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Blog: The Milesians (Continued)  

     Miled having died in Spain, his eight sons, with their mother, Scota, families and followers, at length set out on their venturous voyage to their Isle of Destiny.1
     In a dreadfulstorm that the supposedly wizard De Danann raised up against them, when  they attempted to land in Ireland, five of the sons of Milesius, with great numbers of their followers, were lost, their fleet dispersed and it seemed for a time as if none of them would ever enjoy the Isle of Destiny.
     Ancient manuscripts preserve the prayer that, it is said, their poet Amergin, now prayed for them--
     "I pray that they reach the land of Eirinn, those who are riding upon the great, productive,vast sea:
     "That they be distributed upon her plains, her mountains, and her valleys; upon her forests that shed showers of nuts and all fruits; upon her rivers and her cataracts; upon her lakes and her great waters; upon her spring-abounding hills:
     "That they may hold their fairs and equestrian sports upon her territories:
     "That there may be a king from them in Tara; and that Tara be the territory of their many kings:
     "That noble Eirinn be the home of the ships and boats of the sons of Milesius:
     "Eirinn which is now in darkness, it is for her that this oration is pronounced:
     "Let the learned wives of Breas and Buaigne pray that we may reach the noble woman, great Eirinn.
     "Let Eremon pray, and let Ir and Eber implore, that we may reach Eirinn."
     Eventually they made land--Eber with the survivors of his following landing at Inver Sceni, in Bantry Bay; and afterwards defeating a De Danann host under Queen Eire but losing their own Queen Scota in the fray--and Eremon with his people at Inver Colpa (mouth of the Boyne).
     When they had joined their forces, in Meath, they went against the De Danann in general battle at taillte, and routed the latter with great slaughter.  The three kings and the three queens of the De Danann were slain, many of them killed, and the remainder dispersed. 
     The survivors fled into the remote hills and into the caves.  Possibly the glimpses of some of these fugitive hill-dwellers and cave-dwellers, caught in twilight and in moonlight, by succeeding generations of Milesians, coupled with the seemingly magical skill which they exercised, gave foundation for the later stories of enchanted folk, fairies, living under the Irish hills. 
     Though, a quaint tale preserved in the ancient Book of Leinster says that after Taillte it was left to Amergin, the Milesian poet and judge, to divide Eirinn between the two races,and that he shrewdy did so with technical justice--giving all above ground to his own people, and all underground to the De Danann!
     Another pleasant old belief is that the De Danann, being overthrown, were assembled by their great immortal Mannanan at Brugh of the Boyne, where, after counselling together, it was decided that, taking Bodb Derg, son of the Dagda, as their king, and receiving immortality from Mannanan, they should distribute themselves in their spirit land under the happy hills of Ireland--where they have, ever since, enjoyed never-ending bliss.2
     Of the Milesians, Eber and Eremon divided the land between them-Eremon getting the Northern half of the Island, and Eber the southern.  The Northeastern corner was accorded to the children of their lost brother, Ir, and the Southwestern corner to their cousin Lughaid, the son of Ith.
     An oft-told story says that when Eber and Eremon had divided their  followers, each taking an equal number of soldiers and an equal number of the men of every craft, there remained a harper and a poet.  Drawing lots for these, the harper fell to Eremon and the poet to Eber--which explains why,ever since, the North of Ireland has been celebrated for music, and the South for song.
     The peace that fell upon the land then, and the happiness of the Milesians, was only broken, when after a year, Eber's wife discovered that she must be possessed of the three pleasantest hills in Eirinn, else she could not remain one other night in the Island.  Now the pleasantest of all the Irish hills was Tara, which lay in Eremon's half.   And Eremon's wife would not have the covetousness of the other woman satisfied at her expense.  So, because of the quarrel of the women, the beautiful peace of the island was broken by battle. Eber was beaten, and the high sovereighty settled upon Eremon.
     It was in his reign, continues the legend, that the Cruitnigh or Picts arrived from the Continent.  They landed in the south-west, at the mouth of the River Slaney (Inver Slaigne).  A tribe of Britons who fought with poisoned arrows were at the time ravaging that corner of the Island.  The Picts helped to drive out the marauders, and in reward were granted a settlement there, from Crimthann, the chief of that quarter.  Afterwards they had an outfall with Crimthann--and it was decided that they should be passed into Alba (Scotland).3 The three Pictish chiefs were given Irish wives to take to Alba with them, on the condition that henceforth their royal line should descend according to the female succession--which it is said, was henceforth the law among the Alban Picts.
     Eremon's victory over Eber had slight effect in fixing on his lineage the succession to the overlordship for, through many hundreds of years afterward, the battle had to be refought, and the question settled once more--sometimes to the advantage of the Eremonians, sometimes to that of the Eberians.  A warlike people must have war.  Occasionally, during the reigns of the early Milesian kings, this want was filled for them by the Fomorians, who, though disastrously defeated by the De Danann at Northern Moytura, were far from being destroyed.  Irial, the prophet, the grandson of Eremon, and third Milesian king of Ireland, had to fight them again. And at many other times the Island suffered from their depredations.
     Names of a long list of kings, from Eremon downward, and important particulars regarding many of them, were preserved by the historical traditions--traditions that were as valuable, and as zealously guarded, as are the written State Records of modern days. 4  The carefully trained file', who was poet, historian, and philosopher, was consecrated to the work--and, ever inspired with the sacredness of his trust, he was seldom known to deviate from the truth in anything of importance--however much he confessedly gave his imagination play in the unimportant details.  And, much as the people reverenced him, they reverenced the truth of history more; and it was the law that a file', discovered falsifying, should be degraded and disgraced.
     The Scottish historian Pinkerton, who was hardly sympathetic admits: "Foreigners may imagine that it is granting too much to the Irish to allow them lists of kings more ancient than those of any other country of modern Europe.  but the singularly compact and remote situation of that Island, and the freedom from Roman conquest, and from the concussion of the Fall of the Roman Empire, may infer this allowance not too much."
     And the British Camden, another authority not partial to Ireland, but sometimes hostile, says:  "They deduced their history from memorials derived from the most profound depths of remote antiquity, so that compared with that of Ireland, the antiquities of all other nations is but novelty, and their history is but a kind of infancy."
     Standish O'Grady in his "Early Bardic History of Ireland" says:  "I
must confess that the blaze of Bardic light which illuminates those centuries a first dazzles the eye and disturbs the judgment...(but) that the Irish kings and heroes should succeed one another, and all those who were contemporaneous with them are seen clearly and distinctly, was natural in a country where in each little realm or sub-kingdom the ard-ollam was equal in dignity to the King, as is proved by the equivalence of their eric.  the dawn of English history is in the seventh century--a late dawn, dark and sombre, without a ray of cheerful sunshine; that of Ireland dates reliably from a point before the commencing of the Christian Era-illumined with that light which never was on sea or land--thronging with heroic forms of men and women--terrible with the presence of the supernatural and its over-reaching power."5


Posted: Jun 1, 2008 12:43pm | (0) | (0) |  
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Blog: Chapter 3 - The Milesians  
The sixteenth-century scholar, O'Flaherty, fixes the Milesian invasion of Ireland at about 1000 B.C.--the time of Solomon.  Some modern writers, including MacNeill, say that they even came at a much later date.  There are, however, philologists and other scientific inquirers, who to some extent corroborate O'Flaherty's estimate.
    It is proven that the Celts whencesoever they came, had, before the dawn of history, subjugated the German people and established themselves in Central Europe.  At about the date we have mentioned, a great Celtic wave, breaking westward over the Rhine, penetrated into England, Scotland, and Ireland.  Subsequently a wave swept over the Pyrenees into the Spanish Peninsula.  Other waves came westward still later.
     The studies of European scholars have shown that these Celts were an eminently warlike people, rich in the arts of civilized life, who subdued and dominated the ruder races, wherever they went on the Continent.  They were possessed of "a high degree of political unity, had a single king, and a wise and consistent external policy."  Mostly, however, they seem to have been a federation of patrician republics.  At various times they had allied themselves with the Greeks to fight common enemies.  They gave valuable service to, and were highly esteemed by Philip, and by his son, the great Alexander.  In an alliance which they made with Alexander, before he left on his Asiatic expedition, it was by the elements they swore their fealty to the pact--just as we know they continued to swear in Ireland, down to the coming of Christianity in the fifth century.
     They piqued Alexander's pride by frankly telling him that they did not fear him--only feared Heaven.  They held sway in Central Europe through long centuries.  A Celtic cementery discovered at Hallstatt in upper Austria proves them to have been skilled in art and industries as far back as 900 B.C.--shows them as miners and agriculturists, and blessed witht he use of iron instuments.  they invaded Italy twice, in the seventh and in the fourth centuries before Christ.  In the latter time they were at the climax of their power.  They stormed Rome itself, 300 B.C.
     The rising up of the oppressed Germans against them, nearly three centuries before Christ, was the beginning of the end of the Continental power of the Celt.  After that they were beaten and buffeted by Greek and by Roman, and even by despised races--broken, and blown like the surf in all directions, Noth and South, and East and West.  A fugitive colony of these people,that had settled in Asia Minor, in the territory which from them, (the Gaels) was called Galatia, and among whom Paul worked,was found to be still speaking a Celtic language in the days of St. Jerome, five or six hundred years later. Eoin MacNeill and other scientific enquirers hold that it was only in the fifth century before Christ that they reached Spain--and that it was not via Spain but via north-western France and Britain that they, crushed out from Germany, eventually reached Ireland.  In Caesar's day the Celts (Gauls) who dominated France used Greek writing in almost all their business, public or private. 
     The legendary account of the origin of the Gaels and their coming to Ireland is as follows:
     They came first out of that vast undefined tract, called Scythia--a region which probably included all of Southwest Europe and adjoining portions of Asia.  tlhey came to Ireland through Egypt, Crete, and Spain.  They were called Gaedhal (Gael) beacause their remote ancestor, in the days of Moses, was Gaodhal Glas.  Wlhen a child, Moses is said to hav cured him of the bite of a serpent--and to have promised, then, that no serpent or other poisonous thing should infest the happy western island that his far posterity would one day inhabit.  Niul, a grand-son of Gaodhal, who had been invited as an instructor into Egypt by one of the Pharaohs, married Pharaoh's daughter Scota--after whom Ireland was, in later ages, called Scotia.  In Egypt Niul and his people grew discendants of Niul and Scota.  In Egypt Niul and his peole grew rich and powerful, resented the injustice of a later Pharaoh, were driven from the land, and after long and varied wanderings, during succeeding ages, reached Spain.  When, after they had long sojourned in Spain, they heard of Ireland (perhaps from Phoenician traders) and took it to be the Isle of Destiny, foretold for them by Moses, their leader was Miled or Milesius, whose wife also was a Pharaoh's daughter, and named Scota. Miled's uncle, Ith, was first sent into Ireland, to bring them report upon it.  But the Tuatha De Danann, suspecting the purpose of his mission, killed Ith.

Posted: May 7, 2008 11:33pm | (1) | (0) |  
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Blog: Chapter 2-The Tuatha De Danann  
Over the island, which was now indisputably De Danann, reigned the hero, Lugh, famous in mythology.  And after Lugh, the still greater Dagda--whose three grand-sons, succeeding him in the sovereignty, says the story, when the Milesians came.
     Such a great people were the De Danann, and so uncommonly skilled in the few arts of the time, that they dazzled een their conquerors and successors, the Milesians, into regarding them as mighty magicians.  Later generations of the Milesians to whom were handed down the wonderful traditions of the wonderful people they had conquered, lifted them into a mystic realm, their greatest ones becoming gods and goddesses, who supplied to their successors a beautiful mythology.
     Most conquerors come to despise the conquered, but here they came to honor, almost to worship those whomthey had subdued. Which proves not only greatness in the conquered, but also bigness of mind and distinctiveness of character in the conquerors.
     The De Danann skill in the arts and crafts in course of time immortalised itself in beautiful legends among the Milesians.  Lugh was not only the son of a god (of Manannan MacLir, the sea-god), and the greatest of heroes, but tradition gave him all the many mortall powers of his people, so that he was called Sab Ildanach-meaning Stem of all the Arts.  When the De Danann had first arrived in Ireland Lugh went to the court of Eochaid, the Firbolg king at Tara, and sought an office.  But no one was admitted a member of this court unless he was master of some art or craft not already represented there.  The doorkeeper barring Lugh's way demanded on what ground he sought to be admitted.  Lugh answered that he ws a saer (carpenter).  No they had a good saer in the court already.  Then he said he was a good smith. They had an able smith, also.  Well, he was a champion.  They already had a champion.  Next, he was a harper.  They had a wonderful harper, too.  Then a poet and antiquarian.
They had such--and of the most eminent.  But he was a magician.  They had many Druids, adept in the occult.  he was a physician. They had the famous physician, Diancecht.  he was a cupbearer.  They had nine.  Then a goldsmith.  They had the famous Creidne'1  "then," said Lugh, "go to our king, and ask him if he has in his court any man who is at once master of all these arts and professions.  If he has, I shall not ask admittance to Tara."
     Eochaid, the King, was overjoyed.  he led in the wonderful Lugh, and put him in the chair of the ard-ollam, the chief professor of the arts and sciences.
     The Dagda, who reigned just before the coming of the Milesians, was the greatest of the De Danann.  he was styled Lord of Knowledge and Sun of all the Sciences.  his daughter, Brigit, was a woman of wisdom, and goddess of poetry.  The Dagda was a great and beneficient ruler for eighty years.
     1.  The old traditional tales say that the Creidne' mentioned was from a very famous worker in the precious metals.  The basic truth of these traditions seems evidenced by the reference in very ancient manuscripts to Bretha Creidne', "The Judgments of Creidne" a body of laws dealing with fine scales, weights and measures, and the precious metals.  There is still preserved part of a very old poem, which says that Creidne' was drowned, returning from Spain with golden ore.

Posted: May 7, 2008 10:57pm | (0) | (0) |  
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Blog: Early Colonisations (Continued)  

Breas fled to the Hebrides, to his father, Elatha, the chief of the Fomorians, where, collecting a mighty host of their sea-robbers, in as many ships as filled the sea from the Hebrides to Ireland, they swarmed into Eirinn--and gave battle to the De Danaan at Northern Moytura, in Sligo.  In this, their second great battle, the De Danann were again victorious.  They routed their enemy with fearful slaughter, and overthrew the Fomorian tyranny in the island

forever.  The famous Fomorian chief, Balor of the Evil Eye, whose headquarters was on

Tory Island, off the Northwest coast, was slain, by a stone from the sling of his own

grandson, the great De Danann hero, Lugh.  But Balor had slain King Nuada before he was

himself dispatched. This famous life and death struggle of two races is commemorated by a multitude of cairns and pillars which strew the great battle plain in Sligo--a plain which bears the name (in Irish) of "the Plain of the Towers of the Fomorians."
     The De Danann were now the undisputed masters of the land.   So goes the honored legend.


Posted: Apr 18, 2008 2:17pm | (0) | (0) |  
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Blog: Early Colonisations (Continued)  

The Firbolgs' noted King, Eochaid, was slain in this great battle.  But the greatedst of their warriors, Sreng, had maimed the De Danann King, Nuada, cuting off his hand and by that stroke deposed him from the kingship.  Because,under the De Danann law (and ever after in Eirinn) no king could rule who suffered from a personal blemish. 
     The great warrior champion of the De
Danann, Breas (whose father was a Formorian chief) filled the throne while Nuada went

into retirement, and had made for him a silver hand, by their chief artificer, Creidne'.
     Breas, says the legend, ruled for seven
years.  He incensed his people by indulging his kin, the Fomorians, in their epredations. And he was finally deposed for this and for another cause that throws light upon one of the most noted characteristics of the poeple of Eire, ancient and modern.  Breas proved himself that meanest of all men, a kind ungenerous and inhospitable--lacking open heart and open hand--"The knives of his people" it was complained, "were not greased at his table, nor did their breath smell of ale, at a banquet.  Neither their poets, nor their bards, nor their satirists, nor their harpers, nor their pipers, nor their trumpeters, nor their jugglers, nor their buffoons, were ever seen engaged in amusing them in the assembly at his court."  So there

was mighty grumbling in the land, for that it should be disgraced by so unkingly a king.  And the grumbling swelled to a roar, when, in the extreme of his niggardliness, he committed the sin, pardonable in ancient Ireland, of insulting a poet.  Cairbre, the great poet of the time, him, was sent to a little bare, cold apartment, where a few,

mean, dry cakes upon a platter were put before him as substitute for the lavish royal banquet owed to a poet.  In hot indignation he quitted the abode of Breas, and upon the boorish king composed a withering satire, which should blight him and his seed forever.

Lashed to wrath, then, by the outrage on a poet's sacred person the frenzied people arose, drove the boor from the throne, and

from the Island--and Nuada Airgead Lam (of the Silver Hand) again reigned over his people.


Posted: Apr 18, 2008 2:01pm | (0) | (0) |  
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