Lugodoc's Guide To Celtic Mythology: The Irish Historical Cycle

The fag-end of Irish Celtic myth. This is what happens when monks get hold of your culture.

It includes scrambled histories of possibly real Irish kings, voyages, adventures and visions. Many of the characters have already appeared in the previous 3 cycles, and many have confusingly similar or even identical names. Here are a few in no special order.

Labraid Loingsech and the Destruction of Dinn Rig

In 431 BC (=AM 4659 (Anno Mundi = since the start of the world)) according to The Annals Of The Four Masters, or 300 BC according to others, Labraid Loingsech became king of Leinster. This is how...

Cobthach the Meager, son of Ugaine the Great, was king of Bregia (N Leinster) and envious of his brother Loegaire Lorc who was high king of all Erin, so he feigned death in order to stab him at the funeral. Then he poisoned Loegaire's son Ailill Ane, but missed Ailill's son Moen Ollam, who was dumb until hit on the chin during hurley, after which he was known as Labraid ("talking").

Craiphtine the harper and Ferchertne the poet preferred Labraid to Cobthach, so Cobthach sent the three packing, and they went West to Scoriath, king of Fir Morca in Munster by the Ictian Sea. Here Craiphtine sent Scoriath's over-protective wife to sleep at a feast so that Labraid Loingsech ("exiled") could shag his daughter Moriath, and though initially pissed off Scoriath eventually cheered up and blessed their union, realising this was a perfect excuse to invade Leinster.

With 2,200 spearmen they attacked Dinn Rig, the capital of Leinster, again using Craiphtine's soporific harp music, and when Leinster was taken back Labraid invited Cobthach to a feast in a special iron house that took a year to build in silence (because "every Leinster man has his own secret"), wherein he roasted Cobthach, several hundred men, 30 kings and unfortunately his own mother and jester with 600 men working 150 forge-bellows.

Moral: if you can't stand the heat...

Art and the Story of Baile of the Clear Voice

Baile of the Clear Voice was the only son of Buan the king of Ulster (grandson of Caba) and lover of Ailinn daughter of Lugaid (son of Fergus of the sea) from somewhere South. They were to meet at Ros na Rig on the Boyne but Baile was on his way South from Emain Macha when he was lied to by a spectre who said that Ailinn had been killed by warriors from Leinster, and he died of grief and was buried in Ulster and a yew tree grew on his grave with his face on it. Meanwhile the spectre told Ailinn about the funeral, and she dropped dead too, fulfilling the druids' prophesy that they would never meet in life, only in death. An apple tree grew from her grave with her face on it.

Baile's tree ended up as a poet's tablet full of the love-stories of Ulster, and likewise Ailinn ended up scribbled upon with Leinster wooings. They happened together at a Samhain music festival in Ulster thrown by Art son of Conn and entwined one another, and henceforth remained in the Ulster treasury at Tara until Dunlang son of Enna burned them when he slew the maidens. But that is another story.

Moral: always get confirmation.

Lugaid Mac Con, Cormac mac Art and the Battle of Mag Mucrama

Cormac mac Art ruled Erin from AD 227 to 266, and the entire previous Fenian Cycle took place during his reign. This is the story of his birth (deep breath)...

Oilill Bare-Ear king of Munster, had, out of Sadb daughter of Conn of the Hundred Battles, 3 sons, Eogan, Cian and Cormac (not mac Art), and a foster-son called Lugaid Mac Con (literally "son-of-a-bitch", having been suckled by a dog).

On 3 Samains Oilill was pasturing his horses on the fairy mound of Ane Cliach when it was mysteriously stripped bare, so the 4th time he took the warrior-prophet Ferches son of Comman with him. When the Danaan Eogabul ("Yew-Fork") son of Durgabul ("Oak-Fork") appeared out of the mound, Ferches killed him and Oilill raped his daughter Ane, who bit off his ear (hence the name).

Later his son Eogan and foster son Lugaid were visiting Lugaid's uncle Art son of Conn in Connacht when they captured Eogabul's harpist son Fer Fi, and returned to Oilill to see who could keep him. He played a lullaby and escaped while the court slept, but Oilill still awarded the absent Danaan to Eogan, and Lugaid challenged him to battle over it at Cend Abrat in a month. Lugaid's fool Do Dera forsaw Lugaid's defeat and died in his place, but his hairy legs gave him away and Eogan chased the real Lugaid off to Scotland with 27 men.

After a year the Scottish king twigged who he was, confirming it with the raw mouse trick, and raised an army of Scots, Brits and Saxons to help him conquer Ireland. Battle was agreed at Mag Mucrama.

The night before, the blind druid Dil Maccu Crecga of Ossory forsaw Eogan's death and got him to shag his daughter Moncha so that he might have a royal grandchild Fiacha Flat-Head 9 months later. His pal Art son of Conn (uncle of Lugaid Mac Con and brother of Sadb) similarly shagged a smith's daughter begetting Cormac mac Art, who would much later employ the famous Finn from the previous cycle.

On the day of battle Oilill, his sons Eogan and Corb Cacht, and Art, faced Lugaid Mac Con, his tutor Lugaid Lagae son of Eogan Mor, and Beinne Britt. Eogan chickened out of single combat, and Lugaid's men (cunningly tied together) jumped out of their camouflaged pits. Oilill's 7 sons were slain, Lugaid Lagae decided that blood is thicker than water and beheaded Beinne Britt for beheading Eogan (out of affection for "his brother's son", presumably meaning the just-fertilised Cormac mac Art ?!?), but made up for it by beheading Art anyway. You figure it out.

Lugaid Mac Con then ruled in Tara for 7 years, fostering Cormac mac Art, who demonstrated his precocious wisdom in a legal settlement involving woad and sheep. Half the house fell down, there was a drought, and the men of Ireland gave Lugaid Mac Con the boot for being a false prince and he went home to Munster, leaving Cormac mac Art as king. Lugaid Lagae entered service with Beinne Britt's son.

Lugaid Mac Con visited his foster-dad Oilill, ignoring his foster-mum Sadb's warnings, and was gored in the cheek by his poisoned tooth. Oilill's wrinkled old retainer Ferches persued the now rotting Lugaid, finally spearing him to death, and so Oilill became king of Munster again for 7 years.

Moral: never annoy a fairy.

The Melodies of Buchet's House

Honourable Buchet of Leinster fostered Eithne daughter of Cathaer Mor, king of Ireland, but was eaten out of house and home by Eithne's free-lunching 12 brothers and their gangs. Cathaer was too feeble to do anything, so Buchet fled to a hut in a forest in Kells with Eithne, his old wife, 7 cows and a bull (all that was left of his herds).

Cormac mac Art saw her sorting milk and rushes one day and asked Buchet for her hand. Buchet said no because he was not her father, so they eloped and conceived Cairpre Lifechar. Eithne became Cormac's queen and Buchet got a nice house where he was deliriously happy and played merry melodies (and Loony Tunes), hence the title.

Moral: royal friends are a mixed blessing.

The Death of Mael Fothartaig, Son of Ronan

Ronan son of Aed was king of Leinster around AD 600, and his wife Eithne daughter of Cummascach son of Eogan of the Desi of Munster bore him a son called Mael Fothartaig, and then died. As a replacement, and against his son's advice, he courted the young and skittish (but nubile) daughter (who shall remain nameless) of Echaid king of Dunseverick in the North. As soon as she became queen she asked to see her step-son Mael, and consuned with moistness asked her maid to act as go-between at a game of chess with Mael's foster-brothers Donn and Congal, but plans went awry and Mael ended up shafting the maid instead. Eventually Mael twigged his step-mum was after his body and out of honour for his father fled to Scotland with 50 men, where he had a great time.

Meanwhile back home the men of Leinster insisted that Ronan get his son back, and as Mael eventually returned via Dunseverick his foster-grandad Echaid told him that he had always wanted his daughter to end up with young Mael anyway and not his old man.

Back home the queen was after him again, so Mael gave Congal 2 hounds in return for luring her to a false tryst and giving her a sound thrashing for being a trollope.

That evening the still-smarting young queen told Ronan lies that Mael had been after her (instead of vice versa), and somehow convinced him by finishing the second half of quatrain sang by Mael's jester Mac Glas. On Ronan's whim Aedan son of Fiachna Lara mortally wounded Mael, Congal and Mac Glas, and with his dying breath Mael told his father the truth, who stayed by his body for 3 days composing sad poems.

Meanwhile Donn rode with 20 horsemen to Dunseverick, beheaded Echaid and his wife and son and brought the heads back to throw at the queen, who fell on her knife. Mael's 2 sons killed Aedan, and Ronan haemorraghed listening to a fight outside his door.

Moral: marry your own age.

The Battle of Moira

In AD 628 Congal Claen (or Caech) king of the Ulaid slew Suibne Menn, king of Ireland. Domnall son of Aed son of Ainmire then became king of Ireland and defeated Congal at the Battle of Dun Cethirn. Congal fled to Scotland to seek help from King Domnall Brecc of the Dal Riada (a Scottish kingdom that included northern Irish territories), and returned with a large army.

The Battle of Moira was in AD 637; Domnall son of Aed defeated Domnall Brecc, Scotland withdrew from Ireland, Congal was defeated, another Suibne went mad (see below) and Cennfaelad lost his brain. But that is another story.

The victorious Domnall ruled until AD 642.

Moral: Ireland is for the Irish.

The Frenzy of Suibne

Around this time Suibne son of Colman was king of Dal nAraide, just South of the Irish part of the Dal Riada and a Scottish supporter.

One day St Ronan was ringing his bell to mark out his parish, when the pagan Suibne heard the racket and in a fury rushed out naked to kill him, distracted only by a messenger from Congal Claen summoning him to the Battle of Moira, where Congal and his Scottish chums hoped to keep the Scottish hold on the northern Irish territories. St Ronan cursed Suibne to a life of wretched nudity before going himself to Moira to try to make peace between Domnall son of Aed and Congal by sprinkling holy water on the armies, but there Suibne got worked up again and stabbed his cleric, so St Ronan cursed him some more.

During the battle Suibne went mad, flying off into a yew tree where he was discovered by his kinsman Aongus the Fat, fleeing after the defeat of Domnall Brecc and Congal, whereupon he took off again.

After 7 years he eventually ended up as a naked wild man in Glen Bolcain, which was popular with loonies, and where his old friend Loingsechan failed to find him. Suibne visited his wife Eorann, who was now living with Guaire, until flying off when some people approached. He then settled in a yew tree in Ros Ercain where Loingsechan again tracked him down, this time making him sane with shock therapy by falsely claiming that his whole family was dead.

Suibne returned home and was king again in Loingsech's custody, until an old hag put a word wrong and he freaked out again, flying off to compose nature poems. He then spent several years flitting hither and thither, was ditched by his wife, nearly went sane again once until St Ronan put another prayer in (vindictive git), and finally ended up in the monastery of St Mo Ling. Here he lived in peace, fed by the cook, until the cook's husband got jealous and stabbed him, whereupon he converted to Christianity and died.

Moral: if you start killing a priest, don't get distracted.

The Voyage of Maeldun

Ailill Edge-of-Battle of the sept of Owens of Arran in Thomond was on the rampage with his king elsewhere when he ravished a nun. The nun had a sprog called Maeldun who was reared by her pal the local queen, while back home reavers from Leix killed Ailill by burning down Doocloone Church on his head.

When Maeldun discovered his weird family history he went to the Owens with his 3 foster brothers, and was fixing up the church when Briccne the monk suggested revenge against the Leix reavers who killed his dad. On the advice of a druid he built a large coracle and set sail with exactly 17 men including German (pron. Ghermawn) and Diuran the Rhymer, but his foster brothers swam aboard as well. En route for Leix they encountered The Islands Of The...

  1. Slayer... (Leix) where he catches sight of his dad's killer before the druid's prophesy blows them all away again 'cos of the 3 brothers.
  2. Ants... the size of foals.
  3. Great Birds... very tasty.
  4. Fierce Beast... that chased them off.
  5. Giant Horses... and a giant racecourse.
  6. Stone Door... into a house with free food and no body.
  7. Apples.
  8. Wondrous Beast.
  9. Biting Horses... eating each other.
  10. Fiery Swine... and more apples.
  11. Little Cat... in a big house, where the youngest brother was incinerated for pinching a necklace.
  12. Black & White Sheep... that changed colour when they changed flocks.
  13. Giant Cattle... with big pigs and acid rivers.
  14. Mill... grinding all that men begrudge each other (half their country's corn).
  15. Black Mourners... where the second brother was turned black and sad and lost.
  16. Four Fences... (gold, silver, brass, crystal) dividing kings, queens, warriors and maidens, where they passed out from eating cheese.
  17. Glass Bridge... to a fortress protecting a magical virgin that Maeldun totally failed to get off with.
  18. Shouting Birds.
  19. The Anchorite... a naked old hippy fed by angels.
  20. Miraculous Fountain... and another naked old hippy.
  21. Giant Smithy.
  22. The Sea of Clear Glass... but no island.
  23. Undersea... far below them with fortresses and monstrous beasts through a sea like mist.
  24. Prophesy... below cliffs of sea and a paranoid woman throwing nuts.
  25. Spouting Water... arching over it and salmon.
  26. Silvern Collumn... 12 ft square, rising from the ocean and trailing a huge silver net which Diuran vandalised.
  27. Pedestal... with a locked door.
  28. Women... where they stayed for a year.
  29. Red Berries.
  30. Eagle... that came to be renewed in a magic lake, where Diuran bathed and gained permanent good health. The 15th and last monk of St Brennan of Birr's ocean pilgrimage also lived here in a small church. So yet another naked old hippy.
  31. Laughing Folk... whose infectious giggling caused the loss of the 3rd and last of Maeldun's foster-brothers.
  32. Flaming Rampart... protecting shiny, happy people.
  33. Monk of Tory... yet another naked old hippy, living alone on a broad rock, fed by otters doing the will of God. He had been on the run from Torach (Tory Island off Donegal) with the ill-gotten gains he had fleeced from the church there when an angel had shown him the light and sent him here. The monk advised Maeldun not to kill his kin-slayer.
  34. Falcon... which led them South-East to...
  35. Homecoming...

... where Maeldun found his dad-slayer's dun again, landed, and... FORGAVE HIM !!!!

And they all lived happily ever after.

Moral: Christians forgive. So be a pagan.

The Adventure of Conle

Conle the Red son of the high king of Ireland Conn of the Hundred Battles was with his dad on the hill of Usnech when he saw a beautiful woman, invisible to the rest of the company. She tempted him to go with her to The Plain of Delight and live forever, until Conn's druid Coran drove her off by singing, but not before she threw a magic apple at the lad.

A month later on the plain of Archommin she did it again, and this time Conle jumped into a glass coracle with her, and they sailed off never to be seen again.

Moral: always give in to temptation the first time.

The Vision of Mac Con Glinne

At about the time that Cathal king of Munster was possessed by a demon of gluttony a scholar called Ainier Mac Con Glinne decided to take up poetry and headed off to the royal court. He arrived at the guesthouse of Cork Monastery, and soon pissed off Abbot Manchin by satirising his crappy hospitality, who therefore ordered him to be stripped, beaten, thrown in the river Lee then left naked overnight in the guesthouse.

In the morning they prepared to crucify him (harsh or what?) but he stalled for time by eating his viaticum one molecule at a time until it got so late they left him tied naked to a pillar overnight, intending to nail some sense into him in the morning. That night an angel appeared to him and revealed a vision.

In the morning Mac Con Glinne explained to the monks his vision (a sort of dark age Irish version of "Food, Glorious Food") and told them that he could cure King Cathal's eating disorder in return for his freedom and Manchin's cloak, to which the Abbot reluctantly agreed.

The cure consisted of tying the king to a wall and taunting him for 2 days with piles of luscious food and epicurial tales, until the demon within could stand it no longer and jumped out of the king's mouth to grab some grub. Eventually it was driven off, and Cathal made Mac Con Glinne a wealthy man.

Moral: Bondage works.

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Lugodoc's Guide to Celtic Mythology
©1996-2004 Lugodoc, All Rights Reserved.


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