Lore, Lit and Canon

July 8, 2017 at 12:24 am 4 comments

July’s Gaelic Roundtable topic is Lore. Before I tackle that, I need to figure out what the heck even to me counts as “lore”.

Folklore is stories, customs, shared among a group of people- rather than attributable to any one person. It is generally shared orally, but especially with the Internet there is now a lot of written and pictorial folklore, such as conspiracy theories and memes. There are several kinds of folklore that I see as relevant. One is folklore that is so old that it is intermixed with literature, the next category. Another is folklore collected into books or recorded. It’s important to considered selection bias on the part of which people were available and willing to be interviewed, what stories, sayings and songs were included by folklorists and archivists, and what has or hasn’t been changed. Sometimes there were social and political motivations for collecting the folklore and that impacts what is included. Some of this folklore is in the home countries themselves, others can be found in various parts of the Irish and Scottish diaspora.

Literature– many of the texts such as the Book of Invasions, the Book of Leinster and so forth, I think are more accurately described as medieval literature rather than folklore or mythology per se. However some of the texts draw on folklore as well as history and it is often hard to tell what is what. Other literature that we might not see as being religious per se, but has cultural importance and influence such as works by W.B. Yeats  can also be part of this category. Since our mythologies are very fragmented, finding inspiration in modern fantasy novels can serve as a sort of midrash.

Canon is the collection of texts considered authoritative by a religion- or a fandom! The primary example of course, being the Bible. Though Gaelic polytheism is not really a text-based religion, there are some texts that are seen by most as more valid than others. Some of us might include more Celtic Christian or Celtic Twilight era texts. And since we (quite rightly!) have no central authority there is no Irish, Scottish, Manx or pan-Gaelic canon. But I think an individual or group could have a personal canon. These distinctions could be useful in our discussions of comparative practices.


Entry filed under: Blogjects, Celtic/Druid, Concepts & Definitions, Gaelic Roundtable, Lore & Lit.

Wanderings of a would-be Gael Intuition

4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Anna  |  July 12, 2017 at 4:14 am

    Categorizing the Cycle texts as Literature as opposed to Canon or Folklore, I think, is a very interesting move and provides something to think on…. Thank you for your contribution this month!

  • 2. caelesti  |  July 19, 2017 at 10:53 pm

    This actually wasn’t intended originally to be my Roundtable entry but it seems to work as such!

  • 3. Roundup: July 2017 – The Gaelic Roundtable  |  July 30, 2017 at 9:34 am

    […] Lore, Lit, and Cannon by PaganLeft [WordPress] Lore by UnfetteredWood [Blogspot] […]

  • […] are very much up to us as contemporary revivalists to discover and develop. Beings in our lore and literature are not easily categorized as gods, ancestors, heroes and spirits of place. There is much overlap […]


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