On the Taking of Ireland

I am reminded, by something I said over on Swords and Space (over there on the right), that there is a controversy, or perhaps just a mystery, in ethnoanthropology. Namely, by all genetic analysis, the English and French are both Celtic, while the Irish...are Scandinavian.

Now, it's known why the English and French are Celtic, despite the former speaking a Germanic language and the latter being named after a Germanic tribe. Namely, no invading force can displace the native populace, unless they have overwhelming numbers and/or vast technological superiority. A cultural prejudice against intermarriage and a disparity of disease immunities may be necessary, too (why yes, I am talking about the New World, penetrating of you to notice). Look at Latin America—the Spanish had superior technology and the Indians had no immunity to their diseases, but nevertheless much of Latin America is majority-Indian to this day. Most of those Indians, however, are Spanish in culture—because what the invaders can do is impose their own culture. Thus, the British became Germanized, despite still being Britons. The Gauls didn't become all that Frankified...except in their politics, where what had been Roman administrative divisions were given as vassal-gifts like rings in a mead-hall.

But Ireland? It's ridiculous to suppose Vikings are the explanation for why the Irish test as Scandinavian; the Vikings didn't raid that much, and they raped even less. More pleasantly, some Vikings did settle here and there in Ireland—everywhere but Connaught, that's why the English names of the Four Kingdoms have the Norse place-name ender "-ster" on the end. But they didn't settle anything like as extensively in Ireland as in Britain; Ireland has nothing comparable to Yorkshire, the former Danelaw.

Besides, again, no invading force can supplant the natives without several factors being just right, and the Irish outnumbered the Norsemen, had roughly comparable technology, were prone to all the same diseases, and neither party objected to intermarriage with the other.

I think, though, that I have the answer. Remember how I said the Danes were the Flowing Water people? Well, in Irish mythology, the second-to-last tribe to invade the island were divine beings called the Tuatha Dé Danann—which is "Tribe of Flowing Water" (Danu, the goddess, is "flowing water"—and "Poseidon" means "husband of said goddess"). The final invaders, the Milesians (the modern Irish; the mythological homeland of their people was in Spain), after defeating the Tuatha Dé Danann, agreed to a treaty with them, where they would offer worship at various sacred sites, in exchange for the Dé Danann staying underground.

What if, at some point in recent prehistory, a group of Proto-Danes settled Ireland? And then, centuries later—after they'd become the dominant populace—they were invaded in turn by Celts from the Iberian peninsula? The Celts wouldn't have been able to displace those Scandinavians, but they would have been able to impose their culture, language, and religion on them. And nothing is more typical, in the history of that sort of religion, than to impose certain "penances", in the forms of sacrifices and festivals, after a conquest. Half the Ancient Roman religious calendar is sacrifices to propitiate those slain in Rome's ancient wars, and the Lemures may have originated as the Remures, designed to pacify the unquiet shade of Remus himself.

Incidentally, one of the other tribes postulated to have inhabited Ireland, according to mythology, are the Firbolg—supposedly the Belgae branch of the Gauls (after whom Belgium is named).


Nicholas D.C. Wansbutter said...

Well, most of Latin America is actually majority-Mestizo rather than majority-Indian. I believe this is mostly because the Spanish DIDN'T have a cultural prejudice against intermarriage.

From a certain perspective, that means the Indians of South America were displaced -- but by a new "race" that's a mixture of the invaders and themselves.

Same thing happened in New France, which is why you get lots of Métis up in Canada. That because in Catholicism humans are humans. It's the Protestants (English and Dutch) who had the major cultural opposition to intermarriage.

Sophia's Favorite said...

Well...yes. But most of the Mestizos are still Native American in terms of things like lactose tolerance and metabolizing alcohol, and in terms of blood-types—because the Spanish were just a small admixture. Similarly, though the Irish have many Celtic traits (dark hair, for instance—contrary to the stereotype, red hair is almost exclusively Scandinavian), they're still predominantly Scandinavian, genetically.

Interestingly, while the Spanish and French routinely intermarried with Indians, the black people in places like Haiti, Cuba, and Brazil are much more purely African than in the English colonies. Indians, after all, were mostly freemen, while blacks were mostly slaves—and French and Spanish slaveowners didn't (legally) have sexual rights to their slaves.