Personal Blog of Mark Hoskins – Anarchist Writer and Activist
Sin is something we used to take quite seriously in Ireland. The shadow of the Bishop’s cloak is not as long as it used to be, they have political sway, but their ideological grip on the minds of the Irish has been weakened considerably. When I was a gossin though, you’d still hear people talking about sin in an earnest manner. Being shacked up with your significant other out of wedlock was still known as ‘living in sin’ for example. The worst kind of sin was a mortal sin; These included blasphemy, adultery, murder, masturbation and staying inside on a sunny day.
The latter is, of course not an official ‘mortal sin’ recognised by the Catholic church but is something that my Nana and other Irish people of older generations would say from time to time; “It’s a mortal sin to stay inside on a day like that”. Maybe the saying has no other origin than the fact that sunny days are not all that common in Ireland and it’s seen as shameful to waste them, or a desperate plea to get children out from under the feet of adults, but I like to think it has something to do with folk memory from the time we were sun worshipers, or at least worshiped various aspects of nature through the associated personages from the pantheon of the Irish gods, most notably the Tuath Dé Danann.
Due to a lack of surviving written material from pre-christian Ireland, we’re not 100% sure of who the Sun god of the early Irish was, though Ogma and Lugh seem to be the most likely candidates. In fact it’s quite possible that Ogma was the first Sun god and was replaced later on by Lugh, which is hinted at in the story of the second battle of Maige Tuired where Lugh takes over from Ogma as champion of the Tuath Dé Danann. However it is also plausible that Ogma represented the Sun and Lugh the sky as the two are often mentioned as being part of a triad with The Dagda, who was among other things, the master of time and the seasons.
There is a tale that takes place after first battle of Maige Tuired, when the half Formorian Bres becomes king of the Tuath Dé and proves to be an oppressive ruler. He makes all the Tuath Dé Danann work so that he can pass tribute to his Formorian family. Ogma is put to work at carrying firewood. Not only was Ogma associated with the Sun, but he was also credited with the invention of the Gaelic alphabet, Ogham which is named after him and as sometime commander of the Tuath in battle he is recognised as a strategist and intellectual, so physical labour would have been seen as a great insult to this deity.
Perhaps both being inside on a sunny day and compulsory labour are sins against Ogma the Sun-Faced, and these days the two often overlap. While our ancestors worked in the fields and made the most of the long days of summer (indeed you’ll still see tractors on the country roads of county Meath at 11pm on the summer solstice), our generations tend to work indoors in sedentary jobs. On sunny days we can only dream about being out soaking up the rays and maybe snatch an hour in a park at lunchtime. It seems inhuman, it seems like a sin, but we have no choice but to work to keep the wheels of capitalism turning in order to be paid what we need to survive; no choice other than to revolt and overthrow Bres the oppressor so we may join Ogma in a life of leisure, outdoor activities and intellectual pursuits.
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