The Three Drinking-horns of Cormac úa Cuinn

Anglo-Saxon drinking horn, made about AD 500-600 from a wild ox or aurochs.

Once on a time Aed Oridnide, son of Niall Frosach, son of Feargal, son of Maelduin, came to establish order in the province of Connacht. He crossed Eas Ruaid, and his table-servants and his drinking-horns were lost therein. Aed came to Corca Tri, and rested at the house of the king of Corca Tri. Fifty of the kings of Erin accompanied Aed.

Aed ate a meal on Sunday night along with the kings: but though he ate he drank not a draught, for he had no drinking-horn, because his horns and his quaighs were lost at Ath Enaig, above Eas Ruaid, as the army was crossing. His way was, that he drank never a draught from any other vessel, since he was weaned from his mother, save only from a horn. A grief it was for the king of Corca Tri and his consort that all should be drinking, and the king of Erin refusing to drink. Angal raised his hands to God, and persisted (?) in taking neither sleep nor food till morning. And on the morrow his wife said to him: “Go,” said she, “to Guaire mac Colmain at Durlas (for that was the home of hospitality and generosity from the time of Dathi onward) to see if you would get a horn there through his hospitable bounty.” Angal, king of Corca Tri, stepped out through the door of the rath, and his right foot stumbled, so that a stone fell from its place in the fort; and it was the stone that covered the mouth of the flue wherein were the three horns that were the best in all Ireland; namely, the Twisted Horn, and the Litan, and the Eel. These were the cups that were brought by Cormac úa Cuinn over the sea; and Nia mac Lugna Firtri, the second foster-brother of Cormac úa Cuinn, had hidden them after Cormac was slain; and Cairbre Lifechair came over the sea, and though he found the other horns, these horns were not found till the time of the saints and of Aed Oridnide mac Neill. For a veil was spread over them by God, till He discovered them to the king of Corca Tri, by reason of his hospitable bounty.

Angal offered thanks to God, and bore off the horns, full of mead all three. He put them in the hands of Aed Oirdnide, king of Erin, who gave thanks to God, and put the Litan in the hands of the king of Ulster, the Eel-Horn in the hands of the king of Connacht, and reserved to himself the Twisted Horn.

Afterwards it descended to Maelsechlainn mac Domhnaill; and he offered it to God and to Ciaran, jointly, till the Day of Judgement.

Curator: Christian Clay Columba Campbell

Christian Clay Columba Campbell is a Roman Catholic of the Anglican Use. As Senior Warden of the Cathedral of the Incarnation (Orlando, FL), he organised the process by which the parish accepted the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum coetibus, petitioning to join the Catholic Church. The Anglican Cathedral is now the Church of the Incarnation in the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter. Personal queries should be directed to me at eccentricbliss dot com.

2 thoughts on “The Three Drinking-horns of Cormac úa Cuinn”

  1. What has a ‘British Drinking Horn’ got to do with this story? And how do you know that the object is even British? It may be in current British ownership, but the provenance of so much of ‘their property’ it could well have a completely different origin!
    Does the use of the epithet ‘British’ add anything to the story?

    1. The horn pictured is evidently of Anglo-Saxon origin, late XI century, from the princely burial at Taplow, Buckinghamshire. The adjective “British,” which attribution I honestly do not even recall making, is indeed meaningless or even misleading. Mea culpa.

Leave a Reply