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Life on the Fringe - 19: More Gaelic Myths, Immortals and a Look at the Isle of Man

Updated on May 12, 2019

Light - and darkness - at the end of the earth...

An Irish shore in the evening - like the old stories, full of surprises, twists and turns
An Irish shore in the evening - like the old stories, full of surprises, twists and turns | Source
The early kingdoms of Ireland - a polyglot of sometimes conflicting interests in the same vein as mainland Britain
The early kingdoms of Ireland - a polyglot of sometimes conflicting interests in the same vein as mainland Britain
Goibhiniu hard at work, forging weapons for gods and heroes in the far west of the isle
Goibhiniu hard at work, forging weapons for gods and heroes in the far west of the isle | Source

Goibhiniu

Like Thor in Norse mythology, he was a blacksmith with his heavy hammer. One of a trio of craft gods linked with the Tuatha de Danann, the other two were Creidhne and Luchta. Creidhne was the metal worker, who would have made the gods' weapons.Luchta the carpenter or wright who would have built the chariots for the gods. The three of them made and mended the magic tools and weapons of the clan that inflicted wounds no mere mortal would recover from.

Goibhiniu was also known as the host of feasts in the Otherworld, where those who drank a special ale would become immortal, impervious to pain or wounding.

Immram... the sea crossing

Immram, a fantastical, long sea crossing to an unknown island kingdom...
Immram, a fantastical, long sea crossing to an unknown island kingdom... | Source

Immram

The name given to the two main categories of ancient Irish writings; the other is Echtral.

Immram indicated a tale about a long sea crossing, usually highly imaginative and fantastical, to an island kingdom (it could be inhabited by humankind or otherworldly beings).

The Echtral was a story about a journey by a man or men to an otherworldly land either by crossing water many times or by gaining access through a sidh or burial mound

Ingcel

An ogre with one eye that had three pupils, Ingcel was said to have been a son of the king of Prydain (Britain, where the Romans got the name Britannia).

He went into exile, landing on Ireland's shore and with the foster-brothers of Conaire Mor - the high king and other malcontents - plundered in Ireland. Back in Britain they slew Ingcel's father, mother and brothers.

Ingcel and the other marauders beset Da Derga's Hostel and slew Conaire - who had ignored portents that indicated he would die horribly if he went there.

Tail-chaser carving - see the legend of Ioruaidhe or Ruaidhri
Tail-chaser carving - see the legend of Ioruaidhe or Ruaidhri | Source

Ioruaidhe or Ruaidhri, Brian, Iuchar, and Iucharba

IORUAIDHE or IORUADAIDHE According to legend a kingdom whose ruler owned a hound that could not be beaten in a fight. It could bring down any wild beast and could turn the water it swam in into wine. Taking the hound alive and back to Ireland was one of the tasks put on the sons of Tuirenn (see also below) as a form of punishment for the slaying of Cian. The brothers took the king of Ioruaidhe hostage, offering to free him as long as they were given the hound.

This is another case of legend meets confusion. As a famous newspaperman said, "Never let the facts get in the way of a good story".

Ruaidhri means 'red king' from Gaelic 'ruadh' meaning red, combined with the 'ri' ending, meaning king gives the name of the last high king of Ireland who reigned in the 12th Century, possibly at the time of the Norman invasion of Ireland under William 'Strongarm' de Clare at the behest of the king of Leinster. Soon after that King Henry II of England launched a larger scale invasion with the blessing of the only English pontiff Nicholas Brakespear who sat on the throne of St Peter as Adrian IV.

IUCHAR,(with IUCHARLA and BRIAN or BRIEN) was a son of Tuirenn. The three brothers who murdered Cian did not reckon with his son Lugh, who swore to avenge the death of his father.

He made the brothers gather some magical objects needed by the Tuatha de Danann for the second battle of Magh Tuiredh. Fearful of his vengeance they did his bidding but died later, of injuries sustained on completing the last task (see above)

Man and the mists of time

Grazing for sheep is rich around the cliffs overlooking the sea. A breed of sheep is raised on the Calf of Man off the southern end of the isle that originated in Scandinavia
Grazing for sheep is rich around the cliffs overlooking the sea. A breed of sheep is raised on the Calf of Man off the southern end of the isle that originated in Scandinavia | Source
The Calf of Man Crucifixion slab - the stuff of legend, with the Roman soldier (bottom left) and his spear who tests to see if the crucified are still alive
The Calf of Man Crucifixion slab - the stuff of legend, with the Roman soldier (bottom left) and his spear who tests to see if the crucified are still alive | Source
Location of the Isle of Man in the Irish Sea between the four countries of the UK and Ireland
Location of the Isle of Man in the Irish Sea between the four countries of the UK and Ireland | Source
The Manx coast cliffs would have looked forbidding to those who plied the sea in coracles, until seafarers came to where the harbour towns of Douglas, Port Erin and Peel were later established
The Manx coast cliffs would have looked forbidding to those who plied the sea in coracles, until seafarers came to where the harbour towns of Douglas, Port Erin and Peel were later established | Source

The Isle of Man, where legend meets history

Nestling in the Irish Sea equidistant from the Scots' kingdom of Dalriada to the north, Ulster to the west and the Kingdom of the Strathclyde Britons to the east, the Isle of Man received three Celtic missionaries from the 5th Century AD onward. Anglesey and North Wales were further away to the south. Carvings such as the 8th Century Calf of Man crucifixion slab testify to their having been there.

Later more heavily influenced by West Norse culture that filtered south from the Northern Isles, Caithness and Sutherland, the island saw less Gaelic settlement - although after the 10th Century Norse settlement Manx children by Norse fathers were widely given Gaelic names by their mothers in a cultural cross-fertlisation process that continued throughout early Manx development.

An interesting form of cultural hybridisation took place between the two cultures. Sculptures and memorials created by Norse craftsmen incorporated Celtic high cross framework and some symbols and pattern-work linked with these - i.e., knotwork - also included characters from Norse mythology as well as runes. The world serpent, Jormungand - intertwined with other legendary figures - was a favourite of these stonemasons who created the images in vertical wall panels.

Next: Book of Kells, Kings and Knights

See below for description
See below for description | Source

Ireland, Scotland and Man share a Gaelic history, mythology and migration. Take a journey with Douglas Hyde through these pages, share some of the dark and brooding past of the far-flung wilds of humanity

© 2013 Alan R Lancaster

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    • alancaster149 profile imageAUTHOR

      Alan R Lancaster 

      5 years ago from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire)

      Thanks DDE - have you toured the rest of the series? I shall add another one this evening, something to look for tomorrow. You're about an hour or so ahead of us, so you'll need to get your beauty sleep before you can scan it, beginning with the Book of Kells.

      Take a look around on the Profile page as well. Out of 255+ Hub pages there'll be something else you take a fancy to.

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 

      5 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      LIFE ON THE FRINGE - 19: More Myths, Immortals and a Look at the Isle of Man this is such an interesting hub and allows my imagination to flow through in deep thought. Great photos and so well written. Voted up, interesting and useful

    • alancaster149 profile imageAUTHOR

      Alan R Lancaster 

      5 years ago from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire)

      It's all available - just take a look around, Graham. Ta for the visit all the same. Glad you enjoyed it. One more to come next week!

    • old albion profile image

      Graham Lee 

      5 years ago from Lancashire. England.

      Well done Alan. Where do you find such knowledge? Lovely images both old and modern.

      Graham.

      Voted up and all.

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