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Fiery ShapesCelestial Portents and Astrology in Ireland and Wales 700–1700$
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Mark Williams

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780199571840

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199571840.001.0001

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(p.184) Afterword
Fiery Shapes

Mark Williams (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

This last chapter contrasts the literary handling of portents and astrological material in Ireland and Wales, focusing on the representation of persons with expertise in interpreting such signs. It argues that whilst the Irish tradition delighted in representations of the magic and divination of the pre-Christian past, a certain distance was maintained; the role of seer and portent-reader was not one that the contemporary writer frequently took upon himself. In contrast, the medieval Welsh poet was able to cast himself as an interpreter of comets and celestial portents, harking back to the legendary sources of his prophetic authority in Taliesin and Myrddin/Merlinus; in Ireland, the seer-druid was a figure to be ironized and ultimately rejected, but in Wales, even into the Early Modern period, to poet could use the imagery of signs in the heavens to bolster the resonant and evocative mystique of his profession by stressing its roots in the visionary and prophetic.

Keywords:   prophetic, divination, druid, seer, Merlin, Irish, Welsh

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