“Low the sun; short its course”: Tracing the Celtic ritual cycle through music, manuscript and performance
This lecture-recital by Helen Phelan, Professor of Arts Practice at the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance, University of Limerick, Ireland, explores the musical and ritualistic evidence for the emergence and continuity of the Celtic ritual cycle, with a focus on the rituals of Imbolc and Samhain, a precursor of Halloween.
Ritual traditions are frequently transmitted through a combination of sanctioned and sanctified “official’ sources, as well as the songs, stories and performances of living communities. The emergence of an agrarian ritual cycle in Ireland, punctuated by four quarter days, is strongly associated with the traditions and practices of the Iron Age Celts, but its roots and shoots can be located in much earlier and later historical periods.
This presentation traces the evidence for this ritual cycle in both medieval manuscript sources as well as folkloric traditions. Focusing on music (particularly medieval Irish chant) and story (including the hagiographies or lives of the saints), it suggests a dynamic, syncretic understanding of ritual, moving fluidly between prehistoric, pre-Christian and Celtic Christian practices. It concludes with a proposal concerning the influence of this ritual tradition on contemporary ritual creativity.
Part of the fall 2022 Fund for Irish Studies lecture series.
Tickets & Details
The event is free and open to the public. No advance tickets or registration required.
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