I would like to explore a little-known, fascinating Irish folk legend, that the Celtic Harp is, in fact, a direct ancestor of the Lyre of the Ancient Hebrews, which was apparently introduced to Ireland 2600 years ago by Israelites who fled there in exile, after the Fall the of Jerusalem to the Babylonians in 586 BCE...

This is a quote from John Wheeler's fascinating website on music from the time of the Hebrew Bible...

"...The "harp of Tara", symbol of Ireland, is linked by Irish traditional history to the "harp of David". This last was said to have been brought to Ireland (among other artefacts) by "Ollamh Fodhla" (identified with the prophet Jeremiah), his scribe "Simon Brach" (identified with Baruch the scribe of Jeremiah), and "Tea Tephi" (identified with the daughter of King Zedekiah of Judah). Was this connection merely mythical, or could it have had a basis in truth?"

The Celts had lyres too; they also brought some kind of harp from the Middle East; and Jeremiah is said by Irish tradition to have brought  a "harp". There is also a tantalizing ancient Greek source, which may well be referring to the lyre being played in Ireland: for full details, see the bottom of the section of my website blog on the Northern European lyres, in the details about the 1st century BC ancient Greek historian Diodorus Siculus's description of the musical practices of the people from the island of "Hyperboria" 

In all likelihood, there was confusion in the transmission of historical facts in this little-known Gem of Irish Folk-Lore. However, in order to give this legend some of basis in truth, I have arranged several of the Irish musical gems featured on this album, on my actual replica of the Lyre of the Ancient Hebrews (the Biblical “Kinnor”), which King David himself once played, some 3000 years ago, and which was later played by my very own, very ancient Levite ancestors in the Temple of Jerusalem, to accompany the legendary singing of the Levitical Choir.

I am not attempting to be "controversial" in trying to re-write history, and my intention is certainly not to offend any person's particular religious beliefs or traditions! It is merely a fascinating, harmless myth...but just maybe, with some hint of truth behind it?

To test the myth of the of the Levitical origin the Celtic harp in Ireland, in this track, I have arranged the haunting ancient Irish Air, "Spancil Hill"...for my evocation of the 3000 year old Lyre of the Ancient Hebrews: 



Irish music really does work, when played on the Lyre of the Ancient Hebrews; the original "Harp of David" - maybe there is some truth in the fascinating legend of the Jewish origin of the Celtic Harp after all? A fascinating possibility!



To round off this little article on a less mythological and on a mercifully more factual musicological level, below is a link to a fascinating article, kindly sent to me by Joseph Ennis, on how to tune an ancient Irish Harp:

How To Tune an Ancient Irish Harp 



Garry Jones August 29, 2018 @06:06 pm

Fascinating! Do you have any updated information which sheds further light on this matter? I see where it is said the bare-breasted female was added to the harp symbol around 1000 a.d. Thus a later addition...maybe. Do you have any material that thus links her to the Hebrew origins of the harp as well? Thank you.

jane tresiddercarter March 16, 2015 @10:33 am

I play a beautiful replica trinity early irish harp,as though through it,i am becoming interested in the lyre,and also in the eastward conection of the irish harp.there is much to discover!

Peter O ' Neill November 06, 2013 @11:25 pm

I think this is a fascinating idea, with some certain degree of the possible. When I first heard you playing Orpheus's Lament, which we used in our animated film to my poem The Execution of Orpheus at Ephesus, I immediately thought about Derek Bell's wonderful recordings of the compositions for the Irish harp by Carolan.

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