Here is Part Two of Balladeer’s Blog’s look at the various works in Ireland’s Lebor na hUidre, The Book of the Dun Cow. For Part One of this examination of that collection of mixed Pagan and Christian documents click HERE.
TWO SORROWS OF THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN (Dá brón flatha nime) – This is a variation of the tales about Elijah and Enoch, who asked to be risen physically to Heaven while still alive. Because of their virtuous lives, their desire was fulfilled, but their “sorrows” centered around the limitations of their physical forms amid the wonders of Heaven. For just one example, they cannot fly like the angels and souls around them.
One day Elijah sits under the Tree of Paradise and, while the birds of Heaven feed on the splendid fruit of that tree, he reads aloud to them from the Teachings of Doomsday. He reads about four rivers running down Mount Zion and their waters burning the sinful.
Next, he reads to them about Christ returning for the Final Judgment accompanied by the Hosts of Heaven. Each human who appears before him is accompanied by a personal angel and a personal devil. The angel speaks of the person’s good deeds and the devil about their bad deeds. Jesus then assigns souls to Heaven or Hell.
Those assigned to Heaven are flown there by angels. Those assigned to Hell are dragged down by devils, one striking the soul with their fists, another whipping the soul and another driving spikes into the soul’s mouth. A great cry rises from the damned as Hell is sealed away forever.
Elijah further reflects on how he and Enoch will be stuck in their physical bodies in Heaven until the arrival of the Antichrist on Earth. At that time they will be sent down to confront him and will be among those killed for refusing to worship the Antichrist. That will release their souls to fully enjoy the wonders of Heaven while the Archangel Michael flies down to battle the Antichrist.
THE INTOXICATION OF THE ULSTERMAN (Mesca Ulad) – A version of one of the stories in the Ulster Cycle of Irish Mythology. The Ulstermen are invited to two different drunken feasts to celebrate Samhain, and decide to enjoy both.
After drinking themselves into a tizzy at the first party, held in Dun da Bhenn, the reeling Ulstermen recklessly drive their chariots toward the site of the second feast, at the Dun Delgan castle of the demigod Cuchulainn. Too drunk to know better, they accidentally drive south to Kerry instead.
The Ulstermen wind up in the hands of their enemies the Munstermen, who take advantage of their inebriated state and try to burn them alive in a wood and iron “hostel.” This tale is told more for comedy than tragedy and the Ulstermen are singed but escape with their lives.
THE RAID ON DARTAID’S CATTLE (Tain bo Dartada) – In The Book of the Dun Cow, only the first four lines of this version of the raid have survived intact. The myth is preserved in other ancient texts, however, so the story is known. To avoid leaving people hanging if they are not familiar with this lesser known Cattle Raid, I’ll add a synopsis.
Fairies from the mounds trick Eocho Bec, son of King Corpre, into leading fifty noble warriors to get slaughtered by one hundred forty of their enemies while trying to cement an alliance with King Ailill and Queen Maeve at Fort Cruachan in Connacht. The fairies then trick Ailill into sending his son Orlam to lead a raid on the cattle of Dartaid, Eocho Bec’s daughter, now that her father’s forces have been weakened.
Simultaneously, the fairies instructed Corp Liath into leading a superior host to battle Orlam. Corp Liath’s troops triumphed over Orlam’s, killed the she-warrior Dartaid herself in the battle, and made off with her cattle.
NOTE: In these old Irish myths, women often fight in the field just like the men do.
THE RAID ON FLIODHAISE’S CATTLE – (Tain bo Flidhaise) – Fliodhaise, the character whose cattle are targeted in this raid, was once considered a goddess with vast herds of cows and deer. By the time of this story, she is presented simply as a beautiful queen.
Fliodhaise and her husband, King Oilill Fion (Also called Ailill Finn, but I’ll stick with Oilill to avoid confusion with the other Ailill, who is married to Queen Maeve in Connacht.) Among Fliodhaise’s many cattle at Dun Fliodhaise was the Maol Cow, a white cow which daily provided enough milk for 300 men plus their women and children as well.
Meanwhile, at Cruachan, where Queen Maeve and King Ailill lived, the famous warrior and seducer Fergus mac Roich was dwelling in political asylum from the Ulstermen, whom he had betrayed in a recent conflict. Maeve was cheating on Ailill with Fergus almost nightly, prompting the angry Ailill to secretly replace Fergus’ enchanted sword with a wooden replica.
Bricne aka Bricriu, the troublemaking poet of many Irish myths, arrived as a guest at Cruachan, and spitefully filled Ailill with word of how much grander Dun Fliodhaise was than Cruachan. At the same banquet, he spitefully got Fergus all hot and bothered with tales of how beautiful Fliodhaise herself was.
Before long, Fergus contrived a reason to go riding with an entourage of his soldiers and made straight for Dun Fliodhaise to satisfy his lust for her. Fliodhaise was so renowned for her countless affairs that she and her husband Oilill lived in two separate castles to avoid awkward moments as her lovers came and went.
King Oilill, having heard that Fergus had designs on his wife, led an army of his people, the Gamhainraidh tribe, to intercept Fergus and his troops. (Operation Cockblock) In the resulting battle, Fergus, fighting without his real sword, was taken captive and imprisoned in the cells at Dun Fliodhaise.
Queen Maeve, outraged over the absence of Fergus from her bed and eager to seize all of Fliodhaise’s cattle, especially the Maol Cow, armored up and led her armies toward Dun Fliodhaise. She outgeneralled the Gamhainraidh troops at battle after battle, but her daughter Red Cainner was killed in action.
Maeve besieged Dun Fliodhaise, during which both sides engaged in various intrigues against each other. In the end, Fergus was freed, the fleeing Oilill and his remaining men were slaughtered, and Queen Maeve departed, having regained Fergus and taken all of Fliodhaise’s cattle.
SOON I’LL EXAMINE THE NEXT SEVERAL INSTALLMENTS OF THE BOOK OF THE DUN COW.
12 responses to “BOOK OF THE DUN COW: PART TWO”
Thanks for this!!
Thanks for commenting! I appreciate it!
You are welcome! Thanks, again, for taking the time to write it for us! 😊🤗
Glad to do it! 😀
Great summaries! You rock and so does President Trump.
Excellent work in resuming! You are incredible, and even President Trump agrees with me.
thanks to the author for taking his time on this one.
Allus fascinated by things of the Great Isle of Green, and fancied doing a Twisted Fairy Tale [a la “Big Bad Got a Bum Rap”] but never inspired so’s my twisted mind saw a way to run in fun. Not enought Irish in me, I suppose. Thanks for the journey.
Glad to do it! Thanks for dropping by and for the kind words!