Mythology is important. In spite of being untrue -partially untrue-, it is actually a significant part of every single culture around the world. It makes up a great portion of history, traditions, and beliefs. More precisely, mythology refers to a group of people who have certain beliefs or myths. Some people also refer to mythology as godlore.
Myths supposedly tell tales of history and nature. However, probably, the reason some people say godlore may be the fact that mythology is mostly about gods, either mythical or real ones. The same goes for the Irish mythology. It is a deep ocean of tales about Ireland’s gods, history, customs, and more. A combination of interesting traditions and religious rituals that made up Ireland’s most popular stories.
THE SIGNIFICANCE OF MYTHOLOGY
Again, mythology refers to what each group of people used to believe in. However, mythology is also a study that some people pursue. For example, people who study the Irish mythology learn all about the beliefs and rituals of the ancient Irish.
Alan Dundes was a folklorist; he was the one who defined the study of myths as a sacred narrative. Dundes believed so because mythology narrated the precise evolution of the world and humanity to what they became today. More accurately, Dundes stated that those sacred narratives were a direct definition of how the world viewed cultures. Mythology explains different aspects of the world as well as the social and psychological practices.
On the other hand, a scholar once described mythology as a presentation of ideas in a narrative form while others referred to mythology differently. Thus, the word mythology can actually refer to a lot of different meanings, depending on your perspectives and culture. Nonetheless, how you define mythology does not change its significance in tales telling and unfolding the history of cultures.
ALL ABOUT THE IRISH MYTHOLOGY
Every culture certainly has its own myths and legends. However, Ireland is one of the most popular countries when it comes to that part. The Irish mythology has always been an interesting one. It is full of popular stories and ancient tales that people around the world still narrate to this very day. Interestingly, Irish mythology also contains four different cycles. These cycles are the Mythology cycle, the Fenian cycle, the Kings’ cycle or the Historical cycle, and the Ulster cycle.
Each cycle of them embraces a wide range of characters and stories. Besides, every cycle of them has a certain theme. They also refer to different eras; each cycle includes the characters and tales of a certain period. Shortly, we will get to the precise details of each cycle and learn about the stories and characters they hold. Above and beyond, we will introduce you to the most popular tales, warriors, races, and gods of the Irish mythology.
Before going into further details, it is important to know that these cycles did not belong to the mythology itself. In fact, they were methods that researchers and folklorists used to make analyzing each era easier. Thus, they had to divide the characters and the stories into those four different sections.
The mythological cycle is the first one in the cycles of the Irish mythology. This cycle is the section that revolves around tales of gods and other myths. It is definitely a major cycle, for it embraces a wide array of significant legends and stories. Specifically, the mythology cycle includes all of the tales that, supposedly, were told by the Tuatha De Danann. The latter was a race in the ancient Irish who made up most of the stories of this cycle -we will get into more details about them later-.
Going back to the mythology cycle, the characters of this cycle were formerly gods that ancient Irish people believed in. This era in which the cycle is set belongs to that time where Christianity had not arrived in Ireland for so long. However, all of those beliefs that had a connection with gods were not as portrayed, according to some scholars.
Those scholars actually believe that the characters people believed to be gods were more of godlike characters rather than actual gods. Some sources claim that the reason scholars stated that goes back to their beliefs as Christians.
Known Stories of the Mythology Cycle
The cycle includes lots of works, including verse texts and prose tales. One of those works was The Book of Invasions. There are also a lot of romances that this cycle holds within, but some sources claim that these tales date to some modern times. Some of these stories were Cath Maige Tuired and The Fate of the Children of Tuireann. Other stories that the mythological cycles include people transmitted them orally through the years.
Folk-tales are what researchers call these stories; they belong to an age that was long before the mortal men ruled over Ireland. The mortal men were actually races, including the Milesians and their descendants. The Children of Lir is another popular tale in the Irish mythology; it also falls into the mythological cycle along with The Dream of Aengus and Wooing of Etain.
Then comes the Ulster cycle; one of the prominent cycles of the Irish mythology that revolves around legends of heroes of Ulaid. It is eastern Ulster and northern Leinster. Manuscripts on which these legends exist have been around since the Medieval period. On the other hand, some stories of these cycles belong to the period of Early Christianity in Ireland.
Historians had controversial opinions when it comes to this specific cycle. Some of them believed that the cycle is of a historical category as the events of it took place during the time of Christ. Others believed that the cycle is chastely legendary and untrue.
Like any cycle, the Ulster cycle includes many stories. One of the most important stories is the Cattle Raid of Cooley. It is a tale in which Queen Connacht Medb and Ailill, her husband, started a war against Ulaid. Above and beyond, Deirdre of the Sorrows is another significant story of this cycle. It is a story about the most beautiful woman in Ireland who died after setting examples of lust and love.
This cycle has more than one name, including the Fenian cycle, Finn Cycle, and some people refer to it as Finnian tales. This cycle is one of the most significant ones in the Irish mythology. It revolves around superheroes and warriors of ancient Ireland. Some people confuse between this cycle and the Ulster cycle due to the similarities they share between the worlds they evoke. The Fenian cycle also exists in the mythology of Scotland. However, in the Irish mythology, it takes place in the 3rd century.
On the other hand, the tales of the Fenian cycle tend to be more of romantic ones rather than epic. That is exactly the difference between the stories of this cycle and those of the Ulster’s one. Most of the stories and legends of this cycle revolve around plots of warriors and heroes who spend their time fighting and hunting. They also embark on journeys and adventures in the world of spirits.
Unlike the mythological cycle, this cycle is not very concerned with gods and ritual beliefs. However, this era was all about people and races who worshipped heroes rather than gods or any other divine form.
The Story Behind the Different Names of the Fenian Cycle
The Fenian cycle embraces more than a few stories about legendary warriors and superheroes. The most important story of this cycle is the tale of Fionn mac Cumhall or Finn MacCool. The different derivatives of the cycle’s name also come from Finn’s or Fionn’s name. He was a legendary warrior in the Irish mythology.
All of the stories of this cycle revolve around the mythical hero Finn MacCool and his army of warriors, the Fianna. Those warriors lived as bandits and hunters in the forests of Ireland. On the other hand, some historians and sources refer to this cycle as the Ossianic cycle rather than the Fenian or Finn one. The reason for that goes back to the name of Finn MacCool’s son, Oisin. He was a poet and most of the poems of this era were his own, so the cycle shared similarities in terms of names.
Other Stories of This Cycle
The Irish mythology provides us with a pool of tales and stories, so some of them would surely fall into this cycle. The Fenian cycle is full of stories that almost all of them revolve around different tales of the invincible warrior, Fionn mac Cumhall.
One of those famous stories that fall in this cycle is Salmon of Wisdom. This story is about Fionn’s challenges to become the leader of the Clan Bascna. You will get to the descriptive details about this tale in a later section. The other two famous tales that this cycle embraces are The Pursuit of Diarmuid and Gráinne and Oisín in Tír na nÓg.
Historians refer to this cycle as either the King’s cycle or the Historical Cycle. The tales of this cycle seem to belong to the medieval period. Thus, it is full of tales that are very significant in the Irish mythology. Bards existed in Ireland during that very same period. Bards were actually professional poets who served kings and families. Some tend to refer to those bards as Court Poets. They were also good at recording the history of those people they served to remain memorable throughout the years.
Actually, a lot of sources claim that those bards were the reason the fourth cycle exists. That is because all of the cycle’s tales belonged solely to them. They wrote poems that narrated the history and combined it with some mythological tales, resulting in even more interesting stories.
The historical cycle holds more than a few popular stories, including the tales of the High Kings, as Labraid Loingsech and Brian Boru, and also included the Frenzy of Sweeney. Historians and commentators describe this tale as the Glory of the Historical Cycle. It dates back to the 12th century and people learn about it through either prose or verse.
RACES THAT EXISTED IN THE IRISH MYTHOLOGY
Well, the Irish mythology may consist of four different cycles and each of them embraces tons of tales and characters. The characters of the Irish mythology had their own origins as well. These races descended for many generations and resulted in a long history of Ireland. The most popular group of folks that the Irish mythology keeps telling their tales over and over are the following: the Tuatha De Danann, the Fomorians, the Gaels, and the Milesians.
The Tuatha De Danann
The race of the Tuatha De Danann is the most popular one in the Irish mythology. It is also the race from which some of the most prominent characters originated. Some sources claim that despite all of the races of the Irish mythology, the Tuatha de Danann makes up most of the legends’ history.
So, who exactly was the Tuatha De Danann? They were a group of people who possessed supernatural and magical powers. This race existed in ancient Ireland for a specified span of time. They were a representation of the ancient folks who lived before Christianity rushed to the borders of Ireland.
However, what exactly happened to them remains ambiguous. Most of them disappeared when other races managed to take over. Heading to the etymology of the name, the literal meaning of the Tuatha de Danann is the Tribe of the God. More precisely, the God they refer to in the name of the race, a goddess actually, was Danu or Dana.
The Origin of the Tuatha de Danann
To get to the point, they were a leading race in the Irish mythology. The Tuatha de Danann has also descended from races that were equally prominent, such as the Nemeds. The Nemeds existed long before the Tuatha de Danann did and they were the rulers of Ireland.
This conclusion was reached, for both races happened to come from the same cities. In other words, they shared the same origin and hometown. Those cities were Falias, Gorias, Murias, and Finias. Each city of them existed in Northern Ireland and they all happen to be homes to the Tuatha de Danann and the Nemeds.
The Battle against the Fomorians
When the Tuatha de Danann arrived in Ireland for the very first time, Nuada was their king. However, they got into a battle against the Fomorians and their king died. The king of the Fomorians, Balor, was the murderer of Nuada. He had super powerful eyes which he used to poison the other king. For revenge, Lugh slew Balor, for he was the champion of the Tuatha De Danann. Thus, he deserved to take over the kingship of his own race, so he became a king himself.
The literature of the Irish mythology claims that the Tuatha de Danann originally belonged to the Sidhe -pronounced as Shee-. It was a place where the fairies lived. Thus, they disappeared for good. Conversely, they did not die, but they actually made appearances in other tales. They even occasionally appeared in tales that belonged to different cycles; worlds different from theirs.
The literature states that they hid through a fairy mist; this mist worked as a cloak where nobody can see them when passing near their fairy mounds, the sidhe. What actually proves the point of cloaking and not dying is that they were guests in many significant tales. For example, Lugh, the champion, appeared to Cuchulainn, the Ulster hero, as a divine father. Above and beyond, Morrigan, a Tuatha de Danann figure, appeared to him as Nemesis.
They are another supernatural race that existed in the Irish mythology. The tales usually depict them as hostile creatures that live in either the waters or underground. However, literature later portrayed them as giant beings and sea raiders.
The Fomorians have been around since the beginning of time. The first settlers of Ireland were actually enemies of the Fomorians. They were also opponents of the Tuatha de Danann that they went into battles against one another. Surprisingly, both races were enemies yet they shared relations and connections, making it hard to name their relationship with one another. In fact, members of both races married one another and had children together who belonged to the two of them.
Just like the Tuatha De Danann, historians claim that the Fomorians were godlike creatures as well. However, they, unlike their counterpart race, presented powers of destruction and harm. They were a pure representation of death, disfigurement, chaos, darkness, and scarcity.
No wonder the Fomorians were enemies of a lot of settlers, according to the Irish mythology. Some sources suggest that there is a reason behind the hostility of the Fomorians. It probably was the fact that they ascend from a group of gods who a newer group exiled for good.
The Etymology of the Word Fomorians
The Fomorians were not only a race in the Irish mythology. There had always been counter opinions about them and the meaning of their name. There have been a lot of controversial opinions around the meaning of the name, Fomorians.
The name has two different parts. The first part, which is Fo, is the only part that scholars and researchers agree upon. Fo is an Old Irish word that means lower, below, or under. Here comes the debate, it was all about the second part of the name, which is “morians.” A lot of suggestions had popped up when it came to explaining the second part of the word.
Suggestions of the Irish Writers and Scholars
- The Medieval Irish writers claimed that the word comes from the Old Irish mur which means the sea. This proclaims that if that first suggestion was right, the whole word would mean “The Undersea Beings.” Scholars shared agreements upon this specific suggestion. That is because the Irish mythology has always depicted them as sea raiders or creatures that live under the sea.
- The second suggestion declared that the second part of the word derives from the Old Irish, mor, which means great or big. That suggestion would give the whole word a new meaning, which is “the big underworld” or it could be “the giants of the underworld.”
- Scholars have been supporting the third suggestion more than the other ones. The third claims that the second part of the word comes from a hypothetical Old Irish term. This term supposedly means a demon or a ghost. It is also found in the name Morrigan and its English equivalent is the word mare. Subsequently, the whole word would mean “demons of the underworld.”
Their Outer Appearances
The Irish mythology can be a bit confusing when it comes to the description of races and characters. The Book of the Dun Cow dates back to the 11th century. It contains a text that gives a brief explanation of how the Fomorians looked like. This text claims that they had a head of a goat and a body of a human. Other sources claimed that they had only one arm, one leg, and one eye.
Conversely, some of them had beautiful appearances, including the character Elatha, the father of Bres. He had an attractive appearance. Different sources stated that they were actually aquatic people; they belonged to the sea.
Battles between the Fomorians and the Nemeds
The Irish mythology narrated lots of battles between its races. This one was a significant combat of the Irish mythology. The Nemeds were the ancestors of the Tuatha de Danann. They arrived in Ireland when it was almost empty and most of its people had died. Their death was because of the Fomorians, but others just died due to other factors.
Anyhow, as soon as the Nemeds arrived, the Fomorians started attacking them. They went into several battles against one another. Later, the Nemeds managed to defeat them and kill their kings as well, Sengann, and Gann. However, the Fomorians seemed immortal, for another two leaders showed up, Conand and Morc.
The king of the Nemeds, unfortunately, passed away. Right after that, the two kings of the Fomorians enslaved the Nemeds. But it was not so long before the son of the deceased king of the Nemeds came into the picture. His name was Fergus Lethderg. He made a big army in which he used in destroying the huge tower of Conand’s.
However, Morc, the other Fomorian king, attacked the Nemeds with his fleet. Both sides witnessed a great number of casualties. There were a number of survivors, but not all of them made it as well. The sea drowned most of them, but some of the Nemeds survived and they fled to different parts around the world.
Battles against the Tuatha De Danann
According to the Irish mythology, the Fomorians had always been betrayals. They went into battles against almost every race of the Irish mythology. The Tuatha De Danann were the successors of the Nemeds. They arrived in Ireland and took over after the Battle of Mag Tuired. Nuada was the king of the first Tuatha De Danann who arrived in Ireland. He lost an arm during their battle, so Bres, who was half-Fomorian and half-Tuatha De Danann, received the kingship instead.
According to what the Irish mythology claims, Bres was very beautiful in spite of being partially a Fomorian. However, his Fomorian part seemed to take over, for he, as a king, enslaved the Tuatha de Danann. This enslavement was negligence to his duties as a king. Thus, he lost his authority and Nuada became the king again and tried to resist the Fomorians’ oppression.
Bres was unsatisfied with losing his authority. He turned to his father for help, but he ignored him. So, Bres had to seek assistance from Balor and they raised an army against the Tuatha De Danann.
The Twisted Connection between the Two Races
Previously, we mentioned that the two races shared an ambiguous relation. In fact, people from both races married and had children together. The evidence is clear since Bres himself was a result of such intermarriage. Going back to the war they prepared, Lugh was the champion of the Tuatha De Danann. He decided to lead the army in this battle and he was the one who killed Balor.
The Irish mythology seems to be full of surprises, for Lugh was Balor’s own grandson. In the Irish mythology, Balor knew through a prophecy that he would die by his grandson. Thus, Balor had to lock his daughter, Ethniu, in a glass tower, so she would never meet a man or conceive.
The twist took place when Balor stole a magical cow from Cian. That was when Cian decided to break into the tower and seduce Balor’s daughter. When the latter happened, Ethniu gave birth to three children. However, Balor ordered his servants to drown all of them. Two of them drowned and changed into the first seals of Ireland, but a druidess saved the third child. That one child was Lugh. The Tuatha De Danann took him and fostered him all through his adulthood. Besides, the war god, Neit, was an ancestor of the two races.
The Second Battle of Mag Tuired
As Lugh became an adult, Nuada gave him access to his court as well as command over the army. He led the army of the Tuatha De Danann and, on the other side, Balor led his army. Balor managed to kill Nuada during the battle with his poisonous eyes. Lugh took revenge by killing Balor, his own grandfather, on his own. Lugh succeeded in defeating the army of the Fomorians and killing their king. Afterwards, they turned back to the sea and the undergrounds for good.
The Gaels is another race that the Irish mythology keeps mentioning throughout its legends and tales. Some sources claim that the Gaels originally come from Central Asia who entered Old Europe long centuries ago. Those people, the Gaels, sailed to Ireland and, like any other race, went into a battle against an opponent race. This time, it was the Gaels against the Tuatha De Danann.
The battle was witchery and Ireland worshipped the goddess of the land, Eriu, by that time. That goddess promised the Gaels to own the land of Ireland as long as they keep on praising her. That was the time when the Tuatha De Danann went underground forever. The two races agreed on dividing the land between both of them. The Tuatha De Danann accepted taking the below world while the Gaels took the world above and they ruled Ireland for so long after that.
Since the Irish mythology is an ocean of interesting tales, things can get puzzling so often. The Milesians is also a race that the Irish mythology mentioned more than a few times. According to the Irish mythology, they happen to be the successors of the Gaels. The Milesians were the final race that inhabited Ireland; they remained so for a long time. In point of fact, they are the ones who represent the Irish people.
The Irish mythology also claims that the Milesians were originally Gaels who arrived in Ireland through the sea. Before they reached Ireland, they used to inhabit Hispania. They settled there after roaming the earth for centuries. Again, they were the ones who agreed with the Tuatha De Danann to inhabit the underworld of Ireland while they inhabit the above one.
Invading Ireland for Revenge
Ith was one of the Milesians, or Gaels by that time. He sailed to Ireland with a group of men and met the three kings of Ireland by that time. They were Mac Cecht, Mac Greine, and Mac Cuill. All of them were members of the Tuatha De Danann. They were also the ruler of Ireland.
Out of the blue, unknown attackers slaughter Ith, escorting his men to return back to where they came from. After that incident, the sons of Ith’s brother wanted to avenge the death of their uncle. As a consequence, they invaded the lands of Ireland and battled to take over it. They went into a battle against the residents of Ireland, which were the Tuatha De Danann by that time. They wanted to build up their own royal capital under the name of Tara.
Naming their Royal Capital
Tara was the name that the Milesians chose for the land they owned. However, on their way to their land, they met three women, Fodla, Eriu, and Banba. They were the wives of the three kings of Ireland. Besides, the Irish mythology claimed them to be a trio of land goddesses.
Each one of those women convinced the Milesians to name the land after her own name if they wanted a good fortune. Amergin, one of the Milesians, did not dispute against the ladies; in fact, he seemed to believe in what the goddesses claimed.
Upon Reaching the Royal Capital
When the Milesians arrived at Tara, they met the three kings who refused to share the kingship of the land and asked the Milesians or the Gaels to stay nine waves away from the land. The Milesians agreed and they shipped away; however, the Tuatha De Danann wanted to make sure they would not sail back to the land.
Subsequently, they invoked a storm, so they stay as far from the land as possible. However, Amergin managed to stop the storm and returned back to the land. That was when the two parties decided to divide the land between both of them.
THE MOST SUBSTANTIAL TALES IN THE IRISH MYTHOLOGY
Eventually, mythology is all about legends and tales. To be more precise, tales and legendary myths seem to be what people enjoy the most. Some of them were true while other tales were only the production of some creative writers. However, mythology plays a great role in shaping up the way people think and behave. Since it is also highly related to gods and goddesses, it can take a toll on what people believe in.
Years, centuries actually, pass by and people start unaware of whether what they believe in is true or a myth. The Irish mythology is no exception. It impacted the culture of Ireland in so many ways with the tales that people keep narrating until this very day.
Some of those Irish tales happen to be popular around the world and not only in Ireland. Seemingly, the Irish mythology is quite fascinating that it piqued the interest of the whole world. These tales include the tragedy of the Children of Lir and the Leprechauns. Those two tales along with many others have been a benchmark in the Irish mythology. Keep on reading if you wish to learn about the top legends of the Irish mythology.
People of ancient Ireland used to believe in witchery stuff and the power of magic. Their beliefs seem to have impacted the legends and myths that people of the modern world narrate. Even if you are unaware of the Irish mythology, you may come across a tale that you have heard of.
THE TRAGEDY OF THE CHILDREN OF LIR
The Children of Lir is one of the most popular tales of the Irish mythology. Most, if not all, of the world have encountered at least one version of that story. Even children know about it although it is very tragic and sad. The Children of Lir has more than a version; the differences usually lie in the ending and not in the plot.
Each legend of the Irish mythology has a streamline of prominent characters. We are going to stress on the depiction of each character and its role in the Irish mythology. Interestingly, every character in the Irish legends seems to share a relation with characters from different tales and legends. This makes things sound interesting, yet it can result in misapprehension and confusion sometimes.
The Original Story of the Children of Lir
The story revolves around four children. They were the children of Lir who married the king’s daughter and they conceived those four beautiful kids. The king had the best moments with his family. Their happiness fell short as soon as the mother got very sick and died.
Gloominess took over the castle in which they lived. The children’s grandfather, Bodb Dearg, felt sad for losing his daughter and for the depression they went through. Thus, he offered his second daughter, Aoife, to Lir for marriage. He thought that marriage would make Lir feel better and the children would have a mother to look after them. Lir accepted the king’s offer and married Aoife right away.
Things were great at first and the children were happy. However, the happiness ended with Aoife’s plan to get the king away from the children. She was jealous of the love and time he gave to the children. At first, she ordered one of her servants to kill them, but she refused. Thus, Aoife decided to take control of matters.
Aoife took the four children to a lake where they spent a great time. Soon as they were getting out of the lake, she cursed them and they turned into swans. The spell shall last for three hundred years where they spend every century on a different lake.
The Significant Characters in the Children of Lir
The story of the children of Lir had more than a few characters that played a role in the Irish mythology. Above and beyond, all of the characters belonged to the Tuatha de Danann. Some of the characters may seem secondary in the story; secondary in terms of not weighing in when it comes to the plot of the story. However, they share a connection with gods and other characters that were prominent in the Irish mythology.
The characters that made an appearance in the Children of Lir’s story were Bodb Dearg, Lir, and Aoife. The characters they are related to will be shortly mentioned.
1. King Lir
Well, he was not a king actually, but he got into the nominations of kingship. Those nominations were right after the Tuatha De Danann won a battle. Lir believed he should have been the king of the Tuatha De Danann. However, Bodb Dearg was the one who took over the kingship. Lir got very frustrated for losing the opportunity of being a king. Bodb Dearg was a caring person; he realized Lir’s sadness. Thus, he decided to make up for him by offering his eldest daughter for him to marry.
Lir and Aoibh married and had their four beautiful children. According to the story, Lir was a caring father who dedicated his whole life to his own children. He always devoted his time to them, driving his second wife jealous. Even after the children turned into swans, Lir lived by the lake in which they swam.
Lir in the Irish Mythology
According to the mythology, Lir had always had a connection to the hill of the white field. In other cases, folks of ancient Ireland regarded him as a divine figure. The reason behind that was the fact that Lir was the son of Manannan, the God of the Sea. However, some sources claim that Lir was the God of the sea himself.
Manannan, the God of the Sea, was usually referred to as Manannan Mac Lir. The English equivalent of “Mac Lir” is actually “the Son of God.” That is why there has always been confusion that rises with those two names. Despite Manannan’s significance, he rarely made any appearances in any of the tales. However, that never changed his connotation in the Irish legends and tales.
A Swine and a Horse
According to the Irish mythology, Manannan had creatures that possessed supernatural powers. Those animals include a swine as well as a horse. The swine had a flesh that regenerated every day, providing sufficient food for celebrations and feasts. The horse’s name was Enbarr the Flowing Mane; that is because it was capable of walking over water with great easiness.
The Magical Objects
The God of the Sea owned several objects and items that were magical. As interesting as it could get, those objects made great plots of the Irish mythology’s tales. One of the prominent items was the magical Goblet of truth that Cormac mac Airt, the Son of Art, received. The other object was a brilliant boat that sailed on its own; all it needed to sail off was the waves. The boat’s name was the wave sweeper.
Above and beyond, the items included a sword; the Fragarach was its name and it meant the Answerer. The sword’s name was due to its ability to force its target to faithfully answer any raised question. It also had the ability to penetrate steel armours. Those objects also include a cloak of invisibility and a flaming helmet.
2. Bodb Dearg
Bodb Dearg was another significant character in the tale of the Children of Lir. He was the one who received the kingship instead of Lir and, according to the Irish mythology; he was a king that people worshipped. Bodb Dearg was a resourceful person; people turned to him for solving their own problems.
When he became the king of the Tuatha de Danann, he learned about Lir’s frustration for not being elected. As a result, he wanted to make up for him by giving him one of his precious daughters. Bodb Dearg offered his eldest daughter for Lir to marry and they had their four beautiful children. His role in the tale was as great as he was. As a considerate person, he offered the other daughter. Aoife, when Aoibh passed away. He wanted Lir and the Children to be happy again and have a mother to look after them.
In spite of being a caring father, he was also a man of justice. As soon as he learned about what Aoife did to the children, he turned her into a demon for eternity. He also exiled her to the otherworld where she could never come back. Bodb’s consideration extended to joining Lir by staying by the lake when the children changed into swans and the spell was irreversible. He loved listening to the voices of the children, as swans, when they sang.
Bodb Dearg’s Connection to Other Gods
Bodb Dearg was a noteworthy character in the Irish mythology. The Children of Lir was not the only tale in which Bodb Dearg made an appearance. He also appeared in prominent Irish legends and he shared relations with other gods of the Irish mythology.
Bodb Dearg and Angus Og had a connection; besides, Angus Og was a god and he was the son of two divine figures as well. His father was the Daghda, the Huge father-god figure, and his mother was Bionn, the Goddess of the River Boyne. Bodb Dearg’s brilliance was obvious in most of the tales in which he made an appearance; he was always the person with the solution to every problem.
In a tale about the God, Aongus, Bodb Dearg was whom the Daghda, Angus’ father, sought his assistance. Angus saw a woman in his dreams and he, mysteriously, fell in love with her. This eccentric form of love puzzled the Daghda, so he asked Bodb Dearg to help him out.
Consequently, Bodb started inspecting and searching for that beautiful woman that Angus fell in love with and he succeeded in finding her. That woman was Caer; a swan whom her father kept as a maiden. Angus was delighted to find the woman of his dreams; he openly expressed his love for her and had to change to a swan, so they live happily ever after.
Aoife surely played a great role in the plot of the tale. In fact, she was a dynamic character, for she was the reason behind all the tragedy of the story. She was Aoibh’s daughter and the second wife of Lir. She married him after her sister passed away.
Obviously, she was not as loving as her sister was; Aoife was a symbol of jealousy and mistrust. She betrayed her stepchildren in order to have Lir’s undivided attention, but things did not go in her favour. However, throughout the plot of the tale, you may realize that Aoife had some feelings of regret for what she had done.
However, even her regret could not reverse the spell and the children had to spend 900 years as swans. Eventually, Aoife received her karma when her father changed her into a demon and exiled her.
To get more insight into whom Aoife was, Bodb Dearg was not actually her real father. As a matter of fact, she was the daughter of Ailill of Aran. On the other hand, Bodb Dearg was the one who raised, both her and her sister, and fostered them. According to other tales in the Irish mythology, Aoife was also a woman warrior. She was a woman of power despite her jealousy.
Ailill of Aran
Well, apparently, Ailill was not one of the characters of the children of Lir. However, we mentioned his name in the section of Aoife. And, since he was one of the prominent characters in the Irish mythology, his name was worth mentioning. Above and beyond, Ailill was highly connected to the characters of the Children of Lir. At first, we will provide a brief about who Ailill was before proceeding to his connection to the other characters of the Irish mythology.
Ailill was one of the champions of the Irish mythology. He was in one of the tales in which Queen Meadhbh appeared. That queen enjoyed marrying multiple times that he even dumped the third husband, so she can marry Ailill. What the queen liked the most about Ailill was not being a champion; she liked that he was not the jealous type. The reason behind that was the queen’s love to have affairs with other men even when she was married.
The queen had an affair with the king of Ulster, Fearghus MacRioch. Unexpectedly, Ailill’s jealousy was stronger than his will and he murdered the man whom his wife was cheating on him with. Sadly, the queen ordered someone to murder her own husband as a punishment for what he did.
Ailill’s Connection to Other Characters
Ailill was actually the real father of Aoibh and Aoife, the two wives of Lir. He was also a good friend to Bodb Dearg. He was the one who helped Bodb during his investigation in Angus’ case who fell in love with a woman of his dreams. According to Ailill’s mentioned stories, he died because of his wife. So, maybe that was why Bodb Dearg had to take the two girls, Aoibh and Aoife, and raise them as their own.
That is only a suggestion that goes well with the stories we mentioned about Ailill. However, the reason that Bodb Dearg was the one to raise the two daughters was not clear in the tale of the Children of Lir. However, in the Irish mythology, there may be a reason behind it that other tales revealed.
FINN MACCOOL AND THE GIANT CAUSEWAY
Another popular tale in the Irish mythology was the tale of Finn MacCool and the Giant Causeway. In the Irish mythology, Finn MacCool was a warrior. Besides, the Scottish mythology also included him as a warrior in their tales. Sometimes, the Old Irish states that Finn’s name can sometimes be Fionn Mac Cumhall. All of the stories that include Finn MacCool was actually part of the Fenian Cycle; the cycle that evoked worlds of heroes and warriors.
The Original Story
Finn MacCool was an enormous being who was about 55 feet tall. According to the Irish mythology, Finn MacCool was the builder of the Giant Causeway; a popular path in Ireland that connects it to Scotland. This path lies on the Antrim Coast. His story was popular among many generations and in different cultures, including Ireland and Scotland.
Supposedly, Finn lived with his wife, Oonagh, and they led a happy life. Shortly, Finn MacCool became aware of his Scottish rival, Benandonner and he started getting frustrated. Finn MacCool started losing his temper due to Benandonner constant insult to him. Consequently, he tried to throw a giant mud at him; however, it landed in the sea, for Benandonner lived across the Irish Sea. After that, Finn built the Giant Causeway, so he can reach Benandonner and properly fight against one another.
The Gigantic Size of the Scottish Rival
After building the causeway, Finn was ready to get to the other side. But, as soon as he approached the other side, he realized Benandonner’s gigantic size, so he ran back home. He lost one of his giant boots while running away and that’s why people believe that it still exists where it fell.
Upon reaching his hometown, he told his wife about Benandonner’s size and asked her to help him hide. He wanted to hide in a place where it was really hard for Benandonner to have the chance of finding him. His bright-minded wife suggested that he disguised as a child and Benandonner wouldn’t go after him.
That plan was actually brilliant, for Benandonner thought that the bed he saw belonged to a sleeping child. The latter sent a shiver down his spine because he thought that the parents of a child of this size shall be incredibly enormous. Thus, he ran away for good.
Other Tales about Finn MacCool
The Irish mythology claims that Finn MacCool became the leader of the Fianna after the death of his father. Finn was actually granted the leadership after he took down Aillen mac Midgna, a goblin. Killing that goblin saved the people who lived on the Hill of Tara.
The goblin used to manipulate the people of the hill by playing on his harp. His music was so captivating that it left the warriors helpless and inefficient. On the other hand, Finn MacCool was the only one who possessed immunity against the music of the goblin’s harp.
The Relation between Finn MacCool and Other Characters of the Irish Mythology
Finn MacCool was actually the son of MacCool or Cumhall and the father of Oisin. Both of them took significant roles in the tales of the Irish mythology. Starting with Finn’s father, he was the leader of the Fianna, a group of warriors who lived in the wild to hunt. Later, Finn himself took the lead of the Fianna after his father.
In fact, Finn was the son of Cumhall and Muirne, the daughter of the druid Tadg mac Nuadat. His parents fell in love with one another, but Muirne’s father refused Cumhall, so they had to elope together. The High King learned about what happened regarding Tadg’s daughter and decided to help him by starting a battle against Cumhall. Cumhall survived this battle, but he seemed to have more enemies.
Cumhall got into a battle against Goll mac Morna. It was the Battle of Cnucha and Goll started it off, for he wanted to murder Cumhall and take the lead of the Fianna. Unfortunately, Goll had actually succeeded in killing Finn, thinking the leadership was his. However, to Goll’s surprise, Muirne was already pregnant with Finn mac Cumhall and the leadership was waiting for him. Years later, Finn became the leader of the Fianna and Cumhall’s brother, Crimmal, supported him all the way.
THE TALE OF TIR NA NOG (THE LAND OF THE YOUNG)
Tir na nOg is an adventure tale in the Irish mythology in which Oisin was the protagonist. The one who played a role in the plot of this tale, alongside Oisin, was Niamh Chinn Oir. She was a fairy woman with golden hair and she was one of the daughters of Manannan mac Lir, the God of the Sea.
Giving what the Irish mythology states, the fairy woman was actually the granddaughter of Lir, the father of the four swan children. Apparently, most of the characters of the Irish mythology are related to each other, either directly or indirectly. That actually makes the tales even more interesting. The tale of Tir na nOg was the most significant adventure tale for Oisin.
The tale was actually about that fairy woman. She came from the land of the young and was in love with Oisin. Thus, she paid him a visit, declaring what she felt for him and asking him to come with her. She convinced Oisin that travelling with her would keep him young for an eternity.
They left for Tir na nOg and had two children; a boy, Oscar, and a girl, Plor na mBan, meaning the Flower of Women. After a while, Oisin thought about going back to his hometown. He thought that only three years had passed, but actually, three centuries had passed.
Enbarr, the Flowing Horse
Enbarr was one of the creatures that Manannan mac Lir possessed. It could walk over the water. Niamh, the fairy woman, warned Oisin that going back to Ireland meant he would age three hundred years and die. So, she gave him Enbarr, stating that his feet should not touch the ground. He should stay mounting the horse no matter what or else he would die.
Oisin followed the instructions that Niamh gave to him and he stayed on the horse. Once he reached his hometown, he found his parents’ house totally ruined and abandoned. He was not aware of all the years that had passed while he stayed in the land of the young.
Like many tales of the Irish mythology, Oisin faced a sad ending, too. The ending of the Oisin’s famous tale has two different versions as well. One version claimed that Oisin ran into Saint Patrick and he told him everything about his life. Right after, he just died.
On the other hand, the other version contained a bit more suspense when it came to the ending. It claimed that Oisin was passing by a road in Gleann na Smol and he met some men building. He decided to assist them in picking stones, but he had to stay on the horse. Thus, he was trying to pick a stone and accidentally tumbled over the ground. At that instant, he turned into an old man and the horse flew to the land of the young.
The Significant Characters of Tir na nOg
Finn MacCool was actually the father of one of the prominent poets in the Irish mythology. His son was Oisin, pronounced as Osheen, who wrote most of the poems of the Fenian cycle. Hence, some people refer to the Fenian cycle as the Ossianic cycle, named after Oisin. Besides being a poet, Oisin was also an unassailable fighter. He combined the best of both worlds; the world of arts and the world of war.
Oisin’s name means the young deer and there was a story behind this name. He was also a very significant character in the Irish mythology; he made an appearance in more than a few tales. Oisin’s mother was Sadhbh, interestingly; she was the daughter of Bodb Dearg. According to the Irish mythology, Oisin and Finn did not meet when Sadhbh first gave birth to their child.
The Story of the Deer
Oisin name means the young deer, we have already mentioned that, but we haven’t mentioned his relation to that creature. Well, Oisin’s mother, Sadhbh, was actually a deer. Fear Doirche was a druid; he was the one responsible for turning Sadhbh from a human being into a wild deer. The good news was; Finn was a hunter and, on one fine day, he came across Sadhbh, the deer.
When they met, Sadhbh turned to her original form, escorting Finn to quit hunting. He wanted to settle down with her for good. They lived happily until Fear Doirche found Sadhbh and turned her into a deer once again. She was pregnant at that time. The reason why Fear turned her into a deer was not clear in the Irish mythology. At the end, Finn and Sadhbh forcefully went their separate ways.
Apparently, Sadhbh gave birth to Oisin while she was a deer. Thus, the meaning of his name was the most convenient one. The sad part was the fact that Finn never met his son when he was first born, but they eventually met. According to the Irish mythology, there were two different ways about how Finn met his son, Oisin. One of those versions includes Finn finding his son when he was a child, seven years old, in the wild naked and their father-son story began from here.
On the other hand, the second version states that they have not met until Oisin was already an adult. According to the Irish mythology, there was a roasting pig that both Finn MacCool and Oisin were fighting over. However, at some point during their fight, Finn realized who the guy he was fighting with was. Some sources claim that Oisin recognized his father as well. Anyhow, they both stopped the fight as soon as they recognized one another.
THE LEGEND OF POOKAS IN THE IRISH MYTHOLOGY
Definitely, the Irish mythology is full of surprising and remarkable legends. Pooka is one of the myths that people of ancient Ireland used to believe in. You can find different forms of the name, including Puca, Plica, Puka, Phuca, or Pookha. However, they all refer to the same creature.
Pooka derives from the old Irish word, Puca; it means a goblin; it is an ugly dwarf-like creature. Other sources claim that the word Pooka is a Scandinavian word, Puke or Pook. The literal meaning of the word is the nature spirit or the spirit of nature. Irish people fear the Pooka, for it’s a mischievous creature that enjoys causing chaos.
Ok, let’s get to the point of what that Pooka actually is. The Pooka is a creature that can take any form; people refer to this kind of creature as shapeshifters. It could be a goat, goblin, rabbit, dog, or even a human being; an old man in particular. Besides, it only appears at night. Despite all of those forms, people are familiar with the Pooka as a dark horse that has golden eyes.
Above and beyond, they possess some powers that make them capable of communicating with human beings. Those dark horses were able to speak just like human beings. Interestingly, their amusement lies in exaggerating the truth in order to make whom they talk to stray. In spite of their bad reputation, no records ever proclaimed that a single human being had experienced any damage from them.
Tales about the Pookas
In the Irish mythology, Pookas tend to appear in as many tales as they can. There aren’t actually tales that are all about Pookas. However, there are plenty of tales where they show up in the plots; they appear in all of their forms as well. Again, in the stories, Pookas always perform fearful acts. They enjoy scaring people and acting wildly even though they are not hostile, supposedly. Here are some of the behaviours that Pookas perform frequently, on the word of the tales of the Irish mythology.
Mounting a Pooka on the Way Home
Pookas take the form of a horse; a dark one with bright golden eyes. As a horse, a Pooka tends to have fun in its very own way. Their definition of entertainment may include searching for someone who is semi-drunk. Their targets are always people who exit a pub and are ready to take their way home. Pookas invite that person to mount them and, unknowingly, ride a hell of a roller coaster.
Once the rider decides to jump over their back, he/she will embark on one of the wildest journeys in their life. That is when the Pooka feel entertained, making the rider incredibly terrified. On the other hand, there was only one man in the Irish mythology that was able to ride a Pooka. That one man was Brian Boru, the High King of Ireland. He possessed the power to control the wild magic of the Pooka.
Brian Boru controlled the Pooka through three hair strands of its tail by using a collar. Besides, Brian Boru had an implausible physical power. It helped him in staying still on the back of the Pooka, escorting it to exhaustion until it had to be submissive.
The Pooka’s submission encouraged Brian Boru to order it to do two things. They were as follows: never torture or ruin the properties of Christians or perform violence against Irish folks. However, the Irish mythology reveals that the Pooka had probably ditched the promise a few years later.
Facts about Pookas
Pookas are the type of creatures that usually populate the hills and the mountains. The Irish mythology narrates that the Pookas ordinarily causes disasters. Conversely, the behaviour of this creature differs according to which part of Ireland you come from. In some parts of Ireland, Pookas help farmers in their harvesting and cultivating processes. Opinions seem to have differed regarding the nature of this creature, but people still believe that seeing it is a sign of bad luck.
The Pooka is sneaky and sly; they are cheaters and good at deception. People refer to them as fertility spirits, for they have the power to destruct as well as craft. And, most importantly, they can speak as fluently as human beings do and give accurate predictions and prophecies.
Going back to the frequency of appearing as a horse, the Irish mythology states that they certain acts. The Pooka usually roams around the countryside performing chaotic acts like destroying gates and knocking down fences.
The Pookas and the Halloween
People of ancient Ireland used to believe that the month of the Pooka was November. They even used to wear customs on Halloween as Pookas. Others stayed at their homes, afraid of the stories that they hear about them; they believed that they did harm to children.
What even makes the Irish mythology interesting is its connection to the mystical creatures of the modern world. The incarnation of the Pooka includes the Boogeyman and the Easter Bunny. Some sources claim that those fairy-like creatures derive from the Pooka.
Despite all of the different forms the Irish mythology provides, there were still more that the Irish writers and poets provided. For example, Brian O’Nolan, an Irish novelist, once depicted the Pooka as a dark spirit. On the other hand, Yeats once portrayed it as an eagle.
THE FRENZY OF SWEENEY TALE
One of the greatest tales of the Irish mythology is the Frenzy of the Sweeney. The Old Irish name of Sweeney was Suibne. The tale revolves around a pagan king of Dal Araidhe. Suibne once attacked a priest, thus, the priest cursed Suibne for life. He became half a man and the other half was a bird creature.
Suibne had to live the rest of his life staying in the woods until he died in the Battle of Mag Rath. The plot of the story was so captivating that Irish poets and writers had to translate and adopt it in their writings.
Every tale of the Irish mythology may have more than a few versions and the Frenzy of Sweeney is no exception. Most of the plots narrate that he lived as a bird travelling here and there. Conversely, the 12th edition of the tale provided insights into the battle; not detailed ones though. It also stated that at the end of the tale, Sweeney converted to Christianity.
The Plot of the Story
In the Irish mythology, sometimes it is referred to the tale as the Frenzy of Mad Sweeney. The plot of the story started with Suibne going mad as soon as he heard the bells of a church. Saint Ronan was the one who established a new church and he was starting activities around the place. What escorted Suibne to madness was the fact that St. Ronan was using his territory.
Eorann was Suibne’s wife; she tried to stop him before he stormed out of the house. However, she failed while grabbing his cloak; it only fell off. Suibne exited the house naked and snatched the Holy Book out of Ronan’s hand, throwing it in a lake. Right after, he dragged the Saint away. For the Saint’s luck, a messenger interrupted Suibne acts and informed him that he should put his oar in the Battle of Mag Rath.
Spelling the Cast
One day after the incident, an otter swimming in the lake managed to take the Holy Book out of the lake. The saint found it and he decided to curse Suibne as a punishment for what he did earlier. The curse included that Suibne would endlessly fly around the world while being naked. The Saint wanted Suibne to die miserably and by a spike.
Moreover, St. Ronan was performing church activities by sprinkling holy water around. He sprinkled Suibne as well, but Suibne was quite sure the saint was teasing him. Consequently, he murdered one of the psalmists of the bishop with a spike and cast another at the saint, causing a hole in the bell.
Furiously, the saint repeated the curse, but that time Suibne would be half a bird and aimlessly wander around. He wanted Suibne to jump from one tree to another at the sound of the church’s bell. Besides, he wanted to make sure Suibne would die the same way he killed one of the monks.
The Battle of Mag Rath resumed, but Suibne was unable to join them due to the curse. The noises of the battles and the armies drove him to madness. He tried to join, but his hands were numb and he could not use the weapon. Beyond his own will, Suibne ditched the battlefield and had to leave. He kept wandering until he reached Ros Bearaigh, a forest in Glenn Earcain, suspending himself on a yew tree.
Suibne’s Life after the Curse
Aongus the Fat was among the armies of the Battle of Mag Rath; though, he made his departure and withdrew from the battle. At that instant, he met Suibne. Later, Suibne departed the yew tree and landed on another one in Tir Conaill. After spending seven years around Ireland, Suibne decided to return to his hometown. He felt nostalgic for his own land; the territory of Glenn Bolcain.
As soon as he went back to his place, he went to visit his wife to discover she was living with another man. This man was actually one of Suibne’s rivals in the kingship. Eorann, his wife, loved him, but he was gone for almost seven years. She claimed that she would rather be with him; however, Suibne urged her to stay with her new man. At that instant, Loingsechans’s man stormed in, but Suibne managed to flee away.
Loingsechan was always attempting to capture Suibne; he had the chance when he was at his millhouse, but he failed. Thus, Loingsechan tracked every movement of Suibne, in the hopes to capture him soon. He failed over and over again, waiting for a new chance every time. Eventually, Suibne went back to the Yew Tree in the forest of Ros Bearaigh. But, he realized that even his wife was after him, so he left for another tree in a different place; in Ros Ercain. They discovered him again.
After the armies could reveal Suibne’s hidden spot, Loingsechan managed to deceive him. He talked him out of the tree after he delivered some false news about his family. Once Suibne was out, Loingsechan succeeded in retaining his insanity and converting him into a normal person. While Suibne went through the recovering process, the millhag urged him to go into a competition of leaping. They did, but Suibne heard noises of a party of hunting and he went mad again.
The millhag happened to be Loingsechan’s mother-in-law and she fell off, crashing into pieces. Consequently, Suibne would no longer be able to return to his hometown without receiving a punishment, so he kept wandering around Ireland. He also reached parts of England and Scotland. Eventually, he met a madman like himself and spent a year together. The Irish mythology refers to him as Fer Caille, meaning Man of the Wood.
THE WAIL OF A BEAUTIFUL WOMAN
Among the fascinating legends of the Irish mythology lies the tale of the Banshee. It is another mythical tale that people of ancient Ireland used to believe in. However, there are parts of this myth that people strongly claim its accuracy. At the end, we will have to ask what the Banshee is.
According to the Irish mythology, the term Banshee describes a female spirit. She lives by the rivers and she appears in the form of an old lady. However, like Mother Gothel, the Banshee is capable of appearing as a pretty young lady.
In spite of its attractiveness and beauty, people believe that the Banshee is a sign of doom and demise. Old Irish people used to claim that the Banshee wail at the funerals as a way to alert people of what is coming. On the other hand, Irish women have that tradition of wailing at funerals, so they raise people’s suspicion by doing so.
In a different region in Ireland, people claim that the Banshee is a bird-like creature and not a woman. They claim that the Banshee sometimes lands on someone’s window and stays there until death approaches. Those who believe in the bird-like theory claim that the Banshee vanishes into darkness after they make people aware of their approaching destiny. At the instant where they disappear, a flapping sound similar to that of the birds’ appears.
The Role of the Banshee
Again, the Irish mythology has usually described the Banshee as a woman; either old or young. She appears however she likes. Aside from being a bird-like creature, according to some people, the Irish mythology frequently narrated that the Banshee always weeps.
The Irish mythology states that she usually wears a green dress over which a grey cloak lies. Besides, her hair is flowingly long and her eyes are always red due to her constant lamentation. At other times, the Banshee appears as a red-headed woman that has a grim complexion and wears all-white attires. No matter how the Irish mythology chooses to describe the Banshee, there is no debate over her being a weeper.
Some Irish writers suggested that the Banshee was not a spirit as the Irish mythology claims. They suggested that the Banshee is a chosen young virgin that receives orders from external power. In other words, invisible powers give a young virgin of a family the mission of becoming the sign of their upcoming death. Her mission is to inform her earthly corresponding creatures by their fate and destiny when death is around the corner.
The opposing opinions believed the Banshee to be a woman that wears a veil and sits lamenting beneath the trees. They also claim that she sometimes flies while wailing to inform a certain family of the approaching death. The Banshee also predicts death and warns people who are about to be in a dangerous situation by wailing and screaming.
The Banshee and the Pure Milesians
Regarding the beliefs shared around the Banshee, the weeping part seems to be the one that all agree upon the most. However, there are other beliefs that not everyone shares an agreement over. One of those beliefs includes the fact that every family has its own Banshee. Another belief states that the Banshee only warns and laments those who purely descend from the Milesian race. Some believe that the Milesians are usually those whose last name starts with a Mac, O’, or Mc.
The Death of a Great or Holy Person
Among all the beliefs of the Banshee, sources have claimed that there was a woman named Aibell and she was the ruler of banshees. Supposedly, she ruled 25 one of them and they are usually at her attendance. The latter belief is probably the reason that evoked a brand new notion. This notion states that the lamenting of more than a few banshees is a sign that a great person is about to die.
The Origin of the Banshee’s Legend
The Banshee is said to be fairies of some supernatural race. The Irish mythology declares that the Banshees descend from the Tuatha De Danann. The Irish mythology contains more than a few mythical creatures which make appearances in captivating legendary tales. These creatures are usually fairies, elves, creatures from the dead world, or even supernatural beings.
When it comes to the Banshee, what they exactly are remains a bit mysterious. However, that does not change the belief that most people share. This belief is that the Banshees are women who died while giving birth or ones that died ahead of time. This widespread notion explains that the Banshee creates gloominess as a means to avenge their unjust death.
Depiction of the Banshee in Other Cultures
Apparently, the Irish mythology was not the only one to depict and believe in the Banshees. Other cultures adopted this notion as well and they provided us with several illustrations of how this creature looks. The most famous depiction of the Banshee was being an old woman with a fearful appearance; she sits under the trees and weeps. This portrayal is the most widespread of all the other depictions; it is popular in different cultures as well.
The most common depiction is also portraying the Banshee as a beautiful young woman. The legends of the Irish mythology usually describe the Banshee as a woman with long grey hair. She wears a white gown and keeps brushing her pale-coloured hair with a comb. This comb is always silver in colour and she uses it to lure innocent beings into her inevitable doom.
Aside from the Irish mythology, Scottish folklore seems to have a bit different depiction. It pictures the Banshee as a laundress who washes attires full of bloodstains. Different sources claim that she was a washerwoman who washes the armours of those soon-to-die soldiers.
Above and beyond, some cultures do not depict the Banshee as a woman at all. As previously mentioned, it sometimes appears as a bird-like creature. In other tales, the Banshee appears to be an animal; usually, a crow wearing a hood, hare, or a weasel.
LEPRECHAUNS: THE TINY FAIRIES IN GREEN
The Irish mythology embraces more than a few tales about mystic creatures and fairies, including the Pookas and the Banshees. Above and beyond, one of the most recognizable fairies in the Irish mythology is the Leprechauns. Probably, they are one of the few legendary creatures that are popular in cultures other than the Irish one.
You have perhaps seen a leprechaun in a movie or two or even read about it in tales. They look like human beings, but they are elves and had originated from the world of fairies. Leprechauns are the type of fairies that can grant wishes. Still, that doesn’t change that they are neither innocent with pixie dust nor ones that have a good heart. Those fairies are not necessarily harmful; however, their own interest comes first even if their choices aren’t in your favour. On the other hand, they enjoy causing chaos and anarchy.
Moreover, Leprechauns are known to be creatures that preach isolation. They do not like spending time with other people unless they are getting any benefit. One of their hobbies is making brand shoes and mending old ones. They also love to dance to music and drink a lot. Just like the Banshees, the leprechauns descend from the Irish race, the Tuatha de Danann. That is what the Irish mythology claims. Thus, most of their tales fall in the mythological cycle.
What a Leprechaun Looks Like
The depiction of the leprechauns differs from one region to another. They appeared in more than a few tales in the Irish mythology as well as many movies of different cultures. On the other hand, leprechauns were a bit confidential; they did not appear so frequently. The reason behind that was their insignificance in the Irish mythology. Later, they became more noticeable in the modern times.
Anyhow, Leprechauns are recognizable to most of the people. They are fairies that have tiny bodies and usually have heavy beards. People refer to them as short men. Most of the regions, or even all of them, agreed on those traits.
Regarding the attires of the leprechauns, that is what had been unspecified in the Irish mythology. Leprechauns wear suits and green is the most significant colour people have come to terms with. Other depictions included red attires; this colour was the most common one in ancient times. Conversely, green is more common in modern ones.
Roles of Leprechauns in the Irish Mythology
Leprechauns were sly creatures; they enjoyed deceiving people for the sake of getting money. They may enjoy spending time by themselves, but that doesn’t change their capability of dealing with others. The narrations in the Irish mythology include that those fairies can grant you wishes. The Irish mythology says that people who capture a leprechaun can have three of their wishes turn into reality.
However, their sly nature enables them to elude before they do their capturer any favour. But, if the capturer happens to be smarter, they cannot be granted freedom until they grant the wishes of their capturer. The famous trick that leprechauns performed was persuading wealthy men that they hide a pot of gold. Once their victim pays them for the location of the pot, they claim it’s at the end of the rainbow.
Creatures that Look Like the Leprechauns
The Irish mythology asserts that the leprechauns have relatives; creatures that look like them. These creatures are the Clurichauns. People usually confuse both of them; their names are quite similar.
The tales announce that Clurichauns are mainly leprechauns, but they are nocturnal ones. Those creatures are always drunk that even some poets claim they are the drunken version of leprechauns. They say that those creatures are originally leprechauns, but they are the ones who keep drinking at night until they pass out.
When it comes to hobbies and skills, leprechauns and clurichauns are a bit different. Leprechauns love dancing, singing, and, most importantly, mending shoes. On the other side, clurichauns have tales in the Irish mythology. These tales state that they are skilful sheep riders and dogs’ tamers.
Clurichauns’ nature depends merely on the wines, but they are not hostile by any means. They are friendly as long as you treat them well. Conversely, they can wreak havoc and cause chaos if you have wronged them. You are probably wondering what this has to do with the wines. Well, clurichauns protect the cellar of your wine if they like. If they don’t, they will call destruction upon your wine stock.
Other parts of the Irish mythology claim that the clurichauns don’t share a lot of similarities with the leprechauns. It describes them as taller men when it comes to appearance.
Leprechauns and Christmas
Leprechauns were not that popular in the Irish mythology, but, still, they had several tales. They have a chaotic nature, but some tales reveal the reason behind their hostility. At some old time, there were lands where dwarfs, elves, and hobbits resided. They all live peacefully side by side that they also intermarried. This intermarriage between different creatures resulted in a brand new race, the leprechauns.
The message this new race was trying to convey is the importance of helping the poor. They were very brilliant and kind; their brilliance helped them in mastering deception and betrayal. The leprechauns started off as kind creatures and ended up exiled out of their own land. The reason that leprechauns had to leave their hometown lies in a famous tale about the Christmas holiday.
This tale was about Santa Claus learning about the genuine message of leprechauns. He knew that they love helping others and were good at craftwork. Consequently, he invited them to help him with the Christmas gifts and work at his workshop in the North Pole. A big number of them left for their awaiting jobs; they were ready for creating happiness and delight.
The Dominance of their Troublemaking Nature
Leprechauns were genuine in trying to make Christmas a happy time. However, their chaotic nature started to take a toll on what was supposed to happen and didn’t. The elves once fell asleep and the leprechauns wanted to play games. It was only a few days before Christmas Eve. They stole the toys and hid them in a secret place and kept laughing about it.
On the next day, a natural disaster evoked and it set the secret place, in which the toys were, to ashes. Destruction was the destiny of the poor toys because of what the leprechauns did.
Because Christmas Eve was on the verge, there wasn’t enough time to create new ones and deliver them as scheduled. The incident set a raging fire inside Santa; he was too overwhelmed and not sure what to do. In a moment of fury, he exiled the leprechauns and prohibited them from returning to the North Pole eternally.
Words Spreading As Fast As the Wind
Leprechauns had to leave to a different place. To their surprise, word had spread around, reaching long distances. Their reputation ceased employers from hiring them in fear of disasters. People didn’t even want to have them around and they face bullies for their different appearances. Definitely, they looked strange to the world, for they were the production of intermarried races.
For a long time, the leprechauns bewailed their bad fortune until they have had enough. They decided to right what they did wrong, so they dedicated their lives to doing good deeds. They stole, but only to help those in need and they thought it was the right thing to do. Their intentions were to steal only the wealthy people by giving false promises of guiding them to hidden treasures. The only condition they had was having a down payment; it was usually toys, gold, or expensive stuff.
HOW THE IRISH MYTHOLOGY EVOKED EVERLASTING CUSTOMS AND TRADITIONS
Obviously, the Irish mythology has a lot of tales made up of fascinating and captivating plots. The tales are too many to be told within this article. However, all the previous ones are some of the most popular tales in Ireland. Those tales were very dominant that even some of the Irish traditions date back to them. Every strange notion that the Irish people have the impulse to believe dates back to the plots of those tales. No matter how odd or eccentric some beliefs may seem, they are all interesting.
Swans in the Irish Mythology
Remember what happened to the four children of Lir? Yes, they turned into beautiful swans and, for that reason, people have compassion toward swans. All in all, swans are gorgeous creatures; they symbolize beauty and peace. Those creatures have always taken part in the Irish mythology and not only in the Children of Lir. However, the Children of Lir played a great role in shaping people’s perspectives of swans. They treat them with great respect and there is even a lake where people go to watch them.
The Irish mythology has always portrayed swans and humans as part of one another. In other words, it depicted them as shape-shifters. This persistent portrayal has escorted people to believe that swans and humans are so much alike. People in Ireland refer to swans as Eala; they keep them in captivities to ensure them a long life.
Any culture that has compassion toward animals would definitely treat swans respectfully. Conversely, the role of the Irish mythology here lies in the misconception that some people tend to believe. This fallacy involves the Irish people’s faith in the ability of swans to travel between different worlds.
Irish people also believe that swans are originally humans who could shift their shape as per their preference. Besides, the Irish mythology was very accurate in using the swans as a symbol of love and purity. Real-life swans have more than a few types.
The Causeway Creation Myth
In Ireland, there is a giant path, the causeway, which connects the country with Scotland. For so many generations, people have always claimed that the Giant warrior of the Irish mythology, Finn McCool, created it. The warrior had always been part of the creation story.
Besides, part of the tale included Finn building it to properly challenge Benandonner and fight him. But, he ran away as soon as he realized his gigantic size. While he was fleeing, one of his enormous boots fell off and landed on a stone above the lake. Nowadays, a lot of people claim that the boot still exists on the shore exactly where Finn dropped it. They also swore by its unbelievably massive size.
Oisin’s Burial Site
At the end of the tale of Tir na nOg, Oisin fell off his horse. Enbarr, the horse, returned to the land of the young without Oisin. A lot of people wondered what happened to Oisin after he fell. And because there is always more than a version, people came up with their own conclusion. Some people claim that Oisin’s burial site sits in Glenalmond in Perth, Scotland. However, there is a place in Ireland called Oisin’s Grave. It exists in the Nine Glens of Antrim and people still call it Oisin’s Grave until this very day.
A Conversation with a Pooka
The tales of the Pookas always contained themes of thrill and mystery. This involves the fact that Pookas like chatting and giving advice as well as eccentric predictions. Since the Irish people enjoy the thrilling legends, they say that Pookas never say goodbye.
To be more accurate, the Irish mythology’s always narrated tales about Pookas having conversations with someone and then suddenly disappearing. This out-of-the-blue disappearance will escort you to question their existence. It also says that Pookas never leave traces behind, so people may regard you mad.
The Banshee and the Silver Comb
The Irish mythology has a lot of stories and myths about the nature of the Banshee. At the end, most of the people believe it to be women. In Ireland, there is a tradition of singing laments at funerals. Some people still believe that the woman who feels the urge to sing a lament is originally a Banshee.
Another weird belief about the Banshee is that they lure people through their silver combs. Banshees have long grey hair; it is fair enough and needs to be constantly brushed. Thus, the Banshee uses a silver comb to take care of it and leave it on the ground. People always suggest that you should never pick up a comb if you happen to see one. Picking a silver comb up means a bad fortune is awaiting you.
This may sound quite funny, but actually, some people claim that they discovered real leprechauns. They also state that they were wearing green. Anyhow, in Europe exists the Caverns of Carlington Mountain. Some people claim that it is a sanctuary that embraces over 200 leprechauns and protects them from harm.