The celtic harp : stories & legends

After a long time of hesitation, I decided to tell you about this magical instrument that is the harp. This instrument that one knows all, the notes so sweet and dreamlike, which punctuates many stories and legends of all countries. From my side, I've started to learn the celtic harp for nearly a year. I have long wanted to learn to play an instrument, but I've never found a shoe to my foot, all the more that the required check box of the course of solfèges me not cool evil. It is only once I have moved house in Britain that this seemed to me to be a no-brainer and I'm completely fallen under the charm of the harp. Originally, the harp is taught by oral tradition, and even if the basics of music theory are known, one can easily learn to play by ear. I read somewhere that one" not chosen not to play a harp is the harp that chooses you "and this is exactly what I felt.

The harp is one of the oldest in the world, millennia-old. It is assumed that its creation is linked to that of the arc, the form of which is very close and that the taut string makes a sound evocative. The harp is an instrument universally recognized : it is present on all continents and in all social classes express themselves through their art.

If you assign directly the harp in the celtic world, and in particular to Ireland, which it is the emblem, the origins of the harp comes straight from the ancient Egypt, where we find the oldest traces of this magical instrument. Among the celtic people, the harp possesses virtues not only therapeutic but also sacred : it brings well-being, healing and spiritual flight. It is found under the name of Telenn in Britain, or Clàirseach with our irish friends.

Sacred Instrument

In the imaginary general, is often associated with the harp to the woman, instinctively. Delicate, fresh, sensual. But in reality, in the celtic world, and particularly in Ireland, the harp was considered an instrument of music male. It was even said that any man who respects himself ought to possess a virtuous woman, a good cushion for his chair, and a harp well-tuned. Similarly, it was impossible for a bailiff from the time of seizing a man by his books, his sword, or his harp. It seems fun, but it reveals the sacred status, vital, vital that this instrument, at the same level as the knowledge and the ability to defend themselves.

In Ireland, the harp and the harpists were carried in such high esteem, that the English were forced to destroy this symbol, on the proclamation of queen Elizabeth " hang all the harpers, wherever they are ". Similarly, Cromwell ordered the burning of the harps, the instruments of music become a symbol of Ireland.

Instrument of the gods, kings, heroes

Everyone has heard of the exploits of the famous David, the Old Testament, braving the terrible Goliath. But imagine that David was also very appreciated of king Saul for his talents as a harpist. In fact, he played the harp with such a talent that only his music and his songs could soothe the anxieties of the king. " David had just then, and made up his harp sounds melodious and sweet that quench the heart of the king. The dark thoughts that haunted Saul fainted. The agitation abandoned it. "

Through the Bible, music is perceived as an element of the divine, that allows the elevation of the spirit, and increases spiritual receptivity. According to the Bible, there is music and songs in the very heavens, where the heavenly creatures play the harp and sing praises around the throne of Jehovah. After all, who has never noticed these small cherubs that adorn the walls of the churches and the works of the bible, accompanied by a harp ?

It also found the harp in the hands of another character, those of Tristan. You probably know the sad and beautiful story of Tristan and Isolde. During his adventures, the gifts of Tristan for the harp, to enable him to meet the famous Yseult, and, incidentally, to bring him healing. Because it is in exchange for music lesson that the mother of Isolde, a healer and keeper of the secrets of medicinal plants, provides the medicine necessary to Tristan, then wounded.

I can't decently not write an article about the celtic harp reminiscent of the king Brian Boru and his famous harp. It was a king of Ireland very appreciated by his people, who reigned during the Eleventh century. It is built in particular for the unification of Ireland and repelled various invaders in scandinavia. His death, following a battle, he composed a funeral march, which has also funeral name : the march of Brian Boru. This famous march is now one of the most ancient traditional melodies of ireland. For my part, I love this melody and I soon to learn to my turn at the harp..." Death Brian Boru, ver the year one thousand in Ireland, still shine red hair, harp or on the moor, the etendard and the sword standing planted in earth and the return of peace in Ulste ". Anecdote, if you listen to this famous market, listen carefully to the rhythm, it is said that the print" claudicante "the melody is a nod to Brian Boru, who was limping badly. This character and his harp became a symbol of the Ireland of our days. In fact, this is the famous harp of Brian Boru as you can see on the coins or on the logo of the beer Guinness.

Of course, one can also find the harp as the attribute of many gods of the pantheon, the celtic, such as Dagda or Lugh, but also as an inseparable element of the druids and bards.

Instrument of the celtic tradition & oghamique

" Musical perfection is the purview of the Other World, that only the harp can achieve "

The Dagda is the chief god of the pantheon of celtic, more specifically, Of the Tuatha de Danann (great" family "of the gods). It is described as a god druid colossal, master of science, the sacred, the time, the magic warrior, and elements of the Other World. It has four unique attributes : the cauldron of abundance, the cosmic wheel, the club that brings life and death, and the harp. The harp magic of the Dagda is called" Daur da Bláo "the oak of two blossoms, and contains powers. She knows how to play all the melodies and is able to play them only on command of his master. The harp of the Dagda knows how to play the three tunes sacred : the sadness, the joy, the sleep. Although it's not apparent at first, for the celtic harp also plays an important role in times of war. Thus, the story of the second battle of Mag Tured, we learn that : " the harp is stolen by the Fomoires (enemies of the Tuatha De Danaan), the Dagda begins to search for her, accompanied by Lugh and Ogma (celtic gods primordial also). They are hung on the wall of a residence of the enemies, to the call of god, the harp flies off and kills nine Fomoires. Then she plays the air and wailing, and the women begin to cry, then she plays the air of the smile and the boys begin to laugh ; finally she played the air of the sleep, and the enemy army falls asleep. ". The name Uaithne, meaning" harmony ", recurs frequently in the writings telling of the powers of the harp of the Dagda, sometimes this name is attributed to her harp, and sometimes a harp of the Dagda.

Lug, god of light, sun and the arts also has a harp, the symbol of its sovereignty on the musical arts. As Dagda, he uses three tunes of his harp, for strategic reasons. But the gods are not immune to as much against the magical power of the harp. Craiftine, the harpist of the deities Of the Tuatha de Danann, do not hesitate to use her harp magic on the god Lug" They brought then to Craiftine his harp ; he revealed the new strings and the sage played until the warrior was rested, calm, sleepy ".

In addition to the image of the druid with her harp under the arm that comes to mind naturally, there are several clues that suggest that this instrument was an integral part of the practice of the druids, ovates, bards. In fact, several researches tend to demonstrate a correlation between the alphabet oghamique and the music notes that are found on a harp. Each string corresponding to a ogham, the druids would have used this system coded for exchange in our sole discretion, each melody meaning of a sentence. In addition, it is noted that two oghams of the alphabet have a strong link with the harp. First of all Comes, the willow tree. There is a link to very intimate between the tree and the harp. It symbolizes water, the moon, the woman, the femininity, the dreamlike, the magic of sound. In addition, the willow is known to relieve pain, just as the harp. It also said that it is Craiftine, the harpist Of the Tuatha de Danann, who invented this magical instrument, from wood to willow, drawing on its essence. On the other hand, Ur, heather, is an ogham which evokes the energies that link with the healing, medicinal plants, but also the vibrations and the music of the Other World. Heart then returns directly to the therapeutic virtues for the body and the soul of the harp and the harmony she created.

If the harp has a important place in celtic beliefs, is also found in the nordic culture. Indeed, the heroes of the Eddas (collections of poems recounting the facts of norse mythology) need to be burned with their harp in their hand at their bucher funeral. In this way, the harp will lead them to the Other World. There is much here that regardless of the mythology in question, the harp is universally perceived as an instrument making the connection between worlds. The harp appears to be the same, the time of a few verses, in the famous poem" Völuspà ". This poem is the story of predictions, visions of a völva (seer in nordic culture). She prophesies and tells the story of Ragnarok, in other words, the end of the world :" Sitting there on a mound, playing the harp, the guardian of the witch, the merry Eggthér, sang to him, on the wood of the stem, a cock vermeil, which is called Fjalarr. ".

Translated by Yandex.Translate and Global Translator

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  • Maxime

    Written on November 29, 2018


    Very interesting Article, I have always been fascinated by the harp, and I'd like to learn to play it.

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