Ancient Irish practices of animism blurred boundaries between humans, supernatural beings, and other animals. A “cattle” economy, much of Ireland’s superstructure reflected its economic reliance on “dairying” and “raiding.” Irish folklore and prehistoric accounts subsequently center Nonhuman Animals, while many warrior elites and legendary heroes possessed the ability to shapeshift into other animals. Both trends demonstrate that Irish society was not rigidly anthropocentric. This introductory episode provides a general overview of human relations with other animals in the precolonial context with a particular focus on the influence of economic arrangements such as cattle “raiding,” “hunting,” war, and food production.
My book, Animals in Irish Society, is available from SUNY Press.