Midweek Writer-Rummage: Tales of the British Isles ~ Ireland

Ireland's Turbulent Beginnings

After the world was created, the first to take possession of Ireland was a woman called Banba who came with many maidens and three men. So it is written in ‘Cín Dromma Snechtai’ (the Book of Druimm Snechta). They lived on the island for 40 years after which all died of a plague.

Ireland remained empty of humans for 200 years. Then the Great Flood came and the land was submerged for 1 year and 40 days. 300 years after Banba and her people died, Partholón came from Sicily with 3 men and 4 women, and his servant, Ith. Partholón was a cursed man for he had murdered his mother and father so his brother could be king.

It was during this time that the first battle of Ireland was fought by Partholón against the Fomorians, demons in human shape. The battle was fought for one week but, even though the ranks of the Fomorians broke under Partholón’s onslaught, none were killed for it was a magic battle. Partholón, however, died, for his wounds were many and filled with venom.

After the death of Partholón, Ireland remained empty for 30 years. Then came Nemed of the Greeks of Scythia, with his sons, Starn, Iarbonel the Soothsayer, Annind, and Fergus Red-Side. Nemed won 3 battles against the Fomorians. When a mysterious plague wiped out 9,000 of the Partholónians, Nemed too died.

Only one Partholónian survived – Tuan, the son of Partholón’s great-nephew. Tuan was chosen to be reborn in many forms. Legend tells that it was Tuan who related the history of Ireland from the days of Partholón to the days of Columcille, who was also known as Columba. But that is a story for another day.

After his death, Nemed’s progeny faced great oppression at the hands of the Fomorians. When they could no longer bear the burden of tax and sacrifice, Nemed’s people took up arms against the Fomorians, with three of Nemed’s sons as their champions. The battle was fierce, the slaughter great. In the end, after much savage fighting, only one ship survived, containing no more than 30 warriors. And so, Nemed’s descendants left Ireland.

His great-great-grandson, Semion, went to Greece where his progeny multiplied. But there too they faced oppression, enslaved by the Greeks. Eleven generations later, when they grew weary of slavery, they returned to Ireland. There, they became known as the Fir Bolg and Fir Domnann.

Iobath, whose grandfather was Nemed’s son, Iarbonel, took his people to the northern Greek islands. There, they learned druidry and prophecy, and fathomed all manner of knowledge so that they became expert in every art. When they returned to Ireland, they became known as the Tuatha de Danaan. With them they brought items of such wonder such as the spear of Lugh – any man who wielded it would be sure of victory; the Stone of Fál – it would cry out beneath the king that conquered Ireland; the sword of Nuadu – once it had been drawn, there was no escaping it, neither could any resist it; and the cauldron of the Dagda – no company ever left it unsatisfied.

The Tuatha de Danaan, led by their king, Nuadu, came to Ireland by the might of their magic. By magic did they cover the sun in darkness for three days and three nights. They demanded sovereignty over the Fir Bolg who would not yield and so began the first battle of Mag Tuired.

At the battle, Nuadu’s arm was cut from him. An arm of silver was made to replace it and he was then called Nuadu of the Silver Hand. In the last battle of Mag Tuired, Nuadu met his end, slain by Balor. But Balor was then killed by his own grandson, Lugh, who used his ‘sling-stone’ to destroy the evil eye of Balor of the Piercing Eye.

Lugh took Nuadu’s place as king until he was slain 40 years later, after which the Dagda ruled, and his progeny after him until there came a time when there were no more children of the Tuatha de Danaan.