Translated into English by Seán Ó Duinn
Electronic edition compiled and proofed by Beatrix Färber, Ivonn Devine Nagai
Funded by University College Cork, School of History
1. First draft, revised and corrected.
Extent of text: 22665 words
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The English translation is copyrighted to Seán Ó Duinn and is here reproduced in electronic form with his kind permission.
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The English translation is based on the French translation in Revue Celtique and follows it in text segmentation, as far as this has been possible. 'Rhetorics' were for the most part left untranslated. A French translation and the Middle Irish are, or will be made, available in separate files.
Text has been proof-read twice.
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Created: Translation by Seán Ó Duinn (1992)
Beatrix Färber, Ivonn Devine, (ed.)
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Two freemen there were in Ireland; of noble stock were they and it is of these two our tale will tell. They were none other than Fiacha Moilleathan Mac Eoin who was the pupil of Mogh Roith, and Cormac Mac Airt, son of Conn. It was on the same day that their fathers were killed at the Battle of Mucraimhe. It was on the same day also that they were conceived on the Tuesday before their fathers went off to fight in the Battle of Mucraimhe. Therefore, they were born on the same Tuesday seven months after the Tuesday of their conception -a space of seven months.
Cormac became King of Ireland and reigned for a long period. Fiacha, too, became King of Munster.
Everybody was bent on describing to Cormac the house of Aonghus an Mac Óg. Nothing of this is true, said Cormac. Why not? said they. If it were true, said Cormac, I would not be here all alone in my house of Wisdom-Studies as I usually am without a visit from somebody from Aonghus' house or indeed from Aonghus himself. For Cormac was accustomed to be in his secret chamber giving judgments, for he himself was judge as well as king. It was Cormac himself and Cairbre Lifeachair and Fithil who were the first to draw up the correct procedures in matters of law and tradition.
All of this became known to Aonghus and he collected all his knowledge and wisdom together for it was revealed to him that it was of this that Cormac wished to question him. On a certain day he appeared in Cormac's house but nothing indicated that he was other than one of Cormac's ordinary mercenaries and he sat in the part of the house furthest removed from Cormac.
However, as every prince is a prophet, Cormac inquired of him: Are you the man we were seeking? I am indeed, said Aonghus, and why were you seeking me? Because I wanted to ask you about my future, that is, if you have knowledge of it. I have knowledge of it, said Aonghus. Will disaster overtake me? said Cormac.
p.15It will, said Aonghus, but you have been given a choice. Which do you prefer the disaster to occur at the beginning, in the middle or at the end of your reign? Give me prosperity at the beginning and end of my reign and when I am at the high point of my career at middle age let misfortune fall. What is it anyway? A cattle disease will occur in your time and you will search in vain for a cow throughout Finn and Leinster and the seven tribes of Tara and throughout your own territories. Why will this happen to me? said Cormac. I will not tell you that, said Aonghus, but I will tell you this one thing; be guided by your own decision and do not accept the advice of a woman, or a slave, or a steward. With that, Aonghus said goodbye to Cormac and returned to Brú na Bóinne.
Cormac recited this poem in which he described the young man to his people:
- There appeared to me on the mound of Tara
a beautiful, colourful young man.
Surpassing his beauty, handsome in appearance,
his garments embroidered with gold.
- In his hand he held a silver tympan,
its strings of red gold:
sweeter than any music under heaven
the sound of those strings.
- A bow of hide, making a hundred sounds of sweet melody,
over it were two birds.
And these birds were able to play the tympan
(and not incompetently either).
- He sat close to me in friendly fashion
as he played the tympan to inebriate my spirit.
- I make a true and upright prophecy
so that it is right to listen to it.
Whether you like it or not,
everything he has prophesied will come to pass.
- This is what has made me impatient with every other type of company;
so brief his visit,
p.13sorrowful for me his leaving.
Joyful for me the period of his appearance.
Cormac continued to govern his kingdom until the cattle disease struck. Cunning as he was, he failed to heed its advance until it had arrived. Fate had decreed that this would be the turning point in his reign.
Cormac received the rents due to him that year from every province of the five provinces of Ireland, and this amounted to 180 cows from each of the provinces. Cormac divided these among the seven chief districts of Tara as the cattle disease had decimated their herds and Cormac was not one to withhold generosity.
When Cormac had completed his distribution of the cows his steward Maine Míbhriathrach, son of Mídhua, arrived.
p.17O Cormac, said he, have you distributed the cows? I have, said Cormac. I don't know what to do then, said the steward, I haven't sufficient provisions for one night's entertainment in Tara. And the reason for this is that all the herds have died. This news upset Cormac and he said: What were you thinking of, steward? Why didn't you tell me this while I had something to give, while I still had my rents, for now I have nothing to give you and I do not wish to inflict injustice on anyone. As I have already received my tribute for this year I will have nothing until next year's tribute is due.
After this exchange Cormac retired to his study and pursued wisdom all alone without visitors except for those who brought him food. And he remained there for three days and three nights.
The steward then set about obtaining revenue for the king in such a way that no injustice would accrue to anybody. And his endeavours bore fruit. Cormac, said he, is what I have said to you is the cause of your gloom? It is, said Cormac. I have found a means of revenue for you, said he, and in my opinion, you yourself will recognise the legitimacy of it. What is it, then? said Cormac. Have you made a study of the divisions of Ireland, said Maine. I have not, said Cormac. Well, I have said Maine, and I have discovered that there are five provinces in Ireland and that two of these provinces are in Munster. Now, since you took over the kingship you have drawn taxes from only one of these provinces. Moreover, it was one of these same Munstermen that killed your father in the Battle of Ma Mucraimhe Mac Con, Mac Maicnia, Mac Luigdeach and you must get compensation from Fiacha for Fiacha is this man's brother and it is he who has succeeded to the throne of Munster. My sincere thanks, said Cormac, that is certainly lawful. Cormac was overjoyed at this turn of events and full of pride. It was as if he had been banished from Ireland and again recalled, such was the extent of the joy that overcame him.
Cormac summoned the chiefs and princes of Leath Choinn (the northern part of Ireland) to assemble in council and he informed them of the steward's plan. They expressed their gratitude to the steward for this stratagem.
p.19Having consulted his troops Cormac informed them that he would not rest content until he had pitched his tent in Munster. Do nothing, said they, except to send messengers to Munster to ask for the tribute and payment for damages 50 cows and silver drinking horns and the provincial tax and all this is quite legal and not illegal and they will not reject the claim.
Cormac sent his horsemen Taireach Turasach and Bearra an Aistir south to Fiacha. And Cormac told the messengers: If they oppose you tell them that even though no king has ever demanded the tax from them I will remit nothing from what they owe me since I took up the office of kingship.
They journeyed southwards then until they reached the royal fort which today bears the name of Cnoc Rafann. The king of Ireland's ambassadors received a welcome and they proceeded to deliver their message. Cormac, said they, has sent us to collect what is due from you to him. What is that? said the Munstermen. Twice nine twenties of cows (360) from each province is the tribute to be paid once and you have paid only half this amount since he became king. And indeed, it is essential to him to collect it as a cattle disease has hit the seven tribal territories and the chief strongholds of Tara. Moreover, it was you, Munstermen, that killed his father and for this you owe him compensation.
Fiacha informed the Men of Munster of this matter. The Men of Munster said that they would not pay the tribute. However they said, as it is through necessity that he has come, we will make a donation of a cow from every farm to assist him in his need. But as our own fathers have never imposed such an obligation on us, we in our turn, have no intention of imposing any obligation to pay tribute to Cormac on our sons. Enquire of Cormac if it is he himself who has demanded such a heavy tribute from us.
After that, Fiacha's messengers Cuilleann, Cosluath and Leathrinne Leabhar set out on their journey northwards and having arrived at Cormac's house they asked him: Is it really from you that the messengers purporting to carry your instructions come? It is from me, Cormac said. If it be from you, then, said they, a cow from each farm in Munster will be donated to you to oblige you but this must not serve as a precedent. I much prefer, said Cormac, that my rights be upheld than receive a single large donation.
p.21Cormac sent his messengers back southwards to Munster to demand the tribute.
The Men of Munster were again summoned to council by Fiacha who said to them: Take a decision on this matter and having said this he retired leaving them to their deliberations.
They then proceeded to arrive at an honourable decision: If it should happen that each of the nobles among them were reduced to the condition of having only the milk of a single cow and having had to kill her and so be left without food and then having to endure all kinds of privations and if the payment of the tribute would suffice to procure peace even then they would not submit. They came then to the place where Fiacha awaited them. What is your decision? he asked. It is this, said they. Bless you, said he, if you had submitted I would have distanced myself from you and further discussion of the matter.
His messengers departed then for their meeting with Cormac. As for the Men of Munster, they sent off their womenfolk and children, their herds and their belongings to the islands and places of refuge within the province and the nobles and those capable of bearing arms assembled around Fiacha at Ceann Chlaire.
When the horsemen reached Cormac they informed him: No tax for you here; do as you wish in this matter. Cormac was incensed at this response and indeed greatly horrified, as it occurred to him that this was an omen of a great calamity to his reign, since he had made no illegal claim in his role of high king of Ireland.
His chief druids were then summoned to Cormac. These were: Ceathach, Cith Mór, Céacht, Crotha, Cith Rua, and all of them had exercised their function of predicting the future under Conn, Art and Cormac and they had never been found to be at fault. Prepare a prediction for me, said Cormac, find out what will be the outcome of this expedition. We will let you know that, said they, provided we are given the necessary time to examine the omens. The necessary time will be given you, said Cormac.
They embarked then on their secret arts of knowledge and sorcery and it was revealed to them that Cormac's expedition to Munster would prove disastrous to him. What was revealed to you? asked Cormac.
p.23This is what has been revealed to us, said they. We disapprove of your expedition to Munster. Take note that the domination you are seeking to impose on them they are seeking to impose on you.
Tell me, Cith Rua, said Cormac, what has been revealed to you? I cannot prevent you from going, for you have a wife who will encourage you to go; but beware, for evil will result from this trip of yours. This is what has been revealed, said Cith Rua, and he proceeded to recite a poem: [gap: unclear] O Cormac, preserve justice and right ...
What was revealed to you, O Crotha? asked Cormac. I will tell you what has been revealed to me, said Crotha, and he recited the following rhetoric: Act with justice, O Cormac; receive justice, O Cormac; it is not right to act unjustly against freemen.
What was revealed to you, O Ceacht? asked Cormac. You shall hear what was revealed to me, said Ceacht, and he recited the following rhetoric: The territory of Mogh, misfortune on your reaching it.
What was revealed to you, O Ceathach? asked Cormac. I will tell you about it, said Ceathach, ... misfortune will descend on you, O Son of Art, evil the omens ...
What was revealed to you, O Cith Mhór? asked Cormac. You will hear of it, said Cith Mhór. Hear from me O descendant of Conn ...
Cormac hated the druids on account of their opposition to him and he said: I am getting no encouragement from you to undertake this expedition but in the event of your being proved wrong, I won't hold it against you. You have never found us wrong and you never will. they replied. Cormac was making enquiries throughout Ireland seeking evidence of their incompetence but no evidence was forthcoming.
It happened one day that Cormac was out hunting and a hare started up from the north-east of Si Chleithigh. It was here that his hounds began to chase the hare and all Cormac's companions followed on behind, leaving Cormac alone. A dense fog descended and sleep overcame him at the fairy hill. So thick was the dark fog that he thought night had fallen and if the music of the pipes had been played to him he would have slept no sounder than he did, lulled as he was by the baying of the hounds in the surrounding hills.
It was then that he heard a voice above him and this is what it said: Arise, O Cormac, gentle sleeper of Cleitheach.
Cormac rose up then and his tiredness vanished as he saw at his right hand side a radiant white-armed woman. Of all the women in the world she was the most fair. She wore a beautiful tunic and next to her skin a dress of golden thread. She proceeded to make Cormac welcome. Who is it that welcomes me? asked Cormac. I am Báirinn Bhláith Bhairche, daughter of the King of Sí Bhairche in the province of Leinster. I have fallen in love with you, but until this moment I had no opportunity of speaking to you. Actually, I was asleep, said Cormac, until you woke me up. The baying of the hounds made me doze off. Upon my word, said the girl, it is not becoming for a man of your standing to be hunting hares at all. You should be hunting wild boar, or deer, as high kings before you have been wont to do. Hare hunting is only for youths and it snaps their energy.
And then the girl said: Come with me, O Cormac inside the sí (fairy palace) of Cleitheach where my tutor Ulcán Mac Bláir lives and my nurse Maol Mhisceadach, so that I may obtain you as my husband and companion of my bed with their blessing. I will not go, said Cormac, unless I receive a reward.
p.27O Cormac, said she, I know what you are about to ask and I know what is on your mind. You are going to ask for reinforcements to accompany you on your expedition. I will give you a company of druids surpassing those of any of your predecessors and whom no stranger can resist. These are the three daughters of Maol Mhisceadach Eirge, Eang and Eangain. And they will assume the form of three brown sheep with heads of bone and beaks of iron: they are equal in prowess to a hundred warriors. No one can escape from them alive for they have the speed of the swallow and the agility of the weasel, and if the swords and axes of the world were to be directed against them not a hair or joint of theirs would be severed.
As well as these, we have two male druids who will accompany you also. These are Colpa and Lorga, the two sons of Cíochúil Choinbhleachtach. They will kill in single combat all the warriors of which ever province they enter, at least all those who do not flee before them for they are such that no one can injure them with spear or sword-thrust. And as long as they are with you accept nobody's advice but theirs.
Cormac was elated at hearing this and his sadness left him. He followed the fairy queen into the sí and slept with her in one bed and he remained there for three days and three nights, and he was given the promised reinforcements. He then returned to Tara. From this on he paid no further attention to his own druids, nor did he take their advice but paid honour to the strangers and accepted their counsel.
Cormac then summoned a meeting of his people and when he informed them of the help he had received all were overjoyed.
After this, Cormac set out on his march and arrived that night at Comar na gCuan, the place that is known today as Comar Cluana hIoraird. The army set up huts and shelters and established headquarters on this spot.
Cith Rua rose up out of the camp and proceeded to the southwest until he reached the stream. Here he saw a grey-haired warrior of imposing stature, on the other side. This was Fios Mac Athfhis, Mac Fhíoreolais from the territory of Leinster and he was chief druid of this region. They began to converse with each other and Fios asked Cith Rua where Cormac and his troops were encamped. Cith Rua answered him and between them they made up his lay:
- At Cumar na gCuan tonight
the army is encamped
at the instigation
of the children of Maol Mhisceadach.
- Tell me, O gentle Cith Rua,
why has Cormac left Tara?
he was a high king renowned as a sage it is not a normal thing for him to be in a military camp.
- He has come to demand recompense for the killing of Art Mac Coinn
from the descendant of Oileall Ólom.
As well as this, he wants the legitimate provincial tax
which Conn Céadchathach never actually collected.
- Cormac will receive no tribute.
The children of Cíochúil will be acclaimed;
they will destroy the youthful warriors.
- In your speech is a stream of knowledge,
O Athfhis Mac Eolais.
For a month the waves will be red
over the warriors (?)
- Woe to him who enters Munster of the horses,
O True Son of Cró Caogad
- Nothing evil will happen to me
for a month and a quarter and a year
from tonight, until the sage of sages,
Mogh Roith arrives before the youthful troops of Claire.
- Woe to him who attacks
Donn Dáirine of the noble looks
and Faílbhe the man of valour
when they enter the battlefield.
- No better will fare those who oppose Mogh Corb
or Fiacha in the day of pursuit.
Great exploits will these two perform,
the tribute of Cuan Comar will be theirs.1
The druids concluded their conversation and indeed it boded evil for Cormac's people. The servants and horse-boys had, however, overheard the conversation and had reported it to Cormac. Go, said Cormac, and kill one of the druids and beat up the other to within an inch of his life. This was revealed to the druids and they separated one from another. Cith Rua returned to the camp in a disguised form so that he would not be recognised.
The other druid proceeded southwards and three times he directed his face to the army. Through his occult power, he turned on them a magic breath and as a result every man in the crowd took on the appearance of the druid himself. Each man became a grey-haired imposing figure such as the druid himself was.
p.31They had crossed the stream in pursuit of the druid and now they turned on each other and the massacre began. There was pulling out of hair, struggling, giving blow for blow and each one delivering mighty savage strokes on the breast and face of the other for each one believed that it was the druid himself that he was attacking.
When at last the army perceived this, they wondered at the fracas that had taken place among them. An alien throng is fighting against us, they said, or some powerful magic has been used.
The druid turned aside from them then, leaving the army in this state of confusion. It was made known to Cormac, however, that they had been the victims of powerful magic and he ordered his people to be brought to him privately in the camp where he made a savage complaint against the druids in whom he had placed his trust, that is Colpa and his companions. They said, however, that it was not their fault, as it was not they who had given the order to attack. After this, they rose up and directed a magic breath at the army and worked intense magic. As a result of this, each one recovered his own form.
After this, the company was depressed and in low spirits. The men were covered with wounds requiring medical treatment but there were no fatal casualties among them.
Next day, they set out westwards to Beagmha and Coill Mheain and over the south-west of Mí until they reached Áth an tSlua which today is known as Áth na nIarlann. Here they set up huts and shelters and erected their tents.
Their seers set about examining the clouds in the firmament above them. Crotha, however, crossed over the ford to the west and there he saw coming towards him the druid of the neighbouring territory. Fear Fátha was his name. He enquired of Crotha the cause of the tumult and disturbance to the north of the ford and he recited a lay to which Crotha replied:
- As regards that disturbance to the north, at the ford,
O Crotha tell us, if you have the time,
and without turning it into a disagreeable task
tell us who has set up camp there?
- It is Cormac who is there,
O Fear Fátha:
it is he and his troops
who have set up camp there.
- Why have the troops come?
Tell me this, O Crotha, if you consider it right.
Where are they going and why?
- The family of Cíochúil have brought them from the North
as well as the deceitful son of Mídhua
to get compensation for the killing of Art Mac Coinn
from the grandson of Oileall Ólom.
- Woe to him who travels with an overlarge company
to claim compensation that may not be justified
until Fiacha claims compensation from Cormac for the death of his father.
- If the army of Má Rátha hears
you, O Fear Fátha,
the army of hilly Munster will not save you
from a blow.
- Great their numbers,
no less their destruction.
woe to him who approaches them
The druids' conversation came to an end but the horse attendants and the menials had overheard them and they crossed over the stream in pursuit of the druid who was unknown to them and they fully intended to put him to death. When the druid became aware of this he turned to the stream and gave it three blows of the magic wand which he held in his hand so that it rose up in a deluge in front of the crowd. A large number had already gone over to the western side of the stream while another large group was actually in the river. The others pushed back and forth in an effort to rescue them. While all this was going on, the druid slipped away.
From that time on until the same time next day, the crowd stayed around the stream in low spirits. Then the druids resorted to their magic arts and replaced the stream in its original place.
After this, Cormac and his army passed over the stream and proceeded past Dubhchoill which is known as Fiodh Damhaiche today. From this on to Má Leathaird now called Má Tuaiscirt; then on to Crunn-Mhá which is now known as Má Ghabhra; then to Má nUachtair known now as Má Roighne. Then, as the way opened up, they made their way into the Bocaí Báinfhliucha now called Sliabh Eibhlinne and from thence to Formhaol na bhFiann which they reached at sundown at the end of day.
It was here that Céacht began to look at the sky and the firmament above the troops and he proceeded westwards to Dubhghleann which is called Gleann Salach today. There he saw coming towards him another grey-haired, distinguished-looking warrior. This was the druid Art. They both began to converse. A discussion developed between them and they made a lay:
- Why have you come, O Céacht
southwards from Má Sleacht?
Why has this noisy throng arrived here
in Críoch Fhormáile?
- A cattle disease has broken out in Tara.
Alas, it has given rise to great folly.
Seeking a cow to replace every cow that died
is the purpose of our journey from Tara.
- While it was not we who took your cows,
O Family of Conn of noble fame,
we did offer you a cow from every lios (farmstead)
in the territory of Fiacha Fidhlis.
- We prefer our continuous tax system
and compensation for our hero2
to a single donation.
- They will never get a cow
from the Munstermen ...
- If Cairbre an Chláir were to hear
what you said, O Artán,
or if Cormac the stout champion were to hear,
you would be minus your handsome head.
- I care no more for Cairbre or Cormac
than I do for the two charioteers that serve them
while noble Mogh Corb
and Fiacha Moilleathan are alive.
- If Art Corb and his children were to hear you,
there would be a savage outburst at once in the glen
and you would not come out of it alive.
Their hatred of you would last forever.
- Art Corb is no more to me, Man,
than his houseful of women up in the north
while I am in this area
and Donn Dáirine my protector.
- If Ceallach Mac Cormaic were to hear you
or indeed valiant Artúr of the mighty strength,
your fate would be in doubt
and your spells would not save you.
- Great Artúr means no more to me
than his clean, bright, rough servant
while the red hand
of Caoraí Creacha is there.
- If Cuan na Curad were to hear you
comparing them to the men of Munster
you would get a blow in the teeth
and a severe injury.
- If gentle Mumhan
were to hear of a crowd like this inside her territory
there would be faces white with fear,
without herds, without cattle.
- Be quiet and let us conclude this meeting.
It is a foolish matter for discussion.
The army that you support cannot
stand against three provinces.
- In your genuine response there will be no lie,
O Céacht go and tell your armies:
It is an evil journey we have undertaken.
When the army and the company heard this they were enraged. Fiercely and violently they went off in pursuit of the druid westwards over the glen, saying to each other: Death and destruction to the druid.
p.37The druid, however, turned his face to them and placing his confidence in his gods he directed a druidic breath into the sky and the firmament. This formed a dark cloud over the crowd. Then the cloud descended on them making them dazed and bewildered, so that in the confusion, the druid slipped away from them.
After this, they were aggrieved that all the druids had escaped and they decided to send a scout and a searcher before them on the trail of the druid while they themselves would follow on. They spent seven days and seven nights in this camp while large numbers of them searched for the druid. They were unable to return to their house because of the powerful spell the druid had put on them. And, moreover, they were led astray still further, for each morning the druid showed them traces of his whereabouts, leading them up cliffs and through ravines and over fords to afflict them and to separate them from their companies.
Cormac became very fearful, then, as he considered that his army had been overthrown and that they would never again return to him. And he began to berate his own druids saying: What use are you to me since my own people have been killed without previous warning from you and without your coming to their assistance? They have not been killed, at all, said they, a sleep-spell has been placed on them by the druid. This will last a week.
Off they went then, to practise their occult arts and secret knowledge and they counteracted the sleep-spell so that they returned to the camp at the end of the week.
When his people had returned to Cormac he set out once again on his path and expedition. He reached Áth Cuile Feá, which today is known as Áth Croí and set up camp there.
It transpired, then, that Ceathach, went out to examine the sky and the firmament and there he met a man of his own age Dubhfhios Mac Dofhis and each of them asked news of the other. Dubhfhios spoke and Ceathach answered him and between them they made a poem:
- O Ceathach, how have you come
to the territories of your enemies?
To the territories of your enemies
How did you come? Where are you going?
- From Tara I have come
to Cúil Fheá Formáile.
I go to Munster without hindrance,
O Dubhfhios, Son of Dofhis.
- Why are you going to Munster?
Tell me truly if this suits you;
discuss the situation; what route are you taking
with the company which you supervise?
- It is to ward off the druids of the region
that I have come along with my companions
- The purpose for which you have come
will never be fulfilled.
There will be a cloud of slaughter above your heads on the plain;
your hatred is of little consequence, O Ceathach.
After this lay, Cormac was informed that the druids' predictions boded ill for him. I cannot wreak vengeance on them, said Cormac, for those, who attempted to kill them were unable to do so and it was on them that punishment was inflicted. Cormac gave orders that the affair was not to be talked about when they returned.
Next day, however, they set out on an open path heading for Mairtine Mumhan. They reached Druim Meáin Mairtine which is also known as Ardchluain na Féne and Mucfhalach Mac Dáire Ceirbe. This Ceirbe was king of Meáin Mairtine. The area is called Emly today, and it was here that they encamped.
Cith Mór emerged from the camp and proceeded towards the south-west examining the clouds and the sky to discern a way forward for the army. It happened that here he met another warrior with blond hair and a most pleasant appearance. This was the druid of Méan Mairtine, and his name was Meadhrán. They began to converse with each other and each asked the other for news. Meadhrán recited a lay and Cith Mor replied:
- O Cith Mór, tell me the truth,
on what day did you leave Tara?
What happened since then?
It is only a surly person that wouldn't enquire.
- On Monday we came to hard Comar
and on Tuesday we arrived in Áth an tSlua.
On Wednesday a bright pleasant path
we came to the summit of the slope of Formhaol.
- What was your situation on Thursday?
tell us that, O gentle Cith Mór
what was your choice of direction?
How is it that you were wandering around astray for a week?
- Do you recall your programme for Friday,
O Cith Mór of the Province of Connacht?
Which direction did you take
on Saturday morning?
- From Cúil Fheá
to Druim Meáin Mairtine
and on to Cnoc na gCeann on Saturday.
- What is your programme from this on,
tell us if you know it
and if you can declare it
without deceit, O Cith Mór
- We will remain here in a state of weariness
for a month and a quarter and a year.
Our presence will be unfortunate for Leath Mhogha;
our methods will be tough, O Meadhrán
- All the evil you have predicted you will do to us,
may it fall on yourself on one day.
... O Cith Mór.
They both turned away from each other at the conclusion of this lay and Cith Mór went off in the direction of the camp. The company remained encamped until early next morning. When morning came, Cormac and his company arose and came to Cnoc na gCeann and set up camp there. It was here that Cormac told Cith Rua to insert the stake for his tent. Cith Rua, however, did not arise as he perceived that it was impossible to erect the tent. The warriors of the province went, then, in two's and three's to climb the hills and heights surrounding them to get a better view of the area. They said to one another: There is a pleasant company here, a battalion fit to take on a hundred men is gathered here today in Cnoc na gCeann. There is the clamour of the company and the loud yells of the crowd. Let the hill be known as Droim Dámhgháire (the Ridge of the Assembly Calls) from today to eternity.
It was there that Cormac said: Now, Cith Rua, erect my tent as you were wont to erect the tents of my father and my grandfather, for I will not leave here until my taxes are either paid or withheld.
Cith Rua then tried to drive an alder post into the ground for the erection of the tent but neither grass nor earth would receive the tent pole from him. The druid became weary of this and he said: You see this, O Cormac; even though I didn't warn you about it beforehand this pole proves the truth of what I told you before leaving Tara. And he proceeded to recite a rhetoric: Look at this pole, O Cormac ... Cith Rua was defeated in his efforts to drive the pole into the earth and Cormac exclaimed: Woe and misfortune to you, O Cith Rua, what has become of your strength that you cannot insert the pole? For the hill is not allowing the tent pole into it; it is like trying to penetrate a rock. It is not that I haven't the strength to insert it, said Cith Rua, it is because of the attempted injustice that this rejection has occurred.
Listen to what the old druid says, O Colpa, said Cormac, he failed to erect the tent, now you erect it yourself.
Colpa took the tent pole in his hand and he began to censure and revile Cith Rua. He set about the work with enormous energy and his body was so stretched that middle-aged men could pass between every two of his ribs. He drove the stake against the ground but the earth would not accept it. So forceful were his efforts that the stake broke into fragments. What is to be done now? asked Cormac. This is what must be done, said Cith Rua, and all agreed with him, a large number of men must be summoned. This was done and they proceeded to construct great frameworks as if they were building a ship to support the tent. It was in this way that the whole camp was erected and this is why the site is known today as Long Cliach the Ship of Cliach.
Colpa said to Cith Rua: You had a just cause for not relishing this expedition for whoever goes or does not go alive out of this province you will not be among the survivors. I had a just reason indeed, said Cith Rua, for I knew full well the consequences not only for myself but for Cormac also, and I could have prevented him from setting out if you had not encouraged him. Moreover, your coming to this province is no better for you than for me, for not a single one of you will make your way alive out of this area. As well as that, look at this tent that neither you nor I could set up. It would never have been brought out of the house of Tara if you hadn't intervened. Cormac would have followed his father and grandfather and would have asked for tribute only in accordance with justice and truth. The prediction which I made to Cormac about this matter is true. But Cormac paid no heed to it nor to the man who made it.
It happened, however, that Cormac considered the place in which he was to be low and that the high ground was occupied by Fiacha and the Men of Munster. His druids had promised him that they would increase the height of it for him so that he could look down on everybody else. Cormac asked them to do this and they did. They raised the hill fifty cubits above the rest this was an illusion brought about by magic.
They spent three days and three nights there setting up the camp. Meanwhile, messengers were sent to collect the tax and the compensation but nothing was forthcoming. The next day, Cormac sent out a summons to the Men of Munster challenging them to single combat.
p.45The Men of Munster requested a consultation period of three days and three nights in which to choose their warriors. The request was granted. Cormac had already decided on the five who would take part in the challenge on his account. The Munstermen selected 408 men in all. They were to be divided into groups of twenty with a single name for each group that of the taoiseach (leader). The name which the taoiseach bore was also that of his group of twenty. The taoiseach was a fighter of twenty men and each man in his group was capable of fighting nine.
Here are the names of the groups: Fionn, Faílbhe, Finín, Fearghus, Fiacha, Fionnchú, Donn, Dáire, Donall, Forgharbh, Tréan, Muireadhach, Tréanfhear, Feidhlimidh, Donnchú, Conall, Cofthach, Dufthach, Daol, Dineartach, Diarmaid, Ciar, Criofthan.
Mogh Corb, son of Cormac Cas, son of Oileall Óloim undertook the office of Inciter for each of the Munstermen who engaged in single combat. Cairbre Lifeachair was inciter for combatants on the side of Leath Choinn. None undertook the task of single combat except for the five druids that Cormac had brought with him from Sí Chleithigh, These were: Colpa, Lorga, Eirge, Eang and Eangain.
Colpa then proceeded westwards to Ráithín an Iomardaigh, to the north-west of Áth na nÓg. This ford is now known as Áth Cholpa. Fionn Fírinne proceeded south-west by Áth Chorcamaighin to meet Colpa at Ráithín an Iomardaigh (Áth Cholpa). They were accompanied by their inciters Mogh Corb and Cairbre. Each one of them engaged the other in conversation and then the fight began as they reached the ford. Straight were the casts, cruel the hearts, mighty the blows, slash for slash, each one trouncing the other until darkness set in at the end of day.
Birds in flight could slip in through the wounds on Fionn's body but as for Colpa he bore no trace of hurt, for spear and lance could not penetrate him so great was the power of his magic. Colpa was, nevertheless, deprived of his arms three times during the day and as a result sustained considerable damage without being killed.
When darkness fell at the end of the day they separated from each other and returned to their respective camps.
That night, Fionn was sore and bloody but honour demanded that he fight again next day. Fionn continued the struggle for three days in this manner until at last he fell as a result of Colpa gathering together the full force of his magic powers and invoking his god.
p.47In a similar way, Fionn's twenty fighters were killed by Colpa. This massacre occurred not because hearts were not stout, nor hard blows struck, nor accurate casts made by them against Colpa, no, their defeat was due to the fact that they had no magic to match his.
When that fight had ended, Lorga approached the same ford and challenged the Men of Munster to single combat. It was now the turn of Faílbhe's group and Faílbhe Mac Féa himself advanced to the fight. Stoutly and bravely he fought. It would be a waste of time to recount all the glorious deeds performed during this series of single combats. The fact is that all the Munstermen who engaged in single combat were killed without exception. In all, 280 of the Men of Munster had fallen, and on Cormac's side only Colpa, and Lorga who succeeded him, had actually taken part in the battle. So, after this, the Men of Munster refused to fight any more in single combat.
Cormac then called for a military combat in which a battalion of one hundred men on each side would take part. It was at this point that the three daughters of Maol Mhisceadach Eirge, Eang and Eangain marched southwards. They had taken on the form of three brown sheep with impenetrable skins of horn, heads of bone, and beaks of iron distilling poisonous vapours capable of killing one hundred men at the hour of battle. All the spears and lances in the world were incapable of cutting a strand of their fleeces.
The Men of Munster prepared for this Comhlann Céad. From hard branches they made solid, sharp, enduring spears to carry in their hands and with a rampart of starry shields surrounding the company and three heavy hard-striking swords in their scabbards and with lances easy to aim in the press of battle, they advanced to the fray. When the two companies met one coming from the north, the other from the south the fight began.
The Men of Munster lost the best part of their army that day warding off the attacks of the sheep and defending their bodies from them. Though accurate the aim and heavy the blows which the Men of Munster directed at the sheep, not a rib of their hair was cut. All the Munstermen succeeded in doing on this first day was to smash their own weapons and armour. At the end of the day, the two companies went off to their respective camps.
Early next morning, they came again and fell to smiting and battering each other. It was no pleasant sound the four provinces of Ireland and their camps heard splintering of shields, resounding blows of swords, smashing of armour and massacre of warriors. Even though the company fought fiercely and heroically, the sheep went through the ranks and over them and cut off the heads of the warriors and they left all the troop in that place, heel to headless neck, headless neck to heel, shoulder to shoulder and the sheep made heaps of their clothes and their weapons and their heads and left them there. Then they returned to camp.
Then, the Munstermen gathered up the remains of their people. This was the way in which the 408 Men of Munster fell.
The Munstermen concluded that this complete disaster was due to the sheep ... and they would fight no more.
After this, Cormac again demanded the tribute but it was refused. Cormac then addressed his druids: What is this you promised me? What did we promise you? they asked. You promised me, said he, to cause a drought in this province; you promised me that the streams and water would be concealed except for what I need for myself and for my army. For it is not in my own power that I have put my trust, nor indeed do I put my trust now, but on the promise you made to me to inflict every calamity I desired on this province. In this way the necessity of engaging them in battle will be avoided and I depend on the trouble you can cause them to have my tribute brought to me.
The water supplies were then concealed by the druids except for what was needed by Cormac and his troops. Drought set in and lay heavily on the land, on the people, their herds and cattle. Cormac again demanded the tribute and again it was refused. Since Cormac was making no further sudden attacks on them, the strategy resorted to by the Men of Munster was to obtain milk and whey from their people, wherever such was available. Cormac was informed of this and he said to his druids: How can the Men of Munster be expected to submit to me since they still have milk and whey in place of water? It is no more difficult for us, said the druids, to take the milk from their cows than to hide the water from them. The druids then proceeded to deprive the cows of their milk and the drought fell on horses, sheep and cows and all the cattle of the province. Despite the number of people in the area, no lowing of cows was to be heard, no sound of horses or cattle throughout the whole region.
Cormac again demanded the tribute and again met with refusal. The Men of Munster now resorted to blood-letting. They let the blood from their herds and cattle flow into vessels and they imbibed it through a tube. What they did was: they gathered the dew each morning and mixed it with the blood allowing it to set so that it became a kind of watery blood to be taken through a stalk or pipe. In this desperate plight, the people grew weak and their tongues began to swell so that they were unable to speak; they lost their agility, their energy, their strength and vigour, so that they could hardly understand each other when they spoke.
When Fiacha realised that they were at the brink of death in this appalling situation he said to them: Every law holds until necessity intervenes this is clear to yourselves so, give Cormac everything he has demanded, whether great or small.
A messenger was sent to Cormac. O Cormac, said he, everything for which you came will be given you, whether small or great. On hearing this, both Cormac and the nobles of Leath Choinn swelled with overwhelming pride. The nobles said to Cormac: Let the king who receives this tribute accept no honours or land, since the tribute was not brought to him to Tara. But let a disgraceful, humiliating punishment be meted out to the people of this province in perpetuity, in compensation for forcing the king to move outside his home to collect his rents. The nobles considered that Cormac did not transgress the law by his demands and thought that he should not have had to undertake an expedition to collect his taxes.
The nobles then made a selection of the following humiliating condition to be imposed on the province along with the taxes which were required to be taken to Tara. Every quarter year, each king in the south was obliged to send to each king in the north the best and rarest of foods; the same held for each rídhamhna (heir apparent to the kingship) in the south towards each rídhamhna in the north, and for each ógthiarna (sub-chieftain) in the south towards each ógthiarna in the north and a son or a daughter from every man in the south to be put into the hands of every man in the north as a guarantee of the payment of the tribute. Whenever that was not paid, the son or daughter was to be killed and a new hostage provided and the food to be delivered after that. Moreover, the ninth part of all crops grown within the Munster region was to be sent to the north. The Men of Munster accepted the conditions.
Just when Dáirine and Deargthine found themselves in this predicament, the father of Fiacha Moilleathan's mother arrived to confer with them. His name was Dil Mac Da Creiche and Druim nDil in Déise Mumhan is called after him. From him, also, the Creachraí tribe of Ireland is descended. Fiacha asked him: Where is all your magic now? Where is the magic of the south? How is it that you cannot help us in this appalling situation? We haven't succeeded ... said Dil. No, said Fiacha, if you had provided water only, we would never have conceded the tribute not as long as one person remained alive in the province. Do you know of anybody in the area who could help? No, said Dil, except perhaps for your own teacher Mogh Roith, for it is with his aid that I fostered you. Moreover, it was he who made the prediction on the day of your birth that the siege by Leath Choinn which you are under today would take place. If Mogh Roith cannot help you nobody can, for Mogh Roith spent his first seven years occult training in Sí Charn Breachnatan under the direction of the druidess Banbhuana, the daughter of Deargdhualach. Neither inside nor outside of the sí dwelling place nor in any other place is to be found a form of magic which he has not practised, and among the Men of Ireland, Mogh Roith is the only one who ever learned the magic arts within a sí. However, he would do nothing without a large recompense, for he has no interest in your predicament, nor in your status, and you, for your part, have paid little attention to him.
What price will he demand, do you think? asked Fiacha. Land and territory is what he desires, that is my opinion, said Dil, for he considers the place where is is now Inis Dairbhre too remote and narrow for his taste. By our word, said they, even if he wants one of his descendants as a third king in Munster in perpetuity, let it be given him, even if all he does is to provide us with water. Then the Men of Munster said to Dil: Accept our thanks and go at once to ask Mogh Roith if he can help us. If he can, we will all pay tax and tribute to him, to his successors after him, to his son, his grandson and his great grandson and let him set his own conditions. We ask nothing from him except to get us out of this mess.
Dil set out on his journey and eventually arrived at Inis Dairbhre. He saluted Mogh Roith and Mogh Roith made him welcome and asked: Where has Dil come from?
p.55From Sliabh Cheann Chláire, Dil replied, the place where the province of Munster is assembled around Fiacha. How are they getting on? asked Mogh Roith. Your student is in poor condition there, said Dil. How is that? asked Mogh Roith. Dil told him then, about all the magic and spells with which Cormac's druids had afflicted them and how Cormac from the summit of an enchanted hill had besieged them and demanded tax and tribute. Why have you come to me, then? said Mogh Roith. It is not difficult to answer that, said Dil, the Men of Munster sent me to speak to you, to ask you if you would come to their aid. If you succeed in turning back these peoples' magic, every request you make for land and territory will be granted. Moreover, if you desire that every third king of Munster be one of your own descendants in perpetuity, this will also be granted.
The kingship, said Mogh Roith, is not what I would ask of them if I were to assist them. I think, moreover, that they are not in such desperate straits that I am unable to extricate them. I have the assurance of my teacher Siomon Mac Goill, Mic Iarghoill and Peter, also, that my art will never fail me while I am alive.
Tell me then, said Dil, if you were to undertake to help them, what fee would you demand?
Not difficult to say, said Mogh Roith, 100 milch cows with shining milk-white hides; 100 well-fattened pigs; 100 working oxen; 100 racehorses; 50 splendid cloaks of criss-cross weave; a daughter of the best or second best man in the province to provide me with children, so that just as I am of noble birth from my fathers, so I desire that my children be noble also by reason of their mothers, so that it may be by comparison with my family that the nobility of every free ógthiarna be judged; the first place among the cavalry of the king of Munster so that my representative will always have the status of a provincial king and that these conditions shall never be infringed but that everything promised to me will be fulfilled. Moreover, a man of counsel and wisdom will be appointed by me as advisor to the king of Munster and if the king follows his counsel fortune will smile on him. This counsellor, however, may be demoted or put to death according to the king's judgment should he dare to reveal any of the royal secrets. For my descendants also, a right to convene meetings (?) and three men in attendance on the king and one at his right hand.
p.57I furthermore demand, that the territory of my choice in Munster be given me as large as my servants can encircle in one day. The king of Munster never to exercise authority or representation over this area; not to demand a hostage from my representative but only that his horsewhip be left behind or to close the hand of the king of Munster around his ankle. I do not acknowledge my race as being guilty of weakness or cowardice and I recommend them to join the company of the king of Munster in battle and skirmish as a reminder and acknowledgement of mutual debts. If, then, all that I have mentioned is acceptable, let Mogh Corb son of Cormac Cais, son of Oileall Óloim come, along and guarantee to me on behalf of the province of Munster that these conditions will be fulfilled. I myself will return with them, and in my turn I will give you my word that I will deliver you from this predicament.
Dil, then, made his way eastwards and reached Chláire where Fiacha and the Men of Munster were assembled. They began to question him about the druid's intentions and each voice was reduced to a whisper. Dil informed them of the druid's intentions, his fee and the guarantees he gave them. Let all that he asked for be given him, said the Men of Munster. The guarantors rose and formalised the contract made by the Munstermen along with their king and they set out to contact the king-druid.
When they arrived at Inis Dairbhre they were welcomed and received with great hospitality. Mogh Roith, of course, had been certain of their arrival. Mogh Roith sought to detain them but they refused saying: O privileged man, said they, and protector against evil, the Men of Munster are in dire straits and stand in need of help. We are ready to meet all your demands and bind ourselves by contract to fulfil them if you on your part conclude the contract with us. I agree to bind myself to the contract, said Mogh Roith, but I will not leave here until early tomorrow morning. They remained where they were then, and were entertained and attended to most pleasantly and Mogh Roith himself began to make merry with them and asked them for news. Then Mogh Roith recited a rhetoric which Mogh Corb answered.
Then Mogh Roith began to enquire about the battles fought and about the numbers that had fallen in them and Mogh Corb told him all.
p.59We are sorry to hear of this, said Mogh Roith, and by our word, said he, if we are able, two men will die for every one of these and many more will perish besides, along with the five who wreaked such havoc on the province.
They remained there, then, until early next morning. It was then that Mogh Roith called on his student Ceann Mór to bring him his travelling equipment; his two noble sword-sleek oxen from Sliabh Mis: Luath Tréan and Luath Lis were their names; also, his beautiful warlike chariot of mountain ash with its axle-trees of white bronze and its profusion of gleaming carbuncles and its two glass sides. Day and night were equally bright in it. There was also his grey curved sword, his bronze dagger, his two hard five-forked spears with their easy-to-aim hafts and rivets of gleaming bronze; then, the hide of a brown horn-less bull to cover the whole surface of the chariot including the seats and sides. His retainers accompanied him to the number of 130 or as Cormac Mac Cuilleannáin put it:
Great his household as he set out on a journey, surrounding the king-druid's chariot were 130 men.
They started off then, and as they proceeded forward Mogh Roith was explaining everything to his student and as they travelled he recited a rhetoric.
They continued on their course, Mogh Roith all the while riding his chariot. The nobles asked him: who will select land and a territory for you? I will entrust that task to nobody at all but to myself alone, said Mogh Roith. You will bring me a sample of earth from every area we pass on the way and I will find out from its smell which is the best and I will choose that area for my territory. Whether the choice be good or bad I will blame nobody but myself.
They travelled onwards to Gleann Beithbhe in the area of Corca Dhuibhne and a sample of soil from Beithbhe was brought to Mogh Roith. He put the sample to his nose and smelled it. He discarded it however and recited a poem.
This is not the territory I will take as my fee, said Mogh Roith. It will by no means be imposed on you, said Fiacha's nobles.
After this, they reached Críoch Eoghaineachta, Chorca Dhuibhne, Kerry. Here, as before, a soil-sample was brought to Mogh Roith but he was not satisfied with it. He discarded it as he recited the poem: Conchenn cuachbel ...
I won't take this area, said he. It won't be yours, said they.
They arrived then in Críoch Chairiche which today is known as Muscraí Fheá and again some earth was brought to him but he laid aside and he recited the poem: Tír mhín, ainmhín ...
I won't take this, said he, and I will not dispossess my others, for they will find someone else willing to dispossess them. They travelled on until they reached Teach Forannáin Fhinn own today as Ceann Abhrat. I will not move out of this place, said Mogh Roith, until I have made a choice of land and territory for myself. Once I have reached the Assembly I cannot demand land and territory from them.
There was brought to him then, the soil of Clíu Máil Mhic Ughaine from Mín Mhairtine Mumhan. He examined it but discarded it as he recited the poem: Clíu chathach ...
In this soil, said he, are the diseases of Munster and the road destruction and misfortune. I won't take it on any account.
From there, they proceeded to the area known as Corr Caille Mhic Chon, that is: Caille Méine Mic Earca Mic Deagha and which is known today as Fearmaí. The reason why the region is led Caille Mac nEarc is because his sons lived there Méine Mac Earca, Uatha Mac Earca and Ailbhe Mac Earca. It has another name well Fir Maighe Méine on account of the large quantity of mineral ores in the mountains surrounding the area, and indeed, a mineral-bearing stone is still to be found in every field. It has still another name: Corr Caille Mic Chon for he belonged a special way to Clann Dáirine and it is here that Rosach na Rí is situated and Mac Con lived here until the Battle of Ceann Abhrat took place.
The soil of this area was brought to Mogh Roith and this was earth he chose as his own saying: Sliab um figh ...
Mogh Roith made his choice of this territory and addressing his people he made certain recommendations to them: to be equally venomous and affectionate, and as wily as serpents living in the one nest. Their nature is to have so much affection for each other that no one of them prefers his own good to the good of the others.
p.63That is how I wish my family to be to act together in harmony and while such is the case the area around them will not resist their growth ... It is not by guarantees that I give my support but only by means of their own affection, being ready to abide by the contract and living in friendly terms with the descendants of Fiacha. When it happens, however, that they are at variance with each other, this will be the opportunity for the very people that I am helping today to come and oppress my family and deprive them of their land, so that they will disappear from destitution and the man from the mountains surrounding them will say: Wasn't this the territory that the famous Fir Maighe once occupied? It is for this reason that I call them the renowned Fir Maighe for I recommend them to the skilled in every craft, to have a noble bearing and to be men who will always fight for Munster.
Is this the territory you have chosen for yourself? said they. It is, indeed, said they. Who will go to mark it out and measure it? said they. A man's student is the equivalent of his son, said Mogh Roith, my students will go, said he. His students were: Muichead: and from him is named Corca Mhuicheid in Uíbh Chonaill. Beant: from him comes every Beantraí throughout Ireland. Buíreach: from him comes Uí Bhúirigh in Críoch Fhosaigh Mhóir in the territory of Ua Mic Chaille and Ua Tasaigh. Dil Mór Mac Da Creiche: from him is named Druim nDil as well as the Creacraí throughout Ireland. Ceann Mór: from Caire Comáin in Claonloch na nDéise.
These young men arose then and asked: How is the land to be measured, O Beloved Teacher? From a hammer to the anvil, said Mogh Roith, that is, from Fiodh an Oird to Inneoin in the Déise and the area from the streams of Tuathchaille now called Gleann Bríde to the road under which the Oithen stream(?) flows through the green branching wood of Giúsach to ... Colaomh.
The students started out towards the south-west with Muichead leading the way. At first, he took a false route for it was revealed to him that his home would henceforth be in the west. They proceeded southwards to Bunraithe, to Cleitheach, to Dúndailche Finnleithead, going directly to Gleann Bríde and to Carn Tiarnaigh Mic Deagha.
p.65Buireach then acted as guide and he went in the wrong direction at first for he foresaw that it was in the South that his family and race would settle. And they arrived at Gluair Fearmaí Féine and up to Cloch na Cruithneachta; to Leac Fhailmhir; to Gleann Cuasaige Crólinnche; to Bearna na nGall; to Bearna Doire Caille Móna which is called Bearna Leachta Ua Séadna today; to Cam Aodha Mic Líne; to Leac Uidhir; to Carn Maol Ghlasáin; to Áth dá Abhann.
Finally, they arrived back at Teach Fhorannáin Fhinn where the assembly was being held with Mogh Roith presiding over it. Have you completed the task? said he. We have, said they. It appears to me, said he, that you have omitted some of the area I described, considering your hasty return. We have omitted nothing they said. Show me the soles of your feet, said he. We will, said they. They presented the soles of their feet to him and Mogh Roith recited a rhetoric.
What have you for me (?), O Muichead? asked Mogh Roith. It was revealed to me, said Muichead, that it was in front of me to the west that my land and territory would lie, and I did not wish to treat it with neglect. It is true, said Mogh Roith, that it is there your territory will be and you will not be over-prosperous. With that he recited a verse:
The territory of Muichead Mac Mulcheid, it will not be over-prosperous; a shortage of land and an over-supply of wood.
What have you for me (?), O Beant? asked Mogh Roith. I am old and weary, said he, I will not be against everyone.
What have you for me (?), O Búireach? asked Mogh Roith. It was revealed to me, said Búireach, that it would be in an area where there was great respect for you (?) that my family and race would be. That is where it will be, O Búireach, said Mogh Roith. Everybody's arm will not be against you and your descendants will never go over a fire and a half(?).
What have you for me (?), O Ceann Mór? asked Mogh Roith.
p.67It was revealed to me, said Ceann Mór, that my land and tory would lie to the west and I did not wish to confine it.
May the land and territory belonging to your descendants be always scanty, said Mogh Roith, and may the rod of oppression flight follow you always.
What have you for me (?), O Dil? asked Mogh Roith. The same, more or less, said Dil. Your land will be of no profit to you, said Mogh Roith, but name will be given to one area, and afterwards, your descendants the Creachrai will spread throughout Ireland, and no-one will be found in plundering their houses that wouldn't be in any other place (?) in the country ... It was then that Mogh Roith bound them formally to their acts.
Mogh Roith led them up the mountain of Ceann Chláire to where Fiacha and the Men of Munster were assembled. All arose and welcomed Mogh Roith and they all accorded him the command and the fee he demanded and they promised to fulfil these obligations in the case of his descendants as well with gentleness by our own sons and grandsons. And who is it you choose as your fiancée?, said they to Mogh Roith. I choose Eimhne, daughter of Aonghus, Mogh Corb's student, said he. It is from her that Cúl Eimhne gets its name. If she prefers my son, Buan, she may sleep with him, said Roith. choice was given to the girl then, and her choice was this: The man who is the most wise and who is most capable of controlling the Men of Munster and who will provide security for all the man I will sleep with, said she.
With that, they bound themselves by contract to all that had been previously arranged.
After this, all the Men of Munster came together to the where Mogh Roith and the nobles were assembled. If the time has come for me to help you, said Mogh Roith, tell me what is it you want done to deliver you from your difficulties? Give us water, said they. Where is Ceann Mór? asked Mogh Roith. I'm here, said he. Get me my magic spear, said Mogh Roith. It was brought to him.3
Where is Ceann Mór? asked Mogh Roith. I am here, said Ceann Mór. Search for the place where the point of the spear entered the earth, said Mogh Roith. What recompense will I get for this? asked Ceann Mór. The stream will be named after you, said Mogh Roith. Ceann Mór went off then to examine the earth and Mogh Roith recited this rhetoric while the water was being sought:
I invoke a special stream,
drops seep through rocks;
a stream of pleasant taste
to the north-east.
I invoke a cool waterfall
let (Fiacha) Moilleathan taste it,
let Mogh Corb taste it,
let the horsemen taste it,
let Luath Tréan taste it,
let Luath Lis taste it,
let the Clan Mairtine taste it,
let the prince taste it,
let the Deargthine taste it.
When he had completed this the solidity of the earth was fractured by the onrush of water. The noise was great and everyone was forced to protect himself from the eruption. Ceann Mór had heard the sound of the water erupting ahead of the others and he recited the rhetoric:
A full vessel, (of water)
a healthy vessel,
I myself promise
to every prince.
A vessel of rest,
a vessel of contentment
let it be taken by you
to chiefs of the company,
to Fiacha the prince,
a pure vessel,
a generous vessel,
for a rude king
a vessel of health,
p.71a vessel of rest,
When the nobles had finished drinking the water the druid had procured for them, Mogh Roith said to them: Drink up that, said he, to get back your strength and energy, your warlike vigour and your power and dignity.
The water was distributed then, group by group, until it was received by all, both by men, horses and cattle, until all were satisfied. The water was then distributed all about to their people and it was dispersed into the glens, rivers and wells of the province. The magic exhaustion which had oppressed them was lifted and at this time the return of the water became apparent to all. The herds and cattle of the province were then led to the water where they drank to their satisfaction.
The Men of Munster then raised a battlecry and it was heard in Cormac's camp. Messengers were sent from the Munstermen to inform Cormac that the tax would not be paid and to renounce the truce.
Cormac and the men of Leath Choinn were seized with hatred and horror as they took into consideration what their own druids had said to them when they opposed setting out on the expedition.
A blessing on you, O Mogh Roith, said the Men of Munster, the recompense that was promised you would be given for this one thing alone giving us water. It is not that I begrudge helping you, said Mogh Roith, but what I greatly fear is that after my time the contract made with me will not be fulfilled in the case of my family and race.
p.73All of them gave their blessing to everyone who would abide by the conditions. Mogh Corb, Donn Dáirine and the guarantors did the same.
Next morning, Mogh Roith asked them: What kind of help would you prefer me to give you today? To lower the hill, said they, for it is a great nuisance and a plague to us to have our enemies away above our heads on an enchanted hill while we ourselves are down here on the slope and we are unable to see them except by looking upwards. Turn my face to the hill, said Mogh Roith. This was done immediately. Then Mogh Roith concentrated on his god and his power and he enlarged himself until he was no less high than the hill itself. He further enlarged his head until it was as big as a high hill crowned with a large oak forest. At this point even his own people became terrified of him.
It was then that a comrade of his arrived Gadhra, from Droim Mhic Chrianaí. He was the son of the sister of Banbhuana, the daughter of Deargdhualach. It was for the purpose of helping and assisting Mogh Roith that he had come. On that day, his appearance was beautiful as he presented himself to Mogh Roith and the Men of Munster. On the other hand, to Cormac and to his army his appearance seemed monstrous and ugly, he appeared to be as rough as a pine tree, and as tall as a king's house. Each of his eyes appeared as large as a royal cauldron above his head. His knees were behind him and the backs of his knees in front. He carried a large iron fork in his hand. He wore a grey-brown mantle around him, hung about with talons, bones and horns. A buck goat and a ram followed him about and all who saw him in this guise were seized with fear and trembling.
Mogh Roith asked him: Why have you come? I came, said he, to make the troops tremble with horror and to make sure that at the hour of battle their strength would be no greater than that of a woman in labour. Gadhra proceeded forward in this guise to Droim Dámhgháire and he made a circuit of the hill three times. Three times also, he uttered a deafening roar. He was a terrifying sight.
He left them in this state and came to where Mogh Roith was. Mogh Roith asked him if he had done what he had set out to do and also enquired if Cormac's men had succumbed one by one, or in groups or in twenties or in hundreds. Mogh Roith recited the first part of a poem and Gadhra answered him.4
Both of them remained there making preparations for the battle and Gadhra had now assumed his own proper form. Mogh Roith began to breathe against the hill and no man of Leath Choinn was able to remain in his tent due to the force of the wind that arose. Cormac's druids, however, did not know the origin of the storm. Mogh Roith continued to blow against the hill as he recited a piece of rhetoric..
The hill disappeared from view, covered in a dark cloud and a misty whirlpool. The enemy ranks were filled with fear at the cries of Fiacha's troops, the tumult of horses and chariots and the clashing of arms against the foundations of the hill. A part of Cormac's army was suffering the pangs of death and the onslaught left them all in a state bordering on despair.
This turn of events delighted the Men of Munster and they gave a great shout of exultation to express their joy. The enthusiasm and delight that once possessed the army of the north now possessed the army of the south. The sorrow and despair that had afflicted the company of the south now afflicted the company of the north. This is how matters remained until morning.
The men of Leath Choinn now felt that their magic arts had been turned against themselves and Cormac began to put the blame on his own druids. Colpa got up, full of shame at the accusations Cormac had levelled at him. He took his black gloomy shield which stood fifty feet high, with a rim of iron about it, on his left arm. He took in his hands his heavy, hard-smiting sword in which there were embossed thirty metal balls, as well as his two straight fearsome spears. He then assumed a rude, horrible, grotesque shape, standing 240 feet tall irrespective of his clothing. Cairbre Lifeachair came with him as his inciter and they made their way south-west out of the camp to join in battle.
When the Men of Munster saw this they said to Mogh Roith: O Venerable Man and Ally, here is Colpa all ready to give battle and he comes in as horrible a shape as has ever been seen. Who is accompanying him? asked Mogh Roith. Cairbre Lifeachair they answered. Where is Ceann Mór now? asked Mogh Roith. Here, said Ceann Mór. Get up, said Mogh Roith, and give battle to this boor.
p.77O beloved teacher, said Ceann Mór, I have travelled in the eastern world and stayed there with you and you have never before asked me to engage in battle or conflict. And whatever I may have done I have never fought in single combat. However, in matters of war and conflict I will undertake whatever offers. Come along then, said Mogh Roith, I myself will accompany you.
Mogh Roith then proceeded to Ráithín an Iomardaigh and the ford at the south-western side. It appeared as if Mogh Roith himself intended to fight. He carried his speckled starry shield with its rim of white silver, his warlike sword hung high on his thigh at his left side and in his hands he held his two gleaming venomous spears. It was in this manner, equipped with his military weapons that he reached his military weapons that he reached Ráithín an Iomardaigh, and the ford at the south-west. At the same moment Cairbre Lifeachair accompanied by Colpa, arrived from the north. It was these two Cairbre and Mogh Corb who were in the presence of the combatants from first to last, and it is they who have true and accurate knowledge of the savage blows which the warriors rained on each other.
Then Mogh Roith said to Ceann Mór: Bring me my poison-stone, my hand-stone, my hundred-fighter, my destruction of my enemies. This was brought to him and he began to praise it, and he proceeded to put a venomous spell on it, and he recited the following rhetoric:
I beseech my Hand-Stone
That it be not a flying shadow;
Be it a brand to rout the foes
In brave battle.
My fiery hard stone
Be it a red water-snake
Woe to him around whom it coils,
Betwixt the swelling waves.
Be it a sea eel
Be it a vulture among vultures,
Which shall separate body from soul.
Be it an adder of nine coils,
Around the body of gigantic Colpa,
from the ground to his head,
The smooth spear-headed reptile.
p.79The spear-armed, royal, stout wheel
When he had come to an end, Mogh Roith placed the stone in the hand of Ceann Mór and said to him: When Colpa comes to you at the ford, throw the stone in, and believe me, for I am certain of it, that it will divert Colpa's feats of valour from you.
After this, Colpa set out for the ford at Ráithín an Iomardaigh and while he was on his way from the camp Mogh Roith dispatched a magic breath northwards against him so that the stones and sand of the earth became furious devastating balls of fire all the way to the ford. Only with difficulty could Colpa put his foot on the ground as the fire singed and scorched him and the sedges of the plain turned into raging dogs barking and screaming at him. And it was as if the bushes of the plain were savage, immense, rough, fat-necked oxen who roared and screamed at his approach. Seeing all this, Colpa was filled with dread.
Mogh Roith, however, assumed a shape that was immense and imposing. Colpa came to the conclusion that it was he who had produced the strange phenomena he had encountered on the plain. He was amazed, however, to find Mogh Roith bearing arms, as Mogh Roith was blind, and he recited a rhetoric to which Mogh Roith responded with keenness and severity.
When the druids had completed this exchange, the time had come for military action. Ceann Mór went off towards the ford and Colpa did not see him until he took up his position on the bank. Ceann Mór now threw the hand-stone into the water where it was immediately transformed into a fat sea-eel, as we have already described.
p.81Ceann Mór stationed himself on the ford in the form of a stone, moreover, a large stone which already stood at the ford, took on the appearance of Ceann Mór.
At this moment, a storm arose over the ford and the river rose up in flooding waves as a storm at sea on a spring day. Both parties were convinced of the origin of this: Clann Choinn, as they surrounded Cormac, believed that it was Mogh Roith who had caused the waves by means of his magic and devilry, while Fiacha and the Men of Munster believed that it was the magic and devilry of Colpa that had caused this huge tempest in the midst of the great plain before them. The four provinces of Ireland were filled with horror at the sight.
The story of the encounter between Ceann Mór and Colpa is not related here. When Colpa got a glimpse of the likeness of Ceann Mór at the ford, he sprang at him and dealt him three blows of the mighty warlike sword he held in his hand. A middle-aged man would fit into the track of blood left in the stone from each blow.
With that, the eel sprang at Colpa and grasped him by the head and forehead so that they rolled around the ford three times, Colpa on top at one time and the eel at another. At this point Colpa was deprived of his weapons for they were crushed into fragments. The eel then succeeded in getting the upper hand of Colpa, biting into his skin and overcoming his strength. The eel formed itself into nine knots around Colpa's body from the shoulders down and holding one foot up and the other foot down, and every time that Colpa endeavoured to take a step forward the eel gave a blow of her tail to the leg he tried to raise so that he hit the ground with a bang. Whenever he raised his head the eel used to get a grip and fling him against the current of the stream.
When Mogh Corb saw that the eel had got the upper hand of Colpa he said to Ceann Mór: Bad luck to you, it is a pity not to profit from this affair and to forego the fame of killing this boor. At this, Ceann Mór took the magic spear of Mogh Roith in his hand and thrust it with force and manliness at Colpa over his head. Mogh Corb warned him to be on his guard. Ceann Mór then sprang at Colpa with the great warlike sword of Mogh Roith and gave him a blow which struck off his head. Leaving the head where it had fallen, Ceann Mór came up on the bank and he was seized with a blazing attack of mortal weakness and depression.
Mogh Corb, however, advanced to the ford, grasped the head and made off with it.
Cairbre Lifeachair turned about and went off to the encampment while the Men of Munster raised a great shout of battle-triumph and the jesters for their part set up a cry of mock-lamentation for the death of Colpa as a counterpart to the Munstermen's shout of triumph.
Is the victory-cry yours? asked Mogh Roith. It is indeed, said the Munstermen, and here comes Mogh Corb with the head. Where is Ceann Mór? asked Mogh Roith. A weakness has overtaken him, said they. That is a pity, said Mogh Roith, for if it had been he who came carrying the head, no man among his descendants would ever fall in single combat provided only that he was using the arms of one of my descendants. Let me have the privilege you have described, said Mogh Corb, for it is I who have brought back the head and it is I who am to fulfil your contract, moreover, it is my daughter you have chosen for yourself, and, anyway, I am no worse than Ceann Mór. I will bestow this privilege on you, said Mogh Roith, as long as you fulfil the conditions. But every man descended from you must bear the arms of a man descended from me. Your conditions will never be set aside, said Mogh Corb, and now, in view of your precognition, make a prediction for us, to find out if fortune will smile on all our descendants. Fortune will smile on you, said Mogh Roith, and you yourself will occupy the throne of Munster. This then, is the tragic death-tale of Colpa at Áth na nÓg, and ever since, the place is known by his name Áth Cholpa.
They remained there until early next day and Lorga arose early in the morning and proceeded to the ford to continue the battle. Ceann Mór, too, arrived on behalf of the Munstermen. He was accompanied by Mogh Corb and he carried the Lia Láimhe and the magic spear of Mogh Roith in his hand. It is unnecessary, to describe the arms and armour of each one taking part in the combat.
When Ceann Mór reached Ráithín an Iomardaigh, to the south-west of the ford, Lorga began to look him over and to question him. This warrior was strong and violent and on that day Ceann Mór was terrified of him. Moreover, his tutor had promised Lorga that he would slay and slaughter Ceann Mór in revenge for Colpa.
As for Ceann Mór, on that day he would have preferred death and destruction at the hands of Lorga provided he could confront him honourably with his feet steady, his heart hard, his blows destructive, his aim accurate, rather than be subjected to the bewildering enchantment he had endured on the previous day in his encounter with Colpa.
They engaged each other in conversation and discussed the case between them.
Ceann Mór then advanced to the ford, his handstone in his hand, and he began to praise it and to beseech it and to predict the slaughter it would cause. He put his confidence in his god and in the chief-druid of the world Mogh Roith and he recited the rann:
A flat stone,
A narrow dense, thin stone.
A stone that will spring over waves,
Without stooping or curving.
As you overpowered in the contest,
by hardy valour, Colpa,
Go forth strongly in fierce action,
Until by you shall Lorga fall.
A valuable stone, a powerful stone, a victorious stone,
Ethor's stone, Daniel's stone,
A battle stone; Mogh [Roith]'s stone,
Simon's stone, my stone.
When this poem had been completed, Lorga came to the ford and attacked Ceann Mór furiously. They wielded blow after blow at each other and defence succeeded attack. Despite the ferocity of the fight, however, the arms of either of the warriors failed to cut a bristle or hair of the other's body or even his clothing. This was not because the heroes were not engaging in the fight savagely and heroically but because of the fact that the Energy-Stone of Battle, the hundred-fighter, the Vanquisher of Multitudes the great valorous sea-eel called Mongach Maoth Ramhar (hairy, wet, fat) had sprung at Lorga just as she had sprung at Colpa, and eventually Lorga was defeated. And this was only to be expected as the eel's magic poison entered the body of whoever she bit.
Ceann Mór, however, did not delay overlong in allowing this engagement between them to continue. He approached them and with a savage blow of his terrible, angry, steady, flaming axe he swept the head off Lorga. It flew up into the air but with a leap of great agility Ceann Mór caught it before it touched the ground.
It was in this manner that Lorga died.
The crowds had gathered from every quarter around the ford to watch the fight. Every man among them was saying: O god, whom we adore, reduce for us the strength of the storm and the amount of water in the ford, so that we may see the fiery dragon (the eel) who is doing the fighting and be able to give an account of it later.
After that, the dragon bounced to the north in the ford in pursuit of Cairbre Lifeachair amidst the noisy tumult of Cormac's army. Ceann Mór went off in pursuit of the dragon in an effort to hold her back, telling her that it was not lawful to pursue Cairbre Lifeachair and that the Men of Munster would be annoyed if she turned on the crowd as the Munstermen themselves wanted to inflict their own revenge on Cormac's forces. Even though she was the first to reach Cairbre, she did not harm him or inflict any wound on him. And Ceann Mór continued to hold her back in this way, explaining the position to her, and saying: Easy, Easy, O long-necked Maoth Ramhar ... lie down now in the gentle hand of great Mogh Roith, calmly and quietly.
After this, she returned to her own shape and form (as a hand-stone), and the two armies went off north and south to their respective camps to await the morning.
Early next morning, the sheep set out for battle, and this is what they looked like: they were drab-brown in colour, their heads were hard and bony, their skins were of horn, they had iron beaks, speed of swallow, agility of weasel, mobility of bird on the wing. They had the power to destroy one hundred men in the press of battle.
O Man, our Protector, said the Men of Munster, here they are, back again, in the form of three drab-looking sheep and they are capable of bringing one hundred men to a bloody death. I will tame them for you, have no fear, said Mogh Roith. He then said to Ceann Mór: Where are the magic instruments I gave you to deal with this crowd? I have them here, said Ceann Mór.
p.89These were: the tinder box of Simon, the flint of Daniel, the kindling wood of Eitheoir Ilchruthaigh. These were given to Mogh Roith and their purpose was to produce the hardness of stone in the hearts and heads of the Munstermen at the hour of battle and a scorching flame of the same colour as the sheep.
Mogh Roith struck three blows of the flint against the stone; quickly and easily he procured the three sprigs of touch-wood which he transferred to the fold of his garment and he recited this rhetoric: Under a gentle harbour, arise ... etc.
Then Mogh Roith said to Ceann Mór: Take a look at these materials. Are they fully ready yet? Ceann Mór looked at them and said: You have manufactured two bitches and a male pup. He took them in his hands to make sure and set them down on the ground again, turning their heads towards the north in the direction of the sheep. At first, however, they were as weak as any ordinary pups, but as the sheep approached steadily nearer, the dogs began to grow in strength and size, becoming ravenous for action.
Mogh Roith now asked Ceann Mór: How are the sheep marching? It is towards us that they are marching, said Ceann Mór, and the oldest warrior among them is leading the way and the younger ones at the rear. What about the dogs what do they look like? They look like all pups, said Ceann Mór, they are opening their eyes but it is the sheep they are looking at.
The sheep how are they marching now? Two sheep are side by side and one following and they are advancing rapidly. The dogs what do they look like now? They have shaken their ears and put up their tails and they have begun to lick their mouths, and their heads are on their paws and they have their mouths shut. That is the completion of their victorious qualities, said Mogh Roith, for if their mouths were open as they advanced to the fray, there would come a wandering demon to steal away their sharpness, and it is by keeping their mouths shut that they will be victorious and it is by this same means that their seed and their descendants after them will at all times be triumphant.
It was then that Mogh Roith told Ceann Mór to direct the hounds to Ráithín an Iomardaigh. And Mogh Roith himself continued to exhort the hounds, telling them that it were better to suffer death than to let the sheep get away from them.
The hounds now reached Ráithín an Iomardaigh and the sheep came to the corresponding area on their side. They both began to take stock of each other.
The sheep had three fringes of blazing fire around their necks so that not a blade of grass nor a bush was left unburnt. Both sides then began to attack each other, digging up stones and sods from the ground with their hooves and nails and flinging them at each other across the ford, north and south.
The hounds leaped to the attack with the male hound at the head as the old saying puts it: It is fitting for each man to lead the way. He sprang at the largest sheep. Great and hard was the carnage but it is unnecessary to describe it further.
As for the hounds spouts of fire came from their gullets, which burned every rib of the sheeps' fleeces. The fire which surrounded the necks of the sheep, however, lacked the scorching power of its magic poison. When Mogh Roith joined the Men of Munster, he exhaled a magic breath into the firmament. This fell, in the form of a black cloud, on Cormac's druids' camp, as Daniel, the File, expressed it:
... Mogh Roith with his breath turned aside their magic.
When the sheep felt that their strength and their magic was surpassed by that of the hounds they took to their heels, attempting to flee, but the hounds would not allow this. Eventually, however, the sheep set off in a wild dash. They never stopped running until they reached Dubhchaire and there they disappeared into the underground recesses of the earth. The hounds seized them down below and devoured them, leaving only the bones.
The dogs then emerged and made off towards west Munster, pursued by bulldogs, grooms and horse-boys and a large number of young men from Leath Choinn. It was with difficulty that they escaped from their pursuers by tracing a path between two bogs. A large part of both armies was up in the hills and mounds watching the fight and the sheeps' race. Neither Cormac nor Fiacha witnessed the scene as they remained in their camps surrounded by a small group of retainers and did not come out.
That is how the Battle of the Hounds and Sheep ended. It
p.93is from these sheep that Cluthair Chaorach (the sheep-covert) gets its name. The place is in the territory of Mairtine Mumhan, north of Droim Dámhgáire. Droim Dámhgháire is known today as Long Chliach (the ship of Clíu). Moreover, the mad dogs throughout Ireland at present are descended from these and this will be the case forever.
The Men of Munster then raised a mighty shout of victory and this was heard throughout the entire province.
Cith Rua was a witness to the tragic death of the sheep. He came to the place where Cormac was. Cormac asked him: What is the purpose of these shouts, and who is making them? The Men of Munster, said Cith Rua, are celebrating their victory over your group. Mogh Roith's hounds killed them.
Cormac's followers were sad and dispirited at the turn of events while the Men of Munster were in a state of exultation and then Cith Rua sang: Happy is this crowd in the south ...
If that is true, said Cormac, they are celebrating. It is true, said Cith Rua, Leath Mhogha is happy tonight and Leath Choinn is sad, and I would prefer to be in my own house at Seich na Só tonight, isolated as the place is, than to be at Rubha Rátha Rónain even though it is surrounded by many inhabitants. You will be the ones to suffer defeat in this battle, and battalions and companies will be killed in it. Nor will we three brothers fare any better than anybody else, for Mogh Roith will turn us into three stones when he comes this way. And then Cith Rua recited the lay: Sad it is for Leath Choinn tonight ...
After this, Cormac said to Cith Rua: Make some kind of prediction for us, for you have been chief druid to my father, to my grandfather and to myself and you have never told a lie and neither will you now and we regret the insult offered you. I have no favourable prediction for you, said Cith Rua, for the Men of Munster will be victorious.
Cormac continued to confer with Cith Rua, telling him to go and talk to Mogh Roith and to bring to his attention the fact of their fundamental brotherhood reminding him that his father and grandfather were descended from the nobility of Leath Choinn and on that account to refrain from crushing the north; and, as well as this, said Cormac, make him an offer: the kingdom of Uladh; the compensation due to the Sons of Uisliu; a cow from every lios between Tara and Carraig mBrachaí; three hundred horses; three hundred horns; three hundred cloaks and a place at my right hand at a drinking session.
Cith Rua set off with this message to Mogh Roith southwards to Sí Charn Breachnatan. Cith Rua met him there and asked him to remember their basic brotherhood and not to bring evil on Leath Choinn. It is my duty to oppress them, said Mogh Roith, for they sent Fearghus into exile and they deprived him of the kingdom of Uladh and left him without land or honour and I have sworn that I will deprive them of the high-kingship so that their freemen will be slaves in the houses of foreigners as a reprisal.
It was only a minority of Leath Choinn that conspired to bring about that injustice; so will you accept these offers from Cormac? asked Cith Rua. Don't say any more, said Mogh Roith, for I would not abandon my pupil for all the gold on earth. Tell Cormac that even if nobody else in Munster survived except for Mogh Corb alone, I would not set aside my concentrated warfare.
The druids parted then, and Mogh Roith did not accept the proposals brought by Cith Rua. Cith Rua went back to Cormac and told him that Mogh Roith would not agree. Clann Choinn continued to remain in camp sad and depressed.
As for Mogh Roith, he went off on a visit to the house of the druidess Banbhuana to seek her help and to enquire of her as to how the Men of Munster would fare in the battle.
When he arrived he was given a warm welcome and he stayed there overnight inquiring about all the details of the encounter from beginning to end. Get up early tomorrow morning, Banbhuana told him, and it is you and the Men of Munster who will be the victors, and she recited a rhetoric: Set out early ...
Mogh Roith rose early next morning, said goodbye and took his leave. Then Buan, his son, spoke: I had a vision, said he, and I want you Mogh Roith to make a judgment on it. Speak, said Mogh Roith. It was then that Buan had recourse to the venerable ancient speech as he described his vision aloud.
After that, Mogh Roith set out for Ceann Chláire where the Men of Munster were assembled around Fiacha. And Fiacha began to question him. I will make good your taxes and recover other things for you, said he and he proceeded to recite a rhetoric.
As regards Cormac, however, he began to consult Cith Rua and to enquire of him if anything could be done to help the troops.
p.97There is not, said Cith Rua, except to make a druidic fire. How is that done? asked Cormac, and what purpose will it serve? This is how it is made, said Cith Rua, let the troops go out to the forest and collect rowan wood for that is best in our circumstances, and presumably, this fire will be responded to by one in the south and when the fires are lighted each party will attend to his own. Now, if it should occur that the fires turn southwards (and I don't think this is going to happen), then it would be well for you to go in pursuit of the Men of Munster. But if it is to the north that the fires turn, take yourselves off, for you will be defeated even if you persist in staying.
Except for Cormac and a small group who surrounded him all went out to the forest to secure the rowan wood and they returned later carrying the trees.
The Men of Munster took note of what was going on and they said to Mogh Roith: O Man, our Protector, said they, what are Leath Choinn doing? What are they doing? said Mogh Roith. They are gathering large bundles of firewood together in one place, said they, so that the stack of firewood will not be less high than the hill you lowered. That is true, said Mogh Roith to the Men of Munster, Cormac had recourse to his own druids and they are making a magic fire. Mogh Roith then said to the Men of Munster: Go south, said he, to the wood of Leathaird and don't let your hands be idle; let every man of you bring an armful of firewood except for Fiacha alone. Let him bring a load on his shoulders of a hard tree where the birds of spring rest (?) from a mountainside where the three shelters meet shelter from the March wind, from the wind from the sea, from the wind of flame (?), so that once it is kindled it will become an inferno. And none of your descendants will be deprived of these two things an armful or a shoulder-load and do not carry faggots lest it be a reproach to your descendants and lest you be called fuel-gatherers.
They went then to the wood of Leathaird. This is called Coill Fhiann today, for it is from the warriors (Fianna) of Fiacha Moilleathain, son of Eoghan, that the wood is named ever since. They brought together what they had been ordered to prepare and collect and deposited it at the centre of the camp.
Then Mogh Roith said to Ceann Mór: Light and prepare the kindling for the fire. Ceann Mór arose and built up the firewood like a churn but having three sides and three corners and seven doors, while the northern fire had only three doors. Moreover, it was not properly sited or arranged ...
Ceann Mór said, this is ready except to set it alight. Mogh Roith struck his fire-flint then. At this stage the northern fire was ready. All were seized with fear and haste then, and Mogh Roith said to the Men of Munster: Be quick, all of you cut off shavings from the shafts of your spears. They cut off the shavings and gave them to him. He mixed them together in a large bundle and set fire to it. It burst into flames as he chanted a spell:
I knead a fire, powerful, strong;
it will level the wood, it will dry up grass;
an angry flame, great its speed
it will rush up, to the heavens above;
it will destroy forests, the forests of the earth,
it will subdue in battle the people of Conn.
Hastily, then, he set the firewood alight and it burst into flames with a mighty roar, as he chanted a rhetoric:
God of druids,
my god above every god,
he is god of the ancient druids.
it will blow (the wind), may it blow
a low flame (to burn) the young vegetation,
a high flame for the old (vegetation),
a quick burning of the old,
a quick burning of the new,
sharp smoke of the rowan-tree,
gentle smoke of the rowan-tree,
I practise druidic arts,
I subdue Cormac's power,
Céacht, Crotha, Cith Rua
I turn them into stones.
Now, said Mogh Roith, let my oxen be brought and tackled to my chariot and have your own horses ready at hand. If the fires turn northwards you must set off in pursuit of Cormac's men and if this proves to be the case don't hold back and neither will I.
p.101If, however, the fires move southwards, defend yourselves against them and engage them in battle in defiles and narrow passes and in dangerous parts of the province. It is unlikely that you will have to do this, but nevertheless, be prepared, in case it should happen.
Mogh Roith then shot a druidic breath into the air and the firmament so that an obscuring thicket and a dark cloud arose over Ceann Cláire and from it descended a shower of blood, and Mogh Roith began to chant a spell:
I cast a spell,
on the power of cloud,
may there be a rain
of blood on grass,
let it be throughout the land,
a burning of the crowd,
may there be a trembling
on the warriors of Conn.
On the completion of this rhetoric the cloud moved on until it was above Ceann Chláire; from that it moved on again until it was above Cormac's camp and then proceeded to Tara.
Cormac said to Cith Rua: What sound is that I hear? A shower of blood, said Cith Rua, brought on by powerful magic and it is we who will feel its ill effects. Leath Choinn were distressed at hearing this and it was the cause of much noise and commotion among them. Cith Rua then uttered the lay: I see a cloud above Ceann Chláire ...
At that period, there were great woods and forests covering the central plain of Munster: An Ghiúsach extending from Droim Eoghabhail eastwards to Bealach Chaille Tochail; Colltanan extending southwards from Droim Eoghabhail to Cláire; Ros Cnó extending westwards from Droim Eoghabhail to Eas Má; and Gleann Beabhthach extending northwards between two great roads from Droim Eoghabhail to (Cnoc) Áine and to Carn Fhearadhaigh.
Mogh Roith asked: How are the fires behaving? Each one of them is threatening to attack the other at the border of the mountain to the west and then turning northwards to Tory Hill and the Shannon and then returning.
Mogh Roith asked: How are the fires behaving? They are still in the same condition, said they, and they have not left a tree nor a blade of grass on the central plain of Munster that they haven't burnt up. This area is cleared land ever since.
Mogh Roith asked: How are the fires behaving? They have flown up to the firmament and to the clouds of heaven, said they, and they are like two ferociously agile warriors, or like two devouring lions attacking each other.
The bull-hide from a horn-less brown bull belonging to Mogh Roith was now brought to him along with his speckled bird-mask with its billowing wings and the rest of his druidic gear. He proceed to fly up into the sky and the firmament along with the fire, and he continued to turn and beat the fire towards the north as he chanted a rhetoric: I fashion druids's arrows ...
Mogh Roith thus continued to beat the fire northwards while Cith Rua in the same way tried to turn it southwards. In spite of this, however, Mogh Roith succeeded in turning the fires in the direction of the north to Cormac's camp. Once he had succeeded in doing this Mogh Roith did not permit the fires to move away from there. It was here that Cith Rua suffered defeat along with his company of druids and his slua sí. Cormac's followers then arranged themselves in large stalwart battalions, with an advance guard and a rear guard and a wall of shields surrounding them on every side. they began the march of evacuation at once, for the druids would not allow them to stop for fight or pitch-battle but they ordered them to do their duty whenever it proved to be necessary.
Mogh Roith then descended from the sky and got into his beautifully ornamented chariot drawn by fast and furious oxen having the speed of the wind of March and the agility of birds. He had with him his bull-hide from a horn-less bull and he advanced to the head of the troops. He sent Ceann Mór to incite the Men of Munster to action and they followed the druid enthusiastically.
When they reached Ard Chluain na Féinne they caught up with the rear portion of Cormac's army and the rest did not turn back to aid them as the Men of Munster attacked them from the east and from the west, coming at them like hounds attacking small animals. through them and around them they advanced decapitating and massacring them from north and south until they reached Má Uachtar in Ormond. This area is known as Má Roighne today. On this occasion Cormac's army lost eight hundred men.
It was then that Mogh Roith enquired from his place out in front: Who is nearest to us here? and he knew even though he put the question. There are three grey-headed stalwarts here, said they, Céacht, Crotha and Cith Rua.
p.105My gods promised me that they would make stones of these three as soon as I caught them, said Mogh Roith, provided that I cast my breath at them. With that, he cast a druidic breath and they were turned into stones and these stones are know as Leaca Roighne today.
Whenever the Men of Munster tried to stop, Mogh Roith became most insistent that they carry on and he did not allow them to delay until they reached Sliabh Fuait that day. it was there that Fiacha set up his tent and ever since the place is known as the place of Fiacha's tent.
Leath Choinn then offered to give every hostage, every tribute, every tax which the Men of Munster wanted from them. Mogh Roith, Mogh Corb, Fiacha and the Munstermen would not accept the offer until they were in the north for two months and two quarters and two years. They said even then that Cormac himself should come to Fiacha's house. Since Cormac could not defend himself, not had he the power to prevent them devastating his territory, he came in person and gave them the tax and tribute.
Fiacha and the Men of Munster set out then and their adventures are not related until they reached Cnoc Rafann.
Connla son of Tadhg, son of Cian the son of Fiacha's father's brother was given to Cormac to be fostered by him and Cormac undertook the boy's upbringing as part of his obligations. They remained thus for a long time observing the peace-treaty between them.
The men of Munster began to question Mogh Roith about the number of casualties on both sides north and south and which side had suffered the most. Mogh Roith gave a clear description of the situation in the following lay which he recited aloud:
The Men of Munster left Cnoc Rafann then, and each one set out for his own house and fort while Cormac returned to Tara.
- The lawless ones killed
480 brave warriors
of the Men of Munster,
according to my calculations.
- Five druids practised sorcery
against Leath Mhogha of the large assemblies;
this was the number killed, an impressive deed.
- I formed three hounds
to destroy the brave sheep.
I formed an underwater sea-eel
to destroy Colpa and Lorga.
- I turned the fires northwards
to Leath Choinn of the hard swords.
I left only the strength of a woman in labour
to the descendants of Conn Céadchathaigh in the east.
- Warlike Munster defeated Conn.
Once their Aos Dána (Men of Art) had failed
Cormac's army fell into distress.
- Four hundred lords and kings
of Cormac's band are calculated to have been killed
on the way to Formhaol. It was an injury beyond repair
for the descendants of Conn Céadchathaigh.
- Exactly 400 horse-boys
belonging to Cormac's army were killed on the road
between Formhaol and Roighne.
- Crotha, Céacht, Cith Rua from the plain
druids of the race of Conn Céadchathaigh
at Má Roighne of the red rocks
I turned them into solid stones.
- These stones will commemorate the deed,
they will remain there for ever,
a cause of shame for Leath Choinn;
they will be known as Leaca Roighne.
- There were five groups of seven men each there,
having only five names.
Everybody was forced to a retreat
except for three.
- There were seven men in each of the groups belonging to Céacht, Crotha,
Ceathach, Cith Mhór
and Cith Rua. Their feats were brilliant
as was their composition of druidic spells.
at Áth an tSlua,
north of Má Roighne,
a group of seven twenties was killed
that I do not conceal.
- Two twenties and two hundred
fell from that ford eastwards that is not lie,
on every path that Leath Choinn took.
They were not given protection in Liathruim (Tara).
- There were 1048 men killed
this was the destruction wrought on Leath Choinn
by the grandson of Oileall Ólom.
From pleasant Druim Dámhgháire
to the great highway of Slí Mhíluachra.
- A great and bloody deed took place
in one day.
It is the greatest march
that a warrior ever undertook among brilliant feats of valour.
- From Ceann Chláire it was a splendid journey
northwards to Gleann Rí Righe.
Fiacha of the numerous companies
and Mogh Corb of the red sword
decided that they would not be fully satisfied
until Cormac beame their hostage.
Connla was brought up by Cormac, as we have said, so that he became accomplished and noble-minded and his excellence was without compare in Ireland.
p.109He fell in love with a certain woman of the sí of Loch Gabhar and forced her to have sex with him. She made a request to him that he should go with her into the sí (fairy place), but he refused to go. Come, said she, and at least turn your face in the direction of the fort here, so that the residents of the sí may see you. He came then, and turned his face towards the sí. The woman informed the sí-people of the injustice done to her.
They were seeking reparation from him but he would not make any. You have violated our honour, said they. You could say that I have, said he. Then we will violate your honour, they. With that, they all together cast their breath at him and as a result, a bare scabby eruption covered him from head to foot, especially the head and face. After that, he had a change of heart.
Thus disfigured, Connla returned to the place where Cormac was. Cormac looked at him and began to lament over what had befallen him. What is this, O my Master, Cormac?, said he. I am sorry to see you like this, I have such affection for you, said Cormac, and as well as that it was you I had in mind when it came to avenging myself against Fiacha for this treatment of me by gaining the kingship of Munster to you. You have not heard (of any cure [?]) and nobody will relieve this disease, said Connla. What I have heard is of no consequence, said Cormac, as you will not get it by any means. What is this? asked Connla. It is the blood of a royal king, said Cormac, to bathe yourself in it. Who is this king? asked Connla. Fiacha Moilleathan that is the king, said Cormac, but for you to kill him would be the murder of a kinsman. It is likely, however, that if you applied his blood to your skin you would be cured. I would prefer a friend of mine to die, said Connla, than for myself to remain in this condition if I could be sure of the result. I swear by (the gods) my tribe swears by, said Cormac, that it is true. I will go to meet him, then, said Connla.
He went then to Cnoc Rafann, to Fiacha's house. Fiacha was very distressed at seeing him in this condition and he sympathised with him and made him welcome.
p.109Afterwards, he made efforts to cure him and gave him control over a third of his judicial affairs. His bed was of the same height as the king's own bed and it was he who delivered announcements from and to the king's own bed and it was he who delivered announcements from and to the king and he was given the fees due to a legal intercessor. they continued in this way for a long time and often he and Fiacha went out and returned together.
The day came, however, when they were beside the river Siúir and Fiacha wanted to go for a swim. He took off his clothes and left his grey broadsided spear with Connla. Connla grasped the spear and struck Fiacha so that the spear penetrated through his body. This is a pity, said Fiacha, it is a crime against brotherhood, it is an excessive slaying, and it was done by the instigation of an enemy. Then he recited the verse: machinations of an enemy sorrow on brotherhood ...
Fiacha continued: Do your bathing in my blood, but even so, it will do you no good and your enemies will enjoy that.
It was thus it happened the tragic death of Fiacha. All this occurred at Áth Tuisil (the Ford of the Fall). It is from what happened here that the ford is so called ever since, as the ancient verse says:
- Áth Tuisil is the name of the ford;
everybody knows the true reason for this
the fall which Connla from Cnoc Dean
inflicted on good Fiacha Moilleathan
Connla received no benefit from the deed and he died eventually from starvation and from the skin eruption. No member of Eoghain's family would allow him to enter his house and they did not consider it worthwhile inflicting any other for of vengeance on him.