"The Salmon of Wisdom"

The Fianna of Ireland were noble fighting men. Their motto was "Truth in our hearts, streangh in our hands, our deeds according to our word". No man could join the Fianna untill he was able to recite twelve books of poetry, defend himself against the spears of nine warriors, run trhough woods without breaking a twig, leap over a stick the hight of himself, pass under a stick as low as his knee and take a thorn from his foot while running. The chief of the Fianna was Cumhall, father of Fionn. Fionn was only a small child when his father was killed in battle by the men of Clan Morana. His mother was afraid that Clan Morana would try to kill Fionna also. She asked two wise women to take him to a safe place and cared for him.
The wise women took Fionn to a lonely dwelling deep in the woods of Slieve Bloom. the young boy learned from them all that they knew. They taught him to swim by throwing him into a deep pool and leaving him to make his own way out of it. To make him learn to run swiftly they made him herd hares in a field which had no fence or hedge.

Fionna grew up straight and tall. At last the time came for him to leave the wise women and go to the ancient druid, Finneigeas, to learn the art of poetry. Finneigeas lived in a small cabin besid the river Roinne. He had chosen that place because it is always beside water that poetry is revealed to poets. Near to his cabin was a deep pool overhung by the branches of the nine hazel trees of wisdom. Nuts of wisdom fell from this tree into the pool and in the pool lived Fiontan, the salmon of wisdom.

It was fortold that whoever first ate of this salmon would possess all the wisdom in the world. Finneigeas had fished for seven years, but failed to catch the salmon of wisdom. A short time after Fionn came to him he fished for the salmon and succeded in catching it.
Finneigeas was delighted. He instructed Fionn to cook the salmon but not eat any of it. Fionn cooked the salmon with care, turning it over and over. When it was ready he served it to his master.
Finneigeas saw that Fionn was changed. In his eyes shone the light of wisdom. "Tell me boy, have you eaten any of this salmon? he asked". "No master, I have not, but as I turned the salmon I burnt my thumb and put it in my mouth".
Finneigeas saw that Fionn had received the wisdom of the salmon. "Here" he said, returning the fish to him. "Take the salmon of wisdom and eat it since you have tasted it first".

Fionn ate the salmon and became possessed of all the wisdom of the world. From that time, he had only to bite the thumb which he burned and he could discover the secrets of hidden magic and see into the future.

"Now you must go away from this place for there is nothing more I can teach you", said Finneigeas sadly. Fionn took leave of his teacher, and in return for his kindness he made this poem:
"How sweet and lovely is May. The blackbird whistles in the living wood. And the cuckoo is singing, singing, singing; small bees carry their harvest reaped from the flowers; the harp of the woods playes itīs music. And the river rushes are wispering together"....

"The Children of Lir"

Lir was a king of Tuatha De Danann, the fairy race who inhabite Ireland long ago. When his wife died, Lir mourned deeply but was comforted by his love for his children. He had four children, Fionnuala, Aodh, Fiachra and Conn.

After a time he married his wifeīs sister Aoife. At first Aoife seemed to love the children. But when she saw how their father loved them she became jealous. She wnet to a wicked druid and asked for his help. He gave her a magic wand.

Next day she took the children for a drive in her chariot. Fionnuala did not want to go because she had dremed an evil dream about her step-mother. However, Aoife forced the children to come with her.
She drove to the shore of Lough Derravarragh. There she  stopped and ordered the children to bath in the lake. they were afraid to disobey. As soon as they entered the water Aofie struck each of them with a magic wand and turned them into swans.

"We have done you no wrong". Fionnual cried, for although she was a swan she still had the power of speech. "Tell us how long our enchantment will last". For nine hundred years you will know only the wild waters and the sound of the crying  of birds". Said Aofie scornfully. "You will remain on Logh Derravarragh for three hundred years, three hundred more on the cold sea of Moyle, and the last three hundred years on the bay of Erris. the spell will be broken when you hear the sound of a holy manīs bell".

"were are the children?" Lir asked when Aoife came home alone. 
"I do not know". the wicked queen replied. 
Lir did not belive her. He set out at once to search for his children and as he drove past Lough Derravarragh he heard their voices calling him. He saw the four swans at the waterīs edge. They cried out with the voices of his children.

"Who has done this to you?" he asked.
"Our step-mother placed this cruel enchantment on us. There is nothing anyone can do to help us till the end of nine hundred years", Fionnuala said. Lir sat all night by the lake and wept. His children comforted him with sweet fairy singing. In the morning he returned to his castle and called Aoife to him.
"You have done me wrong" he said. "From this time you will be a wich of the air".
Aoife cried out in terror but Lirīs magic overpowerd her. She flew up in the air and dissappeared, screaming, on the wind.

Lir returned to Lough Derravarragh. Try as he might he could think of no spell to undo the evil enchantment. Years passed and he grow old and grey. People heard of the swans whose song could cure the pain of sorrow and came to listen to them.

At the end of three hundred years it was time for the swans to fly north to the sea of Moyle, a place of black clouds and foaming waves. Fionnuala said, "If we are scattered by storm, let us meet at this rock". Time after time the swans were dashed apart by the stormy sea. each time Fionnuala went to the rock and watched for her brothers who came to her, cold and exhausted. She sheltered Fiachra and Conn under her wings and put Aodh under the downy feathers of her breast.

They remained for three hundred years on the sea of Moyle, lashed by storm and frozen by sharp north winds. Then they flew west to Erris where the west winds drove the waves against the roky shore forcing the children to seek shelter in the frozen bay. They stayed there for three hundred years untill at last they were free to leave.

"Let us fly home to father", Fionnuala said. Eagerly they flew across Ireland to the hill were Lirīs castel had stood but found only green mounds overgrown with thistles and nettles. They knew then that their father and friends of their childhood were gone.
Heartbroken, they flew away. As night fell they came to a small Island on a lake and stoped there. They sang their fairy songs and the birds came to listen to them. In the morning they were starled by a strange sound. "It is only the chapel bell of a holy man", said the birds. They children sang their sweet songs till the holy man heard them and came to listen. The enchantment was broken and the swans turned back into children. They told him they were the children of Lir. He brought them to his hut to care form them.

The children of Lir lived happily with the holy man, glad that their years of sorrow were ended...

"The sea woman"

There was a fisherman who was spreading his net near the seashore one day when he heard a sweet voice singing a strange lonsome song. He looked to see where the singing came from. On a rock at the edge of the waves he saw a beautiful sea maiden combing her long hair and singing. He saw that she had taken off the magic can which sea people wear under water and left it sitting beside here on the rock. He crept up behind her while she combed and sang, and when he was close enough, he seized her in his arms. the sea maiden screamed and struggled but could not escape. the fisherman carried her to his house and hid her magic cap in the potato pit nearby, so that she could not go back to the sea. The sea maiden was so beautiful that he fell in love with her and took her for his wife.

At first the neighbours wondering where the beautiful woman came from. the fiasherman told them that was washed ashored from a shipwreck and beacuse she could not speak their tongue and sang such strange songs, they belived him. They noticed that she had a strange way of looking at the sea from time to time, as if she had left something there, but after a while they stoped wondering about that.

One day the fisherman decided to bring his wife to the town. As they drove away from the sound of the sea his wife looked anxicusly over her shoulder. Terrified to be so far from the sea, she jumped from the trap and ran back the way they had come.

Years passed and children were born to the fisherman and the sea woman. He grew so accustomed to having her for his wife that he almost forgot how he found her and only remembered when he put his potatoes in the pit each year and saw the magic cap.
One day he went to a fair. While he was gone his wife prepared dinner. She found that there were no potatoes in the creel in the kitchen and , since she could not wait for her husband to come home. she took the creel herself and went to the potatoe pit. As she gathered the potatoes she saw her cap sticking out from under them. She dropped the creel and pulled out the cap.
For a moment she hesitated. She looked at the small white house which was her home for so long and listened to the cries of her children at play. Then she heard the sound of a wave breaking on the strand and she quickly left the potato pit carrying the cap in her hand. "Mother, were are you going?" her children called as she ran towards the sea shore.
They followed, sobbing, because she would not look back at them. Not untill she reached the waterīs edge did she finally turn and  give her children a long lonesome look before putting on the cap and diving into the sea.
The fisherman never saw the sea woman again. The sea womanīs children stayed with their father but they sometimes gazed at the sea with a lonesome look, as if hoping for a glimpse of their mother. And it was said that neather they nor their decendants ever at fish, for fear of eating one of their own relations.

"The story of Bran"

They youngest sister of Fionn MacCumhaillīs mother was very beautiful. She married the chief of the Fianna of Ulster but did not know that her husband had already promised his love to a fairy woman.

When the fairy woman heard of the marriage she was jealous. She stole the new bride away and cats a spell on her, turning her into a hound. While the enchantment lasted, the hound gave birht to two pups. Fionn found out what had happend and forced the fairy woman to undo the wicked spell. However the two pups could not be changed so Fionn took them into his care. He called them Bran and Sceolan.

They grow up to be swift and beautiful hounds. Bran was small and wise, with more human understanding. She was Fionnīs favourit hound. He gave her a colloar of gold to wear and led her on a silver leash.
One day, when Fionn and his men were out hunting, a fawn started up before them. Thy chased it till men and dog were tired, all except Fionn, Bran and Sceolan, who followed the fawn into a deep valley. Suddenly the fawn stopped and lay down. Bran and Sceolan know at once it was an enchanted creature. They gently licked its face and neck. Fionn was surprised but trusted the wisdom of his hounds and did not harm the fawn.

He turned to go back to the castel of Fianna and the fawn followed. As they passed through the gates of the castle it turned into a beautiful maiden with long golden hair. "My name is Sive", she explained. The dark Druid changed me into a deer fro refusing his love. But here in the castle of the Fianna I am free of his power".
Fionn fell in love with Sive and she became his wife. For a whole year they were together. Then Fionn had to go away to wage battle against an enemy of Ireland.

While he was gone, Sive watched for his return. One day she saw a cloud of mist coming towards the castle and in the mist she saw Fionn with Bran and Sceolan at his heels.
She ran out to meet them. The mist opened. The Dark Druid, not Fionn, was there. Sive tried to turn back but the druid struck her with a hazel rod, turning her into a fawn once again. He set his dogs on her and they disappeard into the mist.

Fionn was heartbroken. He searched for Sive in every part of Ireland. Bran and Sceolan were the only hounds he brought with him because he could trust them not to harm Sive if they found her.
At the end of seven years he gave up the searche. then one morning while he was hunting on the steep side of Benbulben, his hounds raised their voices and raced into a vally. Fioon followed and found Bran and Sceolan driving the other hounds back from a golden-haired boy. Fionn questioned him but the boy could not speak. "We will take him home with us". Fionn said.
Bran and Sceolan loved the little boy and played with him constantly, after a while he learned to speak and told Fionn of a deer whom he loved dearly. He remembered and evil man who whould speak to the deer and go away in anger. At last the the angry man struck the deer with his hazel rod and forced her to folow him, leaving the boy all alone in the valley where Fionn had found him.
Fionn realised that this was his son. He gave him the name Oisin which means little fawn.

Years passed but Fionn hoped always to find Oisinīs mother. One misty morning he was hunting on Benbulben. Bran started forward, baving at the scent of a deer. Fionn could not see in the mist. He was afraid that the deer was Sive and forgot that he should trust Bran to know. To silnce her, he struck her with her silver leash. At first Bran woundered at at being strukce by Fionn. Then she looked sadly at him and turned away. She ran down the mountainside to the dark lake which leads to the other world and plunged inti it. Fionn was sorry for what he had done but he never saw Bran again.

Yet still on moonlit nights Bran and Sceolan can be seen, playing among the thickets, where the castle of Fianna once stood. And sometimes when the mist of morning covers Benbulben, the cry of a hound in chase echoes from itīs hidden peak...




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