Plate Xv

Epona

1. The horse-goddess Epona may have been originally a deity of a spring or river, conceived as a spirited steed. She is here represented as feeding horses (for the horse see Plates II, 1-3, III, 2, 4). From a bas-relief found at Bregenz, Tyrol.

2. The goddess is shown seated between two foals, and the cornucopia which she holds would characterize her as a divinity of plenty (cf. Plates IX, A, XIV, and p. 9). From a bronze statuette found in Wiltshire.

Digitized by Microsoft (a

Datho's grandson, Lena, who, though buried in a trench which the boar rooted up over him, succeeded in killing the animal with his sword. For seven years the boar had been nurtured on the flesh of fifty cows; sixty oxen were required to drag its carcass; and its tail was a load for sixty men; yet Conall Cernach sucked it entire into his mouth!2 The story tells nothing more of this remarkable animal, but it may commemorate an old ritual feast upon an animal regarded as divine and endowed with mythic qualities.

The Mirabilia added to Nennius's History speak of the Porcus Troit or Twrch Trwyth, hunted by Arthur, an episode related in the tale of Kulhwch and Olwen. This creature, which was a transformed knight, slaughtered many of the hunters before it was overcome and three desirable possessions taken from between its ears.3 The Porcus Troit resembles the Wild Boar of Gulban, a transformed child, hunted by Diarmaid when the Feinn had fled before it; and tradition tells of its great size — sixteen feet long.4 Fionn -himself chased a huge boar which terrified every one until it was slain by his grandson, Oscar. It was blue-black, with rough bristles, and no ears or tail; its teeth protruded horribly; and each flake of foam from its mouth resembled the foam of a mighty waterfall.5 A closer analogy to Arthur's hunt occurs in a story of the Dindsenchas concerning a pig which wasted the land. Manannan and Mod's hounds pursued it, when it sprang into a lake where it maimed or drowned the following hounds; and then it crossed to Muic-Inis, or Pig Island, where it slew Mod with its tusk.6 Another hunting of magic swine concerns animals from the cave of Cruachan, which is elsewhere associated with divinities. Nothing grew where they went, and they destroyed corn and milk; no one could count them accurately, and when shot at they disappeared. Medb and Ailill hunted them, and when one of them leaped into Medb's chariot, she seized its leg, but the skin broke, and the pig left it in her hand. After that no one knew whither they went, although a variant version says that now they were counted. From this cave came other destructive creatures — a great three-headed bird which wasted Erin till Amairgen killed it, and red birds which withered everything with their breath until the Ulstermen slew them.7 It is strange why such animals should be associated with this divine cave, but probably the tradition dates from the time when it was regarded as "Ireland's gate of hell," so that any evil spirit might inhabit it.

In these stories of divinities or heroes hunting fabulous swine it is possible that the animals represent some hurtful power, dangerous to vegetation; for the swine is apt to be regarded in a sinister light and might well be the embodiment of demoniac beings. On the other hand, the animal sacrificed to a god, or of which the god is an anthropomorphic aspect, is sometimes regarded as his enemy, slain by him. Whether this conception lurks behind these tales is uncertain, as also is the question whether the magic immortal swine — the food of the gods — were originally animals sacrificed to them. Divine swine appear in a Fionn tale. The Feinn were at a banquet given by Oengus, when the deity said that the best of Fionn's hounds could not kill one of his pigs, but rather his great pig would kill them. Fionn, on the contrary, maintained that his hounds, Bran and Sgeolan, could do so. A year after, a hundred and one pigs appeared, one of them coal-black, and each tall as a deer; but the Feinn and their dogs killed them all, Bran slaying the black one, whereupon Oengus complained that they had caused the death of his sons and many of the Tuatha De Danann, for they were in the form of the swine. A quarrel ensued, and Fionn prepared to attack Oengus's brug, when the god made peace.8 In another instance a fairy as a wild boar eluded the Feinn, but Fionn offered the choice of the women to its slayer, and by the help of a "familiar spirit" in love with him Caoilte "got the diabolical beast killed." Fionn covered the women's heads lest Caoilte should take his wife, but his ruse was unsuccessful.9

In still another instance Derbrenn, Oengus's first love, had six foster-children; but their mother changed them into swine, and Oengus gave charge of them to Buichet, whose wife desired the flesh of one of them. A hundred heroes and as many hounds prepared to hunt them, when they fled to Oengus for help, only to find that he could not give it until they shook the tree of Tarbga and ate the salmon of Inver Umaill. Not for a year were they able to do this, but now Medb hunted them, and all were slain save one. Other huntings of these swine, less fortunate for the hunters, are also mentioned, and in one passage Derbrenn's swine are said to have been fashioned by magic.10 Both in Irish and in Welsh story pigs are associated with the gods' land and are brought thence by heroes or by the gods. The Tuatha De Danann are said to have first introduced swine into Ireland or Munster.11

The mythic bulls of the Tain Bo Cualgne were reincarnations of divinities, whence enormous strength was theirs, and the Brown Bull was of vast size. He carried a hundred and fifty children, until one day he threw them off and killed all but fifty; a hundred warriors were protected by his shadow from the heat, or by his shelter from the cold. His melodious evening lowing was such as any one would desire to hear, and no eldritch thing dared approach him; he covered fifty heifers daily, and each next morning had a calf.12 Two gifts given to Conn by a princess who was with the god Lug were a boar's rib and that of an ox, twenty-four feet long, forming an arch eight feet high; but nothing further is told of the animals which owned these huge bones.13

Cattle were a valued possession of the gods' land and, like swine, were brought thence by heroes. Man easily concluded that animals useful to him were also useful to the gods, but he regarded these as magical. The divine mother of Fraoch gave him cows from the sid. ^Flidais, "one of the tribe of the god folk," was wife of Ailill the Fair and had a cow which supplied milk to three hundred men at one night's milking;

while during the Tain another account speaks of Flidais having several cows which fed AiliU's army every seventh day. Flidais loved Fergus and urged him to carry her off with her cow 14 — a proof of its value, which is seen also in tales of the capture of cows along with some desirable woman, divine or human. In many Welsh instances cattle are a possession of the fairy-folk dwelling under a lake and often come to land to feed.15 The cow of Flidais resembles the seven kine of Manannan's wife; their milk suffices the people of the entire Land of Promise or the men of the whole world, while from the wool of her seven sheep came all their clothing.16

Though the waves were "the Son of Ler's horses in a sea-storm," Manannan rode them on his steed Enbarr, which he gave to Lug; and this horse was "fleet as the naked cold wind of spring," while its rider was never killed off its back.17 In Elysium "a stud of steeds with grey-speckled manes and another crimson-brown" were seen by Laeg, and similar horses were given to carry mortals back to earth, whence, if they did not dismount, they could return safely to Elysium. Such a steed was brought by Gilla Decair to Fionn and his men, and miserable-looking though it was, when placed among the Feinn's horses, it bit and tore them. Conan mounted it in order to ride it to death, but it would not move; and when thirteen others vaulted on it, the Gilla fled, followed swiftly by the horse with its riders. Carrying them over land and sea, with another hero holding its tail, it brought them to the Land of Promise, whence Fionn ultimately rescued them. This forms the first part of a late artificial tale, based upon a mythic foundation.18 Other mythical horses came from a water-world, e. g. the steeds which ¡Cuchulainn captured, one of these being the Grey of Macha, out of the Grey Lake. Cuchulainn slipped behind it and wrestled with it all round Erin until it was mastered; and when it was wounded at his death, it went into the lake to be healed. The other was Dubsainglend of the Marvellous Valley, which was captured in similar fashion.19

0 0

Post a comment