Understanding the events that defined the folklore
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Known population shifts that would have an impact on fundamental folklore and practice. The codex is not meant to be a historical reference, the notes here are only relevant so far as they indicate a pattern of significant change for the people at key points.
It is also useful to understand where people came from as we look to "detangle" period folklore from its modern mutations. We can assist this process by observing related cultures in particular near pear cultures such as the Scottish, Welsh and Gauls for which we often have more information and archaeological evidence available.
The "Golden Age" of Irish Folklore and culture in general is plotted to be the Early Bronze age.
In short "Irish" as in the people are a unique mix of at least 3 major culture states and 5 major genetic groups. Owing to Irelands geographic location on the western most extent of human expanse as well as being an island, its development is unique when compared to its mainland cousins.
~ 3750 BCE
A migration of peoples described as being sourced from “Near Eastern” genomes appear in this millennium and is associated with the transition from hunter gather into farming. While popular scholar opinion has historically been of this transition being a largely hostile one the evidence presented suggests as is near always the case an even mix of intermingling due to inbound migration and hostile acts.
The genome of the preceding “Wester Hunter Gather” population is present in genetic samples from the period. The distribution is measured as such. Keep in mind this refers not to population distribution but rather mix of genetics in the available population. That is people where not “pure” anything and the average person was a mix as expressed below.
~ 12,000 – 4,000 BCE
3 groups of “Western Hunter Gather” a single larger group of “Scandinavian Hunter Gather” with a 4th smaller grouping of “Eastern Hunter Gather”
Obviously we have no observation records and genetic data is difficult for samples this old. This is simply the current best guess as of the time of this writing.
"WHG" or "Western Hunter Gather"
- Hair: dark brown or black
- Eyes: blue
- Skin: dark olive to black
"EHG" or "Eastern Hunter Gather"
- Hair: variable ranging from dark brown to blond
- Eyes: variable with occurrences of brown and blue
- Skin: generally lighter shades
"SHG" or "Scandinavian Hunter Gather"
- Hair: lighter shades of brown to blond
- Eyes: lighter shades of brown to blue
- Skin: lighter shaders
~ 4,000 – 3,500 BCE
Genetic data changes with persons being a mix dominated primarily by the incumbent “Near Eastern Farming” genes. This suggests the new population arriving and being rather successful (populating more) and while not “insular” they were “genetically” dominate. From our point of view of folklore this suggests that the culture and traditions of the “Near Eastern Farming” population would have been dominant.
That is an assumption though, one can have dominant genetic traits but be a submissive cultural influence. While its probable that the incoming farming culture would have a level of dominance due to greater stability the reality of the time was more likely nuanced and not as "this or that" as we like to think.
Samples suggest a close resemblance to darker phenotypes still present in Sardinia
- Hair: dark to black
- Eyes: predominately brown
- Skin: intermediate to dark
~3,500 – 3.000 BCE
During this period we see a significant increase in “Western Hunter Gather” gens in the population. This doesn't mean really anything more than to say the “Wester Hunter Gather” population didn’t simply “vanish” quickly but rather maintained and apparently prospered sufficiently to contribute a notable amount of genetic data to the general population.
How this would have affected folklore is completely unknown. “Hunter Gather” populations are generally thought of as more “practical” with regards to social and cultural factors compared to the more sedentary “Farmer” however WHG culture and folklore is not well understood at all much less how it might have mixed with new incoming ideas.
This period is fairly well mixed genetically and would suggest a fair variance in appearance with a preference for the darker tones of hair, eye and skin colouring.
~3,000 – 2,500 BCE
During this period we see a strong resurgence of “Western Hunter Gather” accounting for at or slightly more than half the genome. While this could be interpreted as some hold out population its far more likely that those genes common to the “Western Hunter Gather” where simply more frequently selected for. Thus its likely that in this period we see a more homogeneous people that have simply mixed more thoroughly with regards to past 1,000 years or so.
In this period is when start to see the first traces of Step Herder genetics.
Largely WHG and Neolithic farmer suggests a predominance of dark to black hair, dark skin and mix of eye colours seeing more blue than in earlier generations where the mix was more lent toward the Neolithic Farmer.
~ 2300 BCE
By 2,300 BCE we see strong and rapid technological development thanks to the introduction of metallurgy e.g. “bronze age”. As with the previous notable change this appears to be evenly split between “adoption” and “colonization” that is the process while “rapid” in a historical since (hundreds of years give or take) was not “overnight” and was not “roving bands of blood thirsty bronze age men ravaging peaceful farm girls as some poetic interpretations might favour”.
The genetic record for this period shows a significant change in genetic diversity that is not starkly dissimilar from the modern Irish genome we see today. As such this is viewed as the last “major” genetic event. The distribution of genetic data for this period is largely Yamnaya (aka Step Herder) ancestry which is its self fairly diverse and Eastern Hunter Gatherer. The relatively quick shift in genetic make up suggesting a more significant inbound effect than the previous event had on the indigenous population.
Of note we do see a significant climate change in Ireland in the late bronze to early iron age. This event corelates with an increase in production of weapons of war and other armaments compared to earlier periods suggesting increased tensions between populations. It’s important to remember that during these eras the population was not a unified “Ireland” in fact that doesn’t appear to have ever been a thing. We do know that the geography of the island lends itself to 4 to 5 population groupings but with in each we see independent smaller populations. The political landscape of Ireland for this era is not well understood beyond being a complex mesh of multiple often cooperating and often competing groups.
~ 2300 – 800 BCE
This period saw the rapid technological change in Ireland from stone aged farming to bronze age society. Fine bronze and gold smiting works come from this period and the period is occasionally referred to as the first “Irish Golden Age”. For this reason, form the point of view of “Irish Folklore” this is a keenly interesting era as it is in this era that we would see the solidification of that which is distinctly Irish and its export to Irelands trading partners.
The in coming migration for this period is likely the "proto-Celtic" root of Ireland as its these same population centres that would give us the Iron age Celts we think of in popular culture. The preceding Neolithic Farmer genetics seem to be largely replaced by Yamnaya, SHG and EHG genetic traces. As noted the current popular opinion is that this shift was a balanced mix of adoption and conquest.
Strong genetic ties to the Yamnaya people who had dark hair and eyes with intermediate skin tones. A fair amount of SHG and EHG is also present and markers for blue eyes and lighter skin and hair tones are present.
Climate change event ~ 800 BCE Iron Age start ~ 500 BCE – 500 CE
The late bronze age was not a particularly easy time for any human. Climate change is often pointed to and there is a significant event in the late bronze age that did change the climate in many areas including making Ireland a wetter place. That said historians are always hesitant to link cultural change to environmental drivers. We do however see an increase in armaments produced and stored in this period and an increase in “hordes” or cashes of artefacts for this period suggesting if nothing else a great stress on the population.
What we do know is that late bronze age Ireland saw a population decline as did other areas in bronze age Europe. The early Iron age was not much better, and this would lead on for around 1000 years to the collapse of the Western Roman Empire in 476 CE followed by the spread of Christianity and a general regression of culture, technology, and population through to around 1,400 CE (debatably).
From a folklore point of view this period marks the “beginning of the end” of the uniquely Irish Folklore. While the culture would thrive and continue to export its wares and culture throughout this period, it would not reach the hights it enjoyed in the early bronze age ever again.
It is over this period that we must have seen the general natural selection for the fairer skin, eye and hair colours that are present today. While several genetic markers are present for fair skin, hair and eye throughout Irelands history its only recently that those traits appear dominant. As to why these traits are dominant here and in other areas its most likely a matter of natural selection. Meaning environmental pleasures favouring those traits in these areas. There is no evidence of a genocide like event or similar.
~ 500 CE
By 500 CE Christianity would be well rooted and on its way to dominance. This change would see the supplanting or outright destruction of the previous culturally unique features for one that better aligned with Abrahamic folklore. Much of the stories and ideas of Ireland would be homogenised to be inline with similar Christendom pseudo-histories we see through central and northern Europe as each was converted.
Glancing forward we see multiple significant hostile invasions of Ireland that further sought to suppress, supplant, or destroy the indigenous culture not just its folklore but its people themselves. It is this period from 500 CE forward to the modern day that can be from the point of view of “Irish” folklore described as the “Dark Ages”. In the Late 1800s but more prominently in the early 1900s CE we do see a renewed interest in Irish culture. Sadly, the damage has been done and most of what is known by the popular public is pseudo-history and political propaganda from the Middle Ages known academically to be designed to supplant or remove indigenous traditions, a practice seen and understood with other cultures converted in and around this era by Christian and other Abrahamic organizations.
You will notice in the phenotype notes that we never note "red head" or similar. This doesn't mean red heads weren't present, red heads have been present throughout human history and civilization, it is more rare than other colourings but not unheard of in just about any human population.
As far as it being a common enough trait to note... while there are some notes from ancient periods, concentration of the trait doesn't really show up till 8th to 11th century CE and is linked with the Nordic expansion of that era.