Story Archaeology

Uncovering the layers of Irish Mythology through a regular podcast and related articles.

Circling the Tain: 07 – The Pig and The Hound

A graphic showing a ringed planet, with a bull on the central planet, and images representing characters from the Táin on satelites around the planet

The briugu, Mac Dá Thó, is the proud owner of the marvelous hound, Ailbe. He also possesses a notorious pig. Now he finds himself faced with contending regional kings and their retinues of elite warriors, demanding the hound for themselves. Will serving up his gourmet pig at a grand feast save his bacon?

Join the Story Archaeologists as they share the boasting and bragging from the best of the warriors of Ulster, and Connaught, and beyond.

Read the text for yourself!

Bricriu’s Feast

Verba Scathaige – Scathach’s Words

We opened the episode “Women Warriors: The Training of Cú Chulainn“, with a reading, in Irish and English, of Verba Scathaige. This is the poem that Scáthach creates using her imbás forosna, one of the most advanced poetic techniques, used in story to see events far off in time and space. This attribute of Scáthach’s is reminiscent of the Mór Rígain, especially of her role in Cath Maige Tuired, the Battle of Moytura.

To compare this poem with the three roscada of the Mór Rígain in Cath Maige Tuired, you can read all three in “The Mór Rígain Speaks: Her Three Poems“.

Read more »

Could you help with ‘tech’ support?

Computer-ArgHi!

Isolde and I are not exactly ‘techies’. We are competent but not much more. We waste so much time when there are minor connectivity issues with the website or podcast. For instance, why do we have to connect every post to Facebook manually? It should connect automatically but it never does. Why not? I have no idea.

My son gives us some support but it would be SO much easier if there was someone, with an interest in the material who could keep an eye on things and offer support with the technical aspects of site administration. We are both, only too aware that there are many improvements that could be made if we had the time.  We would love to be able to dedicate all the limited time available to us to focus further on research and podcast preparation.

So, is there anyone out there who would be prepared to come on board and give us a hand? We would be delighted to talk with you.

Thanks

Women Warriors ~ The Training of Cú Chulainn

A graphic showing a ringed planet, with a bull on the central planet, and images representing characters from the Táin on satelites around the planet

The magnificent warrior women Scathach and Aife both play a major role in Cú Chulainn’s future life and exploits but they are not the only women who actively engage with out young hero..

Join the Story Archaeologists as they attempt to come to terms with the number of  dalliances and romantic interludes encountered   by the young man on his ventures to Scathach’s mysterious northern island in his quest to win his canny bride, Emer.

Read the text for yourself!

This episode discusses only the second half of this text. The first half was addressed in the previous episode, 6.05 : ‘The Wooing of Emer.”

The Wooing of Emer ~ Cú Chulainn meets his match

A graphic showing a ringed planet, with a bull on the central planet, and images representing characters from the Táin on satelites around the planet

Cú Chulainn meets his match

In this episode we get to meet the marvelous Emer, the woman who bests  the young Cú Chulainn, at least, in terms of her sharp witted and far-sighted eloquence.

Join the Story Archaeologists as we try to decode how Emer manages her young and unpredictable suitor and deals with her uncompromising father.

Read the text for yourself!

This episode discusses only the first part of this long text. The second half, where our hero goes to be trained in Alba, will form the basis of the next episode.

 

 

 

Circling the Táin 04: Harder, Faster, Stronger, Better – The Boyhood Deeds of Cú Chulainn

A graphic showing a ringed planet, with a bull on the central planet, and images representing characters from the Táin on satelites around the planet

Harder, Faster, Stronger, Better!

In this episode, we get to examine some remarkable exploits of one of the central figures in the Tain tradition: Cú Chulainn.  We explore stories told by some of the characters who know the hero, remembering him as a child.

Join the Story Archaeologists as we try to decide if  the young Cú Chulainn can be considered a ‘child prodigy’  or merely a ‘precocious brat’.

Read the texts for yourself!

Here are links to the texts and translations that we used for the childhood deeds of Cú Chulainn:

The Boyhood Deeds of Cú Chulainn.” Ancient Irish Tales. ed. and trans. Tom Cross and Harris Slover. NY: Barnes and Noble, 1996. reprint

The Boyhood of Cú Chulainn, from Táin Bó Cuailgne Recension 1; pp 135-148 [translation]: ed. and trans. Cecile O’Rahilly

The sections we refer to are under the following titles:

  • The Eulogy of Cú Chulainn
  • The Boyhood Deeds
  • The Death of the Boys
  • The Fight between Eógan mac Durthacht and Conchobar [aka Cú Chulainn and the Battlefield Phantoms]
  • The fate of the twenty-seven men and the reason why none dared to wound the Ulstermen when they were in their debility.
  • The killing of the Smith’s Hound by Cú Chulainn and the reason why he is called Cú Chulainn
  • The Death of Nechta Scéne’s Three Sons

 

Circling the Táin 03: The Birth Pangs of Ulster

A graphic showing a ringed planet, with a bull on the central planet, and images representing characters from the Táin on satelites around the planet

In this episode, we continue our exploration of the troublesome conceptions and births that stand behind much of the material of the Táin tradition. This time, we examine the births of the doomed Deirdre, the fated Cú Chulainn and re-re-visit the importance of Macha’s story.

Join the Story Archaeologists as we attempt to disentangle webs of prophecy and poor decision-making, and try to understand what all these little worms are about!

Read the texts for yourself!

Here are links to the texts and translations that we used for the birth of Deirdre:

from the Book of Leinster (LL)

Longes mac n-Uislenn – edited by Vernam Hull

The Exile of the Sons of Uisliu – translated by Vernam Hull

late version translated by Douglas Hyde

Deirdre

 

Here are the texts on Macha:

Noinden Ulad; The Story of Macha

More Stories of Macha – Revisited

An original translation of Compert Con Chulainn, the Conception of Cú Chulainn, will be uploaded in the coming days

Need some revision?

You may find it helpful to revisit our episodes on Macha:

Series 1 – Mythical Women; Episode 2 – The Story of Macha

Series 5 – Revisiting Mythical Women; Episode 2 – Revisiting Macha

 

Don’t forget to subscribe to get the latest posts! Related Articles will be posted in the days to come…

Story Archaeology is run on a voluntary not-for-profit basis. If you can afford a donation towards our running costs, we would be very grateful. The “Donate” button is on the right-hand-side of each page, or e-mail us for other ways to support our work.

Check our Reading List for further reading and resources.

by The Story Archaeologists

Music: “Tam Lin” by Gian Castello

Circling The Tain 02: Portents and Prophecies

A graphic showing figures from the Táin tradition imagined as a planet surrounded by rings and moons, with a couple of comets

The richly interwoven stories that make up the Táin tradition contain a wide diversity of characters. There is much to explore. Even their back stories have back stories!

In this episode, we explore the back stories of two such characters: the well-known Ulster king, Conchobar Mac Nessa, and the lesser-known Ulster hero, Conall Cernach.

Join the Story Archaeologists in the first of two episodes that uncover the significance of a few portentous conceptions and births.

Read the texts for yourself!

Scéla Conchobar, “The Tidings of Conchobar”, from the Book of Leinster.
Compert Conchobair, “The Conception of Conchobar”, from Rawlinson B512 (incorrectly referred to in the episode as from the Yellow Book of Lecan)
Compert Conchobair, “The Conception of Conchobar”, from Stowe 992
“The Conception of Conall Cernach”, from Cóir Anmann, “The Fitness of Names”
“The Conception of Conall Cernach”, translated by Patrick Brown

Links to other books referenced in the episode

“Even Cuneiform writing could not be managed left handed”: “The Ark before Noah” by Irving Finkel (highly recommended)
“The journey across the Alps in Táin Bó Fraoich”: “Worlds of Arthur.”  by Guy Halsall

Need some revision?

You may find it helpful to revisit our episodes on Fled Bricrenn, Bricriu’s Feast:

Fled Bricrenn 1: The Feasting Hall

Fled Bricrenn 2: The Road to Crúachán

Fled Bricrenn 3: Your Head or Mine?

Fled Bricrenn 4: A Head to Head Discussion

 

 

Don’t forget to subscribe to get the latest posts! Related Articles will be posted in the days to come…

Story Archaeology is run on a voluntary not-for-profit basis. If you can afford a donation towards our running costs, we would be very grateful. The “Donate” button is on the right-hand-side of each page, or e-mail us for other ways to support our work.

Check our Reading List for further reading and resources.

by The Story Archaeologists

Music: “Tam Lin” by Gian Castello

‘The Crucifixion of the Outcast’ ~ a story by W.B. Yeats

md18509757700

As I  mentioned in our recent Festivus Special, Aisling MacConglinne – A Satirical Tale of Extreme Gastronomy, I had  no more than a superficial familiarity with the text when we selected it for our 2016 mid-winter podcast.

It is one of Isolde’s favourite stories, so I was aware, that the story involved a poet’s vision of a land of sumptuous food.and that ts central theme was  a poet’s satire on the church. However,  I had not read the full text in any detail.

When I began to re-examine the text, I realised that the first part of the story was very familiar to me. This section focused on the quarrel between an abbot and the master poet, MacConglinne. This travelling scholar experienced a distinct lack of hospitality from the monks, and underwent appalling ill treatment at their hands.

While exploring thetext,  I remembered a short story that I had read in the very early seventies. It came from a collection of Irish short stories entitled “The Wild Night Company”, edited by Peter Haining with a foreword by the wonderful Ray Bradbury.   I have no recollection of where I acquired the book but it may be that I was attracted to its somewhat lurid cover. Now, when reviewing the contents of the book , I become aware that this is where I may have first encountered many of the Irish stories that I now know so well. Thy included one of the, if not the earliest, werewolf story, attributed to Geraldus Cambrensis, Oscar Wilde’s ‘Canterville Ghost’,   ‘Teighe O’Kane and the Corpse’ (see Corpse Carrying For Beginners ~a Samhain Special from a few years ago), and the atmospheric, ‘Witch Wood’ by Lord Dunsanywilliam_butler_yeats_by_george_charles_beresford

The W.B. Yeats story, included in the collection, was not one I had previously encountered even though, in 1971, when the book was published, I would have been studying Yeats at degree level.  I found out that it had originally been published in the anthology, ‘The Secret Rose’ (1897).

I was intrigued by the story but, at the time, felt that I was missing information that would allow me to decode its intentions. In ‘The Crucifixion of the Outcast’ Yeats replicates the first part of the story of MacConglinne in some detail,  His un-named poet or ‘ glee-man’ meets with the same  abuse and inhospitality as  MacConglinne,  but fails to escape his intended fate, the punishment of  crucifixion. The second part of the MacConglinne story, where the poet uses a poetic vision to revenge himself on the niggardly abbot and rescue the king from the demon of gluttony that inhabits him, is completely absent. Yeats’ version is a dark and brooding telling but stripped of the dark humour and extravagant satire of the original story it loses the impact of the original, text

Yeat’s partial re-telling is intended to form a diatribe on early medieval church practice. However, the full story offers so much more. It, too, is a  criticism on church law. It  illustrates what happens when the ancient laws of hospitality are ignored but it also points out that the traditional tool of legal satire is still very much alive and kicking.

There are, as mentioned, two sections of the story. The first part describes the treatment MacConglinne receives at the hands of the monks, the beatings, abuse and his, intended, vicious execution. In the second, the poet uses a description of a poetic vision of food to draw the demon of gluttony from the king.

At a first reading, the sections appear different both in tone and style. Both demonstrate the Master Poet’s quick wits and ready word-craft. The second section, however, comedic in style, has a purpose that does connect it to the poet’s initial reception. The king, who has been tricked into swallowing en-spelled fruit, has no poet to guard and guide him. Only a traditionally trained poet, whose innate abilities give him the power to travel the landscapes of both the temporal and the ‘Otherworld’, can save him.  Without this power, the king continues to devour the fertility of the land and neither, he or his people, will derive any benefit from it. The text warns that the land is close to ruin with its king under the curse of gluttony. MacConglinne, when he speaks the satire on Cork in the first art of the story, is not threatening a future event. he is merely stating a current threat.

Cork, wherein are sweet bells,
Sour is its sand,
Its soil is sand,
Food there is none in it.

The king needs his poet and MacConglinne demonstrates that the traditional Master Poet can succeed when the church can only bluster and threaten. The vision of a journey to a land of over-indulgence, is intended to be highly comedic and entertaining and yet it includes the clear message that hospitality is not just about consumption or extravagant feasting. If its cultural and social purpose, protected by the lore of the Master Poet  is lost, then hospitality, however lavish,  devolves to mere gluttony.

By contrasting the creative paucity of the monastic life with the individual master poet’s   free-handed hospitable, ever-flowing feast of words MacConglinne may also be offering a warning to poets.  Through his   luscious and wildly extravagant descriptions, he is surely passing wry comments on the effects of purple prose, perhaps a trait he, a master Poet,is beginning to recognise in non traditionally trained court entertainers..

Even today, the most effective satire juxtaposes dark comedy with exaggerated consequences. The Aisling MacConglinne is an effective satire. It is also a literary story of some skill and well worth reading. However, the Yeats story is also interesting in its own right. I am pleased to have re-encountered it, along with the other stories from a book that I last enjoyed many years ago.

You can read both texts through the links below. See what you think.

The Crucifixion of the Outcast by W.B. Yeats

The full text of Aisling MacConglinne

 

 

 

Winter Special 2016: Aisling MacConglinne – A Satirical Tale of Extreme Gastronomy

Illustration of "The Ghost of Christmas Present" from Dickens' "A Christmas Carol"The Midwinter festival has been a time of over indulgence and conspicuous consumption for millenia! This year, we dig in to the Middle Irish story, Aisling MacConglinne, “The Vision of MacConglinne”, a delicious debauch of extreme gastronomy.!

Join the Story Archaeologists in a feast of fantastical food, with a generous side order of sumptuous satire.

Read the full translated text here!

Don’t forget to subscribe to get the latest posts! Related Articles will be posted in the days to come…

Story Archaeology is run on a voluntary not-for-profit basis. If you can afford a donation towards our running costs, we would be very grateful. The “Donate” button is on the right-hand-side of each page, or e-mail us for other ways to support our work.

Check our Reading List for further reading and resources.

by The Story Archaeologists

Music: “Tam Lin” by Gian Castello

Facebook Auto Publish Powered By : XYZScripts.com