Tuesday, December 16, 2003

An Ancient Irish Invasion
The strangest things happen at Home Depot...

I use a money clip, and on it I have my name inscribed. However, my name is spelled out using the letters of the ancient Irish written language known as Ogham (pronounced "oh-am"). Interestingly enough, when I produced this money clip to make a purchase at Home Depot, the cashier recognized the writing and proceeded to launch into a fascinating historical discussion.

His tale began with what for him was the source of his theories and discoveries: America's Stonehenge. This site, located in Salem, NH, is dated to be over 4000 years old and contains stone layout and construction suspiciously similar to sites in Ireland, England, Scotland, and Wales known to be of the ancient Celtic people. Indeed, this makes the existence of America's Stonehenge somewhat controversial as it mucks up the waters regarding early American inhabitants, indigenous peoples, etc. For the Home Depot cashier, this was of great meaning to him. He was a native American himself, a member and descendent of an Indian tribe that resided in the area of the St. John River (today separating Maine and the province of New Brunswick, Canada). This man had visited the "America's Stonehenge" site and had felt a connection with the place on a deeply personal level. It was from that moment that this man set out to discover other linkages that suggested contact and cultural crossover between native American peoples and Celtic migrants.

One of the more interesting details he laid out concerned the origin of the word Monadnock. As defined, Monadnock is used as a name and a term: A mountain or rocky mass that has resisted erosion and stands isolated in an essentially level area. The origin of the word has been put forth as Indian, from interpretations as:

meaning "spirit place or, possibly' "bad" as signifying the difficulty of the ascent. Another authority gives the interpretation "at the silver mountain."


residual hill on an erosional plain.

Yet the Indian Home Depot cashier considered Monadnock not an Indian word at all and knew no Indian who thought so either. Yes, the Indians may have used this word to describe the mountain to the early English settlers, but it was not their word to begin with. They had in fact learned it from Celtic visitors. As proof, he said to go look up Gaelic words for the sounds "monad" and "nock" and see what I'd find.

Indeed, online I found the Gaelic word "monadh" defined as mountain, heathy expanse, mountain range; the Gaelic word "nochd" defined as naked, bare, exposed and to be sure, the Gaelic word "cnoc" defined as "knoll, hillock.
Certainly it is quite suspiciously interesting that these Celtic words describing mountains that are bare, or mountains that are hills would sound alarming similar to Indian words that described bare mountains, or a mountain that was a hill....

So he dug deeper, learning of interesting evidence that suggested cultural mingling and assimilation between Indian tribes of North America and Celtic migrants of Europe. He detailed how natives of the East Coast look less Asiatic than their western counterparts (like Navajo, Nez Perce, Apache, et. al) and also wondered what may have contributed to the genetic inheritance of the so called "Black Irish" (namely that cultural mingling allowed for contribution of native American genes into the Irish stock, producing the dark hair and resistance to sunburn, etc known of the Black Irish).

Indeed, could this trans-Atlantic cultural mingling have occurred so many centuries ago? One possible bit of evidence to suggest it did relates to the story of St. Brendan - an Irish monk who sailed in a leather boat (called a currach) to Iceland and perhaps even Newfoundland, back in the 6th century. In a bid to prove the possibility of such a journey, historian Tim Severin constructed such a boat using ancient techniques that St. Brendan would have used and armed with texts of St. Brendan followed the historical route - indeed ending up in Newfoundland as well.

The Indian man of Home Depot laid it all out. Celtic migrants and American Indians had centuries of cross cultural contact. They shared genes, shared languages, shared customs. The site of American's Stonehenge was a meeting place of the Indians that held great meaning for millennia. When the Celtic migrants arrived, they recognized the importance (perhaps sacredness too) of the site and added their contribution to it by adding the Stonehenge-style stonework layout.

The Irish in America, centuries before Columbus. My head buzzed with this knowledge as I left the Home Depot.


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