Thirteen Treasures of Britain Thirteen

Treasures) Magical possessions that only work for a worthy Celtic ruler or hero, thereby giving him an advantage in social and military situations. They are similar to the four magical possessions used by the Tuatha De Danann to test whether a newly selected tribal king is fit to rule. These thirteen treasures are described in the myths and legends set down in the Mabinogion and The Welsh Triads. Each treasure is named for the person connected with the legend in which the object is featured.

Several of these treasures help give the hero a military advantage. King Arthur's Cloak made the wearer invisible but allowed him to see everything. The Sword of Rhydderch the Generous would burst into flames for a highborn warrior, but only the bravest hero was strong enough to use it without hurting himself. The Whetstone of Tidal Tidily made a brave man's sword so sharp that all his opponents would die from even a knick of its blade. However, a cowardly man's sword would have no special powers when sharpened with the whetstone. If the hero put the Halter of Cline Eddy on his bedpost at night, the next day an exceptionally swift and strong horse would appear in his stables to take the warrior into battle. Or he could use the Morgan Chariot, which would instantly transport him wherever he wished.

On the battlefield, a few of the other treasures would certainly have come in handy for a worthy hero. With the Basket of Glyndon and the Crock and the Dish of Ryhgenydd the Scholar, the leader of an army could feed a hundred of his fellow warriors and retainers, for each of these objects would supply whatever food was wished for. The Knife of Llawfronedd would magically extend itself to serve two-dozen men at once. And if the hero could get his hands on the legendary Horn of Bran the Miser, no one would go thirsty, as the enchanted drinking horn would fill to the brim at the user's wish.

Once home from battle or hunting, the hero could prove he was a worthy man by putting on the Coat of Cardon in front of the entire village as the coat would only fit a lord, not a peasant. A hero who had access to the Cauldron of Dyrnwch the Giant would allow him to test his followers' bravery, for the cauldron would not boil the meat of a coward, no matter how hot the fire grew under it. When the day was done, a tired hero could be amused by the golden Chess Board of Gwenddolau, whose silver pieces played a lively game all by themselves.

It was said that a Welsh god named Myrddin (believed to be the basis for the fictional wizard Merlin in the King Arthur tales) took the Thirteen Treasures of Britain with him when he retired to Bardsey Island and after that they were never seen again.

THREE A powerful and magical number that appears many times in Celtic lore. Gods and goddesses often had a triple aspect. Brigit, for example, had two lesser-known sisters. Together, they formed a triple goddess. Another triple goddess was the powerful MoRRiGNA. She was a combination of three terrible war goddess or queens. The triple mother was an unnamed Celtic mother goddess. She was often depicted as three women carrying three different items, such as an animal, bread, and flowers.

Gods and goddesses often appear in threes. Three deities, the sisters Eriu, Banba, and Fodla, per


sonified Ireland. Furthermore, they married three brothers who were kings of the Tuatha De Danann. Also among this group were the three gods of craft, Credne, Goibniu, and Luchta. Three fierce Gaulish gods, Esus, Taranis, and Teutates are often mentioned together.

Characters, plot elements, and even time elements often come in threes. For example, Angus Og searched for his true love Caer (1) for three years. Adhnuall the hound circled Ireland three times and let out three howls where three members of the Fianna were buried. A three-headed monster terrorized Tara until slain by Fionn. The three friendly rivals of Ulster—Conall, Cuchulainn, and Loegaire—often traveled together. The story of the feast of Bricriu contains an excellent example of the use of threes as a storytelling device. The beheading competition at the end of that story happens three times, involves the three heroes, and takes place over three days.

The use of threes may have made it easier for storytellers to remember the plots that they committed to memory. Details repeated three times may also have stood out more clearly in the listener's mind.

TlR The Irish word for land, it is the first word in many real and imaginary place names. The most fanciful are places where the Tuatha De Danann lived in exile after their defeat by the Milesians. Examples include Tir fo Thuinn, the land under the seas; Tir na mBeo, land of everlasting life; Tir na nOg, the land of youth; and Tir Tairngire, the land of promise and divine knowledge.

Tir na nOg (Tir na Nong, Land of Eternal Youth, Land of the Ever Young, Land Under Wave) One of the many Otherworlds in Celtic mythology. Tir na nOg is the place where the bewitched children of Lir return to after they live for 900 years as swans. When baptized by a kind hermit, they turn back into children and then dissolve into dust. Their spirits live on in the Land of the Ever Young. In the story of Diarmait, the hero travels to the Land Under Wave, where everything is ancient but ever young.

TOCHMARC ETAINE (The Wooing of Etain) A tale from the Mythological Cycle that tells the story of how the proud Irish god Midir wooed the divine beauty EtaIn. The manuscript is damaged and incomplete, making the story difficult to follow at times.

While visiting Angus Og, the handsome god of youth, Midir the Proud claimed that he had been injured. He demanded that Angus pay him restitution. Midir told Angus that he wanted to woo the fairest maiden in Ireland. Angus, wanting to please his friend, knew that the fairest maiden in all of Ireland was Etain. He set out to win her for Midir. To do so, Angus had to perform several tasks for her father and hand over his weight in gold and silver. After Angus completed the tasks and paid the dowry, Midir and Etain were wed.

When Midir and his beautiful new bride returned to his home, Midir's first wife, Fuamnach, greeted them. She was not pleased to see them. But she hid her jealousy until she could get Etain alone. Using a spell taught to her by her druid father, Fuamnach turned Etain into a tiny fly. When Midir returned from hunting, he spied the fly and recognized it as his beautiful bride. He hid the creature among the folds of his cloak, and it kept him company wherever he went. When Fuamnach learned of this, she created a great gust of wind. It carried Etain far away from Midir. Fuamnach's magical deed provoked the wrath of Angus, however. He punished her for harming Etain by cutting off her head. For 1,000 years, Etain flitted about in the form of a fly until she landed in the cup of the wife of an Ulster king. The woman swallowed the fly and nine months later gave birth to the reincarnated Etain.

Another 1,000 years passed before Etain married Eochaid (2), the legendary high king of Ireland. The king's brother, Ailill Anglonnach, fell under the heroine's spell, falling sick with love. A physician said Ailill could only be cured of the love and jealousy that pained him if Etain returned his love. Etain was torn. Although she did not want to betray her husband, she also did not want Ailill to die. As she pondered her dilemma, her long-lost husband Midir visited her disguised as Ailill. Midir's magic cured Ailill. But Midir was determined to win Etain back. He challenged her husband to a game of fidchell. Through trickery, Midir won Etain from her husband and escaped with her back to the Otherworld. But Eochaid would not give Etain up so easily. He and his men destroyed many a sidh in search of the couple. Finally, they rescued Etain and brought her back home.

Cernunnos Torc

TORC A piece of jewelry worn around the neck like a collar. Worn by aristocrats and gods, it was a symbol of power and divine status. For example, Cernunnos, the god of beasts, wore a tore along with his stag antlers. In another story, when Angus Og found his love Caer (1) in the form of a swan, he recognized her by the golden tore she wore.

Tory Island A mythological site. This island off the coast of Ireland was the home of the Fomo-rians, a race of gods in the collection of tales from the Mythological Cycle. The island had a great fortress and at least two towers that were depicted in two important myths. In the Lebor GabAla, or Book of Invasions, the Nemedians raided the island and stormed the tower fortress of the Fomorians. Although they bested the Fomorians three times, the Fomorians were ultimately victorious. In another myth, the Fomorian giant Balor imprisoned his daughter, Eithne, in a crystal tower on Tory Island. A druid foretold that Balor's own grandson would kill him. He locked Eithne away in order to keep her from producing a child. But Cian infiltrated the Tory Island tower and impregnated Eithne. She later gave birth to three children. Balor killed two of the infants, but the third survived. He grew up to become the great hero and Irish god Lugh Lamfhota. The prophecy was fulfilled many years later when Lugh killed his grandfather Balor in battle.

TREES The Celts had a special reverence for trees, as they did for all of nature. They often worshiped and performed rituals among trees, such as in a woodland clearing called a Nemeton. Trees were sacred to druids, who used their wood to make wands and tools for divination rituals.

The tree itself was a powerful symbol. With its roots in the earth, its solid trunk standing upright like a human figure, and its branches reaching toward the sky, it represented life.

Each individual species of tree had a special meaning, as well. Many trees were sacred or magical to the Celts, including the apple, hazel, oak, yew, and rowan trees. Wood from the ash tree could ward off fairies, for example, and the blackthorn was


Celtic Mythology Birds

Irish Princess Iseult talks with her true love, Tristan, at a fountain, while Iseult's fiancée, King Marc'h of Cornwall, spies on them from above in this scene carved into an ivory casket from 14th-century.

thought to protect against ghosts. The alder tree was regarded with awe because when cut the wood turns from white to red; even today people avoid cutting that species of tree.

Trees are often featured in Celtic myth. For example, Gwydion used his powerful magic to turn trees into warriors in Cad Goddeu (Battle of the Trees). The goddess CLiDNA owned three birds that ate apples from an Otherworldly tree. Nine hazel trees, a source of wisdom, surrounded Connla's Well. The fruit trees of the great god Dagda were always ready to harvest, a symbol of abundance and hospitality.

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