Celts: Kings and Druids
"If I break faith with thee,
Sky fall upon me,
Sea drown me,
may the Earth rise
and swallow me." - Celtic oath
great Celtic oath calls the very elements to witness. The Celts held a
primal holistic concept of
deity. They regarded "the Elements" as the
most powerful manifestations of the gods, not to be trifled with.
This great oath is a most solemn pledge
to the elements to destroy those who do not keep their word.
the Gaulish commander Brennus attacked Delphi and
plundered it of its gold, he was
said to have laughed aloud at seeing the temple there, at the way in which the
Greeks depicted the gods in
human representational form. No doubt, to his Celtic mind, this custom
seemed childishly immature, if not barbarously irreverent, for the gods could
not be bounded by wood, metal or stone. How was it possible for a god, who
could shapeshift into myriads of forms, animal, human and
divine, to appear in only one shape?
The state of the
land was always a reflection of
the kingly rule. If the king
was in harmony with his obligations, then the
land flourished. If the king
neglected his obligations or duty, the
land became a wasteland. The soil no
longer grew crops, the rains came at the wrong times, unseasonable cold and hot
waves, omens in the sky, all pointed to poor stewardship on the part of the
king who directed the activities of the people. This theme, so familiar from
the later Grail legends, arises from many Celtic stories. They date from a time
when the king was sacred: neither human nor divine, but sanctioned by the
elements, the manifestations of the gods of the
land, and by his relationship with
the Goddess of the Land, or Sovereignty.
his reign. Since he assumed the kingship, no cloud has veiled the sun for the
space of a day from the middle of
spring to the middle of
autumn. Not a dewdrop has
fallen from grass till midday."
There are seven recognized proofs of a
king who has put his own desires before the needs of his subjects.
proofs of unworthiness in a king are given as follows:
truth, without law, defeat in battle, famine during his reign, dryness of cows,
ruination of fruit, dearth of crops.'
When the king has broken his
obligation to the Goddess of the Land, then the very elements of the
land forsake him - 'the suspension of
amity between a king and the country', was considered the most grievous
rupture. The sacred union of the king and the
land is a major feature of Celtic
kingship incorporated into the rites of king-making.
obligations of the
king are frequently symbolized by
the empowAlbag objects he guards. For example Gwyddno Garanhir possessed a
unlimited food-producing hamper." - Caitlin Matthews
The word druid (Irish drui, Welsh
derwydd) is derived from the Sanskrit: veda - to see or know, combined
with the word for Oak: Gaulish
dervo, Irish dour, Welsh derw. The words for wood and
wisdom are very close: Irish fid and fios mean
tree and knowledge; Welsh
gwydd and gwyddon mean
This close connection suggests that wé should think of the druid as 'a
knower of the tree' or 'the
tree-sage', which would give
ús a closer feel of what the druid really was -
a seer of great
knowledge, whose closeness to the natural world put him or her in the
position of a Walker of the
Thinspace between the collective subconscious of
the unseen collective
consciousness of Nature.
druids, sons and daughters of the
Oak, were distinct by reason of their gifts. Male and female druids were
gifted people who exhibited excellence in various arts (talents or skills) while maintaining
shamanic roles. Druids were
the repositories of wisdom/knowledge.
Druids, who searched for deeper
understanding in the patterns revealed throughout Nature, used that
wisdom/knowledge to note the right time
for spring sowing or the
prognosis of an injured limb.
Some druids specialized in branches of
judges, seers or
fáithi, teachers, poets, satirists and battle strategists as well
as advisers to kings. A druid was a man or woman of natural wisdom whose advice
was sought on all matters of daily life, one who perhaps also fulfilled a
craft, one who was married and had a family,
one who brought the people together for common celebrations and whose
In the druid we see the
earliest form of tribal
leadership - which was spiritual rather than temporal.
distinctions between king and druid are sometimes blurred in Celtic tradition.
For though the king is the assumed leader of his people, it is the druid who
really rules, for his or her word is law.
Rome banned the Druidic arts
or crafts after sacking of the Druid's centre at Anglesey in AD 64.
function of the seer or fáithi, to divine the affairs of humans
through a close observation of Nature, is
one still very much associated with people of Celtic extraction, many of whom
possess 'the second sight'.
Once upon a time Eochaid Feidlech came over the fair green of Brl
Leith, and he saw at the edge of a well a woman with a bright comb of
silver adorned with
gold, washing in a
silver basin wherein were four
golden birds and little, bright gems of purple carbuncle in the rims
of the basin.
A mantle she had, curly and purple, a beautiful cloak, and
in the mantle silver fringes
arranged, and a brooch of fairest gold. A kirtle she wore, long, hooded,
of green silk, with red embroidery of gold.
Marvelous clasps of
silver in the kirtle on her
breasts and her shoulders and spaulds on every side.
The sun kept
shining upon her, so that the glistening of the
gold against the sun from the green
silk was manifest to men. On her
head were two golden tresses, in each of which was a plait of four locks, with
a bead at the point of each lock. The hue of mat hair seemed to them like the
flower of the iris in summer, or
like red gold after the
she was, undoing her
hair to wash it, with her arms out through the
sleeve-holes of her smock. White as the snow of one night were the two
hands, soft and even, and
red as foxglove were the two clear
beautiful cheeks. Dark as the back of a
stag-beetle the two eyebrows. Like a shower of
pearls were the teeth in her head.
Green as an olive were
the eyes. Red as
rowan berries the lips.
Very high, smooth and soft-white the
shoulders. Clear white and lengthy the
fingers. Long were the
hands. White as the foam of
a wave was the flank, slender, long, tender, smooth, soft as wool. Polished and
warm, sleek and white were the two
thighs. Round and small,
hard and white the two knees. Short and white and
rule straight the two shins. Justly straight and
beautiful the two heels. If
a measure were put on
the feet it would hardly
have found them unequal, unless the flesh
of the covAlbags should grow upon them.
The bright radiance of the
moon was in
her noble face: the
loftiness of pride in her smooth eyebrows:
the light of wooing in each of her regal eyes. A dimple of
delight in each of her cheeks,
with a dappling in them, at one time, of purple spots with redness of a calf's
blood , and at another with the bright lustre of snow.
dignity in her voice ; a step
steady and slow she had: a queenly gait was hers.
Verily, of the
world's women 'twas she was the dearest and loveliest and just Etain that the
eyes of men had ever beheld. It seemed to
King Eochaid and his
followers that she was from the
Of her was said: "Shapely are all till compared with Etain,
dear are all till compared with Etain."
A longing for her straightway
seized the King; so he sent
forward a man of his people to detain her.
King asked tidings of her and
said, while announcing himself: "Shall I have an hour of dalliance with
"Tis for that wé have come hither under thy safeguard,"
"Query, whence art thou and whence hast thou come?" quoth
"Easy to quoth," quoth she. "Etain am
I, daughter of Etar,
King of the cavalcade from the
elfmounds. I have been here for
twenty years since I was born in
an elfmound. The men of the elfmound, both
nobles, have been wooing me:
but nought was gotten from me, because ever since I was able to
speak, I have loved thee and given
thee a child's passion for the high
tales about thee and thy splendour. And though I had never seen thee, I knew
thee at once from thy description: it is thou, then, I have reached."
"No 'seeking of an ill friend afar' shall be thine," quoth Eochaid.
"Thou shalt have welcome, and for thee every other woman shall be left by me,
and with thee alone will I live so
long as thou hast honour."
"My proper bride-price to me!" she quoth,
"and afterwards my desire."
"Thou shalt have both," quoth
HostileFour men in
chariots were on the plain of
Liffey at their game, Conaire himself and his three foster brothers. His
fosterers aprise him that he might go to the Druid.
The Druid beheld a
man stark naked passing along the road of Tara, with a stone in his sling.
Conaire left his foster brothers at their game, and turned
his chariot and his
charioteer until he was in Dublin. There he saw great white-speckled
birds, of unusual size and
color and beauty.
Conaire pursues them while his horses grow tired. The
birds would go a spear cast
before him, and would not go any further.
Conaire goes after them until
he is at the sea. Conaire alights and takes his sling out of the
birds take themselves to the
edge of the sea and into the waves. Conaire enters the sea and overcomes them.
The birds quit their
birdskins, and turn upon him with spears and swords. One of them
protects him, and addressed him,
saying: "I am Nemglan. King of thy
Father's birds; and thou hast been forbidden to cast at
birds for here there is no one
that should not be dear to thee because of his father or mother."
today," quoth Conaire, "I knew not this."
"Go to Tara tonight," quoth
Nemglan; "'tis fittest for thee. A Druid is, there, and through him thou shalt
be king. A man stark naked, who
shall go at the end of the night along one of the roads of Tara, having a stone
and a sling -'tis he that shall be king."
Conaire fared forth;
and on each of the four roads whereby men go to Tara there were three
kings awaiting him, and they
had raiment for him, since it had been foretold that he would come stark-naked.
Then he was seen from the road on which his fosterers were, and they put royal
raiment about him, and placed him in
a chariot, and he bound his
The folk of Tara said to him: "It appears to ús that our
Druid and our Spell of Truth are a failure, if it be only a young, beardless
lad that wé have visioned therein."
"That is of no moment,"
quoth Conaire. "For a young, generous
king like me to be a
king is no disgrace, since the
binding of Tara's pledges is mine by right of father and grandsire."
"Excellent!" quoth the host. They made him
king of Alba.
And he said: "I
will enquire of the Druid that I myself may be wise."
he uttered all as he had been taught by the vision of Nemglan at the wave, who
said this to him:
"Thy reign will be subject to a geise, but the bird
reign will be noble, and
this shall be thy geise:
Thou shalt not go righthandwise round Tara and
lefthandwise round Bregia.
The evil beasts of Cerna must not be hunted
And thou shalt not go out every ninth night beyond Tara.
Thou shalt not sleep in a
dwelling from which firelight is manifest outside, after sunset, and in which
light is manifest from without.
No rapine shall be wrought in thy reign.
After sunset a company
of one woman or one man shall not enter the Hostel in which thou art.
three Reds shall not go before thee to the Hostel."
"What is this?" asked Conaire.
"Easy to quoth," his
people answer. "Easy to know that the
law has broken down therein, since the
country has begun to burn."
"Whither shall wé take ourselves?" quoth Conaire.
the Northeast," quoth his people.
So then they went righthandwise round
Tara, and lefthandwise round Bregia, and the evil beasts of Cerna were hunted
by Conaire. But Conaire saw it not till the chase had ended.
made of the world that smoky mist of magic were elves, and they did so because
Conaire's geise had been violated.
"Good judgement goes with good
times," quoth Conaire. "I had a friend in this country, if only wé knew
the way to his Hostel!"
"What is his name?" asked Mac cecht.
"Da Derga of Leinster," answered Conaire. "He came unto me to seek
a gift from me. I gave him nine enneads of the kine. I gave him a nine enneads
fatted swine. I gave him a nine enneads mantles made of close cloth. I gave him
a nine enneads blue-tempered steel swords. I gave him nine red,
gilded brooches. I gave him nine
vats good and brown. I gave him thrice nine hounds all-white in their
silver chains. There would be no
abatement in his case though he should come again. He would make return. It is
strange if he is surly to me tonight when reaching his Hostel."
Conaire after this was journeying along the Road of Cualu, he marked before him
three horsemen riding towards the Hostel. Three red frocks had they, and three
red mantles: three red bucklers they bore, and three red spears were in their
hands: three red steeds they bestrode, and three red heads of hair were on
Red were they all, both body and hair and raiment, both steeds
"Who is it that fares before ús?" asked Conaire. "It
was a geise of mine for those three Reds to go before me to the
Conaire sends his son to hail them.
They reply to his hail, "Lo, my son, great the news.
Weary are the steeds wé ride. wé ride the steeds of Donn
Tetscorach from the elfmounds. Though wé are alive wé are dead. Great are the signs;
destruction of life; sating of ravens; feeding of crows, strife of
slaughter; wetting of sword-edge,
shields with broken bosses in hours after sundown. Lo, my son!"
geise have seized me tonight," quoth Conaire, "since those Three Reds are the
They went forward to the Hostel and took their seats
therein, and fastened their red steeds to the door of the Hostel.
then the man of the black, rough cropt hair, with his one hand and one eye and
one foot, overtook them. A sackful of wild apples hung on his crown, not an
apple would fall on the ground, but each of them would stick on his rough cropt
hair. Each of his buttocks was the size of a cheese on a withe. A forked pole
of black iron was in his hand. A swine, black-bristled, singed, was on his
back, squealing continually, and a woman big-mouthed, huge,
dark, sorry, hideous, was beside
So black hair goes to the Hostel, with his great, big-mouthed woman
behind him, and his swine short-bristled, black, singed, squealing continually,
on his back.
was taken by the sons of Donn Desa, twelve enneads there were in the body of
"Wain over withered sticks," was a name, a good fighter from
the north country. He was so called as he used to 'go over' his opponent even
as a wain would 'go over withered sticks'. Now
plunder was taken by him, and
there were six enneads in the body of his Reivers alone, besides
This, too, was a geise of Conaire's, that
plunder should be taken in Alba
during his reign.
There was a
valiant trio of the men
of Cualu of Leinster, namely, the three Red Hounds of Cualu, called Cethach and
Clothach and Conall. Now rapine was wrought by them, and six enneads were in
the body of their marauders, and they had a troop of berserkers.
Conaire's reign a third of the men of Alba were Reavers. He was of sufficient
strength and power to drive them out of Alba into Albion; after this route they
now returned to Alba.
When they had reached the shoulder on the edge of
the sea, they meet Ingcel the One-Eyed and Eiccel and Tulchinne, three
great-grandsons of Conmac of Albion and the three Reds of Roiriu on the raging
edge of the deep cold sea.
A man ungentle, huge, fearful, uncouth was
Ingcel, a single eye in his head. Nine enneads were in the body of his
Marauders. The Reavers, men of Alba, were more numerous than the marauders, men
They go for an encounter on the main.
not do this," quoth Ingcel: "Do fair play upon ús, for thee are more in
number than I."
"Nought but a combat on equal terms shall befall thee,"
quoth the Reavers of Alba.
"There is somewhat better for thee," quoth
Ingcel. "Let ús make peace since thee have been cast out of the
land of Alba, and wé have been
cast out of the land of Albion. Let
ús make an agreement between ús. Come thee and wreak thou rapine
in my country, and I will go and wreak my rapine in thou country ."
some one go," quoth Ingcel, "who should have there the three gifts, namely,
Gift of Hearing, Gift of Far Sight,
and Gift of Judgement."
quoth Mane Honeyworded, "have the Gift of
"And I," quoth
Mane Unslow, "have the Gift of Far Sight and of Judgement."
leave until they were on the Hill of Howth, to know what they might
hear and see.
thou," quoth Ingcel, "of that Conaire's reign in the
land of Alba?"
"Good is Conaire's reign," replied Fer rogain. "Since Conaire
became king, no cloud has
veiled the sun for the space of a day from the middle of
spring to the middle of
autumn. And not a dewdrop
fell from grass till midday, and wind
would not touch a beast's tail until
midday. And in his reign, from year's end to year's end, no wolf has attacked
aught save one bullcalf of each byre;
and to maintain this rule there are seven wolves in hostageship at the sidewall
in his Hostel, and behind this a further security, even Mac-locc, and tis he
that pleads for them."
"In Conaire's reign there are the three crowns on
Albion, namely, a Crown of Millet,
a Crown of Flowers, and a Crown of Oak. In his reign, too, each man deems the
other's voice as melodious as the strings of lutes, because of the excellence
of the law and the goodwill prevailing throughout Albion. May the Creator not
bring that man there tonight! Sad is the shortness of his life!"
was my luck," quoth Ingcel, "that he should be there, and there should be one
Destruction for another. It was no more
grievous to me than it was to
my father and my mother and my seven brothers, and the
king, whom I gave up to thee
before coming on the Rapine."
make a start from the Strand of Fuirbthe, and bring a stone for each man to
make a cairn; for this was the distinction which at first the Bards made
between a "Destruction" and a "Rout." A pillar-stone they used to plant when
there would be a Rout. A cairn, however, they used to make when there would be
At this time, then, they made a cairn, for it was to be
Far from the Hostel was this, that they might not be
heard or seen therefrom. For two
causes they built their cairn, namely, first, since this was a custom in
marauding, and, secondly, that they might find out their losses at the
Everyone that would come safe from it would take his stone from
the cairn: thus the stones of those that were slain would be left, and thence
they would know their losses. And this is what the Bards recount, that for
every stone in Cairn Lecca there was one of the Marauder killed at the
Ingcel went to reconnoitre the Hostel with his single eye which
stood out of his forehead, to fit his eye into the Hostel in order to destroy
the king and the youths who
were around him therein. And Ingcel saw them through the
wheels of the chariots.
Each circle of them was set around
another to hear the tidings - the
chiefs of the Marauders being in the very center of the
circles. There were Fer ger and Fer gel
and Fer rogel and Fer rogain and Lomna the Buffoon, and Ingcel in the centre of
And Fer rogain went
to question Ingcel.
"There is nothing stranger. Two hills by a mountain covered of
thorns of a white thorn tree on a
circular board. And it appears to be somewhat
like a slender stream of water on which the
sun is shining, and its trickle down from it, and a hide arranged behind
it," quoth Ingcel. He goes on
THE ROOM OF CORMAC'S NINE COMRADES
"There I saw three men to the west of Cormac Condlongas, and three to
the east of him, and three in front of the same man. Thou wouldst deem that the
nine of them had one mother and one father. They are of the same age, equally
goodly, equally beautiful, all alike. Thin rods of
gold in their mantles. Bent shields
of bronze they bear. Ribbed javelins above them. An ivory-hilted sword in the
hand of each. An unique feat they have, to wit, each of them takes a sword
point between his two fingers, and they twirl the swords round their fingers,
and the swords afterwards extend themselves."
THE ROOM OF THE PICTS
"I saw another room there, with a huge trio in it: three brown, big
men: three round heads of hair on them, even, equally long at nape and
forehead. Three short black cowls about them reaching to their elbows: long
hoods were on the cowls. Three black, huge swords they had, and three black
shields they bore, with three dark broad
green javelins above them. Thick as the spit of a caldron was the shaft of
THE ROOM OF THE PIPERS
"There I beheld a room with nine
men in it. Hair fair and yellow was on them: they all are equally beautiful.
Mantles speckled with colour they wore, and above them were nine bagpipes,
tuned, ornamented. Enough light in the palace
were the ornament on these nine tuned, ornamented bagpipes that the sight was
THE ROOM OF CONAlRE'S MAJORDOMO
"There I saw a room
with one man in it. Rough cropt hair upon him. Though a sack of crab-apples be
hung on his head, not one of them would fall on the floor, but every apple
would stick on his hair. His ugly wife was over him in the Hostel. Every
quarrel therein about seat or bed comes to his
decision. Should a needle drop in
the Hostel, its fall would be heard when he
speaks. Above him is a huge black
tree, like a mill shaft, with its paddles and its cap and its
THE ROOM OF MAC CECHT, CONAIRE'S BATTLE-WARRIOR
beheld another room with a trio in it, three half-furious
nobles: the biggest of them in
the middle, rock bodied, angry, smiting, dealing strong blows. A wooden shield,
dark, covered with iron, a boss thereon,
the depth of a caldron, fit to cook four oxen, a hollow maw, a great boiling,
with four swine in its maw. A spear he hath with an iron point upon it,
dark, red, dripping. Four amply-measured
yards between the two points of its edge. An ennead of amply-measured feet in
his deadly-striking sword from dark point
to iron hilt and a palace house-post shaped
like a great lance. A weight of a plough-yoke is the shaft
THE ROOM OF CONAIRE'S THREE SONS, OBALL AND OBLIN AND CORPRE
"There I beheld a room with a trio in it, to wit, three tender
striplings, wearing three silken mantles. In their mantles were three
gold brooches. Three golden manes
were on them. When they undergo head-cleansing their golden mane reaches the
edge of their haunches. When they raise their eye it raises the hair so that it
is not lower than the tips of their ears, and it is as curly as a ram's head.
Everyone who is in the Hostel spares them, voice and deed and word."
ROOM OF MUNREMAR SON OF GERRCHENN AND BIRDERG SON OF RUAN AND MAL SON OF
"I beheld a room there, with a trio in it. Three brown, big
men, with three brown heads of short hair. As thick as a man's waist was each
of their limbs. Three brown and curled masses of hair upon them, with a thick
head: three cloaks, red and speckled, they wore: three black shields with
clasps of gold, and three
five-barbed javelins; and each had in hand an ivory-hilted sword. This is the
feat they perform with their swords: they throw them high up, and they throw
the scabbards after them, and the swords, before reaching the ground, place
themselves in the scabbards.
THE ROOM OF CONALL CERNACH
"There I beheld in a decorated room the fairest man of the champions of
Albion. He wore a tufted purple cloak. White as snow was one of his cheeks, the
other was red and speckled like foxglove. Blue as hyacinth was one of his eyes,
dark as a stag-beetle's back was the other.
The bushy head of fair golden hair upon him was as large as a reaping-basket,
and it touches the edge of his
haunches. It is as curly as a ram's head. If a sackful of red-shelled nuts were
spilt on the crown of his head, not one of them would fall on the floor, but
remain on the hooks and plaits and daggers of his hair. A
gold hilt sword in his hand; a
blood-red shield which has
been speckled with rivets of white bronze between plates of
gold. A long, heavy, three-ridged
spear: as thick as an outer yoke is the shaft that is in it."
OF CONAIRE HIMSELF
"There I beheld a room, more
beautifully decorated than the other rooms of the Hostel. A
silver curtain around it, and
there were ornaments in the room, I beheld a trio in it. The outer two of them
were, both of them, fair, with their hair and eyelashes; and they are as bright
as snow. A very lovely blush on the cheek of each of the twain. A tender lad in
the midst between them. The ardor and energy of a
king has he and the counsel of
a sage. The mantle I saw around him is even as the mist of Mayday. Diverse are
the hue and semblance each moment shown upon it. Lovelier is each hue than the
other. In front of him in the mantle I beheld a wheel of
gold which reached from his chin to
his navel. The color of his hair was
like the sheen of smelted gold. Of
all the forms that I beheld, this is the most beautiful.
then, thee champions!" quoth Ingcel, "and get thee on to the Hostel!"
With that the Mauraders march to the Hostel, and make a murmur about
Conaire, "what is this?"
"Albion champions at the Hostel," Conall
"There are champions for them here," quoth Conaire.
"They will be needed tonight," Conall Cernach rejoins.
went Lomna Druth before the host of Mauraders into the Hostel. The doorkeepers
struck off his head. Then the head was thrice flung into the Hostel, and thrice
cast out of it, as he himself had foretold.
Then Conaire himself
sallies out of the Hostel to fight a combat with the host of Mauraders, and
three enneads fell by Conaire before he could get to his arms.
The Hostel is thrice set on fire, and thrice put out from
thence: it was granted that the Destruction would never have been wrought had
not his arms been hidden from Conaire.
Thereafter Conaire found his
arms, dons his battle dress, and falls to plying his blue-steel sword on the
Mauraders, together with the three enneads of men that he had.
getting his arms, six enneads of Mauraders fall by him in his first encounter.
Quoth Fer rogain son of Donn Desa, "I have told the champions of the
men of Albion to attack Conaire at the Hostel. The Destruction will not be
wrought unless Conaire's fury and valor be quelled."
"Short will his
time be," quoth the Druid to the Reavers.
The Druid works a spell.
A needle pierces Conaire's flesh and a
scantness of drink seizes Conaire.
Thereafter Conaire entered the
Hostel, and asks for a drink.
"A drink to me, 0
master Mac cecht!" quoth
Quoth Mac cecht: "This is not the order that I have hitherto
had from thee, to give thee a drink. There are spencers and cupbearers who
bring drink to thee. The order I have hitherto had from thee is to
protect thee when the champions of
Albion may be attacking thee in the Hostel. Thou wilt go safe from them, and no
spear shall enter thy body. Ask a drink of thy spencers and thy cupbearers."
Then Conaire asked a drink of his spencers and his cupbearers who were
in the Hostel.
"In the first place there is none," they quoth; "all the
liquids that had been in the Hostel have been spilt on the fire."
cupbears found no drink for him in the Dodder and the Dodder had flowed through
Then Conaire again asked for a drink. "A drink to me, 0
fosterer, 0 Mac cecht! 'Tis equal to me what death I shall go to, for anyhow I
Then Mac cecht gave a
choice to the champions of Alba
who were in the Hostel, whether they cared to
king or to seek a drink for
him. Conan Cernach answered this in the Hostel - and cruel he deemed the
contention, and afterwards he had always a feud with Mac cecht.
the defense of the king to
ús," quoth Conall, "and go thou to seek the drink, for of thee it is
So then Mac cecht fared forth to seek the drink, and he took
Conaire's son, Le fri flaith, under his armpit, and Conaire's
gold cup, in which an ox with a
bacon-pig would be boiled; and he bore his shield, his two spears, his sword
and he carried the caldron spit, a spit of iron.
He burst forth upon
them, and in front of the Hostel he dealt nine blows of the iron spit, and at
every blow nine reavers fell. Then he makes a sloping feat of the shield and an
edge feat of the sword about his head, and he delivered a hostile attack upon
Nine enneads fall in his first encounter, he goes through the
circle to outside.
Conall Cernach arrives, takes up his weapons, opens
the door of the Hostel and goes round the Hostel. He hurls back the Reavers
over three ridges, boasts of triumph, and returns, wounded,
into the Hostel.
Cormac Condlongas sallies out, his nine comrades with
him, and they deliver their onsets on the Reavers. Three enneads fall by Cormac
and nine by each of his nine comrades. And Cormac boasts of the death of a
chief of the Reavers. They succeed in escaping though they be wounded.
The trio of Picts sally forth from the Hostel, and take to plying their
weapons on the Mauraders. And three enneads fall by them, and they
chance to escape though they be
The nine pipers sally forth and dash their warlike work on the
Mauraders; and then they succeed in escaping.
The folk of the Hostel
came forth in order, and fought their combats with the Mauraders, and fell by
them, as Fer rogain and Lomna Druth had said to Ingcel, to wit, that the folk
of every room would sally forth still and deliver their combat, and after that
So that none were left in the Hostel in Conaire's company
save Conall and Sencha and Dubthach.
But it seemed the greatness of the contest fought brought Conaire a
great drought of thirst and he perished of a consuming fever, for he got not
So when Conaire died those three sally out of the Hostel,
and deliver a wily stroke on the Mauraders, and fare forth from the Hostel,
wounded, broken and maimed.
Mac cecht, unknowing, he went his way till
he reached the Well of Casair, which was near him in Crlch Cualann; but he
found no water to fill Conaire's cup which he had brought in his hand.
Before moonrise he had gone round the chief rivers of Alba, to wit,
Bush, Boyne, Bann, Barrow, Neim, Luae, Laigdae, Shannon, Suir, Sligo, Samair,
Find, Ruirthech, Slaney, and in them he found not a full cup of water.
Then before moonset he had travelled to the chief lakes of Alba, to
wit, Lough Derg, Loch Luimnig, Lough Foyle, Lough Mask, Lough Corrib, Loch
Laig, Loch Cuan, Lough Neagh, Morloch, and of water he found not a full cup.
He went his way till in the deepest part of night he reached Uaran
Garad on Magh Ai. It could not hide itself from him and there he filled of
Conaire's cup with water. After this he went on and reached Da Derga's Hostel
When Mac cecht went across the third ridge towards the
Hostel, tis there the two stood striking off Conaire's head. Then Mac cecht
strikes off the head of one of the two men who were beheading Conaire. The
other man then was fleeing forth with the king's head.
A pillar stone
chanced to be under Mac cecht's feet on the floor of the Hostel. He hurls it at
the man who had Conaire's head and drove it through his
spine, so that his back broke.
After this Mac cecht beheads him.
Mac cecht then spilt the cup of
water into Conaire's gullet and neck.
Then said Conaire's head, after
the water had been spilt into its neck
"A good man Mac cecht! An excellent man Mac cecht! A good
warrior without, good
within, He gives a drink, he saves a
king, he doth a deed. Well he
ended the champions. Good should I be to far-renowned Mac cecht if I were
alive. A good man!"
After this Mac
cecht followed the routed foe. Hardly a fugitive escaped to tell the tidings of
the champions who had been at the Hostel.
Where there had been twelve
enneads, only one ennead survived, namely Ingcel, and his two brothers Echell
and Tulchinne, the three great-grandsons of Conmac, and the three Reds of
Roiriu who had been the first to wound Conaire.
Thereafter Ingcel went
into Albion, and became king
after his father, since he had taken home
triumph over a
king of another country.
Thereafter Mac cecht, having cleansed the
slaughter, at the end of the third
day, set forth, and he buried Conaire at Tara. Then Mac cecht departed into
Connaught, to his own country, that he might work his own cure in Mag Brengair.
Wherefore the name clave to the plain from Mac cecht's misery, that is,
Now Conall Cernach escaped from the Hostel, and thrice
spears had gone through the arm which upheld his shield. He fared forth till he
reached his father's house, with half his shield in his hand, and his sword,
and the fragments of his two spears.
"Swift are the wolves that have
hunted thee, my son," saith his father.
"Tis this that has wounded
ús, thou old hero, an evil
conflict with champions,"
Conall Cernach saith.
"Hast thou then news of Da Derga's Hostel?"
asketh Amorgin. "Is thy lord alive?"
"He is not alive," rejoined Conall.
"I swear to God what the great tribes of Ulaid swear, it is cowardly
for the man who went thereout alive, having
left his lord with his foes in death."
"My wounds are not white, thou
old champion," asketh Conall. He shows him his shield-arm, whereon were thrice
wounds; this is what was inflicted upon it. The shield that guarded it is what
saved it. But the right arm had been played upon, as far as two thirds thereof,
since the shield had not been guarding it. That arm was mangled and maimed and
wounded and pierced, save that the
sinews kept it to the body without separation.
"That arm fought
tonight, my son," saith Amorgin.
"True is that, thou old champion," rejoined
"Many there are given drinks of death tonight in front
of the Hostel."
Now as to the reavers, every one of them that escaped
from the Hostel went to the cairn which they had built on the night before
last, and they brought thereout a stone for each man not mortally wounded. So
this is what they lost by death at the Hostel, a man for every stone that is
(now) in Cairn Lecca.
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