Saturday, January 22, 2011

Cuchalainn - hero or villain?

I went to a really interesting workshop today on Irish myths. I've been addicted to reading about myths and archetypes for the last few months (thank you, Joseph Campbell) so this sounded right up my street. It's organised by Sandy Dunlop from the Bard Summer School and Camille Donegan of Alive-o Productions and took place - fittingly - in the Pearse Museum in Rathfarnham.

Padraig Pearse would have been proud. Over the next six months, the group will be examining and deconstructing Irish myths and the plan is to develop a performance piece out of the work to be performed in the Museum later this year.

The biggest myth of all is of course, Cuchulainn. But a very good question was posited which was: is it right that he should be our central male archetype? Is he a character to aspire to? Sure, he's a great warrior and a fighter. He gets things done (never thinks things out in advance). But he's also a sociopath who acts like The Terminator and destroys everything he touches. He kills his best friend and his own son. His story is tragic, painful and full of loneliness - it's tough being the best warrior EVER.

The biggest message we got from Cuchalainn's myth is that he is not in control of his own destiny - even though he's really trying to control everything. He's also a character who never really becomes an adult. What does this say, if anything, about Irish culture? That we hero-worship him?

It was all interesting stuff and I'm really looking forward to seeing what the next six months bring in terms of the other myths. They have timeless relevance and should be told, re-told and tooled into other stories. And at times like these, they are pieces of coded folk wisdom that may provide the answers we so badly need.

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