February for Manannan – 26 A Story

From Lady Gregory’s Gods and Fighting Men, (1904).

Part I Book IV: Call to Connla

AND it is likely it was Manannan sent his messenger for Connla of the Red Hair the time he went away out of Ireland, for it is to his country Connla was brought; and this is the way he got the call.

It chanced one day he was with his father Conn, King of Team-hair, on the Hill of Uisnach, and he saw a woman having wonderful clothing coming towards him. “Where is it you come from?” he asked her. “I come,” she said, “from Tir-nam-Beo, the Land of the Ever-Living Ones, where no death comes. We use feasts that are lasting,” she said, “and we do every kind thing without quarrelling, and we are called the people of the Sidhe.” “Who are you speaking to, boy?” said Conn to him then, for no one saw the strange woman but only Connla. “He is speaking to a high woman that death or old age will never come to,” she said. “I am asking him to come to Magh Mell, the Pleasant Plain where the triumphant king is living, and there he will be a king for ever without sorrow or fret. Come with me, Connla of the Red Hair,” she said, “of the fair freckled neck and of the ruddy cheek; come with me, and your body will not wither from its youth and its comeliness for ever.”

They could all hear the woman’s words then, though they could not see her, and it is what Conn said to Coran his Druid: “Help me, Coran, you that sing spells of the great arts. There is an attack made on me that is beyond my wisdom and beyond my power, I never knew so strong an attack since the first day I was a king. There is an unseen figure fighting with me; she is using her strength against me to bring away my beautiful son; the call of a woman is bringing him away from the hands of the king.”

Then Coran, the Druid, began singing spells against the woman of the Sidhe, the way no one would hear her voice, and Connla could not see her any more. But when she was being driven away by the spells of the Druid, she threw an apple to Connla.

And through the length of a month from that time, Connla used no other food nor drink but that apple, for he thought no other food or drink worth the using. And for all he ate of it, the apple grew no smaller, but was whole all the while. And there was great trouble on Connla on account of the woman he had seen.

And at the end of a month Connla was at his father’s side in Magh Archomnim, and he saw the same woman coming towards him, and it is what she said: “It is a high place indeed Connla has among dying people, and death before him. But the Ever-Living Ones,” she said, “are asking you to take the sway over the people of Tethra, for they are looking at you every day in the gatherings of your country among your dear friends.”

When Conn, the king, heard her voice, he said to his people: “Call Coran, the Druid to me, for I hear the sound of the woman’s voice again.” But on that she said: “O Conn, fighter of a hundred, it is little love and little respect the wonderful tribes of Traig Mor, the Great Strand, have for Druids; and where its law comes, it scatters the spells on their lips.”

Then Conn looked to his son Connla to see what he would say, and Connla said: “My own people are dearer to me than any other thing, yet sorrow has taken hold of me because of this woman.” Then the woman spoke to him again, and it is what she said: “Come now into my shining ship, if you will come to the Plain of Victory. There is another country it would not be worse for you to look for; though the bright sun is going down, we shall reach to that country before night. That is the country that delights the mind of every one that turns to me. There is no living race in it but women and girls only.”

And when the woman had ended her song, Connla made a leap from his people into the shining boat, and they saw him sailing away from them far off and as if in a mist, as far as their eyes could see. It is away across the sea they went, and they have never come back again, and only the gods know where was it they went.

February for Manannan – 20 A Story

From Lady Gregory’s Gods and Fighting Men (1904).

Part I Book IV: Cliodna’s Wave

AND it was in the time of the Fianna of Ireland that Ciabban of the Curling Hair, the king of Ulster’s son, went to Manannan’s country.

Ciabhan now was the most beautiful of the young men of the world at that time, and he was as far beyond all other kings’ sons as the moon is beyond the stars. And Finn liked him well, but the rest of the Fianna got to be tired of him because there was not a woman of their women, wed or unwed, but gave him her love. And Finn had to send him away at the last, for he was in dread of the men of the Fianna because of the greatness of their jealousy.

So Ciabhan went on till he came to the Strand of the Cairn, that is called now the Strand of the Strong Man, between Dun Sobairce and the sea. And there he saw a curragh, and it having a narrow stern of copper. And Ciabhan got into the curragh, and his people said: “Is it to leave Ireland you have a mind, Ciabhan?” “It is indeed,” he said, “for in Ireland I get neither shelter nor protection.” He bade farewell to his people then, and he left them very sorrowful after him, for to part with him was like the parting of life from the body.

And Ciabhan went on in the curragh, and great white shouting waves rose up about him, every one of them the size of a mountain; and the beautiful speckled salmon that are used to stop in the sand and the shingle rose up to the sides of the curragh, till great dread came on Ciabhan, and he said: “By my word, if it was on land I was I could make a better fight for myself.”

And he was in this danger till he saw a rider coming towards him on a dark grey horse having a golden bridle, and he would be under the sea for the length of nine waves, and he would rise with the tenth wave, and no wet on him at all. And he said: “What reward would you give to whoever would bring you out of this great danger?” “Is there anything in my hand worth offering you?” said Ciabhan. “There is,” said the rider, “that you would give your service to whoever would give you his help.” Ciabhan agreed to that, and he put his hand into the rider’s hand.

With that the rider drew him on to the horse, and the curragh came on beside them till they reached to the shore of Tir Tairngaire, the Land of Promise, They got off the horse there, and came to Loch Luchra, the Lake of the Dwarfs, and to Manannan’s city, and a feast was after being made ready there, and comely serving-boys were going round with smooth horns, and playing on sweet-sounding harps till the whole house was filled with the music.

Then there came in clowns, long-snouted, long-heeled, lean and bald and red, that used to be doing tricks in Manannan’s house. And one of these tricks was, a man of them to take nine straight willow rods, and to throw them up to the rafters of the house, and to catch them again as they came down, and he standing on one leg, and having but one hand free. And they thought no one could do that trick but themselves, and they were used to ask strangers to do it, the way they could see them fail.

So this night when one of them had done the trick, he came up to Ciabhan, that was beyond all the Men of Dea or the Sons of the Gael that were in the house, in shape and in walk and in name, and be put the nine rods in his hand. And Ciabhan stood up and be did the feat before them all, the same as if he had never learned to do any other thing.

Now Gebann, that was a chief Druid in Manannan’s country, had a daughter, Cliodna of the Fair Hair, that had never given her love to any man. But when she saw Ciabhan she gave him her love, and she agreed to go away with him on the morrow.

And they went down to the landing-place and got into a curragh, and they went on till they came to Teite’s Strand in the southern part of Ireland. It was from Teite Brec the Freckled the strand got its name, that went there one time for a wave game, and three times fifty young girls with her, and they were all drowned in that place. And as to Ciabban, he came on shore, and went looking for deer, as was right, under the thick branches of the wood; and he left the young girl in the boat on the strand.

But the people of Manannan’s house came after them, having forty ships. And Iuchnu, that was in the curragh with Cliodna, did treachery, and he played music to her till she lay down in the boat and fell asleep. And then a great wave came up on the strand and swept her away.

And the wave got its name from Cliodna of the Fair Hair, that will be long remembered.

February for Manannan – 17 A Story

From Lady Greogory’s Gods and Fighting Men (1904).

Part I Book IV: His Three Calls to Cormac

AND another that went to Manannan’s country was Cormac, grandson of Conn, King of Teamhair, and this is the way it happened. He was by himself in Teamhair one time, and he saw an armed man coming towards him, quiet, with high looks, and having grey hair; a shirt ribbed with gold thread next his skin, broad shoes of white bronze between his feet and the ground, a shining branch having nine apples of red gold, on his shoulder. And it is delightful the sound of that branch was, and no one on earth would keep in mind any want, or trouble, or tiredness, when that branch was shaken for him; and whatever trouble there might be on him, he would forget it at the sound.

Then Cormac and the armed man saluted one another, and Cormac asked where did he come from. “I come,” he said, “from a country where there is nothing but truth, and where there is neither age nor withering away, nor heaviness, nor sadness, nor jealousy, nor envy, nor pride.” “That is not so with us,” said Cormac, “and I would be well pleased to have your friendship,” he said. “I am well pleased to give it,” said the stranger. “Give me your branch along with it,” said Connac. “I will give it”, said the stranger, “if you will give me the three gifts I ask in return.” “I will give them to you indeed,” said Cormac.

Then the strange man left the branch and went away, and Cormac did not know where was he gone to.

He went back then into the royal house, and there was wonder on all the people when they saw the branch. And he shook it at them, and it put them all asleep from that day to the same time on the morrow.

At the end of a year the strange man came back again, and he asked for the first of his three requests. “You will get it,” said Connac. “I will take your daughter, Aille, to-day,” said the stranger.

So he brought away the girl with him, and the women of Ireland gave three loud cries after the king’s daughter. But Cormac shook the branch at them, until it put away sorrow from them, and put them all into their sleep.

That day month the stranger came again, and he brought Cormac’s son, Carpre Lifecar, away with him. There was crying and lamenting without end in Teamhair after the boy, and on that night no one ate or slept, and they were all under grief and very downhearted. But when Cormac shook the branch their sorrow went from them.

Then the stranger came the third time, and Cormac asked him what did he want. “It is your wife, Ethne, I am asking this time,” he said. And he went away then, bringing Ethne, the queen, along with him.

But Cormac would not bear that, and be went after them, and all his people were following him. But in the middle of the Plain of the Wall, a thick mist came on them, and when it was gone, Cormac found himself alone on a great plain. And he saw a great dun in the middle of the plain, with a wall of bronze around it, and in the dun a house of white silver, and it half thatched with the white wings of birds. And there was a great troop of the Riders of the Sidhe all about the house, and their arms full of white bird’s wings for thatching. But as soon as they would put on the thatch, a blast of wind would come and carry it away again.

Then he saw a man kindling a fire, and he used to throw a thick oak-tree upon it. And when he would come back with a second tree, the first one would be burned out. “I will be looking at you no longer,” Cormac said then, “for there is no one here to tell me your story, and I think I could find good sense in your meanings if I understood them,” he said.

Then he went on to where there was another dun, very large and royal, and another wall of bronze around it, and four houses within it. And he went in and saw a great king’s house, having beams of bronze and walls of silver, and its thatch of the wings of white birds. And then he saw on the green a shining well, and five streams flowing from it, and the armies drinking water in turn, and the nine lasting purple hazels of Buan growing over it. And they were dropping their nuts into the water, and the five salmon would catch them and send their husks floating down the streams. And the sound of the flowing of those streams is sweeter than any music that men sing.

Then he went into the palace, and he found there waiting for him a man and a woman, very tall, and having clothes of many colours. The man was beautiful as to shape, and his face wonderful to look at; and as to the young woman that was with him, she was the loveliest of all the women of the world, and she having yellow hair and a golden helmet. And there was a bath there, and heated stones going in and out of the water of themselves, and Cormac bathed himself in it.

“Rise up, man of the house,” the woman said after that, “for this is a comely traveller that is come to us; and if you have one kind of food or meat better than another, let it be brought in.” The man rose up then and he said: “I have but seven pigs, but I could feed the whole world with them, for the pig that is killed and eaten to-day, you will find it alive again to-morrow.”

Another man came into the house then, having an axe in his right hand, and a log in his left hand, and a pig behind him.

“It is time to make ready,” said the man of the house, “for we have a high guest with us to-day.”

Then the man struck the pig and killed it, and he cut the logs and made a fire and put the pig on it in a cauldron. “It is time for you to turn it,” said the master of the house after a while. “There would be no use doing that,” said the man, “for never and never will the pig be boiled until a truth is told for every quarter of it.” “Then let you tell yours first,” said the master of the house. “One day,” said the man, “I found another man’s cows in my land, and I brought them with me into a cattle pound. The owner of the cows followed me, and he said he would give me a reward to let the cows go free. So I gave them back to him, and he gave me an axe, and when a pig is to be killed, it is with the axe it is killed, and the log is cut with it, and there is enough wood to boil the pig, and enough for the palace besides. And that is not all, for the log is found whole again in the morning. And from that time till now, that is the way they are.”

“It is true indeed that story is,” said the man of the house.

They turned the pig in the cauldron then, and but one quarter of it was found to be cooked. “Let us tell another true story,” they said. “I will tell one,” said the master of the house. “Ploughing time had come, and when we had a mind to plough that field outside, it is the way we found it, ploughed, and harrowed, and sowed with wheat. When we had a mind to reap it, the wheat was found in the haggard, all in one thatched rick. We have been using it from that day to this, and it is no bigger and no less.”

Then they turned the pig, and another quarter was found to be ready. “It is my turn now,” said the woman. “I have seven cows,” she said, “and seven sheep. And the milk of the seven cows would satisfy the whole of the men of the world, if they were in the plain drinking it, and it is enough for all the people of the Land of Promise, and it is from the wool of the seven sheep all the clothes they wear are made.” And at that story the third quarter of the pig was boiled.

“If these stories are true,” said Cormac to the man of the house, “you are Manannan, and this is Manannan’s wife; for no one on the whole ridge of the world owns these treasures but himself. It was to the Land of Promise he went to look for that woman, and he got those seven cows with her.”

They said to Cormac that it was his turn now. So Cormac told them how his wife, and his son, and his daughter, had been brought away from him, and how he himself had followed them till he came to that place.

And with that the whole pig was boiled, and they cut it up, and Cormac’s share was put before him. “I never used a meal yet,” said he, “having two persons only in my company.” The man of the house began singing to him then, and put him asleep. And when he awoke, he saw fifty armed men, and his son, and his wife, and his daughter, along with them. There was great gladness and courage on him then, and ale and food were given out to them all. And there was a gold cup put in the hand of the master of the house, and Cormac was wondering at it, for the number of the shapes on it, and for the strangeness of the work. “There is a stranger thing yet about it,” the man said; “let three lying words be spoken under it, and it will break into three, and then let three true words be spoken under it, and it will be as good as before.” So he said three lying words under it, and it broke in three pieces. “It is best to speak truth now under it,” he said, “and to mend it. And I give my word, Cormac,” he said, “that until to-day neither your wife or your daughter has seen the face of a man since they were brought away from you out of Teamhair, and that your son has never seen the face of a woman.” And with that the cup was whole again on the moment. “Bring away your wife and your children with you now,” he said, “and this cup along with them, the way you will have it for judging between truth and untruth. And I will leave the branch with you for music and delight, but on the day of your death they will be taken from you again. And I myself,” he said, “am Manannan, son of Lir, King of the Land of Promise, and I brought you here by enchantments that you might be with me to-night in friendship.

“And the Riders you saw thatching the house,” he said, “are the men of arts and poets, and all that look for a fortune in Ireland, putting together cattle and riches. For when they go out, all that they leave in their houses goes to nothing, and so they go on for ever.

“And the man you saw kindling the fire,” he said, “is a young lord that is more liberal than he can afford, and every one else is served while he is getting the feast ready, and every one else profiting by it.

“And the well you saw is the Well of Knowledge, and the streams are the five streams through which all knowledge goes. And no one will have knowledge who does not drink a draught out of the well itself or out of the streams. And the people of many arts are those who drink from them all.”

And on the morning of the morrow, when Cormac rose up, he found himself on the green of Teamhair, and his wife, and his son, and his daughter, along with him, and he having his branch and his cup. And it was given the name of Cormac’s Cup, and it used to judge between truth and falsehood among the Gael. But it was not left in Ireland after the night of Cormac’s death, as Manannan had foretold him.

February for Manannan – 15 A Story

Part I Book IV: His Call to Bran
Another excerpt from Lady Gregory’s Gods and Fighting Men (1904).

AND there were some that went to Manannan’s country beyond the sea, and that gave an account of it afterwards.

One time Bran, son of Febal, was out by himself near his dun, and he heard music behind him. And it kept always after him, and at last he fell asleep with the sweetness of the sound. And when he awoke from his sleep be saw beside him a branch of silver, and it having white blossoms, and the whiteness of the silver was the same as the whiteness of the blossoms.

And he brought the branch in his hand into the royal house, and when all his people were with him they saw a woman with strange clothing standing in the house.

And she began to make a song for Bran, and all the people were looking at her and listening to her, and it is what she said:

“I bring a branch of the apple-tree from Emhain, from the far island around which are the shining horses of the Son of Lir. A delight of the eyes is the plain where the hosts hold their games; curragh racing against chariot in the White Silver Plain to the south.

“There are feet of white bronze under it, shining through life and time; a comely level land through the length of the world’s age, and many blossoms falling on it.

“There is an old tree there with blossoms, and birds calling from among them; every colour is shining there, delight is common, and music, in the Gentle-Voiced Plain, in the Silver Cloud Plain to the south.

“Keening is not used, or treachery, in the tilled familiar land; there is nothing hard or rough, but sweet music striking on the ear. “To be without grief, without sorrow, without death, without any sickness, without weakness; that is the sign of Emhain; it is not common wonder that is.

“There is nothing to liken its mists to, the sea washes the wave against the land, brightness falls from its hair.

“There are riches, there are treasures of every colour in the Gentle Land, the Bountiful Land. Sweet music to be listening to; the best of wine to drink.

“Golden chariots in the Plain of the Sea, rising up to the sun with the tide; silver chariots and bronze chariots on the Plain of Sports.

“Gold-yellow horses on the strand, and crimson horses, and others with wool on their backs, blue like the colour of the sky.

“It is a day of lasting weather, silver is dropping on the land; a pure white cliff on the edge of the sea, getting its warmth from the sun.

“The host race over the Plain of Sports; it is beautiful and not weak their game is; death or the ebbing of the tide will not come to them in the Many-Coloured Land.

“There will come at sunrise a fair man, lighting up the level lands; he rides upon the plain that is beaten by the waves, he stirs the sea till it is like blood.

“An army will come over the clear sea, rowing to the stone that is in sight, that a hundred sounds of music come from.

“It sings a song to the army; it is not sad through the length of time; it increases music with hundreds singing together; they do not look for death or the ebb-tide.

“There are thee times fifty far islands in the ocean to the west of us, and every one of them twice or three times more than Ireland.

“It is is not to all of you I am speaking, though I have made all these wonders known. Let Bran listen from the crowd of the world to all the wisdom that has been told him.

“Do not fall upon a bed of sloth; do not be overcome by drunkenness; set out on your voyage over the clear sea, and you may chance to come to the Land of Women.”

With that the woman went from them, and they did not know where she went. And she brought away her branch with her, for it leaped into her hand from Bran’s hand, and he had not the strength to hold it.

Then on the morrow Bran set out upon the sea, and three companies of nine along with him; and one of his foster-brothers and comrades was set over each company of nine.

And when they had been rowing for two days and two nights, they saw a man coming towards them in a chariot, over the sea. And the man made himself known to them, and he said that he was Manannan, son of Lir.

And then Manannan spoke to him in a song, and it is what he said:

“It is what Bran thinks, he is going in his curragh over the wonderful, beautiful clear sea; but tome, from far off in my chariot, it is a flowery plain he is riding on.

“What is a clear sea to the good boat Bran is in, is a happy plain with many flowers to me in my two-wheeled chariot.

“It is what Bran sees, many waves beating across the clear sea; it is what I myself see, red flowers without any fault.

“The sea-horses are bright in summer-time, as far as Bran’s eyes can reach; there is a wood of beautiful acorns under the head of your little boat.

“A wood with blossom and with fruit, that has the smell of wine; a wood without fault, without withering, with leaves of the colour of gold.

“Let Bran row on steadily, it is not far to the Land of Women; before the setting of the sun you will reach Emhain, of many-coloured hospitality.”

With that Bran went from him; and after a while he saw an island, and he rowed around it, and there was a crowd on it, wondering at them, and laughing; and they were all looking at Bran and at his people, but they would not stop to talk with them, but went on giving out gusts of laughter. Bran put one of his men on the island then, but be joined with the others, and began to stare the same way as the men of the island. And Bran went on rowing round about the island; and whenever they went past his own man, his comrades would speak to him, but he would not answer them, but would only stare and wonder at them. So they went away and left him on that island that is called the Island of Joy.

It was not long after that they reached to the Land of Women. And they saw the chief one of the women at the landing-place, and it is what she said: “Come hither to land, Bran, son of Febal, it is welcome your coming to us.” But Bran did not dare to go on shore. Then the woman threw a ball of thread straight to him, and he caught it in his hand, and it held fast to his palm, and the woman kept the thread in her own hand, and she pulled the curragh to the landing-place.

On that they went into a grand house, where there was a bed for every couple, three times nine beds. And the food that was put on every dish never came to an end, and they had every sort of food and of drink they wished for.

And it seemed to them they were only a year there when the desire of home took hold on one of them, Nechtan, son of Collbrain, and his kinsmen were begging and praying Bran to go back with him to Ireland. The woman said there would be repentance on them if they went; but in spite of that they set out in the end. And the woman said to them not to touch the land when they would come to Ireland, and she bade them to visit and to bring with them the man they left in the Island of Joy.

So they went on towards Ireland till they came to a place called Srub Bruin. And there were people on the strand that asked them who they were that were coming over the sea. And Bran said: “I am Bran, son of Febal.” But the people said: “We know of no such man, though the voyage of Bran is in our very old stories.”

Then Nechtan, son of Collbrain, made a leap out of the curragh, and no sooner did he touch the shore of Ireland than he was a heap of ashes, the same as if he had been in the earth through hundreds of years.

And then Bran told the whole story of his wanderings to the people, from the beginning. And after that he bade them farewell, and his wanderings from that time are not known.

February for Manannan – 10 A Story

Another excerpt from Lady Gregory’s Gods and Fighting Men, 1904.

AND it was he went playing tricks through Ireland a long time after that again, the time he got the name of O’Donnell’s Kern. And it is the way it happened, Aodh Dubh O’Donnell was holding a feast one time in Bel-atha Senaig, and his people were boasting of the goodness of his house and of his musicians.

And while they were talking, they saw a clown coming towards them, old striped clothes he had, and puddle water splashing in his shoes, and his sword sticking out naked behind him, and his ears through the old cloak that was over his head, and in his hand he had three spears of hollywood scorched and blackened.

He wished O’Donnell good heath, and O’Donnell did the same to him, and asked where did he come from. “It is where I am,” he said, “I slept last night at Dun Monaidhe, of the King of Alban; I am a day in Ile, a day in Cionn-tire, a day in Rachlainn, a day in the Watchman’s Seat in Slieve Fuad; a pleasant rambling wandering man I am, and it is with yourself I am now, O’Donnell,” he said. “Let the gate-keeper be brought to me,” said O’Donnell. And when the gate-keeper came, he asked was it he let in this man, and the gate-keeper said he did not, and that he never saw him before. “Let him off, O’Donnell” said the stranger, “for it was as easy for me to come in, as it will be to me to go out again.” There was wonder on them all then, any man to have come into the house without passing the gate.

The musicians began playing their music then, and all the best musicians of the country were there at the time, and they played very sweet tunes on their harps. But the strange man called out: “By my word, O’Donnell, there was never a noise of hammers beating on iron in any bad place was so bad to listen to as this noise your people are making.”

With that he took a harp, and he made music that would put women in their pains and wounded men after a battle into a sweet sleep, and it is what O’Donnell said: “Since I first heard talk of the music of the Sidhe that is played in the hills and under the earth below us, I never heard better music than your own. And it is a very sweet player you are,” he said. “One day I am sweet, another day I am sour,” said the clown.

Then O’Donnell bade his people to bring him up to sit near himself. “I have no mind to do that,” he said; “I would sooner be as I am, an ugly clown, making sport for high-up people.” Then O’Donnell sent him down clothes, a hat and. a striped shirt and a coat, but he would not have them. “I have no mind,” he said, “to let high-up people be making a boast of giving them to me.”

They were afraid then he might go from them, and they put twenty aimed horsemen and twenty men on foot to hold him back from leaving the house, and as many more outside at the gate, for they knew him not to be a man of this world. “What are these men for?” said he. “They are to keep you here,” said O’Donnell “By my word, it is not with you I will be eating my supper to-morrow,” he said, “but at Cnoc Aine, where Seaghan, Son of the Earl is, in Desmumain.” “If I find you giving one stir out of yourself, between this and morning, I will knock you into a round lump there on the ground,” said O’Donnell.

But at that the stranger took up the harp again, and he made the same sweet music as before. And when they were all listening to him, he called out to the men outside: “Here I am coming, and watch me well now or you will lose me.” When the men that were watching the gate heard that, they lifted up their axes to strike him, but in their haste it was at one another they struck, till they were lying stretched in blood. Then the clown said to the gate-keeper: “Let us ask twenty cows and a hundred of free land of O’Donnell as a fee for bringing his people back to life. And take this herb,” he said, “and rub it in the mouth of each man of them, and he will rise up whole and well again.” So the gate-keeper did that, and he got the cows and the land from O’Donnell, and he brought all the people to life again.

Now at that time Seaghan, Son of the Earl, was holding a gathering on the green in front of his dun, and he saw the same man coming towards him, and dressed in the same way, and the water splashing in his shoes. But when he asked who was he, he gave himself the name of a very learned man, Duartane O’Duartane, and he said it was by Ess Ruadh he was come, and by Ceiscorainn and from that to Corrslieve, and to Magh Lorg of the Dagda, and into the district of Hy’Conaill Gabhra, “till I came to yourself,” he said, “by Cruachan of Magh Ai.” So they brought him into the house, and gave him wine for drinking and water for washing his feet, and he slept till the rising of the sun on the morrow. And at that time Seaghan, Son of the Earl, came to visit him, and he said: “It is a long sleep you had, and there is no wonder in that, and your journey so long yesterday. But I often heard of your learning in books and of your skill on the harp, and I would like to hear you this morning,” he said. “I am good in those arts indeed,” said the stranger. So they brought him a book, but he could not read a word of it, and then they brought him a harp, and he could not play any tune. “It is likely your reading and your music are gone from you,” said Seaghan; and he made a little rann on him, saying it was a strange thing Duartane O’Duartane that had such a great name not to be able to read a line of a book, or even to remember one. But when the stranger heard how he was being mocked at, he took up the book, and read from the top to the bottom of the page very well and in a sweet-sounding voice. And after that be took the harp and played and sang the same way he did at O’Donnell’s house the day before. “It is a very sweet man of learning you are,” said Seaghan. “One day l am sweet, another day I am sour,” said the stranger.

They walked out together then on Cnoc Aine, but while they were talking there, the stranger was gone all of a minute, and Seaghan, Son of the Earl, could not see where he went.

And after that he went on, and he reached Sligach just at the time O’Conchubar was setting out with the men of Connacht to avenge the Connacht hag’s basket on the hag of Munster. And this time he gave himself the name of Gilla Decair, the Bad Servant. And he joined with the men of Connacht, and they went over the Sionnan westward into Munster, and there they hunted and drove every creature that could be made travel, cattle and horses and flocks, into one place, till they got the hornless bull of the Munster hag and her two speckled cows, and O’Conchubar brought them away to give to the Connacht hag in satisfaction for her basket.

But the men of Munster made an attack on them as they were going back; and the Gilla Decair asked O’Conchubar would he sooner have the cows driven, or have the Munster men checked, and he said he would sooner have the Munster men checked. So the Gilla Decair turned on them, and with his bow and twenty-four arrows he kept them back till O’Conchubar and his people were safe out of their reach in Connacht.

But he took some offence then, on account of O’Conchubar taking the first drink himself when they came to his house, and not giving it to him, that had done so much, and he took his leave and went from them on the moment.

After that he went to where Tadg O’Cealaigh was, and having his old striped clothes and his old shoes as before. And when they asked him what art he had, he said: “I am good at tricks. And if you will give me five marks I will show you a trick,” he said. “I will give that,” said Tadg.

With that the stranger put three rushes on the palm of his hand. “I will blow away the middle rush now,” be said, “and the other two will stop as they are,” So they told him to do that, and he put the tops of two of his fingers on the two outside rushes, and blew the middle one away. “There is a trick now for you, Tadg O’Cealaigh,” he said then. “By my word, that is not a bad trick,” said O’Cealaigh. But one of his men said: “That there may be no good luck with him that did it. And give me half of that money now, Tadg,” he said, “and I will do the same trick for you myself.” “I will give you the half of what I got if you will do it,” said the stranger. So the other put the rushes on his band, but if he did, when he tried to do the trick, his two finger-tips went through the palm of his hand. “Ob-Ob-Ob!” said the stranger, “that is not the way I did the trick. But as you have lost the money,” he said, “I will heal you again?”

“I could do another trick for you,” he said; “I could wag the ear on one side of my head and the ear on the other side would stay still.” “Dolt then,” said O’Cealaigh. So the man of tricks took hold of one of his ears and wagged it up and down. “That is a good trick indeed,” said O’Cealaigh. “I will show you another one now,” he said.

With that he took from his bag a thread of silk, and gave a cast of it up into the air, that it was made fast to a cloud. And then he took a hare out of the same bag, and it ran up the thread; and then took out a little dog and laid it on after the hare, and it followed yelping on its track; and after that again he brought out a little serving-boy and bade him to follow dog and hare up the thread. Then out of another bag he had with him he brought out a beautiful, well-dressed young woman, and bade her to follow after the hound and the boy, and to take care and not to let the hare be torn by the dog. She went up then quickly after them, and it was a delight to Tadg O’Cealaigh to be looking at them and to be listening to the sound of the hunt going on in the air.

All was quiet then for a long time, and then the man of tricks said: “I am afraid there is some bad work going on up there.” “What is that” said O’Cealaigh. “I am thinking,” said he, “the hound might be eating the hare, and the serving-boy courting the girl” “It is likely enough they are,” said O’Cealaigh. With that the stranger drew in the thread, and it is what he found, the boy making love to the girl and the hound chewing the bones of the hare. There was great anger on the man of tricks when he saw that, and be took his sword and struck the head off the boy. “I do not like a thing of that sort to be done in my presence,” said Tadg O’Cealaigh. “If it did not please you, I can set all right again”, said the stranger. And with that he took up the head and made a cast of it at the body, and it joined to it, and the young man stood up, but if he did his face was turned backwards. “It would be better for him to be dead than to be living like that,” said O’Cealaigh. When the man of tricks heard that, he took hold of the boy and twisted his head straight, and he was as well as before.

And with that the man of tricks vanished, and no one saw where was he gone.

That is the way Manannan used to be going round Ireland, doing tricks and wonders. And no one could keep him in any place, and if he was put on a gallows itself, he would be found safe in the house after, and some other man on the gallows in his place. But he did no harm, and those that would be put to death by him, he would bring them to life again with a herb out of his bag.

And all the food he would use would be a vessel of sour milk and a few crab-apples. And there never was any music sweeter than the music he used to be playing.

February for Manannan – 6 A Story

An excerpt from the book Gods and Fighting Men by Lady Gregory (1904).

Now as to Manannan the Proud, son of Lir, after he had made places for the rest of the Tuatha de Danaan to live in, he went away out of Ireland himself. And some said he was dead, and that he got his death by Uillenn Faebarderg, of the Red Edge, in battle. And it is what they said, that the battle was fought at Magh Cuilenn, and that Manannan was buried standing on his feet, and no sooner was he buried than a great lake burst up under his feet in the place that was a red bog till that time. And the lake got the name of Loch Orbson, from one of the names of Manannan. And it was said that red Badb was glad and many women were sony at that battle.

But he had many places of living, and he was often heard of in Ireland after. It was he sent a messenger to Etain, mother of Conaire the High King, the time she was hidden in the cowherd’s house. And it was he brought up Deirdre’s children in Emhain of the Apple Trees, and it was said of that place, “a house of peace is the hill of the Sidhe of Emhain.” And it was he taught Diannuid of the Fianna the use of weapons, and it was he taught Cuchulain the use of the Gae Bulg, and some say it was he was Deirdre’s father, and that he brought Conchubar, king of Ulster, to the place she was hidden, and he running with the appearance of a hare before the hounds of the men of Ulster to bring them there.

And it is what they say, that the time Conchubar had brought the sons of Usnach to Emain Macha, and could not come at them to kill them because of their bravery, it was to Manannan he went for help. And Manannan said he would give him no help, for he had told him at the time he brought Deidre away that she would be the cause of the breaking up of his kingdom, and he took her away in spite of him. But Conchubar asked him to put blindness for a while on the sons of Usnach, or the whole army would be destroyed with their blows. So after a while he consented to that. And when the sons of Usnach came out against the army of Ulster, the blindness came on them, and it was at one another they struck, not seeing who was near them, and it was by one another’s hands they fell. But more say Manannan had no hand in it, and that it was Cathbad, the Druid, put a sea about them and brought them to their death by his enchantments.

And some say Culain, the Smith, that gave his name to Cuchulain afterwards, was Manannan himself, for he had many shapes.

Anyway, before Culain came to Ulster, he was living in the Island of Falga, that was one of Manannan’s places. And one time before Conchubar came into the kingdom, he went to ask advice of a Druid, and the Druid bade him to go to the Island of Falga and to ask Culain, the smith he would find there, to make arms for him. So Conchubar did so, and the smith promised to make a sword and spear and shield for him.

And while he was working at them Conchubar went out one morning early to walk on the strand, and there he saw a sea-woman asleep on the shore. And he put bonds on her in her sleep, the way she would not make her escape. But when she awoke and saw what had happened, she asked him to set her free. “And I am Tiabhal,” she said, “one of the queens of the sea. And bid Culain,” she said, “that is making your shield for you, to put my likeness on it and my name about it. And whenever you will go into a battle with that shield the strength of your enemies will lessen, and your own strength and the strength of your people will increase.”

So Conchubar let her go, and bade the smith do as she had told him. And when he went back to Ireland he got the victory wherever he brought that shield.

And he sent for Culain then, and offered him a place on the plains of Muirthemne. And whether he was or was not Manannan, it is likely he gave Cuchulain good teaching the time he stopped with him there after killing his great dog.

Manannan had good hounds one time, but they went hunting after a pig that was destroying the whole country, and making a desert of it. And they followed it till they came to a lake, and there it turned on them, and no hound of them escaped alive, but they were all drowned or maimed. And the pig made for an island then, that got the name of Muc-inis, the Pigs Island afterward; and the lake got the name of Loch Conn, the Lake of the Hounds.

And it was through Manannan the wave of Tuaig, one of the three great waves of Ireland, got its name, and this is the way that happened.

There was a young girl of the name of Tuag, a fosterling of Conaire the High King, was reared in Teamhair, and a great company of the daughters of the kings of Ireland were put about her to protect her, the way she would be kept for a king’s asking. But Manannan sent Fer Ferdiad, of the Tuatha de Danaan, that was a pupil of his own and a Druid, in the shape of a woman of his own household, and he went where Tuag was, and sang a sleep-spell over her, and brought her away to Inver Glas. And there he laid her down while he went looking for a boat, that he might bring her away in her sleep to the Land of the Ever-Living Women. But a wave of the flood-tide came over the girl, and she was drowned, and Manannan killed Fer Ferdiad in his anger.

And one time Manannan’s cows came up out of the sea at Baile Cronin, three of them, a red, and a white, and a black, and the people that were there saw them standing on the strand for a while, as if thinking, and then they all walked up together, side by side, from the strand. And at that time there were no roads in Ireland, and there was great wonder on the people when they saw a good wide road ready before the three cows to walk on. And when they got about a mile from the sea they parted; the white cow went to the north-west, towards Luimnech, and the red cow went to the south-west, and on round the coast of Ireland, and the black cow went to the north-east, towards Lis Mor, in the district of Portlairge, and a road opened before each of them, that is to be seen to this day.

And some say it was Manannan went to Finn and the Fianna in the form of the Gilla Decair, the Bad Servant, and brought them away to Land-under-Wave. Anyway, he used often to go hunting with them on Cnoc Aine, and sometimes he came to their help.

Pagan Blog Project – I is for Iðun

Ydun -  Lorenz Frølich

Ydun – Lorenz Frølich

The following is a translation of the story of Iðun from the Skáldskaparmál (The Poesy of the Skalds) by Snorri Sturluson as part of his Prose Edda.

He began the story at the point where three of the Æsir, Odin and Loki and Hœnir, departed from home and were wandering over mountains and wastes, and food was hard to find. But when they came down into a certain dale, they saw a herd of oxen, took one ox, and set about cooking it. Now when they thought that it must be cooked, they broke up the fire, and it was not cooked. After a while had passed, they having scattered the fire a second time, and it was not cooked, they took counsel together, asking each other what it might mean. Then they heard a voice speaking in the oak up above them, declaring that he who sat there confessed he had caused the lack of virtue in the fire. They looked thither, and there sat an eagle; and it was no small one. Then the eagle said: “If ye are willing to give me my fill of the ox, then it will cook in the fire.” They assented to this. Then he let himself float down from the tree and alighted by the fire, and forthwith at the very first took unto himself the two hams of the ox, and both shoulders. Then Loki was angered, snatched up a great pole, brandished it with all his strength, and drove it at the eagle’s body. The eagle plunged violently at the blow and flew up, so that the pole was fast to the eagle’s back, and Loki’s hands to the other end of the pole. The eagle flew at such a height that Loki’s feet down below knocked against stones and rock-heaps and trees, and he thought his arms would be torn from his shoulders. He cried aloud, entreating the eagle urgently for peace; but the eagle declared that Loki should never be loosed, unless he would give him his oath to induce Idunn to come out of Ásgard with her apples. Loki assented, and being straightway loosed, went to his companions; nor for that time are any more things reported concerning their journey, until they had come home.
But at the appointed time Loki lured Idunn out of Ásgard into a certain wood, saying that he had found such apples as would seem to her of great virtue, and prayed that she would have her apples with her and compare them with these. Then Thjazi the giant came there in his eagle’s plumage and took Idunn and flew away with her, off into Thrymheimr to his abode.

Idun Goddess - Alice Mason

Idun Goddess – Alice Mason

But the Æsir became straitened at the disappearance of Idunn, and speedily they became hoary and old. Then those, Æsir took counsel together, and each asked the other what had last been known of Idunn; and the last that had been seen was that she had gone out of Ásgard with Loki. Thereupon Loki was seized and brought to the Thing, and was threatened with death, or tortures; when he had become well frightened, he declared that he would seek after Idunn in Jötunheim, if Freyja would lend him the hawk’s plumage which she possessed. And when he got the hawk’s plumage, he flew north into Jötunheim, and came on a certain day to the home of Thjazi the giant. Thjazi had rowed out to sea, but Idunn was at home alone: Loki turned her into the shape of a nut and grasped her in his claws and flew his utmost.
Now when Thjazi came home and missed Idunn, he took his eagle’s plumage and flew after Loki, making a mighty rush of sound with his wings in his flight. But when the Æsir saw how the hawk flew with the nut, and where the eagle was flying, they went out below Ásgard and bore burdens of plane-shavings thither. As soon as the hawk flew into the citadel, he swooped down close by the castle-wall; then the Æsir struck fire to the plane-shavings. But the eagle could not stop himself when he missed the hawk: the feathers of the eagle caught fire, and straightway his flight ceased. Then the Æsir were near at hand and slew Thjazi the giant within the Gate of the Æsir, and that slaying is exceeding famous.

When we work with Iðun, we seek to keep young, both mentally and physically. She is renewal, offering Her apples to the Gods to ensure that They continue to live, ever youthful and full of vibrancy. Without Her, the Gods would grow old, and die. Her role is paramount to the Gods’ survival, and while we humans do not benefit from Her apples’ abilities to keep us forever young and immortal, we benefit from working to remain youthful at heart.

Hail, Iðun!

Garden of Idun - melukilan (Deviant Art)

Garden of Idun – melukilan (Deviant Art)