A Gaelic Tale of Unrequited Love

Stories of unrequited love have timeless appeal.  For haven’t we all felt the woes of misdirected affection?  Does it not bring out the secret poet in us all? And how many letters did you write but never send, declaring a passion worthy of only the gods?

But it would seem that even the gods are not immune to this affliction.  And it is now to such a tale of which my tongue will tell.

Banshee
“Banshee” by W.H. Brooke – http://www.archive.org/details/fairylegendstrad00crokrich. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Banshee.jpg#/media/File:Banshee.jpg

Born of noble and magical blood, Setanta would always have gifts his peers could not possess.  The boy’s parentage has ever remained a mystery, possibly due to scandal. But it is known that his mother was a daughter of the King Conchubar of Ulster.   Through the ages, the most common tale told is that the god Lugh was father to the child although it was another who gave the boy a home.  A giant he was in stature, and was soon to excel at the game of hurling.  However, it was oft that Setanta was the sole player against a team, the odds were stacked so much in his favour.

It was one such game that the king Conchubar came to watch and so impressed by his young nephew’s courage and strength, he invited him to a feast at the house of the blacksmith Culann.  The boy said that he had a game to finish, but as he knew the road, he would follow later.  Understanding, Conchubar proceeded to his friend’s home.

Culann had a hound the size of a pony with a deadly reputation.  While his guests were arriving, the hound was locked away so as to harm none.  When the gathering seemed full, Culann asked Conchubar if the full of his retinue had arrived.  Forgetting about his young nephew, Setanta, he confirmed that all were present and agreed that the hound should be released.

Meanwhile, Setanta finished his game and good to his word, he made his way to the house of Culann, hurley stick and puck only in hand.  On approaching Culann’s house, the hound became alert to his presence and pierced the heavens with its growl.  Those inside heard it, and drew their breath knowing that whoever the hound had sensed, they would not have much longer to live.  Conchubar cried out, remembering the boy and all ran outside in anguish.

Setanta, with only his skill in hurling to aid him, threw the puck full pelt into the mouth of the growling hound, a throw so powerful it choked the hound and halted its step.  He then grasped it by its hind legs and swung it so that its head was smashed against the rock.  Although relieved for the boy, Culann was distraught at the loss of his hound and stated that Setanta was no longer welcome to his house.  Conchubar protested, feeling himself slighted by the declaration.  On realising what he’d done, the boy was full of remorse.  He asked Conchubar if he would find and train another hound for the host.  This was promised, but Culann asked what would he do in the meantime.  His hound had been his sole protection.  Setanta promised to be his protector until a hound could be found and trained.  To this, Culann agreed and the feasting resumed.

But from that day to this, Setanta came to be known as Cúchulainn, the hound of Culann.

Bards were soon to sing songs and share the stories of his prowess in the courts of kings and was soon to gain the attention of many a maiden fair.  It was through his growing reputation that he courted the attention of not a mortal woman, but a feared goddess – the Morrigan.

A talented shapeshifter, the Morrigan rarely appeared to mortals in her true form.   She often presided over battles in the form of a menacing hag, and in several tales has appeared as a heifer, a snake, an owl, but most often as a crow or a raven, giving the prophecy of death.

But she did not always appear as a terrifying menace.  And it was as a red-robed firey-haired mortal of extraordinary beauty that she first showed herself to Cúchulainn.

http://panadonia.deviantart.com/art/The-Celts-63257822
http://panadonia.deviantart.com/art/The-Celts-63257822

Tired after battle, Cúchulainn had woken to the most piercing cry he had ever heard.  His company were similarly disturbed by the sound and all agreed to go meet whatever was the cause of it.  They saddled their horses and rode swiftly north when their passage was halted by the sight of the Morrigan before them.  She first declared falsehood in stating that she was the daughter of one of the great chieftan kings.  She then offered her love, her treasure and her protection if Cúchulainn would go with her.

With disdain, Cúchulainn replied that he had no time for a woman’s love. Could she not see that they were weary from the woes of battle?

The Morrigan replied that she had indeed seen his prowess and had many a time come to his aid during the course of battle and would continue to do so.

But again Cúchulainn refused, he had no need of a woman’s help.

She swore that they would henceforth be enemies, promising to thwart his efforts if he ever met an assailant as matched in strength as he.  She left Cúchulainn with the knowledge that he had just rebuffed the terrible Morrigan and would come to regret his own arrogance.

The Morrigan came to him thrice.  During the first challenge, she appeared as a heifer to knock his balance, giving his opponent the advantage.  But Cúchulainn gained the upper hand and broke the heifer’s leg.

The Morrigan appeared to him as a snake and curled herself around his ankles to trip him, giving his opponent the advantage.  But Cúchulainn ganed the upper hand and trampled upon the snake.

Yet The Morrigan would appear a third time, but this time as a grey wolf that would tear at his sword arm.  But Cúchulainn gained the upper hand and pierced an eye of the wolf.

After the battle, tired and thirsty, he came across a hag milking a cow.  He asked of her to give him some milk that he might quench his thirst.  This she did.  But he was not satiated and asked for yet another drink.  This she did.  But still Cúchulainn had not satisfied his thirst and requested a third and final cup.  This she did.

He thanked her asked her what reward she would like to be granted.

“To heal the wounds only the maker of them can heal.”

Cúchulainn saw then the injuries he had inflicted upon the Morrigan and redressed the harm he had done her, healing her as she had asked.

The Morrigan never appeared to him again during his lifetime, though it is rumoured that a raven sat upon his shoulder at the moment of his death.

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Notes:  This tale forms part of the Ulster Cycle of Irish Mythology rather than the mythological cycle that the Tuatha de Dannan, like the Morrigan normally appear in.

I chose this tale for a number of reasons.  I recently wrote about my shapeshifting self and the mythology surrounding the Morrigan was inspiration for many of my characters.

I love ravens and with Debbie’s sharing of the Righteous Ravens, I wanted to share a story about my favourite shapeshifting raven!  The Morrigan also featured in my poem “The Raven”.  So… if it didn’t make too much sense then, perhaps it will now!!

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Nuada of the Silver Hand

A Silvery Tale – as previously promised

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I said timing was everything for a silvery tale, and you can’t get more silvery than when it is a full moon.  But this isn’t any ordinary full moon, it is also a blue moon.  There are two definitions of what a blue moon is, but I’ll give the meaning that I learned while resident in Ireland.  It is the second of two full moons which occur within one calendar month.  The phrase ‘once in a blue moon’ indicates rarity and blue moons are indeed relatively rare.  The last was in 2012 and the next will be in 2018.  I live in West Yorkshire, so will be experiencing the blue moon Saturday, July 31st. With luck the recent rains and clouds will clear enough to view it.   I am aware that some of you will be experiencing the blue moon tonight, so hence posting today.  While I am on the subject of the moon, I learned that it will be a a total lunar eclipse on my birthday this year.  I’m feeling the omens are good.

The Mythological Cycle of the Tuatha de Dannan is usually a good source for tales of battle and gruesome deaths, so I was surprised that I would find a silvery story within the Book of Invasions.   For any Game of Thrones fans out there, I wonder if this folktale was the inspiration for Jamie Lannister’s fate?

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It was magic that carried the people of the north to their new home of the Emerald Isle.  The Morrigan, Badb and Macha, witches transformed the Tuatha de Dannan into winged beings with dark raven wings.  They cast a cloud over Ireland and a mist so dense that their arrival would not be noticed by the Fir Bolg, the inhabitants of the isle.

But the Fir Bolg king had a vision of their coming in a dream and had wizards and druids at his disposal.  After three days and nights, they cleared the skies of the darkened mist allowing the Fir Bolg to see freely again.  The king, Eochai ma Eirc, was a perfect king, and rather than challenge the Tuatha de Dannan, he proposed to learn from them what he could and of their purpose there.

An emissary was sent to meet with the Tuatha, Sreng. The emissary met Bres, a mighty warrior of the Tuatha de Dannan.  Immediately they were enamoured of the weapons of the other.  They agreed to exchange their weapons so that each could appreciate the strength of the other.  They became friends, and when the Fir Bolg warrior asked of the purpose of the Tuatha’s visit, Bres asked for half of the land.

The Fir Bolg, it must be understood, were descended from the same race as that of the Tuatha de Dannan.  The Muintir Nemid, descendants of Nemed, were once kept as slaves in Greece, but the people parted, the Fir Bolg to Ireland and the Tuatha to the northern lands of Scandinavia.  While they did not know of their common ancestry, they were of the same spirit, and Sreng understood there was much to learn from his new friend, Bres.  He returned to Eochaid mac Eirc, the last of the High Kings of Ireland to rule over the Fir Bolg, and set forth the proposal of the Tuatha de Dannan.

But Eochaid was a perfect king and he declared, “Now they desire half of the land, but they will want the whole”.  He accepted the alternative to Bres’ proposal and chose to enter into battle with them.

The battle of Moytura, as it came to be known, lasted for four days.  The Tuatha were led by Nuada, their king.  Nuada carried the treasure from the northern city Fail, the sword of Fail.  In times of peace it could not slice through butter, but in times of war it was said to be able to cut a person in half.  But Nuada was challenged by Sreng, and the Fir Bolg sword cut through the arm of Nuada in one blow.  Despite this set back for the Tuatha, they conquered the Fir Bolg whose disappearance became a mystery yet to be explained.

Nuada survived the trauma of his injury, but as all kings were regarded as perfect and unblemished it was determined that he was no longer fit to rule.  Instead, Bres the emissary to the Fir Bolg led the Tuatha de Dannan in their occupation of Ireland.  But he was a tyrannical ruler.  So it was that Nuada’s brother Dian Cecht and the wright Creidhne crafted a silver arm for Nuada that he might rule again.

And so he did, until the second battle of Moytura.

But that is yet another tale…….

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Story retold by Safar Fiertze, based on numerous sources.

Imram Brain (The Voyage of Bran)

It was 50 quatrains of verse that the stranger sang to the kings of Ireland.  They knew not from whence she came or how she came to be there, for the stronghold was fast.

……..

Bran, High King of Ireland, reluctant as a ruler, left his castle to find solitary peace by walking his lands.  As he walked he heard music coming from behind him.  He would turn, but which ever direction he sought, the music was still behind him.  Perplexed, he entered the enclave of a copse and rested by a glittering pool of water where he took his repose. The music lulled him to a deep, hypnotic sleep.  When he awoke, he held within his palm a silver branch with white blossom.  He carried it back to the castle to seek the counsel of his advisors.

In the Great Hall of Kings, he held the branch.  None present could explain the magic of his experience.  As they spake, a woman entered.  She was unknown to any, and they wondered at her entrance, for the stronghold had been barred.  She began to sing, 50 quatrains of verse inviting Bran to the ‘Land of Women’ across the waters.   As she sang, Bran found that his arm weakened and he began to lose the strength to hold the silver branch.  Upon the last quatrain of the song, the branch left Bran’s hand and fastened to the woman’s.  Thereupon, she disappeared before their very eyes.

Bran was spellbound and driven.  He took three boats, each with nine men, to the high seas and sought this Land of Women.  They encircled the first island they discovered.  Upon its shores was a great host who gaped and laughed at them.  Try as they might to converse with the people of this island, they would not enter into discussion with them, only gape and laugh.  Disconcerted, Bran sent one of his kinsmen to the shores to seek direction for the Land of Women, and to replenish their supplies.  However the man, upon his arrival, only turned and gaped at Bran and his men and laughed like the others.  Finally, Bran left this island, the Land of Joy, and continued his journey, leaving his kinsman behind them.

Soon after, they saw great waves heading toward their boats, and were sure that they would be drowned.  But as the waves neared, they saw the heads of horses, and their rider, god of the seas behind them.

“Behold, Mannanan, son of Lir!” Cried one of the men.

Mannanan MacLir led Bran to the island he sought, passing a great many more, the thrice times 50 islands of the Otherworld.

Women came to the beach to greet them.  The queen who led them had the appearance of the stranger who had come to the Great Hall of Kings and had sung the 50 quatrains.  She beckoned the travellers to the island, but Bran was uncertain, afraid for his men after what had come to pass at the Land of Joy.   The queen threw a ball of yarn at his face, which Bran caught in his hand.  There it held fast and the queen reeled him in.

The men were each given a plate of food.  As they ate, the plate was replenished with more food.  When satiated, a woman led each of them to their room, where they coupled.  All were contented, and they rested on the isle for what seemed to them but a year.  But Nechtan became homesick, remembering his wife and four childer.  At first the men would not listen to him.  But he persisted, reminding them of their folk back home and their responsibilities to them.  They in turn ailed with homesickness.

At first the women would not let them leave, but on seeing their sickness, the queen finally agreed to releasing them from the isle.  But she warned them, they must never set foot upon the shore of their land.  Bran agreed and set sail for home.

The hearts of the men were lifted upon sighting their home.  They were hailed by people they did not recognise.  One among them questioned who it was that came from over the sea.

“I am Bran, High King of Ireland, son of Febal,” he claimed.

“We do not know a Bran Mac Febal, but the Journey of Bran is part of our ancient lore.”

Bran knew then that they had not passed only one year away from home, but many a hundred.  Their families had long since departed.

Bu Nechtan was impatient.  He left the boat in haste and ran to the shore, seeking his wife and childer.  But as his foot touched the earth, he turned to ashes as if he’d been dead a thousand years.

It was then that Bran sang his quatrain to those gathered:

“For Collbran’s son great was the folly

To lift his hand against age,

Without anyone to cast a wave of pure water

Over Nechtan, Collbran’s son.”

Thereupon, Bran told the story of his voyage to those gathered upon the shore and wrote his quatrain in ogham, a warning to any who might repeat their folly.  He bade them farewell and departed.  His journey from that day on has never been told.

The Voyage of Bran, retold by Safar Fiertze (2015).  The legend forms part of the Mythological Cycle of legends of Ireland.

Children of Lir

Children of Lir (an Irish folk tale)
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Swans' Pond

Once there was a great and mighty warrior, name of Lir, who believed himself worthy of the title of King, but his fate was not to be.

The Tuatha Dé Danann were blessed with four treasures, each brought to Inis Fáil from the four great cities of Murias, Gorias, Findias and Falias. From Falias, they brought the magical stone, Lia Fáil.   It had the power to reveal the name of the true King.  When it came the time for choosing, Lir presented himself before the stone.  Lia Fáil resounded not upon the approach of Lir, but instead chose his rival, the greater of the two men, Bodb Dearg.

Lir, went with a heavy heart and parted company with new king’s men, not accepting Bodb’s authority. The king’s men wanted to go after him, but Bodb knew it was a fool’s errand, and held them back from attacking Lir’s house.

The months passed and the cycle of the seasons continued their passage through time.  Lir was to later lose his wife to death’s fingers, and in being a good king, Bodb offered the hand of friendship to Lir, and invited him to feast within his court.

At the feast Bodb offered the gift of one of his three daughters. Lir accepted.  He chose the elder of the three. He came to love both the inner and the outer beauty of his new wife. She bore him children, first a son and daughter, then later two sons, Fionnuala, Aodh, Fiachra and Conn.   The couple loved their children dearly, and in each of them, Lir saw the beauty of his wife reflected.

Lir was to bear yet another great grief; his wife died in childbirth. The loss weighed heavy also upon the heart of Bodb Dearg, but in friendship again, offered the second of his three daughters to Lir, to lie with him as his wife and care for her sister’s children.  Her name was Aoife.

Lir, in caring deeply for his four children, never let them out of his sight and even in slumber he kept them within his sight. This great love was too much for Aoife to bear, and in her jealousy, she lured the four children to the dark lake.

There, Aoife planned to take the lives from each and every one of them.  Her heart was dark, but yet, she had not the strength within her to do it.  Instead she took up a druid’s wand and turned Fionnuala, Aodh, Fiachra and Conn into swans, cursing them to 300 years of feathered imprisonment.  But with the curse, came three gifts: reason, speech and song.

Many a traveller has passed the shores of Lough Derravaragh and accepted the wisdom of the four swans who dwelled 300 years upon its waters.  Many a fisher who cast his net in the Sea of Moyle has spoken of the stories told to him by the four swans who dwelled 300 years upon its waves and if you take a walk beside Irrus Domnann, you may still hear their plaintive song.

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Irish legend retold by Safar Fiertze, 2015.

A response to Day 11 of the Writing 101 challenge, Blogging University: To pay attention to the length of sentences and mix it up a bit.

I also thought it was time I added another tale to the “Stories Speak” collection and inspired by Debbie, chose the Children of Lir legend.

Cliodhna’s Wave

This week’s addition to the ‘Stories Speak’ collection comes from Ireland.  The story influenced two characters that I created for the purposes of role play.  One had the gift of healing through song, the other was a tragic figure of a siren.  I thought I’d share the myth here.

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And Ciabhán went on in the curragh, and great white shouting waves rose up about him, every one of them the size of a mountain; and the beautiful speckled salmon that are used to stop in the sand and the shingle rose up to the sides of the curragh, till great dread came on Ciabhan, and he said: “By my word, if it was on land I was I could make a better fight for myself.”

And he was in this danger till he saw a rider coming towards him on a dark grey horse having a golden bridle, and he would be under the sea for the length of nine waves, and he would rise with the tenth wave, and no wet on him at all. And he said: “What reward would you give to whoever would bring you out of this great danger?” “Is there anything in my hand worth offering you?” said Ciabhan. “There is,” said the rider, “that you would give your service to whoever would give you his help.” Ciabhán agreed to that, and he put his hand into the rider’s hand.

With that the rider drew him on to the horse, and the curragh came on beside them till they reached to the shore of Tir Tairngaire, the Land of Promise, They got off the horse there, and came to Loch Luchra, the Lake of the Dwarfs, and to Manannan’s city, and a feast was after being made ready there, and comely serving-boys were going round with smooth horns, and playing on sweet-sounding harps till the whole house was filled with the music.

Now Gebann, that was a chief Druid in Manannan’s country, had a daughter, Cliodhna of the Fair Hair, that had never given her love to any man.  She went her way with three songbirds, which feasted upon the apples of the tree of life.  Their song, it was told, could heal the sick.  But when Cliódhna saw Ciabhan she gave him her love, and she agreed to go away with him on the morrow.

And they went down to the landing-place and got into a curragh, and they went on till they came to Teite’s Strand in the southern part of Ireland. It was from Teite Brec the Freckled the strand got its name, that went there one time for a wave game, and three times fifty young girls with her, and they were all drowned in that place. And as to Ciabbán, he came on shore, and went looking for deer, as was right, under the thick branches of the wood; and he left the young sidhe in the boat on the strand.

But Ciabhán had made a promise to the rider of the waves and the people of Manannan’s house came after them, having forty ships. And Iuchnu, that was in the curragh with Cliódhna, did treachery, and he played music to her till she lay down in the boat and fell asleep. And then a great wave came up on the strand and swept her away.

And the wave, which upon occasion sounds to announce the passing of a king, got its name from Cliódhna of the Fair Hair, that will be long remembered.

Adapted from the story as told here

Tuatha de Dannan

Historical manuscripts of Irelands folklore have been roughly divided into four cycles: the Mythological Cycle, the Ulster Cycle, the Fenian Cycle and the Historical Cycle.   The pseudo-history given below is of the Mythological Cycle.  During this cycle, a magical people from the north (although as can be seen below, their origins were originally Mediterranean) invaded Ireland.  They are famously known as the Tuatha de Dannan.

This is a summary of the Tales of the Tuatha de Dannan, based on the “Book of Invasions” as told in the Book of Leinster*.

Greece

The Tale of the Tuatha De Danaan spans many centuries and surprisingly begins in ancient Greece. There, long before the rise of the Mycenaens, there lived a race of nomads known as the Pelasgians. Tribal in nature, they were sea-farers who claimed to be born from the teeth of the Cosmic Snake Ophion, and the Great Goddess Danu.

Danu was known to be a lovely slender woman with an upturned nose, deathly pale face, lips as red as rowan berries, eyes of startling blue, and long fair hair. Able to transform into a sow, mare, bitch, vixen, she-ass, weasel, serpent, owl, she-wolf, tigress, mermaid, or loathsome hag. The Tuatha de Dannan translates as Children of Danu.

The Pelasgians ruled Greece for many years until the coming of the Achaeans, who invaded Thessaly from Syria in about 1900 B.C. They conquered Greece and many Pelasgians were assimilated into the new culture. However, not all of the Pelasgians were content to stay. A loose confederation of tribes fled, adopting their nomadic ways on a grand scale, departing from Greece altogether.

Denmark

But it is of the northern fleeing confederation of Pelasgian tribes who called themselves the Tuatha De Danaan that we follow from here. As they migrated north they left their mark upon the races that they touched until at last they reached Denmark where they established a great kingdom. Denmark means “Kingdom of the Danaans.” They built four cities; great Falias, shining Gorias, Finlas, and rich Murias, which lay to the south. In each of these four cities there lived a wise man, which taught their young men skill and knowledge, along with perfect wisdom. These men were; Senias, of Murias; Arias, the Fair-haired poet of Finias; Urias of the Noble nature of Gorias; finally, Morias in Falias itself. Their king was named Nuada (succeeded by the Dagda), and their chiefs were Manannan, son of Lir; Ogma, the king’s brother, who taught them writing; Diancecht, who was their chief healer; Neit, a god of Battle; Credenus, the chief craftsman; and Goibniu, the chief smith.

Their great women were Badb, a great battle Goddess; Macha, who collected the heads of men killed in battle; Morrigu, the crow of battle; Eadon, the nurse of poets; and Brigit, the woman of poetry; and Eire, Fodla, and Banba, the daughters of the Dagda who would later become queens of Ireland and each for a time would lend the country their name. Eire was the last one to do so historically, thus her name is the one associated with Ireland today.  Brigit was worshipped by poets as she was very great and noble. She was also a woman of healing, an excellent smith, invented the whistle for signaling across distances and much more. Her face it was said, was ugly on one side and comely on the other; her name means Breosaighit, or Fiery Arrow.

As a people they held three things above all others; the plough, the sun, and the Hazel tree.

Ireland

It is not known what brought them to Ireland, but it was a mass and total migration, for they brought with them their four sacred treasures that were each kept in a separate city; A Stone of Virtue was brought from Falias, called Lia Fail, or the stone of Destiny. From Gorias they brought a sword, which would later be called the Sword of Lugh. The Spear of Victory was brought from Finias, and from Murias they brought the Caldron of the Gods, from which no company ever went away from unsatisfied. They landed in Ireland around 1472 B.C.

The land of Ireland in 1472 B.C. was ruled by a race of creatures known as the Firbolgs. The Tuatha De Danaan arrived in a mist, it is said, and that they came through the air and the high air to Ireland (believed to have shapeshifted their form to ravens). Legend says that they arrived on the first day of Beltaine, what is now known as May the first. They landed northwest of Connacht. But the Firbolgs, the men of Bag, saw nothing but a mist lying on the hills.

Now King Eochaid, son of Erc, who maintained his throne in Teamhair, ruled the Firbolgs. He had dreamed of the coming of the Danaans, or the men of Dea, as they were called. His Druids had told him that they were a great enemy. So it came to past that he sent his greatest champion, Sreng, to learn of this new race. And Sreng did indeed go to the settlement of the Tuatha De Danaan, in Magh Rein. There he was met by Bres, a champion of the Danaans, and they would learn much from each other. They made a pact between themselves that no matter what the future might bring, they would always remain friends.

The Tuatha De Danaan sent Sreng back with a message that they would not fight the Firbolgs if King Eochaid would cede them half the land. Needless to say this did not bode well with the Firbolg King, who decided to battle. They would meet in a place called Magh Tuireadh. To make a bloody story short, the Firbolgs lost the battle miserably. With their power crushed, the Firbolgs were given Connacht to dwell in as their own, and in time, they would foster Ferdiad, who fought Cuchulain, and Erc, son of Cairbre, who would later slay Cuchulain. The Tuatha De Danaan took Teamhair as their own, renaming it Druim Cain (The Beautiful Ridge). But it is also known as Liathdruim (Gray Ridge), and Druim na Descan (The Ridge of the Outlook).

The City-State was laid out as such; Nuada’s Rath lay to the North; The Hill of Hostages lay to the Northeast; The Green of Teamhair lay West, and the Hill of the Sidhe was Northwest of the Hill of Hostages. There was a great wall there called Nith, where the first mill of Ireland was built. To the north of the Hill of Hostages they placed Lia Fail, their sacred stone. The city was built surrounded by the Wall of Three Whispers, and near the wall was the House of Women. This House had seven doors on its east and west sides, and it was here that great feasts were held.

Close by was the Great House of A Thousand Warriors, and south of that was the little Hill of Women Soldiers. Thus, The Danaan’s first city on Irish soil came to be. For a time the Danaans grew in numbers and prospered, but in time they were threatened by the invasion of another race, the Fomorians. It is here that the great hero of Irish lore Lugh appears. It is said in the legends that he was the son of Cian of the Tuatha De Danaan, and Ethlinn, the daughter of Balor, the warrior king of the Fomorians.

It is said that when met by Nuada’s doorkeepers Gamal, the son of Figal and Camel, son of Riagall, he offered his services as a carpenter. But the job of carpenter was held by Luchtar, son of Luachaid. He then offered his services as a smith. But that post was held by Colum Cuaillemech of the Three Ways. He then offered to be a Harper. But Abhean, son of Bicelmos held that position. He offered to be a poet. But Erc, the son of Ethaman was Nuada’s poet. He offered to be a physician. But Diancecht was the Healer. A brass worker, he offered. But alas, as you may guess, that job was taken too. Credne Cerd worked the Brass. A champion warrior then. But Nuada had many champions. “But do you have a man that can do all of these things?” And thus, Lugh was admitted by the King.

As to Lugh’s part in the Second Battle of Magh Tuireadh, he is credited with bringing the Riders of the Sidhe from the Land of Promise (Tir-na-n’og). The alliance formed by these two races would profit the Tuatha De Danaan much in later times. Thus it came to pass that the Fomorians were defeated. Once again, the Danaans enjoyed a time of peace and prosperity. But after two hundred years another invasion graced their shores.

The Picts

In the Book of Invasions (supported by Bede’s Ecclesiastical History, a people sailed west from Thrace, through the Mediterranean Sea into the Atlantic Ocean. They made landfall on Wexford Bay, where a huge battle was fought. The Danaans were unable to defeat this wild race of warriors, so they bargained with them. They persuaded them to pass into Northern Britain, then called Albion. These warriors would later become the ferocious Picts, or Tattooed Men. The Picts had the same social habits that existed in Thessaly prior to the coming of the Achaeans, and in classical times among the primitive tribes of the southern Black Sea coast, along the Gulf of Sirte’ in Libya, Majorca, and Northwest Galicia. Their customs included exogamy, totemism, public coitus, cannibalism, tattooing and both male and female warriorship. Their descendants still retained their non-Celtic language in Bede’s day.

The Milesians

The Pictish invasion was a portend of things to come. In 1268 B.C., a race of people known as the Milesians invaded Ireland during the reign of the Three Kings MaCoill, MacCecht, and MacGreine, together with their Queens, Eire, Folda, and Banba (The Dagda’s daughters).

They landed first at the mouth of the River Slaney, but the Druids drove them back out to sea with a powerful storm. They eventually landed at Inver Skene, or Kenmore Bay, where the Bard of the Milesians, called by the name of Amergin chanted his now famous song, as his feet touched the soil.

The Song of Amergin
I am the wind on the sea
I am the wave of the sea
I am the bull of seven battles
I am the eagle on the rock
I am a flash from the sun
I am the most beautiful of plants
I am a strong wild boar
I am a salmon on the water
I am a lake in the plain
I am a word of knowledge
I am the head of the spear in battle
I am the god that puts fire in the head
Who spreads light in the gathering on the hills?
Who can tell the ages of the moon?

The Milesians marched to Druim Cain, (which was destined to become Tara, under their rule), and demanded battle for Ireland from the three kings. And so it was.

There were two major battles fought.

At Sleive Mish in Kerry, and at the final battle at Taillte, in Meath. Many were slain on both sides, but in the end, the Milesians won. The three kings of the Tuatha De Danaan were killed in the battle at Taillte. It took a full year for the conquerors to subjugate Ireland. During their march they encountered each of the surviving Queens of the Vanquished Danaans. First they met Banba, and she was aloof to the invaders. Still, she asked that they name Ireland for her, and it was done. For a while Ireland was called Banba. Later on the march carried them to Folda. She too was aloof to the warriors, but she as well asked of them to name Ireland for her. And it was so. For a time Ireland was called Folda. Toward the end of their great march, they came upon the Last queen of the Tuatha De Danaan. Eire. And Eire was not aloof. She welcomed them to the land that they would now rule, and offered them peace. She too, asked of the invaders to name Ireland for her.

And it was so.

Ireland to this day is known as Eire.

Eire impressed them so, that she became Eireanaig, Goddess of the Milesians. The Milesians would become under her guidance, the Irish of today. The Tuatha De Danaan met as an entire people to decide their fate at Brugh on the Boyne, and it was decided that they would not be the subjects of rule by the invaders. They built a massive underground fortress at the Boyne, known as New Grange**. After the battle, they used their Druids to blight the fields of the Milesians, until at last, the invaders made peace with the Danaans through Manannan. The first king of the Irish Milesians, Crimthan MacNair, is buried at New Grange, as his wife was Danaan. But the majority of the Danaans joined with the Sidhe and dwelt in the hills, and Manannan put invisible walls around their glades, and made them immortal, though they already were long lived. He brewed them his ale, and fed them his swine, and it was so.

And a new king was chosen from the candidates most eligible, who were Bodb Dearg, son of the Dagda, Ilbrech of Ess Ruadh, Lir of Sidhe Fionnachaidh (The Hill of the White Field on Slieve Faud), Midhir the Proud of Bri Leith, and Angus Og, son of the Dagda. And when it was done, Bodb Dearg became King of The Tuatha De Danaan, and he ruled in his seat in Sidhe Femen, which he enchanted greatly, and he had three sons, Angus, Artrach, and Aedh. He also had a daughter, Scathniamh, The Flower of Brightness.

Bodb Dearg was the last king of the combined Tuatha De Danaan. They would eventually meld with the Sidhe, those spirits of the mound, hill and wood, that lived in raths, which were round stockaded fortresses. They became a nation of roving warriors, their blue eyes and pale faces with long, curly yellow hair marking their race. They adopted the Sidhe military custom of organizing themselves in units of fifty men, and carried the white shield of the Sidhe. The Sidhe at that time were ruled by two virgin born kings, who were said to be sexually promiscuous without blame or shame. Eventually they left this world as a united people from New Grange, venturing back to Tir-na-nog, the paradise from which they had come from…so long ago. But a few stayed behind.

Knockainy in Limerick is ruled by Aine, Faerie Queen and Banshee, who became famous in A.D. 2 for cutting off the ear of Aillill Olvum, The king of Munster, giving him his name “O” (ear) “Lom” (Bare), meaning “Bare of one Ear”. She rules there to this day.

As does Cleena, the Queen of South Munster. Her place is five miles from Mallow, in the center of a great pile of rocks. Aibell, or Abinn, is Queen of North Munster. Her Palace is two miles north of Killaloe, and is called Craglea (Gray Rock), or Crageevil, or simply “Aibell’s Rock”. And the most famous, Grian of the Bright Cheeks, who rules from Pallas Green Hill, in Tipperary. Still today, their armies roam the Irish countryside, marching and riding out of the mists of time.

Notes:

*The Book of Leinster in which these tales are chronicled is a medieval Irish Manuscript dated to about 1160 AD.  It is now kept in Trinity College, Dublin.

**The story regarding the use of Newgrange does not match archeological records. Newgrange could not have been built by the Tuatha. It predates the Danaan by 2000 years. However, a stone henge surrounding the stone burial mound was built at a time consistent with the Book of Invasions.