A talk exploring folktales collected from Co. Leitrim in the twentieth century
The Cow Goddess in Irish and Indo-European tradition.
Our monthly talks on Living in A Leitrim Landscape curated by Padraig Meehan continue with Eamonn P. Kelly, former Keeper of Irish Antiquities.
Folktales collected from Co. Leitrim in the twentieth century, on behalf of the Irish Folklore Commission, preserve elements derived from ancient mythology that arose out of the religious cosmology of early Indo-European society. It is an oral tradition that extends back for over five thousand years, linking Ireland with various cultures that extended as far afield as Northern India, Egypt and Eastern & Northern Europe. The earliest religious beliefs of farming communities recognised the fundamental necessity for a successful interaction between the sun and the earth to produce fertility and growth and this led to belief in a male sun god and a female earth goddess. Throughout Indo-European tradition a key role of the female deity came to be personified in the form of a Cow Goddess who resided in the Otherworld but who emerged at times of crisis to assist humanity. The goddess is referred to in early Irish mythology as the goddess Bóand and is preserved in modern folktales under various names such as the Old Cow (Sean Bó); the White Cow (Bó Finne) and Glas Ghaibhleann - called Glas Gaibhnann in Scottish tradition. In Welsh tradition she is called Fuwch-Gyfeilioru and she is the powerful goddess Hathor in ancient Egyptian belief.
In an illustrated talk that will draw on local Co. Leitrim folklore and folk traditions, as well as on archaeology and placename evidence, Eamonn P. Kelly, former Keeper of Irish Antiquities, will investigate key elements of the widespread mythology of the Cow Goddess and he will discuss her role and significance in the pantheon of ancient Indo-European deities.
We hope that this monthly series is informative and that it sparks learning, discussion and debate.