Celtic Otherworlds

T,he glittering otherworlds of Celtic myth are the invisible realms of gods and spirits, fairies, elves and misshapen giants. Some are sparkling heavens and some are brooding hells. The veil between the visible and invisible worlds is gossamer-thin and easily torn. Seers and bards pass in and out on spirit-flights or journeys of the soul, as do some privileged heroes, such as all-knowing Finn MacCool, or the intrepid voyagers, Bran, Brendan and Maeldun. Some heroes, such as Cuchulainn, pay only fleeting visits; while Oisin returned from his otherworldly trip 300 years after his time. Common gateways to the otherworld are by water and across narrow bridges, beneath mounds or wells which hide sparkling underground heavens, or dark purgatories. On the eve of Samhain, October 31, all the gates to the otherworld open and wondrous spirits emerge from under the hollow hills.

Thomas the Rhymer (above right), like all inspired bards, slipped in and out of the otherworid, drawing on divine sources of inspiration for his poetry. Bards, like dru\ds, possessed supernatural powers of prophecy and inspiration when seized by Awen. the divine muse. Their power to satirize with the glam dicin, an undermining song, made them more feared than fierce warriors. Here, the poet is visited by a beingfrom the otherworld, possibly his divine muse. (Thomas the Rhymes and the Queen of Faerie by/ IV Paton, canvas, c. 1890.)

Celtic Fairies (right) ride out from their underground palaces on the eve ofBeltaine to celebrate Belenus'feast. The splendid riders bear cel tic m y tholog y

Voyage Night Shining White

Pwyll, riding through a lush, wooded idyll, suddenly found himself in the otherworldly realm of Annwn. After driving off some shining white hounds from a fallen stag, he encountered Arawn, the grey-clad lord of Annwn. Like the Greek god of the underworld Hades, Arawn may possibly symbolize a Lord of Winter, because he fought an annual battle with Havgan ("Summer Song"). On one occasion, he asked Pwyll to swap places with him for a year, at the end of which Pwyll fought and won the seasonal duel. (Illustration by Alan Lee, 1984.)

carbonek (above), the Grail Castle of Arthurian legend, was an otherworldly heaven guarded by angels and wondrous spirits whose unearthly song was beautiful beyond imagining. The castle housed the Grail, a holy vessel, said to be the Cup of the Last Supper, which contained healing spiritual sustenance. Lancelot was ferried to Carbonek on a ghostly ship without captain or crew and permitted a distant vision of the sacred chalice because of his courageous spirit. His love of Guinevere forbade a complete vision. (Illustration by Alan Lee. 1984.)

Balor (above) and his misshapen people, the Fomoni, symbolize the dark forces of the otherworld. Before their defeat at the hands of the Tuatha De Danann, they oppressed the Irish with crushing tributes and cruelty. While the Tuatha De Danann lived underground in glittering sidhe, the Fomorii roamed beneath lakes and seas in bleak purgatories. Balor's single eye, poisoned in youth, paralysed his enemies with its deadly gaze.

(Illustration by Alan Lee, 1984.)

Allen Lee Celtic Myth

BLODEUEDD (above), the fairest woman in the world, was conjured out of blossoms by the magicians Gwydion and Math, so that she could be the wife of Gwydion's nephew, Lieu. But she betrayed her husband for another man. Guydion, here, watches as his beautiful creation comes to life. (Illustration by Alan Lee, 1984.)

BOANN (below), a water goddess and the mother of Aonghus, violated the sanctity of a sacred well of inspiration. In outrage the waters bubbled and swelled, forming a torrent which became the River Boyne, which is named after her. In its current swam the Salmon of Knowledge, seen here. (illustration by Arthur Rackham, c.1910.)

blodeuedd (whose name means "born of flowers" or "flower face") was a beautiful, magical woman. She was conjured by MATH and GWYDION from the blossoms of oak, broom and meadowsweet to be the wife of LLEU, Gwydion's nephew, because Lleu's mother, ARIANRHOD, had declared that he should marry no mortal woman. For a time the young couple lived together happily, but one day Lieu went to visit Math and while he was away Blodeuedd kindly offered hospitality to a passing huntsman, Goronwy, the lord of Penllyn. Blodeuedd and Goronwy fell in love and began to plot the murder of Lieu. This was no easy task, for Lieu could be killed only while standing with one foot on a goat's back and the other on the edge of a bath tub, and only by a spear which it had taken a full year to make. However, even though the pair finally succeeded in meeting all the conditions and attacked him, he did not die but flew into the air in the shape of an eagle. Math and Gwydion set out to avenge Lieu. When they found Blodeuedd, Gwydion turned her into an owl, the bird of the night.

Boann was a water goddess and the mother of AONGHUS, the Irish god of love. According to the different versions of her myth, she was married either to NECHTAN or to Elcmar. DAGDA, the chief god of the TUATHA DE DAN ANN, was her lover and the father of Aonghus. He was able to seduce Boann by sending her husband on a nine-month journey that seemed but one day.

Bran, son of Febal, is the hero of the most famous of the Irish voyage myths. Sea voyages fascinated the Irish storytellers, who would tell of strange adventures on remote islands, including those of other-worlds, such as the home of gods and goddesses, as well as the place where souls briefly rested before rebirth. Bran's great journey began

BLODEUEDD (above), the fairest woman in the world, was conjured out of blossoms by the magicians Gwydion and Math, so that she could be the wife of Gwydion's nephew, Lieu. But she betrayed her husband for another man. Guydion, here, watches as his beautiful creation comes to life. (Illustration by Alan Lee, 1984.)

BOANN (below), a water goddess and the mother of Aonghus, violated the sanctity of a sacred well of inspiration. In outrage the waters bubbled and swelled, forming a torrent which became the River Boyne, which is named after her. In its current swam the Salmon of Knowledge, seen here. (illustration by Arthur Rackham, c.1910.)

when he found a silver branch that was covered with white flowers. Gathering his kinsmen together, Bran displayed the magic bough, only to be surprised by the sudden appearance of a woman dressed in very unusual cloth. She sang to the assembled company of the great wonders to be found in the lands beyond the sea, the otherworld islands, each larger than Ireland, and inhabited by beautiful women who had no knowledge of sorrow, sickness or death. Happiness, she sang to them, was the lot of all living in these wonderful lands. Then the strange woman stopped singing and vanished, taking the magic bough with her. Bran had been unable to hold on to it, even with both his hands.

The next day Bran sailed westwards with twenty-seven kinsmen. Their first encounter was with the sea god MAN ANN AN MAC LIR, who was driving his chariot across the waves. Once again the Irish heroes were informed by the sea god of the marvels that awaited them. Even then the sea appeared to be a plain of flowers, with blossoming shrubs and an orchard of fruitful trees. That day Bran's boat came to the Isle of Merriment, where his crew could hardly stand up for laughing, and then in the evening they reached the Isle of Women. The beautiful women's leader called to Bran to step ashore, but he was afraid to land; so she threw a ball of thread that stuck to Bran's hand, and by magic drew the boat from the waves. When they came ashore the Irish heroes found soft beds and delicious food ready for them. The delightful stay seemed to them to last for only a year, but in fact many years had passed. When one of the crew grew homesick and persuaded Bran that it was time that they sailed home, he was warned by the chief woman not to set foot on soil again. Arriving off the Irish coast, Bran discovered that nobody recognized him, and he was known only as a legendary

Bran And The Magic CauldronCeltic Myth Bran

figure who had long ago embarked on a great voyage to the other-worlds, so he set sail again; but not before one desperate hero forgot the warning and jumped ashore, and immediately turned into a pile of ash, as though he had been dead for centuries.

The voyage of Bran is certainly an ancient myth, although it was not written down until the eighth century by monks. Even though the monks added certain Christian elements such as references to Jesus Christ and Adam's sin, they did not obscure the tale's original magical atmosphere. (See also FABULOUS VOYAGES)

BRAN (below), on his epic voyage, visited the Isle of Women, where the chief woman brought his ship to shore with magic threadHere, she holds a cup of plenty, symbolizing the idyllic delights of the island. The voyagers stayed for what they thought was a year before they left for home. (Illustration by Danuta Meyer, 1993.)

bran the blessed, the son of the sea god Llyr, played a different role to BRAN, son of Febal, In Welsh mythology, he was called Bendigeidfran and seems to have been an otherworld god, although he was also active as a British king in mortal affairs. He allowed his sister BRANWEN to marry the Irish king MATHOLWCH, without the consent of her half-brother EFN1SIEN.

Because of this slight, Efnisien cut off the lips, ears and tails of Matholwch's horses during the wedding feast in Wales. Not unnaturally, hostilities almost broke out between the Irish and the Britons as a result, but Bran

BRAN THE BLESSED (right), the mighty ruler of Britain, sailed to Ireland to rescue his beautiful sister, Branwen, In the ensuing battle, Bran was mortally wounded, but his head, cut from his body, lived on. His magical cauldron of rebirth is seen here, restored, along with his head. (Illustration by Alan Lee, 1984.)

managed to avoid a war by presenting Matholwch with a magic cauldron. This otherworld vessel could bring men back to life, but without restoring their speech.

Back in Ireland, Matholwch was unable to convince his warriors that Bran's gift was adequate compensation for the damage done to the horses. So Branwen ceased to be the Irish queen and was made to work in the palace kitchens, even though she had already given Matholwch a son and heir, GWEKN. When Bran learned of how she was being treated, he raised a great army and sailed to Ireland. In the ensuing battle the Britons slew every Irish man there was, but only seven of their own army survived. Even Bran was killed, by a wound caused by a poisoned arrow. On his deathbed he told his followers to cut off his head, which apparently was still able to eat and talk during the voyage home. A later addition to the myth says that the head was brought to London and buried facing Europe, to ward off foreign invaders. King Arthur is said to have used the head for its power.

The Celts believed that heads were the seat of the soul, which may partly explain their practice of head-hunting. Even more curious, was the medieval Christian claim that Bran was the first British man. (See also WONDROUS CAULDRONS)

BRANGAINE (above) and Iseult peer quizzically at the shy young stranger in the palace garden, puzzling over his identity But as soon as the dog leapt fondly onto his lap, they recognized the stranger as Tristan, who had been assumed dead. They were confused at first because he was much changed after his wanderings in the wildwood. (Illustration by Evelyn Paul, c. 1920.)

Evelyn Paul

BRANGAINE (above) and Iseult peer quizzically at the shy young stranger in the palace garden, puzzling over his identity But as soon as the dog leapt fondly onto his lap, they recognized the stranger as Tristan, who had been assumed dead. They were confused at first because he was much changed after his wanderings in the wildwood. (Illustration by Evelyn Paul, c. 1920.)

Brangaine was the maid of iseult, princess of Ireland and lover of tristan. Iseult had been promised in marriage to King mark of Cornwall. Tristan, his nephew, came to Ireland to escort her across the sea. Before the ship sailed, Iseult's mother gave Brangaine a love potion for Iseult and Mark on their wedding night, as it caused those who drank it to love only each other for the rest of their lives. However, during the voyage, Tristan became thirsty and unwittingly drank the potion, and then offered some to Iseult.

Through all the ensuing difficulties Brangaine was always loyal, sharing their secrets, such as when Tristan was brought to Mark's castle mistaken for a wild man, even taking Iseult's place in Mark's bed on the wedding night.

BRANWEN (right) releases a starling, bearing a plea for help, across the sea to her giant brother, Bran. When he reads of her plight in Ireland, he sets sail immediately with a Welsh fleet (illustration by Alan Lee, 1984)

branwen was the daughter of Llyr, the Welsh equivalent of the Irish sea god LIR, and sister to BRAN THE BLESSED, and MANAWYDAN. When High King MATHOLWCH of Ireland came to Bran's court at Harlech it was agreed that Branwen should be given to him in marriage. But her half-brother EFNISIEN was not consulted and, feeling insulted, he cut off the lips, ears and tails of Matholwch's horses. To restore peace Bran offered the Irish king replacement horses and a magic cauldron. Matholwch returned to Ireland with Branwen, who was at first received with great rejoicing for she was generous with gifts, and before long she gave birth to a son, GWERN. But after a few years Matholwch's friends and family began to complain that the compensation he had received from Bran was not enough. To satisfy them, Matholwch insisted that Branwen relinquish her position as queen and become a cook for the court.

During the next three years, as Branwen worked in the palace kitchens, she reared a starling and taught it to recognize her brother Bran. Then she sent it across the sea with a letter tied to its leg, telling of her treatment. When Bran and the Britons learned of her fate they brought an army to Ireland.

brendan the Navigator was the title given to a sixth-century Irish saint. Indeed, the account of the two voyages undertaken by St Brendan was just as popular in the Middle Ages as the stories told about the Knights of the Round Table. This wonder tale is in the same tradition as that of BRAN, son of Febal, although its direct inspiration was the voyage of the Aran hero MAELDUN. Having taken holy orders, Brendan prayed to go on a pilgrimage into unknown lands. An angel then showed him an island in a vision. In search of this beautiful land, St Brendan set sail twice, first in a craft made from skins, and

Brendon Ship Ireland

BRENDAN, the Irish saint and navigator, returns to Ireland after his wondrous voyage in search of the Land of Promise. His tour of twelve mysterious islands included a land of birdlike spirits, which was possibly the Land of Promise. His amazing tale seems to be a blend of earlier voyages, (illustration by James Stephens, c. 1920.)

BRENDAN, the Irish saint and navigator, returns to Ireland after his wondrous voyage in search of the Land of Promise. His tour of twelve mysterious islands included a land of birdlike spirits, which was possibly the Land of Promise. His amazing tale seems to be a blend of earlier voyages, (illustration by James Stephens, c. 1920.)

second in a boat made of wood. Miraculous events took place due to the saint's faith. One Easter a whale appeared so that St Brendan and his followers could hold a service on its broad back. After the service, the whale plunged under the waves and swam away. This great animal was made docile by St Brendan, as were numerous whirlpools. Even the Devil was unable to disturb the saint's serenity when he showed him the pain of Hell. St Brendan also restored to life one of the monks who were his companions after he had insisted on seeing this forbidden sight for himself.

On the voyages he also encountered a heathen giant, whom he baptized, terrifying mice and an enormous sea cat. Finally, they reached the island in St Brendan's vision. Inhabited by a hermit clothed in feathers, it was probably the Land of Promise, a place of Christian resurrection similar to the Celtic otherworlds. On his return to Ireland, St Brendan refused to stay in his old monastery but moved instead to a retreat near Limerick, where he died. (See also FABULOUS VOYAGES)

bres, in Irish mythology, was briefly the leader of the TUATHA DE DAN ANN, the implacable enemies of the FOMORll, the sea gods who ruled Ireland long before them. Bres was an unusual leader of the Tuatha De Danann because his father was ELATHA, who was a Fomorii king of a land that lay under the sea. Elatha had met a Tuatha De Danann goddess named Eri on the sea-shore and made love to her on the sand. Bres was bom as a result, although Eri was careful to say nothing to her husband about the boy's real father.

When Bres grew up, he fought against the existing inhabitants of Ireland, the FIRBOLG, at the first battle of Magh Tuireadh. In this engagement NUADA, the leader of the invading Tuatha De Danann, lost a hand and in consequence he retired for a time. Nuada tried to use a silver replacement without success, until Miach, son of the healing god D1AN CECHT, made him a hand of flesh and blood. However, until Nuada was fully recovered and able to resume his

BRIAN and his brothers set out on a perilous voyage across the world to fulfil eight tasks, set by the sun god Lugh. With daring and resource they sought and found wondrous treasures, such as an invincible sword and healing pigskin, which helped the De Danann in their battle with the Fomorii. (illustration by Stephen Reid, 1912.)

Fomorii Elatha

leadership, the De Danann were under the command of Bres. But Bres had no gift for leadership and became something of a tyrant. On the restoration of Nuada, Bres and his mother Eri fled to Elatha in order to seek Fomorii assistance. This caused the second battle of Magh Tuireadh, in which Nuada was killed. Through the bravery of the sun god LUGH, however, the Fomorii were routed and Bres was taken prisoner. One version of the myth explains how, in return for his life, Bres promised to instruct the Tuatha De Danann in the arts of planting and sowing crops. It is possible that Bres, like his wife, the fertility goddess BRIGID, was a deity connected with agriculture.

brian was one of the three sons of TU1REANN, whose family were engaged in a feud with the family of Cian, father of the god LUGH. When Lugh sent Cian to summon the warriors of the TUATHA DE DANANN to battle, Brian and his brothers, Iuchar and Iucharba, killed him during his journey. To atone for this act of murder they were given by Lugh eight tasks to perform. Among the objects they had to retrieve were three apples from the Gardens of the Sun, a healing pigskin from the king of Greece, a poisoned spear from the king of Persia, a cooking-spit belonging to the nymphs of an undersea kingdom and the seven pigs of King Asal of the Golden Pillars, which could be cooked and eaten one day and found alive the next. Finally, they were to shout three times on the Hill of Mochaen. Having successfully brought back to Lugh all the magical objects he required, they then set out to perform their last duty. However, they were mortally wounded by Mochaen and his sons. Tuireann therefore asked Lugh if he might borrow the magical pigskin and so heal his sons, but the god refused and Erian and his brothers died. (See also FABULOUS VOYAGES)

Voyage Bride

ST BRIDE is ferried by angels from Iona to Bethlehem on the eve of Christ's birth to foster the infant Christ. Celtic and Christian motifs merge in this scene, while the angels' soaring flight beyond the frame enhances the powerfully spiritual effect. (St Bride by John Duncan, canvas, c. 1913.)

briciu was one of the troublemakers of Irish myth. An Ulster lord, he arranged a great feast to which he invited all the Ulster heroes, and ordered that the hero's portion be given to the greatest among them. At which point the three great warriors, CUCHULAINN, CON ALL and Laoghaire, sprang up at once and began'fighting each other for the honour. In order to settle the argument it was agreed that a monster should be summoned to test the courage of the three heroes. Briciu did this by challenging each one to cut off the demon's head, on the understanding that the following day that man should then lay his own head on the block. Cuchulainn stepped up first and beheaded the monster, whereupon the creature rose, took up its head and departed. The next day Cuchulainn offered his own head and the monster pronounced him the bravest man in Ireland.

Bride see brigid brigantia ("High One" or "Queen") was the chief goddess of the Brigantes, the dominant tribe in the north of England before the invasion of the Romans. She was associated with water, war and healing, and also with prosperity. A widely revered goddess, she was worshipped throughout the Celtic world. In Ireland she was known as BRIGID and in France as Brigindo.

brigid, sometimes known as Brigit, was a goddess of healing and fertility who was believed to assist women in labour. She seems to have been widely worshipped in Ireland and Britain, where she was most likely known as BRIGANTIA. In Irish mythology, she was the wife of BRES, the half-FOMORll god who briefly led the TUATHA DE DANANN after the first battle of Magh Tuireadh against the FIRBOLG. Bres was handsome but also oppressive, like all Fomorii, so his reign was short. Brigid, however, bore him three sons. She often appears as an alternative for her mother ANU, which suggests that they were probably different aspects of the same mother goddess.

ST BRIDE is ferried by angels from Iona to Bethlehem on the eve of Christ's birth to foster the infant Christ. Celtic and Christian motifs merge in this scene, while the angels' soaring flight beyond the frame enhances the powerfully spiritual effect. (St Bride by John Duncan, canvas, c. 1913.)

St Brigit, or St Bride, one of Ireland's patron saints, may have been a priestess of the goddess Brigid prior to her conversion to Christianity. It was said that she was able to feed animals without reducing the available food for the people, and this also links her with Brigid, who was celebrated at the Celtic festival of Imbolc on the first of February, at the same time as the ewes came into milk.

Pictures Celtic Ancient Fairy Maidens

CAER was a fairy maiden who was loved by Aonghus. She chose to live as a swan for part of her life. When the swans gathered on the Lake of the Dragon's Mouth, Aonghus went to find Caer and win her love. As he reached out to her he was also turned into a swan, and they flew away together, (illustration by Glenn Steward, 1995.)

CAILTE, a Fenian warrior and bard, was renowned for his songs and legends. Bards or lyric poets played a central role in Celtic society, perpetuating the mysteries, praising their leaders and satirizing their enemies. Bardic schools flourished in Ireland right up to the seventeenth century, (aquatint by r. Havell. c 1890 )

Fenian Knights

CAILTE, a Fenian warrior and bard, was renowned for his songs and legends. Bards or lyric poets played a central role in Celtic society, perpetuating the mysteries, praising their leaders and satirizing their enemies. Bardic schools flourished in Ireland right up to the seventeenth century, (aquatint by r. Havell. c 1890 )

because the dog was his namesake, or because it would have been discourteous to refuse a piece of the cooked meat, Cuchulainn stopped and took hold of the dog's shoulder. As a result, his own hand and shoulder withered. Gravely weakened, he still advanced with his faithful charioteer LAEG.

CAMELOT see heroic quests

CAMULOS was the god of the Remi, a Celtic tribe living in what is now Belgium, although there is evidence that he was also worshipped as a divinity of war in northern Britain and at the town of Camulodunum ("The Fort of Camulos"), modern Colchester, in Essex. The name of the town formed the basis for the mythical city of Camelot. The Romans associated Camulos with their god Mars. He was said to wield an invincible sword.

CARADAWC, in Welsh mythology, was the son of BRAN (son of the sea god, Llyr). When Bran sailed with his army to Ireland to avenge the ill-treatment of his sister branwen by the High King matholwch, he left Caradawc as chief steward. When news of Bran's death arrived, Caradawc was overthrown by Caswallon, son of the death god Beli.

CARBONEKsee celtic otherworlds

CAER was a fairy maiden who was loved by Aonghus. She chose to live as a swan for part of her life. When the swans gathered on the Lake of the Dragon's Mouth, Aonghus went to find Caer and win her love. As he reached out to her he was also turned into a swan, and they flew away together, (illustration by Glenn Steward, 1995.)

BRIGIT see B RIGID

CAER was a fairy maiden loved by AONGHUS, the Irish love god. Her father Ethal was one of the TUATHA DE DAN ANN. Aonghus became aware of Caer in a dream and so attracted was he to her beauty that he fell into a deep sickness. When the identity of Caer was discovered, Aonghus immediately asked her father for her hand, but Ethal said it was not in his power to grant this because his daughter had taken the form of a swan. It was agreed, however, that Aonghus could ask Caer to marry him but only if he was able to recognize her from among the large flock of swans with whom she lived.

When the swans arrived at the Lake of the Dragon's Mouth, Aonghus went to the shore and, recognizing Caer, called out her name. Afterwards Aonghus and Caer were married.

CAMELOT, a mythical castle-city named after Camulos, was the heart of Arthur's kingdom, the seat of his power, symbol of his golden age and his most beloved home. Its shining towers drew knightsfrom all over the world. Part of the mystique of Camelot is its elusive location which has yet to be found. (Illustration byAian Lee, 1984)

CAILTE, son of RON AN, was a Fenian warrior and poet, and a cousin of FINN MACCOOL, leader of the FIANNA, the warrior bodyguard of the High King of Ireland. Cailte, though exceptionally thin, was a formidable fighter and is credited with killing L1R, the sea god who was the father of MANANNAN MAC LIR. But it was as a poet that he was most admired, and his most famous audience was St Patrick. Possibly after returning from an otherworld, Cailte was said to have travelled through Ireland recounting to the saint the legends of the hills, woods and lakes that they encountered, and also the great exploits and battles of the Fianna.

CALATIN, in Irish mythology, was a misshapen druid of FOMORII origin who was said to have studied sorcery for seventeen years. Queen MEDB of Connacht dispatched Calatin along with his numerous sons to fight the Ulster hero CUCHULAINN-. All of them had their left hands and right feet missing, but they never missed with their poisoned spears, and Cuchulainn only succeeded in beating them with the assistance of a Connacht warrior who disapproved of such a one-sided contest. The destruction of the male Calatins did not spell the end of Cuchulainn's troubles, however, for not long afterwards Calatin's wife gave birth to three daughters, who were blinded in one eye, like the Germanic god Odin, so as to learn the magic arts. Soon the three Calatin sisters became powerful witches, and they deceived Cuchulainn with their spells, and so assisted Queen Medb's invasion of Ulster. When Cuchulainn rode out in his chariot against the invaders, he came across these hideous women cooking a dog next to the road. Either

Seer Irish Mythology

CATHBAD (above), the inspired druid and seer, predicted Deirdre's tragic destiny at her birth. Druids, both male and female, held high rank in Celtic society. They were counsellors, judges, teachers and ambassadors. Even a high king could not speak at an assembly before his druid. (Illustration by Nick Beale, 1995.)

CATHBAD (above), the inspired druid and seer, predicted Deirdre's tragic destiny at her birth. Druids, both male and female, held high rank in Celtic society. They were counsellors, judges, teachers and ambassadors. Even a high king could not speak at an assembly before his druid. (Illustration by Nick Beale, 1995.)

cathbad, in Irish mythology, was a seer and druid, and advisor to CONCHOBHAR MAC NESSA, the king of Ulster. Cathbad prophesied that though DEIRDRE would have great beauty she would bring destruction to Ulster. He also foretold that the hero CUCHULAINN would have a glorious but short life. When King Conchobhar Mac Nessa became cruel towards the end of his reign, Cathbad cursed the king and his stronghold at Emain Macha. Cathbad had three children, DECHTIRE, the mother of Cuchulainn, Elbha, the mother of NAOISE, and Findchaem, mother of CONALL Ceamach.

Ceridwen was a Welsh goddess of fertility and the mother of Afagddu, reputedly the ugliest man in the world. To compensate for his looks Ceridwen boiled a cauldron of knowledge for a year and a day so that Afagddu could become wise and respected, and she set Gwion Bach, the second son, to watch over the pot. But Afagddu was denied the prophetic gift when a drop fell on Gwion Bach's finger and he unthinkingly sucked it. In fury, Ceridwen chased and ate Gwion Bach, only later to reincarnate him as TALIESIN, who was the greatest of all the Welsh bards. Ceridwen had another equally ugly son, Morfan, who was also a fearsome warrior. He fought with King

CERIDWEN boils a magical brew hoping to endow her ill-favoured son with wisdom. At the end of a year, the broth would yield just three precious drops of inspiration; but these splashed on to the hand of Gwion Bach, who became all-knowing, (illustration by James Alexander, 1995.)

ARTHUR in his last battle, at Camlan. At first none of Sir MODRED's men would fight Morfan because they thought he was ugly enough to be a devil.

cernunnos was a Celtic god worshipped in both France and Britain. He is usually depicted sitting cross-legged and wearing a sleeveless tunic and bead necklace. He has an impressive pair of antlers, and the name Cernunnos means "the Homed One", which suggests that he was a god of wild animals and the forest, although he has also been seen as a god of plenty. The Romans identified him with their god Mercury, the messenger god and the guide of the dead to the underworld. In medieval Ireland the antlers of Cernunnos were transferred to the Devil.

cesair was the daughter of Bith, son of Noah and one of the earliest arrivals in Ireland. In her myth, Celtic and Hebrew traditions were brought somewhat uncomfortably together by the monks who wrote down the sagas and who suggested that the first settlers had reached Ireland before the Flood. Although Bith was denied a place in the Ark, he was fortunate to be advised by a god to build his own boat. Cesair appears to have guided him to this decision as well. They sailed for seven years and eventually reached

CESAIR, granddaughter of Noah, set sail with herfather, Bith, to escape the Flood. After a seven-year voyage, they reached the shores of Ireland. Yet neither Cesair nor her father survived the Flood when it engulfed the land, although her husband, Fintan, escaped by changing into a salmon. (illustration by James Alexander, 1995.)

Celtic Mythology Fintan

CERNUNNOS, a Celtic hunter god of beasts, is typically depicted in a lotus position. The "homed one" was a lord of animals and is here surrounded by wild creatures such as the stag, boar and lion. In one hand he clasps a warrior's tore, in the other a serpent, demonstrating his power. (Gundestrup Cauldron, gilded silver, c. 100 BC.)

CERNUNNOS, a Celtic hunter god of beasts, is typically depicted in a lotus position. The "homed one" was a lord of animals and is here surrounded by wild creatures such as the stag, boar and lion. In one hand he clasps a warrior's tore, in the other a serpent, demonstrating his power. (Gundestrup Cauldron, gilded silver, c. 100 BC.)

Ireland, where Cesair was married to F1NTAN. When the rising waters of the Flood engulfed the land, Fintan saved himself by changing into a salmon, but the rest of Bith's family drowned. This myth is known as the first invasion of Ireland. Subsequent invasions were by the PARTHOLON and Nemed, the FOMORII and TUATHA DE DANANN, who were all more or less supernatural in nature. The final invasion of Ireland was by the sons of MILESIUS, who came from Spain and brought human rule to the island.

cliodhna, in Irish mythology, was an otherworld goddess of beauty. It was said that her three magical birds could sing the sick to sleep and cure them. Cliodhna was passionately in love with a mortal named Ciabhan, a youth with wonderful curling locks. One day on the shore near Cork, while Ciabhan went hunting inland, Cliodhna was put into a magic sleep by the sea god MAN ANNAN MAC LIR, who then sent a wave to pull her back to the Land of Promise.

conaire mor was a High King of Ireland. He was the son of a cowherd's foster-daughter named Mess Buachalla and the bird god NEMGLAN. His mother was actually the daughter of Etain Oig and CORMAC king of Ulster. However, Cormac was so disappointed not to have a son that he ordered Mess Buachalla to be thrown into a pit. According to the myth, the baby girl was saved by two kind-hearted servants, who could not bring themselves to carry out the king's order. Instead they gave Mess Buachalla to a cowherd. When she grew up, her beauty was so remarkable that Eterscel, the High King of Ireland, decided to marry her. He was also persuaded by a prophecy which said that an obscure woman would bear him a famous son. But on the night before the wedding, Mess Buachalla slept with the god Nemglan, who had magnificent plumage. From this union was born Conaire Mor, whom Mess Buachalla passed off as the son of Eterscel. The one instruction that Nemglan told Mess Buachalla to give to their child was that he was never to kill a bird.

When Conaire Mor was a young man, Eterscel died and the right of succession was raised in Tara, the Irish capital. It was agreed to follow the ancient custom of the dream. After a feast, one of the court would have a spell of truth sung over him as he slept. The man the courtier dreamed about would then be the next High King, In the succession dream a naked man was revealed, walking along the road to Tara with a sling in his hand.

At this time Conaire Mor was some distance from Tara. As he headed back to the palace in his chariot, a flock of birds descended upon him. They had such wonderful plumage that Conaire Mor forgot the taboo about killing birds and got out his sling. The birds shed their feathers and attacked the charioteer as warriors. But one of the birdlike fighters, who was more handsome than the rest, protected Conaire Mor. He introduced himself as his father Nemglan and reminded the young man that he must never cast stones at birds for they were his own kin. As a penance, Nemglan told his son to walk naked along the road to Tara, carrying only his sling. If he did this, and promised to rule Ireland in peace, Conaire Mor would be made High King.

So it was that Conaire Mor was received at Tara as the High King. Peace and prosperity at first marked his reign, although the lure of plunder gradually drew the Irish back to their old habit of cattle-raiding. Since Conaire Mor was reluctant to punish severely those who took

CLIODHNA fled to Glandore to live with her mortal lover, Ciabhan, but the sea god, Manannan Mac Lir, sent a great wave to scoop her up and bring her home. Here, lulled to sleep by fairy music, she drifts back to fairyland. The Wave of Cliodhna is still one of the three great waves of Ireland. (Illustration by James Alexander, 1995.)

King Conaire Mor Images

CONAIRE MOR was burdened by more geis (taboos) than any other Irish warlord. Violation of geis led to misfortune or death and marked a tragic turning-point in the hero's life. Despite his wisdom, Conaire Mor was lured by his enemies into, breaking his geis one by one. (Illustration by Stephen Reid, 1910.)

CONAIRE MOR was burdened by more geis (taboos) than any other Irish warlord. Violation of geis led to misfortune or death and marked a tragic turning-point in the hero's life. Despite his wisdom, Conaire Mor was lured by his enemies into, breaking his geis one by one. (Illustration by Stephen Reid, 1910.)

part in the growing disorder, the country soon slid back into clan warfare. Eventually, the High King had to forgo the ways of peace and break his promise to his father. Conaire Mor soon realized that this would bring about his own downfall. While on campaign, he came to a roadside hostel where he was greeted by three strange horsemen, whose clothes, weapons, bodies and horses were all red. A hideous old woman told Conaire Mor that during his stay in the hostel "neither skin nor flesh of you will escape from the place to which you have come, save what the birds will take in their claws." The same night a rebel force surrounded the hostel and attacked. Three times the building caught fire and three times the flames were brought under control, but all the water had now been used When a druid accompanying the rebels laid a spell of thirst on the High King, he sent one of his companions to fetch some water. On returning, the warrior saw that the fight was over and Conaire Mors severed head lay on the floor. So he poured the water into the king's head, at which Conaire Mor's decapitated head praised him for his sense of duty.

Tuatha Danann Symbols
Pregnancy And Childbirth

Pregnancy And Childbirth

If Pregnancy Is Something That Frightens You, It's Time To Convert Your Fear Into Joy. Ready To Give Birth To A Child? Is The New Status Hitting Your State Of Mind? Are You Still Scared To Undergo All The Pain That Your Best Friend Underwent Just A Few Days Back? Not Convinced With The Answers Given By The Experts?

Get My Free Ebook


Post a comment