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Clans and Families of Ireland and Scotland
II. Gaelic Society

ture of ideas at least partly derived from the pre—Celtic Western-European peoples they conquered and assimilated—peoples of ancient sanctity and impressive temples (e.g., Stonehenge and Newgrange). Thus, one way or another the "dawn religion" seems to ultimately descend from the ancient fertility cults of Neolithic Europe (associated with the famous Cro-Magnon "mother-goddess" or "Venus" figures), and so we have the matrilineality of the Picts (see Chapter IV), and also the nature worship, "second sight," druids, folk-medicine and fertility rites associated with the folk-tradition of historical times. Later, Christians came to associate evil with the horned manifestation of the fertility spirit ("Pan incarnate"), and thus we have the horned devil of today; burning, it seems, with lust. Such ancient fertility cults perceived divinity in the "spark of life" (Moncreiffe 21), and the vitality of this belief is directly expressed in the folklore, music, and dance of Gaelic tradition (Murray 1921). Here faeries are not of the diminutive winged creatures of the traditional English "fairy-tale," but rather are life-sized inhabiters of the otherworld, or of our dreams at any rate.

Gaelic society combined the vitality of its ancient Indo-European tribalism with progressive social institutions, as we shall see in the next chapter. Furthermore, its very existence indicates that the Roman legacy was not the only alternative for Western advancement. Gaeldom long existed in the far west of Europe as a great tribal society never directly touched by the empire of Rome, a society showing its direct links with the most ancient European ethos. It could be brutal and barbaric, yet its church produced a beacon of humanism and civilization that lit the Western world from Aachen to Ravenna, and passed on an uncompromising legacy.

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