Scota appears in the Irish chronicle Book of Leinster (containing a redaction of the Lebor Gabála Érenn). According to Irish Folklore and Mythology, the battle of Sliabh Mish was fought in this glen above the town of Tralee, where the Celtic Milesians defeated the Tuatha Dé Danann but Scotia, the Queen of the Milesians died in battle while pregnant as she attempted to jump a bank on horseback. The area is now known as Scotia’s Glen and her grave is reputed to be under a huge ancient stone inscribed with Egyptian hieroglyphs. She was said to be a Pharaoh’s daughter and had come to Ireland to avenge the death of her husband, the King of the Milesians who had been wounded in a previous ambush in south Kerry. It is also said that Scotland was named after Queen Scotia.
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).
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.
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.
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.
Who tells the ages of the moon, if not I?
Who shows the place where the sun goes to rest, if not I?
Who calls the cattle from the House of Tethra?
On whom do the cattle of Tethra smile?
This comes from the Irish poem The Song of Amairgen. It was sung by the ollamh (poet) named Amairgen Glúingel as he first set foot on Irish soil. (He was one of the Milesians, who conquered Ireland after the Tuatha de Danann.) It is certainly an enigmatic verse, but I will just tackle one riddle in this post: what are the cattle of Tethra?