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Myths & Legends of Co. Kildare, Ireland with Helen McDonnell
DATE OF SHOW: Saturday 11th July 2014.
Aingeal Rose & AHONU arrived in Ireland on their summer tour to find the warmest “welcome home”.
In this interview with their good friend Helen McDonnell, they discuss the Myths & Legends of Co. Kildare, Ireland. Helen told us the stories of Cuchulainn and Oisin, of the Hill of Allen and her own megalithic standing stone. She told us the story of the Salmon of Knowledge and Tir na n’Og. We talked about The Hill of Tara and the Hill of Uisneach and the ancient kingdom of Meath. She told us about Father Moore’s Well, St. Brigid’s Well and other ancient holy wells around the area. We learned about St. Brigid’s Cross, St. Brigid’s Tower, the Fire ceremonies and the legend of St. Brigid’s cloak. We ended with a discussion about Irish myths and legends and how they are becoming lost in our modern times. Here are some notes from Wikipedia about our subjects today.
Cú Chulainn, also spelt Cúchulainn (Irish for “Culann’s Hound”) is an Irish mythological hero who appears in the stories of the Ulster Cycle, as well as in Scottish and Manx folklore. His childhood name was Sétanta and he was the son of the god Lugh and Deichtine (sister of Conchobar Mac Nessa).
He gained his better-known name as a child after he killed Culann’s fierce guard-dog in self-defense and offered to take its place until a replacement could be reared. At the age of seventeen he defended Ulster single-handedly against the armies of queen Medb of Connacht in the epic Táin Bó Cúailnge (“Cattle Raid of Cooley”). It was prophesied that his great deeds would give him everlasting fame, but that his life would be a short one. For this reason he is compared to the Greek hero Achilles. He is known for his terrifying battle frenzy, or ríastrad (translated by Thomas Kinsella as “warp spasm” and by Ciaran Carson as “torque”), in which he becomes an unrecognizable monster who knows neither friend nor foe. He fights from his chariot, driven by his loyal charioteer Láeg and drawn by his horses, Liath Macha and Dub Sainglend. In more modern times, Cú Chulainn is often referred to as the “Hound of Ulster”
Oisín (pron. Osheen), was regarded in legend as the greatest poet of Ireland, and is a warrior of the fianna in the Ossianic or Fenian Cycle of Irish mythology. He is the son of Fionn mac Cumhaill and of Sadhbh (daughter of Bodb Dearg), and is the narrator of much of the cycle.
His name literally means “young deer” or fawn, and the story is told that his mother, Sadbh, was turned into a deer by a druid, Fear Doirche (or Fer Doirich). When Fionn was hunting he caught her but did not kill her, and she returned to human form. Fionn gave up hunting and fighting to settle down with Sadbh, and she was soon pregnant, but Fer Doirich turned her back into a deer and she returned to the wild. Seven years later Fionn found his child, naked, on Benbulbin. Other stories have Oisín meet Fionn for the first time as an adult and contend over a roasting pig before they recognise each other.
In Oisín in Tir na nÓg, his most famous echtra or adventure tale, he is visited by a fairy woman called Niamh Chinn Óir (Niamh of the Golden Hair or Head, one of the daughters of Manannán Mac Lir, a god of the sea) who announces she loves him and takes him away to Tir na nÓg (“the land of the young”, also referred to as Tir Tairngire, “the land of promise”). Their union produces Oisín’s famous son, Oscar, and a daughter, Plor na mBan (“Flower of Women”). After what seems to him to be three years Oisín decides to return to Ireland, but 300 years have passed there. Niamh gives him her white horse, Embarr, and warns him not to dismount, because if his feet touch the ground, those 300 years will catch up with him and he will become old and withered. Oisín returns home and finds the hill of Almu, Fionn’s home, abandoned and in disrepair. Later, while trying to help some men who were building a road in Gleann na Smól lift a stone out of the way onto a wagon, his girth breaks and he falls to the ground, becoming an old man just as Niamh had forewarned. The horse returns to Tir na nÓg.
The Hill of Allen
The Hill of Allen (Cnoc Alúine in Modern Irish, earlier Cnoc Almaine; also Hill of Almu) is a volcanic hill situated in the west of County Kildare, Ireland, beside the village of Allen. According to Irish Mythology it was the seat of the hunter-warrior Fionn mac Cumhaill and the Fianna. The site is currently part-owned by Roadstone Dublin Ltdand extensive quarrying has noticeably changed the profile of the hill.
Saint Brigit of Kildare (Irish: Naomh Bríd; c. 451–525), also known as Brigit of Ireland, is one of Ireland’s patron saints along with Patrick and Columba. Her name is also variously spelled as Brigid, Bridget, Bridgit, Bríd, and Bride and she is sometimes known as Mary of the Gael. Irish hagiography makes her an early Irish Christian nun, abbess, and founder of several monasteries of nuns, including that of Kildare in Ireland, which was considered legendary and was highly revered. Her feast day is 1 February, formerly celebrated as the Imbolc quarter-day of the pagan Irish year, which marked the beginning of spring, lambing, lactation in cattle, etc.
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Books relating to this episode:
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