GEMMA GRANT introduces a new series on the myths and legends of Ireland
Attempting to trace the origins of our ancient homeland, Ireland’s myths and legends have weaved together a rich and colourful legacy, that place the tales among the most captivating to be found. For example, Ireland’s ancient beginnings have been linked to Noah and the great flood.
The ancient historic tales, contained within Lebor Gabála Érenn (The Book of the Taking of Ireland), informs that Noah’s granddaughter, Cesair, was the first to arrive in Ireland. Coupling the Old Testament with legend, Irish mythology describes Cesair as a great leader and one of the first goddesses of Ireland.
From her lineage came the second wave of Mediterranean settlers, the Parthalonians, descendants of Japhet, son of Noah. Their tenure, we are told, was short-lived due to continued battles with the dreaded Formorians and plague that eventually destroyed the Parthalonians.
Continuing to receive new visitors, Ireland saw the arrival from central Eurasia of the Nemedians, believed to be distant relatives of the Parthalonians, who arrived some thirty years after the demise of their distant cousins. The Nemedians built two royal fortresses in Armagh and Antrim.
Their chief druid, Mide, who lent his name to Meath, lit the first fire in the area which burnt for seven years. Continuing the work of the Parthalonians, the Nemedians built fortresses, cleared forest land where lakes sprang forth and were quite successful in defeating the Formorians during successive battles.
However, they too were eventually defeated by the Formorians and scattered to various parts. Some of their race later escaped captivity from Greece by stealing boats belonging to the king and made their way to Ireland where they became known as the Fir Bolg, (bag men).