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 The Red Star of Ruin

I was recently sent an excerpt from some ancient Irish Celtic folktales about Deirdre of Ulster.  Deirdre was a woman of legendary beauty who occupied a tragic position in the old Celtic pagan mythology, similar to that of Helen of Troy.  There are other connections with Near East paganism to explore here, too, in the form of Bel or Baal.  From her birth, prophecies were told that the beautiful Deirdre would be the cause of great strife and war.  In this context, my friend Mickey noticed in his reading of the old poem that Deirdre was likened to a ‘red star of ruin’:

O Deirdre, terrible child,

For thee, red star of our ruin,

Great weeping shall be in Eri-

Woe, woe, and a breach in Ulla.”

Druid song of Cathvah (1)

Where does the concept of this portent come from?  Comets were often associated with catastrophe in ancient times, but not red stars.  Perhaps it denoted the planet Mars, with its long-held association with gods of war?  That would be within context.  However, the translation is specifically a star, rather than a planet or ‘wandering star’.  Perhaps they are denoting the prominent Taurean red star Aldebaran, which has been associated by some with the ancient Celtic festival of Beltaine (2).

Whether this association with Aldebaran is correct or not (and I suspect it isn’t), the connection with Beltaine itself is interesting because its meaning is ‘the two fires of Bile’.  The festival marks the end of winter, and a ritual of purification which takes place between two fires.  If we have a red star as one of these ‘fires’, then might we assume that the Sun is the other?  Read More…

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