Tara

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/__|            HOMETOWN_IRELAND "HOMETOWN IRELAND"             |__\
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Celtic Ireland is a verdant land, home to master druids, enchanted creatures,
and legendary warriors. A wide variety of herbs can be obtained in the area,
and Ireland's inhabitants have the potential to become expert herbalists. Many
a fine balladeer and poet have hailed from the Emerald Isle, yet they still
have not attained the full skills reserved for master bards. Thieves of some
note have made their start there, and, like many, are generally multi-talented.
Mages, although not as expert as those from Arabia, can become quite skilled
if they apply themselves to their studies. Technical skills are unknown in this
land that is slow to embrace change. The mighty warriors from there rely on
their brute force, fighting skills, and enchanted blades in their epic battles
with foes.

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/__|              'CELTIC IRELAND' IRELAND TARA CELTIC SIDHE              |__\
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Archeological excavation provides evidence for the lifestyle of the peoples
of pre-historic Ireland. The type of monument which more than any other is
traditionally believed to have had its origins in the Celtic Iron age is the
hillfort, ringfort, or dun. In its loosest context, these 'forts' are merely
the stackyard enclosure of a farming family within which was the circular
dwelling house or houses of planks or wattle and the animal shelters,
farmyards, or stockades. Most hilltop sites would have an area enclosed with
one or several bank of earth and rubble, faced originally with stone. The
focus of the settlement was a circular house or houses, or, as at Navan
Fort, identified with Emain Macha, the one-time capital of Ulster, a large
mound crowning the hill, traditionally associated with the ancient seat or
dwelling of the people of Ulster. Artifacts at various sites indicate the
existence of workshops or smithys both for bronze and early iron-work, as
well as spindles, jewelry, horsebits, and other evidence of domestic life.

Aside from limited archeological evidence, the picture of ancient Ireland is
obscure. Source texts, written down from oral transmission in the early to
late Middle Ages are suspect with regard to information about a society more
than 1,000 years earlier. However, the learned class in Ireland was charged
with the preservation in oral form from one generation to the next of a
considerable body of material in which the tales, poems, genealogies,
eulogies, and even the laws of society were enshrined. The laws were first
written down in the 7th century or late 6th and in the 8th they were
codified. The structure outlined in the law tracts is basically the same as
that of the continental Celts of nearly a millennium earlier. The law tracts
are therefore an indication of the longevity of oral tradition as fostered
and preserved by the learned class, and there is nothing inherently
improbable in proposing a 1st century or earlier date for the sagas also.

Just as the Irish law tracts mirror many aspects of the society of
Continental Gaul as revealed by the classical writers, so are the Irish
heroic tales regarding as bearing witness to an earlier age when a type of
warrior society existed in Ireland comparable to that of Gaul in the 3rd and
4th centuries BC. Particular importance is attached to practices such as
fighting from war-chariots, to boasting and duelling before battle, to
feasting and to the 'champion's portion', cattle-raiding, beheading, and
individual weapons.

In preliterate days, Irish society was structured according to nobles, a
learned class and freemen. The Irish learned class, the aes dana, comprising
poets, storytellers, lawyers, historians, wise men, and many other grades,
had its counterpart in the druids of Gaul. The name druid was more or less
interchangeable with fili, meaning wise man or seer. There is little
information on how a druid was trained. From various accounts, a druid seems
to have had one or more students attached to his retinue or household. The
method of teaching was oral instruction: long lists and correspondences were
learned by heart, but this theoretical teaching was undoubtedly supplemented
by practical knowledge also. Another word held in common in Ireland and Gaul
was bard, meaning 'the learned man in his function as the praiser of great
men'. The Irish aristocratic privileged learned class preserved its records
and promulgated its lore in oral form in the same manner as did its Gaulish
counterpart.

Perhaps more than any other people, the Celts have always cherished the
Otherworld. Very often the mound is a place of entry or a natural boundary
where both worlds meet. Many gifts pass between mortals and the Otherworld
folk. Most frequently, it is the faery mounds, which are designated homes of
the Sidhe or Otherworldly beings. These are well-known and carefully avoided
by those who fear the power of the Otherworld. The inner world of the sidhe
is famous for its women, known as bean-sidhe or banshees as they become in
later tradition. Although early Irish society was male-dominated, women had
a prominent role in the literature and while the male heroes were idealized
portraits of human warriors, women dominated the world of the supernatural.
Since the period in which the tales were committed to writing was Christian,
the goddesses were no longer worshipped, and their role in the literature
became a non-religious one. Some goddesses were euhemerized; that is, they
were made into pseudo-historical queens and tribal ancestors. Other
goddesses became fairies or saints.
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