Fionn Maccumhail

Irish Designs Finn Mccool

Giant's Causeway, on the northeast coast of Northern Ireland. According to legend, Irish giant Finn McCool built Giant's Causeway (Clochan na bhFomharach) on his way to fight a Scottish giant named Benandonner. (Photo by Code Poet/Used under a Creative Commons license)

FlNNECES (FlNEGAS) The druid who unintentionally helped Fionn gain the power of divination. When Finneces caught the salmon of knowledge, he gave it to his pupil, Fionn. While cooking the fish for the druid, the boy burned his thumb and put it into his mouth to soothe the pain, thus gaining the fish's magical power.

FlNNGUALA (FlONNUALA) The daughter of the Irish Lir (2). She and her unfortunate siblings were turned into swans by their stepmother-aunt, AIfe (2).

Finn McCool A giant described in many tales from Irish and Scottish folklore. The figure is based on the Irish hero Fionn. The most famous story about him is that he created the Giant's Causeway, a renowned basalt rock formation, by dropping stones to form a huge pathway.

FlNTAN MAC BOCHRA In the Book of Invasions, the husband of Cesair (1); the only survivor of the first group to invade Ireland. He lived as a one-eyed salmon, an eagle, and a hawk for 5,500 years, witnessing the next four invasions.

FlONN MAC CUMHAlL (FlNN MAC COOL) The great leader of the Fianna. His father, Cumhall, was murdered before Fionn's birth. His mother was Mui-renn. As a youth, Fionn was tutored by the druid Finneces and thus gained his supernatural wisdom. Henceforth, Fionn was a poet and a magician.

The great hero of the Fenian Cycle was a skillful hunter, a brave warrior, and a wise prophet. He was also tall, fair, and handsome. Fionn was linked with many women, some of whom are classified as wives, others as his consorts. The magical Sadb bore his son, OisiN. Cairell is also named as his son. In his old age, Fionn was betrothed to Grainne, but she spurned him for the youthful Diarmait. He was always accompanied by his faithful dogs, Bran (2) and Sceolang, who were also his cousins, the children of his aunt, Uirne.

Fionn's greatest rival was Goll mac Morna, the leader of another warrior clan. By some accounts, Goll murdered Fionn's son Cairell. By others, Goll murdered Fionn's father, Cumhall. According to some tales, Fionn avenged these wrongdoings in battle. According to other tales, Goll killed Fionn instead. Like Arthur, Fionn was sometimes said not to be dead, but to be awaiting the day when his people would call upon him again.

How Fionn Gained His Great Knowledge There are many stories about how Fionn gained his great knowledge. In the most popular, Fionn was studying with Finneces the druid. For seven years, the druid had tried to catch the salmon of knowledge. This fish, which had eaten nuts that had fallen from the hazel trees overlooking the magical Well of Segais, had the power to bestow wisdom on the person who ate it. Shortly after the young Fionn came to study with Finneces, the druid caught the elusive quarry. Thinking the boy had brought him luck, the druid gave the fish to Fionn to cook and warned the boy not to eat one single bite of the fish. The boy cooked the fish on a spit over a fire. After a while he checked to see if the fish was ready to eat. When he touched the fish to see if it was done, he burned his thumb. Quickly, he put his thumb in his mouth to cool it. As a result, the fish's magical wisdom passed to Fionn.

Fionn himself told three different stories of how he gained his magical wisdom. In one, he met three maidens who were guarding their father's magical well. One of them was beguiled by the handsome young hero. She accidentally gave Fionn a drink from the waters of wisdom within the well. In another version of the tale, Fionn drank from two magical wells in the Otherworld. In the third story, he was mysteriously transformed into an old man after bathing in a lake. The ruler of a nearby sidh (a passage to the Otherworld) offered him a drink from his magical cup, which restored his youth. In all three versions, Fionn gained supernatural wisdom from the water he drank.

The Slaying of Aillen Fionn's father, Cumhall, was a member of the band of warriors that protected Ireland and its kings. The warrior Goll Mac Morna killed him before Fionn was born. Fearful for her son's life, Fionn's mother, Muirenn, sent him away to live and train secretly with the druid Finneces. Under her care, Fionn gained his supernatural wisdom. He also became highly skilled in the art of combat. When his training was complete, Fionn took up arms and set out to find his destiny. He arrived at the gates of Tara, the Irish fortress of kings, on the eve of Samhain. The men of Tara recognized the fair Fionn, for he looked just like his father. They welcomed him into the fortress and accepted him into their ranks.

Fionn learned that Tara was about to be attacked by a fire-breathing, three-headed monster called Aillen. The creature lived in a cave and terrorized Ireland on every Samhain eve. Each year, for 23 years, Aillen put the residents of Tara under a spell and destroyed Tara by fire while they slept. Each year, they rebuilt the great fortress only to see it destroyed again the following Samhain eve.

But this year Fionn was present, armed with his wonderful knowledge, his magical powers, and his terrible poisonous spear. The creature appeared, singing a song that immediately put all the men into a deep sleep. But Fionn knew a secret way to resist the spell. He was the only man able to stay awake. Fionn attacked Aillen as it prepared to destroy the fortress. He killed the beast with his poisonous sword and saved Tara forever. Because of this heroic act, Fionn was made the leader of the Fianna. Even his rival, Goll Mac Morna, was forced to bow to Fionn's bravery.

Fir Bolg (Fir Bholg) A legendary race of people who had been enslaved in a land near Greece. After years of hauling bags of earth over their shoulders to make bare, rocky areas suitable for farming, they escaped to Ireland, using the bags as boats. They are the fourth wave of invaders in the Lebor Gabala (Book of Invasions), the story of how Ireland was settled. The Fir Bolg ruled for 37 years and divided Ireland into provinces. They lived peacefully alongside the Fomorians. One of their kings was Eochaid mac Eirc. Favorable conditions and crops marked his reign. The Tuatha De Danann, the fifth wave to invade Ireland, defeated the Fir Bolg in the first battle of Mag Tuired (see Cath Maige Wired). The druids of the Tuatha De Danann lured Eochaid away from the fighting to his death. The Fir Bolg then fled to distant parts of the Gaelic world.

FISH See salmon.

FlTHIR The tragic heroine of an Irish tale. The beautiful Fithir fell in love with the king of Leinster but her father refused to let them wed. He offered his older daughter, Dairine, to the king instead. When Dairine died mysteriously, the king returned to ask for Fithir's hand. This time, her father agreed and the

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