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00Wednesday, February 8, 2006 5:27 PM

There was a time in ancient Ireland when the people believed in magic and in druids and spells. These were the days of the Tuatha De Danann tribe, the Goddess Danu and of Lir, the lord of the sea.

Lir's wife, Eva, had given him four beautiful children. The two eldest, Fionnuala and Aodh, went swimming in a small lake. But these were no ordinary swi mmers! They possessed gills for breathing and webbed feet as they were, after all, the offspring of 'the ruler of the land beneath the waves'.

They met a messenger who told them that they were wanted by their father. They went home immediately only to find their father disturbed.

'What is wrong father?' they enquired 'Your mother has given birth to twins....' he replied '....and has gone off to rest' 'What do you mean father?' they asked

Lir explained that this was what humans called 'death' but that since they were immortal that their mother had gone to recover, possibly for a thousand years or more. The children were to look after the new brothers, Fiachra and Conn.

The children kissed their mother for the last time and then left.

As the children grew Lir's spirits declined until one day he met Aiofe, the sister of his wife. Aoife was possessed of magical powers and soon enough it was known that she and Lir would marry. The new family thrived under the influence of their new mother but not for long as guilt and jealousy about the childresn real mother took its toll on Aoifes health. She fell into sickness for a year but recovered only to start to become old before here time.

Aoife was a changed woman now and one day suggested that she and the children should visit their grandfather. On the journey they stopped by a lake and she encouraged the children to go for a swim. The four children played happily in the water, not noticing that their stepmother was now standing at the waters edge wearing her fathers magic cloak.

'For too long you children have stood between your father and I, but not for much longer!' she cried

'We cannot be killed by you...' Aodh replied, '...we are the Children of Lir and if you harm us our ghosts will haunt you!'

'I’m not going to kill you.....' she shouted '......but I am going to change you!'

At this she bowed her head and started an inacntation. The children looked at each other in fear as they saw a red and gold circle envelope them on the water. They saw Aoife open up her cloak from which the great light of a fireball emerged and hurtled towards them, burning all in its wake.

The fireball hit the water and caused masses of steam to rise about the children and they soon lost all feeling in their legs, arms, shoulders and head. They soon regained their sight only to see Aoife laughing at them. Aodh tried to attack her and flailed his arms about furiously but nothing happened except the splashing of water. He turned to look at his brothers and sister only to see that they had all been turned intot the most beautiful swans ever seen.

Aoife scowled at them again and told them that they were to spend nine hundred years as swans, three hundred on Lough Derravaragh, three hundred on the Straits of Moyle and three hundred on the Isle of Inish Glora. To end the spell they would have to hear the bell of the new God.

'I leave you with your voice however, and the most beautiful singing ever heard' she said.

Lir searched for his children that day, but Aoife told him that they had been attacked and killed by wild boars. Fionnuala, now in swan form, approached her father and told him what Aoife had done. Lir was furious and banished Aoife into exile as an evil demon of the air.

Lir faithfully visited his children and the power of his love ensured that their timeon the lake was one fo bliss. He knew thousgh that the 300 years of the first phase had passed and that the next phase of the spell was about to begin. The swans left for the Straits of Moyle, never to see their father again.

Their time on the Northern Straits of Moyle were not so joyous, with frequent storms separating them, only for they to join up again. Another 300 years passed but they had survived together.

They departed the cold straits and made their way towards Lough Derravaragh. They flew over th land, hoping to find their father's fort, but it was now nothing more than ruins. They wept because they knew the time of the Tuatha De Danann was gone.

They travelled West to the waters of Inish Glora and found refuge on a small saltwater lake where time passed solowly. One day an old man named Mochua visited the lake and the children enquired of hiim if he was a follower of the new God. The startled man asked if they were the children of Lir and they told him that they were.

'Are you a holy man?' asked Fiacra. 'I am...' came the reply '

The children knew that to break the spell that they would have to hear the bell of a new God toll in their own land.

Mochua told them all about his new God and all about Saint Patrick who had brought his faith to their country.

The children became excited as they knew that this was the new god their stepmother had told them of. They stayed with Mochua for many years who gave them sanctuary in a small chapel which he had built. He intended to make a bell and collected old swords, shileds and other metal to make it. The bell was now completed and was about to be rung when another disaster occurred.

A Warrior dressed in armour entered the chapel. He had come for the children who were famed for their wonderful singing.

'I am Liargren, King of Connaught' he shouted, 'My wife desires those swans and I will have them... ...give them here or I wil tear this building down.'

Fionnuala looked at Mochua and then siad that they would agree to go away with this King. Liargen was amazed to hear her speak but soon composed himself and ordered his men to take the children away. They were being loaded onto a carraige when suddenly, the church bell tolled loudly.

Time seemd to stand still, but in another instant a great white mist had been blown off the nearby lake and enveloped the children as it had done 900 years before. The mist changed into all of the colours of the rainbow before a great wind gusted it away.

The children had at last been transformed back into human form.

Liagren fled immediately, never to return. Mochua baptized the beautiful children who had begun to age rapidly and so it was that the children of Lir, the last of the Tuatha De Danann died soon afterwards, their legend to live on forever.

00Wednesday, February 8, 2006 5:39 PM

If you were to stroll round Dublin's fair city, smiling at nothing in particular or watching the big mullet slapping through the Liffy's grimy shallows, or smelling the coffee roasting in Bewley's, or listening to what the pigeons and the preacher have to say to each other on Stephen's Green, you wouldn't be wasting your time, to my way of thinking. But if you began reading the destinations on the buses you'd eventually see one for Chapelizod. And there is a story in that. Not many people remember now that Chapelizod is named after Isolde, the beautiful Isolde, Isolde of the White Throat, long ago daughter to the King of Dublin.

She was to be married to March son of Meirchion - King of Cornwall. Arthur High King of the Britons sent March's kinsman Tristan over to Ireland to fetch the lady to her wedding. Tristan was a great harper, but like many a bard of those days he was also a warrior. And he had magical skills. For while his music could charm the birds from the bushes, he had other power. If anyone would wound him, that one would die. And if he was to wound anyone, that one would die. So conveying the most beautiful lady of the western world across hills of brigands, through forests full of heraldic beasts and over a sea awash with lonely pirates was no particular trouble to him.

It was a sultry day they sailed away from Dublin — the sea like a millpond. The sails hung limp. The oars were out. The rowers were sweating at them and cursing the weather quietly and thoroughly. Tristan and Isolde sat together in the bows. He played the harp to her awhile. They play chess a while. And after a while, being thirsty, they sent a page below for some refreshment. But, the first bottle the page put his hand upon, as fate would have it, was the flask of love potion made for Isolde by her father's wizard, to be drunk only as directed between Isolde and March at their wedding. The page brought up a couple of half gills of it, Tristan and Isolde each took a sip, and fell at once and forever in love.

As this fact fully dawned on them they stared horror stricken, each with arms outstretched to the other, for how could their love ever be, since Isolde was promised to March? And Tristan, being a man of honour, under oath, insisted on delivering Isolde to King March as promised. So there was Isolde in March's castle, refusing to speak or eat and Tristan stalking the wilds of Albion, seeking to ease his grief in quest, combat, dragon slaying and such. Finally this life of stolen glimpses, servants' messages, and midnight assignations proved unbearable. The lovers eloped together to the Caledon woods, that cloaked old Scotland from Forth to Clyde and from Berwick to Galloway, the wildest and deepest woods in all the lands of Arthur.

Now messengers were sent to Arthur from the enraged King March, who demanded justice. And Arthur sent for his wisest councilors and debated long on this. For Tristan could not be brought back by force, and March would not be propitiated with gold. When he had taken full counsel, Arthur set off for Caledon with King March and his retinue. Arriving there, the finest poets and harpers were sent forward, through the groves to, Tristan. These he would never harm. And the poets and harpers presented the King's words so well that Tristan and Isolde came willingly to Arthur and agreed to abide by his judgement, whatever it might be.

Arthur decreed that Isolde should spend the half year when the trees were in leaf with one man, and the half year when the trees were bare with the other. King March was to have the first choice, as the injured party
At that, Isolde laughed aloud and clapped her hands and she said:

'Blessed be the judgement
blessed the tongue that utters it
and blessed the pen that wrote it down
three trees there are, loyal and true
the holly, the ivy, and the yew
that keep their leaves all year through'

So Tristan was wed to Isolde, and so this story ends. Some say Chapelizod is where she was buried years later in Dublin. Some say a little ruined chapel stood there till Victorian times. a little Christian chapel on an ancient site. At all events, it's under a building site now. As for King March's castle, well, the ruins of that are parts of a farm that stands in Cornwall to this day. But where Tristan's grave might be, or what became of his wonderful music, no one knows.

of early Celtic origin;
first texts c. 1550
From - Robin Williamson's
'The Wise & Foolish Tongue'
00Wednesday, February 8, 2006 6:12 PM
Born in approximately 434 AD, Fergus Mor Mac Erc is considered the father of the Royal lines of Scotland and thus the father of Scotland itself.

Fergus was the first Scottish based King of Dalriada, a country split by the sea, with a base in Ireland (the area of now County Antrim, Ireland) and territory also in the western portions of what is now Scotland.

There are two legends concerning the origins of Scottish Dalriada (also known as Scotia Minor). One tells of a famine that caused the tribe of the Dal Riada to move into northern Ireland and parts of western Scotland. The other says that the Dal Riada moved north in Ireland because of famine and then aligned themselves with the Picts in Northern Ireland, thus gaining the right to settle in the Pict land of Caledonia (now called Scotland).

In either case the settlement of Alba by the Irish Scotti apparently started around the second century AD. By the late fourth century, the Scotti had attained enough strength to draw the attention of the Picts. They were soon attacked and in retaliation Niall of the Nine Hostages, the High King of Ireland, landed with a sizeable force to punish the Picts. The little colony of Scottish Dalriada was saved and slowly gained strength over the next one hundred years. It is during the late fifth century that Fergus Mor (Big or Chief?) Mac (son of) Erc arrived in Scottish Dalriada.

Fergus Mor was the son of Erc, King of Irish Dalriada. By right, Fergus became King of Dalriada in about 498 AD. He soon moved his seat of power from Ireland to Scotland. The reasons for this are sketchy, some claim it was due to pressure that forced the move to protect his kingdom. While others say that Scottish Dalriada was beginning to feel its oats and Fergus moved to maintain control of his kingdom. In either case, when he arrived, Fergus brought with him a large Niallan host of warriors and all the trappings of the kingdom. The Stone of Destiny, also known as the Stone of Scone is said to have been one of those items.

With his arrival, Scottish Dalriada or Scotia Minor was now a force to be reckoned with. Fergus consolidated his power in the new lands until his death in c. 501 AD. His successors continued his efforts until c. 576, when Dalriada was strong enough to petition and successfully split from its mother country in Ireland. This seat of power eventually combined with the Empire of the Picts and later with Strathclyde and Lothian to form the modern country of Scotland.

Even though Fergus Mor did little that is notable in his lifetime besides this move, he is considered the father of all the Royal lines of Scotland and thus the father of Scotland itself. When a male line of kings died, the new line was based from a female descendant of Fergus Mor. In Scottish history there is no bloodline more impressive, as it ran through the royal houses of Alpin, Dunkeld, Bruce, Stewart and Hanover. These kings originally ruled a small island kingdom that successfully managed itself into the modern day Great Britain.
00Friday, February 10, 2006 11:19 AM
Who Goes With Fergus?

William Butler Yeats

Who will go drive with Fergus now,
And pierce the deep wood’s woven shade,
And dance upon the level shore?
Young man, lift up your russet brow,
And lift your tender eyelids, maid,
And brood on hopes and fear no more.

And no more turn aside and brood
Upon love’s bitter mystery;
For Fergus rules the brazen cars,
And rules the shadows of the wood,
And the white breast of the dim sea
And all dishevelled wandering stars.
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