Irish Mythology Archives - Lora O'Brien - Irish Author & Guide
Category Archives for "Irish Mythology"

Is the Mórrígan Recruiting?

Mórrígan's Army

As part of our annual 6 month Intensive Programme, I answer questions from students who want to know more about the Irish Goddess Mórrígan, with whom I have had a solid working relationship for about 15 years now… and the last 13 of them as Her priest.

8 of those years were spent in daily service (and professional employment), managing Her primary sacred site at Rathcroghan, Co. Roscommon, and guiding visitors in (and safely back out) of the cave known as ‘her fit abode’; Uaimh na gCait, Oweynagat – the Cave of the Cats.

I’m going to occasionally share some of those answers through this blog. [Find them tagged with ‘Morrigan’, or ‘Class Questions’]

Iníon Preacháin asked: “Why do you feel She is showing such an interest in “recruiting” devotees (for lack of better terms) at this time?”

 

Okay, well, the short answer to that is: look around. The world needs Mórrígan devotees, or people who are doing the work for humanity and for communities.

The longer answer is, that it isn’t just at this time. She has been doing this for a long time, and she’s been preparing for a long time, and again, that’s my experience of it, but it also plays out in the lore.

Everybody talks about the Mórrígan as a battle goddess, and she absolutely is involved in battles because battles shape history and battles shape communities and wars are fought, the outcome of which is part of a much bigger picture, and it’s the bigger picture stuff that the Mórrígan is in charge of. In my experience.

And I think, though that is my experience, the lore plays that out, and her role as a prophet or goddess of prophecy is very much an integral part of that, but also her… I was gonna say ‘meddling,’ meddling is the wrong word, but her involvement in seemingly small things and small stories which end up playing a very big role in battles to come or in the outcome of certain battles or wars that are being fought, and changes.

She is a goddess of change.

At this time, we need somebody who knows what’s going on, absolutely, and she needs people on the ground doing the work that – y’know, she can lead the horse to water, but she can’t directly interfere with… I mean, she does directly interfere with people, with individuals, but she can’t shape things on a bigger scale herself. She has to do it through individuals. And I think that’s where the recruitment drive is coming from, but actually the recruitment drive has been going on for a long time. I think that it has become global, now, but this is not new.

This poem, it was one of my first calls from her. (Click to Read Poem)

It was written at Bealtaine of 2004. It’s from the Irish Witchcraft book, which was my first book, but actually she had been calling for a long time before that. I was tattooed with crows, for example, before this poem was written or that book was written. She’s been calling since, I would say, since the turn of the millennium. Since about 2000, there has been a very specific gathering of the forces in Ireland, on the ground in Ireland, around her sites, and the work that she has had me doing here has been to disseminate real information and education because that wasn’t happening back then. At all.

All through the 90s, there was a lot of shite about Irish traditions and Irish culture specifically, and very little that was real. Everybody was shit-scared of her, but really very little about her and certainly nothing of value about her was available to the general public – there wasn’t even the interest and the understanding that the source lore and the literature we have is so important to us now as modern pagans working with her. I mean, that just wasn’t there in the 90s.

Your average pagan now is, believe it or not, much better read and much more versed in the lore than your average pagan was back then. Just from the sheer availability, I think of it, with the coming of the Internet and the raised standards in publishing – and yes, they are raised, believe it or not again, you might not appreciate just how bad things used to be. There was a huge gap between academic research and the access that people could have to academia. Scholarship was very much far removed from the standard pagan community, except in small pockets and some individuals. And that was the teachers, never mind students.

So the work that she’s had me doing since she got her hooks in me is to try and bring some of that to the wider communities, and to teach people the importance of it. Now I’m not academic, I mean, I’ve studied psychology, but that was me going back as a mature student. The only other college learning I have is in art college, so that’s fuck-all useful to anybody, unless you’re artistic, which I am, or was at least, but…yes, so, I’m not an academic, but one of the things that she had me do was get my head around the literature and try and find ways to translate it. I don’t mean translate it from Old Irish – thankfully that work is being done but that is not my work, thank the gods, I’ve never had to learn Old Irish. Morgan Daimler is doing excellent work in that, poor Morgan, we’ll have her worked to death before she has the entire Ulster Cycle translated by the time I’m finished with her. And Isolde Carmody, who is one half of the Story Archaeology team, who you will hear lots and lots and lots about from me, has been doing sterling translation work too.

None of that work was being done at the time though, and the recruitment that we’re seeing now is just a step above that. It’s just where that has reached a kind of a critical mass where it’s spilling over into the wider world and really my feeling is that she was consolidating her base ground for the last decade and in the last five or so years things have kind of stepped up and moved on from that.

As ever, I’m wary of projecting my own stuff because that above has been very much my experience, but then as I started to travel away from my beloved isle and get out and about in the world, rather than everybody coming to me at the Cave and through Rathcroghan Heritage Centre – which is lovely and I much prefer, I have to say, I hate leaving Ireland, moan moan whine whine… Since I’ve started getting out and about in the world, I have noticed there is a mirroring of many people’s experience in that it’s not just my experience, it’s that now is the time.

There’s been a couple of organizations started up in recent years. The Coru Priesthood, for example, and I know some of our course members have started priesthoods in Texas and Connecticut, and eventually I will have to start one here in Ireland. I don’t want to be doing any of this work, to be honest. If I could get away with doing none of this work I would be totally getting away with that and living a much easier life, but my next project is going to be is a priesthood here in Ireland and I’m not sure what that’s going to look like, yet, but before of that I have a serious initiation I have to do, which again, I’ve been putting off because it’s scary.

A lot of that is going on here, and it is very much mirrored out in the world, and I think that the answer to it, to the question ‘why do I feel that there’s such an interest’, is because she’s so concerned with the bigger picture, and the bigger picture is fucked right now. Absolutely fucked.

Anybody in class (or reading this blog) who is not aware of just how fucked the bigger picture is on so many different levels – if you’re going to be on my Facebook, so you’ll find out very quickly if you’re not aware already… and awareness is the first key. It’s through educating ourselves that we understand the work that needs to be done on a big scale, but also on our doorstep and on ourselves.

Part of taking this course, I hope, is doing that work on yourself so that you’re ready then to do whatever work is needed of you out in the world.

 

[Author’s Note: this class was recorded pre Brexit, and pre Trump. And before Ireland had begun to step up and lead the free world with such fantastic examples of social justice and people power as the Marriage Equality Referendum, the Transgender Identity Bill, and our Referendum to Repeal the 8th Amendment. FYI.]

 


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The Mórrígan and Her Sisters

Red Haired Woman in a Crowd

As part of our annual 6 month Intensive Programme, I answer questions from students who want to know more about the Irish Goddess Mórrígan, with whom I have had a solid working relationship for about 15 years now… and the last 13 of them as Her priest.

8 of those years were spent in daily service (and professional employment), managing Her primary sacred site at Rathcroghan, Co. Roscommon, and guiding visitors in (and safely back out) of the cave known as ‘her fit abode’; Uaimh na gCait, Oweynagat – the Cave of the Cats.

I’m going to occasionally share some of those answers through this blog. [Find them tagged with ‘Morrigan’, or ‘Class Questions’]

Iníon Preacháin asked: “Of Badb, Macha, Anu/Anand, Nemain, Fea, and some list Danu as well… do you feel they are all aspects of the Morrigna?”

 

Okay, so, ‘the Morrigna’ represents the plural, so yes, they are all aspects of Na Morrigna, as in the Great Queens – that’s what Morrigna written like that means.  I always make a distinction between na Morrigna, as in the plural, or the Mórrígan, ‘an Morrighan,’ the Great Queen, so that would be my feeling on it.

Like I said — in a previous blog post, see it here — aspects is not a term that I would use specifically.  I would see them as sisters, and some more closely related than others. In my experience.

Macha is, I feel, is the closest to her, and I have an interest and kind of perspective, I suppose, in Mórrígan and Medb, that’s — Queen Medb of Connacht —, and working with both of those very, very powerful figures at Rathcroghan for so many years. They very much work together in my experience and both of them feed into the sovereignty of Connacht, of the western province, in Ireland.

Macha is the sovereignty of, or represents the sovereignty of, the Ulster province in the north of Ireland, and Connacht and Ulster have a somewhat troubled relationship in the mythology. I mean, anybody who’s read the — Tain Bó Cúailnge —, “The Cattle Raid of Cooley,” will be aware, Ulster and Connacht have been enemies for a very long time.  So there’s kind of a lot going on there, and of all of those sisters Macha, to me, has alwas been the most, kind of fully formed and distinct from the Morrígan.  

Nemain, I think, is an ancestor, and I think that all of those deities that are there… and again, we will look at this in more detail over the course, but all of those deities, in a sense they may be aspects in the literal understanding of that word. BUT, they are all beings and deities in their own right as well.  So them being aspects of the Great Queen, I think that kind of feeds together and weaves together, but I think they’re working on different levels, if that makes sense.

So you’ve got this kind of top tier of being able to interact with all of those beings individually. You go down a little bit deeper into the root system and they start to blend a little bit closer together and you don’t get those kind of distinctive, individual personalities.  You go down deeper and they’re all kind of part of that same root, and then you go deeper again and you’re still in the ‘Irish zone’ at that level… but then the level below that would be the universal archetypal level, the level of the collective unconscious common to all humanity, that kind of ‘dark goddess’ level.

All of the names which we connect to the Mórrígan, under the banner of ‘Great Queen’, are connected at a deep level so, but we can (and do) also interact with them individually in the day to day. I definitely wouldn’t be a fan of – or allowed to, I’d get my arse kicked – lump them all together or just swap out one for another.

Yeah, don’t try that one at home kids.


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Faces of the Mórrígan – a Perception of Deity

Faces of the Mórrígan

As part of our annual 6 month Intensive Programme, I answer questions from students who want to know more about the Irish Goddess Mórrígan, with whom I have had a solid working relationship for about 15 years now… and the last 13 of them as Her priest.

8 of those years were spent in daily service (and professional employment), managing Her primary sacred site at Rathcroghan, Co. Roscommon, and guiding visitors in (and safely back out) of the cave known as ‘her fit abode’; Uaimh na gCait, Oweynagat – the Cave of the Cats.

I’m going to occasionally share some of those answers through this blog. [Find them tagged with ‘Morrigan’, or ‘Class Questions’]

Marjorie asked: “We all experience our gods differently, to some degree. Some of us experience Her as Many and some of us as One with multiple faces. Do you think one is more accurate than the other or, more importantly, is either perception more respectful than the other? To what extent do you think it matters?”

That’s a really good question, and we will go into some of this in the coursework that’s to follow, but my view is that… I personally deal with the Mórrígan, and the Mórrígan for me is a very distinct entity. I mean distinct as in distinct from Macha or Nemhain or Badbh, and those beings and goddesses seem more like sisters than a part of Her. To me.

Now, I completely agree, we all do experience our gods differently, and I also feel that the gods themselves can do whatever the fuck they like and appear however they like. I think that there is a certain amount of (human relational) shaping that has gone into the Mórrígan. So there is a particular form – or rather formlessness – that she takes with that specific guise that has been interacted with by humans.

My theory on gods is that, well…okay, so to go back a bit: I studied psychology in some depth and particularly Jungian psychology as every feckin’ amateur psychologist pagan has done. The reason for that is because it makes a lot of sense and it makes a lot of sense for our spirituality and Jung had a very kind of tuned-in attitude, certainly for his time, and a lot of the stuff that he was conceptualizing has become common parlance. So we often don’t even recognize how much of a contribution Jung has made to psychology and the study of the human mind and the human spirit as well, I think.

I work a lot with archetypes, and I was called a blasphemer for dealing with archetypal god energies on a panel last year. I was very, very bothered (furious actually) by this at the time, but I really didn’t understand that the American culture that the accusation was coming from had a very different understanding of archetypes than I would’ve had.

To me, an archetype is huge, and it’s complex, and obviously I’m not going to be able to just settle it down in just a few sentences. The crux of it is that there are roots and essential sources that I feel are part of the collective unconscious, as in the unconsciousness that is common to all humanity, and those sources are the archetypes, to a certain extent. Each deity stems in some way from an archetypal form, but it’s like they’re all from the same root, maybe, but when they grow in different cultures with different food sources and different light sources and different energy that’s fed to them and different care and cultivation, they grow into very different deities.

Each of those deities are plants, to use that analogy. Each of those plants or trees or whatever grows from the roots is different from each other, but when you trace them right down to the bottom of those roots, you get to the same source. So that’s a very simplified version of how I have always understood ‘deity.’

I think a good example of this the Mórrígan. Na Mórrigna – that is, all of the Mórrígans – but when you take the Mórrígan Herself and you look at Her as a ‘dark deity’ – again, for want of a better description – and you put that in the context of, say, other ‘dark’ deities like Cerridwen or Kali or Hekate, and, y’know, all of those goddesses I would say stem from the same kind of ‘dark goddess’ root or archetype or source, but they have obviously developed very, very differently in very different cultures, and they’ve all ended up being female. Make of that what you will.

Re gender and form… My experience of the Mórrígan is that she’s kind of nominally female. Her form is formlessness, as I’ve said, and she can take any form and does take any form. I think I coined the phrase ‘gender irrelevant’ in relation to Her – she can and does appear in any of them.

The general physical form that she appears to have in modern culture has become black hair, but actually the only description of her apart from her shapeshifting, the only real description of her – showing her essence, I believe – that we have in the lore is as a warrior woman who is carrying two spears and has red hair and red eyebrows and is wearing a red cloak and has a very strange horse, and kind of a chariot that she’s standing on. (See the Táin Bó Regamna video on YouTube.) That’s her base aspect, as far as I can tell.

But generally she just appears, if she appears to me at all, she appears kind of hooded, and like I said, formless, generally human-shaped unless she’s as a crow. But anyway, sorry, I’m wandering off a little bit. We will examine this in more detail through the course and through the content (and check the — Available Classes — for individual class downloads!).

So, I experience her as one being or entity specifically, with or without a face, and I have always interacted with her as the Great Queen. I don’t feel that that’s specifically more accurate than any other interaction or relationship with her, as long as that’s based on a relationship. I feel that if somebody has put the same amount or similar amount of time and effort into building a relationship with that deity as I have, and their perception is different than my perception, then I’m not going to say that mine is right or more accurate and theirs is wrong. I think, ultimately the gods, and our perception of them is often going to be different because we’re all different, and I don’t think that they have a genuine kind of physical, corporeal form in this world anyway. We are experiencing them through the collective unconscious, through ourselves and our connection to our own subconscious and our own unconscious with the collective unconscious. I know I’m kind of throwing a lot – I’m trying to encapsulate, like, literally years’ worth of theory on my part into a couple of minutes.

“Is either perception more respectful than the other?”

I feel that it’s disrespectful to swap her out, if that makes sense. So if you’re going to be dealing with the Mórrígan, and we will through the course – when we’re talking about the Mórrígan, I’m not talking about Macha, I’m not talking about Badbh, I’m not talking about Nemhain. I’m talking about the Morrígan, the Great Queen – and like I said, YMMV on that, and that’s fine, but when I say ‘the Mórrígan,’ that’s who I mean.

What I don’t think is okay is swapping out the Mórrígan, say in the lore, or in how we’re dealing with her or how we’re working with her, and just slotting in any of them into whatever kind of floats your boat at the time. I think that if she’s dealing with you, you’ll know whether it’s the Great Queen or whether it’s Macha or Badbh or Nemhain or Fea or Anu. Nemhain is a different thing, and Badbh is a different thing again, and Macha is definitely her own thing. But again, that’s my perception.

“To what extent do you think it matters?”

I’ve probably covered that? Build your relationship and you’ll see how much it matters because if you disrespect her… [laughter]

Sorry, that’s probably not very helpful, but that has been my experience.


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The Curse of Macha

Macha pregnant-beach-sunset-mother

Sometimes a Goddess fancies a change.

Immortality can get awful boring after a time.

So it was with the Goddess Macha. She decided she wanted a home, friends of her own, a family… and that’s how she ended up on the doorstep of a wealthy merchant in the mountains of Mourne.

She knocked, asked to speak to him in person, and when he arrived down to greet her she made her proposal. She would bring wealth, prosperity, and abundance to his household (being a Goddess definitely has its perks), but in return she wanted a quiet life – to live out her days undisturbed, as a mortal. So he had to promise her privacy, and secrecy, and respect, and the love would come later, she was sure. And so he did.

She turned thrice sun-ways on his step to seal the deal, and stepped into his life as a mortal wife.

The years trundled on and his household prospered, as she had promised it would. She brought abundance and wealth to his life, as she had promised she would.

Love even bloomed, and she became pregnant, as is wont to happen at times, when a man and a woman are in love and doing the things that people in love might do.

The merchant rose in status, and he began to receive invitations for them both to attend all the feasts, and all the fairs – invitations which she always declined, but he attended. Unfortunately, his appetites grew right along with his status, and he began to feast and fair too much, eating and drinking until the wee small hours, and sometimes not even bothering to go home between events.

Macha didn’t mind too much; she kept herself busy, and was delighted when the physician told her she was carrying not one baby, but two – twins!

One month, near the end of her pregnancy, her husband was off again at one of his fairs. This was a big one: the Samhain festival at the court of the King. The merchant paid his tributes and tithes, ate his fill (and more) in the camp kitchens, and contented himself with wandering around the fair grounds, chatting to people he knew, looking through stalls and market tents, watching the competitive events, gaming for profit or loss… and of course drinking. Lots of drinking.

He sat eventually, content to watch the horse racing, and soon there was a cackling crowd, placing wagers on which would win. After a heavy loss, perhaps to salvage some part of pride perceived lost, the wine-soaked sot began to boast that as fast as those horses were, his own wife could out-run any one of them. Even the horses of the King himself, which were known to be the best of the best.

Now, it didn’t take long for this boast to reach the ears of the King himself: for his horses represented his rightful rule, and any slight on them was a slight on his very kingship. He insisted the woman be fetched, and made to race against the best horse of his stable.

Warriors went out, Macha was made travel, and told she would race the next day (as it was a three day festival). She bawled and cursed her husband – and his drunken, pounding, head – all through the night, but it was no use.

She was stood in front of king and crowd first thing in the morning, with the horse lined up next to her. She sweated and swore, for the pressure was doing strange things to her heavily pregnant body, and it looked like mother and babies were in serious distress, to anyone with eyes to see.

The king held firm, and she was made to race – but before she did, she cursed every single man of Ulster, to nine generations on, with a spell that gave each and every one of them the pains of labour and childbirth, to strike them whenever Ulster was under attack.

Macha raced that day, and indeed she won, but the exertion brought on the birth and she died there at the finish. Screaming her curse to the last breath.

This is why Ulster men were in bed each time their province needed them; but sure, they are all stories for another day.


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Daily Practice as a Morrigan Priestess

Person in Trees

So, as part of our 6 month Intensive Programme, I answer questions from students who want to know more about the Irish Goddess Mórrígan, with whom I have had a solid working relationship for about 15 years now… and the last 13 of them as Her priest.

8 of those years were spent in daily service (and professional employment), managing Her primary sacred site at Rathcroghan, Co. Roscommon, and guiding visitors in (and safely back out) of the cave known as ‘her fit abode’; Uaimh na gCait, Oweynagat – the Cave of the Cats.

I’m going to occasionally share some of those answers through this blog.

[Find them tagged with ‘Morrigan’, or ‘Class Questions’]

Shannon Duerden Thompson asked: “I’m wondering about what daily practices you’ve found to be the most valuable?”

Listening, to be perfectly honest.

My relationship with Herself is very much about…well, that – the relationship – and building that relationship to a point where there is, I feel, a pretty free flow of communication between us.

How that looks changes, y’know, I’m going to talk a lot about personal gnosis, and you’ll also hear me talk about imbas, which is a knowledge, basically, that I would receive directly from Her.

The daily practices that I found most valuable have been to take some time every single day to be quiet, and to listen, and to be aware of Her and Her presence in my life, and to take instruction from Her directly. Thankfully that (direct instruction) doesn’t happen every day, and when it does happen it’s usually a kick – and it’s not always through the daily practices, it’s often kind of a bolt from the blue.

Or, a kick up the hole. That happens a lot.

So the daily practice I feel keeps me in tune with Her. I do try and sit on some grass – now you may or may not have grass where you are, but you probably have some form of a tree, or something similar. I would suggest finding a spot that feels like Her to you.

There’s a simple technique that I’ve developed to Journey in the Irish Otherworld, and that’s often a part of my daily practice.

And as I’ve moved around, particular since I’ve moved away from Roscommon where I lived and worked for fifteen years, dealing with Her on a daily basis, I’ve had to find new ways and new places to connect to Her.

I have found one here that’s local to me (I’m down the south of Ireland in Munster now), but it is about exploring your local area and finding somewhere that feels like Her to you. That might change over time, and that might be different even on a daily or a weekly basis, or it might change and evolve as you get to know Her a bit better and start to hear Her more clearly.

I say ‘hear’ as in not necessarily physically hearing Her, just an awareness of Her. Making time and making space for Her to communicate… and even if she doesn’t communicate back every single day, I’m there. I show up.

A huge part of all this Irish Pagan stuff – and something that you’ll hear me say many, many times, over and over, until you’re fucking sick of the sound of it – is that you need to show up and you need to do the work.

Part of that is with the daily practice of just taking some time. And by some time I mean – it could be anything from ten minutes to an hour.  Generally it’s in the morning time, for me, before the house wakes up. I have three kids so obviously over the last twenty years of doing this (Pagan, generally) work I have had times when things are quite chaotic in the household.

Everybody is busy – shut up now with them excuses. There’s always something you can do. I’m just gonna be perfectly blunt here, and overshare with the world – there was a time when my children were small, that my daily practice was I would literally have to make sure the kids were safe and entertained, and then lock the bathroom door for five or ten minutes so nobody in the house could get in, to take some time on the toilet. That was my quiet connection time and my sanity – though it wasn’t always uninterrupted even at that!

But anyway, the point is that you can find some regular space in your day, even with mad work commitments, family responsibilities, a small baby… even with crazy stuff going on around you, you can find five minutes, ten minutes, every single day to make space for Her and to show up for Her, and to see if She does have any work that She needs you to do.

And sometimes you just showing up….I mean, obviously this can feed into daily meditation practice and all other kinds of good stuff that we know is necessary for our mental health, but usually put on the bottom of our priority list.

Are there other, more exciting and dramatic things that I do as a Priestess of the Mórrígan, as part of my daily practice? Sure there are! But if you’re looking to build a relationship with this Irish Goddess, start here, and prove yourself to Her this way first.

Taking that quiet time to connect is doing the work, it’s as simple and as complicated as that. It’s part of any warrior training, and it’s part of priesthood training as well, so sometimes that’s the first (and even the only) work that She needs you to do today.

And that’s okay.

(thanks to Marjorie for the transcription service from class, much appreciated!)


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Why Were There Only a Few Irish Witch Trials?

Me in 30 years

It starts with the Sidhe, good readers, The Good Neighbours, or the Fairies as you may know them.

The Irish have a very matter of fact view of the Sidhe, whatever we call them by. Today and tomorrow, hawthorn trees and bushes will be left right alone, because the fairies like to rest there. Best not to disturb them, just in case. It is happening somewhere in Ireland every day, by people who would not, not ever in a million years, think of themselves as any sort of Pagan type.

The fairies are still respected, and largely feared. You don’t annoy them, neither through ignorance or thoughtless action. And a lot of us here in Ireland couldn’t even tell you – or wouldn’t at least – why this is so.

At a time when (mostly innocent) people were being burned and hanged all across Europe, in the tens of thousands (perhaps hundreds of thousands – figures are unclear, even yet, but 9 million seems a little on the excessive side), Ireland was relatively unscathed.

Were there less odd old women in rural villages here? Anybody walking through a rural village in Ireland today will likely find themselves tripping over odd old women, so that seems unlikely.

They are a staple of Irish village life, in all their muttering moustachioed glorious strangeness, and I seriously doubt the Middle Ages were any different. So why the lack of burning or hanging for the odd old Irish women, compared to contemporary European counterparts?

A theory of mine is the sheer practical integration of the fairy culture over here. Picture the scene in a small German village (Germany displayed perhaps the most voracious of appetites for witch rooting and killing, whole villages were decimated) – odd happenings abound, milk turns sour, butter won’t churn, children and animals sicken, even die… the villagers begin to look around suspiciously for the cause.

Often, suspicion alights on the odd old woman who lives at the edge of the village, smells a bit peculiar, maybe has a bit of extra knowledge about animals, plants, or healing, and before you know it, the poor oul one finds herself tied to a ducking stool and taking a bath she hadn’t planned for. You get the picture – clichéd, certainly, but these things are clichés for a reason.

Same deal, in an Irish village… the villagers instead begin to wonder if someone has been throwing their dirty wash water out in the wrong place, and look to their own homes for the remedy – a little extra butter left out, or whiskey or cream, a few other bits and pieces of fairy friendly house or farm work that might need to be picked up on again, and that’s that. The odd old woman on the edge of the village gets to stay smelly and dry and muttering to herself for a wee while yet.

And it still holds today. The average Irish person now probably won’t be integrating fairy culture into their everyday life, but when they come across it, either from a modern Pagan type or the old boy down the pub who still remembers, it’s given a respectful listen at least, even if it’s then usually passed over with a casual shrug.

But if it comes in the form of a warning, the listening gets a bit more careful, and there might even be actions taken, or not taken as a result. When asked directly, they will say they don’t believe in fairies, for the most part – but maybe that there’s no harm in being careful.

​Better safe than sorry, right?

Excerpt from ‘A Practical Guide to Irish Spirituality’, by Lora O’Brien
2012, Wolfpack Publishers, Ireland.


Queen Maedbh (Maeve) Cheat Sheet

Queen Maev by J. C. Leyendecker

Here we’ll look at the basics on Maedbh, the ‘Celtic’ warrior queen of Connacht (yes, that’s the correct spelling – ‘Connaught’ is the later anglicised version) – her home, family life, relationships, ruling from Rathcroghan, burial, and the cultural inspiration she has become.

“How do you spell that?!”

It depends on which version of Gaeilge, the Irish language, you are using.

Medb (the Old Irish spelling) – in Middle Irish: Meḋḃ, Meaḋḃ; in early modern Irish: Meadhbh; in reformed modern Irish Méabh, Maedbh, Medbh; sometimes anglicised Maeve, Maev, Meave or Maive (all modern versions are pronounced May-v).

I’m going to stick to using the modern Irish name Maedbh for this article, except for direct quotes from the manuscripts.

Who was Queen Maedbh?

Most notably, the warrior priestess queen of Connacht, the western province of Ireland.

It is said that her father gifted her with Connacht, and no king could rule here unless they were married to Queen Maedbh.  She had many husbands, and ruled for many years.

Maeve appears in much of the literature of the Ulster saga tales, and our most famous epic literary tale, the Táin Bó Cuailnge (Cattle Raid of Cooley) features her strongly as the protagonist.  Or is that the antagonist…?

Historically, she would have lived sometime around the years 0 – 100AD, if she existed as a real flesh and blood queen.  And that is the question – was she real?

A queen, or a Goddess of the land?  A priestess of a sovereignty Goddess, who rose to power?  An archetypal figure, representing… what?  These are some of the riddles of Queen Maedbh.

Queen Maedbh’s Family Tree

Meadb of Cruachan, daughter of Eochaid Feidleach, another of Conchobar’s wives, mother of Amalgad, Conchobar’s son, so that Conchobar was Meadb’s first husband, and Meadb forsook Conchobar through pride of mind, and went to Tara, where was the High-King of Ireland.

The reason that the High-King of Ireland gave these daughters to Conchobar was that it was by Eochaid Feidleach that Fachtna Fathach had fallen in the battle of Lettir-ruad in the Corann, so that it was as his eric these were given to him, together with the forcible seizure of the kingship of Ulster, over Clan Rudraidhe: and the first cause of the stirring up of the Cattle-raid of Cuailnge was the desertion of Conchobar by Meadb against his will.

Excerpt from Medb’s Men, or, The Battle of the Boyne
Yellow Book of Lecan, 351b-353a 

PARENTS

Eochaid Feidleach, Father, High King of Ireland at Tara

Crochen Crobh-Derg, Mother, Handmaid to Etain

  MAEDBH

HERSELF

CHILDREN

Maine Athramail
Maine Máthramail
Maine Andoe
Maine Taí
Maine Mórgor
Maine Mílscothach
Maine Móepirt
Findabair

Eh… why were all her sons called Maine?

Well, they weren’t, not originally, but Maedbh and Ailill did end up with seven sons, all called Maine.

Back when they all had other names, Maedbh asked a druid which of her sons would kill Conchobar (king of Ulster), and he replied, “Maine”.  A little bit concerned that she didn’t have a son called Maine, she decided to rename all her sons as follows:

  • Fedlimid became Maine Athramail (“like his father”)
  • Cairbre became Maine Máthramail (“like his mother”)
  • Eochaid became Maine Andoe (“the swift”)
  • Fergus became Maine Taí (“the silent”)
  • Cet became Maine Mórgor (“of great duty”)
  • Sin became Maine Mílscothach (“honey-speech”)
  • Dáire became Maine Móepirt (“beyond description”)

The prophecy was fulfilled when Maine Andoe went on to kill Conchobar, son of Arthur, son of Bruide — not Conchobar, son of Fachtna Fathach, as Maedbh had assumed the druid meant.

Maedbh and Ailill also had a daughter, Findabair.  She got to keep her own name, but was offered around as a prize during the Táin – Maedbh was bribing Connacht warriors with marriage to the fine Findabair if they’d go against the Ulster warrior CúChulainn in single combat.

 

Maedbh’s Mammy

Cruachú Crobh-Dearg (the spelling varies, as ever in our wonderful collection of tales) is remembered as a handmaiden of Etain, appearing in the love story of Etain & Midir.

She may have an older, sovereignty or tribal Goddess function, which is being remembered and carried through the later legends.

Some of her story, and associations with Cruachan (Rath Cruachan, or modern Rathcroghan, in Co. Roscommon) remains in the text quoted as follows…

Listen, ye warriors about Cruachu!
with its barrow for every noble couple:
O host whence springs lasting fame of laws!
O royal line of the men of Connacht!
O host of the true, long-remembered exploits,
with number of pleasant companies and of brave kings!
O people, quickest in havoc
to whom Erin has pledged various produce!
Manly in battle-rout multitudinous
is the seed of noble Brian, with their strong fleets:
in express submission to them have been sent
hostages from all Europe to Cruachu.
If we stay to recount its fame for every power,
we shall not be able to pour out the lore of noble science

for Cruachu, holy without austerity,
whose foemen are not few.
Known to me by smooth-spoken eulogy
is the designation of powerful Cruachu:
not slight the din, the uproar,
whence it got its name and fame for bright achievement.

Eochaid Airem — high career!
when the fierce, generous man was at Fremu,
the man who cherished feats of skill,
holding a meeting for horse-fights,
There came to them noble Midir
(he was no favourite with the gentle prince)
to carry off Etain in dreadful wise,
whence came lamentation of many tribes.
Ill-favoured was the man who bore off
Etain and hardy Crochen
the queen and her handmaid,
who was right lowly, yet ever-famous.
Westward Midir bore the fair captives
after boldly seizing them as booty,
to Sid Sinche of the ancient hosts,
because it was noble Midir’s hereditary possession.
Till three days were out he stayed
in the radiant noisy Sid:
after fruitful enterprise it is custom
to boast at board and banquet.
Then said strong Crochen
What fine house is this where we have halted?
O Midir of the splendid feats,
is this thy spacious dwelling?”
The answer of the famous man of arts
to Crochen blood-red of hue:
‘ Nearer to the sun, to its warmth,
is my bright and fruitful home.”

Said Cruachu the lovely,
in presence of the spacious tribes,
“O Midir, yet unconquered,
shall my name be on this Sid?”
He gave the fine dwelling as reward for her journey
to Crochen, a fair recompense:
by Midir, report says, northward at his home,
by him her name was given to it as ye hear.
Hence men say Cruachu,
(it is not hidden from kindly tribes,)
since Midir brought (clear without falsehood)
his wife to Sinech of the Side.
As for Midir, he was no sluggard thereafter,
he went to Bri Leith maic Celtchair:
he carried with him the bright indolent lady, whitely radiant,
whom he bore off by force from Fremu.
Eochaid at the head of the numerous ranks
of his brave troop,

…was on the track of Midir, the great champion.
Said his druid to Eochaid,
“Thou shalt not be fortunate all thy life long:
lamentation for evil has come upon thee
for the loss of Etain of the golden tresses:”

“Come from the judgment-seat of Fotla
without warning, without royal proclamation;
bring with thee thereafter to Bri Leith
thy host — no cowards they — to sack it.”
“There shalt thou find thy wife
in noble beauty, beyond denial:
be not faint-hearted for long, O warrior;
bring her with thee by consent or by force.”

This is a beginning, with famous perils,
for the proud Wooing of Etain,
though it be a pithy tale to hear,
the tale when men came to Cruachu to listen to it.
It was Crochen of pure Cruachu
who was mother of Medb great of valour:
she was in Cruachu — it was an open reproach-
awhile with Etain’s spouse.

Corpus of Electronic Texts Edition
The Metrical Dindshenchas (Author: [unknown]) poem 63 – Rath Cruachan

Maedbh and her Lovers

Ok, well, how long have you got? Yes, there were a serious amount of men who were getting it on with the Queen. She was a woman of large appetites.

There’s a whole Irish text devoted to this very topic called ‘Medb’s man-share’ (Ferchuitred Medba). The text was also called ‘Medb’s husband allowance’, ‘Medb’s men’, or Cath Boinde (the Battle of the Boyne), and you can find the translated version HERE. It originally comes from the Yellow Book of Lecan manuscript.

In the Tain Bó Cuailnge, we can see how she offers her own favours to the owner of the Brown Bull of Cooley, King Daire, to sweeten the deal… before she heads to an all out murderating war raid. It’s hardly her fault he refused and forced her hand, now is it?

“Go there, Mac Roth,” orders Medb. “Ask Daire to lend me Donn Cuailnge for a year. At the end of the year he can have fifty yearling heifers in payment for the loan, and the Brown Bull of Cuailnge back. And you can offer him this too, Mac Roth, if the people of the country think badly of losing their fine jewel, the Donn Cuailnge: if Daire himself comes with the bull I’ll give him a portion of the fine Plain of Ai equal to his own lands, and a chariot worth thrice seven bondmaids, and my own friendly thighs on top of that.”

 

Queen Maedbh and Her Lovers… the Book!

For a really interesting examination of Maedbh as a Lover, Initiator, and Intoxicator, you won’t go far wrong with this book.

The author is a Jungian Psychoanalyst, looking at the Maedbh myth in the context of her modern practice, which is a fascinating angle that makes for exploration of Queen Maedbh in directions we’d never thought of.

Publisher: Nicolas-Hays; 1 edition (October 2001) – it’s still available on Amazon HERE. (affiliate link)

 

Queen Maedbh – Dead and Buried

Awww, she’s Dead? How?!

In her later years, Maedbh often went to bathe in a pool on Inchcleraun (Inis Cloithreann), an island on Lough Ree, near Knockcroghery in County Roscommon. Furbaide, who’s mother she had killed (so it is said), sought revenge, and set about planning her demise. He was quite dedicated about it. But I suppose it’s the type of thing that you’d really want to get right.

First, he took a rope and measured the distance between the pool and the shore, and practiced with his sling until he could hit an apple on top of a stake Maedbh’s height, from that distance. The next time he saw Maedbh bathing he put his practice to good use and killed her with a piece of cheese.

Yes cheese. Queen Maedbh was killed by cheese. Her son, Maine Athramail (he who was originally Cairbre, and most ‘like his mother’, ascended to the throne of Connacht in her place.

But buried in Sligo, right?

Well, not exactly. Maybe. ‘Maedbh’s Cairn’ in Co. Sligo, is the best known burial site of Queen Maedbh, but it is one of three possible sites. According to some legends, she is indeed buried in the 40ft (12m) high stone cairn on the summit of Knocknarea (Cnoc na Rí in Irish, Hill of the King/Queen) in County Sligo. The story goes that she is buried upright, facing her enemies in Ulster.

In Bronze or Iron Age burials though, it would be common enough to hack an important dead person apart and bury bits of them along different boundaries, for protection and guardianship. Another story goes that she is buried in the hill of Knockma (Cnoc Medb in Irish, Hill of Maeve), near Belclare in Co. Galway, which is also where Fionnbharr, King of the Connacht Sidhe, holds court. The Fairy connection is an interesting one, and maybe related to her later associations with Mab, the English Fairy Queen? The boundary theory holds here too though, as the views from the top of Knockma are spectacular. Very convenient for a guardianship position, I’d say.

Her home in Rathcroghan, County Roscommon is the third, and most likely burial site, with a long low slab named Misgaun Medb being given as the probable location. In the ‘she got chopped up in bitty bits and buried’ theory, this is where her soul (most likely to be contained in her head, according to thinking of the time) would be.

Or possibly her heart. Whatever bit of her was deemed the most important part would have stayed at home, with other bits spreading out at lesser sites along the boundaries.


Meeting Queen Medb (Maeve)

Medb of Connacht is an ancient Irish Initiator, Brehon and Sovereign Queen. (Two Classes)

Enroll in Course

The Síd at Kesh Corann

Fionn MacCumhaill, leader of the noblest band of Irish warriors, the Fianna, sat on the hunting mound at the Sidhe of Kesh Corran, taking in the sights and sounds that made his heart most happy.

His men were spread below him on this fine sunny day, ranging the fields and forests, their great hounds barking and baying around them as they brought down kill after kill. The Fianna would feast well that day.

Conaran however, who was the Sidhe (Otherworld, Fairy) King in those parts, was less than happy to see his old enemy in such a fine, untroubled mood. And with the rest of the Fianna busy hunting, he decided the time had come to do something about Fionn for once and for all.

Three of Conaran’s four daughters were nearby, although neither the men of the Fianna nor their chief could see a bit of them, because you never can see the Sidhe unless you are in their world, or they want you to see them in ours. The King called his brood – who were as ugly a bunch as you ever saw, and worse again – and told them what he wanted. Then, by his magical arts, he opened a door to their world in the side of the Sidhe mound on which Fionn was taking his ease.

After a while, the warrior chief climbed down to join the hunting party below, and was astounded to see the three sisters sitting spinning in a cave that he was sure hadn’t been there before he’d climbed up.

Now you couldn’t call any of these Ban Sidhe beautiful. Well, you could I suppose, but you’d be telling a lie if you did. Fionn though, was a curious sort, and wanted to see more – it might have been the whiskers he thought he could see on their faces? Whatever was driving him to it, he stepped inside the mound.

As soon as he passed the holly on the threshold, a weakness came over him, and he could no more lift his own arm than he could have lifted a whole mountain at the best of times. He tried to give the whistle that would warn the rest of the Fianna to danger, but he was so weak that all the sound he could make was a chuff like a baby falling asleep, and sure that’d warn nobody.

He was bound by the sisters with every knot and tie they could think of, and as each warrior came looking for their leader and stepped inside the mound, the same fate befell them. The Sidhe mound was filled only with the sounds of gently chuffing babies, until every single man of them was captured and bound the same way.

But their dogs were not. As each man entered the mound, ignoring the warning signs in the search for his leader, his hound refused, and soon there was a great pack of barking, baying dogs gathered outside.

Finally one of the warriors, the last of them left outside, had the sense to be cautious enough not to follow blind into danger. The hideous sisters watched Goll Mac Morna stand his ground outside, and decided that three against one was a fair enough fight for them to take him on. They were wrong, of course.

Though it was hard fought, Goll managed to chop two of the three into halves and bits; so there were warts and twisted fingers on one side of him, gnarled toes and crooked noses on the other. Panting with the effort of it all, he extracted (in exchange for her life) the firm promise of freedom from enchantment for the Fianna from the last sister, who was so terrified by then that her whiskers were all atremble, on both the outside and inside of those livery lips.

She kept her honour, and released each of the warriors to sit out in the sunshine and shiver until their strength returned. The doings of that day did nothing to ease the enmity between Fionn and the Sidhe King Conaran, nor his remaining Ban Sidhe daughters – nor even the animosity between Fionn and Goll MacMorna.

But sure, they are all stories for another day.

 


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The Bull In Irish Mythology

Red and White Bull

There is an altar in Paris, which bears the inscription “Tarvos Trigaranus”, which means ‘Bull with three cranes’ (as in, birds). Carved in relief is a tree with spreading branches, in front of which stands a bull, with two of the birds perched on it’s back, and the third on it’s head.

In the Gundestrup cauldron (found in Denmark, and probably dating from the first century BCE), which is decorated in detail both outside and inside in high relief, we see what appears to be a depiction of the hunting/imminent killing of a huge bull on the interior base plate.

A warrior or a deity is shown seemingly about to spear the neck of a prostrate bull which far out-scales him. There are also dogs present, which may lend weight to the possibility of it being a hunting scene.

Pronsias MacCana (‘Celtic Mythology’: Littlehampton Book Services, 1969) links the Donn Cuailgne, Brown Bull of Cooley, to Tarvos Trigaranus, which he calls the ‘three horned Bull’ – indeed he states the two can “scarcely be dissassociated”. He goes on to speak of “a number of widely attested names which seem to imply familiarity with the notion of a bull-deity”, such as the Gaulish name Donnotaurus, which means ‘Brown, or Kingly, Bull’.

In this case, the Irish epic Táin Bó Cuailgne takes on quite a deeper meaning than the simple theme of overly hormonal bulls having a bit of a territorial spat. The two great beasts were never of this world, having reached those forms by changing originally from swineherds of two lords of the Otherworld, through a series of forms including ravens, stags, warrior champions, water beasts, demons and water worms.

Bull symbolism appears in vast quantities when dealing with the ancient ‘Celtic’ world.

From ritual deposits and sacrifices in the late Bronze Age, to carving and other artistic representation of bull figures, to place-names and tribal names representing the animal, and also taking into account the traditions of cattle raiding and ranching which were/are so prominent in Ireland particularly – we see the bull itself, or possibly deity connected with bulls, as a hugely significant figure. World-wide, bulls represent powers of strength, fierceness, and virility, and we have no reason to doubt that the Irish viewed their bulls any other way.

Bull statuary and iconography survives mainly in Gaulish, and some British finds. Being an unnatural form, the triple horned bull mentioned above seems to have been particularly a sacred image. This carries through when we see it being found in shrines, temples, and even the grave of a child (Colchester, England).

Perhaps the triplication of the horns is a way of increasing the potency of the animal’s fertility and virility power; three horns are better than two! Three is also a power number in itself in Irish and Celtic cultures, showing up many times over in relation to many different things.

Whether the imagery we see, or the larger than life creatures we hear tell of, represented a particular deity or simply the attributes of the animal itself is unclear.

Miranda Green (‘The Gods of the Celts’: The History Press, 2011) gives an example of a “silver washed three horned bull”, which was found at a shrine in Dorset, England, and dates from the middle of the fourth century CE. She gives the figures we can see on it’s back as deities, and makes links with the above mentioned bull carrying three cranes – saying they may be examples of the shape shifting we hear about in the tales. It is possible.

What evidence we have, in Ireland and abroad, certainly shows a respect for the attributes of the tarbh (pron. Tar-ev).

As a Taurean myself, I am totally down with the idea of a kick ass Lord of the Bulls, or one who can shift at will to bull form, with all the wonderful qualities that would bring to a situation. Can you spot the bull bias here?!

However, having yet to be introduced to such an entity, or personally encounter one on my travels, I will content myself with exploring, for now, the idea of working with the bull as a ‘power animal’.

It doesn’t have to be a bull either. I am as sick as the next person of coming across those people who assert in all earnestness that their “power animal” or “spirit animal” (neither of which are terms that are culturally appropriate for me or you to use, btw, unless you have a true heritage with certain native tribes) is something ultra cool, like a super sleek panther, or a super strong stallion, when they remind you more of an ageing shetland pony, a bit knackered and up for nothing more than a quiet corner of paddock and a hay hammock which runneth over.

Hey, who knows, maybe that stallion is in there somewhere, stabled for now but ready to break free at the slightest hint of filly. Stranger things have happened.

Rest assured though, your animal ally, if you have one, doesn’t have to be a soaring eagle or a bristling bear. Or even a bull. Your average mouse has a lot it could teach the modern Pagan.

I have a friend, Ailish, who now embraces the fact that the goat is a factor in her life that will probably never go away, and I realised long ago that the humble donkey exerts a bigger influence over me than my sense of street cred is comfortable with. So, there you go.

There are also associations astrologically between Ireland and the sign of Taurus.

William Lilly’s “Christian Astrology”, which first appeared in 1647 and was reprinted in 1985 (by Regulus Publishing Co., London), places Ireland – along with Switzerland and Cypress, among others – as a Kingdom which is specifically associated with the sun sign of Taurus, the bull.

The Easter Rising, which marked the establishment of the free Irish Republic and the attainment of political independence in Ireland, was an armed uprising of Irish nationalists against British Rule. It happened on Easter Monday, April 24th, 1916, and centred mainly in Dublin, placing it firmly in the realm of the Bull.

Since an tarbh is of such importance in the Irish (and broader ‘Celtic’) legends and history, it’s as good a place to start as any.

Working with this established Irish animal ally can lead you to the experience and insight of finding your own personal animal guide/s. The following can be adapted or utilised to suit your own needs.

It would be good to have a working partner or group facilitator who could lead you in this sort of journey, even better if they can play a drum in time to their own words. I know, I used to read things like that back in my baby Pagan days and get a sinking feeling, as I always worked alone then. And I didn’t have a handy tape recorder either, to record myself leading myself on a journey.

Alone is fine. Working alone is even better in some ways, because you create your own rhythm and set your own pace. If you have a drum, beat it as you go. If you don’t have one, or you feel it would distract you, try and get some music to play: something with a heavy drum beat and no words or wailing women.

Settle yourself comfortably. Somewhere outdoors would be good, an open plain or field of rolling grassland would be excellent. Cattlesheds might be going a touch too far, it takes ages to get the cow poo out from between your toes. If you want to focus on a particular Irish Bull, the Donn Cuailgne was to be found in the North East of Ireland, and the Finnbennach in the North West. If you wish to align yourself in either of these directions, that’d be good.

Having said that though, bits of Finnbennach ended up all over the country, giving places like Athlone their names in Gaeilge (the Irish language, please don’t call it Gaelic!), so I doubt if it matters much which way you point your face. Working without crossed limbs and keeping your spine straight spine is good, but don’t go contorting yourself unnaturally. There’s not too many westerners who can hold the lotus position and still keep their mind on the job in hand. Don’t hurt yourself.

Try a straight backed armchair, leaning against a tree or wall, or just lie flat on the ground.

Breathe deeply for you. Focus on each breath as it comes in, filling you with energy, and as it goes out, flowing away all the stresses and strains of your day/week/year/life. Breathe through your nose exclusively. You don’t need to take massive deep diaphragm ones either, just relax into a steady nasal breathing pattern. I believe this to be healthier and easier to maintain than mouth breathing, as you shift away from conscious thought.

Now, just drift your way to thoughts of Bull. Every time your thoughts drift away, just notice it, let go of the distraction, and guide yourself back to the Bull.

What do you know? What do you see, or smell, or hear, or taste, or feel? What do you call it, how do you experience it? Simply keep your focus on Bull, and see what happens.

When you’ve had enough, re-focus on your breathing, and on your physical self – where your body touches the earth, what it feels like, what you can sense around you here and now. And when you’re ready, open your eyes and move around a bit. Maybe eat something.

Now, write it down. Do it again later, and write that down too! Rinse and repeat, and look for patterns, messages, guidance or clarity in the experiences you are having. Let me know how you get on!


 

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Padraig and the Pouca

Irish Mill, Roscommon - River Suck

 

 

There was a young man in Clare, a miller’s son, whose name was Padraig. He worked hard for his father, for they hadn’t much, but every day he went to the mill he would have to shout and shuffle the lazy labourers out there to get them to do even a tap of work. One of the days, when they had a big order on, he couldn’t even get them to raise a toe, never mind a finger, and when he went to check at end of day, didn’t he find them all fast asleep – and not a bit of the corn was ground for the order.

Frustrated and furious, he walked out along the stream for a bit, and was sitting head in hands when he heard a fierce snorting behind him. Turning, he met a large black bull, pawing the ground and about to charge. Now, Padraig knew there was no such bull with his family nor with the neighbours, and his own mother was a fairy woman, who’d been telling him old tales since he was born – so he could well recognise a Pouca no matter what form it was taking. He stood and said that if the Pouca would help his family that night, he’d give him his own thick coat to wear, for it was fierce cold. He laid the coat over the shoulders of the bull, and it rested down meek as a lamb, then lumbered off back up to the mill. Padraig sat for a while by the stream, his head much quieter, and waited, for the fairies don’t like to be disturbed in their work. After a time, he saw an old man leave, away into the scrubland behind. The poor thing was skin and bones, and cold even with the heavy coat draped over him, for he was dressed only in rags beneath. When Padraig went into the mill though, he saw the corn all ground; a week’s work had been done in a single night and it certainly wasn’t the labourers who’d done it, for they were still snoring.

The next night, Padraig was back by the mill at the same time, with a drop of whiskey and a bit of a cake his mam had made, and left them by the door. Sure enough, it wasn’t long before he heard the mill working away, and he knew again it wasn’t the labourers, for they were all still down at the pub. He went and dismissed the lot of them, and was back in time to see the Pouca leave the same as the last night. This happened every night, and the family grew very rich, for the miller was getting a week’s work done in a night, and he never had to pay a wage other than the whiskey and a bit of cake of an evening. But Padraig grew tired of seeing the Pouca heading off through all kinds of weather with not even a shoe on his foot, nor trousers to keep his skinny old legs a bit warm. So he got a superb suit of clothes made up, and left them out one night in place of the usual whiskey and cake.

He watched the Pouca find them, try them on, and preen as he examined himself looking like a fine gentleman. Indeed, he must have thought himself such, and fine gentlemen don’t labour each night in a mill, so he took himself off to see the countryside, and laboured no more. But Padraig didn’t mind, for they were wealthy by then, and sold the mill for good profit. He made a match after with a Lord’s daughter, and had a fine wedding party with all the trimmings. At the feast, he found a grand golden cup laid up at the top table, and knew it to be a gift from the Pouca, so he insisted that only himself and his bride drink from it that day, and every day thereafter. The couple never had a day’s bad luck in their lives from then on, and their descendants went on to many adventures with the fairies.

But sure, they are all stories for another day…

 


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