Story Archaeology

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

Author Archive: Chris Thompson

Fochard Bríde

According to the early hagiographies, St. Brigid was born at Fochard Muirtheimne, a few miles north of Dundalk, about 450 CE. Though  of the strength of this tradition, the place  later became known as Fochard Bríde. On the hill nearby, are the remains of an Iron Age fort, a Norman motte-castle and a medieval church. St Brigid’s …

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Brig and Rúadán

It was the first time keening had been heard in the green land of Ireland.  The poetry of mourning, the ritual of the eulogy.  Brig keened for her lost son, her impetuous red-headed boy, Rúadán. Rúadán was dead, killed by the spear of Goibniu, and the smithcraft of the Dé Danann, killed as a spy …

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Heapstown Cairn ~ The Well of Octriul

Heapstown cairn is not impressive; well, not at first view.  Not far away, high on the slopes of the Bricklieve hills, set against the skyline are the bald, one-eyed heads, like ancient Formoire giants.  There are so many cairns, each evoking mystery and speculation. Then there is Heapstown, the greatest of all cairns outside the Boyne …

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A Pilgrimage to Abydos

Getting to Egypt had always been the goal of a pilgrimage for me. This had been the case since my uncle, a very scholarly man, with a wonderful sense of humour and a gift of teaching, first took me to the British museum. I was ten and putting together a school project on 12th century illuminated …

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John Barleycorn

John Barleycorn is the titular character of a popular English and Scottish  folk-song,  found in a number of versions  going back, at least, to the sixteenth century. John Barleycorn is given as  the personification of  ‘the nut brown ale’ (or the uisce beatha) and all the process the grain goes through in order to provide the welcome drink.  The …

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Airmed’s Story

The green grey morning is soft with mist. Airmed sits on the soft earth of the mound, her yellow cloak spread empty before her covering the damp earth. All around her lie green herbs, no longer fresh and growing for they were harvested in hope and are now scattered in sadness. Airmed gathers the measure …

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Jeremiah Curtin and the Oral Tradition

In our update on Ethliu, Mythical Women revisited: Series 5.3, we discussed the story of the birth of Lugh. The only available version of this story, Balor on Tory Island is to be found in “Hero Tales of Ireland” a book of orally narrated stories collected by folklorist and ethnologist Jeremiah Curtin and published in 1894. Jeremiah …

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The Birth of Lugh ~ a story

  The air was rippled with watery sunshine. But through one small round window shone a bright brave sunbeam, clear and golden, cutting its way into the dim glow of the room. And in its cutting sat Ethlinn. She sat still, facing the window, facing the clear light, the fresh air; and a tear flowed …

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Navan Fort – Stories and Archaeology

Emain Macha, known as Navan Fort, is one of the main settings for the great heroic tragedies of the Táin Bó Cullainge, as well as many other stories of great feats and tragic losses. Here we find Conchobar mac Nessa, the legendary king of Ulster, the poison-tongued Bricriu, Cathbad the druid who foretells the fate of Deirdre …

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The Mabinogion and the story of Rhiannon

Our podcast Macha – revisited refered to similarities between the tale of Rhiannon and Macha.  . You can read the full story of  Pwyll, son of Dyved and the story of Rhiannon  in a translation by Will Parker,  on his ecxcellent site  Mabinogi.net. A brief  background  to these medieval Welsh texts The stories, now known as …

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