A series by Gemma Grant
So highly sought after was the Salmon of Knowledge, that the Druid and poet Finnegas spent years of his life fishing the Boyne river in the hope of catching the elusive fish. It was believed that the salmon swam into the world of Faery and ate berries, dropped from the tree of life. The berries from the tree contained all the knowledge of the mortal world and the mystical world of the Dé Danann, (the people of the goddess Danu).
The old Druid believed his life would not be complete until he had eaten the salmon and in so doing, would obtain all the knowledge of both worlds.
His quest was finally realised when he, at last, managed to catch the magical salmon. However, it was not to be. His joy was shattered when his young pupil, accidentally, tasted the salmon first.
The old Druid believed the prophesy, that a fair-haired man would eat the salmon, applied to him, as he had been fair-haired in his youth. The man the prophesy applied to was indeed fair-haired, young, handsome and would become a great warrior-leader of the mighty Fianna.
As a child he was known as Deimne, (little stag), but his fame would carry into legend when he became known as Fionn Mac Cumhaill, (Finn McCool).
The Fianna were an elite troop of warrior-bards, whose main task was to protect the high king of Ireland. At the head of the fighting force was Cumhall, father of Fionn. Cumhall headed up the Clan Baiscne faction of the Fianna and Clan Morna was under the leadership of the powerful warrior Goll Mac Morna. Cumhall had overall control of both factions and often found himself at loggerheads with his rival, Goll Mac Morna.
During the summer months, the Fianna roamed throughout Ireland, hunting and living off the land. When winter approached, they would often stay with the families of noblemen, entertaining them with stories of their adventures. They were also accomplished poets and musicians and their stay helped to shorten the winter months.
The added bonus for the householders, was the protection the seasoned warriors offered, if trouble threatened their host families.
During one such winter, Cumhall, with some of his men, stayed with the Druid, Tadhg. The Druid had a beautiful daughter called Muirne and Cumhall fell in love with her. When he asked Tadhg if he could marry his daughter, the Druid refused. Not to be outdone, Cumhall eloped with Muirne.
Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own