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Title: Myths & Legends of the Celtic Race
Author: Rolleston, T. W. (Thomas William), 1857-1920
Language: English
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                               [Queen Maev]

                                Queen Maev

                            *T. W. ROLLESTON*

                   *MYTHS & LEGENDS OF THE CELTIC RACE*


                            CONSTABLE - LONDON

British edition published by Constable and Company Limited, London

First published 1911 by George G. Harrap & Co., London


The Past may be forgotten, but it never dies. The elements which in the
most remote times have entered into a nation’s composition endure through
all its history, and help to mould that history, and to stamp the
character and genius of the people.

The examination, therefore, of these elements, and the recognition, as far
as possible, of the part they have actually contributed to the warp and
weft of a nation’s life, must be a matter of no small interest and
importance to those who realise that the present is the child of the past,
and the future of the present; who will not regard themselves, their
kinsfolk, and their fellow-citizens as mere transitory phantoms, hurrying
from darkness into darkness, but who know that, in them, a vast historic
stream of national life is passing from its distant and mysterious origin
towards a future which is largely conditioned by all the past wanderings
of that human stream, but which is also, in no small degree, what they, by
their courage, their patriotism, their knowledge, and their understanding,
choose to make it.

The part played by the Celtic race as a formative influence in the
history, the literature, and the art of the people inhabiting the British
Islands—a people which from that centre has spread its dominions over so
vast an area of the earth’s surface—has been unduly obscured in popular
thought. For this the current use of the term “Anglo-Saxon” applied to the
British people as a designation of race is largely responsible.
Historically the term is quite misleading. There is nothing to justify
this singling out of two Low-German tribes when we wish to indicate the
race-character of the British people. The use of it leads to such
absurdities as that which the writer noticed not long ago, when the
proposed elevation by the Pope of an Irish bishop to a cardinalate was
described in an English newspaper as being prompted by the desire of the
head of the Catholic Church to pay a compliment to “the Anglo-Saxon race.”

The true term for the population of these islands, and for the typical and
dominant part of the population of North America, is not Anglo-Saxon, but
Anglo-Celtic. It is precisely in this blend of Germanic and Celtic
elements that the British people are unique—it is precisely this blend
which gives to this people the fire, the _élan_, and in literature and art
the sense of style, colour, drama, which are not common growths of German
soil, while at the same time it gives the deliberateness and depth, the
reverence for ancient law and custom, and the passion for personal
freedom, which are more or less strange to the Romance nations of the
South of Europe. May they never become strange to the British Islands! Nor
is the Celtic element in these islands to be regarded as contributed
wholly, or even very predominantly, by the populations of the so-called
“Celtic Fringe.” It is now well known to ethnologists that the Saxons did
not by any means exterminate the Celtic or Celticised populations whom
they found in possession of Great Britain. Mr. E.W.B. Nicholson, librarian
of the Bodleian, writes in his important work “Keltic Researches” (1904):

“Names which have not been purposely invented to describe race must never
be taken as proof of race, but only as proof of community of language, or
community of political organisation. We call a man who speaks English,
lives in England, and bears an obviously English name (such as Freeman or
Newton), an Englishman. Yet from the statistics of ‘relative nigrescence’
there is good reason to believe that Lancashire, West Yorkshire,
Staffordshire, Worcestershire, Warwickshire, Leicestershire, Rutland,
Cambridgeshire, Wiltshire, Somerset, and part of Sussex are as Keltic as
Perthshire and North Munster; that Cheshire, Shropshire, Herefordshire,
Monmouthshire, Gloucestershire, Devon, Dorset, Northamptonshire,
Huntingdonshire, and Bedfordshire are more so—and equal to North Wales and
Leinster; while Buckinghamshire and Hertfordshire exceed even this degree,
and are on a level with South Wales and Ulster.”(1)

It is, then, for an Anglo-Celtic, not an “Anglo-Saxon,” people that this
account of the early history, the religion, and the mythical and romantic
literature of the Celtic race is written. It is hoped that that people
will find in it things worthy to be remembered as contributions to the
general stock of European culture, but worthy above all to be borne in
mind by those who have inherited more than have any other living people of
the blood, the instincts and the genius of the Celt.




Queen Maev
Prehistoric Tumulus at New Grange
Stone Alignments at Kermaris, Carnac
Stone-worship at Locronan, Brittany


*Earliest References*

In the chronicles of the classical nations for about five hundred years
previous to the Christian era there are frequent references to a people
associated with these nations, sometimes in peace, sometimes in war, and
evidently occupying a position of great strength and influence in the
Terra Incognita of Mid-Europe. This people is called by the Greeks the
Hyperboreans or Celts, the latter term being first found in the geographer
Hecatæsus, about 500 B.C.(2)

Herodotus, about half a century later, speaks of the Celts as dwelling
“beyond the pillars of Hercules”—_i.e._, in Spain—and also of the Danube
as rising in their country.

Aristotle knew that they dwelt “beyond Spain,” that they had captured
Rome, and that they set great store by warlike power. References other
than geographical are occasionally met with even in early writers.
Hellanicus of Lesbos, an historian of the fifth century B.C., describes
the Celts as practising justice and righteousness. Ephorus, about 350
B.C., has three lines of verse about the Celts in which they are described
as using “the same customs as the Greeks”—whatever that may mean—and being
on the friendliest terms with that people, who established guest
friendships among them. Plato, however, in the “Laws,” classes the Celts
among the races who are drunken and combative, and much barbarity is
attributed to them on the occasion of their irruption into Greece and the
sacking of Delphi in the year 273 B.C. Their attack on Rome and the
sacking of that city by them about a century earlier is one of the
landmarks of ancient history.

The history of this people during the time when they were the dominant
power in Mid-Europe has to be divined or reconstructed from scattered
references, and from accounts of episodes in their dealings with Greece
and Rome, very much as the figure of a primæval monster is reconstructed
by the zoologist from a few fossilised bones. No chronicles of their own
have come down to us, no architectural remains have survived; a few coins,
and a few ornaments and weapons in bronze decorated with enamel or with
subtle and beautiful designs in chased or repoussé work—these, and the
names which often cling in strangely altered forms to the places where
they dwelt, from the Euxine to the British Islands, are well-nigh all the
visible traces which this once mighty power has left us of its
civilisation and dominion. Yet from these, and from the accounts of
classical writers, much can be deduced with certainty, and much more can
be conjectured with a very fair measure of probability. The great Celtic
scholar whose loss we have recently had to deplore, M. d’Arbois de
Jubainville, has, on the available data, drawn a convincing outline of
Celtic history for the period prior to their emergence into full
historical light with the conquests of Cæsar,(3) and it is this outline of
which the main features are reproduced here.

*The True Celtic Race*

To begin with, we must dismiss the idea that Celtica was ever inhabited by
a single pure and homogeneous race. The true Celts, if we accept on this
point the carefully studied and elaborately argued conclusion of Dr. T.
Rice Holmes,(4) supported by the unanimous voice of antiquity, were a
tall, fair race, warlike and masterful,(5) whose place of origin (as far
as we can trace them) was somewhere about the sources of the Danube, and
who spread their dominion both by conquest and by peaceful infiltration
over Mid-Europe, Gaul, Spain, and the British Islands. They did not
exterminate the original prehistoric inhabitants of these
regions—palæolithic and neolithic races, dolmen-builders and workers in
bronze—but they imposed on them their language, their arts, and their
traditions, taking, no doubt, a good deal from them in return, especially,
as we shall see, in the important matter of religion. Among these races
the true Celts formed an aristocratic and ruling caste. In that capacity
they stood, alike in Gaul, in Spain, in Britain, and in Ireland, in the
forefront or armed opposition to foreign invasion. They bore the worst
brunt of war, of confiscations, and of banishment. They never lacked
valour, but they were not strong enough or united enough to prevail, and
they perished in far greater proportion than the earlier populations whom
they had themselves subjugated. But they disappeared also by mingling
their blood with these inhabitants, whom they impregnated with many of
their own noble and virile qualities. Hence it comes that the
characteristics of the peoples called Celtic in the present day, and who
carry on the Celtic tradition and language, are in some respects so
different from those of the Celts of classical history and the Celts who
produced the literature and art of ancient Ireland, and in others so
strikingly similar. To take a physical characteristic alone, the more
Celtic districts of the British Islands are at present marked by darkness
of complexion, hair, &c. They are not very dark, but they are darker than
the rest of the kingdom.(6) But the true Celts were certainly fair. Even
the Irish Celts of the twelfth century are described by Giraldus
Cambrensis as a fair race.

*Golden Age of the Celts*

But we are anticipating, and must return to the period of the origins of
Celtic history. As astronomers have discerned the existence of an unknown
planet by the perturbations which it has caused in the courses of those
already under direct observation, so we can discern in the fifth and
fourth centuries before Christ the presence of a great power and of mighty
movements going on behind a veil which will never be lifted now. This was
the Golden Age of Celtdom in Continental Europe. During this period the
Celts waged three great and successful wars, which had no little influence
on the course of South European history. About 500 B.C. they conquered
Spain from the Carthaginians. A century later we find them engaged in the
conquest of Northern Italy from the Etruscans. They settled in large
numbers in the territory afterwards known as Cisalpine Gaul, where many
names, such as _Mediolanum_ (Milan), _Addua_ (Adda), _Viro-dunum_
(Verduno), and perhaps _Cremona_ (_creamh_, garlic),(7) testify still to
their occupation. They left a greater memorial in the chief of Latin
poets, whose name, Vergil, appears to bear evidence of his Celtic
ancestry.(8) Towards the end of the fourth century they overran Pannonia,
conquering the Illyrians.

*Alliances with the Greeks*

All these wars were undertaken in alliance with the Greeks, with whom the
Celts were at this period on the friendliest terms. By the war with the
Carthaginians the monopoly held by that people of the trade in tin with
Britain and in silver with the miners of Spain was broken down, and the
overland route across France to Britain, for the sake of which the
Phocæans had in 600 B.C. created the port of Marseilles, was definitely
secured to Greek trade. Greeks and Celts were at this period allied
against Phœnicians and Persians. The defeat of Hamilcar by Gelon at
Himera, in Sicily, took place in the same year as that of Xerxes at
Salamis. The Carthaginian army in that expedition was made up of
mercenaries from half a dozen different nations, but not a Celt is found
in the Carthaginian ranks, and Celtic hostility must have counted for much
in preventing the Carthaginians from lending help to the Persians for the
overthrow of their common enemy. These facts show that Celtica played no
small part in preserving the Greek type of civilisation from being
overwhelmed by the despotisms of the East, and thus in keeping alive in
Europe the priceless seed of freedom and humane culture.

*Alexander the Great*

When the counter-movement of Hellas against the East began under Alexander
the Great we find the Celts again appearing as a factor of importance.

In the fourth century Macedon was attacked and almost obliterated by
Thracian and Illyrian hordes. King Amyntas II. was defeated and driven
into exile. His son Perdiccas II. was killed in battle. When Philip, a
younger brother of Perdiccas, came to the obscure and tottering throne
which he and his successors were to make the seat of a great empire he was
powerfully aided in making head against the Illyrians by the conquests of
the Celts in the valleys of the Danube and the Po. The alliance was
continued, and rendered, perhaps, more formal in the days of Alexander.
When about to undertake his conquest of Asia (334 B.C.) Alexander first
made a compact with the Celts “who dwelt by the Ionian Gulf” in order to
secure his Greek dominions from attack during his absence. The episode is
related by Ptolemy Soter in his history of the wars of Alexander.(9) It
has a vividness which stamps it as a bit of authentic history, and another
singular testimony to the truth of the narrative has been brought to light
by de Jubainville. As the Celtic envoys, who are described as men of
haughty bearing and great stature, their mission concluded, were drinking
with the king, he asked them, it is said, what was the thing they, the
Celts, most feared. The envoys replied: “We fear no man: there is but one
thing that we fear, namely, that the sky should fall on us; but we regard
nothing so much as the friendship of a man such as thou.” Alexander bade
them farewell, and, turning to his nobles, whispered: “What a vainglorious
people are these Celts!” Yet the answer, for all its Celtic bravura and
flourish, was not without both dignity and courtesy. The reference to the
falling of the sky seems to give a glimpse of some primitive belief or
myth of which it is no longer possible to discover the meaning.(10) The
national oath by which the Celts bound themselves to the observance of
their covenant with Alexander is remarkable. “If we observe not this
engagement,” they said, “may the sky fall on us and crush us, may the
earth gape and swallow us up, may the sea burst out and overwhelm us.” De
Jubainville draws attention most appositely to a passage from the “Táin Bo
Cuailgne,” in the Book of Leinster(11), where the Ulster heroes declare to
their king, who wished to leave them in battle in order to meet an attack
in another part of the field: “Heaven is above us, and earth beneath us,
and the sea is round about us. Unless the sky shall fall with its showers
of stars on the ground where we are camped, or unless the earth shall be
rent by an earthquake, or unless the waves of the blue sea come over the
forests of the living world, we shall not give ground.”(12) This survival
of a peculiar oath-formula for more than a thousand years, and its
reappearance, after being first heard of among the Celts of Mid-Europe, in
a mythical romance of Ireland, is certainly most curious, and, with other
facts which we shall note hereafter, speaks strongly for the community and
persistence of Celtic culture.(13)

*The Sack of Rome*

We have mentioned two of the great wars of the Continental Celts; we come
now to the third, that with the Etruscans, which ultimately brought them
into conflict with the greatest power of pagan Europe, and led to their
proudest feat of arms, the sack of Rome. About the year 400 B.C. the
Celtic Empire seems to have reached the height of its power. Under a king
named by Livy Ambicatus, who was probably the head of a dominant tribe in
a military confederacy, like the German Emperor in the present day, the
Celts seem to have been welded into a considerable degree of political
unity, and to have followed a consistent policy. Attracted by the rich
land of Northern Italy, they poured down through the passes of the Alps,
and after hard fighting with the Etruscan inhabitants they maintained
their ground there. At this time the Romans were pressing on the Etruscans
from below, and Roman and Celt were acting in definite concert and
alliance. But the Romans, despising perhaps the Northern barbarian
warriors, had the rashness to play them false at the siege of Clusium, 391
B.C., a place which the Romans regarded as one of the bulwarks of Latium
against the North. The Celts recognised Romans who had come to them in the
sacred character of ambassadors fighting in the ranks of the enemy. The
events which followed are, as they have come down to us, much mingled with
legend, but there are certain touches of dramatic vividness in which the
true character of the Celts appears distinctly recognisable. They applied,
we are told, to Rome for satisfaction for the treachery of the envoys, who
were three sons of Fabius Ambustus, the chief pontiff. The Romans refused
to listen to the claim, and elected the Fabii military tribunes for the
ensuing year. Then the Celts abandoned the siege of Clusium and marched
straight on Rome. The army showed perfect discipline. There was no
indiscriminate plundering and devastation, no city or fortress was
assailed. “We are bound for Rome” was their cry to the guards upon the
walls of the provincial towns, who watched the host in wonder and fear as
it rolled steadily to the south. At last they reached the river Allia, a
few miles from Rome, where the whole available force of the city was
ranged to meet them. The battle took place on July 18, 390, that
ill-omened _dies Alliensis_ which long perpetuated in the Roman calendar
the memory of the deepest shame the republic had ever known. The Celts
turned the flank of the Roman army, and annihilated it in one tremendous
charge. Three days later they were in Rome, and for nearly a year they
remained masters of the city, or of its ruins, till a great fine had been
exacted and full vengeance taken for the perfidy at Clusium. For nearly a
century after the treaty thus concluded there was peace between the Celts
and the Romans, and the breaking of that peace when certain Celtic tribes
allied themselves with their old enemy, the Etruscans, in the third
Samnite war was coincident with the breaking up of the Celtic Empire.(14)

Two questions must now be considered before we can leave the historical
part of this Introduction. First of all, what are the evidences for the
widespread diffusion of Celtic power in Mid-Europe during this period?
Secondly, where were the Germanic peoples, and what was their position in
regard to the Celts?

*Celtic Place-names in Europe*

To answer these questions fully would take us (for the purposes of this
volume) too deeply into philological discussions, which only the Celtic
scholar can fully appreciate. The evidence will be found fully set forth
in de Jubainville’s work, already frequently referred to. The study of
European place-names forms the basis of the argument. Take the Celtic name
_Noviomagus_ composed of two Celtic words, the adjective meaning new, and
_magos_ (Irish _magh_) a field or plain.(15) There were nine places of
this name known in antiquity. Six were in France, among them the places
now called Noyon, in Oise, Nijon, in Vosges, Nyons, in Drôme. Three
outside of France were Nimègue, in Belgium, Neumagen, in the Rhineland,
and one at Speyer, in the Palatinate.

The word _dunum_, so often traceable in Gaelic place-names in the present
day (Dundalk, Dunrobin, &c.), and meaning fortress or castle, is another
typically Celtic element in European place-names. It occurred very
frequently in France—_e.g., Lug-dunum_ (Lyons), _Viro-dunum_ (Verdun). It
is also found in Switzerland—_e.g., Minno-dunum_ (Moudon), _Eburo-dunum_
(Yverdon)—and in the Netherlands, where the famous city of Leyden goes
back to a Celtic _Lug-dunum._ In Great Britain the Celtic term was often
changed by simple translation into _castra_; thus _Camulo-dunum_ became
Colchester, _Brano-dunum_ Brancaster. In Spain and Portugal eight names
terminating in _dunum_ are mentioned by classical writers. In Germany the
modern names Kempton, Karnberg, Liegnitz, go back respectively to the
Celtic forms _Cambo-dunum, Carro-aunum,_ _Lugi-dunum_, and we find a
_Singi-dunum,_ now Belgrade, in Servia, a _Novi-dunum_, now Isaktscha, in
Roumania, a _Carro-dunum_ in South Russia, near the Dniester, and another
in Croatia, now Pitsmeza. _Sego-dunum_, now Rodez, in France, turns up
also in Bavaria (Wurzburg), and in England (_Sege-dunum,_ now Wallsend, in
Northumberland), and the first term, _sego_, is traceable in Segorbe
(_Sego-briga_) in Spain. _Briga_ is a Celtic word, the origin of the
German _burg_, and equivalent in meaning to _dunum_.

One more example: the word _magos_, a plain, which is very frequent as an
element of Irish place-names, is found abundantly in France, and outside
of France, in countries no longer Celtic, it appears in Switzerland
(_Uro-magus_ now Promasens), in the Rhineland (_Broco-magus_, Brumath), in
the Netherlands, as already noted (Nimègue), in Lombardy several times,
and in Austria.

The examples given are by no means exhaustive, but they serve to indicate
the wide diffusion of the Celts in Europe and their identity of language
over their vast territory.(16)

*Early Celtic Art*

The relics of ancient Celtic art-work tell the same story. In the year
1846 a great pre-Roman necropolis was discovered at Hallstatt, near
Salzburg, in Austria. It contains relics believed by Dr. Arthur Evans to
date from about 750 to 400 B.C. These relics betoken in some cases a high
standard of civilisation and considerable commerce. Amber from the Baltic
is there, Phoenician glass, and gold-leaf of Oriental workmanship. Iron
swords are found whose hilts and sheaths are richly decorated with gold,
ivory, and amber.

The Celtic culture illustrated by the remains at Hallstatt developed later
into what is called the La Tène culture. La Tène was a settlement at the
north-eastern end of the Lake of Neuchâtel, and many objects of great
interest have been found there since the site was first explored in 1858.
These antiquities represent, according to Dr. Evans, the culminating
period of Gaulish civilisation, and date from round about the third
century B.C. The type of art here found must be judged in the light of an
observation recently made by Mr. Romilly Allen in his “Celtic Art” (p.

“The great difficulty in understanding the evolution of Celtic art lies in
the fact that although the Celts never seem to have invented any new
ideas, they possessed an extraordinary aptitude for picking up ideas from
the different peoples with whom war or commerce brought them into contact.
And once the Celt had borrowed an idea from his neighbours he was able to
give it such a strong Celtic tinge that it soon became something so
different from what it was originally as to be almost unrecognisable.”

Now what the Celt borrowed in the art-culture which on the Continent
culminated in the La Tène relics were certain originally naturalistic
motives for Greek ornaments, notably the palmette and the meander motives.
But it was characteristic of the Celt that he avoided in his art all
imitation of, or even approximation to, the natural forms of the plant and
animal world. He reduced everything to pure decoration. What he enjoyed in
decoration was the alternation of long sweeping curves and undulations
with the concentrated energy of close-set spirals or bosses, and with
these simple elements and with the suggestion of a few motives derived
from Greek art he elaborated a most beautiful, subtle, and varied system
of decoration, applied to weapons, ornaments, and to toilet and household
appliances of all kinds, in gold, bronze, wood, and stone, and possibly,
if we had the means of judging, to textile fabrics also. One beautiful
feature in the decoration of metal-work seems to have entirely originated
in Celtica. Enamelling was unknown to the classical nations till they
learned from the Celts. So late as the third century A.D. it was still
strange to the classical world, as we learn from the reference of

    “They say that the barbarians who live in the ocean [Britons] pour
    these colours upon heated brass, and that they adhere, become hard
    as stone, and preserve the designs that are made upon them.”

Dr. J. Anderson writes in the “Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries
of Scotland”:

    “The Gauls as well as the Britons—of the same Celtic
    stock—practised enamel-working before the Roman conquest. The
    enamel workshops of Bibracte, with their furnaces, crucibles,
    moulds, polishing-stones, and with the crude enamels in their
    various stages of preparation, have been recently excavated from
    the ruins of the city destroyed by Caesar and his legions. But the
    Bibracte enamels are the work of mere dabblers in the art,
    compared with the British examples. The home of the art was
    Britain, and the style of the pattern, as well as the association
    in which the objects decorated with it were found, demonstrated
    with certainty that it had reached its highest stage of indigenous
    development before it came in contact with the Roman culture.”(17)

The National Museum in Dublin contains many superb examples of Irish
decorative art in gold, bronze, and enamels, and the “strong Celtic tinge”
of which Mr. Romilly Allen speaks is as clearly observable there as in the
relics of Hallstatt or La Tène.

Everything, then, speaks of a community of culture, an identity of
race-character, existing over the vast territory known to the ancient
world as “Celtica.”

*Celts and Germans*

But, as we have said before, this territory was by no means inhabited by
the Celt alone. In particular we have to ask, who and where were the
Germans, the Teuto-Gothic tribes, who eventually took the place of the
Celts as the great Northern menace to classical civilisation?

They are mentioned by Pytheas, the eminent Greek traveller and geographer,
about 300 B.C., but they play no part in history till, under the name of
Cimbri and Teutones, they descended on Italy to be vanquished by Marius at
the close of the second century. The ancient Greek geographers prior to
Pytheas know nothing of them, and assign all the territories now known as
Germanic to various Celtic tribes.

The explanation given by de Jubainville, and based by him on various
philological considerations, is that the Germans were a subject people,
comparable to those “un-free tribes” who existed in Gaul and in ancient
Ireland. They lived under the Celtic dominion, and had no independent
political existence. De Jubainville finds that all the words connected
with law and government and war which are common both to the Celtic and
Teutonic languages were borrowed by the latter from the former. Chief
among them are the words represented by the modern German _Reich_, empire,
_Amt_, office, and the Gothic _reiks_, a king, all of which are of
unquestioned Celtic origin. De Jubainville also numbers among loan words
from Celtic the words _Bann_, an order; _Frei_, free; _Geisel_, a hostage;
_Erbe_, an inheritance; _Werth_, value; _Weih_, sacred; _Magus_, a slave
(Gothic); _Wini_, a wife (Old High German); _Skalks, Schalk_, a slave
(Gothic); _Hathu_, battle (Old German); _Helith, Held_, a hero, from the
same root as the word Celt; _Heer_, an army (Celtic _choris_); _Sieg_,
victory; _Beute_, booty; _Burg_, a castle; and many others.

The etymological history of some of these words is interesting. _Amt_, for
instance, that word of so much significance in modern German
administration, goes back to an ancient Celtic _ambhactos_, which is
compounded of the words _ambi_, about, and _actos_, a past participle
derived from the Celtic root _AG_, meaning to act. Now _ambi_ descends
from the primitive Indo-European _mbhi_, where the initial _m_ is a kind
of vowel, afterwards represented in Sanscrit by _a_. This _m_ vowel became
_n_ in those Germanic words which derive directly from the primitive
Indo-European tongue. But the word which is now represented by _amt_
appears in its earliest Germanic form as _ambaht_, thus making plain its
descent from the Celtic _ambhactos_.

Again, the word _frei_ is found in its earliest Germanic form as
_frijo-s,_ which comes from the primitive Indo-European _prijo-s_. The
word here does not, however, mean free; it means beloved (Sanscrit
_priya-s_). In the Celtic language, however, we find _prijos_ dropping its
initial _p_—a difficulty in pronouncing this letter was a marked feature
in ancient Celtic; it changed _j_, according to a regular rule, into _dd_,
and appears in modern Welsh as _rhydd_=free. The Indo-European meaning
persists in the Germanic languages in the name of the love-goddess,
_Freia_, and in the word _Freund_, friend, _Friede_, peace. The sense
borne by the word in the sphere of civil right is traceable to a Celtic
origin, and in that sense appears to have been a loan from Celtic.

The German _Beute_, booty, plunder, has had an instructive history. There
was a Gaulish word _bodi_ found in compounds such as the place-name
Segobodium (Seveux), and various personal and tribal names, including
Boudicca, better known to us as the “British warrior queen,” Boadicea.
This word meant anciently “victory.” But the fruits of victory are spoil,
and in this material sense the word was adopted in German, in French
(_butin_) in Norse (_byte_), and the Welsh (_budd_). On the other hand,
the word preserved its elevated significance in Irish. In the Irish
translation of Chronicles xxix. 11, where the Vulgate original has “Tua
est, Domine, magnificentia et potentia et gloria et victoria,” the word
_victoria_ is rendered by the Irish _búaidh_, and, as de Jubainville
remarks, “ce n’est pas de butin qu’il s’agit.” He goes on to say:
“_Búaidh_ has preserved in Irish, thanks to a vigorous and persistent
literary culture, the high meaning which it bore in the tongue of the
Gaulish aristocracy. The material sense of the word was alone perceived by
the lower classes of the population, and it is the tradition of this lower
class which has been preserved in the German, the French, and the Cymric

Two things, however, the Celts either could not or would not impose on the
subjugated German tribes—their language and their religion. In these two
great factors of race-unity and pride lay the seeds of the ultimate German
uprising and overthrow of the Celtic supremacy. The names of the German
are different from those of the Celtic deities, their funeral customs,
with which are associated the deepest religious conceptions of primitive
races, are different. The Celts, or at least the dominant section of them,
buried their dead, regarding the use of fire as a humiliation, to be
inflicted on criminals, or upon slaves or prisoners in those terrible
human sacrifices which are the greatest stain on their native culture. The
Germans, on the other hand, burned their illustrious dead on pyres, like
the early Greeks—if a pyre could not be afforded for the whole body, the
noblest parts, such as the head and arms, were burned and the rest buried.

*Downfall of the Celtic Empire*

What exactly took place at the time of the German revolt we shall never
know; certain it is, however, that from about the year 300 B.C. onward the
Celts appear to have lost whatever political cohesion and common purpose
they had possessed. Rent asunder, as it were, by the upthrust of some
mighty subterranean force, their tribes rolled down like lava-streams to
the south, east, and west of their original home. Some found their way
into Northern Greece, where they committed the outrage which so
scandalised their former friends and allies in the sack of the shrine of
Delphi (273 B.C.). Others renewed, with worse fortune, the old struggle
with Rome, and perished in vast numbers at Sentinum (295 B.C.) and Lake
Vadimo (283 B.C.). One detachment penetrated into Asia Minor, and founded
the Celtic State of Galatia, where, as St. Jerome attests, a Celtic
dialect was still spoken in the fourth century A.D. Others enlisted as
mercenary troops with Carthage. A tumultuous war of Celts against
scattered German tribes, or against other Celts who represented earlier
waves of emigration and conquest, went on all over Mid-Europe, Gaul, and
Britain. When this settled down Gaul and the British Islands remained
practically the sole relics of the Celtic empire, the only countries still
under Celtic law and leadership. By the commencement of the Christian era
Gaul and Britain had fallen under the yoke of Rome, and their complete
Romanisation was only a question of time.

*Unique Historical Position of Ireland*

Ireland alone was never even visited, much less subjugated, by the Roman
legionaries, and maintained its independence against all comers nominally
until the close of the twelfth century, but for all practical purposes a
good three hundred years longer.

Ireland has therefore this unique feature of interest, that it carried an
indigenous Celtic civilisation, Celtic institutions, art, and literature,
and the oldest surviving form of the Celtic language,(19) right across the
chasm which separates the antique from the modern world, the pagan from
the Christian world, and on into the full light of modern history and

*The Celtic Character*

The moral no less than the physical characteristics attributed by
classical writers to the Celtic peoples show a remarkable distinctness and
consistency. Much of what is said about them might, as we should expect,
be said of any primitive and unlettered people, but there remains so much
to differentiate them among the races of mankind that if these ancient
references to the Celts could be read aloud, without mentioning the name
of the race to whom they referred, to any person acquainted with it
through modern history alone, he would, I think, without hesitation, name
the Celtic peoples as the subject of the description which he had heard.

Some of these references have already been quoted, and we need not repeat
the evidence derived from Plato, Ephorus, or Arrian. But an observation of
M. Porcius Cato on the Gauls may be adduced. “There are two things,” he
says, “to which the Gauls are devoted—the art of war and subtlety of
speech” (“rem militarem et argute loqui”).

*Cæsar’s Account*

Cæsar has given us a careful and critical account of them as he knew them
in Gaul. They were, he says, eager for battle, but easily dashed by
reverses. They were extremely superstitious, submitting to their Druids in
all public and private affairs, and regarding it as the worst of
punishments to be excommunicated and forbidden to approach thu ceremonies
of religion:

    “They who are thus interdicted [for refusing to obey a Druidical
    sentence] are reckoned in the number of the vile and wicked; all
    persons avoid and fly their company and discourse, lest they
    should receive any infection by contagion; they are not permitted
    to commence a suit; neither is any post entrusted to them.... The
    Druids are generally freed from military service, nor do they pay
    taxes with the rest.... Encouraged by such rewards, many of their
    own accord come to their schools, and are sent by their friends
    and relations. They are said there to get by heart a great number
    of verses; some continue twenty years in their education; neither
    is it held lawful to commit these things [the Druidic doctrines]
    to writing, though in almost all public transactions and private
    accounts they use the Greek characters.”

The Gauls were eager for news, besieging merchants and travellers for
gossip,(20) easily influenced, sanguine, credulous, fond of change, and
wavering in their counsels. They were at the same time remarkably acute
and intelligent, very quick to seize upon and to imitate any contrivance
they found useful. Their ingenuity in baffling the novel siege apparatus
of the Roman armies is specially noticed by Cæsar. Of their courage he
speaks with great respect, attributing their scorn of death, in some
degree at least, to their firm faith in the immortality of the soul.(21) A
people who in earlier days had again and again annihilated Roman armies,
had sacked Rome, and who had more than once placed Cæsar himself in
positions of the utmost anxiety and peril, were evidently no weaklings,
whatever their religious beliefs or practices. Cæsar is not given to
sentimental admiration of his foes, but one episode at the siege of
Avaricum moves him to immortalise the valour of the defence. A wooden
structure or _agger_ had been raised by the Romans to overtop the walls,
which had proved impregnable to the assaults of the battering-ram. The
Gauls contrived to set this on fire. It was of the utmost moment to
prevent the besiegers from extinguishing the flames, and a Gaul mounted a
portion of the wall above the _agger_, throwing down upon it balls of
tallow and pitch, which were handed up to him from within. He was soon
struck down by a missile from a Roman catapult. Immediately another
stepped over him as he lay, and continued his comrade’s task. He too fell,
but a third instantly took his place, and a fourth; nor was this post ever
deserted until the legionaries at last extinguished the flames and forced
the defenders back into the town, which was finally captured on the
following day.

*Strabo on the Celts*

The geographer and traveller Strabo, who died 24 A.D., and was therefore a
little later than Cæsar, has much to tell us about the Celts. He notices
that their country (in this case Gaul) is thickly inhabited and well
tilled—there is no waste of natural resources. The women are prolific, and
notably good mothers. He describes the men as warlike, passionate,
disputatious, easily provoked, but generous and unsuspicious, and easily
vanquished by stratagem. They showed themselves eager for culture, and
Greek letters and science had spread rapidly among them from Massilia;
public education was established in their towns. They fought better on
horseback than on foot, and in Strabo’s time formed the flower of the
Roman cavalry. They dwelt in great houses made of arched timbers with
walls of wickerwork—no doubt plastered with clay and lime, as in
Ireland—and thickly thatched. Towns of much importance were found in Gaul,
and Cæsar notes the strength of their walls, built of stone and timber.
Both Cæsar and Strabo agree that there was a very sharp division between
the nobles and priestly or educated class on the one hand and the common
people on the other, the latter being kept in strict subjection. The
social division corresponds roughly, no doubt, to the race distinction
between the true Celts and the aboriginal populations subdued by them.
While Cæsar tells us that the Druids taught the immortality of the soul,
Strabo adds that they believed in the indestructibility, which implies in
some sense the divinity, of the material universe.

The Celtic warrior loved display. Everything that gave brilliance and the
sense of drama to life appealed to him. His weapons were richly
ornamented, his horse-trappings were wrought in bronze and enamel, of
design as exquisite as any relic of Mycenean or Cretan art, his raiment
was embroidered with gold. The scene of the surrender of Vercingetorix,
when his heroic struggle with Rome had come to an end on the fall of
Alesia, is worth recording as a typically Celtic blend of chivalry and of
what appeared to the sober-minded Romans childish ostentation.(22) When he
saw that the cause was lost he summoned a tribal council, and told the
assembled chiefs, whom he had led through a glorious though unsuccessful
war, that he was ready to sacrifice himself for his still faithful
followers—they might send his head to Cæsar if they liked, or he would
voluntarily surrender himself for the sake of getting easier terms for his
countrymen. The latter alternative was chosen. Vercingetorix then armed
himself with his most splendid weapons, decked his horse with its richest
trappings, and, after riding thrice round the Roman camp, went before
Cæsar and laid at his feet the sword which was the sole remaining defence
of Gallic independence. Cæsar sent him to Rome, where he lay in prison for
six years, and was finally put to death when Cæsar celebrated his triumph.

But the Celtic love of splendour and of art were mixed with much
barbarism. Strabo tells us how the warriors rode home from victory with
the heads of fallen foemen dangling from their horses’ necks, just as in
the Irish saga the Ulster hero, Cuchulain, is represented as driving back
to Emania from a foray into Connacht with the heads of his enemies hanging
from his chariot-rim. Their domestic arrangements were rude; they lay on
the ground to sleep, sat on couches of straw, and their women worked in
the fields.


A characteristic scene from the battle of Clastidium (222 B.C.) is
recorded by Polybius. The Gæsati,(23) he tells us, who were in the
forefront of the Celtic army, stripped naked for the fight, and the sight
of these warriors, with their great stature and their fair skins, on which
glittered the collars and bracelets of gold so loved as an adornment by
all the Celts, filled the Roman legionaries with awe. Yet when the day was
over those golden ornaments went in cartloads to deck the Capitol of Rome;
and the final comment of Polybius on the character of the Celts is that
they, “I say not usually, but always, in everything they attempt, are
driven headlong by their passions, and never submit to the laws of
reason.” As might be expected, the chastity for which the Germans were
noted was never, until recent times, a Celtic characteristic.


Diodorus Siculus, a contemporary of Julius Cæsar and Augustus, who had
travelled in Gaul, confirms in the main the accounts of Cæsar and Strabo,
but adds some interesting details. He notes in particular the Gallic love
of gold. Even cuirasses were made of it. This is also a very notable trait
in Celtic Ireland, where an astonishing number of prehistoric gold relics
have been found, while many more, now lost, are known to have existed. The
temples and sacred places, say Posidonius and Diodorus, were full of
unguarded offerings of gold, which no one ever touched. He mentions the
great reverence paid to the bards, and, like Cato, notices something
peculiar about the kind of speech which the educated Gauls cultivated:
“they are not a talkative people, and are fond of expressing themselves in
enigmas, so that the hearer has to divine the most part of what they would
say.” This exactly answers to the literary language of ancient Ireland,
which is curt and allusive to a degree. The Druid was regarded as the
prescribed intermediary between God and man—no one could perform a
religious act without his assistance.

*Ammianus Marcellinus*

Ammianus Marcellinus, who wrote much later, in the latter half of the
fourth century A.D., had also visited Gaul, which was then, of course,
much Romanised. He tells us, however, like former writers, of the great
stature, fairness, and arrogant bearing of the Gallic warrior. He adds
that the people, especially in Aquitaine, were singularly clean and proper
in their persons—no one was to be seen in rags. The Gallic woman he
describes as very tall, blue-eyed, and singularly beautiful; but a certain
amount of awe is mingled with his evident admiration, for he tells us that
while it was dangerous enough to get into a fight with a Gallic man, your
case was indeed desperate if his wife with her “huge snowy arms,” which
could strike like catapults, came to his assistance. One is irresistibly
reminded of the gallery of vigorous, independent, fiery-hearted women,
like Maeve, Grania, Findabair, Deirdre, and the historic Boadicea, who
figure in the myths and in the history of the British Islands.

*Rice Holmes on the Gauls*

The following passage from Dr. Rice Holmes’ “Cæsar’s Conquest of Gaul” may
be taken as an admirable summary of the social physiognomy of that part of
Celtica a little before the time of the Christian era, and it corresponds
closely to all that is known of the native Irish civilisation:

    “The Gallic peoples had risen far above the condition of savages;
    and the Celticans of the interior, many of whom had already fallen
    under Roman influence, had attained a certain degree of
    civilisation, and even of luxury. Their trousers, from which the
    province took its name of Gallia Bracata, and their many-coloured
    tartan skirts and cloaks excited the astonishment of their
    conquerors. The chiefs wore rings and bracelets and necklaces of
    gold; and when these tall, fair-haired warriors rode forth to
    battle, with their helmets wrought in the shape of some fierce
    beast’s head, and surmounted by nodding plumes, their chain
    armour, their long bucklers and their huge clanking swords, they
    made a splendid show. Walled towns or large villages, the
    strongholds of the various tribes, were conspicuous on numerous
    hills. The plains were dotted by scores of oper hamlets. The
    houses, built of timber and wickerwork, were large and well
    thatched. The fields in summer were yellow with corn. Roads ran
    from town to town. Rude bridges spanned the rivers; and barges
    laden with merchandise floated along them. Ships clumsy indeed but
    larger than any that were seen on the Mediterranean, braved the
    storms of the Bay of Biscay and carried cargoes between the ports
    of Brittany and the coast of Britain. Tolls were exacted on the
    goods which were transported on the great waterways; and it was
    from the farming of these dues that the nobles derived a large
    part of their wealth. Every tribe had its coinage; and the
    knowledge of writing in Greek and Roman characters was not
    confined to the priests. The Æduans were familiar with the plating
    of copper and of tin. The miners of Aquitaine, of Auvergne, and of
    the Berri were celebrated for their skill. Indeed, in all that
    belonged to outward prosperity the peoples of Gaul had made great
    strides since their kinsmen first came into contact with

*Weakness of the Celtic Policy*

Yet this native Celtic civilisation, in many respects so attractive and so
promising, had evidently some defect or disability which prevented the
Celtic peoples from holding their own either against the ancient
civilisation of the Græco-Roman world, or against the rude young vigour of
the Teutonic races. Let us consider what this was.

*The Classical State*

At the root of the success of classical nations lay the conception of the
civic community, the _πόλις_, the _res publica_, as a kind of divine
entity, the foundation of blessing to men, venerable for its age, yet
renewed in youth with every generation; a power which a man might joyfully
serve, knowing that even if not remembered in its records his faithful
service would outlive his own petty life and go to exalt the life of his
motherland or city for all future time. In this spirit Socrates, when
urged to evade his death sentence by taking the means of escape from
prison which his friends offered him, rebuked them for inciting him to an
impious violation of his country’s laws. For a man’s country, he says, is
more holy and venerable than father or mother, and he must quietly obey
the laws, to which he has assented by living under them all his life, or
incur the just wrath of their great Brethren, the Laws of the Underworld,
before whom, in the end, he must answer for his conduct on earth. In a
greater or less degree this exalted conception of the State formed the
practical religion of every man among the classical nations of antiquity,
and gave to the State its cohesive power, its capability of endurance and
of progress.

*Teutonic Loyalty*

With the Teuton the cohesive force was supplied by another motive, one
which was destined to mingle with the civic motive and to form, in union
with it—and often in predominance over it—the main political factor in the
development of the European nations. This was the sentiment of what the
Germans called _Treue_, the personal fidelity to a chief, which in very
early times extended itself to a royal dynasty, a sentiment rooted
profoundly in the Teutonic nature, and one which has never been surpassed
by any other human impulse as the source of heroic self-sacrifice.

*Celtic Religion*

No human influences are ever found pure and unmixed. The sentiment of
personal fidelity was not unknown to the classical nations. The sentiment
of civic patriotism, though of slow growth among the Teutonic races, did
eventually establish itself there. Neither sentiment was unknown to the
Celt, but there was another force which, in his case, overshadowed and
dwarfed them, and supplied what it could of the political inspiration and
unifying power which the classical nations got from patriotism and the
Teutons from loyalty. This was Religion; or perhaps it would be more
accurate to say Sacerdotalism—religion codified in dogma and administered
by a priestly caste. The Druids, as we have seen from Cæsar, whose
observations are entirely confirmed by Strabo and by references in Irish
legends,(25) were the really sovran power in Celtica. All affairs, public
and private, were subject to their authority, and the penalties which they
could inflict for any assertion of lay independence, though resting for
their efficacy, like the mediæval interdicts of the Catholic Church, on
popular superstition alone, were enough to quell the proudest spirit. Here
lay the real weakness of the Celtic polity. There is perhaps no law
written more conspicuously in the teachings of history than that nations
who are ruled by priests drawing their authority from supernatural
sanctions are, just in the measure that they are so ruled, incapable of
true national progress. The free, healthy current of secular life and
thought is, in the very nature of things, incompatible with priestly rule.
Be the creed what it may, Druidism, Islam, Judaism, Christianity, or
fetichism, a priestly caste claiming authority in temporal affairs by
virtue of extra-temporal sanctions is inevitably the enemy of that spirit
of criticism, of that influx of new ideas, of that growth of secular
thought, of human and rational authority, which are the elementary
conditions of national development.

*The Cursing of Tara*

A singular and very cogent illustration of this truth can be drawn from
the history of the early Celtic world. In the sixth century A.D., a little
over a hundred years after the preaching of Christianity by St. Patrick, a
king named Dermot MacKerval(26) ruled in Ireland. He was the Ard Righ, or
High King, of that country, whose seat of government was at Tara, in
Meath, and whose office, with its nominal and legal superiority to the
five provincial kings, represented the impulse which was moving the Irish
people towards a true national unity. The first condition of such a unity
was evidently the establishment of an effective central authority. Such an
authority, as we have said, the High King, in theory, represented. Now it
happened that one of his officers was murdered in the discharge of his
duty by a chief named Hugh Guairy. Guairy was the brother of a bishop who
was related by fosterage to St. Ruadan of Lorrha, and when King Dermot
sent to arrest the murderer these clergy found him a hiding-place. Dermot,
however, caused a search to be made, haled him forth from under the roof
of St. Ruadan, and brought him to Tara for trial. Immediately the
ecclesiastics of Ireland made common cause against the lay ruler who had
dared to execute justice on a criminal under clerical protection. They
assembled at Tara, fasted against the king,(27) and laid their solemn
malediction upon him and the seat of his government. Then the chronicler
tells us that Dermot’s wife had a prophetic dream:

    “Upon Tara’s green was a vast and wide-foliaged tree, and eleven
    slaves hewing at it; but every chip that they knocked from it
    would return into its place again and there adhere instantly, till
    at last there came one man that dealt the tree but a stroke, and
    with that single cut laid it low.”(28)

The fair tree was the Irish monarchy, the twelve hewers were the twelve
Saints or Apostles of Ireland, and the one who laid it low was St. Ruadan.
The plea of the king for his country, whose fate he saw to be hanging in
the balance, is recorded with moving force and insight by the Irish

    “ ‘Alas,’ he said, ‘for the iniquitous contest that ye have waged
    against me; seeing that it is Ireland’s good that I pursue, and to
    preserve her discipline and royal right; but ’tis Ireland’s
    unpeace and murderousness that ye endeavour after.’ ”

But Ruadan said, “Desolate be Tara for ever and ever”; and the popular awe
of the ecclesiastical malediction prevailed. The criminal was surrendered,
Tara was abandoned, and, except for a brief space when a strong usurper,
Brian Boru, fought his way to power, Ireland knew no effective secular
government till it was imposed upon her by a conqueror. The last words of
the historical tract from which we quote are Dermot’s cry of despair:

    “Woe to him that with the clergy of the churches battle joins.”

This remarkable incident has been described at some length because it is
typical of a factor whose profound influence in moulding the history of
the Celtic peoples we can trace through a succession of critical events
from the time of Julius Caesar to the present day. How and whence it arose
we shall consider later; here it is enough to call attention to it. It is
a factor which forbade the national development of the Celts, in the sense
in which we can speak of that of the classical or the Teutonic peoples.

*What Europe Owes to the Celt*

Yet to suppose that on this account the Celt was not a force of any real
consequence in Europe would be altogether a mistake. His contribution to
the culture of the Western world was a very notable one. For some four
centuries—about A.D. 500 to 900—Ireland was the refuge of learning and the
source of literary and philosophic culture for half Europe. The
verse-forms of Celtic poetry have probably played the main part in
determining the structure of all modern verse. The myths and legends of
the Gaelic and Cymric peoples kindled the imagination of a host of
Continental poets. True, the Celt did not himself create any great
architectural work of literature, just as he did not create a stable or
imposing national polity. His thinking and feeling were essentially
lyrical and concrete. Each object or aspect of life impressed him vividly
and stirred him profoundly; he was sensitive, impressionable to the last
degree, but did not see things in their larger and more far-reaching
relations. He had little gift for the establishment or institutions, for
the service of principles; but he was, and is, an indispensable and
never-failing assertor of humanity as against the tyranny of principles,
the coldness and barrenness of institutions. The institutions of royalty
and of civic patriotism are both very capable of being fossilised into
barren formulae, and thus of fettering instead of inspiring the soul. But
the Celt has always been a rebel against anything that has not in it the
breath of life, against any unspiritual and purely external form of
domination. It is too true that he has been over-eager to enjoy the fine
fruits of life without the long and patient preparation for the harvest,
but he has done and will still do infinite service to the modern world in
insisting that the true fruit of life is a spiritual reality, never
without pain and loss to be obscured or forgotten amid the vast mechanism
of a material civilisation.


*Ireland and the Celtic Religion*

We have said that the Irish among the Celtic peoples possess the unique
interest of having carried into the light of modern historical research
many of the features of a native Celtic civilisation. There is, however,
one thing which they did not carry across the gulf which divides us from
the ancient world—and this was their religion.

It was not merely that they changed it; they left it behind them so
entirely that all record of it is lost. St. Patrick, himself a Celt, who
apostolised Ireland during the fifth century, has left us an
autobiographical narrative of his mission, a document of intense interest,
and the earliest extant record of British Christianity; but in it he tells
us nothing of the doctrines he came to supplant. We learn far more of
Celtic religious beliefs from Julius Cæsar, who approached them from quite
another side. The copious legendary literature which took its present form
in Ireland between the seventh and the twelfth centuries, though often
manifestly going back to pre-Christian sources, shows us, beyond a belief
in magic and a devotion to certain ceremonial or chivalric observances,
practically nothing resembling a religious or even an ethical system. We
know that certain chiefs and bards offered a long resistance to the new
faith, and that this resistance came to the arbitrament of battle at
Moyrath in the sixth century, but no echo of any intellectual controversy,
no matching of one doctrine against another, such as we find, for
instance, in the records of the controversy of Celsus with Origen, has
reached us from this period of change and strife. The literature of
ancient Ireland, as we shall see, embodied many ancient myths; and traces
appear in it of beings who must, at one time, have been gods or elemental
powers; but all has been emptied of religious significance and turned to
romance and beauty. Yet not only was there, as Cæsar tells us, a very
well-developed religious system among the Gauls, but we learn on the same
authority that the British Islands were the authoritative centre of this
system; they were, so to speak, the Rome of the Celtic religion.

What this religion was like we have now to consider, as an introduction to
the myths and tales which more or less remotely sprang from it.

*The Popular Religion of the Celts*

But first we must point out that the Celtic religion was by no means a
simple affair, and cannot be summed up as what we call “Druidism.” Beside
the official religion there was a body of popular superstitions and
observances which came from a deeper and older source than Druidism, and
was destined long to outlive it—indeed, it is far from dead even yet.

*The Megalithic People*

The religions of primitive peoples mostly centre on, or take their rise
from, rites and practices connected with the burial of the dead. The
earliest people inhabiting Celtic territory in the West of Europe of whom
we have any distinct knowledge are a race without name or known history,
but by their sepulchral monuments, of which so many still exist, we can
learn a great deal about them. They were the so-called Megalithic
People,(30) the builders of dolmens, cromlechs, and chambered tumuli, of
which more than three thousand have been counted in France alone. Dolmens
are found from Scandinavia southwards, all down the western lands of
Europe to the Straits of Gibraltar, and round by the Mediterranean coast
of Spain. They occur in some of the western islands of the Mediterranean,
and are found in Greece, where, in Mycenæ, an ancient dolmen yet stands
beside the magnificent burial-chamber of the Atreidae. Roughly, if we draw
a line from the mouth of the Rhone northward to Varanger Fiord, one may
say that, except for a few Mediterranean examples, all the dolmens in
Europe lie to the west of that line. To the east none are found till we
come into Asia. But they cross the Straits of Gibraltar, and are found all
along the North African littoral, and thence eastwards through Arabia,
India, and as far as Japan.

*Dolmens, Cromlechs, and Tumuli*

                       [Dolmen at Proleek, Ireland]

                        Dolmen at Proleek, Ireland

                            _(After Borlase)_

A dolmen, it may be here explained, is a kind of chamber composed of
upright unhewn stones, and roofed generally with a single huge stone. They
are usually wedge-shaped in plan, and traces of a porch or vestibule can
often be noticed. The primary intention of the dolmen was to represent a
house or dwelling-place for the dead. A cromlech (often confused in
popular language with the dolmen) is properly a circular arrangement of
standing stones, often with a dolmen in their midst. It is believed that
most if not all of the now exposed dolmens were originally covered with a
great mound of earth or of smaller stones. Sometimes, as in the
illustration we give from Carnac, in Brittany, great avenues or alignments
are formed of single upright stones, and these, no doubt, had some purpose
connected with the ritual of worship carried on in the locality. The later
megalithic monuments, as at Stonehenge, may be of dressed stone, but in
all cases their rudeness of construction, the absence of any sculpturing
(except for patterns or symbols incised on the surface), the evident aim
at creating a powerful impression by the brute strength of huge monolithic
masses, as well as certain subsidiary features in their design which shall
be described later on, give these megalithic monuments a curious family
likeness and mark them out from the chambered tombs of the early Greeks,
of the Egyptians, and of other more advanced races. The dolmens proper
gave place in the end to great chambered mounds or tumuli, as at New
Grange, which we also reckon as belonging to the Megalithic People. They
are a natural development of the dolmen. The early dolmen-builders were in
the neolithic stage of culture, their weapons were of polished stone. But
in the tumuli not only stone, but also bronze, and even iron, instruments
are found—at first evidently importations, but afterwards of local

*Origin of the Megalithic People*

                   [Prehistoric Tumulus at New Grange]

                    Prehistoric Tumulus at New Grange

                     Photograph by R. Welch, Belfast

The language originally spoken by this people can only be conjectured by
the traces of it left in that of their conquerors, the Celts.(31) But a
map of the distribution or their monuments irresistibly suggests the idea
that their builders were of North African origin; that they were not at
first accustomed to traverse the sea for any great distance; that they
migrated westwards along North Africa, crossed into Europe where the
Mediterranean at Gibraltar narrows to a strait of a few miles in width,
and thence spread over the western regions of Europe, including the
British Islands, while on the eastward they penetrated by Arabia into
Asia. It must, however, be borne in mind that while originally, no doubt,
a distinct race, the Megalithic People came in the end to represent, not a
race, but a culture. The human remains found in these sepulchres, with
their wide divergence in the shape of the skull, &c., clearly prove
this.(32) These and other relics testify to the dolmen-builders in general
as representing a superior and well-developed type, acquainted with
agriculture, pasturage, and to some extent with seafaring. The monuments
themselves, which are often of imposing size and imply much thought and
organised effort in their construction, show unquestionably the existence,
at this period, of a priesthood charged with the care of funeral rites and
capable of controlling large bodies of men. Their dead were, as a rule,
not burned, but buried whole—the greater monuments marking, no doubt, the
sepulchres of important personages, while the common people were buried in
tombs of which no traces now exist.

*The Celts of the Plains*

De Jubainville, in his account of the early history of the Celts, takes
account of two main groups only—the Celts and the Megalithic People. But
A. Bertrand, in his very valuable work “La Religion des Gaulois,”
distinguishes two elements among the Celts themselves. There are, besides
the Megalithic People, the two groups of lowland Celts and mountain Celts.
The lowland Celts, according to his view, started from the Danube and
entered Gaul probably about 1200 B.C. They were the founders of the
lake-dwellings in Switzerland, in the Danube valley, and in Ireland. They
knew the use of metals, and worked in gold, in tin, in bronze, and towards
the end of their period in iron. Unlike the Megalithic People, they spoke
a Celtic tongue,(33) though Bertrand seems to doubt their genuine racial
affinity with the true Celts. They were perhaps Celticised rather than
actually Celtic. They were not warlike; a quiet folk of herdsmen, tillers,
and artificers. They did not bury, but burned their dead. At a great
settlement of theirs, Golasecca, in Cisalpine Gaul, 6000 interments were
found. In each case the body had been burned; there was not a single
burial without previous burning.

This people entered Gaul not (according to Bertrand), for the most part,
as conquerors, but by gradual infiltration, occupying vacant spaces
wherever they found them along the valleys and plains. They came by the
passes of the Alps, and their starting-point was the country of the Upper
Danube, which Herodotus says “rises among the Celts.” They blended
peacefully with the Megalithic People among whom they settled, and did not
evolve any of those advanced political institutions which are only nursed
in war, but probably they contributed powerfully to the development of the
Druidical system of religion and to the bardic poetry.

*The Celts of the Mountains*

Finally, we have a third group, the true Celtic group, which followed
closely on the track of the second. It was at the beginning of the sixth
century that it first made its appearance on the left bank of the Rhine.
While Bertrand calls the second group Celtic, these he styles Galatic, and
identifies them with the Galatæ of the Greeks and the Galli and Belgæ of
the Romans.

The second group, as we have said, were Celts of the plains. The third
were Celts of the mountains. The earliest home in which we know them was
the ranges of the Balkans and Carpathians. Their organisation was that of
a military aristocracy—they lorded it over the subject populations on whom
they lived by tribute or pillage. They are the warlike Celts of ancient
history—the sackers of Rome and Delphi, the mercenary warriors who fought
for pay and for the love of warfare in the ranks of Carthage and
afterwards of Rome. Agriculture and industry were despised by them, their
women tilled the ground, and under their rule the common population became
reduced almost to servitude; “plebs pœne servorum habetur loco,” as Caesar
tells us. Ireland alone escaped in some degree from the oppression of this
military aristocracy, and from the sharp dividing line which it drew
between the classes, yet even there a reflexion of the state of things in
Gaul is found, even there we find free and unfree tribes and oppressive
and dishonouring exactions on the part of the ruling order.

Yet, if this ruling race had some of the vices of untamed strength, they
had also many noble and humane qualities. They were dauntlessly brave,
fantastically chivalrous, keenly sensitive to the appeal of poetry, of
music, and of speculative thought. Posidonius found the bardic institution
flourishing among them about 100 B.C.,and about two hundred years earlier
Hecatæus of Abdera describes the elaborate musical services held by the
Celts in a Western island—probably Great Britain—in honour of their god
Apollo (Lugh).(34) Aryan of the Aryans, they had in them the making of a
great and progressive nation; but the Druidic system—not on the side of
its philosophy and science, but on that of its ecclesiastico-political
organisation—was their bane, and their submission to it was their fatal

The culture of these mountain Celts differed markedly from that of the
lowlanders. Their age was the age of iron, not of bronze; their dead were
not burned (which they considered a disgrace), but buried.

The territories occupied by them in force were Switzerland, Burgundy, the
Palatinate, and Northern France, parts of Britain to the west, and Illyria
and Galatia to the east, but smaller groups of them must have penetrated
far and wide through all Celtic territory, and taken up a ruling position
wherever they went.

                  [Stone Alignments at Kermaris, Carnac]

                   Stone Alignments at Kermaris, Carnac

                              Arthur G. Bell

There were three peoples, said Cæsar, inhabiting Gaul when his conquest
began; “they differ from each other in language, in customs, and in laws.”
These people he named respectively the Belgæ, the Celtæ, and the Aquitani.
He locates them roughly, the Belgæ in the north and east, the Celtæ in the
middle, and the Aquitani in the west and south. The Belgæ are the Galatæ
of Bertrand, the Celtæ are the Celts, and the Aquitani are the Megalithic
People. They had, of course, all been more or less brought under Celtic
influences, and the differences of language which Cæsar noticed need not
have been great; still it is noteworthy, and quite in accordance with
Bertrand’s views, that Strabo speaks of the Aquitani as differing markedly
from the rest of the inhabitants, and as resembling the Iberians. The
language of the other Gaulish peoples, he expressly adds, were merely
dialects of the same tongue.

*The Religion of Magic*

This triple division is reflected more or less in all the Celtic
countries, and must always be borne in mind when we speak of Celtic ideas
and Celtic religion, and try to estimate the contribution of the Celtic
peoples to European culture. The mythical literature and the art of the
Celt have probably sprung mainly from the section represented by the
Lowland Celts of Bertrand. But this literature of song and saga was
produced by a bardic class for the pleasure and instruction of a proud,
chivalrous, and warlike aristocracy, and would thus inevitably be moulded
by the ideas of this aristocracy. But it would also have been coloured by
the profound influence of the religious beliefs and observances
entertained by the Megalithic People—beliefs which are only now fading
slowly away in the spreading daylight of science. These beliefs may be
summed up in the one term Magic. The nature of this religion of magic must
now be briefly discussed, for it was a potent element in the formation of
the body of myths and legends with which we have afterwards to deal. And,
as Professor Bury remarked in his Inaugural Lecture at Cambridge, in 1903:

    “For the purpose of prosecuting that most difficult of all
    inquiries, the ethnical problem, the part played by race in the
    development of peoples and the effects of race-blendings, it must
    be remembered that the Celtic world commands one of the chief
    portals of ingress into that mysterious pre-Aryan foreworld, from
    which it may well be that we modern Europeans have inherited far
    more than we dream.”

The ultimate root of the word Magic is unknown, but proximately it is
derived from the Magi, or priests of Chaldea and Media in pre-Aryan and
pre-Semitic times, who were the great exponents of this system of thought,
so strangely mingled of superstition, philosophy, and scientific
observation. The fundamental conception of magic is that of the spiritual
vitality of all nature. This spiritual vitality was not, as in polytheism,
conceived as separated from nature in distinct divine personalities. It
was implicit and immanent in nature; obscure, undefined, invested with all
the awfulness of a power whose limits and nature are enveloped in
impenetrable mystery. In its remote origin it was doubtless, as many facts
appear to show, associated with the cult of the dead, for death was looked
upon as the resumption into nature, and as the investment with vague and
uncontrollable powers, of a spiritual force formerly embodied in the
concrete, limited, manageable, and therefore less awful form of a living
human personality. Yet these powers were not altogether uncontrollable.
The desire for control, as well as the suggestion of the means for
achieving it, probably arose from the first rude practices of the art of
healing. Medicine of some sort was one of the earliest necessities of man.
And the power of certain natural substances, mineral or vegetable, to
produce bodily and mental effects often of a most startling character
would naturally be taken as signal evidence of what we may call the
“magical” conception of the universe.(35) The first magicians were those
who attained a special knowledge of healing or poisonous herbs; but
“virtue” of some sort being attributed to every natural object and
phenomenon, a kind of magical science, partly the child of true research,
partly of poetic imagination, partly of priestcraft, would in time spring
up, would be codified into rites and formulas, attached to special places
and objects, and represented by symbols. The whole subject has been
treated by Pliny in a remarkable passage which deserves quotation at

*Pliny on the Religion of Magic*

    “Magic is one of the few things which it is important to discuss
    at some length, were it only because, being the most delusive of
    all the arts, it has everywhere and at all times been most
    powerfully credited. Nor need it surprise us that it has obtained
    so vast an influence, for it has united in itself the three arts
    which have wielded the most powerful sway over the spirit of man.
    Springing in the first instance from Medicine—a fact which no one
    can doubt—and under cover of a solicitude for our health, it has
    glided into the mind, and taken the form of another medicine, more
    holy and more profound. In the second place, bearing the most
    seductive and flattering promises, it has enlisted the motive of
    Religion, the subject on which, even at this day, mankind is most
    in the dark. To crown all it has had recourse to the art of
    Astrology; and every man is eager to know the future and convinced
    that this knowledge is most certainly to be obtained from the
    heavens. Thus, holding the minds of men enchained in this triple
    bond, it has extended its sway over many nations, and the Kings of
    Kings obey it in the East.

“In the East, doubtless, it was invented—in Persia and by Zoroaster.(36)
All the authorities agree in this. But has there not been more than one
Zoroaster?... I have noticed that in ancient times, and indeed almost
always, one finds men seeking in this science the climax of literary
glory—at least Pythagoras, Empedocles, Democritus, and Plato crossed the
seas, exiles, in truth, rather than travellers, to instruct themselves in
this. Returning to their native land, they vaunted the claims of magic and
maintained its secret doctrine.... In the Latin nations there are early
traces of it, as, for instance, in our Laws of the Twelve Tables(37) and
other monuments, as I have said in a former book. In fact, it was not
until the year 657 after the foundation of Rome, under the consulate of
Cornelius Lentulus Crassus, that it was forbidden by a _senatus consultum_
to sacrifice human beings; a fact which proves that up to this date these
horrible sacrifices were made. The Gauls have been captivated by it, and
that even down to our own times, for it was the Emperor Tiberius who
suppressed the Druids and all the herd of prophets and medicine-men. But
what is the use of launching prohibitions against an art which has thus
traversed the ocean and penetrated even to the confines of Nature?”
(_Hist. Nat._ xxx.)

Pliny adds that the first person whom he can ascertain to have written on
this subject was Osthanes, who accompanied Xerxes in his war against the
Greeks, and who propagated the “germs of his monstrous art” wherever he
went in Europe.

Magic was not—so Pliny believed—indigenous either in Greece or in Italy,
but was so much at home in Britain and conducted with such elaborate
ritual that Pliny says it would almost seem as if it was they who had
taught it to the Persians, not the Persians to them.

*Traces of Magic in Megalithic Monuments*

The imposing relics of their cult which the Megalithic People have left us
are full of indications of their religion. Take, for instance, the
remarkable tumulus of Mané-er-H’oeck, in Brittany. This monument was
explored in 1864 by M. René Galles, who describes it as absolutely
intact—the surface of the earth unbroken, and everything as the builders
left it.(38) At the entrance to the rectangular chamber was a sculptured
slab, on which was graven a mysterious sign, perhaps the totem of a chief.
Immediately on entering the chamber was found a beautiful pendant in green
jasper about the size of an egg. On the floor in the centre of the chamber
was a most singular arrangement, consisting of a large ring of jadite,
slightly oval in shape, with a magnificent axe-head, also of jadite, its
point resting on the ring. The axe was a well-known symbol of power or
godhead, and is frequently found in rock-carvings of the Bronze Age, as
well as in Egyptian hieroglyphs, Minoan carvings, &c. At a little distance
from these there lay two large pendants of jasper, then an axe-head in
white jade,(39) then another jasper pendant. All these objects were ranged
with evident intention _en suite_, forming a straight line which coincided
exactly with one of the diagonals of the chamber, running from north-west
to south-east. In one of the corners of the chamber were found 101
axe-heads in jade, jadite, and fibrolite. There were no traces of bones or
cinders, no funerary urn; the structure was a cenotaph. “Are we not here,”
asks Bertrand, “in presence of some ceremony relating to the practices of

*Chiromancy at Gavr’inis*

In connexion with the great sepulchral monument of Gavr’inis a very
curious observation was made by M. Albert Maitre, an inspector of the
Musée des Antiquités Nationales. There were found here—as commonly in
other megalithic monuments in Ireland and Scotland—a number of stones
sculptured with a singular and characteristic design in waving and
concentric lines. Now if the curious lines traced upon the human hand at
the roots and tips of the fingers be examined under a lens, it will be
found that they bear an exact resemblance to these designs of megalithic
sculpture. One seems almost like a cast of the other. These lines on the
human hand are so distinct and peculiar that, as is well known, they have
been adopted as a method of identification of criminals. Can this
resemblance be the result of chance? Nothing like these peculiar
assemblages of sculptured lines has ever been found except in connexion
with these monuments. Have we not here a reference to chiromancy—a magical
art much practised in ancient and even in modern times? The hand as a
symbol of power was a well-known magical emblem, and has entered largely
even into Christian symbolism—note, for instance, the great hand
sculptured on the under side of one of the arms of the Cross of Muiredach
at Monasterboice.

[Stones from Brittany sculptured with Footprints, Axes, “Finger-markings,”

Stones from Brittany sculptured with Footprints, Axes, “Finger-markings,”


*Holed Stones*

                         [Dolmen at Trie, France]

                          Dolmen at Trie, France

                           _(After Gailhabaud)_

Another singular and as yet unexplained feature which appears in many of
these monuments, from Western Europe to India, is the presence of a small
hole bored through one of the stones composing the chamber. Was it an
aperture intended for the spirit of the dead? or for offerings to them? or
the channel through which revelations from the spirit-world were supposed
to come to a priest or magician? or did it partake of all these
characters? Holed stones, not forming part of a dolmen, are, of course,
among the commonest relics of the ancient cult, and are still venerated
and used in practices connected with child-bearing, &c.  Here we are
doubtless to interpret the emblem as a symbol of sex.

                      [Dolmens in the Deccan, India]

                       Dolmens in the Deccan, India

                         _(After Meadows-Taylor)_


Besides the heavenly bodies, we find that rivers, trees, mountains, and
stones were all objects of veneration among this primitive people.
Stone-worship was particularly common, and is not so easily explained as
the worship directed toward objects possessing movement and vitality.
Possibly an explanation of the veneration attaching to great and isolated
masses of unhewn stone may be found in their resemblance to the artificial
dolmens and cromlechs.(40) No superstition has proved more enduring. In
A.D. 452 we find the Synod of Arles denouncing those who “venerate trees
and wells and stones,” and the denunciation was repeated by Charlemagne,
and by numerous Synods and Councils down to recent times. Yet a drawing,
here reproduced, which was lately made on the spot by Mr. Arthur Bell(41)
shows this very act of worship still in full force in Brittany, and shows
the symbols and the sacerdotal organisation of Christianity actually
pressed into the service of this immemorial paganism. According to Mr.
Bell, the clergy take part in these performances with much reluctance, but
are compelled to do so by the force of local opinion. Holy wells, the
water of which is supposed to cure diseases, are still very common in
Ireland, and the cult of the waters of Lourdes may, in spite of its
adoption by the Church, be mentioned as a notable case in point on the

                  [Stone-worship at Locronan, Brittany]

                   Stone-worship at Locronan, Brittany

*Cup-and-Ring Markings*

                  [Cup-and-ring Markings from Scotland]

                   Cup-and-ring Markings from Scotland

                         (_After Sir J. Simpson_)

Another singular emblem, upon the meaning of which no light has yet been
thrown, occurs frequently in connexion with megalithic monuments. The
accompanying illustrations show examples of it. Cup-shaped hollows are
made in the surface of the stone, these are often surrounded with
concentric rings, and from the cup one or more radial lines are drawn to a
point outside the circumference of the rings. Occasionally a system of
cups are joined by these lines, but more frequently they end a little way
outside the widest of the rings. These strange markings are found in Great
Britain and Ireland, in Brittany, and at various places in India, where
they are called _mahadéos_.(42) I have also found a curious example—for
such it appears to be—in Dupaix’ “Monuments of New Spain.” It is
reproduced in Lord Kingsborough’s “Antiquities of Mexico,” vol. iv. On the
circular top of a cylindrical stone, known as the “Triumphal Stone,” is
carved a central cup, with nine concentric circles round it, and a duct or
channel cut straight from the cup through all the circles to the rim.
Except that the design here is richly decorated and accurately drawn, it
closely resembles a typical European cup-and-ring marking. That these
markings mean something, and that, wherever they are found, they mean the
same thing, can hardly be doubted, but what that meaning is remains yet a
puzzle to antiquarians. The guess may perhaps be hazarded that they are
diagrams or plans of a megalithic sepulchre. The central hollow represents
the actual burial-place. The circles are the standing stones, fosses, and
ramparts which often surrounded it; and the line or duct drawn from the
centre outwards represents the subterranean approach to the sepulchre. The
apparent “avenue” intention of the duct is clearly brought out in the
varieties given below, which I take from Simpson. As the sepulchre was
also a holy place or shrine, the occurrence of a representation of it
among other carvings of a sacred character is natural enough; it would
seem symbolically to indicate that the place was holy ground. How far this
suggestion might apply to the Mexican example I am unable to say.

                   [Varieties of Cup-and-ring Markings]

                    Varieties of Cup-and-ring Markings

*The Tumulus at New Grange*

One of the most important and richly sculptured of European megalithic
monuments is the great chambered tumulus of New Grange, on the northern
bank of the Boyne, in Ireland. This tumulus, and the others which occur in
its neighbourhood, appear in ancient Irish mythical literature in two
different characters, the union of which is significant. They are regarded
on the one hand as the dwelling-places of the _Sidhe_ (pronounced Shee),
or Fairy Folk, who represent, probably, the deities of the ancient Irish,
and they are also, traditionally, the burial-places of the Celtic High
Kings of pagan Ireland. The story of the burial of King Cormac, who was
supposed to have heard of the Christian faith long before it was actually
preached in Ireland by St. Patrick and who ordered that he should not be
buried at the royal cemetery by the Boyne, on account of its pagan
associations, points to the view that this place was the centre of a pagan
cult involving more than merely the interment of royal personages in its
precincts. Unfortunately these monuments are not intact; they were opened
and plundered by the Danes in the ninth century,(43) but enough evidence
remains to show that they were sepulchral in their origin, and were also
associated with the cult of a primitive religion. The most important of
them, the tumulus of New Grange, has been thoroughly explored and
described by Mr. George Coffey, keeper of the collection of Celtic
antiquities in the National Museum, Dublin.(44) It appears from the
outside like a large mound, or knoll, now overgrown with bushes. It
measures about 280 feet across, at its greatest diameter, and is about 44
feet in height. Outside it there runs a wide circle of standing stones
originally, it would seem, thirty-five in number. Inside this circle is a
ditch and rampart, and on top of this rampart was laid a circular curb of
great stones 8 to 10 feet long, laid on edge, and confining what has
proved to be a huge mound of loose stones, now overgrown, as we have said,
with grass and bushes. It is in the interior of this mound that the
interest of the monument lies. Towards the end of the seventeenth century
some workmen who were getting road-material from the mound came across the
entrance to a passage which led into the interior, and was marked by the
fact that the boundary stone below it is richly carved with spirals and
lozenges. This entrance faces exactly south-east. The passage is formed of
upright slabs of unhewn stone roofed with similar slabs, and varies from
nearly 5 feet to 7 feet 10 inches in height; it is about 3 feet wide, and
runs for 62 feet straight into the heart of the mound. Here it ends in a
cruciform chamber, 20 feet high, the roof, a kind of dome, being formed of
large flat stones, overlapping inwards till they almost meet at the top,
where a large flat stone covers all. In each of the three recesses of the
cruciform chamber there stands a large stone basin, or rude sarcophagus,
but not traces of any burial now remains.

*Symbolic Carvings at New Grange*

The stones are all raw and undressed, and were selected for their purpose
from the river-bed and elsewhere close by. On their flat surfaces,
obtained by splitting slabs from the original quarries, are found the
carvings which form the unique interest of this strange monument. Except
for the large stone with spiral carvings and one other at the entrance to
the mound, the intention of these sculptures does not appear to have been
decorative, except in a very rude and primitive sense. There is no attempt
to cover a given surface with a system of ornament appropriate to its size
and shape. The designs are, as it were, scribbled upon the walls anyhow
and anywhere.(45) Among them everywhere the spiral is prominent. The
resemblance of some of these carvings to the supposed finger-markings of
the stones at Gavr’inis is very remarkable. Triple and double spiral are
also found, as well as lozenges and zigzags. A singular carving
representing what looks like a palm-branch or fern-leaf is found in the
west recess. The drawing of this object is naturalistic, and it is hard to
interpret it, as Mr. Coffey is inclined to do, as merely a piece of
so-called “herring-bone” pattern.(46) A similar palm-leaf design, but with
the ribs arranged at right angles to the central axis, is found in the
neighbouring tumulus of Dowth, at Loughcrew, and in combination with a
solar emblem, the swastika, on a small altar in the Pyrenees, figured by

                   [Entrance to Tumulus at New Grange]

                    Entrance to Tumulus at New Grange

                     Photograph by R. Welch, Belfast

*The Ship Symbol at New Grange*

Another remarkable and, as far as Ireland goes, unusual figure is found
sculptured in the west recess at New Grange. It has been interpreted by
various critics as a mason’s mark, a piece of Phoenician writing, a group
of numerals, and finally (and no doubt correctly) by Mr. George Coffey as
a rude representation of a ship with men on board and uplifted sail. It is
noticeable that just above it is a small circle, forming, apparently, part
of the design. Another example occurs at Dowth.

            [Solar Ship (with Sail?) from New Grange, Ireland]

             Solar Ship (with Sail?) from New Grange, Ireland

The significance of this marking, as we shall see, is possibly very great.
It has been discovered that on certain stones in the tumulus of
Locmariaker, in Brittany,(47) there occur a number of very similar
figures, one of them showing the circle in much the same relative position
as at New Grange. The axe, an Egyptian hieroglyph for godhead and a
well-known magical emblem, is also represented on this stone. Again, in a
brochure by Dr. Oscar Montelius on the rock-sculptures of Sweden(48) we
find a reproduction (also given in Du Chaillu’s “Viking Age”) of a rude
rock-carving showing a number of ships with men on board, and the circle
quartered by a cross—unmistakably a solar emblem—just above one of them.
That these ships (which, like the Irish example, are often so summarily
represented as to be mere symbols which no one could identifiy as a ship
were the clue not given by other and more elaborate representations) were
drawn so frequently in conjunction with the solar disk merely for
amusement or for a purely decorative object seems to me most improbable.
In the days of the megalithic folk a sepulchral monument, the very focus
of religious ideas, would hardly have been covered with idle and
meaningless scrawls. “Man,” as Sir J. Simpson has well said, “has ever
conjoined together things sacred and things sepulchral.” Nor do these
scrawls, in the majority of instances, show any glimmering of a decorative
intention. But if they had a symbolic intention, what is it that they

                 [Solar Ship from Loc mariaker, Brittany]

                  Solar Ship from Loc mariaker, Brittany

                            (_After Ferguson_)

                    [Solar Ship from Hallande, Sweden]

                     Solar Ship from Hallande, Sweden

                           (_After Montelius_)

*The Ship Symbol in Egypt*

Now this symbol of the ship, with or without the actual portrayal of the
solar emblem, is of very ancient and very common occurrence in the
sepulchral art of Egypt. It is connected with the worship of Rā, which
came in fully 4000 years B.C. Its meaning as an Egyptian symbol is well
known. The ship was called the Boat of the Sun. It was the vessel in which
the Sun-god performed his journeys; in particular, the journey which he
made nightly to the shores of the Other-world, bearing with him in his
bark the souls of the beatified dead. The Sun-god, Rā, is sometimes
represented by a disk, sometimes by other emblems, hovering above the
vessel or contained within it. Any one who will look over the painted or
sculptured sarcophagi in the British Museum will find a host of examples.
Sometimes he will find representations of the life-giving rays of Rā
pouring down upon the boat and its occupants. Now, in one of the Swedish
rock-carvings of ships at Backa, Bohuslän, given by Montelius, a ship
crowded with figures is shown beneath a disk with three descending rays,
and again another ship with a two-rayed sun above it. It may be added that
in the tumulus of Dowth, which is close to that of New Grange and is
entirely of the same character and period, rayed figures and quartered
circles, obviously solar emblems, occur abundantly, as also at Loughcrew
and other places in Ireland, and one other ship figure has been identified
at Dowth

                   [Egyptian Solar Bark, XXII Dynasty]

                    Egyptian Solar Bark, XXII Dynasty

                            (_British Museum_)

       [Egyptian Solar Bark, with god Khnemu and attendant deities]

        Egyptian Solar Bark, with god Khnemu and attendant deities

                            (_British Museum_)

In Egypt the solar boat is sometimes represented as containing the solar
emblem alone, sometimes it contains the figure of a god with attendant
deities, sometimes it contains a crowd of passengers representing human
souls, and sometimes the figure of a single corpse on a bier. The
megalithic carvings also sometimes show the solar emblem and sometimes
not; the boats are sometimes filled with figures and are sometimes empty.
When a symbol has once been accepted and understood, any conventional or
summary representation of it is sufficient. I take it that the complete
form of the megalithic symbol is that of a boat with figures in it and
with the solar emblem overhead. These figures, assuming the foregoing
interpretation of the design to be correct, must clearly be taken for
representations of the dead on their way to the Other-world. They cannot
be deities, for representations of the divine powers under human aspect
were quite unknown to the Megalithic People, even after the coming of the
Celts—they first occur in Gaul under Roman influence. But if these figures
represent the dead, then we have clearly before us the origin of the
so-called “Celtic” doctrine of immortality. The carvings in question are
pre-Celtic. They are found where no Celts ever penetrated. Yet they point
to the existence of just that Other-world doctrine which, from the time of
Cæsar downwards, has been associated with Celtic Druidism, and this
doctrine was distinctively Egyptian.

[Egyptian Bark, with figure of Rā holding an Ankh, enclosed in Solar Disk.
                               XIX Dynasty]

  Egyptian Bark, with figure of Rā holding an _Ankh_, enclosed in Solar
                            Disk. XIX Dynasty

                            (_British Museum_)

*The **“**Navetas**”*

In connexion with this subject I may draw attention to the theory of Mr.
W.C. Borlase that the typical design of an Irish dolmen was intended to
represent a ship. In Minorca there are analogous structures, there
popularly called _navetas_ (ships), so distinct is the resemblance. But,
he adds, “long before the caves and _navetas_ of Minorca were known to me
I had formed the opinion that what I have so frequently spoken of as the
‘wedge-shape’ observable so universally in the ground-plans of dolmens was
due to an original conception of a ship. From sepulchral tumuli in
Scandinavia we know actual vessels have on several occasions been
disinterred. In cemeteries of the Iron Age, in the same country, as well
as on the more southern Baltic coasts, the ship was a recognised form of
sepulchral enclosure.”(49) If Mr. Borlase’s view is correct, we have here
a very strong corroboration of the symbolic intention which I attribute to
the solar ship-carvings of the Megalithic People.

*The Ship Symbol in Babylonia*

The ship symbol, it may be remarked, can be traced to about 4000 B.C. in
Babylonia, where every deity had his own special ship (that of the god Sin
was called the Ship of Light), his image being carried in procession on a
litter formed like a ship. This is thought by Jastrow(50) to have
originated at a time when the sacred cities of Babylonia were situated on
the Persian Gulf, and when religious processions were often carried out by

*The Symbol of the Feet*

Yet there is reason to think that some of these symbols were earlier than
any known mythology, and were, so to say, mythologised differently by
different peoples, who got hold of them from this now unknown source. A
remarkable instance is that of the symbol of the Two Feet. In Egypt the
Feet of Osiris formed one of the portions into which his body was cut up,
in the well-known myth. They were a symbol of possession or of visitation.
“I have come upon earth,” says the “Book of the Dead” (ch. xvii.), “and
with my two feet have taken possession, I am Tmu.” Now this symbol of the
feet or footprint is very widespread. It is found in India, as the print
of the foot of Buddha,(51) it is found sculptured on dolmens in
Brittany,(52) and it occurs in rock-carvings in Scandinavia.(53) In
Ireland it passes for the footprints of St. Patrick or St. Columba.
Strangest of all, it is found unmistakably in Mexico.(54) Tyler, in his
“Primitive Culture” (ii. p. 197) refers to “the Aztec ceremony at the
Second Festival of the Sun God, Tezcatlipoca, when they sprinkled maize
flour before his sanctuary, and his high priest watched till he beheld the
divine footprints, and then shouted to announce, ‘Our Great God is
come.’ ”

                          [The Two Feet Symbol]

                           The Two Feet Symbol

*The *_Ankh_* on Megalithic Carvings*

There is very strong evidence of the connexion of the Megalithic People
with North Africa. Thus, as Sergi points out, many signs (probably
numerical) found on ivory tablets in the cemetery at Naqada discovered by
Flinders Petrie are to be met with on European dolmens. Several later
Egyptian hieroglyphic signs, including the famous _Ankh_, or _crux
ansata_, the symbol of vitality or resurrection, are also found in
megalithic carvings.(55) From these correspondences Letourneau drew the
conclusion “that the builders of our megalithic monuments came from the
South, and were related to the races of North Africa.”(56)

                                [The Ankh]

                                The _Ankh_

*Evidence from Language*

Approaching the subject from the linguistic side, Rhys and Brynmor Jones
find that the African origin—at least proximately—of the primitive
population of Great Britain and Ireland is strongly suggested. It is here
shown that the Celtic languages preserve in their syntax the Hamitic, and
especially the Egyptian type.(57)

*Egyptian and **“**Celtic**”** Ideas of Immortality*

The facts at present known do not, I think, justify us in framing any
theory as to the actual historical relation of the dolmen-builders of
Western Europe with the people who created the wonderful religion and
civilisation of ancient Egypt. But when we consider all the lines of
evidence that converge in this direction it seems clear that there was
such a relation. Egypt was the classic land of religious symbolism. It
gave to Europe the most beautiful and most popular of all its religious
symbols, that of the divine mother and child(58). I believe that it also
gave to the primitive inhabitants of Western Europe the profound symbol of
the voyaging spirits guided to the world of the dead by the God of Light.

The religion of Egypt, above that of any people whose ideas we know to
have been developed in times so ancient, centred on the doctrine of a
future life. The palatial and stupendous tombs, the elaborate ritual, the
imposing mythology, the immense exaltation of the priestly caste, all
these features of Egyptian culture were intimately connected with their
doctrine of the immortality of the soul.

To the Egyptian the disembodied soul was no shadowy simulacrum, as the
classical nations believed—the future life was a mere prolongation of the
present; the just man, when he had won his place in it, found himself
among his relatives, his friends, his workpeople, with tasks and
enjoyments very much like those of earth. The doom of the wicked was
annihilation; he fell a victim to the invisible monster called the Eater
of the Dead.

Now when the classical nations first began to take an interest in the
ideas of the Celts the thing that principally struck them was the Celtic
belief in immortality, which the Gauls said was “handed down by the
Druids.” The classical nations believed in immortality; but what a picture
does Homer, the Bible of the Greeks, give of the lost, degraded,
dehumanised creatures which represented the departed souls of men! Take,
as one example, the description of the spirits of the suitors slain by
Odysseus as Hermes conducts them to the Underworld:

“Now were summoned the souls of the dead by Cyllenian Hermes....
Touched by the wand they awoke, and obeyed him and followed him,
Even as bats in the dark, mysterious depths of a cavern
Squeal as they flutter around, should one from the cluster be fallen
Where from the rock suspended they hung, all clinging together;
So did the souls flock squealing behind him, as Hermes the Helper
Guided them down to the gloom through dank and mouldering pathways.”(59)

The classical writers felt rightly that the Celtic idea of immortality was
something altogether different from this. It was both loftier and more
realistic; it implied a true persistence of the living man, as he was at
present, in all his human relations. They noted with surprise that the
Celt would lend money on a promissory note for repayment in the next
world.(60) That is an absolutely Egyptian conception. And this very
analogy occurred to Diodorus in writing of the Celtic idea of
immortality—it was like nothing that he knew of out of Egypt.(61)

*The Doctrine of Transmigration*

Many ancient writers assert that the Celtic idea of immortality embodied
the Oriental conception of the transmigration of souls, and to account for
this the hypothesis was invented that they had learned the doctrine from
Pythagoras, who represented it in classical antiquity. Thus Cæsar: “The
principal point of their [the Druids’] teaching is that the soul does not
perish, and that after death it passes from one body into another.” And
Diodorus: “Among them the doctrine of Pythagoras prevails, according to
which the souls of men are immortal, and after a fixed term recommence to
live, taking upon themselves a new body.” Now traces of this doctrine
certainly do appear in Irish legend. Thus the Irish chieftain, Mongan, who
is an historical personage, and whose death is recorded about A.D. 625, is
said to have made a wager as to the place of death of a king named Fothad,
slain in a battle with the mythical hero Finn mac Cumhal in the third
century. He proves his case by summoning to his aid a _revenant_ from the
Other-world, Keelta, who was the actual slayer of Fothad, and who
describes correctly where the tomb is to be found and what were its
contents. He begins his tale by saying to Mongan, “We were with thee,” and
then, turning to the assembly, he continues: “We were with Finn, coming
from Alba....” “Hush,” says Mongan, “it is wrong of thee to reveal a
secret.” The secret is, of course, that Mongan was a reincarnation of
Finn.(62) But the evidence on the whole shows that the Celts did not hold
this doctrine at all in the same way as Pythagoras and the Orientals did.
Transmigration was not, with them, part of the order of things. It _might_
happen, but in general it did not; the new body assumed by the dead
clothed them in another, not in this world, and so far as we can learn
from any ancient authority, there does not appear to have been any idea of
moral retribution connected with this form of the future life. It was not
so much an article of faith as an idea which haunted the imagination, and
which, as Mongan’s caution indicates, ought not to be brought into clear

However it may have been conceived, it is certain that the belief in
immortality was the basis of Celtic Druidism.(63) Caesar affirms this
distinctly, and declares the doctrine to have been fostered by the Druids
rather for the promotion of courage than for purely religious reasons. An
intense Other-world faith, such as that held by the Celts, is certainly
one of the mightiest of agencies in the hands of a priesthood who hold the
keys of that world. Now Druidism existed in the British Islands, in Gaul,
and, in fact, so far as we know, wherever there was a Celtic race amid a
population of dolmen-builders. There were Celts in Cisalpine Gaul, but
there were no dolmens there, and there were no Druids.(64) What is quite
clear is that when the Celts got to Western Europe they found there a
people with a powerful priesthood, a ritual, and imposing religious
monuments; a people steeped in magic and mysticism and the cult of the
Underworld. The inferences, as I read the facts, seem to be that Druidism
in its essential features was imposed upon the imaginative and sensitive
nature of the Celt—the Celt with his “extraordinary aptitude” for picking
up ideas—by the earlier population of Western Europe, the Megalithic
People, while, as held by these, it stands in some historical relation,
which I am not able to pursue in further detail, with the religious
culture of ancient Egypt. Much obscurity still broods over the question,
and perhaps will always do so, but if these suggestions have anything in
them, then the Megalithic People have been brought a step or two out of
the atmosphere of uncanny mystery which has surrounded them, and they are
shown to have played a very important part in the religious development of
Western Europe, and in preparing that part of the world for the rapid
extension of the special type of Christianity which took place in it.
Bertrand, in his most interesting chapter on “L’Irlande Celtique,”(65)
points out that very soon after the conversion of Ireland to Christianity,
we find the country covered with monasteries, whose complete organisation
seems to indicate that they were really Druidic colleges transformed _en
masse_. Cæsar has told us what these colleges were like in Gaul. They were
very numerous. In spite of the severe study and discipline involved,
crowds flocked into them for the sake of the power wielded by the Druidic
order, and the civil immunities which its members of all grades enjoyed.
Arts and sciences were studied there, and thousands of verses enshrining
the teachings of Druidism were committed to memory. All this is very like
what we know of Irish Druidism. Such an organisation would pass into
Christianity of the type established in Ireland with very little
difficulty. The belief in magical rites would survive—early Irish
Christianity, as its copious hagiography plainly shows, was as steeped in
magical ideas as ever was Druidic paganism. The belief in immortality
would remain, as before, the cardinal doctrine of religion. Above all the
supremacy of the sacerdotal order over the temporal power would remain
unimpaired; it would still be true, as Dion Chrysostom said of the Druids,
that “it is they who command, and kings on thrones of gold, dwelling in
splendid palaces, are but their ministers, and the servants of their

*Cæsar on the Druidic Culture*

The religious, philosophic, and scientific culture superintended by the
Druids is spoken of by Cæsar with much respect. “They discuss and impart
to the youth,” he writes, “many things respecting the stars and their
motions, respecting the extent of the universe and of our earth,
respecting the nature of things, respecting the power and the majesty of
the immortal gods” (bk. vi. 14). We would give much to know some
particulars of the teaching here described. But the Druids, though well
acquainted with letters, strictly forbade the committal of their doctrines
to writing; an extremely sagacious provision, for not only did they thus
surround their teaching with that atmosphere of mystery which exercises so
potent a spell over the human mind, but they ensured that it could never
be effectively controverted.

*Human Sacrifices in Gaul*

In strange discord, however, with the lofty words of Cæsar stands the
abominable practice of human sacrifice whose prevalence he noted among the
Celts. Prisoners and criminals, or if these failed even innocent victims,
probably children, were encased, numbers at a time, in huge frames of
wickerwork, and there burned alive to win the favour of the gods. The
practice of human sacrifice is, of course, not specially Druidic—it is
found in all parts both of the Old and of the New World at a certain stage
of culture, and was doubtless a survival from the time of the Megalithic
People. The fact that it should have continued in Celtic lands after an
otherwise fairly high state of civilisation and religious culture had been
attained can be paralleled from Mexico and Carthage, and in both cases is
due, no doubt, to the uncontrolled dominance of a priestly caste.

*Human Sacrifices in Ireland*

Bertrand endeavours to dissociate the Druids from these practices, of
which he says strangely there is “no trace” in Ireland, although there, as
elsewhere in Celtica, Druidism was all-powerful. There is little doubt,
however, that in Ireland also human sacrifices at one time prevailed. In a
very ancient tract, the “Dinnsenchus,” preserved in the “Book of
Leinster,” it is stated that on Moyslaught, “the Plain of Adoration,”
there stood a great gold idol, Crom Cruach (the Bloody Crescent). To it
the Gaels used to sacrifice children when praying for fair weather and
fertility—“it was milk and corn they asked from it in exchange for their
children—how great was their horror and their moaning!”(67)

*And in Egypt*

In Egypt, where the national character was markedly easy-going,
pleasure-loving, and little capable of fanatical exaltation, we find no
record of any such cruel rites in the monumental inscriptions and
paintings, copious as is the information which they give us on all
features of the national life and religion.(68) Manetho, indeed, the
Egyptian historian who wrote in the third century B.C., tells us that
human sacrifices were abolished by Amasis I. so late as the beginning of
the XVIII Dynasty—about 1600 B.C. But the complete silence of the other
records shows us that even if we are to believe Manetho, the practice must
in historic times have been very rare, and must have been looked on with

*The Names of Celtic Deities*

What were the names and the attributes of the Celtic deities? Here we are
very much in the dark. The Megalithic People did not imagine their deities
under concrete personal form. Stones, rivers, wells, trees, and other
natural objects were to them the adequate symbols, or were half symbols,
half actual embodiments, of the supernatural forces which they venerated.
But the imaginative mind of the Aryan Celt was not content with this. The
existence of personal gods with distinct titles and attributes is reported
to us by Caesar, who equates them with various figures in the Roman
pantheon—Mercury, Apollo, Mars, and so forth. Lucan mentions a triad of
deities, Æsus, Teutates, and Taranus(69); and it is noteworthy that in
these names we seem to be in presence of a true Celtic, _i.e._, Aryan,
tradition. Thus Æsus is derived by Belloguet from the Aryan root _as_,
meaning “to be”, which furnished the name of Asura-masda (_l’Esprit Sage_)
to the Persians, Æsun to the Umbrians, Asa (Divine Being) to the
Scandinavians. Teutates comes from a Celtic root meaning “valiant”,
“warlike”, and indicates a deity equivalent to Mars. Taranus (? Thor),
according to de Jubainville, is a god of the Lightning (_taran_ in Welsh,
Cornish, and Breton is the word for “thunderbolt”). Votive inscriptions to
these gods have been found in Gaul and Britain. Other inscriptions and
sculptures bear testimony to the existence in Gaul of a host of minor and
local deities who are mostly mere names, or not even names, to us now. In
the form in which we have them these conceptions bear clear traces of
Roman influence. The sculptures are rude copies of the Roman style of
religious art. But we meet among them figures of much wilder and stranger
aspect—gods with triple faces, gods with branching antlers on their brows,
ram-headed serpents, and other now unintelligible symbols of the older
faith. Very notable is the frequent occurrence of the cross-legged
“Buddha” attitude so prevalent in the religious art of the East and of
Mexico, and also the tendency, so well known in Egypt, to group the gods
in triads.

*Caesar on the Celtic Deities*

Caesar, who tries to fit the Gallic religion into the framework of Roman
mythology—which was exactly what the Gauls themselves did after the
conquest—says they held Mercury to be the chief of the gods, and looked
upon him as the inventor of all the arts, as the presiding deity of
commerce, and as the guardian of roads and guide of travellers. One may
conjecture that he was particularly, to the Gauls as to the Romans, the
guide of the dead, of travellers to the Other-world, Many bronze statues
to Mercury, of Gaulish origin, still remain, the name being adopted by the
Gauls, as many place-names still testify(70). Apollo was regarded as the
deity of medicine and healing, Minerva was the initiator of arts and
crafts, Jupiter governed the sky, and Mars presided over war. Cæsar is
here, no doubt, classifying under five types and by Roman names a large
number of Gallic divinities.

*The God of the Underworld*

According to Cæsar, a most notable deity of the Gauls was (in Roman
nomenclature) Dis, or Pluto, the god of the Underworld inhabited by the
dead. From him all the Gauls claimed to be descended, and on this account,
says Cæsar, they began their reckoning of the twenty-four hours of the day
with the oncoming of night.(71) The name of this deity is not given.
D’Arbois de Jubainville considers that, together with Æsus, Teutates,
Taranus, and, in Irish mythology, Balor and the Fomorians, he represents
the powers of darkness, death, and evil, and Celtic mythology is thus
interpreted as a variant of the universal solar myth, embodying the
conception of the eternal conflict between Day and Night.

*The God of Light*

The God of Light appears in Gaul and in Ireland as Lugh, or Lugus, who has
left his traces in many place-names such as _Lug-dunum_ (Leyden), Lyons,
&c. Lugh appears in Irish legend with distinctly solar attributes. When he
meets his army before the great conflict with the Fomorians, they feel,
says the saga, as if they beheld the rising of the sun. Yet he is also, as
we shall see, a god of the Underworld, belonging on the side of his mother
Ethlinn, daughter of Balor, to the Powers of Darkness.

*The Celtic Conception of Death*

The fact is that the Celtic conception of the realm of death differed
altogether from that of the Greeks and Romans, and, as I have already
pointed out, resembled that of Egyptian religion. The Other-world was not
a place of gloom and suffering, but of light and liberation. The Sun was
as much the god of that world as he was or this. Evil, pain, and gloom
there were, no doubt, and no doubt these principles were embodied by the
Irish Celts in their myths of Balor and the Fomorians, of which we shall
hear anon; but that they were particularly associated with the idea of
death is, I think, a false supposition founded on misleading analogies
drawn from the ideas of the classical nations. Here the Celts followed
North African or Asiatic conceptions rather than those of the Aryans of
Europe. It is only by realising that the Celts as we know them in history,
from the break-up of the Mid-European Celtic empire onwards, formed a
singular blend of Aryan with non-Aryan characteristics, that we shall
arrive at a true understanding of their contribution to European history
and their influence in European culture.

*The Five Factors in Ancient Celtic Culture*

To sum up the conclusions indicated: we can, I think, distinguish five
distinct factors in the religious and intellectual culture of Celtic lands
as we find them prior to the influx of classical or of Christian
influences. First, we have before us a mass of popular superstitions and
of magical observances, including human sacrifice. These varied more or
less from place to place, centring as they did largely on local features
which were regarded as embodiments or vehicles of divine or of diabolic
power. Secondly, there was certainly in existence a thoughtful and
philosophic creed, having as its central object of worship the Sun, as an
emblem of divine power and constancy, and as its central doctrine the
immortality of the soul. Thirdly, there was a worship of personified
deities, Æsus, Teutates, Lugh, and others, conceived as representing
natural forces, or as guardians of social laws. Fourthly, the Romans were
deeply impressed with the existence among the Druids of a body of teaching
of a quasi-scientific nature about natural phenomena and the constitution
of the universe, of the details of which we unfortunately know practically
nothing. Lastly, we have to note the prevalence of a sacerdotal
organisation, which administered the whole system of religious and of
secular learning and literature,(72) which carefully confined this
learning to a privileged caste, and which, by virtue of its intellectual
supremacy and of the atmosphere of religious awe with which it was
surrounded, became the sovran power, social, political, and religious, in
every Celtic country. I have spoken of these elements as distinct, and we
can, indeed, distinguish them in thought, but in practice they were
inextricably intertwined, and the Druidic organisation pervaded and
ordered all. Can we now, it may be asked, distinguish among them what is
of Celtic and what of pre-Celtic and probably non-Aryan origin? This is a
more difficult task; yet, looking at all the analogies and probabilities,
I think we shall not be far wrong in assigning to the Megalithic People
the special doctrines, the ritual, and the sacerdotal organisation of
Druidism, and to the Celtic element the personified deities, with the zest
for learning and for speculation; while the popular superstitions were
merely the local form assumed by conceptions as widespread as the human

*The Celts of To-day*

In view of the undeniably mixed character of the populations called
“Celtic” at the present day, it is often urged that this designation has
no real relation to any ethnological fact. The Celts who fought with
Caesar in Gaul and with the English in Ireland are, it is said, no
more—they have perished on a thousand battlefields from Alesia to the
Boyne, and an older racial stratum has come to the surface in their place.
The true Celts, according to this view, are only to be found in the tall,
ruddy Highlanders of Perthshire and North-west Scotland, and in a few
families of the old ruling race still surviving in Ireland and in Wales.
In all this I think it must be admitted that there is a large measure of
truth. Yet it must not be forgotten that the descendants of the Megalithic
People at the present day are, on the physical side, deeply impregnated
with Celtic blood, and on the spiritual with Celtic traditions and ideals.
Nor, again, in discussing these questions of race-character and its
origin, must it ever be assumed that the character of a people can be
analysed as one analyses a chemical compound, fixing once for all its
constituent parts and determining its future behaviour and destiny.
Race-character, potent and enduring though it be, is not a dead thing,
cast in an iron mould, and thereafter incapable of change and growth. It
is part of the living forces of the world; it is plastic and vital; it has
hidden potencies which a variety of causes, such as a felicitous cross
with a different, but not too different, stock, or—in another sphere—the
adoption of a new religious or social ideal, may at any time unlock and
bring into action.

Of one thing I personally feel convinced—that the problem of the ethical,
social, and intellectual development of the people constituting what is
called the “Celtic Fringe” in Europe ought to be worked for on Celtic
lines; by the maintenance of the Celtic tradition, Celtic literature,
Celtic speech—the encouragement, in short, of all those Celtic affinities
of which this mixed race is now the sole conscious inheritor and guardian.
To these it will respond, by these it can be deeply moved; nor has the
harvest ever failed those who with courage and faith have driven their
plough into this rich field. On the other hand, if this work is to be done
with success it must be done in no pedantic, narrow, intolerant spirit;
there must be no clinging to the outward forms of the past simply because
the Celtic spirit once found utterance in them. Let it be remembered that
in the early Middle Ages Celts from Ireland were the most notable
explorers, the most notable pioneers of religion, science, and speculative
thought in Europe.(73) Modern investigators have traced their footprints
of light over half the heathen continent, and the schools of Ireland were
thronged with foreign pupils who could get learning nowhere else. The
Celtic spirit was then playing its true part in the world-drama, and a
greater it has never played. The legacy of these men should be cherished
indeed, but not as a museum curiosity; nothing could be more opposed to
their free, bold, adventurous spirit than to let that legacy petrify in
the hands of those who claim the heirship or their name and fame.

*The Mythical Literature*

After the sketch contained in this and the foregoing chapter of the early
history of the Celts, and of the forces which have moulded it, we shall
now turn to give an account of the mythical and legendary literature in
which their spirit most truly lives and shines. We shall not here concern
ourselves with any literature which is not Celtic. With all that other
peoples have made—as in the Arthurian legends—of myths and tales
originally Celtic, we have here nothing to do. No one can now tell how
much is Celtic in them and how much is not. And in matters of this kind it
is generally the final recasting that is of real importance and value.
Whatever we give, then, we give without addition or reshaping. Stories, of
course, have often to be summarised, but there shall be nothing in them
that did not come direct from the Celtic mind, and that does not exist
to-day in some variety, Gaelic or Cymric, of the Celtic tongue.


*The Celtic Cosmogony*

Among those secret doctrines about the “nature of things” which, as Cæsar
tells us, the Druids never would commit to writing, was there anything in
the nature of a cosmogony, any account of the origin of the world and of
man? There surely was. It would be strange indeed if, alone among the
races of the world, the Celts had no world-myth. The spectacle of the
universe with all its vast and mysterious phenomena in heaven and on earth
has aroused, first the imagination, afterwards the speculative reason, in
every people which is capable of either. The Celts had both in abundance,
yet, except for that one phrase about the “indestructibility” of the world
handed down to us by Strabo, we know nothing of their early imaginings or
their reasonings on this subject. Ireland possesses a copious legendary
literature. All of this, no doubt, assumed its present form in Christian
times; yet so much essential paganism has been allowed to remain in it
that it would be strange if Christian influences had led to the excision
of everything in these ancient texts that pointed to a non-Christian
conception of the origin of things—if Christian editors and transmitters
had never given us even the least glimmer of the existence of such a
conception. Yet the fact is that they do not give it; there is nothing in
the most ancient legendary literature of the Irish Gaels, which is the
oldest Celtic literature in existence, corresponding to the Babylonian
conquest of Chaos, or the wild Norse myth of the making of Midgard out of
the corpse of Ymir, or the Egyptian creation of the universe out of the
primeval Water by Thoth, the Word of God, or even to the primitive
folklore conceptions found in almost every savage tribe. That the Druids
had some doctrine on this subject it is impossible to doubt. But, by
resolutely confining it to the initiated and forbidding all lay
speculation on the subject, they seem to have completely stifled the
mythmaking instinct in regard to questions of cosmogony among the people
at large, and ensured that when their own order perished, their teaching,
whatever it was, should die with them.

In the early Irish accounts, therefore, of the beginnings of things, we
find that it is not with the World that the narrators make their start—it
is simply with their own country, with Ireland. It was the practice,
indeed, to prefix to these narratives of early invasions and colonisations
the Scriptural account of the making of the world and man, and this shows
that something of the kind was felt to be required; but what took the
place of the Biblical narrative in pre-Christian days we do not know, and,
unfortunately, are now never likely to know.

*The Cycles of Irish Legend*

Irish mythical and legendary literature, as we have it in the most ancient
form, may be said to fall into four main divisions, and to these we shall
adhere in our presentation of it in this volume. They are, in
chronological order, the Mythological Cycle, or Cycle of the Invasions,
the Ultonian or Conorian Cycle, the Ossianic or Fenian Cycle, and a
multitude of miscellaneous tales and legends which it is hard to fit into
any historical framework.

*The Mythological Cycle*

The Mythological Cycle comprises the following sections:

1. The coming of Partholan into Ireland.
2. The coming of Nemed into Ireland.
3. The coming of the Firbolgs into Ireland.
4. The invasion of the _Tuatha De Danann_, or People of the god Dana.
5. The invasion of the Milesians (Sons of Miled) from Spain, and their
            conquest of the People of Dana.

With the Milesians we begin to come into something resembling history—they
represent, in Irish legend, the Celtic race; and from them the ruling
families of Ireland are supposed to be descended. The People of Dana are
evidently gods. The pre-Danaan settlers or invaders are huge phantom-like
figures, which loom vaguely through the mists of tradition, and have
little definite characterisation. The accounts which are given of them are
many and conflicting, and out of these we can only give here the more
ancient narratives.

*The Coming of Partholan*

The Celts, as we have learned from Caesar, believed themselves to be
descended from the God of the Underworld, the God of the Dead. Partholan
is said to have come into Ireland from the West, where beyond the vast,
unsailed Atlantic Ocean the Irish Fairyland, the Land of the
Living—_i.e._, the land of the Happy Dead— was placed. His father’s name
was Sera (? the West). He came with his queen Dalny(74) and a number of
companions of both sexes. Ireland—and this is an imaginative touch
intended to suggest extreme antiquity—was then a different country,
physically, from what it is now. There were then but three lakes in
Ireland, nine rivers, and only one plain. Others were added gradually
during the reign of the Partholanians. One, Lake Rury, was said to have
burst out as a grave was being dug for Rury, son of Partholan.

*The Fomorians*

The Partholanians, it is said, had to do battle with a strange race,
called the Fomorians, of whom we shall hear much in later sections of this
book. They were a huge, misshapen, violent and cruel people, representing,
we may believe, the powers of evil. One of these was surnamed _Cenchos_,
which means The Footless, and thus appears to be related to Vitra, the God
of Evil in Vedantic mythology, who had neither feet nor hands. With a host
of these demons Partholan fought for the lordship of Ireland, and drove
them out to the northern seas, whence they occasionally harried the
country under its later rulers.

The end of the race of Partholan was that they were afflicted by
pestilence, and having gathered together on the Old Plain (Senmag) for
convenience of burying their dead, they all perished there; and Ireland
once more lay empty for reoccupation.

*The Legend of Tuan mac Carell*

Who, then, told the tale? This brings us to the mention of a very curious
and interesting legend—one of the numerous legendary narratives in which
these tales of the Mythical Period have come down to us. It is found in
the so-called “Book of the Dun Cow,” a manuscript of about the year A.D.
1100, and is entitled “The Legend of Tuan mac Carell.”

St. Finnen, an Irish abbot of the sixth century, is said to have gone to
seek hospitality from a chief named Tuan mac Carell, who dwelt not far
from Finnen’s monastery at Moville, Co. Donegal. Tuan refused him
admittance. The saint sat down on the doorstep of the chief and fasted for
a whole Sunday,(75) upon which the surly pagan warrior opened the door to
him. Good relations were established between them, and the saint returned
to his monks.

“Tuan is an excellent man,” said he to them; “he will come to you and
comfort you, and tell you the old stories of Ireland.”(76)

This humane interest in the old myths and legends of the country is, it
may here be observed, a feature as constant as it is pleasant in the
literature of early Irish Christianity.

Tuan came shortly afterwards to return the visit of the saint, and invited
him and his disciples to his fortress. They asked him of his name and
lineage, and he gave an astounding reply. “I am a man of Ulster,” he said.
“My name is Tuan son of Carell. But once I was called Tuan son of Starn,
son of Sera, and my father, Starn, was the brother of Partholan.”

“Tell us the history of Ireland,” then said Finnen, and Tuan began.
Partholan, he said, was the first of men to settle in Ireland. After the
great pestilence already narrated he alone survived, “for there is never a
slaughter that one man does not come out of it to tell the tale.” Tuan was
alone in the land, and he wandered about from one vacant fortress to
another, from rock to rock, seeking shelter from the wolves. For
twenty-two years he lived thus alone, dwelling in waste places, till at
last he fell into extreme decrepitude and old age.

    “Then Nemed son of Agnoman took possession of Ireland. He
    [Agnoman] was my father’s brother. I saw him from the cliffs, and
    kept avoiding him. I was long-haired, clawed, decrepit, grey,
    naked, wretched, miserable. Then one evening I fell asleep, and
    when I woke again on the morrow I was changed into a stag. I was
    young again and glad of heart. Then I sang of the coming of Nemed
    and of his race, and of my own transformation.... ‘I have put on a
    new form, a skin rough and grey. Victory and joy are easy to me; a
    little while ago I was weak and defenceless.’ ”

Tuan is then king of all the deer of Ireland, and so remained all the days
of Nemed and his race.

He tells how the Nemedians sailed for Ireland in a fleet of thirty-two
barks, in each bark thirty persons. They went astray on the seas for a
year and a half, and most of them perished of hunger and thirst or of
shipwreck. Nine only escaped—Nemed himself, with four men and four women.
These landed in Ireland, and increased their numbers in the course of time
till they were 8060 men and women. Then all of them mysteriously died.

Again old age and decrepitude fell upon Tuan, but another transformation
awaited him. “Once I was standing at the mouth of my cave—I still remember
it —and I knew that my body changed into another form. I was a wild boar.
And I sang this song about it:

    “ ‘To-day I am a boar.... Time was when I sat in the assembly that
    gave the judgments of Partholan. It was sung, and all praised the
    melody. How pleasant was the strain of my brilliant judgment! How
    pleasant to the comely young women! My chariot went along in
    majesty and beauty. My voice was grave and sweet. My step was
    swift and firm in battle. My face was full of charm. To-day, lo! I
    am changed into a black boar.’

“That is what I said. Yea, of a surety I was a wild boar. Then I became
young again, and I was glad. I was king of the boar-herds in Ireland; and,
faithful to any custom, I went the rounds of my abode when I returned into
the lands of Ulster, at the times old age and wretchedness came upon me.
For it was always there that my transformations took place, and that is
why I went back thither to await the renewal of my body.”

Tuan then goes on to tell how Semion son of Stariat settled in Ireland,
from whom descended the Firbolgs and two other tribes who persisted into
historic times. Again old age comes on, his strength fails him, and he
undergoes another transformation; he becomes “a great eagle of the sea,”
and once more rejoices in renewed youth and vigour. He then tells how the
People of Dana came in, “gods and false gods from whom every one knows the
Irish men of learning are sprung.” After these came the Sons of Miled, who
conquered the People of Dana. All this time Tuan kept the shape of the
sea-eagle, till one day, finding himself about to undergo another
transformation, he fasted nine days; “then sleep fell upon me, and I was
changed into a salmon.” He rejoices in his new life, escaping for many
years the snares of the fishermen, till at last he is captured by one of
them and brought to the wife of Carell, chief of the country. “The woman
desired me and ate me by herself, whole, so that I passed into her womb.”
He is born again, and passes for Tuan son of Carell; but the memory of his
pre-existence and all his transformations and all the history of Ireland
that he witnessed since the days of Partholan still abides with him, and
he teaches all these things to the Christian monks, who carefully preserve

This wild tale, with its atmosphere of grey antiquity and of childlike
wonder, reminds us of the transformations of the Welsh Taliessin, who also
became an eagle, and points to that doctrine of the transmigration of the
soul which, as we have seen, haunted the imagination of the Celt.

We have now to add some details to the sketch of the successive
colonisations of Ireland outlined by Tuan mac Carell.

*The Nemedians*

The Nemedians, as we have seen, were akin to the Partholanians. Both of
them came from the mysterious regions of the dead, though later Irish
accounts, which endeavoured to reconcile this mythical matter with
Christianity, invented for them a descent from Scriptural patriarchs and
an origin in earthly lands such as Spain or Scythia. Both of them had to
do constant battle with the Fomorians, whom the later legends make out to
be pirates from oversea, but who are doubtless divinities representing the
powers of darkness and evil. There is no legend of the Fomorians coming
into Ireland, nor were they regarded as at any time a regular portion of
the population. They were coeval with the world itself. Nemed fought
victoriously against them in four great battles, but shortly afterwards
died of a plague which carried off 2000 of his people with him. The
Fomorians were then enabled to establish their tyranny over Ireland. They
had at this period two kings, Morc and Conann. The stronghold of the
Formorian power was on Tory Island, which uplifts its wild cliffs and
precipices in the Atlantic off the coast of Donegal—a fit home for this
race of mystery and horror. They extracted a crushing tribute from the
people of Ireland, two-thirds of all the milk and two-thirds of the
children of the land. At last the Nemedians rise in revolt. Led by three
chiefs, they land on Tory Island, capture Conann’s Tower, and Conann
himself falls by the hand of the Nemedian chief, Fergus. But Morc at this
moment comes into the battle with a fresh host, and utterly routs the
Nemedians, who are all slain but thirty:

“The men of Erin were all at the battle,
After the Fomorians came;
All of them the sea engulphed,
Save only three times ten.”
                                  _Poem by Eochy O’Flann, circ_. A.D. 960.

The thirty survivors leave Ireland in despair. According to the most
ancient belief they perished utterly, leaving no descendants, but later
accounts, which endeavour to make sober history out of all these myths,
represent one family, that of the chief Britan, as settling in Great
Britain and giving their name to that country, while two others returned
to Ireland, after many wanderings, as the Firbolgs and People of Dana.

*The Coming of the Firbolgs*

Who were the Firbolgs, and what did they represent in Irish legend? The
name appears to mean “Men of the Bags,” and a legend was in later times
invented to account for it. It was said that after settling in Greece they
were oppressed by the people of that country, who set them to carry earth
from the fertile valleys up to the rocky hills, so as to make arable
ground of the latter. They did their task by means of leathern bags; but
at last, growing weary of the oppression, they made boats or coracles out
of their bags, and set sail in them for Ireland. Nennius, however, says
they came from Spain, for according to him all the various races that
inhabited Ireland came originally from Spain; and “Spain” with him is a
rationalistic rendering of the Celtic words designating the Land of the
Dead.(77) They came in three groups, the Fir-Bolg, the Fir-Domnan, and the
Galioin, who are all generally designated as Firbolgs. They play no great
part in Irish mythical history, and a certain character of servility and
inferiority appears to attach to them throughout.

One of their kings, Eochy(78) mac Erc, took in marriage Taltiu, or Telta,
daughter of the King of the “Great Plain” (the Land of the Dead). Telta
had a palace at the place now called after her, Telltown (properly
Teltin). There she died, and there, even in mediæval Ireland, a great
annual assembly or fair was held in her honour.

*The Coming of the People of Dana*

We now come to by far the most interesting and important of the mythical
invaders and colonisers of Ireland, the People of Dana. The name, _Tuatha
De Danann_, means literally “the folk of the god whose mother is Dana.”
Dana also sometimes bears another name, that of Brigit, a goddess held in
much honour by pagan Ireland, whose attributes are in a great measure
transferred in legend to the Christian St. Brigit of the sixth century.
Her name is also found in Gaulish inscriptions as “Brigindo,” and occurs
in several British inscriptions as “Brigantia.” She was the daughter of
the supreme head of the People of Dana, the god Dagda, “The Good.” She had
three sons, who are said to have had in common one only son, named
Ecne—that is to say, “Knowledge,” or “Poetry.”(79) Ecne, then, may be said
to be the god whose mother was Dana, and the race to whom she gave her
name are the clearest representatives we have in Irish myths of the powers
of Light and Knowledge. It will be remembered that alone among all these
mythical races Tuan mac Carell gave to the People of Dana the name of
“gods.” Yet it is not as gods that they appear in the form in which Irish
legends about them have now come down to us. Christian influences reduced
them to the rank of fairies or identified them with the fallen angels.
They were conquered by the Milesians, who are conceived as an entirely
human race, and who had all sorts of relations of love and war with them
until quite recent times. Yet even in the later legends a certain
splendour and exaltation appears to invest the People of Dana, recalling
the high estate from which they had been dethroned.

*The Popular and the Bardic Conceptions*

Nor must it be overlooked that the popular conception of the Danaan
deities was probably at all times something different from the bardic and
Druidic, or in other words the scholarly, conception. The latter, as we
shall see, represents them as the presiding deities of science and poetry.
This is not a popular idea; it is the product of the Celtic, the Aryan
imagination, inspired by a strictly intellectual conception. The common
people, who represented mainly the Megalithic element in the population,
appear to have conceived their deities as earth-powers—_dei terreni_, as
they are explicitly called in the eighth-century “Book of
Armagh”(80)—presiding, not over science and poetry, but rather
agriculture, controlling the fecundity of the earth and water, and
dwelling in hills, rivers, and lakes. In the bardic literature the Aryan
idea is prominent; the other is to be found in innumerable folk-tales and
popular observances; but of course in each case a considerable amount of
interpenetration of the two conceptions is to be met with—no sharp
dividing line was drawn between them in ancient times, and none can be
drawn now.

*The Treasures of the Danaans*

Tuan mac Carell says they came to Ireland “out of heaven.” This is
embroidered in later tradition into a narrative telling how they sprang
from four great cities, whose very names breathe of fairydom and
romance—Falias, Gorias, Finias, and Murias. Here they learned science and
craftsmanship from great sages one of whom was enthroned in each city, and
from each they brought with them a magical treasure. From Falias came the
stone called the _Lia Fail_, or Stone of Destiny, on which the High-Kings
of Ireland stood when they were crowned, and which was supposed to confirm
the election of a rightful monarch by roaring under him as he took his
place on it. The actual stone which was so used at the inauguration of a
reign did from immemorial times exist at Tara, and was sent thence to
Scotland early in the sixth century for the crowning of Fergus the Great,
son of Erc, who begged his brother Murtagh mac Erc, King of Ireland, for
the loan of it. An ancient prophecy told that wherever this stone was, a
king of the Scotic (_i.e._, Irish-Milesian) race should reign. This is the
famous Stone of Scone, which never came back to Ireland, but was removed
to England by Edward I. in 1297, and is now the Coronation Stone in
Westminster Abbey. Nor has the old prophecy been falsified, since through
the Stuarts and Fergus mac Erc the descent of the British royal family can
be traced from the historic kings of Milesian Ireland.

The second treasure of the Danaans was the invincible sword of Lugh of the
Long Arm, of whom we shall hear later, and this sword came from the city
of Gorias. From Finias came a magic spear, and from Murias the Cauldron of
the Dagda, a vessel which had the property that it could feed a host of
men without ever being emptied.

With these possessions, according to the version given in the “Book of
Invasions,” the People of Dana came into Ireland.

*The Danaans and the Firbolgs*

They were wafted into the land in a magic cloud, making their first
appearance in Western Connacht. When the cloud cleared away, the Firbolgs
discovered them in a camp which they had already fortified at Moyrein.

The Firbolgs now sent out one of their warriors, named Sreng, to interview
the mysterious new-comers; and the People of Dana, on their side, sent a
warrior named Bres to represent them. The two ambassadors examined each
other’s weapons with great interest. The spears of the Danaans, we are
told, were light and sharp-pointed; those of the Firbolgs were heavy and
blunt. To contrast the power of science with that of brute force is here
the evident intention of the legend, and we are reminded of the Greek myth
of the struggle of the Olympian deities with the Titans.

Bres proposed to the Firbolg that the two races should divide Ireland
equally between them, and join to defend it against all comers for the
future. They then exchanged weapons and returned each to his own camp.

*The First Battle of Moytura*

The Firbolgs, however, were not impressed with the superiority of the
Danaans, and decided to refuse their offer. The battle was joined on the
Plain of Moytura,(81) in the south of Co. Mayo, near the spot now called
Cong. The Firbolgs were led by their king, mac Erc, and the Danaans by
Nuada of the Silver Hand, who got his name from an incident in this
battle. His hand, it is said, was cut off in the fight, and one of the
skilful artificers who abounded in the ranks of the Danaans made him a new
one of silver. By their magical and healing arts the Danaans gained the
victory, and the Firbolg king was slain. But a reasonable agreement
followed: the Firbolgs were allotted the province of Connacht for their
territory, while the Danaans took the rest of Ireland. So late as the
seventeenth century the annalist Mac Firbis discovered that many of the
inhabitants of Connacht traced their descent to these same Firbolgs.
Probably they were a veritable historic race, and the conflict between
them and the People of Dana may be a piece of actual history invested with
some of the features of a myth.

*The Expulsion of King Bres*

Nuada of the Silver Hand should now have been ruler of the Danaans, but
his mutilation forbade it, for no blemished man might be a king in
Ireland. The Danaans therefore chose Bres, who was the son of a Danaan
woman named Eri, but whose father was unknown, to reign over them instead.
This was another Bres, not the envoy who had treated with the Firbolgs and
who was slain in the battle of Moytura. Now Bres, although strong and
beautiful to look on, had no gift of kingship, for he not only allowed the
enemy of Ireland, the Fomorians, to renew their oppression and taxation in
the land, but he himself taxed his subjects heavily too; and was so
niggardly that he gave no hospitality to chiefs and nobles and harpers.
Lack of generosity and hospitality was always reckoned the worst of vices
in an Irish prince. One day it is said that there came to his court the
poet Corpry, who found himself housed in a small, dark chamber without
fire or furniture, where, after long delay, he was served with three dry
cakes and no ale. In revenge he composed a satirical quatrain on his
churlish host:

“Without food quickly served,
Without a cow’s milk, whereon a calf can grow,
Without a dwelling fit for a man under the gloomy night,
Without means to entertain a bardic company,—
Let such be the condition of Bres.”

Poetic satire in Ireland was supposed to have a kind of magical power.
Kings dreaded it; even rats could be exterminated by it.(82) This quatrain
of Corpry’s was repeated with delight among the people, and Bres had to
lay down his sovranty. This was said to be the first satire ever made in
Ireland. Meantime, because Nuada had got his silver hand through the art
of his physician Diancecht, or because, as some versions of the legend
say, a still greater healer, the son of Diancecht, had made the veritable
hand grow again to the stump, he was chosen to be king in place of Bres.

The latter now betook himself in wrath and resentment to his mother Eri,
and begged her to give him counsel and to tell him of his lineage. Eri
then declared to him that his father was Elatha, a king of the Fomorians,
who had come to her secretly from over sea, and when he departed had given
her a ring, bidding her never bestow it on any man save him whose finger
it would fit. She now brought forth the ring, and it fitted the finger of
Bres, who went down with her to the strand where the Fomorian lover had
landed, and they sailed together for his father’s home.

*The Tyranny of the Fomorians*

Elatha recognised the ring, and gave his son an army wherewith to
reconquer Ireland, and also sent him to seek further aid from the greatest
of the Fomorian kings, Balor. Now Balor was surnamed “of the Evil Eye,”
because the gaze of his one eye could slay like a thunderbolt those on
whom he looked in anger. He was now, however, so old and feeble that the
vast eyelid drooped over the death-dealing eye, and had to be lifted up by
his men with ropes and pulleys when the time came to turn it on his foes.
Nuada could make no more head against him than Bres had done when king;
and the country still groaned under the oppression of the Fomorians and
longed for a champion and redeemer.

*The Coming of Lugh*

A new figure now comes into the myth, no other than Lugh son of Kian, the
Sun-god _par excellence_ of all Celtica, whose name we can still identify
in many historic sites on the Continent.(83) To explain his appearance we
must desert for a moment the ancient manuscript authorities, which are
here incomplete, and have to be supplemented by a folk-tale which was
fortunately discovered and taken down orally so late as the nineteenth
century by the great Irish antiquary, O’Donovan.(84) In this folk-tale the
names of Balor and his daughter Ethlinn (the latter in the form “Ethnea”)
are preserved, as well as those of some other mythical personages, but
that of the father of Lugh is faintly echoed in MacKineely; Lugh’s own
name is forgotten, and the death of Balor is given in a manner
inconsistent with the ancient myth. In the story as I give it here the
antique names and mythical outline are preserved, but are supplemented
where required from the folk-tale, omitting from the latter those modern
features which are not reconcilable with the myth.

The story, then, goes that Balor, the Fomorian king, heard in a Druidic
prophecy that he would be slain by his grandson. His only child was an
infant daughter named Ethlinn. To avert the doom he, like Acrisios, father
of Danae, in the Greek myth, had her imprisoned in a high tower which he
caused to be built on a precipitous headland, the Tor Mōr, in Tory Island.
He placed the girl in charge of twelve matrons, who were strictly charged
to prevent her from ever seeing the face of man, or even learning that
there were any beings of a different sex from her own. In this seclusion
Ethlinn grew up—as all sequestered princesses do—into a maiden of
surpassing beauty.

Now it happened that there were on the mainland three brothers, namely,
Kian, Sawan, and Goban the Smith, the great armourer and artificer of
Irish myth, who corresponds to Wayland Smith in Germanic legend. Kian had
a magical cow, whose milk was so abundant that every one longed to possess
her, and he had to keep her strictly under protection.

Balor determined to possess himself of this cow. One day Kian and Sawan
had come to the forge to have some weapons made for them, bringing fine
steel for that purpose. Kian went into the forge, leaving Sawan in charge
of the cow. Balor now appeared on the scene, taking on himself the form of
a little redheaded boy, and told Sawan that he had overheard the brothers
inside the forge concocting a plan for using all the fine steel for their
own swords, leaving but common metal for that of Sawan. The latter, in a
great rage, gave the cow’s halter to the boy and rushed into the forge to
put a stop to this nefarious scheme. Balor immediately carried off the
cow, and dragged her across the sea to Tory Island.

Kian now determined to avenge himself on Balor, and to this end sought the
advice of a Druidess named Birōg. Dressing himself in woman’s garb, he was
wafted by magical spells across the sea, where Birōg, who accompanied him,
represented to Ethlinn’s guardians that they were two noble ladies cast
upon the shore in escaping from an abductor, and begged for shelter. They
were admitted; Kian found means to have access to the Princess Ethlinn
while the matrons were laid by Birōg under the spell of an enchanted
slumber, and when they awoke Kian and the Druidess had vanished as they
came. But Ethlinn had given Kian her love, and soon her guardians found
that she was with child. Fearing Balor’s wrath, the matrons persuaded her
that the whole transaction was but a dream, and said nothing about it; but
in due time Ethlinn was delivered of three sons at a birth.

News of this event came to Balor, and in anger and fear he commanded the
three infants to be drowned in a whirlpool off the Irish coast. The
messenger who was charged with this command rolled up the children in a
sheet, but in carrying them to the appointed place the pin of the sheet
came loose, and one of the children dropped out and fell into a little
bay, called to this day _Port na Delig_, or the Haven of the Pin. The
other two were duly drowned, and the servant reported his mission

But the child who had fallen into the bay was guarded by the Druidess, who
wafted it to the home of its father, Kian, and Kian gave it in fosterage
to his brother the smith, who taught the child his own trade and made it
skilled in every manner of craft and handiwork. This child was Lugh. When
he was grown to a youth the Danaans placed him in charge of Duach, “The
Dark,” king of the Great Plain (Fairyland, or the “Land of the Living,”
which is also the Land of the Dead), and here he dwelt till he reached

Lugh was, of course, the appointed redeemer of the Danaan people from
their servitude. His coming is narrated in a story which brings out the
solar attributes of universal power, and shows him, like Apollo, as the
presiding deity of all human knowledge and of all artistic and medicinal
skill. He came, it is told, to take service with Nuada of the Silver Hand,
and when the doorkeeper at the royal palace of Tara asked him what he
could do, he answered that he was a carpenter.

“We are in no need of a carpenter,” said the doorkeeper; “we have an
excellent one in Luchta son of Luchad.” “I am a smith too,” said Lugh. “We
have a master-smith,” said the doorkeeper, “already.” “Then I am a
warrior,” said Lugh. “We do not need one,” said the doorkeeper, “while we
have Ogma.” Lugh goes on to name all the occupations and arts he can think
of—he is a poet, a harper, a man of science, a physician, a spencer, and
so forth, always receiving the answer that a man of supreme accomplishment
in that art is already installed at the court of Nuada. “Then ask the
King,” said Lugh, “if he has in his service any one man who is
accomplished in every one of these arts, and if he have, I shall stay here
no longer, nor seek to enter his palace.” Upon this Lugh is received, and
the surname Ildánach is conferred upon him, meaning “The All-Craftsman,”
Prince of all the Sciences; while another name that he commonly bore was
Lugh Lamfada, or Lugh of the Long Arm. We are reminded here, as de
Jubainville points out, of the Gaulish god whom Caesar identifies with
Mercury, “inventor of all the arts,” and to whom the Gauls put up many
statues. The Irish myth supplements this information and tells us the
Celtic name of this deity.

When Lugh came from the Land of the Living he brought with him many
magical gifts. There was the Boat of Mananan, son of Lir the Sea God,
which knew a man’s thoughts and would travel whithersoever he would, and
the Horse of Mananan, that could go alike over land and sea, and a
terrible sword named _Fragarach_ (“The Answerer”), that could cut through
any mail. So equipped, he appeared one day before an assembly of the
Danaan chiefs who were met to pay their tribute to the envoys of the
Fomorian oppressors; and when the Danaans saw him, they felt, it is said,
as if they beheld the rising of the sun on a dry summer’s day. Instead of
paying the tribute, they, under Lugh’s leadership, attacked the Fomorians,
all of whom were slain but nine men, and these were sent back to tell
Balor that the Danaans defied him and would pay no tribute henceforward.
Balor then made him ready for battle, and bade his captains, when they had
subdued the Danaans, make fast the island by cables to their ships and tow
it far northward to the Fomorian regions of ice and gloom, where it would
trouble them no longer.

*The Quest of the Sons of Turenn*

Lugh, on his side, also prepared for the final combat; but to ensure
victory certain magical instruments were still needed for him, and these
had now to be obtained. The story of the quest of these objects, which
incidentally tells us also of the end of Lugh’s father, Kian, is one of
the most valuable and curious in Irish legend, and formed one of a triad
of mythical tales which were reckoned as the flower of Irish romance.(85)

Kian, the story goes, was sent northward by Lugh to summon the fighting
men of the Danaans in Ulster to the hosting against the Fomorians. On his
way, as he crosses the Plain of Murthemney, near Dundalk, he meets with
three brothers, Brian, Iuchar, and Iucharba, sons of Turenn, between whose
house and that of Kian there was a blood-feud. He seeks to avoid them by
changing into the form of a pig and joining a herd which is rooting in the
plain, but the brothers detect him and Brian wounds him with a cast from a
spear. Kian, knowing that his end is come, begs to be allowed to change
back into human form before he is slain. “I had liefer kill a man than a
pig,” says Brian, who takes throughout the leading part in all the
brothers’ adventures. Kian then stands before them as a man, with the
blood from Brian’s spear trickling from his breast. “I have outwitted ye,”
he cries, “for if ye had slain a pig ye would have paid but the eric
[blood-fine] of a pig, but now ye shall pay the eric of a man; never was
greater eric than that which ye shall pay; and the weapons ye slay me with
shall tell the tale to the avenger of blood.”

“Then you shall be slain with no weapons at all,” says Brian, and he and
the brothers stone him to death and bury him in the ground as deep as the
height of a man.

But when Lugh shortly afterwards passes that way the stones on the plain
cry out and tell him of his father’s murder at the hands of the sons of
Turenn. He uncovers the body, and, vowing vengeance, returns to Tara. Here
he accuses the sons of Turenn before the High King, and is permitted to
have them executed, or to name the eric he will accept in remission of
that sentence. Lugh chooses to have the eric, and he names it as follows,
concealing things of vast price, and involving unheard-of toils, under the
names of common objects: Three apples, the skin of a pig, a spear, a
chariot with two horses, seven swine, a hound, a cooking-spit, and,
finally, to give three shouts on a hill. The brothers bind themselves to
pay the fine, and Lugh then declares the meaning of it. The three apples
are those which grow in the Garden of the Sun; the pig-skin is a magical
skin which heals every wound and sickness if it can be laid on the
sufferer, and it is a possession of the King of Greece; the spear is a
magical weapon owned by the King of Persia (these names, of course, are
mere fanciful appellations for places in the mysterious world of Faëry);
the seven swine belong to King Asal of the Golden Pillars, and may be
killed and eaten every night and yet be found whole next day; the spit
belongs to the sea-nymphs of the sunken Island of Finchory; and the three
shouts are to be given on the hill of a fierce warrior, Mochaen, who, with
his sons, are under vows to prevent any man from raising his voice on that
hill. To fulfil any one of these enterprises would be an all but
impossible task, and the brothers must accomplish them all before they can
clear themselves of the guilt and penalty of Kian’s death.

The story then goes on to tell how with infinite daring and resource the
sons of Turenn accomplish one by one all their tasks, but when all are
done save the capture of the cooking-spit and the three shouts on the Hill
of Mochaen, Lugh, by magical arts, causes forgetfulness to fall upon them,
and they return to Ireland with their treasures. These, especially the
spear and the pig-skin, are just what Lugh needs to help him against the
Fomorians; but his vengeance is not complete, and after receiving the
treasures he reminds the brothers of what is yet to be won. They, in deep
dejection, now begin to understand how they are played with, and go forth
sadly to win, if they can, the rest of the eric. After long wandering they
discover that the Island of Finchory is not above, but under the sea.
Brian in a magical “water-dress” goes down to it, sees the thrice fifty
nymphs in their palace, and seizes the golden spit from their hearth. The
ordeal of the Hill of Mochaen is the last to be attempted. After a
desperate combat which ends in the slaying of Mochaen and his sons, the
brothers, mortally wounded, uplift their voices in three faint cries, and
so the eric is fulfilled. The life is still in them, however, when they
return to Ireland, and their aged father, Turenn, implores Lugh for the
loan of the magic pig-skin to heal them; but the implacable Lugh refuses,
and the brothers and their father die together. So ends the tale.

*The Second Battle of Moytura*

The Second Battle of Moytura took place on a plain in the north of Co.
Sligo, which is remarkable for the number of sepulchral monuments still
scattered over it. The first battle, of course, was that which the Danaans
had waged with the Firbolgs, and the Moytura there referred to was much
further south, in Co. Mayo. The battle with the Fomorians is related with
an astounding wealth of marvellous incident. The craftsmen of the Danaans,
Goban the smith, Credné the artificer (or goldsmith), and Luchta the
carpenter, keep repairing the broken weapons of the Danaans with magical
speed—three blows of Goban’s hammer make a spear or sword, Luchta flings a
handle at it and it sticks on at once, and Credné jerks the rivets at it
with his tongs as fast as he makes them and they fly into their places.
The wounded are healed by the magical pig-skin. The plain resounds with
the clamour of battle:

    “Fearful indeed was the thunder which rolled over the battlefield;
    the shouts of the warriors, the breaking of the shields, the
    flashing and clashing of the swords, of the straight, ivory-hilted
    swords, the music and harmony of the ‘belly-darts’ and the sighing
    and winging of the spears and lances.”(86)

*The Death of Balor*

The Fomorians bring on their champion, Balor, before the glance of whose
terrible eye Nuada of the Silver Hand and others of the Danaans go down.
But Lugh, seizing an opportunity when the eyelid drooped through
weariness, approached close to Balor, and as it began to lift once more he
hurled into the eye a great stone which sank into the brain, and Balor lay
dead, as the prophecy had foretold, at the hand of his grandson. The
Fomorians were then totally routed, and it is not recorded that they ever
again gained any authority or committed any extensive depredations in
Ireland. Lugh, the Ildánach, was then enthroned in place of Nuada, and the
myth of the victory of the solar hero over the powers of darkness and
brute force is complete.

*The Harp of the Dagda*

A curious little incident bearing on the power which the Danaans could
exercise by the spell of music may here be inserted. The flying Fomorians,
it is told, had made prisoner the harper of the Dagda and carried him off
with them. Lugh, the Dagda, and the warrior Ogma followed them, and came
unknown into the banqueting-hall of the Fomorian camp. There they saw the
harp hanging on the wall. The Dagda called to it, and immediately it flew
into his hands, killing nine men of the Fomorians on its way. The Dagda’s
invocation of the harp is very singular, and not a little puzzling:

    “Come, apple-sweet murmurer,” he cries, “come, four-angled frame
    of harmony, come, Summer, come, Winter, from the mouths of harps
    and bags and pipes.”(87)

The allusion to summer and winter suggests the practice in Indian music of
allotting certain musical modes to the different seasons of the year (and
even to different times of day), and also an Egyptian legend referred to
in Burney’s “History of Music,” where the three strings of the lyre were
supposed to answer respectively to the three seasons, spring, summer, and

When the Dagda got possession of the harp, the tale goes on, he played on
it the “three noble strains” which every great master of the harp should
command, namely, the Strain of Lament, which caused the hearers to weep,
the Strain of Laughter, which made them merry, and the Strain of Slumber,
or Lullaby, which plunged them all in a profound sleep. And under cover of
that sleep the Danaan champion stole out and escaped. It may be observed
that throughout the whole of the legendary literature of Ireland skill in
music, the art whose influence most resembles that of a mysterious spell
or gift of Faëry, is the prerogative of the People of Dana and their
descendants. Thus in the “Colloquy of the Ancients,” a collection of tales
made about the thirteenth or fourteenth century, St. Patrick is introduced
to a minstrel, Cascorach, “a handsome, curly-headed, dark-browed youth,”
who plays so sweet a strain that the saint and his retinue all fall
asleep. Cascorach, we are told, was son of a minstrel of the Danaan folk.
St. Patrick’s scribe, Brogan, remarks, “A good cast of thine art is that
thou gavest us.” “Good indeed it were,” said Patrick, “but for a twang of
the fairy spell that infests it; barring which nothing could more nearly
resemble heaven’s harmony.”(89) Some of the most beautiful of the antique
Irish folk-melodies,—_e.g._, the _Coulin_—are traditionally supposed to
have been overheard by mortal harpers at the revels of the Fairy Folk.

*Names and Characteristics of the Danaan Deities*

I may conclude this narrative of the Danaan conquest with some account of
the principal Danaan gods and their attributes, which will be useful to
readers of the subsequent pages. The best with which I am acquainted is to
be found in Mr. Standish O’Grady’s “Critical History of Ireland.”(90) This
work is no less remarkable for its critical insight—it was published in
1881, when scientific study of the Celtic mythology was little heard
of—than for the true bardic imagination, kindred to that of the ancient
myth-makers themselves, which recreates the dead forms of the past and
dilates them with the breath of life. The broad outlines in which Mr.
O’Grady has laid down the typical characteristics of the chief personages
in the Danaan cycle hardly need any correction at this day, and have been
of much use to me in the following summary of the subject.

*The Dagda*

The Dagda Mōr was the father and chief of the People of Dana. A certain
conception of vastness attaches to him and to his doings. In the Second
Battle of Moytura his blows sweep down whole ranks of the enemy, and his
spear, when he trails it on the march, draws a furrow in the ground like
the fosse which marks the mearing of a province. An element of grotesque
humour is present in some of the records about this deity. When the
Fomorians give him food on his visit to their camp, the porridge and milk
are poured into a great pit in the ground, and he eats it with a spoon big
enough, it was said, for a man and a woman to lie together in it. With
this spoon he scrapes the pit, when the porridge is done, and shovels
earth and gravel unconcernedly down his throat. We have already seen that,
like all the Danaans, he is a master of music, as well as of other magical
endowments, and owns a harp which comes flying through the air at his
call. “The tendency to attribute life to inanimate things is apparent in
the Homeric literature, but exercises a very great influence in the
mythology of this country. The living, fiery spear of Lugh; the magic ship
of Mananan; the sword of Conary Mōr, which sang; Cuchulain’s sword, which
spoke; the Lia Fail, Stone of Destiny, which roared for joy beneath the
feet of rightful kings; the waves of the ocean, roaring with rage and
sorrow when such kings are in jeopardy; the waters of the Avon Dia,
holding back for fear at the mighty duel between Cuchulain and Ferdia, are
but a few out of many examples.”(91) A legend of later times tells how
once, at the death of a great scholar, all the books in Ireland fell from
their shelves upon the floor.

*Angus Ōg*

Angus Ōg (Angus the Young), son of the Dagda, by Boanna (the river Boyne),
was the Irish god of love. His palace was supposed to be at New Grange, on
the Boyne. Four bright birds that ever hovered about his head were
supposed to be his kisses taking shape in this lovely form, and at their
singing love came springing up in the hearts of youths and maidens. Once
he fell sick of love for a maiden whom he had seen in a dream. He told the
cause of his sickness to his mother Boanna, who searched all Ireland for
the girl, but could not find her. Then the Dagda was called in, but he too
was at a loss, till he called to his aid Bōv the Red, king of the Danaans
of Munster—the same whom we have met with in the tale of the Children of
Lir, and who was skilled in all mysteries and enchantments. Bōv undertook
the search, and after a year had gone by declared that he had found the
visionary maiden at a lake called the Lake of the Dragon’s Mouth.

Angus goes to Bōv, and, after being entertained by him three days, is
brought to the lake shore, where he sees thrice fifty maidens walking in
couples, each couple linked by a chain of gold, but one of them is taller
than the rest by a head and shoulders. “That is she!” cries Angus. “Tell
us by what name she is known.” Bōv answers that her name is Caer, daughter
of Ethal Anubal, a prince of the Danaans of Connacht. Angus laments that
he is not strong enough to carry her off from her companions, but, on
Bōv’s advice, betakes himself to Ailell and Maev, the mortal King and
Queen of Connacht, for assistance. The Dagda and Angus then both repair to
the palace of Ailell, who feasts them for a week, and then asks the cause
of their coming. When it is declared he answers, “We have no authority
over Ethal Anubal.” They send a message to him, however, asking for the
hand of Caer for Angus, but Ethal refuses to give her up. In the end he is
besieged by the combined forces of Ailell and the Dagda, and taken
prisoner. When Caer is again demanded of him he declares that he cannot
comply, “for she is more powerful than I.” He explains that she lives
alternately in the form of a maiden and of a swan year and year about,
“and on the first of November next,” he says, “you will see her with a
hundred and fifty other swans at the Lake of the Dragon’s Mouth.”

Angus goes there at the appointed time, and cries to her, “Oh, come and
speak to me!” “Who calls me?” asks Caer. Angus explains who he is, and
then finds himself transformed into a swan. This is an indication of
consent, and he plunges in to join his love in the lake. After that they
fly together to the palace on the Boyne, uttering as they go a music so
divine that all hearers are lulled to sleep for three days and nights.

Angus is the special deity and friend of beautiful youths and maidens.
Dermot of the Love-spot, a follower of Finn mac Cumhal, and lover of
Grania, of whom we shall hear later, was bred up with Angus in the palace
on the Boyne. He was the typical lover of Irish legend. When he was slain
by the wild boar of Ben Bulben, Angus revives him and carries him off to
share his immortality in his fairy palace.

*Len of Killarney*

Of Bōv the Red, brother of the Dagda, we have already heard. He had, it is
said, a goldsmith named Len, who “gave their ancient name to the Lakes of
Killarney, once known as Locha Lein, the Lakes of Len of the Many Hammers.
Here by the lake he wrought, surrounded by rainbows and showers of fiery


Lugh has already been described.(93) He has more distinctly solar
attributes than any other Celtic deity; and, as we know, his worship was
spread widely over Continental Celtica. In the tale of the Quest of the
Sons of Turenn we are told that Lugh approached the Fomorians from the
west. Then Bres, son of Balor, arose and said: “I wonder that the sun is
rising in the west to-day, and in the east every other day.” “Would it
were so,” said his Druids. “Why, what else but the sun is it?” said Bres.
“It is the radiance of the face of Lugh of the Long Arm,” they replied.

Lugh was the father, by the Milesian maiden Dectera, of Cuchulain, the
most heroic figure in Irish legend, in whose story there is evidently a
strong element of the solar myth.(94)

*Midir the Proud*

Midir the Proud is a son of the Dagda. His fairy palace is at _Bri Leith_,
or Slieve Callary, in Co. Longford. He frequently appears in legends
dealing partly with human, partly with Danaan personages, and is always
represented as a type of splendour in his apparel and in personal beauty.
When he appears to King Eochy on the Hill of Tara he is thus

    “It chanced that Eochaid Airemm, the King of Tara, arose upon a
    certain fair day in the time of summer; and he ascended the high
    ground of Tara(96) to behold the plain of Breg; beautiful was the
    colour of that plain, and there was upon it excellent blossom
    glowing with all hues that are known. And as the aforesaid Eochy
    looked about and around him, he saw a young strange warrior upon
    the high ground at his side. The tunic that the warrior wore was
    purple in colour, his hair was of a golden yellow, and of such
    length that it reached to the edge of his shoulders. The eyes of
    the young warrior were lustrous and grey; in the one hand he held
    a fine pointed spear, in the other a shield with a white central
    boss, and with gems of gold upon it. And Eochaid held his peace,
    for he knew that none such had been in Tara on the night before,
    and the gate that led into the _Liss_ had not at that time been
    thrown open.”(97)

*Lir and Mananan*

Lir, as Mr. O’Grady remarks, “appears in two distinct forms. In the first
he is a vast, impersonal presence commensurate with the sea; in fact, the
Greek Oceanus. In the second, he is a separate person dwelling invisibly
on Slieve Fuad,” in Co. Armagh. We hear little of him in Irish legend,
where the attributes of the sea-god are mostly conferred on his son,

This deity is one of the most popular in Irish mythology. He was lord of
the sea, beyond or under which the Land of Youth or Islands of the Dead
were supposed to lie; he therefore was the guide of man to this country.
He was master of tricks and illusions, and owned all kinds of magical
possessions—the boat named Ocean-sweeper, which obeyed the thought of
those who sailed in it and went without oar or sail, the steed Aonbarr,
which could travel alike on sea or land, and the sword named The Answerer,
which no armour could resist. White-crested waves were called the Horses
of Mananan, and it was forbidden (_tabu_) for the solar hero, Cuchulain,
to perceive them—this indicated the daily death of the sun at his setting
in the western waves. Mananan wore a great cloak which was capable of
taking on every kind of colour, like the widespread field of the sea as
looked on from a height; and as the protector of the island of Erin it was
said that when any hostile force invaded it they heard his thunderous
tramp and the flapping of his mighty cloak as he marched angrily round and
round their camp at night. The Isle of Man, seen dimly from the Irish
coast, was supposed to be the throne of Mananan, and to take its name from
this deity.

*The Goddess Dana*

The greatest of the Danaan goddesses was Dana, “mother of the Irish gods,”
as she is called in an early text. She was daughter of the Dagda, and,
like him, associated with ideas of fertility and blessing. According to
d’Arbois de Jubainville, she was identical with the goddess Brigit, who
was so widely worshipped in Celtica. Brian, Iuchar, and Iucharba are said
to have been her sons—these really represent but one person, in the usual
Irish fashion of conceiving the divine power in triads. The name of Brian,
who takes the lead in all the exploits of the brethren,(98) is a
derivation from a more ancient form, Brenos, and under this form was the
god to whom the Celts attributed their victories at the Allia and at
Delphi, mistaken by Roman and Greek chroniclers for an earthly leader.

*The Morrigan*

There was also an extraordinary goddess named the Morrigan,(99) who
appears to embody all that is perverse and horrible among supernatural
powers. She delighted in setting men at war, and fought among them
herself, changing into many frightful shapes and often hovering above
fighting armies in the aspect of a crow. She met Cuchulain once and
proffered him her love in the guise of a human maid. He refused it, and
she persecuted him thenceforward for the most of his life. Warring with
him once in the middle of the stream, she turned herself into a
water-serpent, and then into a mass of water-weeds, seeking to entangle
and drown him. But he conquered and wounded her, and she afterwards became
his friend. Before his last battle she passed through Emain Macha at
night, and broke the pole of his chariot as a warning.

*Cleena’s Wave*

One of the most notable landmarks of Ireland was the _Tonn Cliodhna_, or
“Wave of Cleena,” on the seashore at Glandore Bay, in Co. Cork. The story
about Cleena exists in several versions, which do not agree with each
other except in so far as she seems to have been a Danaan maiden once
living in Mananan’s country, the Land of Youth beyond the sea. Escaping
thence with a mortal lover, as one of the versions tells, she landed on
the southern coast of Ireland, and her lover, Keevan of the Curling Locks,
went off to hunt in the woods. Cleena, who remained on the beach, was
lulled to sleep by fairy music played by a minstrel of Mananan, when a
great wave of the sea swept up and carried her back to Fairyland, leaving
her lover desolate. Hence the place was called the Strand of Cleena’s

*The Goddess Ainé*

Another topical goddess was Ainé, the patroness of Munster, who is still
venerated by the people of that county. She was the daughter of the Danaan
Owel, a foster-son of Mananan and a Druid. She is in some sort a
love-goddess, continually inspiring mortals with passion. She was
ravished, it was said, by Ailill Olum, King of Munster, who was slain in
consequence by her magic arts, and the story is repeated in far later
times about another mortal lover, who was not, however, slain, a
Fitzgerald, to whom she bore the famous wizard Earl.(100) Many of the
aristocratic families of Munster claimed descent from this union. Her name
still clings to the “Hill of Ainé” (Knockainey), near Loch Gur, in
Munster. All the Danaan deities in the popular imagination were
earth-gods, _dei terreni_, associated with ideas of fertility and
increase. Ainé is not heard much of in the bardic literature, but she is
very prominent in the folk-lore of the neighbourhood. At the bidding of
her son, Earl Gerald, she planted all Knockainey with pease in a single
night. She was, and perhaps still is, worshipped on Midsummer Eve by the
peasantry, who carried torches of hay and straw, tied on poles and
lighted, round her hill at night. Afterwards they dispersed themselves
among their cultivated fields and pastures, waving the torches over the
crops and the cattle to bring luck and increase for the following year. On
one night, as told by Mr. D. Fitzgerald,(101) who has collected the local
traditions about her, the ceremony was omitted owing to the death of one
of the neighbours. Yet the peasantry at night saw the torches in greater
number than ever circling the hill, and Ainé herself in front, directing
and ordering the procession.

“On another St. John’s Night a number of girls had stayed late on the Hill
watching the _cliars_ (torches) and joining in the games. Suddenly Ainé
appeared among them, thanked them for the honour they had done her, but
said she now wished them to go home, as _they wanted the hill to
themselves_. She let them understand whom she meant by _they_, for calling
some of the girls she made them look through a ring, when behold, the hill
appeared crowded with people before invisible.”

“Here,” observed Mr. Alfred Nutt, “we have the antique ritual carried out
on a spot hallowed to one of the antique powers, watched over and shared
in by those powers themselves. Nowhere save in Gaeldom could be found such
a pregnant illustration of the identity of the fairy class with the
venerable powers to ensure whose goodwill rites and sacrifices, originally
fierce and bloody, now a mere simulacrum of their pristine form, have been
performed for countless ages.”(102)

*Sinend and the Well of Knowledge*

There is a singular myth which, while intended to account for the name of
the river Shannon, expresses the Celtic veneration for poetry and science,
combined with the warning that they may not be approached without danger.
The goddess Sinend, it was said, daughter of Lodan son of Lir, went to a
certain well named Connla’s Well, which is under the sea—_i.e._, in the
Land of Youth in Fairyland. “That is a well,” says the bardic narrative,
“at which are the hazels of wisdom and inspirations, that is, the hazels
of the science of poetry, and in the same hour their fruit and their
blossom and their foliage break forth, and then fall upon the well in the
same shower, which raises upon the water a royal surge of purple.” When
Sinend came to the well we are not told what rites or preparation she had
omitted, but the angry waters broke forth and overwhelmed her, and washed
her up on the Shannon shore, where she died, giving to the river its
name.(103) This myth of the hazels of inspiration and knowledge and their
association with springing water runs through all Irish legend, and has
been finely treated by a living Irish poet, Mr. G.W. Russell, in the
following verses:

“>A cabin on the mountain-side hid in a grassy nook,
With door and window open wide, where friendly stars may look;
The rabbit shy may patter in, the winds may enter free
Who roam around the mountain throne in living ecstasy.

“And when the sun sets dimmed in eve, and purple fills the air,
I think the sacred hazel-tree is dropping berries there,
From starry fruitage, waved aloft where Connla’s Well o’erflows;
For sure, the immortal waters run through every wind that blows.

“I think when Night towers up aloft and shakes the trembling dew,
How every high and lonely thought that thrills my spirit through
Is but a shining berry dropped down through the purple air,
And from the magic tree of life the fruit falls everywhere.”

*The Coming of the Milesians*

After the Second Battle of Moytura the Danaans held rule in Ireland until
the coming of the Milesians, the sons of Miled. These are conceived in
Irish legend as an entirely human race, yet in their origin they, like the
other invaders of Ireland, go back to a divine and mythical ancestry.
Miled, whose name occurs as a god in a Celtic inscription from Hungary, is
represented as a son of Bilé. Bilé, like Balor, is one of the names of the
god of Death, _i.e._, of the Underworld. They come from “Spain”—the usual
term employed by the later rationalising historians for the Land of the

The manner of their coming into Ireland was as follows: Ith, the
grandfather of Miled, dwelt in a great tower which his father, Bregon, had
built in “Spain.” One clear winter’s day, when looking out westwards from
this lofty tower, he saw the coast of Ireland in the distance, and
resolved to sail to the unknown land.

He embarked with ninety warriors, and took land at Corcadyna, in the
south-west. In connexion with this episode I may quote a passage of great
beauty and interest from de Jubainville’s “Irish Mythological Cycle”:(104)

“According to an unknown writer cited by Plutarch, who died about the year
120 of the present era, and also by Procopius, who wrote in the sixth
century A.D., ‘the Land of the Dead’ is the western extremity of Great
Britain, separated from the eastern by an impassable wall. On the northern
coast of Gaul, says the legend, is a populace of mariners whose business
is to carry the dead across from the continent to their last abode in the
island of Britain. The mariners, awakened in the night by the whisperings
of some mysterious voice, arise and go down to the shore, where they find
ships awaiting them which are not their own,(105) and, in these, invisible
beings, under whose weight the vessels sink almost to the gunwales. They
go on board, and with a single stroke of the oar, says one text, in one
hour, says another, they arrive at their destination, though with their
own vessels, aided by sails, it would have taken them at least a day and a
night to reach the coast of Britain. When they come to the other shore the
invisible passengers land, and at the same time the unloaded ships are
seen to rise above the waves, and a voice is heard announcing the names of
the new arrivals, who have just been added to the inhabitants of the Land
of the Dead.

“One stroke of the oar, one hour’s voyage at most, suffices for the
midnight journey which transfers the Dead from the Gaulish continent to
their final abode. Some mysterious law, indeed, brings together in the
night the great spaces which divide the domain of the living from that of
the dead in daytime. It was the same law which enabled Ith one fine winter
evening to perceive from the Tower of Bregon, in the Land of the Dead, the
shores of Ireland, or the land of the living. The phenomenon took place in
winter; for winter is a sort of night; winter, like night, lowers the
barriers between the regions of Death and those of Life; like night,
winter gives to life the semblance of death, and suppresses, as it were,
the dread abyss that lies between the two.”

At this time, it is said, Ireland was ruled by three Danaan kings,
grandsons of the Dagda. Their names were MacCuill, MacCecht, and MacGrené,
and their wives were named respectively Banba, Fohla, and Eriu. The Celtic
habit of conceiving divine persons in triads is here illustrated. These
triads represent one person each, and the mythical character of that
personage is evident from the name of one of them, MacGrené, Son of the
Sun. The names of the three goddesses have each at different times been
applied to Ireland, but that of the third, Eriu, has alone persisted, and
in the dative form, Erinn, is a poetic name for the country to this day.
That Eriu is the wife of MacGrené means, as de Jubainville observes, that
the Sun-god, the god of Day, Life, and Science, has wedded the land and is
reigning over it.

Ith, on landing, finds that the Danaan king, Neit, has just been slain in
a battle with the Fomorians, and the three sons, MacCuill and the others,
are at the fortress of Aileach, in Co. Donegal, arranging for a division
of the land among themselves. At first they welcome Ith, and ask him to
settle their inheritance. Ith gives his judgment, but, in concluding, his
admiration for the newly discovered country breaks out: “Act,” he says,
“according to the laws of justice, for the country you dwell in is a good
one, it is rich in fruit and honey, in wheat and in fish; and in heat and
cold it is temperate.” From this panegyric the Danaans conclude that 1th
has designs upon their land, and they seize him and put him to death. His
companions, however, recover his body and bear it back with them in their
ships to “Spain”; when the children of Miled resolve to take vengeance for
the outrage and prepare to invade Ireland.

They were commanded by thirty-six chiefs, each having his own ship with
his family and his followers. Two of the company are said to have perished
on the way. One of the sons of Miled, having climbed to the masthead of
his vessel to look out for the coast of Ireland, fell into the sea and was
drowned. The other was Skena, wife of the poet Amergin, son of Miled, who
died on the way. The Milesians buried her when they landed, and called the
place “Inverskena” after her; this was the ancient name of the Kenmare
River in Co. Kerry.

“It was on a Thursday, the first of May, and the seventeenth day of the
moon, that the sons of Miled arrived in Ireland. Partholan also landed in
Ireland on the first of May, but on a different day of the week and of the
moon; and it was on the first day of May, too, that the pestilence came
which in the space of one week destroyed utterly his race. The first of
May was sacred to Beltené, one of the names of the god of Death, the god
who gives life to men and takes it away from them again. Thus it was on
the feast day of this god that the sons of Miled began their conquest of

*The Poet Amergin*

When the poet Amergin set foot upon the soil of Ireland it is said that he
chanted a strange and mystical lay:

“I am the Wind that blows over the sea,
I am the Wave of the Ocean;
I am the Murmur of the billows;
I am the Ox of the Seven Combats;
I am the Vulture upon the rock;
I am a Ray of the Sun;
I am the fairest of Plants;
I am a Wild Boar in valour;
I am a Salmon in the Water;
I am a Lake in the plain;
I am the Craft of the artificer;
I am a Word of Science;
I am the Spear-point that gives battle;
I am the god that creates in the head of man the fire of thought.
Who is it that enlightens the assembly upon the mountain,if not I?
Who telleth the ages of the moon, if not I?
“Who showeth the place where the sun goes to rest, if not I?

De Jubainville, whose translation I have in the main followed, observes
upon this strange utterance:

“There is a lack of order in this composition, the ideas, fundamental and
subordinate, are jumbled together without method; but there is no doubt as
to the meaning: the _filé_ [poet] is the Word of Science, he is the god
who gives to man the fire of thought; and as science is not distinct from
its object, as God and Nature are but one, the being of the _filé_ is
mingled with the winds and the waves, with the wild animals and the
warrior’s arms.”(107)

Two other poems are attributed to Amergin, in which he invokes the land
and physical features of Ireland to aid him:

“I invoke the land of Ireland,
Shining, shining sea;
Fertile, fertile Mountain;
Gladed, gladed wood!
Abundant river, abundant in water!
Fish-abounding lake!”(108)

*The Judgment of Amergin*

The Milesian host, after landing, advance to Tara, where they find the
three kings of the Danaans awaiting them, and summon them to deliver up
the island. The Danaans ask for three days’ time to consider whether they
shall quit Ireland, or submit, or give battle; and they propose to leave
the decision, upon their request, to Amergin. Amergin pronounces
judgment—“the first judgment which was delivered in Ireland.” He agrees
that the Milesians must not take their foes by surprise—they are to
withdraw the length of nine waves from the shore, and then return; if they
then conquer the Danaans the land is to be fairly theirs by right of

The Milesians submit to this decision and embark on their ships. But no
sooner have they drawn _off_ for this mystical distance of the nine waves
than a mist and storm are raised by the sorceries of the Danaans—the coast
of Ireland is hidden from their sight, and they wander dispersed upon the
ocean. To ascertain if it is a natural or a Druidic tempest which afflicts
them, a man named Aranan is sent up to the masthead to see if the wind is
blowing there also or not. He is flung from the swaying mast, but as he
falls to his death he cries his message to his shipmates: “There is no
storm aloft.” Amergin, who as poet—that is to say, Druid—takes the lead in
all critical situations, thereupon chants his incantation to the land of
Erin. The wind falls, and they turn their prows, rejoicing, towards the
shore. But one of the Milesian lords, Eber Donn, exults in brutal rage at
the prospect of putting all the dwellers in Ireland to the sword; the
tempest immediately springs up again, and many of the Milesian ships
founder, Eber Donn’s being among them. At last a remnant of the Milesians
find their way to shore, and land in the estuary of the Boyne.

*The Defeat of the Danaans*

A great battle with the Danaans at Telltown(109) then follows. The three
kings and three queens of the Danaans, with many of their people, are
slain, and the children of Miled—the last of the mythical invaders of
Ireland—enter upon the sovranty of Ireland. But the People of Dana do not
withdraw. By their magic art they cast over themselves a veil of
invisibility, which they can put on or off as they choose. There are two
Irelands henceforward, the spiritual and the earthly. The Danaans dwell in
the spiritual Ireland, which is portioned out among them by their great
overlord, the Dagda. Where the human eye can see but green mounds and
ramparts, the relics of ruined fortresses or sepulchres, there rise the
fairy palaces of the defeated divinities; there they hold their revels in
eternal sunshine, nourished by the magic meat and ale that give them
undying youth and beauty; and thence they come forth at times to mingle
with mortal men in love or in war. The ancient mythical literature
conceives them as heroic and splendid in strength and beauty. In later
times, and as Christian influences grew stronger, they dwindle into
fairies, the People of the Sidhe;(110) but they have never wholly
perished; to this day the Land of Youth and its inhabitants live in the
imagination of the Irish peasant.

*The Meaning of the Danaan Myth*

All myths constructed by a primitive people are symbols, and if we can
discover what it is that they symbolise we have a valuable clue to the
spiritual character, and sometimes even to the history, of the people from
whom they sprang. Now the meaning of the Danaan myth as it appears in the
bardic literature, though it has undergone much distortion before it
reached us, is perfectly clear. The Danaans represent the Celtic reverence
for science, poetry, and artistic skill, blended, of course, with the
earlier conception of the divinity of the powers of Light. In their combat
with the Firbolgs the victory of the intellect over dulness and ignorance
is plainly portrayed—the comparison of the heavy, blunt weapon of the
Firbolgs with the light and penetrating spears of the People of Dana is an
indication which it is impossible to mistake. Again, in their struggle
with a far more powerful and dangerous enemy, the Fomorians, we are
evidently to see the combat of the powers of Light with evil of a more
positive kind than that represented by the Firbolgs. The Fomorians stand
not for mere dulness or stupidity, but for the forces of tyranny, cruelty,
and greed—for moral rather than for intellectual darkness.

*The Meaning of the Milesian Myth*

But the myth of the struggle of the Danaans with the sons of Miled is more
difficult to interpret. How does it come that the lords of light and
beauty, wielding all the powers of thought (represented by magic and
sorcery), succumbed to a human race, and were dispossessed by them of
their hard-won inheritance? What is the meaning of this shrinking of their
powers which at once took place when the Milesians came on the scene? The
Milesians were not on the side of the powers of darkness. They were guided
by Amergin, a clear embodiment of the idea of poetry and thought. They
were regarded with the utmost veneration, and the dominant families of
Ireland all traced their descent to them. Was the Kingdom of Light, then,
divided against itself? Or, if not, to what conception in the Irish mind
are we to trace the myth of the Milesian invasion and victory?

The only answer I can see to this puzzling question is to suppose that the
Milesian myth originated at a much later time than the others, and was, in
its main features, the product of Christian influences. The People of Dana
were in possession of the country, but they were pagan divinities—they
could not stand for the progenitors of a Christian Ireland. They had
somehow or other to be got rid of, and a race of less embarrassing
antecedents substituted for them. So the Milesians were fetched from
“Spain” and endowed with the main characteristics, only more humanised, of
the People of Dana. But the latter, in contradistinction to the usual
attitude of early Christianity, are treated very tenderly in the story of
their overthrow. One of them has the honour of giving her name to the
island, the brutality of one of the conquerors towards them is punished
with death, and while dispossessed of the lordship of the soil they still
enjoy life in the fair world which by their magic art they have made
invisible to mortals. They are no longer gods, but they are more than
human, and frequent instances occur in which they are shown as coming
forth from their fairy world, being embraced in the Christian fold, and
entering into heavenly bliss. With two cases of this redemption of the
Danaans we shall close this chapter on the Invasion Myths of Ireland.

The first is the strange and beautiful tale of the Transformation of the
Children of Lir.

*The Children of Lir*

Lir was a Danaan divinity, the father of the sea-god Mananan who
continually occurs in magical tales of the Milesian cycle. He had married
in succession two sisters, the second of whom was named Aoife.(111) She
was childless, but the former wife of Lir had left him four children, a
girl named Fionuala(112) and three boys. The intense love of Lir for the
children made the stepmother jealous, and she ultimately resolved on their
destruction. It will be observed, by the way, that the People of Dana,
though conceived as unaffected by time, and naturally immortal, are
nevertheless subject to violent death either at the hands of each other or
even of mortals.

With her guilty object in view, Aoife goes on a journey to a neighbouring
Danaan king, Bōv the Red, taking the four children with her. Arriving at a
lonely place by Lake Derryvaragh, in Westmeath, she orders her attendants
to slay the children. They refuse, and rebuke her. Then she resolves to do
it herself; but, says the legend, “her womanhood overcame her,” and
instead of killing the Children she transforms them by spells of sorcery
into four white swans, and lays on them the following doom: three hundred
years they are to spend on the waters of Lake Derryvaragh, three hundred
on the Straits of Moyle (between Ireland and Scotland), and three hundred
on the Atlantic by Erris and Inishglory. After that, “when the woman of
the South is mated with the man of the North,” the enchantment is to have
an end.

When the children fail to arrive with Aoife at the palace of Bōv her guilt
is discovered, and Bōv changes her into “a demon of the air.” She flies
forth shrieking, and is heard of no more in the tale. But Lir and Bōv seek
out the swan-children, and find that they have not only human speech, but
have preserved the characteristic Danaan gift of making wonderful music.
From all parts of the island companies of the Danaan folk resort to Lake
Derryvaragh to hear this wondrous music and to converse with the swans,
and during that time a great peace and gentleness seemed to pervade the

But at last the day came for them to leave the fellowship of their kind
and take up their life by the wild cliffs and ever angry sea of the
northern coast. Here they knew the worst of loneliness, cold, and storm.
Forbidden to land, their feathers froze to the rocks in the winter nights,
and they were often buffeted and driven apart by storms. As Fionuala

“Cruel to us was Aoife
Who played her magic upon us,
And drove us out on the water—
Four wonderful snow-white swans.

“Our bath is the frothing brine,
In bays by red rocks guarded;
For mead at our father’s table
We drink of the salt, blue sea.

“Three sons and a single daughter,
In clefts of the cold rocks dwelling,
The hard rocks, cruel to mortals—
We are full of keening to-night.”

Fionuala, the eldest of the four, takes the lead in all their doings, and
mothers the younger children most tenderly, wrapping her plumage round
them on nights of frost. At last the time comes to enter on the third and
last period of their doom, and they take flight for the western shores of
Mayo. Here too they suffer much hardship; but the Milesians have now come
into the land, and a young farmer named Evric, dwelling on the shores of
Erris Bay, finds out who and what the swans are, and befriends them. To
him they tell their story, and through him it is supposed to have been
preserved and handed down. When the final period of their suffering is
close at hand they resolve to fly towards the palace of their father Lir,
who dwells, we are told, at the Hill of the White Field, in Armagh, to see
how things have fared with him. They do so; but not knowing what has
happened on the coming of the Milesians, they are shocked and bewildered
to find nothing but green mounds and whin-bushes and nettles where once
stood—and still stands, only that they cannot see it—the palace of their
father. Their eyes are holden, we are to understand, because a higher
destiny was in store for them than to return to the Land of Youth.

On Erris Bay they hear for the first time the sound of a Christian bell.
It comes from the chapel of a hermit who has established himself there.
The swans are at first startled and terrified by the “thin, dreadful
sound,” but afterwards approach and make themselves known to the hermit,
who instructs them in the faith, and they join him in singing the offices
of the Church.

Now it happens that a princess of Munster, Deoca, (the “woman of the
South”) became betrothed to a Connacht chief named Lairgnen, and begged
him as a wedding gift to procure for her the four wonderful singing swans
whose fame had come to her. He asks them of the hermit, who refuses to
give them up, whereupon the “man of the North” seizes them violently by
the silver chains with which the hermit had coupled them, and drags them
off to Deoca. This is their last trial. Arrived in her presence, an awful
transformation befalls them. The swan plumage falls off, and reveals, not,
indeed, the radiant forms of the Danaan divinities, but four withered,
snowy-haired, and miserable human beings, shrunken in the decrepitude of
their vast old age. Lairgnen flies from the place in horror, but the
hermit prepares to administer baptism at once, as death is rapidly
approaching them. “Lay us in one grave,” says Fionuala, “and place Conn at
my right hand and Fiachra at my left, and Hugh before my face, for there
they were wont to be when I sheltered them many a winter night upon the
seas of Moyle.” And so it was done, and they went to heaven; but the
hermit, it is said, sorrowed for them to the end of his earthly days.(113)

In all Celtic legend there is no more tender and beautiful tale than this
of the Children of Lir.

*The Tale of Ethné*

But the imagination of the Celtic bard always played with delight on the
subjects of these transition tales, where the reconciling of the pagan
order with the Christian was the theme. The same conception is embodied in
the tale of Ethné, which we have now to tell.

It is said that Mananan mac Lir had a daughter who was given in fosterage
to the Danaan prince Angus, whose fairy palace was at Brugh na Boyna. This
is the great sepulchral tumulus now called New Grange, on the Boyne. At
the same time the steward of Angus had a daughter born to him whose name
was Ethné, and who was allotted to the young princess as her handmaiden.

Ethné grew up into a lovely and gentle maiden, but it was discovered one
day that she took no nourishment of any kind, although the rest of the
household fed as usual on the magic swine of Mananan, which might be eaten
to-day and were alive again for the feast to-morrow. Mananan was called in
to penetrate the mystery, and the following curious story came to light.
One of the chieftains of the Danaans who had been on a visit with Angus,
smitten by the girl’s beauty, had endeavoured to possess her by force.
This woke in Ethné’s pure spirit the moral nature which is proper to man,
and which the Danaan divinities know not. As the tale says, her “guardian
demon” left her, and an angel of the true God took its place. After that
event she abstained altogether from the food of Faëry, and was
miraculously nourished by the will of God. After a time, however, Mananan
and Angus, who had been on a voyage to the East, brought back thence two
cows whose milk never ran dry, and as they were supposed to have come from
a sacred land Ethné lived on their milk thenceforward.

All this is supposed to have happened during the reign of Eremon, the
first Milesian king of all Ireland, who was contemporary with King David.
At the time of the coming of St. Patrick, therefore, Ethné would have been
about fifteen hundred years of age. The Danaan folk grow up from childhood
to maturity, but then they abide unaffected by the lapse of time.

Now it happened one summer day that the Danaan princess whose handmaid
Ethné was went down with all her maidens to bathe in the river Boyne. When
arraying themselves afterwards Ethné discovered, to her dismay—and this
incident was, of course, an instance of divine interest in her
destiny—that she had lost the Veil of Invisibility, conceived here as a
magic charm worn on the person, which gave her the entrance to the Danaan
fairyland and hid her from mortal eyes. She could not find her way back to
the palace of Angus, and wandered up and down the banks of the river
seeking in vain for her companions and her home. At last she came to a
walled garden, and, looking through the gate, saw inside a stone house of
strange appearance and a man in a long brown robe. The man was a Christian
monk, and the house was a little church or oratory. He beckoned her in,
and when she had told her story to him he brought her to St. Patrick, who
completed her adoption into the human family by giving her the rite of

Now comes in a strangely pathetic episode which reveals the tenderness,
almost the regret, with which early Irish Christianity looked back on the
lost world of paganism. As Ethné was one day praying in the little church
by the Boyne she heard suddenly a rushing sound in the air, and
innumerable voices, as it seemed from a great distance, lamenting and
calling her name. It was her Danaan kindred, who were still seeking for
her in vain. She sprang up to reply, but was so overcome with emotion that
she fell in a swoon on the floor. She recovered her senses after a while,
but from that day she was struck with a mortal sickness, and in no long
time she died, with her head upon the breast of St. Patrick, who
administered to her the last rites, and ordained that the church should be
named after her, Kill Ethné—a name doubtless borne, at the time the story
was composed, by some real church on the banks of Boyne.(114)

*Christianity and Paganism in Ireland*

These, taken together with numerous other legendary incidents which might
be quoted, illustrate well the attitude of the early Celtic Christians, in
Ireland at least, towards the divinities of the older faith. They seem to
preclude the idea that at the time of the conversion of Ireland the pagan
religion was associated with cruel and barbarous practices, on which the
national memory would look back with horror and detestation.


*The Danaans after the Milesian Conquest*

The kings and heroes of the Milesian race now fill the foreground of the
stage in Irish legendary history. But, as we have indicated, the Danaan
divinities are by no means forgotten. The fairyland in which they dwell is
ordinarily inaccessible to mortals, yet it is ever near at hand; the
invisible barriers may be, and often are, crossed by mortal men, and the
Danaans themselves frequently come forth from them; mortals may win brides
of Faëry who mysteriously leave them after a while, and women bear
glorious children of supernatural fatherhood. Yet whatever the Danaans may
have been in the original pre-Christian conceptions of the Celtic Irish,
it would be a mistake to suppose that they figure in the legends, as these
have now come down to us, in the light of gods as we understand this term.
They are for the most part radiantly beautiful, they are immortal (with
limitations), and they wield mysterious powers of sorcery and enchantment.
But no sort of moral governance of the world is ever for a moment ascribed
to them, nor (in the bardic literature) is any act of worship paid to
them. They do not die naturally, but they can be slain both by each other
and by mortals, and on the whole the mortal race is the stronger. Their
strength when they come into conflict (as frequently happens) with men
lies in stratagem and illusion; when the issue can be fairly knit between
the rival powers it is the human that conquers. The early kings and heroes
of the Milesian race are, indeed, often represented as so mightily endowed
with supernatural power that it is impossible to draw a clear distinction
between them and the People of Dana in this respect. The Danaans are much
nobler and more exalted beings, as they figure in the bardic literature,
than the fairies into which they ultimately degenerated in the popular
imagination; they may be said to hold a position intermediate between
these and the Greek deities as portrayed in Homer. But the true worship of
the Celts, in Ireland as elsewhere, seems to have been paid, not to these
poetical personifications of their ideals of power and beauty, but rather
to elemental forces represented by actual natural phenomena—rocks, rivers,
the sun, the wind, the sea. The most binding of oaths was to swear by the
Wind and Sun, or to invoke some other power of nature; no name of any
Danaan divinity occurs in an Irish oath formula. When, however, in the
later stages of the bardic literature, and still more in the popular
conceptions, the Danaan deities had begun to sink into fairies, we find
rising into prominence a character probably older than that ascribed to
them in the literature, and, in a way, more august. In the literature it
is evident that they were originally representatives of science and
poetry—the intellectual powers of man. But in the popular mind they
represented, probably at all times and certainly in later Christian times,
not intellectual powers, but those associated with the fecundity of earth.
They were, as a passage in the Book of Armagh names them, _dei terreni_,
earth-gods, and were, and are still, invoked by the peasantry to yield
increase and fertility. The literary conception of them is plainly Druidic
in origin, the other popular; and the popular and doubtless older
conception has proved the more enduring.

But these features of Irish mythology will appear better in the actual
tales than in any critical discussion of them; and to the tales let us now

*The Milesian Settlement of Ireland*

The Milesians had three leaders when they set out for the conquest of
Ireland—Eber Donn (Brown Eber), Eber Finn (Fair Eber), and Eremon. Of
these the first-named, as we have seen, was not allowed to enter the
land—he perished as a punishment for his brutality. When the victory over
the Danaans was secure the two remaining brothers turned to the Druid
Amergin for a judgment as to their respective titles to the sovranty.
Eremon was the elder of the two, but Eber refused to submit to him. Thus
Irish history begins, alas! with dissension and jealousy. Amergin decided
that the land should belong to Eremon for his life, and pass to Eber after
his death. But Eber refused to submit to the award, and demanded an
immediate partition of the new-won territory. This was agreed to, and Eber
took the southern half of Ireland, “from the Boyne to the Wave of
Cleena,”(115) while Eremon occupied the north. But even so the brethren
could not be at peace, and after a short while war broke out between them.
Eber was slain, and Eremon became sole King of Ireland, which he ruled
from Tara, the traditional seat of that central authority which was always
a dream of the Irish mind, but never a reality of Irish history.

*Tiernmas and Crom Cruach*

Of the kings who succeeded Eremon, and the battles they fought and the
forests they cleared away and the rivers and lakes that broke out in their
reign, there is little of note to record till we come to the reign of
Tiernmas, fifth in succession from Eremon. He is said to have introduced
into Ireland the worship of Crom Cruach, on Moyslaught (The Plain of
Adoration(116)), and to have perished himself with three-fourths of his
people while worshipping this idol on November Eve, the period when the
reign of winter was inaugurated. Crom Cruach was no doubt a solar deity,
but no figure at all resembling him can be identified among the Danaan
divinities. Tiernmas also, it is said, found the first gold-mine in
Ireland, and introduced variegated colours into the clothing of the
people. A slave might wear but one colour, a peasant two, a soldier three,
a wealthy landowner four, a provincial chief five, and an Ollav, or royal
person, six. Ollav was a term applied to a certain Druidic rank; it meant
much the same as “doctor,” in the sense of a learned man—a master of
science. It is a characteristic trait that the Ollav is endowed with a
distinction equal to that of a king.

*Ollav Fōla*

The most distinguished Ollav of Ireland was also a king, the celebrated
Ollav Fōla, who is supposed to have been eighteenth from Eremon and to
have reigned about 1000 B.C. He was the Lycurgus or Solon of Ireland,
giving to the country a code of legislature, and also subdividing it,
under the High King at Tara, among the provincial chiefs, to each of whom
his proper rights and obligations were allotted. To Ollav Fōla is also
attributed the foundation of an institution which, whatever its origin,
became of great importance in Ireland—the great triennial Fair or Festival
at Tara, where the sub-kings and chiefs, bards, historians, and musicians
from all parts of Ireland assembled to make up the genealogical records of
the clan chieftainships, to enact laws, hear disputed cases, settle
succession, and so forth; all these political and legislative labours
being lightened by song and feast. It was a stringent law that at this
season all enmities must be laid aside; no man might lift his hand against
another, or even institute a legal process, while the Assembly at Tara was
in progress. Of all political and national institutions of this kind Ollav
Fōla was regarded as the traditional founder, just as Goban the Smith was
the founder of artistry and handicraft, and Amergin of poetry. But whether
the Milesian king had any more objective reality than the other more
obviously mythical figures it is hard to say. He is supposed to have been
buried in the great tumulus at Loughcrew, in Westmeath.

*Kimbay and the Founding of Emain Macha*

With Kimbay (_Cimbaoth_), about 300 B.C., we come to a landmark in
history. “All the historical records of the Irish, prior to Kimbay, were
dubious”—so, with remarkable critical acumen for his age, wrote the
eleventh-century historian Tierna of Clonmacnois.(117) There is much that
is dubious in those that follow, but we are certainly on firmer historical
ground. With the reign of Kimbay one great fact emerges into light: we
have the foundation of the kingdom of Ulster at its centre, Emain Macha, a
name redolent to the Irish student of legendary splendour and heroism.
Emain Macha is now represented by the grassy ramparts of a great
hill-fortress close to Ard Macha (Armagh). According to one of the
derivations offered in Keating’s “History of Ireland,” _Emain_ is derived
from _eo_, a bodkin, and _muin_, the neck, the word being thus equivalent
to “brooch,” and Emain Macha means the Brooch of Macha. An Irish brooch
was a large circular wheel of gold or bronze, crossed by a long pin, and
the great circular rampart surrounding a Celtic fortress might well be
imaginatively likened to the brooch or a giantess guarding her cloak, or
territory.(118) The legend of Macha tells that she was the daughter of Red
Hugh, an Ulster prince who had two brothers, Dithorba and Kimbay. They
agreed to enjoy, each in turn, the sovranty of Ireland. Red Hugh came
first, but on his death Macha refused to give up the realm and fought
Dithorba for it, whom she conquered and slew. She then, in equally
masterful manner, compelled Kimbay to wed her, and ruled all Ireland as
queen. I give the rest of the tale in the words of Standish O’Grady:

“The five sons of Dithorba, having been expelled out of Ulster, fled
across the Shannon, and in the west of the kingdom plotted against Macha.
Then the Queen went down alone into Connacht and found the brothers in the
forest, where, wearied with the chase, they were cooking a wild boar which
they had slain, and were carousing before a fire which they had kindled.
She appeared in her grimmest aspect, as the war-goddess, red all over,
terrible and hideous as war itself but with bright and flashing eyes. One
by one the brothers were inflamed by her sinister beauty, and one by one
she overpowered and bound them. Then she lifted her burthen of champions
upon her back and returned with them into the north. With the spear of her
brooch she marked out on the plain the circuit of the city of Emain Macha,
whose ramparts and trenches were constructed by the captive princes,
labouring like slaves under her command.”

“The underlying idea of all this class of legend,” remarks Mr. O’Grady,
“is that if men cannot master war, war will master them; and that those
who aspired to the Ard-Rieship [High-Kingship] of all Erin must have the
war-gods on their side.”(119)

Macha is an instance of the intermingling of the attributes of the Danaan
with the human race of which I have already spoken.

*Laery and Covac*

The next king who comes into legendary prominence is Ugainy the Great, who
is said to have ruled not only all Ireland, but a great part of Western
Europe, and to have wedded a Gaulish princess named Kesair. He had two
sons, Laery and Covac. The former inherited the kingdom, but Covac,
consumed and sick with envy, sought to slay him, and asked the advice of a
Druid as to how this could be managed, since Laery, justly suspicious,
never would visit him without an armed escort. The Druid bade him feign
death, and have word sent to his brother that he was on his bier ready for
burial. This Covac did, and when Laery arrived and bent over the supposed
corpse Covac stabbed him to the heart, and slew also one of his sons,
Ailill,(120) who attended him. Then Covac ascended the throne, and
straightway his illness left him.

*Legends of Maon, Son of Ailill*

He did a brutal deed, however, upon a son of Ailill’s named Maon, about
whom a number of legends cluster. Maon, as a child, was brought into
Covac’s presence, and was there compelled, says Keating, to swallow a
portion of his father’s and grandfather’s hearts, and also a mouse with
her young. From the disgust he felt, the child lost his speech, and seeing
him dumb, and therefore innocuous, Covac let him go. The boy was then
taken into Munster, to the kingdom of Feramorc, of which Scoriath was
king, and remained with him some time, but afterwards went to Gaul, his
great-grandmother Kesair’s country, where his guards told the king that he
was heir to the throne of Ireland, and he was treated with great honour
and grew up into a noble youth. But he left behind him in the heart of
Moriath, daughter of the King of Feramorc, a passion that could not be
stilled, and she resolved to bring him back to Ireland. She accordingly
equipped her father’s harper, Craftiny, with many rich gifts, and wrote
for him a love-lay, in which her passion for Maon was set forth, and to
which Craftiny composed an enchanting melody. Arrived in France, Craftiny
made his way to the king’s court, and found occasion to pour out his lay
to Maon. So deeply stirred was he by the beauty and passion of the song
that his speech returned to him and he broke out into praises of it, and
was thenceforth dumb no more. The King of Gaul then equipped him with an
armed force and sent him to Ireland to regain his kingdom. Learning that
Covac was at a place near at hand named Dinrigh, Maon and his body of
Gauls made a sudden attack upon him and slew him there and then, with all
his nobles and guards. After the slaughter a Druid of Covac’s company
asked one of the Gauls who their leader was. “The Mariner” (_Loingseach_),
replied the Gaul, meaning the captain of the fleet—_i.e._, Maon. “Can he
speak?” inquired the Druid, who had begun to suspect the truth. “He does
speak” (_Labraidh_), said the man; and henceforth the name “Labra the
Mariner” clung to Maon son of Ailill, nor was he known by any other. He
then sought out Moriath, wedded her, and reigned over Ireland ten years.

From this invasion of the Gauls the name of the province of Leinster is
traditionally derived. They were armed with spears having broad blue-green
iron heads called _laighne_ (pronounced “lyna”), and as they were allotted
lands in Leinster and settled there, the province was called in Irish
_Laighin_ (“Ly-in”) after them—the Province of the Spearmen.(121)

Of Labra the Mariner, after his accession, a curious tale is told. He was
accustomed, it is said, to have his hair cropped but once a year, and the
man to do this was chosen by lot, and was immediately afterwards put to
death. The reason of this was that, like King Midas in the similar Greek
myth, he had long ears like those of a horse, and he would not have this
deformity known. Once it fell, however, that the person chosen to crop his
hair was the only son of a poor widow, by whose tears and entreaties the
king was prevailed upon to let him live, on condition that he swore by the
Wind and Sun to tell no man what he might see. The oath was taken, and the
young man returned to his mother. But by-and-by the secret so preyed on
his mind that he fell into a sore sickness, and was near to death, when a
wise Druid was called in to heal him. “It is the secret that is killing
him,” said the Druid, “and he will never be well till he reveals it. Let
him therefore go along the high-road till he come to a place where four
roads meet. Let him there turn to the right, and the first tree he shall
meet on the road, let him tell his secret to that, and he shall be rid of
it, and recover.” So the youth did; and the first tree was a willow. He
laid his lips close to the bark, whispered his secret to it, and went
home, light-hearted as of old. But it chanced that shortly after this the
harper Craftiny broke his harp and needed a new one, and as luck would
have it the first suitable tree he came to was the willow that had the
king’s secret. He cut it down, made his harp from it, and performed that
night as usual in the king’s hall; when, to the amazement of all, as soon
as the harper touched the strings the assembled guests heard them chime
the words, “Two horse’s ears hath Labra the Mariner.” The king then,
seeing that the secret was out, plucked off his hood and showed himself
plainly; nor was any man put to death again on account of this mystery. We
have seen that the compelling power of Craftiny’s music had formerly cured
Labra’s dumbness. The sense of something magical in music, as though
supernatural powers spoke through it, is of constant recurrence in Irish

*Legend-Cycle of Conary Mōr*

We now come to a cycle of legends centering on, or rather closing with,
the wonderful figure of the High King Conary Mōr—a cycle so charged with
splendour, mystery, and romance that to do it justice would require far
more space than can be given to it within the limits of this work.(122)

*Etain in Fairyland*

The preliminary events of the cycle are transacted in the “Land of Youth,”
the mystic country of the People of Dana after their dispossession by the
Children of Miled. Midir the Proud son of the Dagda, a Danaan prince
dwelling on Slieve Callary, had a wife named Fuamnach. After a while he
took to himself another bride, Etain, whose beauty and grace were beyond
compare, so that “as fair as Etain” became a proverbial comparison for any
beauty that exceeded all other standards. Fuamnach therefore became
jealous of her rival, and having by magic art changed her into a
butterfly, she raised a tempest that drove her forth from the palace, and
kept her for seven years buffeted hither and thither throughout the length
and breadth of Erin. At last, however, a chance gust of wind blew her
through a window of the fairy palace of Angus on the Boyne. The immortals
cannot be hidden from each other, and Angus knew what she was. Unable to
release her altogether from the spell of Fuamnach, he made a sunny bower
for her, and planted round it all manner of choice and honey-laden
flowers, on which she lived as long as she was with him, while in the
secrecy of the night he restored her to her own form and enjoyed her love.
In time, however, her refuge was discovered by Fuamnach; again the magic
tempest descended upon her and drove her forth; and this time a singular
fate was hers. Blown into the palace of an Ulster chieftain named Etar,
she fell into the drinking-cup of Etar’s wife just as the latter was about
to drink. She was swallowed in the draught, and in due time, having passed
into the womb of Etar’s wife, she was born as an apparently mortal child,
and grew up to maidenhood knowing nothing of her real nature and ancestry.

*Eochy and Etain*

About this time it happened that the High King of Ireland, Eochy,(123)
being wifeless and urged by the nobles of his land to take a queen—“for
without thou do so,” they said, “we will not bring our wives to the
Assembly at Tara”—sent forth to inquire for a fair and noble maiden to
share his throne. The messengers report that Etain, daughter of Etar, is
the fairest maiden in Ireland, and the king journeys forth to visit her. A
piece of description here follows which is one of the most highly wrought
and splendid in Celtic or perhaps in any literature. Eochy finds Etain
with her maidens by a spring of water, whither she had gone forth to wash
her hair:

“A clear comb of silver was held in her hand, the comb was adorned with
gold; and near her, as for washing, was a bason of silver whereon four
birds had been chased, and there were little bright gems of carbuncles on
the rims of the bason. A bright purple mantle waved round her; and beneath
it was another mantle ornamented with silver fringes: the outer mantle was
clasped over her bosom with a golden brooch. A tunic she wore with a long
hood that might cover her head attached to it; it was stiff and glossy
with green silk beneath red embroidery of gold, and was clasped over her
breasts with marvellously wrought clasps of silver and gold; so that men
saw the bright gold and the green silk flashing against the sun. On her
head were two tresses of golden hair, and each tress had been plaited into
four strands; at the end of each strand was a little ball of gold. And
there was that maiden undoing her hair that she might wash it, her two
arms out through the armholes of her smock. Each of her two arms was as
white as the snow of a single night, and each of her cheeks was as rosy as
the foxglove. Even and small were the teeth in her head, and they shone
like pearls. Her eyes were as blue as a hyacinth, her lips delicate and
crimson; very high, soft and white were her shoulders. Tender, polished
and white were her wrists; her fingers long and of great whiteness; her
nails were beautiful and pink. White as snow, or the foam of a wave, was
her neck; long was it, slender, and as soft as silk. Smooth and white were
her thighs; her knees were round and firm and white; her ankles were as
straight as the rule of a carpenter. Her feet were slim and as white as
the ocean’s foam; evenly set were her eyes; her eyebrows were of a bluish
black, such as you see upon the shell of a beetle. Never a maid fairer
than she, or more worthy of love, was till then seen by the eyes of men;
and it seemed to them that she must be one of those that have come from
the fairy mounds.”(124)

The king wooed her and made her his wife, and brought her back to Tara.

*The Love-Story of Ailill*

It happened that the king had a brother named Ailill, who, on seeing
Etain, was so smitten with her beauty that he fell sick of the intensity
of his passion and wasted almost to death. While he was in this condition
Eochy had to make a royal progress through Ireland. He left his
brother—the cause of whose malady none suspected—in Etain’s care, bidding
her do what she could for him, and, if he died, to bury him with due
ceremonies and erect an Ogham stone above his grave.(125) Etain goes to
visit the brother; she inquires the cause of his illness; he speaks to her
in enigmas, but at last, moved beyond control by her tenderness, he breaks
out in an avowal of his passion. His description of the yearning of
hopeless love is a lyric of extraordinary intensity. “It is closer than
the skin,” he cries, “it is like a battle with a spectre, it overwhelms
like a flood, it is a weapon under the sea, it is a passion for an echo.”
By “a weapon under the sea” the poet means that love is like one of the
secret treasures of the fairy-folk in the kingdom of Mananan—as wonderful
and as unattainable.

Etain is now in some perplexity; but she decides, with a kind of naïve
good-nature, that although she is not in the least in love with Ailill,
she cannot see a man die of longing for her, and she promises to be his.
Possibly we are to understand here that she was prompted by the fairy
nature, ignorant of good and evil, and alive only to pleasure and to
suffering. It must be said, however, that in the Irish myths in general
this, as we may call it, “fairy” view of morality is the one generally
prevalent both among Danaans and mortals—both alike strike one as morally

Etain now arranges a tryst with Ailill in a house outside of Tara—for she
will not do what she calls her “glorious crime” in the king’s palace. But
Ailill on the eve of the appointed day falls into a profound slumber and
misses his appointment. A being in his shape does, however, come to Etain,
but merely to speak coldly and sorrowfully of his malady, and departs
again. When the two meet once more the situation is altogether changed. In
Ailill’s enchanted sleep his unholy passion for the queen has passed
entirely away. Etain, on the other hand, becomes aware that behind the
visible events there are mysteries which she does not understand.

*Midir the Proud*

The explanation soon follows. The being who came to her in the shape of
Ailill was her Danaan husband, Midir the Proud. He now comes to woo her in
his true shape, beautiful and nobly apparelled, and entreats her to fly
with him to the Land of Youth, where she can be safe henceforward, since
her persecutor, Fuamnach, is dead. He it was who shed upon Ailill’s eyes
the magic slumber. His description of the fairyland to which he invites
her is given in verses of great beauty:

*The Land of Youth*

“O fair-haired woman, will you come with me to the marvellous land, full
            of music, where the hair is primrose-yellow and the body white
            as snow?
There none speaks of ‘mine’ or ‘thine’—white are the teeth and black the
            brows; eyes flash with many-coloured lights, and the hue of
            the foxglove is on every cheek.
Pleasant to the eye are the plains of Erin, but they are a desert to the
            Great Plain.
Heady is the ale of Erin, but the ale of the Great Plain is headier.
It is one of the wonders of that land that youth does not change into age.
Smooth and sweet are the streams that flow through it; mead and wine
            abound of every kind; there men are all fair, without blemish;
            there women conceive without sin.
We see around us on every side, yet no man seeth us; the cloud of the sin
            of Adam hides us from their observation.
“O lady, if thou wilt come to my strong people, the purest of gold shall
            be on thy head—thy meat shall be swine’s flesh unsalted,(126)
            new milk and mead shall thou drink with me there, O
            fair-haired woman.

I have given this remarkable lyric at length because, though Christian and
ascetic ideas are obviously discernible in it, it represents on the whole
the pagan and mythical conception of the Land of Youth, the country of the

Etain, however, is by no means ready to go away with a stranger and to
desert the High King for a man “without name or lineage.” Midir tells her
who he is, and all her own history of which, in her present incarnation,
she knows nothing; and he adds that it was one thousand and twelve years
from Etain’s birth in the Land of Youth till she was born a mortal child
to the wife of Etar. Ultimately Etain agrees to return with Midir to her
ancient home, but only on condition that the king will agree to their
severance, and with this Midir has to be content for the time.

*A Game of Chess*

Shortly afterwards he appears to King Eochy, as already related,(127) on
the Hill of Tara. He tells the king that he has come to play a game of
chess with him, and produces a chessboard of silver with pieces of gold
studded with jewels. To be a skilful chess-player was a necessary
accomplishment of kings and nobles in Ireland, and Eochy enters into the
game with zest. Midir allows him to win game after game, and in payment
for his losses he performs by magic all kinds of tasks for Eochy,
reclaiming land, clearing forests, and building causeways across bogs—here
we have a touch of the popular conception of the Danaans as earth deities
associated with agriculture and fertility. At last, having excited Eochy’s
cupidity and made him believe himself the better player, he proposes a
final game, the stakes to be at the pleasure of the victor after the game
is over. Eochy is now defeated.

“My stake is forfeit to thee,” said Eochy.

“Had I wished it, it had been forfeit long ago,” said Midir.

“What is it that thou desirest me to grant?” said Eochy.

“That I may hold Etain in my arms and obtain a kiss from her,” said Midir.

The king was silent for a while; then he said: “One month from to-day thou
shalt come, and the thing thou desirest shall be granted thee.”

*Midir and Etain*

Eochy’s mind foreboded evil, and when the appointed day came he caused the
palace of Tara to be surrounded by a great host of armed men to keep Midir
out. All was in vain, however; as the king sat at the feast, while Etain
handed round the wine, Midir, more glorious than ever, suddenly stood in
their midst. Holding his spears in his left hand, he threw his right
around Etain, and the couple rose lightly in the air and disappeared
through a roof-window in the palace. Angry and bewildered, the king and
his warriors rushed out of doors, but all they could see was two white
swans that circled in the air above the palace, and then departed in long,
steady flight towards the fairy mountain of Slievenamon. And thus Queen
Etain rejoined her kindred.

*War with Fairyland*

Eochy, however, would not accept defeat, and now ensues what I think is
the earliest recorded war with Fairyland since the first dispossession of
the Danaans. After searching Ireland for his wife in vain, he summoned to
his aid the Druid Dalan. Dalan tried for a year by every means in his
power to find out where she was. At last he made what seems to have been
an operation of wizardry of special strength—“he made three wands of yew,
and upon the wands he wrote an ogham; and by the keys of wisdom that he
had, and by the ogham, it was revealed to him that Etain was in the fairy
mound of Bri-Leith, and that Midir had borne her thither.”

Eochy then assembled his forces to storm and destroy the fairy mound in
which was the palace of Midir. It is said that he was nine years digging
up one mound after another, while Midir and his folk repaired the
devastation as fast as it was made. At last Midir, driven to the last
stronghold, attempted a stratagem—he offered to give up Etain, and sent
her with fifty handmaids to the king, but made them all so much alike that
Eochy could not distinguish the true Etain from her images. She herself,
it is said, gave him a sign by which to know her. The motive of the tale,
including the choice of the mortal rather than the god, reminds one of the
beautiful Hindu legend of Damayanti and Nala. Eochy regained his queen,
who lived with him till his death, ten years afterwards, and bore him one
daughter, who was named Etain, like herself.

*The Tale of Conary Mōr*

From this Etain ultimately sprang the great king Conary Mōr, who shines in
Irish legend as the supreme type of royal splendour, power, and
beneficence, and whose overthrow and death were compassed by the Danaans
in vengeance for the devastation of their sacred dwellings by Eochy. The
tale in which the death of Conary is related is one of the most antique
and barbaric in conception of all Irish legends, but it has a magnificence
of imagination which no other can rival. To this great story the tale of
Etain and Midir may be regarded as what the Irish called a _priomscel_,
“introductory tale,” showing the more remote origin of the events related.
The genealogy of Conary Mōr will help the reader to understand the
connexion of events.

        Cormac, King=Etain Oig (Etain the younger).
        of Ulster.  |
Eterskel, King=Messbuachalla (the cowherd’s fosterling).
of Erin.      |
         Conary Mōr.

*The Law of the Geis*

The tale of Conary introduces us for the first time to the law or
institution of the _geis_, which plays henceforward a very important part
in Irish legend, the violation or observance of a _geis_ being frequently
the turning-point in a tragic narrative. We must therefore delay a moment
to explain to the reader exactly what this peculiar institution was.

Dineen’s “Irish Dictionary” explains the word _geis_ (pronounced
“gaysh”—plural, “gaysha”) as meaning “a bond, a spell, a prohibition, a
taboo, a magical injunction, the violation of which led to misfortune and
death.”(128) Every Irish chieftain or personage of note had certain
_geise_ peculiar to himself which he must not transgress. These _geise_
had sometimes reference to a code of chivalry—thus Dermot of the
Love-spot, when appealed to by Grania to take her away from Finn, is under
_geise_ not to refuse protection to a woman. Or they may be merely
superstitious or fantastic—thus Conary, as one of his _geise_, is
forbidden to follow three red horsemen on a road, nor must he kill birds
(this is because, as we shall see, his totem was a bird). It is a _geis_
to the Ulster champion, Fergus mac Roy, that he must not refuse an
invitation to a feast; on this turns the Tragedy of the Sons of Usnach. It
is not at all clear who imposed these _geise_ or how any one found out
what his personal _geise_ were—all that was doubtless an affair of the
Druids. But they were regarded as sacred obligations, and the worst
misfortunes were to be apprehended from breaking them. Originally, no
doubt, they were regarded as a means of keeping oneself in proper
relations with the other world—the world of Faëry—and were akin to the
well-known Polynesian practice of the “tabu.” I prefer, however, to retain
the Irish word as the only fitting one for the Irish practice.

*The Cowherd’s Fosterling*

We now return to follow the fortunes of Etain’s great-grandson, Conary.
Her daughter, Etain Oig, as we have seen from the genealogical table,
married Cormac, King of Ulster. She bore her husband no children save one
daughter only. Embittered by her barrenness and his want of an heir, the
king put away Etain, and ordered her infant to be abandoned and thrown
into a pit. “Then his two thralls take her to a pit, and she smiles a
laughing smile at them as they were putting her into it.”(129) After that
they cannot leave her to die, and they carry her to a cowherd of Eterskel,
King of Tara, by whom she is fostered and taught “till she became a good
embroidress and there was not in Ireland a king’s daughter dearer than
she.” Hence the name she bore, Messbuachalla (“Messboo´hala”), which means
“the cowherd’s foster-child.”

For fear of her being discovered, the cowherds keep the maiden in a house
of wickerwork having only a roof-opening. But one of King Eterskel’s folk
has the curiosity to climb up and look in, and sees there the fairest
maiden in Ireland. He bears word to the king, who orders an opening to be
made in the wall and the maiden fetched forth, for the king was childless,
and it had been prophesied to him by his Druid that a woman of unknown
race would bear him a son. Then said the king: “This is the woman that has
been prophesied to me.”

*Parentage and Birth of Conary*

Before her release, however, she is visited by a denizen from the Land of
Youth. A great bird comes down through her roof-window. On the floor of
the hut his bird-plumage falls from him and reveals a glorious youth. Like
Danaë, like Leda, like Ethlinn daughter of Balor, she gives her love to
the god. Ere they part he tells her that she will be taken to the king,
but that she will bear to her Danaan lover a son whose name shall be
Conary, and that it shall be forbidden to him to go a-hunting after birds.

So Conary was born, and grew up into a wise and noble youth, and he was
fostered with a lord named Desa, whose three great-grandsons grew up with
him from childhood. Their names were Ferlee and Fergar and Ferrogan; and
Conary, it is said, loved them well and taught them his wisdom.

*Conary the High King*

Then King Eterskel died, and a successor had to be appointed. In Ireland
the eldest son did not succeed to the throne or chieftaincy as a matter of
right, but the ablest and best of the family at the time was supposed to
be selected by the clan. In this tale we have a curious account of this
selection by means of divination. A “bull-feast” was held—_i.e._, a bull
was slain, and the diviner would “eat his fill and drink its broth”; then
he went to bed, where a truth-compelling spell was chanted over him.
Whoever he saw in his dream would be king. So at Ægira, in Achæa, as
Whitley Stokes points out, the priestess of Earth drank the fresh blood of
a bull before descending into the cave to prophesy. The dreamer cried in
his sleep that he saw a naked man going towards Tara with a stone in his

The bull-feast was held at Tara, but Conary was then with his three
foster-brothers playing a game on the Plains of Liffey. They separated,
Conary going towards Dublin, where he saw before him a flock of great
birds, wonderful in colour and beauty. He drove after them in his chariot,
but the birds would go a spear-cast in front and light, and fly on again,
never letting him come up with them till they reached the sea-shore. Then
he lighted down from his chariot and took out his sling to cast at them,
whereupon they changed into armed men and turned on him with spears and
swords. One of them, however, protected him, and said: “I am Nemglan, king
of thy father’s birds; and thou hast been forbidden to cast at birds, for
here there is no one but is thy kin.” “Till to-day,” said Conary, “I knew
not this.”

“Go to Tara to-night,” said Nemglan; “the bull-feast is there, and through
it thou shalt be made king. A man stark naked, who shall go at the end of
the night along one of the roads to Tara, having a stone and a sling—’tis
he that shall be king.”

So Conary stripped off his raiment and went naked through the night to
Tara, where all the roads were being watched by chiefs having changes of
royal raiment with them to clothe the man who should come according to the
prophecy. When Conary meets them they clothe him and bring him in, and he
is proclaimed King of Erin.

*Conary’s Geise*

A long list of his _geise_ is here given, which are said to have been
declared to him by Nemglan. “The bird-reign shall be noble,” said he, “and
these shall be thy _geise_:

“Thou shalt not go right-handwise round Tara, nor left-handwise round
 Thou shalt not hunt the evil-beasts of Cerna,
 Thou shalt not go out every ninth night beyond Tara.
 Thou shalt not sleep in a house from which firelight shows after sunset,
             or in which light can be seen from without.
 No three Reds shall go before thee to the house of Red.
 No rapine shall be wrought in thy reign.
 After sunset, no one woman alone or man alone shall enter the house in
             which thou art.
 Thou shalt not interfere in a quarrel between two of thy thralls.”

Conary then entered upon his reign, which was marked by the fair seasons
and bounteous harvests always associated in the Irish mind with the reign
of a good king. Foreign ships came to the ports. Oak-mast for the swine
was up to the knees every autumn; the rivers swarmed with fish. “No one
slew another in Erin during his reign, and to every one in Erin his
fellow’s voice seemed as sweet as the strings of lutes. From mid-spring to
mid-autumn no wind disturbed a cow’s tail.”

*Beginning of the Vengeance*

Disturbance, however, came from another source. Conary had put down all
raiding and rapine, and his three foster-brothers, who were born reavers,
took it ill. They pursued their evil ways in pride and wilfulness, and
were at last captured red-handed. Conary would not condemn them to death,
as the people begged him to do, but spared them for the sake of his
kinship in fosterage. They were, however, banished from Erin and bidden to
go raiding overseas, if raid they must. On the seas they met another
exiled chief, Ingcel the One-Eyed, son of the King of Britain, and joining
forces with him they attacked the fortress in which Ingcel’s father,
mother, and brothers were guests at the time, and all were destroyed in a
single night. It was then the turn of Ingcel to ask their help in raiding
the land of Erin, and gathering a host of other outlawed men, including
the seven Manés, sons of Ailell and Maev of Connacht, besides Ferlee,
Fergar, and Ferrogan, they made a descent upon Ireland, taking land on the
Dublin coast near Howth.

Meantime Conary had been lured by the machinations of the Danaans into
breaking one after another of his _geise_. He settles a quarrel between
two of his serfs in Munster, and travelling back to Tara they see the
country around it lit with the glare of fires and wrapped in clouds of
smoke. A host from the North, they think, must be raiding the country, and
to escape it Conary’s company have to turn right-handwise round Tara and
then left-handwise round the Plain of Bregia. But the smoke and flames
were an illusion made by the Fairy Folk, who are now drawing the toils
closer round the doomed king. On his way past Bregia he chases “the evil
beasts of Cerna”—whatever they were—“but he saw it not till the chase was

*Da Derga’s Hostel and the Three Reds*

Conary had now to find a resting-place for the night, and he recollects
that he is not far from the Hostel of the Leinster lord, Da Derga, which
gives its name to this bardic tale.(131) Conary had been generous to him
when Da Derga came visiting to Tara, and he determined to seek his
hospitality for the night. Da Derga dwelt in a vast hall with seven doors
near to the present town of Dublin, probably at Donnybrook, on the
high-road to the south. As the cavalcade are journeying thither an ominous
incident occurs—Conary marks in front of them on the road three horsemen
clad all in red and riding on red horses. He remembers his _geis_ about
the “three Reds,” and sends a messenger forward to bid them fall behind.
But however the messenger lashes his horse he fails to get nearer than the
length of a spear-cast to the three Red Riders. He shouts to them to turn
back and follow the king, but one of them, looking over his shoulder, bids
him ironically look out for “great news from a Hostel.” Again and again
the messenger is sent to them with promises of great reward if they will
fall behind instead of preceding Conary. At last one of them chants a
mystic and terrible strain. “Lo, my son, great the news. Weary are the
steeds we ride —the steeds from the fairy mounds. Though we are living, we
are dead. Great are the signs: destruction of life; sating of ravens;
feeding of crows; strife of slaughter; wetting of sword-edge; shields with
broken bosses after sundown. Lo, my son!” Then they ride forward, and,
alighting from their red steeds, fasten them at the portal of Da Derga’s
Hostel and sit down inside. “Derga,” it may be explained, means “red.”
Conary had therefore been preceded by three red horsemen to the House of
Red. “All my _geise_,” he remarks forebodingly, “have seized me to-night.”

*Gathering of the Hosts*

From this point the story of Conary Mōr takes on a character of
supernatural vastness and mystery, the imagination of the bardic narrator
dilating, as it were, with the approach of the crisis. Night has fallen,
and the pirate host of Ingcel is encamped on the shores of Dublin Bay.
They hear the noise of the royal cavalcade, and a long-sighted messenger
is sent out to discover what it is. He brings back word of the glittering
and multitudinous host which has followed Conary to the Hostel. A crashing
noise is heard—Ingcel asks of Ferrogan what it may be—it is the giant
warrior mac Cecht striking flint on steel to kindle fire for the king’s
feast. “God send that Conary be not there to-night,” cry the sons of Desa;
“woe that he should be under the hurt of his foes.” But Ingcel reminds
them of their compact—he had given them the plundering of his own father
and brethren; they cannot refuse to stand by him in the attack he
meditates on Conary in the Hostel. A glare of the fire lit by mac Cecht is
now perceived by the pirate host, shining through the wheels of the
chariots which are drawn up around the open doors of the Hostel. Another
of the _geise_ of Conary has been broken.

Ingcel and his host now proceed to build a great cairn of stones, each man
contributing one stone, so that there may be a memorial of the fight, and
also a record of the number slain when each survivor removes his stone

*The Morrigan*

The scene now shifts to the Hostel, where the king’s party has arrived and
is preparing for the night. A solitary woman comes to the door and seeks
admission. “As long as a weaver’s beam were each of her two shins, and
they were as dark as the back of a stag-beetle. A greyish, woolly mantle
she wore. Her hair reached to her knee. Her mouth was twisted to one side
of her head.” It was the Morrigan, the Danaan goddess of Death and
Destruction. She leant against the doorpost of the house and looked evilly
on the king and his company. “Well, O woman,” said Conary, “if thou art a
witch, what seest thou for us?” “Truly I see for thee,” she answered,
“that neither fell nor flesh of thine shall escape from the place into
which thou hast come, save what birds will bear away in their claws.” She
asks admission. Conary declares that his _geis_ forbids him to receive a
solitary man or woman after sunset. “If in sooth,” she says, “it has
befallen the king not to have room in his house for the meal and bed of a
solitary woman, they will be gotten apart from him from some one
possessing generosity.” “Let her in, then,” says Conary, “though it is a
_geis_ of mine.”

*Conary and his Retinue*

A lengthy and brilliant passage now follows describing how Ingcel goes to
spy out the state of affairs in the Hostel. Peeping through the
chariot-wheels, he takes note of all he sees, and describes to the sons of
Desa the appearance and equipment of each prince and mighty man in
Conary’s retinue, while Ferrogan and his brother declare who he is and
what destruction he will work in the coming fight. There is Cormac, son of
Conor, King of Ulster, the fair and good; there are three huge, black and
black-robed warriors of the Picts; there is Conary’s steward, with
bristling hair, who settles every dispute—a needle would be heard falling
when he raises his voice to speak, and he bears a staff of office the size
of a mill-shaft; there is the warrior mac Cecht, who lies supine with his
knees drawn up—they resemble two bare hills, his eyes are like lakes, his
nose a mountain-peak, his sword shines like a river in the sun. Conary’s
three sons are there, golden-haired, silk-robed, beloved of all the
household, with “manners of ripe maidens, and hearts of brothers, and
valour of bears.” When Ferrogan hears of them he weeps and cannot proceed
till hours of the night have passed. Three Fomorian hostages of horrible
aspect are there also; and Conall of the Victories with his blood-red
shield; and Duftach of Ulster with his magic spear, which, when there is a
premonition of battle, must be kept in a brew of soporific herbs, or it
will flame on its haft and fly forth raging for massacre; and three giants
from the Isle of Man with horses’ manes reaching to their heels. A strange
and unearthly touch is introduced by a description of three naked and
bleeding forms hanging by ropes from the roof—they are the daughters of
the Bav, another name for the Morrigan, or war-goddess, “three of awful
boding,” says the tale enigmatically, “those are the three that are
slaughtered at every time.” We are probably to regard them as visionary
beings, portending war and death, visible only to Ingcel. The hall with
its separate chambers is full of warriors, cup-bearers, musicians playing,
and jugglers doing wonderful feats; and Da Derga with his attendants
dispensing food and drink. Conary himself is described as a youth; “the
ardour and energy of a king has he and the counsel of a sage; the mantle I
saw round him is even as the mist of May-day—lovelier in each hue of it
than the other.” His golden-hilted sword lies beside him—a forearm’s
length of it has escaped from the scabbard, shining like a beam of light.
“He is the mildest and gentlest and most perfect king that has come into
the world, even Conary son of Eterskel ... great is the tenderness of the
sleepy, simple man till he has chanced on a deed of valour. But if his
fury and his courage are awakened when the champions of Erin and Alba are
at him in the house, the Destruction will not be wrought so long as he is
therein ... sad were the quenching of that reign.”

*Champions at the House*

Ingcel and the sons of Desa then march to the attack and surround the

“Silence a while!” says Conary, “what is this?”

“Champions at the house,” says Conall of the Victories.

“There are warriors for them here,” answers Conary.

“They will be needed to-night,” Conall rejoins.

One of Desa’s sons rushes first into the Hostel. His head is struck off
and cast out of it again. Then the great struggle begins. The Hostel is
set on fire, but the fire is quenched with wine or any liquids that are in
it. Conary and his people sally forth—hundreds are slain, and the reavers,
for the moment, are routed. But Conary, who has done prodigies of
fighting, is athirst and can do no more till he gets water. The reavers by
advice of their wizards have cut off the river Dodder, which flowed
through the Hostel, and all the liquids in the house had been spilt on the

*Death of Conary*

The king, who is perishing of thirst, asks mac Cecht to procure him a
drink, and mac Cecht turns to Conall and asks him whether he will get the
drink for the king or stay to protect him while mac Cecht does it. “Leave
the defence of the king to us,” says Conall, “and go thou to seek the
drink, for of thee it is demanded.” Mac Cecht then, taking Conary’s golden
cup, rushes forth, bursting through the surrounding host, and goes to seek
for water. Then Conall, and Cormac of Ulster, and the other champions,
issue forth in turn, slaying multitudes of the enemy; some return wounded
and weary to the little band in the Hostel, while others cut their way
through the ring of foes. Conall, Sencha, and Duftach stand by Conary till
the end; but mac Cecht is long in returning, Conary perishes of thirst,
and the three heroes then fight their way out and escape, “wounded,
broken, and maimed.”

Meantime mac Cecht has rushed over Ireland in frantic search for the
water. But the Fairy Folk, who are here manifestly elemental powers
controlling the forces of nature, have sealed all the sources against him.
He tries the Well of Kesair in Wicklow in vain; he goes to the great
rivers, Shannon and Slayney, Bann and Barrow—they all hide away at his
approach; the lakes deny him also; at last he finds a lake, Loch Gara in
Roscommon, which failed to hide itself in time, and thereat he fills his
cup. In the morning he returned to the Hostel with the precious and
hard-won draught, but found the defenders all dead or fled, and two of the
reavers in the act of striking off the head of Conary. Mac Cecht struck
off the head of one of them, and hurled a huge pillar stone after the
other, who was escaping with Conary’s head. The reaver fell dead on the
spot, and mac Cecht, taking up his master’s head, poured the water into
its mouth. Thereupon the head spoke, and praised and thanked him for the

*Mac Cecht’s Wound*

A woman then came by and saw mac Cecht lying exhausted and wounded on the

“Come hither, O woman,” says mac Cecht.

“I dare not go there,” says the woman, “for horror and fear of thee.”

But he persuades her to come, and says: “I know not whether it is a fly or
gnat or an ant that nips me in the wound.”

The woman looked and saw a hairy wolf buried as far as the two shoulders
in the wound. She seized it by the tail and dragged it forth, and it took
“the full of its jaws out of him.”

“Truly,” says the woman, “this is an ant of the Ancient Land.”

And mac Cecht took it by the throat and smote it on the forehead, so that
it died.

*“**Is thy Lord Alive?**”*

The tale ends in a truly heroic strain. Conall of the Victories, as we
have seen, had cut his way out after the king’s death, and made his way to
Teltin, where he found his father, Amorgin, in the garth before his dūn.
Conall’s shield-arm had been wounded by thrice fifty spears, and he
reached Teltin now with half a shield, and his sword, and the fragments of
his two spears.

“Swift are the wolves that have hunted thee, my son,” said his father.

“’Tis this that has wounded us, old hero, an evil conflict with warriors,”
Conall replied.

“Is thy lord alive?” asked Amorgin.

“He is _not_ alive,” says Conall.

“I swear to God what the great tribes of Ulster swear: he is a coward who
goes out of a fight alive having left his lord with his foes in death.”

“My wounds are not white, old hero,” says Conall. He showed him his
shield-arm, whereon were thrice fifty spear-wounds. The sword-arm, which
the shield had not guarded, was mangled and maimed and wounded and
pierced, save that the sinews kept it to the body without separation.

“That arm fought to-night, my son,” says Amorgin.

“True is that, old hero,” says Conall of the Victories. “Many are they to
whom it gave drinks of death to-night in front of the Hostel.”

So ends the story of Etain, and of the overthrow of Fairyland and the
fairy vengeance wrought on the great-grandson of Eochy the High King.


*The Curse of Macha*

The centre of interest in Irish legend now shifts from Tara to Ulster, and
a multitude of heroic tales gather round the Ulster king Conor mac Nessa,
round Cuchulain,(132) his great vassal, and the Red Branch Order of
chivalry, which had its seat in Emain Macha.

The legend of the foundation of Emain Macha has already been told.(133)
But Macha, who was no mere woman, but a supernatural being, appears again
in connexion with the history of Ulster in a very curious tale which was
supposed to account for the strange debility or helplessness that at
critical moments sometimes fell, it was believed, upon the warriors of the

The legend tells that a wealthy Ulster farmer named Crundchu, son of
Agnoman, dwelling in a solitary place among the hills, found one day in
his dūn a young woman of great beauty and in splendid array, whom he had
never seen before. Crundchu, we are told, was a widower, his wife having
died after bearing him four sons. The strange woman, without a word, set
herself to do the houshold tasks, prepared dinner, milked the cow, and
took on herself all the duties of the mistress of the household. At night
she lay down at Crundchu’s side, and thereafter dwelt with him as his
wife; and they loved each other dearly. Her name was Macha.

One day Crundchu prepared himself to go to a great fair or assembly of the
Ultonians, where there would be feasting and horse-racing, tournaments and
music, and merrymaking of all kinds. Macha begged her husband not to go.
He persisted. “Then,” she said, “at least do not speak of me in the
assembly, for I may dwell with you only so long as I am not spoken of.”

It has been observed that we have here the earliest appearance in
post-classical European literature of the well-known motive of the fairy
bride who can stay with her mortal lover only so long as certain
conditions are observed, such as that he shall not spy upon her, ill-treat
her, or ask of her origin.

Crundchu promised to obey the injunction, and went to the festival. Here
the two horses of the king carried off prize after prize in the racing,
and the people cried: “There is not in Ireland a swifter than the King’s
pair of horses.”

“I have a wife at home,” said Crundchu, in a moment of forgetfulness, “who
can run quicker than these horses.”

“Seize that man,” said the angry king, “and hold him till his wife be
brought to the contest.”

So messengers went for Macha, and she was brought before the assembly; and
she was with child. The king bade her prepare for the race. She pleaded
her condition. “I am close upon my hour,” she said. “Then hew her man in
pieces,” said the king to his guards. Macha turned to the bystanders.
“Help me,” she cried, “for a mother hath borne each of you! Give me but a
short delay till I am delivered.” But the king and all the crowd in their
savage lust for sport would hear of no delay. “Then bring up the horses,”
said Macha, “and because you have no pity a heavier infamy shall fall upon
you.” So she raced against the horses, and outran them, but as she came to
the goal she gave a great cry, and her travail seized her, and she gave
birth to twin children. As she uttered that cry, however, all the
spectators felt themselves seized with pangs like her own and had no more
strength than a woman in her travail. And Macha prophesied: “From this
hour the shame you have wrought on me will fall upon each man of Ulster.
In the hours of your greatest need ye shall be weak and helpless as women
in childbirth, and this shall endure for five days and four nights—to the
ninth generation the curse shall be upon you.” And so it came to pass; and
this is the cause of the Debility of the Ultonians that was wont to
afflict the warriors of the province.

*Conor mac Nessa*

The chief occasion on which this Debility was manifested was when Maev,
Queen of Connacht, made the famous Cattle-raid of Quelgny (_Tain Bo
Cuailgné_), which forms the subject of the greatest tale in Irish
literature. We have now to relate the preliminary history leading up to
this epic tale and introducing its chief characters.

Fachtna the Giant, King of Ulster, had to wife Nessa, daughter of Echid
Yellow-heel, and she bore him a son named Conor. But when Fachtna died
Fergus son of Roy, his half-brother, succeeded him, Conor being then but a
youth. Now Fergus loved Nessa, and would have wedded her, but she made
conditions. “Let my son Conor reign one year,” she said, “so that his
posterity may be the descendants of a king, and I consent.” Fergus agreed,
and young Conor took the throne. But so wise and prosperous was his rule
and so sagacious his judgments that, at the year’s end, the people,as
Nessa foresaw, would have him remain king; and Fergus, who loved the feast
and the chase better than the toils of kingship, was content to have it
so, and remained at Conor’s court for a time, great, honoured, and happy,
but king no longer.

*The Red Branch*

In his time was the glory of the “Red Branch” in Ulster, who were the
offspring of Ross the Red, King of Ulster, with collateral relatives and
allies, forming ultimately a kind of warlike Order. Most of the Red Branch
heroes appear in the Ultonian Cycle of legend, so that a statement of
their names and relationships may be usefully placed here before we
proceed to speak of their doings. It is noticeable that they have a partly
supernatural ancestry. Ross the Red, it is said, wedded a Danaan woman,
Maga, daughter of Angus Ōg.(134) As a second wife he wedded a maiden named
Roy. His descendants are as follows:

Maga === Ross the Red === Roy
      |                |
      |                +-----+
      |                      |
   Fachtna === Nessa    Fergus mac Roy
  the Giant |
         Conor mac

But Maga was also wedded to the Druid Cathbad, and by him had three
daughters, whose descendants played a notable part in the Ultonian
legendary cycle.

                      Cathbad === Maga
    |                    |                   |
Dectera[*] === Lugh    Elva === Usna    Finchoom === Amorgin
            |                |                    |
            |          +-----+-----+              |
            |          |     |     |              |
         Cuchulain   Naisi Ainlé Ardan       Conall of the

  [*]Dectera also had a mortal husband, Sualtam, who passed as
     Cuchulain’s father.

*Birth of Cuchulain*

It was during the reign of Conor mac Nessa that the birth of the mightiest
hero of the Celtic race, Cuchulain, came about, and this was the manner of
it. The maiden Dectera, daughter of Cathbad, with fifty young girls, her
companions at the court of Conor, one day disappeared, and for three years
no searching availed to discover their dwelling-place or their fate. At
last one summer day a flock of birds descended on the fields about Emain
Macha and began to destroy the crops and fruit. The king, with Fergus and
others of his nobles, went out against them with slings, but the birds
flew only a little way off, luring the party on and on till at last they
found themselves near the Fairy Mound of Angus on the river Boyne. Night
fell, and the king sent Fergus with a party to discover some habitation
where they might sleep. A hut was found, where they betook themselves to
rest, but one of them, exploring further, came to a noble mansion by the
river, and on entering it was met by a young man of splendid appearance.
With the stranger was a lovely woman, his wife, and fifty maidens, who
saluted the Ulster warrior with joy. And he recognised in them Dectera and
her maidens, whom they had missed for three years, and in the glorious
youth Lugh of the Long Arm, son of Ethlinn. He went back with his tale to
the king, who immediately sent for Dectera to come to him. She, alleging
that she was ill, requested a delay; and so the night passed; but in the
morning there was found in the hut among the Ulster warriors a new-born
male infant. It was Dectera’s gift to Ulster, and for this purpose she had
lured them to the fairy palace by the Boyne. The child was taken home by
the warriors and was given to Dectera’s sister, Finchoom, who was then
nursing her own child, Conall, and the boy’s name was called Setanta. And
the part of Ulster from Dundalk southward to Usna in Meath, which is
called the Plain of Murthemney, was allotted for his inheritance, and in
later days his fortress and dwelling-place was in Dundalk.

It is said that the Druid Morann prophesied over the infant: “His praise
will be in the mouths of all men; charioteers and warriors, kings and
sages will recount his deeds; he will win the love of many. This child
will avenge all your wrongs; he will give combat at your fords, he will
decide all your quarrels.”

*The Hound of Cullan*

When he was old enough the boy Setanta went to the court of Conor to be
brought up and instructed along with the other sons of princes and
chieftains. It was now that the event occurred from which he got the name
of Cuchulain, by which he was hereafter to be known.

One afternoon King Conor and his nobles were going to a feast to which
they were bidden at the dūn of a wealthy smith named Cullan, in Quelgny,
where they also meant to spend the night. Setanta was to accompany them,
but as the cavalcade set off he was in the midst of a game of hurley with
his companions and bade the king go forward, saying he would follow later
when his play was done. The royal company arrived at their destination as
night began to fall. Cullan received them hospitably, and in the great
hall they made merry over meat and wine while the lord of the house barred
the gates of his fortress and let loose outside a huge and ferocious dog
which every night guarded the lonely mansion, and under whose protection,
it was said, Cullan feared nothing less than the onset of an army.

But they had forgotten Setanta! In the middle of the laughter and music of
the feast a terrible sound was heard which brought every man to his feet
in an instant. It was the tremendous baying of the hound of Cullan, giving
tongue as it saw a stranger approach. Soon the noise changed to the howls
of a fierce combat, but, on rushing to the gates, they saw in the glare of
the lanterns a young boy and the hound lying dead at his feet. When it
flew at him he had seized it by the throat and dashed its life out against
the side-posts of the gate. The warriors bore in the lad with rejoicing
and wonder, but soon the triumph ceased, for there stood their host,
silent and sorrowful over the body of his faithful friend, who had died
for the safety of his house and would never guard it more.

“Give me,” then said the lad Setanta, “a whelp of that hound, O Cullan,
and I will train him to be all to you that his sire was. And until then
give me shield and spear and I will myself guard your house; never hound
guarded it better than I will.”

And all the company shouted applause at the generous pledge, and on the
spot, as a commemoration of his first deed of valour, they named the lad
Cuchulain,(135) the Hound of Cullan, and by that name he was known until
he died.

*Cuchulain Assumes Arms*

When he was older, and near the time when he might assume the weapons of
manhood, it chanced one day that he passed close by where Cathbad the
Druid was teaching to certain of his pupils the art of divination and
augury. One of them asked of Cathbad for what kind of enterprise that same
day might be favourable; and Cathbad, having worked a spell of divination,
said: “The youth who should take up arms on this day would become of all
men in Erin most famous for great deeds, yet will his life be short and
fleeting.” Cuchulain passed on as though he marked it not, and he came
before the king. “What wilt thou?” asked Conor. “To take the arms of
manhood,” said Cuchulain. “So be it,” said the king, and he gave the lad
two great spears. But Cuchulain shook them in his hand, and the staves
splintered and broke. And so he did with many others; and the chariots in
which they set him to drive he broke to pieces with stamping of his foot,
until at last the king’s own chariot of war and his two spears and sword
were brought to the lad, and these he could not break, do what he would;
so this equipment he retained.

*His Courtship of Emer*

The young Cuchulain was by this grown so fair and noble a youth that every
maid or matron on whom he looked was bewitched by him, and the men of
Ulster bade him take a wife of his own. But none were pleasing to him,
till at last he saw the lovely maiden Emer, daughter of Forgall, the lord
of Lusca,(136) and he resolved to woo her for his bride. So he bade
harness his chariot, and with Laeg, his friend and charioteer, he
journeyed to Dūn Forgall.

As he drew near, the maiden was with her companions, daughters of the
vassals of Forgall, and she was teaching them embroidery, for in that art
she excelled all women. She had “the six gifts of womanhood—the gift of
beauty, the gift of voice, the gift of sweet speech, the gift of
needlework, the gift of wisdom, and the gift of chastity.”

Hearing the thunder of horse-hoofs and the clangour of the chariot from
afar, she bade one of the maidens go to the rampart of the Dūn and tell
her what she saw. “A chariot is coming on,” said the maiden, “drawn by two
steeds with tossing heads, fierce and powerful; one is grey, the other
black. They breathe fire from their jaws, and the clods of turf they throw
up behind them as they race are like a flock of birds that follow in their
track. In the chariot is a dark, sad man, comeliest of the men of Erin. He
is clad in a crimson cloak, with a brooch of gold, and on his back is a
crimson shield with a silver rim wrought with figures of beasts. With him
as his charioteer is a tall, slender, freckled man with curling red hair
held by a fillet of bronze, with plates of gold at either side of his
face. With a goad of red gold he urges the horses.”

When the chariot drew up Emer went to meet Cuchulain and saluted him. But
when he urged his love upon her she told him of the might and the wiliness
of her father Forgall, and of the strength of the champions that guarded
her lest she should wed against his will. And when he pressed her more she
said: “I may not marry before my sister Fial, who is older than I. She is
with me here—she is excellent in handiwork.” “It is not Fial whom I love,”
said Cuchulain. Then as they were conversing he saw the breast of the
maiden over the bosom of her smock, and said to her: “Fair is this plain,
the plain of the noble yoke.” “None comes to this plain,” said she, “who
has not slain his hundreds, and thy deeds are still to do.”

So Cuchulain then left her, and drove back to Emain Macha.

*Cuchulain in the Land of Skatha*

Next day Cuchulain bethought himself how he could prepare himself for war
and for the deeds of heroism which Emer had demanded of him. Now he had
heard of a mighty woman-warrior named Skatha, who dwelt in the Land of
Shadows,(137) and who could teach to young heroes who came to her
wonderful feats of arms. So Cuchulain went overseas to find her, and many
dangers he had to meet, black forests and desert plains to traverse,
before he could get tidings of Skatha and her land. At last he came to the
Plain of Ill-luck, where he could not cross without being mired in its
bottomless bogs or sticky clay, and while he was debating what he should
do he saw coming towards him a young man with a face that shone like the
sun,(138) and whose very look put cheerfulness and hope into his heart.
The young man gave him a wheel and told him to roll it before him on the
plain, and to follow it whithersoever it went. So Cuchulain set the wheel
rolling, and as it went it blazed with light that shot like rays from its
rim, and the heat of it made a firm path across the quagmire, where
Cuchulain followed safely.

When he had passed the Plain of Ill-luck, and escaped the beasts of the
Perilous Glen, he came to the Bridge of the Leaps, beyond which was the
country of Skatha. Here he found on the hither side many sons of the
princes of Ireland who were come to learn feats of war from Skatha, and
they were playing at hurley on the green. And among them was his friend
Ferdia, son of the Firbolg, Daman; and they all asked him of the news from
Ireland. When he had told them all he asked Ferdia how he should pass to
the dūn of Skatha. Now the Bridge of Leaps was very narrow and very high,
and it crossed a gorge where far below swung the tides of a boiling sea,
in which ravenous monsters could be seen swimming.

“Not one of us has crossed that bridge,” said Ferdia, “for there are two
feats that Skatha teaches last, and one is the leap across the bridge, and
the other the thrust of the Gae Bolg.(139) For if a man step upon one end
of that bridge, the middle straightway rises up and flings him back, and
if he leap upon it he may chance to miss his footing and fall into the
gulf, where the sea-monsters are waiting for him.”

But Cuchulain waited till evening, when he had recovered his strength from
his long journey, and then essayed the crossing of the bridge. Three times
he ran towards it from a distance, gathering all his powers together, and
strove to leap upon the middle, but three times it rose against him and
flung him back, while his companions jeered at him because he would not
wait for the help of Skatha. But at the fourth leap he lit fairly on the
centre of the bridge, and with one leap more he was across it, and stood
before the strong fortress of Skatha; and she wondered at his courage and
vigour, and admitted him to be her pupil.

For a year and a day Cuchulain abode with Skatha, and all the feats she
had to teach he learned easily, and last of all she taught him the use of
the Gae Bolg, and gave him that dreadful weapon, which she had deemed no
champion before him good enough to have. And the manner of using the Gae
Bolg was that it was thrown with the foot, and if it entered an enemy’s
body it filled every limb and crevice of him with its barbs. While
Cuchulain dwelt with Skatha his friend above all friends and his rival in
skill and valour was Ferdia, and ere they parted they vowed to love and
help one another as long as they should live.

*Cuchulain and Aifa*

Now whilst Cuchulain was in the Land of the Shadows it chanced that Skatha
made war on the people of the Princess Aifa, who was the fiercest and
strongest of the woman-warriors of the world, so that even Skatha feared
to meet her in arms. On going forth to the war, therefore, Skatha mixed
with Cuchulain’s drink a sleepy herb so that he should not wake for
four-and-twenty hours, by which time the host would be far on its way, for
she feared lest evil should come to him ere he had got his full strength.
But the potion that would have served another man for a day and a night
only held Cuchulain for one hour; and when he waked up he seized his arms
and followed the host by its chariot-tracks till he came up with them.
Then it is said that Skatha uttered a sigh, for she knew that he would not
be restrained from the war.

When the armies met, Cuchulain and the two sons of Skatha wrought great
deeds on the foe, and slew six of the mightiest of Aifa’s warriors. Then
Aifa sent word to Skatha and challenged her to single combat. But
Cuchulain declared that he would meet the fair Fury in place of Skatha,
and he asked first of all what were the things she most valued. “What Aifa
loves most,” said Skatha, “are her two horses, her chariot and her
charioteer.” Then the pair met in single combat, and every champion’s feat
which they knew they tried on each other in vain, till at last a blow of
Aifa’s shattered the sword of Cuchulain to the hilt. At this Cuchulain
cried out: “Ah me! behold the chariot and horses of Aifa, fallen into the
glen!” Aifa glanced round, and Cuchulain, rushing in, seized her round the
waist and slung her over his shoulder and bore her back to the camp of
Skatha. There he flung her on the ground and put his knife to her throat.
She begged for her life, and Cuchulain granted it on condition that she
made a lasting peace with Skatha, and gave hostages for her fulfilment of
the pledge. To this she agreed, and Cuchulain and she became not only
friends but lovers.

*The Tragedy of Cuchulain and Connla*

Before Cuchulain left the Land of Shadows he gave Aifa a golden ring,
saying that if she should bear him a son he was to be sent to seek his
father in Erin so soon as he should have grown so that his finger would
fit the ring. And Cuchulain said, “Charge him under _geise_ that he shall
not make himself known, that he never turn out of the way for any man, nor
ever refuse a combat. And be his name called Connla.”

In later years it is narrated that one day when King Conor of Ulster and
the lords of Ulster were at a festal gathering on the Strand of the
Footprints they saw coming towards them across the sea a little boat of
bronze, and in it a young lad with gilded oars in his hands. In the boat
was a heap of stones, and ever and anon the lad would put one of these
stones into a sling and cast it at a flying sea-bird in such fashion that
it would bring down the bird alive to his feet. And many other wonderful
feats of skill he did. Then Conor said, as the boat drew nearer: “If the
grown men of that lad’s country came here they would surely grind us to
powder. Woe to the land into which that boy shall come!”

When the boy came to land, a messenger, Condery, was sent to bid him be
off. “I will not turn back for thee,” said the lad, and Condery repeated
what he had said to the king. Then Conall of the Victories was sent
against him, but the lad slung a great stone at him, and the whizz and
wind of it knocked him down, and the lad sprang upon him, and bound his
arms with the strap of his shield. And so man after man was served; some
were bound, and some were slain, but the lad defied the whole power of
Ulster to turn him back, nor would he tell his name or lineage.

“Send for Cuchulain,” then said King Conor. And they sent a messenger to
Dundalk, where Cuchulain was with Emer his wife, and bade him come to do
battle against a stranger boy whom Conall of the Victories could not
overcome. Emer threw her arm round Cuchulain’s neck. “Do not go,” she
entreated. “Surely this is the son of Aifa. Slay not thine only son.” But
Cuchulain said: “Forbear, woman! Were it Connla himself I would slay him
for the honour of Ulster,” and he bade yoke his chariot and went to the
Strand. Here he found the boy tossing up his weapons and doing marvellous
feats with them. “Delightful is thy play, boy,” said Cuchulain; “who art
thou and whence dost thou come?” “I may not reveal that,” said the lad.
“Then thou shalt die,” said Cuchulain. “So be it,” said the lad, and then
they fought with swords for a while, till the lad delicately shore off a
lock of Cuchulain’s hair. “Enough of trifling,” said Cuchulain, and they
closed with each other, but the lad planted himself on a rock and stood so
firm that Cuchulain could not move him, and in the stubborn wrestling they
had the lad’s two feet sank deep into the stone and made the footprints
whence the Strand of the Footprints has its name. At last they both fell
into the sea, and Cuchulain was near being drowned, till he bethought
himself of the Gae Bolg, and he drove that weapon against the lad and it
ripped up his belly. “That is what Skatha never taught me,” cried the lad.
“Woe is me, for I am hurt.” Cuchulain looked at him and saw the ring on
his finger. “It is true,” he said; and he took up the boy and bore him on
shore and laid him down before Conor and the lords of Ulster. “Here is my
son for you, men of Ulster,” he said. And the boy said: “It is true. And
if I had five years to grow among you, you would conquer the world on
every side of you and rule as far as Rome. But since it is as it is, point
out to me the famous warriors that are here, that I may know them and take
leave of them before I die.” Then one after another they were brought to
him, and he kissed them and took leave of his father, and he died; and the
men of Ulster made his grave and set up his pillar-stone with great
mourning. This was the only son Cuchulain ever had, and this son he slew.

This tale, as I have given it here, dates from the ninth century, and is
found in the “Yellow Book of Lecan.” There are many other Gaelic versions
of it in poetry and prose. It is one of the earliest extant appearances in
literature of the since well-known theme of the slaying of a heroic son by
his father. The Persian rendering of it in the tale of Sohrab and Rustum
has been made familiar by Matthew Arnold’s fine poem. In the Irish version
it will be noted that the father is not without a suspicion of the
identity of his antagonist, but he does battle with him under the stimulus
of that passionate sense of loyalty to his prince and province which was
Cuchulain’s most signal characteristic.

To complete the story of Aifa and her son we have anticipated events, and
now turn back to take up the thread again.

*Cuchulain’s First Foray*

After a year and a day of training in warfare under Skatha, Cuchulain
returned to Erin, eager to test his prowess and to win Emer for his wife.
So he bade harness his chariot and drove out to make a foray upon the
fords and marches of Connacht, for between Connacht and Ulster there was
always an angry surf of fighting along the borders.

And first he drove to the White Cairn, which is on the highest of the
Mountains of Mourne, and surveyed the land of Ulster spread out smiling in
the sunshine far below and bade his charioteer tell him the name of every
hill and plain and dūn that he saw. Then turning southwards he looked over
the plains of Bregia, and the charioteer pointed out to him Tara and
Teltin, and Brugh na Boyna and the great dūn of the sons of Nechtan. “Are
they,” asked Cuchulain, “those sons of Nechtan of whom it is said that
more of the men of Ulster have fallen by their hands than are yet living
on the earth?” “The same,” said the charioteer. “Then let us drive
thither,” said Cuchulain. So, much unwilling, the charioteer drove to the
fortress of the sons of Nechtan, and there on the green before it they
found a pillar-stone, and round it a collar of bronze having on it writing
in Ogham. This Cuchulain read, and it declared that any man of age to bear
arms who should come to that green should hold it _geis_ for him to depart
without having challenged one of the dwellers in the dūn to single combat.
Then Cuchulain flung his arms round the stone, and, swaying it backwards
and forwards, heaved it at last out of the earth and flung it, collar and
all, into the river that ran hard by. “Surely,” said the charioteer, “thou
art seeking for a violent death, and now thou wilt find it without delay.”

Then Foill son of Nechtan came forth from the dūn, and seeing Cuchulain,
whom he deemed but a lad, he was annoyed. But Cuchulain bade him fetch his
arms, “for I slay not drivers nor messengers nor unarmed men,” and Foill
went back into the dūn. “Thou canst not slay him,” then said the
charioteer, “for he is invulnerable by magic power to the point or edge of
any blade.” But Cuchulain put in his sling a ball of tempered iron, and
when Foill appeared he slung at him so that it struck his forehead, and
went clean through brain and skull; and Cuchulain took his head and bound
it to his chariot-rim. And other sons of Nechtan, issuing forth, he fought
with and slew by sword or spear; and then he fired the dūn and left it in
a blaze and drove on exultant. And on the way he saw a flock of wild
swans, and sixteen of them he brought down alive with his sling, and tied
them to the chariot; and seeing a herd of wild deer which his horses could
not overtake he lighted down and chased them on foot till he caught two
great stags, and with thongs and ropes he made them fast to the chariot.

But at Emain Macha a scout of King Conor came running in to give him news.
“Behold, a solitary chariot is approaching swiftly over the plain; wild
white birds flutter round it and wild stags are tethered to it; it is
decked all round with the bleeding heads of enemies.” And Conor looked to
see who was approaching, and he saw that Cuchulain was in his battle-fury,
and would deal death around him whomsoever he met; so he hastily gave
order that a troop of the women of Emania should go forth to meet him,
and, having stripped off their clothing, should stand naked in the way.
This they did, and when the lad saw them, smitten with shame, he bowed his
head upon the chariot-rim. Then Conor’s men instantly seized him and
plunged him into a vat of cold water which had been made ready, but the
water boiled around him and the staves and hoops of the vat were burst
asunder. This they did again and yet again, and at last his fury left him,
and his natural form and aspect were restored. Then they clad him in fresh
raiment and bade him in to the feast in the king’s banqueting-hall.

*The Winning of Emer*

Next day he went to the dūn of Forgall the Wily, father of Emer, and he
leaped “the hero’s salmon leap,” that he had learned of Skatha, over the
high ramparts of the dūn. Then the mighty men of Forgall set on him, and
he dealt but three blows, and each blow slew eight men, and Forgall
himself fell lifeless in leaping from the rampart of the dūn to escape
Cuchulain. So he carried off Emer and her foster-sister and two loads of
gold and silver. But outside the dūn the sister of Forgall raised a host
against him, and his battle-fury came on him, and furious were the blows
he dealt, so that the ford of Glondath ran blood and the turf on Crofot
was trampled into bloody mire. A hundred he slew at every ford from Olbiny
to the Boyne; and so was Emer won as she desired, and he brought her to
Emain Macha and made her his wife, and they were not parted again until he

*Cuchulain Champion of Erin*

A lord of Ulster named Briccriu of the Poisoned Tongue once made a feast
to which he bade King Conor and all the heroes of the Red Branch, and
because it was always his delight to stir up strife among men or women he
set the heroes contending among themselves as to who was the champion of
the land of Erin. At last it was agreed that the championship must lie
among three of them, namely, Cuchulain, and Conall of the Victories and
Laery the Triumphant. To decide between these three a demon named The
Terrible was summoned from a lake in the depth of which he dwelt. He
proposed to the heroes a test of courage. Any one of them, he said, might
cut off his head to-day provided that he, the claimant of the
championship, would lay down his own head for the axe to-morrow. Conall
and Laery shrank from the test, but Cuchulain accepted it, and after
reciting a charm over his sword, he cut off the head of the demon, who
immediately rose, and taking the bleeding head in one hand and his axe in
the other, plunged into the lake.

Next day he reappeared, whole and sound, to claim the fulfilment of the
bargain. Cuchulain, quailing but resolute, laid his head on the block.
“Stretch out your neck, wretch,” cried the demon; “’tis too short for me
to strike at.” Cuchulain does as he is bidden. The demon swings his axe
thrice over his victim, brings down the butt with a crash on the block,
and then bids Cuchulain rise unhurt, Champion of Ireland and her boldest

*Deirdre and the Sons of Usna*

We have now to turn to a story in which Cuchulain takes no part. It is the
chief of the preliminary tales to the Cattle-spoil of Quelgny.

There was among the lords of Ulster, it is said, one named Felim son of
Dall, who on a certain day made a great feast for the king. And the king
came with his Druid Cathbad, and Fergus mac Roy, and many heroes of the
Red Branch, and while they were making merry over the roasted flesh and
wheaten cakes and Greek wine a messenger from the women’s apartments came
to tell Felim that his wife had just borne him a daughter. So all the
lords and warriors drank health to the new-born infant, and the king bade
Cathbade perform divination in the manner of the Druids and foretell what
the future would have in store for Felim’s babe. Cathbad gazed upon the
stars and drew the horoscope of the child, and he was much troubled; and
at length he said: “The infant shall be fairest among the women of Erin,
and shall wed a king, but because of her shall death and ruin come upon
the Province of Ulster.” Then the warriors would have put her to death
upon the spot, but Conor forbade them. “I will avert the doom,” he said,
“for she shall wed no foreign king, but she shall be my own mate when she
is of age.” So he took away the child, and committed it to his nurse
Levarcam, and the name they gave it was Deirdre. And Conor charged
Levarcam that the child should be brought up in a strong dūn in the
solitude of a great wood, and that no young man should see her or she him
until she was of marriageable age for the king to wed. And there she
dwelt, seeing none but her nurse and Cathbad, and sometimes the king, now
growing an aged man, who would visit the dūn from time to time to see that
all was well with the folk there, and that his commands were observed.

One day, when the time for the marriage of Deirdre and Conor was drawing
near, Deirdre and Levarcam looked over the rampart of their dūn. It was
winter, a heavy snow had fallen in the night, and in the still, frosty air
the trees stood up as if wrought in silver, and the green before the dūn
was a sheet of unbroken white, save that in one place a scullion had
killed a calf for their dinner, and the blood of the calf lay on the snow.
And as Deirdre looked, a raven lit down from a tree hard by and began to
sip the blood. “O nurse,” cried Deirdre suddenly, “such, and not like
Conor, would be the man that I would love—his hair like the raven’s wing,
and in his cheek the hue of blood, and his skin as white as snow.” “Thou
hast pictured a man of Conor’s household,” said the nurse. “Who is he?”
asked Deirdre. “He is Naisi, son of Usna,(140) a champion of the Red
Branch,” said the nurse. Thereupon Deirdre entreated Levarcam to bring her
to speak with Naisi; and because the old woman loved the girl and would
not have her wedded to the aged king, she at last agreed. Deirdre implored
Naisi to save her from Conor, but he would not, till at last her
entreaties and her beauty won him, and he vowed to be hers. Then secretly
one night he came with his two brethren, Ardan and Ainlé, and bore away
Deirdre with Levarcam, and they escaped the king’s pursuit and took ship
for Scotland, where Naisi took service with the King of the Picts. Yet
here they could not rest, for the king got sight of Deirdre, and would
have taken her from Naisi, but Naisi with his brothers escaped, and in the
solitude of Glen Etive they made their dwelling by the lake, and there
lived in the wild wood by hunting and fishing, seeing no man but
themselves and their servants.

And the years went by and Conor made no sign, but he did not forget, and
his spies told him of all that befell Naisi and Deirdre. At last, judging
that Naisi and his brothers would have tired of solitude, he sent the
bosom friend of Naisi, Fergus son of Roy, to bid them return, and to
promise them that all would be forgiven. Fergus went joyfully, and
joyfully did Naisi and his brothers hear the message, but Deirdre foresaw
evil, and would fain have sent Fergus home alone. But Naisi blamed her for
her doubt and suspicion, and bade her mark that they were under the
protection of Fergus, whose safeguard no king in Ireland would dare to
violate; and they at last made ready to go.

On landing in Ireland they were met by Baruch, a lord of the Red Branch,
who had his dūn close by, and he bade Fergus to a feast he had prepared
for him that night. “I may not stay,” said Fergus, “for I must first
convey Deirdre and the sons of Usna safely to Emain Macha.”
“Nevertheless,” said Baruch, “thou must stay with me to-night, for it is a
_geis_ for thee to refuse a feast.” Deirdre implored him not to leave
them, but Fergus was tempted by the feast, and feared to break his _geis_,
and he bade his two sons Illan the Fair and Buino the Red take charge of
the party in his place, and he himself abode with Baruch.

And so the party came to Emain Macha, and they were lodged in the House of
the Red Branch, but Conor did not receive them. After the evening meal, as
he sat, drinking heavily and silently, he sent a messenger to bid Levarcam
come before him. “How is it with the sons of Usna?” he said to her. “It is
well,” she said. “Thou hast got the three most valorous champions in
Ulster in thy court. Truly the king who has those three need fear no
enemy.” “Is it well with Deirdre?” he asked. “She is well,” said the
nurse, “but she has lived many years in the wildwood, and toil and care
have changed her—little of her beauty of old now remains to her, O King.”
Then the king dismissed her, and sat drinking again. But after a while he
called to him a servant named Trendorn, and bade him go to the Red Branch
House and mark who was there and what they did. But when Trendorn came the
place was bolted and barred for the night, and he could not get an
entrance, and at last he mounted on a ladder and looked in at a high
window. And there he saw the brothers of Naisi and the sons of Fergus, as
they talked or cleaned their arms, or made them ready for slumber, and
there sat Naisi with a chess-board before him, and playing chess with him
was the fairest of women that he had ever seen. But as he looked in wonder
at the noble pair, suddenly one caught sight of him and rose with a cry,
pointing to the face at the window. And Naisi looked up and saw it, and
seizing a chessman from the board he hurled it at the face of the spy, and
it struck out his eye. Then Trendorn hastily descended, and went back with
his bloody face to the king. “I have seen them,” he cried, “I have seen
the fairest woman of the world, and but that Naisi had struck my eye out I
had been looking on her still.”

Then Conor arose and called for his guards and bade them bring the sons of
Usna before him for maiming his messenger. And the guards went; but first
Buino, son of Fergus, with his retinue, met them, and at the sword’s point
drove them back; but Naisi and Deirdre continued quietly to play chess,
“For,” said Naisi, “it is not seemly that we should seek to defend
ourselves while we are under the protection of the sons of Fergus.” But
Conor went to Buino, and with a great gift of lands he bought him over to
desert his charge. Then Illan took up the defence of the Red Branch
Hostel, but the two sons of Conor slew him. And then at last Naisi and his
brothers seized their weapons and rushed amid the foe, and many were they
who fell before the onset. Then Conor entreated Cathbad the Druid to cast
spells upon them lest they should get away and become the enemies of the
province, and he vowed to do them no hurt if they were taken alive. So
Cathbad conjured up, as it were, a lake of slime that seemed to be about
the feet of the sons of Usna, and they could not tear their feet from it,
and Naisi caught up Deirdre and put her on his shoulder, for they seemed
to be sinking in the slime. Then the guards and servants of Conor seized
and bound them and brought them before the king. And the king called upon
man after man to come forward and slay the sons of Usna, but none would
obey him, till at last Owen son of Duracht and Prince of Ferney came and
took the sword of Naisi, and with one sweep he shore off the heads of all
three, and so they died.

Then Conor took Deirdre perforce, and for a year she abode with him in the
palace in Emain Macha, but during all that time she never smiled. At
length Conor said: “What is it that you hate most of all on earth,
Deirdre?” And she said: “Thou thyself and Owen son of Duracht,” and Owen
was standing by. “Then thou shalt go to Owen for a year,” said Conor. But
when Deirdre mounted the chariot behind Owen she kept her eyes on the
ground, for she would not look on those who thus tormented her; and Conor
said, taunting her: “Deirdre, the glance of thee between me and Owen is
the glance of a ewe between two rams.” Then Deirdre started up, and,
flinging herself head foremost from the chariot, she dashed her head
against a rock and fell dead.

And when they buried her it is said there grew from her grave and from
Naisi’s two yew-trees, whose tops, when they were full-grown, met each
other over the roof of the great church of Armagh, and intertwined
together, and none could part them.

*The Rebellion of Fergus*

When Fergus mac Roy came home to Emain Macha after the feast to which
Baruch bade him and found the sons of Usna slain and one of his own sons
dead and the other a traitor, he broke out against Conor in a storm of
wrath and cursing, and vowed to be avenged on him with fire and sword. And
he went off straightway to Connacht to take service of arms with Ailell
and Maev, who were king and queen of that country.

*Queen Maev*

But though Ailell was king, Maev was the ruler in truth, and ordered all
things as she wished, and took what husbands she wished, and dismissed
them at pleasure; for she was as fierce and strong as a goddess of war,
and knew no law but her own wild will. She was tall, it is said, with a
long, pale face and masses of hair yellow as ripe corn. When Fergus came
to her in her palace at Rathcroghan in Roscommon she gave him her love, as
she had given it to many before, and they plotted together how to attack
and devastate the Province of Ulster.

*The Brown Bull of Quelgny*

Now it happened that Maev possessed a famous red bull with white front and
horns named Finnbenach, and one day when she and Ailell were counting up
their respective possessions and matching them against each other he
taunted her because the Finnbenach would not stay in the hands of a woman,
but had attached himself to Ailell’s herd. So Maev in vexation went to her
steward, mac Roth, and asked of him if there were anywhere in Erin a bull
as fine as the Finnbenach. “Truly,” said the steward, “there is—for the
Brown Bull of Quelgny, that belongs to Dara son of Fachtna, is the
mightiest beast that is in Ireland.” And after that Maev felt as if she
had no flocks and herds that were worth anything at all unless she
possessed the Brown Bull of Quelgny. But this was in Ulster, and the
Ulstermen knew the treasure they possessed, and Maev knew that they would
not give up the bull without fighting for it. So she and Fergus and Ailell
agreed to make a foray against Ulster for the Brown Bull, and thus to
enter into war with the province, for Fergus longed for vengeance, and
Maev for fighting, for glory, and for the bull, and Ailell to satisfy

Here let us note that this contest for the bull, which is the ostensible
theme of the greatest of Celtic legendary tales, the “Tain Bo Cuailgné,”
has a deeper meaning than appears on the surface. An ancient piece of
Aryan mythology is embedded in it. The Brown Bull is the Celtic
counterpart of the Hindu sky-deity, Indra, represented in Hindu myth as a
mighty bull, whose roaring is the thunder and who lets loose the rains
“like cows streaming forth to pasture.” The advance of the Western
(Connacht) host for the capture of this bull is emblematic of the onset of
Night. The bull is defended by the solar hero Cuchulain, who, however, is
ultimately overthrown and the bull is captured for a season. The two
animals in the Celtic legend probably typify the sky in different aspects.
They are described with a pomp and circumstance which shows that they are
no common beasts. Once, we are told, they were swineherds of the people of
Dana. “They had been successively transformed into two ravens, two
sea-monsters, two warriors, two demons, two worms or animalculae, and
finally into two kine.”(141) The Brown Bull is described as having a back
broad enough for fifty children to play on; when he is angry with his
keeper he stamps the man thirty feet into the ground; he is likened to a
sea wave, to a bear, to a dragon, a lion, the writer heaping up images of
strength and savagery. We are therefore concerned with no ordinary
cattle-raid, but with a myth, the features of which are discernible under
the dressing given it by the fervid imagination of the unknown Celtic bard
who composed the “Tain,” although the exact meaning of every detail may be
difficult to ascertain.

The first attempt of Maev to get possession of the bull was to send an
embassy to Dara to ask for the loan of him for a year, the recompense
offered being fifty heifers, besides the bull himself back, and if Dara
chose to settle in Connacht he should have as much land there as he now
possessed in Ulster, and a chariot worth thrice seven _cumals_,(142) with
the patronage and friendship of Maev.

Dara was at first delighted with the prospect, but tales were borne to him
of the chatter of Maev’s messengers, and how they said that if the bull
was not yielded willingly it would be taken by force; and he sent back a
message of refusal and defiance. “’Twas known,” said Maev, “the bull will
not be yielded by fair means; he shall now be won by foul.” And so she
sent messengers around on every side to summon her hosts for the Raid.

*The Hosting of Queen Maev*

And there came all the mighty men of Connacht—first the seven Mainés, sons
of Ailell and Maev, each with his retinue; and Ket and Anluan, sons of
Maga, with thirty hundreds of armed men; and yellow-haired Ferdia, with
his company of Firbolgs, boisterous giants who delighted in war and in
strong ale. And there came also the allies of Maev—a host of the men of
Leinster, who so excelled the rest in warlike skill that they were broken
up and distributed among the companies of Connacht, lest they should prove
a danger to the host; and Cormac son of Conor, with Fergus mac Roy and
other exiles from Ulster, who had revolted against Conor for his treachery
to the sons of Usna.

*Ulster under the Curse*

But before the host set forth towards Ulster Maev sent her spies into the
land to tell her of the preparations there being made. And the spies
brought back a wondrous tale, and one that rejoiced the heart of Maev, for
they said that the Debility of the Ultonians(143) had descended on the
province. Conor the king lay in pangs at Emain Macha, and his son Cuscrid
in his island-fortress, and Owen Prince of Ferney was helpless as a child;
Celtchar, the huge grey warrior, son of Uthecar Hornskin, and even Conall
of the Victories, lay moaning and writhing on their beds, and there was no
hand in Ulster that could lift a spear.

*Prophetic Voices*

Nevertheless Maev went to her chief Druid, and demanded of him what her
own lot in the war should be. And the Druid said only: “Whoever comes hack
in safety, or comes not, thou thyself shalt come.” But on her journey back
she saw suddenly standing before her chariot-pole a young maiden with
tresses of yellow hair that fell below her knees, and clad in a mantle of
green; and with a shuttle of gold she wove a fabric upon a loom. “Who art
thou, girl?” said Maev, “and what dost thou?” “I am the prophetess,
Fedelma, from the Fairy Mound of Croghan,” said the maid, “and I weave the
four provinces of Ireland together for the foray into Ulster.” “How seest
thou our host?” asked Maev. “I see them all be-crimsoned, red,” replied
the prophetess. “Yet the Ulster heroes are all in their pangs—there is
none that can lift a spear against us,” said Maev. “I see the host all
becrimsoned,” said Fedelma. “I see a man of small stature, but the hero’s
light is on his brow—a stripling young and modest, but in battle a dragon;
he is like unto Cuchulain of Murthemney; he doth wondrous feats with his
weapons; by him your slain shall lie thickly.”(144)

At this the vision of the weaving maiden vanished, and Maev drove
homewards to Rathcroghan wondering at what she had seen and heard.

*Cuchulain Puts the Host under Geise*

On the morrow the host set forth, Fergus mac Roy leading them, and as they
neared the confines of Ulster he bade them keep sharp watch lest Cuchulain
of Murthemney, who guarded the passes of Ulster to the south, should fall
upon them unawares. Now Cuchulain and his father Sualtam(145) were on the
borders of the province, and Cuchulain, from a warning Fergus had sent
him, suspected the approach of a great host, and bade Sualtam go
northwards to Emania and warn the men of Ulster. But Cuchulain himself
would not stay there, for he said he had a tryst to keep with a handmaid
of the wife of Laery the _bodach_ (farmer), so he went into the forest,
and there, standing on one leg, and using only one hand and one eye, he
cut an oak sapling and twisted it into a circular withe. On this he cut in
Ogham characters how the withe was made, and he put the host of Maev under
_geise_ not to pass by that place till one of them had, under similar
conditions, made a similar withe; “and I except my friend Fergus mac Roy,”
he added, and wrote his name at the end. Then he placed the withe round
the pillar-stone of Ardcullin, and went his way to keep his tryst with the

When the host of Maev came to Ardcullin, the withe upon the pillar-stone
was found and brought to Fergus to decipher it. There was none amongst the
host who could emulate the feat of Cuchulain, and so they went into the
wood and encamped for the night. A heavy snowfall took place, and they
were all in much distress, but next day the sun rose gloriously, and over
the white plain they marched away into Ulster, counting the prohibition as
extending only for one night.

*The Ford of the Forked Pole*

Cuchulain now followed hard on their track, and as he went he estimated by
the tracks they had left the number of the host at eighteen _triucha cét_
(54,000 men). Circling round the host, he now met them in front, and soon
came upon two chariots containing scouts sent ahead by Maev. These he
slew, each man with his driver, and having with one sweep of his sword cut
a forked pole of four prongs from the wood, he drove the pole deep into a
river-ford at the place called Athgowla,(147) and impaled on each prong a
bloody head. When the host came up they wondered and feared at the sight,
and Fergus declared that they were under _geise_ not to pass that ford
till one of them had plucked out the pole even as it was driven in, with
the fingertips of one hand. So Fergus drove into the water to essay the
feat, and seventeen chariots were broken under him as he tugged at the
pole, but at last he tore it out; and as it was now late the host encamped
upon the spot. These devices of Cuchulain were intended to delay the
invaders until the Ulster men had recovered from their debility.

In the epic, as given in the Book of Leinster, and other ancient sources,
a long interlude now takes place in which Fergus explains to Maev who it
is—viz., “my little pupil Setanta”—who is thus harrying the host, and his
boyish deeds, some of which have been already told in this narrative, are

*The Charioteer of Orlam*

The host proceeded on its way next day, and the next encounter with
Cuchulain shows the hero in a kindlier mood. He hears a noise of timber
being cut, and going into a wood he finds there a charioteer belonging to
a son of Ailell and Maev cutting down chariot-poles of holly, “For,” says
he, “we have damaged our chariots sadly in chasing that famous deer,
Cuchulain.” Cuchulain—who, it must be remembered, was at ordinary times a
slight and unimposing figure, though in battle he dilated in size and
underwent a fearful distortion, symbolic of Berserker fury—helps the
driver in his work. “Shall I,” he asks, “cut the poles or trim them for
thee?” “Do thou the trimming,” says the driver. Cuchulain takes the poles
by the tops and draws them against the set of the branches through his
toes, and then runs his fingers down them the same way, and gives them
over as smooth and polished as if they were planed by a carpenter. The
driver stares at him. “I doubt this work I set thee to is not thy proper
work,” he says. “Who art thou then at all?” “I am that Cuchulain of whom
thou spakest but now.” “Surely I am but a dead man,” says the driver.
“Nay,” replies Cuchulain, “I slay not drivers nor messengers nor men
unarmed. But run, tell thy master Orlam that Cuchulain is about to visit
him.” The driver runs off, but Cuchulain outstrips him, meets Orlam first,
and strikes off his head. For a moment the host of Maev see him as he
shakes this bloody trophy before them; then he disappears from sight—it is
the first glimpse they have caught of their persecutor.

*The Battle-Frenzy of Cuchulain*

A number of scattered episodes now follow. The host of Maev spreads out
and devastates the territories of Bregia and of Murthemney, but they
cannot advance further into Ulster. Cuchulain hovers about them
continually, slaying them by twos and threes, and no man knows where he
will swoop next. Maev herself is awed when, by the bullets of an unseen
slinger, a squirrel and a pet bird are killed as they sit upon her
shoulders. Afterwards, as Cuchulain’s wrath grows fiercer, he descends
with supernatural might upon whole companies of the Connacht host, and
hundreds fall at his onset. The characteristic distortion or _riastradh_
which seized him in his battle-frenzy is then described. He became a
fearsome and multiform creature such as never was known before. Every
particle of him quivered like a bulrush in a running stream. His calves
and heels and hams shifted to the front, and his feet and knees to the
back, and the muscles of his neck stood out like the head of a young
child. One eye was engulfed deep in his head, the other protruded, his
mouth met his ears, foam poured from his jaws like the fleece of a
three-year-old wether. The beats of his heart sounded like the roars of a
lion as he rushes on his prey. A light blazed above his head, and “his
hair became tangled about as it had been the branches of a red thorn-bush
stuffed into the gap of a fence.... Taller, thicker, more rigid, longer
than the mast of a great ship was the perpendicular jet of dusky blood
which out of his scalp’s very central point shot upwards and was there
scattered to the four cardinal points, whereby was formed a magic mist of
gloom resembling the smoky pall that drapes a regal dwelling, what time a
king at nightfall of a winter’s day draws near to it.”(148)

Such was the imagery by which Gaelic writers conveyed the idea of
superhuman frenzy. At the sight of Cuchulain in his paroxysm it is said
that once a hundred of Maev’s warriors fell dead from horror.

*The Compact of the Ford*

Maev now tried to tempt him by great largesse to desert the cause of
Ulster, and had a colloquy with him, the two standing on opposite sides of
a glen across which they talked. She scanned him closely, and was struck
by his slight and boyish appearance. She failed to move him from his
loyalty to Ulster, and death descends more thickly than ever upon the
Connacht host; the men are afraid to move out for plunder save in twenties
and thirties, and at night the stones from Cuchulain’s sling whistle
continually through the camp, braining or maiming. At last, through the
mediation of Fergus, an agreement was come to. Cuchulain undertook not to
harry the host provided they would only send against him one champion at a
time, whom Cuchulain would meet in battle at the ford of the River Dee,
which is now called the Ford of Ferdia.(149) While each fight was in
progress the host might move on, but when it was ended they must encamp
till the morrow morning. “Better to lose one man a day than a hundred,”
said Maev, and the pact was made.

*Fergus and Cuchulain*

Several single combats are then narrated, in which Cuchulain is always a
victor. Maev even persuades Fergus to go against him, but Fergus and
Cuchulain will on no account fight each other, and Cuchulain, by agreement
with Fergus, pretends to fly before him, on Fergus’s promise that he will
do the same for Cuchulain when required. How this pledge was kept we shall
see later.

*Capture of the Brown Bull*

During one of Cuchulain’s duels with a famous champion, Natchrantal, Maev,
with a third of her army, makes a sudden foray into Ulster and penetrates
as far as Dunseverick, on the northern coast, plundering and ravaging as
they go. The Brown Bull, who was originally at Quelgny (Co. Down), has
been warned at an earlier stage by the Morrigan(150) to withdraw himself,
and he has taken refuge, with his herd of cows, in a glen of
Slievegallion, Co. Armagh. The raiders of Maev find him there, and drive
him off with the herd in triumph, passing Cuchulain as they return.
Cuchulain slays the leader of the escort—Buic son of Banblai—but cannot
rescue the Bull, and “this,” it is said, “was the greatest affront put on
Cuchulain during the course of the raid.”

*The Morrigan*

The raid ought now to have ceased, for its object has been attained, but
by this time the hostings of the four southern provinces(151) had gathered
together under Maev for the plunder of Ulster, and Cuchulain remained
still the solitary warder of the marches. Nor did Maev keep her agreement,
for bands of twenty warriors at a time were loosed against him and he had
much ado to defend himself. The curious episode of the fight with the
Morrigan now occurs. A young woman clad in a mantle of many colours
appears to Cuchulain, telling him that she is a king’s daughter, attracted
by the tales of his great exploits, and she has come to offer him her
love. Cuchulain tells her rudely that he is worn and harassed with war and
has no mind to concern himself with women. “It shall go hard with thee,”
then said the maid, “when thou hast to do with men, and I shall be about
thy feet as an eel in the bottom of the Ford.” Then she and her chariot
vanished from his sight and he saw but a crow sitting on a branch of a
tree, and he knew that he had spoken with the Morrigan.

*The Fight with Loch*

The next champion sent against him by Maev was Loch son of Mofebis. To
meet this hero it is said that Cuchulain had to stain his chin with
blackberry juice so as to simulate a beard, lest Loch should disdain to do
combat with a boy. So they fought in the Ford, and the Morrigan came
against him in the guise of a white heifer with red ears, but Cuchulain
fractured her eye with a cast of his spear. Then she came swimming up the
river like a black eel and twisted herself about his legs, and ere he
could rid himself of her Loch wounded him. Then she attacked him as a grey
wolf, and again, before he could subdue her, he was wounded by Loch. At
this his battle-fury took hold of him and he drove the Gae Bolg against
Loch, splitting his heart in two. “Suffer me to rise,” said Loch, “that I
may fall on my face on thy side of the ford, and not backward toward the
men of Erin.” “It is a warrior’s boon thou askest,” said Cuchulain, “and
it is granted.” So Loch died; and a great despondency, it is said, now
fell upon Cuchulain, for he was outwearied with continued fighting, and
sorely wounded, and he had never slept since the beginning of the raid,
save leaning upon his spear; and he sent his charioteer, Laeg, to see if
he could rouse the men of Ulster to come to his aid at last.

*Lugh the Protector*

But as he lay at evening by the grave mound of Lerga in gloom and
dejection, watching the camp-fires of the vast army encamped over against
him and the glitter of their innumerable spears, he saw coming through the
host a tall and comely warrior who strode impetuously forward, and none of
the companies through which he passed turned his head to look at him or
seemed to see him. He wore a tunic of silk embroidered with gold, and a
green mantle fastened with a silver brooch; in one hand was a black shield
bordered with silver and two spears in the other. The stranger came to
Cuchulain and spoke gently and sweetly to him of his long toil and waking,
and his sore wounds, and said in the end: “Sleep now, Cuchulain, by the
grave in Lerga; sleep and slumber deeply for three days, and for that time
I will take thy place and defend the Ford against the host of Maev.” Then
Cuchulain sank into a profound slumber and trance, and the stranger laid
healing balms of magical power to his wounds so that he awoke whole and
refreshed, and for the time that Cuchulain slept the stranger held the
Ford against the host. And Cuchulain knew that this was Lugh his father,
who had come from among the People of Dana to help his son through his
hour of gloom and despair.

*The Sacrifice of the Boy Corps*

But still the men of Ulster lay helpless. Now there was at Emain Macha a
band of thrice fifty boys, the sons of all the chieftains of the
provinces, who were there being bred up in arms and in noble ways, and
these suffered not from the curse of Macha, for it fell only on grown men.
But when they heard of the sore straits in which Cuchulain, their playmate
not long ago, was lying they put on their light armour and took their
weapons and went forth for the honour of Ulster, under Conor’s young son,
Follaman, to aid him. And Follaman vowed that he would never return to
Emania without the diadem of Ailell as a trophy. Three times they drove
against the host of Maev, and thrice their own number fell before them,
but in the end they were overwhelmed and slain, not one escaping alive.

*The Carnage of Murthemney*

This was done as Cuchulain lay in his trance, and when he awoke, refreshed
and well, and heard what had been done, his frenzy came upon him and he
leaped into his war-chariot and drove furiously round and round the host
of Maev. And the chariot ploughed the earth till the ruts were like the
ramparts of a fortress, and the scythes upon its wheels caught and mangled
the bodies of the crowded host till they were piled like a wall around the
camp, and as Cuchulain shouted in his wrath the demons and goblins and
wild things in Erin yelled in answer, so that with the terror and the
uproar the host of men heaved and surged hither and thither, and many
perished from each other’s weapons, and many from horror and fear. And
this was the great carnage, called the Carnage of Murthemney, that
Cuchulain did to avenge the boy-corps of Emania; six score and ten princes
were then slain of the host of Maev, besides horses and women and
wolf-dogs and common folk without number. It is said that Lugh mac Ethlinn
fought there by his son.

*The Clan Calatin*

Next the men of Erin resolved to send against Cuchulain, in single combat,
the Clan Calatin.(152) Now Calatin was a wizard, and he and his
seven-and-twenty sons formed, as it were, but one being, the sons being
organs of their father, and what any one of them did they all did alike.
They were all poisonous, so that any weapon which one of them used would
kill in nine days the man who was but grazed by it. When this multiform
creature met Cuchulain each hand of it hurled a spear at once, but
Cuchulain caught the twenty-eight spears on his shield and not one of them
drew blood. Then he drew his sword to lop off the spears that bristled
from his shield, but as he did so the Clan Calatin rushed upon him and
flung him down, thrusting his face into the gravel. At this Cuchulain gave
a great cry of distress at the unequal combat, and one of the Ulster
exiles, Fiacha son of Firaba, who was with the host of Maev, and was
looking on at the fight, could not endure to see the plight of the
champion, and he drew his sword and with one stroke he lopped off the
eight-and-twenty hands that were grinding the face of Cuchulain into the
gravel of the Ford. Then Cuchulain arose and hacked the Clan Calatin into
fragments, so that none survived to tell Maev what Fiacha had done, else
had he and his thirty hundred followers of Clan Rury been given by Maev to
the edge of the sword.

*Ferdia to the Fray*

Cuchulain had now overcome all the mightiest of Maev’s men, save only the
mightiest of them all after Fergus, Ferdia son of Daman. And because
Ferdia was the old friend and fellow pupil of Cuchulain he had never gone
out against him; but now Maev begged him to go, and he would not. Then she
offered him her daughter, Findabair of the Fair Eyebrows, to wife, if he
would face Cuchulain at the Ford, but he would not. At last she bade him
go, lest the poets and satirists of Erin should make verses on him and put
him to open shame, and then in wrath and sorrow he consented to go, and
bade his charioteer make ready for to-morrow’s fray. Then was gloom among
all his people when they heard of that, for they knew that if Cuchulain
and their master met, one of them would return alive no more.

Very early in the morning Ferdia drove to the Ford, and lay down there on
the cushions and skins of the chariot and slept till Cuchulain should
come. Not till it was full daylight did Ferdia’s charioteer hear the
thunder of Cuchulain’s war-car approaching, and then he woke his master,
and the two friends faced each other across the Ford. And when they had
greeted each other Cuchulain said: “It is not thou, O Ferdia, who shouldst
have come to do battle with me. When we were with Skatha did we not go
side by side in every battle, through every wood and wilderness? were we
not heart-companions, comrades, in the feast and the assembly? did we not
share one bed and one deep slumber?” But Ferdia replied: “O Cuchulain,
thou of the wondrous feats, though we have studied poetry and science
together, and though I have heard thee recite our deeds of friendship, yet
it is my hand that shall wound thee. I bid thee remember not our
comradeship, O Hound of Ulster; it shall not avail thee, it shall not
avail thee.”

They then debated with what weapons they should begin the fight, and
Ferdia reminded Cuchulain of the art of casting small javelins that they
had learned from Skatha, and they agreed to begin with these. Backwards
and forwards, then, across the Ford, hummed the light javelins like bees
on a summer’s day, but when noonday had come not one weapon had pierced
the defence of either champion. Then they took to the heavy missile
spears, and now at last blood began to flow, for each champion wounded the
other time and again. At last the day came to its close. “Let us cease
now,” said Ferdia, and Cuchulain agreed. Each then threw his arms to his
charioteer, and the friends embraced and kissed each other three times,
and went to their rest. Their horses were in the same paddock, their
drivers warmed themselves over the same fire, and the heroes sent each
other food and drink and healing herbs for their wounds.

Next day they betook themselves again to the Ford, and this time, because
Ferdia had the choice of weapons the day before, he bade Cuchulain take it
now.(153) Cuchulain chose then the heavy, broad-bladed spears for close
fighting, and with them they fought from the chariots till the sun went
down, and drivers and horses were weary, and the body of each hero was
torn with wounds. Then at last they gave over, and threw away their
weapons. And they kissed each other as before, and as before they shared
all things at night, and slept peacefully till the morning.

When the third day of the combat came Ferdia wore an evil and lowering
look, and Cuchulain reproached him for coming out in battle against his
comrade for the bribe of a fair maiden, even Findabair, whom Maev had
offered to every champion and to Cuchulain himself if the Ford might be
won thereby; but Ferdia said: “Noble Hound, had I not faced thee when
summoned, my troth would be broken, and there would be shame on me in
Rathcroghan.” It is now the turn of Ferdia to choose the weapons, and they
betake themselves to their “heavy, hard-smiting swords,” and though they
hew from each other’s thighs and shoulders great cantles of flesh, neither
can prevail over the other, and at last night ends the combat. This time
they parted from each other in heaviness and gloom, and there was no
interchange of friendly acts, and their drivers and horses slept apart.
The passions of the warriors had now risen to a grim sternness.

*Death of Ferdia*

On the fourth day Ferdia knew the contest would be decided, and he armed
himself with especial care. Next his skin was a tunic of striped silk
bordered with golden spangles, and over that hung an apron of brown
leather. Upon his belly he laid a flat stone, large as a millstone, and
over that a strong, deep apron of iron, for he dreaded that Cuchulain
would use the Gae Bolg that day. And he put on his head his crested helmet
studded with carbuncle and inlaid with enamels, and girt on his
golden-hilted sword, and on his left arm hung his broad shield with its
fifty bosses of bronze. Thus he stood by the Ford, and as he waited he
tossed up his weapons and caught them again and did many wonderful feats,
playing with his mighty weapons as a juggler plays with apples; and
Cuchulain, watching him, said to Laeg, his driver: “If I give ground
to-day, do thou reproach and mock me and spur me on to valour, and praise
and hearten me if I do well, for I shall have need of all my courage.”

“O Ferdia,” said Cuchulain when they met, “what shall be our weapons
to-day?” “It is thy choice to-day,” said Ferdia. “Then let it be all or
any,” said Cuchulain, and Ferdia was cast down at hearing this, but he
said, “So be it,” and thereupon the fight began. Till midday they fought
with spears, and none could gain any advantage over the other. Then
Cuchulain drew his sword and sought to smite Ferdia over the rim of his
shield; but the giant Firbolg flung him off. Thrice Cuchulain leaped high
into the air, seeking to strike Ferdia over his shield, but each time as
he descended Ferdia caught him upon the shield and flung him off like a
little child into the Ford. And Laeg mocked him, crying: “He casts thee
off as a river flings its foam, he grinds thee as a millstone grinds a
corn of wheat; thou elf, never call thyself a warrior.”

Then at last Cuchulain’s frenzy came upon him, and he dilated giant-like,
till he overtopped Ferdia, and the hero-light blazed about his head. In
close contact the two were interlocked, whirling and trampling, while the
demons and goblins and unearthly things of the glens screamed from the
edges of their swords, and the waters of the Ford recoiled in terror from
them, so that for a while they fought on dry land in the midst of the
riverbed. And now Ferdia found Cuchulain a moment off his guard, and smote
him with the edge of the sword, and it sank deep into his flesh, and all
the river ran red with his blood. And he pressed Cuchulain sorely after
that, hewing and thrusting so that Cuchulain could endure it no longer,
and he shouted to Laeg to fling him the Gae Bolg. When Ferdia heard that
he lowered his shield to guard himself from below, and Cuchulain drove his
spear over the rim of the shield and through his breastplate into his
chest. And Ferdia raised his shield again, but in that moment Cuchulain
seized the Gae Bolg in his toes and drove it upward against Ferdia, and it
pierced through the iron apron and burst in three the millstone that
guarded him, and deep into his body it passed, so that every crevice and
cranny of him was filled with its barbs. “’Tis enough,” cried Ferdia; “I
have my death of that. It is an ill deed that I fall by thy hand, O
Cuchulain.” Cuchulain seized him as he fell, and carried him northward
across the Ford, that he might die on the further side of it, and not on
the side of the men of Erin. Then he laid him down, and a faintness seized
Cuchulain, and he was falling, when Laeg cried: “Rise up, Cuchulain, for
the host of Erin will be upon us. No single combat will they give after
Ferdia has fallen.” But Cuchulain said: “Why should I rise again, O my
servant, now he that lieth here has fallen by my hand?” and he fell in a
swoon like death. And the host of Maev with tumult and rejoicing, with
tossing of spears and shouting of war-songs, poured across the border into

But before they left the Ford they took the body of Ferdia and laid it in
a grave, and built a mound over him and set up a pillar-stone with his
name and lineage in Ogham. And from Ulster came certain of the friends of
Cuchulain, and they bore him away into Murthemney, where they washed him
and bathed his wounds in the streams, and his kin among the Danaan folk
cast magical herbs into the rivers for his healing. But he lay there in
weakness and in stupor for many days.

*The Rousing of Ulster*

Now Sualtam, the father of Cuchulain, had taken his son’s horse, the Grey
of Macha, and ridden off again to see if by any means he might rouse the
men of Ulster to defend the province. And he went crying abroad: “The men
of Ulster are being slain, the women carried captive, the kine driven!”
Yet they stared on him stupidly, as though they knew not of what he spake.
At last he came to Emania, and there were Cathbad the Druid and Conor the
King, and all their nobles and lords, and Sualtam cried aloud to them:
“The men of Ulster are being slain, the women carried captive, the kine
driven; and Cuchulain alone holds the gap of Ulster against the four
provinces of Erin. Arise and defend yourselves!” But Cathbad only said:
“Death were the due of him who thus disturbs the King”; and Conor said:
“Yet it is true what the man says”; and the lords of Ulster wagged their
heads and murmured: “True indeed it is.”

Then Sualtam wheeled round his horse in anger and was about to depart
when, with a start which the Grey made, his neck fell against the sharp
rim of the shield upon his back, and it shore off his head, and the head
fell on the ground. Yet still it cried its message as it lay, and at last
Conor bade put it on a pillar that it might be at rest. But it still went
on crying and exhorting, and at length into the clouded mind of the king
the truth began to penetrate, and the glazed eyes of the warriors began to
glow, and slowly the spell of Macha’s curse was lifted from their minds
and bodies. Then Conor arose and swore a mighty oath, saying: “The heavens
are above us and the earth beneath us, and the sea is round about us; and
surely, unless the heavens fall on us and the earth gape to swallow us up,
and the sea overwhelm the earth, I will restore every woman to her hearth,
and every cow to its byre.”(154) His Druid proclaimed that the hour was
propitious, and the king bade his messengers go forth on every side and
summon Ulster to arms, and he named to them warriors long dead as well as
the living, for the cloud of the curse still lingered in his brain.

With the curse now departed from them the men of Ulster flocked joyfully
to the summons, and on every hand there was grinding of spears and swords,
and buckling on of armour and harnessing of war-chariots for the
rising-out of the province.(155) One host came under Conor the King and
Keltchar, son of Uthecar Hornskin, from Emania southwards, and another
from the west along the very track of the host of Maev. And Conor’s host
fell upon eight score of the men of Erin in Meath, who were carrying away
a great booty of women-captives, and they slew every man of the eight
score and rescued the women. Maev and her host then fell back toward
Connacht, but when they reached Slemon Midi, the Hill of Slane, in Meath,
the Ulster bands joined each other there and prepared to give battle. Maev
sent her messenger mac Roth to view the Ulster host on the Plain of Garach
and report upon it. Mac Roth came back with an awe-striking description of
what he beheld. When he first looked he saw the plain covered with deer
and other wild beasts. These, explains Fergus, had been driven out of the
forests by the advancing host of the Ulster men. The second time mac Roth
looked he saw a mist that filled the valleys, the hill-tops standing above
it like islands. Out of the mist there came thunder and flashes of light,
and a wind that nearly threw him off his feet. “What is this?” asks Maev,
and Fergus tells her that the mist is the deep breathing of the warriors
as they march, and the light is the flashing of their eyes, and the
thunder is the clangour of their war-cars and the clash of their weapons
as they go to the fight: “They think they will never reach it,” says
Fergus. “We have warriors to meet them,” says Maev. “You will need that,”
says Fergus, “for in all Ireland, nay, in all the Western world, to Greece
and Scythia and the Tower of Bregon(156) and the Island of Gades, there
live not who can face the men of Ulster in their wrath.”

A long passage then follows describing the appearance and equipment of
each of the Ulster chiefs.

*The Battle of Garach*

The battle was joined on the Plain of Garach, in Meath. Fergus, wielding a
two-handed sword, the sword which, it was said, when swung in battle made
circles like the arch of a rainbow, swept down whole ranks of the Ulster
men at each blow,(157) and the fierce Maev charged thrice into the heart
of the enemy.

Fergus met Conor the King, and smote him on his golden-bordered shield,
but Cormac, the king’s son, begged for his father’s life. Fergus then
turned on Conall of the Victories.

“Too hot art thou,” said Conall, “against thy people and thy race for a
wanton.”(158) Fergus then turned from slaying the Ulstermen, but in his
battle-fury he smote among the hills with his rainbow-sword, and struck
off the tops of the three _Maela_ of Meath, so that they are flat-topped
(_mael_) to this day.

Cuchulain in his stupor heard the crash of Fergus’s blows, and coming
slowly to himself he asked of Laeg what it meant. “It is the sword-play of
Fergus,” said Laeg. Then he sprang up, and his body dilated so that the
wrappings and swathings that had been bound on him flew off, and he armed
himself and rushed into the battle. Here he met Fergus. “Turn hither,
Fergus,” he shouted; “I will wash thee as foam in a pool, I will go over
thee as the tail goes over a cat, I will smite thee as a mother smites her
infant.” “Who speaks thus to me?” cried Fergus. “Cuchulain mac Sualtam;
and now do thou avoid me as thou art pledged.”(159)

“I have promised even that,” said Fergus, and then went out of the battle,
and with him the men of Leinster and the men of Munster, leaving Maev with
her seven sons and the hosting of Connacht alone.

It was midday when Cuchulain came into the fight; when the evening sun was
shining through the leaves of the trees his war-chariot was but two wheels
and a handful of shattered ribs, and the host of Connacht was in full
flight towards the border. Cuchulain overtook Maev, who crouched under her
chariot and entreated grace. “I am not wont to slay women,” said
Cuchulain, and he protected her till she had crossed the Shannon at

*The Fight of the Bulls*

But the Brown Bull of Quelgny, that Maev had sent into Connacht by a
circuitous way, met the white-horned Bull of Ailell on the Plain of Aei,
and the two beasts fought; but the Brown Bull quickly slew the other, and
tossed his fragments about the land so that pieces of him were strewn from
Rathcroghan to Tara; and then careered madly about till he fell dead,
bellowing and vomiting black gore, at the Ridge of the Bull, between
Ulster and Iveagh. Ailell and Maev made peace with Ulster for seven years,
and the Ulster men returned home to Emain Macha with great glory.

Thus ends the “Tain Bo Cuailgnè,” or Cattle Raid of Quelgny; and it was
written out in the “Book of Leinster” in the year 1150 by the hand of Finn
mac Gorman, Bishop of Kildare, and at the end is written: “A blessing on
all such as faithfully shall recite the ‘Tain’ as it stands here, and
shall not give it in any other form.”

*Cuchulain in Fairyland*

One of the strangest tales in Celtic legend tells how Cuchulain, as he lay
asleep after hunting, against a pillar-stone, had a vision of two Danaan
women who came to him armed with rods and alternately beat him till he was
all but dead, and he could not lift a hand to defend himself. Next day,
and for a year thereafter, he lay in sore sickness, and none could heal

Then a man whom none knew came and told him to go to the pillar-stone
where he had seen the vision, and he would learn what was to be done for
his recovery. There he found a Danaan woman in a green mantle, one of
those who had chastised him, and she told him that Fand, the Pearl of
Beauty, wife of Mananan the Sea-god, had set her love on him; and she was
at enmity with her husband Mananan; and her realm was besieged by three
demon kings, against whom Cuchulain’s help was sought, and the price of
his help would be the love of Fand. Laeg, the charioteer, was then sent by
Cuchulain to report upon Fand and her message. He entered Fairyland, which
lies beyond a lake across which he passed in a magic boat of bronze, and
came home with a report of Fand’s surpassing beauty and the wonders of the
kingdom; and Cuchulain then betook himself thither. Here he had a battle
in a dense mist with the demons, who are described as resembling
sea-waves—no doubt we are to understand that they are the folk of the
angry husband, Mananan. Then he abode with Fand, enjoying all the delights
of Fairyland for a month, after which he bade her farewell, and appointed
a trysting-place on earth, the Strand of the Yew Tree, where she was to
meet him.

*Fand, Emer, and Cuchulain*

But Emer heard of the tryst; and though not commonly disturbed at
Cuchulain’s numerous infidelities, she came on this occasion with fifty of
her maidens armed with sharp knives to slay Fand. Cuchulain and Fand
perceive their chariots from afar, and the armed angry women with golden
clasps shining on their breasts, and he prepares to protect his mistress.
He addresses Emer in a curious poem, describing the beauty and skill and
magical powers of Fand—“There is nothing the spirit can wish for that she
has not got.” Emer replies: “In good sooth, the lady to whom thou dost
cling seems in no way better than I am, but the new is ever sweet and the
well-known is sour; thou hast all the wisdom of the time, Cuchulain! Once
we dwelled in honour together, and still might dwell if I could find
favour in thy sight.” “By my word thou dost,” said Cuchulain, “and shalt
find it so long as I live.”

“Give me up,” then said Fand. But Emer said: “Nay, it is more fitting that
I be the deserted one.” “Not so,” said Fand; “it is I who must go.” “And
an eagerness for lamentation seized upon Fand, and her soul was great
within her, for it was shame for her to be deserted and straightway to
return to her home; moreover, the mighty love that she bore to Cuchulain
was tumultuous in her.”(160)

But Mananan, the Son of the Sea, knew of her sorrow and her shame, and he
came to her aid, none seeing him but she alone, and she welcomed him in a
mystic song. “Wilt thou return to me?” said Mananan, “or abide with
Cuchulain?” “In truth,” said Fand, “neither of ye is better or nobler than
the other, but I will go with thee, Mananan, for thou hast no other mate
worthy of thee, but that Cuchulain has in Emer.”

So she went to Mananan, and Cuchulain, who did not see the god, asked Laeg
what was happening. “Fand,” he replied, “is going away with the Son of the
Sea, since she hath not been pleasing in thy sight.”

Then Cuchulain bounded into the air and fled from the place, and lay a
long time refusing meat and drink, until at last the Druids gave him a
draught of forgetfulness; and Mananan, it is said, shook his cloak between
Cuchulain and Fand, so that they might meet no more throughout

*The Vengeance of Maev*

Though Maev made peace with Ulster after the battle of Garech she vowed
the death of Cuchulain for all the shame and loss he had brought upon her
and on her province, and she sought how she might take her vengeance upon

Now the wife of the wizard Calatin, whom Cuchulain slew at the Ford,
brought forth, after her husband’s death, six children at a birth, namely,
three sons and three daughters. Misshapen, hideous, poisonous, born for
evil were they; and Maev, hearing of these, sent them to learn the arts of
magic, not in Ireland only, but in Alba; and even as far as Babylon they
went to seek for hidden knowledge, and they came back mighty in their
craft, and she loosed them against Cuchulain.

*Cuchulain and Blanid*

Besides the Clan Calatin, Cuchulain had also other foes, namely Ere, the
King of Ireland, son to Cairpre, whom Cuchulain had slain in battle, and
Lewy son of Curoi, King of Munster.(162) For Curoi’s wife, Blanid, had set
her love on Cuchulain, and she bade him come and take her from Curoi’s
dūn, and watch his time to attack the dūn, when he would see the stream
that flowed from it turn white. So Cuchulain and his men waited in a wood
hard by till Blanid judged that the time was fit, and she then poured into
the stream the milk of three cows. Then Cuchulain attacked the dūn, and
took it by surprise, and slew Curoi, and bore away the woman. But
Fercartna, the bard of Curoi, went with them and showed no sign, till,
finding himself near Blanid as she stood near the cliff-edge of Beara, he
flung his arms round her, and leaped with her over the cliff, and so they
perished, and Curoi was avenged upon his wife.

All these now did Maev by secret messages and by taunts and exhortations
arouse against Cuchulain, and they waited till they heard that the curse
of Macha was again heavy on the men of Ulster, and then they assembled a
host and marched to the Plain of Murthemney.

*The Madness of Cuchulain*

And first the Children of Calatin caused a horror and a despondency to
fall upon the mind of Cuchulain, and out of the hooded thistles and
puff-balls and fluttering leaves of the forest they made the semblance of
armed battalions marching against Murthemney, and Cuchulain seemed to see
on every side the smoke of burning dwellings going up. And for two days he
did battle with the phantoms till he was sick and wearied out. Then
Cathbad and the men of Ulster persuaded him to retire to a solitary glen,
where fifty of the princesses of Ulster, and among them Niam, wife of his
faithful friend Conall of the Victories, tended him, and Niam made him vow
that he would not leave the dūn where he was until she gave him leave.

But still the Children of Calatin filled the land with apparitions of war,
and smoke and flames went up, and wild cries and wailings with chattering,
goblin laughter and the braying of trumpets and horns were borne upon the
winds. And Bave, Calatin’s daughter, went into the glen, and, taking the
form of a handmaid of Niam, she beckoned her away and led her to a
distance among the woods and put a spell of straying on her so that she
was lost and could find her way home no more. Bave then went in the form
of Niam to Cuchulain and bade him up and rescue Ulster from the hosts that
were harrying it, and the Morrigan came in the form of a great crow where
Cuchulain sat with the women, and croaked of war and slaughter. Then
Cuchulain sprang up and called Laeg to harness his chariot. But when Laeg
sought for the Grey of Macha to harness him, the horse fled from him, and
resisted, and only with great difficulty could Laeg yoke him in the
chariot, while large tears of dark blood trickled down his face.

Then Cuchulain, having armed himself, drove forth; and on every side
shapes and sounds of dread assailed him and clouded his mind, and then it
appeared to him that he saw a great smoke, lit with bursts of red flame,
over the ramparts of Emain Macha, and he thought he saw the corpse of Emer
tossed out over the ramparts. But when he came to his dūn at Murthemney,
there was Emer living, and she entreated him to leave the phantoms alone,
but he would not listen to her, and he bade her farewell. Then he bade
farewell to his mother Dectera, and she gave him a goblet of wine to
drink, but ere he could drink it the wine turned to blood, and he flung it
away, saying, “My life’s end is near; this time I shall not return alive
from the battle.” And Dectera and Cathbad besought him to await the coming
of Conall of the Victories, who was away on a journey, but he would not.

*The Washer at the Ford*

When he came to the ford upon the plain of Emania he saw there kneeling by
the stream as it were a young maiden, weeping and wailing, and she washed
a heap of bloody raiment and warlike arms in the stream, and when she
raised a dripping vest or corselet from the water Cuchulain saw that they
were his own. And as they crossed the ford she vanished from their

*Clan Calatin Again*

Then, having taken his leave of Conor and of the womenfolk in Emania, he
turned again towards Murthemney and the foe. But on his way he saw by the
roadside three old crones, each blind of one eye, hideous and wretched,
and they had made a little fire of sticks, and over it they were roasting
a dead dog on spits of rowan wood. As Cuchulain passed they called to him
to alight and stay with them and share their food. “That will I not, in
sooth,” said he. “Had we a great feast,” they said, “thou wouldst soon
have stayed; it doth not become the great to despise the small.” Then
Cuchulain, because he would not be thought discourteous to the wretched,
lighted down, and he took a piece of the roast and ate it, and the hand
with which he took it was stricken up to the shoulder so that its former
strength was gone. For it was _geis_ to Cuchulain to approach a cooking
hearth and take food from it, and it was _geis_ to him to eat of his

*Death of Cuchulain*

Near to Slieve Fuad, south of Armagh, Cuchulain found the host of his
enemies, and drove furiously against them, plying the champion’s
“thunder-feat” upon them until the plain was strewn with their dead. Then
a satirist, urged on by Lewy, came near him and demanded his spear.(165)
“Have it, then,” said Cuchulain, and flung it at him with such force that
it went clean through him and killed nine men beyond. “A king will fall by
that spear,” said the Children of Calatin to Lewy, and Lewy seized it and
flung it at Cuchulain, but it smote Laeg, the king of charioteers, so that
his bowels fell out on the cushions of the chariot, and he bade farewell
to his master and he died.

Then another satirist demanded the spear, and Cuchulain said: “I am not
bound to grant more than one request on one day.” But the satirist said:
“Then I will revile Ulster for thy default,” and Cuchulain flung him the
spear as before, and Ere now got it, and this time in flying back it
struck the Grey of Macha with a mortal wound. Cuchulain drew out the spear
from the horse’s side, and they bade each other farewell, and the Grey
galloped away with half the yoke hanging to its neck.

And a third time Cuchulain flung the spear to a satirist, and Lewy took it
again and flung it back, and it struck Cuchulain, and his bowels fell out
in the chariot, and the remaining horse, Black Sainglend, broke away and
left him.

“I would fain go as far as to that loch-side to drink,” said Cuchulain,
knowing the end was come, and they suffered him to go when he had promised
to return to them again. So he gathered up his bowels into his breast and
went to the loch-side, and drank, and bathed himself, and came forth again
to die. Now there was close by a tall pillar-stone that stood westwards of
the loch, and he went up to it and slung his girdle over it and round his
breast, so that he might die in his standing and not in his lying down;
and his blood ran down in a little stream into the loch, and an otter came
out of the loch and lapped it. And the host gathered round, but feared to
approach him while the life was still in him, and the hero-light shone
above his brow. Then came the Grey of Macha to protect him, scattering his
foes with biting and kicking.

And then came a crow and settled on his shoulder.

Lewy, when he saw this, drew near and pulled the hair of Cuchulain to one
side over his shoulder, and with his sword he smote off his head; and the
sword fell from Cuchulain’s hand, and smote off the hand of Lewy as it
fell. They took the hand of Cuchulain in revenge for this, and bore the
head and hand south to Tara, and there buried them, and over them they
raised a mound. But Conall of the Victories, hastening to Cuchulain’s side
on the news of the war, met the Grey of Macha streaming with blood, and
together they went to the loch-side and saw him headless and bound to the
pillar-stone, and the horse came and laid its head on his breast. Conall
drove southwards to avenge Cuchulain, and he came on Lewy by the river
Liffey, and because Lewy had but one hand Conall tied one of his behind
his back, and for half the day they fought, but neither could prevail.
Then came Conall’s horse, the Dewy-Red, and tore a piece out of Lewy’s
side, and Conall slew him, and took his head, and returned to Emain Macha.
But they made no show of triumph in entering the city, for Cuchulain the
Hound of Ulster was no more.

*The Recovery of the Tain*

The history of the “Tain,” or Cattle Raid, of Quelgny was traditionally
supposed to have been written by no other than Fergus mac Roy, but for a
long time the great lay or saga was lost. It was believed to have been
written out in Ogham characters on staves of wood, which a bard who
possessed them had taken with him into Italy, whence they never returned.

The recovery of the “Tain” was the subject of a number of legends which
Sir S. Ferguson, in his “Lays of the Western Gael,” has combined in a poem
of so much power, so much insight into the spirit of Gaelic myth, that I
venture to reproduce much of it here in telling this singular and
beautiful story. It is said that after the loss of the “Tain” Sanchan
Torpest, chief bard of Ireland, was once taunted at a feast by the High
King Guary on his inability to recite the most famous and splendid of
Gaelic poems. This touched the bard to the quick, and he resolved to
recover the lost treasure. Far and wide through Erin and through Alba he
searched for traces of the lay, but could only recover scattered
fragments. He would have conjured up by magic arts the spirit of Fergus to
teach it to him, even at the cost of his own life—for such, it seems,
would have been the price demanded for the intervention and help of the
dead—but the place of Fergus’s grave, where the spells must be said, could
not be discovered. At last Sanchan sent his son Murgen with his younger
brother Eimena to journey to Italy and endeavour to discover there the
fate of the staff-book. The brothers set off on their journey.

“Eastward, breadthwise, over Erin straightway travell’d forth the twain,
 Till with many days’ wayfaring Murgen fainted by Loch Ein:

 ‘Dear my brother, thou art weary: I for present aid am flown:
 Thou for my returning tarry here beside this Standing Stone.’

“Shone the sunset red and solemn: Murgen,where he leant,observed
 Down the corners of the column letter-strokes of Ogham carved.
 ‘’Tis, belike, a burial pillar,’ said he, ‘and these shallow lines
 Hold some warrior’s name of valour, could I rightly spell the signs.’

“Letter then by letter tracing, soft he breathed the sound of each;
 Sound and sound then interlacing, lo, the signs took form of speech;
 And with joy and wonder mainly thrilling, part a-thrill with fear,
 Murgen read the legend plainly, ‘FERGUS SON OF ROY IS HERE.’ ”

Murgen then, though he knew the penalty, appealed to Fergus to pity a
son’s distress, and vowed, for the sake of the recovery of the “Tain,” to
give his life, and abandon his kin and friends and the maiden he loves, so
that his father might no more be shamed. But Fergus gave no sign, and
Murgen tried another plea:

“Still he stirs not. Love of women thou regard’st not, Fergus, now:
 Love of children, instincts human, care for these no more hast thou:
 Wider comprehension, deeper insights to the dead belong:—
 Since for Love thou wak’st not, Sleeper, yet awake for sake of Song.

“ ‘Thou, the first in rhythmic cadence dressing life’s discordant tale,
 Wars of chiefs and loves of maidens, gavest the Poem to the Gael;
 Now they’ve lost their noblest measure, and in dark days hard at hand,
 Song shall be the only treasure left them in their native land.’

“Fergus rose. A mist ascended with him, and a flash was seen
 As of brazen sandals blended with a mantle’s wafture green;
 But so thick the cloud closed o’er him, Eimena, return’d at last,
 Found not on the field before him but a mist-heap grey and vast.

“Thrice to pierce the hoar recesses faithful Eimena essay’d;
 Thrice through foggy wildernesses back to open air he stray’d;
 Till a deep voice through the vapours fill’d the twilight far and near
 And the Night her starry tapers kindling, stoop’d from heaven to hear.

“Seem’d as though the skiey Shepherd back to earth had cast the fleece
 Envying gods of old caught upward from the darkening shrines of Greece;
 So the white mists curl’d and glisten’d, to from heaven’s expanses bare,
 Stars enlarging lean’d and listen’d down the emptied depths of air.

“All night long by mists surrounded Murgen lay in vapoury bars;
 All night long the deep voice sounded ’neath the keen, enlarging stars:
 But when, on the orient verges, stars grew dim and mists retired,
 Rising by the stone of Fergus, Murgen stood a man inspired.

“ ‘Back to Sanchan!—Father, hasten, ere the hour of power be past,
 Ask not how obtain’d but listen to the lost lay found at last!’
 ‘Yea, these words have tramp of heroes in them; and the marching rhyme
 Rolls the voices of the eras down the echoing steeps of Time.’

“Not till all was thrice related, thrice recital full essay’d,
 Sad and shamefaced, worn and faded, Murgen sought the faithful maid.
 ‘Ah, so haggard; ah, so altered; thou in life and love so strong!’
 ‘Dearly purchased,’ Murgen falter’d, ‘life and love I’ve sold for song!’

“ ‘Woe is me, the losing bargain! what can song the dead avail?’
 ‘Fame immortal,’ murmur’d Murgen, ‘long as lay delights the Gael.’
 ‘Fame, alas! the price thou chargest not repays one virgin tear.’
 ‘Yet the proud revenge I’ve purchased for my sire, I deem not dear.’

“ ‘So,again to Gort the splendid, when the drinking boards were spread,
 Sanchan, as of old attended, came and sat at table-head.
 ‘Bear the cup to Sanchan Torpest: twin gold goblets, Bard, are thine,
 If with voice and string thou harpest, _Tain-Bo-Cuailgne_, line for

“ ‘Yea, with voice and string I’ll chant it. Murgen to his father’s knee
 Set the harp: no prelude wanted, Sanchan struck the master key,
 And, as bursts the brimful river all at once from caves of Cong,
 Forth at once, and once for ever, leap’d the torrent of the song.

“Floating on a brimful torrent, men go down and banks go by:
Caught adown the lyric current, Guary, captured, ear and eye,
Heard no more the courtiers jeering, saw no more the walls of Gort,
Creeve Roe’s(166) meads instead appearing, and Emania’s royal fort.

“Vision chasing splendid vision, Sanchan roll’d the rhythmic scene;
They that mock’d in lewd derision now, at gaze, with wondering mien
Sate, and, as the glorying master sway’d the tightening reins of song,
Felt emotion’s pulses faster—fancies faster bound along.

“Pity dawn’d on savage faces, when for love of captive Crunn,
Macha, in the ransom-races, girt her gravid loins, to run
’Gainst the fleet Ultonian horses; and, when Deirdra on the road
Headlong dash’d her ’mid the corses, brimming eyelids overflow’d.

“Light of manhood’s generous ardour, under brows relaxing shone,
When, mid-ford, on Uladh’s border, young Cuchullin stood alone,
Maev and all her hosts withstanding:— ‘Now, for love of knightly play,
Yield the youth his soul’s demanding; let the hosts their marchings stay,

“’Till the death he craves be given; and, upon his burial stone
Champion-praises duly graven, make his name and glory known;
For, in speech-containing token, age to ages never gave
Salutation better spoken, than, “Behold a hero’s grave.”’

“What, another and another, and he still or combat calls?
Ah, the lot on thee, his brother sworn in arms, Ferdia, falls;
And the hall with wild applauses sobb’d like woman ere they wist,
When the champions in the pauses of the deadly combat kiss’d.

“Now, for love of land and cattle, while Cuchullin in the fords
Stays the march of Connaught’s battle, ride and rouse the Northern Lords;
Swift as angry eagles wing them toward the plunder’d eyrie’s call,
Thronging from Dun Dealga bring them, bring them from the Red Branch hall!

“Heard ye not the tramp of armies? Hark! amid the sudden gloom,
’Twas the stroke of Conall’s war-mace sounded through the startled room;
And, while still the hall grew darker, king and courtier chill’d with
Heard the rattling of the war-car of Cuchullin overhead.

“Half in wonder, half in terror, loth to stay and loth to fly,
Seem’d to each beglamour’d hearer shades of kings went thronging by:
But the troubled joy of wonder merged at last in mastering fear,
As they heard through pealing thunder, ‘FERGUS SON OF ROY IS HERE!’

“Brazen-sandall’d, vapour-shrouded, moving in an icy blast,
Through the doorway terror-crowded, up the tables Fergus pass’d:—
‘Stay thy hand, oh harper, pardon! cease the wild unearthly lay!
Murgen, bear thy sire his guerdon.’ Murgen sat, a shape of clay.

“ ‘Bear him on his bier beside me: never more in halls of Gort
Shall a niggard king deride me: slaves, of Sanchan make their sport!
But because the maiden’s yearnings needs must also be condoled,
Hers shall be the dear-bought earnings, hers the twin-bright cups of

“ ‘Cups,’ she cried, ‘of bitter drinking, fling them far as arm can
Let them in the ocean sinking, out of sight and memory go!
Let the joinings of the rhythm, let the links of sense and sound
Of the _Tain-Bo_ perish with them, lost as though they’d ne’er been

“So it comes, the lay, recover’d once at such a deadly cost,
Ere one full recital suffer’d, once again is all but lost:
For, the maiden’s malediction still with many a blemish-stain
Clings in coarser garb of fiction round the fragments that remain.”

*The Phantom Chariot of Cuchulain*

Cuchulain, however, makes an impressive reappearance in a much later
legend of Christian origin, found in the twelfth-century “Book of the Dun
Cow.” He was summoned from Hell, we are told, by St. Patrick to prove the
truths of Christianity and the horrors of damnation to the pagan monarch,
Laery mac Neill, King of Ireland. Laery, with St. Benen, a companion of
Patrick, are standing on the Plain of mac Indoc when a blast of icy wind
nearly takes them off their feet. It is the wind of Hell, Benen explains,
after its opening before Cuchulain. Then a dense mist covers the plain,
and anon a huge phantom chariot with galloping horses, a grey and a black,
loom up through the mist. Within it are the famous two, Cuchulain and his
charioteer, giant figures, armed with all the splendour of the Gaelic

Cuchulain then talks to Laery, and urges him to “believe in God and in
holy Patrick, for it is not a demon that has come to thee, but Cuchulain
son of Sualtam.” To prove his identity he recounts his famous deeds of
arms, and ends by a piteous description of his present state:

“What I suffered of trouble,
 O Laery, by sea and land—
 Yet more severe was a single night
 When the demon was wrathful!
 Great as was my heroism,
 Hard as was my sword,
 The devil crushed me with one finger
 Into the red charcoal!”

He ends by beseeching Patrick that heaven may be granted to him, and the
legend tells that the prayer was granted and that Laery believed.

*Death of Conor mac Nessa*

Christian ideas have also gathered round the end of Cuchulain’s lord, King
Conor of Ulster. The manner of his death was as follows: An unjust and
cruel attack had been made by him on Mesgedra, King of Leinster, in which
that monarch met his death at the hand of Conall of the Victories.(167)
Conall took out the brains of the dead king and mingled them with lime to
make a sling-stone—such “brain balls,” as they were called, being
accounted the most deadly of missiles. This ball was laid up in the king’s
treasure-house at Emain Macha, where the Connacht champion, Ket son of
Maga, found it one day when prowling in disguise through Ulster. Ket took
it away and kept it always by him. Not long thereafter the Connacht men
took a spoil of cattle from Ulster, and the Ulster men, under Conor,
overtook them at a river-ford still called Athnurchar (The Ford of the
Sling-cast), in Westmeath. A battle was imminent, and many of the ladies
of Connacht came to their side of the river to view the famous Ultonian
warriors, and especially Conor, the stateliest man of his time. Conor was
willing to show himself, and seeing none but women on the other bank he
drew near them; but Ket, who was lurking in ambush, now rose and slung the
brain-ball at Conor, striking him full in the forehead. Conor fell, and
was carried off by his routed followers. When they got him home, still
living, to Emain Macha, his physician, Fingen, pronounced that if the ball
were extracted from his head he must die; it was accordingly sewn up with
golden thread, and the king was bidden to keep himself from horse-riding
and from all vehement passion and exertion, and he would do well.

Seven years afterwards Conor saw the sun darken at noonday, and he
summoned his Druid to tell him the cause of the portent. The Druid, in a
magic trance, tells him of a hill in a distant land on which stand three
crosses with a human form nailed to each of them, and one of them is like
the Immortals. “Is he a malefactor?” then asks Conor. “Nay,” says the
Druid, “but the Son of the living God,” and he relates to the king the
story of the death of Christ. Conor breaks out in fury, and drawing his
sword he hacks at the oak-trees in the sacred grove, crying, “Thus would I
deal with his enemies,” when with the excitement and exertion the
brain-ball bursts from his head, and he falls dead. And thus was the
vengeance of Mesgedra fulfilled. With Conor and with Cuchulain the glory
of the Red Branch and the dominance of Ulster passed away. The next, or
Ossianic, cycle of Irish legend brings upon the scene different
characters, different physical surroundings, and altogether different
ideals of life.

*Ket and the Boar of mac Datho*

The Connacht champion Ket, whose main exploit was the wounding of King
Conor at Ardnurchar, figures also in a very dramatic tale entitled “The
Carving of mac Datho’s Boar.” The story runs as follows:

Once upon a time there dwelt in the province of Leinster a wealthy
hospitable lord named Mesroda, son of Datho. Two possessions had he;
namely, a hound which could outrun every other hound and every wild beast
in Erin, and a boar which was the finest and greatest in size that man had
ever beheld.

Now the fame of this hound was noised all about the land, and many were
the princes and lords who longed to possess it. And it came to pass that
Conor King of Ulster and Maev Queen of Connacht sent messengers to mac
Datho to ask him to sell them the hound for a price, and both the
messengers arrived at the dūn of mac Datho on the same day. Said the
Connacht messenger: “We will give thee in exchange for the hound six
hundred milch cows, and a chariot with two horses, the best that are to be
found in Connacht, and at the end of a year thou shalt have as much
again.” And the messenger of King Conor said: “We will give no less than
Connacht, and the friendship and alliance of Ulster, and that will be
better for thee than the friendship of Connacht.”

Then Mesroda mac Datho fell silent, and for three days he would not eat or
drink, nor could he sleep o’ nights, but tossed restlessly on his bed. His
wife observed his condition, and said to him: “Thy fast hath been long,
Mesroda, though good food is by thee in plenty; and at night thou turnest
thy face to the wall, and well I know thou dost not sleep. What is the
cause of thy trouble?”

“There is a saying,” replied Mac Datho, “’Trust not a thrall with money,
nor a woman with a secret.’”

“When should a man talk to a woman,” said his wife, “but when something
were amiss? What thy mind cannot solve perchance another’s may.”

Then mac Datho told his wife of the request for his hound both from Ulster
and from Connacht at one and the same time. “And whichever of them I
deny,” he said, “they will harry my cattle and slay my people.”

“Then hear my counsel,” said the woman. “Give it to both of them, and bid
them come and fetch it; and if there be any harrying to be done, let them
even harry each other; but in no way mayest thou keep the hound.”

Mac Datho followed this wise counsel, and bade both Ulster and Connacht to
a great feast on the same day, saying to each of them that they could have
the hound afterwards.

So on the appointed day Conor of Ulster, and Maev, and their retinues of
princes and mighty men assembled at the dūn of mac Datho. There they found
a great feast set forth, and to provide the chief dish mac Datho had
killed his famous boar, a beast of enormous size. The question now arose
as to who should have the honourable task of carving it, and Bricriu of
the Poisoned Tongue characteristically, for the sake of the strife which
he loved, suggested that the warriors of Ulster and Connacht should
compare their principal deeds of arms, and give the carving of the boar to
him who seemed to have done best in the border-fighting which was always
going on between the provinces. After much bandying of words and of taunts
Ket son of Maga arises and stands over the boar, knife in hand,
challenging each of the Ulster lords to match his deeds of valour. One
after another they arise, Cuscrid son of Conor, Keltchar, Moonremur, Laery
the Triumphant, and others—Cuchulain is not introduced in this story—and
in each case Ket has some biting tale to tell of an encounter in which he
has come off better than they, and one by one they sit down shamed and
silenced. At last a shout of welcome is heard at the door of the hall and
the Ulstermen grow jubilant: Conall of the Victories has appeared on the
scene. He strides up to the boar, and Ket and he greet each other with
chivalrous courtesy:

“And now welcome to thee, O Conall, thou of the iron heart and fiery
blood; keen as the glitter of ice, ever-victorious chieftain; hail, mighty
son of Finnchoom!” said Ket.

And Conall said: “Hail to thee, Ket, flower of heroes, lord of chariots, a
raging sea in battle; a strong, majestic bull; hail, son of Maga!”

“And now,” went on Conall, “rise up from the boar and give me place.”

“Why so?” replied Ket.

“Dost thou seek a contest from me?” said Conall. “Verily thou shalt have
it. By the gods of my nation I swear that since I first took weapons in my
hand I have never passed one day that I did not slay a Connacht man, nor
one night that I did not make a foray on them, nor have I ever slept but I
had the head of a Connacht man under my knee.”

“I confess,” then said Ket, “that thou art a better man than I, and I
yield thee the boar. But if Anluan my brother were here, he would match
thee deed for deed, and sorrow and shame it is that he is not.”

“Anluan is here,” shouted Conall, and with that he drew from his girdle
the head of Anluan and dashed it in the face of Ket.

Then all sprang to their feet and a wild shouting and tumult arose, and
the swords flew out of themselves, and battle raged in the hall of mac
Datho. Soon the hosts burst out through the doors of the dūn and smote and
slew each other in the open field, until the Connacht host were put to
flight. The hound of mac Datho pursued the chariot of King Ailell of
Connacht till the charioteer smote off its head, and so the cause of
contention was won by neither party, and mac Datho lost his hound, but
saved his lands and life.

*The Death of Ket*

The death of Ket is told in Keating’s “History of Ireland.” Returning from
a foray in Ulster, he was overtaken by Conall at the place called the Ford
of Ket, and they fought long and desperately. At last Ket was slain, but
Conall of the Victories was in little better case, and lay bleeding to
death when another Connacht champion named Beälcu(168) found him. “Kill
me,” said Conall to him, “that it be not said I fell at the hand of _one_
Connacht man.” But Beälcu said: “I will not slay a man at the point of
death, but I will bring thee home and heal thee, and when thy strength is
come again thou shalt fight with me in single combat.” Then Beälcu put
Conall on a litter and brought him home, and had him tended till his
wounds were healed.

The three sons of Beälcu, however, when they saw what the Ulster champion
was like in all his might, resolved to assassinate him before the combat
should take place. By a stratagem Conall contrived that they slew their
own father instead; and then, taking the heads of the three sons, he went
back, victoriously as he was wont, to Ulster.

*The Death of Maev*

The tale of the death of Queen Maev is also preserved by Keating. Fergus
mac Roy having been slain by Ailell with a cast of a spear as he bathed in
a lake with Maev, and Ailell having been slain by Conall, Maev retired to
an island(169) on Loch Ryve, where she was wont to bathe early every
morning in a pool near to the landing-place. Forbay son of Conor mac
Nessa, having discovered this habit of the queen’s, found means one day to
go unperceived to the pool and to measure the distance from it to the
shore of the mainland. Then he went back to Emania, where he measured out
the distance thus obtained, and placing an apple on a pole at one end he
shot at it continually with a sling until he grew so good a marksman at
that distance that he never missed his aim. Then one day, watching his
opportunity by the shores of Loch Ryve, he saw Maev enter the water, and
putting a bullet in his sling he shot at her with so good an aim that he
smote her in the centre of the forehead and she fell dead.

The great warrior-queen had reigned in Connacht, it was said, for
eighty-eight years. She is a signal example of the kind of women whom the
Gaelic bards delighted to portray. Gentleness and modesty were by no means
their usual characteristics, but rather a fierce overflowing life.
Women-warriors like Skatha and Aifa are frequently met with, and one is
reminded of the Gaulish women, with their mighty snow-white arms, so
dangerous to provoke, of whom classical writers tell us. The Gaelic bards,
who in so many ways anticipated the ideas of chivalric romance, did not do
so in setting women in a place apart from men. Women were judged and
treated like men, neither as drudges nor as goddesses, and we know that
well into historic times they went with men into battle, a practice only
ended in the sixth century.

*Fergus mac Leda and the Wee Folk*

Of the stories of the Ultonian Cycle which do not centre on the figure of
Cuchulain, one of the most interesting is that of Fergus mac Leda and the
King of the Wee Folk. In this tale Fergus appears as King of Ulster, but
as he was contemporary with Conor mac Nessa, and in the Cattle Raid of
Quelgny is represented as following him to war, we must conclude that he
was really a sub-king, like Cuchulain or Owen of Ferney.

The tale opens in Faylinn, or the Land of the Wee Folk, a race of elves
presenting an amusing parody of human institutions on a reduced scale, but
endowed (like dwarfish people generally in the literature of primitive
races) with magical powers. Iubdan,(170) the King of Faylinn, when flushed
with wine at a feast, is bragging of the greatness of his power and the
invincibility of his armed forces—have they not the strong man Glower, who
with his axe has been known to hew down a thistle at a stroke? But the
king’s bard, Eisirt, has heard something of a giant race oversea in a land
called Ulster, one man of whom would annihilate a whole battalion of the
Wee Folk, and he incautiously allows himself to hint as much to the
boastful monarch. He is immediately clapped into prison for his audacity,
and only gets free by promising to go immediately to the land of the
mighty men, and bring back evidence of the truth of his incredible story.

So off he goes; and one fine day King Fergus and his lords find at the
gate of their Dūn a tiny little fellow magnificently clad in the robes of
a royal bard, who demands entrance. He is borne in upon the hand of Æda,
the king’s dwarf and bard, and after charming the court by his wise and
witty sayings, and receiving a noble largesse, which he at once
distributes among the poets and other court attendants of Ulster, he goes
off home, taking with him as a guest the dwarf Æda, before whom the Wee
Folk fly as a “Fomorian giant,” although, as Eisirt explains, the average
man of Ulster can carry him like a child. Iubdan is now convinced, but
Eisirt puts him under _geise_, the bond of chivalry which no Irish
chieftain can repudiate without being shamed, to go himself, as Eisirt has
done, to the palace of Fergus and taste the king’s porridge. Iubdan, after
he has seen Æda, is much dismayed, but he prepares to go, and bids Bebo,
his wife, accompany him. “You did an ill deed,” she says, “when you
condemned Eisirt to prison; but surely there is no man under the sun that
can make thee hear reason.”

So off they go, and Iubdan’s fairy steed bears them over the sea till they
reach Ulster, and by midnight they stand before the king’s palace. “Let us
taste the porridge as we were bound,” says Bebo, “and make off before
daybreak.” They steal in and find the porridge-pot, to the rim of which
Iubdan can only reach by standing on his horse’s back. In straining
downwards to get at the porridge he overbalances himself and falls in.
There in the thick porridge he sticks fast, and there Fergus’s scullions
find him at the break of day, with the faithful Bebo lamenting. They bear
him off to Fergus, who is amazed at finding another wee man, with a woman
too, in his palace. He treats them hospitably, but refuses all appeals to
let them go. The story now recounts in a spirit of broad humour several
Rabelaisian adventures in which Bebo is concerned, and gives a charming
poem supposed to have been uttered by Iubdan in the form of advice to
Fergus’s fire-gillie as to the merits for burning of different kinds of
timber. The following are extracts:

    “Burn not the sweet apple-tree of drooping branches, of the white
    blossoms, to whose gracious head each man puts forth his hand.”

    “Burn not the noble willow, the unfailing ornament of poems; bees
    drink from its blossoms, all delight in the graceful tent.”

    “The delicate, airy tree of the Druids, the rowan with its
    berries, this burn; but avoid the weak tree, burn not the slender

    “The ash-tree of the black buds burn not—timber that speeds the
    wheel, that yields the rider his switch; the ashen spear is the
    scale-beam of battle.”

At last the Wee Folk come in a great multitude to beg the release of
Iubdan. On the king’s refusal they visit the country with various plagues,
snipping off the ears of corn, letting the calves suck all the cows dry,
defiling the wells, and so forth; but Fergus is obdurate. In their quality
as earth-gods, _dei terreni_, they promise to make the plains before the
palace of Fergus stand thick with corn every year without ploughing or
sowing, but all is vain. At last, however, Fergus agrees to ransom Iubdan
against the best of his fairy treasures, so Iubdan recounts them—the
cauldron that can never be emptied, the harp that plays of itself; and
finally he mentions a pair of water-shoes, wearing which a man can go over
or under water as freely as on dry land. Fergus accepts the shoes, and
Iubdan is released.

*The Blemish of Fergus*

But it is hard for a mortal to get the better of Fairyland—a touch of
hidden malice lurks in magical gifts, and so it proved now. Fergus was
never tired of exploring the depths of the lakes and rivers of Ireland;
but one day, in Loch Rury, he met with a hideous monster, the _Muirdris_,
or river-horse, which inhabited that lake, and from which he barely saved
himself by flying to the shore. With the terror of this encounter his face
was twisted awry; but since a blemished man could not hold rule in
Ireland, his queen and nobles took pains, on some pretext, to banish all
mirrors from the palace, and kept the knowledge of his condition from him.
One day, however, he smote a bondmaid with a switch, for some negligence,
and the maid, indignant, cried out: “It were better for thee, Fergus, to
avenge thyself on the river-horse that hath twisted thy face than to do
brave deeds on women!” Fergus bade fetch him a mirror, and looked in it.
“It is true,” he said; “the river-horse of Loch Rury has done this thing.”

*Death of Fergus*

The conclusion may be given in the words of Sir Samuel Ferguson’s fine
poem on this theme. Fergus donned the magic shoes, took sword in hand, and
went to Loch Rury:

                 “For a day and night
Beneath the waves he rested out of sight,
But all the Ultonians on the bank who stood
Saw the loch boil and redden with his blood.
When next at sunrise skies grew also red
He rose—and in his hand the _Muirdris_’ head.
Gone was the blemish! On his goodly face
Each trait symmetric had resumed its place:
And they who saw him marked in all his mien
A king’s composure, ample and serene.
He smiled; he cast his trophy to the bank,
Said, ’I, survivor, Ulstermen!’ and sank."

This fine tale has been published in full from an Egerton MS., by Mr.
Standish Hayes O’Grady, in his “Silva Gadelica.” The humorous treatment of
the fairy element in the story would mark it as belonging to a late period
of Irish legend, but the tragic and noble conclusion unmistakably signs it
as belonging to the Ulster bardic literature, and it falls within the same
order of ideas, if it were not composed within the same period, as the
tales of Cuchulain.

*Significance of Irish Place-Names*

Before leaving this great cycle of legendary literature let us notice what
has already, perhaps, attracted the attention of some readers—the extent
to which its chief characters and episodes have been commemorated in the
still surviving place-names of the country.(171) This is true of Irish
legend in general—it is especially so of the Ultonian Cycle. Faithfully
indeed, through many a century of darkness and forgetting, have these
names pointed to the hidden treasures of heroic romance which the labours
of our own day are now restoring to light. The name of the little town of
Ardee, as we have seen,(172) commemorates the tragic death of Ferdia at
the hand of his “heart companion,” the noblest hero of the Gael. The ruins
of Dūn Baruch, where Fergus was bidden to the treacherous feast, still
look over the waters of Moyle, across which Naisi and Deirdre sailed to
their doom. Ardnurchar, the Hill of the Sling-cast, in Westmeath,(173)
brings to mind the story of the stately monarch, the crowd of gazing
women, and the crouching enemy with the deadly missile which bore the
vengeance of Mesgedra. The name of Armagh, or Ard Macha, the Hill of
Macha, enshrines the memory of the Fairy Bride and her heroic sacrifice,
while the grassy rampart can still be traced where the war-goddess in the
earlier legend drew its outline with the pin of her brooch when she
founded the royal fortress of Ulster. Many pages might be filled with
these instances. Perhaps no modern country has place-names so charged with
legendary associations as are those of Ireland. Poetry and myth are there
still closely wedded to the very soil of the land—a fact in which there
lies ready to hand an agency for education, for inspiration, of the
noblest kind, if we only had the insight to see it and the art to make use
of it.


*The Fianna of Erin*

As the tales of the Ultonian Cycle cluster round the heroic figure of the
Hound of Cullan, so do those of the Ossianic Cycle round that of Finn mac
Cumhal,(174) whose son Oisīn(175) (or Ossian, as Macpherson called him in
the pretended translations from the Gaelic which first introduced him to
the English-speaking world) was a poet as well as a warrior, and is the
traditional author of most of them. The events of the Ultonian Cycle are
supposed to have taken place about the time of the birth of Christ. Those
of the Ossianic Cycle fell mostly in the reign of Cormac mac Art, who
lived in the third century A.D. During his reign the Fianna of Erin, who
are represented as a kind of military Order composed mainly of the members
of two clans, Clan Bascna and Clan Morna, and who were supposed to be
devoted to the service of the High King and to the repelling of foreign
invaders, reached the height of their renown under the captaincy of Finn.

The annalists of ancient Ireland treated the story of Finn and the Fianna,
in its main outlines, as sober history. This it can hardly be. Ireland had
no foreign invaders during the period when the Fianna are supposed to have
flourished, and the tales do not throw a ray of light on the real history
of the country; they are far more concerned with a Fairyland populated by
supernatural beings, beautiful or terrible, than with any tract of real
earth inhabited by real men and women. The modern critical reader of these
tales will soon feel that it would be idle to seek for any basis of fact
in this glittering mirage. But the mirage was created by poets and
storytellers of such rare gifts for this kind of literature that it took
at once an extraordinary hold on the imagination of the Irish and Scottish

*The Ossianic Cycle*

The earliest tales of this cycle now extant are found in manuscripts of
the eleventh and twelfth centuries, and were composed probably a couple of
centuries earlier. But the cycle lasted in a condition of vital growth for
a thousand years, right down to Michael Comyn’s “Lay of Oisin in the Land
of Youth,” which was composed about 1750, and which ended the long history
of Gaelic literature.(176) It has been estimated(177) that if all the
tales and poems of the Ossianic Cycle which still remain could be printed
they would fill some twenty-five volumes the size of this. Moreover, a
very great proportion of this literature, even if there were no
manuscripts at all, could during the last and the preceding centuries have
been recovered from the lips of what has been absurdly called an
“illiterate” peasantry in the Highlands and in the Gaelic-speaking parts
or Ireland. It cannot but interest us to study the character of the
literature which was capable of exercising such a spell.

*Contrasted with the Ultonian Cycle*

Let us begin by saying that the reader will find himself in an altogether
different atmosphere from that in which the heroes of the Ultonian Cycle
live and move. Everything speaks of a later epoch, when life was gentler
and softer, when men lived more in settlements and towns, when the Danaan
Folk were more distinctly fairies and less deities, when in literature the
elements of wonder and romance predominated, and the iron string of
heroism and self-sacrifice was more rarely sounded. There is in the
Ossianic literature a conscious delight in wild nature, in scenery, in the
song of birds, the music of the chase through the woods, in mysterious and
romantic adventure, which speaks unmistakably of a time when the free,
open-air life “under the greenwood tree” is looked back on and idealised,
but no longer habitually lived, by those who celebrate it. There is also a
significant change of _locale_. The Conorian tales were the product of a
literary movement having its sources among the bleak hills or on the stern
rock-bound coasts of Ulster. In the Ossianic Cycle we find ourselves in
the Midlands or South of Ireland. Much of the action takes place amid the
soft witchery of the Killarney landscape, and the difference between the
two regions is reflected in the ethical temper of the tales.

In the Ultonian Cycle it will have been noticed that however extravagantly
the supernatural element may be employed, the final significance of almost
every tale, the end to which all the supernatural machinery is worked, is
something real and human, something that has to do with the virtues or
vices, the passions or the duties or men and women. In the Ossianic Cycle,
broadly speaking, this is not so. The nobler vein of literature seems to
have been exhausted, and we have now beauty for the sake of beauty,
romance for the sake of romance, horror or mystery for the sake of the
excitement they arouse. The Ossianic tales are, at their best,

    “Lovely apparitions, sent To be a moment’s ornament.”

They lack that something, found in the noblest art as in the noblest
personalities, which has power “to warn, to comfort, and command.”

*The Coming of Finn*

King Cormac mac Art was certainly a historical character, which is more,
perhaps, than we can say of Conor mac Nessa. Whether there is any real
personage behind the glorious figure of his great captain, Finn, it is
more difficult to say. But for our purpose it is not necessary to go into
this question. He was a creation of the Celtic mind in one land and in one
stage of its development, and our part here is to show what kind of
character the Irish mind liked to idealise and make stories about.

Finn, like most of the Irish heroes, had a partly Danaan ancestry. His
mother, Murna of the White Neck, was grand-daughter of Nuada of the Silver
Hand, who had wedded that Ethlinn, daughter of Balor the Fomorian, who
bore the Sun-god Lugh to Kian. Cumhal son of Trenmōr was Finn’s father. He
was chief of the Clan Bascna, who were contending with the Clan Morna for
the leadership of the Fianna, and was overthrown and slain by these at the
battle of Knock.(178)

Among the Clan Morna was a man named Lia, the lord of Luachar in Connacht,
who was Treasurer of the Fianna, and who kept the Treasure Bag, a bag made
of crane’s skin and having in it magic weapons and jewels of great price
that had come down from the days of the Danaans. And he became Treasurer
to the Clan Morna and still kept the bag at Rath Luachar.

Murna, after the defeat and death of Cumhal, took refuge in the forests of
Slieve Bloom,(179) and there she bore a man-child whom she named Demna.
For fear that the Clan Morna would find him out and slay him, she gave him
to be nurtured in the wildwood by two aged women, and she herself became
wife to the King of Kerry. But Demna, when he grew up to be a lad, was
called “Finn,” or the Fair One, on account of the whiteness of his skin
and his golden hair, and by this name he was always known thereafter. His
first deed was to slay Lia, who had the Treasure Bag of the Fianna, which
he took from him. He then sought out his uncle Crimmal, who, with a few
other old men, survivors of the chiefs of Clan Bascna, had escaped the
sword at Castleknock, and were living in much penury and affliction in the
recesses of the forests of Connacht. These he furnished with a retinue and
guard from among a body of youths who followed his fortunes, and gave them
the Treasure Bag. He himself went to learn the accomplishments of poetry
and science from an ancient sage and Druid named Finegas, who dwelt on the
river Boyne. Here, in a pool of this river, under boughs of hazel from
which dropped the Nuts of Knowledge on the stream, lived Fintan the Salmon
of Knowledge, which whoso ate of him would enjoy all the wisdom of the
ages. Finegas had sought many a time to catch this salmon, but failed
until Finn had come to be his pupil. Then one day he caught it, and gave
it to Finn to cook, bidding him eat none of it himself, but to tell him
when it was ready. When the lad brought the salmon, Finegas saw that his
countenance was changed. “Hast thou eaten of the salmon?” he asked. “Nay,”
said Finn, “but when I turned it on the spit my thumb was burnt, and I put
it to my mouth.” “Take the Salmon of Knowledge and eat it,” then said
Finegas, “for in thee the prophecy is come true. And now go hence, for I
can teach thee no more.”

After that Finn became as wise as he was strong and bold, and it is said
that whenever he wished to divine what would befall, or what was happening
at a distance, he had but to put his thumb in his mouth and bite it, and
the knowledge he wished for would be his.

*Finn and the Goblin*

At this time Goll son of Morna was the captain of the Fianna of Erin, but
Finn, being come to man’s estate, wished to take the place of his father
Cumhal. So he went to Tara, and during the Great Assembly, when no man
might raise his hand against any other in the precincts of Tara, he sat
down among the king’s warriors and the Fianna. At last the king marked him
as a stranger among them, and bade him declare his name and lineage. “I am
Finn son of Cumhal,” said he, “and I am come to take service with thee, O
King, as my father did.” The king accepted him gladly, and Finn swore
loyal service to him. No long time after that came the period of the year
when Tara was troubled by a goblin or demon that came at nightfall and
blew fire-balls against the royal city, setting it in flames, and none
could do battle with him, for as he came he played on a harp a music so
sweet that each man who heard it was lapped in dreams, and forgot all else
on earth for the sake of listening to that music. When this was told to
Finn he went to the king and said: “Shall I, if I slay the goblin, have my
father’s place as captain of the Fianna?” “Yea, surely,” said the king,
and he bound himself to this by an oath.

Now there were among the men-at-arms an old follower of Finn’s father,
Cumhal, who possessed a magic spear with a head of bronze and rivets of
Arabian gold. The head was kept laced up in a leathern case; and it had
the property that when the naked blade was laid against the forehead of a
man it would fill him with a strength and a battle-fury that would make
him invincible in every combat. This spear the man Fiacha gave to Finn,
and taught him how to use it, and with it he awaited the coming of the
goblin on the ramparts of Tara. As night fell and mists began to gather in
the wide plain around the Hill he saw a shadowy form coming swiftly
towards him, and heard the notes of the magic harp. But laying the spear
to his brow he shook off the spell, and the phantom fled before him to the
Fairy Mound of Slieve Fuad, and there Finn overtook and slew him, and bore
back his head to Tara.

Then Cormac the King set Finn before the Fianna, and bade them all either
swear obedience to him as their captain or seek service elsewhere. And
first of all Goll mac Morna swore service, and then all the rest followed,
and Finn became Captain of the Fianna of Erin, and ruled them till he

*Finn’s Chief Men: Conan mac Lia*

With the coming of Finn the Fianna of Erin came to their glory, and with
his life their glory passed away. For he ruled them as no other captain
ever did, both strongly and wisely, and never bore a grudge against any,
but freely forgave a man all offences save disloyalty to his lord. Thus it
is told that Conan, son of the lord of Luachar, him who had the Treasure
Bag and whom Finn slew at Rath Luachar, was for seven years an outlaw and
marauder, harrying the Fians and killing here a man and there a hound, and
firing dwellings, and raiding their cattle. At last they ran him to a
corner at Carn Lewy, in Munster, and when he saw that he could escape no
more he stole upon Finn as he sat down after a chase, and flung his arms
round him from behind, holding him fast and motionless. Finn knew who held
him thus, and said: “What wilt thou, Conan?” Conan said: “To make a
covenant of service and fealty with thee, for I may no longer evade thy
wrath.” So Finn laughed and said: “Be it so, Conan, and if thou prove
faithful and valiant I also will keep faith.” Conan served him for thirty
years, and no man of all the Fianna was keener and hardier in fight.

*Conan mac Morna*

There was also another Conan, namely, mac Morna, who was big and bald, and
unwieldy in manly exercises, but whose tongue was bitter and scurrilous;
no high or brave thing was done that Conan the Bald did not mock and
belittle. It is said that when he was stripped he showed down his back and
buttocks a black sheep’s fleece instead of a man’s skin, and this is the
way it came about. One day when Conan and certain others of the Fianna
were hunting in the forest they came to a stately dūn, white-walled, with
coloured thatching on the roof, and they entered it to seek hospitality.
But when they were within they found no man, but a great empty hall with
pillars of cedar-wood and silken hangings about it, like the hall of a
wealthy lord. In the midst there was a table set forth with a sumptuous
feast of boar’s flesh and venison, and a great vat of yew-wood full of red
wine, and cups of gold and silver. So they set themselves gaily to eat and
drink, for they were hungry from the chase, and talk and laughter were
loud around the board. But one of them ere long started to his feet with a
cry of fear and wonder, and they all looked round, and saw before their
eyes the tapestried walls changing to rough wooden beams, and the ceiling
to foul sooty thatch like that of a herdsman’s hut. So they knew they were
being entrapped by some enchantment of the Fairy Folk, and all sprang to
their feet and made for the doorway, that was no longer high and stately,
but was shrinking to the size of a fox earth—all but Conan the Bald, who
was gluttonously devouring the good things on the table, and heeded
nothing else. Then they shouted to him, and as the last of them went out
he strove to rise and follow, but found himself limed to the chair so that
he could not stir. So two of the Fianna, seeing his plight, rushed back
and seized his arms and tugged with all their might, and as they dragged
him away they left the most part of his raiment and his skin sticking to
the chair. Then, not knowing what else to do with him in his sore plight,
they clapped upon his back the nearest thing they could find, which was
the skin of a black sheep that they took from a peasant’s flock hard by,
and it grew there, and Conan wore it till his death.

Though Conan was a coward and rarely adventured himself in battle with the
Fianna, it is told that once a good man fell by his hand. This was on the
day of the great battle with the pirate horde on the Hill of Slaughter in
Kerry.(180) For Liagan, one of the invaders, stood out before the hosts
and challenged the bravest of the Fians to single combat, and the Fians in
mockery thrust Conan forth to the fight. When he appeared Liagan laughed,
for he had more strength than wit, and he said: “Silly is thy visit, thou
bald old man.” And as Conan still approached Liagan lifted his hand
fiercely, and Conan said: “Truly thou art in more peril from the man
behind than from the man in front.” Liagan looked round; and in that
instant Conan swept off his head, and then threw his sword and ran for
shelter to the ranks of the laughing Fians. But Finn was very wroth
because he had won the victory by a trick.

*Dermot O’Dyna*

And one of the chiefest of the friends of Finn was Dermot of the Love
Spot. He was so fair and noble to look on that no woman could refuse him
love, and it was said that he never knew weariness, but his step was as
light at the end of the longest day of battle or the chase as it was at
the beginning. Between him and Finn there was great love, until the day
when Finn, then an old man, was to wed Grania, daughter of Cormac the High
King; but Grania bound Dermot by the sacred ordinances of the Fian
chivalry to fly with her on her wedding night, which thing, sorely against
his will, he did, and thereby got his death. But Grania went back to Finn,
and when the Fianna saw her they laughed through all the camp in bitter
mockery, for they would not have given one of the dead man’s fingers for
twenty such as Grania.

*Keelta mac Ronan and Oisīn*

Another of the chief men that Finn had was Keelta mac Ronan, who was one
of his house-stewards, and a strong warrior as well as a golden-tongued
reciter of tales and poems. And there was Oisīn, the son of Finn, the
greatest poet of the Gael, of whom more shall be told hereafter.


Oisīn had a son, Oscar, who was the fiercest fighter in battle among all
the Fians. He slew in his maiden battle three kings, and in his fury he
also slew by mischance his own friend and condisciple Linné. His wife was
the fair Aideen, who died of grief after Oscar’s death in the battle of
Gowra, and Oisīn buried her on Ben Edar (Howth), and raised over her the
great dolmen which is there to this day. Oscar appears in this literature
as a type of hard strength, with a heart “like twisted horn sheathed in
steel,” a character made as purely for war as a sword or spear.

*Geena mac Luga*

Another good man that Finn had was Geena, the son of Luga; his mother was
the warrior-daughter of Finn, and his father was a near kinsman of hers.
He was nurtured by a woman that bore the name of Fair Mane, who had
brought up many of the Fianna to manhood. When his time to take arms was
come he stood before Finn and made his covenant of fealty, and Finn gave
him the captaincy of a band. But mac Luga proved slothful and selfish, for
ever vaunting himself and his weapon-skill, and never training his men to
the chase of deer or boar, and he used to beat his hounds and his
serving-men. At last the Fians under him came with their whole company to
Finn at Loch Lena, in Killarney, and there they laid their complaint
against mac Luga, and said: “Choose now, O Finn, whether you will have us
or the son of Luga by himself.”

Then Finn sent to mac Luga and questioned him, but mac Luga could say
nothing to the point as to why the Fianna would none of him. Then Finn
taught him the things befitting a youth of noble birth and a captain of
men, and they were these:

*Maxims of the Fianna*

“Son of Luga, if armed service be thy design, in a great man’s household
be quiet, be surly in the narrow pass.

“Without a fault of his beat not thy hound; until thou ascertain her
guilt, bring not a charge against thy wife.

“In battle meddle not with a buffoon, for, O mac Luga, he is but a fool.

“Censure not any if he be of grave repute; stand not up to take part in a
brawl; have naught to do with a madman or a wicked one.

“Two-thirds of thy gentleness be shown to women and to those that creep on
the floor (little children) and to poets, and be not violent to the common

“Utter not swaggering speech, nor say thou wilt not yield what is right;
it is a shameful thing to speak too stiffly unless that it be feasible to
carry out thy words.

“So long as thou shalt live, thy lord forsake not; neither for gold nor
for other reward in the world abandon one whom thou art pledged to

“To a chief do not abuse his people, for that is no work for a man of
gentle blood.

“Be no tale-bearer, nor utterer of falsehoods; be not talkative nor rashly
censorious. Stir not up strife against thee, however good a man thou be.

“Be no frequenter of the drinking-house, nor given to carping at the old;
meddle not with a man of mean estate.

“Dispense thy meat freely; have no niggard for thy familiar.

“Force not thyself upon a chief, nor give him cause to speak ill of thee.

“Stick to thy gear; hold fast to thy arms till the stern fight with its
weapon-glitter be ended.

“Be more apt to give than to deny, and follow after gentleness, O son of

And the son of Luga, it is written, heeded these counsels, and gave up his
bad ways, and he became one of the best of Finn’s men.

*Character of Finn*

Suchlike things also Finn taught to all his followers, and the best of
them became like himself in valour and gentleness and generosity. Each of
them loved the repute of his comrades more than his own, and each would
say that for all noble qualities there was no man in the breadth of the
world worthy to be thought of beside Finn.

It was said of him that “he gave away gold as if it were the leaves of the
woodland, and silver as if it were the foam of the sea”; and that whatever
he had bestowed upon any man, if he fell out with him afterwards, he was
never known to bring it against him.

The poet Oisīn once sang of him to St. Patrick:

“These are the things that were dear to Finn—
   The din of battle, the banquet’s glee,
 The bay of his hounds through the rough glen ringing,
   And the blackbird singing in Letter Lee,

“The shingle grinding along the shore
   When they dragged his war-boats down to sea,
 The dawn wind whistling his spears among,
   And the magic song of his minstrels three.”

*Tests of the Fianna*

In the time of Finn no one was ever permitted to be one of the Fianna of
Erin unless he could pass through many severe tests of his worthiness. He
must be versed in the Twelve Books of Poetry, and must himself be skilled
to make verse in the rime and metre of the masters of Gaelic poesy. Then
he was buried to his middle in the earth, and must, with a shield and a
hazel stick, there defend himself against nine warriors casting spears at
him, and if he were wounded he was not accepted. Then his hair was woven
into braids, and he was chased through the forest by the Fians. If he were
overtaken, or if a braid of his hair were disturbed, or if a dry stick
cracked under his foot, he was not accepted. He must be able to leap over
a lath level with his brow, and to run at full speed under one level with
his knee, and he must be able while running to draw out a thorn from his
foot and never slacken speed. He must take no dowry with a wife.

*Keelta and St. Patrick*

It was said that one of the Fians, namely, Keelta, lived on to a great
age, and saw St. Patrick, by whom he was baptized into the faith of the
Christ, and to whom he told many tales of Finn and his men, which
Patrick’s scribe wrote down. And once Patrick asked him how it was that
the Fianna became so mighty and so glorious that all Ireland sang of their
deeds, as Ireland has done ever since. Keelta answered: “Truth was in our
hearts and strength in our arms, and what we said, that we fulfilled.”

This was also told of Keelta after he had seen St. Patrick and received
the Faith. He chanced to be one day by Leyney, in Connacht, where the
Fairy Folk of the Mound of Duma were wont to be sorely harassed and
spoiled every year by pirates from oversea. They called Keelta to their
aid, and by his counsel and valour the invaders were overcome and driven
home; but Keelta was sorely wounded. Then Keelta asked that Owen, the seer
of the Fairy Folk, might foretell him how long he had to live, for he was
already a very aged man. Owen said: “It will be seventeen years, O Keelta
of fair fame, till thou fall by the pool of Tara, and grievous that will
be to all the king’s household.” “Even so did my chief and lord, my
guardian and loving protector, Finn, foretell to me,” said Keelta. “And
now what fee will ye give me for my rescue of you from the worst
affliction that ever befell you?” “A great reward,” said the Fairy Folk,
“even youth; for by our art we shall change you into a young man again
with all the strength and activity of your prime.” “Nay, God forbid,” said
Keelta, “that I should take upon me a shape of sorcery, or any other than
that which my Maker, the true and glorious God, hath bestowed upon me.”
And the Fairy Folk said: “It is the word of a true warrior and hero, and
the thing that thou sayest is good.” So they healed his wounds, and every
bodily evil that he had, and he wished them blessing and victory, and went
his way.

*The Birth of Oisīn*

One day, as Finn and his companions and dogs were returning from the chase
to their dūn on the Hill of Allen, a beautiful fawn started up on their
path, and the chase swept after her, she taking the way which led to their
home. Soon all the pursuers were left far behind save only Finn himself
and his two hounds Bran and Skolawn. Now these hounds were of strange
breed; for Tyren, sister to Murna, the mother of Finn, had been changed
into a hound by the enchantment of a woman of the Fairy Folk, who loved
Tyren’s husband Ullan; and the two hounds of Finn were the children of
Tyren, born to her in that shape. Of all hounds in Ireland they were the
best, and Finn loved them much, so that it was said he wept but twice in
his life, and once was for the death of Bran.

At last, as the chase went on down a valley-side, Finn saw the fawn stop
and lie down, while the two hounds began to play round her, and to lick
her face and limbs. So he gave commandment that none should hurt her, and
she followed them to the Dūn of Allen, playing with the hounds as she

The same night Finn awoke and saw standing by his bed the fairest woman
his eyes had ever beheld.

“I am Saba, O Finn,” she said, “and I was the fawn ye chased to-day.
Because I would not give my love to the Druid of the Fairy Folk, who is
named the Dark, he put that shape upon me by his sorceries, and I have
borne it these three years. But a slave of his, pitying me, once revealed
to me that if I could win to thy great Dūn of Allen, O Finn, I should be
safe from all enchantments, and my natural shape would come to me again.
But I feared to be torn in pieces by thy dogs, or wounded by thy hunters,
till at last I let myself be overtaken by thee alone and by Bran and
Skolawn, who have the nature of man and would do me no hurt.” “Have no
fear, maiden,” said Finn; “we, the Fianna, are free, and our guest-friends
are free; there is none who shall put compulsion on you here.”

So Saba dwelt with Finn, and he made her his wife; and so deep was his
love for her that neither the battle nor the chase had any delight for
him, and for months he never left her side. She also loved him as deeply,
and their joy in each other was like that of the Immortals in the Land of
Youth. But at last word came to Finn that the warships of the Northmen
were in the Bay of Dublin, and he summoned his heroes to the fight; “For,”
said he to Saba, “the men of Erin give us tribute and hospitality to
defend them from the foreigner, and it were shame to take it from them and
not to give that to which we, on our side, are pledged.” And he called to
mind that great saying of Goll mac Morna when they were once sore bestead
by a mighty host. “A man,” said Goll, “lives after his life, but not after
his honour.”

Seven days was Finn absent, and he drove the Northmen from the shores of
Erin. But on the eighth day he returned, and when he entered his dūn he
saw trouble in the eyes of his men, and of their fair womenfolk, and Saba
was not on the rampart expecting his return. So he bade them tell him what
had chanced, and they said:

“Whilst thou, our father and lord, wert afar off smiting the foreigner,
and Saba looking ever down the pass for thy return, we saw one day as it
were the likeness of thee approaching, and Bran and Skolawn at thy heels.
And we seemed also to hear the notes of the Fian hunting-call blown on the
wind. Then Saba hastened to the great gate, and we could not stay her, so
eager was she to rush to the phantom. But when she came near she halted
and gave a loud and bitter cry, and the shape of thee smote her with a
hazel wand, and lo, there was no woman there any more, but a deer. Then
those hounds chased it, and ever as it strove to reach again the gate of
the dūn they turned back. We all now seized what arms we could and ran out
to drive away the enchanter, but when we reached the place there was
nothing to be seen, only still we heard the rushing of flying feet and the
baying of dogs, and one thought it came from here, and another from there,
till at last the uproar died away and all was still. What we could do, O
Finn, we did; Saba is gone.”

Finn then struck his hand on his breast, but spoke no word, and he went to
his own chamber. No man saw him for the rest of that day, nor for the day
after. Then he came forth, and ordered the matters of the Fianna as of
old, but for seven years thereafter he went searching for Saba through
every remote glen and dark forest and cavern of Ireland, and he would take
no hounds with him save Bran and Skolawn. But at last he renounced all
hope of finding her again, and went hunting as of old.

One day as he was following the chase on Ben Bulban, in Sligo, he heard
the musical bay of the dogs change of a sudden to a fierce growling and
yelping, as though they were in combat with some beast, and running
hastily up he and his men beheld, under a great tree, a naked boy with
long hair, and around him the hounds struggling to seize him, but Bran and
Skolawn fighting with them and keeping them off. And the lad was tall and
shapely, and as the heroes gathered round he gazed undauntedly on them,
never heeding the rout of dogs at his feet. The Fians beat off the dogs
and brought the lad home with them, and Finn was very silent and
continually searched the lad’s countenance with his eyes. In time the use
of speech came to him, and the story that he told was this:

He had known no father, and no mother save a gentle hind, with whom he
lived in a most green and pleasant valley shut in on every side by
towering cliffs that could not be scaled or by deep chasms in the earth.
In the summer he lived on fruits and suchlike, and in the winter store of
provisions was laid for him in a cave. And there came to them sometimes a
tall, dark-visaged man, who spoke to his mother, now tenderly, and now in
loud menace, but she always shrank away in fear, and the man departed in
anger. At last there came a day when the dark man spoke very long with his
mother in all tones of entreaty and of tenderness and of rage, but she
would still keep aloof and give no sign save of fear and abhorrence. Then
at length the dark man drew near and smote her with a hazel wand; and with
that he turned and went his way, but she this time followed him, still
looking back at her son and piteously complaining. And he, when he strove
to follow, found himself unable to move a limb; and crying out with rage
and desolation he fell to the earth, and his senses left him.

When he came to himself he was on the mountain-side on Ben Bulban, where
he remained some days, searching for that green and hidden valley, which
he never found again. And after a while the dogs found him; but of the
hind his mother and of the Dark Druid there is no man knows the end.

Finn called his name Oisīn (Little Fawn), and he became a warrior of fame,
but far more famous for the songs and tales that he made; so that of all
things to this day that are told of the Fianna of Erin men are wont to
say: “Thus sang the bard Oisīn, son of Finn.”

*Oisīn and Niam*

It happened that on a misty summer morning as Finn and Oisīn with many
companions were hunting on the shores of Loch Lena they saw coming towards
them a maiden, beautiful exceedingly, riding on a snow-white steed. She
wore the garb of a queen; a crown of gold was on her head, and a
dark-brown mantle of silk, set with stars of red gold, fell around her and
trailed on the ground. Silver shoes were on her horse’s hoofs, and a crest
of gold nodded on his head. When she came near she said to Finn: “From
very far away I have come, and now at last I have found thee, Finn son of

Then Finn said: “What is thy land and race, maiden, and what dost thou
seek from me?”

“My name,” she said, “is Niam of the Golden Hair. I am the daughter of the
King of the Land of Youth, and that which has brought me here is the love
of thy son Oisīn.” Then she turned to Oisīn, and she spoke to him in the
voice of one who has never asked anything but it was granted to her.

“Wilt thou go with me, Oisīn, to my father’s land?”

And Oisīn said: “That will I, and to the world’s end”; for the fairy spell
had so wrought upon his heart that he cared no more for any earthly thing
but to have the love of Niam of the Head of Gold.

Then the maiden spoke of the Land Oversea to which she had summoned her
lover, and as she spoke a dreamy stillness fell on all things, nor did a
horse shake his bit, nor a hound bay, nor the least breath of wind stir in
the forest trees till she had made an end. And what she said seemed
sweeter and more wonderful as she spoke it than anything they could
afterwards remember to have heard, but so far as they could remember it it
was this:

“Delightful is the land beyond all dreams,
 Fairer than aught thine eyes have ever seen.
 There all the year the fruit is on the tree,
 And all the year the bloom is on the flower.

“There with wild honey drip the forest trees;
 The stores of wine and mead shall never fail.
 Nor pain nor sickness knows the dweller there,
 Death and decay come near him never more.

“The feast shall cloy not, nor the chase shall tire,
 Nor music cease for ever through the hall;
 The gold and jewels of the Land of Youth
 Outshine all splendours ever dreamed by man.

“Thou shalt have horses of the fairy breed,
 Thou shalt have hounds that can outrun the wind;
 A hundred chiefs shall follow thee in war,
 A hundred maidens sing thee to thy sleep.

“A crown of sovranty thy brow shall wear,
 And by thy side a magic blade shall hang,
 And thou shalt be lord of all the Land of Youth,
 And lord of Niam of the Head of Gold.”

As the magic song ended the Fians beheld Oisīn mount the fairy steed and
hold the maiden in his arms, and ere they could stir or speak she turned
her horse’s head and shook the ringing bridle, and down the forest glade
they fled, as a beam of light flies over the land when clouds drive across
the sun; and never did the Fianna behold Oisīn son of Finn on earth again.

Yet what befell him afterwards is known. As his birth was strange, so was
his end, for he saw the wonders of the Land of Youth with mortal eyes and
lived to tell them with mortal lips.

*The Journey to Fairyland*

When the white horse with its riders reached the sea it ran lightly over
the waves, and soon the green woods and headlands of Erin faded out of
sight. And now the sun shone fiercely down, and the riders passed into a
golden haze in which Oisīn lost all knowledge of where he was or if sea or
dry land were beneath his horse’s hoofs. But strange sights sometimes
appeared to them in the mist, for towers and palace gateways loomed up and
disappeared, and once a hornless doe bounded by them chased by a white
hound with one red ear; and again they saw a young maid ride by on a brown
steed, bearing a golden apple in her hand, and close behind her followed a
young horseman on a white steed, a purple cloak floating at his back and a
gold-hilted sword in his hand. And Oisīn would have asked the princess who
and what these apparitions were, but Niam bade him ask nothing nor seem to
notice any phantom they might see until they were come to the Land of

*Oisīn’s Return*

The story goes on to tell how Oisīn met with various adventures in the
Land of Youth, including the rescue of an imprisoned princess from a
Fomorian giant. But at last, after what seemed to him a sojourn of three
weeks in the Land of Youth, he was satiated with delights of every kind,
and longed to visit his native land again and to see his old comrades. He
promised to return when he had done so, and Niam gave him the white fairy
steed that had borne him across the sea to Fairyland, but charged him that
when he had reached the Land of Erin again he must never alight from its
back nor touch the soil of the earthly world with his foot, or the way of
return to the Land of Youth would be barred to him for ever. Oisīn then
set forth, and once more crossed the mystic ocean, finding himself at last
on the western shores of Ireland. Here he made at once for the Hill of
Allen, where the dūn of Finn was wont to be, but marvelled, as he
traversed the woods, that he met no sign of the Fian hunters and at the
small size of the folk whom he saw tilling the ground.

At length, coming from the forest path into the great clearing where the
Hill of Allen was wont to rise, broad and green, with its rampart
enclosing many white-walled dwellings, and the great hall towering high in
the midst, he saw but grassy mounds overgrown with rank weeds and whin
bushes, and among them pastured a peasant’s kine. Then a strange horror
fell upon him and he thought some enchantment from the land of Faëry held
his eyes and mocked him with false visions. He threw his arms abroad and
shouted the names of Finn and Oscar, but none replied, and he thought that
perchance the hounds might hear him, so he cried upon Bran and Skolawn and
strained his ears if they might catch the faintest rustle or whisper of
the world from the sight of which his eyes were holden, but he heard only
the sighing of the wind in the whins. Then he rode in terror from that
place, setting his face towards the eastern sea, for he meant to traverse
Ireland from side to side and end to end in search of some escape from his

*The Broken Spell*

But when he came near to the eastern sea, and was now in the place which
is called the Valley of the Thrushes,(181) he saw in a field upon the
hillside a crowd of men striving to roll aside a great boulder from their
tilled land, and an overseer directing them. Towards them he rode, meaning
to ask them concerning Finn and the Fianna. As he came near they all
stopped their work to gaze upon him, for to them he appeared like a
messenger of the Fairy Folk or an angel from heaven. Taller and mightier
he was than the men-folk they knew, with sword-blue eyes and brown, ruddy
cheeks; in his mouth, as it were, a shower of pearls, and bright hair
clustered beneath the rim of his helmet. And as Oisīn looked upon their
puny forms, marred by toil and care, and at the stone which they feebly
strove to heave from its bed, he was filled with pity, and thought to
himself, “Not such were even the churls of Erin when I left them for the
Land of Youth” and he stooped from his saddle to help them. He set his
hand to the boulder, and with a mighty heave he lifted it from where it
lay and set it rolling down the hill. And the men raised a shout of wonder
and applause; but their shouting changed in a moment into cries of terror
and dismay, and they fled, jostling and overthrowing each other to escape
from the place of fear, for a marvel horrible to see had taken place. For
Oisīn’s saddle-girth had burst as he heaved the stone and he fell headlong
to the ground. In an instant the white steed had vanished from their eyes
like a wreath of mist, and that which rose, feeble and staggering, from
the ground was no youthful warrior, but a man stricken with extreme old
age, white-bearded and withered, who stretched out groping hands and
moaned with feeble and bitter cries. And his crimson cloak and yellow
silken tunic were now but coarse homespun stuff tied with a hempen girdle,
and the gold-hilted sword was a rough oaken staff such as a beggar carries
who wanders the roads from farmer’s house to house.

When the people saw that the doom that had been wrought was not for them
they returned, and found the old man prone on the ground with his face
hidden in his arms. So they lifted him up, and asked who he was and what
had befallen him. Oisīn gazed round on them with dim eyes, and at last he
said: “I was Oisīn the son of Finn, and I pray ye tell me where he dwells,
for his dūn on the Hill of Allen is now a desolation, and I have neither
seen him nor heard his hunting-horn from the western to the eastern sea.”
Then the men gazed strangely on each other and on Oisīn, and the overseer
asked: “Of what Finn dost thou speak, for there be many of that name in
Erin?” Oisīn said: “Surely of Finn mac Cumhal mac Trenmōr, captain of the
Fianna of Erin.” Then the overseer said: “Thou art daft, old man, and thou
hast made us daft to take thee for a youth as we did a while agone. But we
at least have now our wits again, and we know that Finn son of Cumhal and
all his generation have been dead these three hundred years. At the battle
of Gowra fell Oscar, son of Oisīn, and Finn at the battle of Brea, as the
historians tell us; and the lays of Oisīn, whose death no man knows the
manner of, are sung by our harpers at great men’s feasts. But now the
Talkenn,(182) Patrick, has come into Ireland, and has preached to us the
One God and Christ His Son, by whose might these old days and ways are
done away with; and Finn and his Fianna, with their feasting and hunting
and songs of war and of love, have no such reverence among us as the monks
and virgins of Holy Patrick, and the psalms and prayers that go up daily
to cleanse us from sin and to save us from the fire of judgment.” But
Oisīn replied, only half hearing and still less comprehending what was
said to him: “If thy God have slain Finn and Oscar, I would say that God
is a strong man.” Then they all cried out upon him, and some picked up
stones, but the overseer bade them let him be until the Talkenn had spoken
with him, and till he should order what was to be done.

*Oisīn and Patrick*

So they brought him to Patrick, who treated him gently and hospitably, and
to Patrick he told the story of all that had befallen him. But Patrick
bade his scribes write all carefully down, that the memory of the heroes
whom Oisīn had known, and of the joyous and free life they had led in the
woods and glens and wild places of Erin, should never be forgotten among

This remarkable legend is known only in the modern Irish poem written by
Michael Comyn about 1750, a poem which may be called the swan-song of
Irish literature. Doubtless Comyn worked on earlier traditional material;
but though the ancient Ossianic poems tell us of the prolongation of
Oisīn’s life, so that he could meet St. Patrick and tell him stories of
the Fianna, the episodes of Niam’s courtship and the sojourn in the Land
of Youth are known to us at present only in the poem of Michael Comyn.

*The Enchanted Cave*

This tale, which I take from S.H. O’Grady’s edition in “Silva Gadelica,”
relates that Finn once made a great hunting in the district of Corann, in
Northern Connacht, which was ruled over by one Conaran, a lord of the
Danaan Folk. Angered at the intrusion of the Fianna in his
hunting-grounds, he sent his three sorcerer-daughters to take vengeance on
the mortals.

Finn, it is said, and Conan the Bald, with Finn’s two favourite hounds,
were watching the hunt from the top of the Hill of Keshcorran and
listening to the cries of the beaters and the notes of the horn and the
baying of the dogs, when, in moving about on the hill, they came upon the
mouth of a great cavern, before which sat three hags of evil and revolting
aspect. On three crooked sticks of holly they had twisted left-handwise
hanks of yarn, and were spinning with these when Finn and his followers
arrived. To view them more closely the warriors drew near, when they found
themselves suddenly entangled in strands of the yarn which the hags had
spun about the place like the web of a spider, and deadly faintness and
trembling came over them, so that they were easily bound fast by the hags
and carried into the dark recesses of the cave. Others of the party then
arrived, looking for Finn. All suffered the same experience—they lost all
their pith and valour at the touch of the bewitched yarn, and were bound
and carried into the cave, until the whole party were laid in bonds, with
the dogs baying and howling outside.

The witches now seized their sharp, wide-channelled, hard-tempered swords,
and were about to fall on the captives and slay them, but first they
looked round at the mouth of the cave to see if there was any straggler
whom they had not yet laid hold of. At this moment Goll mac Morna, “the
raging lion, the torch of onset, the great of soul,” came up, and a
desperate combat ensued, which ended by Goll cleaving two of the hags in
twain, and then subduing and binding the third, whose name was Irnan. She,
as he was about to slay her, begged for mercy—“Surely it were better for
thee to have the Fianna whole”—and he gave her her life if she would
release the prisoners.

Into the cave they went, and one by one the captives were unbound,
beginning with the poet Fergus Truelips and the “men of science,” and they
all sat down on the hill to recover themselves, while Fergus sang a chant
of praise in honour of the rescuer, Goll; and Irnan disappeared.

Ere long a monster was seen approaching them, a “gnarled hag” with
blazing, bloodshot eyes, a yawning mouth full of ragged fangs, nails like
a wild beast’s, and armed like a warrior. She laid Finn under _geise_ to
provide her with single combat from among his men until she should have
her fill of it. It was no other than the third sister, Irnan, whom Goll
had spared. Finn in vain begged Oisīn, Oscar, Keelta, and the other prime
warriors of the Fianna to meet her; they all pleaded inability after the
ill-treatment and contumely they had received. At last, as Finn himself
was about to do battle with her, Goll said: “O Finn, combat with a crone
beseems thee not,” and he drew sword for a second battle with this
horrible enemy. At last, after a desperate combat, he ran her through her
shield and through her heart, so that the blade stuck out at the far side,
and she fell dead. The Fianna then sacked the dūn of Conaran, and took
possession of all the treasure in it, while Finn bestowed on Goll mac
Morna his own daughter, Keva of the White Skin, and, leaving the dūn a
heap of glowing embers, they returned to the Hill of Allen.

*The Chase of Slievegallion*

This fine story, which is given in poetical form, as if narrated by Oisīn,
in the Ossianic Society’s “Transactions,” tells how Cullan the Smith (here
represented as a Danaan divinity), who dwelt on or near the mountains of
Slievegallion, in Co. Armagh, had two daughters, Ainé and Milucra, each of
whom loved Finn mac Cumhal. They were jealous of each other; and on Ainé
once happening to say that she would never have a man with grey hair,
Milucra saw a means of securing Finn’s love entirely for herself. So she
assembled her friends among the Danaans round the little grey lake that
lies on the top of Slievegallion, and they charged its waters with

This introduction, it may be observed, bears strong signs of being a later
addition to the original tale, made in a less understanding age or by a
less thoughtful class into whose hands the legend had descended. The real
meaning of the transformation which it narrates is probably much deeper.

The story goes on to say that not long after this the hounds of Finn, Bran
and Skolawn, started a fawn near the Hill of Allen, and ran it northwards
till the chase ended on the top of Slievegallion, a mountain which, like
Slievenamon(183) in the south, was in ancient Ireland a veritable focus of
Danaan magic and legendary lore. Finn followed the hounds alone till the
fawn disappeared on the mountain-side. In searching for it Finn at last
came on the little lake which lies on the top of the mountain, and saw by
its brink a lady of wonderful beauty, who sat there lamenting and weeping.
Finn asked her the cause of her grief. She explained that a gold ring
which she dearly prized had fallen from her finger into the lake, and she
charged Finn by the bonds of _geise_ that he should plunge in and find it
for her.

Finn did so, and after diving into every recess of the lake he discovered
the ring, and before leaving the water gave it to the lady. She
immediately plunged into the lake and disappeared. Finn then surmised that
some enchantment was being wrought on him, and ere long he knew what it
was, for on stepping forth on dry land he fell down from sheer weakness,
and arose again, a tottering and feeble old man, snowy-haired and
withered, so that even his faithful hounds did not know him, but ran round
the lake searching for their lost master.

Meantime Finn was missed from his palace on the Hill of Allen, and a party
soon set out on the track on which he had been seen to chase the deer.
They came to the lake-side on Slievegallion, and found there a wretched
and palsied old man, whom they questioned, but who could do nothing but
beat his breast and moan. At last, beckoning Keelta to come near, the aged
man whispered faintly some words into his ear, and lo, it was Finn
himself! When the Fianna had ceased from their cries of wonder and
lamentation, Finn whispered to Keelta the tale of his enchantment, and
told them that the author of it must be the daughter of Cullan the Smith,
who dwelt in the Fairy Mound of Slievegallion. The Fianna, bearing Finn on
a litter, immediately went to the Mound and began to dig fiercely. For
three days and nights they dug at the Fairy Mound, and at last penetrated
to its inmost recesses, when a maiden suddenly stood before them holding a
drinking-horn of red gold. It was given to Finn. He drank from it, and at
once his beauty and form were restored to him, but his hair still remained
white as silver. This too would have been restored by another draught, but
Finn let it stay as it was, and silver-white his hair remained to the day
of his death.

The tale has been made the subject of a very striking allegorical drama,
“The Masque of Finn,” by Mr. Standish O’Grady, who, rightly no doubt,
interprets the story as symbolising the acquisition of wisdom and
understanding through suffering. A leader of men must descend into the
lake of tears and know feebleness and despair before his spirit can sway
them to great ends.

There is an antique sepulchral monument on the mountain-top which the
peasantry of the district still regard—or did in the days before Board
schools—as the abode of the “Witch of the Lake”; and a mysterious beaten
path, which was never worn by the passage of human feet, and which leads
from the rock sepulchre to the lake-side, is ascribed to the going to and
fro of this supernatural being.

*The **“**Colloquy of the Ancients**”*

One of the most interesting and attractive of the relics of Ossianic
literature is the “Colloquy of the Ancients,” _Agallamh na Senorach_, a
long narrative piece dating from about the thirteenth century. It has been
published with a translation in O’Grady’s “Silva Gadelica.” It is not so
much a story as a collection of stories skilfully set in a mythical
framework. The “Colloquy” opens by presenting us with the figures of
Keelta mac Ronan and Oisīn son of Finn, each accompanied by eight
warriors, all that are left of the great fellowship of the Fianna after
the battle of Gowra and the subsequent dispersion of the Order. A vivid
picture is given us of the grey old warriors, who had outlived their
epoch, meeting for the last time at the dūn of a once famous chieftainess
named Camha, and of their melancholy talk over bygone days, till at last a
long silence settled on them.

*Keelta Meets St. Patrick*

Finally Keelta and Oisīn resolve to part, Oisīn, of whom we hear little
more, going to the Fairy Mound, where his Danaan mother (here called Blai)
has her dwelling, while Keelta takes his way over the plains of Meath till
he comes to Drumderg, where he lights on St. Patrick and his monks. How
this is chronologically possible the writer does not trouble himself to
explain, and he shows no knowledge of the legend of Oisīn in the Land of
Youth. “The clerics,” says the story, “saw Keelta and his band draw near
them, and fear fell on them before the tall men with the huge wolf-hounds
that accompanied them, for they were not people of one epoch or of one
time with the clergy.” Patrick then sprinkles the heroes with holy water,
whereat legions of demons who had been hovering over them fly away into
the hills and glens, and “the enormous men sat down.” Patrick, after
inquiring the name of his guest, then says he has a boon to crave of
him—he wishes to find a well of pure water with which to baptize the folk
of Bregia and of Meath.

*The Well of Tradaban*

Keelta, who knows every brook and hill and rath and wood in the country,
thereon takes Patrick by the hand and leads him away “till,” as the writer
says, “right in front of them they saw a loch-well, sparkling and
translucid. The size and thickness of the cress and of the _fothlacht_, or
brooklime, that grew on it was a wonderment to them.” Then Keelta began to
tell of the fame and qualities of the place, and uttered an exquisite
little lyric in praise of it:

“O Well of the Strand of the Two Women, beautiful are thy cresses,
luxuriant, branching; since thy produce is neglected on thee thy brooklime
is not suffered to grow. Forth from thy banks thy trout are to be seen,
thy wild swine in the wilderness; the deer of thy fair hunting crag-land,
thy dappled and red-chested fawns! Thy mast all hanging on the branches of
the trees; thy fish in estuaries of the rivers; lovely the colours of thy
purling streams, O thou that art azure-hued, and again green with
reflections of surrounding copse-wood.”(184)

*St. Patrick and Irish Legend*

After the warriors have been entertained Patrick asks: “Was he, Finn mac
Cumhal, a good lord with whom ye were?” Keelta praises the generosity of
Finn, and goes on to describe in detail the glories of his household,
whereon Patrick says:

“Were it not for us an impairing of the devout life, an occasion of
neglecting prayer, and of deserting converse with God, we, as we talked
with thee, would feel the time pass quickly, warrior!”

Keelta goes on with another tale of the Fianna, and Patrick, now fairly
caught in the toils of the enchanter, cries: “Success and benediction
attend thee, Keelta! This is to me a lightening of spirit and mind. And
now tell us another tale.”

So ends the exordium of the “Colloquy.” As usual in the openings of Irish
tales, nothing could be better contrived; the touch is so light, there is
so happy a mingling of pathos, poetry, and humour, and so much dignity in
the sketching of the human characters introduced. The rest of the piece
consists in the exhibition of a vast amount of topographical and legendary
lore by Keelta, attended by the invariable “Success and benediction attend
thee!” of Patrick.

They move together, the warrior and the saint, on Patrick’s journey to
Tara, and whenever Patrick or some one else in the company sees a hill or
a fort or a well he asks Keelta what it is, and Keelta tells its name and
a Fian legend to account for it, and so the story wanders on through a
maze of legendary lore until they are met by a company from Tara, with the
king at its head, who then takes up the _rôle_ of questioner. The
“Colloquy,” as we have it now, breaks off abruptly as the story how the
_Lia Fail_ was carried off from Ireland is about to be narrated.(185) The
interest of the “Colloquy” lies in the tales of Keelta and the lyrics
introduced in the course of them. Of the tales there are about a hundred,
telling of Fian raids and battles, and love-makings and feastings, but the
greater number of them have to do with the intercourse between the Fairy
Folk and the Fianna. With these folk the Fianna have constant relations,
both of love and of war. Some of the tales are of great elaboration,
wrought out in the highest style of which the writer was capable. One of
the best is that of the fairy _Brugh_, or mansion of Slievenamon, which
Patrick and Keelta chance to pass by, and of which Keelta tells the
following history:

*The Brugh of Slievenamon*

One day as Finn and Keelta and five other champions of the Fianna were
hunting at Torach, in the north, they roused a beautiful fawn which fled
before them, they holding it in chase all day, till they reached the
mountain of Slievenamon towards evening, when the fawn suddenly seemed to
vanish underground. A chase like this, in the Ossianic literature, is the
common prelude to an adventure in Fairyland. Night now fell rapidly, and
with it came heavy snow and storm, and, searching for shelter, the Fianna
discovered in the wood a great illuminated _Brugh_, or mansion, where they
sought admittance. On entering they found themselves in a spacious hall,
full of light, with eight-and-twenty warriors and as many fair and
yellow-haired maidens, one of the latter seated on a chair of crystal, and
making wonderful music on a harp. After the Fian warriors have been
entertained with the finest of viands and liquors, it is explained to them
that their hosts are Donn, son of Midir the Proud, and his brother, and
that they are at war with the rest of the Danaan Folk, and have to do
battle with them thrice yearly on the green before the _Brugh_. At first
each of the twenty-eight had a thousand warriors under him. Now all are
slain except those present, and the survivors have sent out one of their
maidens in the shape of a fawn to entice the Fianna to their fairy palace
and to gain their aid in the battle that must be delivered to-morrow. We
have, in fact, a variant of the well-known theme of the Rescue of
Fairyland. Finn and his companions are always ready for a fray, and a
desperate battle ensues which lasts from evening till morning, for the
fairy host attack at night. The assailants are beaten off, losing over a
thousand of their number; but Oscar, Dermot, and mac Luga are sorely
wounded. They are healed by magical herbs; and more fighting and other
adventures follow, until, after a year has passed, Finn compels the enemy
to make peace and give hostages, when the Fianna return to earth and
rejoin their fellows. No sooner has Keelta finished his tale, standing on
the very spot where they had found the fairy palace on the night of snow,
than a young warrior is seen approaching them. He is thus described: “A
shirt of royal satin was next his skin; over and outside it a tunic of the
same fabric; and a fringed crimson mantle, confined with a bodkin of gold,
upon his breast; in his hand a gold-hilted sword, and a golden helmet on
his head.” A delight in the colour and material splendour of life is a
very marked feature in all this literature. This splendid figure turns out
to be Donn mac Midir, one of the eight-and-twenty whom Finn had succoured,
and he comes to do homage for himself and his people to St. Patrick, who
accepts entertainment from him for the night; for in the “Colloquy” the
relations of the Church and of the Fairy World are very cordial.

*The Three Young Warriors*

Nowhere in Celtic literature does the love of wonder and mystery find such
remarkable expression as in the “Colloquy.” The writer of this piece was a
master of the touch that makes, as it were, the solid framework of things
translucent; and shows us, through it, gleams of another world, mingled
with ours yet distinct, and having other laws and characteristics. We
never get a clue as to what these laws are. The Celt did not, in Ireland
at least, systematise the unknown, but let it shine for a moment through
the opaqueness of this earth and then withdrew the gleam before we
understood what we had seen. Take, for instance, this incident in Keelta’s
account of the Fianna. Three young warriors come to take service with
Finn, accompanied by a gigantic hound. They make their agreement with him,
saying what services they can render and what reward they expect, and they
make it a condition that they shall camp apart from the rest of the host,
and that when night has fallen no man shall come near them or see them.

Finn asks the reason for this prohibition, and it is this: of the three
warriors one has to die each night, and the other two must watch him;
therefore they would not be disturbed. There is no explanation of this;
the writer simply leaves us with the thrill of the mystery upon us.

*The Fair Giantess*

Again, let us turn to the tale of the Fair Giantess. One day Finn and his
warriors, while resting from the chase for their midday meal, saw coming
towards them a towering shape. It proved to be a young giant maiden, who
gave her name as Vivionn (Bebhionn) daughter of Treon, from the Land of
Maidens. The gold rings on her fingers were as thick as an ox’s yoke, and
her beauty was dazzling. When she took off her gilded helmet, all
bejewelled, her fair, curling golden hair broke out in seven score
tresses, and Finn cried: “Great gods whom we adore, a huge marvel Cormac
and Ethné and the women of the Fianna would esteem it to see Vivionn, the
blooming daughter of Treon.” The maiden explained that she had been
betrothed against her will to a suitor named Æda, son of a neighbouring
king; and that hearing from a fisherman, who had been blown to her shores,
of the power and nobleness of Finn, she had come to seek his protection.
While she was speaking, suddenly the Fianna were aware of another giant
form close at hand. It was a young man, smooth-featured and of surpassing
beauty, who bore a red shield and a huge spear. Without a word he drew
near, and before the wondering Fianna could accost him he thrust his spear
through the body of the maiden and passed away. Finn, enraged at this
violation of his protection, called on his chiefs to pursue and slay the
murderer. Keelta and others chased him to the sea-shore, and followed him
into the surf, but he strode out to sea, and was met by a great galley
which bore him away to unknown regions. Returning, discomfited, to Finn,
they found the girl dying. She distributed her gold and jewels among them,
and the Fianna buried her under a great mound, and raised a pillar stone
over her with her name in Ogham letters, in the place since called the
Ridge of the Dead Woman.

In this tale we have, besides the element of mystery, that of beauty. It
is an association of frequent occurrence in this period of Celtic
literature; and to this, perhaps, is due the fact that although these
tales seem to come from nowhither and to lead nowhither, but move in a
dream-world where there is no chase but seems to end in Fairyland and no
combat that has any relation to earthly needs or objects, where all
realities are apt to dissolve in a magic light and to change their shapes
like morning mist, yet they linger in the memory with that haunting charm
which has for many centuries kept them alive by the fireside of the Gaelic

*St. Patrick, Oisīn, and Keelta*

Before we leave the “Colloquy” another interesting point must be mentioned
in connexion with it. To the general public probably the best-known things
in Ossianic literature—I refer, of course, to the true Gaelic poetry which
goes under that name, not to the pseudo-Ossian of Macpherson—are those
dialogues in which the pagan and the Christian ideals are contrasted,
often in a spirit of humorous exaggeration or of satire. The earliest of
these pieces are found in the manuscript called “The Dean of Lismore’s
Book,” in which James Macgregor, Dean of Lismore in Argyllshire,wrote
down, some time before the year 1518, all he could remember or discover of
traditional Gaelic poetry in his time. It may be observed that up to this
period, and, indeed, long after it, Scottish and Irish Gaelic were one
language and one literature, the great written monuments of which were in
Ireland, though they belonged just as much to the Highland Celt, and the
two branches of the Gael had an absolutely common stock of poetic
tradition. These Oisīn-and-Patrick dialogues are found in abundance both
in Ireland and in the Highlands, though, as I have said, “The Dean of
Lismore’s Book” is their first written record now extant. What relation,
then, do these dialogues bear to the Keelta-and-Patrick dialogues with
which we make acquaintance in the “Colloquy”? The questions which really
came first, where they respectively originated, and what current of
thought or sentiment each represented, constitute, as Mr. Alfred Nutt has
pointed out, a literary problem of the greatest interest; and one which no
critic has yet attempted to solve, or, indeed, until quite lately, even to
call attention to. For though these two attempts to represent, in
imaginative and artistic form, the contact of paganism with Christianity
are nearly identical in machinery and framework, save that one is in verse
and the other in prose, yet they differ widely in their point of view.

In the Oisīn dialogues(186) there is a great deal of rough humour and of
crude theology, resembling those of an English miracle-play rather than
any Celtic product that I am acquainted with. St. Patrick in these
ballads, as Mr. Nutt remarks, “is a sour and stupid fanatic, harping with
wearisome monotony on the damnation of Finn and all his comrades; a hard
taskmaster to the poor old blind giant to whom he grudges food, and upon
whom he plays shabby tricks in order to terrify him into acceptance of
Christianity.” Now in the “Colloquy” there is not one word of all this.
Keelta embraces Christianity with a wholehearted reverence, and salvation
is not denied to the friends and companions of his youth. Patrick, indeed,
assures Keelta of the salvation of several of them, including Finn
himself. One of the Danaan Folk, who has been bard to the Fianna,
delighted Patrick with his minstrelsy. Brogan, the scribe whom St. Patrick
is employing to write down the Fian legends, says: “If music there is in
heaven, why should there not be on earth? Wherefore it is not right to
banish minstrelsy.” Patrick made answer: “Neither say I any such thing”;
and, in fact, the minstrel is promised heaven for his art.

Such are the pleasant relations that prevail in the “Colloquy” between the
representatives of the two epochs. Keelta represents all that is
courteous, dignified, generous, and valorous in paganism, and Patrick all
that is benign and gracious in Christianity; and instead of the two epochs
standing over against each other in violent antagonism, and separated by
an impassable gulf, all the finest traits in each are seen to harmonise
with and to supplement those of the other.

*Tales of Dermot*

A number of curious legends centre on Dermot O’Dyna, who has been referred
to as one of Finn mac Cumhal’s most notable followers. He might be
described as a kind of Gaelic Adonis, a type of beauty and attraction, the
hero of innumerable love tales; and, like Adonis, his death was caused by
a wild boar.

*The Boar of Ben Bulben*

The boar was no common beast. The story of its origin was as follows:
Dermot’s father, Donn, gave the child to be nurtured by Angus Ōg in his
palace on the Boyne. His mother, who was unfaithful to Donn, bore another
child to Roc, the steward of Angus. Donn, one day, when the steward’s
child ran between his knees to escape from some hounds that were fighting
on the floor of the hall, gave him a squeeze with his two knees that
killed him on the spot, and he then flung the body among the hounds on the
floor. When the steward found his son dead, and discovered (with Finn’s
aid) the cause of it, he brought a Druid rod and smote the body with it,
whereupon, in place of the dead child, there arose a huge boar, without
ears or tail; and to it he spake: “I charge you to bring Dermot O’Dyna to
his death”; and the boar rushed out from the hall and roamed in the
forests of Ben Bulben in Co. Sligo till the time when his destiny should
be fulfilled.

But Dermot grew up into a splendid youth, tireless in the chase, undaunted
in war, beloved by all his comrades of the Fianna, whom he joined as soon
as he was of age to do so.

*How Dermot Got the Love Spot*

He was called Dermot of the Love Spot, and a curious and beautiful
folk-tale recorded by Dr. Douglas Hyde(187) tells how he got this
appellation. With three comrades, Goll, Conan, and Oscar, he was hunting
one day, and late at night they sought a resting-place. They soon found a
hut, in which were an old man, a young girl, a wether sheep, and a cat.
Here they asked for hospitality, and it was granted to them. But, as usual
in these tales, it was a house of mystery.

When they sat down to dinner the wether got up and mounted on the table.
One after another the Fianna strove to throw it off, but it shook them
down on the floor. At last Goll succeeded in flinging it off the table,
but him too it vanquished in the end, and put them all under its feet.
Then the old man bade the cat lead the wether back and fasten it up, and
it did so easily. The four champions, overcome with shame, were for
leaving the house at once; but the old man explained that they had
suffered no discredit—the wether they had been fighting with was the
World, and the cat was the power that would destroy the world itself,
namely, Death.

At night the four heroes went to rest in a large chamber, and the young
maid came to sleep in the same room; and it is said that her beauty made a
light on the walls of the room like a candle. One after another the Fianna
went over to her couch, but she repelled them all. “I belonged to you
once,” she said to each, “and I never will again.” Last of all Dermot
went. “O Dermot,” she said, “you, also, I belonged to once, and I never
can again, for I am Youth; but come here and I will put a mark on you so
that no woman can ever see you without loving you.” Then she touched his
forehead, and left the Love Spot there; and that drew the love of women to
him as long as he lived.

*The Chase of the Hard Gilly*

The Chase of the Gilla Dacar is another Fian tale in which Dermot plays a
leading part. The Fianna, the story goes, were hunting one day on the
hills and through the woods of Munster, and as Finn and his captains stood
on a hillside listening to the baying of the hounds, and the notes of the
Fian hunting-horn from the dark wood below, they saw coming towards them a
huge, ugly, misshapen churl dragging along by a halter a great raw-boned
mare. He announced himself as wishful to take service with Finn. The name
he was called by, he said, was the Gilla Dacar (the Hard Gilly), because
he was the hardest servant ever a lord had to get service or obedience
from. In spite of this unpromising beginning, Finn, whose principle it was
never to refuse any suitor, took him into service; and the Fianna now
began to make their uncouth comrade the butt of all sorts of rough jokes,
which ended in thirteen of them, including Conan the Bald, all mounting up
on the Gilla Dacar’s steed. On this the newcomer complained that he was
being mocked, and he shambled away in great discontent till he was over
the ridge of the hill, when he tucked up his skirts and ran westwards,
faster than any March wind, toward the sea-shore in Co. Kerry. Thereupon
at once the steed, which had stood still with drooping ears while the
thirteen riders in vain belaboured it to make it move, suddenly threw up
its head and started off in a furious gallop after its master. The Fianna
ran alongside, as well as they could for laughter, while Conan, in terror
and rage, reviled them for not rescuing him and his comrades. At last the
thing became serious. The Gilla Dacar plunged into the sea, and the mare
followed him with her thirteen riders, and one more who managed to cling
to her tail just as she left the shore; and all of them soon disappeared
towards the fabled region of the West.

*Dermot at the Well*

Finn and the remaining Fianna now took counsel together as to what should
be done, and finally decided to fit out a ship and go in search of their
comrades. After many days of voyaging they reached an island guarded by
precipitous cliffs. Dermot O’Dyna, as the most agile of the party, was
sent to climb them and to discover, if he could, some means of helping up
the rest of the party. When he arrived at the top he found himself in a
delightful land, full of the song of birds and the humming of bees and the
murmur of streams, but with no sign of habitation. Going into a dark
forest, he soon came to a well, by which hung a curiously wrought
drinking-horn. As he filled it to drink, a low, threatening murmur came
from the well, but his thirst was too keen to let him heed it and he drank
his fill. In no long time there came through the wood an armed warrior,
who violently upbraided him for drinking from his well. The Knight of the
Well and Dermot then fought all the afternoon without either of them
prevailing over the other, when, as evening drew on, the knight suddenly
leaped into the well and disappeared. Next day the same thing happened; on
the third, however, Dermot, as the knight was about to take his leap,
flung his arms round him, and both went down together.

*The Rescue of Fairyland*

Dermot, after a moment of darkness and trance, now found himself in
Fairyland. A man of noble appearance roused him and led him away to the
castle of a great king, where he was hospitably entertained. It was
explained to him that the services of a champion like himself were needed
to do combat against a rival monarch of Faëry. It is the same motive which
we find in the adventures of Cuchulain with Fand, and which so frequently
turns up in Celtic fairy lore. Finn and his companions, finding that
Dermot did not return to them, found their way up the cliffs, and, having
traversed the forest, entered a great cavern which ultimately led them out
to the same land as that in which Dermot had arrived. There too, they are
informed, are the fourteen Fianna who had been carried off on the mare of
the Hard Gilly. He, of course, was the king who needed their services, and
who had taken this method of decoying some thirty of the flower of Irish
fighting men to his side. Finn and his men go into the battle with the
best of goodwill, and scatter the enemy like chaff; Oscar slays the son of
the rival king (who is called the King of “Greece”). Finn wins the love of
his daughter, Tasha of the White Arms, and the story closes with a
delightful mixture of gaiety and mystery. “What reward wilt thou have for
thy good services?” asks the fairy king of Finn. “Thou wert once in
service with me,” replies Finn, “and I mind not that I gave thee any
recompense. Let one service stand against the other.” “Never shall I agree
to that,” cries Conan the Bald. “Shall I have nought for being carried off
on thy wild mare and haled oversea?” “What wilt thou have?” asks the fairy
king. “None of thy gold or goods,” replies Conan, “but mine honour hath
suffered, and let mine honour be appeased. Set thirteen of thy fairest
womenfolk on the wild mare, O King, and thine own wife clinging to her
tail, and let them be transported to Erin in like manner as we were
dragged here, and I shall deem the indignity we have suffered fitly atoned
for.” On this the king smiled and, turning to Finn, said: “O Finn, behold
thy men.” Finn turned to look at them, but when he looked round again the
scene had changed—the fairy king and his host and all the world of Faëry
had disappeared, and he found himself with his companions and the
fair-armed Tasha standing on the beach of the little bay in Kerry whence
the Hard Gilly and the mare had taken the water and carried off his men.
And then all started with cheerful hearts for the great standing camp of
the Fianna on the Hill of Allen to celebrate the wedding feast of Finn and

*Effect of Christianity on the Development of Irish Literature*

This tale with its fascinating mixture of humour, romance, magic, and love
of wild nature, may be taken as a typical specimen of the Fian legends at
their best. As compared with the Conorian legends they show, as I have
pointed out, a characteristic lack of any heroic or serious element. That
nobler strain died out with the growing predominance of Christianity,
which appropriated for definitely religious purposes the more serious and
lofty side of the Celtic genius, leaving for secular literature only the
elements of wonder and romance. So completely was this carried out that
while the Finn legends have survived to this day among the Gaelic-speaking
population, and were a subject of literary treatment as long as Gaelic was
written at all, the earlier cycle perished almost completely out of the
popular remembrance, or survived only in distorted forms; and but for the
early manuscripts in which the tales are fortunately enshrined such a work
as the “Tain Bo Cuailgné”—the greatest thing undoubtedly which the Celtic
genius ever produced in literature—would now be irrecoverably lost.

*The Tales of Deirdre and of Grania*

Nothing can better illustrate the difference between the two cycles than a
comparison of the tale of Deirdre with that with which we have now to
deal—the tale of Dermot and Grania. The latter, from one point of view,
reads like an echo of the former, so close is the resemblance between them
in the outline of the plot. Take the following skeleton story: “A fair
maiden is betrothed to a renowned and mighty suitor much older than
herself. She turns from him to seek a younger lover, and fixes her
attention on one of his followers, a gallant and beautiful youth, whom she
persuades, in spite of his reluctance, to fly with her. After evading
pursuit they settle down for a while at a distance from the defrauded
lover, who bides his time, till at last, under cover of a treacherous
reconciliation, he procures the death of his younger rival and retakes
possession of the lady.” Were a student of Celtic legend asked to listen
to the above synopsis, and to say to what Irish tale it referred, he would
certainly reply that it must be either the tale of the Pursuit of Dermot
and Grania, or that of the Fate of the Sons of Usna; but which of them it
was it would be quite impossible for him to tell. Yet in tone and temper
the two stories are as wide apart as the poles.

*Grania and Dermot*

Grania, in the Fian story, is the daughter of Cormac mac Art, High King of
Ireland. She is betrothed to Finn mac Cumhal, whom we are to regard at
this period as an old and war-worn but still mighty warrior. The famous
captains of the Fianna all assemble at Tara for the wedding feast, and as
they sit at meat Grania surveys them and asks their names of her father’s
Druid, Dara. “It is a wonder,” she says, “that Finn did not ask me for
Oisīn, rather than for himself.” “Oisīn would not dare to take thee,” says
Dara. Grania, after going through all the company, asks: “Who is that man
with the spot on his brow, with the sweet voice, with curling dusky hair
and ruddy cheek?” “That is Dermot O’Dyna,” replies the Druid, “the
white-toothed, of the lightsome countenance, in all the world the best
lover of women and maidens.” Grania now prepares a sleepy draught, which
she places in a drinking-cup and passes round by her handmaid to the king,
to Finn, and to all the company except the chiefs of the Fianna. When the
draught has done its work she goes to Oisīn. “Wilt thou receive courtship
from me, Oisīn?” she asks. “That will I not,” says Oisīn, “nor from any
woman that is betrothed to Finn.” Grania, who knew very well what Oisīn’s
answer would be, now turns to her real mark, Dermot. He at first refuses
to have anything to do with her. “I put thee under bonds [_geise_],  O
Dermot, that thou take me out of Tara to-night.” “Evil are these bonds,
Grania,” says Dermot; “and wherefore hast thou put them on me before all
the kings’ sons that feast at this table?” Grania then explains that she
has loved Dermot ever since she saw him, years ago, from her sunny bower,
take part in and win a great hurling match on the green at Tara. Dermot,
still very reluctant, pleads the merits of Finn, and urges also that Finn
has the keys of the royal fortress, so that they cannot pass out at night.
“There is a secret wicket-gate in my bower,” says Grania. “I am under
_geise_ not to pass through any wicket-gate,” replies Dermot, still
struggling against his destiny. Grania will have none of these
subterfuges—any Fian warrior, she has been told, can leap over a palisade
with the aid of his spear as a jumping-pole; and she goes off to make
ready for the elopement. Dermot, in great perplexity, appeals to Oisīn,
Oscar, Keelta, and the others as to what he should do. They all bid him
keep his _geise_—the bonds that Grania had laid on him to succour her—and
he takes leave of them with tears.

Outside the wicket-gate he again begs Grania to return. “It is certain
that I will not go back,” says Grania, “nor part from thee till death part
us.” “Then go forward, O Grania,” says Dermot. After they had gone a mile,
“I am truly weary, O grandson of Dyna,” says Grania. “It is a good time to
be weary,” says Dermot, making a last effort to rid himself of the
entanglement, “and return now to thy household again, for I pledge the
word of a true warrior that I will never carry thee nor any other woman to
all eternity.” “There is no need,” replies Grania, and she directs him
where to find horses and a chariot, and Dermot, now finally accepting the
inevitable, yokes them, and they proceed on their way to the Ford of Luan
on the Shannon.(188)

*The Pursuit*

Next day Finn, burning with rage, sets out with his warriors on their
track. He traces out each of their halting-places, and finds the hut of
wattles which Dermot has made for their shelter, and the bed of soft
rushes, and the remains of the meal they had eaten. And at each place he
finds a piece of unbroken bread or uncooked salmon—Dermot’s subtle message
to Finn that he has respected the rights of his lord and treated Grania as
a sister. But this delicacy of Dermot’s is not at all to Crania’s mind,
and she conveys her wishes to him in a manner which is curiously
paralleled by an episode in the tale of Tristan and Iseult of Brittany, as
told by Heinrich von Freiberg. They are passing through a piece of wet
ground when a splash of water strikes Grania. She turns to her companion:
“Thou art a mighty warrior, O Dermot, in battle and sieges and forays, yet
meseems that this drop of water is bolder than thou.” This hint that he
was keeping at too respectful a distance was taken by Dermot. The die is
now cast, and he will never again meet Finn and his old comrades except at
the point of the spear.

The tale now loses much of the originality and charm of its opening scene,
and recounts in a somewhat mechanical manner a number of episodes in which
Dermot is attacked or besieged by the Fianna, and rescues himself and his
lady by miracles of boldness or dexterity, or by aid of the magical
devices of his foster-father, Angus Ōg. They are chased all over Ireland,
and the dolmens in that country are popularly associated with them, being
called in the traditions of the peasantry “Beds of Dermot and Grania.”

Grania’s character is drawn throughout with great consistency. She is not
an heroic woman—hers are not the simple, ardent impulses and unwavering
devotion of a Deirdre. The latter is far more primitive. Grania is a
curiously modern and what would be called “neurotic” type—wilful,
restless, passionate, but full of feminine fascination.

*Dermot and Finn Make Peace*

After sixteen years of outlawry peace is at last made for Dermot by the
mediation or Angus with King Cormac and with Finn. Dermot receives his
proper patrimony, the Cantred of O’Dyna, and other lands far away in the
West, and Cormac gives another of his daughters to Finn. “Peaceably they
abode a long time with each other, and it was said that no man then living
was richer in gold and silver, in flocks and herds, than Dermot O’Dyna,
nor one that made more preys.”(189) Grania bears to Dermot four sons and a

But Grania is not satisfied until “the two best men that are in Erin,
namely, Cormac son of Art and Finn son of Cumhal,” have been entertained
in her house. “And how do we know,” she adds, “but our daughter might then
get a fitting husband?” Dermot agrees with some misgiving; the king and
Finn accept the invitation, and they and their retinues are feasted for a
year at Rath Grania.

*The Vengeance of Finn*

Then one night, towards the end of the year of feasting, Dermot is
awakened from sleep by the baying of a hound. He starts up, “so that
Grania caught him and threw her two arms about him and asked him what he
had seen.” “It is the voice of a hound,” says Dermot, “and I marvel to
hear it in the night.” “Save and protect thee,” says Grania; “it is the
Danaan Folk that are at work on thee. Lay thee down again.” But three
times the hound’s voice awakens him, and on the morrow he goes forth armed
with sword and sling, and followed by his own hound, to see what is afoot.

On the mountain of Ben Bulben in Sligo he comes across Finn with a
hunting-party of the Fianna. They are not now hunting, however; they are
being hunted; for they have roused up the enchanted boar without ears or
tail, the Boar of Ben Bulben, which has slain thirty of them that morning.
“And do thou come away,” says Finn, knowing well that Dermot will never
retreat from a danger; “for thou art under _geise_ not to hunt pig.” “How
is that?” says Dermot, and Finn then tells him the weird story of the
death of the steward’s son and his revivification in the form of this
boar, with its mission of vengeance. “By my word,” quoth Dermot, “it is to
slay me that thou hast made this hunt, O Finn; and if it be here that I am
fated to die, I have no power now to shun it.”

The beast then appears on the face of the mountain, and Dermot slips the
hound at him, but the hound flies in terror. Dermot then slings a stone
which strikes the boar fairly in the middle of his forehead but does not
even scratch his skin. The beast is close on him now, and Dermot strikes
him with his sword, but the weapon flies in two and not a bristle of the
boar is cut. In the charge of the boar Dermot falls over him, and is
carried for a space clinging to his back; but at last the boar shakes him
off to the ground, and making “an eager, exceeding mighty spring” upon
him, rips out his bowels, while at the same time, with the hilt of the
sword still in his hand, Dermot dashes out the brains of the beast, and it
falls dead beside him.

*Death of Dermot*

The implacable Finn then comes up, and stands over Dermot in his agony.
“It likes me well to see thee in that plight, O Dermot,” he says, “and I
would that all the women in Ireland saw thee now; for thy excellent beauty
is turned to ugliness and thy choice form to deformity.” Dermot reminds
Finn of how he once rescued him from deadly peril when attacked during a
feast at the house of Derc, and begs him to heal him with a draught of
water from his hands, for Finn had the magic gift of restoring any wounded
man to health with a draught of well-water drawn in his two hands. “Here
is no well,” says Finn. “That is not true,” says Dermot, “for nine paces
from you is the best well of pure water in the world.” Finn, at last, on
the entreaty of Oscar and the Fianna, and after the recital of many deeds
done for his sake by Dermot in old days, goes to the well, but ere he
brings the water to Dermot’s side he lets it fall through his fingers. A
second time he goes, and a second time he lets the water fall, “having
thought upon Grania,” and Dermot gave a sigh of anguish on seeing it.
Oscar then declares that if Finn does not bring the water promptly either
he or Finn shall never leave the hill alive, and Finn goes once more to
the well, but it is now too late; Dermot is dead before the healing
draught can reach his lips. Then Finn takes the hound of Dermot, the
chiefs of the Fianna lay their cloaks over the dead man, and they return
to Rath Grania. Grania, seeing the hound led by Finn, conjectures what has
happened, and swoons upon the rampart of the Rath. Oisīn, when she has
revived, gives her the hound, against Finn’s will, and the Fianna troop
away, leaving her to her sorrow. When the people of Grania’s household go
out to fetch in the body of Dermot they find there Angus Ōg and his
company of the People of Dana, who, after raising three bitter and
terrible cries, bear away the body on a gilded bier, and Angus declares
that though he cannot restore the dead to life, “I will send a soul into
him so that he may talk with me each day.”

*The End of Grania*

To a tale like this modern taste demands a romantic and sentimental
ending; and such has actually been given to it in the retelling by Dr. P.
W. Joyce in his “Old Celtic Romances,” as it has to the tale of Deirdre by
almost every modern writer who has handled it.(190) But the Celtic
story-teller felt differently. The tale of the end of Deirdre is horribly
cruel, that of Grania cynical and mocking; neither is in the least
sentimental. Grania is at first enraged with Finn, and sends her sons
abroad to learn feats of arms, so that they may take vengeance upon him
when the time is ripe. But Finn, wily and far-seeing as he is portrayed in
this tale, knows how to forestall this danger. When the tragedy on Ben
Bulben has begun to grow a little faint in the shallow soul of Grania, he
betakes himself to her, and though met at first with scorn and indignation
he woos her so sweetly and with such tenderness that at last he brings her
to his will, and he bears her back as a bride to the Hill of Allen. When
the Fianna see the pair coming towards them in this loving guise they
burst into a shout of laughter and derision, “so that Grania bowed her
head in shame.” “We trow, O Finn,” cries Oisīn, “that thou wilt keep
Grania well from henceforth.” So Grania made peace between Finn and her
sons, and dwelt with Finn as his wife until he died.

*Two Streams of Fian Legends*

It will be noticed that in this legend Finn does not appear as a
sympathetic character. Our interest is all on the side of Dermot. In this
aspect of it the tale is typical of a certain class of Fian stories. Just
as there were two rival clans within the Fian organisation—the Clan Bascna
and the Clan Morna—who sometimes came to blows for the supremacy, so there
are two streams of legends seeming to flow respectively from one or other
of these sources, in one of which Finn is glorified, while in the other he
is belittled in favour of Goll mac Morna or any other hero with whom he
comes into conflict.

*End of the Fianna*

The story of the end of the Fianna is told in a number of pieces, some
prose, some poetry, all of them, however, agreeing in presenting this
event as a piece of sober history, without any of the supernatural and
mystical atmosphere in which nearly all the Fian legends are steeped.

After the death of Cormac mac Art his son Cairbry came to the
High-Kingship of Ireland. He had a fair daughter named _Sgeimh Solais_
(Light of Beauty), who was asked in marriage by a son of the King of the
Decies. The marriage was arranged, and the Fianna claimed a ransom or
tribute of twenty ingots of gold, which, it is said, was customarily paid
to them on these occasions. It would seem that the Fianna had now grown to
be a distinct power within the State, and an oppressive one, exacting
heavy tributes and burdensome privileges from kings and sub-kings all over
Ireland. Cairbry resolved to break them; and he thought he had now a good
opportunity to do so. He therefore refused payment of the ransom, and
summoned all the provincial kings to help him against the Fianna, the main
body of whom immediately went into rebellion for what they deemed their
rights. The old feud between Clan Bascna and Clan Morna now broke out
afresh, the latter standing by the High King, while Clan Bascna, aided by
the King of Munster and his forces, who alone took their side, marched
against Cairbry.

*The Battle of Gowra*

All this sounds very matter-of-fact and probable, but how much real
history there may be in it it is very hard to say. The decisive battle of
the war which ensued took place at Gowra (Gabhra), the name of which
survives in Garristown, Co. Dublin. The rival forces, when drawn up in
battle array, knelt and kissed the sacred soil of Erin before they
charged. The story of the battle in the poetical versions, one of which is
published in the Ossianic Society’s “Transactions,” and another and finer
one in Campbell’s “The Fians,”(191) is supposed to be related by Oisīn to
St. Patrick. He lays great stress on the feats of his son Oscar:

“My son urged his course
Through the battalions of Tara
Like a hawk through a flock of birds,
Or a rock descending a mountain-side.”

*The Death of Oscar*

The fight was _à outrance_, and the slaughter on both sides tremendous.
None but old men and boys, it is said, were left in Erin after that fight.
The Fianna were in the end almost entirely exterminated, and Oscar slain.
He and the King of Ireland, Cairbry, met in single combat, and each of
them slew the other. While Oscar was still breathing, though there was not
a palm’s breadth on his body without a wound, his father found him:

“I found my own son lying down
 On his left elbow, his shield by his side;
 His right hand clutched the sword,
 The blood poured through his mail

“Oscar gazed up at me—
 Woe to me was that sight!
 He stretched out his two arms to me,
 Endeavouring to rise to meet me.

“I grasped the hand of my son
 And sat down by his left side;
 And since I sat by him there,
 I have recked nought of the world.”

When Finn (in the Scottish version) comes to bewail his grandson, he

“Woe, that it was not I who fell
 In the fight of bare sunny Gavra,
 And you were east and west
 Marching before the Fians, Oscar.”

But Oscar replies:

“Were it you that fell
 In the fight of bare sunny Gavra,
 One sigh, east or west,
 Would not be heard for you from Oscar.

“No man ever knew
 A heart of flesh was in my breast,
 But a heart of the twisted horn
 And a sheath of steel over it.

“But the howling of dogs beside me,
 And the wail of the old heroes,
 And the weeping of the women by turns,
 ’Tis that vexes my heart.”

Oscar dies, after thanking the gods for his father’s safety, and Oisīn and
Keelta raise him on a bier of spears and carry him off under his banner,
“The Terrible Sheaf,” for burial on the field where he died, and where a
great green burial mound is still associated with his name. Finn takes no
part in the battle. He is said to have come “in a ship” to view the field
afterwards, and he wept over Oscar, a thing he had never done save once
before, for his hound, Bran, whom he himself killed by accident. Possibly
the reference to the ship is an indication that he had by this time passed
away, and came to revisit the earth from the oversea kingdom of Death.

There is in this tale of the Battle of Gowra a melancholy grandeur which
gives it a place apart in the Ossianic literature. It is a fitting dirge
for a great legendary epoch. Campbell tells us that the Scottish crofters
and shepherds were wont to put off their bonnets when they recited it. He
adds a strange and thrilling piece of modern folk-lore bearing on it. Two
men, it is said, were out at night, probably sheep-stealing or on some
other predatory occupation, and telling Fian tales as they went, when they
observed two giant and shadowy figures talking to each other across the
glen. One of the apparitions said to the other: “Do you see that man down
below? I was the second door-post of battle on the day of Gowra, and that
man there knows all about it better than myself.”

*The End of Finn*

As to Finn himself, it is strange that in all the extant mass of the
Ossianic literature there should be no complete narrative of his death.
There are references to it in the poetic legends, and annalists even date
it, but the references conflict with each other, and so do the dates.
There is no clear light to be obtained on the subject from either
annalists or poets. Finn seems to have melted into the magic mist which
enwraps so many of his deeds in life. Yet a popular tradition says that he
and his great companions, Oscar and Keelta and Oisīn and the rest, never
died, but lie, like Kaiser Barbarossa, spell-bound in an enchanted cave
where they await the appointed time to reappear in glory and redeem their
land from tyranny and wrong.


Besides the legends which cluster round great heroic names, and have, or
at least pretend to have, the character of history, there are many others,
great and small, which tell of adventures lying purely in regions of
romance, and out of earthly space and time. As a specimen of these I give
here a summary of the “Voyage of Maeldūn,” a most curious and brilliant
piece of invention, which is found in the manuscript entitled the “Book of
the Dun Cow” (about 1100) and other early sources, and edited, with a
translation (to which I owe the following extracts), by Dr. Whitley Stokes
in the “Revue Celtique” for 1888 and 1889. It is only one of a number of
such wonder-voyages found in ancient Irish literature, but it is believed
to have been the earliest of them all and model for the rest, and it has
had the distinction, in the abridged and modified form given by Joyce in
his “Old Celtic Romances,” of having furnished the theme for the “Voyage
of Maeldune” to Tennyson, who made it into a wonderful creation of rhythm
and colour, embodying a kind of allegory of Irish history. It will be
noticed at the end that we are in the unusual position of knowing the name
of the author of this piece of primitive literature, though he does not
claim to have composed, but only to have “put in order,” the incidents of
the “Voyage.” Unfortunately we cannot tell when he lived, but the tale as
we have it probably dates from the ninth century. Its atmosphere is
entirely Christian, and it has no mythological significance except in so
far as it teaches the lesson that the oracular injunctions of wizards
should be obeyed. No adventure, or even detail, of importance is omitted
in the following summary of the story, which is given thus fully because
the reader may take it as representing a large and important section of
Irish legendary romance. Apart from the source to which I am indebted, the
“Revue Celtique,” I know no other faithful reproduction in English of this
wonderful tale.

The “Voyage of Maeldūn” begins, as Irish tales often do, by telling us of
the conception of its hero.

There was a famous man of the sept of the Owens of Aran, named Ailill
Edge-of-Battle, who went with his king on a foray into another territory.
They encamped one night near a church and convent of nuns. At midnight
Ailill, who was near the church, saw a certain nun come out to strike the
bell for nocturns, and caught her by the hand. In ancient Ireland
religious persons were not much respected in time of war, and Ailill did
not respect her. When they parted, she said to him: “Whence is thy race,
and what is thy name?” Said the hero: “Ailill of the Edge-of-Battle is my
name, and I am of the Owenacht of Aran, in Thomond.”

Not long afterwards Ailill was slain by reavers from Leix, who burned the
church of Doocloone over his head.

In due time a son was born to the woman and she called his name Maeldūn.
He was taken secretly to her friend, the queen of the territory, and by
her Maeldūn was reared. “Beautiful indeed was his form, and it is doubtful
if there hath been in flesh any one so beautiful as he. So he grew up till
he was a young warrior and fit to use weapons. Great, then, was his
brightness and his gaiety and his playfulness. In his play he outwent all
his comrades in throwing balls, and in running and leaping and putting
stones and racing horses.”

One day a proud young warrior who had been defeated by him taunted him
with his lack of knowledge of his kindred and descent. Maeldūn went to his
foster-mother, the queen, and said: “I will not eat nor drink till thou
tell me who are my mother and my father.” “I am thy mother,” said the
queen, “for none ever loved her son more than I love thee.” But Maeldūn
insisted on knowing all, and the queen at last took him to his own mother,
the nun, who told him: “Thy father was Ailill of the Owens of Aran.” Then
Maeldūn went to his own kindred, and was well received by them; and with
him he took as guests his three beloved foster-brothers, sons of the king
and queen who had brought him up.

After a time Maeldūn happened to be among a company of young warriors who
were contending at putting the stone in the graveyard of the ruined church
of Doocloone. Maeldūn’s foot was planted, as he heaved the stone, on a
scorched and blackened flagstone; and one who was by, a monk named
Briccne,(192) said to him: “It were better for thee to avenge the man who
was burnt there than to cast stones over his burnt bones.”

“Who was that?” asked Maeldūn.

“Ailill, thy father,” they told him.

“Who slew him?” said he.

“Reavers from Leix,” they said, “and they destroyed him on this spot.”

Then Maeldūn threw down the stone he was about to cast, and put his mantle
round him and went home; and he asked the way to Leix. They told him he
could only go there by sea.(193)

At the advice of a Druid he then built him a boat, or coracle, of skins
lapped threefold one over the other; and the wizard also told him that
seventeen men only must accompany him, and on what day he must begin the
boat and on what day he must put out to sea.

So when his company was ready he put out and hoisted the sail, but had
gone only a little way when his three foster-brothers came down to the
beach and entreated him to take them. “Get you home,” said Maeldūn, “for
none but the number I have may go with me.” But the three youths would not
be separated from Maeldūn, and they flung themselves into the sea. He
turned back, lest they should be drowned, and brought them into his boat.
All, as we shall see, were punished for this transgression, and Maeldūn
condemned to wandering until expiation had been made.

Irish bardic tales excel in their openings. In this case, as usual, the
_mise-en-scène_ is admirably contrived. The narrative which follows tells
how, after seeing his father’s slayer on an island, but being unable to
land there, Maeldūn and his party are blown out to sea, where they visit a
great number of islands and have many strange adventures on them. The tale
becomes, in fact, a _cento_ of stories and incidents, some not very
interesting, while in others, as in the adventure of the Island of the
Silver Pillar, or the Island of the Flaming Rampart, or that where the
episode of the eagle takes place, the Celtic sense of beauty, romance, and
mystery find an expression unsurpassed, perhaps, in literature.

In the following rendering I have omitted the verses given by Joyce at the
end of each adventure. They merely recapitulate the prose narrative, and
are not found in the earliest manuscript authorities.

*The Island of the Slaves*

Maeldūn and his crew had rowed all day and half the night when they came
to two small bare islands with two forts in them, and a noise was heard
from them of armed men quarrelling. “Stand off from me,” cried one of
them, “for I am a better man than thou. ’Twas I slew Ailill of the
Edge-of-Battle and burned the church of Doocloone over him, and no kinsman
has avenged his death on me. And _thou_ hast never done the like of that.”

Then Maeldūn was about to land, and Germān(194) and Diuran the Rhymer
cried that God had guided them to the spot where they would be. But a
great wind arose suddenly and blew them off into the boundless ocean, and
Maeldūn said to his foster-brothers: “Ye have caused this to be, casting
yourselves on board in spite of the words of the Druid.” And they had no
answer, save only to be silent for a little space.

*The Island of the Ants*

They drifted three days and three nights, not knowing whither to row, when
at the dawn of the third day they heard the noise of breakers, and came to
an island as soon as the sun was up. Here, ere they could land, they met a
swarm of ferocious ants, each the size of a foal, that came down the
strand and into the sea to get at them; so they made off quickly, and saw
no land for three days more.

*The Island of the Great Birds*

This was a terraced island, with trees all round it, and great birds
sitting on the trees. Maeldūn landed first alone, and carefully searched
the island for any evil thing, but finding none, the rest followed him,
and killed and ate many of the birds, bringing others on board their boat.

*The Island of the Fierce Beast*

A great sandy island was this, and on it a beast like a horse, but with
clawed feet like a hound’s. He flew at them to devour them, but they put
off in time, and were pelted by the beast with pebbles from the shore as
they rowed away.

*The Island of the Giant Horses*

A great, flat island, which it fell by lot to Germān and Diuran to explore
first. They found a vast green racecourse, on which were the marks of
horses’ hoofs, each as big as the sail of a ship, and the shells of nuts
of monstrous size were lying about, and much plunder. So they were afraid,
and took ship hastily again, and from the sea they saw a horse-race in
progress and heard the shouting of a great multitude cheering on the white
horse or the brown, and saw the giant horses running swifter than the
wind.(195) So they rowed away with all their might, thinking they had come
upon an assembly of demons.

*The Island of the Stone Door*

A full week passed, and then they found a great, high island with a house
standing on the shore. A door with a valve of stone opened into the sea,
and through it the sea-waves kept hurling salmon into the house. Maeldūn
and his party entered, and found the house empty of folk, but a great bed
lay ready for the chief to whom it belonged, and a bed for each three of
his company, and meat and drink beside each bed. Maeldūn and his party ate
and drank their fill, and then sailed off again.

*The Island of the Apples*

By the time they had come here they had been a long time voyaging, and
food had failed them, and they were hungry. This island had precipitous
sides from which a wood hung down, and as they passed along the cliffs
Maeldūn broke off a twig and held it in his hand. Three days and nights
they coasted the cliff and found no entrance to the island, but by that
time a cluster of three apples had grown on the end of Maeldūn’s rod, and
each apple sufficed the crew for forty days.

*The Island of the Wondrous Beast*

This island had a fence of stone round it, and within the fence a huge
beast that raced round and round the island. And anon it went to the top
of the island, and then performed a marvellous feat, viz., it turned its
body round and round inside its skin, the skin remaining unmoved, while
again it would revolve its skin round and round the body. When it saw the
party it rushed at them, but they escaped, pelted with stones as they
rowed away. One of the stones pierced through Maeldūn’s shield and lodged
in the keel of the boat.

*The Island of the Biting Horses*

Here were many great beasts resembling horses, that tore continually
pieces of flesh from each other’s sides, so that all the island ran with
blood. They rowed hastily away, and were now disheartened and full of
complaints, for they knew not where they were, nor how to find guidance or
aid in their quest.

*The Island of the Fiery Swine*

With great weariness, hunger, and thirst they arrived at the tenth island,
which was full of trees loaded with golden apples. Under the trees went
red beasts, like fiery swine, that kicked the trees with their legs, when
the apples fell and the beasts consumed them. The beasts came out at
morning only, when a multitude of birds left the island, and swam out to
sea till nones, when they turned and swam inward again till vespers, and
ate the apples all night.

Maeldūn and his comrades landed at night, and felt the soil hot under
their feet from the fiery swine in their caverns underground. They
collected all the apples they could, which were good both against hunger
and thirst, and loaded their boat with them and put to sea once more,

*The Island of the Little Cat*

The apples had failed them when they came hungry and thirsting to the
eleventh island. This was, as it were, a tall white tower of chalk
reaching up to the clouds, and on the rampart about it were great houses
white as snow. They entered the largest of them, and found no man in it,
but a small cat playing on four stone pillars which were in the midst of
the house, leaping from one to the other. It looked a little on the Irish
warriors, but did not cease from its play. On the walls of the houses
there were three rows of objects hanging up, one row of brooches of gold
and silver, and one of neck-torques of gold and silver, each as big as the
hoop of a cask, and one of great swords with gold and silver hilts. Quilts
and shining garments lay in the room, and there, also, were a roasted ox
and a flitch of bacon and abundance of liquor. “Hath this been left for
us?” said Maeldūn to the cat. It looked at him a moment, and then
continued its play. So there they ate and drank and slept, and stored up
what remained of the food. Next day, as they made to leave the house, the
youngest of Maeldūn’s foster-brothers took a necklace from the wall, and
was bearing it out when the cat suddenly “leaped through him like a fiery
arrow,” and he fell, a heap of ashes, on the floor. Thereupon Maeldūn, who
had forbidden the theft of the jewel, soothed the cat and replaced the
necklace, and they strewed the ashes of the dead youth on the sea-shore,
and put to sea again.

*The Island of the Black and the White Sheep*

This had a brazen palisade dividing it in two, and a flock of black sheep
on one side and of white sheep on the other. Between them was a big man
who tended the flocks, and sometimes he put a white sheep among the black,
when it became black at once, or a black sheep among the white, when it
immediately turned white.(196) By way of an experiment Maeldūn flung a
peeled white wand on the side of the black sheep. It at once turned black,
whereat they left the place in terror, and without landing.

*The Island of the Giant Cattle*

A great and wide island with a herd of huge swine on it. They killed a
small pig and roasted it on the spot, as it was too great to carry on
board. The island rose up into a very high mountain, and Diuran and Germān
went to view the country from the top of it. On their way they met a broad
river. To try the depth of the water Germān dipped in the haft of his
spear, which at once was consumed as with liquid fire. On the other bank
was a huge man guarding what seemed a herd of oxen. He called to them not
to disturb the calves, so they went no further and speedily sailed away.

*The Island of the Mill*

Here they found a great and grim-looking mill, and a giant miller grinding
corn in it. “Half the corn of your country,” he said, “is ground here.
Here comes to be ground all that men begrudge to each other.” Heavy and
many were the loads they saw going to it, and all that was ground in it
was carried away westwards. So they crossed themselves and sailed away.

*The Island of the Black Mourners*

An island full of black people continually weeping and lamenting. One of
the two remaining foster-brothers landed on it, and immediately turned
black and fell to weeping like the rest. Two others went to fetch him; the
same fate befell them. Four others then went with their heads wrapped in
cloths, that they should not look on the land or breathe the air of the
place, and they seized two of the lost ones and brought them away
perforce, but not the foster-brother. The two rescued ones could not
explain their conduct except by saying that they had to do as they saw
others doing about them.

*The Island of the Four Fences*

Four fences of gold, silver, brass, and crystal divided this island into
four parts, kings in one, queens in another, warriors in a third, maidens
in the fourth.

On landing, a maiden gave them food like cheese, that tasted to each man
as he wished it to be, and an intoxicating liquor that put them asleep for
three days. When they awoke they were at sea in their boat, and of the
island and its inhabitants nothing was to be seen.

The Island of the Glass Bridge

Here we come to one of the most elaborately wrought and picturesque of all
the incidents of the voyage. The island they now reached had on it a
fortress with a brazen door, and a bridge of glass leading to it. When
they sought to cross the bridge it threw them backward.(197) A woman came
out of the fortress with a pail in her hand, and lifting from the bridge a
slab of glass she let down her pail into the water beneath, and returned
to the fortress. They struck on the brazen portcullis before them to gain
admittance, but the melody given forth by the smitten metal plunged them
in slumber till the morrow morn. Thrice over this happened, the woman each
time making an ironical speech about Maeldūn. On the fourth day, however,
she came out to them over the bridge, wearing a white mantle with a
circlet of gold on her hair, two silver sandals on her rosy feet, and a
filmy silken smock next her skin.

“My welcome to thee, O Maeldūn,” she said, and she welcomed each man of
the crew by his own name. Then she took them into the great house and
allotted a couch to the chief, and one for each three of his men. She gave
them abundance of food and drink, all out of her one pail, each man
finding in it what he most desired. When she had departed they asked
Maeldūn if they should woo the maiden for him. “How would it hurt you to
speak with her?” says Maeldūn. They do so, and she replies: “I know not,
nor have ever known, what sin is.” Twice over this is repeated.
“To-morrow,” she says at last, “you shall have your answer.” When the
morning breaks, however, they find themselves once more at sea, with no
sign of the island or fortress or lady.

*The Island of the Shouting Birds*

They hear from afar a great cry and chanting, as it were a singing of
psalms, and rowing for a day and night they come at last to an island full
of birds, black, brown, and speckled, all shouting and speaking. They sail
away without landing.

*The Island of the Anchorite*

Here they found a wooded island full of birds, and on it a solitary man,
whose only clothing was his hair. They asked him of his country and kin.
He tells them that he was a man of Ireland who had put to sea(198) with a
sod of his native country under his feet. God had turned the sod into an
island, adding a foot’s breadth to it and one tree for every year. The
birds are his kith and kin, and they all wait there till Doomsday,
miraculously nourished by angels. He entertained them for three nights,
and then they sailed away.

*The Island of the Miraculous Fountain*

This island had a golden rampart, and a soft white soil like down. In it
they found another anchorite clothed only in his hair. There was a
fountain in it which yields whey or water on Fridays and Wednesdays, milk
on Sundays and feasts of martyrs, and ale and wine on the feasts of
Apostles, of Mary, of John the Baptist, and on the high tides of the year.

*The Island of the Smithy*

As they approached this they heard from afar as it were the clanging of a
tremendous smithy, and heard men talking of themselves. “Little boys they
seem,” said one, “in a little trough yonder.” They rowed hastily away, but
did not turn their boat, so as not to seem to be flying; but after a while
a giant smith came out of the forge holding in his tongs a huge mass of
glowing iron, which he cast after them, and all the sea boiled round it,
as it fell astern of their boat.

*The Sea of Clear Glass*

After that they voyaged until they entered a sea that resembled green
glass. Such was its purity that the gravel and the sand of the sea were
clearly visible through it; and they saw no monsters or beasts therein
among the crags, but only the pure gravel and the green sand. For a long
space of the day they were voyaging in that sea, and great was its
splendour and its beauty.(199)

*The Undersea Island*

They next found themselves in a sea, thin like mist, that seemed as if it
would not support their boat. In the depths they saw roofed fortresses,
and a fair land around them. A monstrous beast lodged in a tree there,
with droves of cattle about it, and beneath it an armed warrior. In spite
of the warrior, the beast ever and anon stretched down a long neck and
seized one of the cattle and devoured it. Much dreading lest they should
sink through that mist-like sea, they sailed over it and away.

*The Island of the Prophecy*

When they arrived here they found the water rising in high cliffs round
the island, and, looking down, saw on it a crowd of people, who screamed
at them, “It is they, it is they,” till they were out of breath. Then came
a woman and pelted them from below with large nuts, which they gathered
and took with them. As they went they heard the folk crying to each other:
“Where are they now?” “They are gone away.” “They are not.” “It is
likely,” says the tale, “that there was some one concerning whom the
islanders had a prophecy that he would ruin their country and expel them
from their land.”

*The Island of the Spouting Water*

Here a great stream spouted out of one side of the island and arched over
it like a rainbow, falling on the strand at the further side. And when
they thrust their spears into the stream above them they brought out
salmon from it as much as they would, and the island was filled with the
stench of those they could not carry away.

*The Island of the Silvern Column*

The next wonder to which they came forms one of the most striking and
imaginative episodes of the voyage. It was a great silvern column,
four-square, rising from the sea. Each of its four sides was as wide as
two oar-strokes of the boat. Not a sod of earth was at its foot, but it
rose from the boundless ocean and its summit was lost in the sky. From
that summit a huge silver net was flung far away into the sea, and through
a mesh of that net they sailed. As they did so Diuran hacked away a piece
of the net. “Destroy it not,” said Maeldūn, “for what we see is the work
of mighty men.” Diuran said: “For the praise of God’s name I do this, that
our tale may be believed, and if I reach Ireland again this piece of
silver shall be offered by me on the high altar of Armagh.” Two ounces and
a half it weighed when it was measured afterwards in Armagh.

“And then they heard a voice from the summit of yonder pillar, mighty,
clear, and distinct. But they knew not the tongue it spake, or the words
it uttered.”

*The Island of the Pedestal*

The next island stood on a foot, or pedestal, which rose from the sea, and
they could find no way of access to it. In the base of the pedestal was a
door, closed and locked, which they could not open, so they sailed away,
having seen and spoken with no one.

*The Island of the Women*

Here they found the rampart of a mighty dūn, enclosing a mansion. They
landed to look on it, and sat on a hillock near by. Within the dūn they
saw seventeen maidens busy at preparing a great bath. In a little while a
rider, richly clad, came up swiftly on a racehorse, and lighted down and
went inside, one of the girls taking the horse. The rider then went into
the bath, when they saw that it was a woman. Shortly after that one of the
maidens came out and invited them to enter, saying: “The Queen invites
you.” They went into the fort and bathed, and then sat down to meat, each
man with a maiden over against him, and Maeldūn opposite to the queen. And
Maeldūn was wedded to the queen, and each of the maidens to one of his
men, and at nightfall canopied chambers were allotted to each of them. On
the morrow morn they made ready to depart, but the queen would not have
them go, and said: “Stay here, and old age will never fall on you, but ye
shall remain as ye are now for ever and ever, and what ye had last night
ye shall have always. And be no longer a-wandering from island to island
on the ocean.”

She then told Maeldūn that she was the mother of the seventeen girls they
had seen, and her husband had been king of the island. He was now dead,
and she reigned in his place. Each day she went into the great plain in
the interior of the island to judge the folk, and returned to the dūn at

So they remained there for three months of winter; but at the end of that
time it seemed they had been there three years, and the men wearied of it,
and longed to set forth for their own country.

“What shall we find there,” said Maeldūn, “that is better than this?”

But still the people murmured and complained, and at last they said:
“Great is the love which Maeldūn has for his woman. Let him stay with her
alone if he will, but we will go to our own country.” But Maeldūn would
not be left after them, and at last one day, when the queen was away
judging the folk, they went on board their bark and put out to sea. Before
they had gone far, however, the queen came riding up with a clew of twine
in her hand, and she flung it after them. Maeldūn caught it in his hand,
and it clung to his hand so that he could not free himself, and the queen,
holding the other end, drew them back to land. And they stayed on the
island another three months.

Twice again the same thing happened, and at last the people averred that
Maeldūn held the clew on purpose, so great was his love for the woman. So
the next time another man caught the clew, but it clung to his hand as
before; so Diuran smote off his hand, and it fell with the clew into the
sea. “When she saw that she at once began to wail and shriek, so that all
the land was one cry, wailing and shrieking.” And thus they escaped from
the Island of the Women.

*The Island of the Red Berries*

On this island were trees with great red berries which yielded an
intoxicating and slumbrous juice. They mingled it with water to moderate
its power, and filled their casks with it, and sailed away.

*The Island of the Eagle*

A large island, with woods of oak and yew on one side of it, and on the
other a plain, whereon were herds of sheep, and a little lake in it; and
there also they found a small church and a fort, and an ancient grey
cleric, clad only in his hair. Maeldūn asked him who he was.

“I am the fifteenth man of the monks of St. Brennan of Birr,” he said. “We
went on our pilgrimage into the ocean, and they have all died save me
alone.” He showed them the tablet (? calendar) of the Holy Brennan, and
they prostrated themselves before it, and Maeldūn kissed it. They stayed
there for a season, feeding on the sheep of the island.

One day they saw what seemed to be a cloud coming up from the south-west.
As it drew near, however, they saw the waving of pinions, and perceived
that it was an enormous bird. It came into the island, and, alighting very
wearily on a hill near the lake, it began eating the red berries, like
grapes, which grew on a huge tree-branch as big as a full-grown oak, that
it had brought with it, and the juice and fragments of the berries fell
into the lake, reddening all the water. Fearful that it would seize them
in its talons and bear them out to sea, they lay hid in the woods and
watched it. After a while, however, Maeldūn went out to the foot of the
hill, but the bird did him no harm, and then the rest followed cautiously
behind their shields, and one of them gathered the berries off the branch
which the bird held in its talons, but it did them no evil, and regarded
them not at all. And they saw that it was very old, and its plumage dull
and decayed.

At the hour of noon two eagles came up from the south-west and alit in
front of the great bird, and after resting awhile they set to work picking
off the insects that infested its jaws and eyes and ears. This they
continued till vespers, when all three ate of the berries again. At last,
on the following day, when the great bird had been completely cleansed, it
plunged into the lake, and again the two eagles picked and cleansed it.
Till the third day the great bird remained preening and shaking its
pinions, and its feathers became glossy and abundant, and then, soaring
upwards, it flew thrice round the island, and away to the quarter whence
it had come, and its flight was now swift and strong; whence it was
manifest to them that this had been its renewal from old age to youth,
according as the prophet said, _Thy youth is renewed like the

Then Diuran said: “Let us bathe in that lake and renew ourselves where the
bird hath been renewed.” “Nay,” said another, “for the bird hath left his
venom in it.” But Diuran plunged in and drank of the water. From that time
so long as he lived his eyes were strong and keen, and not a tooth fell
from his jaw nor a hair from his head, and he never knew illness or

Thereafter they bade farewell to the anchorite, and fared forth on the
ocean once more.

*The Island of the Laughing Folk*

Here they found a great company of men laughing and playing incessantly.
They drew lots as to who should enter and explore it, and it fell to
Maeldūn’s foster-brother. But when he set foot on it he at once began to
laugh and play with the others, and could not leave off, nor would he come
back to his comrades. So they left him and sailed away.(201)

*The Island of the Flaming Rampart*

They now came in sight of an island which was not large, and it had about
it a rampart of flame that circled round and round it continually. In one
part of the rampart there was an opening, and when this opening came
opposite to them they saw through it the whole island, and saw those who
dwelt therein, even men and women, beautiful, many, and wearing adorned
garments, with vessels of gold in their hands. And the festal music which
they made came to the ears of the wanderers. For a long time they lingered
there, watching this marvel, “and they deemed it delightful to behold.”

*The Island of the Monk of Tory*

Far off among the waves they saw what they took to be a white bird on the
water. Drawing near to it they found it to be an aged man clad only in the
white hair of his body, and he was throwing himself in prostrations on a
broad rock.

“From Torach(202) I have come hither,” he said, “and there I was reared. I
was cook in the monastery there, and the food of the Church I used to sell
for myself, so that I had at last much treasure of raiment and brazen
vessels and gold-bound books and all that man desires. Great was my pride
and arrogance.

“One day as I dug a grave in which to bury a churl who had been brought on
to the island, a voice came from below where a holy man lay buried, and he
said: ‘Put not the corpse of a sinner on me, a holy, pious person!’ ”

After a dispute the monk buried the corpse elsewhere, and was promised an
eternal reward for doing so. Not long thereafter he put to sea in a boat
with all his accumulated treasures, meaning apparently to escape from the
island with his plunder. A great wind blew him far out to sea, and when he
was out of sight of land the boat stood still in one place. He saw near
him a man (angel) sitting on the wave. “Whither goest thou?” said the man.
“On a pleasant way, whither I am now looking,” said the monk. “It would
not be pleasant to thee if thou knewest what is around thee,” said the
man. “So far as eye can see there is one crowd of demons all gathered
around thee, because of thy covetousness and pride, and theft, and other
evil deeds. Thy boat hath stopped, nor will it move until thou do my will,
and the fires of hell shall get hold of thee.”

He came near to the boat, and laid his hand on the arm of the fugitive,
who promised to do his will.

“Fling into the sea,” he said, “all the wealth that is in thy boat.”

“It is a pity,” said the monk, “that it should go to loss.”

“It shall in nowise go to loss. There will be one man whom thou wilt

The monk thereupon flung everything into the sea save one little wooden
cup, and he cast away oars and rudder. The man gave him a provision of
whey and seven cakes, and bade him abide wherever his boat should stop.
The wind and waves carried him hither and thither till at last the boat
came to rest upon the rock where the wanderers found him. There was
nothing there but the bare rock, but remembering what he was bidden he
stepped out upon a little ledge over which the waves washed, and the boat
immediately left him, and the rock was enlarged for him. There he remained
seven years, nourished by otters which brought him salmon out of the sea,
and even flaming firewood on which to cook them, and his cup was filled
with good liquor every day. “And neither wet nor heat nor cold affects me
in this place.”

At the noon hour miraculous nourishment was brought for the whole crew,
and thereafter the ancient man said to them:

“Ye will all reach your country, and the man that slew thy father, O
Maeldūn, ye will find him in a fortress before you. And slay him not, but
forgive him; because God hath saved you from manifold great perils, and ye
too are men deserving of death.”

Then they bade him farewell and went on their accustomed way.

*The Island of the Falcon*

This is uninhabited save for herds of sheep and oxen. They land on it and
eat their fill, and one of them sees there a large falcon. “This falcon,”
he says, “is like the falcons of Ireland.” “Watch it,” says Maeldūn, “and
see how it will go from us.” It flew off to the south-east, and they rowed
after it all day till vespers.

*The Home-coming*

At nightfall they sighted a land like Ireland; and soon came to a small
island, where they ran their prow ashore. It was the island where dwelt
the man who had slain Ailill.

They went up to the dūn that was on the island, and heard men talking
within it as they sat at meat. One man said:

“It would be ill for us if we saw Maeldūn now.”

“That Maeldūn has been drowned,” said another.

“Maybe it is he who shall waken you from sleep to-night,” said a third.

“If he should come now,” said a fourth, “what should we do?”

“Not hard to answer that,” said the chief of them. “Great welcome should
he have if he were to come, for he hath been a long space in great

Then Maeldūn smote with the wooden clapper against the door. “Who is
there?” asked the doorkeeper.

“Maeldūn is here,” said he.

They entered the house in peace, and great welcome was made for them, and
they were arrayed in new garments. And then they told the story of all the
marvels that God had shown them, according to the words of the “sacred
poet,” who said, _Haec olim meminisse juvabit._(203)

Then Maeldūn went to his own home and kindred, and Diuran the Rhymer took
with him the piece of silver that he had hewn from the net of the pillar,
and laid it on the high altar of Armagh in triumph and exultation at the
miracles that God had wrought for them. And they told again the story of
all that had befallen them, and all the marvels they had seen by sea and
land, and the perils they had endured.

The story ends with the following words:

“Now Aed the Fair [Aed Finn(204)], chief sage of Ireland, arranged this
story as it standeth here; and he did so for a delight to the mind, and
for the folks of Ireland after him.”


*Bardic Philosophy*

The absence in early Celtic literature of any world-myth, or any
philosophic account of the origin and constitution of things, was noticed
at the opening of our third chapter. In Gaelic literature there is, as far
as I know, nothing which even pretends to represent early Celtic thought
on this subject. It is otherwise in Wales. Here there has existed for a
considerable time a body of teaching purporting to contain a portion, at
any rate, of that ancient Druidic thought which, as Caesar tells us, was
communicated only to the initiated, and never written down. This teaching
is principally to be found in two volumes entitled “Barddas,” a
compilation made from materials in his possession by a Welsh bard and
scholar named Llewellyn Sion, of Glamorgan, towards the end of the
sixteenth century, and edited, with a translation, by J.A. Williams ap
Ithel for the Welsh MS. Society. Modern Celtic scholars pour contempt on
the pretensions of works like this to enshrine any really antique thought.
Thus Mr. Ivor B. John: “All idea of a bardic esoteric doctrine involving
pre-Christian mythic philosophy must be utterly discarded.” And again:
“The nonsense talked upon the subject is largely due to the uncritical
invention of pseudo-antiquaries of the sixteenth to seventeenth and
eighteenth centuries.”(205) Still the bardic Order was certainly at one
time in possession of such a doctrine. That Order had a fairly continuous
existence in Wales. And though no critical thinker would build with any
confidence a theory of pre-Christian doctrine on a document of the
sixteenth century, it does not seem wise to scout altogether the
possibility that some fragments of antique lore may have lingered even so
late as that in bardic tradition.

At any rate, “Barddas” is a work of considerable philosophic interest, and
even if it represents nothing but a certain current of Cymric thought in
the sixteenth century it is not unworthy of attention by the student of
things Celtic. Purely Druidic it does not even profess to be, for
Christian personages and episodes from Christian history figure largely in
it. But we come occasionally upon a strain of thought which, whatever else
it may be, is certainly not Christian, and speaks of an independent
philosophic system.

In this system two primary existences are contemplated, God and Cythrawl,
who stand respectively for the principle of energy tending towards life,
and the principle of destruction tending towards nothingness. Cythrawl is
realised in Annwn,(206) which may be rendered, the Abyss, or Chaos. In the
beginning there was nothing but God and Annwn. Organised life began by the
Word—God pronounced His ineffable Name and the “Manred” was formed. The
Manred was the primal substance of the universe. It was conceived as a
multitude of minute indivisible particles—atoms, in fact—each being a
microcosm, for God is complete in each of them, while at the same time
each is a part of God, the Whole. The totality of being as it now exists
is represented by three concentric circles. The innermost of them, where
life sprang from Annwn, is called “Abred,” and is the stage of struggle
and evolution—the contest of life with Cythrawl. The next is the circle of
“Gwynfyd,” or Purity, in which life is manifested as a pure, rejoicing
force, having attained its triumph over evil. The last and outermost
circle is called “Ceugant,” or Infinity. Here all predicates fail us, and
this circle, represented graphically not by a bounding line, but by
divergent rays, is inhabited by God alone. The following extract from
“Barddas,” in which the alleged bardic teaching is conveyed in catechism
form, will serve to show the order of ideas in which the writer’s mind

                          [The Circles of Being]

                           The Circles of Being

“Q. Whence didst thou proceed?

“A. I came from the Great World, having my beginning in Annwn.

“Q. Where art thou now? and how camest thou to what thou art?

“A. I am in the Little World, whither I came having traversed the circle
of Abred, and now I am a Man, at its termination and extreme limits.

“Q. What wert thou before thou didst become a man, in the circle of Abred?

“A. I was in Annwn the least possible that was capable of life and the
nearest possible to absolute death; and I came in every form and through
every form capable of a body and life to the state of man along the circle
of Abred, where my condition was severe and grievous during the age of
ages, ever since I was parted in Annwn from the dead, by the gift of God,
and His great generosity, and His unlimited and endless love.

“Q. Through how many different forms didst thou come, and what happened
unto thee?”

“A. Through every form capable of life, in water, in earth, in air. And
there happened unto me every severity, every hardship, every evil, and
every suffering, and but little was the goodness or Gwynfyd before I
became a man.... Gwynfyd cannot be obtained without seeing and knowing
everything, but it is not possible to see or to know everything without
suffering everything.... And there can be no full and perfect love that
does not produce those things which are necessary to lead to the knowledge
that causes Gwynfyd.”

Every being, we are told, shall attain to the circle of Gwynfyd at

There is much here that reminds us of Gnostic or Oriental thought. It is
certainly very unlike Christian orthodoxy of the sixteenth century. As a
product of the Cymric mind of that period the reader may take it for what
it is worth, without troubling himself either with antiquarian theories or
with their refutations.

Let us now turn to the really ancient work, which is not philosophic, but
creative and imaginative, produced by British bards and fabulists of the
Middle Ages. But before we go on to set forth what we shall find in this
literature we must delay a moment to discuss one thing which we shall not.

*The Arthurian Saga*

For the majority of modern readers who have not made any special study of
the subject, the mention of early British legend will inevitably call up
the glories of the Arthurian Saga—they will think of the fabled palace at
Caerleon-on-Usk, the Knights of the Round Table riding forth on chivalrous
adventure, the Quest of the Grail, the guilty love of Lancelot, flower of
knighthood, for the queen, the last great battle by the northern sea, the
voyage of Arthur, sorely wounded, but immortal, to the mystic valley of
Avalon. But as a matter of fact they will find in the native literature of
mediæval Wales little or nothing of all this—no Round Table, no Lancelot,
no Grail-Quest, no Isle of Avalon, until the Welsh learned about them from
abroad; and though there was indeed an Arthur in this literature, he is a
wholly different being from the Arthur of what we now call the Arthurian


The earliest extant mention of Arthur is to be found in the work of the
British historian Nennius, who wrote his “Historia Britonum” about the
year 800. He derives his authority from various sources—ancient monuments
and writings of Britain and of Ireland (in connexion with the latter
country he records the legend of Partholan), Roman annals, and chronicles
of saints, especially St. Germanus. He presents a fantastically Romanised
and Christianised view of British history, deriving the Britons from a
Trojan and Roman ancestry. His account of Arthur, however, is both sober
and brief. Arthur, who, according to Nennius, lived in the sixth century,
was not a king; his ancestry was less noble than that of many other
British chiefs, who, nevertheless, for his great talents as a military
_Imperator_, or _dux bellorum_, chose him for their leader against the
Saxons, whom he defeated in twelve battles, the last being at Mount Badon.
Arthur’s office was doubtless a relic of Roman military organisation, and
there is no reason to doubt his historical existence, however impenetrable
may be the veil which now obscures his valiant and often triumphant
battlings for order and civilisation in that disastrous age.

*Geoffrey of Monmouth*

Next we have Geoffrey of Monmouth, Bishop of St. Asaph, who wrote his
“Historia Regum Britaniæ” in South Wales in the early part of the twelfth
century. This work is an audacious attempt to make sober history out of a
mass of mythical or legendary matter mainly derived, if we are to believe
the author, from an ancient book brought by his uncle Walter, Archdeacon
of Oxford, from Brittany. The mention of Brittany in this connexion is, as
we shall see, very significant. Geoffrey wrote expressly to commemorate
the exploits of Arthur, who now appears as a king, son of Uther Pendragon
and of Igerna, wife of Gorlois, Duke of Cornwall, to whom Uther gained
access in the shape of her husband through the magic arts of Merlin. He
places the beginning of Arthur’s reign in the year 505, recounts his wars
against the Saxons, and says he ultimately conquered not only all Britain,
but Ireland, Norway, Gaul, and Dacia, and successfully resisted a demand
for tribute and homage from the Romans. He held his court at
Caerleon-on-Usk. While he was away on the Continent carrying on his
struggle with Rome his nephew Modred usurped his crown and wedded his wife
Guanhumara. Arthur, on this, returned, and after defeating the traitor at
Winchester slew him in a last battle in Cornwall, where Arthur himself was
sorely wounded (A.D. 542). The queen retired to a convent at Caerleon.
Before his death Arthur conferred his kingdom on his kinsman Constantine,
and was then carried off mysteriously to “the isle of Avalon” to be cured,
and “the rest is silence.” Arthur’s magic sword “Caliburn” (Welsh
_Caladvwlch_; see p. 224, note) is mentioned by Geoffrey and described as
having been made in Avalon, a word which seems to imply some kind of
fairyland, a Land of the Dead, and may be related to the Norse _Valhall_.
It was not until later times that Avalon came to be identified with an
actual site in Britain (Glastonbury). In Geoffrey’s narrative there is
nothing about the Holy Grail, or Lancelot, or the Round Table, and except
for the allusion to Avalon the mystical element of the Arthurian saga is
absent. Like Nennius, Geoffrey finds a fantastic classical origin for the
Britons. His so-called history is perfectly worthless as a record of fact,
but it has proved a veritable mine for poets and chroniclers, and has the
distinction of having furnished the subject for the earliest English
tragic drama, “Gorboduc,” as well as for Shakespeare’s “King Lear”; and
its author may be described as the father—at least on its quasi-historical
side—of the Arthurian saga, which he made up partly out of records of the
historical _dux bellorum_ of Nennius and partly out of poetical
amplifications of these records made in Brittany by the descendants of
exiles from Wales, many of whom fled there at the very time when Arthur
was waging his wars against the heathen Saxons. Geoffrey’s book had a
wonderful success. It was speedily translated into French by Wace, who
wrote “Li Romans de Brut” about 1155, with added details from Breton
sources, and translated from Wace’s French into Anglo-Saxon by Layamon,
who thus anticipated Malory’s adaptations of late French prose romances.
Except a few scholars who protested unavailingly, no one doubted its
strict historical truth, and it had the important effect of giving to
early British history a new dignity in the estimation of Continental and
of English princes. To sit upon the throne of Arthur was regarded as in
itself a glory by Plantagenet monarchs who had not a trace of Arthur’s or
of any British blood.

*The Saga in Brittany: Marie de France*

The Breton sources must next be considered. Unfortunately, not a line of
ancient Breton literature has come down to us, and for our knowledge of it
we must rely on the appearances it makes in the work of French writers.
One of the earliest of these is the Anglo-Norman poetess who called
herself Marie de France, and who wrote about 1150 and afterwards. She
wrote, among other things, a number of “Lais,” or tales, which she
explicitly and repeatedly tells us were translated or adapted from Breton
sources. Sometimes she claims to have rendered a writer’s original

“Les contes que jo sai verais
Dunt li Bretun unt fait les lais
Vos conterai assez briefment;
Et cief [sauf] di cest coumencement
Selunc la lettre è l’escriture.”

Little is actually said about Arthur in these tales, but the events of
them are placed in his time—_en cel tems tint Artus la terre_—and the
allusions, which include a mention of the Round Table, evidently imply a
general knowledge of the subject among those to whom these Breton “Lais”
were addressed. Lancelot is not mentioned, but there is a “Lai” about one
Lanval, who is beloved by Arthur’s queen, but rejects her because he has a
fairy mistress in the “isle d’Avalon.” Gawain is mentioned, and an episode
is told in the “Lai de Chevrefoil” about Tristan and Iseult, whose maid,
“Brangien,” is referred to in a way which assumes that the audience knew
the part she had played on Iseult’s bridal night. In short, we have
evidence here of the existence in Brittany of a well-diffused and
well-developed body of chivalric legend gathered about the personality of
Arthur. The legends are so well known that mere allusions to characters
and episodes in them are as well understood as references to Tennyson’s
“Idylls” would be among us to-day. The “Lais” of Marie de France therefore
point strongly to Brittany as the true cradle of the Arthurian saga, on
its chivalrous and romantic side. They do not, however, mention the Grail.

*Chrestien de Troyes*

Lastly, and chiefly, we have the work of the French poet Chrestien de
Troyes, who began in 1165 to translate Breton “Lais,” like Marie de
France, and who practically brought the Arthurian saga into the poetic
literature of Europe, and gave it its main outline and character. He wrote
a “Tristan” (now lost). He (if not Walter Map) introduced Lancelot of the
Lake into the story; he wrote a _Conte del Graal_, in which the Grail
legend and Perceval make their first appearance, though he left the story
unfinished, and does not tell us what the “Grail” really was.(208) He also
wrote a long _conte d’aventure_ entitled “Erec,” containing the story of
Geraint and Enid. These are the earliest poems we possess in which the
Arthur of chivalric legend comes prominently forward. What were the
sources of Chrestien? No doubt they were largely Breton. Troyes is in
Champagne, which had been united to Blois in 1019 by Eudes, Count of
Blois, and reunited again after a period of dispossession by Count
Theobald de Blois in 1128. Marie, Countess of Champagne, was Chrestien’s
patroness. And there were close connexions between the ruling princes of
Blois and of Brittany. Alain II., a Duke of Brittany, had in the tenth
century married a sister of the Count de Blois, and in the first quarter
of the thirteenth century Jean I. of Brittany married Blanche de
Champagne, while their daughter Alix married Jean de Chastillon, Count of
Blois, in 1254. It is highly probable, therefore, that through minstrels
who attended their Breton lords at the court of Blois, from the middle of
the tenth century onward, a great many Breton “Lais” and legends found
their way into French literature during the eleventh, twelfth, and
thirteenth centuries. But it is also certain that the Breton legends
themselves had been strongly affected by French influences, and that to
the _Matière de France_, as it was called by mediæval writers(209)—_i.e._,
the legends of Charlemagne and his Paladins—we owe the Table Round and the
chivalric institutions ascribed to Arthur’s court at Caerleon-on-Usk.


It must not be forgotten that (as Miss Jessie L. Weston has emphasised in
her invaluable studies on the Arthurian saga) Gautier de Denain, the
earliest of the continuators or re-workers of Chrestien de Troyes,
mentions as his authority for stories of Gawain one Bleheris, a poet “born
and bred in Wales.” This forgotten bard is believed to be identical with
_famosus ille fabulator, Bledhericus,_ mentioned by Giraldus Cambrensis,
and with the Bréris quoted by Thomas of Brittany as an authority for the
Tristan story.

*Conclusion as to the Origin of the Arthurian Saga*

In the absence, however, of any information as to when, or exactly what,
Bleheris wrote, the opinion must, I think, hold the field that the
Arthurian saga, as we have it now, is not of Welsh, nor even of pure
Breton origin. The Welsh exiles who colonised part of Brittany about the
sixth century must have brought with them many stories of the historical
Arthur. They must also have brought legends of the Celtic deity Artaius, a
god to whom altars have been found in France. These personages ultimately
blended into one, even as in Ireland the Christian St. Brigit blended with
the pagan goddess Brigindo.(210) We thus get a mythical figure combining
something of the exaltation of a god with a definite habitation on earth
and a place in history. An Arthur saga thus arose, which in its Breton
(though not its Welsh) form was greatly enriched by material drawn in from
the legends of Charlemagne and his peers, while both in Brittany and in
Wales it became a centre round which clustered a mass of floating
legendary matter relating to various Celtic personages, human and divine.
Chrestien de Troyes, working on Breton material, ultimately gave it the
form in which it conquered the world, and in which it became in the
twelfth and the thirteenth centuries what the Faust legend was in later
times, the accepted vehicle for the ideals and aspirations of an epoch.

*The Saga in Wales*

From the Continent, and especially from Brittany, the story of Arthur came
back into Wales transformed and glorified. The late Dr. Heinrich Zimmer,
in one of his luminous studies of the subject, remarks that “In Welsh
literature we have definite evidence that the South-Welsh prince, Rhys ap
Tewdwr, who had been in Brittany, brought from thence in the year 1070 the
knowledge of Arthur’s Round Table to Wales, where of course it had been
hitherto unknown.”(211) And many Breton lords are known to have followed
the banner of William the Conqueror into England.(212) The introducers of
the saga into Wales found, however, a considerable body of Arthurian
matter of a very different character already in existence there. Besides
the traditions of the historical Arthur, the _dux bellorum_ of Nennius,
there was the Celtic deity, Artaius. It is probably a reminiscence of this
deity whom we meet with under the name of Arthur in the only genuine Welsh
Arthurian story we possess, the story of Kilhwch and Olwen in the
“Mabinogion.” Much of the Arthurian saga derived from Chrestien and other
Continental writers was translated and adapted in Wales as in other
European countries, but as a matter of fact it made a later and a lesser
impression in Wales than almost anywhere else. It conflicted with existing
Welsh traditions, both historical and mythological; it was full of matter
entirely foreign to the Welsh spirit, and it remained always in Wales
something alien and unassimilated. Into Ireland it never entered at all.

These few introductory remarks do not, of course, profess to contain a
discussion of the Arthurian saga—a vast subject with myriad ramifications,
historical, mythological, mystical, and what not—but are merely intended
to indicate the relation of that saga to genuine Celtic literature and to
explain why we shall hear so little of it in the following accounts of
Cymric myths and legends. It was a great spiritual myth which, arising
from the composite source above described, overran all the Continent, as
its hero was supposed to have done in armed conquest, but it cannot be
regarded as a special possession of the Celtic race, nor is it at present
extant, except in the form of translation or adaptation, in any Celtic

*Gaelic and Cymric Legend Compared*

The myths and legends of the Celtic race which have come down to us in the
Welsh language are in some respects of a different character from those
which we possess in Gaelic. The Welsh material is nothing like as full as
the Gaelic, nor so early. The tales of the “Mabinogion” are mainly drawn
from the fourteenth-century manuscript entitled “The Red Book of Hergest.”
One of them, the romance of Taliesin, came from another source, a
manuscript of the seventeenth century. The four oldest tales in the
“Mabinogion” are supposed by scholars to have taken their present shape in
the tenth or eleventh century, while several Irish tales, like the story
of Etain and Midir or the Death of Conary, go back to the seventh or
eighth. It will be remembered that the story of the invasion of Partholan
was known to Nennius, who wrote about the year 800. As one might therefore
expect, the mythological elements in the Welsh romances are usually much
more confused and harder to decipher than in the earlier of the Irish
tales. The mythic interest has grown less, the story interest greater; the
object of the bard is less to hand down a sacred text than to entertain a
prince’s court. We must remember also that the influence of the
Continental romances of chivalry is clearly perceptible in the Welsh
tales; and, in fact, comes eventually to govern them completely.

*Gaelic and Continental Romance*

In many respects the Irish Celt anticipated the ideas of these romances.
The lofty courtesy shown to each other by enemies,(213) the fantastic
pride which forbade a warrior to take advantage of a wounded
adversary,(214) the extreme punctilio with which the duties or observances
proper to each man’s caste or station were observed(215)—all this tone of
thought and feeling which would seem so strange to us if we met an
instance of it in classical literature would seem quite familiar and
natural in Continental romances of the twelfth and later centuries.
Centuries earlier than that it was a marked feature in Gaelic literature.
Yet in the Irish romances, whether Ultonian or Ossianic, the element which
has since been considered the most essential motive in a romantic tale is
almost entirely lacking. This is the element of love, or rather of
woman-worship. The Continental fabulist felt that he could do nothing
without this motive of action. But the “lady-love” of the English, French,
or German knight, whose favour he wore, for whose grace he endured
infinite hardship and peril, does not meet us in Gaelic literature. It
would have seemed absurd to the Irish Celt to make the plot of a serious
story hinge on the kind of passion with which the mediaeval Dulcinea
inspired her faithful knight. In the two most famous and popular of Gaelic
love-tales, the tale of Deirdre and “The Pursuit of Dermot and Grania,”
the women are the wooers, and the men are most reluctant to commit what
they know to be the folly of yielding to them. Now this romantic,
chivalric kind of love, which idealised woman into a goddess, and made the
service of his lady a sacred duty to the knight, though it never reached
in Wales the height which it did in Continental and English romances, is
yet clearly discernible there. We can trace it in “Kilhwch and Olwen,”
which is comparatively an ancient tale. It is well developed in later
stories like “Peredur” and “The Lady of the Fountain.” It is a symptom of
the extent to which, in comparison with the Irish, Welsh literature had
lost its pure Celtic strain and become affected—I do not, of course, say
to its loss—by foreign influences.

*Gaelic and Cymric Mythology: Nudd*

The oldest of the Welsh tales, those called “The Four Branches of the
Mabinogi,”(216) are the richest in mythological elements, but these occur
in more or less recognisable form throughout nearly all the mediaeval
tales, and even, after many transmutations, in Malory. We can clearly
discern certain mythological figures common to all Celtica. We meet, for
instance, a personage called Nudd or Lludd, evidently a solar deity. A
temple dating from Roman times, and dedicated to him under the name of
Nodens, has been discovered at Lydney, by the Severn. On a bronze plaque
found near the spot is a representation of the god. He is encircled by a
halo and accompanied by flying spirits and by Tritons. We are reminded of
the Danaan deities and their close connexion with the sea; and when we
find that in Welsh legend an epithet is attached to Nudd, meaning “of the
Silver Hand” (though no extant Welsh legend tells the meaning of the
epithet), we have no difficulty in identifying this Nudd with Nuada of the
Silver Hand, who led the Danaans in the battle of Moytura.(217) Under his
name Lludd he is said to have had a temple on the site of St. Paul’s in
London, the entrance to which, according to Geoffrey of Monmouth, was
called in the British tongue _Parth Lludd_, which the Saxons translated
_Ludes Geat_, our present Ludgate.

                         GODS OF THE HOUSE OF DŌN

                Manogan                   Māthonwy
                   |                           |
                   |                           |
                   |                 +---------+------+
                   |                 |                 |
                  Beli-------+------Dōn               Māth
                 (Death,     | (Mother-goddess,    (wealth,
               Irish Bilé)   |   Irish Dana)       increase)
     |                |         |        |       |        |        |      |
     |                |         |        |       |        |        |      |
  Gwydion-----+----Arianrod     |     Amaethon   |       Nudd      |  Nynniaw
(Science and  |   ("Silver-     |  (agriculture) |     or Ludd     | and Peibaw
light; slayer | circle," Dawn-  |                |     (Sky-god)   |
of Pryderi)   |    goddess)     |                |         |       |
              |                 |                |         |       |
              |             Gilvaethwy       Govannan      |  Penardun
              |                            (smith-craft,   |  (_m_. Llyr)
              |                             Irish Goban)   |
     +--------+---+---------+                              |
     |            |         |                            Gwyn
  Nwyvre        Llew      Dylan                       (Warder of
(atmosphere,    Llaw    (Sea-god)                    Hades, called
   space)      Gyffes                                 "Avalon" in
              (Sun-god,                                Somerset)
              the Irish

                        GODS OF THE HOUSE OF LLYR

         Iweriad     --+-- Llyr --+-- Penardun --+-- Euroswydd
   (=Ireland--_i.e.,_  | (Irish   |  (dau. of    |
       western land    |  Lir)    |    Dōn)      |
        of Hades)      |          |              |
                       |          |              |
   +---------+---------+          |              +--------+----------+
   |         |                    |                       |          |
   |         |                    |                       |          |
   |         |                    |                       |          |
   |      Branwen--+--Matholwch   |                   Nissyen     Evnissyen
   |      (Love-   |   (King of   |
   |      goddess) |    Ireland)  |
   |               |              |
  Bran             |           Manawyddan---Rhiannon
(giant god         |          (Irish Mana-
 of Hades          |           nan, god of             Pwyll--+--Rhiannon
a minstrel;        |            the Sea,             (Head of |
afterwards         |           enchanter)              Hades) |
  Urien)           |                                          |
                 Gwern                                    Pryderi---Kicva
                                                         (Lord of

                            ARTHUR AND HIS KIN

    |                    |                                       |
Yspaddaden           Custennin                    Kilwydd -+- Goleuddydd
    |                    |                                 |
  Olwen        +---------+-----------+                  Kilhwch --- Olwen
               |         |           |
             Goreu     Erbin      Igerna -+- Uther Ben
                         |                |  (= Bran)
                      Geraint             |
                                  |                               |
                                Arthur           Lot -----+---- Gwyar
                              (=Gwydion)       (=Llud)    |    (Gore, a
                                                          |    war-goddess)
                 |                          |                     |
             Gwalchmai                   Medrawt              Gwalchaved
           (Falcon of May,              (=Dylan,           (Falcon of Summer,
             = LLew Llaw                 later Sir         later Sir Galahad;
            Gyffes, later                Mordred)           orig. identical
             Sir Gawain)                                     with Gwalchmai)

*Llyr and Manawyddan*

Again, when we find a mythological personage named Llyr, with a son named
Manawyddan, playing a prominent part in Welsh legend, we may safely
connect them with the Irish Lir and his son Mananan, gods of the sea.
Llyr-cester, now Leicester, was a centre of the worship of Llyr.

*Llew Llaw Gyffes*

Finally, we may point to a character in the “Mabinogi,” or tale, entitled
“Māth Son of Māthonwy.” The name of this character is given as Llew Llaw
Gyffes, which the Welsh fabulist interprets as “The Lion of the Sure
Hand,” and a tale, which we shall recount later on, is told to account for
the name. But when we find that this hero exhibits characteristics which
point to his being a solar deity, such as an amazingly rapid growth from
childhood into manhood, and when we are told, moreover, by Professor Rhys
that Gyffes originally meant, not “steady” or “sure,” but “long,”(218) it
becomes evident that we have here a dim and broken reminiscence of the
deity whom the Gaels called Lugh of the Long Arm,(219) _Lugh Lamh Fada_.
The misunderstood name survived, and round the misunderstanding legendary
matter floating in the popular mind crystallised itself in a new story.

These correspondences might be pursued in much further detail. It is
enough here to point to their existence as evidence of the original
community of Gaelic and Cymric mythology.(220) We are, in each literature,
in the same circle of mythological ideas. In Wales, however, these ideas
are harder to discern; the figures and their relationships in the Welsh
Olympus are less accurately defined and more fluctuating. It would seem as
if a number of different tribes embodied what were fundamentally the same
conceptions under different names and wove different legends about them.
The bardic literature, as we have it now, bears evidence sometimes of the
prominence of one of these tribal cults, sometimes of another. To reduce
these varying accounts to unity is altogether impossible. Still, we can do
something to afford the reader a clue to the maze.

*The Houses of Dōn and of Llyr*

Two great divine houses or families are discernible—that of Dōn, a
mother-goddess (representing the Gaelic Dana), whose husband is Beli, the
Irish Bilé, god of Death, and whose descendants are the Children of Light;
and the House of Llyr, the Gaelic Lir, who here represents, not a Danaan
deity, but something more like the Irish Fomorians. As in the case of the
Irish myth, the two families are allied by intermarriage—Penardun, a
daughter of Dōn, is wedded to Llyr. Dōn herself has a brother, Māth, whose
name signifies wealth or treasure (_cf._ Greek Pluton, _ploutos_), and
they descend from a figure indistinctly characterised, called Māthonwy.

*The House of Arthur*

Into the pantheon of deities represented in the four ancient Mabinogi
there came, at a later time, from some other tribal source, another group
headed by Arthur, the god Artaius. He takes the place of Gwydion son of
Dōn, and the other deities of his circle fall more or less accurately into
the places of others of the earlier circle. The accompanying genealogical
plans are intended to help the reader to a general view of the
relationships and attributes of these personages. It must be borne in
mind, however, that these tabular arrangements necessarily involve an
appearance of precision and consistency which is not reflected in the
fluctuating character of the actual myths taken as a whole. Still, as a
sketch-map of a very intricate and obscure region, they may help the
reader who enters it for the first time to find his bearings in it, and
that is the only purpose they propose to serve.

*Gwyn ap Nudd*

The deity named Gwyn ap Nudd is said, like Finn in Gaelic legend,(221) to
have impressed himself more deeply and lastingly on the Welsh popular
imagination than any of the other divinities. A mighty warrior and
huntsman, he glories in the crash of breaking spears, and, like Odin,
assembles the souls of dead heroes in his shadowy kingdom, for although he
belongs to the kindred of the Light-gods, Hades is his special domain. The
combat between him and Gwythur ap Greidawl (Victor, son of Scorcher) for
Creudylad, daughter of Lludd, which is to be renewed every May-day till
time shall end, represents evidently the contest between winter and summer
for the flowery and fertile earth. “Later,” writes Mr. Charles Squire, “he
came to be considered as King of the _Tylwyth Teg_, the Welsh fairies, and
his name as such has hardly yet died out of his last haunt, the romantic
vale of Neath.... He is the Wild Huntsman of Wales and the West of
England, and it is his pack which is sometimes heard at chase in waste
places by night.”(222) He figures as a god of war and death in a wonderful
poem from the “Black Book of Caermarthen,” where he is represented as
discoursing with a prince named Gwyddneu Garanhir, who had come to ask his
protection. I quote a few stanzas: the poem will be found in full in Mr.
Squire’s excellent volume:

“I come from battle and conflict
 With a shield in my hand;
 Broken is my helmet by the thrusting of spears.

“Round-hoofed is my horse, the torment of battle,
 Fairy am I called,(223) Gwyn the son of Nudd,
 The lover of Crewrdilad, the daughter of Lludd

“I have been in the place where Gwendolen was slain,
 The son of Ceidaw, the pillar of song,
 Where the ravens screamed over blood.

“I have been in the place where Bran was killed,
 The son of Iweridd, of far-extending fame,
 Where the ravens of the battlefield screamed.

“I have been where Llacheu was slain,
 The son of Arthur, extolled in songs,
 When the ravens screamed over blood.

“I have been where Mewrig was killed,
 The son of Carreian, of honourable fame,
 When the ravens screamed over flesh.

“I have been where Gwallawg was killed,
 The son of Goholeth, the accomplished,
 The resister of Lloegyr,(224) the son of Lleynawg.

“I have been where the soldiers of Britain were slain,
 From the east to the north:
 I am the escort of the grave.

“I have been where the soldiers of Britain were slain,
 From the east to the south:
 I am alive, they in death.”

*Myrddin, or Merlin*

A deity named Myrddin holds in Arthur’s mythological cycle the place of
the Sky- and Sun-god, Nudd. One of the Welsh Triads tells us that Britain,
before it was inhabited, was called _Clas Myrddin_, Myrddin’s Enclosure.
One is reminded of the Irish fashion of calling any favoured spot a
“cattle-fold of the sun”—the name is applied by Deirdre to her beloved
Scottish home in Glen Etive. Professor Rhys suggests that Myrddin was the
deity specially worshipped at Stonehenge, which, according to British
tradition as reported by Geoffrey of Monmouth, was erected by “Merlin,”
the enchanter who represents the form into which Myrddin had dwindled
under Christian influences. We are told that the abode of Merlin was a
house of glass, or a bush of whitethorn laden with bloom, or a sort of
smoke or mist in the air, or “a close neither of iron nor steel nor timber
nor of stone, but of the air without any other thing, by enchantment so
strong that it may never be undone while the world endureth.”(225) Finally
he descended upon Bardsey Island, “off the extreme westernmost point of
Carnarvonshire ... into it he went with nine attendant bards, taking with
him the ’Thirteen Treasures of Britain,’ thenceforth lost to men.”
Professor Rhys points out that a Greek traveller named Demetrius, who is
described as having visited Britain in the first century A.D., mentions an
island in the west where “Kronos” was supposed to be imprisoned with his
attendant deities, and Briareus keeping watch over him as he slept, “for
sleep was the bond forged for him.” Doubtless we have here a version,
Hellenised as was the wont of classical writers on barbaric myths, of a
British story of the descent of the Sun-god into the western sea, and his
imprisonment there by the powers of darkness, with the possessions and
magical potencies belonging to Light and Life.(226)

*Nynniaw and Peibaw*

The two personages called Nynniaw and Peibaw who figure in the
genealogical table play a very slight part in Cymric mythology, but one
story in which they appear is interesting in itself and has an excellent
moral. They are represented(227) as two brothers, Kings of Britain, who
were walking together one starlight night. “See what a fine far-spreading
field I have,” said Nynniaw. “Where is it?” asked Peibaw. “There aloft and
as far as you can see,” said Nynniaw, pointing to the sky. “But look at
all my cattle grazing in your field,” said Peibaw. “Where are they?” said
Nynniaw. “All the golden stars,” said Peibaw, “with the moon for their
shepherd.” “They shall not graze on my field,” cried Nynniaw. “I say they
shall,” returned Peibaw. “They shall not.” “They shall.” And so they went
on: first they quarrelled with each other, and then went to war, and
armies were destroyed and lands laid waste, till at last the two brothers
were turned into oxen as a punishment for their stupidity and

*The **“**Mabinogion**”*

We now come to the work in which the chief treasures of Cymric myth and
legend were collected by Lady Charlotte Guest sixty years ago, and given
to the world in a translation which is one of the masterpieces of English
literature. The title of this work, the “Mabinogion,” is the plural form
of the word _Mabinogi_, which means a story belonging to the equipment of
an apprentice-bard, such a story as every bard had necessarily to learn as
part of his training, whatever more he might afterwards add to his
_répertoire_. Strictly speaking, the _Mabinogi_ in the volume are only the
four tales given first in Mr. Alfred Nutt’s edition, which were entitled
the “Four Branches of the Mabinogi,” and which form a connected whole.
They are among the oldest relics of Welsh mythological saga.

*Pwyll, Head of Hades*

The first of them is the story of Pwyll, Prince of Dyfed, and relates how
that prince got his title of _Pen Annwn_, or “Head of Hades”—Annwn being
the term under which we identify in Welsh literature the Celtic Land of
the Dead, or Fairyland. It is a story with a mythological basis, but
breathing the purest spirit of chivalric honour and nobility.

Pwyll, it is said, was hunting one day in the woods of Glyn Cuch when he
saw a pack of hounds, not his own, running down a stag. These hounds were
snow-white in colour, with red ears. If Pwyll had had any experience in
these matters he would have known at once what kind of hunt was up, for
these are the colours of Faëry—the red-haired man, the red-eared hound are
always associated with magic.(228) Pwyll, however, drove off the strange
hounds, and was setting his own on the quarry when a horseman of noble
appearance came up and reproached him for his discourtesy. Pwyll offered
to make amends, and the story now develops into the familiar theme of the
Rescue of Fairyland. The stranger’s name is Arawn, a king in Annwn. He is
being harried and dispossessed by a rival, Havgan, and he seeks the aid of
Pwyll, whom he begs to meet Havgan in single combat a year hence.
Meanwhile he will put his own shape on Pwyll, who is to rule in his
kingdom till the eventful day, while Arawn will go in Pwyll’s shape to
govern Dyfed. He instructs Pwyll how to deal with the foe. Havgan must be
laid low with a single stroke—if another is given to him he immediately
revives again as strong as ever.

Pwyll agreed to follow up the adventure, and accordingly went in Arawn’s
shape to the kingdom of Annwn. Here he was placed in an unforeseen
difficulty. The beautiful wife of Arawn greeted him as her husband. But
when the time came for them to retire to rest he set his face to the wall
and said no word to her, nor touched her at all until the morning broke.
Then they rose up, and Pwyll went to the hunt, and ruled his kingdom, and
did all things as if he were monarch of the land. And whatever affection
he showed to the queen in public during the day, he passed every night
even as this first.

At last the day of battle came, and, like the chieftains in Gaelic story,
Pwyll and Havgan met each other in the midst of a river-ford. They fought,
and at the first clash Havgan was hurled a spear’s length over the crupper
of his horse and fell mortally wounded.(229) “For the love of heaven,”
said he, “slay me and complete thy work.” “I may yet repent that,” said
Pwyll. “Slay thee who may, I will not.” Then Havgan knew that his end was
come, and bade his nobles bear him off; and Pwyll with all his army
overran the two kingdoms of Annwn, and made himself master of all the
land, and took homage from its princes and lords.

Then he rode off alone to keep his tryst in Glyn Cuch with Arawn as they
had appointed. Arawn thanked him for all he had done, and added: “When
thou comest thyself to thine own dominions thou wilt see what I have done
for thee.” They exchanged shapes once more, and each rode in his own
likeness to take possession of his own land.

At the court of Annwn the day was spent in joy and feasting, though none
but Arawn himself knew that anything unusual had taken place. When night
came Arawn kissed and caressed his wife as of old, and she pondered much
as to what might be the cause of his change towards her, and of his
previous change a year and a day before. And as she was thinking over
these things Arawn spoke to her twice or thrice, but got no answer. He
then asked her why she was silent. “I tell thee,” she said, “that for a
year I have not spoken so much in this place.” “Did not we speak
continually?” he said. “Nay,” said she, “but for a year back there has
been neither converse nor tenderness between us.” “Good heaven!” thought
Arawn, “a man as faithful and firm in his friendship as any have I found
for a friend.” Then he told his queen what had passed. “Thou hast indeed
laid hold of a faithful friend,” she said.

And Pwyll when he came back to his own land called his lords together and
asked them how they thought he had sped in his kingship during the past
year. “Lord,” said they, “thy wisdom was never so great, and thou wast
never so kind and free in bestowing thy gifts, and thy justice was never
more worthily seen than in this year.” Pwyll then told them the story of
his adventure. “Verily, lord,” said they, “render thanks unto heaven that
thou hast such a fellowship, and withhold not from us the rule which we
have enjoyed for this year past.” “I take heaven to witness that I will
not withhold it,” said Pwyll.

So the two kings made strong the friendship that was between them, and
sent each other rich gifts of horses and hounds and jewels; and in memory
of the adventure Pwyll bore thenceforward the title of “Lord of Annwn.”

*The Wedding of Pwyll and Rhiannon*

Near to the castle of Narberth, where Pwyll had his court, there was a
mound called the Mound of Arberth, of which it was believed that whoever
sat upon it would have a strange adventure: either he would receive blows
and wounds or he would see a wonder. One day when all his lords were
assembled at Narberth for a feast Pwyll declared that he would sit on the
mound and see what would befall.

He did so, and after a little while saw approaching him along the road
that led to the mound a lady clad in garments that shone like gold, and
sitting on a pure white horse. “Is there any among you,” said Pwyll to his
men, “who knows that lady?” “There is not,” said they. “Then go to meet
her and learn who she is.” But as they rode towards the lady she moved
away from them, and however fast they rode she still kept an even distance
between her and them, yet never seemed to exceed the quiet pace with which
she had first approached.

Several times did Pwyll seek to have the lady overtaken and questioned,
but all was in vain—none could draw near to her.

Next day Pwyll ascended the mound again, and once more the fair lady on
her white steed drew near. This time Pwyll himself pursued her, but she
flitted away before him as she had done before his servants, till at last
he cried : “O maiden, for the sake of him thou best lovest, stay for me.”
“I will stay gladly,” said she, “and it were better for thy horse had thou
asked it long since.”

Pwyll then questioned her as to the cause of her coming, and she said: “I
am Rhiannon, the daughter of Hevydd Hēn,(230) and they sought to give me
to a husband against my will. But no husband would I have, and that
because of my love for thee; neither will I yet have one if thou reject
me.” “By heaven!” said Pwyll, “if I might choose among all the ladies and
damsels of the world, thee would I choose.”

They then agree that in a twelvemonth from that day Pwyll is to come and
claim her at the palace of Hevydd Hēn.

Pwyll kept his tryst, with a following of a hundred knights, and found a
splendid feast prepared for him, and he sat by his lady, with her father
on the other side. As they feasted and talked there entered a tall,
auburn-haired youth of royal bearing, clad in satin, who saluted Pwyll and
his knights. Pwyll invited him to sit down. “Nay, I am a suitor to thee,”
said the youth; “to crave a boon am I come.” “Whatever thou wilt thou
shalt have,” said Pwyll unsuspiciously, “if it be in my power.” “Ah,”
cried Rhiannon, “wherefore didst thou give that answer?” “Hath he not
given it before all these nobles?” said the youth; “and now the boon I
crave is to have thy bride Rhiannon, and the feast and the banquet that
are in this place.” Pwyll was silent. “Be silent as long as thou wilt,”
said Rhiannon. “Never did man make worse use of his wits than thou hast
done.” She tells him that the auburn-haired young man is Gwawl, son of
Clud, and is the suitor to escape from whom she had fled to Pwyll.

Pwyll is bound in honour by his word, and Rhiannon explains that the
banquet cannot be given to Gwawl, for it is not in Pwyll’s power, but that
she herself will be his bride in a twelvemonth; Gwawl is to come and claim
her then, and a new bridal feast will be prepared for him. Meantime she
concerts a plan with Pwyll, and gives him a certain magical bag, which he
is to make use of when the time shall come.

A year passed away, Gwawl appeared according to the compact, and a great
feast was again set forth, in which he, and not Pwyll, had the place of
honour. As the company were making merry, however, a beggar clad in rags
and shod with clumsy old shoes came into the hall, carrying a bag, as
beggars are wont to do. He humbly craved a boon of Gwawl. It was merely
that the full of his bag of food might be given him from the banquet.
Gwawl cheerfully consented, and an attendant went to fill the bag. But
however much they put into it it never got fuller—by degrees all the good
things on the tables had gone in; and at last Gwawl cried: “My soul, will
thy bag never be full?” “It will not, I declare to heaven,” answered
Pwyll—for he, of course, was the disguised beggar man—“unless some man
wealthy in lands and treasure shall get into the bag and stamp it down
with his feet, and declare, ‘Enough has been put herein.’ ” Rhiannon urged
Gwawl to check the voracity of the bag. He put his two feet into it; Pwyll
immediately drew up the sides of the bag over Gwawl’s head and tied it up.
Then he blew his horn, and the knights he had with him, who were concealed
outside, rushed in, and captured and bound the followers of Gwawl. “What
is in the bag?” they cried, and others answered, “A badger,” and so they
played the game of “Badger in the Bag,” striking it and kicking it about
the hall.

At last a voice was heard from it. “Lord,” cried Gwawl, “if thou wouldst
but hear me, I merit not to be slain in a bag.” “He speaks truth,” said
Hevydd Hēn.

So an agreement was come to that Gwawl should provide means for Pwyll to
satisfy all the suitors and minstrels who should come to the wedding, and
abandon Rhiannon, and never seek to have revenge for what had been done to
him. This was confirmed by sureties, and Gwawl and his men were released
and went to their own territory. And Pwyll wedded Rhiannon, and dispensed
gifts royally to all and sundry; and at last the pair, when the feasting
was done, journeyed down to the palace of Narberth in Dyfed, where
Rhiannon gave rich gifts, a bracelet and a ring or a precious stone to all
the lords and ladies of her new country, and they ruled the land in peace
both that year and the next. But the reader will find that we have not yet
done with Gwawl.

*The Penance of Rhiannon*

Now Pwyll was still without an heir to the throne, and his nobles urged
him to take another wife. “Grant us a year longer,” said he, “and if there
be no heir after that it shall be as you wish.” Before the year’s end a
son was born to them in Narberth. But although six women sat up to watch
the mother and the infant, it happened towards the morning that they all
fell asleep, and Rhiannon also slept, and when the women awoke, behold,
the boy was gone! “We shall be burnt for this,” said the women, and in
their terror they concocted a horrible plot: they killed a cub of a
staghound that had just been littered, and laid the bones by Rhiannon, and
smeared her face and hands with blood as she slept, and when she woke and
asked for her child they said she had devoured it in the night, and had
overcome them with furious strength when they would have prevented her—and
for all she could say or do the six women persisted in this story.

When the story was told to Pwyll he would not put away Rhiannon, as his
nobles now again begged him to do, but a penance was imposed on
her—namely, that she was to sit every day by the horse-block at the gate
of the castle and tell the tale to every stranger who came, and offer to
carry them on her back into the castle. And this she did for part of a

*The Finding of Pryderi*(231)

Now at this time there lived a man named Teirnyon of Gwent Is Coed, who
had the most beautiful mare in the world, but there was this misfortune
attending her, that although she foaled on the night of every first of
May, none ever knew what became of the colts. At last Teirnyon resolved to
get at the truth of the matter, and the next night on which the mare
should foal he armed himself and watched in the stable. So the mare
foaled, and the colt stood up, and Teirnyon was admiring its size and
beauty when a great noise was heard outside, and a long, clawed arm came
through the window of the stable and laid hold of the colt. Teirnyon
immediately smote at the arm with his sword, and severed it at the elbow,
so that it fell inside with the colt, and a great wailing and tumult was
heard outside. He rushed out, leaving the door open behind him, but could
see nothing because of the darkness of the night, and he followed the
noise a little way. Then he came back, and behold, at the door he found an
infant in swaddling-clothes and wrapped in a mantle of satin. He took up
the child and brought it to where his wife lay sleeping. She had no
children, and she loved the child when she saw it, and next day pretended
to her women that she had borne it as her own. And they called its name
Gwri of the Golden Hair, for its hair was yellow as gold; and it grew so
mightily that in two years it was as big and strong as a child of six; and
ere long the colt that had been foaled on the same night was broken in and
given him to ride.

While these things were going on Teirnyon heard the tale of Rhiannon and
her punishment. And as the lad grew up he scanned his face closely and saw
that he had the features of Pwyll Prince of Dyfed. This he told to his
wife, and they agreed that the child should be taken to Narberth, and
Rhiannon released from her penance.

As they drew near to the castle, Teirnyon and two knights and the child
riding on his colt, there was Rhiannon sitting by the horse-block.
“Chieftains,” said she, “go not further thus; I will bear every one of you
into the palace, and this is my penance for slaying my own son and
devouring him.” But they would not be carried, and went in. Pwyll rejoiced
to see Teirnyon, and made a feast for him. Afterwards Teirnyon declared to
Pwyll and Rhiannon the adventure of the man and the colt, and how they had
found the boy. “And behold, here is thy son, lady,” said Teirnyon, “and
whoever told that lie concerning thee has done wrong.” All who sat at
table recognised the lad at once as the child of Pwyll, and Rhiannon
cried: “I declare to heaven that if this be true there is an end to my
trouble.” And a chief named Pendaran said: “Well hast thou named thy son
Pryderi [trouble], and well becomes him the name of Pryderi son of Pwyll,
Lord of Annwn.” It was agreed that his name should be Pryderi, and so he
was called thenceforth.

Teirnyon rode home, overwhelmed with thanks and love and gladness; and
Pwyll offered him rich gifts of horses and jewels and dogs, but he would
take none of them. And Pryderi was trained up, as befitted a king’s son,
in all noble ways and accomplishments, and when his father Pwyll died he
reigned in his stead over the Seven Cantrevs of Dyfed. And he added to
them many other fair dominions, and at last he took to wife Kicva,
daughter of Gwynn Gohoyw, who came of the lineage of Prince Casnar of

*The Tale of Bran and Branwen*

Bendigeid Vran, or “Bran the Blessed,” by which latter name we shall
designate him here, when he had been made King of the Isle of the Mighty
(Britain), was one time in his court at Harlech. And he had with him his
brother Manawyddan son of Llyr, and his sister Branwen, and the two sons,
Nissyen and Evnissyen, that Penardun his mother bore to Eurosswyd. Now
Nissyen was a youth of gentle nature, and would make peace among his
kindred and cause them to be friends when their wrath was at its highest;
but Evnissyen loved nothing so much as to turn peace into contention and

One afternoon, as Bran son of Llyr sat on the rock of Harlech looking out
to sea, he beheld thirteen ships coming rapidly from Ireland before a fair
wind. They were gaily furnished, bright flags flying from the masts, and
on the foremost ship, when they came near, a man could be seen holding up
a shield with the point upwards in sign of peace.(232)

When the strangers landed they saluted Bran and explained their business.
Matholwch,(233) King of Ireland, was with them; his were the ships, and he
had come to ask for the hand in marriage of Bran’s sister, Branwen, so
that Ireland and Britain might be leagued together and both become more
powerful. “Now Branwen was one of the three chief ladies of the island,
and she was the fairest damsel in the world.”

The Irish were hospitably entertained, and after taking counsel with his
lords Bran agreed to give his sister to Matholwch. The place of the
wedding was fixed at Aberffraw, and the company assembled for the feast in
tents because no house could hold the giant form of Bran. They caroused
and made merry in peace and amity, and Branwen became the bride or the
Irish king.

Next day Evnissyen came by chance to where the horses of Matholwch were
ranged, and he asked whose they were. “They are the horses of Matholwch,
who is married to thy sister.” “And is it thus,” said he, “they have done
with a maiden such as she, and, moreover, my sister, bestowing her without
my consent? They could offer me no greater insult.” Thereupon he rushed
among the horses and cut off their lips at the teeth, and their ears to
their heads, and their tails close to the body, and where he could seize
the eyelids he cut them off to the bone.

When Matholwch heard what had been done he was both angered and
bewildered, and bade his people put to sea. Bran sent messengers to learn
what had happened, and when he had been informed he sent Manawyddan and
two others to make atonement. Matholwch should have sound horses for every
one that was injured, and in addition a staff of silver as large and as
tall as himself, and a plate of gold the size of his face. “And let him
come and meet me,” he added, “and we will make peace in any way he may
desire.” But as for Evnissyen, he was the son of Bran’s mother, and
therefore Bran could not put him to death as he deserved.

*The Magic Cauldron*

Matholwch accepted these terms, but not very cheerfully, and Bran now
offered another treasure, namely, a magic cauldron which had the property
that if a slain man were cast into it he would come forth well and sound,
only he would not be able to speak. Matholwch and Bran then talked about
the cauldron, which originally, it seems, came from Ireland. There was a
lake in that country near to a mound (doubtless a fairy mound) which was
called the Lake of the Cauldron. Here Matholwch had once met a tall and
ill-looking fellow with a wife bigger than himself, and the cauldron
strapped on his back. They took service with Matholwch. At the end of a
period of six weeks the wife gave birth to a son, who was a warrior fully
armed. We are apparently to understand that this happened every six weeks,
for by the end of the year the strange pair, who seem to be a war-god and
goddess, had several children, whose continual bickering and the outrages
they committed throughout the land made them hated. At last, to get rid of
them, Matholwch had a house of iron made, and enticed them into it. He
then barred the door and heaped coals about the chamber, and blew them
into a white heat, hoping to roast the whole family to death. As soon,
however, as the iron walls had grown white-hot and soft the man and his
wife burst through them and got away, but the children remained behind and
were destroyed. Bran then took up the story. The man, who was called
Llassar Llaesgyvnewid, and his wife Kymideu Kymeinvoll, come across to
Britain, where Bran took them in, and in return for his kindness they gave
him the cauldron. And since then they had filled the land with their
descendants, who prospered everywhere and dwelt in strong fortified burgs
and had the best weapons that ever were seen.

So Matholwch received the cauldron along with his bride, and sailed back
to Ireland, where Branwen entertained the lords and ladies of the land,
and gave to each, as he or she took leave, “either a clasp or a ring or a
royal jewel to keep, such as it was honourable to be seen departing with.”
And when the year was out Branwen bore a son to Matholwch, whose name was
called Gwern.

*The Punishment of Branwen*

There occurs now an unintelligible place in the story. In the second year,
it appears, and not till then, the men of Ireland grew indignant over the
insult to their king committed by Evnissyen, and took revenge for it by
having Branwen degraded to the position of a cook, and they caused the
butcher every day to give her a blow on the ears. They also forbade all
ships and ferry-boats to cross to Cambria, and any who came thence into
Ireland were imprisoned so that news of Branwen’s ill-treatment might not
come to the ears of Bran. But Branwen reared up a young starling in a
corner of her kneading-trough, and one day she tied a letter under its
wing and taught it what to do. It flew away towards Britain, and finding
Bran at Caer Seiont in Arvon, it lit on his shoulder, ruffling its
feathers, and the letter was found and read. Bran immediately prepared a
great hosting for Ireland, and sailed thither with a fleet of ships,
leaving his land of Britain under his son Caradawc and six other chiefs.

*The Invasion of Bran*

Soon there came messengers to Matholwch telling him of a wondrous sight
they had seen; a wood was growing on the sea, and beside the wood a
mountain with a high ridge in the middle of it, and two lakes, one at each
side. And wood and mountain moved towards the shore of Ireland. Branwen is
called up to explain, if she could, what this meant. She tells them the
wood is the masts and yards of the fleet of Britain, and the mountain is
Bran, her brother, coming into shoal water, “for no ship can contain him”;
the ridge is his nose, the lakes his two eyes.(234)

The King of Ireland and his lords at once took counsel together how they
might meet this danger; and the plan they agreed upon was as follows: A
huge hall should be built, big enough to hold Bran—this, it was hoped,
would placate him—there should be a great feast made there for himself and
his men, and Matholwch should give over the kingdom of Ireland to him and
do homage. All this was done by Branwen’s advice. But the Irish added a
crafty device of their own. From two brackets on each of the hundred
pillars in the hall should be hung two leather bags, with an armed warrior
in each of them ready to fall upon the guests when the moment should

*The Meal-bags*

Evnissyen, however, wandered into the hall before the rest of the host,
and scanning the arrangements “with fierce and savage looks,” he saw the
bags which hung from the pillars. “What is in this bag?” said he to one of
the Irish. “Meal, good soul,” said the Irishman. Evnissyen laid his hand
on the bag, and felt about with his fingers till he came to the head of
the man within it. Then “he squeezed the head till he felt his fingers
meet together in the brain through the bone.” He went to the next bag, and
asked the same question. “Meal,” said the Irish attendant, but Evnissyen
crushed this warrior’s head also, and thus he did with all the two hundred
bags, even in the case of one warrior whose head was covered with an iron

Then the feasting began, and peace and concord reigned, and Matholwch laid
down the sovranty of Ireland, which was conferred on the boy Gwern. And
they all fondled and caressed the fair child till he came to Evnissyen,
who suddenly seized him and flung him into the blazing fire on the hearth.
Branwen would have leaped after him, but Bran held her back. Then there
was arming apace, and tumult and shouting, and the Irish and British hosts
closed in battle and fought until the fall of night.

*Death of Evnissyen*

But at night the Irish heated the magic cauldron and threw into it the
bodies of their dead, who came out next day as good as ever, but dumb.
When Evnissyen saw this he was smitten with remorse for having brought the
men of Britain into such a strait: “Evil betide me if I find not a
deliverance therefrom.” So he hid himself among the Irish dead, and was
flung into the cauldron with the rest at the end of the second day, when
he stretched himself out so that he rent the cauldron into four pieces,
and his own heart burst with the effort, and he died.

*The Wonderful Head*

In the end, all the Irishmen were slain, and all but seven of the British
besides Bran, who was wounded in the foot with a poisoned arrow. Among the
seven were Pryderi and Manawyddan. Bran then commanded them to cut off his
head. “And take it with you,” he said, “to London, and there bury it in
the White Mount(235) looking towards France, and no foreigner shall invade
the land while it is there. On the way the Head will talk to you, and be
as pleasant company as ever in life. In Harlech ye will be feasting seven
years and the birds of Rhiannon will sing to you. And at Gwales in Penvro
ye will be feasting fourscore years, and the Head will talk to you and be
uncorrupted till ye open the door looking towards Cornwall. After that ye
may no longer tarry, but set forth to London and bury the Head.”

Then the seven cut off the head of Bran and went forth, and Branwen with
them, to do his bidding. But when Branwen came to land at Aber Alaw she
cried, “Woe is me that I was ever born; two islands have been destroyed
because of me.” And she uttered a loud groan, and her heart broke. They
made her a four-sided grave on the banks of the Alaw, and the place was
called _Ynys Branwen_ to this day.(236)

The seven found that in the absence of Bran, Caswallan son of Beli had
conquered Britain and slain the six captains of Caradawc. By magic art he
had thrown on Caradawc the Veil of Illusion, and Caradawc saw only the
sword which slew and slew, but not him who wielded it, and his heart broke
for grief at the sight.

They then went to Harlech and remained there seven years listening to the
singing of the birds of Rhiannon—“all the songs they had ever heard were
unpleasant compared thereto.” Then they went to Gwales in Penvro and found
a fair and spacious hall overlooking the ocean. When they entered it they
forgot all the sorrow of the past and all that had befallen them, and
remained there fourscore years in joy and mirth, the wondrous Head talking
to them as if it were alive. And bards call this “the Entertaining of the
Noble Head.” Three doors were in the hall, and one of them which looked to
Cornwall and to Aber Henvelyn was closed, but the other two were open. At
the end of the time, Heilyn son of Gwyn said, “Evil betide me if I do not
open the door to see if what was said is true.” And he opened it, and at
once remembrance and sorrow fell upon them, and they set forth at once for
London and buried the Head in the White Mount, where it remained until
Arthur dug it up, for he would not have the land defended but by the
strong arm. And this was “the Third Fatal Disclosure” in Britain.

So ends this wild tale, which is evidently full of mythological elements,
the key to which has long been lost. The touches of Northern ferocity
which occur in it have made some critics suspect the influence of Norse or
Icelandic literature in giving it its present form. The character of
Evnissyen would certainly lend countenance to this conjecture. The typical
mischief-maker of course occurs in purely Celtic sagas, but not commonly
in combination with the heroic strain shown in Evnissyen’s end, nor does
the Irish “poison-tongue” ascend to anything like the same height of
daimonic malignity.

*The Tale of Pryderi and Manawyddan*

After the events of the previous tales Pryderi and Manawyddan retired to
the dominions of the former, and Manawyddan took to wife Rhiannon, the
mother of his friend. There they lived happily and prosperously till one
day, while they were at the Gorsedd, or Mound, near Narberth, a peal of
thunder was heard and a thick mist fell so that nothing could be seen all
round. When the mist cleared away, behold, the land was bare before
them—neither houses nor people nor cattle nor crops were to be seen, but
all was desert and uninhabited. The palace of Narberth was still standing,
but it was empty and desolate—none remained except Pryderi and Manawyddan
and their wives, Kicva and Rhiannon.

Two years they lived on the provisions they had, and on the prey they
killed, and on wild honey; and then they began to be weary. “Let us go
into Lloegyr,”(237) then said Manawyddan, “and seek out some craft to
support ourselves.” So they went to Hereford and settled there, and
Manawyddan and Pryderi began to make saddles and housings, and Manawyddan
decorated them with blue enamel as he had learned from a great craftsman,
Llasar Llaesgywydd. After a time, however, the other saddlers of Hereford,
finding that no man would purchase any but the work of Manawyddan,
conspired to kill them. And Pryderi would have fought with them, but
Manawyddan held it better to withdraw elsewhere, and so they did.

They settled then in another city, where they made shields such as never
were seen, and here, too, in the end, the rival craftsmen drove them out.
And this happened also in another town where they made shoes; and at last
they resolved to go back to Dyfed. Then they gathered their dogs about
them and lived by hunting as before.

One day they started a wild white boar, and chased him in vain until he
led them up to a vast and lofty castle, all newly built in a place where
they had never seen a building before. The boar ran into the castle, the
dogs followed him, and Pryderi, against the counsel of Manawyddan, who
knew there was magic afoot, went in to seek for the dogs.

He found in the centre of the court a marble fountain beside which stood a
golden bowl on a marble slab, and being struck by the rich workmanship of
the bowl, he laid hold of it to examine it, when he could neither withdraw
his hand nor utter a single sound, but he remained there, transfixed and
dumb, beside the fountain.

Manawyddan went back to Narberth and told the story to Rhiannon. “An evil
companion hast thou been,” said she, “and a good companion hast thou

Next day she went herself to explore the castle. She found Pryderi still
clinging to the bowl and unable to speak. She also, then, laid hold of the
bowl, when the same fate befell her, and immediately afterwards came a
peal of thunder, and a heavy mist fell, and when it cleared off the castle
had vanished with all that it contained, including the two spell-bound

Manawyddan then went back to Narberth, where only Kicva, Pryderi’s wife,
now remained. And when she saw none but herself and Manawyddan in the
place, “she sorrowed so that she cared not whether she lived or died.”
When Manawyddan saw this he said to her, “Thou art in the wrong if through
fear of me thou grievest thus. I declare to thee were I in the dawn of
youth I would keep my faith unto Pryderi, and unto thee also will I keep
it.” “Heaven reward thee,” she said, “and that is what I deemed of thee.”
And thereupon she took courage and was glad.

Kicva and Manawyddan then again tried to support themselves by shoemaking
in Lloegyr, but the same hostility drove them back to Dyfed. This time,
however, Manawyddan took back with him a load of wheat, and he sowed it,
and he prepared three crofts for a wheat crop. Thus the time passed till
the fields were ripe. And he looked at one of the crofts and said, “I will
reap this to-morrow.” But on the morrow when he went out in the grey dawn
he found nothing there but bare straw—every ear had been cut off from the
stalk and carried away.

Next day it was the same with the second croft. But on the following night
he armed himself and sat up to watch the third croft to see who was
plundering him. At midnight, as he watched, he heard a loud noise, and
behold, a mighty host of mice came pouring into the croft, and they
climbed up each on a stalk and nibbled off the ears and made away with
them. He chased them in anger, but they fled far faster than he could run,
all save one which was slower in its movements, and this he barely managed
to overtake, and he bound it into his glove and took it home to Narberth,
and told Kicva what had happened. “To-morrow,” he said, “I will hang the
robber I have caught,” but Kicva thought it beneath his dignity to take
vengeance on a mouse.

Next day he went up to the Mound of Narberth and set up two forks for a
gallows on the highest part of the hill. As he was doing this a poor
scholar came towards him, and he was the first person Manawyddan had seen
in Dyfed, except his own companions, since the enchantment began.

The scholar asked him what he was about and begged him to let go the
mouse—“Ill doth it become a man of thy rank to touch such a reptile as
this.” “I will not let it go, by Heaven,” said Manawyddan, and by that he
abode, although the scholar offered him a pound of money to let it go
free. “I care not,” said the scholar, “except that I would not see a man
of rank touching such a reptile,” and with that he went his way.

As Manawyddan was placing the cross-beam on the two forks of his gallows,
a priest came towards him riding on a horse with trappings, and the same
conversation ensued. The priest offered three pounds for the mouse’s life,
but Manawyddan refused to take any price for it. “Willingly, lord, do thy
good pleasure,” said the priest, and he, too, went his way.

Then Manawyddan put a noose about the mouse’s neck and was about to draw
it up when he saw coming towards him a bishop with a great retinue of
sumpter-horses and attendants. And he stayed his work and asked the
bishop’s blessing. “Heaven’s blessing be unto thee,” said the bishop;
“what work art thou upon?” “Hanging a thief,” replied Manawyddan. The
bishop offered seven pounds “rather than see a man of thy rank destroying
so vile a reptile.” Manawyddan refused. Four-and-twenty pounds was then
offered, and then as much again, then all the bishop’s horses and
baggage—all in vain. “Since for this thou wilt not,” said the bishop, “do
it at whatever price thou wilt.” “I will do so,” said Manawyddan; “I will
that Rhiannon and Pryderi be free.” “That thou shalt have,” said the
(pretended) bishop. Then Manawyddan demands that the enchantment and
illusion be taken off for ever from the seven Cantrevs of Dyfed, and
finally insists that the bishop shall tell him who the mouse is and why
the enchantment was laid on the country. “I am Llwyd son of Kilcoed,”
replies the enchanter, “and the mouse is my wife; but that she is pregnant
thou hadst never overtaken her.” He goes on with an explanation which
takes us back to the first _Mabinogi_ of the Wedding of Rhiannon. The
charm was cast on the land to avenge the ill that was done Llwyd’s friend,
Gwawl son of Clud, with whom Pryderi’s father and his knights had played
“Badger in the Bag” at the court of Hevydd Hēn. The mice were the lords
and ladies of Llwyd’s court.

The enchanter is then made to promise that no further vengeance shall be
taken on Pryderi, Rhiannon, or Manawyddan, and the two spell-bound
captives having been restored, the mouse is released. “Then Llwyd struck
her with a magic wand, and she was changed into a young woman, the fairest
ever seen.” And on looking round Manawyddan saw all the land tilled and
peopled as in its best state, and full of herds and dwellings. “What
bondage,” he asks, “has there been upon Pryderi and Rhiannon?” “Pryderi
has had the knockers of the gate of my palace about his neck, and Rhiannon
has had the collars of the asses after they have been carrying hay about
her neck.” And such had been their bondage.

*The Tale of Māth Son of Māthonwy*

The previous tale was one of magic and illusion in which the mythological
element is but faint. In that which we have now to consider we are,
however, in a distinctly mythological region. The central motive of the
tale shows us the Powers of Light contending with those of the Under-world
for the prized possessions of the latter, in this case a herd of magic
swine. We are introduced in the beginning of the story to the deity, Māth,
of whom the bard tells us that he was unable to exist unless his feet lay
in the lap of a maiden, except when the land was disturbed by war.(238)
Māth is represented as lord of Gwynedd, while Pryderi rules over the
one-and-twenty cantrevs of the south. With Māth were his nephews Gwydion
and Gilvaethwy sons of Dōn, who went the circuit of the land in his stead,
while Māth lay with his feet in the lap of the fairest maiden of the land
and time, Goewin daughter of Pebin of Dōl Pebin in Arvon.

*Gwydion and the Swine of Pryderi*

Gilvaethwy fell sick of love for Goewin, and confided the secret to his
brother Gwydion, who undertook to help him to his desire. So he went to
Māth one day, and asked his leave to go to Pryderi and beg from him the
gift, for Māth, of a herd of swine which had been bestowed on him by Arawn
King of Annwn. “They are beasts,” he said, “such as never were known in
this island before ... their flesh is better than the flesh of oxen.” Māth
bade him go, and he and Gilvaethwy started with ten companions for Dyfed.
They came to Pryderi’s palace in the guise of bards, and Gwydion, after
being entertained at a feast, was asked to tell a tale to the court. After
delighting every one with his discourse he begged for a gift of the swine.
But Pryderi was under a compact with his people neither to sell nor give
them until they had produced double their number in the land. “Thou mayest
exchange them, though,” said Gwydion, and thereupon he made by magic arts
an illusion of twelve horses magnificently caparisoned, and twelve hounds,
and gave them to Pryderi and made off with the swine as fast as possible,
“for,” said he to his companions, “the illusion will not last but from one
hour to the same to-morrow.”

The intended result came to pass—Pryderi invaded the land to recover his
swine, Māth went to meet him in arms, and Gilvaethwy seized his
opportunity and made Goewin his wife, although she was unwilling.

*Death of Pryderi*

The war was decided by a single combat between Gwydion and Pryderi. “And
by force of strength and fierceness, and by the magic and charms of
Gwydion, Pryderi was slain. And at Maen Tyriawc, above Melenryd, was he
buried, and there is his grave.”

*The Penance of Gwydion and Gilvaethwy*

When Māth came back he found what Gilvaethwy had done, and he took Goewin
to be his queen, but Gwydion and Gilvaethwy went into outlawry, and dwelt
on the borders of the land. At last they came and submitted themselves for
punishment to Māth. “Ye cannot compensate me my shame, setting aside the
death of Pryderi,” he said, “but since ye come hither to be at my will, I
shall begin your punishment forthwith.” So he turned them both into deer,
and bade them come hither again in a twelvemonth.

They came at the appointed time, bringing with them a young fawn. And the
fawn was brought into human shape and baptized, and Gwydion and Gilvaethwy
were changed into two wild swine. At the next year’s end they came back
with a young one who was treated as the fawn before him, and the brothers
were made into wolves. Another year passed; they came back again with a
young wolf as before, and this time their penance was deemed complete, and
their human nature was restored to them, and Māth gave orders to have them
washed and anointed, and nobly clad as was befitting.

*The Children of Arianrod: Dylan*

The question then arose of appointing another virgin foot-holder, and
Gwydion suggests his sister, Arianrod. She attends for the purpose, and
Māth asks her if she is a virgin. “I know not, lord, other than that I
am,” she says. But she failed in a magical test imposed by Māth, and gave
birth to two sons. One of these was named Dylan, “Son of the Wave,”
evidently a Cymric sea-deity. So soon as he was baptized “he plunged into
the sea and swam as well as the best fish that was therein.... Beneath him
no wave ever broke.” A wild sea-poetry hangs about his name in Welsh
legend. On his death, which took place, it is said, at the hand of his
uncle Govannon, all the waves of Britain and Ireland wept for him. The
roar of the incoming tide at the mouth of the river Conway is still called
the “death-groan of Dylan.”

*Llew Llaw Gyffes*

The other infant was seized by Gwydion and brought up under his
protection. Like other solar heroes, he grew very rapidly; when he was
four he was as big as if he were eight, and the comeliest youth that ever
was seen. One day Gwydion took him to visit his mother Arianrod. She hated
the children who had exposed her false pretensions, and upbraided Gwydion
for bringing the boy into her sight. “What is his name?” she asked.
“Verily,” said Gwydion, “he has not yet a name.” “Then I lay this destiny
upon him,” said Arianrod, “that he shall never have a name till one is
given him by me.” On this Gwydion went forth in wrath, and remained in his
castle of Caer Dathyl that night.

Though the fact does not appear in this tale, it must be remembered that
Gwydion is, in the older mythology, the father of Arianrod’s children.

*How Llew Got his Name*

He was resolved to have a name for his son. Next day he went to the strand
below Caer Arianrod, bringing the boy with him. Here he sat down by the
beach, and in his character of a master of magic he made himself look like
a shoemaker, and the boy like an apprentice, and he began to make shoes
out of sedges and seaweed, to which he gave the semblance of Cordovan
leather. Word was brought to Arianrod of the wonderful shoes that were
being made by a strange cobbler, and she sent her measure for a pair.
Gwydion made them too large. She sent it again, and he made them too
small. Then she came herself to be fitted. While this was going on, a wren
came and lit on the boat’s mast, and the boy, taking up a bow, shot an
arrow that transfixed the leg between the sinew and the bone. Arianrod
admired the brilliant shot. “Verily,” she said, “with a steady hand (_llaw
gyffes_) did the lion (_llew_) hit it.” “No thanks to thee,” cried
Gwydion, “now he has got a name. Llew Llaw Gyffes shall he be called

We have seen that the name really means the same thing as the Gaelic Lugh
Lamfada, Lugh (Light) of the Long Arm; so that we have here an instance of
a legend growing up round a misunderstood name inherited from a
half-forgotten mythology.

*How Llew Took Arms*

The shoes went back immediately to sedges and seaweed again, and Arianrod,
angry at being tricked, laid a new curse on the boy. “He shall never bear
arms till I invest him with them.” But Gwydion, going to Caer Arianrod
with the boy in the semblance of two bards, makes by magic art the
illusion of a foray of armed men round the castle. Arianrod gives them
weapons to help in the defence, and thus again finds herself tricked by
the superior craft of Gwydion.

*The Flower-Wife of Llew*

Next she said, “He shall never have a wife of the race that now inhabits
this earth.” This raised a difficulty beyond the powers of even Gwydion,
and he went to Māth, the supreme master of magic. “Well,” said Māth, “we
will seek, I and thou, to form a wife for him out of flowers.” “So they
took the blossoms of the oak, and the blossoms of the broom, and the
blossoms of the meadow-sweet, and produced from them a maiden, the fairest
and most graceful that man ever saw. And they baptized her, and gave her
the name of Blodeuwedd, or Flower-face.” They wedded her to Llew, and gave
them the cantrev of Dinodig to reign over, and there Llew and his bride
dwelt for a season, happy, and beloved by all.

*Betrayal of Llew*

But Blodeuwedd was not worthy of her beautiful name and origin. One day
when Llew was away on a visit with Māth, a lord named Gronw Pebyr came
a-hunting by the palace of Llew, and Blodeuwedd loved him from the moment
she looked upon him. That night they slept together, and the next, and the
next, and then they planned how to be rid of Llew for ever. But Llew, like
the Gothic solar hero Siegfried, is invulnerable except under special
circumstances, and Blodeuwedd has to learn from him how he may be slain.
This she does under pretence of care for his welfare. The problem is a
hard one. Llew can only be killed by a spear which has been a year in
making, and has only been worked on during the Sacrifice of the Host on
Sundays. Furthermore, he cannot be slain within a house or without, on
horseback or on foot. The only way, in fact, is that he should stand with
one foot on a dead buck and the other in a cauldron, which is to be used
for a bath and thatched with a roof—if he is wounded while in this
position with a spear made as directed the wound may be fatal, not
otherwise. After a year, during which Gronw wrought at the spear,
Blodeuwedd begged Llew to show her more fully what she must guard against,
and he took up the required position to please her. Gronw, lurking in a
wood hard by, hurled the deadly spear, and the head, which was poisoned,
sank into Llew’s body, but the shaft broke off. Then Llew changed into an
eagle, and with a loud scream he soared up into the air and was no more
seen, and Gronw took his castle and lands and added them to his own.

These tidings at last reached Gwydion and Māth, and Gwydion set out to
find Llew. He came to the house of a vassal of his, from whom he learned
that a sow that he had disappeared every day and could not be traced, but
it came home duly each night. Gwydion followed the sow, and it went far
away to the brook since called Nant y Llew, where it stopped under a tree
and began feeding. Gwydion looked to see what it ate, and found that it
fed on putrid flesh that dropped from an eagle sitting aloft on the tree,
and it seemed to him that the eagle was Llew. Gwydion sang to it, and
brought it gradually down the tree till it came to his knee, when he
struck it with his magic wand and restored it to the shape of Llew, but
worn to skin and bone—“no one ever saw a more piteous sight.”

*The Healing of Llew*

When Llew was healed, he and Gwydion took vengeance on their foes.
Blodeuwedd was changed into an owl and bidden to shun the light of day,
and Gronw was slain by a cast of the spear of Llew that passed through a
slab of stone to reach him, and the slab with the hole through it made by
the spear of Llew remains by the bank of the river Cynvael in Ardudwy to
this day. And Llew took possession, for the second time, of his lands, and
ruled them prosperously all his days.

The four preceding tales are called the Four Branches of the Mabinogi, and
of the collection called the “Mabinogion” they form the most ancient and
important part.

*The Dream of Maxen Wledig*

Following the order of the tales in the “Mabinogion,” as presented in Mr.
Nutt’s edition, we come next to one which is a pure work of invention,
with no mythical or legendary element at all. It recounts how Maxen
Wledig, Emperor of Rome, had a vivid dream, in which he was led into a
strange country, where he saw a king in an ivory chair carving chessmen
with a steel file from a rod of gold. By him, on a golden throne, was the
fairest of maidens he had ever beheld. Waking, he found himself in love
with the dream-maiden, and sent messengers far and wide to discover, if
they could, the country and people that had appeared to him. They were
found in Britain. Thither went Maxen, and wooed and wedded the maiden. In
his absence a usurper laid hold of his empire in Rome, but with the aid of
his British friends he reconquered his dominions, and many of them settled
there with him, while others went home to Britain. The latter took with
them foreign wives, but, it is said, cut out their tongues, lest they
should corrupt the speech of the Britons. Thus early and thus powerful was
the devotion to their tongue of the Cymry, of whom the mythical bard
Taliesin prophesied:

“Their God they will praise,
Their speech they will keep,
Their land they will lose,
  Except wild Walia.”

*The Story of Lludd and Llevelys*

This tale is associated with the former one in the section entitled
Romantic British History. It tells how Lludd son of Beli, and his brother
Llevelys, ruled respectively over Britain and France, and how Lludd sought
his brother’s aid to stay the three plagues that were harassing the land.
These three plagues were, first, the presence of a demoniac race called
the Coranians; secondly, a fearful scream that was heard in every home in
Britain on every May-eve, and scared the people out of their senses;
thirdly, the unaccountable disappearance of all provisions in the king’s
court every night, so that nothing that was not consumed by the household
could be found the next morning. Lludd and Llevelys talked over these
matters through a brazen tube, for the Coranians could hear everything
that was said if once the winds got hold of it—a property also attributed
to Māth, son of Māthonwy. Llevelys destroyed the Coranians by giving to
Lludd a quantity of poisonous insects which were to be bruised up and
scattered over the people at an assembly. These insects would slay the
Coranians, but the people of Britain would be immune to them. The scream
Llevelys explained as proceeding from two dragons, which fought each other
once a year. They were to be slain by being intoxicated with mead, which
was to be placed in a pit dug in the very centre of Britain, which was
found on measurement to be at Oxford. The provisions, said Llevelys, were
taken away by a giant wizard, for whom Lludd watched as directed, and
overcame him in combat, and made him his faithful vassal thenceforward.
Thus Lludd and Llevelys freed the island from its three plagues.

*Tales of Arthur*

We next come to five Arthurian tales, one of which, the tale of Kilhwch
and Olwen, is the only native Arthurian legend which has come down to us
in Welsh literature. The rest, as we have seen, are more or less
reflections from the Arthurian literature as developed by foreign hands on
the Continent.

*Kilhwch and Olwen*

Kilhwch was son to Kilydd and his wife Goleuddydd, and is said to have
been cousin to Arthur. His mother having died, Kilydd took another wife,
and she, jealous of her stepson, laid on him a quest which promised to be
long and dangerous. “I declare,” she said, “that it is thy destiny”—the
Gael would have said _geis_—“not to be suited with a wife till thou obtain
Olwen daughter of Yspaddaden Penkawr.”(239) And Kilhwch reddened at the
name, and “love of the maiden diffused itself through all his frame.” By
his father’s advice he set out to Arthur’s Court to learn how and where he
might find and woo her.

A brilliant passage then describes the youth in the flower of his beauty,
on a noble steed caparisoned with gold, and accompanied by two brindled
white-breasted greyhounds with collars of rubies, setting forth on his
journey to King Arthur. “And the blade of grass bent not beneath him, so
light was his courser’s tread.”

*Kilhwch at Arthur’s Court*

After some difficulties with the Porter and with Arthur’s seneschal, Kai,
who did not wish to admit the lad while the company were sitting at meat,
Kilhwch was brought into the presence of the King, and declared his name
and his desire. “I seek this boon,” he said, “from thee and likewise at
the hands of thy warriors,” and he then enumerates an immense list full of
mythological personages and details—Bedwyr, Gwyn ap Nudd, Kai,
Manawyddan,(240) Geraint, and many others, including “Morvran son of
Tegid, whom no one struck at in the battle of Camlan by reason of his
ugliness; all thought he was a devil,” and “Sandde Bryd Angel, whom no one
touched with a spear in the battle of Camlan because of his beauty; all
thought he was a ministering angel.” The list extends to many scores of
names and includes many women, as, for instance, “Creiddylad the daughter
of Lludd of the Silver Hand—she was the most splendid maiden in the three
Islands of the Mighty, and for her Gwythyr the son of Greidawl and Gwyn
the son of Nudd fight every first of May till doom,” and the two Iseults
and Arthur’s Queen, Gwenhwyvar. “All these did Kilydd’s son Kilhwch adjure
to obtain his boon.”

Arthur, however, had never heard of Olwen nor of her kindred. He promised
to seek for her, but at the end of a year no tidings of her could be
found, and Kilhwch declared that he would depart and leave Arthur shamed.
Kai and Bedwyr, with the guide Kynddelig, are at last bidden to go forth
on the quest.

*Servitors of Arthur*

These personages are very different from those who are called by the same
names in Malory or Tennyson. Kai, it is said, could go nine days under
water. He could render himself at will as tall as a forest tree. So hot
was his physical constitution that nothing he bore in his hand could get
wetted in the heaviest rain. “Very subtle was Kai.” As for Bedwyr—the
later Sir Bedivere—we are told that none equalled him in swiftness, and
that, though one-armed, he was a match for any three warriors on the field
of battle; his lance made a wound equal to those of nine. Besides these
three there went also on the quest Gwrhyr, who knew all tongues, and
Gwalchmai son of Arthur’s sister Gwyar, and Menw, who could make the party
invisible by magic spells.


The party journeyed till at last they came to a great castle before which
was a flock of sheep kept by a shepherd who had by him a mastiff big as a
horse. The breath of this shepherd, we are told, could burn up a tree. “He
let no occasion pass without doing some hurt or harm.” However, he
received the party well, told them that he was Custennin, brother of
Yspaddaden whose castle stood before them, and brought them home to his
wife. The wife turned out to be a sister of Kilhwch’s mother Goleuddydd,
and she was rejoiced at seeing her nephew, but sorrowful at the thought
that he had come in search of Olwen, “for none ever returned from that
quest alive.” Custennin and his family, it appears, have suffered much at
the hands of Yspaddaden—all their sons but one being slain, because
Yspaddaden envied his brother his share of their patrimony. So they
associated themselves with the heroes in their quest.

*Olwen of the White Track*

Next day Olwen came down to the herdsman’s house as usual, for she was
wont to wash her hair there every Saturday, and each time she did so she
left all her rings in the vessel and never sent for them again. She is
described in one of those pictorial passages in which the Celtic passion
for beauty has found such exquisite utterance.

“The maiden was clothed in a robe of flame-coloured silk, and about her
neck was a collar of ruddy gold on which were precious emeralds and
rubies. More yellow was her head than the flower of the broom, and her
skin was whiter than the foam of the wave, and fairer were her hands and
her fingers than the blossoms of the wood-anemone amidst the spray of the
meadow fountain. The eye of the trained hawk, the glance of the
three-mewed falcon, was not brighter than hers. Her bosom was more snowy
than the breast of the white swan, her cheek was redder than the reddest
roses. Whoso beheld her was filled with her love. Four white trefoils
sprang up wherever she trod. And therefore was she called Olwen.”(241)

Kilhwch and she conversed together and loved each other, and she bade him
go and ask her of her father and deny him nothing that he might demand.
She had pledged her faith not to wed without his will, for his life would
only last till the time of her espousals.


Next day the party went to the castle and saw Yspaddaden. He put them off
with various excuses, and as they left flung after them a poisoned dart.
Bedwyr caught it and flung it back, wounding him in the knee, and
Yspaddaden cursed him in language of extraordinary vigour; the words seem
to crackle and spit like flame. Thrice over this happened, and at last
Yspaddaden declared what must be done to win Olwen.

*The Tasks of Kilhwch*

A long series of tasks follows. A vast hill is to be ploughed, sown, and
reaped in one day; only Amathaon son of Dōn can do it, and he will not.
Govannon, the smith, is to rid the ploughshare at each headland, and he
will not do it. The two dun oxen of Gwlwlyd are to draw the plough, and he
will not lend them. Honey nine times sweeter than that of the bee must be
got to make bragget for the wedding feast. A magic cauldron, a magic
basket out of which comes any meat that a man desires, a magic horn, the
sword of Gwrnach the Giant—all these must be won; and many other secret
and difficult things, some forty in all, before Kilhwch can call Olwen his
own. The most difficult quest is that of obtaining the comb and scissors
that are between the two ears of Twrch Trwyth, a king transformed into a
monstrous boar. To hunt the boar a number of other quests must be
accomplished—the whelp of Greid son of Eri is to be won, and a certain
leash to hold him, and a certain collar for the leash, and a chain for the
collar, and Mabon son of Modron for the huntsman and the horse of Gweddw
to carry Mabon, and Gwyn son of Nudd to help, “whom God placed over the
brood of devils in Annwn ... he will never be spared them,” and so forth
to an extent which makes the famous _eric_ of the sons of Turenn seem
trifling by comparison. “Difficulties shalt thou meet with, and nights
without sleep, in seeking this [bride price], and if thou obtain it not,
neither shalt thou have my daughter.” Kilhwch has one answer for every
demand: “It will be easy for me to accomplish this, although thou mayest
think that it will not be easy. And I shall gain thy daughter and thou
shalt lose thy life.”

So they depart on their way to fulfil the tasks, and on their way home
they fall in with Gwrnach the Giant, whose sword Kai, pretending to be a
sword-polisher, obtains by a stratagem. On reaching Arthur’s Court again,
and telling the King what they have to do, he promises his aid. First of
the marvels they accomplished was the discovery and liberation of Mabon
son of Modron, “who was taken from his mother when three nights old, and
it is not known where he is now, nor whether he is living or dead.” Gwrhyr
inquires of him from the Ousel of Cilgwri, who is so old that a smith’s
anvil on which he was wont to peck has been worn to the size of a nut, yet
he has never heard of Mabon. But he takes them to a beast older still, the
Stag of Redynvre, and so on to the Owl of Cwm Cawlwyd, and the Eagle of
Gwern Abwy, and the Salmon of Llyn Llyw, the oldest of living things, and
at last they find Mabon imprisoned in the stone dungeon of Gloucester, and
with Arthur’s help they release him, and so the second task is fulfilled.
In one way or another, by stratagem, or valour, or magic art, every
achievement is accomplished, including the last and most perilous one,
that of obtaining “the blood of the black witch Orddu, daughter of the
white witch Orwen, of Penn Nart Govid on the confines of Hell.” The combat
here is very like that of Finn in the cave of Keshcorran, but Arthur at
last cleaves the hag in twain, and Kaw of North Britain takes her blood.

So then they set forth for the castle of Yspaddaden again, and he
acknowledges defeat. Goreu son of Custennin cuts off his head, and that
night Olwen became the happy bride of Kilhwch, and the hosts of Arthur
dispersed, every man to his own land.

*The Dream of Rhonabwy*

Rhonabwy was a man-at-arms under Madawc son of Maredudd, whose brother
Iorwerth rose in rebellion against him; and Rhonabwy went with the troops
of Madawc to put him down. Going with a few companions into a mean hut to
rest for the night, he lies down to sleep on a yellow calf-skin by the
fire, while his friends lie on filthy couches of straw and twigs. On the
calf-skin he has a wonderful dream. He sees before him the court and camp
of Arthur—here the _quasi_-historical king, neither the legendary deity of
the former tale nor the Arthur of the French chivalrous romances—as he
moves towards Mount Badon for his great battle with the heathen. A
character named Iddawc is his guide to the King, who smiles at Rhonabwy
and his friends, and asks: “Where, Iddawc, didst thou find these little
men?” “I found them, lord, up yonder on the road.” “It pitieth me,” said
Arthur, “that men of such stature as these should have the island in their
keeping, after the men that guarded it of yore.” Rhonabwy has his
attention directed to a stone in the King’s ring. “It is one of the
properties of that stone to enable thee to remember that which thou seest
here to-night, and hadst thou not seen the stone, thou wouldst never have
been able to remember aught thereof.”

The different heroes and companions that compose Arthur’s army are
minutely described, with all the brilliant colour and delicate detail so
beloved by the Celtic fabulist. The chief incident narrated is a game of
chess that takes place between Arthur and the knight Owain son of Urien.
While the game goes on, first the knights of Arthur harry and disturb the
Ravens of Owain, but Arthur, when Owain complains, only says: “Play thy
game.” Afterwards the Ravens have the better of it, and it is Owain’s turn
to bid Arthur attend to his game. Then Arthur took the golden chessmen and
crushed them to dust in his hand, and besought Owain to quiet his Ravens,
which was done, and peace reigned again. Rhonabwy, it is said, slept three
days and nights on the calf-skin before awaking from his wondrous dream.
An epilogue declares that no bard is expected to know this tale by heart
and without a book, “because of the various colours that were upon the
horses, and the many wondrous colours of the arms and of the panoply, and
of the precious scarfs, and of the virtue-bearing stones.” The “Dream of
Rhonabwy” is rather a gorgeous vision of the past than a story in the
ordinary sense of the word.

*The Lady of the Fountain*

We have here a Welsh reproduction of the _Conte_ entitled “Le Chevalier au
lion” of Chrestien de Troyes. The principal personage in the tale is Owain
son of Urien, who appears in a character as foreign to the spirit of
Celtic legend as it was familiar on the Continent, that of knight-errant.

*The Adventure of Kymon*

We are told in the introduction that Kymon, a knight of Arthur’s Court,
had a strange and unfortunate adventure. Riding forth in search of some
deed of chivalry to do, he came to a splendid castle, where he was
hospitably received by four-and-twenty damsels, of whom “the least lovely
was more lovely than Gwenhwyvar, the wife of Arthur, when she has appeared
loveliest at the Offering on the Day of the Nativity, or at the feast of
Easter.” With them was a noble lord, who, after Kymon had eaten, asked of
his business. Kymon explained that he was seeking for his match in combat.
The lord of the castle smiled, and bade him proceed as follows: He should
take the road up the valley and through a forest till he came to a glade
with a mound in the midst of it. On the mound he would see a black man of
huge stature with one foot and one eye, bearing a mighty iron club. He was
wood-ward of that forest, and would have thousands of wild animals, stags,
serpents, and what not, feeding around him. He would show Kymon what he
was in quest of.

Kymon followed the instructions, and the black man directed him to where
he should find a fountain under a great tree; by the side of it would be a
silver bowl on a slab of marble. Kymon was to take the bowl and throw a
bowlful of water on the slab, when a terrific storm of hail and thunder
would follow—then there would break forth an enchanting music of singing
birds—then would appear a knight in black armour riding on a coal-black
horse, with a black pennon upon his lance. “And if thou dost not find
trouble in that adventure, thou needst not seek it during the rest of thy

*The Character of Welsh Romance*

Here let us pause for a moment to point out how clearly we are in the
region of mediæval romance, and how far from that of Celtic mythology.
Perhaps the Celtic “Land of Youth” may have remotely suggested those
regions of beauty and mystery into which the Arthurian knight rides in
quest of adventure. But the scenery, the motives, the incidents, are
altogether different. And how beautiful they are—how steeped in the magic
light of romance! The colours live and glow, the forest murmurs in our
ears, the breath of that springtime of our modern world is about us, as we
follow the lonely rider down the grassy track into an unknown world of
peril and delight. While in some respects the Continental tales are
greater than the Welsh, more thoughtful, more profound, they do not
approach them in the exquisite artistry with which the exterior aspect of
things is rendered, the atmosphere of enchantment maintained, and the
reader led, with ever-quickening interest, from point to point in the
development of the tale. Nor are these Welsh tales a whit behind in the
noble and chivalrous spirit which breathes through them. A finer school of
character and of manners could hardly be found in literature. How strange
that for many centuries this treasure beyond all price should have lain
unnoticed in our midst! And how deep must be our gratitude to the nameless
bards whose thought created it, and to the nobly inspired hand which first
made it a possession for all the English-speaking world!

*Defeat of Kymon*

But to resume our story. Kymon did as he was bidden, the Black Knight
appeared, silently they set lance in rest and charged. Kymon was flung to
earth, while his enemy, not bestowing one glance upon him, passed the
shaft of his lance through the rein of Kymon’s horse and rode off with it
in the direction whence he had come. Kymon went back afoot to the castle,
where none asked him how he had sped, but they gave him a new horse, “a
dark bay palfrey with nostrils as red as scarlet,” on which he rode home
to Caerleon.

*Owain and the Black Knight*

Owain was, of course, fired by the tale of Kymon, and next morning at the
dawn of day he rode forth to seek for the same adventure. All passed as it
had done in Kymon’s case, but Owain wounded the Black Knight so sorely
that he turned his horse and fled, Owain pursuing him hotly. They came to
a “vast and resplendent castle.” Across the drawbridge they rode, the
outer portcullis of which fell as the Black Knight passed it. But so close
at his heels was Owain that the portcullis fell behind him, cutting his
horse in two behind the saddle, and he himself remained imprisoned between
the outer gate of the drawbridge and the inner. While he was in this
predicament a maiden came to him and gave him a ring. When he wore it with
the stone reversed and clenched in his hand he would become invisible, and
when the servants of the lord of the castle came for him he was to elude
them and follow her.

This she did knowing apparently who he was, “for as a friend thou art the
most sincere, and as a lover the most devoted.”

Owain did as he was bidden, and the maiden concealed him. In that night a
great lamentation was heard in the castle—its lord had died of the wound
which Owain had given him. Soon afterwards Owain got sight of the mistress
of the castle, and love of her took entire possession of him. Luned, the
maiden who had rescued him, wooed her for him, and he became her husband,
and lord of the Castle of the Fountain and all the dominions of the Black
Knight. And he then defended the fountain with lance and sword as his
forerunner had done, and made his defeated antagonists ransom themselves
for great sums, which he bestowed among his barons and knights. Thus he
abode for three years.

*The Search for Owain*

After this time Arthur, with his nephew Gwalchmai and with Kymon for
guide, rode forth at the head of a host to search for tidings of Owain.
They came to the fountain, and here they met Owain, neither knowing the
other as their helms were down. And first Kai was overthrown, and then
Gwalchmai and Owain fought, and after a while Gwalchmai was unhelmed.
Owain said, “My lord Gwalchmai, I did not know thee; take my sword and my
arms.” Said Gwalchmai, “Thou, Owain, art the victor; take thou my sword.”
Arthur ended the contention in courtesy by taking the swords of both, and
then they all rode to the Castle of the Fountain, where Owain entertained
them with great joy. And he went back with Arthur to Caerleon, promising
to his countess that he would remain there but three months and then

*Owain Forgets his Lady*

But at the Court of Arthur he forgot his love and his duty, and remained
there three years. At the end of that time a noble lady came riding upon a
horse caparisoned with gold, and she sought out Owain and took the ring
from his hand. “Thus,” she said, “shall be treated the deceiver, the
traitor, the faithless, the disgraced, and the beardless.” Then she turned
her horse’s head and departed. And Owain, overwhelmed with shame and
remorse, fled from the sight of men and lived in a desolate country with
wild beasts till his body wasted and his hair grew long and his clothing
rotted away.

*Owain and the Lion*

In this guise, when near to death from exposure and want, he was taken in
by a certain widowed countess and her maidens, and restored to strength by
magic balsams; and although they besought him to remain with them, he rode
forth again, seeking for lonely and desert lands. Here he found a lion in
battle with a great serpent. Owain slew the serpent, and the lion followed
him and played about him as if it had been a greyhound that he had reared.
And it fed him by catching deer, part of which Owain cooked for himself,
giving the rest to his lion to devour; and the beast kept watch over him
by night.

*Release of Luned*

Owain next finds an imprisoned damsel, whose sighs he hears, though he
cannot see her nor she him. Being questioned, she told him that her name
was Luned—she was the handmaid of a countess whose husband had left her,
“and he was the friend I loved best in the world.” Two of the pages of the
countess had traduced him, and because she defended him she was condemned
to be burned if before a year was out he (namely, Owain son of Urien) had
not appeared to deliver her. And the year would end to-morrow. On the next
day Owain met the two youths leading Luned to execution and did battle
with them. With the help of the lion he overcame them, rescued Luned, and
returned to the Castle of the Fountain, where he was reconciled with his
love. And he took her with him to Arthur’s Court, and she was his wife
there as long as she lived. Lastly comes an adventure in which, still
aided by the lion, he vanquishes a black giant and releases
four-and-twenty noble ladies, and the giant vows to give up his evil ways
and keep a hospice for wayfarers as long as he should live.

“And thenceforth Owain dwelt at Arthur’s Court, greatly beloved, as the
head of his household, until he went away with his followers; and these
were the army of three hundred ravens which Kenverchyn(242) had left him.
And wherever Owain went with these he was victorious. And this is the tale
of the Lady of the Fountain.”

*The Tale of Enid and Geraint*

In this tale, which appears to be based on the “Erec” of Chrestien de
Troyes, the main interest is neither mythological nor adventurous, but
sentimental. How Geraint found and wooed his love as the daughter of a
great lord fallen on evil days; how he jousted for her with Edeyrn, son of
Nudd—a Cymric deity transformed into the “Knight of the Sparrowhawk”; how,
lapped in love of her, he grew careless of his fame and his duty; how he
misunderstood the words she murmured over him as she deemed him sleeping,
and doubted her faith; how despitefully he treated her; and in how many a
bitter test she proved her love and loyalty—all these things have been
made so familiar to English readers in Tennyson’s “Enid” that they need
not detain us here. Tennyson, in this instance, has followed his original
very closely.

Legends of the Grail: The Tale of Peredur

The Tale of Peredur is one of great interest and significance in connexion
with the origin of the Grail legend. Peredur corresponds to the Perceval
of Chrestien de Troyes, to whom we owe the earliest extant poem on the
Grail; but that writer left his Grail story unfinished, and we never learn
from him what exactly the Grail was or what gave it its importance. When
we turn for light to “Peredur,” which undoubtedly represents a more
ancient form of the legend, we find ourselves baffled. For “Peredur” may
be described as the Grail story without the Grail.(243) The strange
personages, objects, and incidents which form the usual setting for the
entry upon the scene of this mystic treasure are all here; we breathe the
very atmosphere of the Grail Castle; but of the Grail itself there is no
word. The story is concerned simply with the vengeance taken by the hero
for the slaying of a kinsman, and for this end only are the mysteries of
the Castle of Wonders displayed to him.

We learn at the opening of the tale that Peredur was in the significant
position of being a seventh son. To be a seventh son was, in this world of
mystical romance, equivalent to being marked out by destiny for fortunes
high and strange. His father, Evrawc, an earl of the North, and his six
brothers had fallen in fight. Peredur’s mother, therefore, fearing a
similar fate for her youngest child, brought him up in a forest, keeping
from him all knowledge of chivalry or warfare and of such things as
war-horses or weapons. Here he grew up a simple rustic in manner and in
knowledge, but of an amazing bodily strength and activity.

*He Goes Forth in Quest of Adventure*

One day he saw three knights on the borders of the forest. They were all
of Arthur’s Court—Gwalchmai, Geneir, and Owain. Entranced by the sight, he
asked his mother what these beings were. “They are angels, my son,” said
she. “By my faith,” said Peredur, “I will go and become an angel with
them.” He goes to meet them, and soon learns what they are. Owain
courteously explains to him the use of a saddle, a shield, a sword, all
the accoutrements of warfare; and Peredur that evening picked out a bony
piebald draught-horse, and dressed him up in a saddle and trappings made
of twigs, and imitated from those he had seen. Seeing that he was bent on
going forth to deeds of chivalry, his mother gave him her blessing and
sundry instructions, and bade him seek the Court of Arthur; “there there
are the best, and the boldest, and the most beautiful of men.”

*His First Feat of Arms*

Peredur mounted his Rosinante, took for weapons a handful of sharp-pointed
stakes, and rode forth to Arthur’s Court. Here the steward, Kai, rudely
repulsed him for his rustic appearance, but a dwarf and dwarfess, who had
been a year at the Court without speaking one word to any one there,
cried: “Goodly Peredur, son of Evrawc; the welcome of Heaven be unto thee,
flower of knights and light of chivalry.” Kai chastised the dwarfs for
breaking silence by lauding such a fellow as Peredur, and when the latter
demanded to be brought to Arthur, bade him first go and overcome a
stranger knight who had just challenged the whole Court by throwing a
goblet of wine into the face of Gwenhwyvar, and whom all shrank from
meeting. Peredur went out promptly to where the ruffian knight was
swaggering up and down, awaiting an opponent, and in the combat that
ensued pierced his skull with one of his sharp stakes and slew him. Owain
then came out and found Peredur dragging his fallen enemy about. “What art
thou doing there?” said Owain. “This iron coat,” said Peredur, “will never
come off from him; not by my efforts at any rate.” So Owain showed him how
to unfasten the armour, and Peredur took it, and the knight’s weapons and
horse, and rode forth to seek what further adventures might befall.

Here we have the character of _der reine Thor_, the valiant and
pure-hearted simpleton, clearly and vividly drawn.

Peredur on leaving Arthur’s Court had many encounters in which he
triumphed with ease, sending the beaten knights to Caerleon-on-Usk with
the message that he had overthrown them for the honour of Arthur and in
his service, but that he, Peredur, would never come to the Court again
till he had avenged the insult to the dwarfs upon Kai, who was accordingly
reproved by Arthur and was greatly grieved thereat.

*The Castle of Wonders*

We now come into what the reader will immediately recognise as the
atmosphere of the Grail legend. Peredur came to a castle beside a lake,
where he found a venerable man with attendants about him who were fishing
in the lake. As Peredur approached, the aged man rose and went into the
castle, and Peredur saw that he was lame. Peredur entered, and was
hospitably received in a great hall. The aged man asked him, when they had
done their meal, if he knew how to fight with the sword, and promised to
teach him all knightly accomplishments, and “the manners and customs of
different countries, and courtesy and gentleness and noble bearing.” And
he added: “I am thy uncle, thy mother’s brother.” Finally, he bade him
ride forth, and remember, whatever he saw that might cause him wonder, not
to ask the meaning of it if no one had the courtesy to inform him. This is
the test of obedience and self-restraint on which the rest of the
adventure turns.

On next riding forth, Peredur came to a vast desert wood, beyond which he
found a great castle, the Castle of Wonders. He entered it by the open
door, and found a stately, hoary-headed man sitting in a great hall with
many pages about him, who received Peredur honourably. At meat Peredur sat
beside the lord of the castle, who asked him, when they had done, if he
could fight with a sword. “Were I to receive instruction,” said Peredur,
“I think I could.” The lord then gave Peredur a sword, and bade him strike
at a great iron staple that was in the floor. Peredur did so, and cut the
staple in two, but the sword also flew into two parts. “Place the two
parts together,” said the lord. Peredur did so, and they became one again,
both sword and staple. A second time this was done with the same result.
The third time neither sword nor staple would reunite.

“Thou hast arrived,” said the lord, “at two-thirds of thy strength.” He
then declared that he also was

Peredur’s uncle, and brother to the fisher-lord with whom Peredur had
lodged on the previous night. As they discoursed, two youths entered the
hall bearing a spear of mighty size, from the point of which three streams
of blood dropped upon the ground, and all the company when they saw this
began wailing and lamenting with a great outcry, but the lord took no
notice and did not break off his discourse with Peredur. Next there came
in two maidens carrying between them a large salver, on which, amid a
profusion of blood, lay a man’s head. Thereupon the wailing and lamenting
began even more loudly than before. But at last they fell silent, and
Peredur was led off to his chamber. Mindful of the injunction of the
fisher-lord, he had shown no surprise at what he saw, nor had he asked the
meaning of it. He then rode forth again in quest of other adventures,
which he had in bewildering abundance, and which have no particular
relation to the main theme. The mystery of the castle is not revealed till
the last pages of the story. The head in the silver dish was that of a
cousin of Peredur’s. The lance was the weapon with which he was slain, and
with which also the uncle of Peredur, the fisher-lord, had been lamed.
Peredur had been shown these things to incite him to avenge the wrong, and
to prove his fitness for the task. The “nine sorceresses of Gloucester”
are said to have been those who worked these evils on the relatives of
Peredur. On learning these matters Peredur, with the help of Arthur,
attacked the sorceresses, who were slain every one, and the vengeance was

*The Conte del Graal*

The tale of Chrestien de Troyes called the “Conte del Graal” or “Perceval
le Gallois” launched the story in European literature. It was written
about the year 1180. It agrees in the introductory portion with “Peredur,”
the hero being here called Perceval. He is trained in knightly
accomplishments by an aged knight named Gonemans, who warns him against
talking overmuch and asking questions. When he comes to the Castle of
Wonders the objects brought into the hall are a blood-dripping lance, a
“graal” accompanied by two double-branched candlesticks, the light of
which is put out by the shining of the graal, a silver plate and sword,
the last of which is given to Perceval. The bleeding head of the Welsh
story does not appear, nor are we told what the graal was. Next day when
Perceval rode forth he met a maiden who upbraided him fiercely for not
having asked the meaning of what he saw—had he done so the lame king (who
is here identical with the lord of the Castle of Wonders) would have been
made whole again. Perceval’s sin in quitting his mother against her wish
was the reason why he was withholden from asking the question which would
have broken the spell. This is a very crude piece of invention, for it was
manifestly Peredur’s destiny to take arms and achieve the adventure of the
Grail, and he committed no sin in doing so. Later on in the story Perceval
is met by a damsel of hideous appearance, who curses him for his omission
to ask concerning the lance and the other wonders—had he done so the king
would have been restored and would have ruled his land in peace, but now
maidens will be put to shame, knights will be slain, widows and orphans
will be made.

This conception of the question episode seems to me radically different
from that which was adopted in the Welsh version. It is characteristic of
Peredur that he always does as he is told by proper authority. The
question was a test of obedience and self-restraint, and he succeeded in
the ordeal. In fairy literature one is often punished for curiosity, but
never for discretion and reserve. The Welsh tale here preserves, I think,
the original form of the story. But the French writers mistook the
omission to ask questions for a failure on the part of the hero, and
invented a shallow and incongruous theory of the episode and its
consequences. Strange to say, however, the French view found its way into
later versions of the Welsh tale, and such a version is that which we have
in the “Mabinogion.” Peredur, towards the end of the story, meets with a
hideous damsel, the terrors of whose aspect are vividly described, and who
rebukes him violently for not having asked the meaning of the marvels at
the castle: “Hadst thou done so the king would have been restored to
health, and his dominions to peace. Whereas from henceforth he will have
to endure battles and conflicts, and his knights will perish, and wives
will be widowed, and maidens will be left portionless, and all this is
because of thee.” I regard this loathly damsel as an obvious interpolation
in the Welsh tale. She came into it straight out of the pages of
Chrestien. That she did not originally belong to the story of Peredur
seems evident from the fact that in this tale the lame lord who bids
Peredur refrain from asking questions is, according to the damsel, the
very person who would have benefited by his doing so. As a matter of fact,
Peredur never does ask the question, and it plays no part in the
conclusion of the story.

Chrestien’s unfinished tale tells us some further adventures of Perceval
and of his friend and fellow-knight, Gauvain, but never explains the
significance of the mysterious objects seen at the castle. His
continuators, of whom Gautier was the first, tell us that the Graal was
the Cup of the Last Supper and the lance that which had pierced the side
of Christ at the Crucifixion; and that Peredur ultimately makes his way
back to the castle, asks the necessary question, and succeeds his uncle as
lord of the castle and guardian of its treasures.

*Wolfram von Eschenbach*

In the story as given by Wolfram von Eschenbach, who wrote about the year
1200—some twenty years later than Chrestien de Troyes, with whose work he
was acquainted—we meet with a new and unique conception of the Grail. He
says of the knights of the Grail Castle:

“Si lebent von einem steine
Des geslähte ist vîl reine . . .
Es heizet _lapsit [lapis] exillîs_,
Der stein ist ouch genannt der Grâl.”(244)

It was originally brought down from heaven by a flight of angels and
deposited in Anjou, as the worthiest region for its reception. Its power
is sustained by a dove which every Good Friday comes from heaven and lays
on the Grail a consecrated Host. It is preserved in the Castle of
Munsalväsche [Montsalvat] and guarded by four hundred knights, who are
all, except their king, vowed to virginity. The king may marry, and is
indeed, in order to maintain the succession, commanded to do so by the
Grail, which conveys its messages to mankind by writing which appears upon
it and which fades away when deciphered. In the time of Parzival the king
is Anfortas. He cannot die in presence of the Grail, but he suffers from a
wound which, because he received it in the cause of worldly pride and in
seeking after illicit love, the influence of the Grail cannot heal until
the destined deliverer shall break the spell. This Parzival should have
done by asking the question, “What aileth thee, uncle?” The French version
makes Perceval fail in curiosity—Wolfram conceives the failure as one in
sympathy. He fails, at any rate, and next morning finds the castle empty
and his horse standing ready for him at the gate; as he departs he is
mocked by servitors who appear at the windows of the towers. After many
adventures, which are quite unlike those either in Chrestien’s “Conte del
Graal” or in “Peredur,” Parzival, who has wedded the maiden Condwiramur,
finds his way back to the Grail Castle—which no one can reach except those
destined and chosen to do so by the Grail itself—breaks the spell, and
rules over the Grail dominions, his son Loherangrain becoming the Knight
of the Swan, who goes abroad righting wrongs, and who, like all the Grail
knights, is forbidden to reveal his name and origin to the outside world.
Wolfram tells us that he had the substance of the tale from the Provençal
poet Kyot or Guiot—“Kyot, der meister wol bekannt”—who in his turn—but
this probably is a mere piece of romantic invention—professed to have
found it in an Arabic book in Toledo, written by a heathen named

*The Continuators of Chrestien*

What exactly may have been the material before Chrestien de Troyes we
cannot tell, but his various co-workers and continuators, notably
Manessier, all dwell on the Christian character of the objects shown to
Perceval in the castle, and the question arises, How did they come to
acquire this character? The Welsh story, certainly the most archaic form
of the legend, shows that they did not have it from the beginning. An
indication in one of the French continuations to Chrestien’s “Conte” may
serve to put us on the track. Gautier, the author of this continuation,
tells us of an attempt on the part of Gauvain [Sir Gawain] to achieve the
adventure of the Grail. He partially succeeds, and this half-success has
the effect of restoring the lands about the castle, which were desert and
untilled, to blooming fertility. The Grail therefore, besides its other
characters, had a talismanic power in promoting increase, wealth, and

*The Grail a Talisman of Abundance*

The character of a cornucopia, a symbol and agent of abundance and
vitality, clings closely to the Grail in all versions of the legend. Even
in the loftiest and most spiritual of these, the “Parzival” of Wolfram von
Eschenbach, this quality is very strongly marked. A sick or wounded man
who looked on it could not die within the week, nor could its servitors
grow old: “though one looked on it for two hundred years, his hair would
never turn grey.” The Grail knights lived from it, apparently by its
turning into all manner of food and drink the bread which was presented to
it by pages. Each man had of it food according to his pleasure, _à son
gré_—from this word _gré, gréable_, the name Gral, which originated in the
French versions, was supposed to be derived.(245) It was the satisfaction
of all desires. In Wolfram’s poem the Grail, though connected with the
Eucharist, was, as we have seen, a stone, not a cup. It thus appears as a
relic of ancient stone-worship. It is remarkable that a similar Stone of
Abundance occurs also in the Welsh “Peredur,” though not as one of the
mysteries of the castle. It was guarded by a black serpent, which Peredur
slew, and he gave the stone to his friend Etlyn.

*The Celtic Cauldron of Abundance*

Now the reader has by this time become well acquainted with an object
having the character of a talisman of abundance and rejuvenation in Celtic
myth. As the Cauldron of the Dagda it came into Ireland with the Danaans
from their mysterious fairy-land. In Welsh legend Bran the Blessed got it
from Ireland, whither it returned again as part of Branwen’s dowry. In a
strange and mystic poem by Taliesin it is represented as part of the
spoils of Hades, or Annwn, brought thence by Arthur, in a tragic adventure
not otherwise recorded. It is described by Taliesin as lodged in Caer
Pedryvan, the Four-square Castle of Pwyll; the fire that heated it was
fanned by the breath of nine maidens, its edge was rimmed with pearls, and
it would not cook the food of a coward or man forsworn:(246)

“Am I not a candidate for fame, to be heard in song
 In Caer Pedryvan, four times revolving?
 The first word from the cauldron, when was it spoken?
 By the breath of nine maidens it was gently warmed.
 Is it not the cauldron of the chief of Annwn? What is its fashion?
 A rim of pearls is round its edge.
 It will not cook the food of a coward or one forsworn.
 A sword flashing bright will be raised to him,
 And left in the hand of Lleminawg.

 And before the door of the gate of Uffern(247) the lamp was burning.
 When we went with Arthur—a splendid labour—
 Except seven, none returned from Caer Vedwyd.(248)

More remotely still the cauldron represents the Sun, which appears in the
earliest Aryo-Indian myths as a golden vessel which pours forth light and
heat and fertility. The lance is the lightning-weapon of the Thunder God,
Indra, appearing in Norse mythology as the hammer of Thor. The quest for
these objects represents the ideas of the restoration by some divine
champion of the wholesome order of the seasons, disturbed by some
temporary derangement such as those which to this day bring famine and
desolation to India.

Now in the Welsh “Peredur” we have clearly an outline of the original
Celtic tale, but the Grail does not appear in it. We may conjecture,
however, from Gautier’s continuation of Chrestien’s poem that a talisman
of abundance figured in early Continental, probably Breton, versions of
the legend. In one version at least—that on which Wolfram based his
“Parzival”—this talisman was a stone. But usually it would have been, not
a stone, but a cauldron or vessel of some kind endowed with the usual
attributes of the magic cauldron of Celtic myth. This vessel was
associated with a blood-dripping lance. Here were the suggestive elements
from which some unknown singer, in a flash of inspiration, transformed the
ancient tale of vengeance and redemption into the mystical romance which
at once took possession of the heart and soul of Christendom. The magic
cauldron became the cup of the Eucharist, the lance was invested with a
more tremendous guilt than that of the death of Peredur’s kinsman.(249)
Celtic poetry, German mysticism, Christian chivalry, and ideas of magic
which still cling to the rude stone monuments of Western Europe—all these
combined to make the story of the Grail, and to endow it with the strange
attraction which has led to its re-creation by artist after artist for
seven hundred years. And who, even now, can say that its course is run at
last, and the towers of Montsalvat dissolved into the mist from which they

*The Tale of Taliesin*

Alone of the tales in the collection called by Lady Charlotte Guest the
“Mabinogion,” the story of the birth and adventures of the mythical bard
Taliesin, the Amergin of Cymric legend, is not found in the
fourteenth-century manuscript entitled “The Red Book of Hergest.” It is
taken from a manuscript of the late sixteenth or seventeenth century, and
never appears to have enjoyed much popularity in Wales. Much of the very
obscure poetry attributed to Taliesin is to be found in it, and this is
much older than the prose. The object of the tale, indeed, as Mr. Nutt has
pointed out in his edition of the “Mabinogion,” is rather to provide a
sort of framework for stringing together scattered pieces of verse
supposed to be the work of Taliesin than to tell a connected story about
him and his doings.

The story of the birth of the hero is the most interesting thing in the
tale. There lived, it was said, “in the time of Arthur of the Round
Table,”(250) a man named Tegid Voel of Penllyn, whose wife was named
Ceridwen. They have a son named Avagddu, who was the most ill-favoured man
in the world. To compensate for his lack of beauty, his mother resolved to
make him a sage. So, according to the art of the books of Feryllt,(251)
she had recourse to the great Celtic source of magical influence—a
cauldron. She began to boil a “cauldron of inspiration and science for her
son, that his reception might be honourable because of his knowledge of
the mysteries of the future state of the world.” The cauldron might not
cease to boil for a year and a day, and only in three drops of it were to
be found the magical grace of the brew.

She put Gwion Bach the son of Gwreang of Llanfair to stir the cauldron,
and a blind man named Morda to keep the fire going, and she made
incantations over it and put in magical herbs from time to time as
Feryllt’s book directed. But one day towards the end of the year three
drops of the magic liquor flew out of the cauldron and lighted on the
finger of Gwion. Like Finn mac Cumhal on a similar occasion, he put his
finger in his mouth, and immediately became gifted with supernatural
insight. He saw that he had got what was intended for Avagddu, and he saw
also that Ceridwen would destroy him for it if she could. So he fled to
his own land, and the cauldron, deprived of the sacred drops, now
contained nothing but poison, the power of which burst the vessel, and the
liquor ran into a stream hard by and poisoned the horses of Gwyddno
Garanhir which drank of the water. Whence the stream is called the Poison
of the Horses of Gwyddno from that time forth.

Ceridwen now came on the scene and saw that her year’s labour was lost. In
her rage she smote Morda with a billet of firewood and struck out his eye,
and she then pursued after Gwion Bach. He saw her and changed himself into
a hare. She became a greyhound. He leaped into a river and became a fish,
and she chased him as an otter. He became a bird and she a hawk. Then he
turned himself into a grain of wheat and dropped among the other grains on
a threshing-floor, and she became a black hen and swallowed him. Nine
months afterwards she bore him as an infant; and she would have killed
him, but could not on account of his beauty, “so she wrapped him in a
leathern bag, and cast him into the sea to the mercy of God.”

*The Luck of Elphin*

Now Gwyddno, of the poisoned horses, had a salmon weir on the strand
between Dyvi and Aberystwyth. And his son Elphin, a needy and luckless
lad, one day fished out the leathern bag as it stuck on the weir. They
opened it, and found the infant within. “Behold a radiant brow!”(252) said
Gwyddno. “Taliesin be he called,” said Elphin. And they brought the child
home very carefully and reared it as their own. And this was Taliesin,
prime bard of the Cymry; and the first of the poems he made was a lay of
praise to Elphin and promise of good fortune for the future. And this was
fulfilled, for Elphin grew in riches and honour day after day, and in love
and favour with King Arthur.

But one day as men praised King Arthur and all his belongings above
measure, Elphin boasted that he had a wife as virtuous as any at Arthur’s
Court and a bard more skilful than any of the King’s; and they flung him
into prison until they should see if he could make good his boast. And as
he lay there with a silver chain about his feet, a graceless fellow named
Rhun was sent to court the wife of Elphin and to bring back proofs of her
folly; and it was said that neither maid nor matron with whom Rhun
conversed but was evil-spoken of.

Taliesin then bade his mistress conceal herself, and she gave her raiment
and jewels to one of the kitchenmaids, who received Rhun as if she were
mistress of the household. And after supper Rhun plied the maid with
drink, and she became intoxicated and fell in a deep sleep; whereupon Rhun
cut off one of her fingers, on which was the signet-ring of Elphin that he
had sent his wife a little while before. Rhun brought the finger and the
ring on it to Arthur’s Court.

Next day Elphin was fetched out of prison and shown the finger and the
ring. Whereupon he said: “With thy leave, mighty king, I cannot deny the
ring, but the finger it is on was never my wife’s. For this is the little
finger, and the ring fits tightly on it, but my wife could barely keep it
on her thumb. And my wife, moreover, is wont to pare her nails every
Saturday night, but this nail hath not been pared for a month. And
thirdly, the hand to which this finger belonged was kneading rye-dough
within three days past, but my wife has never kneaded rye-dough since my
wife she has been.”

Then the King was angry because his test had failed, and he ordered Elphin
back to prison till he could prove what he had affirmed about his bard.

*Taliesin, Prime Bard of Britain*

Then Taliesin went to court, and one high day when the King’s bards and
minstrels should sing and play before him, Taliesin, as they passed him
sitting quietly in a corner, pouted his lips and played “Blerwm, blerwm”
with his finger on his mouth. And when the bards came to perform before
the King, lo ! a spell was on them, and they could do nothing but bow
before him and play “Blerwm, blerwm” with their fingers on their lips. And
the chief of them, Heinin, said: “O king, we be not drunken with wine, but
are dumb through the influence of the spirit that sits in yon corner under
the form of a child.” Then Taliesin was brought forth, and they asked him
who he was and whence he came. And he sang as follows:

“Primary chief bard am I to Elphin,
 And my original country is the region of the summer stars;
 Idno and Heinin called me Merddin,
 At length every being will call me Taliesin.

“I was with my Lord in the highest sphere,
 On the fall of Lucifer into the depth of hell;
 I have borne a banner before Alexander;
 I know the names of the stars from north to south

“I was in Canaan when Absalom was slain,
 I was in the court of Dōn before the birth of Gwydion.
 I was at the place of the crucifixion of the merciful Son of God;
 I have been three periods in the prison of Arianrod.

“I have been in Asia with Noah in the ark,
 I have seen the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.
 I have been in India when Roma was built.
 I am now come here to the remnant of Troia.(253)

“I have been with my Lord in the ass’s manger,
 I strengthened Moses through the waters of Jordan;
 I have been in the firmament with Mary Magdalene;
 I have obtained the Muse from the cauldron of Ceridwen.

“I shall be until the day of doom on the face of the earth;
 And it is not known whether my body is flesh or fish.

“Then was I for nine months
 In the womb of the witch Ceridwen;
 I was originally little Gwion,
 And at length I am Taliesin.”(254)

While Taliesin sang a great storm of wind arose, and the castle shook with
the force of it. Then the King bade Elphin be brought in before him, and
when he came, at the music of Taliesin’s voice and harp the chains fell
open of themselves and he was free. And many other poems concerning secret
things of the past and future did Taliesin sing before the King and his
lords, and he foretold the coming of the Saxon into the land, and his
oppression of the Cymry, and foretold also his passing away when the day
of his destiny should come.


Here we end this long survey of the legendary literature of the Celt. The
material is very abundant, and it is, of course, not practicable in a
volume of this size to do more than trace the main current of the
development of the legendary literature down to the time when the mythical
and legendary element entirely faded out and free literary invention took
its place. The reader of these pages will, however, it is hoped, have
gained a general conception of the subject which will enable him to
understand the significance of such tales as we have not been able to
touch on here, and to fit them into their proper places in one or other of
the great cycles of Celtic legend. It will be noticed that we have not
entered upon the vast region of Celtic folk-lore. Folk-lore has not been
regarded as falling within the scope of the present work. Folk-lore may
sometimes represent degraded mythology, and sometimes mythology in the
making. In either case, it is its special characteristic that it belongs
to and issues from a class whose daily life lies close to the earth,
toilers in the field and in the forest, who render with simple directness,
in tales or charms, their impressions of natural or supernatural forces
with which their own lives are environed. Mythology, in the proper sense
of the word, appears only where the intellect and the imagination have
reached a point of development above that which is ordinarily possible to
the peasant mind—when men have begun to co-ordinate their scattered
impressions and have felt the impulse to shape them into poetic creations
embodying universal ideas. It is not, of course, pretended that a
hard-and-fast line can always be drawn between mythology and folk-lore;
still, the distinction seems to me a valid one, and I have tried to
observe it in these pages.

After the two historical chapters with which our study has begun, the
object of the book has been literary rather than scientific. I have,
however, endeavoured to give, as the opportunity arose, such results of
recent critical work on the relics of Celtic myth and legend as may at
least serve to indicate to the reader the nature of the critical problems
connected therewith. I hope that this may have added somewhat to the value
of the work for students, while not impairing its interest for the general
reader. Furthermore, I may claim that the book is in this sense
scientific, that as far as possible it avoids any adaptation of its
material for the popular taste. Such adaptation, when done for an avowed
artistic purpose, is of course entirely legitimate; if it were not, we
should have to condemn half the great poetry of the world. But here the
object has been to present the myths and legends of the Celt as they
actually are. Crudities have not been refined away, things painful or
monstrous have not been suppressed, except in some few instances, where it
has been necessary to bear in mind that this volume appeals to a wider
audience than that of scientific students alone. The reader may, I think,
rely upon it that he has here a substantially fair and not over-idealised
account of the Celtic outlook upon life and the world at a time when the
Celt still had a free, independent, natural life, working out his
conceptions in the Celtic tongue, and taking no more from foreign sources
than he could assimilate and make his own. The legendary literature thus
presented is the oldest non-classical literature of Europe. This alone is
sufficient, I think, to give it a strong claim on our attention. As to
what other claims it may have, many pages might be filled with quotations
from the discerning praises given to it by critics not of Celtic
nationality, from  Matthew Arnold downwards. But here let it speak for
itself. It will tell us, I believe, that, as Maeldūn said of one of the
marvels he met with in his voyage into Fairyland: “What we see here was a
work of mighty men.”



To render these names accurately without the living voice is impossible.
But with the phonetic renderings given, where required, in the following
index, and with attention to the following general rules, the reader will
get as near to the correct pronunciation as it is at all necessary for him
to do.

                                I. GAELIC

Vowels are pronounced as in French or German; thus _i_ (long) is like _ee,
e_ (long) like _a_ in “date,” _u_ (long) like _oo_. A stroke over a letter
signifies length; thus dūn is pronounced “doon” (not “dewn”).

_ch_ is a guttural, as in the word “loch.” It is never pronounced with a
_t_ sound, as in English “chip.”

_c_ is always like _k_.

_gh_ is silent, as in English.

                                II. CYMRIC

_w_, when a consonant, is pronounced as in English; when a vowel, like

_y_, when long, is like _ee_; when short, like _u_ in “but.”

_ch_ and _c_ as in Gaelic.

_dd_ is like _th_ in “breathe”.

_f_ is like _v; ff_like English _f_.

The sound of _ll_ is perhaps better not attempted by the English reader.
It is a thickened _l_, something between _cl_ and _th_.

Vowels as in Gaelic, but note that there are strictly no diphthongs in
Welsh, in combinations of vowels each is given its own sound.


ABRED. The innermost of three concentric circles representing the totality
            of being in the Cymric cosmogony—the stage of struggle and
            evolution, 333

ABUNDANCE. See Stone of Abundance

ÆDA (ay´da). 1. Dwarf of King Fergus mac Leda, 247.
  2. Royal suitor for Vivionn’s hand;
  Vivionn slain by, 287

ÆD´UANS. Familiar with plating of copper and tin, 44

ÆGIRA. Custom of the priestess of Earth at, in Achæa, ere prophesying, 167

ÆSUN. Umbrian deity, 86

ÆSUS. Deity mentioned by Lucan, 86

AED THE FAIR (AED FINN) (aid). Chief sage of Ireland;
  author of “Voyage of Maeldūn,” 331

AEI (ay´ee), PLAIN OF, where Brown Bull of Quelgny meets and slays Bull of
            Ailell, 225

AFRICAN ORIGIN. Primitive population of Great Britain and Ireland,
            evidence of language suggests, 78

AGE, IRON. The ship a well-recognised form of sepulchral enclosure in
            cemeteries of the, 76

AG´NOMAN. Nemed’s father, 98

AIDEEN. Wife of Oscar, 261;
  dies of grief after Oscar’s death, 261;
  buried on Ben Edar (Howth), 261, 262

AIFA (eefa). Princess of Land of Shadows;
  war made upon, by Skatha, 189;
  Cuchulain overcomes by a trick, 190;
  life spared conditionally by Cuchulain, 190;
  bears a son named Connla, 190

AILBACH (el-yach)
  Fortress in Co. Donegal, where Ith hears MacCuill and his brothers are
              arranging the division of the land, 132

AILILL (el’yill), or AILELL.
  1. Son of Laery, treacherously slain by his uncle Covac, 152.
  2. Brother of Eochy; his desperate love for Etain, 158-160.
  3. King of Connacht, 122;
     Angus Ōg seeks aid of, 122;
     Fergus seeks aid of, 202;
     assists in foray against province of Ulster, 203-251;
     White horned Bull of, slain by Brown Bull of Quelgny, 225;
     makes seven years’ peace with Ulster, 225;
     hound of mac Datho pursues chariot of, 244;
     slain by Conall, 245

  Of the sept of the Owens of Aran;
  father of Maeldūn, slain by reavers from Leix, 310

AILILL OLUM (el-yill olum)
  King of Munster;
  ravishes Ainé and is slain by her, 127

  A love-goddess, daughter of the Danaan Owel;
  Ailill Olum and Fitzgerald her lovers, 127;
  mother of Earl Gerald, 128;
  still worshipped on Midsummer Eve, 128;
  appears on a St. John’s Night, among girls on the Hill, 128

  Brother of Naisi, 198

  Counter-move of Hellas against the East under, 22;
  compact with Celts referred to by Ptolemy Soter, 23

  On Celtic art, 29, 30

  In Kildare;
  Finn’s chief fortress, 266, 273

  Human sacrifices abolished by, 86

  Son of Dōn;
  and the ploughing task, 390

  Milesian poet, son of Miled, husband of Skena, 133;
  his strange lay, sung when his foot first touched Irish soil, 134;
  his judgment, delivered as between the Danaans and Milesians, 135;
  chants incantations to land of Erin, 136;
  the Druid, gives judgment as to claims to sovranty of Eremon and Eber,
  Ollav Fōla compared with, 150

  Gauls described by, 42

  Father of Conall of the Victories, 177

  King of Macedon, defeated and exiled, 23

  Wace’s French translation of “Historia Regum Britaniæ” translated by
              Layamon into, 338

  A Danaan deity, 143.
  See Angus Ōg

  Son of the Dagda, Irish god of love, 121, 123;
  wooes and wins Caer, 121-123;
  Dermot of the Love spot bred up with, 123;
  Dermot of the Love spot revived by, 123;
  father of Maga, 181;
  Dermot and Grama rescued by magical devices of, 299;
  Dermot’s body borne away by, 303

  Found on Megalithic carvings, 77, 78;
  the symbol of vitality or resurrection, 78

  Son of Maga;
  rallies to Maev’s foray against Ulster, 204;
  Conall produces the head of, to Ket, 244

ANNWN (annoon).
  Corresponds with Abyss, or Chaos;
  the principle of destruction in Cymric cosmogony, 333

  Mananan’s magical sword, 125

AOIFE (eefa).
  Lir’s second wife;
  her jealousy of her step children, 139, 140;
  her punishment by Bōv the Red, 140

AONBARR (ain-barr).
  Mananan’s magical steed, 125

APOLLO. Celtic equivalent, Lugh.
  Magical services in honour of, described by Hecataeus, 58;
  regarded by Gauls as deity of medicine, 87, 88

AQUITAN´I. One of three peoples inhabiting Gaul when Caesar’s conquest
            began, 58

ARABIA. Dolmens found in, 53

ARAWN. A king in Annwn;
  appeals to Pwyll for help against Havgan, 357;
  exchanges kingdoms for a year with Pwyll, 357-359

ARD MACHA (Armagh). Emain Macha now represented by grassy ramparts of a
            hill-fortress close to, 150;
  significance, 251

ARD RIGH (ard ree) (_i.e._, High King). Dermot MacKerval, of Ireland, 47

ARDAN. Brother of Naisi, 198

ARDCULLIN. Cuchulain places white round pillar-stone of, 207

ARDEE. Significance, 251

ARI´ANROD. Sister of Gwydion;
  proposed as virgin foot-holder to Māth;
  Dylan and Llew sons of. 380, 381

ARISTOTLE. Celts and, 17

ARMAGH. Invisible dwelling of Lir on Slieve Fuad in County, 125

ARNOLD, MATTHEW. Reference to, in connexion with Celtic legendary
            literature, 419

ARR´IAN. Celtic characteristics, evidence of, regarding, 36

ARTAIUS. A god in Celtic mythology who occupies the place of Gwydion, 349

ARTHUR. Chosen leader against Saxons, whom he finally defeated in battle
            of Mount Badon, 337;
  Geoffrey of Monmouth’s “Historia Regum Britaniae” commemorates exploits
              of, 337;
  son of Uther Pendragon and Igerna, 337;
  Modred, his nephew, usurps crown of, 337;
  Guanhumara, wife of, retires to convent, 337, 338;
  genealogy set forth, 352;
  tales of, in Welsh literature, 386;
  Kilhwch at court of, 387, 388;
  the “Dream of Rhonabwy” and, 392, 393;
  Owain, son of Urien, plays chess with, 393;
  adventure of Kymon, knight of court of, 394-396;
  Gwenhwyvar, wife of, 394;
  Owain at court of, 396, 397, 399;
  Peredur at court of, 401, 402

ARTHURIAN SAGA. Mention of early British legend suggests, 336;
  the saga in Brittany and Marie de France, 339, 340;
  Miss Jessie L. Weston’s article on, in the “Encyc. Britann.,” 341;
  Chrestien de Troyes influential in bringing into the poetic literature
              of Europe the, 340, 341;
  various sources of, discussed, 342;
  the saga in Wales, 343, 344;
  never entered Ireland, 343;
  why so little is heard of, in accounts of Cymric myths, 344

ASA. Scandinavian deity, 86

ASAL. Of the Golden Pillars King, 115

ASURA-MASDA. Persian deity, 86

ATHNURCHAR (ath-nur´char), or ARDNURCHAR (The Ford of the Sling-cast). The
            River-ford where Ket slings Conall’s “brain ball” at Conor mac
            Nessa, 240;
  significance, 251

ATLANTIC, THE. Aoife’s cruelty to her step-children on waters of, 140, 141

AUSTRIA. Discovery of pre-Roman necropolis in, 28;
  relics found in, developed into the La Tène culture, 29

AVAGDDU (avagdhoo). Son of Tegid Voel, 413;
  deprived of gift of supernatural insight, 413

A´VALON. Land of the Dead;
  bears relation with Norse _Valhall_, 338;
  its later identification with Glastonbury, 338

AVON DIA. Duel between Cuchulain and Ferdia causes waters of, to hold
            back, 121


BABYLONIA. The ship symbol in, 76

BALKANS. Earliest home of mountain Celts was ranges of, 57

BALOR. Ancestor of Lugh, 88;
  Bres sent to seek aid of, 109;
  informed that Danaans refuse tribute, 113;
  Fomorian champion, engages Nuada of the Silver Hand, and slain by Lugh,
  one of the names of the god of Death, 130;
  included in Finn’s ancestry, 255

BANBA Wife of Danaan king, MacCuill, 132

BANN, THE RIVER. Visited by mac Cecht, 175

BARBAROSSA, KAISER. Tradition that Finn lies in some enchanted cove
            spellbound, like, 308

“BARDDAS.” Compilation enshrining Druidic thought, 332;
  Christian persons and episodes figure in, 333;
  extract from, in catechism form, 334, 335

BARDIC differs from popular conception of Danaan deities, 104

BARROW, THE RIVER. Visited by mac Cecht, 175

BAR´UCH. A lord of the Red Branch; meets Naisi and Deirdre on landing in
            Ireland, 199;
  persuades Fergus to feast at his house, 199;
  dūn, on the Straits of Moyle, 251

BAVB (bayv). Calatin’s daughter; puts a spell of straying on Niam, 230

BEÄLCU (bay’al-koo). A Connacht champion; rescue of Conall by, 244;
  slain by sons owing to a stratagem of Conall’s, 245;
  Conall slays sons of, 245

BEBO. Wife of Iubdan. King of Wee Folk, 247

BED´WYR (bed-weer). Equivalent, Sir Bedivere. One of Arthur’s servitors
            who accompanies Kilhwch on his quest for Olwen, 388-392

BELGÆ. One of three peoples inhabiting Gaul when Cæsar’s conquest began,

BELI. Cymric god of Death, husband of Dōn;
  corresponds with the Irish Bilé, 348, 349;
  Lludd and Llevelys, sons of, 385

BELL, MR. ARTHUR Reference to a drawing by, showing act of stone-worship,

BEL´TENÉ. One of the names of the god of Death;
  first of May sacred to, 133

BEN BULBEN. Dermot of the Love-spot slain by the wild boar of, 123, 301,
  Dermot and the Boar of, 290, 291

BEN´DIGEID VRAN, or “BRAN THE BLESSED.” King of the Isle of the Mighty
  Manawyddan, his brother, 365;
  Branwen, his sister, 366;
  gives Branwen as wife to Matholwch, 366;
  makes atonement for Evnissyen’s outrage by giving Matholwch the magic
              cauldron, &c., 367, 368;
  invades Ireland to succour Branwen, 369, 372;
  the wonderful head of, 371, 372

BERTRAND, A. See pp. 55, 64, 83

BILÉ (bil-ay). One of the names of the god of Death (_i.e._, of the
            underworld), 130;
  father of Miled, 130;
  equivalent, Cymric god Beli, husband of Dōn, 348, 349

BIRŌG. A Druidess who assists Kian to be avenged on Balor, 111

BLACK KNIGHT, THE. Kymon and, 396;
  Owain and, 396-397

BLACK SAINGLEND (sen’glend). Cuchulain’s last horse; breaks from him, 232

BLAI. Oisīn’s Danaan mother, 282

BLANID. Wife of Curoi; sets her love on Cuchulain, 228-229;
  her death, 229

  A Welsh poet identical with _Bledhericus_, mentioned by Giraldus
              Cambrensis, and with Bréris, quoted by Thomas of Brittany,

“BLERWM, BLERWM” (bleroom).
  Sound made by Taliesin by which a spell was put on bards at Arthur’s
              court, 416

  The flower-wife of Llew, 382, 383

BOANNA (the river Boyne).
  Mother of Angus Ōg, 121

  References to, 104, 147

  Gwyn ap Nudd figures in poem included in, 353

  Reference to, 97;
  Cuchulain makes his reappearance legend of Christian origin in, 238;
  “Voyage of Maeldūn” is found in, 309

  Forms main source of tales in the “Mabinogion,” 344;
  the story of Taliesin not found in, 412

  Reference to, 106

  References to, 24, 85, 208

  King of the Danaans of Munster, brother of the Dagda;
  searches for maiden of Angus Ōg’s dream, 121-123;
  goldsmith of, named Len, 123;
  Aoife’s journey to, with her step-children, 139, 140

  Angus Ōg’s palace at, 121;
  Angus and Caer at, 122;
  Milesians land in estuary of, 136;
  Ethné loses her veil of invisibility while bathing in river, 144;
  church, Kill Ethné, on banks of, 145

  See Bendigeid

  Sister of Bran, 366;
  given in marriage to Matholwch, 366;
  mother of Gwern,  368;
  degraded because of Evnissyen’s outrage, 369;
  brought to Britain, 372;
  her death and burial on the banks of the Alaw, 372

BREA (bray).
  Battle of, reference to Finn’s death at, 275

  Locality of, 168;
  the plains of, viewed by Cuchulain, 193;
  St. Patrick and folk of, 282

  Son of Miled, father of Ith, 130;
  tower of, perceived by Ith, 132

  Under this form, was the god to whom the Celts attributed their
              victories at the Allia and at Delphi, 126

  1. Ambassador sent to Firbolgs, by People of Dana, 106;
     slain in battle of Moytura, 107.
  2. Son of Danaan woman named Eri, chosen as King of Danaan territory in
              Ireland, 107;
     his ill-government and deposition, 107-108.
  3. Son of Balor;
     learns that the appearance of the sun is the face of Lugh of the Long
                 Arm, 123

BRI LEITH (bree lay).
  Fairy palace of Midir the Proud at, in Co. Longford, 124;
  Etain carried to, 163

  One of three sons of Turenn, 114

  Equivalent, Brenos.
  Son of Brigit (Dana), 126

  Ulster lord;
  causes strife between Cuchulain and Red Branch heroes as to Championship
              of Ireland, 195;
  summons aid of demon named The Terrible, 196;
  his suggestion for carving mac Datho’s boar, 243

  Cuchulain at, 187;
  Cuchulain leaps, 188

  Equivalents, Brigit and “Brigantia,” 103

BRIGIT (g as in “get”).
  Irish goddess identical with Dana and “Brigindo,” &c., 103, 126;
  daughter of the god Dagda, “The Good,” 103, 126;
  Ecne, grandson of, 103

  See Great Britain.
  Carthaginian trade with, broken down by the Greeks, 22;
  place-names of, Celtic element in, 27;
  under yoke of Rome, 35;
  magic indigenous in, 62;
  votive inscriptions to Æsus, Teutates, and Taranus found in, 86;
  dead carried from Gaul to, 131;
  Ingcel, son of King of, 169;
  visit of Demetrius to, 355;
  Bran, King of, 365;
  Caradawc rules over in his father’s name, 369;
  Caswallan conquers, 372;
  the “Third Fatal Disclosure” in, 373

  Nedimean chief who settled in Great Britain and gave name to that
              country, 102

  Sole relics of Celtic empire, on its downfall, 34;
  Maev, Grania, Findabair, Deirdre, and Boadicea, women who figure in
              myths of, 43

  Geoffrey of Monmouth, like Nennius, affords a fantastic origin for the,

  Mané-er-H´oeck, remarkable tumulus in, 63;
  tumulus of Locmariaker in, markings on similar to those on tumulus at
              New Grange, Ireland, 72;
  symbol of the feet found in, 77;
  book brought from, by Walter, Archdeacon of Oxford, formed basis of
              Geoffrey of Monmouth’s “Historia Regum Britaniæ,” 337;
  Arthurian saga in, 339, 340

  St. Patrick’s scribe, 119, 290

  See Quelgny

BRUGH NA BOYNA (broo-na-boyna).
  Pointed out to Cuchulain, 193

  Footprint of, found in India as symbol, 77;
  the cross-legged, frequent occurrence in religious art of the East and
              Mexico, 87

BUIC (boo´ik).
  Son of Banblai;
  slain by Cuchulain, 211

  Reference to Egyptian legend in, 118

  Remarks of, regarding the Celtic world, 59


  Daughter of Ethal Anubal;
  wooed by Angus Ōg, 122, 123;
  her dual life, 122;
  accepts the love of Angus Ōg, 122

  Arthur’s court held at, 337

  Critical account of Gauls, 37;
  religious beliefs of Celts recorded by, 51, 52;
  the Belgæ, the Celtæ, and the Aquitani located by, 58;
  affirmation that doctrine of immortality fostered by Druids to promote
              courage, 81, 82;
  culture superintended by Druids, recorded by, 84;
  gods of Aryan Celts equated with Mercury, Apollo, &c., by, 86

  Son of Cormac mac Art, father of Light of Beauty, 304;
  refuses tribute to the Fianna, 305;
  Clan Bascna makes war upon, 305-308

CALIBURN (Welsh _Caladvwlch_).
  Magic sword of King Arthur, 338.
  See Excalibur, 224, _note_

  Celts and, 21

  Version of battle of Gowra, in his “The Fians,” 305-307

  Son of Bran;
  rules Britain in his father’s absence, 369

  Reputed father of Tuan, 100

  Earliest home of mountain Celts was ranges of the, 57

  Celts conquered Spain from, 21;
  Greeks break monopoly of trade of, with Britain and Spain, 22

CAS´CORACH. Son of a minstrel of the Danaan Folk;
  and St. Patrick, 119

CASTLE OF WONDERS. Peredur at, 405, 406

CAS´WALLAN. Son of Beli;
  conquers Britain during Bran’s absence, 372

  wedded to Maga, wife of Ross the Red, 181;
  his spell of divination overheard by Cuchulain, 185;
  draws Deirdre’s horoscope, 197;
  casts evil spells over Naisi and Deirdre, 200

CATHOLIC CHURCH. Mediæal interdicts of, 46

CATO, M. PORCIUS. Observances of, regarding Gauls, 37

CAULDRON OF ABUNDANCE. See equivalent, Stone of Abundance;
  also see Grail

CELTÆ One of three peoples inhabiting Gaul when Cæar’s conquest began, 58

CELTCHAR (kelt-yar). Son of Hornskin;
  under debility curse, 205

CELTDOM. The Golden Age of, in Continental Europe, 21

CELTIC. Power, diffusion of, in Mid-Europe, 26;
  placenames in Europe, 27;
  artwork relics, story told by, 28;
  Germanic words, Celtic element in, 32;
  empire, downfall of, 34;
  weak policy of peoples, 44;
  religion, the, 46, 47;
  High Kings, traditional burial-places of, 69;
  doctrine of immortality, origin of so-called “Celtic,” 75, 76;
  ideas of immortality, 78-87;
  deities, names and attributes of, 86-88;
  conception of death, the, 89;
  culture, five factors in ancient, 89, 90;
  the present-day populations, 91, 92;
  cosmogony, the, 94, 95;
  things, “Barddas” a work not unworthy the student of, 333

CELTICA. Never inhabited by a single pure and homogeneous race, 18;
  Greek type of civilisation preserved by, 22;
  art of enamelling originated in, 30;
  the Druids formed the sovran power in, 46;
  Brigit (Dana) most widely worshipped goddess in, 126

CELTS. Term first found in Hecatæus;
  equivalent, Hyperboreans, 17;
  Herodotus and dwelling-place of, 17;
  Aristotle and, 17;
  Hellanicus of Lesbos and, 17;
  Ephorus and, 17;
  Plato and, 17;
  their attack on Rome, a landmark of ancient history, 18;
  described by Dr. T. Rice Holmes, 18, 19;
  dominion of, over Mid-Europe, Gaul, Spain, and the British Isles, 20;
  their place among these races, 20;
  Giraldus Cambrensis and, 21;
  Spain conquered from the Carthaginians by, 21;
  Northern Italy conquered from the Etruscans by, 21;
  Vergil and, 21;
  conquer the Illyrians, 21;
  alliance with the Greeks, 22;
  conquests of, in valleys of Danube and Po, 23;
  Alexander makes compact with, 23;
  national oath of, 24;
  welded into unity by Ambicatus, 25;
  defeat Romans, 26;
  Germanic peoples and, 26, 33;
  decorative motives derived from Greek art, 29;
  art of enamelling learnt by classical nations from, 30;
  burial rites practised by, 33;
  character, elements comprising, 36;
  Strabo’s description of, 39;
  love of splendour and methods of warfare, 40;
  Polybius’ description of warriors in battle of Clastidium, 41;
  their influence on European literature and philosophy, 49, 50;
  the Religion of the, 51-93;
  ranges of the Balkans and Carpathians earliest home of mountain, 57;
  musical services of, described by Hecatæus, 58;
  Switzerland, Burgundy, the Palatinate, Northern France, parts of
              Britain, &c., occupied by mountain, 58;
  origin of doctrine of immortality, 75;
  idea of immortality and doctrine of transmigration, 80, 81;
  the present-day, 91, 92;
  no non-Christian conception of origin of things, 94;
  victories at the Alba and at Delphi attributed to Brenos (Brian), 126;
  true worship of, paid to elemental forces represented by actual natural
              phenomena, 147

  Otherwise The Footless;
  related to Vitra, the God of Evil in Vedantic mythology, 97

  Wife of Tegid, 413;
  sets Gwion Bach and Morda to attend to the magic cauldron, 413

CEUGANT (Infinity).
  The outermost of three concentric circles representing the totality of
              being in the Cymric cosmogony, inhabited by God alone, 334

  His “Viking Age,” 72

  Test at feast of Briccriu, to decide who is the, 195, 196;
  Cuchulain proclaimed such by demon The Terrible, 196

  Tree- and stone-worship denounced by, 66

  Reference to, 121

  French poet, influential in bringing the Arthurian saga into the poetic
              literature of Europe, 340, 341;
  Gautier de Denain the earliest continuator of, 341;
  variation of his “Le Chevalier au lion” seen in “The Lady of the
              Fountain,” 394-399;
  the “Tale of Enid and Geraint” based on “Erec” of, 399;
  Peredur corresponds to the Perceval of, 400;
  his “Conte del Graal,” or “Perceval le Gallois,” 303;
  Manessier a continuator of, 408

  Symbolism, the hand as emblem of power in, 65;
  faith, heard of by King Cormac ere preached in Ireland by St. Patrick,
  influences in Ireland, and the Milesian myth, 138;
  ideas, gathered around Cuchulain and his lord King Conor of Ulster, 239,
  pagan ideals contrasted with, in Oisīn dialogues, 288;
  Myrddin dwindles under influences, 354

  Reference to conversion of Ireland to, 83;
  People of Dana in their overthrow, and attitude of, 138;
  Cuchulain summoned from Hell by St. Patrick to prove truths of, to High
              King Laery, 239;
  effect of on Irish literature, 295, 296

  Testimony of, to power of the Druids, 83

  One of the divisions of the Fianna of Erin, 252;
  Cumhal, father of Finn, chief of, 255;
  Cairbry causes feud between Clan Morna and, 305-308

  Sent by men of Erin against Cuchulain, 215;
  Fiacha, son of Firaba, cuts off the eight-and-twenty hands of, 216;
  Cuchulain slays, 216;
  the widow of, gives birth to six children whom Maev has instructed in
              magic and then looses against Cuchulain, 228-233;
  cause Cuchulain to break his _geise_, 231

  One of the divisions of the Fianna of Erin, 252;
  Lia becomes treasurer to, 255;
  Cairbry causes feud between Clan Bascna and, 305-308

  Battle of, Polybius’ description of behaviour of the Gæsati in, 41

  A Danaan maiden once living in Mananan’s country, the story of, 127

  Siege of, Romans play Celts false at, 25;
  vengeance exacted by Celts, 26

  His work on the New Grange tumulus, 69

  A collection of tales mentioning St Patrick and Cascorach, 119, 281;
  interest of, 284-308

  Symbol of the feet and, 77

  Reference to “Lay of Oisīn in the Land of Youth,” by, 253, 276

  Member of Conary’s retinue at Red Hostel, 173;
  Amorgin, his father, found by him at Teltin, 176, 177;
  shrinks from test _re_ the Championship of Ireland, 195, 196;
  under the Debility curse, 205;
  avenges Cuchulain’s death by slaying Lewy, 233;
  his “brain ball” causes death of Conor mac Nessa, 240, 241;
  mac Datho’s boar and, 243, 244;
  slays Ket, 244

  Son of Lia, lord of Luachar;
  Finn makes a covenant with, 258, 259

  His adventure with the Fairy Folk, 259, 260;
  he slays Liagan, 260;
  adventure with the Gilla Dacar’s steed, 293-295

  Fomorian king, 101

  The singing sword of, 121;
  the legend-cycle of the High King, 155-177;
  descended from Etain Oig, daughter of Etain, 164;
  Messbuachalla, his mother, 166, 167;
  Desa, his foster-father, 167;
  Ferlee, Fergar, and Ferrogan, his foster-brothers, 167;
  Nemglan commands him go to Tara, 168;
  proclaimed King of Erin, 168;
  Nemglan declares his _geise_, 168;
  banishment of his foster-brothers, 169;
  lured into breaking his _geise_, 170;
  the three Reds and, at Da Derga’s Hostel, 170;
  visited by the Morrigan at Da Derga’s Hostel, 172;
  members of his retinue: Cormac son of Conor, warrior mac Cecht, Conary’s
              three sons, Conall of the Victories, Duftach of Ulster, 173;
  perishes of thirst, 175

  A maiden wedded by Parzival, 408

  One of the Children of Lir, 142

  Ethal Anubal, prince of the Danaans of, 122;
  Ailell and Maev, mortal King and Queen of, Angus Ōg seeks their help in
              efforts to win Caer, 122;
  origin of name, 154;
  Cuchulain makes a foray upon, 193, 194;
  Cuchulain descends upon host of, under Maev, 209;
  Ket a champion, 241;
  Queen Maev reigned in, for eighty-eight years, 245

  Son of Cuchulain and Aifa, 190;
  his _geise_, 190;
  Aifa sends him to Erin, 190;
  his encounters with the men of Ulster, 191;
  slain by Cuchulain, 191, 192

  Equivalent, Well of Knowledge.
  Sinend’s fatal visit to, 129

  Son of Fachtna and Nessa, proclaimed King of Ulster in preference to
              Fergus, 180;
  Cuchulain brought up at court of, 183;
  grants arms of manhood to Cuchulain, 185;
  while at a feast on Strand of the Footprints he descries Connla, 190;
  his ruse to put Cuchulain under restraint, 194;
  Deirdre and, 195-200;
  his guards seize Naisi and Deirdre, 201;
  suffers pangs of the Debility curse, 205-221;
  the curse lifted from, 222;
  summons Ulster to arms, 222;
  Christian ideas have gathered about end of, 239, 240;
  his death caused by Conall’s “brain ball,” 240, 241;
  he figures in tale entitled “The Carving of mac Datho’s Boar,” 241;
  sends to mac Datho for his hound, 241

CONSTANTINE. Arthur confers his kingdom on, 338


CORAN´IANS. A demoniac race called, harass land of Britain, 385

CORCADY´NA. Landing of Ith and his ninety warriors at, in Ireland, 131-136

CORMAC. 1. Son of Art, King of Ireland;
  story of burial of, 69;
  historical character, 225;
  Finn and, feasted at Rath Grania, 300.
  2. King of Ulster;
  marries Etain Oig, 166;
  puts her away owing to her barrenness, 166.
  3. Son of Conor mac Nessa;
  rallies to Maev’s foray against Ulster, 205

CORONATION STONE. Now at Westminster Abbey, is the famous Stone of Scone,
  the _Lia Fail_ and, 105

CORPRE. Poet at court of King Bres, 108

COSMONOGY, 1. The Celtic, 94, 95.
  2. The Cymric, 332-335;
  God and Cythrawl, standing for life and destruction, in, 333

COTTERILL, H. B. Quotation from his hexameter version of the “Odyssey,” 80

CRAF´TINY. King Scoriath’s harper;
  sings Moriath’s love-lay before Maon, 153;
  discovers Maon’s secret deformity, 155

CRED´NÉ. The artificer of the Danaans, 117

  Daughter of Lludd; combat for possession of, every May-day, between
              Gwythur ap Greidawl and Gwyn ap Nudd, 353, 388

CRIMMAL. Rescued by his nephew, Finn, 256

CROM CRUACH (crom croo´ach).
  Gold idol (equivalent, the Bloody Crescent) referred to in “Book of
              Leinster,” 85;
  worship introduced by King Tiernmas, 149

CROMLECHS. See Dolmens, 53

CRUNDCHU (crun´hoo). Son of Agnoman;
  Macha comes to dwell with, 178

CUALGNÉ. See Quelgny

CUCHULAIN (CUCHULLIN) (coo-hoo´lin). Ulster hero in Irish saga, 41;
  duel with Ferdia referred to, 121;
  Lugh, the father of, by Dectera, 123, 182;
  loved and befriended by goddess Morrigan, 126;
  his strange birth, 182;
  earliest name Setanta, 183;
  his inheritance, 183;
  his name derived from the hound of Cullan, 183, 184;
  claims arms of manhood from Conor, 185;
  wooes Emer, 185, 186;
  Laeg, charioteer of, 185;
  Skatha instructs, in Land of Shadows, 187-189;
  overcomes Aifa, 190;
  father of Connla by Aifa, 190;
  slays Connla, 191, 192;
  returns to Erin, 193-194;
  slays Foill and his brothers, 194;
  met by women of Emania, 194;
  leaps “the hero’s salmon leap,” 195;
  the winning of Emer, 195;
  proclaimed by The Terrible the Champion of Ireland, 195, 196;
  places Maev’s host under _geise_, 207, 208;
  slays Orlam, 209;
  the battle-frenzy and _rias-tradh_ of, 209, 210;
  compact with Fergus, 211;
  the Morrigan offers love to, 212;
  threatens to be about his feet in bottom of Ford, 212;
  attacked by the Morrigan while engaged with Loch, 213;
  slays Loch, 213;
  Ferdia consents to go out against, 216;
  Ferdia reproached by, 216, 217;
  their struggle, 217-221;
  slays Ferdia, 220;
  severely wounded by Ferdia, 220, 221;
  roused from stupor by sword-play of Fergus, 224;
  rushes into the battle of Garach, 224;
  in Fairyland, 225-228;
  loved by Fand, 226;
  the vengeance of Maev upon, 228-233;
  other enemies of Erc, and Lewy son of Curoi, 228;
  Blanid, Curoi’s wife, sets her love on, 228;
  his madness, 229-231;
  Bave personates Niam before, 230;
  the Morrigan croaks of war before, 230;
  Dectera and Cathbad urge him wait for Conall of the Victories ere
              setting forth to battle, 230;
  the Washer at the Ford seen by, 231;
  Clan Calatin cause him to break his _geise_, 231;
  finds his foes at Slieve Fuad, 232;
  the Grey of Macha being mortally wounded, he takes farewell of, 232;
  mortally wounded by Lewy, 232;
  his remaining horse, Black Sainglend, breaks away from, 232;
  Lewy slays outright, 233;
  his death avenged by Conall of the Victories, 233;
  reappears in later legend of Christian origin found in “Book of the Dun
              Cow,” 238, 239;
  St. Patrick’s summons from Hell, 238

CULLAN. His feast to King Conor in Quelgny, 183;
  Cuchulain slays his hound, 183;
  Cuchulain named the Hound of, 184;
  his daughter declared responsible for Finn’s enchantment, 280

CUMHAL (coo´al). Chief of the Clan Morna, son of Trenmōr, husband of Murna
            of the White Neck, the father of Finn, 255, 257;
  slain at battle of Knock, 255

CUP-AND-RING MARKINGS. Meaning of, in connexion with Megalithic monuments,
            no light on, 67;
  example in Dupaix’ “Monuments of New Spain,” 68;
  reproduction in Lord Kingsborough’s “Antiquities of Mexico,” 68

CUP OF THE LAST SUPPER Identical with the Grail, 406;
  equivalent, the Magic Cauldron, 411

CUROI (coo´roi). Father of Lewy, husband of Blanid, 228;
  slain by Cuchulain, 229

CUSCRID. Son of Conor mac Nessa;
  under Debility curse, 205;
  mac Datho’s boar and, 243

CUSTENN´IN. Brother of Yspaddaden;
  assists Kilhwch in his quest for Olwen, 389

CYCLE-S. The, of Irish legend, 95;
  the Mythological, 95-145;
  the Ultonian, 178-251;
  Ossianic, 241-245;
  certain stories of Ultonian, not centred on Cuchulain, 246;
  the Ultonian, time of events of the, 252;
  the Ossianic and Ultonian contrasted, 253-255

CYMRIC. 1. Peoples;
  effect of legends of, on Continental poets, 50;
  2. Myths;
  Druidic thought enshrined in Llewellyn Sion’s “Barddas,” edited by by J.
              A. Williams ap Ithel for the Welsh MS. Society, 332;
  cosmogony, the, 333-335;
  God and Cythrawl in, 333;
  why so little of Arthurian saga heard in, 344;
  comparison between Gaelic and, 344-368

CYTHRAWL. God and, two primary existences standing for principles of
            destruction and life, in Cymric cosmogony, 333;
  realised in “Annwn” (the Abyss, or Chaos), 333


DA DERGA. A Leinster lord at whose hostel Conary seeks hospitality, 170;
  Conary’s retinue at, 173;
  Ingcel and his own sons attack the hostel, 174

DAGDA. “The Good,” or possibly = _Doctus_, “The Wise” God, and supreme
            head of the People of Dana, father of Brigit (Dana), 103;
  the Cauldron of the, one of the treasures of the Danaans, 106;
  the magical harp of, 118-119;
  father and chief of the People of Dana, 120, 121;
  Kings MacCuill, MacCecht, and MacGrené grandsons of, 132;
  portions out spiritual Ireland between the Danaans, 136

DALAN. A Druid who discovers to Eochy that Etain has been carried to mound
            of Bri-Leith, 163

DALNY. Queen of Partholan, 96

DAMAN. The Firbolg, father of Ferdia, 187

DAMAYAN´TI AND NALA. Hindu legend, compared with story of Etain, 163

DANA. The People of, Nemedian survivors who return to Ireland, 102;
  literal meaning of _Tuatha De Danann_, 103;
  equivalent Brigit, 103, 126;
  name of “gods” given to the People of, by Tuan mac Carell, 104;
  Milesians conquer the People of, 104;
  origin of People of, according to Tuan mac Carell, 105;
  cities of Falias, Gorias, Finias, and Murias, 105;
  treasures of the People of, 105, 106;
  the Firbolgs and the People of, 106-119;
  gift of Faëry (_i.e._, skill in music) the prerogative of, 119;
  daughter of the Dagda and the greatest of Danaan goddesses, 126;
  Brian (ancient form Brenos), Iuchar, and Iucharba, her sons, 126;
  Firbolgs and the People of, 137;
  equivalent Dōn, Cymric mother-goddess, 348, 349

DAN´AAN-S. Send to Balor refusing tribute, 113;
  their encounter with the Fomorians, 117;
  power of, exercised by spell of music, 118;
  account of principal gods and attributes of, 119-145;
  reference to their displacement in Ireland by Milesians, 130;
  kings, Ireland ruled by three, MacCuill, MacCecht, and MacGrené, 132;
  the three kings welcome Ith to Ireland, 133;
  dwell in spiritual Ireland, 136;
  myth, the meaning of, 137;
  the, after the Milesian conquest, 146, 147;
  Donn son of Midir at war with, 285;
  relations of the Church with, very cordial, 286

DANES. Irish monuments plundered by Danes, 69

DANUBE. Sources of, place of origin of Celts, 19, 56

DARA. Son of Fachtna, owner of Brown Bull of Quelgny, 202;
  Maev’s request for loan of Brown Bull, 204

DARK, THE. Druid;
  changes Saba into a fawn, 267;
  his further ill-treatment of, 268, 269

DEAD, LAND OF. The Irish Fairyland, 96;
  equivalent, “Spain,” 102

DEATH. The Celtic conception of, 89;
  names of Balor and Bilé occur as god of, 130

DEBILITY OF THE ULTONIANS, THE. Caused by Macha’s curse, 179, 180;
  manifested on occasion of Maev’s famous cattle-raid of Quelgny (_Tain Bo
              Cuailgné_), 180

DECIES. Son of King of the, wooes Light of Beauty (_Sgeimh Solais_), 304

DEC´TERA. Mother of Cuchulain by Lugh, 123;
  daughter of Druid Cathbad, 182;
  her appearance to Conor mac Nessa after three years’ absence, 182;
  her gift of a son to Ulster, Cuchulain, by Lugh, 182

DEE, THE RIVER. Now the Ford of Ferdia, 211

DEIRDRE (deer´dree). Daughter of Felim, 196;
  Druid Cathbad draws her horoscope, 197;
  Conor decides to wed when of age, 197;
  nursed by Levarcam, 197;
  her love for Naisi, 198;
  carried off by Naisi, 198;
  returns with Naisi to Ireland, 198-200;
  forced to wed Conor, she dashes herself against a rock and is killed,
  the tales of Grania and, compared, 296-304

DEITIES. The Celtic, Cæsar on, 87, 88;
  popular and bardic conception of Danaan, 104

DEMETRIUS. Visit to Britain of, 355;
  mentions island where “Kronos” was imprisoned in sleep while Briareus
              kept watch over him, 355

DEMNA. Otherwise Finn.
  Birth of, 255

DEO´CA. A princess of Munster;
  Children of Lir and, 142

DERMOT MACKERVAL. Rule of, in Ireland, and the cursing of Tara, 47, 48;
  arrests and tries Hugh Guairy, 48;
  dream of wife of, 48

DERMOT OF THE LOVE SPOT (DERMOT O’DYNA). Follower of Finn mac Cumhal,
            lover of Grania, bred up with Angus at palace on Boyne, 123;
  the typical lover of Irish legend, 123;
  slain by wild Boar of Ben Bulben, 123, 301, 302;
  friend of Finn’s, 261;
  described as a Gaelic Adonis, 290;
  Donn, father of, 290;
  Roc and, 290, 291;
  how Dermot got the Love Spot, 292;
  adventure with Gilla Dacar’s steed, 293-295;
  fight with the Knight of the Well, 294;
  love-story of Grania and, 296-304

DERRYVAR´AGH, LAKE. Aoife’s cruelty to her step-children at, 139-142

DESA. Foster-father of Conary Mōr, 167

DEWY-RED. Horse of Conall of the Victories, 233

DIALOGUES. Reference to Oisīn-and-Patrick and Keelta-and-Patrick, 289

DIANCECHT (dee´an-kecht). Physician to the Danaans, 108

DINEEN’S IRISH DICTIONARY. Reference to, 164, 165

DINNSENCHUS (din-shen´cus). Ancient tract, preserved in the “Book of
            Leinster,” 85

DIN´ODIG. Cantrev of, over which Llew and Blodeuwedd reigned, 382, 383

DINRIGH (din´ree). Maon slays Covac at, 153

DIODOR´US SIC´ULUS. A contemporary of Julius Cæsar;
  describes Gauls, 41, 42;
  Pythagoras and, 80

DIS. Pluto, equivalent, 88

DITHOR´BA. Brother of Red Hugh and Kimbay, slain by Macha, 151;
  five sons of, taken captive by Macha, 151, 152

DIUR´AN THE RHYMER. Germān and, companions of Maeldūn on his wonderful
            voyage, 313;
  returns with piece of silver net, 331


DOLMENS Cromlechs, tumuli and, explanation of, 53

DŌN (_o_ as in “bone”).
  A Cymric mother-goddess, representing the Gaelic Dana, 348, 349;
  Penardun, a daughter of 349;
  Gwydion, son of, 349;
  genealogy set forth, 350

DONN. 1. Mac Midir, son of Midir the Proud, 285.
  2. Father of Dermot;
  gives his son to be nurtured by Angus Ōg, 290

DONNYBROOK. Da Derga’s hostel at, 170

DOOCLOONE. Ailill slain in church of, 310;
  Maeldūn at, 311

DOWTH. Tumulus of, 74

DRUIDISM. Its existence in British Isles, Gaul, &c., 82;
  magical rites of, belief in survived in early Irish Christianity, 83

DRUIDS. Doctrines of, 37, 39;
  regarded as intermediaries between God and man, 42;
  the sovran power in Celtica, 46;
  suppressed by Emperor Tiberius, 62;
  Aryan root for the word discovered, 82;
  testimony of Dion Chrysostom to the power of the, 83;
  religious, philosophic and scientific culture superintended by, record
              of Cæsar regarding, 84;
  cosmogonic teaching died with their order, 95

DUBLIN. Conary goes toward, 167;
  Conary’s foster-brothers land at, for raiding purposes, 169

DUPAIX. Reference to cup-and-ring markings in book “Monuments of New
            Spain,” 68

DYFED. Pryderi and Manawyddan at, 374;
  Gwydion and Gilvaethwy at, 379

DYLAN (“Son of the Wave”). Son of Arianrod;
  his death-groan the roar of the tide at mouth of the river Conway, 380



EBER DONN (Brown Eber). Milesian lord;
  his brutal exultation and its sequel, 136;
  reference to, as one of Milesian leaders, 148

EBER FINN (Fair Eber). One of the Milesian leaders, 148;
  slain by Eremon, 148

ECNE (ec´nay). The god whose grandmother was Dana, 103

EGYPT-IAN. The ship symbol in the sepulchral art of, 75;
  Feet of Osiris, symbol of visitation, in, 77;
  ideas of immortality, 78-87;
  human sacrifices in, abolished by Amasis I., 86

EIS´IRT. Bard to King of Wee Folk, 247;
  his visit to King Fergus in Ulster, 247

ELPHIN. Son of Gwyddno;
  finds Taliesin, 414;
  his boast of wife and bard at Arthur’s court, 415;
  the sequel, 415-417

EM´AIN MACH´A. The Morrigan passes through, to warn Cuchulain, 127;
  founding of, with reign of Kimbay, 150;
  equivalent, the Brooch of Macha, 150;
  Macha compels five sons of Dithorba to construct ramparts and trenches
              of, 151, 152;
  appearance of Dectera in fields of, 182;
  Cuchulain drives back to, 186;
  news of Cuchulain’s battle-fury brought to, 194;
  Fergus returns to, 201;
  boy corps at, go forth to help Cuchulain, 214;
  Ulster men return to, with great glory, 225;
  Conall’s “brain ball” laid up at, 240

EMA´NIA. Women of, meet Cuchulain, 194;
  sacrifice of boy corps of, avenged by Cuchulain, 214;
  Cuchulain takes farewell of womenfolk of, 231.
  See Emain Macha

EMER. Daughter of Forgall;
  wooed by Cuchulain, 185-186;
  Cuchulain seeks and carries off, 195;
  becomes Cuchulain’s wife, 195;
  learns of the tryst between Cuchulain and Fand, 226, 228;
  Cuchulain sees her corpse in his madness, 230

ENAMELLING. Celts and art of, 30

ENCYCLOPÆDIA BRITANNICA. Article on Arthurian saga in, 341

ENID. The tale of Geraint and, 399, 400

EOCHY (yeo´hee). 1. Son of Erc, Firbolg king, husband of Taltiu, or Telta,
  2. King of Ireland;
  reference to appearance of Midir the Proud to, on the Hill of Tara, 124;
  High King of Ireland, wooes and marries Etain, 157, 158;
  Midir appears to, and challenges to play chess, 161, 162

EPH´ORUS. Celts and, 17, 36

ERC. King of Ireland, Cuchulain’s foe, 228-233;
  mortally wounds the Grey of Macha, 232

ER´EMON. First Milesian king of all Ireland, 143, 144, 148

ERI. Mother of King Bres, 107-108;
  reveals father of Bres as Elatha, 108

ERINN (ERIN). See Eriu, 132;
  reference to High-Kingship of, 152

ERIU. Wife of Danaan king MacGrené, 132;
  dative form, Erinn, poetic name applied to Ireland, 132

ERRIS BAY. The Children of Lir at, 141, 142

  Second bride of Midir the Proud, 156;
  transformed by Fuamnach into a butterfly, 156;
  driven by a magic tempest into the fairy palace of Angus, 156;
  again the magic tempest drives her forth, 156;
  swallowed by Etar, and reappears as a mortal child, 156, 157;
  visited by Eochy, the High King, who wooes and makes her his wife, 157,
  the desperate love of Ailill for, 158-160;
  Midir the Proud comes to claim, as his Danaan wife, 160-163;
  recovered by Eochy, 163

  Daughter of Etain, 163;
  King Conary Mōr descended from, 164;
  married Cormac, King of Ulster, 165;
  put away owing to barrenness, 166;
  cowherd of Eterskel cares for her one daughter, 166

  Mother of Etain, 157

  King of Ireland, whose cowherd cares for Messbuachalla, 166;
  on his death he is succeeded by Conary Mōr, 167-169

  Prince of Danaans of Connacht, father of Caer, 122

  Daughter of Balor, 110;
  gives her love to Kian, 111;
  gives birth to three sons, 111;
  one son, Lugh, 112, 182;
  belongs to Finn’s ancestry, 255

  The tale of, 142-145

  Celts conquer Northern Italy from, 21

  Seeds of freedom and culture in, kept alive by Celtica, 22;
  diffusion of Celtic power in Mid-, 26;
  Celtic place-names in, 27;
  what it owes to Celts, 49;
  western lands of, dolmens found in, 53

  Son of Eurosswyd and Penardun, 366;
  mutilates horses of Matholwch, 367;
  atonement made by Bran for his outrage, 367, 368;
  slays the warriors hidden in the meal-bags, 370;
  dies in the magic cauldron, 371

  Father of Peredur, 401

  Farmer who befriends Fionuala and her brothers, 141

  See Caliburn, 338, and _note_, p. 224


  Romans elect as military tribunes, 25

  Treachery of three sons of, against Celts, 25

  The giant, King of Ulster, 180;
  Nessa, wife of, 180;
  father of Conor, 180;
  succeeded at death by his half-brother, Fergus, 180

  Woman who nurtured many of the Fianna, 262

  Equivalent, _Sidhe_ (shee). The tumulus at New Grange (Ireland) regarded
              as dwelling-place of, 69;
  the _Coulin_ overheard from, 119;
  Conary Mōr lured by, into breaking his _geise_, 170;
  seal all sources of water against mac Cecht, 175, 176;
  Fergus mac Leda and, 246-249;
  Conan mac Morna and, 259, 260;
  Keelta and the, 266;
  Gwyn ap Nudd, King of Welsh (_Tylwyth Teg_), 353

  Land of the Dead, 96;
  Cleena swept back to, by a wave, 127;
  Connla’s Well in, 129;
  war carried on against, by Eochy, who at last recovers his wife, Etain,
  Cuchulain in, 225-228;
  Laeg’s visit to, 226;
  Fergus mac Leda and, 246-249;
  tales of the Fianna concerned with, 252;
  Oisīn’s journey to, 272;
  the rescue of, by Finn and the Fianna, 294, 295;
  rescue of, by Pwyll, 357

FAL´IAS, THE CITY OF (see Dana), 105, 106

  The Pearl of Beauty, wife of Mananan;
  sets her love on Cuchulain, 226;
  returns to her home with Mananan, 227

  The Land of the Wee Folk, 246;
  Iubdan, King of, 246

  Prophetess from Fairy Mound of Croghan, questioned by Maev, 205, 206;
  her vision of Cuchulain, 206


  Son of Dall, father of Deirdre, 196, 197;
  his feast to Conor and Red Branch heroes, 196, 197

  The kingdom of, over which Scoriath is king;
  Maon taken to, 153

  The bard of Curoi, 229;
  leaps with Blanid to death, 229

  Duel between Cuchulain and, referred to, 121;
  son of the Firbolg, Daman, friend of Cuchulain, 187, 188;
  rallies to Maev’s foray against Ulster, 204;
  consents to Maev’s entreaty that he should meet and fight his friend
              Cuchulain, 216;
  the struggle, 217-221;
  Cuchulain slays, 220;
  buried by Maev, 221

  Nemedian chief who slays Conann, 102

  Son of Erc;
  stone of Scone used for crowning, 105;
  ancestor of British Royal Family, 105

  The Wee Folk and, 246-249;
  visited by Eisirt, King of Wee Folk’s bard, 247;
  visited by Iubdan, King of Wee Folk, 247-249;
  the blemish of Fergus, 249

  Son of Roy, Fachtna’s half-brother;
  succeeds to kingship of Ulster, 180;
  loves Nessa, 180;
  sent to invite return of Naisi and Deirdre to Ireland, 198-200;
  the rebellion of, 201-251;
  Maev and, 202;
  compact with Cuchulain, 211;
  reputed author of the “Tain,” 234;
  slain by Ailell, 245

  Rescued from enchanted cave by Goll, 278

  Quoted, 46, 234-238;
  his description of King Fergus mac Leda’s death, 249-251

  Welsh name of Vergil, 413

FIACHA (fee´ach-a).
  Son of Firaba;
  cuts off eight-and-twenty hands of the Clan Calatin, 216;
  gives spear to Finn, 258

FIACHRA (fee´ach-ra).
  One of the Children of Lir, 142

FIAL (fee´al).
  Sister of Emer, 186

FIANNA (fee´anna) OF ERIN, THE.
  Explanation of this Order, 252;
  Clan Bascna and Clan Morna, clans comprising the, 252;
  Goll, captain of the, 257;
  Finn made captain of the, 258;
  tests of, 264, 265;
  tales of the, told by Keelta, 283;
  attempt in vain to throw the wether, 291, 292;
  the chase of the Hard Gilly and, 292-295;
  rescue of Fairyland by, 294, 295;
  tribute refused by Cairbry, 305;
  almost all the, slain in battle of Gowra, 306

  See Fianna

  Dectera’s sister, foster-mother to Cuchulain, 182, 183;
  mother of Conall, 243


  Daughter of Maev;
  offered to Ferdia if he will meet and fight Cuchulain, 216

  Druid, of whom Finn learns poetry and science, 256

  Conor mac Nessa’s physician;
  his pronouncement _re_ Conall’s “brain ball” by which Ket has wounded
              the king, 240

FIN´IAS. THE CITY OF (see Dana), 105, 106

FINN MAC CUMHAL (fin mac coo´al). Fothad slain in a battle with, 81;
  Dermot of the Love Spot a follower of, 123;
  Ossianic Cycle clusters round, 252;
  Oisīn, son of, 252;
  the coming of, 255;
  his Danaan ancestry, 255;
  Murna of the White Neck his mother, Cumhal his father, 255;
  Demna his original name, 255;
  put out to nurse, 256;
  origin of name Finn (Fair One), 256;
  slays Lia, 256;
  taught poetry and science by Druid Finegas, 256;
  eats of the Salmon of Knowledge, 256;
  slays goblin at Slieve Fuad, 258;
  made captain of the Fianna of Erin, 258;
  makes a covenant with Conan, 258, 259;
  Dermot of the Love Spot, friend of, 261;
  weds Grania, 261;
  Oisīn, son of, 261;
  Geena mac Luga, one of the men of, 262;
  teaches the maxims of the Fianna to mac Luga, 262, 263;
  Murna, the mother of, 266;
  Bran and Skolawn, hounds of, 266-269;
  weds Saba, 267;
  Saba taken from, by enchantment, 268;
  Niam of the Golden Hair comes to, 270;
  experience in the enchanted cave, 277, 278;
  Goll rescues, 277, 278;
  gives his daughter Keva to Goll, 278;
  “The Chase of Slievegallion” and, 278-280;
  “The Masque of,” by Mr. Standish O’Grady, 280, 281;
  the Hard Gilly (Gilla Dacar) and, 292-295;
  Grania and, 296-304;
  bewails Oscar’s death, 306;
  in all Ossianic literature no complete narrative of death of, 308;
  tradition says he lies in trance in enchanted cave, like Kaiser
              Barbarossa, 308

FINTAN. The Salmon of Knowledge, of which Finn eats, 256

FIONUALA (fee-un-oo´la). Daughter of Lir and step-daughter of Aoife, 139;
  Aoife’s transformation into swans of Fionuala and, her brothers, 140-142

FIR-BOLG. See Firbolgs, 103

FIRBOLGS. Nemedian survivors who return to Ireland, 102;
  name signifies “Men of the Bags,” 102, 103;
  legend regarding, 102, 103;
  the Fir-Bolg, Fir-Domnan, and Galioin races generally designated as the,
  the Danaans and the, 106-119, 137

FIR-DOM´NAN. See Firbolgs, 103

FLEGETAN´IS. A heathen writer, whose Arabic book formed a source for poet
            Kyot, 408

FOHLA (fō´la). Wife of Danaan King mac Cecht, 132

FOILL. A son of Nechtan, slain by Cuchulain, 194

FOLL´AMAN. Conor’s youngest son;
  leads boy corps against Maev, 214

FOMOR´IANS. A misshapen, violent people representing the powers of evil;
  their battle with the Partholanians, 97;
  Nemedians in constant warfare with, 101;
  their tyranny over country of Ireland, 109;
  encounter between the Danaans and, 117, 118, 137

FORBAY. Son of Conor mac Nessa;
  slays Maev, 245

FORD OF FERDIA. Place on the River Dee;
  one champion at a time to meet Cuchulain at, 211;
  the struggle at, between Cuchulain and Ferdia, 216-220

FORGALL THE WILY. The lord of Lusca, father of Emer, 185;
  meets his death in escaping from Cuchulain, 195

FOTH´AD. King, slain in battle with Finn mac Cumhal;
  wager as to place of death made by Mongan, 81

FRAG´ARACH (“The Answerer”).
  Terrible sword brought by Lugh from the Land of the Living, 113

FRANCE. Place-names of, Celtic element in, 27

FUAMNACH (foo´am-nach). Wife of Midir the Proud, 156;
  her jealousy of a second bride, Etain, 156;
  transforms Etain into a butterfly by magic art, 156-158;
  Midir tells of her death, 160


GAE BOLG. The thrust of, taught by Skatha to Cuchulain, 188, 189;
  Cuchulam slays his son Connla by, 192;
  Cuchulain slays Loch by, 213;
  Cuchulain slays Ferdia by, 220

GAELIC. Cymric language and, 35;
  effect of legends of, on Continental poets, 50;
  bards’ ideas of chivalric romance anticipated by, 246;
  Cymric legend and, compared, 344-419;
  Continental romance and, 345

GAELS. Sacrifices of children by, to idol Crom Cruach, 85

GÆSAT´I. Celtic warriors, in battle of Clastidium, 41

GALATIA. Celtic state of, St. Jerome’s attestation _re_, 34

GAL´IOIN. See Firbolgs, 103

GALLES, M. RENÉ. Tumulus of Mané-er-H´oeck described by, 63

GARACH. Mac Roth views Ulster men on Plain of, 223;
  the battle of, 223-225

GAUL-S. Under Roman yoke, 35;
  Cæsar’s account of, 37;
  described by Diodorus Siculus, 41, 42;
  described by Ammianus Marcellinus, 42;
  Dr. Rice Holmes describes, 43;
  commerce on Mediterranean, Bay of Biscay, &c., of, 44;
  religious beliefs and rites described by Julius Cæsar, 51, 52;
  human sacrifices in, 84;
  votive inscriptions to Æsus, Teutates, and Taranus, found in, 86, 87;
  Dis, or Pluto, a most notable god of, 88;
  dead carried from, to Britain, 131;
  Maon taken to, 153

“GAULOIS, LA RELIGION DES.” Reference to, 55, 83

GAUVAIN (SIR GAWAIN). Fellow-knight with Perceval, 406

GAVR´INIS. Chiromancy at, 64

GEENA MAC LUGA. Son of Luga, one of Finn’s men, 262;
  Finn teaches the maxims of the Fianna to, 262, 263

GEIS-E (singular, gaysh; plural, gaysha). The law of the, 164;
  meaning of this Irish word explained, 164;
  instances: Dermot of the Love Spot, Conary Mōr, and Fergus mac Roy, 165;
  Grania puts Dermot under, 298

GELON. Defeat of Hamilcar by, at Himera, 22

GENEALOGY. Of Conary Mōr, from Eochy, 164;
  of Conor mac Nessa, from Ross the Red, 181;
  of Cuchulain and Conall of the Victories, from Druid Cathbad, 181;
  of Dōn, 350;
  of Llyr, 351;
  of Arthur, 352

GENEIR. Knight of Arthur’s court, 401

GEOFFREY OF MONMOUTH. Bishop of St. Asaph;
  his “Historia Regum Britaniæ” written to commemorate Arthur’s exploits,

GERAINT. The tale of Enid and, 399, 400

GERALD, EARL. Son of goddess Ainé, 128

GERMĀN (ghermawn—_g_ hard). Diuran and, companions of Maeldūn on his
            wonderful voyage, 313

GERMANIC WORDS. Many important, traceable to Celtic origin, 32

GERMANS. Menace to classical civilisation of, under names of Cimbri and
            Teutones, 31;
  de Jubainville’s explanation regarding, as a subject people, 31;
  overthrow of Celtic supremacy by, 33;
  burial rites practised by, 33;
  chastity of, 41

GERMANY. Place-names of, Celtic element in, 27

GILLA DACAR (The Hard Gilly). Story of, 292-295

GILVAETH´WY. Son of Dōn, nephew of Māth, 378;
  his love for Goewin, and its sequel, 378-380

GIRALDUS CAMBRENSIS. Testimony to the fairness of the Irish Celt, 21.
  See Bleheris

GLEN ETIVE. Dwelling place of Naisi and Deirdre, 198

GLOUCESTER. Mabon released from prison in, 392;
  the “nine sorceresses” of, 404

GLOWER. The strong man of the Wee Folk, 246

GLYN CUCH. Pwyll’s hunt in woods of, 357

GOBAN THE SMITH. Brother of Kian and Sawan;
  corresponds to Wayland Smith in Germanic legend, 110, 117;
  Ollav Fōla compared with, 150

GOD. Cythrawl and, two primary existences in the Cymric cosmogony,
            standing for principles of life and destruction, 333-335;
  the ineffable Name of, pronounced, and the “Manred” formed, 333

GODS. Megalithic People’s conception of their, 86, 87;
  of Aryan Celts, equated by Cæsar with Mercury, Apollo, Mars, &c , 86;
  triad of, Æsus, Teutates, and Taranus, mentioned by Lucan, 86;
  Lugh, or Lugus, the god of Light, 88

GOEWIN (go-ay´win). Daughter of Pebin;
  Gilvaethwy’s love for, and its sequel, 378-380

GOLASECCA. A great settlement of the Lowland Celts, in Cisalpine Gaul, 56

GOLEUDDYDD. Wife of Kilydd;
  mother of Kilhwch, 386, 387

GOLL MAC MORNA. Son of Morna, captain of the Fianna of Erin, 257;
  swears service to Finn, 258;
  Finn recalls the great saying of, 267;
  rescues Finn from the enchanted cave, 277, 278;
  Keva of the White Skin given as wife to, 278;
  adventure with the wether, 291, 292

GONEMANS. Knight who trains Perceval (Peredur), 405

GORBODUC. “Historia Regum Bntaniæ” furnished subject for, 337 338

GOR´IAS, THE CITY OF (see Dana), 105, 106

GOWRA (GABHRA). References to Oscar’s death at, 261-275;
  battle of, between Clan Bascna and Clan Morna, 305-309;
  Oscar’s death at, 305-308;
  King of Ireland’s death at, 306

GRAIL. Legends of the, 400;
  the tale of Peredur and the 400;
  Chrestien de Troyes’ story of, 404;
  identical with the Cup ot the Last Supper, 406;
  Wolfram von Eschenbach’s conception of the story of the 407;
  preserved in Castle of Munsalväsche, 407;
  the, a talisman of abundance, 409;
  false derivation of the word, from _gréable_, 409;
  true derivation, 409, _note_;
  combination of Celtic poetry, German mysticism, Christian Chivalry, and
              ancient sun-myths contained in, 411, 412

GRANIA. Loved by Dermot of the Love Spot, 123;
  elopes with Dermot, 261;
  tales of Deirdre and, compared, 296-304;
  borne to Hill of Allen as Finn’s bride, 304

GREAT BRITAIN. Western extremity of, is Land of the Dead, 131

GREECE. Dolmens found in, 53;
  oppression in, of the Firbolgs, 102, 103

GREEK-S. Celts and, 17;
  wars in alliance with Celts, 22;
  break monopoly of Carthaginian trade with Britain and Spain, 22;
  secure overland route across France to Britain 22;
  type of civilisation, Celtica preserved, 22

GREY OF MACHA. Cuchulain’s horse, ridden by Sualtam to rouse men of
            Ulster, 221, 222;
  resists being harnessed by Laeg, 230;
  mortally wounded by Erc, 232;
  defends Cuchulain, 233

GRONW PEBYR (gron´oo payber).
  Loved by Blodeuwedd, 383;
  slain by Llew, 384

GUAIRY, HUGH (gwai´ry).
  Arrested for  murder, and tried at Tara by Dermot, 48

GUARY (gwar´y).
  High King;
  taunts Sanchan Torpest about the “Tain,” 234

  Her collections of tales, 412
  See “Mabinogion”

  Nephew of King Arthur, 397, 401

  Rival of Pwyll’s for Rhiannon’s hand, 361, 362

GWENHWYVAR (gwen´hoo-ivar).
  Wife of King Arthur, 394

  Son of Matholwch and Branwen, 368;
  assumes sovranty of Ireland, 370

GWION BACH. Son of Gwreang;
  put to stir magic cauldron by Ceridwen, 413;
  similar action to Finn, 413

GWLWLYD (goo-loo´lid).
  The dun oxen of, 390

GWREANG (goo´re-ang).
  Father of Gwion Bach, 413

GWRNACH (goor-nach).
  the sword of the, 390

  Horses of, drink of poisoned stream, hence the stream “Poison of the
              Horses of,” 413;
  his son Elphin finds Taliesin, 414

  Son of Dōn;
  place in Cymric mythology taken later by the god Artaius, 349;
  nephew of Māth, 378;
  the swine of Pryderi and, 378-380

  A Cymric deity likened to Finn (Gaelic) and to Odin (Norse), 349;
  combat every May-day between Gwythur ap Greidawl and, 353, 388

  Māth, lord of, 378

  the second of three concentric circles representing the totality of
              being in the Cymric cosmogony, in which life is manifested
              as a pure, rejoicing force triumphant over evil, 334

  Combat every May-day between Gwyn ap Nudd and, 353, 388


  The Magic Cauldron part of the spoils of, 410

  Defeat of, at Himera, by Gelon, 22

  Preserved in syntax of Celtic languages, 78

  Rival of Arawn;
  mortally wounded by Pwyll, 357,358

  Musical services of Celts (probably of Great Britain) described by, 58

  First extant mention of “Celts” by, 17

  Son of Gwynn, 372

  Bard at Arthur’s court, 416

  Celts and, 17

  Celts and, 17, 56

  Father of Rhiannon, 360

  Stone of Destiny used for crowning of, 105

  Name of goddess Ainé clings  to, 128;
  Ainé appears, on a St. John’s Night, among girls on, 128

  Finn’s hounds, while returning to, recognise Saba, 266;
  Oisīn returns to, 273;
  Finn returns to, 278;
  return of the Fianna to, to celebrate the wedding feast of Finn and
              Tasha, 295;
  Finn bears Grania as his  bride to, 304

HILL OF KESHCORRAN. Finn bewitched by hags on, 277

HILL OF MACHA. Significance, 251


HISTORIA REGUM BRITANIÆ. See Geoffrey of Monmouth.
  Furnished subject for “Gorborduc” and “King Lear,” 338;
  wonderful success of, translated by Wace into French, by Layamon into
              Anglo-Saxon, 338, 339

HOMER. His gloomy picture of the departed souls of men conducted to the
            underworld, 79, 80;
  reference to, 147

HORSES OF MANANAN. White-crested waves called, 125

HOUND OF ULSTER. See Cuchulain, 217, 233;
  element in Gaelic names, 184

HUGH. One of the Children of Lir, 142

HULL, Miss, referred to, 133, _note_; 203, _note_

HUNGARY. Miled’s name as a god in a Celtic inscription from, 130

HYDE, DR. DOUGLAS. Reference to his folk tale about Dermot of the Love
            Spot. 291

HYPERBOR´EANS. Equivalent to Celts, 17


IBERIANS Aquitani and, resemblance between, 58, 59

ILDA´NACH (“The All-Craftsman”). Surname conferred upon Lugh, the Sun-god,

ILLYRIANS Celts conquer, 22

IMMORTALITY. Origin of so-called “Celtic” doctrine of, 75, 76;
  Egyptian and “Celtic” ideas of, 78-89

INDIA. Dolmens found in, 53;
  symbol of the feet found in, 77;
  practice in, of allotting musical modes to seasons of the year, 118

INDRA. Hindu sky-deity corresponding to Brown Bull of Quelgny, 203

INGCEL. One-eyed chief, son of King of Great Britain, an exile, 169


INVERSKEN´A Ancient name of Kenmore River, so called after Skena, 133

IRELAND Unique historical position of, 35;
  Dermot mac Kerval, High King of, 47;
  apostolised by St Patrick, 51;
  Lowland Celts founders of lake-dwellings in, 56;
  holy wells in, 66;
  tumulus and symbolic carvings at New Grange in, 69-72;
  reference to conversion of, to Christianity, 83;
  Lugh, or Lugus, god of Light, in, 88;
  history of, as related by Tuan, 98-100;
  Nemed takes possession of, 98;
  Fomorians establish tyranny over, 101;
  Standish O’Grady’s “Critical History of,” reference to, 119, 120;
  displacement of Danaans in, by Milesians, 130;
  Ith’s coming to, 130-136;
  name of Eriu (dative form Erinn), poetic name applied to, 132;
  Amergin’s lay, sung on touching soil of, 134;
  Milesian host invade, 135;
  the Children of Miled enter upon sovranty of, but henceforth there are
              two Irelands, the spiritual, occupied by the Danaans, and
              the earthly by the Milesians, 136-145;
  Eremon, first Milesian king of all, 143, 144;
  reference to Christianity and paganism in, 145;
  Milesian settlement of, 148;
  Ollav Fōla, most distinguished Ollav of, 149—150;
  Maon reigns over, 154;
  raid of Conary’s foster-brothers in, 169;
  The Terrible decides the Championship of, 196;
  proclaims Cuchulain Champion of, 196;
  Naisi and Deirdre land in, 199;
  Cairbry, son of Cormac mac Art, High King of, 304;
  Maeldūn and his companions return to, 330;
  the Arthurian saga never entered, 343;
  invaded by Bran, 369-372;
  Matholwch hands over to Gwern the sovranty of, 370

IRISH. Element of place-names, found in France, Switzerland, Austria, &c.,
  Spenser’s reference to eagerness of, to receive news, 37;
  the Ulster hero, Cuchulain, in saga, 41;
  the tumulus at New Grange in, 69;
  Christianity, early, magical rites of Druidism survive in, 83;
  legend, four main divisions in cycle of, 95;
  folk-melodies, the _Coulin_, one of the most beautiful of, 119;
  god of Love, Angus Ōg the, 121;
  “Mythological Cycle,” de Jubainville’s, reference to, 131;
  place-names, significance of, 250;
  legend, St. Patrick and, 283;
  literature, effect of Christianity on, 295 296
IRNAN. Lays Finn under _geise_ to engage in single combat, 278;
  slain by Goll, 278

IRON AGE. The ship a well-recognised form of sepulchral enclosure in
            cemeteries of the, 76

ISLAND-S. Strange adventures of Maeldūn and his companions on wonderful,
  of the Slayer, 313;
  of the Ants, 313;
  of the Great Birds, 313;
  of the Fierce Beast, 314;
  of the Giant Horses, 314;
  of the Stone Door, 314;
  of the Apples, 315;
  of the Wondrous Beast, 315;
  of the Biting Horses, 315;
  of the Fiery Swine, 316;
  of the Little Cat, 316;
  of the Black and White Sheep, 317;
  of the Giant Cattle, 317;
  of the Mill, 318;
  of the Black Mourners, 318;
  of the Four Fences, 318;
  of the Glass Bridge, 319;
  of the Shouting Birds, 320;
  of the Anchorite, 320;
  of the Miraculous Fountain, 320;
  of the Smithy, 321;
  of the Sea of Clear Glass, 321;
  of the Undersea, 321;
  of the Prophecy, 322;
  of the Spouting Water, 322;
  of the Silvern Column, 322;
  of the Pedestal, 323;
  of the Women, 323, 324;
  of the Red Berries, 325;
  of the Eagle, 325-327;
  of the Laughing Folk, 327;
  of the Flaming Rampart, 327;
  of the Monk of Tory, 327-329;
  of the Falcon, 329, 330

ISLANDS OF THE DEAD. See Mananan, 125

ISLE OF MAN. Supposed throne of Mananan, 125

ITALY. Northern, Celts conquer from Etruscans, 21, 25;
  Murgen and Eimena sent to, by Sanchan Torpest, to discover the “Tain,”
              234, 235

ITH. Son of Bregon, grandfather of Miled, 130;
  his coming to Ireland, 130-136;
  shores of Ireland perceived by, from Tower of Bregon, 132;
  learns of Neit’s slaying, 132;
  welcomed by mac Cuill and his brothers, 133;
  put to death by the three Danaan Kings, 133

IUBDAN (youb-dan). King of the Wee Folk, 246;
  Bebo, wife of, 247;
  Bebo and, visit King Fergus in Ulster, 247-249

IUCHAR (you´char). One of three sons of Turenn, 114;
  Brigit, mother of, 126

IUCHARBA (you-char´ba). One of three sons of Turenn, 114;
  Brigit, mother of, 126


JAPAN. Dolmens found in, 53

JEROME, ST. Attestation of, on Celtic State of Galatia, 34

JOHN, MR. IVOR B. His opinion of Celtic mystical writings, 332

JONES, BRYNMOR. Findings of, on origin of populations of Great Britain and
            Ireland, 78

JOYCE, DR. P.W. Reference to his “Old Celtic Romances,” 303, 309, 312

JUBAINVILLE, M. D’ARBOIS DE. Great Celtic scholar, 18, 23, 24;
  explanation of, regarding Germans as a subject people, 31;
  record regarding Megalithic People, 55;
  reference of, to Taranus (? Thor), the god of Lightning, 87;
  opinion regarding Dis, or Pluto, as representing darkness, death, and
              evil, 88;
  reference to Gaulish god whom Cæsar identifies with Mercury, 113;
  Brigit identical with Dana, according to, 126;
  Ith’s landing in Ireland described in his “Irish Mythological Cycle,”
  his translation of Amergin’s strange lay, 134


KAI. King Arthur’s seneschal, 387, 388;
  accompanies Kilhwch on his quest for Olwen, 388-392;
  refuses Peredur, 401, 402

KEATING. Reference to his “History of Ireland,” 150;
  his reference to Maon, 153;
  “History” of, tells of Ket’s death, 244;
  “History” of, tells of Maev’s death, 245

KEELTA MAC RONAN. Summoned from the dead by Mongan, 81;
  warrior and reciter, one of Finn’s chief men, 261;
  St. Patrick and, 265, 266, 289;
  Finn whispers the tale of his enchantment to, 280;
  Oisīn and, resolve to part, 282;
  meets St. Patrick, 282;
  assists Oisīn bury Oscar, 307


KELTCHAR (kelt´yar). A lord of Ulster;
  mac Datho’s boar and, 243

  ancient name “Inverskena,” so called after Skena, 133

KENVERCH´YN. The three hundred ravens of, 399

KERRY. Murna marries King of, 256

KESAIR (kes´er). Gaulish princess, wife of King Ugainy the Great, 152;
  grandmother of Maon, 153

KET. Son of Maga;
  rallies to Maev’s foray against Ulster, 204;
  slings Conall’s “brain ball” at Conor mac Nessa which seven years after
              leads to his death, 240, 241;
  the Boar of mac Datho and, 241-244;
  death of, told in Keating’s “History of Ireland,” 244

KEVA OF THE WHITE SKIN. Daughter of Finn, given in marriage to Goll mac
            Morna, 278

KIAN. Father of Lugh, 109;
  brother of Sawan and Goban, 110;
  the end of, 114

KICVA. Daughter of Gwynn Gohoyw, wife of Pryderi, 365, 373

KILHWCH (kil´hugh). Son to Kilydd and Goleuddydd;
  story of Olwen and, 386-392;
  accompanied on his quest (to find Olwen) by Kai, Bedwyr, Kynddelig,
              Bedwyr (Bedivere), Gwrhyr, Gwalchmai, and Menw, 388-392

KILLARNEY, LAKES OF. Ancient name, Locha Lein, given to, by Len, 123

KILYDD. Husband of Goleuddydd, father of Kilhwch, 386, 387

KIMBAY (CIMBAOTH). Irish king;
  reign of, and the founding of Emain Macha, 150;
  brother of Red Hugh and Dithorba, 151;
  compelled to wed Macha, 151

KING LEAR. “Historia Regum Britaniæ” furnished the subject of, 337, 338

KINGSBOROUGH, LORD. “Antiquities of Mexico,” example of cup-and-ring
            markings reproduced in his book, 68

KNOWLEDGE. Nuts of, 256;
  the Salmon of, 256

KYM´IDEU KYME´IN-VOLL. Wife of Llassar Llaesgyvnewid, 368

KYMON. A knight of Arthur’s court;
  the adventure of, 394-399

KYN´DDELIG. One of Arthur’s servitors;
  accompanies Kilhwch on his quest for Olwen, 388-392

KYOT (GUIOT). Provençal poet;
  and Wolfram von Eschenbach, 408


LA TÈNE CULTURE. Relics found in Austria developed into, 29


LAEG (layg). Cuchulain’s friend and charioteer, 183;
  sent by Cuchulain to rouse men of Ulster, 213;
  visits Fairyland to report on Fand, 226;
  the Grey of Macha resists being harnessed by, 230;
  slain by Lewy, 232

LAERY (lay´ry). 1. Son of King Ugainy the Great;
  treacherously slain by his brother Covac, 152.
  2. The Triumphant;
  shrinks from test for the Championship of Ireland, 196;
  mac Datho’s boar and, 243.
  3. Son of Neill;
  sees vision of Cuchulain, 239

LAIRGNEN (lerg-nen). Connacht chief, betrothed to Deoca;
  seizes the Children of Lir, 142

LAKE OF THE CAULDRON. Place where Matholwch met Llassar Llaesgyvnewid and
            his wife Kymideu Kymeinvoll, 367, 368

LAKE OF THE DRAGON’S MOUTH. Resort of Caer, 121;
  Angus Ōg joins his love, Caer, at, 122

LAND OF THE DEAD. “Spain” a synonymous term, 130;
  the western extremity of Great Britain is, according to ancient writer
              cited by Plutarch, and also according to Procopius, 131

LAND OF THE LIVING. = Land of the Happy Dead, 96;
  gifts which Lugh brought from, 113

LAND OF SHADOWS. Dwelling-place of Skatha;
  Cuchulain at, 187-189

LAND OF THE WEE FOLK. See Wee Folk (otherwise, Faylinn), 246, &c.

LAND OF YOUTH. Identical with “Land of the Dead,” “Land of the Living,”
  See Mananan, 113, 125;
  Cleena once lived in, 127;
  Connla’s Well in, visited by Sinend, 129;
  still lives in imagination of Irish peasant, 137;
  mystic country of People of Dana after their dispossession by Children
              of Miled, 156;
  pagan conception of, referred to, 161;
  lover from, visits Messbuachalla, to whom she bears Conary, 166, 167;
  Oisīn sees wonders of, 272;
  Oisīn returns from, 273;
  “The Lady of the Fountain” and the, 395, 396

LAYAMON. Translator. See “Historia Regum Britaniæ”

LEGEND. The cycles of Irish, 95


LEINSTER. Book of, and de Jubainville, 24;
  ancient tract, the “Dinnsenchus,” preserved in, 85;
  traditional derivation of name, 154;
  men of, rally to Maev’s foray against Ulster, 205;
  Mesroda, son of Datho, dwelt in province of, 241

LEIX. Reavers from, slay Ailill Edge-of-Battle, 310;
  Maeldūn’s voyage to, 311-331

LEN. Goldsmith of Bōv the Red;
  gave ancient name, Locha Lein, to the Lakes of Killarney, 123

LEVAR´CAM. Deirdre’s nurse, 197-200;
  Conor questions, _re_ sons of Usna, 199

LEWY. Son of Curoi, Cuchulain’s foe, 228-233;
  slain by Conall of the Victories, 233

LIA (lee´a). Lord of Luachar, treasurer to the Clan Morna, 255;
  slain by Finn, 256;
  father of Conan, 258

LIA FAIL (lee´a fawl), THE. The Stone of Destiny, 121

LIAGAN (lee´a-gan). A pirate, slain by Conan mac Morna, 260

LIGHT-OF-BEAUTY. See Sgeimh Solais

LIR (leer).
  1. Sea-god, father of Mananan, 113, 139;
     Mananan and, referred to, 125;
     identical with the Greek Oceanus, 125;
     father of Lodan and grandparent of Sinend, 129;
     Cymric deity Llyr corresponds with, 347.
  2. The Children of, the transformation of, 139-142;
     their death, 142

LISMORE. “The Dean of Lismore’s Book,” by James Macgregor.
  Dean of, described, 288

LLASSAR LLAESGYV´NEWID. Husband of Kymideu Kymeinvoll, giver of magic
            cauldron to Bran, 368

LLEVELYS. Son of Beli;
  story of Ludd (Nudd) and, 385, 386

LLEW LLAW GYFFES. Otherwise “The Lion of the Sure Hand.”
  A hero the subject of the tale “Māth Son of Māthonwy,” 347, 348;
  identical with the Gaelic deity Lugh of the Long Arm, 347, 348;
  how he got his name, 381, 382;
  the flower-wife of, named Blodeuwedd, 382, 383;
  slays Gronw Pebyr, who had betrayed him, 383, 384

LLUDD. See Nudd

LLWYD. Son of Kilcoed, an enchanter;
  removes magic spell from seven Cantrevs of Dyfed, and from Pryderi and
              Rhiannon, 377

LLYR. In Welsh legend, father of Manawyddan;
  Irish equivalents, Lir and Mananan, 347;
  Llyr-cester (now Leicester) once a centre of the worship of, 347;
  house of, corresponds with Gaelic Lir, 348, 349;
  Penardun, daughter of Dōn, wife of, 349;
  genealogy set forth, 351

LOCH. Son of Mofebis, champion sent by Mae against Cuchulain, 212;
  wounds Cuchulain, but is slain by him, 212

LOCH GARA. Lake in Roscommon;
  mac Cecht’s visit to, 176

LOCH RORY. Fergus mac Leda’s adventure in, 249

LOCH RYVE. Maev retires to island on, and is slain there by Forbay, 245

LODAN. Son of Lir, father of goddess Sinend, 129

LOHERANGRAIN. Knight of the Swan, son of Parzival, 408

LOUGHCREW. Great tumulus at, supposed burying-place of Ollav Fōla, 150

LOURDES. Cult of waters of, 66, 67

LUCAN. Triad of deities mentioned by, 86

LUCHAD (loo-chad). Father of Luchta, 112

LUCHTA (looch-ta). Son of Luchad, 112;
  the carpenter of the Danaans, 117

LUDGATE. For derivation see Nudd

LUGH (loo), or LUGUS.
  1. See Apollo, 58;
     the god of Light, in Gaul and Ireland, as, 88;
  2. Son of Kian, the Sun-god _par excellence_ of all Celtica, the coming
              of, 109-113;
     other names, Ildánach (“The All-Craftsman”) and Lugh Lamfada (Lugh of
                 the Long Arm), 113, 123;
     his eric from sons of Turenn for murder of his father, Kian, 115-116;
     slays Balor and is enthroned in his stead, 117;
     fiery spear of, 121;
     his worship widely spread over Continental Celtica, 123;
     father, by Dectera, of Cuchulain, 123, 182;
     Cymric deity Llew Llaw Gyffes corresponds with, 347, 348

  Invincible sword of, 105, 106;
  Bres, son of Balor, and, 123;
  husband of Dectera and father of Cuchulain, 182;
  appears to Cuchulain and protects the Ford while his son rests, 214;
  fights by his son’s side, 215;
  Cymric hero Llew Llaw Gyfles corresponds with, 347, 348

LUNED. Maiden who rescued Owain, 397;
  Owain rescues her, 398, 399


“MABINŎG´ION, THE” (singular, _Mabinogi_).
  Reference to story of Kilhwch and Olwen in, 343;
  “The Red Book of Hergest,” the main source of the tales of, 344;
  “Māth Son of Māthonwy,” tale in, 347;
  Mr. Alfred Nutt’s edition, 356;
  Four Branches of the Mabinogi form most important part of, 384;
  Peredur’s story in, and French version, 406;
  the tale of Taliesin and, 412

MABON. Son of Modron, released by Arthur, 391, 392

MACCECHT. Danaan king, husband of Fohla, 132;
  member of Conary’s retinue at Da Derga’s Hostel, 175;
  his search for water, 175, 176

MACCUILL (quill). Danaan king, husband of Banba, 132;
  at fortress of Aileach, 132

MACGRENÉ. Danaan king, husband of Eriu, 132;
  mythical name Son of the Sun, 132

MAC INDOC´, THE PLAIN OF. Laery and St. Benen on, 239

MACKERVAL, DERMOT. Rule of, in Ireland, and the cursing of Tara, 47, 48.
  See Dermot

MACPHERSON. Pseudo-Ossian poetry of, 238
MAC ROTH. Maev’s steward, named, and the Brown Bull of Quelgny, 202;
  sent to view host of Ulster men, 223

MACEDON. Attacked by Thracian and Illyrian hordes, 23

MACHA. Daughter of Red Hugh, 151;
  slays Dithorba and compels Kimbay to wed her, 151;
  captures five sons of Dithorba, 151, 152;
  forms an instance of the intermingling of the attributes of the Danaan
              with the human race, 152;
  a super-natural being, 178;
  goes to dwell with Crundchu, 178;
  her race against Ultonian horses, 179;
  gives birth to twins and curses the Ultonians, 180;
  her curse on men of Ulster, 203-221;
  the curse removed from men of Ulster, 222

MAELDŪN. Son of Ailill Edge-of-Battle, 310;
  departs to his own kindred, 311;
  sets out on his wonderful voyage, 311-331

MAELDŪN, VOYAGE OF (mayl’-doon). Found in MS. entitled “Book of the Dun
            Cow,” 309;
  reference to Dr. Whitley Stokes’ translation in the “Revue Celtique,”
  theme of Tennyson’s “Voyage of Maeldune” furnished by Joyce’s version in
              “Old Celtic Romances,” 309;
  narrative of, 311-331

MAEN TYRIAWC (ma’en tyr’i-awc). Burial-place of Pryderi, 379

MAEV (mayv). Queen of Connacht, 122;
  Angus Ōg seeks aid of, 122;
  debility of Ultonians manifested on occasion of Cattle-raid of Quelgny,
  Fergus seeks aid of, 202;
  her famous bull Finnbenach, 202;
  her efforts to secure the Brown Bull of Quelgny, 204-246;
  host of, spreads devastation through the territories of Bregia and
              Murthemney, 209;
  offers her daughter Findabair of Fair Eyebrows to Ferdia if he will meet
              Cuchulain, 216;
  Conor summons men of Ulster against, 222;
  overtaken but spared by Cuchulain, 225;
  makes seven years’ peace with Ulster, 225;
  vengeance of, against Cuchulain, 228-233;
  mac Datho’s hound and, 241-244;
  retires to island on Loch Ryve, 245;
  slain by Forbay, 245

MAGA. Daughter of Angus Ōg, wife of Ross the Red, 181;
  wedded also to Druid Cathbad, 181

MAGI. Word magic derived from, 60;
  treated by Pliny, 61

MAGIC. The religion of Megalithic People that of, 59;
  origin of word, 60;
  Pliny on, 61;
  religion of, invented in Persia and by Zoroaster, 61;
  traces of, in Megalithic monuments, 63;
  Clan Calatin learn, in Ireland, Alba, and Babylon, to practise against
              Cuchulain, 228-233

MAITRE, M. ALBERT. Inspector of Musée des Antiquités Nationales, 64

MALORY. Anticipated by Wace, 338, 339;
  Cymric myths and, 388

MAN´ANAN. Son of the Sea-god, Lir, 113, 139;
  magical Boat of, brought by Lugh, with Horse of, and sword _Fragarach_,
              from the Land of the Living, 113, 121;
  attributes of Sea-god mostly conferred on, 125;
  the most popular deity in Irish mythology, 125;
  lord of sea beyond which Land of Youth or Islands of the Dead were
              supposed to lie, 125;
  master of tricks and illusions, owned magical possessions—boat,
              Ocean-Sweeper; steed, Aonbarr; sword, The Answerer, &c. &c.,
  reference to daughter of, given to Angus, a Danaan prince, 143;
  his wife, Fand, sets her love on Cuchulain, 226;
  Fand recovered by, 227;
  shakes his cloak between Fand and Cuchulain, 228;
  Cymric deity Manawyddan corresponds with, 347, 348

MANAWYDDAN (mana-wudh’en). In Welsh mythology, son of Llyr;
  Irish equivalents, Mananan and Lir, 347;
  Bendigeid Vran (“Bran the Blessed”), his brother, 365;
  the tale of Pryderi and, 373-378;
  weds Rhiannon, 373

MANÉ-ER-H´OECK. Remarkable tumulus in Brittany, 63, 64

MANÉS. Seven outlawed sons of Ailell and Maev, 169;
  their rally to Maev’s foray against Ulster, 204

MANESSIER. A continuator of Chrestien de Troyes, 408

MAN´ETHO. Egyptian historian, reference to human sacrifices, 85, 86

MANRED. The ineffable Name of God pronounced, and so was formed, 333;
  the primal substance of the universe, 333

MAON (may’un). Son of Ailill;
  brutal treatment of, by Covac, 152-154;
  has revenge on Ailill by slaying him and all his nobles, 153;
  weds Moriath, and reigns over Ireland, 154;
  equivalent, “Labra the Mariner,” 154

MARCELLIN´US, AMMIAN´US. Gauls described by, 42

MARIE DE FRANCE. Anglo-Norman poetess;
  sources relating to the Arthurian saga in writings of, 339, 340

MĀTH SON OF MĀTHONWY. Title of tale in the “Mabinogion,” 347;
  Llew Llaw Gyffes, a character in tale of, 347, 348;
  brother of Penardun, 349;
  the tale of, 378-384;
  Gwydion and Gilvaethwy, nephews of, 378;
  his strange gift of hearing, 386

MATHOLWCH (math’o-law). King of Ireland;
  comes seeking Branwen’s hand in marriage, 366;
  wedding of, and Branwen’s, celebrated at Aberffraw, 366;
  Evnissyen mutilates his horses, 367;
  Bran, among other gifts, gives a magic cauldron to, 367, 368;
  father of Gwern, 368;
  informed of Bran’s invasion, 369;
  hands sovranty of Ireland to Gwern, 370

MĀTHONWY. Ancestor of House of Dōn, 349

MATIÈRE DE FRANCE. Source of Round Table and chivalric institutions
            ascribed to Arthur’s court, 341

MAXEN WLEDIG (oo’le-dig). Emperor of Rome;
  the dream of, 384, 385

MAY-DAY. Sacred to Beltené, day on which Sons of Miled began conquest of
            Ireland, 133, 134;
  combat every, between Gwythur ap Greidawl and Gwyn ap Nudd, 353;
  strange scream heard in Britain on eve of, 385

MEATH. Fergus in his battle-fury strikes off the tops of the three _Maela_
            of, 224;
  St. Patrick and the folk of, 282

MEDICINE. See Magic, 60, 61;
  Pliny and, 61

MEGALITHIC PEOPLE. Builders of dolmens, cromlechs, &c., 52-93;
  origin of the, 54-58;
  Professor Ridgeway’s contention about, 56;
  their religion that of magic, 59;
  representations of the divine powers under human aspect unknown to, 75;
  Druidism imposed on the Celts by the, 82;
  human sacrifices, practice a survival from the, 84;
  conception of, regarding their deities, 86

MERCURY. Regarded as chief of the gods by Gauls, 87;
  Lugh Lamfada identified with, 113

MERLIN. See Myrddin.
  Reference to his magical arts, 337;
  equivalent Myrddin, 354;
  believed by Geoffrey of Monmouth to have erected Stonehenge, 354;
  the abode of, described, 354-356

MESGED´RA. The vengeance of, fulfilled, 241

MESRO´DA, MAC DATHO. Son of Datho, 241;
  the carving of the boar of, 241-244;
  Conor and Maev both send to purchase his hound, 241

MESSBUACHALLA (mess-boo’hala). Only daughter of Etain Oig, 166;
  significance, “the cowherd’s foster-child,” 166;
  King Eterskel’s promised son and, 166;
  visited by a Danaan lover, and birth of Conary, 166, 167

MEXICO. Cup-and-ring marking in, 68;
  symbol of the feet found in, 77;
  the cross-legged “Buddha,” frequent occurrence in religious art of, 87

MIDIR THE PROUD (mid’eer). A son of the Dagda;
  a type of splendour, 124;
  his appearance to King Eochy, 124;
  Fuamnach, wife of, 156;
  Etain, second bride of, 156;
  recovers his wife from Eochy, 160-163;
  yields up Etain, 163

  1. Sons of;
     conquer the People of Dana, 100;
     the coming of, to displace rule in Ireland of Danaans, 130;
     Bregon, son of, 130;
     Amergin, son of, 133;
     begin conquest of Ireland on May-day, 133, 134.
  2. A god, represented as, in a Celtic inscription from Hungary, son of
              Bilé, 130.
  3. Children of;
     resolve to take vengeance for Ith’s slaying, 133;
     enter upon the sovranty of Ireland, 136

MILESIAN-S. See Sons of Miled, 130;
  myth, meaning of, 138-145;
  the early kings, 146-148

MINORCA. Analogous structures (to represent ships) to those in Ireland
            found in, 76

MOCHAEN (mo-chayn’). Hill of, and Lugh’s eric, 115

MODRED. King Arthur’s nephew;
  usurps his uncle’s crown and weds his wife Guanhumara, 337;
  Arthur defeats and slays, 337, 338

MONGAN. Irish chieftain, reincarnation of Finn;
  wager as to place of death of King Fothad, 81

MONTEL´IUS, DR. OSCAR. And the ship symbol, 72

MOONRE´MUR. A lord of Ulster;
  mac Datho’s boar and, 243

MORANN. Druid;
  prophecy of, concerning Cuchulain, 183

MORC. Fomorian king, 101

MORDA. A blind man, set by Ceridwen to keep fire under the magic cauldron,

MOR´IATH. Daughter of Scoriath, the King of Feramore;
  her love for Maon and her device to win him back to Ireland, 153, 154;
  curious tale regarding his hair, 154

MORNA. Father of Goll, 257

MORR´IGAN, THE. Extraordinary goddess, embodying all that is perverse and
            horrible among supernatural powers, 126;
  her love and friendship for Cuchulain, 126;
  her visit to Conary Mōr at Hostel of Da Derga, 172;
  appears to Cuchulain and offers her love, 212;
  her threat to be about his feet in bottom of the Ford, 212;
  attacks Cuchulain, and is wounded by him, 213;
  croaks of war and slaughter before Cuchulain, 230;
  settles on the dead Cuchulain’s shoulder as a crow, 233

MOUNTAINS OF MOURNE. Cuchulain on, 193

MOYRATH. Battle of, ended resistance of Celtic chiefs to Christianity, 51

MOYSLAUGHT (“The Plain of Adoration”).
  Idol of Crom Cruach erected on, 85, 149

  1. Scene of First Battle (Co. Sligo) between Danaans and the Firbolgs,
              106, 107.
  2. Scene of Second Battle (Co. Mayo) between Danaans and Fomorians, 117,
     the Dagda and, 120

MUNSALVÄSCHE (MONTSALVAT), THE CASTLE OF, where, in W. von Eschenbach’s
            poem, the Grail is preserved, 407

MUNSTER. Ailill Olum, King of, 127;
  “Hill of Ainé” and goddess Ainé 128;
  origin of name, 154

MUR´IAS, THE CITY OF (see Dana), 105, 106

MURNA OF THE WHITE NECK. Wife of Cumhal, mother of Finn, 255, 266;
  takes refuge in forests of Slieve Bloom, and gives birth to Demna
              (Finn), 255;
  marries King of Kerry, 256

MURTAGH MAC ERC. King of Ireland, brother of Fergus the Great;
  lends famous Stone of Scone to Scotland, 105

  Kian killed on Plain of, 114;
  Cuchulain of, seen in a vision by prophetess Fedelma, 206;
  the carnage of, 214;
  host of Ulster assemble on, 229;
  Cuchulain at his dūn in, 230

MYCEN´Æ. Burial chamber of the Atreidæ, ancient dolmen yet stands beside,
            in, 53

MYRDDIN. See Merlin.
  A deity in Arthur’s mythological cycle, corresponds with Sun-god Nudd,
  suggestion of Professor Rhys that chief deity worshipped at Stonehenge
              was, 355;
  seizes the “Thirteen Treasures of Britain,” 355


MYTHOLOGY. Comparison between Gaelic and Cymric, 346-348;
  compared with folklore, 418

MYTHS. Danaan, meaning of, 137;
  Milesian, meaning of, 138, 139;
  Invasion, of Ireland, 138-145


NAISI (nay’see). Son of Usna, loved by Deirdre, 198;
  abducts Deirdre, 198;
  Ardan and Ainlé, his brothers, 198;
  Conor invites return of, 198;
  his return under care of Fergus, 199;
  slain by Owen son of Duracht, 201

NAQADA (nak’a-da). Signs on ivory tablets discovered by Flinders Petrie in
            cemetery at, 78

NARBERTH. Castle where Pwyll had his court, 359;
  Pwyll’s adventure on the Mound of Arberth, near, 359-365;
  Pryderi and Manawyddan and their wives left desolate at palace of, 373

NATCHRANTAL (na-chran’tal). Famous champion of Maev;
  assists to capture Brown Bull, 211

NECHTAN. Dūn of the sons of, 193;
  Cuchulain provokes a fight with sons of, 193, 194;
  sons of, slain, 194

NEIT (nayt).
  Danaan king, slain in battle with the Fomorians, 132

NEMED. Son of Agnoman;
  takes possession of Ireland, 98;
  fights victoriously against Fomorians, his death, 101

NEMEDIANS. Sail for Ireland, 99;
  akin to the Partholanians, 101;
  revolt of, against Fomorians, 101, 102;
  routed by Fomorians, 102

NEMGLAN. Commands Conary go to Tara, 168;
  he declares Conary’s _geise_, 168

NENNIUS. British historian in whose “Historia Britonum” (A.D. 800) is
            found first mention of Arthur, 336

NESSA. Daughter of Echid Yellow-heel, wife of Fachtna, mother of Conor,
  loved by Fergus, 180

NETHERLANDS. Place-names of, Celtic element in, 27

NEW GRANGE. Tumulus at, regarded as dwelling-place of Fairy Folk, 69, 70;
  symbolic carvings at, 70, 71;
  the ship symbol at, 71-73;
  Angus Ōg’s palace at, 121;
  Angus’ fairy palace at Brugh na Boyna identical with, 143

NIAM (nee’am).
  1. Wife of Conall of the Victories;
     tends Cuchulain, 229;
     Bave puts a spell of straying on her, 230
  2. Of the Golden Hair;
     daughter of the King of the Land of Youth, 270;
     Oisīn departs with, 271, 272;
     permits Oisīn to visit the Land of Erin, 273

NISS´YEN. Son of Eurosswyd and Penardun, 366

NODENS. See Nudd

NUADA OF THE SILVER HAND (noo’ada). King of the Danaans, 107-108;
  his encounter with Balor, champion of the Fomorians, 117;
  belongs to Finn’s ancestry, 255;
  identical with solar deity in Cymric mythology, viz., Nudd or Lludd,
              346, 347

NUDD, or LLUDD. Roman equivalent, Nodens.
  A solar deity in Cymric mythology, 346, 347;
  identical with Danaan deity, Nuada of the Silver Hand, 347;
  under name Lludd, said to have had a temple on the site of St. Paul’s,
  entrance to Lludd’s temple called _Parth Lludd_ (British), which Saxons
              translated _Ludes Geat_—our present Ludgate, 347;
  story of Llevelys and, 385, 386;
  Edeyrn, son of, jousts with Geraint for Enid, 399, 400

NUTS OF KNOWLEDGE. Drop from hazel-boughs into pool where Salmon of
            Knowledge lived, 256

NUTT, MR. ALFRED. Reference to, in connexion with the “Hill of Ainé,” 128,
  reference to, in connexion with Oisīn-and-Patrick dialogues, 288, 289;
  reference to object of the tale of Taliesin in his edition of the
              “Mabinogion,” 412

NYNNIAW. Peibaw and, brothers, two Kings of Britain, their quarrel over
            the stars, 355, 356


O’DONOVAN. A great Irish antiquary;
  folk-tale discovered by, 109-119

O’DYNA, CANTRED OF. Dermot’s patrimony, 300

     References to his “Critical History of Ireland” on the founding of
                 Emain Macha, 119, 120, 151, 152;
     his “Masque of Finn” referred to, 280, 281
     Reference to his “Silva Gadelica,” 250, 276, 281

OCEAN-SWEEPER. Mananan’s magical boat, 125

ODYSSEY, THE. Mr H.B. Cotterill’s hexameter version, quotation from, 79,

OGMA. Warrior of Nuada of the Silver Hand, 112, 118

OISĪN (ush’een). Otherwise Little Fawn.
  Son of Finn, greatest poet of the Gael, 261;
  father of Oscar, 261;
  buries Aideen, 261;
  birth of, from Saba, 266-270;
  loved by Niam of the Golden Hair, 270-272;
  returns from Land of Youth, 273;
  Keelta and, resolve to part, 282;
  assists Keelta bury Oscar, 307

OLD CELTIC ROMANCES. Reference to Dr. P.W. Joyce’s, 303, 309, 312

OLLAV. Definition of the term, 149

OLLAV FŌLA. Eighteenth King of Ireland from Eremon, the most distinguished
            Ollav of Ireland, 149-150;
  compared with Goban the Smith and Amergin the Poet, 150

OLWEN. The story of Kilhwch and, 386-392;
  daughter of Yspaddaden, 387;
  how she got the name “She of the White Track,” 390;
  bride of Kilhwch, 392

ORLAM. Slain by Cuchulain, 209

OSCAR. Son of Oisīn;
  slays Linné,  261;
  Aideen, wife of, 261;
  her death after battle of Gowra, 261;
  type of hard strength, 262;
  reference to death at battle of Gowra, 275;
  his death described, 306, 308

OSI´RIS. Feet of, symbol of visitation, in Egypt, 77

OSSIANIC SOCIETY. “Transactions” of, 278-280;
  battle of Gowra (Gabhra) described in, 305

OS´THANES. Earliest writer on subject of magic, 62

OTHER-WORLD. Keelta summoned from, 81;
  faith of, held by Celts, 82;
  Mercury regarded by Gauls as guide of dead to, 87

OWAIN. Son of Urien;
  plays chess with King Arthur, 393;
  the Black Knight and, 396-399;
  seen by Peredur, 401

OWEL. Foster-son of Mananan and a Druid, father of Ainé, 127

OWEN. Son of Duracht;
  slays Naisi and other sons of Usna, 201

OWENS OF ARAN. Ailill, of the sept of, 311;
  Maeldūn goes to dwell with, 311

OWL OF CWM CAWLWYD (coom cawl´wŭd), THE, 392


PATRICK, ST. Ireland apostolised by, 51;
  symbol of the feet and, 77

PASTH´OLAN. His coming into Ireland from the West;
  his origin, 96

PARTHOLANIANS. Battle between the Fomorians and, 97;
  end of race by plague on the Old Plain, 97;
  Nemedians akin to, 101

PEIBAW. Nynniaw and, two brothers, Kings of Britain, their quarrel over
            the stars, 355, 356

PENAR´DUN. Daughter of Dōn, wife of Llyr, and also of Eurosswyd, sister of
            Māth, 349, 366;
  mother of Bran, also of Nissyen and Evnissyen, 366

  Danaans dwindle into fairies, otherwise the, 137

PER´DICCAS II. Son of Amyntas II., killed in battle, 23

PER´EDUR. The tale of, and the origin of the Grail Legend, 400, 407;
  corresponds to Perceval of Chrestien de Troyes, 400

PER´GAMOS. Black Stone of, subject of embassy from Rome during Second
            Punic War, 66

PERILOUS GLEN. Cuchulain escapes beasts of, 187

“PERONNIK” folk tale, 400, _note_

PERSIA. Religion of magic invented in, by Zoroaster, 61

PETRIE, FLINDERS. Discoveries by, 78;
  on Egyptian origin of symbol of mother and child, 79

PHILIP. Younger brother of Perdiccas, 23

PHILO´STRATUS. Reference of, to enamelling by Britons, 30

PLAIN OF ILL-LUCK. Cuchulain crosses, 187

PLATO. Celts and, 17;
  evidence of, to Celtic characteristics, 36

PLINY. Religion of magic discussed by, 61

PLUTARCH. Land of the Dead referred to by, as the western extremity of
            Great Britain, 131

PLUTO (Gk. Pluton). Dis, equivalent;
  god of the Underworld, 88;
  associated with wealth, like Celtic gods of the Underworld, 349

POLYB´IUS. Description of the Gæsati in battle of Clastidium, 41

POLYNESIAN, the practice named “tabu” and the Irish _geis_, similarity
            between, 165

PORTUGAL. Place-names of, Celtic element in, 27

POSIDON´IUS. On bardic institution among Celts, 57

PROCOP´IUS. Land of the Dead referred to by as the western extremity of
            Great Britain, 131

PROVINCE OF THE SPEARMEN (Irish, _Laighin_—“Ly-in”). See Leinster, 154

PRYDERI (pri-dair’y) (Trouble). Son of Pwyll and Rhiannon;
  his loss 363;
  his restoration by Teirnyon, 365;
  Kicva, the wife of, 365;
  the tale of Manawyddan and, 373-378;
  Gwydion and the swine of, 378;
  his death, 379

PWYLL (poo-till; modern Powell). Prince of Dyfed;
  how he got his title _Pen Annwn_, or “Head of Hades,” 336-359;
  his adventure on the Mound of Arberth, near the Castle of Narberth,
  fixes his choice on Rhiannon for wife, 360;
  Gwawl’s trick on him, 361;
  Rhiannon’s plan to save Pwyll from Gwawl’s power, 361;
  weds Rhiannon, 362;
  imposes a penance on his wife, 363;
  his son Pryderi (Trouble) found, 365

PYTHAG´ORAS. Celtic idea of transmigration and, 80

PYTH´EAS. The German tribes about 300 B.C. mentioned by, 31


QUELGNY, or CUAILGNÉ. Cattle-raid of, made by Queen Maev, 180;
  Brown Bull of, owned by Dara, 202;
  the theme of the “Tain Bo Cuailgné” is the Brown Bull of, 203;
  Brown Bull of, is Celtic counterpart of Hindu sky-deity, Indra, 203;
  Brown Bull of, captured at Slievegallion, Co. Armagh, by Maev, 211;
  white-horned Bull of Ailell slain by Brown Bull of, 225;
  reputed author of, Fergus mac Roy, 234;
  Sanchan Torpest searches for lost lay of, 234-238


RĀ. Egyptian Sun god;
  ship symbol in sepulchral art of Egypt connected with worship of, 74-76

RATH GRANIA. King Cormac and Finn feasted at, 300

RATH LUACHAR. Lia keeps the Treasure Bag at, 255

RATHCROGHAN. Maev’s palace in Roscommon, 202

RED BRANCH. Order of chivalry which had its seat in Emain Macha, 178;
  the time of glory of, during Conor’s reign, 181;
  heroes of, and Cuchulain strive for the Championship of Ireland, 195,
  Hostel, Naisi and Deirdre at, 199, 200;
  with Cuchulain and Conor passes away the glory of, 241

RED HUGH. Ulster prince, father of Macha, brother of Dithorba and Kimbay,

RED RIDERS. Conary’s journey with, 170, 171

RELIGION. The Celtic, 46;
  Megalithic People’s, that of Magic, 58;
  of Magic, invented in Persia and by Zoroaster, 61

REVUE CELTIQUE. Dr. Whitley Stokes’ translation of the “Voyage of Maeldūn”
            in, 309

RHIANNON (ree’an-non). Daughter of Hevydd Hēn;
  sets her love on Pwyll, 360;
  marries Pwyll, 362;
  her penance for slaying her son, 363;
  her son Pryderi (Trouble) found, 365;
  wedded to Manawyddan, 373

RHONABWY (rōne’a-bwee). The dream of, 392, 393

RHUN. Sent from King Arthur’s court to Elphin’s wife, 415

RHYS AP TEWDWR. South Welsh prince;
  brought knowledge of Round Table to Wales, 343

RHYS, SIR J. His views on origin of population of Great Britain and
            Ireland, 78;
  on Myrddin and Merlin, 354, 355

RIDGE OF THE DEAD WOMAN. Vivionn buried at, 287, 288

ROC. Angus’ steward, 290;
  his son crushed to death by Donn, 291;
  then changed into a boar and charged to bring Dermot to death at length,

ROMANCE. Gaelic and Continental, 345

ROMANS. Arthur resists demand for tribute by the, 337

ROME. Celts march on and sack, 25, 26;
  Britain and Gaul under yoke of, 35;
  the empire of Maxen Wledig in, usurped, 385

ROSS THE RED. King of Ulster, husband of Maga, a daughter of Angus Ōg,
  Roy, his second wife, 181;
  originator of the Red Branch, 181

ROUND TABLE, THE. References to, 338, 339, 341, 343

ROY. Second wife of Ross the Red, 181

RU´ADAN, ST. Tara cursed by, 47, 49

RUSSELL, MR. G.W. Irish poet;
  fine treatment of myth of Sinend and Connla’s Well, 129, 130


SABA. Wife of Finn, mother of Oisīn, 266-270

SACRIFICES. Practice of human, noted by Cæsar among Celts, 84;
  human, in Ireland, 85;
  Celtic practice of human, paralleled in Mexico and Carthage, 85;
  of children, to idol Crom Cruach, by Gaels, 85;
  in Egypt, practice of human, rare, 85, 86

ST. BENEN. A companion of St. Patrick, 239

ST. FINNEN. Irish abbot;
  legend concernin Tuan mac Carell and, 97

ST. PATRICK. Record of his mission to Ireland, 51;
  Cascorach and, referred to in the “Colloquy of the Ancients,” 119;
  Brogan, the scribe of, 119;
  Ethné aged fifteen hundred years old at coming of, 144;
  Ethné baptized by, 144;
  summons Cuchulain from Hell, 238, 239;
  name Talkenn given by Irish to, 275;
  met by Keelta, 282;
  Irish legend and, 283


SALMON OF LLYN LLYW (lin li-oo’), THE, 392

SAMNITE WAR, THIRD. Coincident with breaking up of Celtic Empire, 26

SANCHAN TORPEST. Chief bard of Ireland;
  and the “Tain,” 234-238

SA´WAN. Brother of Kian and Goban, 110

SCANDINAVIA. Dolmens found in, 53;
  symbol of the feet found in, 77

SEM´ION. Son of Stariat, settlement in Ireland of;
  Firbolgs descended from, 100

SERA. Father of Partholan, 96;
  father of Starn, 98

SETAN´TA. Earliest name of Cuchulain, 183;
  “the little pupil,” harries Maev’s hosts, 208

SGEIMH SOLAIS (skayv sulish) (Light of Beauty).
  Daughter of Cairbry, wooed by son of King of the Decies, 304

SHANNON, THE RIVER. Myth of Sinend and the Well of Knowledge accounts for
            name of, 129;
  Dithorba’s five sons flee over, 151;
  mac Cecht visits, 175;
  Dermot and Grania cross Ford of Luan on the, 299


SIC´ULUS, DIODORUS. A contemporary of Julius Cæsar;
  describes Gauls, 41, 42

SIDHE (shee), or FAIRY FOLK. Tumulus at New Grange (Ireland) regarded as
            dwelling-place of, 69

SILVA GADELICA. Reference to Mr. S.H. O’Grady’s work, 250, 276, 281

SIN´END. Goddess, daughter of Lir’s son, Lodan;
  her fatal visit to Connla’s Well, 129

SIGN, LLEWELLYN. Welsh bard, compiler of “Barddas,” 332

SKATHA. A mighty woman-warrior of Land of Shadows, 187;
  instructs Cuchulain, 187-189;
  her two special feats, how to leap the Bridge of the Leaps and to use
              the Gae Bolg, 188

SKENA. Wife of the poet Amergin;
  her untimely death, 133

SLAYNEY, THE RIVER. Visited by mac Cecht, 175

SLIEVB BLOOM. Murna takes refuge in forests of, and there Demna (Finn) is
            born, 255

SLIEVE FUAD (sleeve foo’ad) (afterwards Slievegallion).
  Invisible dwelling of Lir on, 125;
  Cuchulain finds his foe on, 232;
  Finn slays goblin at, 258

SLIEVEGALL´ION. A fairy mountain;
  the Chase of, 278-280.
  See Slieve Fuad

SLIEVENAMON (sleeve-na-mon’). The Brugh of, Finn and Keelta hunt on,

SOHRAB AND RUSTUM. Reference to, 192

SPAIN. Celts conquer from the Carthaginians, 21;
  Carthaginian trade with, broken down by Greeks, 22;
  place-names of Celtic element in, 27;
  dolmens found round the Mediterranean coast of, 53;
  equivalent, Land of the Dead, 102

SQUIRE, MR. Author of “Mythol. of Brit. Islands,” 348, 353, 411

SRENG. Ambassador sent to People of Dana by Firbolgs, 106

STAG OF REDYNVRE (red-in’vry), THE, 392

STARN. Son of Sera, brother of Partholan, 97

STOKES, DR. WHITLEY. Reference to, 166, 167;
  reference to his translation of the “Voyage of Maeldūn” in “Revue
              Celtique,” 309

STONE, CORONATION. At Westminster Abbey, identical with Stone of Scone,

STONE OF ABUNDANCE. Equivalent, Cauldron of Abundance.
  The Grail in Wolfram’s poem as a, 409;
  similar stone appears in the Welsh “Peredur,” 409;
  correspondences, the Celtic Cauldron of the Dagda, 410;
  in the Welsh legend Bran obtained the Cauldron, 410;
  in a poem by Taliesin the Cauldron forms part of the spoils of Hades,

STONE OF DESTINY. Otherwise _Lia Fail_.
  One of the treasures of the Danaans, 105

STONE OF SCONE. Fabulous origin of, and present depository, 105

STONE-WORSHIP. Supposed reason of, 65, 66;
  denounced by Synod of Arles, 66;
  denounced by Charlemagne 66;
  black stone of Pergamos and Second Punic War, 66;
  the Grail a relic of ancient, 409

STONEHENGE. Dressed stones used in megalithic monument at, 54;
  Professor Rhys’ suggestion that Myrddin was worshipped at, 354;
  Geoffrey of Monmouth and, 354

STRABO. Characteristics of Celts, told by, 39, 46

STRAITS OF MOYLE (between Ireland and Scotland).
  Aoife’s cruelty to her step-children on the, 140

STRAND OF THE FOOTPRINTS. How name derived, 191

SUALTAM (soo’al-tam). Father of Cuchulain (see Lugh), 206;
  his attempts to arouse Ulster, 221;
  his death, 222

SWEDEN. The ship symbol on rock-sculptures of, 72, 73

SWITZERLAND. Place-names of, Celtic element in, 27;
  lake-dwellings in, 56


“TAIN BO CUAILGNÉ” (thawn bo quel’gny). Significance, 203;
  tale of, all written out by Finn mac Gorman, Bishop of Kildare, in 1150,
  the recovery of, 234;
  reputed author, Fergus mac Roy, 234;
  Sir S. Ferguson treats of recovery of, in “Lays of the Western Gael,”
  Sanchan Torpest, taunted by High King Guary, resolves to find the lost,
  early Celtic MSS. and, 296

TALIESIN (tal-i-es’in). A mythical bard;
  his prophecy regarding the devotion of the Cymry to their tongue, 385;
  the tale of, 412-417;
  found by Elphin, son of Gwyddno, 414;
  made prime bard of Britain, 415-417

TALKENN. (Adze-head). Name given by the Irish to St. Patrick, 275

TALTIU, or TELTA. Daughter of the King of the “Great Plain” (the Land of
            the Dead), wedded by Eochy mac Erc, 103

TARA. Seat of the High Kings of Ireland;
  the cursing of, 47, 48-49;
  Stone of Scone sent to Scotland from, 105;
  Lugh accuses sons of Turenn at, of his father’s murder, 115;
  appearance of Midir the Proud to Eochy on Hill of, 124, 161;
  Milesian host at, 135;
  institution of triennial Festival at, 149-150;
  bull-feast at, to decide by divination who should be king in Eterskel’s
              stead, 167, 168;
  Conary commanded to go to, by Nemglan, 168;
  proclaimed King of Erin at, 168;
  pointed out to Cuchulain, 193;
  Cuchulain’s head and hand buried at, 233;
  Finn at, 257, 258

TAR´ANUS (? Thor). Deity mentioned by Lucan, 86, 87

TEGID VOEL. A man of Penllyn, husband of Ceridwen, father of Avagddu, 413

TEIRNYON (ter’ny-on). A man of Gwent Is Coed;
  finds Pryderi, 364;
  restores Pryderi, 365

TELLTOWN (TELTIN). Palace at, of Telta, Eochy mac Erc’s wife, 103;
  great battle at, between Danaans and Milesians, 136;
  Conall of the Victories makes his way to, after Conary’s death, 176;
  pointed out to Cuchulain, 193

TENNYSON, LORD. Reference to source of his “Voyage of Maeldune,” 309;
  Cymric myths and, 388;
  reference to his “Enid,” 400

TEUTAT´ES. Deity mentioned by Lucan, 86

TEUTONIC. Loyalty of races, 45, 46

  festival of, in Mexico, 77

THE TERRIBLE. A demon who by strange test decides the Championship of
            Ireland, 196


TIBERIUS, EMPEROR. Druids, prophets, and medicine-men suppressed by, 62

TIERNA (Teer’na). Abbot of Clonmacnois, eleventh-century historian, 150

TIERNMAS (teern’mas). Fifth Irish king who succeeded Eremon, 148;
  idol Crom Cruach and, 148, 149;
  his death, 149

TONN CLIODHNA (thown cleena). Otherwise “Wave of Cleena.”
  One of the most notable landmarks of Ireland, 127

TOR MŌR. Precipitous headland in Tory Island;
  Ethlinn imprisoned by Balor in tower built on, 110

TORY ISLAND. Stronghold of Fomorian power, 101;
  invaded by Nemedians, 101

TRADABAN´, THE WELL OF. Keelta’s praises of, 282, 283

TRANSMIGRATION. The doctrine of, allegation that Celtic idea of
            immortality embodied Oriental conception of, 80;
  doctrine of, not held by Celts in same way as by Pythagoras and the
              Orientals, 81;
  Welsh Taliessin who became an eagle, 100.
  See Tuan mac Carell

TRENDORN. Conor’s servant, 199;
  spies on Deirdre, 200;
  is blinded in one eye by Naisi, 200;
  declares Deirdre’s beauty to Conor, 200

TREON (tray’on). Father of Vivionn, 287

TRISTAN AND ISEULT. Tale of Dermot and Grania paralleled in story as told
            by Heinrich von Freiberg, 299

TROYES. See Chrestien de Troyes

TUAN MAC CARELL. The legend of, recorded in MS. “Book of the Dun Cow,” 97;
  king of all deer in Ireland, 99;
  name of “gods” given to the People of Dana by, 104

TUATHA DE DANANN (thoo’a-haw day danawn’). Literal meaning, “the folk of
            the god whose mother is Dana,” 103

TUMULI. See Dolmens, 53

TURENN. The quest of the Sons of, 113-116;
  reference to Lugh in the quest of the Sons of, 123

TWRCH TRWYTH (toorch troo’-with). A king in shape of a monstrous boar, 391

TYLER. Reference of, in his “Primitive Culture,” to festival of Sun-god,
            Tezcatlipoca, 77

TYLWYTH TEG. Welsh fairies;
  Gwyn ap Nudd, King of the, 353

TYREN. Sister to Murna, 266;
  Ullan, husband of, 266;
  changed by a woman of the Fairy Folk into a hound, 266


UGAINY THE GREAT (oo’gany). Ruler of Ireland, &c., husband of Kesair,
            father of Laery and Covac, 152

ULSTER. Kingdom of, founded in reign of Kimbay, 150;
  Dithorba’s five sons expelled from, 151;
  Dectera’s gift of Cuchulain to, 182;
  Conor, King of, 180, 190, 191;
  Felim, son of Dall, a lord of, 196;
  Maev’s war against province of, to secure Brown Bull of Quelgny,
  under the Debility curse, 205;
  passes of, guarded by Cuchulain of Murthemney, 206;
  aroused by Sualtam, 221, 222;
  Macha’s curse lifted from men of, 222;
  Ailell and Maev make a seven years’ peace with, 225;
  curse of Macha again on the men of, 229;
  Wee Folk swarm into 248, 249

ULTONIAN-S. Great fair of, visited by Crundchu, 178;
  his boast of Macha’s swiftness, 179;
  the debility of, caused by Macha’s curse, 179, 180;
  the debility of, descends on Ulster, 205;
  Cycle, events of, supposed to have happened about time of Christ, 252

UNDERWORLD. The cult of, found existing by Celts when they got to Western
            Europe, 82;
  Dis, or Pluto, god of, 88;
  Māth, god of, 349;
  identical with Land of the Dead, 130

USNA. Father of Naisi, 198;
  sons of, inquired for by Conor, 199

UTHER PENDRAGON. Father of Arthur, 337


VALLEY OF THE THRUSHES. Oisīn’s spell broken in, 274

VEIL OF ILLUSION, THE. Thrown over Caradawc by Caswallan, 372

VERCINGETORIX. Celtic chief;
  his defeat by Cæsar, his death, 40

VERGIL. Evidence of Celtic ancestry in name, 21.
  See Feryllt, 413

VITRA. The God of Evil in Vedantic mythology, related to _Cenchos_, the
            Footless, 97

VIVIONN (BEBHIONN). A young giantess, daughter of Treon, from the Land of
            Maidens, 287;
  slain by Æda, and buried in the place called the Ridge of the Dead, 288



WACE. Author of “Li Romans de Brut,” 338

WALES. Arthurian saga in, 343, 344;
  prophecy of Taliesin about, 385

WAVE OF CLEENA. See Tonn Cliodhna

WEE FOLK, THE. Fergus mac Leda and, 246-249;
  Iubdan, King of, 246

WELL OF KESAIR. Mac Cecht visits, 175

WELL OF KNOWLEDGE. Equivalent, Connla’s Well.
  Sinend’s fatal visit to, 129

WELSH FAIRIES. See Tylwyth Teg

WELSH LITERATURE. The Arthur in the Arthurian saga wholly different from
            the Arthur in, 336;
  compared with Irish, 344;
  tales of Arthur in, 386

WELSH MS. SOCIETY. Llewellyn Sion’s “Barddas” edited by J.A. Williams ap
            Ithel for, 332

WELSH ROMANCE. The character of, 395, 396

WESTON, MISS JESSIE L. Reference to her studies on the Arthurian saga, 341

WILLIAM THE CONQUEROR. Reference to, in connexion with Arthurian saga, 343

WOLFRAM VON ESCHENBACH. His story of the Grail, 407


YELLOW BOOK OF LECAN. Tale of Cuchulain and Connla in, 192

YOUTH. The maiden who gave the Love Spot to Dermot, 292

YSPADDADEN PENKAWR (is-pa-dhad’en). Father of Olwen, 387;
  the tasks he set Kilhwch, 390-392;
  slain by Goreu son of Custennin, 392


ZIMMER, DR. HEINRICH. On the source of the Arthurian saga, 343

ZOROASTER. Religion of magic invented by, 61

    1 In reference to the name “Freeman,” Mr. Nicholson adds: “No one was
      more intensely ‘English’ in his sympathies than the great historian
      of that name, and probably no one would have more strenuously
      resisted the suggestion that he might be of Welsh descent; yet I
      have met his close physical counterpart in a Welsh farmer (named
      Evans) living within a few minutes of Pwllheli.”

    2 He speaks of “Nyrax, a Celtic city,” and “Massalia [Marseilles], a
      city of Liguria in the land of the Celts” (“Fragmenta Hist. Græc.”).

    3 In his “Premiers Habitants de l’Europe,” vol. ii.

    4 “Cæesar’s Conquest of Gaul,” pp. 251-327.

    5 The ancients were not very close observers of physical
      characteristics. They describe the Celts in almost exactly the same
      terms as those which they apply to the Germanic races. Dr. Rice
      Holmes is of opinion that the real difference, physically, lay in
      the fact that the fairness of the Germans was blond, and that of the
      Celts red. In an interesting passage of the work already quoted (p.
      315) he observes that, “Making every allowance for the admixture of
      other blood, which must have considerably modified the type of the
      original Celtic or Gallic invaders of these islands, we are struck
      by the fact that among all our Celtic-speaking fellow subjects there
      are to be found numerous specimens of a type which also exists in
      those parts of Brittany which were colonised by British invaders,
      and in those parts of Gaul in which the Gallic invaders appear to
      have settled most thickly, as well as in Northern Italy, where the
      Celtic invaders were once dominant; and also by the fact that this
      type, _even among the more blond representatives of it, is
      strikingly different, to the casual as well as to the scientific
      observer, from that of the purest representatives of the ancient
      Germans_. The well-known picture of Sir David Wilkie, ‘Reading of
      the Waterloo Gazette,’ illustrates, as Daniel Wilson remarked, the
      difference between the two types. Put a Perthshire Highlander side
      by side with a Sussex farmer. Both will be fair; but the red hair
      and beard of the Scot will be in marked contrast with the fair hair
      of the Englishman, and their features will differ still more
      markedly. I remember teeing two gamekeepers in a railway carriage
      running from Inverness to Lairey. They were tall, athletic, fair
      men, evidently belonging to the Scandinavian type, which, as Dr.
      Beddoe says, is so common in the extreme north of Scotland; but both
      in colouring and in general aspect they were utterly different from
      the tall, fair Highlanders whom I had seen in Perthshire. There was
      not a trace of red in their hair, their long beards being absolutely
      yellow. The prevalence of red among the Celtic-speaking people is,
      it seems to me, a most striking characteristic. Not only do we find
      eleven men in every hundred whose hair is absolutely red, but
      underlying the blacks and the dark browns the lame tint is to be

    6 See the map of comparative nigrescence given in Ripley’s “Races of
      Europe,” p. 318. In France, however, the Bretons are not a dark race
      relatively to the rest of the population. They are composed partly
      of the ancient Gallic peoples and partly of settlers from Wales who
      were driven out by the Saxon invasion.

    7 See for these names Holder’s “Altceltischer Sprachschatz.”

    8 Vergil might possibly mean “the very-bright” or illustrious one, a
      natural form for a proper name. _Ver_ in Gallic names
      (Vercingetorix, Vercassivellasimus, &c.) is often an intensive
      prefix, like the modern Irish _fior_. The name of the village where
      Vergil was born, Andes (now Pietola), is Celtic. His love of nature,
      his mysticism, and his strong feeling for a certain decorative
      quality in language and rhythm are markedly Celtic qualities.
      Tennyson’s phrases for him, “landscape-lover, lord of language,” are
      suggestive in this connexion.

    9 Ptolemy, a friend, and probably, indeed, half-brother, of Alexander,
      was doubtless present when this incident took place. His work has
      not survived, but is quoted by Arrian and other historians.

   10 One is reminded of the folk-tale about Henny Penny, who went to tell
      the king that the sky was falling.

   11 The Book of Leinster is a manuscript of the twelfth century. The
      version of the “Táin” given in it probably dates from the eighth.
      See de Jubainville, “Premiers Habitants,” ii. 316.

   12 Dr. Douglas Hyde in his “Literary History of Ireland” (p. 7) gives a
      slightly different translation.

   13 It is also a testimony to the close accuracy of the narrative of

   14 Roman history tells of various conflicts with the Celts during this
      period, but de Jubainville has shown that these narratives are
      almost entirely mythical. See “Premiers Habitants,” ii. 318-323.

_   15 E.g.,_ Moymell (_magh-meala_), the Plain of Honey, a Gaelic name
      for Fairyland, and many place-names.

   16 For these and many other examples see de Jubainville’s “Premiers
      Habitants,” ii. 255 _sqq._

   17 Quoted by Mr. Romilly Allen in “Celtic Art,” p. 136.

   18 “Premiers Habitants,” ii. 355, 356.

   19 Irish is probably an older form of Celtic speech than Welsh. This is
      shown by many philological peculiarities of the Irish language, of
      which one of the most interesting may here be briefly referred to.
      The Goidelic or Gaelic Celts, who, according to the usual theory,
      first colonised the British Islands, and who were forced by
      successive waves of invasion by their Continental kindred to the
      extreme west, had a peculiar dislike to the pronunciation of the
      letter _p_. Thus the Indo-European particle _pare_, represented by
      Greek _παρά_, beside or close to, becomes in early Celtic _are_, as
      in the name _Are-morici_ (the Armoricans, those who dwell _ar muir_,
      by the sea); _Are-dunum_ (Ardin, in France); _Are-cluta_, the place
      beside the Clota (Clyde), now Dumbarton; _Are-taunon,_ in Germany
      (near the Taunus Mountains), &c. When this letter was not simply
      dropped it was usually changed into _c (k, g)_. But about the sixth
      century B.C. a remarkable change passed over the language of the
      Continental Celts. They gained in some unexplained way the faculty
      for pronouncing _p_, and even substituted it for existing _c_
      sounds; thus the original _Cretanis_ became _Pretanis_, Britain, the
      numeral _qetuares_ (four) became _petuares_, and so forth. Celtic
      place-names in Spain show that this change must have taken place
      before the Celtic conquest of that country, 500 B.C. Now a
      comparison of many Irish and Welsh words shows distinctly this
      avoidance of _p_ on the Irish side and lack of any objection to it
      on the Welsh. The following are a few illustrations:

      _Irish_        _Welsh_   _English_
      crann          prenn     tree
      mac            map       ton
      cenn           pen       head
      clumh (cluv)   pluv      feather
      cúig           pimp      five

      The conclusion that Irish must represent the older form of the
      language seems obvious. It is remarkable that even to a
      comparatively late date the Irish preserved their dislike to _p_.
      Thus they turned the Latin _Pascha_ (Easter) to _Casg; purpur_,
      purple, to _corcair, pulsatio_ (through French _pouls_) to _cuisle_.
      It must be noted, however, that Nicholson in his “Keltic Researches”
      endeavours to show that the so-called Indo-European _p_—that is, _p_
      standing alone and uncombined with another consonant—was pronounced
      by the Goidelic Celts at an early period. The subject can hardly be
      said to be cleared up yet.

   20 The Irish, says Edmund Spenser, in his “View of the Present State of
      Ireland,” “use commonyle to send up and down to know newes, and yf
      any meet with another, his second woorde is, What newes?”

   21 Compare Spenser: “I have heard some greate warriors say, that in all
      the services which they had seen abroad in forrayne countreys, they
      never saw a more comely horseman than the Irish man, nor that cometh
      on more bravely in his charge ... they are very valiante and hardye,
      for the most part great endurours of cold, labour, hunger and all
      hardiness, very active and stronge of hand, very swift of foote,
      very vigilaunte and circumspect in theyr enterprises, very present
      in perrils, very great scorners of death.”

   22 The scene of the surrender of Vercingetorix is not recounted by
      Cæsar, and rests mainly on the authority of Plutarch and of the
      historian Florus, but it is accepted by scholars (Mommsen, Long,
      &c.) as historic.

   23 These were a tribe who took their name from the _gæsum_, a kind of
      Celtic javelin, which was their principal weapon. The torque, or
      twisted collar of gold, is introduced as a typical ornament in the
      well-known statue of the dying Gaul, commonly called “The Dying
      Gladiator.” Many examples are preserved in the National Museum of

   24 “Cæsar’s Conquest of Gaul,” pp. 10, 11. Let it be added that the
      aristocratic Celts were, like the Teutons, dolichocephalic—that is
      to say, they had heads long in proportion to their breadth. This is
      proved by remains found in the basin of the Marne, which was thickly
      populated by them. In one case the skeleton of the tall Gallic
      warrior was found with his war-car, iron helmet, and sword, now in
      the Music de St.-Germain. The inhabitants of the British Islands are
      uniformly long-headed, the round-headed “Alpine” type occurring very
      rarely. Those of modern France are round-headed. The shape of the
      head, however, is now known to be by no means a constant racial
      character. It alters rapidly in a new environment, as is shown by
      measurements of the descendants of immigrants in America. See an
      article on this subject by Professor Haddon in “Nature,” Nov. 3,

   25 In the “Tain Bo Cuailgne,” for instance, the King of Ulster must not
      speak to a messenger until the Druid, Cathbad, has questioned him.
      One recalls the lines of Sir Samuel Ferguson in his Irish epic poem,

      “... For ever since the time When Cathbad smothered Usnach’s sons in
      that foul sea of slime Raised by abominable spells at Creeveroe’s
      bloody gate, Do ruin and dishonour still on priest-led kings await.”

_   26 Celtice_, Diarmuid mac Cearbhaill.

   27 It was the practice, known in India also, for a person who was
      wronged by a superior, or thought himself so, to sit before the
      doorstep of the denier of justice and fast until right was done him.
      In Ireland a magical power was attributed to the ceremony, the
      effect of which would be averted by the other person fasting as

   28 “Silva Gadelica,” by S.H. O’Grady, p. 73.

   29 The authority here quoted is a narrative contained in a
      fifteenth-century vellum manuscript found in Lismore Castle in 1814,
      and translated by S.H. O’Grady in his “Silva Gadelica.” The
      narrative is attributed to an officer of Dermot’s court.

   30 From Greek _megas_, great, and _lithos_, a stone.

   31 See p. 78.

   32 See Borlase’s “Dolmens of Ireland,” pp. 605, 606, for a discussion
      of this question.

   33 Professor Ridgeway (see Report of the Brit. Assoc. for 1908) has
      contended that the Megalithic People spoke an Aryan language;
      otherwise he thinks more traces of its influence must have survived
      in the Celtic which supplanted it. The weight of authority, as well
      as such direct evidence as we possess, seems to be against his view.

   34 See Holder,“Altceltischer Sprachschatz.” _sulb voce_ “Hyperboreoi.”

   35 Thus the Greek _pharmakon_=medicine, poison, or charm; and I am
      informed that the Central African word for magic or charm is
      _mankwala_, which also means medicine.

   36 If Pliny meant that it was here first codified and organised he may
      be right, but the conceptions on which magic rest are practically
      universal, and of immemorial antiquity.

   37 Adopted 451 B.C. Livy entitles them “the fountain of all public and
      private right.” They stood in the Forum till the third century A.D.,
      but have now perished, except for fragments preserved in various

   38 See “Revue Archeologique,” t. xii., 1865, “Fouilles de René Galles.”

   39 Jade is not found in the native state in Europe, nor nearer than

   40 Small stones, crystals, and gems were, however, also venerated. The
      celebrated Black Stone of Pergamos was the subject of an embassy
      from Rome to that city in the time of the Second Punic War, the
      Sibylline Books having predicted victory to its possessors. It was
      brought to Rome with great rejoicings in the year 205. It is stated
      to have been about the size of a man’s fist, and was probably a
      meteorite. Compare the myth in Hesiod which relates how Kronos
      devoured a stone in the belief that it was his offspring, Zeus. It
      was then possible to mistake a stone for a god.

   41 Replaced by a photograph in this edition.

   42 See Sir J. Simpson’s “Archaic Sculpturings” 1867.

   43 The fact is recorded in the “Annals of the Four Masters” Under the
      date 861, and in the “Annals of Ulster” under 862.

   44 See “Transactions of the Royal Irish Academy,” vol. xxx. pt. i.,
      1892, and “New Grange,” by G. Coffey, 1912.

   45 It must be observed, however, that the decoration was, certainly, in
      some, and perhaps in all cases, carried out before the stones were
      placed in position. This is also the case at Gavr’inis.

   46 He has modified this view in his latest work, “New Grange,” 1912.

   47 “Proc. Royal Irish Acad.,” vol. viii. 1863, p. 400, and G. Coffey,
      _op. cit._ p. 30.

   48 “Les Sculptures de Rochers de la Suède,” read at the Prehistoric
      Congress, Stockholm, 1874; and see G. Coffey, _op. cit._ p. 60.

   49 “Dolmens of Ireland,” pp. 701-704.

   50 “The Religion of Babylonia and Assyria.”

   51 A good example from Amaravati (after Fergusson) is given by
      Bertrand, “Rel. des G.,” p. 389.

   52 Sergi, “The Mediterranean Race,” p. 313.

   53 At Lökeberget, Bohuslän; see Monteiius, _op. cit._

   54 See Lord Kingsborough’s “Antiquities of Mexico,” _passim_, and the
      Humboldt fragment of Mexican painting (reproduced in Churchward’s
      “Signs and Symbols of Primordial Man”).

   55 See Sergi, _op. cit._ p. 290, for the _Ankh_ on a French dolmen.

   56 “Bulletin de la Soc. d’Anthropologie,” Paris, April 1893.

   57 “The Welsh People,” pp. 616-664, where the subject is fully
      discussed in an appendix by Professor J. Morris Jones. “The
      pre-Aryan idioms which still live in Welsh and Irish were derived
      from a language allied to Egyptian and the Berber tongues.”

   58 Flinders Petrie, “Egypt and Israel,” pp. 137, 899.

   59 I quote from Mr. H.B. Cotterill’s beautiful hexameter version.

   60 Valerius Maximus (about A.D 30) and other classical writers mention
      this practice.

   61 Book V.

   62 De Jubainville, “Irish Mythological Cycle,” p.191 _sqq._

   63 The etymology of the word “Druid” is no longer an unsolved problem.
      It had been suggested that the latter part of the word might be
      connected with the Aryan root VID, which appears in “wisdom,” in the
      Latin _videre_, &c., Thurneysen has now shown that this root in
      combination with the intensive particle _dru_ would yield the word
      _dru-vids_, represented in Gaelic by _draoi_, a Druid, just as
      another intensive, _su_, with _vids_ yields the Gaelic _saoi_, a

   64 See Rice Holmes, “Cæsar’s Conquest,” p. 15, and pp. 532-536. Rhys,
      it may be observed, believes that Druidism was the religion of the
      aboriginal inhabitants of Western Europe “from the Baltic to
      Gibraltar” (“Celtic Britain,” p. 73). But we only _know_ of it where
      Celts and dolmen-builders combined. Cæsar remarks of the Germans
      that they had no Druids and cared little about sacrificial

   65 “Rel. des Gaulois,” leçon xx.

   66 Quoted by Bertrand, _op. cit._ p. 279.

   67 “The Irish Mythological Cycle,” by d’Arbois de Jubainville, p. 6l.
      The “Dinnsenchus” in question is an early Christian document. No
      trace of a being like Crom Cruach has been found as yet in the pagan
      literature of Ireland, nor in the writings of St. Patrick, and I
      think it is quite probable that even in the time of St. Patrick
      human sacrifices had become only a memory.

   68 A representation of human sacrifice has, however, lately been
      discovered in a Temple of the Sun in the ancient Ethiopian capital,

   69 “You [Celts] who by cruel blood outpoured think to appease the
      pitiless Teutates, the horrid Æsus with his barbarous altars, and
      Taranus whose worship is no gentler than that of the Scythian
      Diana”, to whom captive were offered up. (Lucan, “Pharsalia”, i.
      444.) An altar dedicated to Æsus has been discovered in Paris.

   70 Mont Mercure, Mercœur, Mercoirey, Montmartre (_Mons Mercurii_), &c.

   71 To this day in many parts of France the peasantry use terms like
      _annuit, o’né, anneue_, &c., all meaning “to-night,” for
      _aujourd’hui_ (Bertrand, “Rel. des G.,” p. 356).

   72 The _fili_, or professional poets, it must be remembered, were a
      branch of the Druidic order.

   73 For instance, Pelagius in the fifth century; Columba, Columbanus,
      and St. Gall in the sixth; Fridolin, named _Viator_, “the
      Traveller,” and Fursa in the seventh; Virgilius (Feargal) of
      Salzburg, who had to answer at Rome for teaching the sphericity of
      the earth, in the eighth; Dicuil, “the Geographer,” and Johannes
      Scotus Erigena—the master mind of his epoch—in the ninth.

   74 Dealgnaid. I have been obliged here, as occasionally elsewhere, to
      modify the Irish names so as to make them pronounceable by English

   75 See p. 48, _note_ 1.

   76 I follow in this narrative R.I. Best’s translation of the “Irish
      Mythological Cycle” of d’Arbois de Jubainville.

   77 De Jubainville, “Irish Mythological Cycle,” p. 75.

   78 Pronounced “Yeo´hee.” See Glossary for this and other words.

   79 The science of the Druids, as we have seen, was conveyed in verse,
      and the professional poets were a branch of the Druidic Order.

   80 Meyer and Nutt, “Voyage of Bran,” ii. 197.

   81 “Moytura” means “The Plain of the Towers”—_i.e._, sepulchral

   82 Shakespeare alludes to this in “As You Like It.” “I never was so
      be-rhymed,” says Rosalind, “since Pythagoras’ time, that I was an
      Irish rat—which I can hardly remember.”

   83 Lyons, Leyden, Laon were all in ancient times known as _Lug-dunum,_
      the Fortress of Lugh. _Luguvallum_ was the name of a town near
      Hadrian’s Wall in Roman Britain.

   84 It is given by him in a note to the “Four Masters,” vol. i. p. 18,
      and is also reproduced by de Jubainville.

   85 The other two were “The Fate of the Children of Lir” and “The Fate
      of the Sons of Usna.” The stories of the Quest of the Sons of Turenn
      and that of the Children of Lir have been told in full by the author
      in his “High Deeds of Finn and other Bardic Romances,” and that of
      the “Sons of Usna” (the Deirdre Legend) by Miss Eleanor Hull in her
      “Cuchulain,” both published by Harrap and Co

   86 O’Curry’s translation from the bardic tale, “The Battle of Moytura.”

   87 O’Curry, “Manners and Customs,” iii. 214.

   88 The ancient Irish division of the year contained only these three
      seasons, including autumn in summer (O’Curry, “Manners and Customs,”
      iii. 217).]

   89 S.H. O’Grady, “Silva Gadelica,” p. 191.

   90 Pp. 104 _sqq._, and _passim_.

   91 O’Grady, _loc. cit._

   92 O’Grady, _loc. cit._

   93 See p. 112.

   94 Miss Hull has discussed this subject fully in the introduction to
      her invaluable work, “The Cuchullin Saga.”

   95 See the tale of “Etain and Midir,” in Chap. IV.

   96 The name Tara is derived from an oblique case of the nominative
      _Teamhair_, meaning “the place of the wide prospect.” It is now a
      broad grassy hill, in Co. Meath, covered with earthworks
      representing the sites of the ancient royal buildings, which can all
      be clearly located from ancient descriptions.

   97 A.H. Leahy, “Heroic Romances,” i. 27.

   98 See p. 114.

   99 I cannot agree with Mr. O’Grady’s identification of this goddess
      with Dana, though the name appears to mean “The Great Queen.”

  100 Gerald, the fourth Earl of Desmond. He disappeared, it is said, in
      1398, and the legend goes that he still lives beneath the waters of
      Loch Gur, and may be seen riding round its banks on his white steed
      once every seven years. He was surnamed “Gerald the Poet” from the
      “witty and ingenious” verses he composed in Gaelic. Wizardry,
      poetry, and science were all united in one conception in the mind of
      the ancient Irish.

  101 “Popular Tales of Ireland,” by D. Fitzgerald, in “Revue Celtique,”
      vol. iv.

  102 “The Voyage of Bran,” vol. ii. p. 219.

  103 In Irish, _Sionnain_.

  104 Translation by R.I. Best.

  105 The solar vessels found in dolmen carvings. See Chap. II. p. 71
      _sqq_. Note that the Celtic spirits, though invisible, are material
      and have weight; not so those in Vergil and Dante.

  106 De Jubainville, “Irish Mythological Cycle,” p. 136. Beltené is the
      modern Irish name for the month of May, and is derived from an
      ancient root preserved in the Old Irish compound _epelta_, “dead.”

  107 “Irish Mythological Cycle,” p. 138.

  108 I follow again de Jubainville’s translation; but in connexion with
      this and the previous poems see also Ossianic Society’s
      “Transactions,” vol. v.

  109 Teltin; so named after the goddess Telta. See p. 103.

  110 Pronounced “Shee.” It means literally the People of the [Fairy]

  111 Pronounced “Eefa.”

  112 This name means “The Maid of the Fair Shoulder.”

  113 The story here summarised is given in full in the writer’s “High
      Deeds of Finn” (Harrap and Co.).

  114 It may be mentioned that the syllable “Kill,” which enters into so
      many Irish place-names (Kilkenny, Killiney, Kilcooley, &c.), usually
      represents the Latin _cella_, a monastic cell, shrine, or church.

  115 Cleena (_Cliodhna_) was a Danaan princess about whom a legend is
      told connected with the Bay of Glandore in Co. Cork. See p. 127.

  116 See p. 85.

  117 “Omnia monumenta Scotorum ante Cimbaoth incerta erant.” Tierna, who
      died in 1088, was Abbot of Clonmacnois, a great monastic and
      educational centre in mediæval Ireland.

  118 Compare the fine poem of a modern Celtic writer (Sir Samuel
      Ferguson), “The Widow’s Cloak”—_i.e._, the British Empire in the
      days of Queen Victoria.

  119 “Critical History of Ireland,” p. 180.

  120 Pronounced “El´yill.”

  121 The ending _ster_ in three of the names of the Irish provinces is of
      Norse origin, and is a relic of the Viking conquests in Ireland.
      Connacht, where the Vikings did not penetrate, alone preserves its
      Irish name unmodified. Ulster (in Irish _Ulaidh_) is supposed to
      derive its name from Ollav Fōla, Munster (_Mumhan_) from King Eocho
      Mumho, tenth in succession from Eremon, and Connacht was “the land
      of the children of Conn”—he who was called Conn of the Hundred
      Battles, and who died A.D. 157.

  122 The reader may, however, be referred to the tale of Etain and Midir
      as given in full by A.H. Leahy (“Heroic Romances of Ireland”), and
      by the writer in his “High Deeds of Finn,” and to the tale of Conary
      rendered by Sir S. Ferguson (“Poems,” 1886), in what Dr. Whitley
      Stokes has described as the noblest poem ever written by an

  123 Pronounced “Yeo´hee.”

  124 I quote Mr. A.H. Leahy’s translation from a fifteenth-century
      Egerton manuscript (“Heroic Romances of Ireland,” vol. i. p. 12).
      The story is, however, found in much more ancient authorities.

  125 Ogham letters, which were composed of straight lines arranged in a
      certain order about the axis formed by the edge of a squared
      pillar-stone, were used for sepulchral inscription and writing
      generally before the introduction of the Roman alphabet in Ireland.

  126 The reference is to the magic swine of Mananan, which were killed
      and eaten afresh every day, and whose meat preserved the eternal
      youth of the People of Dana.

  127 See p. 124.

  128 The meaning quoted will be found in the Dictionary under the
      alternative form _geas_

  129 I quote from Whitley Stokes’ translation, _Revue Celtique_, January
      1901, and succeeding numbers.

  130 Bregia was the great plain lying eastwards of Tara between Boyne and

  131 “The Destruction of Da Derga’s Hostel.”

  132 Pronounced “Koohoo´lin.”

  133 See p. 150.

  134 See pp. 121-123 for an account of this deity.

  135 It is noticeable that among the characters figuring in the Ultonian
      legendary cycle many names occur of which the word _Cu_ (hound)
      forms a part. Thus we have Curoi, Cucorb, Beälcu, &c. The reference
      is no doubt to the Irish wolf-hound, a fine type of valour and

  136 Now Lusk, a village on the coast a few miles north of Dublin.

  137 Owing to the similarity of the name the supernatural country of
      Skatha, “the Shadowy,” was early identified with the islands of
      Skye, where the Cuchulain Peaks still bear witness to the legend.

  138 This, of course, was Cuchulain’s father, Lugh.

  139 This means probably “the belly spear.” With this terrible weapon
      Cuchulain was fated in the end to slay his friend Ferdia.

  140 See genealogical table, p. 181.

  141 Miss Hull, “The Cuchullin Saga,” p. lxxii, where the solar theory of
      the Brown Bull is dealt with at length.

  142 A _cumal_ was the unit of value in Celtic Ireland. It is mentioned
      as such by St. Patrick. It meant the price of a woman-slave.

  143 The cune laid on them by Macha. Sec p. 180.

  144 Cuchulain, as the son of the god Lugh, was not subject to the curse
      of Macha which afflicted the other Ultonians.

  145 His reputed father, the mortal husband of Dectera

  146 In the Irish bardic literature, as in the Homeric epics, chastity
      formed no part of the masculine ideal either for gods or men.

  147 “The Ford of the Forked Pole.”

  148 I quote from Standish Hayes O’Grady’s translation, in Miss Hull’s
      “Cuchullin Saga.”

_  149 Ath Fherdia_, which is pronounced and now spelt “Ardee.” It is in
      Co. Louth, at the southern border of the Plain of Murthemney, which
      was Cuchulain’s territory.

  150 See p. 126.

  151 In ancient Ireland there were five provinces, Munster being counted
      as two, or, as some ancient authorities explain it, the High King’s
      territory in Meath and Westmeath being reckoned a separate province.

  152 “Clan” in Gaelic means children or offspring. Clan Calatin=the sons
      of Calatin.

  153 Together with much that is wild and barbaric in this Irish epic of
      the “Tain” the reader will be struck by the ideals of courtesy and
      gentleness which not infrequently come to light in it. It must be
      remembered that, as Mr. A.H. Leahy points out in his “Heroic
      Romances of Ireland,” the legend of the Raid of Quelgny is, at the
      very latest, a century earlier than all other known romances of
      chivalry, Welsh or Continental. It is found in the “Book of
      Leinster,” a manuscript of the twelfth century, as well as in other
      sources, and was doubtless considerably older than the date of its
      transcription there. “The whole thing,” says Mr. Leahy, “stands at
      the very beginning of the literature of modern Europe.”

  154 Another instance of the survival of the oath formula recited by the
      Celtic envoys to Alexander the Great. See p. 23.

  155 “Rising-out” is the vivid expression used by Irish writers for a
      clan or territory going on the war-path. “Hosting” is also used in a
      similar sense.

  156 See p. 130.

  157 The sword of Fergus was a fairy weapon called the _Caladcholg_ (hard
      dinter), a name of which Arthur’s more famous “Excalibur” is a
      Latinised corruption.

  158 The reference is to Deirdre.

  159 See p. 211.

  160 A.H. Leahy’s translation, “Heroic Romances of Ireland,” vol. i.

  161 The cloak of Mananan (see p. 125) typifies the sea—here, in its
      dividing and estranging power.

  162 This Curoi appears in various tales of the Ultonian Cycle with
      attributes which show that he was no mortal king, but a local deity.

  163 This apparition of the Washer of the Ford is of frequent occurrence
      in Irish legend.

  164 See p. 164 for the reference to _geis_. “His namesake” refers, of
      course, to the story of the Hound of Cullan, pp. 183, 184.

  165 It was a point of honour to refuse nothing to a bard; one king is
      said to have given his eye when it was demanded of him.

_  166 Craobh Ruadh_—the Red Branch hostel.

  167 The story is told in full in the author’s “High Deeds of Finn.”

  168 Pronounced “Bay-al-koo.”

  169 Inis Clothrann, now known as Quaker’s Island. The pool no longer

  170 “Youb´dan.”

  171 Dr. P. W. Joyce’s “Irish Names of Places” is a storehouse of
      information on this subject.

  172 P. 211, _note_.

  173 The name is given both to the hill, _ard_, and to the ford, _atha_
      beneath it.

  174 Pronounced “mac Cool.”

  175 Pronounced “Usheen.”

  176 Subject, of course, to the possibility that the present revival of
      Gaelic as a spoken tongue may lead to the opening of a new chapter
      in that history.

  177 See “Ossian and Ossianic Literature,” by Alfred Nutt, p. 4.

  178 Now Castleknock, near Dublin.

  179 In the King’s County.

  180 The hill still bears the name, Knockanar.

  181 Glanismole, near Dublin.

  182 Talkenn, or “Adze-head,” was a name given to St. Patrick by the
      Irish. Probably it referred to the shape of his tonsure.

  183 Pronounced “Sleeve-na-mon´”: accent on last syllable. It means the
      Mountain of the [Fairy] Women.

  184 Translation by S.H. O’Grady.

  185 See p. 105.

  186 Examples of these have been published, with translations, in the
      “Transactions of the Ossianic Society.”

  187 Taken down from the recital of a peasant in Co. Galway and published
      at Rennes in Dr. Hyde’s “An Sgeuluidhe Gaodhalach,” vol. ii. (no

  188 Now Athlone (_Atha Luain_).

  189 How significant is this naïve indication that the making of forays
      on his neighbours was regarded in Celtic Ireland as the natural and
      laudable occupation of a country gentleman! Compare Spenser’s
      account of the ideals fostered by the Irish bards of his time, “View
      of the Present State of Ireland,” p. 641 (Globe edition).

  190 Dr. John Todhunter, in his “Three Irish Bardic Tales,” has alone, I
      think, kept the antique ending of the tale of Deirdre.

  191 “Waifs and Strays of Celtic Tradition,” Argyllshire Series. The tale
      was taken down in verse, word for word, from the dictation of
      Roderick mac Fadyen in Tiree, 1868.

  192 Here we have evidently a reminiscence of Briccriu of the Poisoned
      Tongue, the mischief-maker of the Ultonians.

  193 The Arans are three islands at the entrance of Galway Bay. They are
      a perfect museum of mysterious ruins.

  194 Pronounced “Ghermawn”—the “G” hard.

  195 Horse-racing was a particular delight to the ancient Irish, and is
      mentioned in a ninth-century poem in praise of May as one of the
      attractions of that month. The name of the month of May given in an
      ancient Gaulish calendar means “the month of horse-racing.”

  196 The same phenomenon is recorded as being witnessed by Peredur in the
      Welsh tale of that name in the “Mabinogion.”

  197 Like the bridge to Skatha’t dūn, p. 188.

  198 Probably we are to understand that he was an anchorite seeking for
      an islet on which to dwell in solitude and contemplation. The
      western islands of Ireland abound in the ruins of huts and oratories
      built by single monks or little communities.

  199 Tennyson has been particularly happy in his description of these
      undersea islands.

  200 Ps. ciii. 5.

  201 This disposes of the last of the foster-brothers, who should not
      have joined the party.

  202 Tory Island, off the Donegal coast. There was there a monastery and
      a church dedicated to St. Columba.

  203 “One day we shall delight in the remembrance of these things.” The
      quotation is from Vergil, “Æn.” i. 203  “Sacred poet” is a
      translation of the _vates sacer_ of Horace.

  204 This sage and poet has not been identified from any other record.
      Praise and thanks to him, whoever he may have been.

  205 “The Mabinogion,” pp. 45 and 54.

  206 Pronounced “Annoon.” It was the word used in the early literature
      for Hades or Fairyland.

  207 “Barddas,” vol. i. pp. 224 _sqq_.

  208 Strange as it may seem to us, the character of this object was by no
      means fixed from the beginning. In the poem of Wolfram von
      Eschenbach it is a stone endowed with magical properties. The word
      is derived by the early fabulists from _gréable_, something pleasant
      to possess and enjoy, and out of which one could have _à son gré_,
      whatever he chose of good things. The Grail legend will be dealt
      with later in connexion with the Welsh tale “Peredur.”

  209 Distinguished by these from the other great storehouse of poetic
      legend, the _Matière de Bretagne—i.e._, the Arthurian saga.

  210 See p. 103.

  211 “Cultur der Gegenwart,” i. ix.

  212 A list of them is given in Lobineau’s “Histoire de Bretagne.”

  213 See, _e.g.,_ pp. 243 and 218, _note_.

  214 See p. 233, and a similar case in the author’s “High Deeds of Finn,”
      p. 82.

  215 See p. 232, and the tale of the recovery of the “Tain,” p. 234.

  216 “Pwyll King of Dyfed,” “Bran and Branwen,” “Math Sor of Māthonwy,”
      and “Manawyddan Son of Llyr.”

  217 See p. 107.

  218 “Hibbert Lectures,” pp. 237-240.

  219 See pp. 88, 109, &c. Lugh, of course, = Lux, Light. The Celtic words
      _Lamh_ and _Llaw_ were used indifferently for hand or arm.

  220 Mr. Squire, in his “Mythology of the British Islands,” 1905, has
      brought together in a clear and attractive form the most recent
      results of studies on this subject.

  221 Finn and Gwyn are respectively the Gaelic and Cymric forms of the
      same name, meaning fair or white.

  222 “Mythology of the British Islands,” p. 225.

  223 The sense appears to be doubtful here, and is variously rendered.

  224 Lloegyr = Saxon Britain.

  225 Rhys, “Hibbert Lectures,” quoting from the ancient saga of Merlin
      published by the English Text Society, p. 693.

  226 “Mythology of the British Islands,” pp. 325, 326; and Rhys, “Hibbert
      Lectures,” p. 155 _sqq_.

  227 In the “Iolo MSS.,” collected by Edward Williams.

  228 See, _e.g._, pp. 111, 272.

  229 We see here that we have got far from primitive Celtic legend. The
      heroes fight like mediaeval knights on horseback, tilting at each
      other with spears, not in chariots or on foot, and not with the
      strange weapons which figure in Gaelic battle-tales.

  230 Hēn, “the Ancient”; an epithet generally implying a hoary antiquity
      associated with mythological tradition.

  231 Pronounced “Pry-dair´y.”

  232 Evidently this was the triangular Norman shield, not the round or
      oval Celtic one. It has already been noticed that in these Welsh
      tales the knights when they fight tilt at each other with spears.

  233 The reader may pronounce this “Matholaw.”

  234 Compare the description of Mac Cecht in the tale of the Hostel of De
      Derga, p. 173.

  235 Where the Tower of London now stands.

  236 These stories, in Ireland and in Wales, always attach themselves to
      actual burial-places. In 1813 a funeral urn containing ashes and
      half-burnt bones was found in the spot traditionally supposed to be
      Branwen’s sepulchre.

  237 Saxon Britain.

  238 This is a distorted reminiscence of the practice which seems to have
      obtained in the courts of Welsh princes, that a high officer should
      hold the king’s feet in his lap while he sat at meat.

  239 “Hawthorn, King of the Giants.”

  240 The gods of the family of Dōn are thus conceived as servitors to
      Arthur, who in this story is evidently the god Artaius.

  241 “She of the White Track.” Compare the description of Etain, pp. 157,

  242 There is no other mention of this Kenverchyn or of how Owain got his
      raven-army, also referred to in “The Dream of Rhonabwy.” We have
      here evidently a piece of antique mythology embedded in a more
      modern fabric.

  243 Like the Breton Tale of “Peronnik the Fool,” translated in “Le Foyer
      Bréton,” by Emile Souvestre. The syllable _Per_ which occurs in all
      forms of the hero’s name means in Welsh and Cornish a bowl or vessel
      (Irish _coire_—see p. 35, note). No satisfactory derivation has in
      any case been found of the latter part of the name.

  244 “They are nourished by a stone of most noble nature ... it is called
      _lapsit exillîs_; the stone is also called the Grail.” The term
      _lapsit exillîs_ appears to be a corruption for _lapis ex celis_,
      “the stone from heaven.”

  245 The true derivation is from the Low Latin _cratella_, a small vessel
      or chalice.

  246 A similar selective action is ascribed to the Grail by Wolfram. It
      can only be lifted by a pure maiden when carried into the hall, and
      a heathen cannot see it or be benefited by it. The same idea is also
      strongly marked in the story narrating the early history of the
      Grail by Robert de Borron, about 1210: the impure and sinful cannot
      benefit by it. Borron, however, does not touch upon the Perceval or
      “quest” portion of the story at all.

  247 Hades.

  248 Caer Vedwyd means the Castle of Revelry. I follow the version of
      this poem given by Squire in his “Mythology of the British Islands,”
      where it may be read in full.

  249 The combination of objects at the Grail Castle is very significant.
      They were a sword, a spear, and a vessel, or, in some versions, a
      stone. These are the magical treasures brought by the Danaans into
      Ireland—a sword, a spear, a cauldron, and a stone. See pp. 105, 106.

  250 The Round Table finds no mention in Cymric legend earlier than the
      fifteenth century.

  251 Vergil, in his mediæval character of magician.

  252 Taliesin.

  253 Alluding to the imaginary Trojan ancestry of the Britons.

  254 I have somewhat abridged this curious poem. The connexion with ideas
      of transmigration, as in the legend of Tuan mac Carell (see pp.
      97-101), is obvious. Tuan’s last stage, it may be recalled, was a
      fish, and Taliesin was taken in a salmon-weir.

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