Plate Vi

A and B Plan of the Brug na Boinne

1. General view of the tumulus.

2. Cross-section of the mound.

3. Plan of the central chamber.

4. View of the stone-work of the Brug and its entrance, after the removal of the earth.

5. General ground-plan of the Brug.

Digitized by Microsoft

4

Digitized by Microsoft ®

fluenced by the view that some of the Tuatha De Danann had died as mortals, Dagda has long since passed away, and the mounds are places of sepulture, perhaps a reflection of the fact that kings were interred there. Yet they are apportioned by the chief survivors, Bodb Dearg and Manannan, the latter having the task of selecting concealed dwellings. These he found in beautiful hills and valleys, and drew round them an invisible and impenetrable wall, though the Tuatha De Danann themselves could see and pass through it. He gave them Goibniu's ale, which preserved them from old age, disease, and death, and his own swine, which, killed and eaten one day, were alive the next and fit again for use. Thus even from this euhemeris-tic narrative the real divinity of its personages appears.5

In this account Bodb Dearg is made sovereign of the Tuatha De Danann, as he is also in the story of The Children of Ler {Aided Chlainne Lir). Ler, disgusted at the choice, retired, whereupon the others resolved to punish him, but were overruled by Bodb, who gave Ler his daughter Aobh as wife, provided he would pay allegiance to him. Aobh bore him two daughters and two sons before her death, and to comfort him Bodb now gave him her sister Aoife who, jealous of her stepchildren, transformed them into swans — a shape which they must keep for nine hundred years, though they retained speech and reason and the power of exquisite song. As a punishment Bodb changed Aoife into a "demon of the air." Not till the time of St. Patrick and St. Mochaomhog did Ler's children resume their own form. Withered and old, they now accepted the Christian faith and died, after having found their father's palace a roofless ruin.6

In the version given in the Book of Fermoy Elcmar, foster-father of Oengus, received the Brug na Boinne, and Manannan advised Oengus to ask it from him. Through Manannan's magic power Elcmar was expelled, and Oengus gained the sid, where he dwells invisibly, eating the swine and drinking the ale of immortality. In still another version a curious account of the origin of Oengus is given. He was a natural son of Dagda, by Elcmar's wife. Dagda sent Elcmar on a journey and wrought spells, bringing darkness and "strayings" upon him, and warding off hunger and thirst from him. He obtained access to the goddess, perhaps because, like Uther and Manannan on like occasions, he assumed the appearance of the real husband. Elcmar was still absent when Oengus was born, but he may later have discovered the truth, for Oengus was taunted, as Merlin was, with having no parents. He went in tears to the god Midir, who took him to Dagda, and the latter acknowledged him as his son, bidding him go to Elcmar's sid and threaten him with death if he would not promise him "the sovereignty of a day and night in his land" — the same trick which Oengus played on Dagda in the first version.7 This story is introductory to the beautiful myth of Etain, to be told later; but here it should be noted that in a poem by the euhemerizing monk, Flann Manistrech, Elcmar slew Midir and was himself slain by Oengus.8 This, however, need be no part of an earlier myth.

Still another account is given in verse by the tenth century poet, Cinaed ua hArtacain. Boann, Nechtain's wife, came to stay with her brother Elcmar, vassal of Dagda, who sought her love in vain. His Druids advised him to send Elcmar on a mission, but the latter bargained that it should not keep him away over night, whereupon Dagda "kept the sun in the lofty ridge of the heavens till the end of nine months." Elcmar thought that only a day had passed, but on his return he saw by the change in the flowers how long the time had been. Meanwhile Dagda and Boann had deceived him, but now they were afraid, and birth-pangs seized the faithless wife. They left her child Oengus by the road-side near Midir's sid, and there he was brought up until his companions jeered at his unknown origin. Taxed by Oengus, Midir told the truth, and taking him to Dagda's sid, obtained it for him for a day and a night, thus tricking him.9

Whether the earliest story told of Dagda's or of Elcmar's dispossession, Oengus is a god who tricks his father or his foster-father, and perhaps the latter was the sufferer in the primitive form. Rhys makes Dagda an equivalent of Kronos and Oengus of Zeus; but apart from the disinheriting incident, which is not exactly parallel in the respective Greek and Celtic stories,10 Dagda and Oengus have no clear traits in common with Kronos and Zeus, nor is there the slightest evidence that Dagda, like Kronos, ruled over the dead, either before or after his expulsion. The possible basis of the story, as the present writer has suggested elsewhere, is a myth explaining why the cult of one god came to supersede that of another.11

0 0

Post a comment