Fiery Shapes: Celestial Portents and Astrology in Ireland and Wales 700-1700 by Mark WilliamsFiery Shapes: Celestial Portents and Astrology in Ireland and Wales 700-1700 by Mark Williams

Fiery Shapes: Celestial Portents and Astrology in Ireland and Wales 700-1700

byMark Williams

Hardcover | October 2, 2010

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The presentation of the magical and mantic in Celtic literature has persistently been dogged by misunderstanding and over-romanticized readings. Among the misconceptions about the ancient and medieval Celtic peoples, the notion of a specifically 'Celtic' astrology remains widespread in thepopular mind. This study aims to counter such myth-making, and to demonstrate how a number Irish and Welsh literary writers in the medieval and Early Modern period conceived of portents in the heavens - comets, blood-coloured moons, darkened suns - and what they knew of the complex art of astrology.Early Irish churchmen felt that the end of the world was imminent, and this book explores the ways in which they saw signs in the heavens as evidence of impending apocalypse, and how they adapted such millenarian imagery for use in native sagas in Irish. It then moves on to an extended discussion ofthe cloud-divination ascribed to Irish druids in high medieval literary texts; this has sometimes naively been taken as evidence for the actual customs of the druidic caste, but it is shown here to be a development of the later Middle Ages, long after the druids' disappearance. Turning to Wales, thecosmological knowledge of two linked figures is scrutinized: the super-poet Taliesin, and King Arthur's prophet Merlin, whom Geoffrey of Monmouth represented in the mid 12th century as an astrological sage with a purpose-built observatory. Evidence for the knowledge of astrology amongst the learnedpoets of later medieval Wales is then laid out, with an analysis of a powerful late 15th century poem indicting the evil influence of the planet Saturn; such knowledge seems to have been largely medical in nature, and the book concludes with an examination of a number of Welsh astrological texts inmanuscript, setting them against the longest astrological poem in a Celtic language, the mid 17th century Puritan mystic Morgan Llwyd's spiritualizing and evangelical 'Heavenly Science'.
Dr. Mark Williams studied Classics and English at Oxford before completing graduate work in Celtic Studies. He is a currently a Research Fellow at Peterhouse, Cambridge, where he teaches medieval Irish, Welsh, and English Literature.
Title:Fiery Shapes: Celestial Portents and Astrology in Ireland and Wales 700-1700Format:HardcoverDimensions:256 pages, 9.21 × 6.14 × 0.03 inPublished:October 2, 2010Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0199571848

ISBN - 13:9780199571840


Table of Contents

List of IllustrationsAbbreviationsPreface: literature, portents, and astrology1. Celestial portents and apocalypticism in medieval Ireland2. Druids, cloud-divination, and the portents of Antichrist3. Taliesin and Geoffrey of Monmouth's astrological portents4. Comets, portents, and astrology in late medieval Wales5. Morgan Llwyd and the spiritualization of astrologyAfterwordBibliographyGlossary of Celtic and astrological termsGeneral Index