Origins of The Universe (Cosmology)
'The Tree of Life'
“The Celts have left no native myth of the world’s creation, though it would be strange if they lacked one...”- Proinsias Mac Cana (1)
Many cultures and religions have a ‘creation story’, that explains how everything existing came to be, but there have been no surviving Celtic creation stories ever found most likely due to the oral nature of the Celts.
In 2002 a team assembled at the Gerry Tobin Irish Language School, New York, to re-construct a version of the lost creation myth of the Celts based on surviving information they had of the Celts and in comparison to other ancient European creation myths that did survive to this day.(2) This is a summary of the story the team managed to re-construct:
Once upon a time, when there was no time, no gods or humans walked the surface of the land. But there was the sea, and where the sea met the land, a mare was born, white and made of sea-foam. And her name was Eiocha.
Not far from where the land met the sea, a tree grew, a strong and sturdy oak. On the oak grew a plant whose seeds were formed of the foam tears of the sea. To sustain her, Eiocha ate the seeds, these white berries, and they were transformed within her.
Eiocha grew heavy with child and gave birth to the god, Cernunnos. So great was her pain in childbirth that she ripped bark from the one tree and hurled it into the sea. The bark was transformed by the sea and became the giants of the deep.
Cernunnos was lonely and he saw the giants of the deep who were numerous, so he coupled with Eiocha and of their union came the gods, Maponos, Tauranis, and Teutates, and the goddess, Epona.
From then onwards the oak tree was used by the gods to create the first man and woman, as well as all the animals of the world. The gods used the tree to create thunder and lighting, a harp which was the creation of music.
The giants of the deep sea became jealous of the gods on land and all the things they were creating so they set out to flood the land with sea and take the land completely under water. The gods of the land were prepared for the attack of the giants of the deep and they took refuge in the big oak tree, using it all all they had created with it to protect themselves and the creatures of the land. The giants of the deep were slayed and returned to the sea and were then bound there by the gods.
This is 'The Tree of Life', and is the same tree as the oak tree in this Celtic creation story. The tree itself symbolises the way in which The Ancient Celts worshipped nature and believed that everything in life stemmed back and grew from nature.
The oak tree in the actual creation story is a metaphor for The Celts beliefs in nature. The way in which the gods used the tree to create things further demonstrates the way in which The Celts sought out meaning in nature.
1.Mac Cana, Proinsias. Celtic Mythology. New York: The Hamlyn Publishing Group, 1970. p. 57
2.Irish Tribes, ‘Reconstruction:The Lost Celtic Creation Myth’,retrieved 15th March 2014, http://www.irishtribes.com/articles/2012-11-lost-celtic-creation-myth-in-english.html