Tag Archives: Irish

The Salmon of Wisdom

You might wonder, why are salmon wise? Their ability to return to their birthplace to spawn may have given rise to the idea that they had special knowledge. Their travelling between salt and fresh water shows an adaptability most fish don’t have, and their jumping (immortalized in the Celtic warrior’s salmon leap) is impressive, and gives them their English name (from Latin salire, to jump).

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Finn: the judge, the poet, and the king

There are many figures in Irish myth and legend whose names are Finn or Find, or some variation, such as Fintan. Many of these are associated with inspiration and wisdom, and some also tap in the archetypes of the divine child and poet. The name means “fair, bright, white, lustrous, light-hued”, which connects it to Welsh Gwyn and the Gaulish god Vindonnus.

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Vindos: Theoretical God

In Irish finn means “fair, bright, white, lustrous, light-hued” (MacKillop: 226), and the Welsh gwyn is similar in meaning, with overtones of sacredness. Similarly, the Gaulish god, Vindonnus, gets his name from a root meaning either “clear light” (Green: 32) or “white, blessed” (Deo Mercurio). Coming at it from another direction, Daithai O hOgain has linked Finn/Vind with the Germanic find and Latin vid, words connected to sight and discovery (208).

From this it has been a short step to assuming a god, *Vindos, lying behind these various figures. However, like the “theoretical goddess” Rigantona, the names is a linguistic construct, and we have no evidence of a cult of Vindos.

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Donn of the Dead

There are many different ways to become god of the dead. You can win the job by chance (Hades/ Pluto), you can be cast into the underworld by other gods (Hel), marry into the job (Nergal), or you can be the first person to die.

Donn was one of the invaders known as the Milesians, after their father Mil. He was the warlike one, while his brother Armaigen was the poet/judge. They eventually did take Ireland, but not easily, and Donn never got to enjoy their victory.

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Sheila vs. Patrick: March 18th and Sheila’s Brush

Sheila’s Brush is a Newfoundland term for a storm on or about the 18th of March. Because Sheila’s storm comes just after St. Patrick’s Day, Sheila is often described as the saint’s wife or mother. You would think that this would be an Irish tradition as well, carried to the new world by immigrants, but it appears to be a local invention.

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Irish Sea-Gods

I don’t normally like “list posts”. Those neat lists of deities and powers are certainly easy to remember, and good for beginners, but I find that now I want more context and explanation. (Or it could be a warning sign of old age. Who knows.)

Just this once, however, I have broken down and made a list of Irish sea-gods. When I was writing my posts on Donn and Tethra, I took a lot of notes trying to get all these gods straight in my head. This post is for anyone who shared my confusion.

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Flidais: A Chariot Drawn By Deer

Where did the idea that Flidais rode in a chariot drawn by deer come from? It’s not in her main legend, the Táin Bó Flidais, nor in the follow-on story, the Táin Bó Cúailnge. It’s an attractive image, bringing to mind the Middle Eastern goddesses with their lion-drawn chariots,  Freyja with her cats, and Nerthus in her wagon drawn by heifers.

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The Tain Bo Flidais

The Táin Bó Flidhais, or The Book of the Driving of Flidais’ Cattle, is the main source of information about the goddess Flidais. This story has been preserved in two versions, a shorter version in the Book of Leinster, and a longer one in the Yellow Book of Lecan.

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Flidais: Is She a Goddess?

Flidais was a figure of Irish mythology, surnamed Foltcháin, “beautiful (or soft) hair”. She had a magical cow, the Maol, as well as herds of cattle and of deer. She is usually considered a goddess of abundance (cows were wealth), sovereignty, feasting, magic, hunting and sexuality. Her dual nature, exemplified in the cows and deer, mingles the domesticated with the wild. Continue reading

Manannan mac Lir (and some Norse connections)

Manannán is in many ways like a more benign version of Oðin. Like the Norse god, he is the patron of many heroes, is skilled in both battle and magic, moves easily between the worlds and has many lovers as well as a wife. On a more fantastic level, both have horses that can travel over land and sea, and a boar or pigs that renew themselves after being eaten.

He seems to have been one of the old gods, rather than the Tuatha de Danann. Unlike them, however, he seems to have made his peace with the new order, as he appears in their adventures. (He was close enough to them to be foster-father to the young god Lugh.) When the Milesians (humans) came, and the TDD went into the hollow hills, Manannán divided up the otherworld into parts for each.

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