Here is the tenth and FINAL part of Balladeer’s Blog’s look at the various mythological works in Ireland’s Lebor na hUidre, The Book of the Dun Cow. For Part One click HERE.

ireland 600THE STORY IMPLYING THAT MONGAN WAS FIONN MAC CUMHAILL REBORN AND HOW HE AND HIS NEPHEW KILLED FOTHAD AIRGTHECH (Scel asa mberar combad hé Find mac Cumaill Mongáin ocus aní día fil aided Fothaid Airgdig) – Ireland’s Prince Mongan, whom we met in a few previous installments, was a historical figure but his life has been so smothered in embellishments and legends that facts can be hard to come by. He supposedly died around 625 A.D.

        This particular item presented Mongan arguing with the poet Forgoll when that poet claimed to know the circumstances of the death of Irish High King Fothad Airgthech, who ruled around what we would call the early 270s A.D. A heated argument breaks out.

        book of the dun cowEventually Forgoll insists his knowledge has been insulted by Mongan’s contrary claim and threatens to curse and ridicule Mongan unless Mongan gives him his wife by way of reparations. An elderly, decrepit stranger arrives on the scene.

        The stranger says he is Cailte mac Ronain, nephew of Fionn mac Cumhaill (better known as Finn MacCool). Cailte is one of the last surviving members of Fionn’s troops and has lived this long through enchanted means. Like Oisin, his fellow survivor of the Battle of Gabhra, Cailte is destined to live long enough to convey tales of ancient Ireland to the prophesied Saint Patrick.

        NOTE: Obviously, like so many other alleged “prophecies” this one was never set down in writing until centuries later.

        At length, Cailte establishes his bonafides and then says Mongan’s account of Fothad Airgthech’s death is the accurate one because Mongan is really Fionn mac Cumhaill reborn, and Cailte was there in the 270s A.D. when his uncle Fionn killed Fothad Airgthech. 

manannan mac lirTHE STORY OF MONGAN (Scél Mongáin) – Several tales of Mongan are relayed in this section.

        I. As we learned in earlier installments, Mongan is really the son of the sea god Manannan mac Lir, who got to sleep with his mother in exchange for saving his father’s life during a military campaign.

        II. As a young boy, Mongan is already precocious enough to call out Eochu Rígéigeas as being unfit for his station as chief bard. When young Mongan outdoes Eochu at the bardic skill of dindschenchas (the lore behind place names), costing him his position, the older bard curses Mongan to never have any issue. That curse (or prediction in some versions) comes true and Mongan dies childless.

        manannan on horseIII. Manannan summons the young Mongan to his home island Tir Tairngire to the west, either by sending his chariot which rides atop the water or by sending one of his horses, Enbarr, to carry his son there atop the waves. In Tir Tairngire, Mongan learns shapeshifting and other esoteric skills over the course of ten years until he is 16.

        IV. The men of Ulster ask Manannan to let Mongan come and rule them and the youth is sent to rule one half of Ulster while Fiachnae mac Demainn rules the other half. To ensure peace, a political marriage is held between Mongan on one hand and Fiachnae’s daughter Dub Lacha on the other.

        V. Eventually, Mongan kills Fiachnae mac Demainn and assumes rule over all of Ulster. (In real life, Fiachnae mac Demainn died AFTER Mongan did.) 

       VI. Prince Mongan encounters a young student poet who is very poor and struggling. He dispatches the youth to the Hollow Hills, where he will find gold, silver and a precious stone. The student is to bring Mongan the precious stone and keep the gold and silver for himself. The young poet does as he is told, not succumbing to greed by keeping the stone as well.

        VII. Mongan argues with the poet Forgall about the death of High King Fothad Airgthech. See above story.

        mongan picVIII. The myth of Mongan’s Frenzy (baile) is an enigmatic piece in which, after being afflicted by the title frenzy, Mongan tells his wife that he cannot explain to her the reason for it until seven years have passed. The story does not reveal the cause.

        IX. Mongan and his wife visit the holy site called the Hill of Uisnech (see previous installments), where a hailstorm forces them to seek shelter in a dining hall surrounded by a circle of trees. They are hosted by supernatural beings for what seems like a night, but when they leave it turns out a year has passed. They return to their home at Rath Mor near Larne.

        X. Mongan is killed around 625 A.D. by a stone fired from the slingshot of one Artur son of Bricur, who hails from Kintyre. As Mongan bled to death, he was borne off to the west by a cloud shaped like a wheel.   

THE CAUSE OF THE FRENZY OF MONGAN (Tucait baile Mongáin) – Another variation on the mysterious cause of Mongan’s frenzy, still without revealing the actual cause. 

heroes of ulsterTHE LOCATION OF THE HEADS OF THE HEROES OF ULSTER (Inna hinada hi filet cind erred Ulad) – A poem recounting the deaths of a few heroes from the Ulster Cycle. It was tradition to remove the heads of warriors who died at your hands, remove the brains and harden them into balls.

These balls could be compared with those taken by other warriors if they wanted to prove who was the better man. So, this section’s poems were about how others took the heads (then brains) of a few Ulster figures.

The slain heroes mentioned in the poem were:

*** King Conchobar mac Nessa, slain by the petrified brain-ball trophy of Leinster’s King Mesgegra. The projectile was fired by Cet mac Magach from his slingshot.

*** Loegare Buadach, who died while fighting dozens of soldiers to stop them from drowning the promiscuous poet Aed mac Ainninne at Loch Lai.

*** Celtchar mac Uthechair, who died during an adventure which saw him slay Conganchness mac Dedad and two monstrous dogs, one of them his own.

*** Fergus mac Roich, slain – while bathing with Queen Maeve – by the spear of Lugaid, brother of King Ailill of Connacht. 

*** and Cet mac Magach, killed in single combat with Conall Cernach after slaying 24 men and taking their heads.

And that wraps up this look at the contents in The Book of the Dun Cow.



Filed under Mythology

46 responses to “BOOK OF THE DUN COW: PART TEN

  1. I bet you’re interesting to chat with over a cuppa. Never boring I suspect.

  2. Thanks for sharing this idea. Can you follow my blog.

  3. Great book! I hope! 👍👍well shared .

  4. [Sigh] Not enough Irish in me, I guess. Well, I’ve enough Irish in me, not enough Irish soul.

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