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The Taking of the Faerie Mound

—by Míchealín Ní Dhochartaigh

The chief of Ireland's gods was The Dagda, the giver of life and the bestower of
all bounties. He was the keeper of the 'club of creation.' One end of the club brought
death, the other end could restore the life of a dead person.1 The Dagda lived at the Sidh
of Brug na Bóinne, the finest of all faerie mounds in Ireland. Here he kept — in addition
to the club of creation — a magic harp and a magic cauldron. 2
One day Dagda saw a beautiful water spirit, Boann (protectress of the River
Boyne), and he felt a great desire for her. The attraction was mutual; however, Boann was
married to the powerful Elcmar. Dagda sent Elcmar on a mission to deliver a message to
Bress, son of Elath. Then he wove a spell upon Elcmar causing time for him to stand still.
For nine months Elcmar was under the spell; he did not eat, sleep, or even move about.
During this time Boann conceived and bore Dagda's son, Oenghus.3 Dagda carried the
boy off to be raised by Midir the Proud; Elcmar returned and suspected nothing.
Oenghus believed he was the son of Midir until he was 9 years of age.
One day during play, Oenghus engaged in an argument in which he called another
boy, Tríath (who was a member of the defeated Tribe of Firbólg) a 'slave.' Tríath
responded with repugnance that such words could be spoken by someone who was
ignorant of his own father and mother. Shocked by this news, Oenghus demanded the
facts from Midir. Then, determined to suffer no further mockery, he set out make his
father acknowledge him. He petitioned the help of Manannán Mac Lir, a potent sea god
and renowned master of trickery. Manannán was also the god who found dwellings for
other gods because he understood all enchantments and could find them places where
they would be safe. Manannán Mac Lir instructed Oenghus to go to his father during the
time of Samhain, because this was the time when the use of magic was the strongest and
most effective. At the witching hour on Samhain, Manannán instructed Oenghus to go to
Dagda and ask for permission to occupy the Sidh of Brug na Bóinne for one night and
one day.
Manannán concocted an enchantment so that Dagda would not refuse. When
Oenghus reached the Sidh of Brug na Bóinne, Dagda readily agreed to his request to be
king of the mound for one night and one day. When Dagda returned, he requested the
return of Sidh of Brug na Bóinne. Oenghus refused. He said he was now the rightful
owner of Sidh of Brug na Bóinne; and since the passage of time consists of nothing more
than night and day, following each other in endless succession, he was now the king of
Sidh of Brug na Bóinne for eternity. Dagda realised he had been tricked and went away,
taking his household and some of his people, in anger.
Oenghus settled happily at Sidh of Brug na Bóinne , and soon learned the magic
of the cauldron that Dagda had left behind — it supplied the dweller of Sidh of Brug na
Bóinne with an endless supply of roasted boar's meat and Goibhniu's ale — which
rendered the partaker immune from illness, disease and death.

Copyright © 2004 Ireland's OWN.