Except Ye Taste of Death

View of Rathcroghan ( Ráth Cruachan) mound from the south.  Near Tulsk in County Roscommon, Ireland, it is identified as the site of Cruachan, the traditional capital of the Connachta.
View of Rathcroghan (Ráth Cruachan) mound from the south. Near Tulsk in County Roscommon, Ireland, it is identified as the site of Cruachan, the traditional capital of the Connachta.

It appears that King Laoghaire had two daughters, named Ethne the fair, and Fedelm the ruddy. He had sent them, for what reason is not explained, to his relatives in Connaught, and placed them under the care of two Druids or magi, named Mael and Caplit. Patrick was at Crochan, or Cruachan, the royal cemetery of the kings of Ireland of the race of Herimon, and a very antient residence of the kings of Connaught, in the county of Roscommon. There was a well or fountain called Clebach, on the side of the fort, looking towards the east. There Patrick and his attendants assembled one morning at sunrise. He selected, perhaps, the place and hour with the hope of conciliating some Pagan superstitions. Tirechan says that the virgins found Patrick at the well with a synod of bishops, senodum sanctorum episcoporum; but it is probable that by this word our author means only an assembly or company, not a synod properly so called. It will be better, however, to tell the story in the exact words of that antient historian, translated as closely as possible : —

Then St. Patrick came to the well (ad fontem) which is called Clebach, on the sides of Crochan towards the east; and before sunrise they [i.e. Patrick and his followers] sat down near the well. And lo! the two daughters of King Laoghaire, Ethne the fair (alba), and Fedelm the ruddy (rufa), came early to the well, to wash, after the manner of women, and they found near the well a synod of holy Bishops with Patrick. And they knew not whence they were, or in what form, or from what people, or from what country; but they supposed them to be Duine Sidhe (viros Sidhe) or gods of the earth, or a phantasm.

And the virgins said unto them, “Where are ye? and whence come ye?”

And Patrick said unto them, “It were better for you to confess to our true God, than to enquire concerning our race.”

The first virgin said,

“Who is God?
“And where is God?
“And of what [nature] is God?
“And where is His dwelling-place?
“Has your God sons and daughters, gold and silver?
“Is He everliving?
“Is He beautiful?
“Did many foster His Son?
“Are His daughters dear and beauteous to men of the world?
“Is He in heaven or in earth?
“In the sea?
“In rivers?
“In mountainous places?
“In valleys?
“Declare unto us the knowledge of Him.
“How shall He be seen?
“How is He to be loved?
“How is He to be found?
“Is it in youth?
“Is it in old age, that He is to be found?”

But St. Patrick, full of the Holy Ghost, answered and said,

“Our God is the God of all men.
“The God of heaven and earth, of the sea and rivers.
“The God of the sun, the moon, and all stars.
“The God of the high mountains, and of the lowly valleys.
“The God who is above heaven, and in heaven, and under heaven.
“He hath a habitation in the heaven and the earth and the sea, and all that are therein.
“He inspireth all things.
“He quickeneth all things.
“He is over all things.
“He sustaineth all things.
“He giveth light to the light of the sun.
“Lumen noctis et notitias valat.
“And He hath made springs in a dry ground,
“And dry islands in the sea,
“And hath appointed the stars to serve the greater lights.
“He hath a Son co-eternal and co-equal (consimilem) with Himself.
“The Son is not younger than the Father,
“Nor is the Father older than the Son,
“And the Holy Ghost breatheth in them (inflat in eis).
“The Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost are not divided (non separantur).
“But I desire to unite you to the Heavenly King, inasmuch as you are the daughters of an earthly King — to believe.”

And the virgins said, as with one mouth and one heart —

“Teach us most diligently how we may believe in the Heavenly King. Show us how we may see Him face to face, and whatsoever thou shalt say unto us, we will do.”

And Patrick said, “Believe ye that by baptism ye put off the sin of your father and your mother?” — They answered, “We believe.”

“Believe ye in repentance after sin?” — “We believe.”

“Believe ye in life after death? Believe ye the resurrection at the Day of Judgment?” — “We believe.”

“Believe ye the Unity of the Church?” — “We believe.”

And they were baptised; and a white garment put upon their heads.

And they asked to see the face of Christ. And the Saint said unto them, “Ye cannot see the face of Christ, except ye taste of death, and except ye receive the Sacrifice.”

And they answered, “Give us the Sacrifice, that we may behold the Son our Spouse.”

And they received the Eucharist of God, and they slept in death (dormierunt in morte).

And they were laid out on one bed, covered with garments: and [their friends] made great lamentation and weeping for them.

And the Magus Caplit, who had fostered one of them, came and wept, and Patrick preached unto him, and he believed, and the hairs of his head were taken off.

And his brother Mael came and said, “My brother hath believed in Patrick, but it shall not be so [with me]; yea, I shall bring him back to Paganism, and to Milthous.”

And he spake harsh words to Patrick, and Patrick spake to him and preached to him, and converted him to the repentance of God: and the hairs of his head were taken off — that is, the magical rule [which] was seen on his head, as is said, air bacc giunnæ†.

It was of him was spoken that most celebrated of all Scotic proverbs, “Calvus is become like Caplit.”

And they believed in God. And the days of mourning (ululationis) for the king’s daughters were accomplished, and they buried them near the well Clebach; and they made a circular ditch, like to a Ferta‡; because so the Scotic people and gentiles were used to do; but with us it is called Reliquiæ, that is, the remains of the virgins. And this Ferta was granted (immolata est) with the bones of the holy virgins to Patrick and to his heirs (heredibus) after him for ever. And he made a Church of earth in that place.

— An account from the Book of Armagh, as recounted in Dr. James Henthorn Todd’s St. Patrick Apostle of Ireland: A Memoir of His Life and Mission (1864).

Irish, “as a band (bond) of Gehenna (Hell)”
‡ a sepulchral mound of clay covered with grass

Táin Bó Cúailnge

But I who have written this story, or rather this fable, give no credence to the various incidents related in it. For some things in it are the deceptions of demons, other poetic figments; some are probable, others improbable; while still others are intended for the delectation of foolish men.

— Colophon (Latin) at the conclusion of the recension of the Táin Bó Cúailnge as found in the Book of Leinster.

Cover (dust jacket) of Táin Bó Cúailnge, edited by Cecille O'Rahilly, and published by the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies in 1970.
Cover (dust jacket) of Táin Bó Cúailnge, edited and translated by Cecille O’Rahilly, and published by the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies in 1970 (orig. 1967).
"Here begin the youthful deeds of Cú Chulainn..."
“Here begin the youthful deeds of Cú Chulainn…”

The latest edition to my Gaelic library arrived at the house today, a fairly rare Irish/English copy of the Táin Bó Cúailnge, edited and translated by Cecille O’Rahilly in 1967 — and in pristine condition!

Victors Through the Prayers of Colum Cille

The battle of Cúil Dreimne i.e. in vengeance won over Diarmait son of Cerball. Forgus and Domnall two sons of Mac Erca and Ainmire son of Setna and Nainnid son of Daui, and Aed son of Eochu Tirmcharna, king of Connacht, were victors through the prayers of Colum Cille, saying:

1. O God!
Why dost thou not ward off the mist,
That we might reckon the number
Of the host which has taken judgment from us.

2. A host that marches around a Cairn,
And a son of storm that betray us;
My druid—he will not refuse me—is
The Son of God; with us He will act.

3. How grandly he bears his course—
Baedan’s steed—before the host;
Good for Baedan of the yellow hair
He will win his renown on him.

Fraechán son of Tenusan made the druidic ‘fence’ for Diarmait son of Cerball, Tuatán son of Dimán son of Sarán son of Cormac son of Eógan cast the druidic ‘fence’ over them. Maglaine leaped over it and he alone was killed.

— Chronicon Scotorum, Annal CS561.

Bannockburn in the Annála Connacht

Statue of Robert the Bruce by Pilkington Jackson, near the Bannockburn Heritage Centre.

A battle at Srub Liath in Scotland, where the flower of the English fell at the hands of Robert Bruce in doing battle for the possession of Scotland, where many earls and knights and numberless other men were slain, along with the Earl of Gloucester, he who of all the English was of most nobility and dignity and inherited the greatest estate.

— Annála Connacht (Annals of Connaught), Annal 1314.5.

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.

To Hell or Connaught

Have you ever walked the lonesome hills
And heard the curlews cry
Or seen the raven black as night
Upon a windswept sky
To walk the purple heather
And hear the westwind cry
To know that’s where the rapparee must die
Since Cromwell pushed us westward
To live our lowly lives
There’s some of us have deemed to fight
From Tipperary mountains high
Noble men with wills of iron
Who are not afraid to die
Who’ll fight with Gaelic honour held on high

A curse upon you Oliver Cromwell
You who raped our Motherland
I hope you’re rotting down in hell
For the horrors that you sent
To our misfortunate forefathers
Whom you robbed of their birthright
“To hell or Connaught” may you burn in hell tonight
 

— The Pogues, Young Ned of the Hill.