Other Appearances of the Morrigan
As discussed in the podcast, there are several other notable appearances which the Mór Rígan makes through Irish Mythology. Below, I have produced a translation of the Dindshenchas poem, “Odras”. Before we get to her, here are links to some of her other roles:
Esnada Tige Buichet, “The Melodies of the House of Buchet”.
This is “the other side” of the Odras story. Odras is not even named in this tale. If you want to have a go at the Old Irish text, you can read it here. If you’re happy with Myles Dillon’s “synopsis” (which misses out the passages of rosc poetry), you can read it here.
Táin Bó Cuailgne, “The Cattle Raid of Cooley”
The Mór Rígan plays a crucial role in Cú Chulainn’s involvement in the Táin. There are several versions, which you can compare and contrast!
Recension I, edited by Cecile O’Rahilly can be read here. Her translation can be read here. She has also produced an edition and translation of the version found in the Book of Leinster (LL); read the edition here and the translation here.
Every home should also have the version of the Táin by Thomas Kinsella, with illustrations by Louis le Brocquy, published in 1968. Order it through your local friendly bookshop! ISBN13: 9780192803733, ISBN10: 0192803735
Reicne Fothaid Canainne
This is the eulogistic poem discussed in the podcast. It gives us a glimpse of the Morrigan in her under-appreciated role as bringer of the dawn and good news. You can read the edition by Kuno Meyer here, and his translation here.
From the Metrical Dindshenchas, Vol. IV, edited by E. Gwynn
Translated by Isolde Carmody
1. Odras, úais ind ingen,
Odras, noble is the daughter –
fris’ indlem laíd lúaidme,
for whom we prepare this poem which we recite –
[daughter] of Pale Dawn of repute
meic Laidne meic Lúaidre.
Son of Latin [learning] son of Repute [?]
2. Ban-briugaid ba brígach
She was a vigourous woman-hospitaller
in gnímach glan gúasach,
that active, pure, dangerous [woman],
céile cáem co cruthacht
beloved and shapely comanion
do Buchatt balcc búasach.
to sturdy, cattle-rich Buchet
3. Bóaire cáid Cormaic
A cow-lord of revered Cormac
co roblait in Buchatt,
was this mighty Buchet
dúiscid búar co m-blaitne
He woke the strong herd
cach maitne for muchacht.
every morning, first thing
4. Fechtus luid dia ésse
Once, she went after him –
a ben glésse gasta,
– his brilliant, quick-witted wife
Odras rúad co romét,
Odras, red-headed and great-sized –
do chomét búar m-blasta.
to guard the tasty cattle.
5. Moch dia m-boí ‘na codlud
As soon as she was asleep –
Odras groc-dub gnóach,
Odras, dark-wrinkled [?] and busy –
dosrocht ben in Dagda,
– the Dagda’s woman reached her
ba samla día sóach [?].
In this way, [her] produce [soth] was [taken] from her
[NOTE: This is a very difficult line. Gwynn: “in this wise came the shape-shifting goddess”]
6. Tuc léi tarb in tnúthach,
She took with her the [most] important bull,
in rígan garb gnáthach,
that rugged constant queen,
baí i Líathmuine láthach,
which was in Líathmuine of the warriors,
[Líathmuine = Grey Scrubland. This was the plane which was flooded to form Lough Neagh]
in fíachaire fáthach.
that sagacious raven-lord
7. Dairis boin in búaball,
The ox covered a cow,
tarb túamann ‘nar taídenn,
the domestic [?] bull in our company
ó Themraig tric táraill
suddenly went from Temar
co slemnaib Fraích Oírenn.
to [the] flats of Óiriu’s Heath.
8. Slemon ainm in tairb-sin,
“Slippery” [was] the name of that bull,
dremon in dóel donn-sin:
That wild, clay-coloured beetle [i.e. as we may call someone a “worm”]
a ainm, mer cen mebsain,
his name – demented and undefeated –
‘sed rolen in fonn-sin.
It is [on] that basis [that] it has stuck to it [the place]
9. Luid co Crúachain cróda
She went to blood-stained Crúachán,
iarsind úath-blaid ágda
after the valourous, famous phantom
in Mórrígan mórda,
The exalted Great Queen,
ba slóg-dírmach sámda.
The hosting of warrior-bands was sated.
[NOTE: I have made a deliberate departure from Gwynn’s translation; “There came to blood-stained Cruachu, according to the weird and terrible tale, the mighty Morrigan, whose pleasure was in mustered hosts.”]
10. Luid Odras ‘na h-iarn-gait,
Odras went to steal with force [lit. “iron-theft”]
iarmairt nárbu ada,
a consequence [i.e. response?] that was not justified
‘s a gilla dúr dorthain,
And her sturdy, protecting, serving-boy
[NOTE: I interpret “dorthain” as a diminutive of “turtugud” – a special form of legal and physical protection within one’s home].
torchair i Cúil Chada.
He was felled in Cada’s Nook.
11. Cada ainm a gilla
“Voice” was the name of her serving-boy
rofinna mór fíche:
He discovered great feuds
ruc Odras, úair áithe,
Odras brought him, a keen time,
for lurg a búair bíthe.
to look for her submissive herd.
[NOTE: “bíthe” is the verbal noun of “benaid” – to strike. It literally means “beaten”. It is also a quality often ascribed to women, usually translated or glossed as “soft” or “demure”. It seems to me to indicate a woman being beaten into submission.]
12. Iarsin, d’éis a gilla,
After that, surviving her serving-boy,
luid in ben gléis glanda
The bright, pure woman went
co Síd Crúachan cumma,
to the shapely fairy-hill of Crúachan
co fríth úath-blad alla.
so that she found yonder famous phantom.
13. Roléic cotlud chuicce
She let sleep come to her,
in groc-dub cen glicce
the dark-wrinkled [?] one, guilelessly,
i nDaire úar Fhálgud
in the cold oak-wood of Fálga [on Sliabh Baghna,near river Shannon]
dia fúair sárgud sicce.
where she found harsh violation. [“sárgud sicce” may be a kenning or euphamism for death].
14. Dosruacht ina tathum,
She came upon her in her rest,
trúag tachur for tulaig,
wretched, that meeting on the moun,
in Mórrígan úathmar
the terrible Mórrígan
a h-úaim Chrúachan cubaid.
[came] out of the harmonious cave of Crúachán.
15. Rochan fuirre ind agda
She sang the instruction [?] over her
tria luinde cen logda
through her eagerness, without remission,
cach bricht dían, ba dalbda,
every dilligent incantation, it was magical,
fri Slíab mBadbgna m-brogda.
by the cultivated Scald-Crowish Mountain [Slíab Badbgna = Slieve Baune in East Roscommon]
16. Legais in ben brígach
The spirited woman melted away
fri Segais, sreb súanach,
by Segas, soothing stream,
mar cach linn cen líg-blad:
like any pool, without famous [memorial] stone
nísbaí brígrad búadach.
she had no powers of victory
17. Don tshruthán fháen fhoglas
For the level, pale-green stream
is ainm sáer co soblas,
its noble sweet-scented name
luid ón mnaí thrúaig thadaill
came from the wretched bleding woman
cosin abainn Odras. O.
to the river Odras.
bóaire, briugud & Buchet:
The name Buchet comes from bó, “cow”, and cét, “hundred”. It refers to part of the definition of a briugu, “hospitalier”, the highest grade of bóaire, “cow-lord” or “strong farmer”. To reach this noble status, the strong farmer must be able to count his cattle in hundreds, have a large house at the meeting of at least three roads, and dispense food, drink and shelter to all comers.
The site of the royal fort of Connaught and the cave, Ua na gCait, “The Cave of the Cats”, out of which the Mórrígan emerges in this poem and in the Táin Bó Cuailgne. Crúach means “corn-rick” or “heap”, and the suffix “-án” is a diminutive, often fond form. So this royal compound is described as “little heap”!
It is said in LL that Fraích Óirenn became known as Fraích Slemna after the Mór Rígan took the bull, Slemon, there. Describing the area as “slemnaib” is perhaps a play on this or just an indication of its later name-change. The best guess of where this might be is somewhere East of Temair.
This name comes from the word odar, a colour-word originating from fresh or clear water. See “Many Shades of Darkness” for more on this word.