fairest of plants
I am a wild boar in valour
I am a salmon in the pool
I am a lake in the plain
I am a hill of poetry
I am a word of knowledge
I am the head of the spear in battle
I am the God that puts fire in the head
Who shed light on uncut dolmen?
Who announces the ages of the moon?
Who shows the place where the sun sleeps?
If Not I
https://cinematicpoems.com/2019/08/17/song-of-amergin-a-cinematic-poem-short-film-in-ireland-directed-by-arnie-hensman-2019/
As you can see, there is a difference between the original prose and Ó Dubhain’s.

So where do they come from if not Amergin’s tale? The late Victorian Age had developed an interest in Eastern Occultism in the wake of Christianity that was beleaguered by scientific developments and new biblical criticisms. For some, explorations of hermetic thought, ritual magick and romaticised notions of Eastern wisdom plugged the gap left by the decline of Christian dogma, ‘Victorian Occultism and the Making of Modern Magic:Invoking Tradition’ A. Butler 2011. From 1899, Lady Gregory and Edward Martyn (colleagues of Yeats) blended the two in their literary accomplishments. The 9 elements are very similar to the 9 chakras. https://satorirei.com/2015/07/28/the-9-chakras/comment-page-1/ .

Unfortunately the trail goes cold when trying to research the Dúile beyond the Celtic Revival. Others may fair better. I would be better for you to compare the Dúile with the chakras for yourselves and draw your own conclusions rather than go by mine.

Seán Ó Tuama.

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