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Information about Irishmyths

Published on February 12, 2008

Author: Camilla


Slide1:  Irish Myth and Legend By Andrew McGann Records of Irish Myth:  Records of Irish Myth Most of the Irish myths were recorded between 500 and 800 CE; primarily by Christian monks who wanted to preserve the country’s history. Other stories were written down by native pagans, and some are still kept alive orally, by minstrels in rural Ireland. However, minstrels typically changed the stories to favor whichever person he was singing for, and these inconsistencies have most likely changed many of the tales quite drastically. Many of the stories have also been influenced by the patriarchy of the church. This is evident when we see males dominant over females, because in traditional Celtic lore, there was an equal balance between the sexes. The Irish Cycles:  The Irish Cycles Celtic mythology of Ireland can be categorized in four broad cycles: Mythological or Foundation cycle. Ulster cycle. Fennian or Fianna Cycle. Kings Cycle. The main sources for the Irish cycles can be found in three books: the Book of the Dun Cow (1100), the Book of Leinster (1160), and the Yellow Book of Lecan (14th century). The Mythological Cycle:  The Mythological Cycle The myths included in the mythological cycle are largely based upon the early founding of Ireland, its deities, and the beginnings of Irish Celts. The time period covered in the cycle is from the dawn of man to about 400 BCE. Dingle Bay, where Cessair, the first inhabitant of Ireland, is supposed to have landed Books of the Mythological Cycle:  Books of the Mythological Cycle The mythological cycle contains stories that are told in two very important books: the Leabhar Gahbala (“Book of Invasions”), and the Dinnshenchas [“History of Places” (a map of mythological Ireland)] The Book of Invasions :  The Book of Invasions The Leabhar Gahbala, or book of Invasions, includes the successive invasions of Ireland by Supernatural Clans. The invaders, in chronological order, included the Partholonians, the Nemedians, the demon-like Fomhoire and Fir Bholg, the divine Tuatha De Danann, followed by the first human ancestors of the Irish people, the Milesians. The Tuatha De Danann, according to legend, eventually changed to become the “little people” of Irish lore, which include leprechauns and fairies. A modern, published version of the book of invasions The Ulster Cycle:  The Ulster Cycle The second division of Irish mythology is the Ulster Cycle. It contains heroic tales of king Conchobar Mac Nessa, ruler of the province, Ulster, and his warriors, called the Red Branch Champions. Conchobar’s nephew, Cuchulainn Mac Sualtaim, the greatest Celtic warrior, is featured in the epic Tain bo Cuailnge (Cattle Raid of Cooley). Coat of arms of Ulster Cuchulainn:  Cuchulainn Cuchulainn is thought of as the greatest Celtic hero. Most sources claim he is the son of the sun god, Lugh. He was trained under the highly-respected woman-warrior, Scathach, where he learned the deadly gae bolg (a technique where you throw a unique spear with your toes). Many warriors sought her training, but few passed her difficult tests. These four pictures show different portrayals of Cuchulainn The Hound of Culann:  The Hound of Culann Culann, a master-smith and friend of king Conchobar, invited Cuchulainn and Conchobar for dinner one night. Cuchulainn wanted to finish his Hurley game that night, so he showed up a little late to to the dinner. Meanwhile, the party had forgotten about Cuchulainn, and when he showed up, he came face to face with Culann’s huge and ferocious watch dog. The King heard commotion outside, and when they came out to see what had happened, they found Cuchulainn standing over the beast, with his Hurley stick in his hand which he used to kill the dog. From then on, he was known as Cuchulainn, which means, “Hound of Culann” Tain Bo Cuailnge (Cattle Raid of Cooley):  Tain Bo Cuailnge (Cattle Raid of Cooley) The epic Cattle Raid of Cooley is considered by many to be the most important work of ancient Irish literature. The story begins with queen Medb of Connaught’s desire to have the great Dun Bull in her herd, in order to equal her husband, Aillil’s herd. Aillil owned the great White-Horned Bull in his herd, and the Dun Bull belonged to the province of Ulster. Both these bulls are said to have belonged to the supernatural race of the Sid, and had extraordinary value. Queen Medb’s desire caused a war to break out over the Dun bull, and because Ulster’s soldiers were under a spell, Cuchulainn was forced to fight the queen’s onslaught alone until the reinforcements came out of their sleep. The two prized bulls Queen Medb Warp-spasm:  Warp-spasm When Cuchulainn faces the forces of queen Medb in the Tain, he changes his appearance drastically, and becomes a crazed, warrior-madman, cutting heads left and right. “The first warp-spasm seized Cuchulainn, and made him into a monstrous thing, hideous and shapeless, unheard of. His shanks and his joints, every knuckle and angle and organ from head to foot, shook like a tree in the flood or a reed in the stream. His body made a furious twist inside his skin, so that his feet and shins and knees switched to the rear and his heels and calves switched to the front. The ballad sinews of his calves switched to the front of his shins, each big knot the size of a warrior’s bunched fist. On his head the temple-sinews stretched to the nape of his neck, each mighty, immense, measureless knob as big as the head of a month-old child. His face and features became a red bowl: he sucked one eye so deep into his head that a wild crane couldn’t probe it onto his cheek out of the depths of his skull; the other eye fell out along his cheek. His mouth weirdly distorted: his cheek peeled back from his jaws until the gullet appeared, his lungs and liver flapped in his mouth and throat, his lower jaw struck the upper a lion-killing blow, and fiery flakes large as a ram’s flees reached his mouth from his throat.” (see Bibliography for work cited) Slide12:  Cuchulainn in warp-spasm Massing of the armies of Ulster and Canaught Cuchulainn in warp-spasm Armies in detail (see top middle picture, lower left) Armies in detail (see top middle picture, middle) All sketches Done by Louis Le Brocquy in 1989 The End of the Tain:  The End of the Tain Cuchulainn killed hundred’s of Medb’s soldiers each day, but eventually, he was forced to kill his good friend Ferdiad. He was riddled with guilt, and stopped fighting. When Cuchulainn’s step-father, Sualtam hears this, he rode his horse through towns shouting: “Men are being killed, women carried off, and cattle lifted in Ulster!” there was an accident and he was beheaded, but legend has it that his severed head continued to shout: “Men are being killed, women carried off, and cattle lifted in Ulster!” The rest of the Red Branch warriors were still in their trance (for one reason or another, Cuchulainn was taken out of his trance), but the site of Sualtam’s head shouting woke them up, and they joined Cuchulainn and defeated Medb’s soldiers. However, Medb did capture the Dun Bull for a short time. The Bull encountered the White-Horned Bull, and ripped it to pieces. The Dun Bull then escaped and went back to Ulster, but on his way back, the bull’s heart burst, leaving two dead cows to end the great tale. The Fenian Cycle:  The Fenian Cycle The sagas in the Fenian Cycle are mostly based around the legendary figure of Finn MacCool and the Fianna, which was a band of Elite Hunter-Warriors. The Fianna protected the high king of Tara around the 3rd century CE. The Fenian cycle is also sometimes refered to as the "Ossianic cycle" because of the many stories are about Oisin, Finn MacCool’s son. While this period of time is relatively peaceful, there are heroic and fantastical tales, which incoprorate many interactions with the gods. Finn MacCool The Fianna:  The Fianna The Fianna was an elite group of warriors who lived and trained in the wilderness, and protected the king of Tara. To become part of the Fianna, you needed to be an amazing athlete, as well as a poet. The tests included: dodging a barrage of spears thrown at you; running at full speed in the woods while being chassed by a band of warriors without tossing your hair or breaking a twig under your feet, then you had to duck under a branch as low as your knee and jump over a branch as high as your head, all without breaking stride while sprinting at top speed. The actual Fianna Finn MacCool and the Salmon of Knowledge:  Finn MacCool and the Salmon of Knowledge On his travels across Ireland, Finn MacCool came to the river Boyne where a Druid named Finegas had lived for seven years, trying to catch the salmon of knowledge. It had been prophesized that a man named Finn would catch the salmon, and Finegas assumed this was him. Whoever was the first to eat of the salmon would obtain great wisdom. The two men caught the salmon, and cooked it for dinner. While it was on the spit, Finn tested the salmon to see if it was done; he was burned, and stuck his finger in his mouth to cool it down. When Finegas heard this, he realized that the prophecy was not about him, and he let Finn eat the rest of the salmon. From then on, whenever Finn needed knowledge, he put his finger in his mouth. The Kings Cycle:  The Kings Cycle This Cycle is a bit controversial in that not all historians recognize it as a cycle. The ones who do, know it as the Kings Cycle or Historical Cycle. It is a book of tales recounting historical or semi-historical kings of Ireland, generally from the early common era to the middle ages. The Myths:  The Myths The Myths of Ireland, like any other mythological tales, have changed throughout history. Bards and minstrels who told these stories almost undoubtedly modified them either on purpose or not. But while they are just fictional stories, they can teach us what it was to live like an Irish Celt, and how they understood and explained the living world. Today, we are lucky to have a collection of these stories, and although they are not completely true, they are very useful and entertaining. Bibliography:  Bibliography Cahill, Thomas. How the Irish Saved Civilization. New York: Anchor Books, 1995 The Racist Leprechaun Movies:  The Racist Leprechaun Movies Lions gate films have teamed up with director Steve Ayromlooi to bring us the next saga in the leprechaun films: Leprechaun: Back 2 tha hood, a sequel to their 5th release, Leprechaun in the Hood. This is their sixth leprechaun movie, and we’re crossing our fingers that it will be better than the pre-quel, except that will be a tough task, let me tell you. I’ve included the BIO for the new film, as well as some pictures from previous movies He's back, he's mean...he's high? Again? The Leprechaun is back in the hood, all blazed up and seeking revenge! When a group of friends discovers his treasure, they soon find out they've unleashed a can of whoop ass! With their stack of riches, the group of hoodlums goes from poor to ghetto-fabulous overnight, spending their newfound loot on pimped-out cars and hair extensions. One by one the friends stand up to the weed-smoking, knife-wielding, car-stealing Leprechaun who will stop at nothing to get his treasure back. Evil has a whole new rap and the kids from the hood had better watch their backs!

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