This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
THE MYTHS OF THE GODS - STRUCTURES IN IRISH MYTHOLOGY-
1981, revised 1996
It is not easy for the specialist in mythology, let alone the layman, to get a clear overall picture of Irish pagan mythology. Ireland never produced a Snorri Sturlason. There is no Irish Edda, no great collection of texts setting out the main pagan myths and explicitly giving an ordered pantheon. All is piecemeal, down to and including the editing of the texts we do possess. This was perhaps inevitable. In the first place, Christianity was introduced to Ireland long before it reached Scandinavia. It came in its monastic form with all that this implies. Thus the earliest texts we possess have already been filtered through the monastic tradition with consequent downgrading and distortion of the divine, but polytheistic, nature of the myths. More grave than such ideological rectifications, which are seldom more than an easily detectable patina, is the linking of Irish myths - reinterpreted as "history" - to the Christian world history of the early medieval period. This, with the consequent wholesale invention of non-persons to fill genealogical gaps, played havoc with the Irish pantheon and has led many a scholar astray. Very often the outlines of a myth and its protagonists are better preserved in the popular tradition - a folk tale collected only in this century may prove to be nearer to its pagan prototype than a version found in a twelfth century manuscript. This book is based on a study of all available texts in the light of the diagnostic method of comparative Indoeuropean mythology evolved by Georges Dumézil. It attempts to present Irish pagan mythology and its pantheon as a structured whole and in a way accessible to those who may not have the opportunity or time to go through all the relevant texts, which are widely scattered, for themselves (for those who do so wish, references to sources are indicated whenever appropriate). If the reader finds that the following analysis, despite its undoubted shortcomings, helps to situate the myths of the Irish gods in their wider, Indoeuropean, context, then it will have served its purpose.
Abbreviations of works and sources
PART I: THE PANTHEON Chapter Chapter Chapter Chapter 1: 2: 3: 4: THE IRISH PANTHEON. STRUCTURE OF THE IRISH PANTHEON. THE CELTIC PANTHEON. THE INDOEUROPEAN PANTHEON.
PART II: THE MYTHS Chapter 1: STORM 1. The theft of Gaibhneann’s cow and the birth of Lugh. 2. Lugh’s arrival in Teamhair. 3. The gods prepare for war. 4. The Daghdha’s exploits. 5. The drunkenness of Lugh. 6. Gaibhneann and Dian Céacht. 7. The killing of Balar. Chapter 2: WIND 1. Wind and Moon. 2. Bé bhFionn and Eocha Aireamh. 3. The raising of Conaire Mór to kingship. 4. The downfall of Conaire Mór. Chapter 3: FIRE 1. The birth of Macan Óg. 2. The courtship of Macan Óg. 3. The pigs of Deirbhreann. 4. Aoibhleán the burner. 5. The horse of Macan Óg. 6. Fear Í the harper. 7. Seinbheag the harper and Linn Féig. Chapter 4: WATER 1. Neachtan’s spring. 2. Divine food. 3. The Spring God and Fire. 4. Mongán. 5. Manannán and Cormac. 6. The sacrifice to Manannán. Chapter 5: THE SPECKLED COW 1. The Ghost Cattle. 2. The harrowing of Death I. 3. The harrowing of Death II. Chapter 6: LIGHT AND DARK 1. The incarnations of the Twins. 2. Moirríoghan and the cattle prey.
3. Cú Chulainn, Lóch and Moirríoghan.
Chapter 7: THE THREE FACES OF MACHA 1. The three faces of Macha. 2. The gifts of the gods. 3. The three gods on earth. 4. Lughaidh Laoighdhe and kingship. 5. The tripartite sacrifice of Diarmuid mac Cearbhaill. Chapter 8: THE UNSUITABLE KING 1. The birth of Breas. 2. The kingship of Breas. 3. The ransoming of Breas. 4. The slaying of Breas. 5. The Three White Ones of Eamhain. 6. Breasal Cowplague. Chapter 9: STORM INCARNATE 1. The birth of Cú Chulainn. 2. Cú Chulainn visits the Otherworld. 3. The feast of Bricre Poisontongue.
Conclusion Select index
LIST OF SOURCES AND THEIR ABREVIATIONS When citing sources, reference is to page unless "line" or "paragraph" are mentioned below. Inscriptions are referred to by number. AA. ACR (paragraph) Adom. AF Anec. Manuscripts,1907-13 Arm. AS AS-SG ATDM (paragraph) AU l895. AV BD BDD Béal. BG BJ Rheinlande. BM BSAF CA CB CC CCC Cláiringhneach CCF CCum Celtica CGH CIH CIC Celticarum, 1945-49 CIL CIR CM CMM CMT (paragraph) CMTC CMT (C) CS DD DF DSI Européens, 1977. EC ED EE E.Müller: Aislinga Oengussa, RC 3.344ff, 1877. R.I.Best: Aided Con Roí maic Dairi, Eriu 2.20ff, 1905. A.O. and M O.Anderson: Adomnan’s Life of Columba, 1961. J.Vendryes: Airne Fingein, 1953. O.J.Bergin and others:Anecdota from Irish E.Gwynn: Book of Armagh - the Patrician documents, 1937. W.Stokes: Acallamh na Senórach, IT 4, 1900. (line) Agallamh na Senórach in SG L.Duncan:Altram Tige Dá Meadar,Eriu 11.186ff, 1932. W.M.Hennessy and B.MacCarthy:Annals of Ulster,1887Atharvaveda. (cycle,hymn,verse) W.Stokes: Bodleian Dindshenchas, 1892. E.Knott: Togail Bruidne Da Derga, 1936. (line) Béaloideas Caesar: De Bello Gallico. (book, chapter, verse) Bonner Jahrbücher des Vereins von Alterthumsfreunden im Bulletin Monumental. Bulletin de la Société des Antiquaires de France. W.Stokes: Cóir Anmann, IT 3.288ff, 1897. J.O’Neill: Cath Boinde, Eriu 2.17ff, 1905. A.G.Van Hamel: Compert Con Culainn, 1933. P.M.MacSweeney: The Martial Career of Conghal ITS 5, 1902. S.Ó Searcaigh: Cloich Cheann Fhaolaidh, 1911. M.E.Dobbs: Cath Cumair, RC 43.278ff, 1926. (paragraph) M.A.O’Brian: Corpus Genealogicarum Hibernicarum, 1962. D.A.Binchy: Corpus Iuris Hibernici, 1978. R.A.S.Macallster: Corpus Inscriptiorum Insularum Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum. Brambach: Corpus Inscriptionum Rhenanarum. Compert Mongáin in IB. (paragraph) Cath Maige Mucrima in LL. (line) W.Stokes: Cath Maighe Tuireadh, RC 12.56ff, 1891. J.Fraser: The first battle of Magh Tuireadh, Eriu 8,4ff,1915. B.Ó Cuív: Cath Muighe Tuireadh, 1945. (line) W.W.Heist: Vitae Sanctorum Hiberniae, 1965. E.C.Quiggin: A Dialect of Donegal, 1906. E.MacNeill: Duanaire Finn, ITS 7, 28, 1908, 1933. (poem) Georges Dumézil: Les dieux souverains des IndoEtudes Celtiques. W.Stokes: Edinburg Dindshenchas, Folk-Lore 4, 1893. Ephemeris Epigraphica.
Eigse EN Eriu ERPS Saintonge. F F FDD 1926. FL FNE FSA Achill, FTC GT HP 1939. IACO IB IBP ILS amplissima collectio. IMR 14.154ff,1923. Irish Texts IT ITI ITS JMQ LG LH Hymnorum,1898. LL 67. (line) LSC LU MD 7, 1903-35. NB OSL (paragraph) RA RC RE RIACon Irish Language. RV SC SCC SFF SG SPB TBF 13,1906.
K.Meyer: Eachtra Nerai, RC 10.214ff. (paragraph) Espérandieu: Épigraphie Romaine du Poitou et de la K.Meyer: Fiannaigecht, Todd Lecture Series 16, 1910. G.Henderson: Fled Bricrend, ITS 2, 1899. (paragraph) M.L.Sjoested-Jonval: Forbuis Droma Damhghaire, RC 43 (paragraph) M.MacNeill: The Festival of Lughnasa, l962. Todd: Martyrology of Donegal, 1864. K.Meyer: The Colloquy between Fintan and the Hawk of Anec, 1.24ff, 1907. M.Joynt: Feis Tighe Chonáin, 1936. (line) Gregory of Tours: Historia Francorum. N.Ross: Heroic Poetry from the Book of the Dean of Ismore, Lejay: Inscriptions antiques de la Côte d’Or. K.Meyer: The Voyage of Bran, 1895. (paragraph) O.Bergin: Irish Bardic Poetry, 1970. Orelli-Henzen: Inscriptionum Latinarum selectarum K.Mueller-Lisowski: Imtheachta Moighi Ruith,ZCP
W.Stokes and E.Windisch: Irische Texte. G.Dumézil: L’ideologie tripartie des Indo-Européens, 1958. Irish Texts Society G.Dumézil: Jupiter Mars Quirinus, 1941. R.S.Macalister: Lebor Gabála Erenn, ITS 30,35,39,41,44, 1938-56. (paragraph) J.H.Bernard and R.Atkinson: 0n The Irish Liber R.I.Best,O.Bergin,M.A.O’Brian: The Book of Leinster, 1954S.Ó Duilearga: Leabhar Sheáin Í Chonaill, 1948. R.I.Best and O.Bergin:Lebor na hUidre, 1929. (line) E.Gwynn: The Metrical Dindshenchas, Todd Lecture Series Vaillant: Notes Boullonnaises - Epigraphie de la Morinine. J.O’Donovan and others: Ordnance Survey Letters. Revue Archéologique. Revue Celtique. Revue épigraphique du midi de la France. Royal Irish Academy: Contributions to a dictionary of the (lemma) Rgveda. (cycle, hymn, verse) W.Stokes: Cormac’s Glossary, 1868. (lemma) Serglige Con Culainn in LU. (line) W.Stokes: Scél na Fír Flatha, IT 3.185ff, 1891. (paragraph) S.H.O Grady: Silva Gadelica II 1892. Satapathabrahmana. (cycle,chapter,line) K.Meyer: The Triads of Ireland, Todd Lecture Series
TBFr TBR TDG TE 1938. TEm TLP TT VSH WIF YBL YI ZCP
Táin Bó Fraích in LL. (line) E.Windisch: Tain Bo Regamna, IT 2.241ff, 1887. (paragraph) N.Ní Shéaghdha: Tóruigheacht Dhiarmada agus Ghráinne, ITS 48, 1967. (line) O.J.Bergin and R.I.Best: Tochmarc Étaine, Eriu 12.142ff, (paragraph) Tochmarc Emire in CC. (paragraph) W.Stokes: Tripartite Life of Patrick, 1887. E.Ó Colm: Toraigh na dTonn, 1971. C.Plummer: Vitae Sanctorum Hiberniae, 1910. W.Larminie: West Irish Folktales and Romances, 1893. R.Atkinson: Yellow Book of Lecan, 1896. K.Danaher: The year in Ireland, 1972. Zeitschrift für celtische Philologie.
PART I: THE PANTHEON
Chapter 1 THE IRISH PANTHEON The aim of this first part is to present the gods who function in the myths as a structured whole - a pantheon. The task of understanding Irish myths is complicated from the outset by the fact that many gods have aliases - some mere epithets, others indicating a particular aspect of the god’s nature. To students of Indoeuropean mythology this will come as no surprise: the practice is widespread. In post-pagan Ireland, unfortunately, these aliases frequently came to be regarded as completely separate personages and only the cumulative sifting of all references enables one to distinguish the personage in his own right from the alias masquerading as a separate personage. In other cases, of course, at least one of the available texts clearly identifies a certain name as an alternative for another, which simplifies matters for the researcher. The first step is to set out the individual gods with their respective aliases, family relationships if any, aspects, attributes and functions. Only when this is done, will it become clear what the general structure of the pantheon is. In this first section, we shall examine in order (1) The Nine Great Gods (2) The Four Great Goddesses (3) The Young Gods (4) Other deities. The Nine Great Gods are, in order: the Shaman God, the Sky God, the Fire God, the Storm God, the Wind God, the Drought God, the Sea God, the Sun God, the Smith God. (1) The Shaman God has four names, all of which are ultimately epithets. The first and most common is the Daghdha (TE I 1-2) which reflects common Celtic *DAGODÊWOS "the good god". The second, explicitly stated to be equivalent to the first, is Eochaidh Ollathair (LL 1106) reflecting common Celtic *IWOKATUS OLLOATÎR "Yew-fighter the great father". The third is Eoghabhal (LL 37094ff) from common Celtic *IWOGABLOS "Yew spear" i.e. the god with the yew spear. The fourth, Ebron which occurs only in Ebron, the archaic legal formula Glé fo Erc nEbron (CIH 1506,2223) "let him swear by Erc and Ebron", appears to reflect common Celtic *EB(U)RONOS "Yew god" (compare the Gaulish tribal name Eburones). Clearly the names Eochaidh "Yew-fighter" and Eoghabhal "Yew-spear" could indicate identity. This is confirmed by the fact that both are stated to be father of Áine, a byname of the Dawn Goddess, Brighid (LL 1365, LG 317). In the case of Ebron, there is the meaning, "Yew god", and also the coupling with the Sky God, Earc, in exact parallel to the Vedic Mitra-Varuna (DSI). The Shaman God, as the Daghdha, is also father of the Fire God - under the names Macan Óg, Aodh and Cearmaid (LL 1158); as Eoghabhal, under the name Fear Í (LL 37094ff). The Fire God is the product of the god’s adulterous liaison with the Water Goddess, Bóinn, wife of the Sky God, Earc (TE I 1-2). The Shaman God is, however, basically husband to the Earth Goddess in her aspect as Moirríoghan (CMT 84). He shows the dichotomy typical of the shaman in that he is at once a terrible and majestic priest-king and a classical Trickster. The descriptions of him bear this out. In one, he is shown as a large man with a dark gray cloak and seven hoods, one over the other, the upper being shorter than the preceding lower one; nine men on either
side of him and a huge iron club in his hand, one end of it being the "storm end" and the other the "mild end". He touches one set of nine men with the "storm end", killing them, and the other set with the "mild end", bringing them to life; and then reverses the process (LL 35023ff). In another description he wears a short hood, a brown tunic down as far as the cleft of his buttocks, and legging shoes of horse skin with the fur outside. Behind him, he drags a vast club, heavy enough for eight men, the track it leaves is large enough to be a boundary ditch (CMT 93). Apart from the club of life and death, he has several other attributes: the cauldron from which no company goes unsatisfied (LG 305), the díorna (a stone of power) which, even if thrown into the sea or locked inside a house, returns to the well whence it came (TBF 237), the barrel which does not stop leaking at flood tide but which gives no drop at ebb (BD 8, MD 2.58), and the harp on which he has bound tunes so that they will not sound until he calls them (CMT 163). The Shaman God’s functions are explicitly stated: "Another name for him was the Good God, because it was he that made the miracles and governed the weather and fruits for them..." (TE I 1-2). He is the divine magician and, as such, responsible for the highest magic of all: life. Hence the aspect of fertility god which is especially marked in his copulations before the battle of Magh Tuireadh and by the epithet Fear Beann (the Horned Man) by which he names himself on one of these occasions (ZCP 12.401-462, CMT 84) an epithet which, as we shall see, had its counterpart among the mainland Celts. Hence, too, the connexion with water and the sea illustrated by his barrel and by the following: There was a large sea snail which used to suck a fully armed warrior into its "house bag". Then the Daghdha came with his "storm club" and dived onto the sea snail and uttered a spell over it, after which it retreated to the "magic sea" (MD 4.294). (2) Earc, the Sky God, is appropriately named. Old Irish erc is glossed "sky" (RIACon Erc), and clearly represerts common Celtic *ERQOS which is found, with metathesis, in Welsh wybr and Breton ebr "sky". The name Earc is retained (as noted above), in the archaic legal formula Glé fo Erc nEbron "let him swear by Erc and Ebron" (CIH 1506,2223). It is also retained in the name of Bishop Earc - none other than the Sky God baptized - who is described as Patrick’s lawspeaker and whose habitat - at first on the Boyne near the Bruigh and, after elevation to the episcopate, at Slane nearby - is identical to the god’s (TLP 4044,264). In the strictly mythological context, however, the name used is Elcmar or Ercmar (genitive Elcmair Elcmaire Ercmaire (LL 1156, 1183, 1565). This would seem to be Elcmair, Elcmaire, Ercmaire) a literary corruption, voluntary or involuntary, of Old Irish *Erc Már "great sky". Earc is the husband of the Water Goddess, Bóinn (also the river Boyne), and lives at the Bruigh (the megalithic monument at Newgrange overlooking the Boyne). The Shaman God sends him on a journey of nine months, during which time the sun never sets and meanwhile begets a son on the Water Goddess, the future Fire God, Macan Óg. At a later point in time, Earc is tricked into ceding the Bruigh to Macan Óg and thereafter takes up residence at Cleiteach on the other bank of the Boyne (TE I). The Moon Goddess, Bé bhFionn, is a daughter of Earc and Bóinn (AS-SG 229). There is no indication in the texts that Earc has any distinguishing physical aspect or numinous attribute. His function, however, is clear: he is the lawspeaker of the gods (LL 29461f, MD 4.269). This function, as noted above, persisted in the tradition even after he was Christianized as Bishop Earc. Interestingly, the bishop’s feast day was celebrated on 2 November - the day after Samhain and traditionally included in the celebrations of Samhain, which thus links Earc to the Fire God and the feast of Samhain at the Bruigh (DB 40). (3)
Son of the Shaman God and the Water Goddess, the Fire God is many sided: he is god both of fire and of youth. He is also god of music and judge of the dead. Protean in aspect and attribute, he has a variety of names and/or epithets which in the postpagan period were interpreted as distinct personages. Arguably the most common name, that of his youthful aspect, is Macan Óg ("the divine son") which reflects common Celtic *MAQONOS and is identical to Welsh Mabon and the Gaulish and Old British god Maponos who was equated to Apollo (CIL 7.218). The Welsh Mabon is son of Modron (from common Celtic *MÂTRONÂ, "the divine mother", an epithet of the Water Goddess which survives in the name of the river Marne in France). The name is written Mac ind Oc (MD 3.386, LL 29736), by false etymology, in the older texts and suffers further corruption to In Mac Oc (TE I 1-2). The name Aonghas is explicitly stated to be equivalent to Macan Óg and is interchanged with it in the texts (LL 1158, TE I 1-2). The Lebor Gabála gives a triad as "sons of the Daghdha": Oengus Mac Og (i.e. Aonghas Macan Óg), Aed Caem (i.e beloved Aodh) and Cermait Milbel (i.e. Cearmaid Honeymouth) (LL 1158). As is often the case, this triad represents three aspects of the same personage. The otherwise colourless Cearmaid is clearly, by virtue of his epithet, the god of music and corresponds to Fear Í, son of Eoghabhal (like the Daghdha, the Shaman God) (LL 37122ff). Fear Í, ("the man of the yew"), is described as a "little man" with a three-stringed tympanum sitting in a yew bush over a waterfall. This same dwarf god of music turns up in another myth as Seinbheag ("the old little one") (RC 5.182f) and, elsewhere, as Abhcán ("the dwarf") (LL 1185, CMT 60). In his basic aspect, the Fire God - like the Indian Agni - is simply called Aodh ("Fire") (SC Aedh) with an alternative name Aoibhléan ("spark") (LL 3350). We have already noted above that the Shaman God, as the Daghdha, has a triad of sons who are one. So, as Eoghabhal, he is credited in the earliest text with two sons who are one. Fear Í and Aoibhleán, different aspects of the same personage (LL 3350). Aoibhleán (Middle Irish Aiblen is often corruptly transmitted in later texts as Aillen (AS-SG 130, 157, Aiblen)
As judge of the dead, the Fire God is either called Aodh (LL 30434, AS-SG 103, 199) or Donn ("the dark red one") (MD 4.310, RIACon Donn), the latter being more common and occurring in several localized variants around the coast. Donn of Teach Doinn (MD 4.310) ("The House of Donn where the dead have their tryst") (AF 257) the Bull Rock off Dursey Island in West Cork - is the earliest noted, but there is also Donn of Frighrinn (Cnoc Fírinne in Co.Limerick) (CF 371, FL 201ff), Donn of Dumhach (in Co.Clare) (AS-SG 199, TDG 882) and Donn of Reachrainn (Rathlin Island off Co.Antrim) (AS-SG 199, TDG 883, CCC 72-82) who doubles as Aodh of Reachrainn (AS-SG 103,199, LL 30434). The offshore location of many of these sites is due to the belief that the dead dwelt in the Western Isles. When Mongán mac Fiachna summons the shade of Caoilte mac Rónáin to give evidence about the death of Fothadh Airgdeach, he hears him at first wading through Castlemaine harbour in Co.Kerry and then gradually approaching Ráth Mhór in Co.Antrim. (IB 45-48) Although the text is not explicit, it is clear that Caoilte is coming from Teach Doinn. In the Togail Bruidne Dá Derga, Donn has the epithet Deascorach ("of the just contracts"). The three Red Ones who ride before the king, Conaire Mór, who is going to his death in the hostel of Dá Dearga say: "We are riding the horses of Donn Deascorach from the other world. Although we are alive, we are dead." (BDD329f) Dá Dearga’s hostel is, of course, none other than the House of Donn; Dá Dearga (BDD 265), reflecting common Celtic *DÊWOS DERGÂS ("the god of the Red Woman" i.e. fire) is the Fire God himself. As already noted above, the Fire God is the son of the Shaman God. He is thus brother of the Dawn Goddess, as Brighid (daughter of the Daghdha) (LG 317) or as
Áine (daughter of Eoghabhal) (LL 37102). He is also fosterson of the Wind God, as Midhir (TE I 1-2). As far as physical aspect is concerned, the Fire God is apparently only distinguished as god of music - he is a dwarf. As Fire God, however, his "natural" kinship to the one-eyed Drought God, Balar, may be responsible for the epithet Goll ("one-eyed") applied to Aodh, enemy of Neachtan incarnate as Fionn mac Cumhaill (LU 3179ff) and to Aodh of Eas Ruaidh (FSA 21,26). The Ruadhán ("red one") who aids Balar by attacking the Smith God before the battle of Magh Tuireadh is conceivably an alias for Aodh (CMT 124f). The Fire God’s main attribute is his tympanum, with its power to produce the Three Strains of laughter, weeping and sleep. This attribute of his aspect as god of music occurs most usually when he has this aspect, as Fear Í or as Seinbheag. But it also occurs in connexion with his fiery aspect: as Aoibhleán, he first uses his tympanum to send the warriors of Teamhair to sleep and then proceeds to burn the hall with his main attribute by breathing out fire from his mouth (AS-SG 130). A further attribute is the bronze boat used by Seinbheag and by Abhcán. There is a strong connexion between the Fire God as god of music and the salmon of knowledge, one of whose habitats was the pool, Linn Féig, in the Boyne near the Bruigh (the dwelling which the Fire God as Macan Óg took over from Earc, the Sky God). When the Storm God, incarnate as Cú Chulainn, is salmon-fishing in this pool, Seinbheag tries to prevent him (RC 5.182f). Macan Óg is also called rí Féiglinne ("king of Linn Féig") (LL 29755). And one of Fiontan’s many incarnations is as Goll (i.e. Aodh) the salmon of Eas Ruaidh (FSA 21,26). The salmon also occurs in connexion with the Fire God’s incarnation as Cú Raoi (ACR 1) - the enemy of Cú Chulainn, incarnation of the Storm God. Cú Raoi’s name reflects common Celtic *KÛ ROIWÎ "the hound of the Great Yew" and, as such, cannot be separated from the Fire God’s name, Fear Í. In one text he is called Noíndiu Noimbrethach) Noibrethach (correctly Noídiu Noimbrethach "infant of the nine births" since his mother carried him for nine times nine months. This same text states that Macan Óg was the father (CGH 188f). The identity of "Noíndiu Noibrethach" with Cú Raoi is not in doubt - the first is made son of the daughter of Dáire while the second is made son of Dáire, but this is mere genealogical juggling. The connexion with the salmon of knowledge is that Cú Raoi’s soul is said to be in a golden apple inside a salmon which appears once every seven years in a well near his dwelling at Cathair Chon Raoi in Co.Kerry. When this is killed with his own sword, Cú Raoi dies (Eriu 2.32ff). The functions of the Fire God are usually separated to coincide with his aspect of the moment - yet we have seen that, as Aoibhleán, he combines attributes both of fire god and god of music. As fire god, he is obviously fire - as explicitly stated in Sanas Cormaic (SC Aedh). As god of youth, he is son (of the Shaman God) and fosterson (of the Wind God) and lover (of the Earth Goddess) (AA, AF 168, MD 3.386). As god of music, he is the divine tympanum-player, pacific but extremely powerful with his "sleeping strain". He is also messenger of the gods in this aspect (MD 4.58). As judge of the dead, he is a judge and ruler of the island where the dead reside. As the Dinnsheanchas puts it, in a somewhat garbled fashion: "According to the heathen, the sinful souls approach the house of Donn before going to hell, in order to greet the soul of Donn. But if it is a righteous and truly repentant soul, it sees (him) from afar and is not carried out of its way. This is the belief of the heathen." (MD 4.310) Incarnate as Cú Raoi, the god is a shape-changer who, like Donn, is a judge (FB 78,89). (4)
The Storm God’s name is Lugh (LL 1147, CMT 55) from common Celtic *LUGUS, of uncertain meaning. It is identical to the Welsh Lleu and the Gaulish god Lugus whose name is found in the several towns called Lugudunon "the fort of Lugus" (principally Lyon in France and Leiden in the Netherlands). It also features in the plural, Lugoves (CIL 2.2818, 13.5078), as a Celtic group deity in Spain. We are dealing then, with a god whose appellation is pan-Celtic although the Gaulish Storm God is usually called simply Taranus or Taranucnos "thunder" (CIL 3.2804, 12.820, 6094, 6478), a name ultimately identical to the Scandinavian Thor. The name Lugh is often accompanied by the epithet Lámhfhada "the longhanded"
(CMT-C 1) which corresponds to the Welsh Llawgyffes. Streak lightning is, of course,
the long hand which hurls the thunderbolt. The Storm God is the son of the Sun God, Cian, and Eithne, daughter of the Drought God Balar (LL 1147, 1150, 1237). He is, in fact, the third son of this union, since Balar manages to kill the first two sons (OSL (Donegal) 95). When Cian flees Balar’s stronghold with the Smith God’s cow and the infant Lugh, the Sea God Manannán takes Lugh for fostering to Eamhain Abhlach (WIF 242ff, Eigse 8.288), where he acquires many kinds of knowledge and is known as Samhioldánach "the many-skilled one" (CMT 53). Eventually he comes to Teamhair, displaces the Wind God Nuadha from the kingship of the gods (CMT 53, 75) and fulfills the prophecy that he will kill his grandfather by slaying Balar at the battle of Magh Tuireadh (CMT 135, OSL (Donegal) 90). Cú Chulainn, the youthful hero of the Ulster cycle, is an incarnation of the Storm God. This is explicitly stated in the story of his conception and birth which describes Lugh entering Deichtine’s mouth in the form of a small insect. Lugh then appears to her in a dream and says that she is pregnant with him and that he will be born as Séadanta (Cú Chulainn) (CC 5). The absolute identity of the two is repeated elsewhere (LL 17995ff) although the Táin Bó Cuailnge is less clear, stating merely that Cú Chulainn is Lugh’s son (LU 6307, LL 13779). In fact, the celebrated riastradh of Cú Chulainn - usually inaccurately translated as "distortion" - is a description of the incarnate Storm God taking on his divine aspect as Storm: "His limbs shook like a tree or a bullrush carried along by a stream. His feet, shins and knees turned to the back; his heels, calves and popliteal hollows turned to the front. Every sinew in his calves swelled like a warrior’s fist and stood out on his shins. The veins in his head went to his neck, each knot standing out as large as the head of a month old child. One eye sank back into his head while the other stood out on his cheek. His mouth stretched wide, the lower part of his cheeks coming away from the bone so that his gullet was visible. His lungs and his liver came up and floated in his throat and mouth. Flashes of fire as large as the skin of a three year old wether dripped out of his throat into his mouth. The beating of his heart in his rib cage was like the baying of a hunting pack. Flashes of fire were seen in the air above him. His hair curled round his head like branches of red hawthorn in a re-fenced gap. The warrior light arose from his forehead till it was as long and as broad as a fighting man’s whetstone. Like the mast of a large ship, a straight drop of dark red blood rose up from the top of his head and became a black mist of magic like the smoke rising from a royal hostel when a king comes to feast on a winter’s evening."
This is paralleled by the description of Lugh rising in drunkenness before the battle of Magh Tuireadh and dragging after him the chains and the stone pillars to which he had been bound to keep him from the fight (CMT-C 156ff). The Storm God’s attributes are the Thunderbolt (ball lightning) which the Smith God forges for him to kill the Drought God (CMT-C 677, 701ff) and his spear (streak lightning) which no man may withstand (LG 305). It is interesting to note that, in the Christian period, Saint Molua of Cluain Fearta,
whose name - a hypocoristic form of Lughaidh (common. Celtic *LUGUDEKS "worshiper of Lugh") - predisposes to some connexion with the Storm God, did in fact take over certain of his aspects. Like Lugh, he is the youngest of three sons (VSH II Molua 1). This would hardly be noteworthy by itself, since folk myths teem with the youngest of three sons. But among his "miracles" we find: (1) A man who suffered from frequent headaches and a bad chest ulcer saw the infant Molua "burning with a flame like lightning". When the child was brought to him, he (i.e. Molua) "wept and his tears fell on the man’s chest". Whereat the man was cured (VSH Molua 2). (2) Molua acted as shepherd for his parents, going out with the other shepherd boys. One day a heavy shower put out their fire. Then Molua picked up a damp and dead firebrand. "The angel of the Lord" came and breathed on it, whereat it again flared up and the shepherds were able to dry themselves at their fire (VSH Molua 3). In both incidents, the combination of "water from heaven" and "fire from heaven" are the hallmark of the Storm God. (5) The Wind God has three main names which appear to reflect regional or tribal differences, one being connected with the Leinster tribes on the East coast, the second being centred on the Midlands, while the third is linked with Ulster. He has a further name in his aspect as god of strength; this name clearly developed early into a separate god. The Leinster name of the Wind God is Nuadha (Old Irish Nuadu genitive Nuadat (LL Nuadu, Nuadat) 1133) which reflects common, celtic *NEUDONTS "the seizer" and is identical to the Welsh Nudd (or Lludd) and the British god Nodons or Nodens, equated to Mars (CIL 7.140, 943). He has the epithet Airgeadlámh "Silverhand" (LL 1133) since he lost one hand in battle and Dian Céacht, the Sun God (and god of healing), replaced it with a silver one. A further name for Nuadha is Labhraidh "the talker" (MD 3.26) which was originally an epithet. The identity of the two is indicated in the texts by the following circumstantial evidence: (1) "Cacher" and Neachtan are made the two sons of Nama (in the genitive form Namat) Namat (LL 1154). Namat is obviously a (conscious) corruption of "Nuadat". "Caithear" (i.e. "Cacher") is one of the sons of Nuadha (LG 368). Neachtan is the son of Labhraidh (MD 3.26, LL 17940). Thus Nuadha is "Nama" is Labhraidh. (2) Labhraidh is called Labraid Luathlám ar Cloidem (the Speaker Swift-hand on sword) and Labraid Luath (the Swift Speaker) (LU 3313, 3340, 3646). In view of the variant Luadha which occurs in Magh Luadhad besides Magh Nuadhad (Maynooth, Nuadha’s plain) (LL 6069, FNE 286), and the Welsh variant Lludd besides Nudd, one is tempted to see here a corruption of *Labraid Luadu Lám ar Cloidem (the Speaker Nuadha Hand-on-sword) and *Labraid Luadu (the Speaker Nuadha). Luadha’s weapon, apparently alone among the gods, is the sword. Yet another name for Nuadha, Cumhall (LU 3179ff), is restricted to his aspect as father of Fionn, the incarnate Neachtan. The name itself corresponds to the British war god Camulos (CIL 6.46, 7.1103), both representing common Celtic *KAMULOS. The identity is assured by the Welsh equivalent of Fionn son of Cumhall which is Gwyn (=Fionn) son of Nudd(=Nuadha). The Midland name of the Wind God is Midhir (TE I 2ff, LL 1366, 1416). Unlike Nuadha, his arm is meither missing nor replaced. But he does lose an eye, soon replaced by the ubiquitous Dian Céacht (TE I 9f). As Midhir, he is married in the first instance to an avatar of the Earth Goddess, Fuamnach (the noisy one) (LL 1416, TE I 15), whose main attribute is that of the storm wind: she sends the Moon Goddess, Bé bhFionn, who is the Wind God’s second wife, sailing in the sky for protracted spells of time by means of a howling gale (TE I 18,21). Midhir shows the attributes of the wind by transporting vast quantities of material in a single night to build a causeway across the marshes of Teathbha in the
Midlands (TE III 7). He also flies (TE I 9f). In Ulster, the Wind God has the aspect of war god and is so described. His name is Néid and, like Midhir, he is married to the Earth Goddess in her aspect as war goddess - in this case she is called Neamhan, Badhbh or Bé Néid ("Néid’s wife") (SC Neith, LL 1183, 1412), No myths concerning the Wind God in this aspect have been preserved. Obviously, since they are identical but belong to variant traditions, Nuadha, Midhir and Néid never figure in the same myth or mythical context. The same is true of the offspring of the first two, Neachtan and Sioghmhall - although the Lebor Gabála, in a poem obviously inspired by the anti-pagan idea of showing that the so-called gods were in fact mortals, does have the former kill the latter (LL 1366). In his aspect as God of Strength, the Wind God is called Oghma. (LL 1095) This name clearly, but irregularly, reflects common Celtic *OGMIOS. The classical writer Lucian states that Ogmios was the Celtic Hercules.(Hercules 1). Oghma is closely united to Nuadha in the myths, acting as court wrestler to Nuadha as king (CMT 59,72). Nuadha embodies the kingship of the Wind God, Oghma embodies his strength. As to physical aspect, Nuadha is marked by his silver hand. Midhir is simply described as a young man with long golden hair and blue candle-like eyes (TE III 1). Of Oghma, there is no description at all other than the epithet Grianeinech ("sunfaced") (LL 1153, CMT-C 14). Nuadha’s attribute is his sword which, once drawn, is irresistible. Its name, Caladhbholg, reflects common Celtic *KALETOBOLKOS "the hard pass", which via Welsh Caledfwlch has given the Arthurian Excalibur. Midhir levitates - as when he rises up with the Moon Goddess through the smoke hole of Eocha Aireamh’s court (TE III 15). Oghma is simply strong. The function of the Wind God best typified by Nuadha (or Cumhall) is that of the displaced leader of the divine warband. He is at first king of the gods but, after losing his arm, is first "suspended from duty" since this physical blemish incapacitates him for kingship. Thereafter, since he is unable to face the Drought God, Balar, he is definitively replaced by the young Storm God, Lugh (CMT 53,74). As Midhir, he is foster father to the Fire God, Macan Óg (TE I 2). (6) The Drought God in his divine aspect has only one name, originally an epithet. It is Balar (LL 1086) which reflects common Celtic *BALEROS "the deadly one", cognate with Old Irish at baill "dies" and Welsh ball "death, plague". Later texts often add the epithet Béimneach, "of the blows") or Bailcbhéimneach ("of the mighty blows"). An earlier epithet, however, was Birugderc "of the piercing eye" (CMT 133) which is apter. Balar’s aspect and attribute are one and the same: his single eye. The literary tradition describes it as "a destructive eye, opened only during battle. Four men lifted his eyebrow off his eye. No troop, however great, that look on the eye would withstand him." (CMT 133) The folk tradition is at once less prosaic and much closer to what must have been the original aspect of the Drought God: "He had one poisonous eye in his forehead. It was always covered with seven cloaks to keep it cool. He took the cloaks off one by one. At the first, ferns began to wither. At the second, grass began to redden. At the third, wood and trees began to heat up. At the fourth, smoke came out of wood and trees. At the fifth, everything got red hot. At the sixth...... At the seventh, the whole land caught fire." (Béal. 4.88) This singularly unpleasant deity has apparently no wife, but does have a daughter, Eithne (LL 1086). When Balar steals the Green Cow of the Smith God, the Sun God Cian comes to get it back (OSL (Donegal) 90ff, WIF 242ff). At the same time, Eithne has three sons by him, one after the other. Balar kills the first two, but the third
escapes to become the Storm God, Lugh (OSL (Donegal) 95, LL 1150, 1237). As is proper, his grandson is fated to kill Balar (OSL (Donegal) 90ff, WIF 242ff) since only Storm can banish Drought. A probable incarnation of Balar is Flann ("the red one") who opposes the incarnate Neachtan, Fionn mac Cumhaill, at the Ford of the Stone (Áth Liag at the north end of Lough Ree) and whom Neachtan defeats with the Stone of Power (lightning) handed to him by the Water Goddess (MD 4.36, 38). (7) The Sea God has two names, both originally epithets, corresponding to his two aspects: the one peaceful and beneficent to men, the other harsh and warlike. The first is Manannán mac Lir (LL 1320) "the Manxman son of the sea" which corresponds to the Welsh Manawyddan fab Llyr. Indeed, Sanas Cormaic states specifically that both Irish and Welsh honoured him as sea god (SC Manannán). The second, Teathra, appears in the texts as Tethrai with a genitive Tethrach (CMT 25, 162, TE m 17, LL 1157, 24502). There is no doubt that this represents an earlier *Trethri, genitive *Trethreg, with dissimilatory loss of the first r. *Trethri would reflect common Celtic *TRIYATORÎX "sea king", the first part of which is found in early Irish as triath "sea", particularily in the context "rough sea" (RIACon Trethan, Tethrach, Triath). Fish are referred to by the kenning buar Tethrach "the sea king’s cattle" or buar maige Tethrach "the cattle of the sea king’s plain" (TEm 17, 31). The scald crow, as battle goddess, is referred to as "the sea king’s wife" (LU p. 124). Apart from the indefatigable efforts of the genealogists which are not to be taken too seriously, the Sea God appears to have no known relatives. The texts mention many liaisons (LU 3338, AS-SG 175, MD 4.58), as befits a sea rover, but no permanent wife or children. He is, however, the foster father of the Storm God, Lugh (IBP 79.50, 76.25, Eigse 8.289, WIF 242ff). As sea king, the god has no distinguishing physical aspect. As Manannán, however, the descriptions are more lavish. When he appears to Bran mac Feabhail, he is driving his chariot over the waves and explains that what for Bran is sea and fishes is for him a wide plain with grazing cattle (IB 32ff). When on land, he has no chariot but wears a rich cloak over a tunic and metal shoes (electrum in one text, gold in another) (SFF 25, CM 3). The cloak has magic properties: when waved between two persons, they will never meet again (LU 4032). The metal shoes, although this is not explicitly stated, probably enable him to walk on water. There is also mention of a silver branch (with golden applles in one text, with flowers in another) carried by Manannán or by his emissary which, when shaken, sends the hearer to sleep. (SFF
25, IB 2)
This branch is certainly connected with the magic apple trees in Manannán’s domain of Eamhain Abhlach ("Eamhain of the apple trees") whose fruit have rejuvenating properties (AS-SG 103, LU 10016ff, Eigse 8.288ff). A further attribute of Manannán are his pigs. When these are killed and eaten, so long as the bones are not broken, they are alive and well the next day (SF 42, ATDM 2, LG 319). As owner of these pigs, Manannan is once referred to as Easach (LG 319, LG poem 66.13), a kenning meaning "boat man" derived from early Irish ess "boat,vessel" (RIACon Ess). The Sea God’s functions are clear. As sea king, he is the raging sea, a pirate, and thus on the side of the Drought God Balar, against the Storm God, Lugh (CMT 25), to whom in his other aspect he is foster father. As Manannán, he is a merchant, "the best navigator in Western Europe, knowing good and bad weather" (SE Manannán). He also has the overtones of a fertility god with his apples, his pigs - and his fleeting loves. (8)
The Irish Sun God, like his Greek counterpart Apollo, has a dual function - first as a purely solar deity, second as god of healing. His original name is preserved in no text, his three names being all originally epithets. As god of healing, he is called Dian Céacht (SC Dian Céacht). The first element presents no problem as it simple means "swift". Céacht, however, which is necessarily a genitive plural in function (it cannot be an adjective since Dian is declined but Céacht is not), was obviously no longer understood by the earlier glossators who suggest "strength" - a mere guess. My own guess is that Céacht is the old passive participle of the verb cingid "steps, marches" which has been nominalized in the sense of "path". Dian Céacht is thus "the swift (traveller) of the paths" which is an apt enough epithet for a Sun God. Starting with the monastic Lebor Gabála, Cian is made a son of Dian Céacht (LL 1085, 1108, 1147). In the myths, however, they never appear together, which in itself is an indication that they are in fact one person. Cian "the distant one" is an epithet for the Sun God. The purely solar deity is represented by Mugh Roith reflecting common Celtic *MAGUS ROTÎ, "the warrior of the chariot", the chariot being that of the sun (IMR, FDD). As Dian Céacht, the Sun God is married to the Dawn Goddess, Brighid, in her aspect as Bé Leighis ("wife of healing") (SC Brigit). As Cian, he becomes the lover of Eithne, daughter of Balar, and the fruit of this union is the Storm God, Lugh (LL 1147). As god of healing, he has a son Miach ("Bushel") and a daughter Airmheadh ("Corn measure") (LL 1168, CMT 123). As Mugh Roith, the Sun God’s attribute is, obviously, the sun chariot, described as being drawn by two oxen, a rowan chariot with shafts of electron and sides of glass, equally bright by night and day to those within it (FDD 63). It blinds whoever looks at it, deafens whoever hears it and kills whoever it strikes (MD 4.188, CGH 280). Since he is its master, Mugh Roith can stop the sun (IMR 155). As Dian Céacht, his attribute is the Well of Healing, also known as the Lake of Herbs. Gods killed in the battle of Magh Tuireadh are put into this at night and arise alive and well the next day (CMT 123, 126, MD 4.184). While there is no doubt about the twin functions of healing and time measurement which are proper to the Sun God, the following myth interestingly combines the two: When the Wind God, Nuadha, had lost his arm, Dian Céacht made a silver one to replace it. His son Miach ("Bushel") was not satisfied and made Nuadha’s old arm grow back on ("joint to joint and vein to vein"). Dian Céacht was enraged and tried to kill his son, who cured himself successfully three times. At the fourth attempt Dian Céacht finally slew him. Miach was buried. Then 365 herbs of healing grew out of his tomb "according to the number of his joints and veins". His sister Airmheadh ("Corn measure") spread out her cloak and collected them. But Dian Céacht came and scattered them so that noone now knows their proper use unless inspired by the spirit. And Dian Céacht said "If there is no Bushel, let Corn Measure still remain" (CMT 33ff). Dian Céacht, as Sun God, had mixed the 365 days of the year so that only a seer can know the actions for which a given day is favorable (Irish Texts 4.8f). As god of healing, he has mixed the 365 herbs so that only a leech can know their proper use. (9) The Smith God has two names which correspond to his dual function: first as divine smith and second as hospitaler to the gods. As divine smith he is Gaibhneann (LL 1122, 1341), which, like its Welsh equivalent Gofannon, reflects common Celtic *GOBENNONOS or *GOBANNONOS "smith god". The older texts also have a secondary form Goibniu (genitive Goibnenn Goibnenn). In this capacity, he frequently forms a triad with two acolytes, Luchtaine the carpenter god and Créidhne the tinsmith god (LL 1076, 1122, 1235, 1342ff, CMT 122, SC Nescoit), neither of whom have any independent function. The question of his hospitaller aspect is more complicated. He is sometimes referred
to as Gaibhneann in this capacity (ATDM 2, AS 6402, 6803). In the Ulster cycle, however, he appears as Bricre Poisontongue (Old Irish Bricriu genitive Bricrenn (FB Bricriu, Bricrenn) 1) while in the Lebor Gabála and associated texts the same name appears as Tuirell Bicrenn, Piccrenn) Bicreo (genitive Tuirill Bicrenn Tuirill Piccrenn (LG 316, 319). The Co.Down placename Loch Bricleann (Loughbrickland) indicates that the original form was *Bricliu (genitive *Briclenn). This reflects common Celtic *BRIKTLIÛ "spell master" derived from *BRIKTLON a synonym of *BRIKTUS (Irish briocht "spell". Wizard’s briocht) powers are commonly attributed to smiths in Irish folklore and the Smith God a fortiori shares this trait: he chants spells (di chan brichtu (SC Nescoit). brichtu) di Gaibhneann and Bricre are certainly identical. In the first place, Gaibhneann - like Bricre - furnishes but does not preside over the divine feast. In the second, Bricre (in the form Tuirell Bicreo) is the father of the Twins, Iuchar and Iucharbha (LG 319, CMTc 48, LG poem 66). Brighid, the Dawn Goddess, is the mother of the same two (LL 24601). She also has the aspect Bé nGaibhneachta "wife of smithery" (SC Brigit) which means that she is married to Gaibhneann in this aspect. Consequently Gaibhneann and Bricre are identical as father of the Twins. The Smith God’s attributes are clear and correspond to his functions. As divine smith, he has his forge in which he forges the thunderbolt for the Storm God, Lugh (CMT 96, 122, CMT-C 677ff, OSL (Donegal) 90ff, WIF 242ff). As hospitaler of the gods, he furnishes the divine feast, known as Fleadh Ghaibhneann or, in the context of the Ulster cycle, Fleadh Bhricreann. He is also owner of the cow of plenty, Glas Ghaibhneann "the Smith God’s green one", the theft of which by the Drought God, Balar, leads to the birth of Lugh and ultimately to Balar’s death. Mention of this cow is infrequent in the literary texts ("Gaibhneann’s cow: what she grazed she ground both grass and water") (Anec. 2.59) but she figures very prominently in the folk tradition, all sources agreeing that any vessel put under her, she would fill with milk, however large or small the vessel might be (WIF 242ff, Béal. 3.128, 6.168, 6.238,
11.172, OSL (Donegal) 90ff, OSL (Clare) 68ff, OSL (Cavan) 16, OSL (Derry) 265, Eigse 8.297).
This concludes our examination of the Nine Great Gods. We now turn to the Four Great Goddesses who are, in order: the Earth Goddess, the Dawn Goddess, the Water Goddess, the Moon Goddess. (10) The Earth Goddess, apart from her basic function as mother of the gods, has four additional aspects, each of which has its own name or names. As mother goddess, she is called Donann (LL 1169, 1322) reflecting common Celtic *DONONÂ "Earth goddess" which is derived from *DÛ (genitive *DONOS), "earth" which gave Old Irish dú (genitive don "earth,place" and the Welsh divine name Dôn don) which corresponds to Donann as the mother of the gods. Also cognate is common Celtic *DONIOS "earthling" which has given Irish duine Welsh dyn "human being". She is specifically stated to be the mother of the gods (LL 1229) and the expression used for the pantheon as a whole is Tuath Dé Donann (LL 929, 1197, CMT 96, 129) in the older texts (later corrupted to Tuatha Dé Donann and Tuatha Dé Danann) (LL 1263). This, with some morphological reshuffling in the last word, reflects common Celtic *TEUTÂ DÊWÂS DONONÂS "the people of the divine Earth". A localized name for the mother goddess is the Ulster name Macha (LL 1120, 1180) which reflects common Celtic *MAGOSOWÂ "the great mother (genitrix)" the second element of which is cognate with Irish suth "offspring". In connexion with the Shaman God and the Fire God, she has a druidic aspect. As wife of the Shaman God she is called Moirríoghan (LL 1180, F 16, MD 4.196) from common Celtic *MORORÎGONÂ "the goddess queen of death", thus corresponding to the terrible side of the Shaman God’s nature (the "storm end" of his club). In connexion with the Fire God she is called Deirbhreann (variants Drebrenn, Deirbriu,
Drebriu) (LL 16689, 7564, CB 174, LU 4074, MD 3.404 etc.). This reflects common Celtic *DERWERONÂ "the goddess of the oak grove" - she is thus connected to a place of particular sanctity where sacrifice, presided over by the Fire God, would occur. In connexion with the Wind God, as Midhir, she is called Fuamnach "the noisy one" and personifies the storm wind (TE I 15, 26, LL 1416). With the same god in his aspect as war god, she is called Badhbh or Bodhbh (LL 9572ff, 1120, 1180, TBR 7, TEm 50), reflecting common Celtic *BODWÂ "scald crow" which appears, compounded, in the name of the Gaulish goddess Cassibodua "the brilliant scald crow" (CIL 13.4525) who is equated to Victoria, wife of Mars. A further name is Neamhan (Old Irish Nemon from common Celtic *NEMONÂ (SC Neith, MD 4.94), Nemon) which appears to be a by-form of NEMETONÂ "the goddess of the sacred grove" (from *NEMETON Irish neimheadh "sacred grove") who also figures in Gaul as wife of Mars (CIL 7.36, 13.6131). The connexion with Deirbhreann is clear. She is also, naturally, called Bé Néid "war god’s wife" (TEm 50). An interesting parallel to the Irish Earth Goddess in her aspect as wife of the War God is furnished by inscriptions from Gaul dedicated to "Marti Cicollui et Litavi" (IACO 1,206). Cicollus is evidently the War God, so Litavi is - like Donann in this aspect - wife of the war god. Now common Celtic *LITAWÎ, which occurs in Old Irish as Letha "the European mainland" and in Welsh as Llydaw "Brittany" has the basic meaning of "earth" and is formally identical to the Indian Earth goddess Prthivi. In an agricultural context, the Earth Goddess appears as Anann (LL 1120, 1180) reflecting common Celtic *ANASONÂ "wealth goddess", a derivative of *ANASÂ (Old Irish ana "wealth" from yet earlier *ANESÂ, plural of *ANES- which is formally ana) identical to Sanskrit ápnas- "wealth" and cognate with Latin opes "wealth" and Ops "harvest goddess". As incarnation of kingship - primitively, the land which the king must wed in order to achieve sovereignty - she is called Meadhbh "the drunken woman" (LL 7564) with further epithets Clothrann (the distributor of fame) (LL 7564, CCum 7ff) and Mughain (common Celtic *MAGUNÎ) "the maiden" (LL 7564). We thus have the following groups of names all referring to the same deity: (1) Donann, Macha (2) Moirríoghan, Deirbhreann (3) Fuamnach, Badhbh, Neamhan, Bé Néid (4) Anann (5) Meadhbh, Clothrann, Mughain. In the texts, of course, all these appear as separate personages. Careful examination, however, enables us to establish their basic identity: 1. As already noted, Donann is called "the mother of the gods". Sanas Cormaic refers to Anann as "mother of the Irish gods". Therefore Donann = Anann. 2. The Lebor Gabála has a triad: the "three daughters of Ernbas (Iron Death)". The triad are three aspects of the one, as is usual in such cases. The list is given twice: the first time it consists of Badhbh, Macha and Anann (LL 1120), the second time of Badhbh, Macha and Moirríoghan (LL 1180). Therefore Macha = Moirríoghan = Badhbh = Anann. 3. Elsewhere, Badhbh and Neamhan are in one place made two wives of Néid (LL 1412), in another they are explicitly equated (LL 9572ff). Bé Néid can only be a wife of Néid by the very nature of her name. Therefore Badhbh = Anann = Bé Néid. 4. Néid, as War God, is an aspect of the Wind God. Fuamnach is wife of the Wind God. Therefore Fuamnach = Bé Néid. 5. Deirbhreann is the goddess of the oak grove. Neamhan is the goddess of the
sacred grove. The sacred grove by all accounts was an oak grove. Therefore Deirbhreann = Neamhan. 6. Deirbhreann and her pigs share the Cave of Cruachain with Moirríoghan (LL 16689) - because they are identical. Whence Deirbhreann = Moirríoghan. 7. A double triad, the "six daughters of Eocha Feidhleach", are frequently mentioned in the texts. Meadhbh, Clothrann, Mughain and Deirbhreann always appear in it. Of the remaining two, one is called Éile (placename, Co.Tipperary) (LL 21551, 7664, CB 174) but once Lothra (placename, same county) (LL 16689); the other is called Eithne (river flowing into the Shannon) (LL 21551, 7664, CB 174) but once Muireasc (placename in Co.Mayo) (LU 4074). It is clear that these extra two were added later to make a double triad. The basic triad - Meadhbh, Clothrann, Mughain - actively represent incarnate sovereignty in the texts and the dominant member, Meadhbh, parallels in this world the actions of the Earth Goddess as Moirríoghan on the god plane. We have seen in 6 above the identity of Deirbhreann to Moirríoghan. Since Deirbhreann is linked to this triad, then Meadhbh = Clothrann = Mughain = Deirbhreann. A sum of the equations established in points 1 to 7 above will give the equation Donann = Macha = Moirríoghan = Deirbhreann = Fuamnach = Badhbh = Neamhan = Bé Néid = Anann = Meadhbh = Clothrann = Mughain. As Donann, the Earth Goddess is simply the mother of the gods and does not figure actively in any myth. Not so her Ulster counterpart in this aspect, Macha, who in one tale appears as the incarnation of the sovereignty of Ulster (LL 2514ff). In another, used to explain the name Eamhain Mhacha, she appears as a young woman, fleet of foot, who is the incarnation of motherhood (MD 4.124, LL 14547ff). As Moirríoghan, the goddess is active in several myths, particularly as aider and abetter of her other aspect, Meadhbh (TBR). She is described as a red woman with red eyebrows clothed in red who is driven in a chariot with her cloak trailing on the ground behind it; the chariot is pulled by a single one-footed horse and its shaft is set inside the horse’s skin so that its end pokes out through the animal’s forehead (TBR 2). She is a shape-changer, her preferred aspect being that of a crow (TBR 5, LU 5321). With the Storm God, in his incarnation as Cú Chulainn, she employs trickery (TBR, EN 13, LL 9544ff, LU 6081ff, 6104ff, 6196ff, 6232ff, 6246ff) but against women she is more direct, as when she melts the girl Odhras into a stream (MD 4.198). The most striking aspect of Moirríoghan - which has persisted in popular tradition (LSC 133) - is that of the washerwoman. When the Shaman God goes to copulate with her before the battle of Magh Tuireadh, she is washing at a river with one foot on each bank (CMT 84). Another text describes her washing the spoils of the dead after battle (F 16). Both the red aspect (compare the Fire God as Death God) and the washing activities underling her function as "goddess queen of death". As Deirbhreann, she is principally described as an enchantress, lover of the Fire God in his aspect as Macan Óg and owner of the red pigs (MD 3.386). As lover of Macan Óg, she is also called Caor "berry" (AA, AF 168). Since she is the goddess of the oak grove, the association with acorns and thus with pigs is reasonable. But in at last part of the tradition, these red pigs are described as human beings changed into pigs by magic (MD 3.150, 386, 404). Is this a hint at human sacrifice ("long pig") in the sacred groves under the auspices of the Earth Goddess and the Fire God? Or is it quite simply a much later addition by someone who had somehow heard of Circe and her pigs? Both explanations are possible - and neither is necessarily correct. As Fuamnach, she uses the same attribute as Moirríoghan to dissolve the Moon Goddess, Éadain, into a pool of water (TE I 16). She has the further attribute of the storm wind which she uses to send the Moon Goddess, in the form of a large purple fly, sailing through the sky for protracted periods of time (TE I 18, 21).
As Badhbh, Neamhan or Bé Néid, she is the scald crow flying above the heads of warriors as they rush into battle (LL 9574, 14412). In one text, under the name of Moirríoghan, she is a swift naked greyhaired hag leaping on the points of their weapons and shields (CMR 198). After the terrifying and frequently bizarre appearance of the Earth Goddess in her shaman and warrior aspects, her agricultural aspect, Anann, is perforce disappointing. She figures actively in no extant myth. However, she is specifically described as goddess of prosperity with a special connexion with Munster (CA 1.5) wherein are the two breasts of Anann (The Paps, a mountain on the Cork-Kerry border with twin peaks which are indeed breastlike) (LL 1120, SC Ana). As Meadhbh, the goddess is queen of the Éarainn and incarnates sovereignty. Unless a man marries her, he cannot be king and he will remain king only as long as she accepts him. She has three taboos: her husband of the moment must be without jealousy, without fear and without niggardliness (CB 182). A niggardly man could not be her match since she is good at bestowing. A fearful man would not be her match since she wins battles and skirmishes by herself. A jealous man would not be her match since she is never without one man following in his predecessor’s footsteps (LL 7578ff). Clothrann (LL 14399, CCum, LG 587) and, less spectacularily, Mughain (CB 175) fit into this pattern. In one myth, as "the sovereignty of Britain and Ireland", she appears to prospective candidates for kingship as a hideous hag and only the candidate who agrees to make love to her in this form passes the test and sees her in her glorious aspect as Sovereignty (MD 4.134, CA 70). (11) The Dawn Goddess has two names, both originally epithets. The first is Brighid (SC Brigit) reflecting common Celtic *BRIGANTÎ, "the high one" and corresponding to the British goddess Brigantia (CIL 7.200, 203, 875, 1062). It is a moot point whether the tribe Brigantes, found in Britain and - according to Ptolemy - in Leinster were so called because they followed the goddess *BRIGANTÎ, or the goddess was so called because she was patron goddess of the Brigantes. It is certain that, christianized as Saint Brighid, she was considered the patron of the Leinstermen, descended at least in part from Ptolemy’s Brigantes. The second name is Áine (LL 1365), originally probably *Áin, reflecting common Celtic *ÂSNÎ "the brilliant one". The identity of the two is not in doubt. Brighid is daughter of the Daghdha, (LG 317) so is Áine (LL 1365). Elsewhere Áine is called daughter of Eoghabhal whom we have seen to be identical to the Daghdha. The Dawn Goddess is thus the daughter of the Shaman God. Ipso facto, she is also the sister of the Fire God, as Macan Óg or as Fear Í. She is wife to the Sun God, Dian Céacht, in her aspect as Bé Leighis "the wife of healing" and to the Smith God, Gaibhneann, in her aspect as Bé nGaibhneachta "the wife of smithery" (SC Brigit). She is the mother of the Twins, Iuchar and Iucharbha (LL 24601).
Her functions are multiple. As daughter of the Shaman God and sister of the Fire God, she is goddess of poetry (LG 317, LL 22624). Sanas Cormaic states this quite clearly: "The goddess Brighid whom poets worshipped" (SC Brigit). The gloss "true poetry" on the expression a cuardaib Ane "from visitations of Áine" (LL 24320) shows that she was also known as Áine in this aspect. As Dawn Goddess, she owns the two horses of the dawn, known as the "two horses of Áine" (CA 176). These are probably identical to the two horses, bizarrely ascribed to "the king of the island of Sicily", of which it is said "Death by iron has no power over them" (LG poem 66.9, LG 319). The legal texts also mention the "judgements on horses" of Áine (here made daughter of Úghaine) (CIH 1497). In this aspect, one is tempted to compare her to the Gaulish horse goddess Epona (CIL 3.7750, 7.1114) particularily in view of the fact that she is mother of the twins "Horseman and Horseman’s Bane". As Brighid she is owner of the "two oxen of Dil" of uncertain function (LG 317). It is, however, in the christianized Saint Brighid that the aspect and functions of Dawn Goddess emerge most clearly. In his hymn, Ultán moccu Chonchubhair says: "Brighid, eternally good lady, golden sparkling flame; may the bright sun lead us to the eternal kingdom". (LH 1.110) Mutatis mutandis, this could be a couplet from a Vedic hymn to Dawn, not a Christian hymn in praise of a human saint. The hagiographers tell us that Brighid used to herd her sheep on the Curragh of Kildare (LH 1.118) and that she loved "herding and early rising" (FNE 34). Early rising is rising at dawn. Moreover, her christianized feast, 1 February, perpetuates the pagan festival of Iombolg (RIA Con Imbolc) and corresponds to the lambing season and beginning of spring - the "dawn of the year" - in the agricultural calendar. (12) The Water Goddess has three names, all three of which are still very much extant as river names. The first is Sionann (Archaic Old Irish Sinon (Arm. 11b, 14b) from *Sindon like Sindon Brendin) Brenainn from Brendin which continues common Celtic *SINDWONÂ "the goddess Sindus". This must be cognate with the Sanskrit Sindhu which the Indoeuropeans applied to the river Indus after conquering the Indus Valley civilization and who is worshiped in the Vedas as Water Goddess. In Ireland, the name was applied to the river Shannon. The second is Bóinn (Archaic Old Irish Boend (Adom. 342) which continues common Boend) Celtic *BOUWINDÂ "the woman of the white cows". It was applied to the river Boyne which flows past the prestigious cult site of tbe Bruigh (Newgrange megalithic monument). As we shall see, Sionann and Bóinn represent local names for the goddess, one in the western tradition,the other in the eastern or Leinster tradition. The goddess could, of course, be considered incarnate in any large river. The third is Banna (Old Irish Bandae (Arm. 15b) which continues common Celtic Bandae) *BANODÊWÂ. *BANODÊWÂ at first sight would appear to mean "the goddess" like modern Irish bandia If so, this would be a tautology, since common Celtic *DÊWÂ bandia. alone meant "goddess" and, as such, was applied as a name to several rivers in the Celtic world, including Ireland. The, truth, I believe, lies elsewhere. Vedic tradition has a group of water goddesses known collectively as Gnâs "the women" (RV 7.35.6), a name which corresponds exactly to Irish mná "women". The Vedic collective name for "water" as a divine power is also a plural feminine noun âpas. âpas There is good reason to believe that the "Women" and the "Waters" of Vedic tradition are one and the same. One might then interpret *BANODÊWÂ as "the goddess of the Women", that is "the goddess of the Waters". Banna is applied as a name to two Irish rivers - the Bann in Ulster and the Bann Co.Wexford. The identity of Sionann and Banna, in divine terms is proved conclusively by the note
in the Book of Armagh whlch gives Archaic Old Irish Bande in latinized form Bandea Bande, Bandea, as the equivalent of Sionann (Arm. 11b). The identity of Sionann and Bóinn is circumstantial but, to my mind, unequivocal. Bóinn, as divine river, issues from Seaghais in the Otherworld (MD 3.26), also called the spring of Neachtan (MD 3.28). Sionann, as divine river, also issues from Seaghais, otherwise called the spring of Seaghais (MD 3.286, 288). They are thus, metaphysically, identical. To clinch the matter, the triad lists give "the three streams of Ireland: Sionann, Bóinn, Banna" (TBF 40). This is yet another case of a triad representing three aspects of the same. The family relationships of the Water Goddess as given in the texts are in some disarray. As Bóinn, she is made wife both of the Wind God, as Nuadha (LL 24340), and of his son Neachtan (LL 24337). She is in fact neither. She is also made sister of the Moon Goddess, Bé bhFionn (LL 33102). This is not so. Other texts enable us to trace a clearer relationship. As Bóinn, she is the wife of the Sky God, Earc (TE I 1). The Fire God, Macan Óg, is her son by the Daghdha (TE I 1). Earc, however, is the father of Bé bhFionn (AS-SG 229). Consequently, it is reasonable to suppose that Bóinn is the mother of Bé bhFionn, not her sister. As we shall see below under the Spring God, Fraoch son of Bé bhFionn is an incarnation of Neachtan. Neachtan is thus Bé bhFionn’s son and hence grandson of the Water Goddess, not her husband. If we take into account the fact that Neachtan (common Celtic *NEKTONOS "the divine grandson"), corresponds both in name and function to the Vedic Apam Napat "grandson of the Waters" (Celtica 6.50ff), it is clear that this analysis must be right. The Wind God, Nuadha, is thus the Water Goddess’ son in law, not her husband. In the myths, her role is a mainly passive one. She gives birth to the Fire God, Macan Óg, but apart from the actual parturition does little more (TE I 1). When sent for she comes to her son’s bedside in the Dream of Aonghas but is soon eclipsed by the Daghdha (AA). She is essentially Bóinn "the woman of the white cows" - these cows being the divine cows with white body and red ears, some of which her daughter Bé bhFionn gives to Fraoch (LL 33104f, TBFr). This typifies her role: to hand on to mortals the gifts of the gods (in this case: cows). There is further mention of such activity: as Bóinn, she transmits numinous knowledge (imbus (LL 24445, ZCP 8.120, imbus) imbus Eriu 13.26). As Sionann, she gives the stone of power (MD 4.36f). (13) The Moon Goddess has four names, all of them epithets in origin. The first and most widespread is Bé bhFionn "the White Lady" (LL 33102, TBFr, TE III 10). The second is Éadain (TE I 11) which appears to reflect common Celtic *YANTUDÂNÎ "the mighty gift". The third is Dar Earca "daughter of the Sky God, Earc" (CS 83ff). The fourth is Lí Bhan (LU 3312, 3340, SCC) which superficially appears to mean "the delight of the women". However, bearing in mind what has already been seen in the case of the Water Goddess as Banna, we should probably take Lí Bhan to mean "the delight of the Women" i.e. the waters. There is no need to discuss in detail the identity of Bé bhFionn and Éadain since they are explicitly stated to be alternative names (TE III 10). Bé bhFionn is the wife of the Wind God, Midhir (TE I). In the myth dealing with her adventures, she is twice incarnate among mortals and her "mortal pedigree" is given (TE I 11,26). Her "divine pedigree" is only found in other texts. Agallamh na Seanórach states quite simply that she is the daughter of Earc (AS 6803). This is supported by the Dinnsheanchas which, giving her yet another name for the occasion, Engleic, states that she was daughter of Earc and lover of Midhir, who carried her away to Sliabh na mBan (just as he does in Tochmharc Éadaine) (MD 3, 40, LL 16565). Thus Dar Earca, although appearing only in a christianized form as Saint Dar Earca (CS 83ff), since she clearly shows the aspects of the Moon Goddess, must be equated to Bé bhFionn. So, too, must Lí Bhan. She is the wife of Labhraidh (SCC) whom we have seer to be
an aspect of the Wind God, thus identical to Midhir. Furthermore, since Bé bhFionn is daughter of Earc, she is perforce daughter of Bóinn, the Water Goddess, hence an epithet meaning basically "delight of the Waters" is apt. Bé bhFionn is also mother of Neachtan. This is stated explicitly in the case of Neachtan’s incarnation Fraoch (of whom more below under the Spring God) (LL 33102, TBFr). Neachtan himself is son of Labhraidh (MD 3.26, LL 1739) whom we have just seen as husband of Lí Bhan. Consequently the Moon Goddess is Neachtan’s mother. The feud between the Moon Goddess (as Éadain or Bé bhFionn) and the Earth Goddess (as Fuamnach) are related in Tochmharc Éadaine. However, Bé bhFionn has other and more important functions: firstly, as guardian of the spring, Seaghais, which belongs to her son Neachtan, and secondly as distributor of the Smith God’s feast, which function no doubt earned her the epithet, Éadain "the mighty gift". Agallamh na Seanórach states: "She (Bé bhFionn) has the healing drink of the gods and what is left of the feast of Gaibhneann. She serves it to them." (AS 6803). In Feis Tighe Chonáin, Fionn (incarnation of Neachtan) relates how he met Bé bhFionn (disguised as Ceibfiond in the text) guarding the spring, Seaghais. He continues: "There is a spring in the courtyard there where all knowledge is found. Everyone who has tasted it is certain that it is the Seaghais. Although I obtained the salmon of knowledge, it was as nothing until I reached the Seaghais" (FTC 1541ff). We are not told explicitly what was served at Gaibhneann’s feast but, presumably, it consisted of the three divine foods: purple nuts, scented rowan berries and arbutus apples (TDG 896ff, BD 40). The nuts, at least, came from the nine hazels that grow above the spring, Seaghais (SFF 35, MD 3.288, 293). Thus the Moon Goddess, who as Éadain is the best server of drink in Ireland (TE III 18), has a crucial role to play in distributing numinous power, typified by the hazel nuts and the water of Seaghais, to mankind and particularly to poets. She also has another more physical role to play and this is best expressed by her christianized form Dar Earca. Dar Earca is goddess of the night: she travels by night, protects cattle from wolves and travellers from robbers (CS 88, 90). Her birth precedes that of the Dawn Goddess, Brighid, but she is second only to her (CS 84). "Before dawn tomorrow, two children will be born in this house. She who is later in birth will be higher in grade. The time of birth will be most apt for them, for one child - the lesser - will rise after sunset today and tomorrow at dawn the other child will appear". (CS 3) Despite superficial ascription to two human saints of Leinster, this is a purely mythological account of the birth of the Moon and Dawn. This concludes our examination of the Four Great Goddesses. We now turn to the Young Gods who are, in order: the Spring God, the Commoner King and the Twins. (14) The Spring God has four names, two in his divine aspect and two in incarnate forms. In his divine aspect, the two names reflect regional differences. The eastern or Leinster name is Neachtan (MD 3.26) which continues common Celtic *NEKTONOS "the divine grandson" also found in Old Welsh as the name Neithon. It corresponds to Gallo-Latin use of the name Neptunus in inscriptions to "Neptunus and the (water) Nymphs" and "Neptunus and Forces". A further correspondence is the Indian and Iranian god Apam Napat "grandson of the waters" (Celtica 6.50ff). The Midland name is Sioghmhall (LL 1156) which almost certainly continues common Celtic *SEGOMÛ (genitive *SEGOMONOS), albeit in a corrupt form. Apparently *SEGOMÛ passing through the intermediate stage *SEGUMÛ gave *Sigum, while the genitive *SEGOMONOS regularly gave *Segmon (Semon is actually attested Semon for Old Irish). Thereafter mixing occurred, very probably with contamination from the
name Cumhall (of which more below) and certainly in conjunction with the related name Críonmhann (the variations cf which are listed helow) and the result was Old Irish Sigmall whence Sioghmhall. Sigmall, Under the same name, *SEGOMÛ, the god was tribal god of a portion of the Déise in Co.Waterford. A series of ogham inscriptions found at Seskinan bear the name NETA SEGAMONAS "warrior of Segomû" (CIIC 263, 292, 300) which occurs later in the Old Irish period as Neth Semon (AU cxxxii) and later still, in a curiously archaic form, as Nia Segamain. The tribe were known in early Irish as Semoni (Eriu 3.138), from *SEGOMONIÎ, "those of the god Segomû". The god also appears in Gaul under the same name and is identified as Mars (Marti Segomoni) (CIL 5.2532, 5340). The meaning of *SEGOMÛ is clear: it is "the possessor of victiorious power (*SEGOS)". The incarnate forms, too, reflect regional differences. The eastern or Leinster form is Fionn mac Cumhaill (LU 3135ff). Fionn "the fair one" corresponds exactly to the Welsh Gwyn. Cumhall, continuing common Celtic *KAMULOS, is the British war god Camulos (CIL 6.46, 7.1103), also found in the British name for Colchester: Camulodunon "the fortress of Camulos". As war god he is equivalent to Nuadha, thus Fionn mac Cumhaill corresponds to the Welsh Gwyn ap Nudd. The Midland form is Fraoch "battle fury" (LL 33102, TBFr). The identity of these names can be established as follows: Neachtan is the son of Labhraidh (MD 3.26, LL 17939), which we have seen to be an epithet of the Wind God (as Nuadha). The Wind God is married to the Moon Goddess (Bé bhFionn), consequently Neachtan is son of Bé bhFionn and thus grandson of the Water Goddess (Bóinn). He owns the spring Seaghais (MD 3.36). Sioghmhall is made grandson of the Wind God (Midhir) and takes revenge for him on Eocha Aireamh (TE III 21). His two parents, one a daughter of Midhir, are nonpersons, inventions of the genealogists since they are mentioned nowhere outside his pedigree (TE III 21). He should therefore be considered son of Midhir and thus identical to Neachtan. This is confirmed by another text which makes him grandson of Earc (Ercmar) and thus grandson of Earc’s wife, Bóinn (LL 1156). Moreover, the original form of his name, *SEGOMÛ, "the possessor of *SEGOS", cannot be divorced from the name of the spring Seaghais, which continues common Celtic *SEGOSTÎ, "the place where *SEGOS is". His otherworld dwelling, Síodh Neanta, was sited at what is now called Fairymount, in Co.Roscommon, overlooking the Shannon and a short distance from Áth Liag (MS 28, LL 14087). We have already seen above that Cumhall is an alias for Nuadha - consequently Fionn mac Cumhaill may be identified to Neachtan. Moreover, this is confirmed by the existence of a Gaulish god Vindonnos (*WENDONOS "the fair god"), identified with Apollo and worshipped together with "the springs" (CIL 13.5644, 5645). The fact that the Moon Goddess, Bé bhFionn serves Fionn with the water of Seaghais is not without significance (FTC 1341ff). Nor is the battle between, Fionn and Flann (the incarnate Balar) of the Shannon at Áth Liag, in which the Water Goddess (Sionann) helps Fionn to victory by handing him the stone of power out of the river (MD 4.36, 38). Fraoch is son of the Moon Goddess (Bé bhFionn) and thus grandson of the Water Goddess Bóinn - although she is mistakenly made sister of Bé bhFionn in the myth (LL 33102, TBFr). All four can thus be taken to be the same personage: son of Bé bhFionn and the Wind God and essentially grandson of the Water Goddess. As a divine personage, the Spring God is the owner of the spring Seaghais, the place where victorious power (*SEGOS, Old Irish seg resides. The spring is very adequately seg), described in the texts: "A spring with perpetual flow on the bank of a chilly river, from which spring seven major streams, as reports of it declare." (MD 3.286). "Above the spring of graceful waves there is the many-musicked hazel of poetry.
The spray of Seaghais is shed on the spring of strong power as the nuts of fair Críonmhann fall onto its limpid bosom" (MD 3.286f). To this, add the gloss "From the woods of Críonmhann i.e. from the nine hazels of Seaghais" (LL 24315). These nuts of Críonmhainn (genitive Crínmond Crínmoind Crimaill in the texts (MD 3.286, 292, LL 24315), all reflecting common Celtic *KRÎNOMONOS genitive of *KRÎNOMÛ "the grower") are one of the three divine foods, the others being rowan berries and arbutus apples (TDG 896ff). Other texts state that the hazel trees produce leaves, flowers and ripe fruit all at the same time. The purple nuts fall into the spring and are eaten by the five salmon swimming in it. These then make bubbles of numinous knowledge (imbus from the imbus) imbus juice of the nuts and the bubbles float down the streams into the world of men (SFF 35, MD 3.292f). To the unauthorized, however, the spring was lethal. It would burst the eyes of any that looked on it and, however much they tried, they would not avoid being blemished by it (MD 3.28). This then is the "power house" of the gods and Neachtan is its guardian. Through the waters, its gifts are seeped out to mankind. In Neachtan’s own hands, the power can be aggressive, taking the form of the lightning flash. Thus Aodh, slayer of Fionn’s father Cumhall in the battle of Cnucha, is blinded in one eye by Luichead i.e. Neachtan in the form of lightning (Welsh lluched (LU 3135ff). Sioghmhall burns lluched) Eocha Aireamh in Fréamhainn to avenge the insult to Midhir (TE III 21), In this respect, Neachtan is similar to the Storm God, Lugh, and it is probable that some overlap of functions occurred. (15) The Commoner King has two names. The first, Breas (common Celtic *BRISTÂ) neans simply "noise", with overtones of "din, uproar, confusion, ostentation". The second, Brian, may reflect common Celtic *BRÊSONOS "god connected with *BRISTÂ". He is the son of the Smith God, disguised as Ealadha ("art"), and the Earth Goddess, Donann. Thus in his myth he is made son of Ealadha and Éire ("Ireland" here standing for the Earth) (CMT 16, 21). But in the Lebor Gabála and related texts, under the name Brian he has been fused with the Twins into a triad and this has caused confusion in the pedigrees, since the Twins are sons of the Smith God and the Dawn Goddess, Brighid. Thus in one place his father is the Smith God as Bricre (in the form Tuirell Bicreo alias Delbaeth) (LG 319). In another his father is the Smith God (called Delbaeth) and his mother is Donann (right in his case, wrong in the case of the Twins) (LL 1169). In yet another place his mother is Brighid (wrong in his case, right in the case of the Twins) and his father is Breas son of Ealadha i.e. himself (wrong in both cases) (LL 24601). His function is simple: he is the Unsuitable King.
(16) The basic names of the Twins appear to have been Iuchar and Iucharbha (LL 1169, 24601, LG 319) reflecting respectively common Celtic *EQOWIROS "Horseman" and *EQOWIROBOYOS "Horseman’s Bane" which stress their mutual antagonism. Iucharbha appears to have been early corrupted to Iuchna "pink". Thus the Book of Leinster mentions the Speckled Cows of Iuchna (LL 4039). These appear in a later text as the Three Speckled Cows of Iuchna and perched on their ears are the Three Men of Ochaine (ACR 1). So we may take Ochaine as a corruption, violent enough but by no means impossible, of Iuchar. Ochaine appears in the myth of the Twins as Ochaill Oichne, the king of the síodh of Connacht, in antithesis to Bodhbh Dearg "red scald crow" king of the síodh of Munster (LL 32930ff). They then, in the form of their swineherds, act out their lovehate relationship culminating in the killing of Iuchar’s last incarnation, the Whitehorned bull of Cruachain, by Iucharbha’s last incarnation, the Black (or Dark Red) bull of Cuailnge (LL 32930ff). In popular tradition Iucharbha still appears as Bodhbh Dearg but Iuchar has been renamed yet again to appear as Céadach (LSC 207ff). To schematize a somewhat confused picture: HORSEMAN Iuchar Ochaine Ochaill Oichne Céadach HORSEMAN’S BANE Iucharbha Iuchna Bodhbh Dearg Bodhbh Dearg
The Twins are sons of the Smith God as Bricre (in the form Tuirell Bicreo) and the Dawn Goddess, Brighid. As we have seen above, under the Commoner King, the genealogies of the Lebor Gabála are confused. The original function of the Twins seems to have been that of the twin horsemen of Dawn, one white and one red, with a special connexion with the weather. Thereafter, as exemplified in their myth (Chapter 6 Myth 1), they developed into agricultural deities with a strong territorial bias and antagonism. (17) This brings us to the end of our examination of the gods who are active in the myths. Obviously, like any polytheistic system, the Irish pantheon must have been openended, with local or foreign deities being adopted, assimilated, equated to previously worshiped gods in a continuous process. Where there is no myth, however, no function can be assigned to these minor gods. Some names we do know - such as the southern and eastern god, Corb, whose name occurs in person names (Mugh Corb, Cú Chorb, Nia Corb) which have a structure identical to that found in other personal names containing the names of known gods (Mugh Nuadhad, Cú Nuadhad, Cú Macha, Nia Seaghamhain, Nia Teathrach). Others have names we shall never know or, at least, never recognise. Other personages occur in tales which may or may not have a mythological content such as Buchad the "cowherd" who may or may not be a minor "hospitaler god" of British origin. Yet one other, a goddess this time, occurs in the myths - but in a passive role. This is Eithne (LL 1237) who, as daughter of the Drought God and mother of the Storm God, must be considered a goddess. The variant Eithleann (LL 1150, 1379) predisposes us to see a goddess name ending in common Celtic -ONÂ (*(Y)ETENONÂ is the only possible form). Nevertheless, *(Y)ETENONÂ is quite obscure to me and the myths give no indication of divine function other than childbirth. Eithne, regretfully, must remain an unsolved problem - unless one accepts that Balar’s paternity is a later addition. In this case, Eithne - a river name and given once as an alternative for
Bóinn - is an avatar of the Water Goddess. In appendix to this first chapter, here is a recapitulation of the list of gods with their aliases: I. The Nine Great Gods SHAMAN GOD: the Daghdha, Eochaidh Ollathair, Eoghabhal, Ebron, Fear Beann SKY GOD: Earc(Elcmar, Ercmar) FIRE GOD: Aodh, Aoibhleán, Aonghas, Macan Óg, Seinbheag, Abhcán, Fear Í, Cearmaid, Donn, Dá Dearga, (incarnation) Cú Raoi STORM GOD: Lugh, (incarnation) Cú Chulainn WIND GOD: Nuadha, Labhraidh, Cumhall, Midhir, Néid, Oghma DROUGHT GOD: Balar, (incarnation) Flann SEA GOD: Manannán, Teathra SUN GOD: Dian Céacht, Cian, Mugh Roith SMITH GOD: Gaibhneann, Bricre II. The Four Great Goddesses EARTH GODDESS: Donann, Macha, Moirríoghan, Deirbhreann, Fuamnach, Badhbh, Neamhan, Bé Néid, Anann, Meadhbh, Clothrann, Mughain DAWN GODDESS: Brighid, Áine WATER GODDESS: Bóinn, Sionann, Banna MOON GODDESS: Bé bhFionn, Éadain, Dar Earca, Lí Bhan III. The Young Gods SPRING GOD: Neachtan, Sioghmhall, (incarnations) Fionn, Fraoch COMMONER KING: Breas, Brian TWINS: Iuchar + Iucharbha, Ochaine + Iuchna, Ochaill Oichne + Bodhbh Dearg, Céadach + Bodhbh Dearg The family relationships involved can be expressed thus, in two tiers:
(1) First and second generations: SMITH GOD + EARTH GODDESS + SHAMAN GOD + WATER GODDESS + SKY GOD | | | | COMMONER KING DAWN GODDESS FIRE GOD MOON GODDESS Unattached: WIND GOD, SEA GOD, SUN GOD, DROUGHT GOD + ? | Eithne
(2) Second and third generations: SMITH GOD + DAWN GODDESS + SUN GOD + Eithne MOON GODDESS + WIND GOD | | | THE TWINS STORM GOD SPRING GOD Unattached: SEA GOD
The Sea God is thus the only great god with no apparent family relationships.
Chapter 2 Structure of the Irish Pantheon Now that we have identified and isolated the active members of the pantheon, we can analyze its theoretical structure. As Georges Dumézil has conclusively demonstrated (ITI, JMQ etc.), Indoeuropean society was a tripartite class structure, in many ways very similar to the feudal system of the European middle ages. The three classes were priests, warriors and farmers. The king’s person was sacred: he was married to the tribe’s territory symbolized by the Earth Goddess. Though supreme over the three classes, he belonged in origin to the warrior caste. Irish society in the period immediately preceding the introduction of Christianity and indeed, in essence, for long after - was archaic in this as in many other respects. The caste system of druids (including not only priests but judges and seer-poets), warriors and commoners (farmers and merchants) was firmly anchored, as was sacral kingship with the king coming from the warriors. That this was a conscious structural concept is clearly proved by a legal archetype illustrating the law of distraint, which is preserved in fragmentary form in the laws. Distraint required four sureties (ráth and these are typified in the first fragment as ráth) ráth follows: "Ailill mac Mata from the princes (flathi flathi) flathi Celtchar mac Uthechair from the rarriors (láthi gale láthi gale) Blai the Hospitaler from the freemen (féni féni) féni Nede mac Aidni from the seer-poets (filid (CIH 885f) filid)" filid In the second fragment, their legal functions as sureties are set out: "Ailill fights the battle of every weighty affair on the assembly hill. Celtchar guards the tribute of every battle ground. Nede is a match for the malefic power of every night. Blai the Hospitaler undertakes the protection of every company". (CIH 2227) It is clear from Nede’s function that the role of the seer-poets was a priestly one. Any examination of the pantheon, then, must take the following functions into account: Function 1: priests (shamans) Function 2: warriors Function 3: commoners Supra-functional: king As is usual in a pre-scientific society, Indoeuropean and Celtic society’s analysis of the elements found in nature was subjective. They distinguished four elements: earth, air, fire and water. This, too, must be taken into account when examining the pantheon. The last criterion is that of sex: male or female. We shall start by examining the Nine Great Gods in the light of these three criteria: (1) The Shaman God with his power over life and death belongs to Function 1. As we have noted, he has a marked connexion with water. Definition: MALE:WATER:FUNCTION 1. (2) The Sky God as judge also belongs to Function 1. As Sky God he is connected with air. Definition: MALE:AIR:FUNCTION 1. (3) The Fire God as god of music and judge of the dead belongs to Function 1. He is fire. Definition: MALE:FIRE:FUNCTION 1. (4) The Storm God as king of the gods and as their champion against Balar belongs to Function 2. His connexion is with water. Definition: MALE:WATER:FUNCTION 2.
(5) The Wind God as war god and ex-king of the gods belongs to Function 2. His connexion is with air. Definition:MALE:AIR:FUNCTION 2. (6) The Drought God as opponent of the Storm God belongs to Function 2. His burning eye firmly connects him with fire. Definition: MALE:FIRE:FUNCTION 2. (7) The Sea God with his trading activities snd fertility aspects belongs to Function 3. His connexion is obviously with water. Definition:MALE:WATER:FUNCTION 3. (8) The Sun God as leech belongs to Function 3. His connexion, as a celestial deity, is with air. Definition:MALE:AIR:FUNCTION 3. 9. The Smith God as smith and hospitaler belongs to Function 3. His connexion is with fire. Definition:MALE:FIRE:FUNCTION 3. Now the Four Great Goddesses: (1) The Earth Goddess, as Donann or Macha, belongs to no function. As Moirríoghan or Deirbhreann, in association with Function 1 gods, she is connected to Function 1. As Fuamnach, Badhbh, Neamhan or Bé Néid, in association with the Wind God, she is connected to Function 2. As Anann, goddess of wealth, she is connected to Function 3. As Meadhbh, Clothrann or Mughain, goddess of sovereignty, she is connected to supra-functional kingship. She is thus extra-functional. Definition:FEMALE:EARTH. (2) The Dawn Goddess is also extra-functional. As goddess of poetry, she belongs to Function 1. As "wife of healing" and "wife of smithery" she is connected to Function 3. As patron goddess of the Brigantes, she is connected to supra-functional kingship. It is interesting that the Welsh word for king brenin (Old Welsh brenhin brenhin) reflects common Celtic *BRIGANTÎNOS "husband of the goddess *BRIGANTÎ (i.e. Brighid). In her natural function as Dawn, she is connected to fire. Definition: FEMALE:FIRE. (3) The Water Goddess as wife of the Sky God is associated with Function 1. As owner of the White Cows, she is firmly anchored to Function 3. Definition: FEMALE:WATER. (4) The Moon Goddess is connected to Function 1 as dispenser of "numinous knowledge" (imbus to Function 2 as wife of the Wind God and to Function 3 as the imbus), imbus server of Gaibhneann’s feast. Her physical function as a celestial deity links her to air. Definition: FEMALE:AIR. Bearing in mind that the element Earth is always female and that goddesses are, as we have seen, extra-functional, we can draw up the following grid: WATER EARTH GOD FUNCTION 1 FUNCTION 2 FUNCTION 3 GODDESS Earth Goddess Goddess Goddess Goddess AIR FIRE
How do the Young Gods and Eithne fit into this scheme of things?
Eithne, as we have seen, is a problem. The most likely explanation, which cannot be satisfactorily proved, is that she is an avatar of the Water Goddess. The Commoner King is obviously an appendage to the Smith God his father. The typifies the commoner who makes an Unsuitable King, since he does not belong to the warrior caste. The Twins are likewise an appendage to their mother, the Dawn Goddess. Although they are sons of the Dawn Goddess and the Smith God in all the texts, there is a likelihood that they were originally sons of the Dawn Goddess and her other husband, the Sun God. The Spring God is also a problem, but of a different nature to Eithne. As we find him he is extra-functional: connected to Function 1 in virtue of his ownership of the spring Seaghais and its magic powers, connected to Function 2 in his aggressive aspect and connected to Function 3 in the fertility aspects of the Spring and to kingship in the sense that *SEGOS (Old Irish seg) is the fertilizing power of kingship. seg Nevertheless there is cause to suspect that he and the Sea God, Manannán, were originally one and the same god - of Function 3 - and that Neachtan, the divine grandson, continues the more archaic concept. As the Indoeuropeans knew no ocean, only landlocked seas such as the Caspian, one would not expect them to have a fully fledged Sea God. This is born out by an examination of the Vedic, Greek and Roman pantheons. The Greek Poseidon is in origin a Mediterranean earthquake god. The Roman Neptune was originally a god of springs, like Neachtan, and only assumed a maritime dimension under Greek influence. The Scandinavians did have a sea god, Njordur - but he, again, can be identified to the earlier Germanic fertility god Nerthus. So it would seem that common Celtic *NEKTONOS, a god inherited from Indoeuropean days, gradually acquired a maritime dimension - under epithets such as Manannán "the Manxman" or Teathra, "the sea king" - and that this avatar, while retaining some of Neachtan’s fertility aspects (the magic apples, the pigs, the womanizing) gradually hived off to become a Function 3 deity in his own right, while the original deity Neachtan acquired extra-functional status. In this connexion, it is noteworthy that Mongán mac Fiachna is clearly claimed as an incarnation of Manannán (LU 10916ff + YBL 1926, IB 3-35) but that he is also identified as an avatar of Fionn mac Cumhaill, the incarnation of Neachtan (LU 10940ff). Before examining the Irish pantheon in the broader context of the Celtic world, which we shall do in the following chapter, it is as well to note here what we can ascertain about the place of the individual gods’ festivals in the ritual year. The Irish year is still divided into four seasons as follows: SPRING: the three months beginning on 1 February, Lá Fhéile Bríde "St Brigit’s day". SUMMER: the three months beginning on 1 May, Bealtaine. AUTUMN: the three months beginning on 1 August, Lúnasa (Lughnasadh). WINTER: the three months beginning on 1 November, Samhain. (LSC 353) With the exception of Lá Fhéile Bríde which has long replaced Iombolg, the names of the first days of the quarters have remained unchanged since the Old Irish period. They can be analyzed as follows: Iombolg (Old Irish Imbolc) continues common Celtic *EMBIBOLGON "budding " Bealtaine continues common Celtic *BELNOTENES, from *BELENOTENES, "the two fires of Belenos" between which cattle were passed in a ceremony of purification (YI 96). The Munster pronunciation of the first vowel ( /au/ as in meall not /a/ as in gealt meall, gealt) proves that the spelling Bealltaine often found in manuscripts, is historically the Bealltaine, more correct. Thus the first syllable must continue common Celtic *BELLO- from *BELNO- from *BELENO-; *BELO- could not be right. Lughnasadh continues common Celtic *LUGUGNÂSSETON "the visitation of Lugh". Samhain continues common Celtic *SAMNIS "assembly".
Although the "quarter days" are now linked to the standard calendar, it is obvious that this cannot have been the case in pre-Christian times. Since they do not correspond to equinox or solstice (these fall in approximately the middle of each season), we may take it that the beginning of each season in any given year was based of observation, not of the sun, but of the moon. Irish luan reflecting common luan, Celtic *LEUKSNOS, while cognate to Latin luna did not simply mean "moon" although luna, it later came to mean "Monday". It seems to have meant "full moon" and was used particularly of the full moon marking the beginning of a month - thus an expression like luan taide Shamhna (RIACon Taite) should be taken to mean "the full moon which marks the beginning of the feast of Samhain". It was later taken to mean "the first Monday after Samhain" but this, in pre-Christian terms, is an evident anachronism (RIACon Luan). These four main feasts can be attributed to gods as follows: 1. IOMBOLG, as we have seen, is the feast of the Dawn Goddess, Brighid. Aptly, it is the dawn of the year when budding begins. 2. BEALTAINE, as its name indicates, is the feast of Belenos (Neachtan). It is the year’s noon and a suitable moment to invoke the fertility god whom we have seen Neachtan to be in some aspects. The Christianized calendar confirms this. For 2 May we find "Neachtan, disciple of Patrick from Cill (Fh)uinche in Conaille Muirtheimhne (Co.Louth) and from Fionnabhair Abha on the bank of the Boyne" (FNE 118). Whether Patrick ever had a disciple named Neachtan is a moot point. What is certain is that this is the god Neachtan. Firstly, Fuinche (as in Cill Fhuinche) is yet another name for Lí Bhan (LU 2957ff, 3129ff) whom we have seen to be equivalent to Bé bhFionn, Neachtan’s mother. Secondly, Fionnabhair of the River (Fennor on the south bank of the Boyne, almost opposite the Bruigh) reflects common Celtic *WINDOBRIGS "the white hill" or, in this case, "the hill of Fionn". Fionn, as we nave seen, is the incarnate form of Neachtan. We have seen that Manannán the Sea God, probably developed as a specialized form of Neachtan. It will eome then as no surprise to find that Manannán also shares the feast of Bealtaine with him, as indicated by his appearing to Cormac on this day and returning on the same day a year later. 3. LUGHNASADH again, as its name indicates, is the feast of Lugh. It is the evening of the year and the earth is parched after the hot summer. It is the right moment to invoke the Storm God’s help against the Drought God, at least for a pastoral people dependent more on their cattle than on their crops. The Irish were - and, in matters agricultural, still are - a basically pastoral people. 4. SAMHAIN is essentially the festival of the Bruigh (the megalithic monument at Newgrange), the "meet" of the dying year, presided over by the divine lawspeaker Earc and the judge of the mortal dead, the Fire God. We have already noted the feast of the Christianized "Bishop Earc" on 2 November. On 1 November, we find mentioned the feast of "Aedh mac Roi" from Foibrén (FNE 292). This is probably the Fire God, Aodh, and the patronymic "son of Roi" cannot be divorced from Cú Raoi, his incarnation. As Aoibhleán, the Fire God appears at Teamhair at Samhain. As Aonghas, he mates with the Earth Goddess (as Deirbhreann or Caor) at Samhain. It is at Samhain that the gods meet at the Bruigh and hold games. We can thus set up the following skeletal calendar: SPRING 1 Iombolg: Dawn Goddess SPRING 2 SPRING 3 SUMMER 1 Bealtaine: Spring God and Sea God SUMMER 2 SUMMER 3 AUTUMN 1 Lughnasadh: Storm God AUTUMN 2 AUTUMN 3
WINTER 1 WINTER 2 WINTER 3
Sky God and Fire God
The texts give us no information of other demonstrably pre-Christian feasts. The Christian calendar gives us a few names we can more than suspect of being "baptised" gods - Saint Aodh "of the Island" on 7 April (FNE 96), Saint Gaibhneann on 23 May (FNE 136), Saint Eochaidh of Uisneach on 1 January (FNE 4) (this latter is obviously the Shaman God, Eochaidh Ollathair, whose stronghold was at Uisneach) but it would be foolhardy to assign pagan festivals to these dates without backing from mythological texts.
Chapter 3 The Celtic Pantheon The reconstruction of the Irish pantheon requires, as we have seen, the painstaking culling of fragments of a once unified tradition and the jigsaw-like assembly of the same. This is riches indeed compared to the debris found in the rest of the Celtic world. The British tradition, as found in the Welsh Mabinogi and the odd citation from early poets, does contain some fragments of myths but, as Christianity in Wales hes a longer tradition than in Ireland and, more important perhaps, Romanization had penetrated deeply, these myths lack coherence and are suspect of containing more than a little cross-Channel influence from Ireland. In practical terms, the most one can do is note those names of gods - Mabon, Lleu, Nudd, Gofannon, Dôn which are clearly linked to their Irish counterparts. The Celtic world of mainland Europe is a different question. We have no myths, and this is an incalculable loss. What we do have is a sizable corpus of dedicatory inscriptions to various gods - and these inscriptions represent a living, everyday pagan tradition, not christianized fragments. As the inscriptions are mostly in Latin, we have an "interpretatio Romana" for most names or epithets of the gods. This is to say that the god’s name appears joined to that of the Roman god he was considered most similar to - for instance: Marti Camulo "to Mars Camulos" (CIL 7.1103). This gives us an idea of the function of the god - in the case above, Camulos was probably a war god like Mars - though caution must be exercised. Gods are often accompanied by their goddess wives, which is a further aid to identification. In the following I shall try to identify as many of these gods as is feasible to those of the Irish pantheon, but it must be stressed that in the absence of a myth showing the exact function of a god, such identifications must be considered speculative. By "interpretatio Romana" the Shaman God appears to have been assimilated to the Roman Mercury - probably because of his Trickster aspect. At all events, Caesar states that Mercury is the god whom the Gauls most worshiped (BG 6.17.1). This is born out by the dedications. Many of the epithets - Visucios (CIL 13.6347, 6384), Cissonios (CIR 400, 1461), Adsmerios (ERPS 36), or Atesmerios (BSAF 1880.117, 142), Moccos (CIL 13.5676) - do not enlighten us very much. However, those associated with him as patron god of the Arverni - the important tribe which has given its name to Auvergne in France - are clearer. Then he is called Arvernos "the Arvernian" (CIR 257), Arvernorix, "king of the Arverni" (CIR 1741, CIL 3.6603), Dumiatis "of the Puy de Dome" (RAns 28332) and Vassocaletis (CIL 13.4130), which last epithet persisted very late since Gregory of Tours condemns his worship under the name Vassogalate (GT 129.32). If we can interpret this as *Vassos Caletos "the hard lad", it is tempting to compare it to the Shaman God’s appearance in the Irish Fionn cycle as the Giolla Deacair "the difficult lad". His basic name, however, appears to have been Esus (CIL 12.3026). Under this name, he appears as one of the Great Gods to whom the tripartite sacrifice - hanging and ritual wounding, burning and drowning was offered. The specific sacrifice to Esus was by hanging and ritual wounding (Lucan 1.444ff + Commenta Lucani). This was the form of sacrifice to the Scandinavian Odin, who as we shall see is the Germanic form of the Shaman God and - like him - equated to Mercury. Latin Dies Mercuri was germanicized as Woden’s day (Wednesday). Like the Irish Shaman God (as Fear Beann), the Gaulish god also had a horned avatar, Cernunnos (CIL 12.3026) "the horned one" - and this trait, too, is shared with the Scandinavian Odin who is depicted as horned on one of the bronze plaques from Öland in Sweden. There appears to be no equivalent of the Sky God in the dedications. As in Ireland, it is possible that his was an esoteric cult restricted to the druid caste and thus not on public display in inscriptions. Or again, it is possible that his function was completely taken over by the Fire God.
The Fire God in his aspect of god of the dead appears as Dis by "interpretatio Romana". Caesar says: the Gauls say they all descend from Father Dis (BG 6.18.1). The equivalence to Donn is clear. As Macan Óg, the Fire God appears under the same name in the form Maponos. In Britain, he is equated to the romanized Apollo, doubtless in his aspect as god of music (CIL 7.218). In the Gaulish inscription of Chamalières he is called Maponos Arverniatis "Arvernian Maponos" and is invoked for magic purposes (EC 15.173ff). The Storm God is naturally equated to Jupiter. Caesar states that the Gaulish Jupiter also ruled the gods (BG 6.17.2). Whether or not his main name was Lugus, corresponding to Lugh, is not clear, since only the plural form Lugoves occurs in the dedications (CIL 2.2818, 13.5078). Bearing in mind the Irish epithet of Lugh, Samhioldánach "the many-skilled one", we should not be surprised to find a group deity in place of the individual god. The places bearing the name Lugudunon "fortress of Lugus" certainly point to an originally singular deity. The most common name, however, appears to have been simply Taranus "thunder" (CIL 12.820) or, in adjectival form, Taranucnos (CIL 3.2804, 13.6094, 6478). Under this name, he appears as one of the Great Gods of the tripartite sacrifice - his specific sacrifice being that of burning (in imitation of lightning) (Lucan 1.444ff). Further epithets are *Ouxelisamos (Latinized as Uxellimus) "the most high" (CIL 3.5145) and Bussumaros "great in command (?)" (CIL 3.1033). Of interest, in view of Lugh’s alignment with the Water Goddess against the Drought God, are the dedications associating him with the Matronae (water goddesses) (CIL 5.5501) and the deified Danube (CIL 3.5863). The Wind God, as war god, appears as Mars. We shall see, however, that he is not alone in being so interpreted - the Drought God and the Spring God are also so identified, which may be confusing. Caesar states, somewhat superfluously, that as Mars "he rules war" (BG 6.17.2). We have seen that he occurs in Britain under names that recur in Ireland: Camulos (Cumhall) (CIL 6.46, 7.1103, CIR 164) and Nodons or Nodens (Nuadha) (CIL 7.140, 943). We have also seen the name Cicollus (IACO 1,206) under which he was worshipped in Gaul in association with the Earth Goddess, Litavi. Further epithets which are self-explanatory are Caturix "king of battle" (CIL 13.5046, 5054, CIR 1588) and Rigisamos "most kingly" (CIL 7.61). As god of Strength (Oghma), he appears as Ogmios in Lucian (Hercules 1) - but not in the inscriptions. Instead we find principally Hercules Magusanos (CIR 51,130, BJ 77.45, CIL 7.1090) whose epithet is obscure. What can only be the Drought God appears as Mars Leucetios (CIR 930) or Loucetios (CIR 929, CIL 7.36) "the shining one" in association with the Earth Goddess as Nemetona "goddess of the sacred grove". A further name, found in Northern Italy, is Leucimalacos "of the shining eyebrow" (CIL 5.7862a) which cannot fail to remind us of Balar’s burning eye which was covered by his eyebrow. There is also the possibility of a connexion with Lóch (common Celtic *LEUKOS), the greatest adversary of the incarnate Storm God, Cú Chulainn, in the primitive redaction of Táin Bó Cuailnge. Like Mars Leucetios, Lóch is aided and abetted against Cú Chulainn by Moirríoghan who, as an avatar of the Earth Goddess, is identical to Nemetona. There is no trace whatever of a Sea God in the dedications, which seems to indicate that, as already suggested, Manannán is a secondary development from Neachtan "grandson of the waters". Neachtan, however, is very much present in his primitive role as a fertility god associated with springs. He is equated to Apollo since, as owner of the spring Seaghais, he has curative powers manifested in springs (BG 6.17.1, CIL 13.5911). In his aggressive aspect, he is also equated to Mars and in two inscriptions from Austria (CIL 3.3662, 4285) he appears as Neptune - probably as a simple latinization of Gaulish *Nectonos.
We have seen that, equated to Mars, he appears as Segomo (in the dative: Marti Segomoni) (CIL 5.2532, 5340) and this name we have linked to Irish Sioghmhall and the ogham genitive SEGAMONAS. Equated to Apollo and associated with springs, he appears as Vindonnos (CIL 13.5644, 5645) which we have linked to his Irish incarnation Fionn. Semantically cognate is the epithet Albios "the white one" (CIL 13.2840) under which name he is assoclated with Damona "the cow goddess", an aspect of the Moon Goddess. In association with the same goddess, he was worshipped at Bourbon-les-Bains under the name Borvo or Bormo (dative: Borvoni, Bormoni) (CIL 13.2901, 5911, RAns 29.80). With the same goddess, this time called Sirona "the star goddess", he was worshipped as Grannos (CIL 3.5861, 5873, 6.36, RAns 30.264) who is explicitly equated to Apollo by the Greek historian Dio Cassius (77.15.6). Another name, also equated to Apollo in classical sources (Herodian 8.3.8) and inscriptions (CIL 3.734, 737, 738), is Belenos. This, as we have seen, occurs in the Irish summer festival name Bealtaine (*BELENOTENES, "the two fires of Belenos"). Archaic Old Irish *Belen also occurs, written belend in the manuscript, in the poem Verba Scáthaige as an alternative name for Neachtan’s incarnation, Fraoch (LU 10395). The most widespread epithet in Gaul, however, seems to have been Teutatis (variants Toutatis, Tutatis) "the god of the tribe" (CIL 7.84) associated in Britain with a further epithet, Cocidius (CIL 7.286, 335, 642, 953). Teutatis is equated to Mars in the inscriptions but, significantly, another form Toutiorix "the king of the tribe" (CIL 13.7564), is equated to Apollo. As Teutatis, the god is one of the Great Gods of the tripartite sacrifice - his specific sacrifice being that of drowning in a vat, symbolizing Neachtan’s spring, Seaghais (Lucan 1.444ff). Of the Sun God there is no trace in the dedications. It is as if he had been merged into Neachtan as god of healing. The Smith God is well represented, becoming Silvanus by "interpretatio Romana", thus stressing his herding and hospitaler aspects. The forge is not absent, however, since we have a dedication to Silvanus made by a guild of smiths (CIL 13.1640). The most common avatar, Sucellos "the good striker", is represented as a man with a mallet (smith), a cask or drinking jar (hospitaler) and occasionally a dog (herdsman) (CIL 12.1836, 13.6730, RC 17.46). A further epithet is Sinquatis, attested in Belgium (ILS 7416, 7417), which probably represents common Celtic *SINQATIS "pourer", thus underlining his aspect as hospitaler. The Earth Goddess appears in her basic role as Litavi "earth" in association with the war god Cicollus (IACO 1,206). In Function 1, we have a group deity Dervonae "the oak goddesses" variously described as "fairies" (fatae) (CIL 5.4208) and "mothers" (matronae) (CIL 5.5791). The similarity to Deirbhreann is obvious. Likewise connected is Nemetona "the goddess of the sacred grove" (CIL 7.36, CIR 790) who also appears as a group deity, Matres Nemetiales (CIL 12.2221). In Function 2, there is Cassibodua "the brilliant scald crow" (CIL 13.4525) who is identified to Victoria and clearly equals Badhbh. In Function 3, equated to the Roman Maia (CIR 1763), we find Rosmerta (CIL 12.2831, 5677, CIR 1711, BSAF 1859.160) who is a goddess of prosperity associated with the Shaman God. We have seen that the Dawn Goddess, Brighid, appears in Britain as Brigantia (CIL 7.200, 203, 875, 1062), equated to Victoria and patron goddess of the Brigantes. By "interpretatio Romana" she is normally equated to Minerva since, as Caesar says, "she gave men the beginings of works and artisanal activities" (BG 6.17.2). In two inscriptions (CIL 13.1676, 2940) we find her equated to Vesta in what must have appeared to a Roman the unlikely trinity of Vesta, Vulcan and Mars. Every Roman schoolboy knew that, thanks to Greek influence, Vulcan was married to Venus and cuckolded by Mars. Vesta, however, was fairly close in concept to the Dawn Goddess who was married to the Smith God (Vulcan). Is Mars here the interpretation of the
Sun God, the other husband of the Dawn Goddess? As wife of the Sun God, she appears in Britain as Sul which historically means "sun" (compare Irish súil "eye" from *SÛLIS and Sanskrit sûrya "sun"). Sul is either a single goddess (Sul, Sul Minerva, Minerva Sulevia) (CIL 7.39, 40, 12.2974) or a trinity, depicted as three seated women and called variously Matres Suleviae, Suleviae, Suleviae Iunones (EE 7.782, NB 13, CIR 673, CIL 3.5900, 6.768). Corresponding to the horse aspect of the Irish Áine, she is Epona "the horse goddess" (CIL 3.7750, 7.1114, Plutarch parallel c29 p312E), once found as a group deity Eponae (CIL 3.7904). A further epithet is Belisama "most brillant" (CIL 12 p.162, BSAF 1883.173). The Water Goddess, as we have seen, could be considered incarnate in any large river. Whence the name *Mâtronâ "mother goddess" which was - and still is - applied Mâtronâ to the Marne in Northern France. Whence too the dedications to the goddess Sequana (the Seine) (CIL 12.2865, 2858). She may also appear as a group deity, as in the Gaulish dedication to the Mothers of Nimes (matrebo Namausikabo (CIL 12 p.383) matrebo Namausikabo) incarnate in the still justly famous Fountain of Nimes. The Moon Goddess is almost invariably associated with Neachtan in the dedications, as Damona "the divine cow" (CIL 13.2840, 5911, RE 1896.1176, RAns 39.80), as Sirona or Dirona "the star goddess" (CIL 6.36, CIR 814) or as the goddess Segeta (CIL 13.1641, 1646) at Feurs near Montbrison. This last name cannot be separated from the spring, Seaghais, and the *SEGOS of Neachtan. With the exception of Neachtan who in Gaul was not replaced by the Sea God and has been examined in his place, the Young Gods do not appear in Gaulish dedications, unless one or both of the Twins are hidden under the puzzling name Tarvos Trigaranus "the bull with three cranes" in the inscription from Paris (CIL 12.3026) (compare the Three Speckled Cows of Iuchna and the Three Men of Ochaine - the birds sitting on their ears). Further problems are posed by gods who are never given an "interpretatio Romana" such as Veriugodumnos (CIL 13.3487) and Ialonos (alias Ialonos Contrebis or simply Contrebis) (CIL 7.284, 290, 12.3057) and by those whose "interpretatio" is Apollo or Mars and thus ambiguous. Examples are Cobledulitavos (RE 1.12), Anextlomaros "of great protection" (BM 1889.583) and Atepomaros "of great succor" (CIL 3.1318) who are equated to Apollo, Cnabetios (CIR 1598, BJ 50.163) and Carros Cicinos (CIL 7.284, 290, 12.3057) who are equated to Mars.
Chapter 4 The Indoeuropean Pantheon We have seen in the previous section that the common Celtic pantheon must have been basically very similar to the Irish pantheon as presented in the first section of this chapter. What then of the wider Indoeuropean perspective? In view of the undoubted Celtic influence on Germanic culture in its formative stages, an influence manifested above all in the limited but important sociopolitical terms which entered Germanic from Celtic, one would expect to find some common ground in the pantheon over and above inherited pan-Indoeuropean traits. And indeed one does. This said, however, the differences are notable. Germanic society evidently evolved in the direction of monogamy. Thus the Scandinavian pantheon presents a series of male gods each of whom is accompanied by his respective spouse. Divine adultery there is - what society is without it? - but it is against a monogamous background, with none of the easy fluctuation between polygamy and polyandry to be observed in the Irish pantheon. In Germanic society, too, the priestly caste had disappeared. In this two-caste society, the warriors also acted as priests, as in historical Iceland. This caused sweeping changes in the male hierarchy of gods. Thus, instead of the six gods of Function 1 and Function 2 which we found in the Irish pantheon: SHAMAN GOD STORM GOD we find only four Odin Thor Tyr Loki SKY GOD WIND GOD FIRE GOD DROUGHT GOD
Odin and Thor correspond respectively to the Daghdha and Lugh. Tyr is one-armed, like Nuadha, but has also taken over the Sky God’s function as divine lawspeaker. Loki, while retaining the Fire God’s trickster aspect, has taken over the baleful qualities of the Drought God. Nevertheless, there is a formal distinction made between gods of Functions 1+2 and gods of Function 3. The former are called Aesir, the latter Vanir, and there is a myth dealing with the primal discord which existed between them, mirroring social tensions between warrior and farmer castes. In Function 3 deities, the Scandinavian pantheon shares one very important innovation with the Irish pantheon. A Germanic god Nerthus is mentioned in classical sources as a fertility god. Judging from the connexion with common Celtic *NERTON (Irish neart "vigor, strength", he seems to be equivalent to Neachtan in his more neart) primitive Function 3 aspect. However, by the time we are presented with the Scandinavian pantheon, he has become Njordur, god of the sea and shipping, and is identical in function to Manannán. Replacing him in his original fertility function is his son Freyr. Thus both the Irish and Scandinavian pantheons created a separate Sea God out of the inherited fertility god of the waters. The creation was doubtless independent but in response to the same stimulus: navigation in the Atlantic. The Roman and Greek pantheons have been heavily suffused with Mediterranean influences - so much so that, while one can detect inherited Indoeuropean patterns in their theoretical structure, noticeably more in the Roman than the Greek pantheon, both pantheons have more in common with the Mediterranean cultural zone than with the basic inherited pantheon. This is natural, since when we first meet them, both Romans and Greeks - even Mycenean Greeks - have undergone several centuries’ acclimatization to a higher and maturer culture. If we had a record of the beliefs of the Italic or Greek peoples at the point of time when they entered the
Mediterranean zone, it might well be a different matter. The same is true of the pantheons of the Anatolian peoples. The Hurrian and Babylonian myths and gods were imported practically wholesale, not to mention the adoption of pre-Indoeuropean local deities. Some structures in Hittite rituals make it plain that inherited Indoeuropean traits there were - but the fragmentary nature of the evidence make it very difficult to assess their importance.
The situation in Iran is different. Shortly before the Iranians achieved literacy in about the 6th century BC, the inherited Indoeuropean religion was overthrown by Zoroaster (Zarathushtra), who established a dualist religion (two gods: one good, one bad). Fragments - and indeed whole chunks - of the inherited religion managed to survive, however, and gradually crept into Zoroastrianism. Nevertheless, the resulting amalgam transformed both the older religion and Zoroastrianism. In India, however, the inherited religion has kept its earliest texts down to this day and, although the religion itself has undergone enormous changes in the last three thousand years, these texts, the Vedas, have not and a study of them makes it possible to reconstruct the Vedic pantheon and its myths. Unlike the primitive Greeks entering the Mediterranean zone, the Aryans entering India did not at first assimilate the culture of the peoples they found in possession. They shunned it and it was only later, in the post-Vedic period, that native Indian elements gradually permeated Vedic religion and transformed it into Hinduism. The incalculable importance of the Vedic pantheon and myths for Indoeuropean comparative mythology is that one can take roughly 1000 BC as a closing date for the compilation of the Vedic hymns. This is very early, if one remembers that by the time monks were writing down scraps of Irish pagan mythology, almost two thousand years had passed and India had given birth to Buddhism, spread it far and wide and then seen it wither on its home soil before a vigorous revival of Hinduism. As we shall see, the similarities between the Vedic and Irish pantheons are remarkable but, perhaps, on maturer reflection, not too surprising. Pre-Christian Irish society was remarkably archaic - one has only to examine the earliest law texts to realize this. Religion, like law, was in the hands of the druids who, like their Indian counterparts the Brahmins, appear to have been an efficient but intensely conservative caste. If law remained close to the inherited prototype, then it should be no surprise that religion should do likewise. The Vedic pantheon has four Function 1 gods: Varuna, Mitra, Aryaman and Agni, of whom the first three form a triad. Varuna corresponds to the Shaman God. He is associated with water and living things. "Dressed in wood" (RV 9.90.2), he is a shaman: "Varuna is the spiriter of the gods" (SPB 22.214.171.124). He is universal: "If two persons sit together and scheme, king Varuna is there as a third and knows it. Both this earth here and yonder broad sky whose boundaries are so far away belong to king Varuna. And these two oceans are Varuna’s loins - yet he is hidden in this small drop of water" (AV 4.16.2f). Unlike the Irish Shaman God - but like Earc - he is equated to the sky as Dyau. As Dyau, he is married to the Earth Goddess, Prthivi, just as the Irish Shaman God is married to the Earth Goddess as Moirríoghan. Mitra corresponds to the Irish Sky God, although the physical quality of sky belongs, as we have seen, to Varuna. Mitra is the god of contracts - just as Earc is divine lawspeaker. Aryaman is the god of the forefathers, presiding over the ancestors in the divine world. The is called "Aryaman born of old" (RV 7.35.2). He is requested to defend the righteous (RV 1.136.5). He corresponds clearly to the Irish Fire God as Donn, the forefather and judge of the dead. The fire god Agni ("fire"), described as "the red man" (RV 3.15.3) corresponds to the other functions of the Irish Fire God: through the sacrificial flame, he is the messenger of the gods (RV 2.6.6). He is the god of youth - the Youngest (RV 1.189.4, 2.6.6, 3.15.3). He is also a seer - "he who knows births" (RV 3.20.3) - and a poet (RV 10.91.3). It is a moot point which tradition is the more archaic here - the Vedic, which separates the functions of god of death from those of the Fire God, or the Irish, which combines the two. The Vedic pantheon has three Function 2 gods: Indra, Vayu and Rudra (later to
become Shiva). It also boasts two demons, Vrtra and Vala. Indra is the Storm God. He is younger than his brother god like the Irish Lugh. When the demon Vrtra hides the waters (RV 2.11.5), Indra gets drunk on soma, receives the thunderbolt from the smith god Tvashtr and destroys the demon (RV 1.32.1ff), thus releasing the life-giving waters for cattle (RV 8.32.25). The parallel with Lugh’s combat with Balar needs no underlining. Nor does Indra’s kingship of the gods. "He prepares a cake... for Indra at the dwelling of him who is being consecrated king, for Indra is the ruler" (SPB 126.96.36.199). Vayu is the Wind God. That said, it must be admitted that he is not active in the Vedic tradition. There is not the tension between Storm and Wind Gods which we have seen in the Irish pantheon. Wind, in fact, is seldom invoked at all. He does, however, have one significant role - he is "the guardian of soma" (RV 10.85.5). Soma is at once the intoxicant used for ritual purposes (symbolized in Irish tradition by the bubbles of "numinous knowledge") and the Moon God, corresponding structurally to the Moon Goddess of the Irish pantheon. The Wind God obviously cannot marry the Moon God - but he can protect him. Rudra’s function corresponds to part of that of Balar in the Irish pantheon. He is the "great demon of the sky" (RV 2.1.6), a killer with bow and arrow who is assimilated to the fire god Agni and by euphemism called "the cattle lord" - since he kills cattle (SPB 1.7.3). Seldom invoked in the hymns, such invocations as do occur are litanies of requests to desist from action (RV 1.114.7f). If Rudra is Plague, then Vrtra is Drought who keeps the water from the cattle. Vala is robbery. The three together make up the complete functions of the Irish Drought God, Balar. Vala imprisons the cloud cattle in a stone prison but Indra with his thunderbolt releases them and slays Vala. This is obviously a more primitive version of Balar’s theft of the Glas Ghaibhneann and the cow’s subsequent recovery by the Sun God, Cian. The Vedic pantheon has three Function 3 gods: Apam Napat "the grandson of the waters", Surya "sun" and Tvashtr "craftsman". Apam Napat, while corresponding to the Irish Neachtan, is a relatively minor deity in the Vedic pantheon, invoked as Fire in the Waters (RV 5.41.10, 7.35.13, 10.30.4). Surya with his avatar Savitr (the morning and afternoon sun) corresponds to the Irish Sun God in his solar role. While he banishes disease when passing in the sky, he has not developed a fully fledged aspect as God of Healing. Tvashtr the craftsman god is equivalent in function to the Irish Smith God and as important. He forges the thunderbolt for the Storm God, Indra (RV 1.32.2). He prepares the banquet of the gods, consisting of the intoxicant soma (SPB 1.6.3). He also creates the divine cow Prsni that lives in the house of the Moon (RV 1.84.15, 6.66.1, 7.35.13). He is associated with the Water Goddess in the form of a group deity Gnâs "the women" (RV 7.35.6, 10.66.3). The detailed coincidences with Gaibhneann are self-evident. We have seen that the name of the Vedic Earth Goddess, Prthivi, corresponds to the Gaulish name Litavi. Both continue the common Indoeuropean epithet *pltHwiH- "the broad one". As goddess of sovereignty, she appears as Aditi: "He goes to the dwelling of the queen and prepares a porridge for Aditi, for Aditi is this Earth and she is the wife of the gods and the queen is the wife of the king" (SPB 188.8.131.52). Under another name, Sri, she typifies the Earth from which all the Great Gods derive their powers. As Aditi, she is described as "Mother of the Rudras (Rudra,Vrtra,Vala), daughter of the Vasus (Varuna, Agni), sister of the Adityas (Varuna, Mitra, Aryaman), source of immortality" (RV 8.101.5). Like the Irish Earth Goddess, she is extra-functional and many-formed. Ushas "dawn" corresponds to the Irish Dawn Goddess in her more physical aspects: "The awaker with the red horses, Ushas comes with her well-yoked chariot" (RV 1.113.14). Like Brighid, she is associated with the Fire God (RV 1.113.9).
Interestingly, one of her epithets is Brhati "the high one" which is formally identical to Brighid, both reflecting common Indoeuropean *bhrghntiH- : "The mother of the gods... Brhati, shines forth" (RV 1.113.19). As a group deity "the Women", the Water Goddess is associated with Tvashtr. As an individual goddess, she appears as Sarasvati "the flowing one" who is addressed as "most motherlike, most riverlike, most divine" (RV 2.41.16). Sarasvati was almost certainly a river name in origin, subsequently deified. The same is true of her alias, Sindhu. Sindhu is the historical Indus but we may well suspect the existence of a deified river Sindhu in the Indoeuropean homeland. The Indoeuropeans dispersed, but carried their deified river names east and west with them - hence Sionann "the goddess Sindus" in Ireland and in the Irish pantheon. The Vedic Sindhu is specifically the mother of Soma, the Moon God (RV 9.61.6f), just as the Irish Water Goddess is mother of the Moon Goddess, Bé bhFionn. In the same way that the Irish Water Goddess is associated with Neachtan, her grandson, so in the Vedic texts we find "Sindhu, with whom we invoke Apam Napat (the grandson of the waters)" (RV 1.186.5). Corresponding to the Irish Moon Goddess, the Vedic pantheon has one god and one goddess. The god is Soma, who is at one and the same time the deified intoxicant used for ritual purposes and the moon god. As deified intoxicant, Soma is prepared by Tvashtr for the gods - just as in the Irish pantheon the Moon Goddess, Bé bhFionn, serves Gaibhneann’s feast to the gods (SPB 1.6.3). As the moon, he is son of the Water Goddess as noted above. The Wind God, Vayu, is his protector (RV 10.85.5) just as the Irish Wind God, Midhir, is Bé bhFionn’s husband. The goddess is Ratri "night". She corresponds to the Irish Moon Goddess in her aspect as Dar Earca, protector of men against wolves and robbers. Like Dar Earca, she is closely associated with the Dawn Goddess whom she precedes in time but who is greater than her. The two goddesses, when invoked jointly, are called Ushasa-Nakta "Dawn and Night" - the use of the old Indoeuropean word for night proves the archaism of the link. As Ratri, she wears a black cloak spangled with stars, which cannot but remind us of the Gaulish avatar of the Moon Goddess, Sirona "the star goddess". It is difficult to say which tradition is the more primitive - the Vedic, which separates Moon and Night, or the Celtic, which clearly combines them. My own guess, and it is no more than that, is that the Celtic (and Irish) tradition is the older. Among the Young Gods, Tvashtr’s son Visvarupa "all shapes" corresponds to Gaibhneann’s son Breas in the Irish pantheon. Just as Lugh destroys Breas, so Indra destroys Visvarupa (SPB 184.108.40.206f). After which the traditions diverge, since Visvarupa is a three-headed monster, while Breas whatever his other shortcomings is not. Corresponding to the Irish Twins, the Vedic pantheon has the two Horsemen (Asvina), like Iuchar and Iucharbha "Horseman and Horseman’s Bane"; they are the twins who precede their mother, Dawn (RV 1.46.7, 1.118.5, 1.184.1, 3.39.3). They are Function 3 deities connected like the Irish Twins with human prosperity (RV 3.54.16). Unlike their Irish counterparts, but like Dian Céacht, the Sun God, they are leeches (RV 8.96). There are, of course, several minor gods or group deities in the Vedic pantheon which have no clear equivalent in the Irish pantheon. Such are Danu and Gandharva. Parjanya, associated with the wind, appears to be an aspect of the Storm God as bearer of the lightning. The Rbhus, a group deity aptly described as artisan elves and associated with Indra, remind one of Lugh’s dwarf son Cnú Dearóil the musician (AS-SG 108). The Maruts, young horsemen of the storm who accompany Indra, can be compared to the retinue of young horsemen who accompany Lugh to Teamhair (Celtica 2.64f). Pushan "the feeder" is clearly similar to Gaibhneann in his hospitaller aspect and may well have more direct connexions with Buchad the "cowherd"
hospitaler. On the whole, however, the remarkable number of agreements in detail between the two pantheons and their basic identity of structure leave one in no doubt of the archaic nature of the Irish pantheon and its overall fidelity to the inherited Indoeuropean pattern. The reason for this is perhaps to be found in the fact that Irish society, long after Christianization, still clung to the inherited Indoeuropean economic base: cattle. With no shift in the economic base, there was no pressure for social change, hence religious concepts remained static. When eventually Christianity was accepted by the Irish, pagan beliefs still flourished side by side with a Christianity infused with pagan concepts. Indeed, what sounded the final death knoll of Irish paganism was not the work of Patrick and his successors but the destruction of the social order in the 16th-17th centuries and the emergence of a more international Catholicism in Ireland..
PART II : THE MYTHS
Chapter 1 STORM For a mainly pastoral people, the seasonal variations between drought and rain are of fundamental importance since insufficient pasture leads inexorably to catastrophe. It is no chance, therefore, that the story of the combat of the Storm God and the Drought God is the best preserved and most persistent of Irish myths. Remnants of it are still alive now (1981) in the folk tradition of Co.Donegal. Of the seven myths or episodes of myths which form this chapter, the first is from the popular tradition. The rest are found in the oldest version of the battle of Magh Tuireadh. In this literary text, the basic myth is preserved in an archaic form but has been clumsily welded to the myth of the unsuitable king. The two myths have been separated in this book one being given here and the other in Chapter 8 Myths 1-3. Myth 1 THE THEFT OF GAIBHNEANN’S COW AND THE BIRTH OF LUGH. One day Cian went to Gaibhneann’s forge to have a sword made. Gaibhneann agreed to make the sword but said that Cian would have to guard the cow, Glas Ghaibhneann, while he was making it. Cian agreed and went out to watch the cow. At the end of the day he came back to the forge with the cow. Eager to have his sword, he went into the forge and forgot to tether the Glas. When he came out again with the sword, the cow was gone. Balar had seized the opportunity and stolen the cow away to his fortress on Toraigh. Cian knew that this was Balar’s work and set out in pursuit. By the time he reached the shore, Balar was away out to sea making for the island of Toraigh. Then Cian saw a man in a boat and hailed him. It was Manannán. Manannán agreed to help him in return for half of what he brought back. Now Balar had a daughter, Eithne, and he knew that he would die at the hands of his grandson. So he shut his daughter up in his fortress and would let no man in. Cian dressed in woman’s clothes and was admitted. He soon became friendly with Eithne and they made love. Eithne became pregnant and gave birth to three sons. Balar discovered two of them and threw then into the sea but Cian escaped with the third one and the cow. Manannán was waiting for him in the boat and brought him safely to land. As Cian was about to step out of the boat, Manannán asked for his share of half of what was brought back. So Cian gave him the child, Lugh, and returned the cow to Gaibhneann. Manannán reared Lugh and taught him many arts so that he became known as Samhioldánach "the many-crafted one".
(Source: WIF 242-245 collated with OSL (Donegal) 90-97, CCF 3-5, 236-239, TT 45-47)
The forging of a sword for Cian is a later addition to explain how Cian came to be guarding Gaibhneann’s cow when it had been forgotten that Cian is the Sun God. As Sun God, he is the divine cowherd who leads the Smith God’s Cow of Plenty in her grazing across the sky. The protection of the cow from theft and disease is his responsibility. If anything happens to the cow, he must right it. We shall see him in a similar role in Chapter 5 Myth 1. Balar, the Drought God, seizes the cow of fruitfulness and shuts her in his prison. To rescue the cow, the Sun God needs help - and who better than a water deity, the Sea God, who is the natural enemy of drought? At this point, the motif of the son/grandson who is fated to kill his father/grandfather is brought in. Thus Eithne, the mother of Lugh, becomes Balar’s daughter. Whether this was part of the original
myth or not is difficult to say, but the chances are that it was not. It is probable that Eithne was originally a form of the Water Goddess and the enemy, not the daughter, of Balar. Of Balar’s hostility to Cian and Eithne and their offspring there is, however, no doubt. The motif of the death of the first son(s) also occurs in the myth of the incarnation of Lugh as Cú Chulainn (Chapter 9 Myth 1). This, then, is a double myth and can be schematized as follows: A (1) The Drought God steals the Smith God’s cow of plenty when her cowherd, the Sun God, is momentarily not watching her. (2) With the Sea God’s help, the Sun God retrieves the cow. B (1) The Sun God and a goddess, Eithne (the Water Goddess), attempt to produce a son - the Storm God - who will overcome the Drought God. (2) The Drought God kills two of their sons but eventually at the third attempt they succeed in spiriting the future Storm God away to the domain of the Sea God. There he is inaccessible to the Drought God. Myth 2 LUGH'S ARRIVAL IN TEAMHAIR Nuadha gave a great feast to the gods in Teamhair. While this feast was in progress, a youth called Samhioldánach came at the head of a company from Eamhain Abhlach to Teamhair. The gatekeeper asked:"Who goes there?" "Lugh son of Cian and of Eithne." "What craft do you play, for no one enters Teamhair without a craft." "Ask me - I am a carpenter." "We already have a carpenter." "Ask me - I am a smith." "We already have a smith." "Ask me - I am a strong man." "We already have a strong man." "Ask me - I am a harper." "We already have a harper." "Ask me - I am a warrior." "We already have a warrior." "Ask me - I am a poet and storyteller." "We already have a poet and storyteller." "Ask me -I am a sorcerer." "We already have several sorcerers." "Ask me -I am a leech." "We already have a leech." "Ask me -I am a cupbearer." "We already have cupbearers." "Ask me - I am a tinsmith." "We already have a tinsmith." "Ask the king if he has anyone who can ply all these crafts. If he has, I shall not enter Teamhair." The gatekeeper went into the royal house and told the king. He sent out the chess players of Teamhair to him and he beat them all, inventing the gambit called Cró Logha (Lugh’s Enclosure). Nuadha was informed and gave orders for him to be admitted. But Oghma, to spite Lugh, threw a great stone through the side of the house and out of Teamhair. Lugh threw it back so that it settled in the center of the royal house and healed the gap in the wall.
Then Lugh went in and sat in the wise man’s seat, for he was the wise man of every craft. They asked him to play the harp for them and he played them the Three Strains. Then the gods took counsel whether Lugh could lift the oppression of the Fomhóire from them. And they decided that Nuadha should change places with him. Then Samhioldánach sat in the king’s seat. (Source: CMT 53-74 collated with Celtica 2.64f)
The Storm God is now ready to lead the gods against the Drought God. He arrives from the Sea God’s domain at the head of his followers - comparable to the Vedic Maruts (see Part I Chapter 4) and demands admittance to the gods. Noone is admitted to the company of the gods without a valid attribute and only one god may wield a given attribute. The list given by Lugh is in no sort of order but can be analysed as follows: Function 1: sorcerer, poet/storyteller, harper. Function 2: warrior, strong man. Function 3: cupbearer, smith/carpenter/tinsmith. Thus Lugh is making a claim to supra-functionality. And the only male suprafunctional office is that of king. The Wind God, as Nuadha, is reigning king. In the form of his alter ego, Oghma, god of strength, he makes a bid to oppose Lugh’s entry into the kingship of the gods and fails. This is the only time in the myths where the two aspects, Nuadha and Oghma, are active within the framework of a single episode. We shall see that when the Wind God is acting as king he is called Nuadha, when he is acting as a simple Function 2 warrior he is called Oghma - there is never any contrast in function. The gods then give Lugh the kingship for a specific purpose: to lift the oppression of the Fomhóire from them. Much has been written about the Fomhóire, most of it completely beside the point and ultimately based on the etymological speculations of medieval glossators. The earliest (middle Irish) form of the name is Fomaire (see RIACon Fomóir) which rhymes with Conaire and has no long vowel. This must represent Old Irish *Fomairi, continuing common Celtic *WOYOMÂRIÎ, plural of *WOYOMÂRIOS. *WOYOMÂRIOS is a patronymic from the name *WOYOMÂROS "great in hunting" i.e. "the Great Hunter", the first element being cognate with Irish fian "hunting band", Latin venari "to hunt" and Old Slavonic vojï "warrior". The Great Hunter can only be an epithet for the Drought God, Balar, who like his Vedic counterpart Rudra alias Pasupati "lord of the beasts", hunts down and slaughters cattle. The Fomhóire are thus a group of demons grouped around and ultimately emanating from the Drought God. Schematically this myth runs as follows: 1) The Storm God demands the kingship of the gods. 2) The reigning king, the Wind God, opposes this demand but is forced to yield. 3) The gods accept the Storm God as king - that is, as warleader against the Drought God and his followers. Myth 3 THE GODS PREPARE POR WAR. Lugh took counsel with his relatives, the Daghdha and Oghma, at Greallach Dhollaidh. They summoned their relatives Gaibhneann and Dian Céacht. They deliberated for a full year on their plan. And this is called the Nonplan of the Gods at Grealladh Dhollaidh. Then they summoned their forces and inquired what they could do. The sorcerer said that he would set the mountains of Ireland fighting on the side of the gods against the Fomhóire. The cupbearers said that they would make the rivers and lakes of Ireland dry for the Fomhóire, but that the men of Ireland would have drink enough for seven years of war. The druid said that he would send three showers of fire against the Fomhóire seizing two thirds of their strength and knotting their excrement in their bodies and in the bodies of their horses - but that every breath the men of Ireland drew would be strength to them so that seven years of war would not tire them. The Daghdha said that he alone would do all these things together. Then they adjourned for three years. Meanwhile Lugh, the Daghdha and Oghma went to the three craft gods and they gave Lugh weapons for the battle - they had been seven years preparing them. Now the Daghdha had a house in the north at Gleann Éadain and he had a meeting there with a woman at the Samhain before the battle. He found her washing in the river Uinsinn in Corann. She had one foot on one bank and the other on the other
and her hair was in nine loose plaits. The Daghdha spoke to her and they made love. She was Moirríoghan. Afterward she told the Daghdha that the Fomhóire would land at Magh Sceidne and that he should summon the poets of Ireland to her at the Ford of Uinsinn. She would go to Sceidne to maim the king of the Fomhóire and seize the blood of his heart and his kidneys. She brought the blood in her cupped hands and gave it to the company that was waiting at the Ford of Uinsinn. Then the poets maimed the king and chanted spells over the Fomhóire. This was a week before Samhain. Then everyone dispersed until the men of Ireland should come together the day before Samhain. (Source: CMT 75-87) This and the following myth can be described as sidelines, while the main line for the cycle is taken up again in Myth 5. The Storm God is now king and consults with the Daghdha, representing Function 1, and Oghma (the "demoted" Nuadha), representing Function 2. Priests and warriors, Functions 1 and 2, have automatic access to the king’s council. The "third estate" may come only when summoned - hence the summoning of the Function 3 gods, Gaibhneann and Dian Céacht. It is axiomatic that the warriors (Function 2) will do the actual fighting. Nevertheless, the Priests (Function 1) and Commoners (Function 3) have their own ancillary roles to play and these are set out here. The Priests, represented here by the sorcerers the cupbearers and the druids are to manipulate the elements in the gods’ favor. The sorcerer handles Earth, the cupbearers handle Water, the druid handles Fire and Air. The Daghdha, as Shaman God, handles all four. The Commoners, represented here by the three craft gods (Gaibhneann and his byforms Luchtaine and Créidhne), handle supplies. We then return to the Shaman God who obtains the active help of the Earth Goddess in her Function 1 aspect as Queen of Death by copulating with her over water. She then unleashes her spiritual power against the Fomhóire. Myth 4 THE DAGHDHA’S EXPLOITS. Lugh sent the Daghdha to spy on the Fomhóire and detain them until the men of Ireland were ready for battle. So the Daghdha came to their camp and requested a truce till battle. That was granted. Then the Fomhóire made him a porridge, to mock him, because he was much given to porridge. They filled the five-handled cauldron of the king for him - it held eighty sextarii (120 pints) of milk and the same amount of flour and fat. They put goats, sheep and pigs into it and boiled them all together. Then they poured it out into a hole in the ground for him and told him that they would kill him unless he ate it all. He took up his ladle - a man and his wife could lie together in it comfortably - and the pieces in it were half flitches and quarters of lard. He ate everything and then scraped the bottom of the hole clean with his finger. He felt sleepy afterwards and his belly was as large as a house cauldron, which caused merriment among the Fomhóire. He left they and went to Trácht Eothaile. It was not easy for the fellow to walk with the size of his belly. And he appeared ugly: a short hood down to his elbows, a dark brown tunic down to the cleft of his buttocks and horse skin trousers with the hair on the outside. He dragged a club heavy enough for eight men behind him and it left a track big enough to be a boundary ditch. While he was on his way, he saw a beautiful girl ahead of him. The Daghdha lusted for her but the size of his belly incapacitated him. The girl started taunting him and
wrestling with him. She cast him so that he was up to his arse in the ground. He glared at her and said: "Why are you taking me from my allotted path?" "So that you will carry me on your back to my father’s house." "Who is your father?" "The king of the Fomhóire." She laid into him again until the scrub around him was covered in his shit and forced him to take her on his back. He said it was taboo for him to carry anyone who could not call hlm by his name. "What is your name?" she asked. "The Horned Man" he said. "That is an excessive name" she said "get up and carry me on your back, Horned Man." "That is not my name" he said. "Well?" she said. And he told her his full name. She repeated it without a fault and added "Now, get up and carry me from here." "Do not mock me any further" he said. "It is a promise" she said. Then he emptied his belly into the hole and rose up and carried the girl on his back. He had put three stones in his belt and every now and again he dropped one and said they were his genitals dropping. The girl leaped on him, knocked him down on his backside and laid bare his pubic hair. Then the Daghdha took her and they made love. The place of the encounter can still be seen at Trácht Eothaile. Afterward she said to him: "You will not go to the battle." "I will go" said the Daghdha. "You will not - because I shall be a stone at the entrance to every ford you come to." "True," said the Daghdha "but you will not stop me. I shall go strongly over every stone and the mark of my heel will be on every one of them for ever." "True, but they will be sucked down and no one will see them. But you will not go because I shall be an oak in every ford and on every road you come to." "I shall go" said the Daghdha, and the mark of my ax will be on every oak for ever and they will say: this is the mark of the ax of the Daghdha." "Let the Fomhóire land," she said, "because the men of Ireland have come together in one place." She said that she would chant over the Fomhóire and that he should ply the deadly trade of his club on them. Then the Fomhóire landed at Sceidne and the men of Ireland were at Magh Urfholaigh. (Source: CMT 89-94 + ZCP 12.401f) This myth, which is crucial for an understanding of the Shaman God’s nature and of his identity to the Horned God of mainland Europe, has not received the attention it deserves - for reasons which have more to do with recent attitudes to sex in Europe (not excluding Ireland) than with Irish mythology. Nevertheless it has been in print since 1918 when Thurneysen courageously published his transcript of the manuscript, with all its orthographic oddities, in volume 12 of Zeitschrift für Celtische Philologie. No translation or critical edition has appeared, not even a précis such as the above. One can like or dislike the subject matter and its treatment, but the serious student of Irish mythology ignores it at his peril. To one brought up in a religious tradition in which a strong air of celibacy surrounds both the concept of priest and the concept of god, the idea of a god who is also a priest and not only horned but undeniably horny can and does shock. Nevertheless such a deity is by no means rare in the pantheons of mankind. The Shaman God is not celibate. He is a Trickster, a universal copulator who links the four elements: on the one hand the female Earth and on the other the male trinity of Water, Air and Fire. The joining of these elements is life, their separation is death and the Shaman God has a vital part to play in both processes which occur
simultaneously. Hence his gargantuan appetite for everything - excretion as well as eating, slaughter as well as the fertilizing act of copulation. That is what this myth is all about. Myth 5 THE DRUNKENNESS OF LUGH. Unknown to Lugh, Nuadha went round the leaders of the gods asking if they were happy to let Lugh alone have the glory of the battle. And were their warriors unable to deal with the Fomhóire without him? "I have a plan, he said, I have a great feast of good drink ready for the strong men of the god, and for Lugh. Let him be served with that feast until he is drunk. When he is drunk, bind him with iron chains and bronze links. Sink great pillars into the ground on all sides around him and bind him to them. And let the battle take place without him." The gods agreed to this . When Lugh was drunk, they summoned Abhcán and he played to him until he fell into a music-induced sleep. Then the binders arose and bound him. The companies rose up then to fight the battle under Nuadha, leaving Abhcán in charge of Lugh. They declared battle on the Fomhóire and the two armies came wildly together. That woke Lugh from his slumber. "What is all this, Abhcán?" he asked, "Why am I bound? And what are those great shouts I can hear?" "I don’t know," said Abhcán, "what the shouts are - unless they are the shouts of the foreign games of the Fomhóire or the shrieking of the deadly swords being doused in cold water by Gaibhneann or Moirríoghan coming with her tricks and telling every hero his fate and everyone making sport, gazing at the backside of that uncommon girl and the multiplicity of her tricks." "That is enough, Abhcán," said Lugh, "this is the onslaught of battle I can hear none of the things you say. Untie me so that I can go and stop the companies, because this day is not theirs." "I can’t break your bonds," said Abhcán, "hands of warriors and the strength of heroes bound them on you." Then Lugh shook himself and dragged the pillars from the ground and they clattered behind him, attached to the chains, as he rushed forward to stop the companies. The din was tremendous: the iron chains rubbing against each other and the pillars crashing against the rocks so that the dying sparks would have turned night into day. He ran rightways around the companies and set his face against the Fomhóire. Both sides stopped, for he was no usual sight with the chains streaming out behind him like the rigging from the mast of a great ship. And the crashing of the pillars behind him, breaking heights and hillocks, gave them cause for reflexion. (Source: CMT(C) 80-195. Craiftine Cláirseoir and Ceithleann Chraosfhiadach have been substituted for Abhcán and Moirríoghan in this late recension. I have restored the original names.) With this myth we are back in the mainstream of the cycle. Just before the battle, the displaced warleader Nuadha tries to stage a comeback and, in doing so, provides the fledgling Storm God with the means of raising his principal attribute - the Storm. The complicity of the Fire God, in his aspect as Abhcán, with the Wind God against Lugh is not fortuitous. If Lugh usurps the Wind God’s kingship, he also usurps the Fire God’s fire with his thunderbolt. We shall find Wind God and Fire God allied in Chapter 2 Myth 1 and Fire God and Storm God opposed in Chapter 5 Myth 3 and Chapter 6 Myth 2a. Abhcán’s Three False Guesses (a fairly common motif) are neatly arranged in tripartite form: Function 1: Moirríoghan’s antics and fortune-telling. Function 2: the games of the Fomhóire.
Function 3: Gaibhneann’s work. The last part of the myth is a description of Lugh taking on his aspect as Storm and raising up his attributes. The Vedic Indra only becomes a fully mature Storm God when he drinks the soma prepared by the Artisan God. Likewise Lugh can only achieve his full divinity after a surfeit of the liquor with which he is plied at the Wind God’s feast. Like his Vedic counterpart, the Irish Wind God (as Midhir) has a special relationship with the Moon who serves the Smith God’s feast. Schematically then: 1) The Wind God attempts to recover the sovereignty of the gods by making the Storm God drunk with the Moon Goddess’s drink. 2) The Fire God aids and abets him in this. 3) Contrary to expectations, the drunkenness enables the Storm God to achieve full aspect. Myth 6 GAIBHNEANN, AND DIAN CÉACHT. The battle raged between the Fomhóire and the gods each day. And the Fomhóire were surprised that their weapons were failing and their dead did not reappear next day. This was not the case with the gods. If their weapons failed today, they were renewed tomorrow, because Gaibhneann the smith was in his forge making spears. He made a spear head with three blows and the third completed it. Luchtaine the carpenter made a spear shaft with three chips and the third completed it. Créidhne the tinsmith made a rivet with three blows and the third completed it. Gaibhneann cast the spear heads with his tongs and they stuck in the door jamb. Luchtaine threw the shafts after them and that was enough to fix them. Créidhne cast the rivets from his tongs and that was enough to fix them. Dian Céacht with Miach and Airmheadh were chanting over the Well of Healing. The gods threw their dead and dying into the well and the next day they arose out of it alive and well. Then the Fomhóire sent Ruadhán to spy out the camp of the gods, since he was related to them. He saw the work of the forge and of the Well of Healing. Then he came again and begged a spear head from Gaibhneann, a rivet from Créidhne and a spear shaft from Luchtaine. There was a woman grinding the weapons and she ground Ruadhán’s spear for him. Then Ruadhán cast his spear at Gaibhneann. Gaihhneann pulled the spear out of his body and slew Ruadhán with it. Then Gaibneann went into the Well of Healing and emerged whole again. (Source: CMT 121-126 collated with SC Nescoit) This myth is another sideline dealing with the activities of the Function 3 gods and is self-explanatory. Ruadhán "the Red One" is certainly an avatar of Balar (see also Myth 7 below).
Myth 7 THE KILLING OF BALAR On the day appointed for the great battle, Lugh came in his chariot and took his place at the head of the gods. He took the form of an old gray hag with one foot and one hand and one eye and went round both armies prophesying doom for the Fomhóire and prosperity for the men of Ireland. Balar was at the head of the Fomhóire. His single eye was opened only during battle, for it was deadly to all it saw. Lugh and Balar challenged each other and Balar ordered his eye to be opened. Then Gaibhneann cast the molten thunderbolt fron the door of his forge. Lugh caught it, whirled it once round his head and cast it at Balar’s eye. It went through his head and its poison sprayed out over the Fomhóire behind him. As Balar lay dying, he begged Lugh to behead him and place his head on his own so
that his virtue would pass into Lugh, his grandson. Lugh beheaded him and placed the head on a vast pillar. In no time, the head split the pillar into four pieces with its venom. Then Lugh set it in a hazel fork and there it stayed. When the battle was over and the slaughter cleaned up, Moirríoghan came to proclaim the news of the fight and the great victory that had been won for the royal places, the síodh hosts, the great waters and the estuaries of Ireland: "Peace to the sky. Sky to the world. World under sky. Strength in all. Pot on griddle full of honey mead in abundance, summer in winter. Spear on shield, shield on fist, a fierce camp - spoils are consumed. Sod from soil and deer on spit, horned cattle which will be fertile. Fruit on trees, the branch is weary, a weariness from growing, his fill for the pig. A lad riding the bull’s neck, the bull to the slaughter, the saw to the tree. The tree to fire, fire on stone, stone in soil - udder in cows. On Bóinn’s bank (a womb with riches) woods above green grass in spring and autumn. Corn is growing, the birds flock to land land and shore with excellent weather. Let the Red One with eternal sight be peaceful." (Source: CMT 127-128 + ZPC 12.406 collated with CMT(C) 741ff, 677ff, 701ff, 1295-1344, DF 16.10-13) The Storm God and the Drought God at last meet in open confrontation. The Smith God forges the thunderbolt and the Storm God uses it to unleash the storm and kill drought, at least temporarily. The word used for thunderbolt here - caor - is the one usually used for a red berry, particularly that of the rowan tree. We shall see in Chapter 4 Myth 2 that rowan berries are part of the food of the gods, representing Function 2 (warriors, Lugh). Moirríoghan’s chant which has nestled in volume 12 of Zeitschrift für Celtische Philologie for the last sixty years without edition or translation, is a beautiful résumé of the whole purpose of this myth cycle and looks very much as if it could be directly derived from or inspired by a hymn to Lugh sung at his feast of Lughnasadh (1 August). The summer drought is over. Thanks to Lugh, water is back and with it abundance and fertility under the auspices of the Water Goddess, Bóinn. Let the Drought God - "the Red One with eternal sight" - abstain for a time. As Moirríoghan’s chant has not been edited and my translation is based on an emended text, I give here the text with emendations: Sith co nem nem co doman doman fo nim nert hi cach. Án for la(i)nd lan do mil mid co saith sam hi ngam. Gai for sciath sciath for durnd
dunad lonngarg longaiter foidb. foidb
Fod di uir oss for biur
ms trom foid ms benna a buir
benna buair be(t)i metha.
Mess for crannaib craob do scis scis do áss saith do m(ui)c.
Mac for muin muinel tairb tarb di arccoin (r)odhb do crann.
Crann do ten ten ann ail ail an uir uth a mbuaib. Boinne bru brú la fefa fid oss glassfeor errach foghamar.
Forasit etha iall do tir
ms tene ms uich ms Boinn a mbru ms id, glassiaer ms feab rae ms rossaib, rithmár
tir co tracht la feib re Bid Ruad roscaib siraib sithmár. sithmár
(Source: ZCP 12.406)
Chapter 2 WIND In this chapter we shall examine a Myth cycle very different from that of Storm in Chapter 1. The cycle of Storm deals with one basic theme, the rejuvenation of the earth by rain after the summer drought. The cycle of Wind is much more composite, beginning in the world of the gods, passing through the world of men and ending in the fall of Death. Myth 1 WIND AND MOON Midhir came to visit Macan Óg at the Bruigh at Samhain. He found his fosterling sitting on the mound of the Bruigh and Earc (Elcmar) on the mound of Cleiteach on the opposite bank of the Boyne watching their respective companies playing. A quarrel broke out between the two groups and Midhir offered to mediate, so that Macan Óg should not give offense to Earc. His mediation was not successful - a holly spit was thrown at him and knocked out his eye. He returned to Macan Óg with his eye in his hand, bewailing his blemish and saying: "I cannot see the land I came to visit and I cannot now return to my own land." Macan Óg went to Dian Céacht and asked him to heal Midhir, which he did. Then Midhir was comforted and Macan Óg invited him to stay for a year. Midhir agreed, but demanded a reward for staying: a chariot worth seven slave girls, a mantle fitting his station and the most beautiful girl in Ireland. Éadain daughter of Oilill of Magh Inis was the most beautiful girl in Ireland at that time, so Macan Óg went to court her on Midhir’s behalf. Oilill required a vast bride price for her: the clearing of twelve plains in Ulster and the creation of twelve rivers to drain them. This the Daghdha did for Macan Óg. Finally Éadain’s own weight in gold and silver was weighed out to complete the purchase and Macan Óg returned to Midhir with the girl. He also gave him the chariot and the mantle. Then Midhir stayed with him for a year. At the end of the year, Midhir returned to his domain at Brí Léith with Éadain. They were met by Midhir’s first wife, Fuamnach. After showing Midhir round his estate, Fuamnach led Éadain into the sleeping chamber, saying: "You have come to the seat of a good woman." Éadain sat down and Fuamnach struck her with a rowan rod. Éadain melted into a pool of water, Fuamnach fled and Midhir abandoned his house to the water that was Éadain. The heat of fire, air and earth aided the water to turn the pool into a purple fly as big as a man’s head. Her voice and the hum of her wings was sweet music, her eyes shone like jewels in the dark, her fragrance and bloom kept hunger and thirst from all near her, the spray of the drops from her wings cured all sickness and disease and plague. She followed Midhir wherever he went. He knew that she was Éadain and took no other wife. Afterwards Fuamnach came to Midhir bringing Lugh, the Daghdha and Oghma as sureties. They quarrelled bitterly but Fuamnach recognized that the purple fly was Éadain. She stirred up a great wind which took Éadain from Brí Léith and for seven years she could settle nowhere in Ireland but only on the rocks of the sea and the ocean waves. Eventually she alighted on Macan Óg’s breast on the mound of the Bruigh. Macan Óg recognized her and welcomed her. From then on, she stayed in his portable bower. Meanwhile, Fuamnach was again at Midhir’s side. When she heard that Éadain was in Macan Óg’s bower, she had Midhir send for him. When Macan Óg left for Brí Léith, Fuamnach invaded the bower and sent Éadain forth on another blast of wind. When Macan Óg came to Midhir, he found that Fuamnach was not there. They both suspected Fuamnach was playing them false, so Macan Óg returned home and found that Éadain had gone. Then he tracked down Fuamnach and beheaded her.
(Source: TE I 9-21, 24-46) This myth is a much elaborated "just so" story. The first act is as follows: the Wind God (Midhir) makes a sacrifice (loses his eye). The Fire God (Macan Óg) as presiding god of sacrifices is compelled to compensate. The does so by presenting the Wind God with the Moon Goddess (Éadain alias Bé bhFionn) as wife. "And this is why the clouds seem to be racing with the Moon and the Wind on a windy night". The second act is more complex. The Wind God is already married to the Earth Goddess (Fuamnach). The elder wife is jealous of the younger wife - an axiom in polygamous societies such as that af pre- and post-Christian Ireland - and makes her disappear temporarily (melted into a pool of water). But the Moon Goddess returns in a particularily lustrous form, only to be attacked yet again and exiled by the Earth Goddess. All this is an explanation in mythical form of the waxing and waning of the moon. Whether, in fact, the druids were aware that this is caused by the earth’s shadow must remain an open question. Some contemporary cultures certainly knew this fact and this myth makes it likely that the druids shared this knowledge. Myth 2 BÉ bhFIONN AND EOCHA AIREAMH When Éadain was sent sailing on the wind for the second time by Fuamnach, she eventually alighted on the roof tree of Éadar’s house in Ulster and fell into the golden beaker in front of Éadar’s wife. The woman drank what was in the beaker and Éadain entered her womb and was born again as Éadain daughter of Éadar. One thousand and twelve years had passed since she had been born as Éadain daughter of Oilill. One day when she and the other girls were bathing at Inbhear Cíochmhaine, they saw a handsome horseman coming across the plain towards them. He halted on the bank and looked at Éadain. He said: "This is Éadain here today among small children at Inbhear Cíochmhaine. She healed the king’s eye from the spring of Loch Dá Líogh. She was swallowed in a drink from a beaker by Éadar’s wife. Because of her, the king shall chase the birds from Teathbha and drown his two horses in Loch Dá Airbhreach. Eocha of Midhe shall have many wars because of her, with assaults on síodh and battle for thousands. She is called Bé bhFionn. She is our Éadain." Then he disappeared. Eocha Aireamh took the kingdom of Ireland and commanded the men of Ireland to hold the feast of Teamhair for him. They refused until such time as had a wife, since he was unmarried. Then he demanded the fairest girl in Ireland and she was found for him: Éadain daughter of Éadar from Inbhear Cíochmhaine. They were married. And Midhir appeared to Éadain, whom he calIed Bé bhFionn, and asked her to return to him. But she refused unless Eocha himself told her to do so. Then Midhir appeared to Eocha Aireamh and challenged him to a game of chess. Eocha demanded a wager and Midhir offered fifty dark gray horses, to by delivered next day if he lost. Midhir lost - and next day delivered the horses. From then on they played daily and Midhir lost each time and each time payed Eocha his wager. Eventually Eocha demanded a causeway over the bog of Lámhraighe, a wood covering Bréifne, the de-stoning of Midhe and a cover of rushes over Teathbha. Midhir agreed but told him to keep his people indoors until dawn next day. But Eocha sent his steward to watch, thus causing an imperfection in the causeway. Next morning, Midhir appeared in a rage and Eocha, to placate him, agreed to play chess for an unknown wager. This time Midhir won and demanded to embrace Éadain and kiss her. Eocha was obliged to agree and a day a month ahead was appointed. Eocha Aireamh gathered all the best warriors in Ireland to guard his dún that day and he himself and his queen were in the middle of the house with all gates locked.
While they were there, Midhir suddenly appeared in the middle of the house and claimed his wager. He put his right arm around Éadain and carried her away through the smoke hole of the house. And the hosts saw two swans flying away from the dún in the direction of Sliabh na mBan. Then Eocha mustered his men and went to Sliabh na mBan and started to dig up the síodh. síodh Someone came out and told them that the woman was not there but at Bri Léith with Midhir. So they went north to Brí Léith and started to dig up the síodh there. Whatever they dug up by day was restored by night. After a year and three months, they gave up and went back south to Sliabh na mBan and started to dig there again. In return for leaving Sliabh na mBan, they were told to leave blind puppies and blind cats at Brí Leith every day. This they did and eventually Midhir came out of Brí Léith and promised to return Éadain to Eocha the next day. So Eocha went home and next morning they saw a grey whore leading fifty identical women into the house. She said to Eocha: "Choose your wife now or ask one of the women to stay with you - we must be getting home." The men of Ireland were perplexed but an idea occurred to Eocha: "My wife is the best server of drink in Ireland. I shall recognize her by her serving." So all the women were arranged in two rows, one at either side of the hall, and came forward two by two to serve. Eventually the last two women came forward. One of them served first. "This is Éadain" said Eocha, "and yet it isn’t." They advised him to choose her, which he did, and the other women left. One day Eocha and his queen were talking in the middle of the courtyard when they saw Midhir coming towards them. "Are you satisfied?" asked Midhir. "Yes," said Eocha, "I did not give you my wife." "Then I am satisfied too," said Midhir, "your wife was pregnant when she came with me and gave birth to a daughter. That daughter is now your queen. Your wife is with me - you have let her go a second time." Eocha did not dare attack the síodh again, but he was grieved at having lain with his own daughter. She was pregnant and bore him a daughter. He ordered two men to go and cast this daughter into a pit among beasts. They went to the house of the herdsman of Teamhair in Sliabh Fuaid. Noone was at home, so they sat and ate and then cast the girl to the bitch with her whelps in the kennel. When the herdsman returned, he and his wife found the girl in the kennel and adopted her. She was Meas Buachalla "the herdsman’s fosterling". As for Eocha Aireamh, he stayed at Dún Fréamhann in Teathbha and his mind was troubled. At last Sioghmhall, grandson of Midhir, came and burnt the dún over him in revenge for Midhir’s honor. And so he died. (Source: TE I 21-23, II 1-9, III 1-23) In this myth we are at the interface between the god world and the world of men. The first act illustrates the mechanics of divine incarnation. The Moon Goddess enters the womb of her future human mother in the form of an insect. We shall find the same process in Chapter 9 Myth 1. A prophetic interlude follows. This prophecy is obscure in places, indicating that part of both the preceding myth and this one have been lost. We have no other mention of the Moon Goddess "healing the king’s eye from the spring of the Lake of Two Colors". Bé bhFionn is certainly associated with healing - perhaps, in a lost recension, she healed Midhir’s eye after it had been knocked out. Neither have we the story of Eocha Aireamh drowning his horses in Loch Dá Airbhreach. The second act opens with the formation of the "eternal triangle": both Midhir and Eocha Aireamh are married to Éadain/Bé bhFionn and both want her. As she has taken on human nature, she is prevented by human social considerations from returning to Midhir until human society, in the form of Eocha, releases her. The rest of the myth is the working out of the problem in favour of the divine. The Wind God
displays his attributes in carrying out Eocha’s requests and in carrying Éadain off from Eocha’s dún pursued by Eocha - "the king shall chase the birds from Teathbha". The Moon Goddess displays one of her attributes by her qualities at serving drink. And eventually - with the birth of Meas Buachalla, daughter of Eocha Aireamh and the Moon Goddess’ daughter, granddaughter of Eocha Aireamh and the Moon Goddess - the scene is set for the next myth. Myth 3 THE RAISING OF CONAIRE MÓR TO KINGSHIP A They made a house for Meas Buachalla, Éadain’s granddaughter. It had no door but only a smoke hole. The people of Eidirscéal king of Teamhair noticed this house and one of them peeped in through the smoke hole and saw a beautiful girl inside. He told the king and the king recognized the girl as the one who was fated to bear him a son. He sent his people to bring her to him immediately. Meanwhile, Meas Buachalla saw a bird coming through the smoke hole to her. He left his bird clothes on the floor and made love to her. Afterward he said: "The king has sent people to break down this house and carry you off to him. You will be pregnant by me and give birth to a son. Name him Conaire and do not let him kill any bird." Then she was brought to the king and he married her. She bore a son and they called him Conaire. The had three foster brothers, Fear Lé, Fear Gar and Fear Roghain, the three sons of Donn Déis. Conaire had three gifts of hearing, of sight and of estimation, and he taught one of these to each of his foster brothers. When Eidirscéal died, the men of Ireland made a bull feast that is, they killed a bull and one man ate his fill of it and drank its broth. Then a spell of truth was chanted over him as he lay. Whoever he saw in his sleep would be their king. If the man lied about his dream, he would die. Conaire was playing with his foster brothers with their chariot in Magh Life when his foster parents came to him and told him to go to the bull feast. He said he would come later. His foster brothers left him and he went east in his chariot to Áth Cliath. He saw some strange white speckled birds there and chased them. When his horses were tired, he left his chariot and went down to the beach with his sling. The birds were swimming on the waves. He went to attack them. They dropped their bird clothes and turned on him with spears and swords. One of them protected him and said: "I am Neamhghlan ("Sky-pure"), king of your father’s birds. Do not hunt birds because everyone here is your blood relative." "That I did’nt know," said Conaire. "Go to Teamhair tonight," said Neamhghlan,"you will be made king. At the bull feast a naked man coming to Teamhair with a sling and sling stone has been seen. You will be that man." So he went naked to Teamhair with his sling and his sling stone. At each of the four roads lending to Teamhair, three kings were waiting with clothes because it had been foretold that he would come naked. They received and clothed him and he was made king. The people murmured that their new king was a beardless youth. Conaire answered: "Youth is no blemish on a king. I shall ask questions of wise men until I am wise myself." This he said as he had been instructed by the man on the waves. He had also been given these taboos by him: "There will be fruitfulness in your reign and birds will flourish and you will always respect them but do not go to the right round Teamhair nor to the left round Breagha, do not hunt the evil beasts of Cearna, do not be more than nine nights away from Teamhair, do not sleep in a house out of which the light of a fire is seen after sunset, do not let the Three Red Ones go before you to the Red One’s house, do not let plunder be taken in your reign, do not let a single woman be in the same
house with you after sunset, do not go and stop your servants quarreling with each other." (Source: BDD 1-181 collated with TE III 20) B Meas Buachalla was the daughter of Eas daughter of Eocha Aireamh and Éadain. She was huge and hideous and used to frequent the síodh and the seas. She was cowherd in Sliabh Gearg and Sliabh Fuaid for her foster father, Eidirscéal. They were of the same size and Eidirscéal got her pregnant. But the pregnancy was concealed until Eidirscéal’s death. There was the king’s chariot in Teamhair. They yoked to it two horses of the same color which had never drawn a chariot. If the sovereignty of Teamhair refused a man, the chariot would rise against him and the horses would rear. In the chariot there was a cape. If the sovereignty of Teamhair refused a man, the cape would be too big for him. There were two flagstones in Teamhair, Blog and Bloigne, set a hand’s breadth apart. If the sovereignty of Teamhair accepted a man, they would open and let him and the chariot through. At the end of the chariot field there was Fál, a stone phallus. If the sovereignty of Teamhair accepted a man, Fál would scream against the nub of the chariot and everyone would hear it. After Eidirscéal was killed, the Laighin and the kinsmen of Conn Céadchathach assembled at Teamhair to make a king. Lughaidh Riabh nDearg was candidate but the sovereignty of Teamhair did not accept him. Then Meas Buachalla said to her son, Conaire Mór: "Do you know what is being done at Teamhair?" "No," said Conaire. "They are settling your father’s inheritance." "Whose son am I?" "Eidirscéal’s," she said. "If I had the men now to contend for the kingship," said Conaire, "I would not let them do as they are doing." "You will have the men," said Meas Buachalla. She left him and returned with a host immediately. "Go," she said,"here is a host that will not fail you." They went across the plain of Breagha to Teamhair with the host. His mother was in the lead. The host that was at Teamhair saw the other host coming towards them with Conaire Mór and his mother in the lead. And she had tucked up her tunic around her waist and let her black mane of hair stream out behind her. Druids were around her and a shield guard and satirists and trumpeters. And they were big men. The host that was at Teamhair did not oppose them but prepared the chariot of sovereignty. "There is a chariot for you," said his mother to Conaire. Conaire mounted it and it accepted him. "Put on the cape," she said. He put it on before the host. It fitted him. The chariot moved forward while he was standing in it. It went to the two flagstones and they opened. It went to Fál and Fál screamed. "Fál has accepted him," said the host. The host that was at Teamhair gave hostages to him and the kingship. The host that had come with him stayed for nine days and then left, warning him that the sun should not set and rise on him at Teamhair. No one knew whence they came nor where they went. (Source: Eriu 6.133-136) This myth has come down to us in the above widely differing and at first sight
irreconcilable recensions. Basically, however, it is the same myth and can be analyzed schematically as follows: (1) Meas Buachalla becomes pregnant and gives birth to Conaire Mór. In Version A, his father is the Wind God in the form of a bird. Midhir has already appeared as a swan in Myth 2 above - this time his followers also appear in this guise and are shown to be warriors, proving their connexion with the Wind God’s function (MALE:AIR:FUNCTION 2). In Version B, the father is said to be Eidirscéal. Meas Buachalla’s foster father. If we compare Chapter 10 Myth 1, when Deichtine is pregnant with Lugh "it was considered that Conchubhar had done it when drunk", the mechanism becomes clear. Parthenogenesis among humans was as incomprehensible to the Irish as to anyone else - thus the formulator of Version B , having excised the Wind God’s role, had to find some father for Conaire Mór and chose Eidirscéal. We may rest assured, however, that the original myth had the Wind God as father and Meas Buachalla as mother. (2) The kingship of Teamhair falls vacant. Both versions give (differing) accounts of the method used to determine the new king. (3) The followers of the Wind God - by counsel and in bird form in Version A, actively under the leadership of Meas Buachalla in Version B, effectively ensure that Conaire Mór obtains the kingship. They also give him a list of taboos which he must observe - in full in Version A, in much truncated form in Version B. The stage is now set for the next myth. Myth 4 THE DOWNFALL OF CONAIRE MÓR There was great abundance in the reign of Conaire Mór. Seven full boats of fish from Inbhear Colpa every Midsummer and mast up to their knees every autumn and numinous knowledge on the rivers Buais and Bóinn at Midsummer every year and peace. No man killed another in Ireland in his time. No wind stirred the cow’s pelt from mid Spring to mid Autumn. His kingship was not marked by thunder or storms. Then his foster brothers began to follow their ancestral trade - robbery. They committed the Three Thefts on one man - stealing a pig and a steer and a cow every year to see what the king would do and what it would do to his reign. The man complained to Conaire and Conaire told him to talk to his foster brothers. They attempted to wound the man, so he no longer came to the king, so as not to shame him. Then his foster brothers organized a band of a hundred and fifty sons of the men of Ireland and went plundering in Connacht for practice. They were seized and brought before Conaire. He said: "Let every man kill his son, but let my foster brothers be spared." The men all agreed to this, but Conaire said: "No. That was a bad judgment. Let elders accompany them all down to the sea and let them ply their plunderings on the men of Britain." They crossed the sea and met a British plunderer, Incéal the One-eyed. They made a pact with him and the joint force went first to plunder Incéal’s own home, after which they prepared to come to Ireland. Meanwhile two of Conaire’s underkings quarreled in Munster. There was no quieting them until Conaire himself went to make peace. This was taboo for him, since he should have waited for them to come to him. He made peace between them and then spent five nights with each of them - and this was taboo for him, for he was away from Teamhair for more than nine days. Returning from the south he went through Uisneach and from the height he saw disorders and the four quarters teeming with armed men and hosts and naked men and fire. From Uisneach he went to his right around Teamhair and to his left around Breagha and hunted the evil beasts of Cearna. Until all was done, he did not notice that he
had broken three more taboos. Then phantoms drove him before them until he was on the Cuala road. He decided to go to the hospitaller Dá Dearga for the night. His bodyguard, Mac Céacht, told him he only had to follow the road, since it led right through the hospitaler’s house. So he followed the road. Suddenly he saw three horsemen before him, also making for the hospitaler’s house. Their hair was red, their clothes and accoutrements were red, their horses were red. Conaire remembered that it was taboo for him to follow the Three Red Ones to the Red One’s house and sent his son, Lé Fear Flaith, to intercept them. The boy galloped after them but they did not stop. He told them not to go before the king. The third man chanted over his shoulder: "Great tidings, lad. Tidings from the hostel: a path of ships, the burning lightning of valorous warbands. The curse of wounds is a terrible deed. The red embroideries of slaughter have settled on Bé bhFionn." They left him there and he could not stop them. He waited for his father and told him the words he had heard. "Go after them," said Conaire, "Offer them three steers and three flitches and the place of honor as long as they are in my company." The boy went after them again and told them his father’s offer. The third man chanted over his shoulder: "Great tidings, lad. The overheating of a young vigorous king through men’s magic will be hot for you, will be too hot for you. A group of nine presides and permits." The boy turned back again and reported the chant to Conaire. "After them again" he said, "and offer them six steers and six flitches and my leavings and presents tomorrow and a place of honor as long as they are in my company." The boy went after them again and the third man answered him: "Great tidings, lad. We are riding tired horses. We are riding the horses of Donn of the Just Contracts from the Otherworld. Although we are alive, we are dead. Great portents: shortening of lives, sating of crows, feeding of ravens, din of battle, sharpening of weapons, breaking of shields after sunset." They left him then. "I see you did not stop the men" said Conaire. Then the boy told him the last chant. Conaire was sad and felt the ill prophecy lie heavy on him from then onwards. "I have broken all by taboos tonight," he said, "since I failed to get rid of those three." The Red Ones went before them to the house. There they sat down and their horses were tethered at the door. In the meanwhile Conaire and his party had reached Áth Cliath. There a one-eyed one-armed one-footed man caught up with him. He was monstrous. In his hand was an iron club and on his back a singed and blackened pig squealed. A hideous woman followed him. "Welcome, Conaire" he said, "I have long known you would be coming." "Who are you?" asked Conaire. "Fear Coille ("Woodman") with a pig to keep you from fasting tonight. You are the best king the world has ever seen." "What is your wife’s name?" "Cíochail." "I will come to you any other night," said Conaire, "but tonight leave me be." "No," said the man, "we shall come to you tonight, dear Conaire." Conaire reached the hostel and sat down and everyone else sat down, taboo and non-taboo. The Three Red Ones were there, so was Fear Coille with his wife and his pig. Dá Dearga came to them and welcomed Conaire, saying: "If the greater part of the men of Ireland had come with you, I would feed them too." When the sun had set, they saw a solitary woman at the door of the hostel
demanding permission to enter. She wore a striped cloak and her beard fell to her knees. She rested a shoulder on the door jamb and began to satirize the king and his company. "Very well, woman," said Conaire, "since you are a prophet, what do you foresee for us?" "No flesh or vein of you will leave this house but what the birds carry off in their talons." "What is your name?" asked Conaire. "Caill" she said. "That is not excessive" said Conaire. "I have many other names," she said, "Samhain Síonann Seiscean Sadhbh Saighleann Samhlocht Díchaomh Díchuimhne Déaruaine Níth Neamhan Naoine Badhbh Blosc Bloghra." She chanted these with one breath and on one leg from the door. "What do you want?" asked Conaire. "What you will" she said. "It is taboo for me to let a single woman be in the same house with me after sunset," said Conaire. "Taboo or not," she said, "I shall not leave until I find lodging in this house tonight." "Tell her," said Conaire, "that I shall send a steer and a flitch out to her and my leavings, but let her stay elsewhere tonight." "If the king cannot afford food and a bed for a single woman in his house," she said, "then I shall find what I ask from someone else who will be honored, since the generosity of the king in the hostel is at an end." "Let her in" said Conaire, "whatever about the taboo." The woman’s words cast a pall of horror over them and they did not know what was in store for them. Then Incéal the One-eyed and Conaire’s foster brothers and their joint force of plunderers attacked the hostel and set it on fire. Conaire and his troop defended the hostel without difficulty until the plunderers’ druids put a curse of thirst on him. Conaire came in and asked Mac Céacht for a drink. Mac Céacht told him to ask his cupbearers. They said that all the drink had been used to put out the flames. He again asked for a drink. No drink was found in the river Dothra which flowed through the hostel. He again asked for a drink. Then Mac Céacht took Conaire’s son under his right arm and Conaire’s gold cup under his left and broke out of the hostel. He went to the spring of Corb nearby and could not fill the cup in it. He went round the great rivers of Ireland and the great lakes of Ireland before dawn and could not fill the cup in any of them. Then he came to Fuarán Garadh in Magh Aoi in Connacht. There he filled the cup and Conaire’s son fell from his arm. He returned to Dá Dearga’s hostel before dawn in time to see two men taking Conaire’s head. Mac Céacht beheaded one of them and the other fled with the king’s head. He threw a stone pillar at him and broke his back. Then Mac Céacht picked up Conaire’s head and poured the cup of water into his throat. The head said: "Mac Ceacht is a good man. Mac Céacht is the best of men. He gives the king a drink and performs feats." (Source: BDD 182-1539) The Wind God’s followers had left Conaire Mór with a series of taboos he must observe during his kingship. Why these taboos were necessary gradually becomes clear as this myth evolves. Conaire Mór is the son of the Wind God and great-greatgrandson of the Moon Goddess. The Earth Goddess in her Function 2 role (Fuamnach, Badhbh, Neamhan) is, as we have seen in Myth 1 above, the implacable enemy of Bé bhFionn. She is also, as goddess of sovereignty, Conaire Mór’s wife. If
he is not magically protected by the strict observance of those taboos, she will turn and rend him and no one, least of all the other gods, can do anything to help him. One by one, Conaire Mór breaks his taboos. At first social order breaks down. Then cosmic order breaks down and he is driven as if along a tunnel to the house of the Judge of the dead (Dá Dearga). For a full understanding of this, the words of the third of the Three Red Ones are of crucial importance. In his first speech, after prophesying the physical doom that is to come, he says: "The red embroideries of slaughter have settled on Bé bhFionn." Why Bé bhFionn? Because Fuamnach is taking her ultimate revenge on her rival through the latter’s descendant. In his second speech, the third Red One prophesies the curse of thirst and the burning of the hostel. Then he says: "A group of nine presides and permits." What group of nine? The Nine Great Gods who, since Conaire Mór has broken his taboos, cannot withstand the Earth Goddess’ desires. In the third speech, he states plainly that the Three Red Ones are from the hall of the dead - riding the horses of the king of the dead. And Donn is lord of the Just Contracts. Conaire Mór has broken his contract with kingship by violating his taboos. His kingship is therefore at an end and he must go before Donn to be judged. When Conaire Mór is greeted by Dá Dearga/Donn, the latter permits himself a grim joke: "If the greater part of the men of Ireland had come with you, I would feed them too." This is the politeness of a hospitaler to a king. It is also the naked truth: however many die, there is always a place for them in the hall of death. The Earth Goddess appears in person to watch her triumph. She is the woman satirist who, among the list of more or less fanciful names (Samhain, Bad weather, Swamp, Not-nice, Forgetfulness, Strife), gives at least two of her true names: Neamhan and Badhbh. And so this cycle closes with the babble of Conaire’s disembodied head in an ironic commentary on the utility of a warrior’s life.
Chapter 3 FIRE The myths in this chapter do not form a cycle, but with the exception of Myth 3 they all have the Fire God as central figure. Myth 1 THE BIRTH OF MACAN ÓG Earc (Elcmar) of the Bruigh had a wife, Eithne otherwise known as Bóinn. The Daghdha wished to sleep with her but she was afraid of Earc. So the Daghdha sent Earc to Breas at Magh Inis and gave him a lot of errands to do, so that he would not return early. He kept darkness, hunger and thirst from him so that nine months passed before nightfall, since Earc had said that he would return within the day. Then the Daghdha went into the Bruigh to Bóinn and she conceived and bore a son before Earc returned. The Daghdha at once took his son to Midhir’s house at Brí Léith for fostering and he was there in fosterage for nine years. His name was Aonghas Macan Óg. One day Aonghas quarrelled with Triath, another fosterling of Midhir’s, and said to him. "I am irked that a slave’s son should speak to me." And Triath replied: "I am irked that a hireling of unknown parents should speak to me." Then Aonghas went weeping to Midhir and asked who his parents were. Midhir told him, "Come with me" said Aonghas, "so that my father may acknowledge me and I may no longer be hidden and insulted by Fir Bholg." Then Midhir and his fosterling went to Uisneach, the centre of Ireland, to the Daghdha’s house. The Daghdha acknowledged him but said that Earc was still in the Bruigh, which was the feoff he had intended for Aonghas. "What do you advise then?" asked Midhir. "At Samhain let Aonghas go fully armed to the Bruigh," said the Daghdha, "Earc will be sitting on the hill, unarmed, with only a white hazel fork in his hand, watching the games. Let Aonghas threaten to kill him unless he does his will. And let his will be kingship in the Bruigh for a day and a night. Then," he said to Macan Óg, "do not yield up the Bruigh again but claim that the land has fallen to you simply for sparing Earc’s life and that what you asked for was kingship by day and by night, since the world goes by in days and nights. Let the matter be referred to me for judgment and I shall judge for you." So Midhir and Aonghas returned home. The following Samhain, Aonghas set out for the Bruigh and followed the Daghdha’s advice. Earc granted him kingship in the Bruigh for a day and a night in exchange for his life. Macan Óg took up residence immediately and Earc’s household was subject to him. The next day Earc returned to take back his land, but Macan Óg refered the matter to the Daghdha’s judgement. The Daghdha judged in his favor as he had promised but granted Earc another fief, Cleiteach, on the opposite bank of the Boyne from the Bruigh. Earc accepted this and moved in there. Macan Óg continued in his sovereignty of the Bruigh. (Source: TE 1-8) This myth has as its location the megalithic monument at Newgrange - Bruigh na Bóinne. The monument itself is pre-Celtic, being well over a thousand years old when the first Celtic speakers reached Ireland in the first millennium BC. Its striking position and even more striking structure ensured that the newcomers recognized it as a seat of numinous power and made it the seat of the lawspeaker of the gods, Earc, the Sky God. The great river flowing past it was equally identified as the Water Goddess, Bóinn, and received her name. The myth’s basic theme is the birth of the Fire God, the youngest of the gods, and his usurpation of Earc’s role as judge of the dead. Schematically it runs as follows: (1) The Shaman God tricks the Sky God, lawspeaker of the gods, into leaving his
place of power for a period. (2) The Shaman God and the Water Goddess then produce between them the Fire God in the place of power. (3) Immediately after birth, the Fire God is entrusted to the Wind God for fostering, since Wind nourishes Fire. (4) When the Fire God has acquired power through nourishing, he returns to his birth place, the place of power, and with the aid of the Shaman God acquires jurisdiction over it. He is henceforth the judge of the dead with his feast at Samhain and the Sky God accepts a minor role. The alternative version (LL 29451-674, 32910-929) which casts the Daghdha in Earc’s role as ruler of the Bruigh is clearly not the original one, but was caused, probably, by the practical eclipse of Earc in his primary, major role. Myth 2 THE COURTSHIP 0F MACAN ÓG Once when Aonghas was asleep, he saw a girl by his bedside. He went to take her hand to bring her into the bed. Suddenly she disappeared. He remained there till next day and was out of humour. The form he had seen without speaking made him ill. He took no food. Next night she came again with a sweet tympanum in her hand. She played music to him and he fell asleep till next morning. For a whole year she visited him in this way. He became ill but told noone. Conn’s leech, Fearghna, was sent for and examined him. "You are suffering from absent love," he said privately to Aonghas. "Yes," said Aonghas, "The most beautiful girl in Ireland came to me and played music to me every night so that I fell asleep." "Make an alliance with her," said Fearghna, "Send for your mother Bóinn." Bóinn was sent for. "Look after this man," said Fearghna, "he is sick." And he told her the whole story. "Search the whole of Ireland until you find this girl whom your son has seen." They were searching for a year but could not find her. Fearghna was again sent for and he advised calling in the Daghdha to talk to his son. The Daghdha came and asked why he had been sent for. "To advise your son," said Bóinn, "It would be a pity to lose him. He is in love with an absent love." "What is the use of talking to me?" said the Daghdha. "I know no more than you." "You do," said Fearghna, "you are the king of the síodh of Ireland. Send for Bodhbh king of the síodh of Munster. He has the most knowledge in Ireland." They sent messengers to him and he welcomed them and asked their business. "Aonghas has seen a girl in his sleep. We have no idea where in Ireland this girl is. The Daghdha wishes you to find the girl in Ireland who answers to Aonghas’ description." "Give me a year and I’ll find out" said Bodhbh. He searched all Ireland until he found the girl at Loch Béal Dragon ("Dragon Mouth Lake" - Lough Musgrave in the Galtee mountains). He sent for Aonghas. They brought Aonghas in a chariot to Bodhbh at Sliabh na mBan. After feasting him for three days and three nights, Bodhbh said: "Come with me now to see if you recognize the girl. I cannot give her to you but I can let you see her." They went to the lake. Here they saw a hundred and fifty nubile girls and the girl among them. There was a silver chain between each pair of girls and a silver torque and a golden chain on the girl. Aonghas recognized her and asked who she was. "She is Caor, daughter of Eathal, king of the síodh of the Cave of Cruachain." Then Aonghas and his people went home. Bodhbh accompanied them to advise the Daghdha and Bóinn at the Bruigh. "The best thing to do," said Bodhbh, "is for you, Daghdha, to go to Oilill and Meadhbh since the girl is in their province."
So the Daghdha went to Connacht. After a week’s feasting, Oilill asked him why he had come. "You have a girl in your territory" said the Daghdha, "and my son has fallen in love with her and fallen sick of it. I have come to see if you would give her to my son. " "Who is she?" asked Oilill. "Eathal’s daughter." "We would if we could," said Oilill and Meadhbh, "but we cannot give her to him." "The best thing to do is to summon the king of the síodh said the Daghdha. síodh," They sent messengers to summon him but he refused to come and would not give his daughter to the Daghdha’s son. So Oilill’s household and the Daghdha’s people plundered the síodh and brought the king out as a prisoner. "Give your daughter to the Daghdha’s son," said Oilill. "I cannot," he said, "she is more powerful than I am." "What is her power?" asked Oilill. "One year she is a bird, the next year she is a woman." "What year is she in bird form?" asked Oilill. "I will not betray her," said her father. "You will be headless if you do not" said Oilill. "Next Samhain she will be in bird form at Loch Béal Dragon. She will spend Samhain there and there will be a hundred and fifty geese with her. I have made the preparations for them." Then Oilill, Eathal and the Daghdha made peace and Eathal was released. The Daghdha made his departure and informed his son. Macan Óg went to the lake and found a hundred and fifty white birds with silver chains and golden circlets on their heads. He himself was in human shape on the lakeside. He called: "Caor, come and talk to me." "Who is calling me?" she said. "Aonghas." She went to him and he threw his arms around her. They slept together in the form of two geese and then flew to the Bruigh. They chanted a musical spell which put everyone to sleep for three days and three nights. Thereafter the girl remained with him. (Source: AA) This myth in its present form is a late romantic reworking of older material. The introduction of the Twins in their respective roles as kings of the síodh of Munster (Sliabh na mBan) and of the síodh of Connacht (Cruachain) indicates this (compare Chapter 6 Myth 1). The basic myth is quite simply a statement: the Fire God based at the Bruigh and the Earth Goddess, in her form as Deirbhreann, based at Cruachain are associated as Function 1 deities. The name here used for Deirbhreann - Caor - is the word for "berry" (particularly "rowan berry" but also "thunderbolt", "molten mass"). It carries strong connotations of "red, flame-colored". This links Deirbhreann to her alter ego Moirríoghan as typified in Chapter 6 Myth 2a.
Myth 3 THE PIGS OF DEIRBHREANN A The pigs of Deirbhreann, daughter of Eocha Feidhleach, were originally three men and three women who became red pigs after eating the mast of Eocha’s wood. They spent a year with Buchad until his wife had a desire for pig steak.
Buchad offered to slay his wife, but the pigs refused. So the hunt started - a hundred men and as many dogs hunted the pigs. The pigs killed them all but Buchad’s wife. Then they went to Macan Óg at the Bruigh, requesting asylum. Macan Óg said he was unable to protect them until a year had passed and they had shaken the sacred tree on Tarbhgha’s bank and eaten the fish of Inbhear Umhaill. They went to Deirbhreann who sheltered them for a year. At the end of the year they went, shook the sacred tree and continued west to Umhall. That day Meadhbh had gathered all the Connachta in Umhall and led them against the pigs. All but one of the six perished. (Source: MD 3.386-394) B One day Deirbhreann sent out her red pigs from Collamhair and they wrought havoc in the land. Néal was a hunter. He followed the bare track left by the pigs. When the pigs had eaten mast in the oakgrove of Tarbhgha, they went to the lake to drink. Néal followed them, entered the lake and was drowned. (Source: MD 3.404-406) C The Cave of Cruachain is the hell door of Ireland. Out of it came the three-headed goblin who laid Ireland waste until Amhairghin father of Conall Cearnach slew him in single combat before all the Ulaidh. Out of it came the scarlet birds which withered everything in Ireland that their breath touched until the Ulaidh slew them with their slings. Out of it came the pigs. Wherever they went, no corn or grass or leaf would grow for seven years. They stayed in no place where they were counted but went on to the next tribe. "There are three of them," one man would say. "No, seven" said another. "There are nine" said yet another. "Eleven pigs." "Thirteen pigs." So they were uncountable in this fashion. Consequently they could not be killed because, when they attacked, they did not retreat. One day Meadhbh of Cruachain and Oilill went to count them. And they counted them. Meadhbh was in her chariot. One of the pigs leaped across it. "That pig is an extra one, Meadhbh" said everyone. "Not at all!" said Meadhbh, seizing its leg. All its skin came off, leaving her with the skin and the leg. It is not known where they have gone since then. (Source: LL 37235-254) These three fragments are all we have of the myth of Deirbhreann and her pigs. The Earth Goddess, as "Goddess of the Oak Grove" and lover for the Fire God (who is god of sacrifice), owns these red pigs. They are a plague and ruinous to the land. In this context, both Deirbhreann and the Fire God have an aspect similar to that of the Function 2 Drought God, Balar (MALE:FIRE:FUNCTION 2) but operate at Function 1 level with magic. Functionally the pigs must be equated to the ghost cows of Fliodhais which cause similar havoc (see Chapter 5 Myth 1). Indeed, Fliodhais - whose name continues common Celtic *WLIDOWETSÎ "the Sow of Feasting" - is probably to be equated to Deirbhreann herself, typifying the Earth Goddess in her negative aspect as a bottomless maw, ever agape to swallow new sacrifices.
Myth 4 AOIBHLÉAN THE BURNER For sixty years Aoibhleán came to Teamhair at the feast for Samhain. First he would play his tympanum and send everyone who heard him to sleep. Then he would belch a sheet of flame out of his mouth and burn Teamhair and all its furnishings. Then the king of Ireland arose and said: "Men of Ireland, if anyone of you could guard Teamhair until dawn tomorrow and prevent its burning by Aoibhleán, I would give him all his ancestral rights, however great and however small." Then Fionn stood up and asked the king: "What sureties do you offer to guarantee that you will fulfill your part of the bargain?" "The five provincial kings," said Conn, "and Ciothruadh and the druids." The pact was made and Fionn undertook to guard Teamhair and its furnishings until dawn the next day. In the king’s retinue there was a young relative of Cumhall’s, named Fiacha. "What reward would you give me," he asked Fionn, "if I found you a deadly spear that never missed its cast?" "What are you asking for?" said Fionn. "However great or little your luck, the help of your right hand and a third of your counsel and advice." "You shall have both," said Fionn. Then Fionn stood up before the men of Ireland to guard Teamhair and Fiacha, unknown to the sons of Morna or anyone else in Teamhair, gave him a shield and a spear. Thus armed, Fionn made the rounds of Teamhair. Before long he heard haunting music and placed the spear with its butt on the ground and its point against his forehead. Aoibhleán began playing his tympanum and everyone but Fionn fell asleep. Fionn was kept awake by the spear point against his forehead. Then Aoibhleán belched a sheet of flame but Fionn cast his cloak around it and it fell and the flame carried the cloak twenty six spans deep into the ground. When Aoibhleán saw that he had failed, he fled northwards to the síodh of Fionnachadh with Fionn in hot pursuit. Just as Aoibhleán was entering the síodh síodh, Fionn cast his spear and broke his back. Then Fionn took Aoibhleán’s head and put it on a stake at Teamhair and it was there until the sun rose above the land. But Aoibhleán’s mother came and mourned him and then went in search of a leech to cure him. (Source: AS-SG 131f) In this and the two following myths, the Fire God appears in his negative aspect. In this myth, in particular, he appears as destructive flame in a role which has much in common with that of the Drought God, Balar (see Chapter 1). The role of his adversary, Neachtan incarnate as Fionn, is also very similar to that of Lugh as Balar’s opponent. We shall see Neachtan in a similar role in Chapter 4 Myth 3. The motive of the two myths is the same: destructive fire is quenched by water. Myth 5 THE HORSE OF MACAN ÓG Eocha was the son of Mairidh. Éibhleann, Mairidh’s wife, fell in love with him and they fled together, taking Mairidh’s goods. They went north to the Bruigh. When they reached the Boyne, they unyoked their horses. A man came and ordered them to leave his territory. They paid no heed. That night he killed all their cattle. He again ordered them off his land. They paid no heed. That night he killed all their horses. He appeared a third time, warning them that if they did not obey, he would kill them too. They said they had no horses to carry their chattels.
So Aonghas lent them a great horse, warning them not to loose him until he lay down in an unknown plain. When he did, they should loose him and send him back immediately before he pissed. They went north and reached Liathmhuine. There the horse lay down. They took their chattels from his back and loosed him at once but noone turned the horse’s face towards the Bruigh. So he strayed and pissed, causing a deep well to form. Eocha came and built his house over the well and fixed a lid on it. But one day he left the house in charge of a woman. She opened the lid and the well surged up, drowning everyone but Eocha’s son Conaing, and formed Loch nEachach. (Source: MD 4.62-68) This is a myth of a type common to all religions: what happens when the god’s orders are not carried out. There is no clear connexion between the Fire God’s giant horse and the horse sacrifice we know to have been practised by the pagan Irish as well as the Germanic peoples but it will remain an object of fascinated speculation. Myth 6 FEAR Í THE HARPER On Samhain eve Oilill, the son of Mugh Nuadhad went to graze his horses at Áine Chliach. He made his bed on the hillside and the hill was cropped bare that night and he did not know who had cropped it. This happened two years running. Then he sent for Feircheas the poet and the two of them went to the hill on Samhain eve. Oilill stayed on the hill, Feircheas stayed outside it. Oilill fell asleep listening to the animals grazing. Then they came out of the síodh Eoghabhal king of the síodh was behind them and síodh. his daughter Áine was before him, playing to him on a clay tympanum. Feircheas rose up and struck Eoghabhal, who fled towards the síodh, but Feircheas cast a spear at him and broke his back. Meanwhile Oilill attacked Áine who took his ear off (so he is called Oilill Crop-ear). One day Eoghan son of Oilill and his foster brother Lughaidh Mac Con went to Art son of Conn who was visiting Connacht to get horses and bridles from him. Art was the brother of Eoghan’s mother. When they were returning across the plain, they heard music coming from a yew above the waterfall. They found a little man there and took him back to Oilill and were quarreling over him till Oilill gave them a judgment. He was a little man with a three-stringed tympanum. "What is your name?" "Fear Í son of Eoghabhal." "Why are you quarreling?" asked Oilill. "We are quarreling over this man." "What sort of a man is he?" "A good tympanum player." "Play us music" said Oilill. "All right." he said. He played them the Three Strains. They wept with the Weeping Strain. They asked him to stop. So he played the Laughing Strain. Then he played the Sleeping Strain and put them to sleep for a day and a night. He escaped by the way he had come and left dissension between them. Then they awoke, they asked Oilill for judgement. "It isn’t worth it," said Oilill. "What did you say when you found the man?" "I said: the music’s mine" said Lughaidh. "I said: the musician’s mine" said Eoghan. "True, then," said Oilill, "the man is Eoghan’s." "Bad judgment" said Lughaidh. "True judgment" said Oilill. "It’s not true," said Lughaidh, "truth is seldom on your lips." "You have no right to blame him," said Eoghan, "a peasant like yourself."
"A peasant like myself," said Lughaidh, "will shear off that head of yours and trample on your cheek." "How so?" said Eoghan. "In battle," said Lughaidh, "let us meet a month from today at Ceann Abhrad." (Source: LL 37088-143) This myth, too, illustrates both the negative side of the Fire God’s character and the unwisdom of offending the gods. Oilill and his companion not only infringe the precinct of the Shaman God (Eoghabhal) and his offspring the Dawn Goddess (Áine) and the Fire God (Fear Í), they assault the former two. Consequently Fear Í takes revenge on Oilill through his son and foster son by stirring them up to a fratricidal quarrel. Myth 7 SEINBHEAG THE HARPER AND LINN FÉIG A Once Cú Chulainn was in his chariot beside the Boyne catching salmon in Linn Féig. He saw a little man in purple clothes floating down the Boyne in a bronze boat. Cú Chulainn seized them in the palm of his hand, man and boat. "I have you" said Cú Chulainn. "So it seems," he said, "I will pay ransom: my cloak and my shirt. They have virtues. They will fit anyone, however big or small. You cannot be drowned or burnt or slain while wearing them. Neither can you age. And they are any colour you wish them to be." "I already have them." said Cú Chulainn. "Take my shield and my spear. You will lose no fight and you will never be wounded as long as the shield is protecting you." "They are all mine," said Cú Chulainn, "they are in the palm of my hand." "I am in a sorry plight," said Seinbheag. "What is that there?" asked Cú Chulainn. "A small tympanum," said Seinbheag, "shall I play it for you?" "Yes," said Cú Chulainn. He ran his finger over it and Cú Chulalnn wept at the Weeping Strain. Then he played the Laughing Strain and Cú Chulainn laughed without stopping. Then he played the Sleeping Strain and Cú Chulainn fell asleep for twenty four hours. So Seinbheag escaped him. (Source: RC 6.182f) B Seinbheag came from the plain of Seaghais following numinous knowledge and met Cú Chulainn on the Boyne. When Cú Chulainn seized him, he said he was following the hazel nuts. He said of himself: "I am not a boy, I am not a man, I am not a minor. Secret gods have given me wisdom. I am Abhcán, a sage of wizardry, a poet from Seaghais. My name is Seinbheag grandson of Éibhreac ("Salmon speckled") from the síodh síodh." Then Seinbheag offered many rewards to Cú Chulainn as his ransom but Cú Chulainn accepted none of them. So he touched his harp and played the Weeping Strain to him, Then the Laughing Strain and finally the Sleeping Strain which put him to sleep. Then Seinbheag escaped along the Boyne in his copper boat. (Source: Eriu 13.26f) C
Cú Chulainn came hunting numinous knowledge on the Boyne. He had a chess set, a buanbhach set, and throwing stones in his chariot and a spear in his hand with a line from it to catch fish. Feidhlim and her husband Earc (Ealcmhar) came from the other bank down to the Boyne. Earc said to his wife: "Describe, Feidhlim." Feidhlim said. "I can see a chariot. There is a man in front with his charioteer. He has a chess set and a buanbhach set and throwing stones for fowling. With his spear point he is taking speckled salmon from the Boyne." Earc went down to the ford and hurled a squared pillar at the chariot. Cú Chulainn struck off his thumbs and big toes. Feidhlim prophesied that she would spend a year caring for him and then appear naked to the Ulaidh. She appeared to them at the end of a year and that caused the weakness of the Ulaidh. (Source: ZCP 8.120) Versions A and B of this myth are close variants of the same prototype. Version C is more divergent. Nevertheless, all three are recensions of the same archetype, which is a mirroring at myth level of the social tensions between the priestly caste and the warriors. Cú Chulainn, the incarnate Storm God, is a Function 2 deity. He is here seen attempting to acquire numinous knowledge in the form of the salmon of Linn Féig in versions A and B, in the form of the bubbles of numinous knowledge in version C. Numinous knowledge is the prerogative of Function 1. He is thus usurping. He is therefore resisted by a Function 1 deity - by the Fire God in his aspect of god of music in versions A and B and by the Fire God’s predecessor as owner of the Bruigh, the gods’ lawspeaker, Earc, in version C. In this text, Earc appears to be blind. "Blind justice" is, of course, a commonplace. In Scandinavia as elsewhere battle was considered a form of judgment. Thus Baldur’s brother Hodur "Battle" is blind. The belief that female magic - represented by a naked woman - is fatal to warriors is also extremely common.
Chapter 4 WATER The myths in this chapter do not form a cycle, but all revolve around the Spring God, Neachtan, and the Sea God, Manannán, whom we have seen to have been originally identical. Myth 1 NEACHTAN’S SPRING A Neachtan the son of Labhraidh had a secret spring. If anyone should look down into it, his eyes would burst. However much he tried to escape, he would not escape blemish. Consequently only Neachtan and his three cupbearers dared approach it. One day Bóinn came to the eternal spring to test its power. She walked three times around it and three waves burst from it. One maimed her foot, the second maimed her eye and the third maimed her hand. She ran towards the sea so that none should see her blemish, but the water followed her from the síodh right down to the sea and this is the river Bóinn. (Source: MD 3.28-30) B There is a spring called Seaghais on the bank of a chilly river in the Otherworld. Over it stand the nine hazels of Críonmhann which bear leaves, blossoms and nuts all at the same time. When the nuts are ripe, they fall down into the spring, where the five salmon eat them. From the juice of the nuts, they make bubbles of numinous knowledge which float down the seven streams coming from the spring. One day Sionann decided that she possessed all fame except numinous knowledge. She came to the spring and followed the bubbles down into the river. This river is called Sionann. (Source: MD 3.286-290 collated with MD 3.292-296) Neachtan’s spring has been extensively discussed in Part I Chapter 1.14. This myth, presented in fragmented form above, has a meaning and purpose which has been (un)intentionally garbled by the Dinnsheanchas poet. It is the myth of the raising of water to the divine status of Water Goddess. The nascent goddess sacrifices at Neachtan’s spring to obtain seg (*SEGOS) "divine power", "mana". Her sacrifice takes the form of ritual blemishing and is tripartite: she sacrifices one eye to obtain Function 1 power, one hand to obtain Function 2 power and one foot to obtain Function 3 power. This duplicates the temporary blemishing Lugh imposes upon himself before fighting Balar (see Chapter 1 Myth 7). Thereafter, she flows from the spring as the fully fledged Water Goddess (Bóinn or Sionann). Myth 2 DIVINE FOOD. A The gods came visiting from the Otherworld, bringing with them their provisions: purple nuts, arbutus apples and fragrant rowan berries. As they were passing through the territory of Uí Fhiachrach, they dropped a rowan berry at Dubhros ("the black moor"). A rowan tree grew out of that berry and the berries of that tree have these virtues: if a man eats three of them he will suffer no disease, there is the drunkenness of wine
and the satisfaction of noble food in them, if a centenarian eats one of them he returns to the age of thirty. When the gods heard of the virtues of this tree, they set a guard over it. He is a giant called Searbhán. Weapons cannot wound him, fire cannot burn him, water cannot drown him. And he has only one eye. There is an iron chain wound around his body and an iron club attached to the end of it. He is not fated to die until three blows of his own club are struck on him. He is at the top of the rowan tree by night and at its root by day, guarding it. (Source: TDG 898-922) B There was a swimming pool in the river Bré near Cruachain. In it grew a rowan tree, the berries of which were always ripe and had virtues: one berry would keep a man from hunger for nine whole days and would add a year to his life. But it was guarded by a monstrous water beast. Meadhbh’s daughter Fionnabhair had fallen in love with Fraoch and Fraoch had on this account come to ask for her in marriage. Meadhbh wanted him killed. Fraoch was invited to swim in the pool. Then Meadhbh asked him to fetch her a handful of the berries. Fraoch picked them and threw them up to her but then the beast attacked him. He was unarmed, but Fionnabhair threw him his sword and, although severely wounded, he slew the monster. They made a healing bath for him. While he was in it, they heard the sound of weeping at Cruachain. "This is the weeping of my mother and the women of Bóinn" said Fraoch. He was brought to them. The women came round him and took him into the síodh of Cruachain. Next day he emerged quite healed from the síodh. (Source: LL 33108-310 collated with HP 198ff) The two fragments presented here belong to the same archetype. In the first fragment we are introduced to divine food. This is, naturally, tripartite: Function 1: the purple nuts from the hazels of Críonmhann above Neachtan’s spring. Function 2: the rowan berries. We have already noted their connexion with Lugh’s thunderbolt (see Chapter 1 Myth 7). The rowan is Lugh’s tree just as in Scandinavia it is the tree of Lugh’s counterpart Thor. Function 3: arbutus apples. A sacred rowan tree grows on the Black Moor (identified in this fragment with a real place of the same name in Co.Galway). As Lugh’s tree, it is the tree of kingship and must be guarded from non-initiates because of the virtue of its fruit. The guardian is called the Bitter One (Searbhán). He is immune to the tripartite sacrifice (Function 1 - wounding, Function 2 - burning, Function 3 - drowning) and can be overcome only by his own weapon. In other words, the rowan tree is protected by Death and only through death can Death be overcome and the virtues of the rowan tree acquired. The second fragment takes up the theme, with a water beast playing the role of Death. Meadhbh, goddess of sovereignty, asks for food, her divine, Function 2 food. The Spring God, incarnate as Fraoch, passes through death to obtain it. Once dead, he is resuscitated by his mother, the Moon Goddess, aided by the Water Goddess and her women, the Waters. Myth 3 THE SPRING GOD AND FIRE. A Nuadha was the druid of Cathaoir Mór of the Laighin and built the fort at Almhain.
His son, Tadhg, had a daughter Muirne. Cumhall, leader of the warband of Conn king of Ireland, asked for her in marriage. Nuadha refused because he knew that his grandson would dispossess him. So Cumhall carried Muirne off by force. Tadhg complained to Conn and Conn ordered Cumhall to return Muirne to her father or go into exile. Cumhall refused to do either. Then Conn sent his mercenaries against him and they fought the battle of Cnucha. Aodh, the son of Dáire Dearg, killed Cumhall. Luichead put out one of Aodh’s eyes and henceforth Aodh was called Goll "One-eyed". Muirne had become pregnant by Cumhall a few hours before the battle. Afterwards, her father refused her admittance, to Almhain and Conn ordered her to Cumhall’s sister at Teamhair Mhairge. There her son, Fionn, was born and reared. When he was of age, he took Almhain from Tadhg and made peace with Goll. (Source: LU 3135-3219 collated with ME 2.72-76) B The fight at Áth Liag ("the ford of the stone", Athleague on the Shannon) was as follows: Flann with a vast troop attacked the ford from the north and Fionn defended. Then Sionann came from the síodh and gave a stone on a golden chain to Fionn. Fionn placed the stone on the shoulders of Guaire the One-eyed and fought on, from dawn until noon, until his troop’s weaponry was exhausted. Then Flann roared from the north and took his divine aspect (ro riast a chruth chruth). ro Fionn stretched out his hand and seized the stone. His warrior’s light came on him and he cast the stone into the ford, thus achieving complete victory. The stone will remain in the river until one day Bé Thoinne, ("the wife of the wave") will perchance slip her foot into its golden chain and thus find it. She will lay it on the shore. After seven years to the day, the end of the world will come. (Source: MD 4.36-38 collated with MD 4.40-42) Owing to the similarity of function in certain aspects of the Spring God, incarnate as Fionn, and the Storm God Lugh and a blending of the Fire God (Aodh) and the Drought God (Balar), myth A above presents an apparently inextricable intertwining of two originally separate myths. Fortunately, we possess one of these in uncontaminated form (Chapter I Myth 1) and can thus peel it off the above. Schematically it is as follows: (1) Tadhg son of Nuadha knows that his grandson is fated to dispossess him and takes steps to prevent this. This is Balar’s role. (2) Cumhall impregnates Tadhg’s daughter. This is Cian’s role. (3) Tadhg’s daughter Muirne gives birth to Fionn. This is Eithne’s role, giving birth to Lugh. (4) Luichead ("lightning") puts out one of Aodh’s eyes. This is the role of Lugh’s thunderbolt putting out Balar’s eye. Removing this schema, we are left with the bare bones of the second myth: (1) There is enmity between the Wind God (here as the war god Cumhall) and the one-eyed Fire God Aodh , who has taken over the aspect and function of the Drought God. Aodh defeats Cumhall and takes over his position as warleader. (2) Before his defeat, Cumhall has a son, the incarnate Spring God, Fionn, who on coming into his powers takes up the struggle against the Fire God (see Chapter 1, Myth 4). In myth B, Fionn is fighting the decisive battle against the Fire God, who appears as Flann "the scarlet one" and at noon takes on his divine aspect as Drought God. The Water Goddess (Sionann) hands Fionn the stone of power. Thus, with the aid of Water, the Spring God defeats Drought and the world will
remain in equilibrium until the stone of power is wrested from its safe hiding place in the waters. When it appears on dry land, the world will return to chaos. Myth 4 MONGÁN A Fiachna was king of the Ulaidh. He had an ally in Britain, Aodhán mac Gabhráin. A message came from Aodhán requesting his help: he was in conflict with the Saxons and they had brought a terrible warrior to kill him in the battle. So Fiachna went across, leaving his queen here. When the hosts yonder were in conflict, a handsome man came to Fiachna’s wife at Ráth Mhór in Magh Line. He asked her for a tryst. She said she would not dishonor her husband for all the riches in the world. He asked her if she would do it to save her husband’s life. She said that, if she saw him in peril, she would do anything she could to help him. He said: "Do it, then, because your husband is in great peril. A terrible warrior has been brought against him and he will die at his hands. If we make love, you will give birth to a wonderful son and he will be Fiachna’s. And I shall go to the battle that will be fought tomorrow morning and fight that warrior in the sight of the men of Britain. And I shall tell your husband what we have done and that it was you who sent me to help him." So it happened. When the two armies rose up at each other, they saw a distinguished man in front of Aodhán and Fiachna’s forces. He came to Fiachna in private and told him what had happened with his wife the day before and promised to help him in that hour. Then he went to the other force and fought the warrior and Aodhán and Fiachna won the battle. Fiachna went home. His wife was pregnant and gave birth to a son, Mongán son of Fiachna. So Mongán was the son of Manannán mac Lir although he is called Mongán mac Fiachna. For he left a poem with his mother when he left her in the morning: "I am going to my retinue, bright morning has come. Manannán mac Lir is the name of the man who came to you." (Source: LU 10916-937 + YBL 1926f) B One day Bran mac Feabhail was near his dún when he heard music behind him. He fell asleep because of it. When he woke, he saw a silver branch with white flowers near him. He picked it up and went to his royal house. When all were assembled that evening, a woman in strange apparel appeared in the middle of the house and chanted to Bran in full sight and hearing of the company. She explained that the branch was from the apple tree of Eamhain and praised Eamhain and its wonders, the virtue, beauty and agelessness of its inhabitants. Then she disappeared, taking the branch with her. Next morning Bran and his men set out to sea, three groups of nine men in all. After two days and two nights at sea, they saw a man driving a chariot over the waves. He explained that he was Manannán mac Lir and that what for Bran was the sea and the fishes was for him a plain with cattle. Then he said: "I am going to the house of a woman in Magh Line. I shall lie vigorously with Caintighirn - the son will be mine, but Fiachna will acknowledge him. He will be the familiar of every síodh and the darling of every good land. He will speak secrets of wisdom in the world without fear. He will be in the shape of every beast of land or sea: a dragon in the shower before hosts, a wolf in every heath, a silver-antlered stag
in the chariot course, a speckled salmon in the pool, a seal, a white swan. He will be a hundred years in blessed sovereignty. With kings and warband leaders he will be a warrior....... A dragon stone from the sea will kill him in the battle at Seanlabhair and a white company will draw him up under the cloud chariot to the everlasting assembly. Bran’s journey will be uneventful - he will reach Eamhain before nightfall." With that, Manannán went his way and Bran went his. (Source: IB) C Mongán was in kingship at Ráth Mhór in Magh Line. Forgall the poet came to him. The poet would tell Mongán a tale each night and he was to remain from Samhain to Bealtaine, receiving in exchange food and jewels from Mongán. One day Mongán asked the poet where Fothadh Airgdeach met his death. Forgall said he was killed in Duibhthir Laighean. Mongán that this was not so. The poet threatened to satirize his father, his mother and his grandfather, to chant over his waters so that no fish could be caught in his estuaries, to chant over his woods so that they would bear no fruit and over his plains so that they would forever be barren of produce. Mongán offered him anything except the freedom of himself and his wife, if he would stay the execution of his threats for three days. The poet refused everything except Mongán’s wife. For his honor’s sake, Mongán agreed. His wife was not happy and did not stop weeping. Mongán told her not to weep, help was probably on its way. The third day arrived and the poet started to bind her. Mongán told him to wait until dusk. Mongán’s wife wept all the more as the moment for handing her over came nearer and she saw no help coming. Mongán told her not to be sad, the man who was coming to help them was wetting his feet in Labhrann (Castlemaine Harbour, Co.Kerry). And so the hours passed while the man crossed the rivers of Ireland, wetting his feet in them, until he reached Ráth Mhór. When night fell, Mongán was seated in his royal house with his mourning wife on his right. The poet was binding her with his spells. Suddenly a man with a great spear shaft was spotted to the south of the dún Using his spear shaft he vaulted over the dún. three ditches into the courtyard and then into the royal house, coming to rest between Mongán and the wall. The poet was at the back of the house behind the king. "What is the matter here?" asked the man. "I and that poet have a wager about Fothadh Airgdeach’s death," said Mongán, "he says he was killed in Duibhthir Laighean. I say that’s not true." The man said the poet was wrong. Forgall began threatening. "I can prove it" said the man. "We were with you" he said, turning to Mongán. "Don’t say that" said Mongán. "We were with Fionn, then," said the man, "coming from Britain. We met Fothadh Airgdeach over there by Ollarbha (the Six-mile Water). We fought a skirmish and I threw my spear at him and pinned him to the ground. This is the spear shaft - its iron point was stuck in the ground then. You will find the point in the ground still and Fothadh Airgdeach’s grave a little to the east of it. He is is a stone coffin and his two silver bracelets, his two armrings and his silver torque are all on the coffin. There is a stone column there, too, with ogham written on the part which is sunk in the ground. It reads: This is Eochaidh Airgdeach. Caoilte slew him in combat with Fionn." Everything was found as he said. It was Caoilte, Fionn’s fosterling, who came and Mongán was Fionn but did not wish it to be known. (Source: LU 10940-998)
D One day Conla the Red, son of Conn Céadchathach, was with his father at Uisneach when he saw a woman dressed strangely. "There are you from?" he asked. "From a land of the living where there is neither death nor sin nor crime," she said. "Who are you talking to?" Conn asked his son, because only Conla could see the woman. "He is talking to a fair young woman who will face neither death nor old age," said the woman, "I love Conla the Red and I am calling him to Magh Meall (the plain of delights). There king Buadhach ("Victorious") reigns eternally and there has been no weeping or sorrow in his land since he assumed sovereignty. Come, Conla. If you come, your body will not lose its youth or its beauty till the end of time." No one saw the woman but they all heard her words. Conla summoned his druid, Corann, to stop the woman from taking his son. The druid chanted against the woman’s voice so that no one heard her voice and Conla no longer saw her. Just as she was retreating under the druid’s chanting, she threw Conla an apple. For a month afterward, he neither ate nor drank anything but this apple. However much he ate of it, it was still whole. But he longed for the woman he had seen. A month later, Conla was with his father by the sea when he saw the woman again and she said: "There sits Conla among the shortlived mortals awaiting terrible death. The immortals are inviting you, they are calling you to the people of Teathra (the Sea King). They see you every day among your dear ones." As soon as he heard her voice, Conn said to his people: "Call the druid to me". The woman said: "Conn Céadchathach, do not set store by druid’s craft now for it is of little value." Conn was amazed that his son said nothing. "Have the woman’s words affected you, Conla?" he asked. "It’s not easy," said Conla, "I love my people. But I long for the woman." "You are fighting the wave of your longing to leave them," said the woman, "In my crystal boat we shall reach the síodh of Buadhach. There is another land there that is worth visiting - it overjoys all who visit it and in it there are only women and girls." Then Conla leaped from them into the crystal boat. They saw them leaving. Soon they could see nothing more as they sailed out to sea. They have not been seen since. (Source: EC 14.221-225) Of the above, myths A, B and C belong to the cycle of Mongán who must be considered the incarnation ("rationalized" as "son") of Manannán. In myth C, he is identified as the incarnation of Fionn, himself the incarnation of Neachtan, which makes a good case for the identification of Neachtan and Manannán which has already been discussed. Myth D is a further illustration of a visit from the Sea King’s realm ("the people of Teathra"). From myths B and D it would appear that Neachtan’s otherworld dwelling was presented as a form of paradise in opposition to the rather gloomy prospect of the Fire God’s Hall of Death. Is this a sign of inter-god rivalry which might contribute to explaining the enmity between the Spring God and the Fire God? Myth 5 MANANNÁN AND CORMAC. One May day, Cormac grandson of Conn was alone on the rampart of Teamhair early in the morning. He saw a single warrior coming towards him. He was wearing a rich cloak and tunic and electrum shoes. There was a silver branch with three apples by his side. Wounded men or women in childbirth or warriors with plague would sleep with the sweetness of the music this branch made when it was shaken. They greeted each other.
"Where have you come from?" asked Cormac. "From a land where there is only truth. There is no old age or withering or sadness or envy there." "It’s not like that here," said Cormac. After a while he said: "Shall we make alliance?" "I should like to," said the warrior. So they made alliance. "Give me the branch" said Cormac. "I will," said the warrior, "if I am given the three gifts from Teamhair that I shall ask in exchange." "They will be given" said Cormac. The warrior pledged him to it and left him the branch. Then he disappeared. At the end of a year, he came again and asked for his first gift. "Take it" said Cormac. "Today I shall take Ailbhe," he said - and took her. The women of the household raised three loud cries mourning the king of Ireland’s daughter. Cormac shook the branch over them. Their sadness left them and they all fell asleep. At the end of a month, the warrior came again and took Cairbre Lifeachair. There was no end to the weeping in Teamhair at the loss of the king of Ireland’s son. Cormac shook the branch over them and took away their mourning. The warrior came again. "What are you asking for today?" asked Cormac. "Your wife," he said, and took her. Cormac could not suffer this and went after him. Everyone followed Cormac. A great mist suddenly covered the plain. When it dispersed, Cormac found himself alone. There was a great dún before him with a bronze palisade. There were four houses in the dún He went in. The saw the great royal house with bronze poles and silver dún. wattling and a thatch of white feathers. There was a shining spring in the courtyard with five streams coming out of it and hosts drinking from them. There were nine everlasting hazel trees above the spring. The purple hazel trees cast their nuts into the spring and the five salmon that were in the spring chewed them and their bubbles went down the streams. The waterfall sound of those streams was sweeter than any music. He went into the royal house. There was just one handsome couple in there. They were served but no servant was to be seen. A bath prepared itself for Cormac and he bathed. A man came in at the end of the day He had a wood chopper in his right hand, a club in his left and a pig following him. "It is time to prepare the meal," said the master of the house, "we have a noble guest." The man killed his pig with the chopper and split the club into three with it. Then he put the pig into the cauldron. "You had better turn it," said the master of the house. "There is no need," said the cook, "the pig will never be cooked until a truth is spoken for each of its quarters." "You speak first," said the master of the house. "One day I was walking my land," said the cook, "when I found another man’s cows on my land. I impounded them. The cows’ owner came and offered me a reward for releasing them, I gave him his cows. He gave me a pig and a chopper and a club. You kill the pig with the chopper every night and split the club with it. There is enough wood in the club to cook the pig and enough on the pig to feed a royal household. And next morning the pig is alive and the club is whole again." "That is a true tale," said the master of the house. The pig was turned and only one quarter of it was cooked. "Let another tale of truth be told," they said. "Plowing time came round," said the master of the house, "When I needed to plow that field out there, I found it plowed, harrowed and sown with wheat. When I needed to stack it over there, I found it already stacked in the field in one stack. We have
been eating it ever since but there is never less of it." The pig was turned and the second quarter was found to be cooked. "I have seven cows and seven sheep," said the woman of the house, "the cows give enough milk for all those of the Otherworld and the sheep give enough wool to clothe them." Then the third quarter of the pig was cooked. "It is your turn now," they said to Cormac. Cormac told them how his wife, son and daughter had been taken from him and how he himself had come looking for them. Then the pig was completely cooked. They carved it up and placed Cormac’s portion before him. "I never eat," said Cormac, "without fifty in my company." The master of the house chanted something and put him to sleep. When he awoke, he saw fifty warriors and his wife, son and daughter by him side. Then he was happy. Beer and food were served and they became merry. A golden cup was handed to the master of the house. Cormac wondered at the form and craftsmanship of the cup. "There is a greater wonder in this cup," said the master of the house. "Speak three lies at it and it will break in three. Speak three truths at it and it will become whole again." He spoke three lies at it and it broke in three. "It is better to speak truth," he said, "to make it whole again. I swear, Cormac, that your wife and daughter have not seen a man’s face since they were taken from you, nor has your son seen a woman’s face." The cup was whole again. "Take your people," said the master of the house, "and take this cup to distinguish truth from falsehood. And keep the branch for music. And the day you die, they will all be taken from you. I am Manannán mac Lir." When Cormac awoke next day, he was on the green at Teamhair. His family were with him and his branch and his cup. That was Cormac’s cup which he used to separate truth from falsehood for the men of Ireland. As was promised, it did not stay after Cormac’s death. (Source: SFF 25-54) In this myth, too, Manannán’s dwelling is presented as a form of paradise and the identification with Neachtan is underlined by the presence in it of Neachtan’s spring. Myth 6 THE SACRIFICE TO MANANNÁN Tuagh was the daughter of Conall of Collamhair. The king Conaire Mór fostered her from birth. As she grew up, Manannán heard of her beauty and fell in love with her. The sent his messenger Fear Í son of Eoghabhal, to fetch her. This Fear Í was a druid of the gods. He came to Teamhair in the form of a young woman and penetrated the bower where the girls were. He stayed in Teamhair for three nights with Tuagh. On the fourth day he sang spells on Luan eve and bore Tuagh away in her sleep. He carried her on his back, while playing the Sleeping Strain to her, from Teamhair to the edge of Ireland. He laid her down asleep on the beach and went looking for a boat. The wave came in a thick flood and drowned her. (Source: MD 4.58) This myth calls for no rectifications until the very end. There, the Dinnsheanchas poet has "rationalized". Fear Í did not go looking for a boat and the wave did not drown Tuagh. What occurred was a sacrifice to the Sea God, Mannanán. The form of this sacrifice is, interestingly, preserved in the folk tradition as the following tale from Co.Kerry, illustrates: Cluasach Ó Fáilbhe was out in a boat with the White Trader. The boat was at anchor.
When they wished to haul in the anchor and go to land, they found it was stuck. Cluasach Ó Fáilbhe went down and found a young woman was treading on it. She agreed to release it on condition that he, Cluasach, stayed with her. After parleying, she agreed to let him go up on board again and tell his comrade what was happening to him. No sooner on board than he and the White Trader set sail for land. The woman followed them in a monstrous wave. Cluasach shot her in one eye and the wave subsided. Then he saw a rider on a dark red horse coming over the sea towards him. The rider said that he would have done better to marry his sister when she had both eyes than marry her now that she only had one. He gave Cluasach permission to go home and warn his relatives and then go down to Ó Spealáin’s rock on a certain day to meet him. Cluasach went home and promised his relatives that every year of his life he would send burnt peat sods ashore at Tráigh Phraisce at Bealtaine. Then, on the day appointed, he went down to Ó Spealáin’s rock, telling those with him not to go beyond the green grass. No sooner was he on the rock than a vast wave rose in the sea and covered the rock. When it subsided, there was no sign of Cluasach but for years after burnt peat sods came ashore every Bealtaine at Tráigh Phraisce. (Source: LSC 62) The rider is, of course, Manannán and this is further confirmed by the association with Bealtaine, which as we have seen is the feast shared by Manannán and his alter ego, Neachtan. Tuagh’s story can now be analysed schematically as follows: (1) The Sea God desires a beautiful mortal. (2) He sends the Fire God, messenger of the gods and accompanier of sacrifices, to fetch her. (3) The Fire God spends the statutory three days and three nights with her in preparation. (4) On Luan eve all is ready. Luan here is abbreviated for Luan Taide Bhealtaine "the full moon marking the beginning of Bealtaine". The Fire God brings the sacrifice to the appropriate place, the sea shore, and then departs, his task done. (5) The Sea God comes in the traditional form - a vast wave to claim his sacrifice on his feast day.
Chapter 5 THE SPECKLED COW All three myths in this chapter concern the Speckled Cow, Earc (who may be increased in multiples of three, as was the custom). The name continues common Celtic *ERKÂ, also found in Welsh erch "speckled", and is ultimately derived from Indoeuropean *perko- "speckled". The Vedic name of the divine cow Prsni, created by the Artisan God, is also cognate and synonymous. We may take it that Earc and the Glas Ghaibhneann are one and the same, although differing in name since they belong to different branches of the tradition. Myth 1 THE GHOST CATTLE. One of the cows of Fliodhais came straying west across the Bann. The cow dropped two calves, a cow and a bull, on that journey. These multiplied until they were a vast herd led by a brindled bull. Women could not milk them or men hunt them and, when the bull bellowed, every cow in the land would go to the wild herd. Thus the best cattle in Ireland were lost to the invisible herd. Fiachra was the fosterling of Éachtghal. She gave him an enchanted cow called Earc which had seven virtues. This cow got in heat at the voice of the mighty bull and abandoned Fiachra. He told his fostermother and she told him to search all Ireland until he brought the cow back to her stall. Fiachra went towards the invisible herd. There was nothing of the Otherworld that his eyes did not see. When he reached the herd, he killed them all. (Source: MD 4.70-74) We have already mentioned the likelihood that Fliodhais is an avatar of Deirbhreann (Chapter 3 Myth 3). Her cows, as exemplified in this myth, certainly perform the same function as Deirbhreann’s pigs. Éachtghal is in one manuscript called Áine (MD 4.72), that is, she is identified with the Dawn Goddess who, as Bé nGaibhneachta, is Gaibhneann’s wife. Her "fosterson" Fiachra is thus to be identified with the Sun God, Cian, whom we have seen acting as divine cowherd in Chapter 1 Myth 1. We have a further example of the Sun God, as Dian Céacht, acting out the same role in the following: There was a snake demon called Miach, which was threatening to destroy all the cattle of Ireland. Dian Céacht went against it. Three times the snake demon attacked him but Dian Céacht slew it and cast its ashes into Bearbha (the river Barrow). (Source: MD 2.62) This myth can thus be schematized as follows: (1) The Smith God’s wife gives the cow Earc into the Sun God’s keeping, as divine cowherd. (2) The ghost cattle - plague - capture Earc. (3) The Sun God slaughters the ghost cattle (and presumably returns Earc to her proper place). Myth 2 THE HARROWING OF DEATH I. Fraoch was the son of Bé bhFionn, the sister of Bóinn. He was the fairest warrior in Ireland and Britain except that he was not immortal. His mother gave him twelve white red-eared cows from the Otherworld. He went on a journey to Meadhbh and Oilill at Cruachain. When he returned, his mother came to him. "Your journey was not prosperous," she said, "your cows and your three sons and your wife have been stolen away to Monadh (the Mounth in Scotland). Three of the cows are with the Picts. But do not lose your life for them. I shall give you some more
cows." "No," he said, "it is a question of my honor." "You will not get what you seek" said his mother, and left him. He set out in a group of three times nine men with a wooden cup and a hound. In the land of the Ulaidh, he met Conall Cearnach on the Beanna Boirche and they joined forces. They went east across, the sea and reached the síodh of Donn in Monadh. They found an old woman herding sheep and she sent them to another woman who was herding Fraoch’s cows. She agreed to leave the gate of the dún open for them. They entered the dún and the serpent that guarded it leaped into Conall Cearnach’s belt. Then they plundered the dún and saved Fraoch’s wife and three children. When they had taken all the treasure in the dún Conall released the serpent from his belt dún, and neither did any harm to the other. Going through the lands of the Picts, they collected the remaining three cows and so returned home. (Source: LL 33101-105, 33367-423, TBFr, collated with Celtica 2.154-194, stanzas
In this myth it is the Moon Goddess who gives Earc (now increased to twelve cows) to her son Neachtan, incarnate as Fraoch. Interestingly, the Vedic Prsni dwells "in the house of the Moon". The cows are taken to Monadh, which is probably a reminiscence of cross-sea piracy. More specifically, they are taken to the síodh of Donn, that is, to the Hall of Death. The Spring God needs a helper and finds him in the form of Conall Cearnach. Conall’s epithet cearnach "horned" is cognate to Cernunnos, the epithet of the Gaulish Shaman God, and is identical in meaning to Fear Beann "the horned man", which is an epithet of the Daghdha. We must take it that he is, in fact, the incarnation of the Shaman God just as Cú Chulainn is the incarnation of the Storm God. This will be confirmed in Chapter 9 Myth 3. They enter the Hall of Death and are confronted, by the serpent that guarded it. This serpent - like Searbhán and the water monster in Chapter 4 Myth 2 - is death itself. It leaps into Conall Cearnach’s belt. Why? Because the Shaman God is its eventual master, the owner cf the club of life and death, however much authority he may have delegated to his son the Fire God as judge of the dead. When Fraoch has recovered his cows, wife and children (in that order), the Shaman God releases death and "neither does any harm to the other". Myth 3 THE HARROWING OF DEATH II. When the Ulaidh were in Eamhain,they saw a headless man coming towards them over the plains. He seized Bláithín, the daughter of Conchubhar, who was in love with Cú Raoi. It was Eichdhe Horsemouth but the Ulaidh did not know this. Only Cú Raoi knew. Eichdhe was from Ard Eichdhe in Ceann Tíre. He had three unusual cows, the three Earca of Iuchna. With them went the Three Men of Ochaine, birds which sat on the cows’ ears. And their "calf" was a copper cauldron which could hold thirty sextarii (45 pints). Each of the Earca would fill it with milk once a day. These cows used to stray from Ard Eichdhe into Seimhne and Latharna. The Ulaidh were troubled that their land was being grazed. They kept a watch in order to kill the cows. Then the Ulaidh followed the cows home across the sea to Eichdhe’s tower. They all went except Conall, Laoghaire and Cú Chulainn. Cú Chulainn also went at last. When he was going aboard his ship, a badly dressed warrior (wearing a dun-colored cloak and tunic) presented himself and they offered him three nights’ hospitality. The Ulaidh arose while Eichdhe was asleep and the warrior took the cauldron and the
girl and the cows and a lot of treasure. When they had come a good way, Eichdhe followed them through the sea. They promised to give the warrior - who was Cú Raoi - the cattle in exchange for warding off Eichdhe. The warrior made a spearcast out of the boat and struck a wheel which was by Eichdhe’s right side. That is where he kept his soul. Eichdhe fell and died. The Ulaidh and the warrior returned to Ireland. They agreed that he should take all the treasure and leave them the cow and the girl for a year. But they played him false and would not honour the agreement. So he seized the cows and the cauldron and the girl. Cú Chulainn followed him and laid his hand on the handle of the cauldron. The warrior turned round and threw him into the ground first up to his knees, then up to his buttocks, then up to his waist and finally up to his armpits. Then he took the cauldron and the cows and the girl and kept them at cathair Chon Raoi. Eventually Cú Chulainn found out that it was Cú Raoi who had humiliated him and, disguised as a beggar, he set out for Cathair Chon Raoi. Conchubhar’s daughter recognized him and agreed to betray Cú Raoi for the sake of her father and the Ulaidh. Cú Raoi was as that moment in his copper boat harrying Britain and the Islands and the Great World. Afterward she betrayed him. He had told her in confidence that there was a spring to the west of Sliabh Mis. In it was a salmon, which appeared once every seven years. Inside the salmon was a golden apple where he kept his soul. If the apple were cut with his own sword, he would die. All this she told Cú Chulainn and arranged with him that he should come back on Samhain eve and that, as a sign, she would pour the milk of the Three Earca of Iuchna into the river when she was bathing Cú Raoi. So it happened. Cú Chulainn and the Ulaidh came. Conchubhar’s daughter was delousing Cú Raoi’s hair at the gate of the fort and said: "Come inside and I shall bathe you." He went in and she bathed him and tied his hair to the pillars. Then she seized his sword and gave it to Cú Chulainn. When the salmon appeared, Cú Chulainn killed it. Then his courage and strength left Cú Raoi and he said "Never a secret to women, never wealth to slaves". And Cú Chulainn killed him. They say the conflict goes on from Samhain to Iombolg. (Source: Eriu 2.32ff collated with ACR) In this myth, Earc has become a trinity of cows and has been joined by three birds. The two trinities have been further linked to the Twins. Eichdhe Horsemouth is a nonce form coined from the placename Ard Eichdhe (the Mull of Kintyre) which perpetuates the name of the British tribe the Epidii. Who he really is becomes apparent at the moment of his death - he is carrying a wheel in which he keeps his soul, which is to say that the wheel is his divine attribute. He is the Sun God, one of whose epithets is Mugh Roith "the warrior of the chariot (or wheel)". Consequently, when the Ulaidh follow the cows across the sea, Conall, Laoghaire and Cú Chulainn do not go. When Cú Chulainn does go, he takes no part in the fight with Eichdhe. As we have seen in Myth 2 above, Conall is the incarnation of the Shaman God. Laoghaire, as we shall see in Chapter 9 Myth 3, is the Wind God as Oghma. Cú Chulainn is the incarnation of Lugh. Thus the three gods: Lugh, the Daghdha and Oghma, abstain from attacking the Sun God. They are the same three gods that we have seen together organizing the gods against Balar and the Fomhóire in Chapter 1 Myth 3. Cú Raoi is, of course, the incarnation of the Fire God, even possessing the copper boat which is the Fire God’s attribute. Nevertheless, in this myth, he is a Fire God who combines Fire God and Drought God in one, a tendency which we have already noted several times. Just as Balar’s daughter Eithne betrays him, so Cú Raoi’s wife Bláithín (older form Bláthnat as in Chaptor 9 Myth 3) betrays him. The myth can be schematized as follows: (1) The Sun God is herding the three Earca. They trespass on the lands of the Ulaidh.
He also seizes the woman who loves the Fire/Drought God. (2) The Ulaidh mount an expedition against him without success. Then the Fire/Drought God comes against him, kills him and captures the three Earca and Bláithin. The Storm God, the Shaman God and the Wind God do not participate. (3) The Ulaidh try to keep both cows and woman. The Fire/Drought God seizes these from the Ulaidh and enters into conflict with the Storm God. (4) With the woman’s help, the Storm God defeats and slays the Fire/Drought God. (5) This conflict goes on from Samhain to Iombolg each year. The meanimg is clear: the Sun dies after Samhain and Death takes over. When life begins again (the milk of the three Earca runs in the river), Lugh again frees the world from the grip of death and, presumably, restores the Sun to life.
Chapter 6 LIGHT AND DARK The three myths composing this chapter are part of a cycle in the sense that Myths 2 and 3 take place within the framework of Myth 1. It is possible, although not inherently probable, that the cattle raid of Cuailnge existed as a heroic tale quite separate from the successive incarnations of the Twins and that they were later linked, thus mythologizing the cattle raid. Myth 1 THE INCARNATIONS OF THE TWINS A Bodhbh was the king of the síodh of Munster at Sliabh na mBan and Ochaill Oichne was the king of the síodh of Connacht at Cruachain. There was alliance between them. They both had swineherds and there was alliance between them too. When there was mast in Munster, the northern swineherd would come south with his lean pigs. When there was mast in the north, the southern swineherd would go north. Dissension arose between them because the Connachtmen said that their swineherd was more powerful while the Munstermen said theirs was more powerful. One year there was much mast in Munster and the northern swineherd went south with his pigs. His comrade welcomed him. "They are disputing about us," he said "These men say that you are mere powerful than I." "I am not less" said Ochaill’s swineherd. "Let us find out," said Bodhbh’s swineherd, "I shall charm your pigs so that they will not fatten despite the mast they eat, but mine will fatten." That is what happened. Ochaill’s swineherd went home with his lean pige and people laughed at him. "Your journey did not prosper," they said, "your comrade’s power is greater than yours." "Not so," he said, "We shall have mast here and then I shall work the same trick on him." That is what happened. So everyone said that they were both of equal power. And Bodhbh’s swineherd took his lean pigs home. Then their swineherding was taken from them both and they spent two full years as hawks, one year north at Cruachain and the other south at Sliabh na mBan. At the end of this time they appeared briefly in human form. Then. they became two water beasts and spent two full years in this form, one year in Sionann and one year in Siúir. Then they were two deer and collected two herds and fought. Then they were two mercenary leaders and fought each other. Then they were two phantoms and frightened each other. Then they were two dragons and each snowed on the other’s land. Then they both fell out of the sky and became worms. One went into the source of Glas Cruinn in Cuailnge and was drunk by the cow of Dáire mac Fiachna. The other went into Fuarán Garadh in Connacht and was drunk by the cow of Meadhbh. Then they were incarnate as two bulls: the Whitehorn of Aoi and the Black Bull of Cuailnge. Their names were: Rúcht and Ruincne when they were swineherds, Ingean and Eite when they were hawks, Bleadh and Blodh when they were water beasts, Rinn and Faobhar when they were mercenary leaders, Scáth and Sciath when they were phantoms, Cruinneac and Tuinneac when they were worms, the Whitehorn of Aoi and the Dark Red Bull of Cuailnge when they were bulls. With the cattle drove from Cuailnge, the Black Bull of Cuailnge came to Aoi and met the Whitehorn. They fought and the Black Bull killed the Whitehorn.
(Source: LL 32930-997) B Cruinneac son of Aghnamhan had two sons, Rúcht and Ruincne. They were swineherds and were in seven forms, each form for one year. Their names were Eite and Ingean when they were birds, Cú and Ceithean when they were dogs, Bleadh and Blodh when they were Boyne trout, Cruinneac and Dubhmhuc when they were worms. Cruinneac went to Glas Cruinn in Cuailnge. Dubhmhuc entered Fuarán Garadh. The cow of Dáire mac Fiachna went to Glas Cruinn and drank, the worm entered her womb and became a calf. When one of Meadhbh’s cows drank from the spring of Fuarán Garadh, the other worm entered her and became a calf in her womb. The two cows died when giving birth. The eastern bull was the Dark Red One, the western bull was red and whitehorned. Then Neara’s cow came with her bull calf and he bellowed at Ráth Chruachan. The Whitehorn heard him and they fought before Meadhbh. Meadhbh encouraged her bull and the bull calf fell saying "Beware of my sire." Then Meadhbh went into Ulster on the cattle raid. Cú Chulainn opposed her whole army from Samhain until the first fast after Iombolg, when Conchubhar came with his forces and Meadhbh retreated into Connacht with her prey. When the Dark Red Bull of Cuailnge reached Tarbhgha, he fought the Whitehorn on the seventh day of Spring and the Whitehorn fell. (Source: RC 15.44ff) It is clear that the Twins, as harbingers of the Dawn, took on the nature of weather symbols. One, presaging bad weather, was allocated the north west; the other, presaging good weather, was allocated the south east. Hence their local differentiation within Ireland - one to the síodh of Cruachain in Connacht and the other to the síodh of Sliabh na mBan in Munster. As good and bad weather are mutually antagonistic and yet composed of the same element, so the Twins represent the concept of yin and yang, eternally in contrast and yet eternally united. The two recensions presented here differ in some details but are essentially identical. Version B is important in the sense that it identifies the Twins as brothers, which detail has been lost in Version A. All the texts are divided on the question of the name of the bull of Cuailnge, some calling him Dubh "black" and other, Donn "dark red". Myth 2 MOIRRÍOGHAN AND THE CATTLE PREY A Cú Chulainn was sleeping at dún Imrinn when he heard a bellowing coming from the north. He leaped up, called his charioteer and they set out for Ath Dá Fhearta. There they heard a chariot coming. When it came into sight, they saw it was pulled by a single one-footed horse and its shaft was set inside the horse’s skin so that its end poked out through the animal’s forehead. In the chariot was a red woman with red eyebrows clothed in red with her cloak trailing on the ground behind her. Her charioteer was a big man in a coarse tunic with a white hazel club driving a cow. Cú Chulainn asked their names. The woman told him false ones. Then he leaped into the chariot, landing with his feet on the woman’s shoulders and his javelin over her head. "Don’t attack me" she said. "Then tell me your true name" said Cú Chulainn . "Leave me alone" she said, "I am a satirist and Dáire mac Fiachna in Cuailnge has given me this cow in payment for an ode."
"Let’s hear the ode" said Cú Chulainn. "Just leave me alone" said the woman, "instead of fluttering over my head." Then he went to the back of the chariot and she declaimed the ode. Cú Chulainn leaped into his chariot - and all had disappeared: horse, woman, chariot, man and cow. But he saw that she had become a black bird on a branch near him. "If I had known it was you," said Cú Chulainn, "we would not have separated like that." "Whatever you had done," said the woman, "it would have been the worse for you." "You have no power over me" said Cú Chulainn. "I have," said the woman, "I am preparing your death. I took this cow from the síodh of Cruachain so that the Black Bull of Cuailnge could cover it. You will be alive only as long as it takes the calf in the womb of this cow to become a two year old bull. He will provoke the cattle raid of Cuailgne." "I shall be the more distinguished for the cattle raid" said Cú Chulainn. "However you act in the cattle raid," said the woman, "when you are fighting a man who is your equal in strength, I shall become an eel and twist round your feet in the ford so that you will fall." "I shall trample you against the flagstones of the ford and you shall never be cured by me unless you beg my pardon." "I shall become a grey wolf bitch and seize you from the right upper arm to the left forearm." "I shall stab you with my javelin and put out your eye and you shall never be cured unless you beg my pardon." "I shall be a white red-eared heifer at the head of a hundred white red eared cows and we shall plunge into the ford. Fair combat will be broken and your head will be taken that day." "I shall cast a sling stone at you and break your hough and you will have no help from me unless you beg my pardon." Then Badhbh Left him and Cú Chulainn returned home. (Source: TBR) B On Samhain eve, Oilill, challenged any of his household to fix a withe round the foot of one of the two captives who had been hanged that day. Neara took up the challenge and succeeded with the help of the hanged man himself. In return for his help, he took the hanged man on his back to get a drink of water and then returned him to his place. Neara was going back to Cruachain when he saw the dún burning and his people being slaughtered by the warriors from the síodh He followed the warriors back into síodh. the Cave of Cruachain. He came before the king of the síodh who allotted him a house and a woman in exchange for bringing a load of firewood to the royal house each day. Every day he saw a blind man carrying a cripple to the edge of the well at the gate of the dún dún. "Is it there?" the blind man would ask. "Yes," the cripple would say, "let us go." Neara asked his woman the reason for this. "They visit the crown that is in the well" she said. "When I was coming into the síodh said Neara, "I thought the ráth of Cruachain was síodh," being plundered and Oilill and Meadhbh and all their household killed." "This is not true," she said, "it was a phantom host you saw. But it will come true unless it is revealed." "How can I warn my people?" he asked. "Go to them," she said, "they are still around the cauldron where you left them and
the food has not been taken off the fire yet." But he thought he had been in the síodh for three days and three nights. "Tell them they will be slaughtered next Samhain unless they come and plunder the síodh. síodh It has been prophesied that Oilill and Meadhbh will plunder the síodh and take the crown of Brión." "How will they believe that I have gone into the síodh?" asked Neara. "Take summer fruits with you" she said. So he took wild garlic and primrose and golden fern. "Now I shall be pregnant and give birth to your son. Warn me when your people are coming to plunder the síodh so that I can take your household and cattle to safety." So Neara returned to his people and found them just as he had left them. He told them his adventures and Oilill gave him the sword that he had promised in return for completing the challenge. Neara returned to the síodh to bring his people out, since at Samhain Oilill planned to plunder it - the doors of the síodh of Ireland are always open at Samhain. His wife welcomed him back. "Go to the dún," she said, "and take your load of firewood. I have been taking it dún every day for a year now. I told them you were sick. And this is your son." So he took his load of firewood and was greeted by the king of the síodh and congratulated of his recovery. When he returned home, his wife told him to herd the cows. She had given one of them to their son at birth. Neara went herding them and fell asleep. While he was asleep, Moirríoghan took his son’s cow and had it bulled by the Dark Red Bull of Cuailgne. Neara returned home with the cows at dusk. "My son’s cow has strayed," he said. Then the cow came back. "That’s strange. Where has this cow come from?" he said. "She has come from Cuailgne," said his wife, "and has been bulled by the Dark Red Bull of Cuailgne." The cow gave birth to a bull calf. On the third day before Samhain, Neara brought his people and his cattle out of the síodh. síodh, síodh As his son’s bull calf came out of the síodh it bellowed three times. Then the bull calf and the Whitehorn met and fought on the plain of Cruachain. They fought for a day and a night and at last the bull calf was beaten. It bellowed as it went down. "What did the animal bellow?" asked Meadhbh of her cowherd. "It said that if its father, the Dark Red bull of Cuailgne, were to come and fight the Whitehorn, he would drive him all over Magh Aoi." Then Meadhbh said: "I swear by the gods of my tribe, I shall neglect myself utterly until I see the two bulls fighting before me." Then they entered the síodh and plundered it. Neara and his people were left in the síodh and have not come out since, nor will they. (Source: EN) The two myths presented here are complementary and set the scene for the cattle raid of Cuailgne. Moirríoghan, dressed in red, in Myth A is the Earth Goddess in her aspect as Deirbhreann and accompanied by the Fire God. The Fire God is carrying a white hazel club indicative of his function as judge of the dead - compare the white hazel wand held by Earc, the lawspeaker, in Chapter 3 Myth 1. As we have seen in several other instances, he combines in this and the following myth the functions of Fire God (Function 1) and Drought God (Function 2). Moirríoghan likewise combines the functions of Deirbhreann (Function 1) and Meadhbh (Function 2 - kingship). A fragment of a variant recension of this myth is to be found, perhaps, in the following. If it is not a variant, then it is an imitation: Odhras was Buchad’s wife. One day she followed him to watch the cattle. While
watching, she fell asleep. Then Moirríoghan came bringing with her a bull. He bulled one of Buchad’s cows and Moirríoghan then led both of them to Cruachain. Odhras followed them to the síodh of Cruachain and there fell asleep. Moirríoghan came out of the Cave of Cruachain and chanted spells over her. Odhras melted and became the river Odhras (MD 4.196-200). Myth 3 CÚ CHULAINN, LÓCH AND MOIRRÍOGHAN Lóch was asked to fight Cú Chulainn. He refused to fight a beardless youth. The women told Cú Chulainn that he was being mocked in the camp because he had no beard. Cú Chulainn made himself a beard of dyed grass and then Lóch agreed to fight. When they were fighting at the ford, an eel came and twisted round Cú Chulainn’s feet so that he fell on his back in the water. Lóch wounded him with his sword and the ford was red with his blood. Then Cú Chulainn got up and struck the eel, breaking its ribs. Then a wolf bitch attacked him. He put out its eye. Then a white red-eared heifer leading a hundred others plunged into the ford. Cú Chulainn loosed a sling stone and broke her leg. Then he unleashed the Ga Bolga at Lóch and killed him. Later Moirríoghan appeared to him in the shape of a one-eyed hag milking a cow with three teats. He asked her for milk. She gave him the milk of one teat. "Health and the blessings of gods and non-gods on you," said Cú Chulainn. And her ribs were healed. She gave him the milk of the second teat. "Health and the blessings of gods and non-gods on you," said Cú Chulainn. And her eye was healed. She gave him the milk of the third teat. "Health and the blessings of gods and non-gods on you," said Cú Chulainn. And her leg was healed. "You said you would never heal me," said Moirríoghan. "If I had known it was you" said Cú Chulainn, "I should never have healed you." (Source: LU 6104-6257 collated with LL 9544-54 and TBR) The combat of Lóch and Cú Chulainn at the ford is, in fact, the last combat in the primitive recension of the cattle raid of Cuailgne. Immediately afterwards, in this recension, comes the rising of the Ulaidh from their weakness, the pursuit west and the combat of the bulls in Magh Aoi. Lóch (common Celtic *LEUKOS "shining"), as we mentioned in Part I Chapter 3, is to be identified as the Fire/Drought God. The incarnate Storm God, Cú Chulainn, is here duplicating his combat with Balar. Instead of the thunderbolt, he has the Ga Bolga, and this time the Earth Goddess is actively fighting against him. Thus the scene in Myth 2A above is duplicated. There, at the inception of the cattle raid, Earth Goddess and Fire/Drought God faced the Storm God and mutual challenges were issued. Here, at the end of the raid, these challenges are played out. The Earth Goddess is ritually maimed - eye (Function 1), ribs (as an eel can hardly lose a hand) (Function 2) and foot (Function 3). She can only be healed by begging the Storm God’s forgiveness. This she does, in traditional manner, by granting his three requests.
Chapter 7 THE THREE FACES OF MACHA The myths in this chapter all illustrate tripartitism, the socio-religious concept, the understanding of which is essential to any investigation of Irish mythology. Myth 1 THE THREE FACES OF MACHA A Macha, wife of Neimheadh son of Aghnamhan, saw a vision of all the evil that would be done in the cattle raid of Cuailgne long before it happened and her heart broke. Her name was given to the plain - hence Magh Macha (and Eamhain Mhacha). (Source: ED 62) B There were three kings of the Ulaidh in co-sovereignty: Díotharbha ("Useless"), Aodh Ruadh and Ciombaoth. They made a treaty that each should have sovereignty for seven years. Aodh Ruadh was the first to die, leaving no offspring but his daughter, Macha the Redmaned. She claimed her father’s share in the sovereignty. Ciombaoth and Díotharbha answered that they would not give sovereignty to a woman. They fought a battle and Macha won. She spent seven years in the kingship. Meanwhile Díotharbha fell at Corann leaving five sons: Baoth ("Rash"), Bras ("Boastful"), Béadach ("Violent"), Uallach ("Shouter") and Borbchas ("Rough Curlyhead"). They claimed the kingship. Macha answered that she would not yield it, since she had not received it by contract but on the battle field. They fought a battle. Macha won and drove the sons of Díotharbha out into the wastes of Connacht. Then she took Ciombaoth as her husband and leader of her warband. Wben Macha and Ciombaoth were married, she went to seek out the sons of Díotharbha in the form of a leper woman. She found them roasting a wild boar at Boireann in Connacht. They greeted her and gave her food at the fire. "The girl’s not bad looking," said one of them, "let’s lay her." He went off into the woods with her. She bound him by force and left him in the woods. Then she went back to the fire. "Where’s the man who went with you?" they asked. "He’s ashamed to come back to you after laying a leper girl," she said. "He shouldn’t be," they said, "because we’ll all do the same." Each of them went off into the woods with her and she bound each one of them by force and then brought them all, bound together, back to the Ulaidh. The Ulaidh said they should be killed. "No," she said, "that would destroy the truth of my sovereignty. Let them be slaves and build a ráth for me. And let it be the capital of the Ulaidh for ever." So they built the dún and called it Eamhain Mhacha. (Source: LL 2514-2554) C Cruinneac son of Aghnamhan of the Ulaidh was a hospitaler. He lived in the wastes and had many sons. His wife was dead. One day when he was alone in the house, he saw a woman coming in. He liked the look of her. She sat down at once and started preparing the meal as if she had always lived there. When night came, she served the household with no questions asked.
That night she slept with Cruinneac. She remained with him for some time like this and with her in the house they had no lack of anything: food, clothes or wealth. Not long after, the Ulaidh were holding a fair. All the Ulaidh were going: men, women and children. Cruinneac went just like everyone else. He was wearing good clothes and had a prosperous look about him. "Don’t say anything foolish," warned his wife. "I won’t," he said. The fair was held. At the end of the day they brought the king’s chariot onto the field. The chariot with its horses won the prize. The crowd said: "There is nothing faster than these horses." Cruinneac said: "My wife is faster." The king had him seized at once. His wife was informed. "It is a bother for me to go and have him set free" she said, "as I’m pregnant". "It may be a bother," said the messenger, "but he will be killed if you don’t go." So she came to the fair and her birth pangs started. "Help me," she said to the crowd, "a mother gave birth to every one of you. Wait until I have given birth." They refused. "All right," she said, "worse will come of it and will stay with the Ulaidh for a long time." "What is your name?" asked the king. "Macha," she said. Then she raced with the chariot and when the chariot reached the end of the field, she gave birth to twins (hence Eamhain Mhacha "the twins of Macha"). She cried out in her labour. Everyone who heard her fell into weakness for five days and four nights. That sickess fell on all the men of the Ulaidh that were present and on their offspring for nine men’s lives from that moment. Five days and four nights was the "nine days" of the Ulaidh. Every man of the Ulaidh had the strength of a woman in labour during this time. Only the women and children of the Ulaidh were exempt from it, and Cú Chulainn. (Source: LL 14547-585) Macha was the name under which the Ulaidh worshipped the Earth Goddess. The name is still very much alive in the placename Ard Mhacha ("Macha’s height", Armagh). Just to the west of Ard Mhacha is the fort which was the capital of the Ulaidh until their power was broken in the 5th century A.D, and they retreated east, regrouping in what is now the district to the north and south of Belfast. Their capital was called Eamhain Mhacha ("Macha’s Eamhain") in distinction to Eamhain Abhlach ("Apple-tree Eamhain") which was Manannán’s domain. The three myths grouped above are all used to explain the name of the fort and show us Macha in tripartite function. In Myth A she is a seer and belongs to Function 1. In Myth B, she is a warrior queen and belongs to Function 2. In Myth C she is a hospitaler’s wife and belongs to Function 3. It is clear that the Neimheadh ("sacred person") son of Aghnamhan in Myth A and the Cruinneac son of Aghnamhan in Myth C are one and the same. He appears again in the form Neimheadh son of Namha (mac Aghnamhain corrupted to mac Namha), in the following myth which is connected to the above, albeit obscurely: There was a king named Neimheadh son of Namha. He reared two horses with the people of síodh Earcmhan (the síodh of Earc?). Afterwards they sent the two horses out of the síodh. A stream broke forth from the síodh after them and there was much foam on it and it spread out over the land and remained thus for a year. Hence the river is called Uanabh "foam river". The horses are called the Two Horses of Eamhain. (Source: MD 4.302)
Myth 2 THE GIFTS OF THE GODS The three sons of the king of Ireland went to see their father at Feart na nDruadh to the northwest of Teamhair. "There have you come from?" he asked. "From our foster parents," they said. "Why have you come?" he asked. "To ask you for a fief of land," they said. "My father did not give me a fief of land," he said, "My own good luck did. I will not give you land. Fight for it yourselves." Then they arose and went to the green in front of the Bruigh and sat alone there. "What do you advise tonight?" asked one of them. "Let us fast against the gods to get the good luck of a fief and riches from them," answered another. They were not long there when they saw a young man coming towards them. He greeted them and they greeted him. "Where are you from and where have you come from?" they asked. "From the Bruigh," he answered. "What is your name?" they asked. "Bodhbh Dearg," he answered, "It has been revealed to the gods that you have come here tonight to fast for land and great luck. Come with me." They arose and entered the Bruigh. A meal was set before them but they did not eat. Bodhbh Dearg asked why they were not eating. "The king of Ireland, our own father, has refused us a fief of land." Then the gods took counsel and the eldest and most noble of them, Midhir, said: "Give them three wives, because good and bad luck come from wives." They gave them three daughters of Midhir’s. "What will you give them, Bodhbh Dearg?" asked Midhir. "I will tell you," said Bodhbh Dearg, "There are a hundred and fifty of us in this síodh, síodh all sons of kings. Let each king’s son give them a hundred and fifty ounces of gold and I shall give them a hundred and fifty suits of clothes." "My gift to them," said Aodh from Reachrainn, "is a horn and a vat. Fill the vat with stagnant water and it will become good mead. Fill the horn with sea water and it will become wine." "My gift to them," said Lir of Síodh Fionnachaidh, "is a hundred and fifty swords and a hundred and fifty spears." "My gift to them," said Aonghas Macan Óg, "is a stockade and a fort and a royal dwelling." "I shall give them a cook I have," said Áine, "It is taboo for her to refuse food to anyone, for everything she gives out she receives again." "I shall give them a good musician I have," said Bodhbh Dearg, "Fear Toinne son of Troghan is his name. Defeated champions and women in labor and wounded warriors would sleep with the haunting music he plays." They stayed three days and three nights in the síodh and Aonghas told them to take three apple trees from the wood of Eamhain: one tree in blossom and another with blossom falling and the third with ripe fruit. They went out to their dwelling then and remained there for a hundred and fifty years until those trees died. Then they returned to the gods, since they were relatives by marriage, and there they have been ever since. (Source: AS-SG 102f) In its present form this myth shows unmistakable signs of late transmission (the names of the gods are hopelessly muddled) but its structure and essential content are archaic. They may be schematized as follows: (1) The three princes fast against the gods. The fast is a form of sacrifice inherited
from Indoeuropean times which compels the person fasted against to accede to the request of the faster. (2) The gods accede to their request. (3) They are first given wives, since kingship can only be acquired by marrying the Earth Goddess in her aspect as Sovereignty. From the Earth Goddess’ favor comes good luck, from her disfavor comes disaster. (4) They are then given the gifts appropriate to a royal inauguration: Function 1: the magic horn and vat, since the king must drink the royal mead. Function 2: swords and spears, since the king must arm his warband. Function 3: gold and clothes, since the king must distribute riches which are produced by craftsmen. (5) They then receive the gifts appropriate to the maintenance of kingship: Function 1: the musician representing the support of the priest/poet caste. Functiom 2: the royal stockade representing the support of the warrior caste. Function 3: the cook with an everlasting supply of food representing the support of the commoner caste. (6) They receive three apple trees, one in each stage of development, to maintain their health and youth. When these are exhausted, they return to the gods. Myth 3 THE THREE GODS ON EARTH Bodhbh Dearg had three sons - Artrach, Aodh and Aonghas - and they quarreled with their father. "Very well," said Bodhbh Dearg, "leave the gods to me and go to Cormac king of Ireland. There is good cause for you to leave the gods. They cannot support themselves and the wealth of Artrach. Aonghas is more than a match for all their warriors put together. Aodh is more than a match for the poets of Ireland and Britain." So the three sons came to Cormac and he asked them what they had come about. "Our own father has banished us from the gods and we have come to ask you for land." "You shall have it," said Cormac, "I shall give you Tír Chonaill." The eldest son, Artrach, had a hostel of seven doors and a welcome for every company. Aonghas was at Ráth Mhongach and the sons of the kings of Ireland and Britain learned warriorship from him. Aodh was in the Steading of the Poets and the poets of Ireland and Britain kept him company. They spent thirty years of Cormac’s reign thus, until he died, and then they returned to the gods. (Source: AS-SG 154) This is a very straightforward illustration of tripartitism, each god representing one function: Aodh is Function 1, Aonghas is Function 2, Artrach is Function 3. Myth 4 LUGHAIDH LAOIGHDHE AND KINGSHIP Dáire enchanted a calf so that it appeared to be a fawn. Four of his sons - Lughaidh Corb, Lughaidh Cal, Lughaidh Orc and Lughaidh Laoighdhe - loosed their hounds after it and made the kill near Sionann. They entered a house. Lughaidh Corb carved the fawn, Lughaidh Cal slept, Lughaidh Orc brought water. While they were by the fire, a hideous hag came in to them and said: "One of you must sleep with me tonight or I shall devour you all, men and dogs." Lughaidh Laoighdhe said: "I will sleep with her - it is enough that only I should perish."
When they went to bed, she changed into a beautiful woman. Lughaidh Laoighdhe asked her who she was. She said: "High kings sleep with me. I am the Sovereignty of Ireland and Britain. Nothing more shall come of our meeting but your son will sleep with me. He will be called Lughaidh Mac Con and he will be a druid, a seer, a poet." (Source: MD 4.136-142) This is another illustration of the three functions and the extra functional status of kingship. Function 1: Lughaidh Cal slept (presumably seeking visions). Function 2: Lughaidh Corb divided up the spoil ("carved the fawn"). Function 3: Lughaidh Orc served them ("brought water"). Extra functional: Lughaidh Laoighdhe conversed with Sovereignty. Myth 5 THE TRIPARTITE SACRIFICE OF DIARMAID MAC CEARBHAILL Diarmaid mac Cearbhaill went to Teamhair and asked the prophet Beag Mac Dé how he would die. Beag said: "You will go forth from Teamhair to a festival of non-truth. Macha will wash your head. You will see the cows of rock. You will drink a harsh drink. A dark man, blind in his left eye, will kill a black pig that leads pigs. You will go forth to a woman who sees doom beneath diadems. You will drink a malt drink of one grain in a small ráth There you will be slain, Diarmaid." ráth. Then Diarmaid called his own druids and asked them how he would die. "Slaying," said the first druid, "and on the night of your death you will be wearing a shirt made from one flax seed and a cloak from the wool of a single sheep." "Drowning" said the second druid, "and you shall drink beer from one corn grain that night." "Burning" said the third druid, "and the bacon of an unborn pig will be on your plate." Then Diarmaid went visiting rightways round Ireland. From Teamhair to the Laighin, then to Munster, to Connacht and finally to Ulster, intending to return to Teamhair to celebrate the feast of Teamhair with the men of Ireland at Samhain. While he was on that circuit, a warrior came to him and asked him to be his guest that night. Diarmaid agreed. Mughain, his queen, did not. Nevertheless Diarmaid accompanied Banbhán to Ráth Bheag ("small ráth in Magh Line. ráth") When they had sat down, a fair young woman came in. "This is my daughter" said Banbhán, "She shall sleep with you tonight to spite Mughain, since she would not come." "Good," said Diarmaid. "Have you clothing for the king?" Banbhán asked his daughter. "Yes," she said and gave him a shirt and a cloak. The king put them on. Everyone admired them. "The shirt was made from one flax seed," said Banbhán, "My daughter planted the one seed and replanted the seeds from the plants. The cloak was made from the wool of a single sheep." Then food and drink were brought to them. Everyone praised them. "It is bacon from an unborn pig," said Banbhán, "for it was cut living from its mother’s womb. It is beer from one grain of corn. I was out plowing one day and killed a ring-dove. In its crop there was one grain. I planted and replanted its seed and so made this beer." Diarmaid looked up. "The lower part of the house is newer than the upper part," he said. "Once," said Banbhán, "we were out fishing in our curraghs and saw a ridge pole floating in the sea. I made this house of it." "Truly," said Diarmaid, "did Beag and the druids prophesy my death. This is the house. Let’s get out of here, men!"
He leaped for the door but Aodh Dubh was starding in the doorway and wounded him in the chest with his spear. Then Diarmaid turned back into the house. The Ulaidh surrounded the house on the outside and set fire to it. Diarmaid plunged into the beer vat. Then the ridge pole of the house fell on him and he died. (Source: SG 79-82) The chief protagonist in this myth is a historical personage - Diarmaid mac Cearbhaill, king of the Southern Uí Néill, who according to the Annals of Ulster celebrated the Feast of Teamhair in 559 A.D. He is also celebrated as the last pagan king of the Southern Uí Néill. The tripartite sacrifice, attributed to him in this myth is likewise attributed to one of his predecessors, Muircheartach mac Earca, who according to the same annals died in 533 A.D. of drowning in a wine vat at Cleiteach on the Boyne. For mythological purposes, it is quite immaterial that this tripartite sacrificial death be attributed to this or that historical king. Myth is an archetype and this myth is the archetype of the failing king, who must be sacrificed for his people and his land, voluntarily or not. The sacrifice consists of: Function 1: sacrifice to the Shaman God by ritual wounding. Function 2: sacrifice to the Storm God by burning. Function 3: sacrifice to the Spring God by drowning in a vat.
Chapter 8 THE UNSUITABLE KING The first three myths in this chapter constitute the cycle of the Unsuitable King, Breas, son of the Smith God. They mirror the same inter-caste contest among the gods that is found in the Scandinavian myth of the Aesir and the Vanir. The remaining myths are fragments belonging to the same branch of the tradition. Myth 1 THE BIRTH OF BREAS One day Éire (Ireland) was looking out over sea and land. The sea was like a flat plain. Suddenly she saw a silver vessel in the sea. She thought it was big but could not make out its form. And the current was bringing it gradually in to the shore. Then she saw it was a handsome man covered in accoutrements of gold and silver. He said to her: "Shall we make love?" She said to him: "I have made no arrangement with you." He said: "Come." They lay down. When the man got up again she began to cry. "What are you crying for?" he said. "I have two reasons for it," she said, "Separating from you after our union. And not knowing your name." "I am Ealadha son of Dealbhaoth king of the Fomhóire" he said, "you will bear a son from this meeting and you must call him Eocha Breas." She bore the son and called him by the name Ealadha had told her, Eocha Breas. By the time her labour was a week past, the son had a fortnight’s growth. This continued. By the time he was seven, he was the size of a fourteen year old. (Source: CMT 15-21) This myth sets the scene for the cycle of the Unsuitable king. Ealadha ("Art") son of Dealbhaoth is, of course, the Smith God in disguise. As this whole cycle has been fused with that of the Storm God (see Chapter 1), he is made "king of the Fomhóire" and identified to Balar and his followers. This identification is secondary and late, as an examination of the two cycles shows. The Smith God is chief of the commoner caste (Function 3) and this cycle is a mythological playing out of social tensions between the commoner caste and the other two castes, priests (Function 1) and warriors (Function 2). The gods in this cycle are all gods of Functions 1 and 2. Their enemies, grouped around Breas, are the gods of Function 3. We can schematize as follows: (1) The Earth Goddess, in her aspect as Sovereignty (Éire), is approached by the disguised Smith God, a handsome man almost smothered in gold and silver (signifying wealth but not necessarily caste status). (2) He makes a bid for sovereignty. The Earth Goddess replies that he does not belong to the right caste ("I have made no arrangement with you"). Nevertheless she accedes to his demand and they produce a son who is monstrous (in the sense that he is gigantic), since he is not a proper birth. Myth 2 THE KINGSHIP OF BREAS There was strife between the gods and their wives about the sovereignty of Ireland, since Nuadha was no longer eligible after losing his hand. They said they should make Breas son of Ealadha king. So the sovereignty of Ireland was given to him and he offered seven uncles, his mother’s brothers, as sureties to take the sovereignty back from him if his misconduct warranted this. When Breas became king, the Fomhóire under their kings Inneach, Ealadha and Teathra, bound their tribute on Ireland, so that there was not a puff of smoke from a
roof in Ireland that did not owe tribute to them. The strong men were pressed into service: Oghma under a load of firewood and the Daghdha as a ráth ráth-builder, building the ráth of Breas. The Daghdha was tired with this work. And there was a blind man called Cridhinbhéal. He thought that his own portion was small and the Daghdha’s was large and said: "Daghdha, for your honour’s sake, give me the three best pieces you have." The Daghdha gave them to him every night and felt the worse for it. One day the Daghdha was in the ditch when he saw Macan Óg coming. "Why are you looking so downtrodden?" asked Macan Óg. "I have reason enough. Cridhinbhéal the satirist asks me every day for the three best pieces of my food." "I have a solution for you," said Macan Óg, taking three pieces of gold out of his pocket and giving them to him. "Put these three pieces in the three best pieces of food for Cridhinbhéal. That is the most noble part of your dish and the gold will stop in his belly and kill him. Breas’s judgement will not be good afterwards. They will tell the king: the Daghdha killed Cridhinbhéal by giving him a poisonous herb. The king will order you to be killed. You will say to him: that is not a word of sovereign truth, for he had been pestering me since I started working, saying: Give me the three best pieces of your food, I am badly off tonight. It happened that I received three pieces of gold today and put them on my food. Then I gave them to Cridhinbhéal, since the gold was the best thing that was before me. The gold remained in Cridhinbhéal and he died of it." The Daghdha followed Macan Og’s advice. "Cut open the satirist’s belly" said Breas, "to see if the gold is there. If it is not, you will die. If it is, you will live." They cut open the satirist’s belly and found the three pieces of gold and the Daghdha was released. The Daghdha came to work next day and Macan Óg came to him and said: "Your work will soon be finished. Do not ask for your reward until the cattle of Ireland are brought to you. Then choose a black heifer from among them." The Daghdha finished his work and Breas asked him what he wanted as his reward. The Daghdha answered: "Have all the cattle in Ireland brought together in one place." The king did that and the Daghdha chose the heifer that Macan Óg had indicated. Breas thought this a trifle, he had expected him to choose more. So Breas took sovereignty as it was given to him. There was much murmuring about him by his mother’s relatives, the gods, since he did not grease their knives. However much they visited, their breath was none the beerier. They did not see their poets or bards or satirists or harpers or pipers or trumpeters or jugglers before them in the household. Their exploits did not prosper. They did not see the prowess of their strong men tested by the king with the exception of Oghma who had to carry firewood to the dún dún. Eventually they came together to parley with Breas and demanded a settling of accounts. Breas abdicated from sovereignty but his account was not settled by that. He asked for seven years’ grace. This was granted on condition that he hand over all the goods he had accumulated until then. The reason that he asked for the delay was that he wished to assemble the strong men of the síodh to take power by force if he could, since he was annoyed at being driven from the kingship. (Source: CMT 14,24-40) Breas is now fully grown and Nuadha has lost his hand so that,as a blemished king, he must abdicate. The goddesses, who are extra-functional, impose Breas as king on their Function 1 and Function 2 husbands, subject to conditions. Once Breas becomes king, the "three kings of the Fomhóire", Inneach, Ealadha and Teathra, impose their will on the gods. Ealadha, as we have seen, is the Smith Giod.
Teathra is the negative aspect of the Sea God. Presumably Inneach (from common Celtic *ENDEAGOS "the drover" i.e. "cowherd"?) is the Sun God. At all events, the three represent the Function 3 gods who now lord it over the gods of the other two functions. The Storm God, Lugh, has not yet been born. Thus neither has the Fire God, Macan Óg, since he is the youngest of the gods. Judging from the role that "Macan Óg" plays in this myth, it would seem that his name has been substituted for that of Earc, the lawspeaker of the gods whom Macan Óg later replaced in many of his functions. So, schematizing: (1) The Wind God (MALE:AIR:FUNCTION 2) is demoted from his function as king of the gods. Henceforward he is represented by his avatar Oghma. (2) The Commoner Breas is elevated to kingship by the extra-functional goddesses. (3) The gods of Function 3 seize power and oppress the Shaman God (Function 1) and the Wind God as Oghma (Function 2). Oghma is forced into servile work carrying firewood. The Daghdha is forced into artisanal service building a ráth. (4) The Sky God, as lawspeaker, gives the Shaman God a plan to ritually blemish the sovereignty of Breas by forcing him to give a bad judgment ("Breas’s judgment will not be good afterward"). The reason for the choice of the black heifer is that at the appropriate moment it will bellow and stampede all the cattle Breas has taken as tributes (CMT 163f). (5) Breas now weakens his position still further by failing to provide the hospitality required of a king. (6) He is then forced to abdicate his sovereignty, but retires to assemble "the strong men of the síodh" i.e. the gods of Function 3, in order to take his revenge. The myth of the armed struggle between the gods of Function 3 and the gods of Functions 1 and 2, ending with the defeat of the former, has been completely obliterated, except for a few fragments, by the grafting of this myth cycle onto that of the conflict between Lugh and Balar (Chapter 1). Myth 3 THE RANSOMING OF BREAS Afterwards Breas was brought to bay. "It would be better to release me than kill me," he said. "Why so?" asked Lugh. "The cows of Ireland will always be in milk," he said, "if you release me." "I shall consult with our wise men," said Lugh. Then he went to Maoiltne of the Great Judgments and asked: "Shall we release Breas in exchange for everlasting milk in the cows of Ireland?" "No," said Maoiltne, "he can keep them in milk while they are alive, but he has no power over their ageing or their offspring." "That will not release you" Lugh said to Breas, "You have no power over their ageing or their offspring although you can keep them in milk while they are alive." "May bloody blows mark Maoiltne!" said Breas. "Is there anything else, Breas," asked Lugh, "that would release you?" "Yes. Tell your lawspeaker: they will reap a harvest in every season in exchange for my release." Lugh asked Maoiltne, "Shall we release Breas in exchange for a corn harvest in every season for the men of Ireland?" "What we have" said Maoiltne, "is Spring for plowing and sowing, the beginning of Summer for finishing this, Summer for strengthening the corn and beginning to ripen, Autumn for finishing the ripening and reaping the corn, Winter for consuming it." "That will not save you," said Lugh to Breas. "May bloody blows mark Maoiltne!" said Breas. "Less than that would release you," said Lugh. "What?" asked Breas. "When shall the men of Ireland plow and sow and reap? You will be released in
exchange for this knowledge." "Tell them: plow on Tuesday, sow on Tuesday, reap on Tuesday." Then they released Breas through this trick. (Source: CMT 149-161) The battle is over and the fate of Breas must be decided. It is probable that in the original version it was the Shaman God and not Lugh who brought him to bay. This is shown by the incident (which follows this myth in the text) where Lugh, the Daghdha and Oghma pursue the Daghdha’s stolen harp and come to the feasting house "where Breas son of Ealadha and Ealadha son of Dealbhaoth were" (CMT 163f). This is evidently a fragment of the lost "Battle against the Commoner Gods" and the point in it at which Breas and his father, the Smith God, were brought to bay in the feasting house (the Smith God is a hospitaller) by the Daghdha and Oghma - Lugh being added later under the influence of the other cycle. Maoiltne is clearly doing duty for Earc, the lawspeaker of the gods. Thus, schematically. (l) The Shaman God and the Wind God (Oghma) bring Breas and his father to bay. (2) Breas offers ransom. Hs makes three offers, all connected with Function 3 activities. The divine lawspeaker rejects the first two, since they are an attempt to subvert social and cosmic order. The third is accepted since it changes nothing. Myth 4 THE SLAYING OF BREAS Breas was offered as tribute the drink of a hundred from each roof tree, in the form of milk from dun cows. They singed all the cows of Munster over ferns until they turned black. Then Lugh directed the fashioning of three hundred wooden cattle and assembled them. Pails were set under their udders and reddish bog water was milked from them. Breas came into the milking yard to assess them and three hundred buckets of the bitter liquid were measured out for him. He was under taboo not to refuse whatever was offered to him and so drank it all and died. (Source: MD 3.218-222) This myth appears to be an alternative ending to the cycle of the Unsuitable King. The king is not driven from the kingdom but assassinated in a rather unpleasant way. Myth 5 THE THREE WHITE ONES OF EAMHAIN At the instigation of their mother, the Three White Ones of Eamhain, Breas, Nár and Lothar, rose up against their father, Eocha Feidhleach, to seize the kingship from him. Eocha retired from Cruachain before them. When the three reached Cruachain, their sister Clothrann was waiting alone for them on the hill of Cruachain. They did not recognize her. One by one they approached her and raped her. She allowed this so that their truth of battle should be spoiled and Eocha maintained in his kingship. The two armies met at Droim Criaich and the Three White Ones were defeated and killed. (Source: MD 4.43 collated with CCum 1-8) In this myth, Breas has become a trinity and the background has changed. The Unsuitable King rapes Sovereignty (incarnate as his sister) and thus forfeits his claim to kingship.
Myth 6 BREASAL COWPLAGUE In the time of Breasal Cowplague there came a plague on all the cows of Ireland which left only seven cows and one bull. Breasal took hostages from the men of Ireland and compelled them to come together and build the hill of Cnodhbha for him all in one day. His sister said that she would stop the course of the sun so that there would only be day, no night, until the work was complete. She stretched forth her hands and stopped the sun in its course. Then Breasal was seized by foolishness and came to his sister. He committed incest with her and broke the spell. Night came immediately and thus the hill is still incomplete. (Source: MD 3.42-44) In this myth, Breas has become Breasal but is still recognisably the same. As he is an Unsuitable King, plague breaks out among the cattle of his kingdom. He compounds this by an orgy of ráth-building (compare Myth 2 above) and by incest with his sister (compare Myth 5 above). Another source informs us that he was slain by Lughaidh Luaighne (CGH 120) who is obviously doing duty for the Lugh of Myth 4 above.
Chapter 9 STORM INCARNATE The three myths included in this chapter belong to the cycle of Cú Chulainn, incarnation of Lugh, the Storm God. Myth 1 THE BIRTH OF CÚ CHULAINN Conchubhar and the nobles of the Ulaidh were in Eamhain. Birds attacked the plain near Eamhain and cropped it, leaving not a root of grass or herb. The Ulaidh were enraged, seeing them destroy their land. They yoked nine chariots to hunt them, Conchubhar sat in his chariot with his daughter Deichtine who was then nubile. She was her father’s charioteer. The warriors of the Ulaidh were all in their chariots - Conall and Laoghaire and everyone else. Bricre was also with them. The birds fled before them across Sliabh Fuaid, Eadhmhainn and Breagha. There were nine score birds with a silver chain between each pair. Each score was in a separate flight. Three birds separated off from the rest towards nightfall and went before them to the Bruigh. Then night fell on the Ulaidh. It was snowing heavily. Conchubhar told his people to unyoke their chariots and look for lodgings. Conall and Bricre went looking. They found a new house and entered it. There was a couple inside who welcomed them. They went back to their people. Bricre said it was not worth them going to a house without cloak or food. Nevertheless they went, bringing their chariots. They found nothing much in the house. By the time it was time for them to eat, the Ulaidh were drunk and happy. Then the householder said his wife was in labor in the kitchen. Deichtine went in to her and she gave birth to a boy. A mare at the door of the house gave birth to two foals. The Ulaidh took the boy and gave him the foals as a birth gift. Deichtine adopted him. When dawn came, they saw to the east of the Bruigh: no house no birds, just their own horses and the boy with his foals. Then they came back to Eamhain. They reared the boy but he took sick and died. They buried him and Deichtine was very sad at his death. Coming back from the funeral, she felt like a drink. She asked for a drink out of a copper vessel. It was brought to her. However she brought it to her lips, a small insect leaped across the beer into her mouth. She swallowed it. That night when she was asleep, she saw a man coming towards her. He said she would be pregnant with him. It was he that led her to the Bruigh. It was his son she had adopted. And he himself was now in her womb and would be called Séadanta. He was Lugh and the foals were reared for the boy. Then Deichtine was pregnant. This was a source of great comment for the Ulaidh since she had no known husband. It was considered that Conchubhar had done it when drunk, since she used to sleep by his side. Then Conchubhar betrothed her to Sualdamh mac Róich. She was much ashamed at going pregnant to the man. And when she was going to the bed, the sides of her vagina pressed together so that she was a virgin. Then she went to the man, became pregnant again and gave birth to a son. Culann the smith fostered him. He killed the smith’s dog afterward while playing as a boy. Then he said: "I shall be your hound." So he was called Cú Chulainn. (Source: CC 3-8) This is a simple incarnation myth, the means used being the small insect which we have already noted in Chapter 2 Myth 2. As is appropriate, the birth of Cú Chulainn mirrors that of Lugh: the first boy dies (compare Chapter 1 Myth 1). The significance of the two foals is not clear, unless they form part of a lost myth telling how the
adolescent Cú Chulainn acquired his two horses, the Liath Macha and the Dubh Saighleann. Myth 2 CÚ CHULAINN VISITS THE OTHERWORLD The Ulaidh used to hold a fair in Magh Muirtheimhne every year: three days before Samhain, three days after it and the day of Samhain itself. Once when they were there, some birds descended on the lake. There were no fairer birds in Ireland and the women all wanted them and started quarreling. "I choose a bird for each of my shoulders," said Conchubhar’s wife. "We all choose the same thing," said the women. "If anyone gets some, I shall be the first," said Cú Chulainn’s wife. Then they all went to Cú Chulainn and pestered him to get the birds for them. He agreed and caught them but, when he came to share them out, every woman received her share except his own wife. So he promised, next time any birds came to Magh Muirtheimhne or Bóinn, that she should have the most beautiful pair. Soon after, two birds linked by a gold chain descended on the lake. They sang and sleep fell on the host. Cú Chulainn rose up to get them. His wife tried to stop him. He threw a sling stone at the birds and missed. And another. And another. Then he cast his javelin and it went through the wing of one bird. They disappeared. Cú Chulainn came and rested his back on a pillar stone and was dispirited. He fell asleep. He saw two women coming towards him, one in a green cloak and the other in a fivefold purple cloak. The one in the green cloak came up to him, smiled and then hit him with her horsewhip. The other woman did the same. They continued in this fashion until he was almost dead. Then they left him. All the Ulaidh heard this and said to wake him. "No," said Fearghas, "don’t move him. He’s having a vision." Then he woke up. "What happened to you?" asked the Ulaidh. He could not answer. Then they carried him away and he was one year without speaking to anyone. One day before Samhain next year, when the Ulaidh were around him in the house, a man came in and sat on the edge of Cú Chulainn’s bed. "What brought you here?" asked Conall Cearnach. "If this man were well, he would be a surety for all the Ulaidh. Sick and wounded as he is, he is even more of a surety. I fear no one, since I have come to speak with him." "You are welcome. Don’t fear." said the Ulaidh. Then he said to Cú Chulainn: "This lingering sickness is not good. If the daughters of Aodh Abhrad were with you, they would cure you. Lí Bhan, who sits at the right hand of Labhraidh Luath in Magh Cruaich sends this message: Fann wishes to make love to Cú Chulainn. It would be a great day if Cú Chulainn came to my land. He would have silver and gold and wine. If he were my friend, perhaps he would be able to tell what he saw in his dream when separated from his companions. There in the south, in Magh Muirtheimhne, Lí Bhan will come to you." "Who are you?" they asked. "I am Aonghas son of Aodh Abhrad," he said, and disappeared. Then Cú Chulainn got up and spoke. "It was about time," said the Ulaidh, "Tell us what happened to you." He told them his vision of the previous Samhain. Then Conchubhar told him to go to the same pillar stone. The woman in the green cloak came to him there and greeted him. She explained that she had come on behalf of Fann daughter of Aodh Abhrad. Manannán mac Lir had left her and she had fallen in love with Cú Chulainn. "I am Lí Bhan," she said, "and I have a message from my husband Labhraidh Luathlámh ar Cloidheamh. He will give you the woman in exchange for a day’s fighting against Seanach Siabhairthe, Eochaidh Iúil and Eoghan Inbhir." "I am in no form for fighting today," said Cú Chulainn.
"That will not last," said Lí Bhan, "you will be well and get your strength back. You must do this for Labhraidh because he is the best warrior in the world." "Where is he?" asked Cú Chulainn. "In Magh Meall," she said. "Let Laogh go with you" said Cú Chulainn, "to see your land." So Lí Bhan and Cú Chulainn’s charioteer Laogh went to Fann. Lí Bhan took Laogh by the shoulder. "You will not live through today, Laogh," she said, "unless a woman protects you." "I have not been used to women’s protection till now" he said. "It’s a pity Cú Chulainn is not in your place," said Lí Bhan. "It is indeed," said Laogh, "I should much prefer it." They they went to the island in a bronze boat and reached the house where Fann was. There they waited for Labhraidh. They heard his chariot coming. "Labhraidh is bad-tempered today" said Lí Bhan, "let us go and speak with him." Lí Bhan hailed Labhraidh Luathlámh ar Cloidheamh three times and then informed him that Laogh, Cú Chulainn’s charioteer, had come and that Cú Chulainn would come himself. Labhraidh welcomed him then and sent him back accompanied by Lí Bhan. Laogh returned to Eamhain and told his tale to Cú Chulainn and the rest. Cú Chulainn was much comforted and set off in his chariot with Laogh and Lí Bhan to the island. Labhraidh welcomed him and showed him to the battle field. "Leave me now" said Cú Chulainn. Labhraidh left him and the battle began. Eochaidh Iúil went to the spring to wash his hands early in the morning and Cú Chulainn speared him through the shoulder. Then he attacked Seanach Siabhairthe and killed him. Labhraidh came and begged him to stop the slaughter. Laogh said Cú Chulainn had not had enough fighting, so they prepared the three vats for him. The first vat he entered, the water boiled. No one could stand the heat of the second vat. The heat of the third vat was moderate. After the battle Fann welcomed him. Eventually Fann returned to Manannán and Cú Chulainn returned to his own wife. Manannán shook his cloak between Cú Chulainn and Fann so that they would never meet again. (Source: LU 3221-3227, 3243-3436, 3777-3855, 4011-4039, SCC) This myth has come down to us in a much romanticized form and, indeed, such as it is, it seems at first glance to be a hotchpotch of mythological elements haphazardly flung together with a beautiful, if uninspiring, heroine cast in for good measure. The fact that the tale, in the manuscript, is in the form of a patchwork quilt of two recensions of the same story grossly stitched together does not help. Nevertheless, the basic schema is as follows: (l) The Wind God, as Labhraidh (=Nuadha), sends his wife the Moon Goddess, as Lí Bhan, to request the incarnate Storm God’s help against a trinity of enemy gods. (2) Cú Chulainn obliges and defeats them. The myth is thus either (a) a mirroring of the struggle with Balar (Chapter 1) or (b) a mirroring of the struggle with the Commoner Gods (Chapter 8). Myth 3 THE FEAST OF BRICRE POISONTONGUE Bricre Poisontongue made a great feast for Conchubhar and all the Ulaidh. He was a year preparing it and he built a house to hold it at Dún Rudhraighe. He made a bower for himself with a window overlooking the great hall, because he knew that the Ulaidh would not allow him to remain in the hall. Bricre went to Eamhain Mhacha when the Ulaidh were holding a fair. They greeted him. "Come and eat my feast," he said.
"I am willing," said Conchubhar, "if the Ulaidh are." Fearghas and the nobles of the Ulaidh said: "We shall not go because our dead will be more numerous than our living by the time Bricre has stirred us up, if we go to eat his feast." "What I shall do if you don’t come," said Bricre, "will be worse." "What will you do?" asked Conchubhar. "I shall stir up the kings and the leaders and the warriors and the farmers until they start killing each other. I shall stir up father and son against each other. I shall stir up mother and daughter against each other. I shall stir up the two breasts of every woman of the Ulaidh against each other." "We had better go," said Fearghas. Then the nobles of the Ulaidh took counsel. "Very well," said Seancha, "since you have to go with Bricre, take sureties from him and place eight swordsmen around him to ensure that he leaves the hall as soon as he has shown you the feast." When Bricre was informed of this, he thought of a way to stir up the Ulaidh nevertheless and went to see Laoghaire Buadhach. "Greetings, Laoghaire," he said, "why should the hero’s measure of Eamhain not be yours for ever?" "If I wished, it would be," said Laoghaire. "I shall get you the sovereignty of the warriors of Ireland," said Bricre, "if you follow my advice." "I will," said Laoghaire. Then Bricre went to Conall Cearnach. "Greetings, Conall," he said, "why should the hero’s measure of Eamhain not be yours for ever?" If he had flattered Laoghaire, he flattered Conall Cearnach twice as much. After stirring up Conall as he wished, he went to Cú Chulainn. "Greetings, Cú Chulainn," he said, "why should you leave the hero’s measure to anyone else of the Ulaidh, since no one in Ireland can stand against you?" "I swear by my people’s gods," said Cú Chulainn, "that anyone who contends with me for it will end up headless." Then they went to the hall. When Bricre had shown them the feast with all its garnishings, he was ordered out of the hall on the honor of his sureties. The sureties arose then with naked swords to drive him from the hall. Bricre and his household retired to the bower. On leaving the hall, he said: "That hero’s measure is not the hero’s measure of a slut’s house. Give it to the warrior you think best among the Ulaidh." With that he left them. The charioteer of Laoghaire Buadhach got up. "Serve that hero’s measure to Laoghaire Buadhach," he said. Conall Cearnach’s charioteer got up and said the same. Then Laogh got up: "Give that to Cú Chulainn," he said, "It is no shame for the Ulaidh to give it to him because he is your best hero." "That is not true," said Conall Cearnach and Laoghaire Buadhach together. The three of them leaped to the center of the hall raising their shields and drawing their swords. Not a man of the Ulaidh dared play the peacemaker until Seancha told Conchubhar to separate them. Then Conchubhar and Fearghas came between them. They dropped their hands to their sides at once. "Do my bidding," said Seancha. "We shall," they said. "Then let that hero’s measure be divided up tonight among all the company. Then go and let Oilill judge it, since this will be a source of everlasting contention among the Ulaidh unless it is judged in Cruachain." Then they served food and drink and got merry. Three days and three nights later all the Ulaidh went to the judgment of Oilill at
Cruachain. The Ulaidh came all together and Oilill and Meadhbh and all their household went out to welcome them. Oilill asked Conchubhar why they had come. Seancha explained the case - that they dared not have the quarrel of the three heroes about the hero’s measure settled elsewhere than in Cruachain. When Oilill heard this, he was silent for a long time and troubled in his mind. "It was no friendly act to send the case of these heroes to me," he said. "No one could settle it better than you," said Seancha. "I need time to study it," said Oilill. "We need our heroes," said Seancha, "they are valuable." "Three days and three nights will be enough for me," said Oilill. "That is not excessive," said Seancha. Then the Ulaidh took their leave and went heaping blessings on Oilill and Meadhbh and curses on Bricre who had started it all. Laoghaire, Conall and Cú Chulainn were left awaiting Oilill’s judgment. Oilill retired to his private chamber and abstained from food for three days and three nights. Then Meadhbh said: "You’re scared. If you don’t give judgment, then I will." She sent for Laoghaire Buadhach and greeted him. "You are worthy to receive the hero’s measure," she said, "and a bronze cup with an electrum bird in the middle." She gave him the cup and sent him on his way. Then she summoned Conall Cearnach and said: "You are worth to receive the hero’s measure and an electrum cup with a gold bird in the middle." She gave him the cup and sent him on his way. Then Cú Chulainn was sent for, told the same thing and given a gold cup full of special wine and a jewelled bird in the middle. In addition he received two dragon’s eyes. When the three heroes returned to Eamhain and showed their gifts one after the other, each claiming judgment in their favour, uproar ensued. Laoghaire and Conall accused Cú Chulainn of stealing the cup and all three attacked each other with drawn swords. Conchubhar and Fearghas again stopped them. This time the Ulaidh decided to send the three to Cú Raoi for judgement. They agreed to this. So the next morning the three set off for Cathair Chon Raoi. They were welcomed by Cú Raoi’s wife, Bláthnat, since Cú Raoi was not at home that night. But he had known of their coming and advised his wife how to deal with them until such time as he came back from his journey to the east (for Cú Raoi never reddened his sword in Ireland and he never ate the food of Ireland after the age of seven). When it was time to go to bed, the woman said that each man was to stand watch over the cathair for one night until Cú Raoi came home. Wherever in the world Cú Raoi might be, he always chanted a spell over his cathair every night so that it revolved swifter than a millstone; thus its door could never be found after sunset. Laoghaire stood watch the first night. He sat in the watcher’s chair till the end of the night when he saw a phantom far out at sea coming in from the west. It was enormous, for he could see the horizon between its thighs. It was carrying two handfuls of oak trunks, each one the full load for an ox team and each trunk had been felled with one sword stroke. It threw an armful of them at him. Laoghaire dodged. It repeated the operation a couple of times but did not reach hide or hair of Laoghaire. Laoghaire cast a spear at it but missed. Then it stretched out its hand to Laoghaire. Now Laoghaire was a big man but he fitted in the phantom’s hand as if he were a month-old baby and he was rubbed between its palms like a chessman bobbing on a mill stream. When he was half dead, the phantom threw him over the cathair wall and he landed on the dung heap at the door of the royal house. The next night it was Conall’s turn and exactly the same thing happened to him. The third night, Cú Chulainn went to the watcher’s chair. Now that was the night that three groups of nine had planned to raid the cathair And that was the night that cathair. the water beast in the lake near the cathair was fated to carry off everything on its bank, both people and cattle. At midnight he heard a noise coning and the three groups of nine attacked. He slew
them all. Towards the end of the night, he heard the lake churning and saw the water beast rising. He leaped towards it, seized it by the throat, shoved his hand down its gullet and tore out its heart, which he threw to the ground. The water beast died then. He returned to the watcher’s chair and, towards dawn, he saw the phantom coming in from the west. "This is going to be a bad night," said the phantom. "It will be worse for you," said Cú Cholainn. It stretched out its hand to seize Cú Chulainn as it had the other men. Cú Chulainn gave a fighter’s salmon leap and seized it. "A life for a life, Cú Chulainn," it said. "Give me my three wishes, then," said Cú Chulainn. "I will - as much as you can say with one breath." "The sovereignty of the warriors of Ireland for me from now on and the hero’s measure without opposition and precedence for my wife for ever over all the wives of the Ulaidh." "You shall have them," said the phantom and disappeared. Soon after, they saw Cú Raoi coming home. He judged in favor of Cú Chulainn and the three returned to Eamhain. Once there, however, the other two would admit nothing of Cú Raoi’s judgment. One night all the Ulaidh, except the three heroes, were in Eamhain in the Craobhruadh. They saw a hideous peasant coming in. He was twice as big as any of the warriors of the Ulaidh, dressed in an old tunic and a dark gray cloak as big as a winter stable for thirty calves. He held a block heavy enough for twenty yoke of oxen in his left hand and a huge ax in his right that was so sharp that it would shave a hair against the wind. He came and stood by the fire. "Is the hall too narrow for you," said Dubhthach Blacktongue, "that you can find no other place than blocking the fire? Or do you wish to take over the lighting arrangements? You are more likely to light the house than be a light for the household." "That is my craft - maybe I could give the household light enough without lighting the house. But that is not my only craft, I have others." Then he said: "I am excepting Conchubhar because he is king and Fearghas because he is of equal rank. Other than those two, let whoever dares cut off my head tonight and I shall cut off his tomorrow night." Then Muinreamhar got up, took the ax from the peasant and beheaded him, filling the hearth with blood. The peasant got up, took up his head, his block and his ax in his arms and left the hall. Next night he came again - but Muinreamhar was missing. Laoghaire was present and beheaded him. Next night he came again - but Laoghaire was missing. Conall was present and beheaded him. Then he came the fourth night, Conall was missing. Cú Chulainn leaped up and beheaded him, sending his head up to the rafters of the Craobhruadh. Next night he came again. "Where is Cú Chulainn?" he asked. "I am here" said Cú Chulainn. Cú Chulainn stretched his head on the block. The peasant raised his ax - and brought the blunt side gently down on Cú Chulainn’s neck. "Get up, Cú Chulainn," he said, "yours is the sovereignty of the warriors of Ireland from now on and the hero’s measure without opposition and precedence for your wife over the wives of the Ulaidh for ever to the ale house." Then the peasant disappeared. It was Cú Raoi who came in this form to complete the bargain he had made with Cú Chulainn. (Source: FB 1-16, 42, 54-62, 72-102)
The mechanics of this myth are simple but the story line has become much elaborated in the telling. Bricre Poisontongue is, of course, the Smith God and his feast is the Feast of Gaibhneann. Cú Chulainn is the incarnate Storm God, Lugh. Conall Cearnach, as we saw in Chapter 5 Myth 2, incarnates the Shaman God, the Daghdha. Laoghaire Buadhach, all blustering strength, incarnates the Wind God in his non-royal form, the god of strength, Oghma. Meadhbh is the Earth Goddess as goddess of sovereignty. Cú Raoi is the Fire God, here wearing his aspect of Judge of the Dead. The schema is as follows: (l) The Smith God prepares his feast for the gods. (2) The gods agree to eat it but without the Smith God being present. Here the residue of the caste conflict seen in Chapter 8 is more than noticeable. (3) The Smith God nevertheless manages to disrupt the proceedings by setting the Storm God Lugh (Cú Chulainn), the Shaman God (Daghdha: Conall Cearnach) and the Wind God (Oghma:Laoghaire Buadhach) at loggerheads with each other over the question of precedence (the hero’s measure). (4) The question is referred to the Earth Goddess, as Sovereignty, for judgment. She accepts all three since such is the nature of sovereignty but indicates her preferred order (the cups). (5) The question is referred to the , as judge of the Dead. He tests them one by one, revealing himself to none, and again judgment is given in favor of the Storm God. Kena Upanishad, which is post Vedic but contains elements of Vedic age, contains the following myth - here given in précis form: The Shaman God (Brahma) conquered by using the gods. The gods considered that they had won the victory by their own efforts. Brahma appeared to them and they did not recognise him. They asked the (Agni) to find out who it was. He agreed. Brahma asked him what powers he had. Agni said that he could burn everything. Brahma placed a wisp of straw before him and told him to burn it. Agni failed. They asked the Wind God (Vayu) to find out who it was. He agreed. Brahma asked him what powers he had. Vayu said he could pick up anything on the earth’s surface. Brahma told him to pick up the wisp. Vayu failed. They asked the Storm God (Indra) to find out who it was. He agreed. Brahma disappeared. Indra retired but met the goddess Uma (Sovereignty) who told him that it was Brahma. Thus these three gods are the greatest, Agni Vayu Indra. But Indra has sovereignty over tho other two since he approached nearest to Brahma. The Irish Myth is innovatory, since the Shaman God and the have changed places, but it is undoubtedly derived like the above Indian Myth, from a common Indoeuropean myth about the relative powers and positions of Function l and Function 2 gods.
These, then, are the myths of the gods, in as far as I have been able to track them down and isolate them. There are hints here and there of other myths which have been lost, just as we know that some stories were lost: we have their titles and no more. However, it is unlikely that an appreciable proportion of the myths have been lost: traces of them would turn up in the popular tradition, if nowhere else. It may be objected that there is no Creation Myth and, beyond the single hint in Chapter 4 Myth 3, no Doomsday Myth, but many religions - especially those which, like Irish paganism, include a belief in reincarnation - view life as a continuous present. To the Irish pagan the world of man was present, typified in his own tuath which he knew formed part of a larger whole which was Ireland and which in turn was bounded by sea beyond which there were other lands. The world of the gods was equally present, but usually unseen. The gods were his gods - the gods by which his tuath swore. He probably knew of other tuaths which worshiped other gods - or the same gods under different names. The fact that this religion was tailored to Irish society is manifest in the extraordinary tenacity with which, at popular level, it survived the introduction and officialization of Christianity. The very names of the Sea God, Manannán, and the judge of the Dead, Donn, survived into the twentieth century and they and other gods, become nameless with time, were propitiated in furtive and humble ways - the offering of the first drop of a bottle of whiskey opened on a fishing boat, a scrap of rag placed on a hawthorn bush. Fifth and sixth century monastic Christianity was the bearer of material innovations - bee keeping, watermills and writing - and the prestige of Rome. As such, it found a foothold in the royal houses of Ireland and then spread out to become officialized. Nevertheless, the native religion survived in two ways: indirectly, by introducing its gods into the new pantheon of saints and its concepts into local Christian practice and, directly, as itself, gradually sinking lower on the scale of social acceptability and becoming more localized, but nevertheless continuing to play a vigorous if discreet role. The Irish, for a very very long time after their official baptism, continued to act like tolerant polytheists, cheerfully adding the new gods to those already in place, just as they added the new monastic caste to their legal system - but casting out nothing of their own tradition. That is why so much of the mythology of the gods has survived, not only in twelfth century manuscripts, but in the popular tradition as recorded in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
SELECT INDEX Abhcán 9, 40, 58 Aditi 34 Adsmerios 28 Aesir 33, 80 Agni 9, 33, 89 Aillen 9 Áine 7, 9, 17, 30, 56, 77 Airmheadh 14, 41 Albios 29 Anann 15, 25 Anextlomaros 31 Aodh 7, 9, 21, 27, 60, 77 Aodh Abhrad 85
Aoibhleán 9, 27, 55 Aonghas 8, 19, 27, 52, 53, 56, 77 Apam Napat 19, 34 Apollo 8, 13, 21, 28 artisan god 41, 67 Arverniatis 28 Arvernorix 28 Arvernos 28 Aryaman 33, 34 Asvina 35 Atepomaros 31 Atesmerios 28 Áth Liag 13, 21, 61 Badhbh 12, 15, 17, 25, 30, 50, 72 Balar 9, 12, 14, 21, 22, 29, 33, 36, 38, 42, 55, 61, 69, 80, 86 Bann 18, 67 Banna 18 Beag Mac Dé 78 Bealtaine 26, 29, 62, 66 Bé bhFionn 8, 12, 19, 21, 26, 34, 44, 45, 49, 67 Bé Leighis 14, 17 Belen 29 Belenos 26, 29 Belisama 30 Bé Néid 12, 15, 25 Bé nGaibhneachta 14, 17, 57 Bé Thoinne 61 Bláithín/Bláthnat 68, 88 boat, bronze/copper - 9, 57, 68, 85 Bodhbh Dearg 22, 53, 70, 77 Bóinn 7, 18, 20, 22, 42, 48, 52, 53, 59, 60, 67 Bormo/Borvo 29 Boyne 8, 9, 18, 26, 44, 52, 56, 57, 58, 70 Brahma 89 Bran mac Feabhail 13, 62 Breas 21, 35, 80 Brhati 34 Brian 21 Bricre Poisontongue 14, 21, 84, 86 -, feast of 14, 86 Brigantia 17, 30 Brighid 7, 9, 14, 17, 20, 25, 30, 34 -, saint 17 Brí Léith 44, 52 Bruigh na Bóinne 8, 9, 18, 26, 44, 52, 56, 76, 84 Buchad 22, 35, 54 bull feast 47 bulls, the two 22, 70, 73 Bussumaros 29 Cacher/Caithear 11 Camulodunon 20 Camulos 11, 20, 28, 29 Caoilte mac Rónáin 9, 63 Caor 17, 53 carpenter god 14
Carros Cicinos 31 Cassibodua 15, 30 Cathair Chon Raoi 10, 68, 87 Caturix 29 Céadach 22 Cearmaid 7, 9 Cernunnos 28, 68 Cian 10, 12, 14, 34, 36, 67 Cicollus 15, 29 Circe 17 Cissonios 28 Cleiteach 8, 44, 52, 79 Clothrann 16, 25, 83 club of life and death 7, 15, 39, 68 Cnabetios 31 Cnoc Fírinne 9 Cnucha 21, 60 Cnú Dearóil 35 Cobledulitavos 31 Cocidius 29 commoner king 20, 21, 25, 80 Conaire Mór 9, 46, 65 Conall Cearnach 67, 84, 86 Conla the Red 63 Conn Céadchathach 47, 53, 55, 60, 63 Contrebis 31 Corb 22, 50 Cormac 26, 64, 78 Créidhne 14, 39, 41 Cruachain 16, 22, 53, 60, 67, 70, 83 Cú Chulainn 9, 16, 29, 57, 68, 71, 98 Cumhall 11, 20, 60 Cú Raoi 9, 27, 68, 87 Dá Dearga 9, 49, 50 Daghdha 7, 17, 32, 38, 39, 44, 52, 53, 68, 80, 82, 89 Dáire mac Fiachna 70 Damona 29, 30 Danu 35 Danube 29 Dar Earca 19, 35 dawn goddess 7, 9, 14, 17, 21, 22, 26, 30, 34, 57, 67 dead, judge of - 8, 9, 33, 53, 68, 73, 89 death 60, 64, 67 Deichtine 10, 48, 84 Deirbhreann 15, 17, 25, 30, 54, 67, 73 -, pigs of 16, 17, 54, 67 Delbaeth 21 Dervonae 30 Dian Céacht 11, 12, 13, 17, 35, 38, 39, 41, 67 Diarmaid mac Cearbhaill 78 Dil, oxen of - 18 Dis 28 divine food 20, 21, 59 Dôn 15, 28 Donann 15, 21, 25 Donn 9, 28, 33, 49, 67, 90
drought god 7, 9, 10, 12, 22, 27, 29, 32, 34, 36, 38, 42, 69 Dumhach 9 Dumiatis 28 Dyau 33 Éadain 17, 19, 44, 45 Éadar 45 Ealadha 21, 80 Eamhain Abhlach 10, 13, 37, 76 Eamhain Mhacha 16, 75, 86 Earc (bishop) 8, 27 Earc (cow) 67 Earc (god) 7, 8, 19, 27, 33, 44, 52, 58, 73, 82 earth goddess 7, 10, 12, 15, 19, 21, 25, 27, 29, 33, 44, 50, 51, 54, 55, 73, 76, 80, 89 Eas 47 Easach 13 Eas Ruaidh 9 Eathal 53 Ebron 7 Éibhleann 56 Eidirscéal 46 Éile 16 Éire 21, 80 Eithne (Bóinn) 22, 52 Eithne (goddess) 10, 12, 14, 22, 25, 36, 37, 61, 69 Eithne (river) 16, 22 Elcmar 8, 44, 52 elements, the four 24, 40 end of world 61 Engleic 19 Eocha Aireamh 12, 20, 45 Eocha Feidhleach 16, 54, 83 Eocha mac Maireadha 56 Eochaidh Ollathair 7, 27 Eoghabhal 7, 9, 17, 56, 65 Epona 18, 30 Ercmar 8, 19 Ernbas 16 Esus 28 Fann 85 Fear Beann 8, 28, 68 Fear Coille 49 Fear Í 7, 9, 17, 56, 65 Fear Toinne 77 Fionn mac Cumhaill 9, 11, 19, 26, 29, 55, 60, 61, 63 Fiontan 9 fire god 7, 8, 15, 17, 27, 28, 32, 33, 41, 52, 61, 68, 69, 89 Flann 13, 21, 61 Fliodhais 55, 67 Fomhóire 37, 38, 39, 69, 80 Fothadh Airgdeach 9, 62 Four Great Goddesses 7, 15, 20, 25 Fraoch 19, 60, 67 Freyr 32 Frighrinn 9
Fuamnach 12, 15, 19, 25, 44, 45 Fuarán Garadh 50, 70 functions, tripartite - 24, 75 Gaibhneann 14, 17, 34, 36, 38, 41, 42, 67 -, cow of 15, 36, 67 -, feast of 19, 35, 89 Gandharva 35 ghost cattle 55, 67 Giolla Deacair 28 Glas Cruinn 70 Gnâs 18, 34 Gofannon 14, 28 Goll 9, 60 Grannos 29 Gwyn ap Nudd 11, 20 Hercules 12, 29 Hodur 58 Horned Man, see Fear Beann Ialonos 31 Indra 33, 35, 41, 89 Indus 18, 38 Inneach 80 Iombolg 18, 26, 69, 71 Irish gods, list of 22 Iuchar 14, 17, 22, 35 Iucharbha 14, 17, 22, 35 Iuchna 22, 30, 68 Jupiter 29 Kena upanishad 89 Labhraidh Luath(lámh ar Cloidheamh) 11, 19, 59, 85 Labhrann 62 Lá Fhéile Bríde 26 Laogh 85 Laoghaire Buadhach 68, 85, 86 lawspeaker 8, 27, 52, 58, 73 Leucetios 29 Leucimalacos 29 Lí Bhan 19, 85 Linn Féig 9, 57 Lir of Síodh Fionnachaidh 77 Litavi 15, 29 Lleu Llawgyffes 10, 28 Lludd 11 Llydaw 15 Lóch 29, 73 Loch Béal Dragon 53 Loki 32 Lothra 16 luan 26, 65 Luchtaine 14, 39, 41 Lugh Lámhfhada 10, 12, 13, 14, 21, 26, 29, 32, 33, 35, 36, 37, 38, 40, 42, 44, 48,
60, 69, 81, 82, 83, 84 Lughaidh Laoighdhe 78 Lughaidh Mac Con 56, 78 Lughaidh Riabh nDearg 47 Lughnasadh 26, 42 Lugudunon 10, 29 Lugus/Lugoves 10, 29 Luichead 21, 60 Mabon 8, 28 Macan Óg 7, 8, 12, 17, 19, 44, 52, 53, 54, 56, 77, 81 Mac Céacht 49, 50 Macha 15, 25, 75, 78 Magh Inis 44 Magh Meall 63, 85 Magh Tuireadh 8, 10, 14, 17, 36 Maia 30 Manannán mac Lir 10, 13, 26, 29, 32, 36, 59, 62, 64, 65, 76, 85, 90 -, pigs of 13, 65 -, shoes of 13, 64 -, silver branch of 13, 62, 64 Manawyddan fab Llyr 13 Maoiltne 82 Maponos 8, 28 Marne 8, 30 Mars 11, 15, 20, 28, 29 Maruts 35, 38 Matres Nemetiales 30 Matronae 29, 30 Meadhbh 16, 17, 25, 53, 54, 55, 60, 67, 70, 87, 89 Meas Buachalla 46 Mercury 28 Miach (god) 14, 41 Miach (snake) 67 Midhir 9, 11, 12, 15, 19, 20, 41, 44, 45, 48, 52, 77 Minerva 30 Mitra 7, 33, 34 Moccos 28 Modron 8 Moirríoghan 7, 15, 25, 29, 33, 38, 40, 42, 54, 71 Molua 11 Mongán mac Fiachna 9, 26, 61 moon god 34 moon goddess 8, 12, 17, 19, 29, 30, 34, 41, 44, 45, 46, 68, 86 Mughain 16, 25 Mugh Roith 14, 69 Muircheartach mac Earca 79 Muireasc 16 Muirne 60 Neachtan 9, 11, 12, 18, 20, 26, 29, 32, 34, 56, 59, 68 -, spring of 18, 21, 29, 30, 59 Neamhan 12, 25, 25, 50 Neamhghlan 47 Neara 71, 72 Néid 12 Nemetona 29, 30
Neptune/Neptunus 20, 26, 29 Nerthus 26, 32 Newgrange see Bruigh na Bóinne Nimes, Mothers of 30 Nine Great Gods 7, 15, 22, 51 Nine Hazels of Críonmhann 20, 21, 59, 60 Njordur 26, 32 Nodens/Nodons 11, 29 Nuadha Airgeadlámh 10, 11, 14, 18, 29, 32, 37, 40, 80, 86 Nudd 11, 28 numinous knowledge (imbus 19, 20, 21, 25, 34, 48 imbus) imbus Ochaill Oichne 22, 70 Ochaine 22, 31, 68 Odhras 16, 73 Odin 28, 32 Oghma 12, 23, 29, 37, 38, 44, 69, 80, 82 Ogmios 12, 29 Oilill Crop-ear 56 Oilill of Cruachain 53, 67, 72, 87 Oilill of Magh Inis 44 Ollarbha 63 Ops 16 Parjanya 35 Pasupati 38 Prsni 34, 67 Prthivi 15, 33 Pushan 35 Ráth Bheag 79 Ráth Mhór 9, 61 Ratri 35 Rbhus 35 Reachrainn 9 riastradh 10 Rigisamos 29 Rosmerta 30 rowan tree 42, 59 Ruadhán 9, 41 Rudra 33, 38 salmon of knowledge 9, 19, 58 Samhain 8, 26, 38, 44, 50, 52, 54, 55. 56. 62. 69, 71, 72, 79, 84 Samhioldánach 10, 29, 36 Sarasvati 34 Savitr 34 Scandinavian pantheon 32 Séadanta 10, 84 Seaghais 18, 19, 20, 25, 29, 59 sea god 7, 10, 13, 24, 25, 29, 32, 36, 38, 65, 81, 90 Searbhán 59, 68 seg/*SEGOS 20, 21, 25, 30, 59 Segamain, Nia - 20 Segamonas, Neta - 20, 29 Segeta 30 Segomo 20, 29
Seinbheag 9, 57 Seine 30 Semon Neth - 20 shaman god 7, 15, 17, 28, 32, 33, 39, 52, 57, 68, 81, 89 Shannon 16 Shiva 33 Silvanus 30 Sindhu 18, 34 Sinquatis 30 Síodh Neanta 21 Siogmhall 12, 20, 29, 46 Sionann 18, 21, 34, 59, 61 Sirona 29, 35 sky god 7, 8, 9, 38, 32, 33, 52, 82 Sliabh na mBan 19, 45, 53, 70 smith god 7, 9, 11, 14, 17, 19, 30, 33, 36, 41, 67, 80, 82, 89 -, cow of 10, 15 Soma 33, 41 soul in external object 10, 68 sovereignty 16, 17, 34, 47, 50, 60, 75, 77, 80, 89 spring god 20, 25, 29, 59, 68, 79 Sri 34 stone of power 8, 13, 61 storm god 7, 9, 10, 12, 13, 21, 27, 29, 32, 33, 35, 36, 41, 61, 68, 74, 79, 80, 84, 89 strength, god of 11, 29, 38, 89 Sucellos 30 Sul (Minerva) 30 sun chariot 14 sun god 7, 10, 13, 17, 25, 30, 34, 35, 36, 67, 69, 81 Surya 34 Taranus/Taranucnos 10, 29 Tarbhgha 54. 71 Tarvos Trigaranu30s Teach Doinn 9 Teamhair 9, 27, 35, 37, 46, 55, 64, 65, 76, 78 -, feast of 45, 55, 79 Teathbha 12, 45 Teathra 13, 26, 63, 80 Teutatis 29 Thor 10, 32, 60 Three Red Ones 9, 47, 49 Three Strains of Music 9, 37, 57 Three White Ones 83 thunderbolt 10, 11, 14, 33, 41, 42, 54, 60, 74 tinsmith god 14 Toraigh 36 Toutiorix 30 trickster 7, 28, 32, 40 tripartite castes 24, 76 tripartite sacrifice 28, 60, 78 Tuath Dé Donann 15 Tuirell Bicreo 14, 21 Tvashtr 33 Twins 14, 17, 22, 25, 30, 35, 54, 69, 70 tympanum 9, 53, 55 Tyr 32
Uisneach 27, 49, 52, 63 Ulaidh, weakness of 58, 74, 78 Uma 89 Ushas 34 Uxellimus 29 Vala 33 Vanir 32, 80 Varuna 33 Vassocaletis 28 Vayu 33, 89 Vedic pantheon 33 Veriugodumnos 31 Vesta 30 Victoria 15, 30 Vindonnos 21, 29 Visucios 28 Visvarupa 35 Vrtra 33 Vulcan 30 water goddess 7, 13, 18, 21, 29, 34, 52, 60 well of healing 14, 41 wind god 7, 10, 11, 14, 19, 20, 25, 29, 33, 38, 41, 44, 69, 81, 89 young gods 7, 20, 30, 35
This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
We've moved you to where you read on your other device.
Get the full title to continue listening from where you left off, or restart the preview.