Founding Myths: Princess Scota, Goídel Glas and their Links to the Gaelic People

Possibly Akhenaten and Nefertiti, Smenkhkare and Meritaten, or Tutankhamen and Ankhesenamun;
Photo: Andreas Praefcke, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

PROGENITORS OF THE GAELIC PEOPLE

In the mythology and pseudo-history of Ireland, Scotland, and the Isle of Man, Princess Scota and her husband Goídel Glas and their followers were the progenitors of the Gaelic people. The Gaelic people were an ethnic group of Celts, who spoke the Gaelic language, invented by Goídel Glas.

Some modern researchers controversially claim to have identified her as either Meriaten or Ankhesenamun, believed to be daughters of the Egyptian Pharaoh Akhenaten. Accounts differ, but most conclude that she was the ancestor of the Scotti people, who became the Milesians. They conquered Ireland, the Isle of Man, and parts of Argyle on the island of Britain. These people settled regions of Argyll and other parts of the island of Britain north of where the Romans later built Hadrian’s Wall. This region came to be called Scotland after her and her people.

The lightest green represents the maximum expansion of the Gaelic language and culture (c. 1000 CE), the middle shade shows its reach c. 1700 CE, and the darkest color shows areas that are Gaelic-speaking in the present day. CelticBrain, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Despite the controversy and complexity, a romantic and provocative alternative history of the Gaelic nations emerges. It gives the Gaelic people a long and illustrious history with connections to the ancient civilizations of Greece and Egypt, creating an impressive founding myth.

FOUNDING MYTHS

The founding myths of nations play an important role in national identity, perceived status, and ancient heritage. They help establish the legitimacy of the state and the ruling class to assert ownership over the land. The further back in time, the closer the associations with the great ancient civilizations of the Israelite’s, Rome, Troy, Greece, and Egypt, the better.

It was much more than pretentiousness. It also helped justify the existence of a nation and its ruling establishment. Rulers who could show descent from a distinguished ancestor, or powerful divinity, increased the legitimacy of their claim to rule. Founding myths are an essential part of a nation’s identity and culture. Here we will look at three ancient texts, followed by two modern theories involving the origin of the Scots, Gaels, and their language.

THE 11TH CENTURY LEBOR GABÁLA ÉRENN

The first text is The Lebor Gabála Érenn, or “The Book of Invasions,” an anonymous 11th-century compilation of prose and poetry allegedly telling the history of the Irish people connecting in them back in time to the Biblical Adam through his descendants. It presents a heroic and monumental Irish history comparable to that of the Israelite’s, the Romans, or the Greeks, especially the story of the Trojan founding of Britain by Brutus of Troy. It needed to bring together native Irish myths and the Christian perspective of history. Many scholars see it as an attempt to parallel the pre-Christian history of the Irish with biblical events. Although up to the 17th century, most scholars considered it authoritative variant legends exist that differ in detail. Today the text is not universally accepted as accurate and is not seen as factual.

The Lebor purports to document the settlement of Ireland by six groups of settlers. The first was the people of Cessair. The second, the people of Partholón. The third, the people of Nemed. The fourth the Fir Bolg and the fifth the Tuatha Dé Danann, who are seen as the pagan gods of Ireland and the sixth was the Milesians who became the Gaelic and Irish people.

In The Lebor, the origin of the Gaels is traced back through the eponymous ancestor, Goídel Glas, whose grandfather was Fénius Farsaid, a legendary King of Scythia. According to some traditions, Fénius invented the Gaelic language and Ogham script. In others, it was his grandson Goídel Glas. According to The Lebor, Fenius ruled a kingdom in Scythia by the Black Sea, now part of eastern Ukraine. For reasons unknown, he lost his kingdom and went into exile. Whatever happened, he turned up in Egypt where he had a son named Nial, who married the Pharaoh’s daughter, and they had a son they named Goídel.

At this time, in Egypt, the persecution of the Children of Israel was taking place. Rather than participate in the persecution, the family and their followers went into exile from Egypt. They roamed throughout North Africa before eventually sailing through the Straits of Gibraltar and following the Atlantic Iberian coast northerly before settling along the shores of Galicia.

One of their descendants was Mil, also known as Milesius and Míl Espáine or The Soldier of Spain, and his followers were the Milesians. The Tuatha Dé Danaan, the early rulers of Ireland, had killed the nephew of Mil. So to avenge the killing, Mil launched an invasion of Ireland, taking his wife, Scota, with him.

Although Mil and Scota died in the fighting, their three sons, Eber, Eremon, and Amairgen, conquered Ireland and became the Gaels. Being the sons of Scota, they considered her to be their ancestral mother and also called themselves Scots.

14TH CENTURY – CHRONICLES OF THE SCOTTISH PEOPLE

Now we look at the work of the Scottish chronicler John of Fordun. He wrote the “Chronica Gentis Scotorum” or “Chronicles of the Scottish People”, which consisted of five books in the late 14th century. These works, especially the early parts, are regarded with skepticism by many scholars today.

According to Fordham, the ancestors of the Scots were Egyptians. They were followers of an Egyptian princess named Princess Scota and a Greek, or Scythian prince, called Goídel Glas, sometimes known as Geytholos, Gathelus, or Gaithelus in Latin.

According to this work, the Scots were the descendants of Goídel Glas, the son of King Neolus of Greece, and the Egyptian Princess Scota, his wife. They led a band of followers from Egypt to Spain. Some of their followers traveled on to Ireland led by the son of the King of Spain named Simon Breac, who would become the High King of Ireland. They brought to Ireland the Stone of Scone, also known as the Stone of Destiny, an oblong block of red sandstone, which became the coronation seat of the Scottish kings and also used in the coronation of English and UK monarchs later.

15TH CENTURY – THE SCOTICHRONICON

Scota and Gaedel Glas in a 15th century manuscript of Bower’s Scotichronicon – Unknown author – Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

In the 15th century, Walter Bower expanded further on this story in his work, “The Scotichronicon.” According to Bower, Goídel Glas was a Greek prince, but his father, the King, would not allow him any position of power. Frustrated by his father, Goídel Glas raised his own army, causing much trouble and destruction. Eventually, his father was forced to rein him in and sent him into exile. Goídel sailed to Egypt with his army assisting Pharaoh Chencres in fighting an invasion from Ethiopia, a powerful kingdom in the region. Their united armies expelled the Ethiopians giving victory to the Egyptians. After this, Goídel helped the Pharaoh to keep the Children of Israel in subjugation. In return for his bravery, loyalty, and military support, Chencres gave his daughter to him in marriage. She was not named then but later became known as Princess Scota,

According to Bower, Pharaoh Chencres died in the parting of the Red Sea in pursuit of the Children of Israel. With his death, the people of Egypt sought reform, and a period of civil disorder and strife occurred. Goídel Glas was seen as part of the old order and forced into banishment. However, he did not go alone. He took his wife, who was to become known as Princess Scota, his army, and many followers who made them their King and Queen. They called themselves “Scots” after Scota, despite having no realm to rule. In Irish and Scottish Gaelic, Scota means “blossom,” and “Scotti” was a synonym for “Irish,” suggesting the Irish and Scots descendants of Queen Scota were “people of the blossom.” (1)

The Scots roamed the North African deserts, eventually sailing to the Iberian Peninsula now known as Spain and Portugal. They settled in the northwest part of the peninsula called Brigancia that the Romans called Brigantium, now known as A Coruña in the province of Galicia. Here, Scota gave birth to a son named “Hyber,” from which “Hibernia,” an ancient alternative name for Ireland, was derived. Thus, the term “Iberian” derives from “Hyber.

They were said to have stayed in Galicia for several generations but faced continued attacks by the local tribes. Some Scots set sail across the sea looking for a new home and eventually reached a region on the island of Britain that we call Argyll today. These people would eventually become known as the “Scotti.” The country north of Hadrian’s Wall was later to built became Scotland.

THE MOUND OF HOSTAGES

Now we move forward thousands of years to an ancient burial site named the Hill of Tara that still exists in modern Ireland. On top of the hill is an ancient burial and ritual site known as the Mound of Hostages, called Dumha na nGiall in Irish, and once the ancient seat of the High Kings of Ireland. Dr. Sean O’Riordan, an archaeologist of Trinity College, Dublin, investigating the site discovered human remains dated to the Bronze Age believed to be those of a young prince. Around his neck was placed a very rare necklace of faience beads made from a mixture of plants and minerals. Carbon dating of the skeleton gave a date of 1359 BC. The design and manner of making of the beads show them to be of Egyptian origin. Not exactly, but still, near to when the boy entombed at Tara, Tutankhamun, the boy king, was interred in Egypt. Placed around his neck was a necklace of blue-green faience beads similar to the Tara find. A Bronze Age burial ground in Devon also yielded a necklace of like style.

LORRAINE EVANS – “THE KINGDOM OF THE ARK”

In her book “Kingdom of the Ark” Lorraine Evans presents the idea that there are historical and archaeological links between ancient Egypt and ancient Ireland, and Scotland. A discovery in North Ferriby, Yorkshire, of the remains of an ancient shipwreck first thought to be a single Viking long-ship. Further excavation brought to light more wrecks but not of Viking origin. Radiocarbon dated them between 1400 – 1350 BC, earlier than the Viking Age. Evans points out that these dates reasonably correspond to the dates of the Tara skeleton and faience beads and speculates that the boats were of Egyptian origin.

She points to the Scotichronicon and asks what Egyptian faience beads were doing at Tara in Ireland and Devon in England. Of course, there are many answers. For example, they could have arrived through trade, or they may have been gifts to some influential people, from other important people. Then the question arises who traded them or who gave them as gifts. It could have been via traveling traders and merchants who may or may not have been of Egyptian origin. On the other hand, they could also have belonged to an Egyptian. Evans speculates that the Tara prince was an Egyptian and possibly also connected with the Devon necklace.

According to the Scotichronicon, the High Kings of Ireland were descendants of Scota. But, awkwardly, Scota is not a name of Egyptian origin. So, who was she, apart from being an Egyptian princess and Pharaoh’s daughter? So, Evans looked closer to the text. She discovered it gave Scota’s father the Greek name, Achencres, a version of the Egyptian name of Akhenaten, the Pharaoh of Egypt in the relevant period. Therefore, Evans speculates that Scota was none other than Princess Meriaten, the eldest daughter of Akhenaten and his primary wife, Queen Nefertiti. (1) This also links in with beads and skeleton at Tara because Tutankhamun was the son of Akhenaten by one of his wives named Kiya, and possibly married Ankhesenpaaten, the third eldest daughter of Akhenaten.

PRINCESS MERIATEN

When Akhenaten enforced the new religion of the worship of the Aten – the sun disc – on his people, there was a significant conflict with the priesthood of Amun, the former faith. After Akhenaten died, they restored the worship of Amun as the principal god of Egypt. The standard protocol would have been for the eldest daughter of the Pharaoh Akhenaten to marry her step-brother Tutankhamun. However, the priests of Amun determined to stamp out the Aten religion rejected this. According to Evans, this, with the rumors of plague, was enough to persuade her to marry a foreign prince and go into exile with him, removing further traces of her father from Egypt.

THE TUATHA DE DANNAAN

To answer this question, Evans looked to the myths of the Tuatha de Danaan who inhabited Ireland in this period. The Tuatha de Danaan, or People of the Goddess, Dani, were believed to have established the sacred site of Tara in the valley of the River Boyne.

Tara was their most important sacred ritual and burial place, the seat of the High Kings of Ireland, and the place they were inaugurated. The Tuatha de Danaan were considered the gods and goddesses of the inhabitants of Ireland, and their origins stretch way back into prehistory.

According to a different text known and the Annals of the Four Masters, dating from 1632-36, Eremon is the husband of Scota. He and someone named Eber divided Ireland between them into two kingdoms. Eremon ruled the northern realm while Eber ruled the southern kingdom. Evans speculates, Eber and Eremon created two kingdoms unified by the Hill of Tara as a replica of Egypt with its Upper and Lower realms united by Memphis.

There is also the idea the combination of the names of the two gods Ptah-Ra gives Ta-ra or Tara can be pronounced in several different ways. For example, Ptah could be Pi-tah which sounds like Peter. Even so, the way the ancient Egyptians pronounced their language may have been entirely different from the way we would expect.

THE DEATH OF SCOTA

According to the Lebor Gabala, Scota died in a battle at Slieve Mish, near Tralee, Kerry, to be buried nearby in a valley now known as Scotia’s Glen. After her death, the war for control of Ireland continued against three kings of the Tuatha de Danaan; MacCuill, MacCeacht, and MacGreine, whose wives were all goddesses. These were Banba, Fodla, and Eriu. Eventually, the sons of Mil subdued the Tuatha de Danaan taking control of Tara. It is also worth noting the English name for Ireland is derived from Eriu and is also known as Eire or Erin, both derivatives of Eriu.

Akhenaten, Nefertiti and two daughters adoring the Aten
Egyptian Museum, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

RALPH ELLIS – “SCOTA, EGYPTIAN QUEEN OF THE SCOTS”

Ralph Ellis, in his book, “Scota, Egyptian Queen of the Scots,” claims the primary British reference was like the eighth-century historian Nennius. By tracing the sources of Nennius, Ellis thinks he’s found the answer. He believes that the originator of the Scota-Gaythelos story was an ancient text, The History of Egypt, written in 300BC by the Egypto-Greek historian Manetho. Having traced the source, which was, if not contemporaneous, at least reasonably informed – Ellis believes that he can put flesh on the bones of this story. Using Manetho’s text, Ellis asserts that Scota was Ankhesenamun, a daughter of Akhenaton and Nefertiti. She would also become the First Royal Wife of Tutankhamen. After his death, she married a pharaoh named Aye, who Ellis identifies as Gaythelos.


He also gives what he believes is the origin and meaning of the name “Scota.” When the fleet carrying Ankhesenamun and Gaythelos left Egypt to begin their exile, they sailed west into the setting sun. The boat Ra, the Sun-god, rides across the sky was named Shkoti, and her followers gave this term to Princess Ankhesenamun as the fleet sailed into the setting sun. It may have been a nickname or became a title that was to evolve into Scoti over time. (2) In the history of this group of people, there was more than one royal female named Scota. Again, it may be Scota was a term or title and passed on perhaps from mother to daughter.

Ellis speculates that Aye was the father of Tutankhamen, marrying Ankhesenamun after his son’s death. His rule was brief before a religious conflict with the Egyptian people forced him to leave Egypt with his wife and followers, and Ellis tracks their journey. He believes they took sufficient ships to carry around 1000 followers and enough supplies, weapons, and equipment. Stopping to resupply at several points, they managed to navigate the Mediterranean Sea to the Atlantic coast of Spain, where they settled for several generations. Their son Hiber gave his name to Iberia. Four generations after they first settled, the descendants of Scota made their way to Ireland, giving weight to the idea that Scota was an inherited or passed-on title.

Here Ellis refers to Irish stories supplementing the myths with other evidence. For example, he points to the number of gold torcs or necklaces worn by pharaohs discovered in the country and points to tombs he believes were built using Egyptian knowledge. Ellis believes this demonstrates that Scota’s people brought this method of embalming their dead from Egypt halfway across the world and from Ireland; it was a short voyage across the water to Scotland. Later, Iberian “Egyptians” seeking a new homeland settled in Scotland, and eventually, many of the original Irish “Scots” joined them.

The story of Scota, Gaythelos, and the history of the Gaelic people comes across as deeply mysterious, romantic, and very interesting. But, unfortunately, it is difficult to piece together and hard to tell fact from fiction. Fascinating though they are, all these stories are products of their culture and times, providing a need for some deep-rooted and illustrious ancestry. Many other nations and peoples have their foundation myths which, although impossible to prove, mean a lot to those people.

Copyright 07/12/2021 zteve t evans

References, Attributions and Further Reading

Copyright December 7th, 2021 zteve t evans

3 thoughts on “Founding Myths: Princess Scota, Goídel Glas and their Links to the Gaelic People

  1. Pingback: Founding Myths: Princess Scota, Goídel Glas and their Links to the Gaelic People – Glyn Hnutu-healh: History, Alchemy, and Me

  2. There are a lot of realities here that coincide with real history and folktales. I thoroughly enjoyed! 💞🪵🔥🪵🔔 Loving festive wishes to you!

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