Tribes of Night and Day
There is The One. The One is Nothing and Everything, Always and Never.
The heart of The One is the Void, Absolute Darkness out of which Light emerges.
The One divides into Two and Polarity is born; Light and Dark, Male and Female, God and Goddess.
How far can the human eye see?
At night, we can see the moon, stars and galaxies. The Triangulum Galaxy, at 3 million light years away, is credited with being the furthest object visible to the naked eye. But by day, our sight is limited to our immediate surroundings.
During the day our sun 'blinds' us to the distant view of the stars, whereas, the dark of night enables us to see infinite space and the myriad of stars and galaxies in the night sky.
The sun and day focus our attention on the immediate, physical, mundane, material world around us and conceals from us the far-reaching view of the stars. Night enables us to become more expansive, to feel the immensity of everything, to step beyond the Self as individual and feel connected to all things.
Light flows from darkness and darkness produces light.
British mythology relates to these polarities time and time again, as do other mythologies from around the world.
In the Four Branches, the changes between the Hunter-Gatherer Shamanic peoples and the Neolithic Farmers and later Celts, are symbolised through dark and light, night and day. The features of polarity are imprinted upon it all.
In the Mabinogion, the Hunter-Gatherer/Shamanic tradition is symbolised through the dark, night, the moon, the sea, winter, feminine.
The Neolithic/Farmer tradition is symbolised through the light, day, the sun, summer, masculine.
The stories continuously provide clues in the names of characters, which point to one tribe or another. These are stories about a time when both cultures existed and the new, Neolithic, was replacing the old Shamanic way. As we can see in the section 'Time-line of Ancient Britain', this period started around 6,500 years ago when new peoples came to Britain, when agricultural and animal husbandry (farming) practices came into Britain from the East. This is also the period when the large, impressive ancient monuments were being built throughout Britain and Ireland, such as stone circles and burial chambers.
In order to appreciate the following information about how these principles of light and dark relate to the mythological stories of Ancient Britain, it may be an advantage to first read the stories in the section 'Finding Evidence in the Past - Mabinogion'.
In the First Branch, Pwyll’s adversary, a man called Hafgan, is contesting Arawn for possession of Annwn, the Other-world. The name Hafgan means ‘People of Summer’, and this is a clue that the new ways of the Farmers are contesting with the old ways of the Hunter-Gatherers for possession of Sovereignty. By attempting to take the control of the Underworld from Arawn, Hafgan (or the tribes his character represents) is attempting a political power-play. If they can be seen to be in control of the Spiritual roots of the Land, then the people of the Land will accept their right and authority to rule the Land.
The character of Hafgan is a symbol for a whole culture, just as Pwyll is a symbol for all
the Old Tribes. This implies that the First Branch is set within the transition period between the Mesolithic and Neolithic. These amazing stories are documentations of the
transition. Initially, the stories would have been oral and later recorded in writing.
They are told in symbols that we need to understand in order to uncover hidden wisdom and truth. Story-telling has always worked this way, just as the stories Jesus tells in the New Testament are told in fables that symbolise deeper truths and teachings, just as stories attached to all mythologies around the world are not to be taken literally but understood as a representation of principles of truth by those who have the ability to decifer them.
Later in the story, Pwyll is chosen by the Goddess (who is also The Land/Sovereignty), to overcome Gwawl, who seeks to ‘marry’ the Goddess. Gwawl means ‘Light’. In the story the old ways triumph, and the Sovereignty of the Land remains with Pwyll’s tribe, the Tribe of Night.
In the Second Branch, the family of Llyr are introduced. They are affiliated to the Tribes of Night, they seem to have strong Irish connections. The Third Branch sees the two Tribes of Night allied and fighting against the Tribe of Day. The Fourth Branch finally establishes the Tribe of Day as those carrying the authority of the Goddess, and they are now clearly in possession of the Sovereignty of The Land of Britain.
In the first Three Branches we see that the Tribes of Night are intent on maintaining a balanced equilibrium with Nature for the benefit of the tribe. This attitude arises from their expansive view of Nature and their inter-connectedness to Nature (through the female characters who are the Goddess) and to each other as a tribal collective.
They are not thinking as individuals, they are not attempting to better themselves individually. What they do, they do for the benefit of all.
In the Fourth Branch, the Tribe of Day has developed a new relationship with Nature where the individual sees himself as superior and seeks to impose himself upon it. This is clear by the way Goewin, as Goddess, is portrayed as a lap-maiden who is violated for physical desire, Blodeuwedd, as Goddess, is 'made' or summoned to be given as a gift as a wife for Lleu by the Tribal King, Math, and his apprentice, Gwydion. Such acts show dominance over, rather than respect for the Goddess, for Sovereignty, for Nature and for the Land. Remember, at the very beginning of the story, it was through showing respect to the Goddess that Pwyll proved his worthiness to be Head of the Underworld and consort to the Goddess and the Land.
The goal of the Tribes of Day is the enlightenment of the individual rather than the betterment of the tribe. This is clearly depicted by Lleu Llaw Gyffes’ transformation at the end of the story. He has been ritually 'killed' by a spear, has transformed into an eagle, is sitting at the top of a great tree and from his body pieces of rotting meat are falling. This is a visual image of personal transformation and enlightenment, the ego dropping away and is an almost Christ-like image of rebirth. Here, Lleu is 'all-man'. He represents a new focus of personal betterment over communal stability.
As the Hunter-Gatherers lived connected to the expansive energy of night, so they felt that connectivity with all things, with Nature, with the Other-worlds, with the psychic and extra-sensory. They were part of a collectivity, not ‘owners’ or ‘individuals’ in the way the Neolithic Farmers became. They were not focussed on the physical above all else.
They did not feel the compulsion to explore and evolve on a material level, and this is why indiginous tribal groups do not change much over millenia, as long as they are not influenced by outsiders, for they do not perceive the need to do so. Their priority is not to make things bigger, better, stronger, newer, but to remain connected to the spirit and soul of Nature and the rhythms of life and death through multiple dimensions.
The Solar Farmers became focussed on the material, on the individual, and in so doing, they developed new aspects of the intellect, but, over time, began to lose the connection with their psychic selves.
It is their focus on the material and their new ways of thinking and seeing that enabled the Celts to make the incredible artefacts, swords and jewellery with which they are credited.
Over time, this has led to the development and exploration of science and philosophy, and every other means by which humans have invented, questioned, explored and evolved within the physical, material reality of everyday life, but at a cost, a loss, that of expansive spirituality and connectedness.
Nowadays, our goal is to learn to live in the two worlds, the worlds of Night and Day, to enable us to interact and cope with the daily tasks of living in the physical world, and to experience the expansive, universal dimensions of existence that we are also a part of.