‘Brown, Black, Grey and Red,
All men and women end up dead.’
It seems to me that this rather macabre Fionn tale, adapted from a collection made by Jeremiah Curtin and first published under the title, ‘Myths and Folk-Lore of Ireland’ in 1890, has a very old strata of wisdom running through it.
The symbolism is clear and relatively unambiguous, and given that the other-worldly treasures initially belonged to him, we are left in no doubt as to the original character of Fionn in the Irish mythos.
There is also a strong emphasis on time and numerical considerations and particularly on the notion of ‘Thirds’, which may, or may not be, linked to the calendar.
Both night and death appear to be thus divided.
It is not beyond the realms of possibility that a large part of the eschatological lore of the old culture could be worked out from this one tale alone.
Are the men in the house of the first watch fighting because they have lost their lives?
What can be made, if anything, of the transition from fire to light on the second watch?
Do the inhabitants of the house then die because they have lost the knife and cup?
And what are we to make of the cannibalistic hag carrying three ‘giants’ in her body?
There seems, at the very least, to be a kind of weird reverse-psychology at play.
What further gems still lie undiscovered in the Folk Record, we may wonder…