Table of Contents

Richard Marsh's Ireland: Myths and Legends


This lecture took place on October 15, 1996 in the OOC Auditorium.


Richard Marsh, with the aid of Lugh, will be discussing Irish Mythology in the OOC Auditorium any minute now!

Sabella thinks we are just about ready.

Sabella would like to present Richard Marsh who is going to speak on Irish Mythology, with the help of Lugh.

Bombtrack shows his approval by clapping his hands together. Tiarnan shows his approval by clapping his hands together. Lan shows his approval by clapping his hands together. A woman of raw power gives a round of applause. A perplexed thaumaturge shows his approval by clapping his hands together. A man bound in black leather gives a round of applause. Red1Guest shows his approval by clapping his hands together.

'We ask that everyone respect our lecturer, who is new to mudding, and keep emotes and spam to a minimum,' Sabella says.

Sabella says, 'And remember this is the Out-of-character lounge :).'

Lugh, the Il-dana smiles happily.

Richard Marsh says, 'Hello everyone.'

Richard Marsh says, 'The Destruction of Dinn Rig is the origin saga of the province of Leinster in Ireland.'

Labraidh Loingseach (pronounced "Lowry Loingshock")
or The Destruction of Dinn Rig ("Deen Ree")

Lugh, the Il-dana says, 'There are four provinces in modern Ireland: Ulster (North), Connacht (West), Munster (Southwest), and Leinster (East and Southeast). The Irish word for province is cuige -- a fifth. What happened to the fifth province?'

Lugh says, 'What is now South Leinster -- south of Dublin -- used to be Leinster. Modern North Leinster was more or less Meath (=middle), the royal province, now merely a county. [Meath won the Gaelic football championship a fortnight ago.].'

Lugh says, 'This story is about the coming of the Leinstermen to Ireland and how Leinster got its name. Dinn Rig is a large motte (man-made defensive hill with a bank and a ditch) in County Carlow in the Southeast.'

Lugh says, 'It was the royal seat of the kings of Leinster.'

Lugh says, 'I knew the story of Labraidh and found Dinn Rig on the map. When I went looking for it, I asked people in the area where it was. "Never heard of it." Typical response when you use the wrong -- academic and non-local -- name.'

Lugh says, 'I repeated the description I had read in a book. "Oh, you mean the fairy fort." Any old structure, especially pre-Christian, is associated with the fairies and is usually left alone, which is why Dinn Rig is overgrown with trees.'

Lugh says, 'The story:'

Lugh says, 'Ugainy was the king of Ireland and Gaul in the third century BC. He had two sons, Laery and Covac. When Ugainy died, Laery became king. Covac's jealousy of Laery made him thin. He was known as Covac Coel (caol=lean).'

Lugh says, 'Covac sent a message to Laery that he was fatally ill and wanted to see Laery before he died. He told his servants to tell Laery when he arrived that he -- Covac -- had already died, and he lay down on his bed, pretending to be dead.'

Lugh says, 'Laery came and leaned over his supposedly dead brother, and Covac stabbed him and killed him. Then Covac murdered Laery's son, Ailill, who was king of the part of Ireland later called Leinster.'

Lugh says, 'Covac forced Aililll's young son to eat the hearts of his father and grandfather, Ailill and Laery, as well as a mother mouse and her young. The trauma caused the boy to become mute, and he was callled Moen (mute).'

Lugh says, 'Covac was going to kill the boy to forestall a challenge to his kingship, but a man had to be physically perfect [not morally, as nowadays] to be king, and when Covac saw that the boy was mute, he let him live.'

Lugh says, 'Friends of his family took Moen to Munster, where he grew up. He met the king of Munster's daughter, Moriath, and they fell in love.'

Lugh says, 'Moriath wrote a long-song to Moen and gave it to her father's harper, Craftiny, to set it to music. When Moen heard it, he exclaimed, "What a beautiful song."'

Lugh says, 'Someone said, "Labhraionn Moen -- Moen speaks", and so he became known as Labraidh.'

Lugh says, 'A love-song.'

Lugh says, 'Now that Labraidh was physically perfect, he was a threat to Covac, and for his safety he went to Gaul. There he gathered an army of warriors who used a broad-headed, leaf-shaped lance called "laighne".'

Lugh says, 'He returned at the head of his army and conquered the kingdom that had belonged to his father. It became known as Cuige Laighin, the Province of the Spearmen. His royal seat was Dinn Rig.'

Lugh says, 'When the Vikings came, the Norse suffix "ster" (=province) replaced "cuige" to give "Leinster". From that time, Labraidh was known as Labraidh Loingseach. "Loingseach" means both "exile" and "sailor".'

Lugh says, 'Labraidh invited Covac to a feast at Dinn Rig. Not surprisingly, Covac was suspicious, especially when Labraidh showed him a new iron house he had built especially for Covac and his household.'

Lugh says, 'Covac refused to enter the house unless Labraidh's mother went in with him. Labraidh's mother knew what Labraidh planned to do, but she insisted on going in with Covac.'

Lugh says, '"It's better that I die than that Covac continues to live," she said to Labraidh.'

Lugh says, 'When Covac and his men and Labraidh's mother were all inside the iron house, Labraidh closed the door and locked it. He built a fire under the house, and everyone inside was cooked to death.'

Lugh says, 'Here is a summary of the story in Old Irish verse.'

Labraid Longsech lor a lin
Ro hort Chobhthach in Dind Rig
Co sluag laignech dar lind lir,
Dib ro hainmnigthe Lagin

Labraidh Loingseach with his ample force
Slew Covac in Dinn Rig
With a lance-armed host from the sea,
From him are named the Leinstermen.

Lugh says, 'That is the story of the Destruction of Dinn Rig.'

'I'll answer any questions about that story now before we go on to the next,' Richard Marsh says.

A woman of raw power shakes her head.

'Wow,' Red1Guest says.

'It's sad,' Svetlana says.

Richard Marsh says, 'This is a very popular story about Labraidh.'

'If there are no questions, we'll go on to the story about Labraidh's Horse's Ears,' Richard Marsh says.

Red1Guest says, 'Was that in old irsh?'

'Yes, much older than me,' Richard Marsh says.

A sad-eyed child giggles.

Lugh smiles at Richard Marsh.

Labraidh's Horse's Ears

Lugh says, 'Labraidh was a good king and his people loved him. But one day, he lost his temper and kicked a horse. A widow saw this and cursed him: "May you have the two ears of a horse on you." A widow's curse is the strongest of all curses.'

Lugh says, 'And so the two ears of a horse grew on Labraidh. As you know, Labraidh should not continue to be king by law, since he was no longer physically perfect. But then, as now, what the people don't know can't hurt the king.'

Lugh says, 'So Labraidh took to wearing a hat and didn't let anyone know that he now had horse's ears. Of course, when he had his hair cut once a year, his barber discovered the secret, but Labraidh's secret was safe in the mouths of dead men.'

Lugh says, 'Eventually it was noticed that there seemed to be a curiously high mortality rate among Labraidh's barbers, and it became difficult for him to find a volunteer to cut his hair.'

Lugh says, 'He instituted a lottery, and one day the lot fell on the only son of a widow.'

Lugh says, 'This was the same widow who had put the curse of horse's ears on Labraidh, and the only one who knew why the barbers never returned alive from the haircutting session.'

Lugh says, 'She pleaded with Labraidh to spare her son, and perhaps it was because he was afraid of another curse that Labraidh relented, on the condition that her son would never tell anything that he might learn when he cut the king's hair.'

Lugh says, 'But the stress of holding the greatest secret in the kingdom proved too much for the boy, and he grew sick and took to his bed. A wise doctor diagnosed the problem.'

Lugh says, '"You are holding a secret that is eating away at you, and unless you tell the secret to some living thing, you will die."'

Lugh says, 'So the boy went into the woods and told the secret to a willow tree. Immediately, he felt better, and he recovered his health.'

Lugh says, 'The harper Craftiny, who had come with Moriath and was now the royal harper of Leinster, needed a new harp.'

Lugh says, 'The old harps were made of willow, like the famous "Brian Boru" harp at Trinity College, which is the official emblem of modern Ireland.'

Lugh says, 'As luck would have it, Craftiny chose the same willow tree for his new harp that the young barber had told his awful secret to.'

Lugh says, 'When Craftiny finished making the harp and strung it and tuned it and played it in court for the first time, even the harp couldn't keep the secret, and it sung out, "Labraidh has horse's ears."'

Lugh says, 'At that, Labraidh realized he could no longer pretend, and he took off his hat and let the people see his horse's ears.'

Lugh says, 'But, as I said, except for the minor lapses of kicking a horse and being a risk to the health of barbers, he was a good king. So the people decided he could continue to be king in spite of the law.'

Lugh says, 'That is the story of Labraidh's Horse's Ears.'

Lugh says, 'Some historians believe that Labraidh was a historical king. Others call him mythical (fictional) or mythological (a humanised god), probably on the basis that real heads of state would not behave as he did.'

Richard Marsh says, 'Any questions?'

'Does this story have a moral or anything like that?' Svetlana says. 'Why is it told?'

'It's told because it is a lesson to all of us that even a king can make mistakes,' Richard Marsh says.

Svetlana nods solemnly. Svetlana thanks Richard Marsh heartily. Svetlana smiles happily.

Tiarnan says, 'Are both these stories from the Book of Leinster?'

'Say let's go ahead while I think about the Book of Leinster,' Richard Marsh says.

Lugh smiles at Richard Marsh.

Lugh nods solemnly.

Tain Bo Cuailnge (Pronunciation: Toyn Boe Cooaln-yeh)
or The Cattle Raid of Cooley

Lugh says, '(I am omitting all diacritical marks -- like Ta/in -- denoting the quality of the vowel, for ease of reading.).'

Lugh says, 'The Tain (there are other tains, but this is the only one called *The* Tain) is the great epic of Ireland.'

Lugh says, 'It is the oldest vernacular epic in European literature.'

Lugh says, 'The old story-tellers used to spend a week of evenings telling the story of the Tain. It is filled with incident and side-tellings -- for example, why former Ulster king Fergus was on Maeve's side against Ulster.'

Lugh says, 'In a nutshell, Queen Maeve of Connacht invaded Ulster to steal the Brown Bull so she would be equal in wealth with her husband, who owned the White-horned Bull.'

Lugh says, 'Maeve brought the Brown back to Connacht. When the White-horned Bull saw the Brown, they fought and killed each other. The end. Back to the beginning.'

Lugh says, 'Conor and Fergus.'

Lugh says, 'Nessa was a head-strong and ambitious young woman living at Emain Macha (ow-en makha), the royal seat of Ulster, near the present city of Armagh.'

Lugh says, 'One day, she asked the druid Cathbad (cahvah), "What is today a good day for?" "For begetting a king," Cathbad answered. "Come with me," said Nessa, "and we'll see what happens."'

Lugh says, 'Conor was the result. Nessa wanted him to be king.'

Lugh says, 'Fergus mac Roich ("manly force, son of big horse") was king of Ulster. [It would be said of him later that it took 30 men a day to satisfy Maeve -- or Fergus once.] Fergus wanted Nessa.'

Lugh says, '"You can have me," she said, "if you let my son Conor be king for a year." Fergus agreed. During the year, Nessa and Conor gave all the Ulster nobles great gifts, both from their own wealth and from the royal treasury.'

Lugh says, 'At the end of the year, Fergus said, "I'll take the crown back now." The nobles said, "Fergus, we need to discuss this.'

Lugh says, '"You thought so little of the kingship, that you let Conor take it for a year. We've been quite satisfied with Conor as king, and we've decided to keep him on." So Fergus became arms master to the boy-troop.'

Lugh says, 'WB Yeats, in a play about this story, comments that a man who does another man wrong holds a grudge against him, because he was the cause of the wrong-doing. Keep this in mind.'

The Birth of Cuchulain

Lugh says, 'Conor's sister, Dechtire, married one of the Red Branch warriors (vaguely equivalent to King Arthur's knights), Suailtim.'

Lugh says, 'Suailtim was a border guard living at Dun Dealgan (the fort of Dealga), which can be seen now as a 12th-century motte topped by the ruins of an 18th- century house near Dundalk, County Louth, 50 miles north of Dublin.'

Lugh says, 'On the wedding night, Dechtire was visited by a mysterious man, who told her she would bear his son. The man was the sun-god Lugh (loo), one-time ad hoc king and war leader of the Tuatha De Danaan.'

Lugh says, '[The village of Louth (Irish "Lu") in County Louth was the centre of a pre- Christian Lugh cult. St Patrick founded a church there, and a heavy Christian presence was maintained at least until the 16th century.'

Lugh says, 'Dechtire and her 50 maid-servants disappeared for 9 months. They were found at Bru na Boinne (a neolithic passage tomb now called Newgrange, visited by 150,000 people a year), the home of the gods.'

Lugh says, 'Dechtire had a son named Setanta. Suailtim more or less drops out of the story at this point. Dechtire and Setanta lived at Dun Dealgan.'

How Cuchulain Got His Name

Lugh says, 'Skipping ahead, Setanta went to Emain Macha at the age of 5 to become a Red Branch warrior. When he was about 10, he was invited by his uncle Conor to a feast at Culain's house.'

Lugh says, '"I'm busy playing hurling [still a popular Irish sport, like lacrosse and field hockey]," said Setanta. "Go on ahead. I'll follow your chariot tracks and catch up with you later."'

Lugh says, 'When the men arrived at Culain's house, Culain asked if anyone else was coming, as he wanted to let his guard dog loose. Forgetting about Setanta, Conor said that no one else was expected. The dog was let loose.'

Lugh says, 'Setanta finally arrived, batting the sliotar [ball] into the air with his hurley [stick], throwing the hurley after it, and catching them both before they fell to the ground.'

Lugh says, 'The dog attacked him. The men heard the commotion, but they couldn't get out of the house in time to save Setanta. But Setanta hit the sliotar with his hurley down the dog's throat and killed him.'

Lugh says, 'Conor and the rest of the men were relieved that Setanta was safe, but Culain complained about the loss of his guard dog.'

Lugh says, '"It took me a year to raise and train that dog. Now I'll have no guard dog to protect my house until I can train another one."'

Lugh says, '"Don't worry," said Setanta. "I'll be your guard dog until you can replace the one I killed. I'll be the Hound of Culain [Cu Chulain]." And that is how Cuchulain got his name.'

The Curse of Macha

Lugh says, 'When the combined armies of Maeve and her allies -- "the men of Ireland" -- began to move toward the borders of Ulster, all the Ulstermen suddenly took to their beds, "as weak and sick as a woman in childbirth". Why?'

Lugh says, 'Crunniuc was a wealthy land owner in Ulster. He was sitting in front of his house one day, and he saw a beautiful woman walking down the road toward him.'

Lugh says, 'He had never seen her before, and it was a sad thing for him to think of all the time he had wasted in not being able to look at her, because she was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen.'

Lugh says, 'To his surprise, she turned in at his gate and walked up to the door as if she lived there. She walked past Crunniuc without a word into the house and into the kitchen, where she began preparing dinner.'

Lugh says, 'After a fine dinner fit for a king, but not often cooked by so queenly a woman, the strange woman, still without a word, got into Crunniuc's bed with him. In time, he learned that her name was Macha.'

Lugh says, 'Macha was strange, and one of the strangest things about her was that she could run faster than any animal Crunniuc had ever seen. He knew by this that Macha was not from this world.'

Lugh says, 'Macha became pregnant, and Crunniuc went to a fair to celebrate. King Conor's horse were running in the races at the fair, and they won. Crunniuc, in his foolish, drunken pride, said, "My wife can run faster than the king's horses."'

Lugh says, 'Conor heard this and said, "Prove that, or off with your head." Much sobered, Crunniuc went home and told Macha she would have to race against Conor's horses.'

Lugh says, 'Macha said, "I can't run now, heavy as I am with child and about to give birth any moment. We'll go to Conor and show him, and he'll understand."'

Lugh says, 'But Conor insisted that she race against his horses to prove that Crunniuc was not lying. Macha turned to the warriors and said, "Men of Ulster, make Conor change his mind. Don't let him make me race now."'

Lugh says, 'But the men of Ulster turned their backs on her. Macha ran the race and won, but she fell down dying at the finish, as she gave birth to twins.'

Lugh says, 'As she died, she cursed the men of Ulster: "May the men of Ulster be as weak and sick as a woman in childbirth at the moment of their greatest danger."'

Lugh says, 'And so, as the men of Ireland began to move toward the borders of Ulster, all the men of Ulster lay in their beds, as weak and sick as a woman in childbirth.'

Lugh says, 'But Cuchulain was not entirely human, as his father was the god Lugh, and he wasn't even a man yet. He was only 17.'

Lugh says, 'Cuchulain Stands Alone.'

Lugh says, 'The pangs of the Ulstermen were to last only 9 days. Cuchulain intercepted Maeve's army at what is now the village of Crossakeel, Co. Meath, to try to delay their march to Ulster.'

Lugh says, '[At Crossakeel, you can see Sliabh na Callai (the Hill of the Hag), a neolithic passage tomb cemetery.'

Lugh says, 'The tomb of Ollamh Fodhla (ullav foe-la), poet-king of Ireland c. 1000 BC who instituted the tri-ennial feis at Tara) stands out on the skyline.].'

Lugh says, 'Cuchulain stood on one foot, pulled up an oak sapling with one hand and tied it in a knot with one hand and stuck it into the middle of the road.'

Lugh says, 'He left an ogham inscription describing what he did and placing geis (taboo) on the army to pass that point unless one man from among them could duplicate the feat.'

Lugh says, 'Fergus, who was with Maeve, explained the geis. Maeve's army had to go around the sapling, cutting their way through a dense forest, thereby delaying their march. Why was Fergus with Maeve?'

The Death of the Sons of Uisliu
(This is one of the Three Sorrowful Tales of Ireland.)

Lugh says, 'Conor and the Red Branch were at a feast, when they heard an unearthly screech. The warriors stood up and reached for their swords. The druid Cathbad said:'

Lugh says, '"It is the screech of an unborn baby girl, who will bring sorrow to the Red Branch, setting brother against brother. There will be rivers of red blood from the Red Branch. The girl's name will be Deirdre [grief]."'

Lugh says, '"Let's kill her as soon as she is born," said the great heroes of the Red Branch, "and prevent this happening." "That wouldn't be right," said Conor. "I have a better idea."'

Lugh says, 'So Deirdre was raised apart from men until she reached the age of marriage, when Conor himself would marry her, and so prevent trouble. Deirdre was raised in the forest by the nurse Levorcham.'

Lugh says, 'One night, Deirdre was awakened by a vivid dream, and in that dream she saw a vision of a young man. She had never seen a man before, except Conor. She went to her window and looked out.'

Lugh says, 'A raven was eating a rabbit killed in the snow. "That's what he looks like," Deirdre said to herself. "Hair as black as the raven, lips as red as the blood, and skin as white as the snow."'

Lugh says, 'Meanwhile, Naoise (nee-sheh) and his brothers were hunting and camping in the forest. Naoise was awakened by a dream, and in that dream he saw a vision of a young woman, and he fell in love with her.'

Lugh says, 'The next day, Deirdre happened to be walking in the forest, and Naoise also happened to be walking in the forest. They saw each other and recognised the vision of their dreams.'

Lugh says, 'But they were shy, not knowing that the other had a similar vision. Naoise spoke first: "The heifers grow large in this forest." Deirdre answered: "Perhaps that is because they have no bulls to look after them."'

Lugh says, 'Naoise guessed who she was. "But you have the Bull of Ulster (i.e., Conor) to look after you." "Perhaps I would rather have a younger bull like yourself."'

Lugh says, '[Women in those days were even more strong-willed and independent than they are now. They could put geis (an injunction in this case) on a man and bind him by his honour to do something.].'

Lugh says, 'Deirdre went up to Naoise and grabbed him by his two ears and said, "I put geis on you to take me away with you." This was a dilemma for Naoise.'

Lugh says, 'To take the king's intended wife was treason, but he could not violate his honour as a warrior by refusing to obey Deirdre'a geis. He thought long and hard about it for at least 5 seconds, then said, "Let's go."'

Lugh says, 'Conor and some of the Red Branch chased Deirdre and Naoise and his brothers around Ireland, until they had to go to Scotland to get away. When the king of Scotland saw Deirdre, they had to run again.'

Lugh says, 'Eventually, they settled on an island in the west of Scotland, where they lived rough for 10 years. The Red Branch warriors missed Naoise and his brothers and convinced (they thought) Conor to forgive them.'

Lugh says, 'Conor agreed, but Fergus said, "They won't trust you, and for that matter, neither do I." "Very well," said Conor. "You can go and bring them back and act as their surety."'

Lugh says, 'Fergus and his two sons went to accompany Deirdre and Naoise and his brothers, Aedan and Ainle, back to Ireland. Deirdre said, "No, I think it's a trick. I had a dream last night, and all I saw was blood."'

Lugh says, 'But Naoise wanted to be with his Red Branch comrades again, and he paid no attention to Deirdre's fears. Deirdre sang a farewell song to Scotland -- "Ardi Cuan" -- familiar as the tune of "In the Quiet Land of Erin".'

Lugh says, 'They arrived back at Ballycastle, Co. Antrim, on the northeast coast of Ireland. [A rock is still pointed out on the beach as their landing place.].'

Lugh says, 'Fergus was greeted by a messenger from the local king, inviting him to an ale-feast. It was geis (taboo) on Fergus to refuse an invitation to an ale- feast.'

Lugh says, 'Who ordered the local king to issue the invitation? Do you remember what Yeats said in his play?'

Lugh says, 'So Fergus had to go to the ale-feast, but he left his two sons as surety for Deirdre and Naoise and Aedan and Ainle, and they all proceeded to Emain Macha.'

Lugh says, 'Deirdre and Naoise and the brothers went into the house of the Red Branch. Conor sent Deirdre's old nurse, Levorcham, to report back to him on Deirdre's condition after 10 years in the wilderness.'

Lugh says, 'Levorcham didn't trust Conor, and after seeing that Deirdre was even more beautiful in spite of her rough living, she told Conor: "Ach, the puir thing, she's all skin and bone and aged 40 years."'

Lugh says, 'Conor didn't trust Levorcham, so he sent a trusted servant to spy on Deirdre. He climbed up a ladder to a window of the Red Branch house and looked in.'

Lugh says, 'Deirdre and Naoise were playing fidchell (like chess, but a hunting game, not war). Naoise saw him and threw a fidchell piece at him and took out an eye. The servant scrambled down the ladder and reported to Conor:'

Lugh says, '"I lost an eye, but it was worth it. Deirdre in the full bloom of womanhood is even more beautiful than before." Conor ordered the Red Branch to attack Naoise and his brothers in the Red Branch house.'

Lugh says, '[Emain Macha can be seen now as a high, grassy mound about a mile outside Armagh City. A smaller mound nearby was the house of the Red Branch. The townland is called Craobh Rua (Red Branch).].'

Lugh says, 'Some of the Red Branch remained loyal to Conor, others revolted. Brother fought brother. The king's druids cast a spell that made Naoise and his brothers think they were waist-deep in water.'

Lugh says, 'One of Fergus' sons went to Conor's side. The other was killed. Naoise was killed by Eoghan (owen) Dubhtach. Aedan and Ainle were killed. Conor took Deirdre to live with him for a year.'

Lugh says, 'At the end of the year, with never a smile from Deirdre, Conor said to her, "Who do you hate most in the world besides me?" "Eoghan Dubhtach," said Deirdre.'

Lugh says, '"Right," said Conor. "You'll spend the next year with Eoghan." Conor took her in his chariot to Eoghan.'

Lugh says, 'On the way, as they were driving along a narrow road next to a cliff, Deirdre saw a rock projecting from the cliff ahead. She put her head out of the chariot and the rock dashed against her head and killed her.'

Bombtrack whistles appreciatively.

Lugh says, 'That is the story of the Death of the Sons of Uisliu.'

Malaki says, 'Ick.'

Fergus' Revenge

Lugh says, 'That is why Fergus went to Maeve. He burned Emain Macha as he left. Later, he was involved in an invasion of Ulster. The story of the Tain is set about the time of Christ.'

Lugh says, '[When Conor heard that Christ had been crucified, he went mad and tried to cut down trees with his sword. The exertion killed him.'

Lugh says, 'Archaeologists have learned that Emain Macha was rebuilt about 2000 years ago, then filled with stones, burned, and covered over with earth.'

Lugh says, 'At the same time, the Dorsey Entrenchment (locally called The Ramparts), a defensive earthwork on one of the roads to Emain Macha, was reinforced with oak stakes and then thoroughly burned.'

Lugh says, 'This sounds like a ritual destruction of a civilisation, it times perfectly with the story of the Tain, and it is a historical fact that the Ulaid's (Ulster people's) power was broken forever at that time.'

Lugh says, 'The Tain is probably a historical fiction, but historians say it accurately reflects the lifestyle of Iron Age Ireland, and something like the Tain really did happen about that time.'

Lugh says, 'In view of current events in the North of Ireland, it is interesting to note that the people of Ulster have always been different from the rest of Ireland, since long before the Catholic/Protestant split.'

Lugh says, 'Mindful of Russian paranoia about invasion during the Cold War, I theorize that Fergus' ritual destruction of the Ulaid remains in the folk memory of the Protestant Unionists in the North.'

Lugh says, 'I feel the Tain is reflected in what is happening in the North now. (There was a report on the radio just now of a suspected bomb blast in Dublin, less than a mile from where I am. If true, it could be the beginning of the Unionists' expected campaign of violence in the Republic.'

Lugh says, 'For the whole story of the Tain read: _Lady Gregory's Complete Irish Mythology_ (comprising _Gods and Fighting Men_[all major stories except The Tain] [1904] and _Cuchulain of Muirthemne_ [The Tain] [1902]) The Slaney Press, 1994 ISBN.'

Lugh says, '_Cuchulain of Muirthemne_ [The Tain] [1902] Colin Smythe (on its own) _The Tain_, a poet's translation by Thomas Kinsella, The Dolmen Press, Oxford Unversity Press, 1969.'

'The Destruction of Dinn Rig is from the Book of Leinster,' Richard Marsh says.

'The Tain is from the Book of the Dun Cow and the Yellow Book of Lecan,' Richard Marsh says.

'I have one more story, a soap opera from the 7th century,' Richard Marsh says.

Lugh says, 'Here is a charming medieval soap-opera of lust, blood, deceit and a modicum of violence toward women. It's part of the Historical or Kings Cycles.'

The Tragic Death of Mael Fhothartaig (male UH-her-tee)
or The Kin-Slaying of Ronan

Lugh says, '[This is my own fairly close translation from the Old Irish (with the aid of a pony), except for a few interpolations inserted for narrative flow.].'

Lugh says, 'Ronan mac Aed was a famous king of Leinster. His royal seat was Rath Imail on the south side of the Glen of Imail near Baltinglass in County Wicklow, on the west side of the mountains from Glendalough.'

Lugh says, 'Eithne of Munster was his wife. Their son, Mael Fhothartaig, became the most famous king's son in the history of Leinster.'

Lugh says, 'Mael Fhothartaig was always first in the hunt and first in the line of battle, and warriors and kings and their sons used to rise whenever he appeared at their gatherings, so much did they honour him.'

Lugh says, 'Because of his great charm and beauty, he was the desire of their daughters and the darling of their women.'

Lugh says, 'Mael Fhothartaig had two hounds named Doilin and Daithlinne, who were the best hunting dogs in Ireland at that time, and these hounds were the delight of his life.'

Lugh says, 'Eithne died, and Ronan was without a wife by his side for several years. One day, Mael Fhothartaig said to his father, "Why don't you take a wife? It's not right that you should be alone."'

Lugh says, '"I have been thinking of that," said Ronan. "I hear that Eochaid (yoe-hee) Iarlaithe has a lovely daughter ready for marriage."'

Lugh says, 'Eochaid was the king of Dal Araidhe in the northeast. His castle was Dun Sobairce (doon severick) on the north coast of County Antrim.'

Lugh says, '"But Father," Mael Fhothartaig said, "surely you're not going to marry such a young lass? Would you not agree with me that a mature, settled woman would be more suitable for you than a skittish girl?"'

Lugh says, 'But if youth fails to heed the wise counsel of age, so age ignores the good advice of youth. Ronan went to Dun Sobairce and slept with Eochaid's daughter, and he brought her home to Rath Imail as his queen. Meanwhile, Mael Fhothartai.'

Lugh says, 'Had gone away on a visit into South Leinster.'

Lugh says, '"Where is your son, Ronan?" said the young queen. "I hear you have a fine son."'

Lugh says, '"I have, indeed," said Ronan. "He's the best son in Leinster."'

Lugh says, '"Send for him, then, so he can welcome me and meet my people and see my treasures and jewels."'

Lugh says, '"I'll send for him, so," said Ronan.'

Lugh says, 'Mael Fhothartaig arrived and gave her a warm welcome.'

Lugh says, '"You have all our love," he told her. "All our jewels and treasures are yours for the love you give to Ronan."'

Lugh says, '"I am so happy that you care for me," she said.'

Lugh says, 'Ronan's young wife had a beautiful serving maid, and she sent her to tell Mael Fhothartaig that he would be welcome into her bed. Mael Fhothartaig's foster brothers, Congal and Dond, the sons of his foster father, were always with him.'

Lugh says, 'One day when they were playing fidchell, the maid came and joined them. She started to speak, then hesitated and began blushing. The men noticed. Mael Fhothartaig got up and left the room. "What's wrong with you?" Congal said.'

Lugh says, '"The queen wants me to invite Mael Fhothartaig to her bed," said the maid. "Don't say anything to Mael Fhothartaig," Congal told her. "He'd kill you."'

Lugh says, 'Tha maid reported this to the queen. The queen told her to sleep with Mael Fhothartaig and gain his confidence, then give him the message.'

Lugh says, 'The maid slept with Mael Fhothartaig, but she was afraid to tell him what the queen wanted.'

Lugh says, 'The queen accused her of keeping Mael Fhothartaig for herself and threatened to cut off her head unless she spoke to him.'

Lugh says, 'The maid went to Mael Fhothartaig in tears and told him of his step- mother's desire for him. He said he would be burnt to ashes before he would go to her.'

Lugh says, 'He went away to Scotland to serve under the king with his hounds Doilin and Daithlenn.'

Lugh says, '"Every host that was routed before the king of Scotland, and every fight that was won, it was the doing of Mael Fhogartaigh." (Kuno Meyer's translation).'

Lugh says, 'Ronan's people demanded that he call Mael Fhothartaig to return. Mael Fhothartaig landed at Dun Sobairce on his return to Ireland and visited with Eochaid.'

Lugh says, '"It is bad of you that you have not slept with my daughter. I gave her for you, not that old churl," said Eochaid. "That is bad indeed," said Mael Fhothartaig.'

Lugh says, 'Mael Fhothartaig returned to Imail, the maid returned to his bed, and the queen resumed her attempted seduction. Mael Fhothartaig turned to his foster brother (son of Mael Fhothartaig's foster father) Congal for advice.'

Lugh says, 'Congal offered to cure the queen of her passion if he got a reward.'

Lugh says, 'Mael Fhothartaig offered him his horse and bridle, but Congal asked for the two hounds, Doilin and Daithlenn. Mael Fhothartaig consented.'

Lugh says, 'Mael Fhothartaig went out to Bae Aife hunting, and Congal sent a message to the queen that he had arranged a tryst for her with Mael Fhothartaig at Bae Aife.'

Lugh says, '[Bae Aife means "the cows of the slope". They are a collection of white quartz boulders lying on the north side of Kilranelagh Hill, about a half hour's walk from Rath Imail.'

Lugh says, 'They look like a small herd of cows from the hill to the north, Spinans Hill, on top of which is Dun Bolg, the largest hill fort in Europe, enclosing some 300 acres.].'

Lugh says, 'When she went there, Congal met her and said, "Where are you going alone, you harlot? You will bring shame on the king." He escorted her home.'

Lugh says, 'Then he saw her going to Bae Aife again and drove her home with a horse whip. "I'll bring blood to your lips," she said to him.'

Lugh says, 'That night, Mael Fhothartaig's companions returned from the hunt, but Mael Fhothartaig remained outside to avoid the queen. Ronan wondered out loud where Mael Fhothartaig was.'

Lugh says, 'The queen complained, "You're making us deaf always talking about your son."'

Lugh says, '"It is right for me to speak of him. There has never been a son more faithful to his father. He is a great comfort to me."'

Lugh says, '"He does not get the comfort from me that he desires," said the queen. "Three times today Congal has taken me to him at Bae Aife, and it was all I could do to get away."'

Lugh says, 'Then she turned to him and showed him her torn head scarf and scratched and bleeding face, which she had torn and scratched herself.'

Lugh says, '"A curse on your lips, you wicked woman," said Ronan. "That's a lie."'

Lugh says, '"I'll prove that I speak the truth," said the queen.'

Lugh says, 'At last Mael Fhothartaig came in. It was a cold night. He sat in front of the fire with his back to his father and step-mother warming his shins.'

Lugh says, 'The queen and Mael Fhothartaig used to make up verses together, when they were still on friendly terms before Mael Fhothartaig learned of her desire for him. One would start a verse, and the other would finish it.'

Lugh says, 'The queen gave him a cue for one of their verses: "Is it cold outside?" she asked.'

Lugh says, 'Mael Fhothartaig answered with the first half of the verse, just as the queen had expected. "It is a cold night in the biting wind for anyone who herds the cows of Aife."'

Lugh says, 'And she answered: "It is a vain herding, with no cows, no lover to meet."'

Lugh says, 'To the innocent ears of Mael Fhothartaig, this was merely polite friendliness,.'

Lugh says, 'But to the ears of Ronan, prepared by his young queen's accusations and inflamed by his own fierce defence of his son's faithfulness, it sounded exactly the way the queen wanted it to sound -- like a coded message about a broken tryst.'

Lugh says, '"It is true this time," said Ronan. Ronan's attendant, Aedan, was standing nearby.'

Lugh says, '"Aedan," said Ronan, "a spear into Mael Fhothartaig and another into Congal."'

Lugh says, 'Aedan sent a spear into the back of Mael Fhothartaig's chair where he sat at the fire, and it came out through his breast, pinning him to the chair.'

Lugh says, 'Congal leapt up, and Aedan pierced him through the heart with another spear. Ronan's jester, Mac Glas, tried to run away, but Aedan sent a third spear after him, so that it brought his bowels out.'

Lugh says, '"You've played enough with the men now, Aedan," said Mael Fhothartaig.'

Lugh says, 'Ronan said, "It was bad luck for all of you that you could find no woman to proposition but my wife."'

Lugh says, '"It was a wretched lie that made you kill your only son, Ronan," Mael Fhothartaig said. "I would sooner sleep with my own mother than with your wife."'

Lugh says, 'And, typically, his last words were: "And Congal didn't deserve to die."'

Lugh says, 'Ronan took Mael Fhothartaig's body into another house and sat next to it for three days, lamenting the loss of his son, and not forgetting Mael Fhothartaig's hounds:'

Lugh says, '"Sad to me is the torture of Daithlinn,.'

Lugh says, 'With rods of steel over her sides.'

Lugh says, '(i.e., her ribs sticking out from not eating in grief over her master's death).'

Lugh says, 'Our reproach is not on her, It is not she who sold our dear ones.'

Lugh says, '"And look at poor Doilin,.'

Lugh says, 'Thrusting her head into the lap of one after another,.'

Lugh says, 'Seeking one whom she will not find." [Kuno Meyer].'

Lugh says, 'Meanwhile, Congal's brother, Dond, took 20 men to the North and sent a message to Eochaid Iarlaithe that his daughter and Mael Fhothartaig had run off together and were coming to see him.'

Lugh says, 'Eochaid and his wife and young son went to the border of his territory to greet the supposed runaways, and Dond and his men killed them and cut off their heads. They came back to Imail and woke up the young queen by throwing the heads on her bed.'

Lugh says, 'She leaped out of bed and put her knife into her breast and fell on it, until it came out her back. Dond then chased Aedan and killed him.'

Lugh says, 'Ronan said, "I hear battle raging all around the rath, and I fear this is one battle I am not going to win." A rush of blood came out of his mouth and he died.'

Lugh says, 'That is the story of the Tragic Death of Mael Fhothartaig or The Kin- Slaying of Ronan.'

Lugh bows deeply. Richard Marsh bows deeply.

Croaker shows his approval by clapping his hands together. Bombtrack shows his approval by clapping his hands together. A smiling, fiery-haired druidess shows her approval by clapping her hands together. A sad-eyed child claps for Lugh approvingly. Lan shows his approval by clapping his hands together. A sad-eyed child cheers for Richard Marsh - huzzah! Red1Guest shows his approval by clapping his hands together. Lugh cheers for Richard Marsh - huzzah! A smiling, fiery-haired druidess beams at Richard Marsh delightedly. A smiling, fiery-haired druidess cheers for Richard Marsh - huzzah!

Red1Guest says, 'Richard marsh i have a quiestion.'

'Go ahead,' Richard Marsh says.

'I have been learning irish for a year and a half now, and i am planning a year abroad at ucg, any suggestions as to what to atake?' Red1Guest says. 'I am very intereted in irish myth and language, are there any resources?' Red1Guest says.

Red1Guest says, 'Your lecture was great, i love it.'

'Email me and I'll give you lots of leads and links,' Richard Marsh says.

Red1Guest says, 'Okay how do i find your email.'

'Email Richard Marsh at,' Richard Marsh says.

Red1Guest says, 'I visited the legends site and thought it was great, when i go over i am going to try to take a tour!'

'Beidh failte mor romhat - you will have a big welcome in front of you,' Richard Marsh says.

Red1Guest says, 'Go raibh me agat!'

'Na bac leis,' Richard Marsh says.

'Nach maith an gaelgoir thu,' Richard Marsh says.

Bombtrack raises an eyebrow inquiringly.

A smiling, fiery-haired druidess smiles happily.

Red1Guest smiles happily.

A smiling, fiery-haired druidess stands up.

A smiling, fiery-haired druidess curtseys before Richard Marsh gracefully.

Richard Marsh says, 'It's the first official language of Ireland, English is the second.'

A smiling, fiery-haired druidess thanks Richard Marsh heartily.

A smiling, fiery-haired druidess returns to being In Character.

Lugh smiles at Richard Marsh.

'I am happpily learning away, going to gealetacht weekends and all,' Red1Guest says.

Bombtrack thanks Richard Marsh heartily.

Bombtrack returns to being In Character.

'Gaeltacht weekends where?' Richard Marsh says.

Red1Guest says, 'It will be a pleasure corresponding with you, Richard Marsh...'

'Pittsburgh pa usa,' Red1Guest says.

'An gaeltacht an Pitt i?' Richard Marsh says.

Red1Guest says, 'Ther eare some around elsewhere, but the gaelic league is going strong here.'

Red1Guest says, 'A few freinds and i have started a celtic society organization at the u of pitt.'

'You can practise on the Gaelic-L mailing list,' Richard Marsh says. 'Do you know it?'

Red1Guest says, 'Yes, but i can somethimes only unsderstand a very little.'

'And the Focal an lae - Irish word for the day?' Richard Marsh says.

Red1Guest says, 'Oh yes i have most of them printed and i have gotten the first 175 bound...'

'Sounds a bit obsessive eh?' Red1Guest says.

'Many thanks for a wonderful lecture,' Ptah says to Richard Marsh. Red1Guest says, ':) i just want to learn as much as possible.'