Guide To Celtic Mythology: The Irish Mythological Cycle
In the beginning...
The Coming of Partholan into Ireland
Partholan son of Sera came into ancient Ireland from The
West with his queen Dealgnaid (Dalny), son Rury and brother
Starn. Partholan fought the demonic Fomorians and drove them
North to Tory Island off Donegal, but then all his people
died of plague on The Old Plain (Senmag). Except for Starn's
son Tuan who lived alone for 22 years until
The Coming of Nemed into Ireland
Nemed, son of Agnomon (who was Starn's brother) arrived.
Tuan, watching from the cliffs, turned into a stag. Nemed
had sailed for a year and a half in 32 30-man barks, but
of the original 960 emigrants only nine survived (Nemed and
four men and four women). They bred verry fast and Nemed
defeated the Fomor in four great battles, then he and 2,000
Nemedians died of plague.
The Fomorian kings Morc and Conann oppressed the survivors
who revolted led by chief Fergus and two others, invaded
Tory Island, and stormed Conann's tower. Fergus killed
Conann but Morc charged in and killed all the Nemedians
but 30 who left Ireland in despair. (Or they bred up to
8060 then all died of plague). (Or returned later as Firbolgs
and/or Danaans). Tuan turned into a wild boar and saw...
The Coming of the Firbolgs into Ireland
The Firbolgs arrived in three groups; Fir-Bolg, Fir-Domnan
and Galioin. Their kings included Semion Mac Stariat and
Eochy (yoo-hee) Mac Erc, who married Taltiu, daughter of
the King of the Great Plain (the land of the dead). They
didn't do much. Tuan turned into a sea eagle and saw...
The Invasion of the Tuatha De Danaan
The Danaans flew into Western Connacht in magic boats from
four great cities; Falias, Gorias, Finias and Murias: with
four great treasures;
- the Lia Fail (the Stone of Destiny)
- the sword of Nuada
- the spear of Lugh of the Long-Arm
- the cauldron of the Dagda (the good god)
The Firbolgs met them at their camp at Moyrein, and sent
Streng to interview the Danaan Bres. Bres offered to split
Ireland 50/50, but the Firbolg preferred...
The First Battle of Moytura
...(near Cong, south Co Mayo) at which Bres died, the Danaan
King Nuada lost a hand and the Firbolg King
Eochy was slain, and the Danaans won with magic. The Firbolgs
were allowed to keep Connacht.
Nuada of the Silver Hand
Nuada got a silver hand, but was blemished and could no longer
rule, so (another) Bres the Bastard became king, and was
a useless, mean git, allowing Fomor tax and oppression. Corpry
the poet satyrised him and he was forced to abdicate, and
Nuada took over again, having had his real hand magically
replaced by his physician Dianecht (or his son). Bres ran
off to his mum Eri who told him his dad was the Fomorian
King Elatha, gave him his father's ring, and they both sailed
off to Tory Island. Elatha gives his son Bres an army to
conquer Ireland, led by the greatest Fomorian Old King Balor
of the Evil Eye.
Now in his youth Balor had heard prophesy that he would be
slain by his grandson, so he locked up his infant daughter
Ethlinn in a tower on Tor Mor, guarded from all men by 12
matrons. He also covetted the magical milky cow of Kian,
who lived on the mainland with his brothers Sawan and Goban
the smith, so while Sawan was guarding it one day Balor tricked
him and stole it. In revenge Kian got a druidess called Birog
to magically get him into Ethlinn's tower, shagged her and
escaped before she delivered triplets. Balor ordered them
drowned, but the servant accidentally dropped one on the
way to the bay and it was magically rescued by Birog and
raised by his dad Kian and then later Duach of The Otherworld
and became Lugh. He entered Nuada's service
by being a clever dick, and with Duach's gifts of the boat
and horse of Mananan Mac Lir and the sword Fragarach, which
he soon used to slay Fomorian tax collectors.
The Sons of Turenn
While Balor was preparing to invade Lugh sent his dad Kian
North to enlist the Ulster Danaans, but because of a feud
he was ambushed and stoned to death on the Plain of Murthemney
near Dundalk by the three sons of Turenn; Brian, Iuchar and
Iucharba. The stones cried out to Lugh and at Nuada's seat
at Tara instead of execution he demanded an eric (bloodmoney).
The sons of Turenn were honour bound to pay him:
- three apples (from the garden of the sun)
- a pig skin (from the King of Greece: it heals)
- a spear (from the King of Persia)
- a two horse chariot
- seven swine (from King Asal of the Golden Pillars:
they regenerate after consumption)
- a hound
- a cooking spit (from the 150 sea-nymphs of Finchory:
- ...and three shouts on a hill (belonging to the noise-hating
fierce warrior Mochaen and his sons)
The trio accomplished everything and brought the treasures
to Lugh, but had been mortally wounded by the Mochaens.
Lugh witheld the pigskin and they all died, and their old
The Dagda's Travels
Meanwhile, the Dagda Mor had entered the
Fomor camp where they failed to kill him by overfeeding.
He left and on the road met the virgin daughter of the Fomor
king Indech, who was so turned on by his huge cock that they
shagged, and she offered to delay the Fomor invasion.
Thus armed with magic things and helpful crumpet Lugh
set forth to meet his grandad Balor at...
The Second Battle of Moytura
...this time in Co Sligo, well North of the first one. The
Danaan craftsmen Goban the Smith, Credne the artificer and
Luchta the carpenter repaired the Danaan weapons as fast
as they were broken. Balor opened his evil eye killing Nuada
but Lugh threw a stone in it, killing him and fulfilling
the prophesy. Lugh became Ildanach and the Fomor were routed
and vanished (almost) forever, taking with them...
The Dagda's Harp
...and harper. The Dagda, Lugh and Ogma pursued them and
sneaked into the banqueting hall, and the Dagda grabbed his
harp and sent the Fomor to sleep with The Strain of Slumber.
Now the Danaans ruled Ireland for a while.
Tuan was still a sea eagle, and saw...
The Invasion of the Milesians
Somewhere, possibly Spain, Ith atop the tower of his dad
Bregon saw Ireland, and set sail with 90 warriors. They arrived
to find Ireland being divided up by three Danaan kings MacCuill,
MacCecht and MacGrene and their wives Banba, Fohla and Eriu;
their father King Neit having been just slain by Fomorians.
The Danaans asked Ith to settle the inheritance, but they
suspected he coveted their land and killed him. His companions
returned his body to Spain or wherever, and his grandson
Miled Mac Bile set sail with his own son Amergin the
poet and 36 chiefs including Eber Donn, Eber Finn and Eremon,
all bent on revenge.
They arrived at Tara, where Amergin sang a song, and
the Danaans asked for 3 days to think it over, during which
time the Milesians waited 9 waves out at sea, and the Danaans
hit them with a magic storm, made especially effective
by the anger of Eber Donn. Many ships sank including Donn's
and the survivors landed up the Boyne.
The Danaans and Milesians fought at Telltown, and the
three Danaan kings and queens were (somehow) slain. The
Danaans retreated from human sight below the hollow hills
and became The Sidhe in Tir Na
Nog, The Land of the Young.
The Milesian Settlement of Ireland
Of the two surviving brothers Eber Finn and Eremon, Amergin
elected the latter and elder as chief, but Eber Finn demanded
partition and got the South. They went to war, Eremon won
and ruled all Ireland from Tara.
Tiernmas and Crom Cruach
Five kings after Eremon was Tiernmas who introduced Crom
Cruach worship on Moyslaught Plain. He was worshipping there
on Samain when he and three quarters of his people were killed
(after opening a gold mine and introducing colour coding).
13 kings later (about 1,000 BC again) Ollav (doctor) Fola
introduced legislature, provincial chiefs and the great triennial
festival of Tara, before being buried under the tumulus at
Kimbay and the Founding of Emain Macha
In 300 BC an Ulster prince Red Hugh had two brothers Dithorba
and Kimbay and a daughter Macha, and the three brothers agreed
to rule Ireland in turn. But on Hugh's death Macha kept sovereignty
by killing Dithorba and marrying Kimbay. Dithorba's five
sons fled West pursued by Macha who captured them all single
handed in a forest, then carried them North. There she drew
the plans of a fortress with her brooch and forced them to
build Emain Macha.
Laery and Covac
Ugainy the Great, king over Ireland and Western Europe, had
a Gaulish queen Kesair and two sons, Laery and Covac. Laery
inherited and Covac consulted a druid who told him to feign
death; when Laery came to the funeral he stabbed him and
his son Ailill to death and ascended the throne.
Ailill's son was Maon, whom Covac forced to eat a portion
of his father's and grandfather's hearts, and a mouse family,
thus striking him dumb, before letting him go. Maon visited
Scoriath king of Feramorc in Munster and enamoured his daughter
Moriath, then stayed with relatives in Gaul. Moriath sent
her dad's harper Craftiny after him, and played such a passionate
song that Maon got his speech back.
Maon returned to Ireland with a Gaulish army and killed
Covac and all his nobles at Dinrigh, Maon was re-named
Labra the Mariner and married Moriath, and the Gauls settled
in Leinster (The Province of the Spearmen) which is named
Labra had horse's ears, and therefore to keep the secret
had his hair cut only once a year and the barber then executed.
One year the lot fell on the son of a poor widow, who he
spared, but the secret made the lad ill, so a druid told
the lad to tell a tree. Craftiny carved a harp out of it,
the harp spilled the beans in court, Labra came out of the
closet and all was well.
There are three mythological tales ending later than
the Historical Cycle in the Christian era...
The Children of Lir
Lir was the father of the sea god Mananan, and also fathered
three boys, Conn, Fiachra and Hugh, and a girl, Fionuala,
by a woman who died and whose sister, Aoife, he then married.
Barren and jealous the stepmother took the four children
to nearby Danaan king Bov the Red by Lake Derryvaragh,
and when her attendants refused to kill them she cursed
to spend 900 years as talking, singing swans; 300 years
each at lovely Lake Derryvaragh, then the cold and horrid
of Moyle between Ireland and Scotland and then the Atlantic
shore at Co Mayo between Erris and Inishglory until such
time as "a woman of the South is mated with a man of the
North". Bov found out and turned Aoife into a demon of
the air who flew off shrieking, but the four swans were
By the time of the last stretch at Mayo the Milesians
had come, and they were befriended by a mortal called Evric
who wrote it all down.
At the end they could not find their dad who had vanished
below the hollow hills. Then they heard a church bell,
and befriended an old Christian hermit. A Connacht chief
from the North called Lairgnen nicked the singing swans
for his betrothed princess Deoca of Munster in the South,
and before her they turned into four 1000 year old humans,
were baptised and died.
The Tale of Ethne
In the reign of Eremon, first Milesian king of all Ireland
(1000 BC), Mananan mac Lir fostered yet another daughter
to the Danaan prince Angus in his New Grange palace at Brugh
na Boyna, and Angus' steward's daughter Ethne was allotted
to be her handmaiden. Unfortunately she was ravished by a
passing Chieftain, became the first Christian and stopped
Centuries later when her mistress was bathing in the
Boyne, Ethne lost her magic hanky and could not return
to Tir Na Nog, finally dying on the breast of St Patrick.
And how do we know all of this ?
After centuries as a keen-eyed sea eagle Tuan (remember him
?) turned into a salmon, was eaten by Chief Carell's wife
and reborn as Tuan mac Carell (salmon = macarel: geddit?).
He became chief and told everything to 6th century Abbot
Finnen of Moville Monastery, Co Donegal, who wrote it down.
And the rest is history.
One great Milesian king was Conary Mor. These are his stories:
Under the hollow hills at Slieve Callary Midir, son of the
Dagda, married Fuamnach and then the much fairer Etain. Out
of jealousy Fuamnach turned Etain into a butterfly and raised
a tempest to blow her all over Erin for seven years, until
rescued by Angus. He made her a bower and magically transformed
her back to her own form at night for shagging purposes for
many years until discovered and blown off again by Fuamnach.
This time she fell in the cup of the wife of Etar, an Ulster
chief, was swallowed and reborn a mortal with the same name
Eochy and Etain
The wifeless High King of all Ireland Eochy married Etain
Eochy's brother Ailill fell madly in love with her and
became ill. While his brother was off on business they
arranged a shag, but Ailill was magically anaesthetised
at the last minute and Midir appeared in his shape to call
it off. When the real Ailill awoke he was cured.
Midir told Etain who she really was, that Fuamnach was dead
and that now after 1,012 years she could come home to Tir
Na Nog. Etain wanted Eochy's agreement, so Midir hustled
Eochy at chess and won a snog with Etain, in a month. When
the time came Midir overcame Eochy's defences and flew off
with Etain to Slievenamon as a pair of swans.
Eochy's Assault on Tir Na Nog
After a year druid Dalan located Etain in the fairy mound
of Bri-Leith, and Eochy dug it up for nine years. Trapped,
Midir released her camouflaged by fifty identical handmaids,
but Eochy identified her and took her home. She was his queen
for ten years before dying a mortal and they had a daughter
also called Etain (Jr or Oig).
Where does Conary Mor come into this? Well..
Etain Oig married Cormac King of Ulster and bore only a daughter
which out of spite he had cast into a pit, but was rescued
and fostered to a cowherd of Eterskel King of Tara. She grew
up as Messbuachalla in a doorless roundhouse then was spotted
by King Eterskel who decided to marry her according to a
Birth of Conary Mor
A Danaan appeared to Messbuachalla before her release and
shagged her, saying the resulting boy would be named Conary and
must never hunt birds. He was fostered to Lord Desa and grew
up with his grandsons Ferlee, Fergar and Ferrogan.
High King Conary
King Eterskel died; a druid held a bull-feast at Tara to
divine the next king and saw a vision of a bollock-naked
man walking toward Tara. Conary was returning from the Plains
of Liffey where he had left his three foster brothers when
he saw a flock of birds and persued them to the shore. He
attempted to sling them but they turned into warriors and
one introduced himself as Nemglan, master of his father's
birds. He gave Conary a full geis list including:
- no bird hunting
- no settling of arguments between serfs
- no walking right-handwise round Tara or left-handwise
- no evil-beasts of Cern hunting
- no being beyond Tara every ninth night
- no sleeping in a house where the firelight shines out
- no three reds to go before him to the house of Red
- and no rape and pillage
He then told him to strip off and walk to Tara, which
he did and was crowned King of Erin, and ruled wisely.
Conary's three foster brothers loved rape and pillage, and
he was forced to banish them overseas, where they met the
exiled pirate son of the King of Britain, Ingcel One-Eyed.
Together they invaded Britain and killed Ingcel's entire
family in one night. They then gathered together more outlaws
including the seven Manes (sons of Ailell and Maev of Connacht)
and invaded Ireland at Howth near Dublin.
Meanwhile Conary had settled a quarrel between two serfs
in Munster, and returning to Tara (probably on a ninth
night) saw fires (fairy illusions) which he believed signified
an invading host from the North, and avoided them by turning
right-handwise round Tara and then left-handwise round
Bregia, past which he accidentally hunted the evil beasts
Da Derga's Hostel
Knackered, Conary decided to rest for the night at the
Leinster Lord Da Derga's Hostel in Donnybrook near Dublin.
fairys got there first, and "Derga" means "red". Conary
realised he was stitched up a treat.
Ingcel's pirate host appoached and heard mac Cecht striking
a fire, and saw the fire light shining out the door, so
with one stone each they built a quick cairn to celebrate
and keep track of casualties.
The Morrigan turned up on her own predicting doom, and
persuaded Conary to let her in.
Ingcel peeped through the door and counted Conary's impressive
and bizarre host, including his three sons and steward,
Cormac (son of Conchobor, King of Ulster),Fomor hostages,
Picts, mac Cecht, Conall of the Victories, Duftach of Ulster
and his magic spear, Isle of Man giants, and three naked
bleeding bodies hanging from the rafters (Bav/Morrigan's
daughters: an omen). Ferrogan felt remorse for Conary's
Ingcel and the sons of Desa attacked and were driven
off, but all the liquids in the house were spilled extinguishing
fires, the pirates' wizards had stopped the river Dodder
from flowing through the house and Conary had developed
The Death of Conary
Mac Cecht ran off with Conary's golden cup looking for water
while the heroes slew pirates left and right, but Conary
died of thirst and Conall, Sencha and Duftach escaped, horribly
wounded. Meanwhile mac Cecht found every source of water
in Ireland magically dried up, except Loch Gara in Roscommon
which wasn't quick enough. He returned to the hostel just
in time to kill two reavers chopping the head off Conary's
corpse, gave the head the water anyway, and it said thankyou.
An old woman found a knackered mac Cecht and pulled a
hairy wolf out of his wound.
Conall of the Victories returned to his father Amorgin at
Teltin, and was ticked off for being alive when his lord
Conary was dead. Conall pointed to thrice fifty spear wounds
in his shield arm, and his unspeakably mangled sword arm,
so Amorgin let him off.
Thus was Midir's subtle vengeance worked out on the great-grandson
of his foeman Eochy.
Was all that really mythological ? Some of the characters
in the Conary Mor stories, such as Cormac son of Conchobor,
King of Ulster and Conall of the Victories are also major
characters in The Ulster
Lugodoc's Guide to Celtic Mythology
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