Emerald Heritage | 5 Irish Myths & Legends
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Irish Legend Of Cu Chulainn

5 Irish Myths & Legends

Ireland, north, south, east and west, boasts a rich tapestry of myths and legends within her shores. We picked out a few of the most memorable. 

One: The Children of Lir

The Children of Lir is a famous, heartbreaking tale, of love and loss on the Emerald Isle. 

Two men, Bodb Derg and Lir, were vying for the position of King of the Tuatha Dé Danann but it was Bodb who was elected. As a gesture of goodwill Bodb gave one of his daughters, Aoibh, to Lir to marry. They lived a happy, fruitful marriage and Aoibh bore four children: Fionnuala, Aodh, Fiachra and Conn.

Disaster struck when Aoibh died and to help Lir’s heartache Bodh offered another of his daughters, Aoife, for marriage. Incredibly, Aoife became jealous of the love between Lir and his four children. She plotted against them and eventually used magic to turn them into swans and condemn them to a total of 900 years in this purgatory!

Two: Saint Brigid’s Magic Cloak

Saint Brigid, a County Louth native, was inspired by Saint Patrick to devote her life to Christianity and it was this devotion that brought her face to face with the King of Leinster. 

As a devoted servant to God, Saint Brigid knew that a proper place of worship was crucial and she located the perfect spot of land in Kildare. The only issue was it was owned by the King of Leinster. 

After initially being rejected by the King, Saint Brigid suggested that he grant her all the land she was able to cover with her cloak. The King, humoured by the suggestion, agreed.

The next day Saint Brigid gave her cloak to four friends. They each took a corner and began to walk north, south, east and west and the cloak began to grow and stretch the further they went. As they disappeared into the distance the King shouted stop and granted them what land was already covered. “I can now see that you are blessed by God” he said as he walked away. 

Three: Cú Chulainn

Irish Legend Of Cu Chulainn

Cú Chulainn, also known as Setanta in his younger years, was a fearsome Irish warrior known for his exploits with The Red Branch Knights, a collection of the most skilled and deadly warriors available to the King of Ulster, his uncle Conor MacNessa. 

His name, meaning “The Hound of Cuilan”, derives from an incident in which he had to kill Cuilan’s guard dog with a hurley stick for fear of death. As payback for this terrible incident Cú Chulainn vowed to guard Cuilan himself, until a suitable replacement dog could be found, and thus he became “The Hound of Cuilan.”

Four: Dagda’s Harp

Dagda, a man of magical gifts and incredible power, came to Ireland from lands in the north, most likely Scandinavia. He was a good and talented leader and this was partly due to his magical harp. 

The harp, beautiful in both sound and appearance, could raise morale, heal wounds and break hearts all with a few simple chords plucked by Dagda himself.

Naturally the harp was much sought after and, during a fierce battle with the Fomorians tribe, was eventually stolen. After much searching Dagda was reunited with his harp in a great hall and the notes he played sent his enemies to sleep before he departed to save Ireland from greater troubles in the future. 

Five: Finn MacCool

The legend of Finn MacCool is well known and this is largely due to his lasting legacy on the north of Ireland and the building of The Giant’s Causeway.

Born a fearsome giant, Finn fought all fights with ease but this all changed when he discovered Benandonner, a giant who made Finn look small, during his building of The Giant’s Causeway from Ireland to Scotland. 

With the help of his wife Oona, Finn was able to convince Benandonner that he was just a child and that his father was even greater in size. Fearing for his life Benandonner ran back to Scotland and tore up the causeway on his journey, leaving just a little bit behind. 


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