Plate Viii Squatting

The deity has torques on his neck and lap, and is encircled by two serpents with rams' heads. Traces of horns appear on his head. He may possibly be a form of Cernunnos (see Plate XVI), and would thus be a divinity of the underworld. From an altar found at Autun, Saone-et-Loire. For a representation on a Gaulish coin see Plate III, 3; cf. also Plates IX, XXV.

Trespass on a sacred place is implied in the story of Eochaid, who eloped with his step-mother. Oengus, in disguise, told him not to camp on his meadow; and when he persisted, the god sent plagues upon him, killing his cattle and horses, and threatening to slay his household if he would not go. Oengus then gave him a horse on which to depart with his goods, and the lake which was formed afterward from the bursting of an uncovered well produced by the micturation of this horse drowned Eochaid and all his household, save his daughter Liban. This, as well as the similar story told of Eochaid's brother Rib, who trespassed on the ground of Oengus and Midir, has affinity with tales of the bursting of a sacred well upon the impious trespasser, as in the legend of Boann.11

In another story Oilill pastured his cattle on the exterior of a sid, the grass of which the sid-folk now destroyed. While Oilill watched there with Ferchess, he saw fairy cattle leaving the sid, followed by Eogabal, son of its King, and his daughter Aine. Eogabal was slain by Ferchess, and Aine was outraged by Oilill, but she struck his right ear, leaving no flesh on it, whence his epithet "Bare Ear." Aine promised vengeance, which was wrought thus. Eogan, Oilill's son, and Lugaid mac Con heard music proceeding from a yew formed by magic as part of the means employed for vengeance, and in it was found a little harper, who was brought by them to Oilill. Before he went away, however, he made contention between Eogan and Lugaid; the latter was slain, and this caused the battle of Mag Mucrime, where Oilill's seven sons perished.12 In this story gods are within men's power, though the latter cannot finally escape punishment. So also is it in the tale of Macha, "sun of women-folk," daughter of Midir, or of Sainred, son of Ler, who came to the house of the rich peasant, Cronn-chu, and served him, bringing him prosperity and living with him as his wife. Cronnchu went to a feast of the Ulstermen, but was bidden by Macha not to say an imprudent word or mention her name. At the horse-racing, however, he boasted that his wife was swifter than the horses, whereupon King Conchobar insisted that she should be sent for, and though she was with child, forced her to run against his chariot. She said that all who saw it would suffer for the deed, and when at the goal she gave birth to twins, she condemned every Ulster-man to undergo for five days and four nights each year all the pangs which she had felt, and to have no strength during that time. Cuchulainn alone escaped the curse.13

The automatic working out of punishment is seen in the tragic results of the breaking of personal tabus, e. g. in the case of Cuchulainn and Fionn.14 This is sometimes regarded as the inevitable operation of fate or as divine vengeance for wrong done to gods, not necessarily by the victim, and it receives its most mysterious illustration in the doom of Conaire Mor in the long tale of Da Derga's Hostel. In some versions Conaire's origin is connected with incest — itself caused by a vengeful god — while his death at the height of his prosperity is regarded as the consequence of injury done by his ancestor to the god Midir, whose wife Etain was retaken from him by Conaire's forefather Eochaid.15 Through a trick of Midir's, Eochaid had a child, Mess Buachalla, by his daughter Ess, and Mess Buachalla was mother of Conaire. Who, then, was Conaire's father? One account regards him as King Eterscel, while Mess Buachalla is here daughter of Ess and one of the side, or of Ess and Eterscel — the latter version thus introducing the incest incident in another form. Another account tells how Eochaid married Etain, daughter of Etar, King of the cavalcade from the sid; and their daughter Etain became Cormac's wife, but was put away because she bore him no son. Cormac ordered his infant daughter to be slain, but she smiled so sweetly on his thralls that they took her to King Eterscel's cowherds, who guarded her in a hut with a roof-light, whence her name Mess Buachalla, or "the Cowherds' Foster-Child." Through the roof-light Eterscel's people saw her when she was grown up, and told the king of her beauty. Now it was proph-

esied that he would have a son by a woman of unknown race, but before he sent for her, a bird flew through the roof-light, and doffing its plumage, became a man, to whom Mess Buach-alla yielded herself. Before leaving her he told how she would have a son, Conaire, by him, who must never hunt birds; and Conaire was regarded as Eterscel's child when born. At Eterscel's death the new king was to be selected by divination at the "bull-feast." A bull was killed, probably as a sacrifice, and after the diviner had eaten its flesh, he dreamed of the future king — in this case a naked man with a sling coming to Tara. Meanwhile Conaire hunted a flock of wonderful birds, which suddenly became armed men, one of them telling him that he was Nemglan, King of the birds, his father, and that he was breaking his geasa (tabus) in hunting his kinsmen. Conaire replied that he knew nothing of this geis, whereupon Nemglan bade him go naked toward Tara, where watchers would meet him. In this incident there is doubtless some dim memory of clan totem-myths.

A different account of his becoming king makes Mess Buachalla tell him for the first time who his father is, viz. Eterscel, her own father, when he had just died. His successor must fulfil certain apparently impossible conditions, but Conaire met the terms and became king. Mysterious hosts brought to him by his mother stayed with him for a time and then departed, none knew whither; they were side from Bri Leith, Midir's sid.16 This appears to mean that Conaire was divinely assisted to become king, so that the approaching disaster might be all the greater.

To return to the other account, Nemglan told Conaire the geasa which he must observe. He became king, and none ever had a more prosperous reign; plenty abounded, and murder and rapine were banished. At last, however, the vengeance of the god began to work. Through a fate which he could not resist Conaire one day settled a quarrel between two of his serfs, thus breaking one of the geasa, and on his return he saw the whole country in flame and smoke — a delusion of the side. To avoid the fire he and his men went sunwise round Tara and counter-clockwise round Bregia. These were tabued directions; and as he went, he pursued the evil beasts of Cerna, disobeying another tabu. Then, belated, he resolved to stay in the hostel of Derga ("Red"), and three red-haired horsemen clad in red and on red steeds 17 were seen preceding him to the house of Red — another of his geasa. He sent messengers after them begging them to fall behind, but they only went the faster and] announced: "We ride the steeds of Donn Tet-scorach (Midir's son) from the sid. Though we are alive, we are dead. Great are the signs. Destruction of life. Sating of ravens. Feeding of crows. Strife of slaughter. Wetting of sword-edge. Shields with broken bosses in hours after sundown. Lo, my son!" With this boding prophecy they vanished, and the gods themselves thus caused the violation of Conaire's geasa. After arriving at the hostel he broke yet another, for there came a hideous woman who, standing on one foot, holding up one hand, and casting an evil eye on Conaire and his men, foretold their doom. Then she begged to be taken in, appealing to Conaire's generosity, and he said, "Let her in, though it is a geis of mine."

At this time Ingcel, whose single eye had three pupils, invaded Ireland with Conaire's foster-brothers, and they were now on their way to attack the hostel. Ingcel is described as going toward it to spy upon the inmates, returning with ever fresh reports of the wonders and the people seen by him, some of them gigantic and monstrous, with magic weapons. When the hostel was surrounded, a terrible battle began. Conaire was parched with thirst, but no water was to be obtained, though his ally MacCecht sought it in all Ireland. Lakes and rivers had been dried up, apparently by the gods, as at the first battle of Mag-Tured, and one loch alone was reached before its water disappeared. MacCecht returned with a draught, but all too late. Conaire's host was scattered and dead, and he himself was being decapitated by two of his foes, whom Mac-Cecht slew, and then poured the water into Conaire's mouth. The head thanked him for his act, and thus perished Conaire, through no fault of his own, victim of fate and of a god's vengeance.18 The story is as tragic as a Greek drama, if its art is less consummate.

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