Here is Part Nine of Balladeer’s Blog’s look at the various mythological works in Ireland’s Lebor na hUidre, The Book of the Dun Cow. This part features multiple sections. For Part One click HERE.

conchobarTHE CONCEPTION OF CUCHULAINN (Compert Con Culainn) – One of the versions of the birth of the demigod Cuchulainn. This version begins as Ulster’s King Conchobar mac Nessa (at left) goes on a hunt for magical birds with several nobles of Ulster and his daughter Deichtine, his charioteer. (In the later and more popular versions Deichtine is King Conchobar’s sister, not his daughter, and most of the Cuchulainn myths refer to him as Conchobar’s nephew, not grandson.)

        A heavy snow falls, prompting the hunting party to seek shelter in an isolated house where they are made welcome by the man and the pregnant woman inside. The woman goes into labor, and Deichtine helps deliver the baby – a son – overnight. A mare also gives birth to two colts that night.

lug        When the royal party wakes up the next morning, the house has turned back into Newgrange’s neolithic mound at Brug na Boinde, where the unsuspecting king and the nobles spent the night being entertained by the god Lug (at right) and his wife. Lug found Deichtine to be very appealing and later informs her he placed his son in her womb and that she should name the child Setanta.

        Deichtine marries Sualtam mac Roich (brother of the notorious Fergus mac Roich) and the couple raise Setanta even though Lug is the real father. The Book of the Dun Cow version of the story is incomplete. For anyone not familiar with these myths I’ll mention that yes, Setanta was the demigod’s real name but from a famous incident in his childhood he became more popularly known as Cuchulainn, “the hound of Culann.”

EtainTHE WOOING OF ETAIN (Tochmarc Etaine) – This tale of the title event begins with the birth of the love god Oengus aka Aengus, to the Dagda, chief of the gods and Boand, goddess of the Boyne River. Midir, god of the laws, becomes Oengus’ foster father. 

        Eventually, Midir falls in love with the beautiful mortal woman Etain (at left). The love god Oengus owes Midir a favor from the time that the god of the laws visited Oengus at his home in Brug na Boinne and was accidentally blinded by boys playing.

        Diancecht, the god of healing among the Irish deities, restored Midir’s vision, but Midir demanded compensation from Oengus as his host when he received the injury. (Was he a god or Joel Hyatt?) Midir wants to marry the daughter of King Ailill of Ulster (there are many Ailills in Irish myths) – Etain – the most beautiful woman in the world. Midir wants Oengus to ensure he gets her.  

        As the dowry, Oengus must perform a few tasks for King Ailill, like diverting the course of rivers, clearing plains and paying him Etain’s weight in gold and silver. The blonde Midir, wearing his best armor and carrying his five-pronged spear, appears before Etain on a brown horse and takes the love-struck young woman as his wife.   

Fuamnach        But wait, there’s more – Midir’s current wife Fuamnach (at right), a goddess of Druidic magic, was resentful of the new wife. Fuamnach used her scarlet rowan wand to change Etain into a pool of water, then a worm leftover after the pool of water evaporated, and finally into a fly.

        Midir knows the fly is Etain, and the transformation has not made him stop loving her. He keeps the Etain Fly with him at all times. Eventually, Fuamnach grows jealous enough to conjure up a wind that blows the Etain Fly far away.

        After seven years, the wandering Etain Fly finds Oengus, who shelters her and nurses her fly form back to health. Before he can reunite her with Midir, Fuamnach causes another wind to blow the Etain Fly far away once more. The furious Oengus beheads Fuamnach.

        As for the Etain Fly, she eventually is inside a gold cup of the wife of Etar, an Ulster warrior during the time of Conchobar mac Nessa. The wife drinks from the cup, accidentally swallowing the fly and becoming pregnant. Etain is reborn in human form and is reunited with Midir.

        NOTE: In some versions, the reunion rather than their first meeting is when Midir appears to her in his finest armor and wielding his five-pronged spear, riding a brown horse.

MonganTHE CONCEPTION OF MONGAN (Compert Mongain) – During the 600s A.D. Ulster’s King Fiachnae mac Baetain was with his troops alongside Aedan mac Gabrain in a military campaign. The sea god Manannan mac Lir saved Fiachnae’s life in exchange for a night with Fiachnae’s wife Caintigern.

        That night results in Caintigern being impregnated by Manannan with Prince Mongan (above left), a real figure in Irish history, but whose life has been embellished by so many legends that facts can be difficult to come by.

        NOTE: Manannan impregnating Caintigern with Mongan was a tale told by the sea god to Bran, son of Febail in an earlier installment. 




Filed under Mythology

5 responses to “BOOK OF THE DUN COW: PART NINE

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  2. diverting the course of rivers is always a useful skill, it is one more option to impress your father-in-law 😀

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