Being descended from the Foys on the paternal side and the Hunts on the maternal side makes it a pretty good bet that I could trace my family line back to old Eire. I first realized my name had Irish origins many years ago when my mother received a promotional packet by mail from a travel company that was sponsoring a "family reunion" of the Foys in Ireland. She didn't go, but I thought it strange that a name that sounds more Chinese than European was Irish.
I've confirmed this a few time since by asking at a local fair "coat of arms" both and by doing some Internet research. The latter produced the quote at the beginning of this journal entry.
My awareness of my Irish origins grew over the years as well as an appreciation of the Celtic culture behind it. The Celts were a people that first inhabited Ireland and eventually spread through the far northlands and even down into Europe. The Gauls that Caesar conquered in Spain were Celts, as were the Picts of Scotland that the Romans never conquered.
The culture of the pagan Celts is very interesting and inspires stories and art to this day. The idea of a European culture that lived short, brutal lives, so close to the rhythms of nature that they worshiped it, is compelling. They had great oral traditions of storytelling that were eventually written down. They were fierce warriors that the Romans took note of as they fought them, and even passed down accounts of them (like the Iceni warrior-queen, Boudica). And, being farmers and close to the land, they watched the seasons and marked the solstices with aligned stones filtering sunlight, such as at Newgrange.
Of course, they also practiced slavery and human sacrifice, which is not cool.
That was pagan Ireland. When Christianity reached them, principally through the work of Saint Patrick, they converted. It seems that the Celts found in Christianity a better way, and they converted as a nation just by changing their beliefs (for the most part) rather than being forced. This is a pretty rare instance of a national conversion that Thomas Cahill describes beautifully in his book, How the Irish Saved Civilization (which inspired the old TV series, Roar).
I also found Celtic inspiration in writing Dentville: The Ancients' Legacy. I drew from the idea that people compelled to live off the land, up-close and intimate, will once again attune themselves to the cycles of nature and appreciate the spiritual dimensions that permeate all things, because there is less that distracts them from this fundamental. And there will be those wholly wrapped up in the physical who will want only to control others, so they can work less and exploit more.
Living a harsh life close to nature and appreciating the spiritual was never a life mode exclusive to the Celts. Every preindustrial, agricultural culture had their version of it. It's just that the Irish Celts are the ones I relate to.
Today, the Irish are completely (as a people) Catholic and completely dominated by the great Western Empire. Unfortunately, they are on the disintegrating edge of the empire and suffering under the Neoliberal austerity that is spreading as a blight on humanity. But they will persevere because they are Irish.
So I encourage you to visit an Irish pub, raise a few mugs of Guinness beer, have a shot or two of Tullamore Dew, and watch Riverdance again.
We're all Irish today.
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