Trans. R.A.S. Macalister
The first publication of the Lebor Gabala Erenn on the net has been made by John D. Mclaughlin, on http://members.aol.com/lochlan2, a site dedicated to the clan MacLaughlin.
His page has been copied by lots of people without a word for his great job. All those burrahobbits didn't even notice the misreadings of John D. Mclaughlin.
Now the Mclaughlin site has moved on http://clanmaclochlainn.com, and the Lebor Gabala Erenn R1 is on http://clanmaclochlainn.com/lebor.htm.
John D. Mclaughlin published the Redaction I in full and some extracts from the other redactions.
My goal is to provide all the Redactions in full, with the variants from all the manuscripts as published by R. A. S. Macalister.
by R.A.S. Macalister
Lebor Gabala Erenn, a title which we can best translate literally, "the Book of the Taking of Ireland," is a compilation which professes to narrate the history of the successive colonists of that country. The earlier Redactions have come down to us, in whole or in part, in fifteen mss.
Although these manuscripts agree, on the whole, in the facts, or alleged facts, which they set forth, the words in which they state them differ profoundly. They fall into redactional groups, essentially at variance in the selection and order of presentment of the narratives, and in the language in which these are expressed. The editor has no alternative but to print them in extenso, independently of one another. A single composite text, with an unmanageably cumbrous sediment of variae lectiones at the bottom of the page, would be perfectly useless for any critical student of this important document and of its complex history. It may be said that this conclusion has not been reached without experiment.
The work is primarily paedagogic, for which purpose it is interspersed with mnemonic sets of verses, intended to be Learned off by heart. To the modern reader these verses are an un mitigated nuisance, rarely adding anything to what he has already learnt from the prose text; nevertheless it is clear that they are the foundation on which the whole work, in its present form, is based. The corpus of historical verse became the common reservoir of knowledge upon which the prose compilers drew ; and the selections which they made therefrom dictated the selection of facts which they set forth in the several redactions.
There are in all five redactions of the text : Min, R1, R2, R3, and K, the last being O'Clery's modernised version. Postponing the questions of their contents, origins, and mutual relationships, we may here briefly describe the manuscripts upon which an edition of the text has to be based.
It does not require any great insight to see that the book is in reality a combination of two originally independent documents. The block of material, sections III to VII, has been interpolated; sections II and VIII run on continuously, and were no doubt at one time in immediate connexion. If we cut the interpolated sections out, we find ourselves left with a History of the Gaedil, based upon the history of the Children of Israel as it is set forth in the Old Testament, or (perhaps more probably) in some consecutive history paraphrased therefrom. The parallelism, which can be displayed in tabular form as below, is too close to be accidental.
The biblical history from the Creation to the Sons of Noah is borrowed by the Irish historians : after which —
Shem is selected and his genealogy is followed out
Japhet is selected and his genealogy is followed out.
until we reach Terah and his son
Abram, upon whose family the
until we reach Nel and his son
Gaedel, upon whose family the
down to the two wives and the numerous sons of Jacob.
down to the two wives and the numerous sons of Mil.
A servitude in Egypt begins with a friendly invitation from an Egyptian king
An oppression in Egypt begins with a friendly invitation from an Egyptian king
and the children of Israel are
delivered by the adopted son of an
and the children of Nel are delivered by the son-inlaw of the Egyptian king. This deliverer meets and almost joins forces with his prototype Moses.
They wander for a long time, beset by enemies
They wander for a long time, beset by enemies
and sojourn at a mountain (Sinai)
where they receive the doom that
and sojourn at a mountain (Riphi)
where they receive the doom that
till their leader sees the Promised Land from the top of a mountain afar off.
till their leader sees the Promised Land from the top of a tower afar off.
He dies: but his successor conduct the people to a subjugation of the former inhabitants of Canaan, amid circumstances of marvel and mystery and to a
He dies: but his successors conducts the people to a subjugation of the former inhabitants of Ireland, amid circumstances of marvel and mystery and to a
The history then concludes with a brief record of the successive kings (beginning with a partition of the country), allotting in most cases not more than a single paragraph to individual kings.
The history then concludes with a brief record of the successive kings (beginning with a partition of the country), allotting in most cases not more than a single paragraph to individual kings.
We infer that the book originally described only a single "taking"— that of the Celtic Irish, to whom the author himself belonged, and in whom he was chiefly interested. This is why Gabala, in the singular number, still remains in the title of the book : it is not the "Book of Takings of Ireland," but "The Book of The Taking."
The intruded matter (§§ III-VII) may have had some historical basis, but much of it partakes rather of the nature of a Theogonia : see the introductions prefixed to each of the sections, where their relation to mythology and history is discussed. We shall see later that this group of sections is itself capable of further analysis into separate component elements.
These different histories appear to have been in existence, and (even if their combination had already been effected) to have been still available in their separate form, when Nennius wrote his Historia Britonum, about the end of the eighth century. He must have been able to refer to a literary source of information about the Pre-Milesian invasions : but for the history of the Milesians themselves he apparently had to depend on the oral information conveyed to him by persons described as peritissimi Scottorum (and condemned by some of his glossators with the words, nulla certa historic oriyinis Scottorum continetur). His abstract of the Pre-Milesian invasions is analysed at a later stage of our work; the only point about it which we need notice here is the single word "Damhoctor" — which Nennius wrongly supposes to be a personal name, denoting the leader of one of the invading troops whose progeny was supposed to be still in Ireland at the time when Nennius wrote. But evidently it is nothing but the Irish for "a company of eight persons" : this misunderstood word is a valuable testimony that for this part of the history Nennius had a written text in the Irish language at his elbow.
As to the Redactions, both Thurneysen and Van Hamel recognise the five different versions: R1 , R2 , R3 , Min, and K, as they are here called.
What, then, is the relation between these versions? As I understand it, it is as follows:
We start with a Liber Occupationis Hiberniae, a sort of quasi-historical romance, with no backing either of history or tradition ; an artificial composition, professing to narrate the origin of the Gaedil onward from the Creation of the World (or the Flood), their journeyings, and their settlement in their "promised land", Ireland. This production was a slavish copy, we might almost say a parody, of the Biblical story of the Children of Israel. The germ which suggested the idea to the writer was undoubtedly the passage in Orosius (I. 2. 81), wrongly understood as meaning that Ireland was first seen from Brigantia in Spain, where (ibid., §71) there was a very lofty watch-tower. This suggested a reminiscence of Moses, overlooking the Land of Promise from Mount Pisgah : and the author set himself to work out the parallel, forward and backward. Incidentally Orosius gave trouble to Irish topographers, ancient and modern, by speaking of an Irish river Scena, setting them on a hunt for a non-existent Inber Scene. As sc conventionally represents the sound of sh (compare the Vulgate Judges, xii, 6, where the Hebrew word shibboleth is rendered scibboleth), we must pronounce this word as Shena, and it is then easily recognised as Orosius' version of Sinann (genitive Sinna) or "Shannon." Further, we must assume that this quasi-Israelite history was written in Latin.
Next we must postulate a separate text, compounded out of a number of separate sagas (or rather a number of varieties of one saga), but with a much better claim to enshrine genuine traditional (though not necessarily historical) material. This document still existed as an independent entity in the time of Nennius — or, to be more exact, Nennius had access to a manuscript, possibly of some antiquity, which preserved it, or some of it, in its independent form. It was a brief treatise on the pre-Gaedilic inhabitants of Ireland : and as it contained the expression damh ochtair, "a troop of eight persons," which Nennius mistook for a proper name, it must have been written in Irish. It does not appear to have contained the stories of Cessair and the other antediluvian colonists.
Liber Occupationis soon began to be taken seriously: and it was inevitable that the small tract just mentioned should become combined with it, in order to make its historical record more complete. This changed its character, turning it into a history of Ireland, rather than a history of the people then dominant in the country. Nevertheless its title remained unchanged: it was still Liber Occupationis. The interpolation spoilt the logical form of the history : for its readers, having at last after many vicissitudes reached Ireland, were now obliged to jump suddenly back to the beginning, both in time and in space, in order to follow out the second strand which had thus been interwoven with the narrative. But the earlier invasions were still of subordinate interest, and for a time were most likely differentiated by their language from the main current of the Latin story. If we could be sure that the opening paragraphs of Min have not been drastically compressed, the scanty notice there found of the earlier invasions would very closely resemble the form of this part of the book when it had reached this stage of the development.
At about the same time, the Cessair narrative (an old flood-myth mixed up with some Dindsenchas material) was committed to writing, but whether in Latin or in Irish is not very clear : presently it found a place in front of the interpolation. See further the Introduction to that section.
The history of the text thereafter divided into two streams. Two schools of history, retaining its framework, each of them working independently of, and often at variance with, the other, added new material as they found it.
The next stage was inaugurated by translation from Latin into Irish. The first translation to be made was undoubtedly from the text underlying Min. The translator headed his work, very naturally, "An explanation of Liber Occupationis." By now the historical nature of the book was a fully accepted tradition: it was regarded as a true record of the past of Ireland and of her people: and in view of its importance ii was considered, desirable to make it accessible to students whose Latin was unequal to a study of the original text. The associated poems, at this stage not yet incorporated with the written text, were of course in Irish from the first.
A generation or two later, the "A" text, with the additional material which had accumulated in the interval, was translated again (R1 ) ; as was also, now for the first time, the "B" text (R2 ).
This reconstruction explains all the phenomena completely :
(1) The parallel "Israel" and "Ireland" story.
(2) The short Nennius text, based on an original in Irish, enumerating the earlier invasions, but ignoring the Milesian colony.
(3) The mention of a single invasion in the title, though a large number of invasions are enumerated in the text.
(4) The general similarity of Min and R1 , though the verbal differences forbid us to regard either as a copy of the other.
(5) The word miniugad, "explanation" in the title of Min.
(6) The similarity of framework in R 1 and R 2 , though the two texts are so profoundly different that they can never have had a common Irish original.
The redaction R3 is not, like R1 and R2 , an independent work. It is essentially a composite, based on the two preceding redactions. The foundation of it is R1 , but it is swelled with large interpolations from R2 and from other sources.
R3 is the pastepot - and - scissors work of a man who anticipated the systematizing labour of Ó Cléirigh. Vexed at the discrepancies between the two traditions, and having a considerable library at his disposal, he took a text of R1 (*Q) and wrote it out with many interpolations, partly derived from R2 (*W), partly from other sources. As we shall see, his MS. of R1 was imperfect; it had lost the first page, as well as the Partholon and Nemed sections.
K (Ó Cléirigh) is also an artificial re-handling of the text. The biblical introduction is, of set purpose, swept away, and the successive invasions are arranged in a more logical order. This redaction is based on R2 (D), though it shows some affinities with M; but the compiler certainly used a different copy of R3, no longer extant, and he took arbitrary liberties with the text. There are many genealogical and other interpolations from sources outside the tradition.
In accordance with the artificial scheme of Liber Occupationis, the history of the world from the Creation to the Tower of Babel is first recapitulated. The original form of the text was probably something like this :
"In the beginning God made heaven and earth. He gave the bailiffry of Heaven to Lucifer, of earth to Adam. Lucifer sinned and was cast into Hell. He was envious of Adam, for he was assured that Adam would take his place in Heaven. Whereupon he came and tempted Eve to sin, and Adam was driven out of Paradise. The children of Adam sinned thereafter, in that Cain slew Abel. Seth, the third son of Adam, is the ancestor of all the men of the world, for the Flood drowned the whole seed of Adam except Noah and his three sons, Shem, Ham, Japhet. Shem settled in Asia, Ham in Africa, Japhet in Europe. We Gaedil are descended from Japhet."
As we read the text in its present form, and compare the divergent versions, we realise that everything not contained in this bald summary must be a glossarial accretion.
This summary was drawn up before the Vulgate text of the Old Testament had become familiar in Ireland : certainly not later than the eighth century. The Biblical quotations are from an earlier text, as is shown in detail below, in the notes appended to each paragraph. The abbreviator of Min left out the Biblical portion of that version, so that it is lost to us : but it is still possible to recover something of the history of its evolution. We may safely presume that an early intrusion was §2 (in the form of a bare list of the works of Creation), §5 entered later; §6 was at first shorter than it is now ; and the genealogical matter §7-10 developed gradually from very small beginnings. The document upon which two of the interpolations in §9 are based was early in existence, but they did not enter the text till a late stage of its formation.
The Partholon story, with which the Fir Bolg story is cognate though not identical, seems to be essentially a kind of pre-Celtic theomachia. The Nemed story, which is more nearly akin to that of the Tuatha De Danann, seems to partake of a similar character. The Tuatha De Danann story is, however, more of the nature of a theogonia, and it refers particularly to the Celtic gods.
The "Celtic" connexions of the Nemed story are shown by the name of the leader. He is distinguished as "holy" — i.e., in the sense of the Latin fas, one privileged to enter religious assemblies. The divine name of the Tuatha De Danann is consonant with this. On the other hand Nemed's father, Pamp, or Pam, is a purely artificial adaptation of the Roman name Pompeius. A person, presumably one of the Irish colonists in Wales, or more likely a Briton who had associations with those colonists, and who bore this exotic name, was commemorated by an Ogham-inscribed monument at Kenfiig, Glamorganshire.
But the essentially religious element in the story has unfortunately caused its editors to sharpen their scissors : and so far as possible they have assiduously cut out everything which savoured of the paganism with which the story must have been originally charged. In fact, they have re-written the tale on the comparatively harmless lines of the Partholonian section, so that the two groups of stories now look like doublets of one another. The first Redaction tells of the ancestry of Nemed, his voyage on the Caspian Sea (an open gulf) for a year and a half, and his shipwreck (§237) ; he has four sons, one of whom is eponymous of one of four lake-bursts (§238). He fights with the Fomoraig, who are defeated (§239), clears the timber from 12 plains (§240), fights again with and defeats the Fomoraig (§241) who, however, oppress and exploit his people, after his own death from plague (§242). These, once more, fight against and subdue the Fomoraig, but the tables are turned by belated, reinforcements under an unexplained leader. Morc son of Dela, and the Nemedians are dispersed out of Ireland (§243) into several regions (§244-245). This summary would almost serve as a summary of the Partholonian section.
To the meagre details of R1, R2-R3 (which, as in the preceding Section, here run together) add : §248, the story of the golden tower ; §249, the names of the women, including [the goddess] Macha ; §257, the names of the refugees, with further particulars about their fates ; and §262 ff., the return of the refugees to Ireland. Some further interpolations, of no particular importance, appear in M, and both Redactions add the synchronistic matter in continuation of that in the preceding Section.
The only really important details which survive are the incidents of the towers. The towers differ in character, but the stories are the same. A fortress at or upon the sea is assaulted; the tide rises on the assailants, unperceived by themselves, and they are almost all drowned.
Such a story must have been a familiar commonplace in Celtic folklore. For it escaped beyond the Celtic circle, and, becoming known to observers from the "Classical" lands, started a curious idea that the Celts would take arms against the flowing tide, and feared not the rising inundation. We can hardly accept this as a literal truth told of actual people : but it might easily have been told, in a "story" form, more or less on all-fours with these Nemedian narratives.
Though the tale has no doubt been coloured by recollections of actual destructive assaults, it cannot be taken as historical. It is an incident in the eternal conflict between gods of light and goodness and gods of darkness and evil. The story as told in the Nemedian narrative belongs to a later and less unrefined stage of society than the Partholonian version : the Fomorians are no longer the grotesque monsters depicted in the Partholonian story. They are, however, none the less cruel, and they demand what are obviously sacrifices. The produce of the fields, the byres, and even of the human family must be sacrificed to propitiate them. Just as on the plain called Mag Slecht, down to the time of St. Patrick, human and other sacrifices were offered to secure the continuity of harvest produce, so on the plain called Mag Cetne a similar tribute was paid, and in an equal assessment of two-thirds. And is it a mere coincidence that, in this artificiality manipulated history, Morc, the Fomorian leader, is labelled with a name which, written backward, spells Crom, the alleged name of the god of Mag Slecht?
It is not improbable that the drownings in the rising tide are also reminiscent of sacrifices : victims having been bound upon the shore below the tide-mark and left there to be engulfed. It is also just conceivable that another Flood- legend reminiscence may underlie this group of tales.
Micheal O Cleirigh, the compiler of K, has enlarged upon this tale of the assault on Conaing's Tower and, apparently sua sponte, has introduced an embassy sent for reinforcements to Greece, which are obtained. These include a number of wild venomous beasts, and a female spy called Relbeo, who enters the Tower, insinuates herself into the confidence of Conaing by methods similar to those followed by Judith in dealing with Holofernes, and afterwards reports to the Nemedians the conditions inside the Tower, and advises them as to the strategy to be followed in attacking it. These absurd additions are quite without authority, and their only value is as danger-signals to warn the scientific enquirer to use a prudent caution in approaching Micheal O Cleirigh and all his works. Even in his lifetime his superiors objected to his habit of tampering with his texts.
It is of little importance to enquire whence he obtained these embellishments. He lived too early to become acquainted with the Thousand and One Nights, else might we suspect that the story of "The City of Brass" (nights 566-578) had provided him with the venomous fighting beasts. An interesting-parallel, which seems to have escaped notice in print, may be quoted. In that queer eighteenth-century lepado-temacho-selacho called Eachtra Lomnochtain an tSleibhe Riffe, we read of a monstrous bird called ''An Liath-chairraig. " Obviously this is the old friend of our childhood, the sailor Sindibad's roc : the author, or rather the cook, of Lonmochtan must have borrowed it from some vanished chapbook adaptation of Galland's French version, which first introduced the "Nights" to Europe, mixing it up in his stew with all sorts of things, including snippets from Gulliver's Travels. His rendering of the bird's name reminds us of the effort of the Highland exegete who explained the biblical phrase "They were astonied" by Bha iad air an clachadh : or of the preacher whom I myself once heard exhorting his hearers to keep in the caoi dhireach — meaning, as the context showed, ''the strait way."
The earlier texts, and Keating, know nothing of Relbeo : but Keating has borrowed from Dindsenchas another woman, one Liag, who, though a sister of Morc, has a genealogy all to herself, and who aids in collecting the tax imposed upon the Nemedians. In Dindsenchas (MD iv, 246) she is represented as being the first person to be killed on the Fomorian side. It is probable, as Dr. Gwynn remarks, that she was invented to account for the place-name Lege, the subject of the poem in question : but it is remarkable that Lege, a place lying between the counties of Kildare and Leix, should thus be associated with a narrative essentially localized in the West of the country.
Since the publication of O'Flaherty's Ogygia, it has been a commonplace to identify Toirinis, the site of Conaing's Tower and the scene of the Fomorian defeat, with Tory Island, north of Donegal. The identification was attacked by Mr. Henry Morris in 1927 with great skill, and he brought together a very impressive mass of evidence, historical and topographical, for identifying it with a small island off the Sligo coast called Dernish. In fact, his paper comes as near to carrying conviction as such a paper well can do. This, of course, has no bearing on the historicity of the narrative : it means only that an amalgam of mythological and ritual tradition was re-modelled into a narrative form by persons familiar with this particular part of the country, and by them adapted to the topography with which they had the fullest acquaintance.
The Nemedian story begins and ends with an assault upon a tower. Now the parallel Tuatha De Danann story shows us the reign of Nuadu, the great god who was their leader, beginning and ending with a battle on a place or places called Mag Tuired, "The Plain of the Towers." This cannot be an accident : the two stories must be different aspects of the same body of folklore. It is useless to attempt to identify the sites of the battles called Mag Tuired : they are as mythical as the Battle of the Frogs and the Mice. Two extensive fields of megalithic monuments, one near Sligo and the other near Cong, have appeared to add local habitations to the name; but this is illusory. These monuments belong to prehistoric cemeteries, and there is every reason against identifying them with battle-memorials. Individual burial even of the most important of the victims of a battle, with great stone monuments for each one separately, would clearly be impracticable.
The short episode of the Fir Bolg is the most jejune of all the sections of Liber Praecursorum; yet it is not devoid of suggestiveness.
In R1 the five lords and their five wives arrive (§278). Their division into three groups, various landing places, and division of the country, are unknown to L, being reported only by F (§279). The five brethren reign in turn; the first four of these apparently die natural deaths, but the fifth is slain by his successor, in the normal "Golden Bough" manner, and this is continued to the end of the occupation. There are nine kings in all ; but one, Eochu mac Eirc, seems to stand outside the family succession, so that we have here as elsewhere the damh ochtair, though it is not so expressed in this case (§280). This last king has to meet the invading Tuatha De Danann, and falls before them. The details of the battle are given in an obvious interpolation (§281), which also describes the subsequent fate of the Fir Bolg; this is continued in §282, which practically says that they left no tangible traces behind them. The three remaining paragraphs are further snippets, which add nothing to our knowledge.
R2 describes the coming of the Fir Bolg in coracles made of the bags with which they had carried out their servile duties; and narrates their landing and partition of the country, to the same effect as in §279, but in different words (§286). In §287 this is expanded, genealogically and etymologically, with interpolations here indicated by means of smaller type. The succession of the kings is given in §288. In §289 we read of their defeat at Mag Tuired, and in §290 of the mutilation of Nuadu, the Tuatha De Danann leader, in the battle. §291 repeats with much expansion the particulars in §281 as to the dispersal of the Fir Bolg, and their alleged descendants in Ireland are enumerated in §292.
The additional §293 is a mere recapitulatory interpolation.
The composition of R3 can, as before, be set forth in tabular form.
*§294 = R1 §278
*§295 = R1 §279 with a few slight deviations and insertions.
*§296 = R1 §280 with some interpolations.
*§297,298 = R1 §281
*§299 = R1 §282; but the latter portion, introducing poem no. XLIX, is new, taking the place of R1 §283.
*§300 = R1 §284
after which come the Synchronisms. R3 therefore gives us here practically the complete text of *Q, with a few interpolations which can be detected by comparison with the extant text of P; and until he comes to the Synchronisms he ignores R2 altogether, except that he borrows from the VΛ group of R2 (to which his copy, *W, seems to have belonged) the etymological fatuities that "points" (rindi) were first put upon javelins in the days of Rinnail, and that "knots" (fuidb) first appeared in timber in the reign of Foidbgenid.
In considering this episode, naturally the first question which arises is the meaning of the name Fir Bolg. We may discard all "Belgic" and similar theories without discussion. We need not waste time over the "bags of earth" about which our historians tell us. Kuno Meyer's explanation (first given, so far as I know, in his Contributions to Irish Lexicography s.v. "bolg") is by far the most reasonable: that Fir Bolg == Fir i mBolgaib (an expression used in poem no. XLIX, quatrain 5) = bracati or breeches-wearers. Thus interpreted, it becomes a term of contempt for the "lower orders"; applied, by those who wore the dignified flowing costumes which the sculptures of the "High Crosses" depict for us, to those who found it convenient, in the life of activity in which their lot was cast, to have each leg separately clothed. Of such persons there are occasional representations, e.g., in the initial letters of illuminated manuscripts. This section then, in its present form, is intended to be an explanation of how the "plebeians," if so we may call them, came to Ireland ; prepared for the benefit of the "patricians" for whose information the history, as a whole, was compiled.
This, however, is only a secondary adaptation of the story. It is really no history, but a member of the same mythological complex as the rest. The parentage of the people with whom it is concerned, Dela son of Lot, links them immediately with the Fomorians; and this is corroborated when we find that the Fomorian leaders, who challenged "the holy man" Nemed, are named Gann and Sengann, "Gann and Old Gann" — names conspicuous in the Fir Bolg quintet. Gann and Genann are almost certainly a Dioscuric pair; and there can be little doubt that Sengann was originally the father of the twins, though the fact has become obscured by later speculations in artificial genealogy. The other two "Fir Bolg" leaders, Slanga and Rudraige, are borrowed straight out of the Partholonian cycle. And though these persons afflict the children of Nemed, they are conquered in the end : it is certainly no coincidence that persons described as "three sons of Nemed" appear in §289 to slay the last of the Fir Bolg kings. That the names of the father, and of the sons, of this Nemed are different from the corresponding names associated with what we may call the "official" Nemed, is a matter of comparatively small importance in criticizing the identification. And we further note that the names of the sons of the Nemed before us, Cessarb, Luam, Luachra, are suggestively reminiscent of the antediluvian triad Capa, Luigne, and Luasad. In a word, the perennial contention of good and evil, light and darkness, plenty and famine, follows its normal course, all through the Fir Bolg episode. The agricultural ritual of king-killing is prominently stressed : the golden age of calm weather and blissful fertility presided over by the good king Eochu mac Eirc is intensely primitive. In his present setting Eochu mac Eirc is altogether out of the picture : he has probably intruded on the uncongenial company in which we find him by a confusion of name. In R1 Eochu son of Rinnail, who slew his predecessor Foidbgenid, is a different person from Eochu son of Erc : it was the R2 school of historians who discovered (or dreamt) that Erc was son of Rinnail, and who thus equated the two persons.
The most complete link with the Fomorians is provided by the subsequent adventures, where, under various leaders, the Fir Bolg disperse to certain outlying islands and other remote places. Each leader of these fugitives is called a "son of Umor" : and this vague personage is connected with the "Sliab Emoir," from which the Fomorians had set forth on their two-hundred years' voyage to Ireland. That the Fomorians did not disturb the Fir Bolg during their occupation is most easily explained on the hypothesis that these were essentially Fomorians themselves, at least from the standpoint of Mythology.
The conclusions thus indicated can be expressed in tabular form thus :
|Gods of darkness||==||Partholonians||==||Fir Bolg||\||euhemeristically equated to||/ Aborigines|
|Gods of light||==||Nemedians||==||Thuata De||/||\ Goidels|
Literary manipulation subsequently differentiated the pairs no. I and no. II ; the euhemerists adapted pair no. II to their own purposes, leaving pair no. I historically rather shadowy. Further remodelling assimilated the Partholonians to the gods of light, thus rendering them liable to Fomorian assault; and the later historians obscured the essential identity of the Tuatha De Danann and the Goidels, having been misled by the entirely spurious story set forth in Liber Occupationis. There must be few groups of ancient traditions in the world that have been so completely messed up by well-intentioned tinkering, as the scraps of genuine folklore underlying the Book of Invasions!
Keating adds nothing further to the details as printed below, except a set of verses giving an outline of the course of the voyage of the Fir Bolg from Greece, via the Torrian Sea and Spain, to Ireland. (Vol. i, I.T.S. edition, p. 192.) Their escape from Greek servitude has clearly been modelled on the Israelite exodus: one story (quoted by Keating from the Quire of Druim Snechta) states that they stole the ships of the Greeks, just as we have seen (ante, §120) the Israelites stealing the ships of the Egyptians.
Two things come out clearly from a comparison of the three Redactions of this section of LG. First, that they are ultimately founded upon an independent saga, external to the LG tradition. There is a closer correspondence between the texts here than in the rest of Liber Praecursorum : even R2, though it still stands apart from the other redactions, has here a closer affinity with them than elsewhere. Secondly, that this basal saga became what we may term historico-political rather than mythological. It was designed to explain the origin not only of the "Plebeians," as we have seen, but also of the "Five Fifths," the Pentarchy of independent kingdoms, into which we find Ireland to be divided when the uncertain rays of dawning history first shine upon her. The five leaders divide the country between them; their divisions correspond more or less with the Pentarchie division which we find in being, at the time of the Medb-Conchobor cycle of romance. This, however, is again a secondary adaptation, for the story does not hang together consistently in its present form. We begin with a five-fold monarchy, each king in his own province : but we end with a succession of the same monarchs, apparently ruling over the whole country each in his turn — with the exception of the twins, Gann and Genann, who go together. (By muddled manipulation Genann and Sengann are sometimes paired off together, and in the list of kings Sengann, "old Gann, succeeds his presumably younger namesakes.) It is the old trouble over again : each historian sought to improve on the work of his predecessor, never realizing that every change would require a number of consequential changes throughout the whole compilation. Hence arises the mass of inconsistencies and contradictions with which the book is filled. Thus, in §279, a glossator informs us that the Fir Domnann were so called because they landed in Inber Domnann. Some lines lower down, an earlier glossator had stated the exact contrary — that the creek received its name from the men : and he, or another, had explained the name of the Fir Domnann in a totally different way. To attempt to make any reconciliation between these discrepancies would be merely futile. They exist, and their existence must be accepted as evidence of the complex artificiality of our texts, and of nothing more.
Beyond all doubt, this section is based upon a Theogonia, most likely transmitted orally — less probably in writing- in which the mutual relationships of the members of the pre-Christian pantheon were set forth. Unfortunately for the value of the compilation as a mythological handbook, the Euhemerist has "run amok" among these ancient deities: he has been desperately anxious to incur no suspicion of propagating not quite forgotten heathenisms : and in consequence this, in many ways the most important section in the whole book, has become reduced to an arid list of names. But after all, even Hesiod himself, with the mighty literary engine of Greek hexameter verse at his disposal, did not succeed in making a divine genealogy exhilarating !
The relation between the Redactions, and even between individual mss. in each Redaction, is here peculiarly complicated. R3 , as usual, follows *Q in R1 , though, also as usual, with sufficient individuality, expressed by errors, omissions, and interpolations, to justify, if not to enforce, its separate treatment. The mss. of R2 here fall into three groups — VΛ , D, and ER, and have to be analysed separately. To this analysis we now proceed.
Of the three groups in R2 , ER presents us with the shortest text : disregarding the appended Synchronisms it is of about the same length as R1 . But when we compare together ER and R1 , we find that they have only four paragraphs in common : the intervening material in each being quite different. At first sight we might be tempted to suppose that the compiler of yER had set himself to prepare a supplement to R1 , with only the minimum of necessary linkages between the texts : but such a hypothesis would be altogether improbable. Far more likely — and more interesting — is the explanation that these four paragraphs were the original nucleus of the section, and that all the rest of the material has crystallized around them. R1 on the one hand, yER on the other, developed in different schools, and borrowed from different sources. As for VΛ and D, these also give us the four nuclear paragraphs; with linking material, taken now from R1 , now from ER.
The Theogonia, despite the condensed and desperately confused form in which it is presented to us, is of such enormous importance, as the most complete documentary account of any European non-classical pantheon, that it calls for a special effort to get it into order. It would clearly be impossible in a brief essay to trace out all the ramifications of research which even such a dry list of names as this opens out for us : though our available materials are not as full as we should like, such a work would fill a volume of considerable size. Only a few of the most important matters can here be touched upon.
The confusion is due to the compilers having unintelligently patched together scraps of documents as they came to hand, without the slightest regard to (a) repetitions, (b) contradictions, and (c) logical or systematic order. The Roll of the Kings affords a convenient basis on which to found our discussion.
Accordingly we begin with NUADU. This being is doubtless to be identified with Nodons, or Nodens, a deity whose chief sanctuary known to us is the Romano-British temple at Lydney Park, Gloucestershire. Unlike Lug, his cult does not appear to have left any certain traces among the Continental Celts. The name appears several times in the Roll of the "Milesian" kings, and in most cases probably refers to the same personality. Theories differ as to the department over which he presided : the sea-monsters depicted in the mosaic pavements at Lydney Park have suggested that he was a sea-god; the "silver arm" conspicuous in his folk-lore being (rather fancifully) explained as a poetical description of a narrow strait of water between two islands. It has also been suggested that he was a patron of wealth (in cattle). There is little ground for these or any other theories. A tablet found at Lydney Park invokes his aid in recovering a stolen ring (Bathurst, pl. xx). A bronze plaque from the same place (idem, pl. xiii) bears a representation of a draped divinity riding in a chariot drawn by four (sea-) horses and surrounded by tritons and other marine beings; this may (or may not) be a representation of the divinity under discussion. But until many more discoveries are made, these objects cannot be made to bear much weight of hypothesis, nor can we pursue in this place any line of investigation that may be opened up by comparisons between the name of Nuadu and the Brythonic Nudd and Ludd. In our present text Nuadu has been king of the TDD for seven years before their arrival in Ireland : captures the country in the first battle of Mag Tuired, but loses his arm in the fight; and is consequently disqualified from sovereignty (a fact tacitly assumed, but not categorically stated). Thanks to the supernatural skill of his leeches, he recovers his arm and regains his kingdom after some years, holding it other 20 years : after which he meets his death in the second battle of Mag Tuired. Undoubtedly the "silver arm," which is his prominent characteristic, had an important place in his mythology; but what we are told about it in the extant documents is of little greater scientific value than the ludicrous parody irrelevantly prefixed to the modern version of the story called Oidheadh Cloinne Tuireann.
The pedigree of Nuadu is here traced back to Noah, through Iarbonel son of Nemed. For our present purpose the later steps alone are important :
|12 Bethach||9 Enna||6 Aldui||3 Etarlam||11 Ebath||8 Tabarn||5 Indui||2 Echtach||10 Baath||7 Tat||4 Ordan||1 Nuadu|
"Indui' must be restored, though he has dropped out of the pedigree as we have it. There are slight variants in the spelling of some of these names, which will be found duly recorded in the index at the end of the present work, and need not here be emphasised. Whether Bethach is in any way to be equated to Cessair's Bith is a question more easily asked than answered.
Nuadu's forced retirement, the result of his mutilation at Mag Tuired — an event the significance of which could be made the theme of endless more or less unprofitable speculation — leaves the throne vacant for BRESS, in some texts called Bresal, who holds office for a term of seven years. There is a suggestion of some kind of periodicity in the coincidence that Nuadu's reign had lasted for the same length of time before his misfortune (a recurrent feast at which the king-god was replaced?).
Bress comes of an important family. He is one of the five sons of Elada or Eladan, s. Net s. Indui ; the last-named is the fifth step in the Nuadu pedigree as numbered above. If we were to press these genealogical relationships to their literal extremity, we should describe Nuadu as "second cousin once removed" to Bress; but such efforts very soon land us in all manner of chronological and other impossibilities. In fact, the pedigree of Elada is not given consistently : a certain Delbaeth is, in some versions, interposed between him and Net, and this is on the whole more nearly correct — if indeed questions of "correctness'' enter at all into these pseudo-traditional artificialities. At least it is more consistent with ordinary genealogical probability.
The five sons of Elada are enumerated thus — Eochu Ollathair, Ogma, Elloth, Bress, Delbaeth. The last-named is a second Delbaeth, differing from the person just mentioned : one of several doublets which add to the confusion. In F, §316, Elloth (also spelt Ellodh, Alloth) is called Delbaeth— a third Delbaeth, and a second in the brotherhood : but this is doubtless a scribe's mistake. Of these, the first two are undoubtedly deities : Elloth, in the form (genitive) Alotto, appears as a family ancestral name on some Ogham inscriptions in Kerry, thereby creating the presumption that this also is a divine name; and though the other two are not so obviously divine, their associations almost compel us to enrol them in the pantheon. This is emphasised by the wild tale of the contest in magic between Bress and Lug, as narrated in Dindsenchas of (R.C., xv, p. 438; Gwynn, MD, iii, p. 46). Lug prepared in a certain place 300 wooden cows full of red bogwater instead of milk ; Bress, who was under a geis to drink anything that should be milked in that place, drank off the 300 bucketfuls of bogwater, and, naturally, died. The event is mentioned in R2 (§329) and by K, though for full details we must go to Dindsenchas : R1 and R3 ignore the tragedy and tell us (§312, 361) that Bress was killed in the second Mag Tuired battle.
Meanwhile Nuadu had been healed by Creidne the craftsman and Dian Cecht the leech, who with Goibniu the smith and Luichne the wright make a quaternity of departmental deities usually grouped together. They are sons of Esairc or Esairg (in R1 §316 wrongly Erairc), son of Net. That Miach, son of Dian Cecht, substituted an arm of flesh for the arm of silver, and that his father slew him in jealousy (as Apollo slew Aesculapius), are later embellishments of the tale.
Ogma, the brother of Bress, met his death in the second battle of Mag Tuired along with Nuadu, and, therefore, had no opportunity of gaining a place in the list of kings. He is presumably to be identified with the Gaulish god Ogmios, of whom some enigmatical details are preserved for us in Lucian's well-known essay on "Herakles" : that he was the inventor of the Ogham alphabet is of course a mere etymological Spielerei. He is slain in battle by "Hindech mac De Domnann," as Nuadu is slain by Balor the Strong-smiter. As we find that Lug, who procured the death of Bress, was Balor's grandson, and that he went to Hindech to gain particulars as to the number of casualties in the battle (see notes on §312), we are led to suspect that the TDD pantheon was not a united whole any more than the Greek pantheon ; and to infer that it had likewise come into being as a result of fusions, in prehistoric times, of population-groups, each with its own gods, and not always on terms of mutual friendship.
Ogma had a son, who later became king, and who bore the family name Delbaeth; and another son Ollom. According to R1 §315, Delbaeth and the six sons of Ollom were killed by a certain Caicher s. Nama s. Eochu Garb s. Dui Temen s. Bress; elsewhere we read of a single person, Ai son of Ollom, and we infer that some scribe has misread this name as a numeral, "ui." Erom a long interpolation in R3 §368, which evidently comes from an independent and sometimes contradictory source, we learn that Ogma's wife was Etan daughter of Dian Cecht, and that they had another son Tuirenn.
When Nuadu died, the kingdom passed once more to the dynasty of Net; and Lug succeeded. Nuadu's second term of office had lasted 20 years : Lug doubled that (40 years) ; and his successor "In Dagda" doubled it again — another suggestion of periodicity. Lug is one of the most familiar of the Celtic divinities, and his cult extended over the whole area dominated by the Celtic languages. There is some reason to believe that he was a solar deity : he appears in Welsh literature as Llew, on votive inscriptions in the plural form Lugoves, and his name enters as an element in place names (Lugudunum, Luguselva) and in personal names (Trenalugos, Luguaedon, Lugu-dex). The Dindsenchas material regarding Tailltiu, interpolated in all three redactions of LG (§311, 330, 363), is essentially an account of the traditional origin of his cult, and of its chief centre.
The story of the birth of Lug from Balor's daughter, a folk-tale of the Danae-and-Perseus type, is well known ; and it is familiar to our compilers, who tell of Lug's slaying his grandfather Balor with a sling-stone (§312). But the interpolation in §368 tells us another tale — that Ethliu, whose son Lug was, was not his mother but his father, and was identical with Cian son of Dian Cecht, otherwise called Scal Balb. Lug himself appears as a "scal" or apparition, in the story called Baile an Scail, when he introduces himself to Conn as "son of Ethliu son of Tigernmas." Quite clearly in this interpolation the walls of partition between the various epic cycles are breaking down — a process completed in the rubbish called " Macpherson's Ossian, " where we see the final degradation of Gaelic tradition. In this interpolation, further, Lug is credited with three sons, Ainnli ( = one of the three sons of Uisnech), Cnu Deroil ( = Crom Deroil, a druid appearing in the tale called Mesca Ulad), and Abartach, who, we are told further, is father of a lady called Sabrann ( = , if anything, the river Severn) by the wife of "Alexander son of Priam" — with whom we enter the thicket of nonsense about Brutus and the Trojans with which early British history used to be pestered.
EOCHU, surnamed OLLATHAIR "the great father," N also called IN DAGDA MOR "the great good god," succeeds Lug. These names are quite enough to convince us of his divinity: in spite of which he finally dies of wounds that have been inflicted upon him in the second battle of Mag Tuired — 120 years before ! He has three sons — the mysterious Oengus mac ind Oc, otherwise Oengus in Broga, a name connecting him with the important cemetery called Brug na Boinne near Drogheda, persistently associated in tradition with In Dagda and his family : Ord, which means "fire" : and Cermat Coem, the father of the three sons with whom, 49 years later, the TDD monarchy terminated. These three youths, according to §314, killed Lug in Uisnech ; a further example of the way in which all reasonable chronology is thrown to the winds in the compilation in its present form. In a combination of genealogical and quasi-historical material, compiled from various independent and not always concordant sources, such bewildering anomalies are almost inevitable.
Besides these sons In Dagda has a daughter — the important fire-goddess Brigid. Here again we have a universal deity, found everywhere in Celtic countries — as Brigindo, as the eponymous deity of the Brigantes, and in other connexions which need not here be enumerated : and here also, we find evidence of a plurality of Brigids, analogous to the plurality of Lugs. Most likely In Dagda himself was a fire-, or perhaps a storm-divinity.
Little need be said about the two divinities who follow in the roll of the kings — DELBAETH son of Ogma or of Elada — the ambiguity matters little, as these individuals are practically certain to be different aspects of the one personality : and his son FIACHU (aliter Fiachra or Fiachna). These reign for ten years each. The former is chiefly important for the family attributed to him. He has three daughters, the famous war-furies Badb, Macha, and Mor-rigu, the latter sometimes called Anand or Danand, which is, in fact, her real name, Mor-rigu being merely an epithet ("great queen"). Their mother is Ernmas, a daughter of Etarlam, Nuadu's grandfather : and Macha is killed along with Nuadu in the second battle of Mag Tuired at the hands of Balor. It is, however, reasonable to equate her to the Macha of Ard-Macha, who died after the race in which she gave birth to the "twins of Macha," from which Emain Macha takes its name. Danand or Dana is the eponym of the two remarkable mountains called "the Paps of Dana" in Co. Kerry. Her father Delbaeth had by her the three famous sons Brian, Iuchar, and Iucharba, The two latter are obviously the objects of a twin-cult : and in his capacity of father to these beings — who were of a divinity so sublimated that they are spoken of as "the gods of the TDD" — Delbaeth also bears the name of Turenn or Turell Piccreo. Three other sons also born of Ernmas, are Fiachu (the king), Ollam, and Indai. There is also a daughter called Elcmar, who marries Net; evidently Net II, great-grandson of Net I, if we may believe a pedigree included in the interpolation of §368. But Net I was the eponym of Ailech Neit, and we learn from §314 that Fea and Nemaind (sic) were his wives — who would thus appear to have been their own great-great-great-great-grandmothers : a complication which could not occur except in an Olympus of di immortales, as conceived of by some community in which the doctrine of re-birth was a cardinal article of faith. Elsewhere Fea and Neman appear as Badb and Nemain (§338); and as Mor-rigu is sometimes called Neman, the identity of these two women with two of the three war-furies, daughters of Delbaeth, is complete. Moreover, they can hardly be dissociated from Fea and Femen, the sacred cattle which were in some way "possessed" by Brigid daughter of In Dagda : and we must not forget that Fea has already appeared in the book, in connexion with Partholon.
At the end of the list of kings comes the interesting trio MAC CUILL, MAC CECHT, MAC GREINE : unquestionably to be identified with the beings alleged to be their "gods," from whom they derived their names, and thus to be regarded as departmental divinities of a simple agricultural community. Their personal names, like those of Iuchar and Iucharba, have the characteristic Dioscuric jingle — whether we accept them in the form (S)ethor, Tethor, and Cethor, or Ermat, Dermat, and Aed — for the last we are probably to substitute Cermat, the name of the alleged father; possibly he and Aed (another son of In Dagda) have changed relationships. Their wives are the eponymous heroines of Ireland, whom we have already met in the Cessair section. These "gods-of-gods" are doubtless to be ultimately equated with the Brian triad, whose divinity is of the same transcendent order.
The set of verses enumerating these three kings does not belong to the context in which we find it here, for it mentions a fourth on equal terms with them, by name MANANNAN. It is clear that the historians were puzzled by this personage, whom, on the evidence of the materials at their disposal, whatever those might have been, they could not accept as a king. He is identified with Oirbsiu, genitive Oirbsen, the eponym of the lake now called Loch Corrib : and he is regarded as son of Allot, the most obscure of all the five sons of Elada. According to §339 he was killed by Uillend of the Red Edge son of Caicher, who killed the king Delbaeth, and is hardly to be identified with the "Milesian" druid of whom we heard in § II : the interpolative material in R3 makes Uillend to be son of Tadc Mor, an otherwise unrecorded son of Nuadu, and his victim is variously styled Gallia, or Gaiar, or Oirbsen, or Manannan. In §348 "Gaela" is son of Oirbsen.
For the present, the foregoing analysis must suffice. It is enough to show that these pedigrees are a highly complex synthesis of genuine traditional material — for it it were not so, the details would necessarily have been fabricated, and the romancers would at least have taken pains to avoid the absurd chronological disunities which have been pointed out. These are inevitable in any effort to combine irreconcilable traditions, which have come to birth in different communities, and which have been developed artificially by different schools of historians : and when we find them, we are justified in thus explaining them.
We now return to Liber Occupationis, the history of the Gaedil or the Sons of Mil(1) and their wanderings, after the long interruption caused by the intrusion of the originally independent Liber Praecursorum. In doing so, we immediately re-enter the scholastic atmosphere which we quitted when we passed from the Egyptian adventures of Nel, to the cosmogony of the Cessair pericope. The rest of the book not only possesses no historical value - as is only too obvious ; in the form in which it is presented to us it has next to no importance in the general field of Anthropology, except in so far as it may throw some sidelight rays upon magical beliefs and practices, or the like. Its chief interest is as an object-lesson in the growth and methods of literary tradition.
(1) This name, when written in full, usually appears as Milid, in the Nominative; proper names preserved orally have a tendency to become perpetuated in one of the oblique cases. The form Mil, here used, is rather a theoretical reconstruction than a form actually sanctioned by the MSS (it actually appears in Λ, once, in the course of §385).
When I began to work on the present section I hoped that here, at least, it might be possible to combine the three redactions into a single text; but after struggling with the task for a few paragraphs I abandoned it as hopeless. Only by continuing the practice of printing the parallel versions in full can the chequered history of the compilation be satisfactorily set forth. I have allowed the composite text, so far as I had prepared it, to stand, in order to demonstrate the essential artificiality, and the unmanageable clumsiness - with no compensating scientific gain - resulting from such a treatment of the material. This less important section is a suitable corpus uile for such a demonstration ; it would have been more complete if I had allowed all the trivialities of orthographical variation which I had noted to remain on record. In fact, about half of these have been excised as needless encumbrances.
Why then is it impossible - for so it is - to establish a standard text for what is evidently a document produced by a conscious act of literary effort? The answer to this question is obvious, and complete. As has already been indicated in Part I of this edition, p. xxxi, Liber Occupationis was originally composed, not in Irish, but in Latin. Its contents were taught, where such subjects were studied, by oral instruction, not from books - thus in a measure carrying on the traditional educational methods of the Druidic schools, as these are described for us in an oft-quoted passage of Caesar's De Bello Gallico. The interspersed verses were mnemonics, which the students learnt by heart as a preliminary framework, and into which individual teachers fitted their own explanations, translations, paraphrases, or expansions, of the Latin prose history. Not till after a lapse of many years would the substance of the story be written down, in the vernacular of the writers - again carrying on the Druidic tradition of oral as opposed to written instruction - and then by different scholars, brought up in the divergent traditions of different schools; though the underlying Latin was doubtless still available, to give a general unity to their transcripts. But there was never a standard Irish text from which the redactionary variants could all have been derived by ordinary transmission.
It was also pointed out (same reference) that Liber Occupationis is merely a quasi-learned parody of the story of the conquest of Canaan by the Israelites. Ith, whom we left in Spain, espied Ireland from the top of Breogan's Tower, as Moses espied the Promised Land from the summit called "Pisgah". Despite the protests of his brethren, he determined to seek it out. Arriving, he was met by certain of the inhabitants, who described for him the island and its rulers. These latter, at the moment, were involved in a legal dispute, which Ith, being (like Moses) famous as a judge and a lawgiver, was able to settle. In doing so, he rashly pronounced an eulogy on the country : the inhabitants, fearful lest he should carry back this good report to potential invaders, put him to death ; but his followers escaped, and returned with the tidings, and the body of their leader, to Spain. An expedition set forth to avenge him ; after meeting with difficulties and losses, it succeeded in effecting a landing, and in gaining a victory in a battle at Sliab Mis. In spite of this, however, after a colloquy with the kings at Temair, the invaders were obliged - by no obvious constraint - to return to the sea, to face the difficulties of landing once again, and to fight a second successful battle to secure their footing on the country(2). By the death of the original leader before the invasion begins; by the spying out of the land, and the favourable report; by the original success followed by a temporary defeat; we are reminded, again and again, of the Israelite story. Even in incidental details there are points of contact; thus, the Gaedil were hookwinked into harbouring the Cruithne, as Joshua was hoodwinked into harbouring the Gibeonites; and the analogy is continued in the sequel, where we find a miniature Domesday or Landnamabok (just as in the Book of Joshua and the subsequent Biblical histories) detailing the division of the land among the immigrant families, and a later partition of the country; followed by a list of kings, in form closely resembling the Books of the Kings of the Hebrews. Here and there extraneous incidents, easily detachable interpolations, interrupt the story : such are the interviews with the three women Eriu, Banba and Fodla ; the story of Lugaid and Fial ; and the story of Odba. These must have existed, separately, as minor sagas, being afterwards incorporated rather loosely in the text.
(2) Conceivably the double invasion, which seems quite pointless, was suggested by the Israelite set-back in the battle of Ai, after their successful siege of Jericho (Joshua vii); but on the whole it is more likely that the story of the two battles is a conflation of two independent versions of what was originally one narrative of one (legendary) event.
As hinted above, I had drawn up a formidable list of MS variae lectiones ; but in the final revision I reduced these to a manageable bulk by excising orthographical and other trivialities. An elaborate prefatory analysis, and long explanatory notes, such as were necessary in dealing with Liber Praecursorum, would scarcely be appropriate to this essentially artificial section. A few observations on specific details are all that appear needful.
I. The Landfall of Ith (§379). In its earliest form the story may have left Ith and his followers at the "Brentracht", without specifying which of the two or more places of this name was intended. Southern histories favoured a site, now unidentified, in the Corkaguiney peninsula, familiar to themselves; those of the North sought it in a Northern site, more convenient to Ailech, and where the presence of a "Mag nItha" seemed to offer confirmatory evidence. The Southern landing obliged Ith to pursue the following lengthy itinerary -
Corco Duibne - Corkaguiney, Co. Kerry.
Ciarraige Luachra - North Kerry.
Luachair Dedad - Southern part of the same region.
Mag Cliach - S.E. Limerick.
Eile - E. Tipperary and S. Offaly.
Tir Cell - North of the same region.
Mide - Meath.
Luigne - Lune, Co. Meath.
Sliab Guaire - Slieve Gorey, W. Cavan.
Feda Fernmaige - the woods of Farney. Co. Monaghan.
Fossad Clair Fernmaige - North of the last.
Sliab Bethach - Slieve Beagh, Monaghan barony. Co. Monaghan.
Sliab Toadâ - "Bessie Bell" Mountain, Co. Tyrone.
The Marsh of Tir Sirlaim - unidentified, presumably North of the last station.
Modarn - somewhere about the confluence of the Mourne and Foyle rivers.
Ailech - the well-known hilltop fort west of Londonderry.
II. The colloquy on the beach (§380). "Inis Elga" as a name for "Ireland" is familiar, but its status is indeterminate ; whether it was ever in current official use, or was merely a poetical by-name; whether the nominative is Elg or Elga; and whether its meaning is "noble" or "pig", or something else not recognized by these guesses. Cathair Crofind is familiar as an old name for Temair Breg (Tara). The discrepant versions of the matter in dispute among the kings add to the evidence that our text, in its several forms, has gathered various strands of tradition into its artificial framework.
III. The death of " Ollum" (§383, 384). This is in essence an alternative version of the fate of Ith, in which the Tuatha De Danann appear in their character of "demons" - for they are undoubtedly the slayers, though not specified as such. The story is not in L, though F includes it ; it was taken into the text of R2 at §384, where it breaks the sense very awkwardly. No reason for the murder is assigned in this alternative version, and the identity of the victim with Ith is not recognized ; indeed, a further interpolator in R2 has intruded the information that the victim, elsewhere unnamed, was an otherwise unknown "Ollum"(3). In addition, the paragraph contains a list of four places, known to the glossator, bearing the name Mag nItha, and explaining it after the manner of Dinnsenchas. Of these places there is nothing to say more than what the paragraph contains, that they were respectively in the neighbourhood of Loch Foyle, Loch Swilly, Limerick, and the territory of the Dessi - presumably Decies in Waterford, not Deece in Meath, as the narrative implies a maritime region.
(3) He can hardly be dissociated from "Ollom, son of Dalbaeth", of whom we hear for a moment under the T.D.D. ante §315.
IV. The death of Ith (§384). The three texts tell the same story, but with verbal differences which confirm the thesis that the prose developed in several forms out of a Latin original. The Latin compiler may have borrowed from an independent saga with some such title as Aided Itha meic Bregoin; no such tale is enunerated in the official lists, but its existence is suggested by a quotation in the R2R3 versions. It will be noticed that an explanation of the name Mag nItha, differing from that in §383, is here given.
V. The voyage to Ireland (§385). At first simple, this paragraph has been swelled into a terrible complication by scribal insertions and (we must add) perversions. Its history can be reconstructed by a careful comparison of the two prose texts and the associated verse, Toisig na l-loingse (Poem LXVII), The germ is the simple statement at the beginning of the first prose text :
"Learned men relate that the Gaedil were conducted to Ireland by 36 leaders, to wit -
10 sons of Bregon (Brego, Bile. Blad, Cualu, Cuailnge, Fuat, Muirthemne, Ith, Nar, Ebliu).
1 son of Bile (Mil).
8 sons of Mil (Bonn, Golptlia, Amorgen, Eber, Ir, Eremon, Airech, Erennan).
3 sons of Bremen (Muimne, Luigne, Laigne).
4 sons of Eber (Er, Orba, Feron. Fergna).
10 champions (Bres, Buas, Buaigne, Caicher, Fulman, Mantan, Setga. Sobairce, Etan, Goisten).
To this bald statement the following additions were made from time to time: -
1. An attempt to explain how these facts were ascertained, by calling on the immortal antediluvians, Tuan and Fintan. to dictate them from their personal knowledge to certain early saints. That this childish story is no part of the original narrative is sufficiently indicated by its insertion at the beginning of the first text and at the end of the second.
2. The numbers of the servitors and their ships, prefixed to the first prose text. Their names, suffixed to the same text, are most likely a yet later insertion; and give a strong impression of being artificial inventions, not genuine traditions.
3. The explanation of certain geographical details, after the manner of Dinnsenchas, by the names of the several leaders. Possibly this turns the document into a sort of Domesday Book, suggesting that the descendants of the owners of those personal names had some sort of territorial claim over the regions bearing the geographical names. The sanctions of ecclesiastical and scholastic tradition are put forth in confirmation of the derivations.
We cannot blame the scribs for losing their way in a text which had become so confused, and which was available to them in clumsy MSS only. The list in the poem (quoted reduces the sons of Bregon by omitting Ith (already dead), by diminishing Blad and Bile to metrical chevilles, and inserting in their stead Mil and Lugaid ; increases the sons of Mil by duplicating Eber; and increases the champions by duplicating Suirge and inserting En, Un, and Palap (the last probably an adaptation of the Classical Pelops). Evidently the later copyists were perplexed by the inclusion of the dead Ith, Un, En, and Mil, and of the yet unborn Irial**.
** This form of the name is here retained, as (with a variant Iriel) it is universally adopted in the MSS; some modern scholars prefer Iarel.
The first list of servitors appears to be a disarrangement of an alphabetical list of plains, derived from some document of a geographical nature. It is possible that the compiler misread the word mag, "plain", written with an open-topped a, for mug, "serf". Perhaps "Mag Mor", king of Spain, of whom we have heard already, owed his existence to a similar oversight. The names are in alliterative groups of threes, suggesting that the fundamental document was in verse form; a slight readjustment would make it at least acrophonically alphabetic, as under -
Aidne, Ai, Assal - Adal, Adar, Aire,
Cuib, Cliu, Cera - Dul, Dese, Dela,
Fea, Femen, Fera - Life, Line, Ligen,
Mede, Morba, Mide - Saer, Slan, Traig.
Of the interpolations, the most interesting, if not the most comprehensible, is one (§385, just after reference-mark) suggesting an identity between Nuadu Airgetlam, the leader of the Tuatha De Danann, and Irial Faid, one of the early chieftains of the Milesian expedition. And as it is more than probable that Irial Faid is primarily the same personage as Iarbonel Faid, who figures among the Nemedian leaders, we can see with what a complication of cross-currents of tradition the ancient historians were faced - and a fortiori we also, when we try to make sense of the material which they have transmitted to us.
VI. Paragraphs of "Dinnsenchas" character. At the outset we are introduced to the three eponymous women, Eriu, Banba, and Fodla. The three texts offer notable variations in detail, which might form the subject of a monograph ; here we can only glance at them. The fundamental idea of this fragmentary saga is the importance of the name as a part of the person to whom it belongs : so long as the names of the women are preserved by being imposed on the island, so long are they assured of immortality. Banba's remark, that the invaders have not come with good luck, may contain a protest to whatever powers permitted the landing in the face of the impotent spells of the Tuatha De Danann; or it may convey a discouraging warning to the incomers that the day of their arrival was an unlucky day - compare a similar warning said to have been uttered to St. Ciaran by a druid when the saint began to build his church at Clonmacnois. Amorgen's answer is to the effect that the landing was fated - a matter of αναγκη. The addition to the story from the book called the Quire of Druimm Snechta is of extreme interest. It underlines what was suggested (Part II, p. 172) as to Cessair having been the name, or rather one of the names, of the Irish Magna Mater. For here Banba is virtually identical with Cessair. She claims an antediluvian origin - older even than Noe - and to have lived at Tul Tuinne like Fintan, Cessair's companion. This corroborates the explanation of the Cessair story as a cosmogonic myth. It is little wonder that a pious and simple-minded glossator found a story which envisaged the survival of any person outside the privileged occupants of the Ark to be "surprising"! It is also interesting to notice how the relations of the women with the invaders oscillate between hostility and friendliness : Eriu, the chief eponym, warmly welcomes them - though another strand in the tangled tale makes her fashion demons out of sods of turf to oppose and repel them. In §389 we have a similar story - a battle, for which the ordinary framework of the narrative has no room, in which the Tuatha De Danann summon "monsters" to aid them. We may compare the monsters summoned in an earlier (?) narrative (interpolated from an unknown source into O'Clery's version of L.G.), to defend Conaing's Tower against the Tuatha De Danann themselves. The retirement after this battle "to a mountain over against Loch Dergderc" - the Southern Loch Derg - may be a reminiscence of the retirement of the antediluvian Fintan to the same region. The amusing etymology offered for Gabar Life ("the Liffey Watershed") is a good example of Dinnsenchas methods.
Further material of the same kind appears in §387, 388, in the explanations of Sliab Mis, Odba, Temair, Inber Colptha, the Gravemounds of Tech Duin, the name "Hog Island" applied to Ireland, Glen Fais, Scota's Grave - now marked by an absurd spurious Ogham inscription - and Inber Scene. In all these cases, the place-name came first, and the person or thing to account for it was invented by the etymologizer. Inber Scene is a typical case ; Scene has been evolved, to account for Orosius's version of the name of the Shannon estuary ! More interesting is the story to account for Loch Luigdech and Inber Feile. Loch Luigdech is generally identified with Loch Currane, behind Waterville ; if this be right, the lake-estuary in which Fial performed her ablutions cannot have anything to do with the river Feale in North Kerry. The tabu on nudity, which is prominent in this story, also appears in certain well-known stories of Cu Chulaind ; a comparison of the versions reveals a difference of opinion as to whether Fial's emotions were excited at seeing her husband, or being herself seen, in that condition. The fatal consequence shows that the trouble was actually a breach of a tabu, not a mere sense of embarrassment.
These paragraphs have the further interest of giving us some extracts from what we may describe as a "book of spells", including the famous verses of Amorgen. Here we need only refer to the apparently proverbial rhyme, or jingle, nir folith. As Ith, not Lugaid, is there mentioned - a harmonizing gloss has been found necessary to justify its quotation - it cannot have had anything to do with the boat-race story in its original application. It seems to have the character of a didactic aphorism, based on some story other than that in the text - of which, indeed, it may have suggested the aetiological invention. But in its present setting it is treated rather as one of the magical spells with which the narrative is riddled.
These few remarks must suffice; but they are enough to show that close examination of even an artificial document like this, conducted by the methods of modern Anthropology, may reveal pearls of great price to the explorer.
création : 30/08/2009