Example term paper II

Example term paper II - Gatekeepers: Kings and the Divine...

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Gatekeepers: Kings and the Divine in The Mabinogi The Celts are both an extinct and immortal people. Although their lands, people and pagan culture succumbed to the insatiable growth of Christianity, the Celts left a distinct stamp on the legends and literature of Western civilization. The Mabinogi is a compilation of Welsh Celtic stories of the oral tradition. The only written texts, however, are those authored and compiled by medieval Christians. It is therefore difficult to distinguish Celtic influences from purely Christian culture and to determine omissions and transformations. At surface value the characters are Christian, frequently behave in medieval ways, follow medieval customs, and neglect any sort of polytheistic worship. Nevertheless, the text still bears strong Celtic influences. The concepts of leadership and sovereignty in the Mabinogi are distinctly Celtic in nature, and their influences are evident in the legendary tales of the Christian King Arthur. Sovereignty in Celtic mythology required courage, sacrifice, and most importantly, the passage of some kind of trial or ordeal, usually in or relating to the Otherworld. Glenys Goetinck acknowledges the common Celtic archetype of “a type of sovereignty tale in which the hero is tested in combat by Otherworld powers” (133). Leadership was bestowed only upon the victorious and the most worthy, usually in the form of guardianship of an otherworldly treasure or in a marital union with a goddess. Thus, Celtic kings were seen as having a special relationship with the divine. These select heroes could be considered wardens, or gatekeepers of the barrier between worlds, entrusted with the responsibility of maintaining cosmic balance and protecting their subjects. This ideal is prominently displayed in the Mabinogi . This paper will discuss the concepts of sovereignty and the Otherworld for the Celts. It will then show how the Mabinogi adheres to these 1
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conceptions, indicating that these values were not eliminated. Instead, medieval Christianity absorbed these remnants of Celtic culture and incorporated them into its own pantheon of literature and legend. It is necessary to begin an analysis of Celtic sovereignty by discussing their perception of the Otherworld. The Celtic spirit world was considered parallel to the real world. Caitlin Matthews defines it as: “the internal resonance of the everyday world: it exists out of time, simultaneously cross-intersecting all time and is thus accessible to visitation from any point in linear time. Within the Otherworld, archetypal forces are perceptible, essential wisdom teachings are available…it is the realm of quest and achievement, of challenge and encounter, of initiation and enlightenment. It is not illusory…heaven, hell or analogous to any drug-induced vision…the Otherworld exists in its own right, is consistent to its own rules and [is] a visitable reality.” (Matthews 10) Doors and gateways between the human world and the spirit world were widely accepted
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Example term paper II - Gatekeepers: Kings and the Divine...

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