Monday, January 31, 2011

THE CYCLES

The Cycles


The Early days of Erinn are recorded in the Mythology Cycle covering a period before the old Irish and the Ogham were written.
old Irish and the Ogham are the only reference left covering this period of origin and covering such tale as as the 3 Sorrows of Story telling and taking in such figures as Lug son of Cian and Eithne,
the Firbolg people of Nemid and the Dananns all of whom remain a god like presence personified.
Along with the potent goddess' of war and distruction Badh, Macha and Morregan ,the Raven.

The stories of the period of the great heros of the Red Branch-Craob Derg; the Tain of the book of Uidre includes the tales of Deidre and her Red Branch lover Dairmuid maic Uisne and the prechristian tales of kings and their offspring such as the
Echtra do maic Eocahaidh Muighmeadoin [mec Eocai Muimeadoin], a 300 AD High King.

The De Derga Hostel slaughter of Conaire Mor of the Dega in Kerry; the distruction of the DinnRig at Ferns Laigen ,in the 6th century BC[500 BC].
The death of Ferdia in his duel with Cuchulain and the cycle takes us from Old Irish writings ending their script about 900 AD to the Middle Irish text transcriptions from older manuscripts about 1000 AD.

Most of the Church Annals, the Glossarys, geneologys, anthropologies, and catalogues were codified between 800-900 AD at the time of the Norse raids and these contain much history and religion.

They were written in the script of the time, a western alphabet with greek letter borrowings, in a very small and compact print by church scribes, mostly on vellum sheep skin and a berry ink.
It can be said that the great advances of the cousinal Itali peoples over their more northern kin was there access to Egyptian pipyrus and their warmer climate.

AT 900 AD when the Leabar Ceart, Book of Rights, was compiled by the tribal scribes there were 100 tribal groups in Ireland.
All of the tribal chiefs and princes were clearly defined and written.
Corcaguiney or Corcu Guinge in the old spelling,gave 10 cows from this samll tribal state.

The Psalter of Cashel was also compiled at the Norse raiding period defing the geneologys of the Clanna Baoiscne or Baoisgne in the old spelling.

The Norse raids began in Ireland during the reign of Charlemange [arle maney] in the modern Irish after he was crowned king of the Francs in 800 AD.
His son Charles the Bald held a eriu geneology.

These old manuscript MSs held Bardic stories and Geneologys combined with older tales and the origin of the clanns of the island;
the Dannan, Fir Builg, Nemid ,Partalon and Cesair are all captured in weaving tales such as as Na Fintan,Tuan m Cairill, which fantisizes the descendants as one race from earliest times.

From the sea to the evolution of the land and sea to a human order as Tuan changes from various animal forms to a final human King ,child of Etain.
The cycle includes the many invasions of the early bands.

The Red Branch cycle, the golden age of old Ireland; the invasions of the Vikings and the change by 1000 AD from Old Irish writing to Middle Irish words incorporating some Latin, some Norse and Danish words, and a shift in general formation of the symbols used.

Old Irish is written in the western alphabet with additions of Greek formations of s, r, I and other letters.
These ended with Middle Irish as the letters take on a form we use today.

The Greeks were styled King of the World in many documents pertaining to this era and it is possible that the inclusion of the Greek letters such as D and others were in their relations and tribute to the king of the World.
The entrys being discarded when something happened in the east to release the Greek hold on the western region.

The 'H' is introduced sparingly and usually with a C-becoming a Ch.

Red Branch life was pleasant and plentiful and discribe a life lived in great halls with benevolent princes and a well established middle class.
The halls, palaces and homes were built of wood and great tracks of wooded lands still existed in Ireland.
They rode about in chariots which would indicate roads were built.
These drawn by horses and a close family tie was normal often resulting in love realtionships between cousins.

A blending and melding of the population was in progress.

The people were tall ,large boned and handsome where as the Fir Bolgs people were small dark and considered sneaky.
Many of the noble and warrior class were discribed as blondish in hair with grey or blue eyes and red or sandy hair was always noted as charateristic and inherited. Although no one quite knew what produced it.


The Fenian cycle of prechristian era deal with the coming of christian doctrine to the land and the demise and eclipse of the Fenian and Red Branch Brotherhoods.

It deals with the chivalry and disapline of the Irish Army corps and their ability to live on the land. To hunt, fish and be quartered by Provincial kings.

3 Battalions = 12 Regiments were kept as a standing army on ASU,with 4 reserve battalions or 16 Regiments.

Their descent and loves are recorded and recited in poem and song
as the Clanna Baoiscne blood fued with the sons of Morna after the Battle of Cnucha [castleknock] had left Fionn orphaned by the killing of his father Roigneig Ruid [Ruaidri Mor].Rogan.

He was raised on Sleive Bloom in cental Ireland and in the Galtees.

Fion Loga fathered FinnLug after gaining the cheiftainship of the Fianna forces and making peace with Morna he also becomes the father to Oisin and Oisins child was his grandson Oscar.

All these tales of the days of this era related in the Oissin cycle and by Padraig Himself [Feine] in his storys and verification as told him by old Caoilte. Or by Oisin himself wehn he returned to irleand and touched its naofa Soil.

The loves of Graine, the daugher of king Cormac m Airt of 200 AD, for Diarmuid a soldier of the Fiann, shunning the great champion Fionn Himself and leading to Diarmuids death by a great boar there on Mount Gulban which Fionn refuses to impede out of his vengance for the loss of Graine to the young soldier- Himself an old man at this time.

A faery rises from the great western ocean [the Atlantic] and rides of on a horse to the land of youth with Fionns son Oisin from Loch Lein where the old remanants of the battalions, broken and routed at the Battle of Gabra by king Cormac, and the three shouts of the sons of Tuirean are called out by his men on the shore.
Oscar was killed in the battle .
His bride Aiden is buried at Ben Adair.

Oisin longs to return from his faery life and is allowed but warned if he touches the Irish soil he will perish.

He does so at Glenn Smole [glen of the thrush] and turns into a withered old man at this time 250 years after his spirit to tir na og.

St Patrick has care of the old man and Oisin tells the tales and memories which the angels permit the saint to write down for future generations.

The Fian were originally a band of roving warriors, hessian so to speak.
They were honorable and chivalrous as knights.
Malitias of a sort of men taken from their own tuath by some disturbance or a private wrong. A private army as it were.

They were feted by lords ,sung of by bards, storied by filias.
Volunteer soldiers whose tribal oath bound cause lives on today in such bands as the provisional IRA.
They enforced a code of rule for their princes and for themselves as well as supported themselves by hunting, fishing, living from the land and protecting small families and tuat in their territories.

The Fianna unlike the stark heros of the Croab Dearg before it were colorful .
Although often involved in a fich bunaid [blood fued] a hereditary vendetta.

Their chief was usually happiest among his men.
Often magnificant, lavish and dignified but underlaid with a crafty selfishness and ruthlessness.

They could also be chivalrous in these fueds where once
Fionn crossed the Sinain [Shannon] at dawn and found his foe asleep alone.
He stood over Goll with his sword but Goll awoke and reaches for his weapons which Fionn had already taken.

But Fion the Fenian chief returns Golls shield , knife and spear and as he does so Golls men appear between Fionn and the river reversing the position.
Goll however with warrior courtesy escorts his foe back to saftey.


This so similar to the challenge between Ferdia of Connacht and Cuchulain of Ulster at the ford of Ardee where they assuage each others dayly wounds till Cuculain finally kills Ferdia and to honor him placed his body on the Ulster side fo the Boyne, victor of his quest.

Captain Sorly mac Donnell related this Fionn tale to his caballeros in Spain and related the old Irish proverb:

'A man lives after his lifetime but he lives not after his Honor.'

The Fenian cycle is still revered today.
Carrying over in text from Old Irish to Middle Irish, events from the first century down to the christain law of 431 AD.

The cycle was cultivated down from the 17 century until the coming of the English rule.
It was given full literary consideration by Jeffery Keating in 1632 when he wrote his 'Fears Forsa' and a late great compilation by Lady Gregory 'Gods and Fighing Men' a compilation of folk tales regarding these men and their romances and adventures published by Herself in 1903.

The Fenian cycle encompasess 1000 years of Irish history.
Oisin relating his tale to Patrick 300 years after the heyday of Fianna about 132 AD.

Its earliest recorded appearance in the literature of 1400 AD going back to 400 BC, 100 years before Uchtgaine Mor, Ard Ri.

The Fenian was decribed as having a

clear heart gloine ar Droide
a strong hand gus nert ar ngeag
a true speech isbeart do reir m briathar


Judi Donnelly
copyright 30 Jan 2011

sourse: Gaelic Literature Surveyed, Aodh de Blacam, Barnes Noble Books, NY

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