Famine & the Fairy Tale IIBack to Index
IntroductionBack to Index
While looking for further Irish variants of The King of Erin and the Queen of the Lonesome Isle (hereafter abbreviated to Tobar Tintye)) I discovered Cud, Cad and Micad,Three Sons of the King of Urhu (hereafter abbreviated to Cud, Cad, and Micad)2 another tale collected and translated by Jeremiah Curtin in his book Hero-tales of Ireland. This section will be devoted to the analysis and discussion of this remarkable tale which continues the roughly chronological recapitulation of mythological themes remarked on in part one drawing in this instance mainly on the Fenian Cycle of tales. Another tale, The Thirteenth Son of the King of Erin (hereafter abbreviated to The Thirteenth Son), also caught my eye because it explains the significance of the thirteenth son and because the hero uses the Claíomh Solais (sword-of-light) which remains in its scabbard in this tale. Also, in contrast to the common motif of the sleeping maiden, it is the hero in The Thirteenth Son who is prone to narcolepsy and must be roused from sleep at each critical juncture of the tale for action. Initiially I intended to use it as a bridging tale but then decided that as it is essentially a variantion of the far-flung dragon slayer myth it would break the thread we've been following. However, it will be still useful to make occasional reference to it. By way of an original mythological narrative imbued with much of the underlying pattern there is: Echtrae Airt meic Cuinn (Adventures of Art son of Conn) which deals with the terrible famine that occurs when Conn (of the Hundred Battles) takes a new wife, Becuma, who has been banished from the sídhe - for adultery of all things! This is a forerunner of the idea of the wasteland where the kingdom languishes due to the actions or unworthiness of its king.
After completing my analysis of Cud, Cad and Micad and doing some further research for the third section of this work, I happened upon a literary version of Cud, Cad and Micad called The Adventures of the Sons of the King of Ioruaid3. It is a literary tale written for the ruling class and as such is much preoccupied with feudal themes of conquest and fealty but even so is only useful to help flesh out some of its more difficult imagery of the fairy tale.The text was translated by the Irish scholar Douglas Hyde from a 1714 text by Aodh O'Domhnaill which he was able to cross reference against four other Gaelic texts. After some further sleuthing work he subsequently discovered an earlier text in the Franciscan library in Dublin written in an archaic Irish he adjudged to date from the 14th century, so this literary version may well have its origin in the period of the Arthurian romances.Back to Index
On the Seashore
The opening sequence of Cud, Cad and Micad, tale is a succinct recapitulation of the three thresholds, or trials, opening sequence of many tales except that instead of receiving a boon on reaching the sleeping-maiden the child-hero is instead put under a geis which will entail a daunting sequence of ordeals. In fairy tales there is often a pattern of a kingdom in difficulty which is put to rights by a hero who overcomes many challenges often as not taking his cues from a female counter player. The two often marry, replace the king, and rule the kingdom in benevolence for a few seasons until a new peril calls forth a new hero. And the metaphor suggests a community overcoming, at least partially, a collective problem by means of the boon resulting from the actions of the selfless hero. In the first Irish tale we looked at, Tobar Tintye, the king remains and the prince retires to the magical realm of Tubber Tintye and it is the Queen of the Lonesome Isle that displaces the malevolent queen on the mainland. From a psychological perspective it's almost as if a cure has been effected but the prince and his son, the promise of the future, slip back into a gestative state.4This accords with what we observe in the world where communities, after surviving difficult circumstances, can sometimes retrench and instead of moving into the future, ground themselves in cultural traditions which can make them inward looking for greater or lesser periods of time.
The observation that fairy tales run in cycles is not new:
The fact that the threads running through the tales all follow the same direction - so that several tales can be linked up into a circular chain of rings of tales, each amplifying the other - suggests that the order they refer to is a fundamental one.5
We mentioned already in part one Levy-Strauss' description of mythemes, or mythologems, as being
bundles of relations and it is noteworthy that while on a first reading the sparse imagery is challenging, a consideration of the elements of each scene, to my mind, reveals the informing myth and the possibility of accessing the underlying sense. We will try to tease out these relations; investigate what stages of cultural history they derive from and what aspect of communal consciousness they are addressed to.
The Child Hero
We note from the outset a different dynamic in this tale. The king is not ill and rather than being impelled to action on his account his three sons, who are three, two and one years old, - are called to and then bound by a sleeping maiden. At the start of the tale the three children are playing by the sea shore which is where poets (file) or heroes in Irish lore typically adjourn to when seeking inspiration6,7 The sleeping maiden does not call the king, or proven champions, but these three infants and places Cud, the oldest, under the sort of geis that is usually reserved for seasoned warriors.
The assertion that we're dealing with a sequel or continuing narrative is based upon the pattern of the opening. The three brothers traverse three thresholds, here defined as ridges on which the gravel of the seabed has been deposited, echoing the enantiodromian imagery of the earlier tales, and then journey onwards to ocean's end. We know from many tales the danger of meeting the sleeping-maiden awake in her domain is that of being changed into a wild animal (a regression in consciousness) and so Cud leaps onto her boat and brings her back to their boat so she can wake up briefly. She places the geis upon him and is then returned to sleep in her ship. The geis is to find her.
We note that it is Cud the older who dons the hero's mantle and it is soon evident that he has the powers of a semi-divine hero. Why though are we confronted with this, on the face of it ridiculous, premise of three infants undertaking such an adventure? Mythologically the child-hero represents the new thing that which is becoming, it brings together opposites, it appears insignificant and weak but in the end overcomes the most insuperable obstacles. Most of us will be more familiar with the divine child that incarnates the New Year, or Jesus, the Christ child, that inaugurates a new epoch, but why a child and not a seventeen year old youth - the typical coming of age in Celtic cultures?8 The psychoanalyst Carl Jung provides a concise overview of the psychological sense of the child.
The 'child' is born out of the womb of the unconscious, begotten out of the depths of human nature, or rather out of living Nature herself. It is a personification of vital forces quite outside the limited range of our conscious mind; of ways and possibilities of which our one-sided conscious mind knows nothing; a wholeness which embraces the very depth of Nature. It represents the strongest, the most ineluctable urge in every being, namely the urge to realize itself. It is, as it were, an incarnation of the inability to do otherwise, equipped with all the powers of nature and instinct, whereas the conscious mind is always getting caught up in its supposed ability to do otherwise. The urge and compulsion to self-realization is a law of nature and thus of invincible power, even though its effect, at the start, is insignificant and improbable.9
Now continuing the thread of our earlier discussion it is not enough to simply say that a narrative recapitulation of mythological motifs in fairy tales has a role in the abreaction of trauma, some other dynamic must surely be in play. We might even ask why the psyche preserves trauma memories, why is such suffering necessary, why do victims often feel compelled to re-enact in their turn the traumatic acts committed against them. Considering how debilitating these traumas can be, would there not be a significant evolutionary advantage in simply being able to expunge them from the psyche? Again Jung:
If we cannot deny the archetypes or otherwise neutralize them, we are confronted, at every new stage in the differentiation of consciousness to which civilization attains, with the task of finding a new interpretation appropriate to this stage, in order to connect to the life of the past that still exists in us with the life of the present, which threatens to slip away from it. If this link-up does not take place, a kind of rootless consciousness comes into being no longer oriented to the past, a consciousness which succumbs helplessly to all manner of suggestions and, in practice, is susceptible to psychic epidemics.10
So it is not just abreaction and coping that is in question but potentially heightened, or even new, consciousness which must at the same time be placed in proper relationship with the other dynamic elements of consciousness just as a new physical organ would have to function harmoniously with all the existing organs of a body. So Nature does not discard psychological suffering because it is in fact one of the processes by which consciousness develops.
Consistent with the myth (Apollo - Coronis - Asclepius), I have found in the treatment of trauma survivors that understanding the trauma, "knowing" one's trauma complex the way one knows a familiar trail, can produce empathy by leading one into newfound spirituality. Unwanted consciousness, if not repressed, leads to personality growth and a potentially 'higher' consciousness. However, by definition, the pain of a psychic trauma is such that the complex cannot be, at least initially, fully conscious.11
Yet, consciousness is something of a Pandora's box, before its advent the ills of the world were not known to be ills and whether your tale of preference is The Exile from the Garden of Eden, Prometheus Stealing Fire from the Gods or the The Birth of the River Boyne this was intuited and given narrative expression from the outset, albeit with marked differences in emphasis which patterned the relationship of different societies to their environment. In the current discussion we're interested in is communal consciousness and how mythological motifs inherently freighted with sentiment or significance can be stripped bare and reconstituted in new narratives. In the metropolis this may attain the apogee of a Greek tragedy but in the relatively isolated village and hamlet it may live in the form of the fairy tale. In a properly functioning civilisation people are impelled by their aspirations towards livelihoods that make reasonable use of their aptitudes through specialisation. However, when one community is marginalised by another to a subsistence level of existence all the disparate aptitudes of its people can remain largely undeveloped. We are fortunate in that the Gaelic community though deprived of material possessions and opportunity, still existed as a community rich in music, dancing and storytelling. Within these communities there were people who although they shared the hardships of the crofting life still had within them the ability to respond to the crises of their times with these remarkably complex fairy tales. It is a pity that we do not know their names, some collectors like Jeremiah Curtin, do not attribute the tales to the people they were collected from. It is noteworthy though that the people who gathered in cottages in the evening to listen to tales could also apparently respond to these tales despite their sophistication. Psychiatrists like Von Franz, feel that fairy tales are partly formed by the audience who will not be engaged by extraneous elements introduced by a storyteller but only by the impersonal images that touch upon their deepest unarticulated emotions and unconscious preoccupations.Back to Index
Wonder Child in Irish Mythology
Do we have any Wonder Child in Irish mythology? Dáithí Ó hÓgáin finds the original form of Fionn mac Cumhaill12 to be Find which he infers was originally derived from the Celtic 'vindos' (fair, bright, white) a form of the god, Belenus. Associated with Find he cites the different tales of Morfhind (great or phantom Find), Noíne (nine + child) and Mongan (hairy fellow) all of whom he considers avatars of Find (see also Welsh Taliesin). What they all have in common is a birth associated with water; wisdom and symbolical sucking of their thumb (a practice normally associated with early childhood) and full hair, and maturity, from the beginning.13 He also, interestingly, cites the triplication of Find in three warriors of ancient literature, trí Find Emna, the second part of their name being derived from the genitive form of emon (twin) derived from the Indo-European *yemos.14 Which is to say that in the native Irish tradition Fionn provides a decent mythological model for the 'Wonder Child' who performs great feats beyond his years, and has some associations with the numbers nine, three, two and one.Back to Index
Geis (geasa pl.)
Ó hÓgáin in his discussion of the geis infers that it derives from the relationship of divine kingship to the goddess of sovereignty who could place upon her spouse certain geasa as preconditions of his royal rule. In time this authority became the prerogative of women in general. The most celebrated example in mythology being where Diarmuid is placed under a geis by Gráinne to take her away even though she is betrothed to an elderly Fionn mac Cumhaill. Such is the power of the geis that Diarmuid must act against his nature and honour, and reluctantly take on the task.15 Geasa provide the main impetus for action in both the Irish and Scottish tales that appear to finish this sequence of narrative abreaction we're examining. In Irish mythology it is easy to be struck by the foolishness of geasa: Cuchulainn cannot be awoken from sleep, his son cannot reveal his name, with the result that Cuchulainn kills him; Fergus Mac Roich cannot pass up an invitation to a feast and thereby abandons the sons of Uisneach to their tragic fate; the otherwise canny Bres cannot refuse hospitality and so is obliged to drink poison. In these fairy tales though it is striking how the geasa create an imperative to action that cannot be ignored and push the heroes out into adventures which involve considerable hardship and suffering. This is in contrast to the previous tales where the heroes more or less set out of their own volition in response to a crisis. In this type of tale the geis is imposed by the maiden, who usually resides in a castle on an island beyond world's end, who, in a sense, constitutes the crisis that must be dealt with. In the first type of tale she is elusive and the hero sets out because she is known to be associated with the magic source or apple tree from which the needful remedy can be taken whereas in this type of tale she appears at the beginning and exhorts the hero to set out upon an adventure to find her. Verses 1,29 & 30 from the 8th century The Voyage of Bran are illustrative.
A branch of the apple-tree from Emain
I bring, like those one knows;
Twigs of white silver are on it,
Crystal brows with blossoms.
Not to all of you is my speech,
Though its great marvel has been made known:
Let Bran hear from the crowd of the world
What of wisdom has been told to him.
Do not fall on a bed of sloth,
Let not thy intoxication overcome thee,
Begin a voyage across the clear sea,
If perchance thou mayst reach the land of women.
The Voyage of Bran - Kuno Meyer - p14
The Island of Fermalye
Cat of Fermalye
The sleeping maiden identifies herself with two epithets: the Cat of Fermalye and the Swan of Endless Tales. For the moment I will view the former as her state when she is on the eponymous island and the latter a reference to her role as the repository of such tales, an idea which finds grim, bathic and ironic, resonance in the Scottish tale, The Fair Gruagach, Son of the King of Eirinn. Despite the attraction of such poetic titles these are in fact less than human states and in normal tales a sign of being under an enchantment, or curse. Indeed, as the three young mariners set sail directly to the Island of Fermalye (the first of seven islands - or realms - that will be visited) the maiden leaves the castle in the form of a cat when the children arrive.16
It is notable that meeting his beloved in this lower form does not fulfil the obligation of the geis. The storyteller comments that they see neither beast nor man in the castle and this is significant as we know that normally in fairy tales such castles are at the ends of the earth and are surrounded by wild animals and near impenetrable defences. Indeed the only tangible result of their trip is that they become acquainted with the maiden's sister who offers Cud a golden chair and his brothers, wooden chairs. And Micad, in the only independent gesture he or Cad make in the whole tale, comments on this lack of parity of esteem. The maiden replies that she must show preference to her brother-in-law and indeed in fairy tale we are used to a single kiss or embrace being tantamount to a sacred marriage. Cud's being seated on the gold chair may constitute a formal ritual acknowledgement of him as a solar hero. In any case Cud's sister-in-law suggests that she will look after the cooking and this is welcomed. From here on nearly every scene has a reference to food and eating and it is worth paying attention to this subtext.
We have to careful in our assessment of the meaning of a woman changed into a cat. The cat appears to have arrived in Ireland in the early centuries AD and is associated in folk tales with both Fionn and Cuchulainn. In the oldest forms the Neolithic goddess is often flanked by two lions and travels in a chariot pulled by lions. In Europe domestic cats are associated with the goddesses of the moon and night, Artemis, Diana, Hecate and Freya. The cat invariably tends to be associated with women and it was thought that certain women could change themselves into cats.17Back to Index
The Kingdom of HadoneBack to Index
So who are these mirror trio of opposing princes who have a bigger golden ship and who appear to have no other purpose but finishing off our heroes before they can properly begin their adventure? In our interpretation of the first fairy tale we discussed the psychological significance of the king and his three sons and why it is typically the 'fool' or undervalued son/prince who performs the hero deed after his brothers fail. In this tale we have a different dynamic and it is the older son who leads and the king would have been far happier for him to stay. Jung discusses the relationship between the quarternio (king + three sons) and the triad at some length but for our purposes his most notable observation is that when a quarternio 'breaks' to become a triad it loses its wholeness (in simple geometrical terms, drawing a line between diagonals in a square yields two triangles).
There thus arises a triad, which as we know - not from the fairy tale but from the history of symbolism - constellates a corresponding triad in opposition to it - in other words a conflict ensues.19
Once again they set their sails to the wind, there are no guides in this tale but the winds guide Cud unerringly and these are typically controlled by a god or goddess. They happen upon three sons of the King of Hadone who have come from the west and now block their way. The west is metaphoric of death as the east is of birth and the sense may be of the struggle between that which is endings and that which is becoming. That the ship is golden may be suggestive of the low position of the sun in a scene redolent of William Turner's painting, The Fighting Temeraire.
Cud is wary of their invitation to join them. In the stand off between two male triads it is the prospect of good food provided by their sister-in-law that settles the matter. After the parley Cud accepts their invitation of hospitality in Hadone when the Hadonians agree to relinquish their ship. Cud even puts their fate in the hands of the elder of the brothers allowing him to take the tiller and sail the ship to Hadone. As Cud is already under geis to find the woman in the boat we have to doubt his sincerity when he agrees to stay for seven years in Hadone. When they arrive the port is black and white with the citizens of Hadone who have been instructed to kill the threes sons of the King of Uhru before they set foot on the shore. Only Cud's two younger brothers accompany the Hadonians towards shore. They are killed and Cud springs to shore and kills the multitude echoing the battle of the son of the Queen of the Lonesome Isle in Tobar Tinytye who defeated an army that the land was black with. If the 'white' here does represents the onset of 'albedo' from the nadir of nigredo evident in the previous tale, its psychological sense is the beginning of objective awareness of what before was only subjective suffering.20
Massacres in Fairy Tales
It is easy to gloss over massacres in fairy tales. Odysseus returns and kills all Penelope's suitors. In The Thirteenth Son, Sean Ruadh similarly dispatches all the pretenders to his deeds and princess; in Tobar Tintye during the two invasions the prince battles until every last person has been killed and now in this tale Cud exacts similar retribution for the death of his brothers. Certainly we can take the metaphoric view: Cud is eliminating all the forces opposing his destiny; the prince in Tobar Tintye is eliminating the threat of invasion in Erin and Sean Ruadh, like Odysseus, is merely eliminating anyone aspiring to take his queen and the eventual kingship. We will see that Cud spares the lives of more malevolent adversaries later in the tale although this may simply be because they're elemental powers that cannot be killed or ever truly vanquished. For the current analysis we will opt for the most benign view that amidst the tumult of contending psychological propensities, Cud can be the only one left in the field if the hero quest is to be carried to successful completion. Yet an analysis of the literary romance could not take such a sanguine view containing as it does ever escalating levels of violence and while narratives imbued with mythological motifs can reflect a means of coping with trauma they can equally be shaped propagandistically to further political or religious ideas.Back to Index
The Boat Burial
The sister of the Cat of Fermalye dies of grief when she thinks Cud has perished (more phlegmatic about Cad and Micad). When Cud returns and finds her dead he places her beside his two brothers who he has not buried but placed under an upturned boat. He does not use the shore boat but removes three masts from a sailing ship on the beach which may signify the effective end of the Hadonian opposition.The unusual nature of the burial may be symbolic of their not being ready to travel onward to the realm that supersedes physical mortality. Mythologically we're familiar with the one way boat trip across the River Styx to the netherworld. Culturally speaking we have a variation of this in the Viking boat burials where the destination is usually Valhalla. Most of these involve the boat being right way up whether the interment is in the ground or the barque is set on fire and consigned to the embrace of the sea. The only recorded instance I've found of an inverted ship burial on these islands is on the island of Colonsay where a man and a horse with severed tendons were placed under an upturned boat.21 Perhaps a temporary burial that was forgotten; neither the upturned boat or the hobbled horse could 'ferry' the departed onwards. In any case, like Odysseus after all his crew has perished, Cud still has to find his woman on an island somewhere amid the vast blue sea.
Kingdom of Mucan Mor MacRí na Sorach
Initiation and the Pole of Combat
Alone now, Cud sails to the kingdom of Mucan Mor MacRi na Sorach 22. Why, has he not just survived one diversion at great cost? What has this got to do with finding the Cat of Fermalye and fulfilling the terms of the geis? We will see later that a hag figure, perhaps the cailleach, will be spectator to the combat. But what is this combat? Why is it necessary? Our approach to this episode will be taken from the perspective that we're still in mythological territory and still investigating fundamental elements of consciousness. In the Irish context, I think we've arrived at a motif that is touched upon several times in Lebor Gabála Érenn (Book of Invasions) and is contained as an echo in the title Second Battle of Moytirra, namely the tower.
The Lebor Gabála Érenn (Book of Invasions) is a pseudo-history of the original peoples of Ireland which is totally at odds with the archaeological record from the Mesolithic through to the Iron Age. So if we strip this pseudo-history away what items of interest are we left with? With regard to the different arrivals of Partholon23 and Nemed24 we have a glass or golden tower (Tor Inis) in the sea which is the stronghold of the Fomoire who incarnate the malignant forces of nature and the underworld and are associated with the Northwest of Ireland. In both assaults the tide catches the attackers by surprise and drowns most of them. Robert MacAlister suggested the might be a memory of a cruel sacrificial custom of the Celts that uses the tide to dispatch its victims25 which fits Elliott Gose's observation (following Dumezil) that certain mythological and fairy tale sequences reflect rituals.26 As to the tower/pillar itself Ó hÓgáin views these as similar to the Jupiter columns in the Celtic heartland which show a triumphant sky deity subduing a chthonic earth deity incarnating misrule and chaos. The defeated powers in this context would be the Fomoire.27
In the battle of Maigh Tirra (Moytirra) the tower is reduced to the name and the battle field is inland beside Lough Arrow, the name is derived from the many huge glacial erratics deposited in this area which in folklore are associated with those turned to stone by Balor's baleful gaze. The Fomoire have provoked the assault by inflicting a crushing tribute of two thirds of progeny and crops. So in essence we've a combination of the negative aspects of Nature such as winter, disease, blight and of human/godly greed. In one sense, as mentioned by scholars, it is simply an enactment of the war of the powers of light and darkness but there may also be a sense of Cud vindicating his worthiness to the elusive maiden of sovereignty. This is in effect his initiation ceremony as a 'knight'. In the context of onerous burdens we should not forget Jeremiah Curtin's descriptions of the appalling poverty of peasants he witnessed in Ireland forty years after the 1840's famine with the 1879 famine still a recent memory. The eventual relief engendered by the Land Acts had by that time still done little to mitigate the plight of subsistence farmers.
Mucan Mor, mightily provoked, emerges enraged and battle commences. What is the specific nature of this adversary, although his abode is an island, the pole or pillar is not actually in the sea? The ensuing battle shows Cud's adversary taking the form of a lump of fog when he's in danger of being defeated. Cud is hard pressed and when hostilities cease for the day appears to have no food. This contrasts with the rich fare that Mucan Mor is sitting down to. There may be an echo of druidism as the sudden appearance of a mist is typically associated with magical activities, specifically the opening of portals between the worlds - the ceo druidechta (fog of druidry) typically appears when a being enters, or leaves28, this world from the other world. Equally the metamorphosis takes place in the afternoon and so may represent a cyclical phenomenon, like the tidal changes in the Lebor Gabala.
On the evening of the first day of combat twelve swans arrive just as Cud is making a fire and he inadvertently offends them by suggesting that they are sent by his father to be his food. One swan, likely his wife in swan form,29 says she regrets ever setting sight upon him, and they depart, leaving him to fast and rue his bad manners. If this is Cud proving his worthiness, it is a bad start. The second night he merely enquires if they are the blessed birds from his kingdom. The lead swan clarifies that they are not and puts him under bonds not to turn them away as he did before - presumably by his uncouth assumption and inability to recognise their true nature. She tells him how Mucan Mor can be defeated by thrusting a golden apple against his right side but also warns him that if he does not succeed Mucan Mor will turn him into a green stone. This is suggestive of the petrifying gaze of Balor in the Battle of Moytirra which is turned against the Fomorians when Lugh's (a solar hero/deity) sling shot drives Balor's eye back through head for its gaze to settle upon them.30 We're also reminded of the battle against the monster in the fairy tale, The Thirteenth Son, in which, after three days of conventional combat, it is a brown apple provided by a housekeeper that allows the hero defeat the sea monster. We also note that the female helper provides the apple without giving any details about where she came upon it. And when the prodigious war craft of the male heroes proves worthy but just inadequate, it falls to the female powers through the provision of the 'apple of death' to settle matters decisively. We may judge though that the hero has earned through his unflinching valour the right to wield it and its conferral might be considered his informal adoubement.
Back to Index
Tree of Life and Death
It is interesting that in fairy tales much is made of how the hero finds and wins his sword and magic aids. On the other hand the swan merely turns up with the apple which she knows where to find and which proves decisive. It is clear the apple must come from a tree that grows in Emain Ablach, or the Isle of Women or even Eden. These apples are typically only picked by women and may engender its life giving and healing, or death dealing, properties reflecting the dual nature of the Neolithic and Bronze Age goddess which is not infrequently portrayed in figurines of two headed goddesses32. In Sumer five thousand years ago with the beginning of civilisation she first appears in voluptuous guise as Inanna, and in terrifying guise as her sister, Ereshkigal, Queen of the Underworld.
For those more familiar with Christian iconography, The Tree of Life and Death, depicting Mary as the new Eve by Berthold Furtmeyer is illustrative. Eve is the mother of humanity in the field of time; she proffers the apple from the Tree of Life to Adam which betokens birth, life and knowledge but also eventual death and decay of the body. Mary proffers the wafer of the fruit of her womb which is associated with the death-dealing aspect of the Tree of Life, specifically the sacrificial death of Jesus (on the Tree) which heralds continued life in the spirit despite the death of the body. This sophisticated and sublimated interpretation is somewhat at odds with the original idea whereby birth is to be joyously welcomed and death to be accepted, with trepidation, as the precursor to the dangerous journey, often through a labyrinth, that once navigated successfully leads on to new life in the flesh.33 That the Gaelic cottiers of the 19th century on the periphery of Europe had some intimation of such meanings is confirmed from two tales both called The Magic Apple: the first deals with an apple that has miraculous healing properties and the second with an angry goddess proffering a poisonous apple in her death dispensing mood - both tales form part of The 1930's Schools Collection. It is important to be aware that there was an older order where the female powers, or Mother Right, predominated contrasting with the newer patriarchal order of the Iron Age Celts. In Ireland among the peasant classes still wedded to the land, the older order never entirely lost sway and the two co-existed. What is the essential psychological difference between the two?
Sentiments of identity are associated most immediately with the mother; those of dissociation, with the father. Hence, where the mother image preponderates, even the dualism of life and death dissolves in the rapture of her solace; the worlds of nature and the spirit are not separated; the plastic arts flourish eloquently of themselves, without need of discursive elucidation, allegory, or moral tag; and there prevails an implicit confidence in the spontaneity of nature, both in its negative, killing, sacrificial aspect (lion and double ax), and in its productive and reproductive (bull and tree).34
Few places in folklore are better known than the Isle of Apples although the English name Avalon which plays a role in Aurthurians romance is probably better known than the Welsh, Emain Anfan, or the Irish, Emain Ablach. In the Voyage of Bran or in the tales of Art Son of Conn, it is often the first island that is arrived at after surviving the perils of an ocean crossing. Its bee-loud glades, wine filled wells and hazelwood fringed lakes suggest that we've entered the realm of the Aos Sí. We know also in Greek Mythology of the Labours of Hercules and how he persuades Atlas to leave off holding up the world to fetch the golden apples of the Hesperides. We note too that Hera gave the Hesperides to Zeus as a present, suggesting they are associated with the incumbent Bronze Age order rather than the incoming waves of Indo-European tribes.
In the specific local context of Western Europe we also see, (and saw earlier in part one) that flasks of water from the well of the goddess are equivalent to branches with apples (usually three). Which from an archetypal point of view is to say no more than that the Tree of Life , like the River of Life, is metaphoric of the self same source where the powers of eternity break through into the temporal world. There is though a double connotation of the energy of life and knowledge pouring from the realm of the Eternal or Aos Si into the temporal. So it is not just a Tree of Life but also of Knowledge and it is interesting that this image is deeply imprinted in our psyche in myriad forms. In this system of symbolism it means that woman is not just the begetter and nurturer of life but also its muse. The earliest cosmogonic image that we have in Irish mythology is of a sacred well, often called the Well of Segais. It is surrounded by nine hazel trees whose nuts are imbued with divine wisdom. The hazel trees flower and drop their fruit in one day. And as the there was a forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden so it was forbidden to drink from this well without permission. And as the wilful Eve precipitated humanities flight from Eden so the goddess, Boann, drinks from the well which erupts becoming The River of Life (or River Boyne).35. In Ireland the salmon is the agent of communication of this wisdom whereas across Eurasia it is more typically the serpent.
The Accursed Kingdom of the Hag
The Hag and her Enchanted Family
The aforementioned hag now reveals herself. She may be the cailleach, the harsh winter visage of nature whose force melds the very landscape itself, particularly its rocky crags and fells. She personifies dearth and even famine as we saw in part one but still she is also the old Grandma, like the German Frau Holle, who is instrumental in the renewal of the seasons personifying not only death but rebirth. She offers hospitality which he accepts. But after the gentle healing ministrations of the swan-maidens it is almost the death of Cud to journey with the hag. In the different versions of the literary romance her temporal aspect is emphasised by different names meaning: one hundred years or more, three hundred years or more or even two thousand years. When her kingdom was set to fall to the ancestors of Mucan Mor she concealed her town/city - a ploy somewhat reminiscent of the Tuatha de Danann disappearing into the hills after the arrival of the Milesian Celts.36
On arrival at her court, true to her word, the hag has a banquet set forth for our half-pint hero. Cud though, aware perhaps of his newly won status, asserts the prerogative of a prince not to dine alone. The hag offers her company but he refuses this; she then introduces thirteen pigs, one without a head (twelve moons and the bit that make up the year?)37 which she explains are her husband and twelve sons, he refuses their company. She then presents twelve loathsome hags as her daughters but he refuses these too. Finally she presents their twelve handmaidens who are fair of form, and he agrees to their company. As we've seen that fattening of pigs can be metaphoric of growth, so the hag sisters and their pig-brothers may in this instance may be metaphoric of the failure of the seasons to bring forth abundance. The hag and her twelve daughters may be equivalent to the maidens sleeping in the twelve silver and one golden chamber in the King of Erin and the Queen of the Lonesome Isle. Simply put, we appear to be in the company of the personified elements of the annual agricultural round and the overall sense is one of cosmological disharmony and malaise. What is the cause?
Cud discovers that the cause of this strange state of affairs is a clan of Awus who keep the royal company in subjection and to whom they must pay a tribute of a gold apple each day 38. Why Awus? Why not a family of giants, ogres or indeed the perennial catch-all baddies, the Fomoire. In one sense we'll see they are the Fomoire as they not only demand tribute but also possess three treasures (sword-of-light, pot-of-cure, rod-of-enchantment) and we remember that after the Second Battle of Moytirra three of the Treasures of the Tuatha de Danann were recovered - harp, sword-of-light and cauldron from the Fomoire palace under the sea. Most likely Awus is derived from amhas a general term for thug or hooligan in Irish, less likely it might be athúll the toxic fruit (high in solanine) that potato plants produce in unseasonably cool and wet weather39 . Such interpretations are not mutually exclusive, a community can go hungry through the failure of a crop as often as through the excessive exactions of the local ruling class.
Cud accompanies the hag and subdues the clan of Awus. The defeated elder Awus offers Cud his sword-of-light (Claíomh Solais), pot-of-cure (revives the dead) and rod-of-enchantment (heals the sick, lifts enchantments) which are buried under his bed post metaphoric again of the World Axis (Axis Mundi) which he also encountered in his earlier fight, not only the pivot around which the heavens spin but the point at which, mythologically, the boons of eternity break through into time and equivalent in many respects with the Tree of Life (the modern Christmas tree being a composite image of the two). He tells Cud that he cannot get them without help. Cud declares defiantly that he can achieve any feat that has ever been accomplished under that roof and sets about the task himself which involves 'moving the heavens'. This remarkable claim may be simply that the new thing, the child, can draw on the experience and powers of all that has gone before. Yet, like all the feats he has thus far performed, it tests him to his uttermost limit to move the bedpost. Once done Cud demands that the Awus lift the enchantment and that in future they should bring the cailleach's family an apple every evening and morning (sunset and sunrise) until the end of time. The head of the Awus complies contritely displaying a Christian concern for the future welfare of his soul.
Cud is the hero but did not specifically set out to remedy any communal lack or ill. So what has he just achieved? The apples that the hag gave daily to the Awus appears to signify the preponderance of the Tree of Life's death-dealing and death-receiving aspects which are dominant in times of famine, disease and war. The golden apples the Awus will give the hag and her family, now restored to their royal dignity, will shift the dynamic to the life and grace bestowing powers of the fruits of the Tree. The golden colour has the obvious connotation of the beneficent influences of heat and sunlight; reflecting this sea change Cud, with his newly acquired treasures, will only use the life restoring and healing pot-of-cure and rod-of-enchantment in his remaining adventures leaving the death dealing sword-of-light in its scabbard.40
Yet despite Cud's remarkable heroics so far there is still no sign of his beloved and he has not fulfilled the original geis. Where is she? Most princesses, and even goddesses, are frequently imprisoned in towers ( Balor imprisons his daughter Eithniu in a tower and in the Adventures of Art Son of Conn, Art discovers that Delbchaem too is locked away in a tower) but for the moment we do not know. We will soon discover though that the Awus are not the most malignant force at work.
Gold Boot: the Thirteenth Son
Gold Boot and the Malefic Wizard
The hag and her family despite their gratitude place yet another onus on the half-pint hero by telling him there is yet another son, their thirteenth and finest, who is in need of assistance. He is:
In the Eastern World, in a field seven miles in length, and seven in width, and there isn't a yard of that field in which a spike is not standing taller than a man. There is not a spike, except one, without a king's son or a champion on it, impaled through his chin.
As we move steadily through these adventures and images it is hard not to pause momentarily to consider this appalling vista of one hundred and fifty odd million people impaled through their chin which is surely as brutal an image of the effects of hunger and famine as we've come across. Later we will discover that the people are not quite dead. Perhaps coincidentally, the work-houses built before and during the famine could be known as the 'spike' and the word is much the same in Irish, spíce, giving an added connotation to the 'field of spikes'.
In, The Thirteenth Son, a sage interprets the significance of a swan pushing away a thirteenth cygnet to the king as meaning that the thirteenth child must be given to diagacht (divinity or fate). This wisdom appears to be that of the cruel aspect of Nature as it is the slowest child that is to be cast out. As fate would have it though in our tales it is invariably the best son that is cast out, the one most suited to pursue, and bring to completion, the hero quest. The exiled son heads off and takes up a job herding cows with another king. The princess in this other tale is able to identify her saviour, whose boot she took, by checking whether it fits the feet of any of her potential suitors. So the boot's main significance may be, as in other fairy tales, simply in the sense of being made to travel. The thirteenth son must travel. In the above tale he vanquishes three giants using this prodigious strength and that ability too appears to be evident in our tale.
In his guise as hero Cud takes on now not only the role of Fionn but also of the Dagda. His use of the pot-of-cure and rod-of-enchantment mean taking on the role of this mythological figure who, despite his Celtic name, derives some of his characteristics from the Bronze Age stratum of Irish mythology with perhaps some Neolithic traits also coming through. We're familiar with the Dagda's cauldron-of-plenty (in which he could dip people to restore them to health) and his club or staff, the rough end of which kills and the smooth end which restores life.41Back to Index
The Music of Enchantment and the Ritual of the Burning Hill
The moment the wizard sets fire to the centre part of the hill Cud sees his beloved come toward him restored to human form. The fire has apparently lifted the curse and transformed her.42 In his joy Cud forgets all about the plight of Gold Boot. The wizard, observing this, stops the centre part of the fire, and Gold Boot remains on the spike although the woman is unaffected by this reversal. The happy couple immediately make directly for the little ship and do not stop until they reach the Kingdom of Hadone where Cud's brothers and his sister-in-law still lie under the boat. Cud takes out the three bodies, puts a drop of the cure on each one, and then gives each a blow of the rod. They all rise up in good health. All enter the ship and sail towards Urhu the adventure apparently over.
The overall plot is recognisable as a variant of the tale whereby Fionn goes to Tara, the residence of the High King, and takes on the task of meeting the other world creature called, Aillén mac Midgna (known as 'the burner'), who emerges from Sídhe Finnachaid every Samhain and envelops everyone in sleep with enchanting fairy music. He then unleashes fire from his mouth which engulfs the great citadel of Tara in a sheath of flame reducing it to a heap of embers by morning. Ó hÓgáin characterises Aillén as a personification of the negative aspect of the divine world, as originally depicted in the antipathy, or antimony, between light and darkness, Find (Fionn) and *dhusos (Donn), which usually culminates with Fionn killing the hostile entity with a spear before he can return to the other-world. So Cud, like Fionn, appears to be fighting the self same nefarious powers in different forms. Yet mythology not infrequently reflects ritual and from another perspective we note that none of the inhabitants of Tara appear to perish in the fire-storm and also that the citadel is fully intact when Samhain comes round again. Let us then revisit the sequence of events in the story from the point of view of a ritual act.
The otherworldly wizard and his pipe player induce a sleeping-stupor which results in all that hear it being impaled on a spike but not quite dying. Given that there is archaeological evidence of 'pipes' as far back as the early Bronze Age43 and the repeated references in mythology and fairy tale to its powers of enchantment, it would be surprising if the playing of music did not form a staple part of the ritual calendar, particularly at the ritual centre. Pipes are particularly appropriate because their music carries a considerable distance in the open air relative to other instruments. Cud at first defeats the piper by outplaying him and then destroying the pipes and then seizing the new ones. This prevents Cud from succumbing to the music but does not otherwise materially alter the situation. It is Gold Boot who now takes charge and tells Cud he must get the wizard to set fire to the hill. This releases the multitude of impaled victims but not Gold Boot. Gold Boot tells Cud that the centre of the hill must also be set alight. This act has the powerful transformative effect of returning the Cat of Fermalye to human form and Cud's joy suggests that metaphorically the barrenness, or blight on the land has been removed, from which we may infer that the Cat of Fermalye in this context is metaphoric of barren or unproductive land due to malevolent enchantment.
In the fairy tale while the music functions much as it does in the mythological tale, the fire is the means of release of the impaled victims and so may also echo the practical business of burning fields and potato haulms to increase fertility and reduce the risk of disease. It is worth noting that it is the malefic wizard and not Cud who sets these fires ablaze. What are we to make also of the fact that the wizard quenches the centre part of the fire so it does not quite complete? It is only belatedly Cud remembers that he has left Gold Boot impaled. We have to admit there is some odd stuff here. When Cud first arrives Gold Boot kicks him back over seven mountain ridges and this is surely not a mistake. At the critical moment Cud conveniently forgets about the only person in the field of many millions he has specifically come to rescue. When he does return this person, whom he left alive, is dead and needs to be resurrected. Does this mean that Gold Boot is in some way intentionally sacrificed? In view of the ambiguous meaning of the thirteenth son being 'given to divinity' and that in the Adventures of Art son of Conn, Conn goes in search of the son of a sinless couple who, at the instigation of the druids, must be sacrificed before Tara and his blood mixed with its soil to bring a terrible famine to an end, there may be.44 It may be that Gold Boot must be sacrificed if the centre of the hill (originally the citadel of Tara) is to be left intact. If this was a ritual, what was the nature of such a conflagration that burned the slopes of Tara while leaving the top untouched? In order for it to be repeated at regular intervals and to be spectacular in ampler, it would nearly have to be a gorse fire. Gorse is ideally adapted to regeneration after burning and might otherwise pose a fire hazard and defensive liability to citadels protected by wooden palisades if not burned with some regularity.
The Man in the Tree
There is a tale, Fionn and the Man in the Tree that has resonances with this episode which is thought to belong to an older stratum of lore. Fionn has a servant Derg (or Dearg) Corra who is so light on his feet that he is said to go around on the 'shanks of a deer'. One manifestation of this agility is that when food is being cooked he jumps back and forth over the hearth. Ó hÓgáin indicates that the name Derg, 'red', usually denotes a divinity. He is a descendant of Daighre, 'flame' and therefore his jumping is symbolic of the flames cooking the food and he himself of the provision of sustenance. He is dismissed from Fionn's retinue after he rebuffs the advances of a paramour of his master who subsequently accuses him of attempted rape.45 That Fionn did not consult his 'thumb' to verify the truth of the accusation might suggest that he was content to accept this account of the incident and give a false judgement, a most grievous failing, to exile a potential rival. We note in the above excerpt how after Gold Boot has taken all the food it is immediately replaced by an even more sumptuous feast, emphasising Wet Mantle's powers of food provision.
Fionn out hunting sees a man on the top of a tree. Despite being hidden in a cloak of concealment (feth fiadha), Fionn places his thumb in his mouth and with his seer knowledge can see through the disguise and recognise him as Derg Corra. The man is sharing nuts with a blackbird on his right shoulder; apples with a stag at the foot of the tree and, in his left hand he holds a water filled bronze vessel with a leaping trout. In this remarkable image there are connotations of abundance in the three realms of air, land and water; and of a Cernunnos type deity associated with animals, fertility, wealth and the underworld. He protects and provides for the animals so their numbers do not diminish. From another fairy tale (Cahal, Son of King Conor, in Erin, and Bloom of Youth, Daughter of the King of Hathony) we discover that Wet Mantle's strength is all in his cloak of concealment which Jeremiah Curtin infers to be the enshrouding curtain of the falling rain as it drifts across sea or land. 46 Such imagery is highly mutable and in mythology Manannan's (son of the sea) mantle is understood to be the surface of the sea which changes colour according to the time of day and the weather and, giving rise to sea mists, becomes a cloak of concealment .Gold Boot could not see him but Cud, like Fionn, is possessed of a seer knowledge and can. The deeper sense appears to be of a reintegration of this deity into the pantheon of personified elements that underpin the Irish psyche as Wet Mantle asks to join Cud and Gold Boot and is subsequently married to a sister of Gold Boot with a priest officiating and clerk in attendance to make it official. Such a motif is doubly relevant in the wake of famine when stocks of every wild animal are typically reduced almost to exhaustion. 47 On a more practical level the name of Wet Mantle Champion is suggestive too of the Champion potato which was the dominant seed variety during the period (1876-92) due to its remarkable blight resistance and therefore a reliable provider of sustenance even during periods with unfavourable rain patterns. (See the short discussion in part one section 2.4 The First Invasion)
Raven: the Dark Messenger
The Abiding Trauma
The raven is a messenger, a harbinger of death, a scavenger of corpses. The connotations in this context appear to come better from Greek than the Irish. The raven is the messenger of Apollo, (associated with divination) turned black after he brings the unwelcome news that the mortal maiden, Coronis (crow) whom Apollo has impregnated, is having sexual relations with a mortal man. Apollo, in one version, incinerates the pair, ripping the child, Aesculapius, from the mother's womb as he does so. The child born of this horrific trauma is gifted with the power of healing and his emblem becomes in time the Rod of Asclepius.
Emmet Early who specialised in treating Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in war veterans notes:
These raven stories of unwanted consciousness are relevant to the trauma survivor, who, as bearer of bad news, becomes the raven, who turns black with trauma consciousness, i.e. opprobrium, isolation, and guilt. The news, of course, is the trauma experience, a unique awareness of nature's brutality in conjunction with extreme physical arousal (panic) and dissociation.48
This brother and sister pair feels like an intrusion and this episode as a regression or a relapse. Who are they? The brother we learn is a champion not a prince. He is also a messenger and does bring the dire tidings about Cud's wife, sister-in-law and his two luckless brothers. But who is responsible? What has brought them to this pass? Has Cud not already done all and more that could be asked of any half-pint hero? Are we to believe the malefic wizard-musician of the field of spikes is back working his malevolent influence again? There is more than a hint that somehow even after the land, climate and gods have been re-harmonised that some ill remains. The raven condition might be said to reflect the pall of gloom that hung over a goodly part of the country in the wake of the famine(s). A gloom so pervasive that even the exiled Young Irelander, Kevin Izod O Doherty and the equally patriotic, Mary Eva Kelly, when reunited in Ireland after many years separation, found the mood so oppressive and hopeless that they ended up, ironically, emigrating to Australia.
It is hard not to be taken aback at the ambiguity in the imagery of white pigeons which, like the dove, we'd be inclined to associate with role of the Holy Spirit in Christianity as an intermediary, or messenger, between transcendent and immanent divinity. In the Irish Celtic Christian tradition Colmcille, Columbanus and thirty other saints can be referred to as St.Columba and so like the Holy Spirit are carriers of the Christian God's message and love.49 In folklore we see in the Irish fable, The Dove, the association of the dove, dew, divine grace and a message or sign. In Greek mythology the dove is emblematic of the goddess of love, Aphrodite. The word, colm, in Irish can be used interchangeably to mean pigeon or dove. The raven (usually bran) usually incarnates war and death in the forms of the Morrigu and Badb - in the Newgrange museum the arrow fletchings are made from crows' feathers. Strange to say, as well as the self evident dark aspects, the raven in the Irish folk psyche can, as in the Greek, also be associated with healing attributes. In fairy tales like The Haggary Nag (Seumas Macmanus), three drops of raven blood have life-reviving and magical protection qualities even though the ravens have to be attracted with a dead carcass and their great wings as they approach blot out the sky with their blackness.
In this instance it is instructive to turn to the Douglas Hyde text for further illumination. One of the tales most striking, if quiescent, motifs is of an island, divided by a ditch, which has black and white sheep whose colour depends on which side of the ditch they are driven to by a red ram. On another part of the island is a lake under which in a palace lives a woman (essentially the Lady of the Lake) who as she whittles a magic rod sends up a continuous flock of white birds from its surface. In this image we might observe a poetic expression of a certain dynamism within the psyche; of how new consciousness (rubedo) arising from suffering can turn subjective content into objective content but also of how regression, depression, is equally possible. The rod that the lady whittles is a rod of enchantment that can lift curses and so the birds act as emissaries and carriers of a divine grace that arises mysteriously from an unconscious psyche, paradoxically, more instinctual and yet spiritual than the consciousness to which it offers succour. 50 For the general reader or listener the essential is that such images can evoke a response but given the nature of our study it is useful to hear how the psychotherapist describes the psyche's use of such imagery in relation to trauma.
The role of the complex in what we have called the self-care system and its protective/persecutory inner objects emerges with greater clarity when we consider that, for Jung, complexes have a universal tendency to image themselves in dreams and other fantasy material as animate beings (persons) in dynamic interaction with the ego. The psyches' natural symbol-forming function (if adequately constellated by 'good-enough' parental care) automatically personifies affects in the form of recognizable images. Every complex is an inseparable unity of dynamic energic factor deriving from an instinctual and somatic base (affect), and a form-giving, organizing, structuring factor making the complex available to consciousness as a mental representation (image).51
The above refers essentially to personifications but in fairy tales it is common for helpful animals who guide the hero to be released from a curse later on revealing them to be a princess or prince who were placed under an enchantment. And the paradox is that the hero would not have suceeded without them. Even so the psychological description is difficult enough to relate to our imagery and some further elucidation is needed. Jungian psychology rests upon the somewhat unclear idea of archetypes which we might say, borrowing from James Joyce, pertain to the grave and contsant in human experience down through innumerable millennia. They can be events (birth, death, initiation, marriage), figures ( mother, father, child, the trickster, the hero) or motifs (creation, apocalypse, deluge). Even Jung did not feel that such images could be heritable and yet so much of the imagery of our psyche appears to borrow from the the different periods of our cultural history that it is hard to believe that the incipient fields of epigenetics may not nuance this position. After all it is not so much that we still make use of such imagery but rather that we experience such imagery in certain contexts as meaningful depth and that the psyche draws on such imagery when trying to succour consciousness in the face of trauma. With this in mind Kalsched's description of the Jungian archetype is useful.
For Jung, all archetypes are bipolar dynamic structures combining opposites within themselves. One pole of the archetype represents instinct and related affects rooted in the body; the other pole is represented by a form-giving spiritual component made up of images produced by the mind. The psyche exists between these two opposites and represents a 'third' factor combining instinct/affect and spirit into unconscious fantasies that create meaning (collected works para 407).52Back to Index
Darks Days on Fermalye
The raven's message is grim. Yet we must ask who, or what, killed Cud's brothers? Hardly the children. Who is keeping Cud's wife and sister-in-law in the stables (last time they resided in a castle) and humiliating them with regimented meanness? Cud does not kill anyone nor does he appear to be interested in retribution, he is merely vexed at the situation. He brings his very resilient brothers back from the dead, again, and takes his wife and her sister-in-law from the stables and sails from Fermalye to the Kingdom of Urhu. The regimented conditions do suggest the workhouse and the principle that people in the workhouse should be worse clothed, worse fed and worse lodged than those outside made for very grim conditions but even so they were not prisons. 53 The children too might represent nothing more than bands of orphaned beggars but given the close relationship of this text to episodes from the life of Fionn it is probable that there is also an echo of the two episodes in The Boyhood Exploits of Fionn where the emergent young hero must contend first on the hurling green and then in a lake against the hostility of his youthful peers.54,55 If this is the context it is more likely that Fermalye, as Fitzpatrick suggested, is a state of being but in this context it may represent the 'barren' cut-off world of the workhouse where death or emigration were the only realistic exit options. As these were contemporary institutions, and people's situations still precarious, care had to be taken in what was said about them.
White flags are hoisted on every mast as they come within sight of land. Why? Cud bounds from the returning ship even though it is still off shore. He must be the first person to meet his father. Again why? We remember that instead of allowing his brothers and sister-in-law sail directly to Urhu he directed them towards Fermalye to avoid the risk that their father would think that he was dead. This decision has calamitous results as we've just seen. Cud, as mentioned, appears to incarnate the future and, for Gaelic society incarnated by the king, if he were to die, all would be lost.
The white flags are a device found in Tristan and Iseult in the guise of black and white sails but ultimately can be traced to the Eastern Mediterranean and the tale of Theseus and the Minotaur. King Aegeus, awaiting news of his son's adventure and seeing the black sails on the ship - due to confusion on the ship - , thinks Theseus is dead and throws himself from a cliff giving his name to the sea. So too in the tale of Tristan and Iseult, the former lies wounded in Brittany awaiting the arrival of Iseult who has been asked to come from Cornwall to heal him, it has been agreed that if she is on board a white sail will be flown and if not a black. Tristan's new wife is very jealous of their enduring love and lies, telling him it is black. He dies in grief just as Iseult arrives at his side. So this is the historical narrative backdrop to the hoisting of the whites flags and also, not trusting this device, Cud's wish to see his father directly with no intermediaries.56
As mentioned already that this is ultimately a tale of healing and restoration is evidenced by the fact that Cud never once uses the sword-of-light (Claíomh Solais) although his threats to the malefic wizard that he'd loose his head from his shoulders, suggests he has not forgotten about it either. On his return we find not only his father but his mother, the missing part of the usual trinity of female powers, waiting. He takes both their hands and in this simple gesture the people are metaphorically bound to the land by the promise of the future. Revisiting the psychological vantage point though there is no hint of rubedo, or new consciousness in the final image of our tale, by contrast, having just left the albedo white-doves after the nigredo black-raven is removed, we are left with only the white flags of the returning ships, so, metaphorically speaking, this is only the dawn of the long hard day after interminable night, but it is a hopeful day and we remind ourselves that one of the debilitating symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder can be a sense of futurelessness.57Back to Index
One of the most challenging literary creations of the 20th century is Finnegans Wake by James Joyce. There is no genitive apostrophe in the title and if it makes us think of Finnegan in the song, still it is Finn the hod carrier who tumbles to his death at the start, thus precipitating the new cycle, or circulation, of life. So one of the senses of the title is that of an ironic but imperative summons for 'Finn-again-s' to 'wake'. 58
Bibliography and Footnotes
2 Jeremiah Curtin, Hero-Tales of Ireland (London, Macmillan, 1894)
3 Douglas Hyde, Giolla an ḟiuġa; or, The lad of the ferule. Eaċtra cloinne riġ na n-Ioruaiḋe or, Adventures of the children of the king of Norway (London, Published for the Irish Texts Society, by D. Nutt, 1899), pp. xi–xv http://archive.org/details/giollaiuaorladof01hyde.
4 Elliott Gose in hisThe World of the Irish Wonder Tale: An Introduction to the Study of Fairy Tales by contrast views this as a necessary psychological balancing.
5 Marie-Louise von Franz, The Interpretation of Fairy Tales (Boston; [New York]: Shambhala?; Distributed in the U.S. by Random House, 1996), p. 196.
6 Dáithí Ó hÓgáin, The Sacred Isle: Belief and Religion in Pre-Christian Ireland (Woodbridge, Suffolk, UK; Rochester, NY; Cork, Ireland: Boydell Press; Collins Press, 1999), pp. 76–77.
7 In the Adventures of Art Son of Conn, Conn is walking on the seashore at Howth when the banished Becuma arrives by boat.
8 Alwyn D. Rees and B. R. Rees, Celtic Heritage: Ancient Tradition in Ireland and Wales (London: Thames and Hudson, 1973), p. 198.
9 C.G. Jung, 'The Psychology of the Child Archetype', in The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious, ed. by Herbert Read and others, trans. by R. F. C. Hull, The Collected Works of C. G. Jung, 2. ed., paperback print., reprint (London: Routledge, 1991), 151–81 (p. 170).
10 Jung, 'The Psychology of the Child Archetype', The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious p. 157.
11 Emmett Early, The Raven's Return: The Influence of Psychological Trauma on Individuals and Culture (Wilmette, Ill: Chiron Publications, 1993), p. 29.
12 The martial aspect of Fionn dates to the fifth and sixth centuries when the Leinster men were under threat from the Connachta.
13 Ó hÓgáin, The Sacred Isle, pp. 119–125.
14 Ó hÓgáin, The Sacred Isle, p. 124.
15 Dáithí Ó hÓgáin, Myth, Legend & Romance: An Encyclopaedia of the Irish Folk Tradition, 1st ed (New York: Prentice Hall Press, 1991), p. 237.
16 In the romance the maiden alternately spends a year each as an otter, a cat and a swan. On one day of each year she takes human form. When a cat she is known as the Cat of Free Island
Douglas Hyde, Eaċtra cloinne riġ na n-Ioruaiḋe p.63
17 Niall Mac Coitir and Gordon D'Arcy, Ireland's Animals: Myths, Legends & Folklore (Cork: Collins Press, 2010), pp. 141- 52.
18 Elizabeth Fitz Patrick, Formaoil Na Fiann: Hunting Preserves and Assembly Places in Gaelic Ireland, Proceedings of the Harvard Celtic Colloquium, 32 (2012), 95–118.
19 C. G. Jung, 'The Phenomenology of the Spirit in Fairytales', in The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious, ed. by Herbert Read and others, trans. by R. F. C. Hull, The Collected Works of C. G. Jung, 2. ed., paperback print., reprint (London: Routledge, 1991), 207–52 (p. 235).
20 Franz, p. 159.
21 Johnathon Kerr, Burial Customs in the First Millenium, p. Section: Viking Burials-- sub section: Scotland, http://www.tanwayour.org/burial.html .
22 In the romance this is, Macaomh Mór, the son of the King of Sorcha.
Douglas Hyde, Eaċtra cloinne riġ na n-Ioruaiḋe p.73
23 Robert A.S. MacAlister, Lebor Gabála Érenn: The Book of the Taking of Ireland" Vol 2, 1939, p. 249 https://archive.org/stream/LeborGablarennTheBookOfTheTakingOfIreland-Volume21939/Lebor-Gabala-Erenn-McA-Vol2_djvu.txt
24 Robert A.C. MacAlister, Lebor Gabála Érenn?: The Book of the Taking of Ireland Vol 3, 1940, p. 119 <https://archive.org/stream/leborgablare03macauoft/leborgablare03macauoft_djvu.txt>
25 Robert A.C. MacAlister, Lebor Gabála Érenn: The Book of the Taking of Ireland Vol 3, 1940, III, p. 117 https://archive.org/stream/leborgablare03macauoft/leborgablare03macauoft_djvu.txt
26 Elliott B. Gose, The World of the Irish Wonder Tale: An Introduction to the Study of Fairy Tales (Toronto; Buffalo: University of Toronto Press, 1985), pp. 63–66.
27 Ó hÓgáin, The Sacred Isle, p. 144.
In the literary version there is a Merlinesque tutor called Mánach who magically whisks Mucan Mor away in a dark magic fog when he is in danger of being defeated.
28 Douglas Hyde, Eaċtra cloinne riġ na n-Ioruaiḋe p75
In the literary tale she is explicit that she is the swan. She also gives Cod a magic mantle to cover his dead brothers until he can find a salve to bring them back to life.
29 Douglas Hyde, Eaċtra cloinne riġ na n-Ioruaiḋe p99,101
In the romance, Mucan Mor finally succumbs when Cud propels an apple-shaped lump of iron through his skull in a feat remininiscent of Lugh's triumph over Balor.
30 Douglas Hyde, Eaċtra cloinne riġ na n-Ioruaiḋe p. 75,95.
31 Joseph Campbell, Historical Atlas of World Mythology. 1: The Way of the Animal Powers (London: Times Books, 1984), pp. 143–46.
32 Joseph Campbell, Chapter 2. The Consort of the Bull, Section II The Two Queens in Occidential Mythology: The Masks of God (Arkana, 1991), p. p45-53.
In the Forest of Wonders, in the romance, there is a Tree of Virtue but Cod has many negative experiences here. He seeks a salve to bring back his brothers from the dead and a magic rod to lift the enchantment of the Cat of Free Island. So these qualities have become detached from the Tree. In a separate episode there is also a goblet which is in the possession of a hag which, while she drinks from it every day, grants her eternal life.
33 Douglas Hyde, Eaċtra cloinne riġ na n-Ioruaiḋe p.111, 123-37
34 Joseph Campbell, Chapter 2. The Consort of the Bull, in Occidential Mythology: The Masks of God (Arkana, 1991), p. 70.
35 Tony Gerard Dolan, Neolithic Brú Na Bóinne, 2014 http://www.miotas.org/article.cfm?id=Newgrange#nine_hazels
36 Douglas Hyde, Eaċtra cloinne riġ na n-Ioruaiḋe p.111
37 Although stictly speaking the pig is more usually associated with the sun and growth, and the wild boar with the moon, death and rebirth.
38 In a local context there may be an echo too of the Apple potato variety which was the highest quality variety in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, 'the king of the potatoes'
John Feehan, 'The Potato: Root of the Famine', in Atlas of the Great Irish Famine, 1845-52, ed. by John Crowley, William J. Smyth, and Michael Murphy (Cork, Ireland: Cork University Press, 2012), pp. 28–37 (p. 32).
39 Richard Jauron, 'Tomato-like Fruit on Potato Plants | Horticulture and Home Pest News', Horticulture and Home Pest News, 2 July 2004 http://www.ipm.iastate.edu/ipm/hortnews/2004/7-2-2004/tomatopotato.html
By comparison, in the romance Cod is a one-man killing machine and continues in this mode through out the tale until he subdues everyone and becomes King of the World. At this particular stage his actions appear to bring on fierce winter conditions in the Forest of Wonders but he is rescued by Gold-faced Sun whose role and imagery is similar to the Arthurian, Lady of the Lake.
Douglas Hyde, Eaċtra cloinne riġ na n-Ioruaiḋe p.137
41 Ó hÓgáin, The Sacred Isle, pp. 59–64.
42 We see in a folktale (The Cat Which was not a Real Cat) from The Schools Collection that a man( whose wife is dead) decides to kill his cat after a disagreement over shoes. The man sets his dogs on the cat but, though badly wounded, it escapes. The man continues his pursuit untils he finds a woman sheltering in a house. Seeing all her wounds he promptly sets fire to the house killing her. Why? A couple of pathologies introduced by the Roman Church into the European psyche are partly responsible: the first was when Pope Gregory in the 10th century associated black cats with the Christian devil; the second was when Pope Innocent VIII in the thirteenth century ordered the killing of all cats in Christendom because of their nefarious alliance with the devil. As agents of the devil it was best to kill them cruelly as the devil would suffer the more and fire, as it was for many of the women labelled as witches, was a good choice. Such hysterical ideas appear to have been on the wane in the nineteenth century so it is difficult to ascertain how much currency they had in Ireland at this time.
Niall Mac Coitir and Gordon D'Arcy, Ireland's Animals: Myths, Legends & Folklore, pp. 150–51.
43 Colm,Five Ancient Musical Instruments from Ireland, Irish Archaeology, 11th March 2014, http://irisharchaeology.ie/2014/03/five-ancient-musical-instruments-from-ireland/
44 Douglas Hyde, Eaċtra cloinne riġ na n-Ioruaiḋe p.127
In the romance the equivalent of Gold Boot is Golden-armed Iollan who, along with his twelve companions, are dead and carry their heads around with them searching for somebody to bury them. This fate befell them when they attempted to take the Tree of Virtue from the Forest at the request of Iollan's paramour. A little man with a harp caused them to become so befuddled that they killed each other. Iollan has on his head a diadem with motifs of lions, leopards and a wondrous griffin. To my mind this group of elements points to ritual sacrifice of which the Minoan civilisation was certainly an exponent. Many Minoan motifs show a man pulling up a tree while two goddesses typically look on. In Irish mythology I think we have an echo of this culture and ritual in The Death of Fraoch (George Henderson) with Medb and her daughter in the guise of the two goddesses who set Fraoch the task of bring them the 'The Tree of Life' that will lead to his death in the resultant battle with the guardian serpent of the tree. In a different version the maiden, Finnabair, helps save him from the coils of the monster. Perhaps, like the Christian deity staying the hand of Abraham over his son, society has moved on.
45 Ó hÓgáin, The Sacred Isle, pp. 149–50.
46 Jeremiah Curtin, Hero-Tales of Ireland (London, Macmillan, 1894), notes: p553 http://archive.org/details/herotalesofirela00curtuoft
47 In the romance in the Forest of Wonders, Cod encounters a deer-skin clad giant with one mast-like leg, a fawn on a leash in one hand, a great club in the other and horns growing from his head. Despite some tree-ish attributes he does not appear to belong in the Forest but wandered in there in the night. This makes one wonder, if he is not an vestigial of a Palaeolithic/Mesolithic Animal-Master type deity. In the romance Cod assaults him, and he falls like an oak but then staggers to his feet and makes his way to the entrance of the Forest where he dies and becomes a stone in which Cod's sword is embedded and cannot be removed. Cod was annoyed that the giant would not submit to him. When Cod returns to the Forest after this unprovoked act he finds, both trees and stones in one flag of ice at that time.
Douglas Hyde, Eaċtra cloinne riġ na n-Ioruaiḋe p. 135,137 [accessed 17 May 2017]
48Emmett Early, The Raven's Return: The Influence of Psychological Trauma on Individuals and Culture (Wilmette, Ill: Chiron Publications, 1993), p. 28.
49James MacKillop, A Dictionary of Celtic Mythology (Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2000), p. 95.
50 Douglas Hyde, Eaċtra cloinne riġ na n-Ioruaiḋe p.115 [accessed 17 May 2017]
51 Donald Kalsched, The Inner World of Trauma: Archetypal Defenses of the Personal Spirit (London; New York: Routledge, 1996), pp. 89–90.
52 Donald Kalsched, The Inner World of Trauma: Archetypal Defenses of the Personal Spirit p92
53 Atlas of the Great Irish Famine, 1845-52, ed. by John Crowley, William J. Smyth, and Michael Murphy (Cork, Ireland: Cork University Press, 2012), p. 145.
The excerpt below from the Boyhood Exploits of Finn and his clashes with the youths appear to have a ritualistic pattern related to name taking or coming of age. Ostensibly the persecution Fionn suffers in his youth is due to the enmity of one eyed Goll mac Morna who killed his father. Yet this enmity is merely a reflection, closer to the human plane, of the never ending struggle between the forces of darkness and light as played out earlier in the drama between Balor and Lugh. Ó hÓgáin has discussed at length how the lore associated with Fionn developed continuously in the first millennium to reflect shifting political realities, in particular in the struggle between the Leinstermen and the Connachta. This lore tends to emphasise Fionn's prowess as a warrior rather than his original attributes as a seer and so much of the original sense is occluded.
54 Dáithí Ó hÓgáin, Myth, Legend & Romance: An Encyclopaedia of the Irish Folk Tradition, 1st ed (New York: Prentice Hall Press, 1991), pp. 213–23.
8] One day he went out alone until he reached Moy Liffey, and a certain stronghold there; and he saw the youths hurling upon the green of the stronghold there. He went to contend in running or in hurling with them. He came again the next day, and they put one-fourth of their number against him. Again they came with one-third of their number against him. However, at last they all go against him, and he won his game from them all.
9] 'What is thy name?' they said. 'Demne,' said he. The youths tell that to the man of the stronghold. 'Then kill him, if ye know how to do it -- if ye are able to do it,' said he. 'We should not be able to do aught to him,' said they. 'Did he tell you his name?' says he. 'He said,' say they, 'that his name was Demne.' 'What does he look like?' said he. 'A shapely fair (finn) youth,' said they. 'Then Demne shall be named Finn, (the Fair),' said he. Whence the youths used to call him Finn.
10] He came to them on the next day, and went to them at their game. All together they threw their hurlets at him. He turns among them, and throws seven of them to the ground. He went from them into the forest of Slieve Bloom.
11] Then, at the end of a week, he came back to the same place. The youths were swimming in a lake that was close by. The youths challenge him to come and try to drown them. Thereupon he jumps into the lake to them, and drowns nine of them in the lake. And after that he goes to Slieve Bloom. 'Who drowned the youths?' everybody asked. 'Finn,' say they. So that henceforth the name Finn clave to him.
55 The Boyish Exploits of Finn, UCC Celt Project (University College Cork), p. 183 http://www.ucc.ie/celt/published/T303023/text001.html#p183
56 Joseph Campbell, The Masks of God. Vol. 4, Creative Mythology (New York [etc.]: Penguin Compass, 1991), pp. 304-5.
57 Emmett Early, The Raven's Return: The Influence of Psychological Trauma on Individuals and Culture (Wilmette, Ill: Chiron Publications, 1993), p. 3.
58 Joseph Campbell and Henry Morton Robinson, A Skeleton Key to Finnegans Wake (Cutchogue, N.Y.: Buccaneer Books, 1976), p. 14.