Folk-Lore/Volume 31/The Marriages of the Gods at the Sanctuary of Tailltiu
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The Marriages of the Gods at the Sanctuary of Tailltiu
by Thomas Johnson Westropp
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THE MARRIAGES OF THE GODS AT THE SANCTUARY OF TAILLTIU
THOMAS JOHNSON WESTROPP.
When the gods of the Gaedhil invaded Ireland they are said to have found the Fir Bolg in possession and fought them to a finish. Though there can be no doubt that the Fir Bolg were a real tribe group, ill-defined, but, if one may use the term, “non-Milesian,” and some have even imagined that the Tuatha Dé Danann were also a human race (which is hard indeed to suppose possible), it is evident that the story is of a war of gods, not a mere mortal struggle. That the new faith took over the older sanctuaries was only to be expected, and, in the case of the Celts, as of most polytheists, the line of least resistance was to try and reconcile their new-come gods with those of the soil. The sanctuary and assembly place of Tailltiu, at Oristown and Telltown, in Co. Meath, has preserved a most illuminating tradition, which it is well to study in some detail.
The pagan Irish had a pantheon formed of divergent and even discordant elements. We have mountain deities like Febra, Echtge, Mís, Clíu and others, and river goddesses like Sinann, Segais and Boand, also the mound gods, viros side, like Oengus of the Brug and Bodb Dearg. Under this term Síd were eventually included a swarm of gods, also, unlike the former classes, adored in Britain and on the continent of Europe. Such were Lug, Béli, Nuada, Net, Ogma, Segomo, Nemed, Ana or Dana, and Brigid or Brigendo. There are even as in the epithet of Lug, “master of sciences” and patron of shoemakers; Nuada, “silver arm,” “Lord of the Wolf,” and the warrior catching the salmon in presence of Nuada) hints of common tradition and ritual in Ireland and abroad, though ritual was probably the feature, next to images, least tolerated by the otherwise wonderfully patient, tactful and tolerant Church of Ireland, as founded by Patrick in the fifth century. To show how the ritual of the marriage of the gods. Lug and Nuada, with personifications of Ireland, Eriu and Fál, was continued by the irregular, temporary marriages celebrated in the Telltown “Fair,” is the object of this essay.
The God of Tailltiu.
Among the conquering gods brought by the Celts from Europe, the most illustrious and attractive was Lug Lamhfada, “the long-handed,” the source of all light, physical and mental. Traces of his worship are found in Belgium, Germany, France, Switzerland, Spain and Britain, as well as in Ireland. At least fourteen places bore his name, as “Lugodunum” (Lyons, Leyden and Laon among others) and one “Luguballium,” or Carlisle. In Ireland we find “Lis Loga,” or Naas, “Cro Loga” at Tara, “Long Loga,” a sandbank in Dublin Bay, “Lugmod” or Lowth, “Luglochta Loga,” near Lusk in Co. Dublin, and “Lis Luigdech,” or “Lis Loga,” near Tara. His name was a favourite with his worshippers, though I only find a “Lug,” son of Finn, and another ill-attested “Lug” among the crowd of mythic sons assigned to Oilioll Aulom by tribes striving to affiliate themselves to the great line of the Dergthene princes of Munster. We have, however, Fir Loga, Cuchulaind’s attendant, Mucoi Loga, Lugucrit, or Lucrit, Lugaid or Lugudex (genitive Lugadeccos, or Luigdech) in Ireland, and in Britain Lugubelinus or Llewelyn, and Lugueslis or Llefelis the last apparently after a brother of Ludd or Nudd Lamereint, i.e. Nuada, “silver hand.” When Caesar calls Lug (under the name of “Mercury”) “inventor of all the Arts,” he may be repeating a hymn, perhaps recited by his friends the Aeduan druid, Divitiacus, which has many an echo in Ireland and elsewhere. We have a votive tablet to Mercurius Cultor at Wurtemburg; the Irish versions sing of “Lug, master of all the arts”; “Lug, with whom are all the arts”; “Prince of the manifold sciences.” At Tara, Lug asserts his mastery of all the arts and sciences of his day — champion, harper, antiquary, professor, artificer and carpenter. In Welsh legend he is a skilled shoemaker, and the shoemakers of Corduba regarded the Lugoves as their patrons. In his present form as a fairy, the Lughprechán or Lughcropán, he is still an accomplished shoemaker. He had nine chariots in the Battle of Magh Tured; in this like other solar gods, and the horse cultus and races and chariots of which there are evident traces connected with Tara Tailltiu, Brug (the “prison of Liath Macha,” Cuchulaind’s divine steed); Carmun; the pillars called “Eclasa” or horse rod, at Knockainey, “Echlainn Loga” and “Echlasc Chon Chulainn.” Indeed it is probable that pious clerics or chiefs at Tara and Tailltiu emulated Josiah when “he took away the horses of the Sun” at Jerusalem and “burned the chariots of the Sun with fire,” for Lug was inventor of the óenach, or sacred race-course, and the horse rod. and had nine war chariots of his own.
First we may note how many Irish sanctuaries are said to bear the names of women (queens, heroines or goddesses), and that the place-names, being probably pre-Celtic and so irreducible by Celtic philologists, were thus artificially explained. I do not, however, on that account doubt but that there were really ancient legends connected with the places, but only think it probable that its place-name superseded that of a goddess. Local names often supersede personal ones, as titles do surnames at present. The number of alias names of Boand, the Boyne, show that one river goddess, perhaps named Segais, was called after several streams in Ireland, and we know that Lug was called “Dumias” or “Dumiatus” at his great temple on the Puy de Dôme, where stood his huge bronze statue.
This perhaps is true of Lug’s foster-mother, from whom the great Óenach Tailltinn was said to be named — Tailltiu, “so call her now, her other name is heard no more in heaven.” The place-name was probably of her temple, so it was used reverentially instead of the more sacred personal name, if the place gave its name to the patroness, not she to it. She was wife of Magmor, or MacUmoir, last king of the Fir Bolg. The Clann Umoir seem to be a divine race and figure in variant legends, the best known being that of which O’Donovan and Petrie made such exaggerated use in their theory of the ring forts. In the curious list of gods and heroes (perhaps interpolated) in the Taín bo Cualnge we also find Oengus, Cimb, Mod and Lathrach, along with the undoubted gods Lug, Ogma, Macha, the Morrigu, Ane and Roth. If gods, we can understand how they were granted the chief sanctuaries of Meath by the king of Tara; if a little band of fugitives (as in MacLiac’s poem), the statement is in the last degree absurd. In the list in the Taín we also find an “Amairgen of Tailltiu,” a little-known hero who, in the same poem, fought a battle on its site.
Eochaid, husband of Tailltiu, was chiefly remembered for having made the Dumha na n Giall, the great “Mound of the hostages” at Tara. How Lug came to be sent for fosterage to Tailltiu is not explained in our accessible sources.
Lug’s pedigree calls for a moment’s notice. He was son of Cian (son of Diancecht, the divine physician) and Ethliu, daughter of Bilé, ancestor of the Milesian race. “Beil” was the god of Uisnech and gave his name to the Beil tinne or sacred fire of the Belltaine rites; he is a shadow of the great Gaulish god Belinus. As Sir John Rhys shows, the Welsh pedigrees of Lieu, grandson of Beli, and the Torry Island story making Lug grandson of the horrible demon god, Balor “of the deadly eye” (which Lug, in old Irish legend, dashed out with a sling-stone in the Battle of Magh Tured), closely agree. Now Beli was father of Nudd and Arianrhod, and Lug is father of Nuada in the legendary divine descents of the Munster princes. They give the descent “Derg Dergthine, son of Nuada Argetlamh, son of Lug mac Edlenn,” and are confirmed by the early poem on “Mosaulom” (Oilioll Aulom) where Daig Dergthine, son of Nuada Aicnech Luigthine, son of Lug Feidlech,” is given. This contradicts the more usual Irish pedigree of Lug as son of Cian, and corroborates the Welsh by introducing Nuada. As we shall see, the close connection of Lug and Nuada is important to the understanding of the “marriage myth” of Tailltiu.
There are apparently two “foundation legends” fused into the story of Tailltiu. One seems to have no Milesian affinities. Eochaid, son of Dua, king of Spain, ordered his subjects to cut down the wood of Cluan, clearing the plain, in honour of his wife Tailltiu. Three rath builders avoided conscription, and the queen demanded their lives. The king spared them on condition of each building a rath in one of the Fir Bolg states, the heritages of Gann, Genann and Sengann; one of the earthworks was Nas, elsewhere connected with Lug and his wife, its namesake.
The second compromises between the gods of the hostile races and shows the simpler story in the course of transformation. Eochaid Garb clears a place for his wife Tailltiu’s grave at Chaille Chuan that her games might be held there, and her foster son Lug, “son of Seal Balb,” made her guba (lamentations) and her nasad (funeral rites, but see later), whence the Lugnasad festival on, or rather round, Aug. 1st, in which month it should be remembered the festival was held at Lug’s sanctuary of Lugdunum Convenorum (St. Bertrand de Commingcs), which all Gaul attended. The fantastic euhemerist chronologers fixed the date of Lug’s reign variously, for a God’s life is hard to date, at b.c 1764-1714 (Giolla Coemhain), 1871-1830 (Four Masters) or even b.c. 500. The Luguasad was also celebrated on Aug. 1st in Scotland and the Isle of Man, and fires were lit in the period (about “a fortnight after” Aug. 1st) in Russia, at Capri, and indeed in Macedonia on Aug. 1st itself.
The Senchas na Relec, telling of “the chief cemeteries of the idolaters,” says there were 50 mounds at Tailltiu, but the number was evidently conventional. The compiler of the Leabhar Gahhala evidently knew that Eochaid Garb was a god, for it calls him “son of Dua the blind, of the Tuatha Dé,” and relates how Cian, son of Diancecht, gave his son Lug, “son of Ethne, daughter of Balor, for fosterage.” Tailltiu “died in Tailltiu, her mourning games used to be performed every year by Lug . . . a fortnight before and a fortnight after.” This is not the only case where Lug is connected with the earthworks of the older race. We have noted his house Cro Loga, near Eochaid’s “Mound of the Hostages” at Tara. Lug had two wives, Nas and Bui, who gave their names to the mounds of Nas (Lis Loga) and Cnocbaei (Cnogba, or Knowth). “The pure Gaedel came to lament the women from Fid m Broga (Brugh of the Boyne, near Knowth), from Tailltiu, where he raised a fire. Thence they came with Lug . . . that was the gathering of the accomplished Lug . . . the lamentation for the fair-skinned women of Fál,” note the last phrase. When the gods’ sacred mounds become their tombs we feel that we are dealing with the later euhemerism of the eleventh century, for, down to a.d. 1000, the gods were freely described as “gods,” and the mounds were their palaces. To this period the Senchas na Relec belongs, and it names the mound of Lug in the great bronze-age cemetery of Brugh. Alldai, from whom its chief tumulus (now called Newgrange) was called Achad Alldai, was ancestor of Lug, through Iondae. Net (the Gaulish war-god Neton) Esarg Brecc, Diancecht, and Cian) — “though we enumerate them we do not worship them,” adds the cautious scribe, well aware that he was perilously in touch with “the gods of the heathen.”
Nuada, who is also so closely connected with Tailltiu, was descended, in the more familiar sources, from Echtach, or Achi, or Eochaid (perhaps identical with the husband of Lug’s foster-mother), son of Etarlamh, brother of Net and Midir of Uisnech. Nuada elsewhere was son, or grandson, of Lug and ancestor of the Munster princes. The dedicatory name “Mog Nuadat” stands out as that of Eogan Taidleach, the first notable Celtic prince in Munster. The great Munster Óenach was dedicated to Cuil, wife of Nechtan, son of Nuada, and Maynooth (Magh Nuadat) bears his name. The name “Nodent” (but not of a god) is found in Brittany. Under his name “Lludd (Nudd) Lamereint” he looms large in Britain, where Ludgate and probably Lydney, where the temple of Nudens was unearthed, bear his name. He is, of course, the British god Nudens, Nudd Lamereint, or “Silver Hand” (as in Ireland). It is enough to refer to his temple at Lydney on the Severn, and to note that the only Irish trace of the Brito-Gaulish god-name Segomo is found in his descendant, “Nia Segamain, the siabra” or of the god race.
The seven mounds at Tailltiu, besides the great earthwork of Lug, included two of Ollamh Fodla, the Irish Numa, and Eithne, wife of Conn of the hundred battles. The geasa or “tabus” of Tailltiu were “to cross without alighting, to look over the left shoulder when leaving; to cast unprofitably after sunset.” The triads name it as one of the three chief Assemblies of Ireland.
2. The Marriage of the Sun.
The euhemerist easily got rid of gods by making them human ancestors and heroes, but one divine phenomenon
But Nuada, Lug’s predecessor in the “theocracy” (if not, as the Munster druids and genealogists thought, his child), also made a “marriage with Fál,” a well-known alias for “Eríu,” and, add the writher, “there was sporting and making love to the stone of Fál.” As we shall see, there were Fál stones not only at Tara (with its “phallic names,” ancient and modern, Ferp and Bod) but at Tailltiu and at Bruden Da Derg. The So-called “aphrodisiac rites,” symbolizing marriage to a holed pillar, a basin stone, a dolmen, or even, I am told, a high cross, are not unknown in Ireland in late times; some even survived to our time. Cormac’s Glossary tells us, “the marriages of Tailltiu, they were celebrated at the mound of the buying (Tulach an Coibche), where the bride price was paid.” Add the fact that the marriage fees of Tailltiu were paid to the king of Ulad, on whose territory the sanctuary was presumed to stand; the strange, irregular marriages kept up there, if tradition says truly, till 1770; and the coincidence of so many indicators, ancient and modern point most unmistakably to the nature of the ceremonies. They referred to the marriage of the Sun with the land of Ireland at the great harvest festival, and implied the co-operation of the gods’ worshippers to make the harvest fruits of the earth secure.
As to the Fál stone, it was brought from “Falias” by the Tuatha Dé, and long after, when it revealed itself by screaming under the feet of King Conn, his druid told him “in the land of Tailltiu it shall be for ever, and that land shall be the sporting Óenach.” Then Lug mac Ethlenn appeared in dazzling beauty. The Book of Leinster says Fál was “a stone of vision” at Tara, which was to remain at Tailltiu . . . its heart sprang out after its welcome to Conn”; Christian redactors added, “or the birth of Christ,” when the oracles were dumb. The Bruden Da Derga had “a stone, Fál, in the upper part of the Bruden.” The Coir Anmann says that Failbe Fál Choirtech was the first person to set up a pillar in Eriu, and Nuada, who made love to the Fál, was named also Finn Fál, “the White Fal.” The reputed Lia Fail at Tara is white, with rounded ends and about 6′ long; it was evidently intended to be recumbent, but was set over the dead rebels’ grave in 1798; its fall, some years since, revealed its true character and size, Petrie being quite misled on these points. Noting the frequent occurrence of holed stones in Ireland and Scotland still in use for rites connected with marriage we might conjecture that the Fál at Tailltiu was one, and that, when it was removed, the plank, with the hole (through which couples handfasted, at the “Telltown marriage”), was substituted. The whole consensus of th facts from such miscellaneous sources indicates an unusual prominence of marriage rights at Tailltiu; and the boast of the Oenach of Carman is that it was “without impurity,” “as for elopement it was not heard of there, neither a second husband,” “the games of the women were not visited by the men.” All these strong statements are probably to contrast it with other Assemblies, like Tailltiu.
3. The “Telltown Marriages.”
Whether actual, or symbolic, as was probably the case in later days, curous temporary marriages were celebrated at the sports of Tailltiu, it is said till 1770. The two townlands of Telltown and Oristown adjoin each other (the first mered by the Selen, or Blackwater, to the south-west), about halfway between the towns of Navan and Kells. In Oristown is part of a huge earthen Ring, with a fosse inside its ramparts and a banquette, or terrace, inside the fosse, clearly for celebrations and not for residence or defence. The field is crossed by an ancient sunken road which widens into a hollow at a well; thought the hollow is a fence, and it is called Luganeany, “The hollow of the Óenach.” It has a great Ring, “the Rath of the mariages,” as it is still called, to the N.W., the exact position which Tailltiu’s fert or grave-mound occupied with regard to the óenach, according to the Leabhar Gabhala. The great Ring must not be confused, as has been done, with the great circular platform in Telltown which is called the Rathduff or “Black Fort,” and is not named in connection with the sports. There are four ponds or artificial lakes between this Rath and the Lug. The histories and handbooks of the eighteenth and early nineteenth century are silent on this most important site. The phrase “a Telltown marriage” is proverbial in Meath; I heard it among the peasantry round Slane in the same county in 1880-82, and round Navan in 1887. In the thinly peopled Telltown district I only heard of it in the name “the Rath of the marriages.” Our chief authorities are John O’Donovan and Dr. William Wilde, both writing of the period round 1836, when there existed Irish speakers, local sports, and traditions of the god Oengus of the Brugh and of other legendary personages. John O’Donovan nearly always overlooks the fact of early place-names covering a far wider extent than their modern equivalents, and of townlands being split up, sometimes into as many as 4 or 5 divisions. He accordingly asserts, without the least reason, that the “fair” had been “moved from Telltown into Oristown.” The latter name is not found in early records; his derivation of Oristown, from Orientstown, i.e. Rath airthir (the “East fort” of the “Lives” of St. Patrick, certainly at Donaghpatrick Church), is absurd, being really from the Bermingham or “Oris” (mac Feorais, i.e. mac Peirce) family, as other Meath and Dublin names, Monasteroris, Carrickoris, and Ballycoruss, should have shown him.
He heard that the Telltown marriages were celebrated in the Luganeany hollow in Pagan times; “a short distance to the South of this a wall (now a ‘ditch’) was erected and in this was a gateway, in which there was a hole, large enough to admit of a human hand. This was the spot at which marriages were celebrated according to the odd manner following — A number of young men went into the hollow to the North side of the wall, and an equal number of young women to the South side of the wall, which was so high as to prevent them from seeing the men. One of the women put her hand through the hole in the gate and a man took hold of it on the other side, being guided in his choice only by the appearance of the hand. The two who thus joined hands by blind chance were obliged to live together for a year and a day, at the expiration of which they appeared at the Rath of Telton and, if they were not satisfied with each other, they obtained a ‘deed of separation’ and were entitled to go to Leganeany again to try their good fortune for the ensuing year — whence the phrase ‘they got a Tailltean marriage,’ i.e. they took each other for nine (sic) months. The natives of Telton think there was a great deal of fair play in this marriage . . . whether the tradition be right or wrong.”
Now this elaborate description is most closely corroborated, as we shall see, by the Book of Aicill and other ancient law codes of Ireland, unpublished and nearly unknown to scholars when O’Donovan heard this strange tale from the illiterate peasantry. It revolted O’Donovan’s prejudices; he, naturally, doubted that the ascetic Irish Church could have permitted such an abuse, and therefore his testimony of the local tradition is above suspicion. He heard the “fairs” were suppressed 30 years before, i.e. 1806. This is correct, for I do not find them in almanacks after 1807, which is probably a heedless repetition from the previous year. Wilde, whose local knowledge of tradition covers, and evidently precedes slightly, the same period as O’Donovan’s, says the marriages had been stopped in 1770.
The “fair” of Oristown was held on May 1st (Belltaine) in 1678, but on May 13th and Oct. 11th, once as late as Oct. 14th, in the eighteenth century, through which I have traced it from the reign of George II. A pattern (without, however, a patron saint) was held in Martry, just over the stream near Telltown, on Aug. 1st, the actual Lugnasad, as O’Donovan was told. Perhaps the marriages were held the same day at Oristown and not at the time of the statutory fair. Wilde, as I said, with personal local knowledge, accepts the tradition of 1836, which he published in 1849; he often witnessed sports in Meath when a boy, but only adds to O’Donovan’s accounts that the man took the woman by the little finger. He, however, places the marriages in the fosse of the great Ring (as Eugene Conwell heard in 1864 and as the modern name implies), the couples walking south. After the great famine of 1845 Leinster tradition died out or got confused, so later versions carry but little, if any, weight, either as told to Conwell or, still more, in my time.
Now O’Donovan’s difficulty as to the connivance of the Church will carry little weight with students of folk custom. Undoubted pagan rites and rhymes, obscene games and acts, handfasting, necromancy and such-like have never been suppressed. Public opinion easily condones old abuses and vested nuisances. The ancient ethics of Ireland, though the natives were free from the more revolting forms of vice, were very lax as to what the Church taught as to affinity and the sanctity of marriage. Despite all bowdlerizing by late clerics, connections of parents and children, and brother and sisters, abound in the early tales. Let it suffice to refer to the tales of Fiacha Fermara, son of Oengus of Tara (like Guortighern in Britain); to Cairbre Musc and his sister or daughter Duben; to Conchobar and his sister Ness; to Lug and Daire, children of Finn; to Clothra, who married her three brothers in succession; to Mac Lugach and Bresal, son of Bodibad; nay more, if the Life of St. Ciaran be true in its statement, to St. Senan’s mother’s marriage with two brothers — she being a Christian. This confirms Caesar’s and Strabo’s allegations (so bitterly resented by old school Irish antiquaries) and those of Jerome and Benedict, “cognatas suas germanas habere solebant sibi uxores,” and indeed to some degree that of Giraldus, “non incestus vitant.” In fact, in certain religions these marriages were sacrosanct, and, where the father and his sons were regarded as not akin to the daughters and sisters, they were fully permissible. Much more was this true of mere irregularity in the forms of marriage, separation, divorce and even polygamy. Diarmuid, a nominally Christian High King, about a.d. 550, brought his two wives to the Óenach of Tailltiu and the chaste and holy Ciaran restored the lost hair of one of them. “Plerique illorum quot volebant uxores habebant,” says Benedict; “the wife on the neck of the chief wife” was lawful bigamy in the Irish laws, and the marriage relations of King Brian Boroimhe, a veritable pillar of the Faith, left much to be amended.
I touch on the Ancient Laws with the utmost diffidence. No critical text of these most obscure documents has been prepared, and the translations are recognized as often doubtful and sometimes incorrect. Howbeit — though we are told St. Patrick and other Christian clerics expurgated them — we find statements apparently allowing connections for a year like the “Telltown marriages.” A woman when put away was entitled to a share of what she had made; if repudiated at Belltaine, to two-thirds of a ninth part, if at Samhain to one-third of an eighty-first part. She could claim a sack of the corn and bacon she had prepared “for every month she was with her mate to the end of the year, i.e. the next Belltaine day — for this is mostly the time for which they make their separate connection.” The Book of Aicill mentions an agreement “to remain together from Belltaine to Belltaine.” Uisnech was like Tailltiu, “marriages were broken off and new ties formed, judgements given and laws amended”; in fact, if the Church failed to ward the sacramental sanctity of marriage, the old Irish Law and public opinion gave it little, if any, help.
Even so late as 1335 Pope Benedict III. denounced certain persons in Ireland “acting according to the rites and sects of gentiles and pagans.” In the face of all this testimony it seems impossible to doubt that, down to times well remembered by the peasantry, Telltown was a recognized centre for irregular pagan marriages of short duration.
4. The Óenach Tailltinn.
We can only very briefly abstract all that shows what other rites were celebrated at this great Celtic and pre-Celtic sanctuary. As we saw, the real centre of the ceremonies is the god Lug and his marriage with Eriu. The allegation that children were sacrificed at Tailltiu, it is true, rests on a mistranslation of a corrupt text, “burning of the first fruits, or chief descendants,” being really “burnings of empty steadings.” Prof. Gwynn renders it “The three havocs which Patrick forbade in it (Tailltiu), stealing of oxen in the yoke, killing of cows in milk, burning of empty steadings” — some mss. add “not a primitive tradition” or “round a noble family.” Nevertheless, in face of the exuberance of human sacrifice among the Celts of Gaul and Britain and the cases of it in Ireland — the man sacrificed at Emania; the children at Tara and before the pillar of Crom (or Cenn) Cruach (perhaps a Christian nickname for Lug) and the substituted killing of swine at the foundation of Dun Fidne, about a.d. 580, not to speak of the children given to be devoured by the mountain goddess Echtge, almost necessitates a belief that Tailltiu was defiled by these horrible rites. Such Irish sacrifices, denied so angrily by Dr. Joyce and other advocates in Ireland, and also the allegations that there was no evidence for sun worship among the Irish (in face of its severe denunciation by St. Patrick in the Confessio and the unmistakable worship of Lug as sun god) may be passed by as unnecessary to refute. Perhaps we have, as I ventured to suggest early in this paper, an ancient hymn to Lug — “Master of all the sciences, Lug, like the sun is the splendour of his face. He rides on Manannán’s steed (the waves), swift as the wind of spring. What else than the Sun is it? This is the radiance of Lug Lamhfada.” Perhaps it was sung by the druids at the very Lugnasad of Tailltiu. The god was probably the most dangerous opponent of Christ in the days of Patrick, and well might the Apostle of the Irish write: “the Sun shall not reign for ever nor shall its splendours continue, and woe to its unhappy worshippers.”
After the “Servile Revolt,” probably where the first faint dawn of historic legend begins in Ireland, King Tuathal Techtmhar, in his restoration of the Celtic monarchy and its chief sanctuaries, re-established the fire festival of Lugnasad and its sacred fire at Tailltiu. We may pass over the euhemerist attempt to discredit the Celtic pantheon by “giving gods to the gods” and making the Milesians defeat and slay the gods of the Tuatha Dé (their own gods) MacGreine, MacCuill and MacCethoir at Tailltiu. The “chronologers” give us a liberal margin as to the date, b.c. 1569, 1545, 1399, 1229, 1066, 1071, 554 or 331, and credulous writers still select and believe some one of these! Tailltiu is seen by Cu Chulaind, but has no place in his legends. The Tain bo Cualnge tells how a great-grandson of Conall Cernach (Iliach or Amairgen) drives certain warriors over it northward. The “Will of Cathaoir mór” says that his son Fiacha shall enlarge Tailltiu. The High King Dathi about a.d. 422 celebrated the Tailltiu óenach with unusual splendour in a vain attempt to propitiate the gods before his raid into Gaul. St. Patrick, after his visit to Tara, purified the Oenach Tailltinn “Taltenam ubi fit agon regale.” He won over the sons of Nial and built Donaghpatrick Church in a fort near Tailltiu. We have already alluded to King Diarmuid’s celebration (539-567); he “held the óenach of Uisneach at Belltaine, that of Taillti at Lugnasad, and that of Tara at Samhain,” putting anyone to death who transgressed these solemnities, as a pagan monarch might have done. No wonder that the Church has drawn his picture in such dark colours in its tale of the cursing of Tara. He also held a special convention, “the men of Erin sitting on the benches of the Assembly ground” (such scaffolds being provided under the Ancient Laws), he and his two wives sitting there in state. Even such foolish tales as how Ambacuc swore falsely at Tailltiu, with St. Ciaran’s crozier round his neck, and how his head fell off, how he lived in this condition for many years and had a son! shows how dear Tailltiu was to the Irish mind. Miracles sometimes, however, become realities; three “aerial ships sailed over Tailltiu óenach” during the visit of Murchad, son of Domnall. A similar sight was there during the War when we were returning from Tailltiu at the time when the enemy’s line was broken in July, 1918; but by that time the wonder had become commonplace!
I will not repeat the many extracts of the Annals telling of the Óenach, but will summarise the principal. It was visited by St. Patrick at the dawn of Christianity, 434, and there was a tale how he promised that no one should be slain at it. This was broken in a riot in 716 and 790, when it was the scene of a violent battle. This was a blow from which the Oenach never recovered; its inviolability was gone for ever. It was ravaged by the King of Connacht (though his army “fled like goats” before King Aed), 807. In 810 the clerics of Tamlacht, near Dublin, who had been plundered by the Ui Neill, went and prohibited (banned) the games, “so neither horse nor chariot arrived”; they were paid a large indemnity. In 826 it was destroyed and many slain in a raid. In 830 a disturbance broke out, round the very forad, or President’s seat, and the shrines of MacCuilind and St. Patrick, which the clerics used to exhibit there; so many died. Three persons were struck by lightning at the Assembly in 856, and the strange story of a mysterious explosion, which blew part of a cross to Tailltiu ten years before, must have added to a sense of insecurity. At last, in 872, for the first time in tradition, the Assembly was discontinued. Futile attempts were made to re-establish it in 898, by Diarmaid, son of Cerball; in 916 by Niall, King of Tara; and perhaps by King Donchad in 925, when the Dub óenach was stopped; in 1006, by King Mael Sechlainn, after eighty years’ disuse (his rival, King Brian, visited the place two years before, but had not attempted to hold a meeting) and lastly, after 114 years, Ruadri, the last monarch of Ireland, appropriately closed its official history by a huge gathering (the crowds covering the country for several miles) in 1166. The artificial renewals naturally died out when the Normans occupied the country, though some sort of customary sports were kept up by their tenants. Otherwise the last trace of a forgotten god and discredited social system disappeared.
Unlike the instructive details in the poem on the great sister Assembly of Carmun, we find little as to the sports and etiquette at Tailltiu. The chariot races and horses are named in many sources, notably in 810, and in Cormac’s Glossary a century later. The coursers still ran in 1550, and a bard frequented the place so late as 1571 and played the harp. Sacred fires were lit, judgments were given, offences against the solemnities were punished with death, even in the sixth century, and we hear of a fine for cutting a gap in the grave (mound) of a chief at Suidech na Taillten, and the placing of twelve stakes there. The Acallamh says men wore at it “special and gorgeous attire.” The Book of Rights attests that the King of Oirghealla (in Co. Louth and Meath) sat “a sword’s length distant from the King of Erin,” as he did at Uisnech, and the Stewards of the King of Uladh were present to collect the marriage fees. We read in the Annals of the forad seat of the President, the benches on which the men of Erin sat, and the curtas at Tailltiu in 783. The Church, in its endeavours to Christianize the old pagan Assemblies, used to send its clergy and at least two reliquaries, in 1006, when they elected a comharb, or successor, of St. Columba and, as we saw, interfered in a less friendly manner two centuries before; the crozier of St. Kieran is said to have been sworn upon there. Boys’ contests are mentioned at Tailltiu in the legends of Finn, and local tradition tells of “aquatic sports.”
In the next three centuries I have only found one allusion to “Rathken, que nunc vocatur Teltyn, in Machyrigalyn,” in a deed of St. Mary’s Abbey, Dublin, in 1246. Machaire gaileoin, the present “Morgallion,” then contained Telltown, Oristown, Donaghpatrick and Gibbstown, but these are now merged into Kells Barony. The MacFeorais, Hibernicised Berminghams, evidently held it and gave their name to the present Oristown. In 1538 Patrick Plunkett of Gibbstown held Tallyton and Mary Cruys (posthumous daughter of Christopher Lord Rathmore and heroine of a romantic tradition), about 1550, made a poem, which alludes to “the coursers of Tailltiu” and implies that the races still continued. “Oriestone” is first named in 1571, a certain harper, Brian Mahon, resided there: another interesting “survival,” the last recorded successor of the harper Lug. In 1651 the Down Survey marks Telltowne and Oristowne, showing a pillar, or rock, in the latter, perhaps a relic of the óenach, if not the Fál itself. The fair at Oristown was granted Jan. 21st, 1678, to Henry (Barnewell), second Viscount Kingsland. It was held on May 1st (Belltaine) and Sept. 29th, but was afterwards held about twelve days later. As I noted, it can be traced down to Oct. 12th, 1806.
Old Descriptions 1836-1864.
Briefly, to summarise O’Donovan’s notes on the ground: he found the Dindgna Taillteann, or great Ring, called Cnocán a chrainn, and used as a warren. It was also called “Rath Martinraw,” for the fairies carried a man named Martin into it. He also notes the Luganeany, where the marriages had been celebrated, the old paved sunken way called “Cromwell’s Road,” and a heap of stones at its western end called “Cros Bunamucraide,” a reputed grave of a Christian warrior Art. The “blind lochs” were reputedly for aquatic sports, and had been dug by the Firbolgs. At Donaghpatrick a number of people with a piper and whiskey went down a subterranean passage; the music was heard under the church, “the rest is silence” — no one returned. He sneers at Jocelin’s story of St. Patrick cursing the river Selen, and says the Blackwater abounds in fish.
Sir Wilham Wilde, besides his account of the “marriages,” tells, in 1849, how the soul of Leogaire, the High King, was put by St. Patrick into a hole near the Blackwater called “the short road to Hell”; thence arose a huge serpent with a long mane, “the old King of the Black Rath,” scaring some men who cut peat in the marshy hollow. He tells a rather conventional story of Leogaire sending a savage bull to kill the saint. It is eaten by Patrick’s workmen and the saint, when the wicked king comes to enjoy his triumph, wraps the bones in the hide and throws it into the Blackwater, when the beast comes to life and swims across to the King.
Eugene Conwell was misled, in 1864, by Fergusson’s unsupported conjecture that Tailltiu was at Loch Crew Cairns. Still he notes the remains at Telltown — the Rath Dubh, the three artificial lakes, the “parallel” mounds known as the “Knockans,” and “the Vale of Marriage,” the Knockans being “the Hill of Separation,” where contracted couples could separate by standing back to back and walking away. This was, however, told of Rathduff in 1836.
I need do very little beyond enumerating the remains. They are (1) the Rath Dubh. It is a raised, nearly circular platform, once with a ring, fosse, and outer ring. The last
The remains at Donaghpatrick are so close to those in Oristown, and their tradition so closely connected, that they may be included in this survey.
(11) A fine earthwork; I at first regarded it as residential, but from its plan resembling Skeirk and other mounds evidently sepulchral and ceremonial, it is probably a Síd mound. The eastern part has been barbarously levelled and the whole planted with trees and laurels, now almost impenetrable. The Tripartite Life names a rath, or curia, near the church; Jocelin calls it an arx, and the Register of the Abbey of St. Thomas in Dublin, in the early thirteenth century, calls it curia. Seven prisoners were “crucified” at “the violation of Domnach Phadruig” in a.d. 745; it is unlikely that these were of the clerical establishment. It has a rounded mound about 20′ higher than the main fosse to the north. A shallow, curved fosse separates this from a crescent-shaped platform between 140′ to 150′ across, but its east side is levelled. It was fairly clear in 1899 when I planned it, but is too overgrown to re-examine. It rises usually 11′ over the main fosse. There are three deep fosses, the depths are — the inner 10′ to 11′, the next 13′ to 15′, and the outer 6′ to 8′. The rings between, rising to the same heights, are 27′ to 30′ thick below and 6′ to 9′ on top. The outer is 6′ over the field. The whole measures about 400′ over all N. and S.
(12) The church, as we know from the Lives, was built in a fort. The south section of this is well marked — a curved terrace round the modern church. At its foot lie some large rude blocks. On its platform we find (13) A pillar stone 6′ 4″ high by 16″ by 13″; on the north side is a deep slit 4″ long. It has no tradition. (14) A stone with a reveal 3″ by 4″; it measures 30″ by 25″ by 10″, and resembles the slabs at Slane, Co. Meath, and elsewhere, forming “bone boxes” or late, angular cists, with two slab covers and end pieces. (15) Another slab, nearly buried, is seen south of the church, and is probably that noted by Wilde as of the “Slane type.” There are also an old font and a Plunkett tombstone dated 1575.
(16) There are no remains of the ancient church of Telltown. It was dedicated to St. Catherine and lay in an unfenced little burial spot near the modern house of the name.
The importance of the primitive religion and ceremonies of the Celts is getting widely recognized. Ireland preserved these almost untouched by the culture of Rome and but little modified even by Christianity. She alone had the good fortune to preserve a large mass of the tradition of her pre-Christian past, and is rich in the remains to which these traditions refer with such wonderful topographical accuracy. In calling attention to the very curious fact that rites, commemorating the marriage of two great Celtic gods with the personified Ireland, subsisted till a few generations past, I hope the limitations and faults of this paper may be forgiven. It illustrates the marvellous vitality of ancestral religion and observance, which survived for thirteen centuries in face of Christianity, and for six centuries from the Norman conquest resisted the efforts of different laws and a hostile civilization.
[The illustrations of this article have been kindly supplied by the Author. — Ed.].
- So many are actual gods outside of Ireland, with identical epithets and legends similar to what the Irish told of the Tuatha Dé. I use the conventional term “Milesian” for the fair race with red or yellow hair and blue or green eyes, as contrasted with the dark Ernai and Firbolg.
- Two races of gods divide the Síd mounds (Silva Gadelica, S. H. O’Grady, ii. p. 116; R.I.Acad. MS. Series, i. p. 46). We have Fomorian and Damnonian, gods like Bress; Cruthnian gods, like Etherun, at Tara; Ernean gods, like “Ailill Erann god of the diabul gaī” (New Ireland Review, xxvi. p. 133), or Deda (Proc. R.I.Acad, xxxiv. p. 159); animal gods like “Tore Triagh,” the holy boar of the Torcraige tribe, cf. Twrch Trwyth (see Book of Leinster, f 9b), and the Donn Bull (Gaulish Donnotaurus), Banba the pig, and the steeds of Cuchulaind and the cat-headed god of Cairbre Chinnchait (Coir Anmann, Irische Texte, iii. p. 385).
- Tirechan’s annotations (a.d. 656) in Tripartite Life of St. Patrick (ed. Whitley Stokes, ii. p. 315). Hymn of Fiacc, “the tribes lay in darkness and worshipped the side” (ibid).
- I refer to the catching of the marvellous salmon for Eogan, “foster son of Nuada,” as told in the “Battle of Magh Leana” and the “Tochmarch Momera”; the votive wolves in the temple of Nudens, his successor Bress was “wolfman”; the Welsh and Spanish assertion of Lug’s interest in shoemaking; the carrying of the image of Brigendo (see Gregory of Tours) round harvest fields and of those of Brigid in Ireland till at least 1850; the identification of Neto with Mars by the Aquitani and his position as war god in Ireland. Had we the hymn to Brigendo named in the inscription at Beaune (“Celtic Inscrip. France and Italy,” Rhys, Brit. Acad. 1905) we might have parallels to Irish myths as in Caesar’s “inventor of all the arts.” If “Lougos” in Gaulish meant “raven,” we see in the ravens of Lugdunum Covenarum and Lyons (on its coinage) and his raven spies on the Fomore in Irish myth another parallel. The name Lugbrann is perhaps another evidence for the Lug-raven.
- Holder. “Alt Celtische Sprachzatch,” under Lugdunum.
- British Academy, 1910, p. 254, see also Hogan’s “Onomasticon Goedelicum,” s.v.
- Irische Texte, iii. p. 277, from Acallamh. We have a “Loga” on an ogham.
- Like Delbaoth the fire god and Cian, probably Lug’s father (see Coir Anmann, Irische Texte, iii. p. 359). I find, however, that St. Iarlath’s father is called “Lug” in some documents, though usually “Iren.”
- De Bello Gallico, vi. 17: Hibbert Lectures (Rhys), iv. pp. 2-6; Irish Nennius, p. 46; “Children of Tuireann,” Atlantis, iv. p. 161; Metrical Dind Senchas, ed. E. Gwynn; Todd Lecture Series, R.I. Acad. x. p. 51; Harleian MS. 5280; Irish Mythological Cycle (De Jubainville, ed. Best, pp. 98, 100).
- Mommsen, “Corp. Inscr. Lat.” ii. No. 2818; Triads, i. 79.
- Revue Celtique, xii. p. 99.
- The “prison,” Trans. R.I.Acad. xxx. p. 81, Rath nahEchraide, the fort of said steeds (Agallamh, Irische Texte, iii. p. 230).
- Rev. Celt. xxv. p. 29; Mesca Ulad, p. 17; Silva Gadelica, ii. p. 161.
- Rev. Celt. xxvi. p. 29; see Metr. Dind. S. x. p. 199 and cf. p. 271. For a “horse rod,” cut from a sacred tree, see Manners and Customs of the Ancient Irish, Introd. pp. lxxix. cf. p. clxiv.
- Dumias and Vassocaletus supersede the personal name Lougus in Gaul. Boand and Sinann probably that of the goddess Segais in Ireland. For the last, see Metrical Dind. S. x. p. 37; Erin, vii. p. 21, viii. 216. Segais is evidently the true name, cf. the Gaulish god-names, Segomo, Segisama, also Segontius, Segovici and Segomar, and the Irish mountain Segais.
- The human sacrifices there are notable; see Tertullian and Rev. Historique, xxxv. p. 255. For the image, see Pliny, Nat. Hist. xxxv. 18.
- See M. Loth’s “Le Dieu Lug,” Rev. Archéol. xxiv. (ii.) pp. 205-230.
- Agallamh (Silva Gad. ii. p. 169) and Ann. Four Masters, A M 3370; Rev. Celt. xvi. p. 71.
- Oengus mac Umoir and other members of it are at times said to be of the Tuatha Dé, while the other children of Umor, Eriu, Maistiu, Cimb and Adair, have often divine features. Maistiu is sister of Oengus mac Umoir and embroideress to Oengus of the Brugh in variant myths; she, Adair and Oengus are connected with great forts and mounds.
- “The Lay of Carn Chonoill” (attributed to King Brian’s poet, MacLiac, circa, a.d. 1000), Metrical Dind. S. x. p. 41. The Resent Umoir and Mac Umoir were non-Milesian tribes (see List of the Ailech Tuatha, Revue Celtique, xx. p. 330).
- Trans. J. Dunn, p. 303. The strange name “Diabul Ard” is a place, like “Diabul Muscraige” (Onomasticon Goedelicum, p. 344).
- Táin, p. 293-5.
- “Rennes Dind. S.” Rev. Celt. xvi. p. 51, there called “Dun na n Giall.”
- Also called Balor’s Hill (“Fate of Children of Tuireann,” Atlantis, iv. p. 16). Martin tells how “Bel” was reverenced in the Scottish Islands (Western Islands, 1716, p. 105). “Sanas Chormaic” says he is “an idol god.” His sacred fire at Belltaine was restored at Uisnech by Tuathal Techtmhar.
- “Hibbert Lect.” iv. p. 90, also p. 319; also De Jubainville’s Irish Myth. Cycle, pp. 126-9.
- Urard Mac Coisi’s poem calls Lug “Son of the Dagda” (Irish Myth. Cycle, p. 98); for Poem of Mosaulum see ed. Kuno Meyer, Todd Lee. Ser. R.I.Acad, xvi. p. 29. For the pedigrees, see “Miscellany of the Celtic Soc.” (Corca Laidhe, p. 57), “The Battle of Magh Leana” (Ossianic Soc.) and Proc. R.I.Acad, xxxiv. p. 129 and pp. 143-9. The earliest (Laud tract) is of the seventh century.
- “Rennes Dind. Senchas,” Rev. Celt. xv. p. 317.
- The clearing of forests by the Irish chiefs is frequently mentioned in the sagas and euhemerist annals, in some cases it seems connected with the gods. One recalls Hesus cutting the tree in the well-known Gaulish example. Eogabal, Aine and the deities used to clear Knockainey Hill on Samhain Eve and their enemy Oilioll Aulom cleared the plain round the ridge (“Yew of the Son of Adversity,” ed. Dr. Douglas Hyde, Celt. Review, 1918, p. 10). See also “Zeus, Jupiter and the Oak” (Classical Rev. xvii. p. 182, A. Bernard Cook) for clans privileged to cut trees. Hesus, like Lug, was “Mercury.”
- Rev. Celt. xvi. p. 51.
- Sauas Chormaic, ed. W. Stokes, p. 99, and Leabhar Gabhala, ed. R. A. S. Macalister and J. MacNeill, i. p. 151. In nearly all our sources the founder of Lugnasad is Lug, son of Edlenn or Ethniu.
- “Balder the Beautiful,” ed. 1913, i. p. 220.
- G. Petrie, “Round Towers,” p. 101. Trans. R.I.Acad, xxx. p. 80, from Leabor na h Uidre, also glosses in last (Archiv für Celt. Lexicog. i. p. 19) and (Revue Celt. xv, p. 293) Cinaed ua Articain’s poem, a.d. 973.
- i. p. 151.
- Book of Leacan, f. 200 b 35 (Cuan O Lochain, a.d. 1050), and Rhys, British Acad. 1910, p. 229.
- Lis Loga, see “Manuscript Materials of Irish History,” p. 478, and Lis Luigdech (Leab. Gabhala) in MSS. R.I.Acad. 23 k 22, also “Wars of the Gaedhil with the Gaill,” ed. Todd, p. 121.
- So Bui the goddess of Beare Island and the peninsula of Dunboy “is Bui, Baei and Baoi.”
- Metr. Dind S. x. p. 51.
- Annals of the Four Masters, a.d. 861.
- Leab. Gabh. i. pp. 155-167.
- I have carefully examined the identity of Nuada, under his various epithets, in Proc. R.I.Acad, xxxiv. (c) pp. 443 sqq.; North Muuster Archaeol. Soc. iv. pp. 130, 171; see also Rhys, in British Academy, 1909, p. 256. Nudd is said to mean “harvest” or “plenty.”
- Folk-Lore, xvii. p. 42.
- “Roman Antiquities in Lydney Park” (Bathurst, 1879), plate xiii.
- Coir Anm. p. 295. Could the British gods Segomo and Nuada have come in with the Brigantes who were settled on S. E. coast of Ireland on Ptolemy’s map? There we find the Dergthene, “Maqi mucoi Netta Segamonas,” in the ogham monumental inscriptions, and in earliest Munster legend, their traditional pedigree marking their veneration for Net (Mog Neit), Nuada (Mog Nuadat), Lug (“mucoi Luga” ogham at Dromore, Waterford) and Segomo (Nia Segamain).
- “Rennes Dind S.” Rev. Celt. xvi. p. 51.
- Sanas Chormaic, p. 99; Coir Anm. p. 326, p. 127.
- The Dagda was an “Earth god” (? mound god) of the Tuatha Dé,” Coir Anm. p. 331, Cormac’s Glossary, ed. Whitley Stokes; see also “First Battle of Magh Tured,” Eriu, viii. p. 17. He is “the god of wizardry of the Tuatha Dé,” Eriu, vii. p. 17, Coir Anm. p. 355. The “Dagda’s Stone” was a wonder of Ireland (Irish Triads, ed. Meyer Todd, Lect. Ser. xiii. p. 33). It was in Connacht; another “Dagda’s Stone” is still at Ardmore and was an object of “aphrodisiac rites.”
- Oengus mac ind oc was son of the Dagda and Boand, the sister of Elemair. They, like Lug, had mounds in Brugh. Rhys wavers, Hib. Lect. iv. p. 414, Brit. Acad. 1909, p. 238. I incline to his former view that Lug mac Ethlenn and Lug Scimaig are a “doublet.” He thinks from the stone Fál remaining at Tailltiu that Tara had lost power and that the Ultonians had retired to its rival; they lost Emania in a.d. 330. He regards Fál as a light-god (Hib. Lect. p. 201, also see pp. 123-5 and Coir Anm. p. 32).
- Brit. Acad. 1910, pp. 292.
- The “Roth Rannach” wheel was “Roth Fail,” see Hib. Lect. iv. pp.208 211. Rhys regards Nuada Finn Fail as “Fál,” “Cromm Cruaich” and Lug. Cromm Dubh was a harvest bringer in Co. Limerick folklore, and very probably an eqivalent of Lug (like Cenn Cruaich and Cromm Cruaich), under a libellous Christian nickname “the black crooked one.”
- “Ferp” stood at the head of the chariot course of the Óenach of Temair (L. Gwynn, Eriu, vi pp. 138-9, see Coir Anm. p. 357, No. 154). For Bod Feargusa, see “Tara Hill,” p. 159, also Prof. Macalister’s “Temair Breg.” Proc. R.I.Acad. xxxiv. p. 339 sqq. He rejects any phallic theory.
- Three Ir. Gloss. p. 35. The refuse from the feast was thrown on the plain and made the mound “Taillne” whence Tailltiu (ibid. p.99).
- Probably his stewards collected them (Leabhar na g Ceart, p. 243).
- See “Temair Breg,” pp. 324-5, also Encyc. Relig. and Ethics, vi. pp. 168-9. The Tara harvest seems to have been affected by the king’s legal position and marriage.
- See study of “Fál” in “Temair Breg,” also “Leab. Gabh.” i. p. 145 and “Manuscript Materials,” pp. 620-1.
- Hib. Lect. iv. p. 567, for “a stone of worship,” see Ancient Laws of Ireland, iv. p. 143; there was pillar worship at Clogher, Tyrone, and at Magh Slecht.
- So St. Patrick expelled a demon visibly out of a “holy” stone, and St. Mello at Rouen drove the demon Seragon from the image of Roth.
- Rev. Celt, xxiii. p. 307.
- p. 293. Fál may be, as Rhys conjectures, an old word for a pillar.
- “Traces of the Elder Faiths in Ireland” (Wood Martin), i. pp. 315, 321; ii. pp. 237-247. For Dolmens, see Borlase, “Dolmens of Ireland,” 482, 555; Hely Dutton, “Statistical Survey Co. Clare,” Folk-Lore, xxii. pp. 51, 52; Celtic Review, x. p. 263. I am not free to tell a cofirmatory example known to me. For Basin Stone, R. R. Brash on the “Dagda’s Stone” (Ir. Ecclesiastical Archt. p. 119; Roy. Soc. Antt. Ir. xxxiii. pp. 375-377. The “Dagda’s Stone” named in the Irish Traids was in Connacht (Todd Lec. Ser. xiii. p. 33).
- Metr. Dind S. x. pp. 11-19, from a poem of Flan (circa 1050), long after the Óenach of Tailltiu had died out of annual usage.
- Indeed, so are they all upon the earthworks of Tara.
- “Ordnance Survey Letters,” Co. Meath (MSS. R.I.Acad. 14 E. 23), pp. 35-38, pp. 58-60, also his notes in “Leabhar na g Ceart,” p. 243, and Ann. Four Masters.
- “The Beauties of the Boyne and Blackwater,” pp. 16-17.
- Anyone who has collated the maps and surveys of 1655 with the Ordnance Survey can attest this.
- Dr. Joyce, “Ir. Names of Places,” ser. ii. chap. vii. p. 142.
- The Letters Patent, “Commission of Grace,” Roll 15, Dublin.
- “Ordnance Survey Letters,” p. 31, “the sports were transferred to Martry.”
- Like the “Droghedy Dance” and “the raising of the mast” or “rigging of the ship,” as I heard it called by one who had heard it described (some fifty years ago) by a former participant in the sport.
- Yet immoral women were to be burned, Anc. Laws, v. p. 144, see also Encyc. Relig. v. p. 456.
- See for these cases — Fiacha, Irische Texte, iii. p. 332; Cairbre Musc, Silva Gad. ii. p. 535; Children of Finn, Ir. Texte, iii. p. 277; Cathaoir Mór, B. of Leinster, f. 23, Leab na g Ceart, p. 199; Mac Lugach, Ir. Texte, iii. p. 227; Cormac, ibid. p. 424, n; Clothra, Keating, ii. p. 223; Ness, Rev. Celt. xvi. p. 149, Keating, ii. p. 215; Bresal, Metr. Dind S. x. p. 45; Senan’s Mother, “Lives of the Saints, Book of Lismore,” p. 275; Caesar, D.B.G. V. xiv.; Strabo, ed. Didot. 167, xix. Duben (in various stages of the legend) is apparently mother, sister, daughter and (when the bowdlerizer triumphed) sun of Cairbre!
- See Prof. Ridgeway, Brit. Acad. 1905, p. 136, citing Benedict, i. p. 28. See also Giraldus, v. p. 138.
- Silva Gad. ii. pp. 77-78.
- Ancient Laws, ii. pp. 78, 84, 271, 383, 391; Book of Aicill, ii. p. 24.
- Encyc. Relig. and Ethics, v. p. 462.
- Theiner, “Vetera Monumenta Hib. et Scot.” p. 269.
- (Sir) S. Ferguson in Proc. R.I.Acad. i. ser. ii. (1870), p. 267. I owe the correction to the kindness of Prof. E. Gwynn, F.T.C.D.,and Prof. Bergin. “Fogla,” a legal term for “havoc,” was read “fola” (blood).
- For these standard cases, see Emania, Three Ir. Gloss. p. 70; Tara, “Echtra Airt,” Eriu, iii. pp. 149, 155 Echtge, Rennes Dind S. Rev. Celt. xv. p. 458; Dun Fidne, “Life of St. Cellach,” Silva Gadelica, ii. pp. 169-170. Man sentenced to death by the king of a Sid mound (i.e. a god or demi-god), Bruden Da Derga, Rev. Celt. xxii. p. 368; see also article on human sacrifice, in Eriu, ii. p. 86. Compare the boy sacrificed at Dun Enirys in Nennius, ed. Stephenson, p. 31, and Irish Nennius, ed. O’Donovan, p. 93. Prof. MacNeill thinks the rile died out ante 430.
- Social Hist. of Ancient Ir. i. pp. 239, 252; Irish Names of Places, ser. ii. chap. xiv. It is based, most uncritically, on the mere silence of the Annals and late Lives.
- “Fate of Children of Tuireann” Atlantis, iv. p. 161.
- App. to Tripartite Life of St. Patrick, ed. Stokes, p. 374.
- Prof. MacNeill’s interesting study is in New Ireland Rev. xxv. p. 5, xxvi. pp. 8, 131. There is much evidence that the beginning of historic tradition and genealogies and the first “draft” of the Tain bo Cualnge date from the close of the first century. The tradition that Emania fort dates from the fourth century b.c. seems confirmed by several La Tene brooches of that period found in its ambit. See also Celtic Review, iii. p. 65, and Brit. Acad. 1905, p. 135.
- Probably a polemical version of some old war tale of the gods. The attack of the Athenians on the Tuatha Dé! in the time of Bress (Metr. Dind S. x. p. 5), and the extermination of the god race by the Fiana (Feis tighe Chonaiu) seem of similar design.
- Tain bo Cualnge, in an outlook from a hill, a favourite custom of the hero.
- Ibid. pp. 293-5 ; Legend of Goll, Rev. Celt. xiv. p. 401.
- Leabhar na g Ceart, p. 209.
- Manuscript Materials, p. 287.
- Book of Armagh, f. 10 a 2.
- Tripart. Life, p. 464 n.
- Belltaine, in Cormac’s Glossary, p. 19, is defined as “lucky fire, two fires, which the druids make with great incantations. . . . They used to drive cattle between them.” I have seen this done in Co. Limerick about 1871-4 and passed through and over the fires myself.
- Silva Gad. ii. pp. 78-89.
- v. p. 475.
- Silva Gad. ii. p. 453; Irish Nennius, p. 207; Four Masters, under a.d. 539, and Keating, iii. p. 52.
- Compare Lir’s fatal accident from a flying machine, the visit to a submerged island in a diving dress (Squires’ Myth. Brit. Isles, 2nd ed. p. 103); the aerial paddle ship raining down fire and death; the slaying men by poison gas (Duannire Finn, p. 136); the blowing up of Slane cross and the flask that kept warm drinks hot and cool drinks cold, and we see that Celtic imagination only lacked practical invention to forestall the most recent discoveries.
- Those of Ulster, Clonmacnoise and Four Masters.
- Tripartite Life, evidently the tale of the promise was earlier than 716.
- Fighting at an Óenach was strictly forbidden (Anc. Laws, i. p. 233); and at the Feis of Tara (Metr. Dind S. x. p. 713).
- ^ From Slane: strange to say a small fragment of a Celtic cross remains there (R. Soc. Ant. Ir. xxxi. pp. 421-4); see also Irish Nennius, p. 215.
- It was held by every monarch of Ireland from 1500 b.c. to the “Dubh Oenach” of Donchad, son of Flann, son of Mael-Sechlainn (a.d. 918-942); see Dind S. (Rev. Celt. xvi. p. 51).
- Ancient Laws, v. p. 477, a penally of five “seds,” like the double tine for going over the “mur” (enclosure) of a church or the gate of a fort (“dun”).
- Silva Gadelica, ii. p. 256, but not in the same in Irische Texte, iii. p. 234.
- Leabar na g Ceart, pp. 137-143
- “Duanaire Finn” (Irisk Texts Soc.), ed. MacNeill, pp. 133-4. Finn was fifth in descent from Nuada, so closely connected with the place.
- Reg. S. Mary’s Ab. No. 16, p. 199.
- Inq. Exchequer, Hen. VIII. No. 45.
- “Rathmore and its Traditions,” M.E.M. (Trim. 1880), p. 11.
- Fiants, Eliz. No. 1720.
- Also see Book of Distribution and Survey, p. 85 (in Dublin Record Office). The lands were occupied by the Plunketts and Barnewells and passed to Col. D. Redmond and James Duke of York.
- Comm. of Grace, roll 15, pars. 1. I have to thank Dr. M‘Garry for finding it for me. Roll. 8, Car. II, an. xix. No. 6, dorso, mentions Oristown in Kells.
- Or Tulach an Coibche, “mound of the buying,” at Óenach Taillte (Three Ir. Gloss, p. 48).
- He adds that St. Patrick banished the ghost of King Laogaire into the Dubh Loch.
- Probably based on the early name of the stream, “Bo Guaire,” as the Boyne was “Bo find” (Metr. Dind. S. x. pp. 33-5 and note p. 481).
- Proc. R.I.Acad. v.. ser. i. pp. 170-355, and i. ser. ii (xv. consec.) p. 72. Despite his bias he gives all the facts most candidly.
- Rude Stone Monuments of All Countries (1872), p. 199. So careless are the author’s other statements that he says that Ireland has only a few standing solitary dolmens (p. 224), and endorses the absurd theory of the sixth century dolmen at Ballina Mayo (p. 233).
- These should be excavated, as the Celts threw votive offerings into such sacred waters as the ponds of Tolosse, and the many fine objects found just below the shore at Loch Gur, Co. Limerick, seem to attest a similar practice in Ireland.
- Like Killowen, Co. Wexford (R. Soc. Ant. Ir. xlviii. pp. 8 and 13).
- “Men sit on the dyke of the fort” at the Rath of Incantations (Irische Texte, iv. No. 1).
- There are conjoined mounds in the óenach groups of Tara, Monasteranenagh, Óenach Culi and Temair Erann. The “mote” at Navan has a crescent annexe and is perhaps ceremonial like the fort near Lismore, Co. Waterford.
- Tripart. Life, i. p. 68, ii. pp. 464-5 and 284. In return for the grant he dug a fort for Crimthann opposite the door, i.e. to the west (for “his vessels lay in the east” of his churches). The circular plantation to the west of the church may follow the lines of the older rath, but 1 found no certain trace there.
- Kilchorna, Aranmore; Kilnacananagh, Inishere; Termon Cronain, Co. Clare; and Killabuonia, Co. Kerry.
- Beauties of the Boyne and Blackwater, p. 181; see also R. Soc. Antt. Ir. xxxi. p. 418.
- It is strange that no church site was on the actual Óenach fields. We read how “a trench for a church was marked in the name of the Lord of the elements for the first time” at Brugh in a.d. 499, and St. Brigid’s wicker church was at a sacred grove and fire shrine and near the mounds of a cemetery and óenach on the Curragh of Kildare.
- So the rites of the harvest goddess Aine survived with portions of her legend (as known from 890 down) till after 1879 in modified form to our time (Proc. R.I.Acad, xxxiv. p. 59).
- I would refer to the monograph of Prof. Macalister, “Temair Breg” (on Tara) in Proc. R.I.Acad, xxxiv. pp. 231-399; to the paper by Mr. G. H. Orpen on Carman (R. Soc. Antt. Ir. xxvi. pp. 11-41); to others on the great Munster Sanctuary-Assemblies of Temair Erann, Knockainey, Oenach Chuli and Oenach Cairbre in same journal, xlviii. p. 111 and xiix. p. 1; and those on the same in Proc. R.I.Acad, xxxiv. p 47, p. 127; xxxv. p. 363.
- Bardic conferences were held at Bruree, Co. Limerick, till 1746, and Dunaha, Co. Clare, till after 1820; I have recorded the succession of the last from the ancient bardic families (Mac Curtin, etc.) of Corcomroe (North Munster Archaeol. Soc. ii.). The sports at the inauguration place of the Dal Cais (Oenach Maig Adair, Co. Clare) lasted at least till 1845.