Story Archaeology

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

The Dagda’s Cauldron ~ A home-brew supplemental

Gobekli TepeIn the audio article ‘The Dadga’s Cauldron’  I was speculating, in a somewhat lighthearted moment, that the transformative element of the Dagda’s wonderful cooking pot from which no-one went away unsatisfied might have been connected to memories of early fermentation processes, i.e. the brewing of beer.   There has been plenty of evidence for feasting at midwinter in Neolithic times, and earlier. The excavations at Durrington Walls,  (near Stonehenge), England,  have provided plentiful evidence for mid-winter pig roasts for a start. Maybe they also had beer to wash it down.

It is hardly surprising that  the brewing of alcohol, especially simple beers was a skill that an early ‘art’.  It has been  said that the pyramids in ancient Egypt were built on beer, the mainstay of the willing and skilled workers was largely quid bread.  However, in recent years archaeologists have been coming to the realisation that the brewing of beer may have been one of the kick starters that began the  long and on-going process leading to  the cultivation of crops and domestication of animals.

It is not hard to imagine that if places were needed for hunter-gathers to meet, trade, celebrate, then exchange and sharing of ideas and stories  might have been smoothed and encouraged by the availability of a safe (safer than water)  and nourishing drink with pleasant additional effects.  It is also possible to speculate that the groups of people responsible for gathering  and processing  the wild grain might have soon realised that settling down close to these celebratory enclosures, perhaps even planting the grain  where they needed it would saved a lot of time and effort. They might have even discovered that the left-over mash was a suitable feed for cattle. Hmm! now they would be able to offer meat, cheese, milk and beer without hunting or gathering themselves.

And so it all  began! I kind of like the idea that the first people might  have settled in order to provide celebratory parties rather than to create spaces where people might gather merely to placate  gods. There is evidence that the enclosures at Gobekli Tepe, in Eastern Turkey which date from Mesolithic times,  provided beer for their visitors.  This site is astonishing. I visited it a few years ago while Klaus Schmidt was still alive. I have included a few pictures below. They are not all mine. They were just creating a wooden cover at the time. It was hard to get good photos. I have also included a couple of excellent articles,  about the site including one which refers to the evidence for beer production.

 The role of cult and Feasting in Neolithic Communities (with excellent pictures of Gobekli Tepe)

An article about beer production at Gobekli Tepe

Gobeki Tepe carved stone





A few years ago, I remember Isolde and I discussing the possibility of the Dagda’ cauldron as a  leather  bag used for brewing beer, a genuine ‘Santa sack’ indeed. However, since then I read about a couple of Irish experimental archaeologists, Billy Quinn and Declan Moore, from Galway,  who were already on the case.  They had been speculating that the commonly found ‘Fulacht Fiadh’ field monuments could have been ideal  for beer brewing. You can read about their findings through the link below.

 The Fulacht fidha and Brewing


Now I am a wimp and a lightweight  when it comes to alcohol but I think I could manage to open a good Irish craft beer this Solstice and raise a toast to the Dagda and his Cauldron of Abundance!


The Dagda’s Cauldron ~ A Seasonal Special!


The Dagda with his cauldron of abundance, from which none leave unsatisfied, epitomises the deep and ancient yearning we  feel for mid-winter indulgence and  good company.  It may be that the cauldron had more to offer than just a solid meal. Join Chris, from the Story Archaeologists, as she dips into this extravagant cooking pot.

This audio article is based on a piece published in the new book Harp, Club and Cauldron: A harvest of Knowledge published by Eel and Otter Press. It is an entrancing and informative anthology, well worth adding to your physical or digital library and the Story Archaeologists were proud to be asked to offer three articles to the book.

I will be adding further picture articles connected to The Dagda’s Cauldron article: .(Images of Gobekli Tepe and information on recent Iron age Feasting finds), shortly.

 Harp, Club and Cauldron A harvest of Knowledge:

Find on

Find on

Addendum: I haven’t checked but I think I referred to the German archaeologist who was responsible for the dig at Gobekli Tepe, for so many years, as ‘George’  rather than ‘Klaus’ Schmidt. I can’t imagine why I said that. Klaus Schmidt sadly died in 2014.

Music: “Tam Lin” by Gian Castello

Some questions answered by The Story Archaeologists

From "The Book of Conquests" by Jim Fitspatrick

We regularly receive questions from listeners and readers. We try to answer them as soon as we can but many are well worth exploring in more detail. Here we discuss just three. Firstly there is the problem of ‘coir’, a word that we use regularly in episodes to express an important but complex concept. Another term we frequently use is  ‘poet’ to cover a number of similar roles in early Irish society. In this discussion, Isolde gets to explain about  the many grades of poet that existed, File, Bards, and even Bramble Hounds! The third discussion concerns the thorny issue of who were the Celts, anyway. Join the Story Archaeologist  as they enjoy teasing out a few possible answers.

The Mysteries of Midir: a Samhain Special

Isolde recording


What did happen to Midir? Why does he appear in so few stories? It is a mystery. A murder mystery? Could be. Certainly Midir’s  reputation was usurped and he, himself, seems to have been, effectively,  ‘disappeared!

For a more ‘in depth’ examination of this topic go to:

In Search of Midir 

or In Search of Manannán

This short recording was originally made for an on-line conference hosted by Vyviane Armstrong. The weekend conference was entitled  “Tuatha Dé Danann. Our Tribe and Theirs”. Some of you may have already heard this presentation but, for our other listeners, I thought I would upload the recording. It is good to get Isolde back ‘on the mike’ and your donations have helped her to find new equipment that allow her to record lying down. We hope to record the promised, Q &A very soon.

This was the  seventh conference in the series  ‘A Year With The Gods. There was  a very interesting and varied programme and Isolde and I were delighted to be involved.’ If you would like to know more more about Vviane’s future events, do  contact her for more details.

Vyviane Armstrong
Land Sea Sky Travel


The Otherworld and How to Get There!

William Robinson: Tallanbanna with cloud front. 1988

William Robinson: Tallanbanna with cloud front. 1988

So many of the old Irish stories tell of an Otherworld that lies so close to our own. If you want to discover what the stories have to  say about getting there, what you might find when you arrive,  and when, or if, you might return, then join Chris in this audio-article exploration.

Apologies for the quality of recording in Isolde’s opening message. When we have fully implemented the new recording set-up,  allowing effective recording while Isolde is lying  down,  it will be much improved.

Links to podcast episodes referenced in this audio-article.

Oisín and Niamh

And that picture of Niamh and Oisín in my bathroom?

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by The Story Archaeologists

Music: “Tam Lin” by Gian Castello

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?


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.


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.

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