Category Archives: Mythology

Isle of Emain…

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A far distant isle

lies in leagues fifty-thrice

over the ocean to the west

larger than Erin, twice.

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Many faceted Emain

encircled by sea

rising from tide into sky

an ever wondrous beauty.

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On the fair isle of Emain

a hoary tree grows

its silver-laced branches

blossom like no-one yet knows.

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Multi-hued birds

sing within the tree tops

on a white-silver plain

do dragon-stones drop.

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Unheard is wailing

as sweet-music strikes ear

it issues through Emain

banishing all fear.

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A band of nine women

come down from a height

over variegate plains

to the seaside, pure-white.

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 Onward they run

to a stone shining-bright

for about it to dance

raising songs in the night.

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The pure man arrives there

 rowing in on the flood

stirring the ocean

as sun turns to blood.

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At dawn he arises

a delight to sore eyes

his coracle of bronze

illumining blue skies.

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 A splendour of colour

glistens in the land

spreads its glorious range

over sea-washed sand.

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The host he brings with him

for long ages stay

their beauty in freshness

knows not death nor decay.

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In happiness and health now

their laughter peals loud

on Emain in each season

reigns joyousness proud.

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My song to you all then

still in strife and in pain

you must voyage on the ocean

to the fair isle of Emain.

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Egg of the Id…

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When Fionn was a boy he was fostered on the hermit, Finaghast, who was to be his instructor.
The old hermit had been living by the river Boyne with the aim of catching the Salmon of Knowledge.
Tradition had it that the first person to taste the flesh of that salmon would receive
the gift of past and future sight and would become the wisest man in all Erin.
Finaghast had spent many years fishing in the river, hoping that
one day the Salmon of Knowledge would swim by.
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One day, as Finaghast was pitching Fionn his, Auraicept, by the river, there were unusual stirrings in the water of the Boyne.
Old man and boy peered into the river and saw a beautiful, speckled salmon swimming swiftly towards them.
“The Salmon of Knowledge!” cried Finaghast running for his fish-net.
As he returned to the river-bank with the fish-net to hand, the Salmon of Knowledge leapt out of the water and gazed into his eyes.
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Finaghast-the-Hermit, immediately collapsed to the ground in a deep sleep, for it was an ability of the Salmon that whosoever its gaze first fell upon when breaching the water course would always be put into such a condition.
Fionn ran to Finaghast and attempted to shake him awake, but to no avail.
With his instructor lost to the world it was left to the pupil to land the fish, which Fionn did, eventually, after an almighty tussle.
Still unable to wake his instructor, Fionn, set about cooking the salmon in the hope that the aroma of the broiling fish would bring old Finaghast round.
It nearly worked too, but just as the fish was softening nicely, and Finaghast began to stir, a drop from the boiling pot fizzed out and caught Fionn plumb on his thumb, so scalding him.
Fionn instinctively stuck his thumb into his mouth to cool it.
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When Finaghast woke from his sleep he noticed a great change in his young pupil.
There was a light behind his eyes, like that of a flame, and his cheeks were glowing brightly.
“Fionn, did you eat of the salmon?” asked Finaghast.
“I did not eat of the salmon,” said Fionn.
“Fionn did you taste any of the salmon at all?” asked Finaghast.
Fionn then explained all that had happened and the old hermit realised that the grace of wisdom had been granted, not to him, but to his foster son…
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A Twice-Stole Spear…

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… “Mananawn’s Mount,” muttered Fin, pensively.

“Yeas!” exclaimed Daatho, “from Sidhe Finnaha, where Leer himself resides, he descends like a fire-storm. That radiant place on the very crest of the height is crowned with flames that leap rubied-red, through the day-light hours, but as night falls it sparks and spits like star-fire, as a guard against the foolish and unwary.”

“Do not the High Ones have their share of our spoil?” asked Fin, “what need has one of theirs to torment us so?”

“If the stone of the hills know it they utter it not,” said Daatho, “yet men will ever spin their yarns to draw out the unknown.”

“What stories have you heard told on this matter?” asked Fin.

“The old men say that it is all on account of a spear. They tell that Cuill, who was once the head of the Fianna, stole the spear from the Fairy Rath of Alain, son of Mithna.”

“And where is that spear now?” shouted Fin.

“Where is last year’s winter?” smiled Daatho.

“Is it with Goll, who is now head of the Fianna?”

“It is not with Goll, no,” said Daatho, “though Goll, it is true, sacked the Dun of Cuill, he did not get the spear, and nor did any man now known.”

“And what of the Fianna?” asked Fin, “has the strength of every champion’s arm been sapped by these fire-storms?”

“You can try the strength of your own arm,” laughed Daatho, “the king has offered their heart-wish, as reward, to any man who can stay the burning of Tara.” …

to be continued

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High-Way to Tara…

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Fin Mac Cuill stood on an out-crop of rock and surveyed the Fortress of Tara…

Brightly coloured banners ran from the breeze over her ornately carved roof-poles…

Long had Fin yearned for this moment, Tara before him and his feet upon the High-Way that led to her…

There was no need now to hasten his steps.

Fin allowed his thoughts to wander…

His mind penetrated the long-roofed halls of Conn, beloved king of his father…

The long-roofed halls where Goll now lorded it…

Goll, Lord of the Fianna…

Goll, slayer of Cuill!

“A heartening sight, is it not?” mused a voice close by him.

Fin turned swiftly in alarm, regretting the loosening of the fetters which normally bound his mind.

The stranger smiled, “Feast your eyes while ye may, stranger, for tomorrow the sun will rise on the charred ruins of that fortress.”

“What man utters such a dire prophecy?” demanded Fin.

“Daatho, utters this prophecy, a man with lands and thralls here. Were you not a stranger you would know that every third Sarwen, Alain, son of Mithna, burns Tara to the ground.

“One man burns Tara to the ground, you say, Daatho?” grinned Fin, disbelieving.

“He is a Crafty One,” said Daatho, “and those that know, of such veiled things, say that he dwells on Smithies Height.” …

to be continued

Sheer Fantasy…

golden-dawn

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Ish-na-e-cha-ge, First-Born-Being, roamed among the Animal-Nations.

He understood their ways and their languages.

They beheld him in wonder and awe and could do nothing without his knowledge.

He pitched his tent in the centre of the land and no spot was impenetrable to his gaze.

Even so he longed for companionship.

From a splinter drawn from his Big-Toe he formed Little-Boy-Man and taught him everything he knew.

Eventually the time came for their parting.

“What shall I do without you?” pleaded Little-Boy-Man.

“If you get stuck,” replied First-Born-Being, “look to the end of the road where two trees meet.”

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Tell-Tale Signs…

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…There is lots of real depth in this little story.

It is culled from the pages of, ‘Folk Tales of the British Isles’ and is full of that rare and ever dwindling commodity known as Folk Wisdom.

This re-telling then is necessarily based on the translation of Sean O’Sullivan who reports thirty-two other versions of the tale none of which, sadly, now appear to be freely available.

The tale fairly bristles with three-fold quandaries and displays an initial three-fold structure which ultimately, and to the apparent chagrin of the story-teller, shifts to four.

This inter-play between Form and Content can hardly be accidental.

Ostensibly an answer the riddle tale, as is the way with these things, it throws up more questions than it answers.

At the forefront of which are:

Why does Death curl around the hearth ?

Why does a tied sheep stand for Strength?

Why is Youth  housed below stairs?

There are more, loads more…

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Gate to the Land of Youth III…

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… “Shame on you,” said the old man as he struggled to his feet, “to think that such mighty men cannot tie one small sheep.”

He took hold of the sheep, dragged her easily to the wall and re-tied the broken rope.

Fin and his Merry-Men were somewhat aghast to behold these uncanny proceedings but before they could inquire of the old man he again called to the girl below stairs.

“Come and get some more food ready for Fin and his men.”

Up came the girl again and before long a feast fit for kings again lay before Fin and his Merry-Men.

“Now you tuck in good and proper,” said the old man, “you’ll have no more trouble from my sheep.”

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So, Fin and his Merry-Men ate and drank their fill until, feeling well sated, they drew their chairs back from the table.

Fin had a mind to speak with the girl but when he went down to her she said, “You had me once, you have me no longer, and you will never have me again.”

Fin turned on his heel and went back to his chair.

Then Dermot went down to her and got the self same response.

The same happened to all Fin’s men even though none of them had ever met the girl before.

Ossian was the last to go down but him she led back upstairs by the hand, and across the floor, with her until she stood before Fin.

“Fin Mac Cool,” she said, “ever has the fame of you and your men, for prowess, spread throughout the land yet you all failed to tie the sheep.”

“Is there a solution to this riddle?” asked Fin.

“Things in this hovel are not what they seem,” said the girl, “the sheep, is Strength, the old man, is Death, for none other but death can overcome strength itself,  and I am Youth. I can give each of you whatever gift you ask of me.”

Each man in turn asked for what he wanted.

Fin spoke first.

He asked that he might lose the stench of clay which had clung to him ever since the day he lay alone with a dead woman.

Conan asked for invulnerability in battle and the strength to slay hundreds.

Dermot asked for a love spot on his body which would cause every woman who saw it to fall in love with him.

Finally, Ossian asked for the ‘Grace of God’ and was taken by the girl to the Land of Youth until Saint Patrick came to Ireland.

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Gate to the Land of Youth II…

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… Within the walls of the white-washed house Fin, and his Merry-Men, found an old man lying bent on the edge of the hearth with a sheep tied to the wall alongside.

They sat at table and the old man raised his head and acknowledged them.

‘Little enough chance of sating our thirst and hunger in this hovel,’ thought Dermot.

Just then the old man called loudly for food and drink, and up from the floor below came a strapping young lass who wasted no time in setting the table with a feast fit for kings.

But no sooner had Fin and his Merry-Men put fork to food than the sheep which was tied to the wall broke its hempen rope and rushed toward the table sending the food and drink to the floor.

“By the Gods!” cried Conan, “look at the mess you have made of our supper, and we so badly in need of it.”

“Get up and tie the sheep, Conan,” said Fin.

So, Conan got up and, grabbing the sheep by the scruff of the neck, attempted to drag it back towards the wall.

Try as he might he was unable to do so.

“What’s this,” laughed Dermot along with all the other men, “Conan, the great warrior, defeated by a sheep.”

“I am more than happy to stand aside and let a better man have a go,” growled Conan.

“Get up and tie the sheep, Dermot,” said Fin.

So, up got Dermot and he too tried to drag the sheep to the wall but was unable.

Each of Fin’s men in turn attempted the task and failed until, eventually, Fin himself was forced to stand and tie the sheep but all to no avail.

That sheep was not for budging…

To be continued.

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Gate to the Land of Youth…

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Fin and his Merry-Men were hunting atop a hill.

All day they were there yet caught no glimpse of game.

As evening drew in, Fin spoke, “let’s turn for home, boys, there is naught for us on this dismal hill,” he said, “’twill be late when we get there and a hunger and thirst will be on us.”

“A hunger and thirst on us, already,” said Conan, and spat into the ground.

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So Fin and his Merry-Men turned and set off down the hill-side.

Before long a Black Fog fell and they lost their way.

“No good ever came from a fog of this sort,” said Fin resignedly, “we’re out for the night now, boys, and no mistake!”

As the Merry-Men set too, assessing their predicament, Dermot spied a white-washed house in the gloom.

Whichever way he turned the house still loomed.

“This way for a home-stead,” cried Dermot, “maybe we’ll find food and drink this dreary night after all.”

So Fin and his Merry-Men followed Dermot to the white-washed house…

To be continued.

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