9. Celtic Cattle Raid of Cooley vs. the Greek Iliad

To understand some more differences between a Warrior based culture, like the Normans, and a Farmer based culture, like the Celts, let us compare the epic story of the Celts, The Cattle Raid of Cooley to the Greek epic, Homer’s Iliad and the Odyssey.

Celts fight over Bull – Greek’s sack City over Infatuation

The driving force of the Celtic story was that one tribe was going to take the bull of another tribe to mate with their magic cow. Breeding was very important in this ‘primitive’ culture. Two clans go to war over this bull.

In the Iliad and the Odyssey the war is over a woman. The gods smite Paris, a prince of Troy, with an irrational love for Helen, wife of the Achaean King Menelaus. Due to this love, which was based solely on her beauty, Paris kidnaps Helen. Because of beauty these two Greek city-states go to war. Eventually the Achaeans destroyed the entire city culture of Troy – only to be discovered 2000 years later below the rubble of 7 cities.

Like the Greeks, the Celts also had a war, where many men were killed and injured. However they did not attempt to pillage, plunder, and raze each other’s cities – nor rape the women. The war was over a bull - one tribe attempting to take it from the other. Once that was resolved, the war ended without retribution or revenge.

While Celtic agri-culture didn’t attempt to destroy each other’s clans over their fertility symbol, the bull, the Greek war over a woman only ended with the complete destruction of a city-state. Further Paris risked and lost his life and city because of a mere infatuation – as it was Helen’s beauty, not her personality or intelligence, that overwhelmed his rationality.

Iliad: Employ Treachery to destroy Enemies

While there were many subplots in Homer’s story, an overlying theme had to do with one city-state bragging about how clever they were to destroy the other by sneaking behind the others’ defenses as a present – the famous Trojan horse. “We gave them a present of peace, which we used to destroy them. We used deceit and treachery to obliterate our enemy. Don’t trust anyone, if you are smart. Beware of Greeks bearing gifts.”

What a cynical and heartless message. However it is the modus operandi of the Euro-Americans leaders - who speak with forked tongue to all the indigenous cultures they encounter - to exploit their resources and their people. Although the message is cynical it is obviously relevant to dealing with the snakes[i] that rule our countries. Beware of human treachery for it could lead to your doom.

The rulers of Western Civilization have employed the Trojan horse strategy regularly and effectively – the rule rather than the exception. ‘We’ come bringing the presents of ‘technology and civilization’. Once inside ‘we’ exploit and enslave the local cultures. Unfortunately they let ‘us’ in. Or maybe ‘we’ forced our way in. This too would not be anything new.

Cattle Raid: The Creative lost due to Male Pride

In The Cattle Raid the war finally ended when the male energy had finally exhausted itself. Both sides lost the Creative.

The full story of The Cattle Raid, in brief, was that two Druid magicians, who had the honored profession of swineherd, had gotten into a feud over who was more talented. As usual the conflict is rooted in male pride. Because they were Druids they could transform themselves into anything. They battled as hawks, stags, and many other creatures, Eventually they both turned into eels – were swallowed by two pregnant cows - and were born as bulls. Each of these bulls was born into the opposing Celtic tribes mentioned above.

When the one tribe finally defeated the other in battle and were able to have both bulls, they set them against each other to see which was most fit to mate with the magic cow. The two Druid magicians had their last battle. While one killed the other, he had exhausted himself so much that he died also. This, at last, ended the conflict. But the magic cow had no bull.

The symbolism is striking. The battling Druid magicians - who are finally born as incredibly strong bulls – symbolize the warlike male instinct. They fight and fight over issues of petty pride - which is the better magician. Eventually they are both killed in the senseless battle. Neither is able to mate with the magic cow, symbol of creativity, fertility and life. Instead of partaking in the Creative, their pride based competition ends in Death. The Magic Cow, pregnant with potential, is left barren. The simple conclusion is that the Male Aggressive principle needs to be tamed - domesticated - channeled - so that it doesn’t destroy itself and everything around it for the sake of pride.

Both Greek & Celtic wars rooted in pride

Both the Greek and Celtic wars were rooted in pride. Because King Menelaus’ pride was wounded when his wife was stolen, he and his army sacked the entire city of Troy. Similarly because the bragging of the opposing tribe wounded the pride of the Celtic leader he dragged these two Celtic tribes into a brutal war, where everyone lost. Even the bull that they were fighting over died soon after the conflict was over.[ii]

Ironically, the bull was initially offered as a gesture of friendship to the other tribe. But when the members of that tribe began boasting how they would’ve taken the bull by force if necessary, suddenly the leader of the clan offering the bull withdrew his offer and refused to change his mind - no matter how much the others apologized and pleaded. The stage was set for this war of the clans.

In this war, no agricultural land was destroyed forever as happened to the Greek city of Troy. The pride of the Celts led to a stupid war where only men died, while the war of the ‘sophisticated’ male gods led to the destruction of an entire city and the slaughter of all their inhabitants? Which is truly more primitive?

[i]Pardon this pejorative reference to snakes, who are actually a symbol of wisdom to those of us belonging to the most ancient religion of fertility. The gods of war vilified the snake by turning him into a symbol of treachery. See the next section, Evolution of the Gods, for more elaboration of this theory.

[ii]Pages 48-52 Druids, Gods and Heroes from Celtic Mythology”, Anne Ross 1986

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