The Red Branch Tales.

The Red Branch Tales.

This topic contains 10 replies, has 1 voice, and was last updated by Beric .

  • Creator
    Topic
  • #6752

    Beric
    Forum Moderator
    @beric_debenkah

    The Red Man’s Waterfall : The Beginning Of Emain Mucha :

    Chapter One Of ‘The Red Branch Tales’.

    This part of The Red Branch Tales appears to be a reference to one of the old stories in which Macha had fiery red-hair, the suggestion also seems to reflect Maeve of Cruachan, who likewise appears to have red-hair, both Macha & Maeve become associated with fertility. The Brehon Laws were quite specific that a woman could not be the ruler over men, in fact, in ancient Ulaid, there was no provisions for queens as such, although some kings, most notable Ailill of Connacht, granted equal rights of command to their wives. Consequently, Maeve is often referred to as the warrior Queen Maeve, although technically she was the Chieftain’s wife.

    Although this detail appears first to be only a reference point in The Red Branch, its importance can not be ignored. Corann is in County Sligo, and it was on the banks of the River Unius that The Morrigan (Macha becomes The Morrigan) the triple goddess of war along with Morrigan & Badb, who then met Dagda, the king of the gods, where she was washing herself in the River Unius.

    Dagda & The Morrigan mated over the water, this being the ancient fertility ritual, after love-making The Morrigan told Dagda about the second battle of Mag Tuired, then she order Dagda to bring skilled fighters to the banks over the River Unius, which Dagda did.

    The Morrigan then killed Indech, a Fomorian who had opposed the Tuatha de Danann, she went to the battle with her sisters Badb & Macha, and together they brought down a cloud of mist and a furious rain of fire, after the battle The Morrigan prophesied the end of the world.

    The prophecy of The Morrigan suggest the beginning of the end, and as a reader I am only a few pages in, this prophecy was sparked by the death of Dithorba, as this event marks the end of the second seventh rule, it appears the Macha, by establishing the full Ulster rule, inevitably marks the beginning of the end as well.

    Here we have no reference to the theme of The Old Hag found throughout the Early Irish literature, this seems to be the source of the famous ‘washers of the ford’, in which a warrior sees an old hag washing clothes in the ford of a river, with the realisation that he is going to be killed in the next battle. The most famous example of this theme is when Cuchulainn rides forth to meet Maeve’s host in battle when she threatens the borders of Ulster after losing in ‘Tain Bo Cuailnge’ !

    ‘The Pangs Of The Ulaid’ :

    Chapter Two Of. ‘The Red Branch Tales’.

    In this part of The Red Branch, the mountains are not named in the tale, but tradition places these hills as the Mountains of Mourne ! The Red Branch unspoken warriors etiquette, turning to the right to answer the question posed was the socially correct reaction for a Red Branch warrior, however in skirmishes and warfare, turning to the left meant the heart-side of your comrade-in-arms.

    In harvesting corn and wheat in the Lughsada you had to be right-handed and sweep the scythe to the left, you were working in a chain, so sweeping the scythe by a left-handed harvester would have been very dangerous.

    Although in this chapter the name of the king does not appear, the reference is to Conchobor Mac Nessa.

    The name of ‘the strange son of the sea’, by this declaration, Macha has informed all there that they are dealing with a fate that is completely out of their control.

    Reference used : Randolph Lee Eickhoff. The author’s & reader’s reflection on The Red Branch Tales.


    forums +
    members +
    recent-activity


  • Author
    Replies
  • #7149
    Beric
    Forum Moderator
    @beric_debenkah
    Founding MemberPaying MemberHonorary Scribe
    Rank: Honorary Scribe

    The Battle Of Cumar :

    At this time the country side was safe to travel in, yet the women-folk were required to be escorted for courtly etiquette reasons and Irish chivalry, the female name of Erin is mentioned several times, suggesting the ancient anthropomorphised belief that the land that gave birth to wheat was feminine.

    This personification in Erin was familiar in the five kingdoms of Ireland, now the name of Erin is used poetically, Keating’s History of Ireland gives a list of names that are both descriptive and eponymous for the green and pleasant land, Erin, Fodla & Banba.

    The land was mystically at one with the triple goddess and was not just a inert object to cultivate without thought, the early settlers knowing that they lived surrounded by sacred landscapes.

    The shadowy world of the Sidhe is also mentioned, as the Sidhe seem busy preparing hazel wood beds in an Otherworldly place close to Ulster, surprisingly the ancient scribes never used the word ‘Queen’, instead the women-folk were endowed with both Otherworldly powers and earthly prestige.

    Interbreeding was frown upon, and incest could mean death under the Brehon Laws, being agricultural in their outlooks, the weakness of interbreeding with their living fauna was also frowned upon, this lead to the imagery of bulls being led by a leash to neighbouring farms, Lugaid Red-Stripe is frequently mentioned as a contemporary of Cuchulainn, which puzzles academics to the dating of this tale.

    Reference Used : Author & Reader’s Reflections.

     

  • #7148
    Beric
    Forum Moderator
    @beric_debenkah
    Founding MemberPaying MemberHonorary Scribe
    Rank: Honorary Scribe

    The House Of The High King :

    This list establishes the seating requirements in the Great Hall of the High King :

    Conchobor Mac Nessa sat upon the elaborately carved throne, a centre-piece of the great hall, Goibne the Smith sat on a metal chair next to the High Chieftain, Foride the Druid sat beside Goibne on a chair carved from oak, Tot Mac Eogain, the high judge sat on the other side of Conchobor.

    Augune, the high-king’s councillor always sat behind the High-King’s throne, the High King’s favourite spear men took their places by the house-posts holding up the great hall, the noble Sureties, the ones who made the covenants for right claims in the eyes of the High King, sat around a table in front of the High King.

    The Buamond, the ruling women, sat in a highly decorated part of the Hall, with symbolic bull-rushes and rushes. The High King’s Hospitallers sat close to the High-King in the other corner of the Great Hall, to serve the King’s needs and wait upon everyone else.

    The Leech-Doctors sat next to the Cup-Bearers who walked about topping up the goblets of ale and wine, the Builders, the Brewers & Leather-Makers sat on a table near the threshold of the Great Hall, the High-King’s two jesters took the responsibility of keeping the candles burning.

    The ‘Daernemed’, the High-King’s Bard, satirists and magicians, sat around a table also by the threshold of the Great Hall, the Horn-Blowers, Flute-Players and Harpists sat in the minstrel enclosure, the Charioteers sat with the Grooms, finally the hunters, fishing folk, catchers and trappers, all sat in a wooden cubicle apart from the nobility.

    Reference Used : Randy Lee Eickhoff.

     

  • #7147
    Beric
    Forum Moderator
    @beric_debenkah
    Founding MemberPaying MemberHonorary Scribe
    Rank: Honorary Scribe

    The Tale Of Mac Da Tho’s Pig :

    Every important figure in the Ulster Cycle is present in the story of feasting and fighting except Cuchulainn, who is not only never involved or even mentioned by any of the personalities.

    The name of Mac Da Tho means in Irish Gaelic ‘Son Of The Two Mutes’, perhaps adding a satirical touch to the proceedings, however, another satirical touch is not referring to the Hound of Culann, but the frequent reference to the Hound of Ulster.

    Although Maeve in this is not referred to as the Queen of Connacht, her husband Ailill had bestowed upon her certain powers, Maeve hand-fasted with Ailill because he was not the jealous type like Conor Mac Nessa.

    Maeve so-called promiscuity of many lovers is most probably a euphemistic reference to becoming the fertility goddess, at this time Connacht & Ulster were enemies, so to say that the Hound of Culann belonged to either kingdom would have been very un-diplomatic at the feast, which seems a contradiction of the above, to referred to him as the Hound of Ulster.

    The Kingdom of Leinster apparently was regarded as a neutral territory in this story, although in ‘The Tain’, Leinster joins forces with Connacht in Maeve’s attempt to steal the Brown Bull of Cooley.

    The bragging contest at the feast acts as an excuse for warriors to poke their noses firmly into other peoples recorded deeds, each warrior explains his feats in warfare, an emotive subject for a feast, whoever proves to have the greatest and most plausible acts will receive the tender-loin of the roast.

    Without exaggeration the size of the pig, hog or wild boar sounds debatable, the only creature the would fit the bill of feeding every mouth present would have been a prehistoric auroch.

    Reference Used : Author & Reader’s Reflections.

  • #6851
    Beric
    Forum Moderator
    @beric_debenkah
    Founding MemberPaying MemberHonorary Scribe
    Rank: Honorary Scribe

    The Violent Death Of Goll And Garb :

    These are two of Cuchulainn’s exploits and his dealings with his uncle Conchobor, the king of the Red Branch, these tales were taken from the ancient manuscripts of The Book Of Leinster.

    These tale implies the both warriors were going over a pass between the mountains, the text reads as ‘Athis Murthemni’, which has been debateable of the exact location for years, the given names of Goll and Garb suggest ‘one-eye and rough’, Cuchulainn’s wife Emer is mentioned.

    In some ways the story reflects the old English manuscript when Beowulf encountered Grendel, also aspects of this tale reflect a previous tale of how Cuchulainn received his name.

    The Intoxication Of The Ulster Men :
    The ‘Mesca Ulad’ is to be found in several sources, including the ‘Lebor Na hUidre’ and ‘The Book Of Leinster’, a rather wild and humorous with both mythic and historic value. The is a reference to the stables of the Ulaidh, standing in a haphazard manner, perhaps the ancient walls are crumbling but the roof is water-tight.

    Bricriu’s Feast & The Exile Of Doel Dermait’s Sons :

    This story was found in the ancient manuscript of ‘The Yellow Book Of Lecan’, apparently composed by Moir Mic Fhir Bhisigh around the date of 1391AD, however, the original manuscript seems to be dated around the 9th century, but Bhisigh, embellished the tale with extra meanings, though the inclusion of ‘Bricriu’s Feast’ is a tad ambiguous, the reworking of the comic tale of three warriors trying to be the Champion of the Ulaidh.

    The warriors seem to be feasting on ram’s meat, the narrative does not fully explain the insult to Bricriu, Bricriu’s plan seems to be to set the wives of Conall Cernach, Cuchulainn and Loegaire Buadbach at odds and quarrelsome. The womenfolk would appeared to be Fiebh, Lendar, Niam, Emer, Fedelma with her sister Eithne. With Bricriu implying that these six women should have precedent over all the other wives of the Ulaidh, because their husbands were the best warriors of the Red Branch.

    This resulted in an argument  forcing Conchobor,  to chose a single champion, which would cause more ill-feeling between the ranks of his warriors, using his wits and knowing the personalities and conflicting interests of the Red Branch warriors, he shifted the decision onto the warriors themselves, telling Conall, Cuchulainn and Loegaire to campaign on their own behalf.

    There was also magic in the air at the feast, the druids had their hazel wood wands and the cauldron of mead had magical properties, which the druids encouraged the warriors and their wives to consume large quantities, assisted with well-cooked lamb and freshly baked bread.

    Reference Used : Author’s & Reader’s reflections.

     

     

     

  • #6850
    Beric
    Forum Moderator
    @beric_debenkah
    Founding MemberPaying MemberHonorary Scribe
    Rank: Honorary Scribe

    The Battle Of The Gathering At Macha :

    The warriors of the Ulaidh are described has having grey-breads at the Battle of Aenach Macha, implying veteran warriors. The ‘Cath Oenaigh Macha’, is recorded to be in the time of Tigernmas, a mythical ancestor of the warriors of the Ulaidh.

    It seems to imply that the warriors came from the area of The Red Sea, as Asian recruits and paid mercenaries. The similarity with the Tales of the Norse can be seen in this chapter, Odin goes to drink from the Well of Knowledge and forfeits his left eye for the privilege. The secret to All-Knowledge is to watch with both eyes.

    To keep the warriors from falling back on just knowledge itself, there’s always the escape route back to their sailing ships, the raiders code of conquer or die warrior philosophy. The alien mercenaries, in this chapter, seem to already be in the Kingdom of the Ulaidh, and the lyrics of a poet-singer to relay more information are used.

    It seems that Conchobor is calling the grey-bearded veteran warriors who now are employed as border guards to repel these alien mercenaries from the lands of the Ulaidh, there also appears to be a reference to the Milesians, who came to Ireland centuries before, when the Tuath da Danann were in power, as though it is history repeating itself.

    The Vision Of Ferchertne :

    The two hounds that Ferchertne sees in his vision are Cuchulainn, the Hound of Culann and Curoi, the Hound of the Kings.

    Reference Used : Author’s & Reader’s reflections.

     

  • #6849
    Beric
    Forum Moderator
    @beric_debenkah
    Founding MemberPaying MemberHonorary Scribe
    Rank: Honorary Scribe

    The Battle Of Rosnaree:

    This chapter serves as a sequel to ‘Tain Bo Cuailnge’, in the tale Concobor retaliatory raids against Maeve & Connacht after the well-recorded. ‘Cattle Raid Of Cooley’, where further skirmishes continued.

    About two miles below the settlement of Slane, the River Boyne was very fordable and on the south-west bank was Rosnaree, and the home of Dathi’s mother, also this was the place where Cormac Mac Art was buried.

    In this chapter there is an implication about the Faeroe Islands, and the druid Cathbad is named as Concobor’s father, also their is a reference to Sweden across the sea. There is a mention of Din Rig being a hostel in the Otherworld.

    It was news to the warriors of Munster that the Brown Bull of Cooley was dead, also Concobor’s and the warriors of the Ulaidh to take financial tribute to end the conflict between the warriors of Connacht.

    The Story Of Fergus Mac Lati :

    This chapter was created in the 11th century, where Fergus Mac Leti, by his druid’s magic seems to have created a doppelganger, referred to as Fergus Mac Roich, however, the tale doesn’t give credence to the Fergus-doppelganger being an individual living contemporary to Fergus Mac Leti.

    Envoys travelled the width and breath of Ireland under the protection of the High-King (Ard-Ri), the use of the watery image becomes symbolic to the death of Fergus at the hands of Maeve, and the question still remains who stole Fergus’s sword ?

    Reference Used : Author’s & Reader’s  reflections.

  • #6844
    Beric
    Forum Moderator
    @beric_debenkah
    Founding MemberPaying MemberHonorary Scribe
    Rank: Honorary Scribe

    The Strong Man’s Bargain :

    This version of the ‘Cennach Ind Runao’, is recorded from the Edinburgh manuscript, it appears that this story is incomplete and is taken from the end of the ‘Fled Bricrend’, translated as The Feast, when a mountain ogre challengers the entire Red Branch.

    The Cattle-Raid Of Flidais :

    The ‘Tain Bo Flidais’, exists in two versions, one that is long and detailed, the other much abbreviated, the latter is to be found in ‘The Book Of Leinster’, a 16th century manuscript composed by ink on vellum.

    The reference in this chapter implies that Fergus found no honourable reason for the deaths of the sons of Uisnech, the line within the story suggests that Fergus truly believed that these deaths were brought about only by Conchobor’s dishonourable actions. The use of the description ‘the black rage of Fergus’ which might suggest a different concept that Fergus’s reign was so bad that the warriors of the Ulaidh began to miss the competent rule of  Conchobor.

    The weakness of Fergus’s reign is also implied by Nessa offering herself as a year-wife so her son Conchobor could rule for a year in Fergus’s stead, but when the year was up the warriors of the Ulaidh would had enjoyed 12 months of unprecedented prosperity under Concobor’s rule, refuse to allow Fergus to reclaim his throne.

    Reference Used : Author’s & Reader’s reflections.

  • #6843
    Beric
    Forum Moderator
    @beric_debenkah
    Founding MemberPaying MemberHonorary Scribe
    Rank: Honorary Scribe

    The Colloquy Of The Two Sages :

    This story is taken from ‘The Book Of Leinster’. Adnae’s name appears to have originated from the root word ‘adnal’, which means ‘very shameful’, Ferchertne is the son of Cairbre and the chief poet of Conchobor.

    The first suggestion in this chapter, are the differences between the robes worn by the main bard of Emain Macha, to that of any ordinary poet.

    The second point to remember that the travellers went to the elf-mound at Emain Macha, which suggests that they were seeking knowledge, the danger here for mortal man in advancing his intelligence is, that he maybe left with the dilemma of esoteric wisdom he can not wisely use.

    The use of the Irish word ‘ailm’ in the ogham alphabet, translates as pine, lastly to transcribe this ancient document the monastic scribe has added some Christian references to the impending apocalypse.

    The Trouble Of The Ulster Men :

    This untitled account of the debilitating affliction of the men of the Ulaidh, mysteriously called and referred to as the ‘Ces Ulad’. Which is difficult to translate or define.

    The first point here is the use of the word ‘raid’,  not in a military sense, but to indicate that Cu Chulainn was just out hunting.

    The board game resembling chess which is called ‘Fidchell’, that translates as Wood-Sense, seems to be a very popular pastime, as it appears in many of the ancient manuscripts.

    Suggestions of the Otherworld, when Maeve encounters a Fedelm when she returns from asking the Druid when will be the most propitious time for her to lead an army of warriors on the infamous Cattle-Raid Of Cooley, the mystical Fedelm gives the prophecy that everything she sees is coloured red, Maeve wrongly interprets a victory for the warriors of Connacht.

    In this chapter there is a strange reference to the debility of the warriors of Ulaidh, which is regarded as being caused by Macha when she was forced to run in competition with the king’s horses, being nine months pregnant at the time, and placing a geis in anger against the Ulaidh.

    Reference used : Author’s & Reader’s Reflection.

    Additional : The goddess Macha lay out the boundaries of the Stronghold of the Red Branch at Emain Macha, and also sketched the blue-print for the Fortress’s construction.

    A Fedelm is a female prophet and a learned female poet, in ‘The Ulster Cycle’, of Irish mythology, she appears in the great epic Tain Bo Cuailnge’, in which she foretells that the warriors of Maeve & Ailill with meet the Ulaidh on the battlefield.

  • #6841
    Beric
    Forum Moderator
    @beric_debenkah
    Founding MemberPaying MemberHonorary Scribe
    Rank: Honorary Scribe

    The Wooing Of Luaine :

    The story was found in two ancient manuscripts dating from around 1390AD, ‘The Yellow Book Of Lecan’, and the ‘Book Of Ballymote’. These books seem to follow directly after ‘The Exile of the Sons of Uisnech’, when Conchobor is mourning the loss of Deirdre.

    The Great Hall of The Red Branch had been burnt to the ground by Fergus, who had reacted violently to Conchobor’s betrayal, Conchobor had planned to wed Deirdre, but instead she had chosen Naisi instead.

    Fergus was invited to an ale-feast, which he could not refuse because of a geis, during Fergus’s absence from the Great Hall, Conchobor put to death Naisi and his two brothers and forced Deirdre into marriage.

    This angered Fergus and he felt that Conchobor had betrayed him and also The Red Branch Warriors, so many of The Red Branch warriors left with Fergus for the Kingdom of Connacht to serve for Ailill & Maeve.

    The reference to the island of foreigners refers to The Isle Of Man, there also seems to be a discrepancy if we remember that Naisi’s brothers were slain with him at Emain Macha.

    The Hostel Of Da Choca :

    Togail Bruidne Da Choca was apparently recorded sometime around the 8th century, it is the only part left of the lost manuscript ‘The Book of Druim Snechta. It appears to be a close parallel to the Togail Bruidne Da Derga and probably derived from that story, one of the oldest of The Ulster Cycle.

    The other famous hostels were those of Forgal Manach & Mac Da Reo in the Kingdom of Breifne, Mac Tho’s hostel in Leinster, and Da Derga’s hostel in Cuala. The suggestion of a murderer or one who sheds blood for payment, is also suggested in this chapter, some of the hostels were known to be in the Otherworld.

    Erin’s six hostels existed at the same time, they ejected angry companies preferring the harmonious to all others, the famous hostel of Da Berga in the District of Cuala, where Conaire was accosted by the savage Aingcel. The hostel of Mac Da Tho where the warriors of Erin consumed both pork and ale.

    The renowned hostel of Da Choca, which was captured by the warriors of Ulaidh, became a great hostel until Cormac Conloinges was killed in battle, the Hostel of Mac Cecht where there was no better hospitality in the Kingdom of Connacht. The Hostel of Blai Brugaid where dwelt the fair-haired wife of Celtchar.

    In every hostel was the custom that there was a cauldron that couldn’t be moved, which was used to deliver properly cooked food, the had simmered in great taste in the cheek of the cauldron, that was enough for whoever came through the door, all Erin’s warriors, if they were in a mood to be quarrelsome, soon change their mood by good ale, food and heat from the fire.

    Finally in this chapter, Fergus gives up his throne, in order to have Nessa as his wife, as her son Conchobor was made king in his place, as Maeve suggested scandalous things that went on behind Fergus’s back.

    Reflections of the author & reader.

  • #6840
    Beric
    Forum Moderator
    @beric_debenkah
    Founding MemberPaying MemberHonorary Scribe
    Rank: Honorary Scribe

    The Battle Of Airtech :

    ‘Cath Airtig’, is preserved in ‘The Yellow Book Of Lecan’, which appears to be the story that follows ‘Bruiden Da Choca’, because of Cormac’s death at the hostel. ‘The Battle Of Airtech’ is recorded in ‘The Annals Of Tigernach’, in monastic handwriting.

    In The Battle Of Airtech, it gets confusing because Fergus’s wife is usually named as Nessa, Conchobor’s mother, who talked to Fergus into giving up the throne for a year, using herself as a barter.

    Flidais, was a woodland goddess of venery and wild things. Her chariot was pulled by a brace of stags, consequently she is usually compared with Artemis, although she did not share that Greek goddess’s chastity.

    The epithet ‘foltchain’ (beautiful hair), is often a reference to Flidais, she had a magical cow whose milk and calcium could make seven hundred children grow tall and strong, she is often referred to as the mother of the cunning women, and sometimes, yet rarely, as Fand, the wife of the sea-god Manannan Mac Lyr.

    We don’t know for sure whose Flidais husband or consort was, although Adammair is sometimes mentioned as her spouse. Flidais is known by her lusty affair with Fergus, according to the ancient Irish tales, only Flidais & Maeve could excite Fergus.

    Later in the tale Fergus thought that Flidais was about to betray him, so he held her head underwater till she was drowned.

    The warrior Chafer-Tongue’s blood-lusting spear had to be stored in a vat of cold water for safe-keeping between skirmishers and warfare.

    Fragments :

    The spoils of warfare, it was a custom with the warriors of the Ulaidh to gathering together the spoils of war when they met in The Great Hall Of The Red Branch, but this trophies could be pickled parts of the human body of the warriors slain. But strangely there was a etiquette to be acknowledged when feasting in The Great Hall.

    The Brehon Laws, stipulated what food and drink should be provided for each calendar feast, such rigidity seems very odd to us in our modern times, but we must remember that great value was placed upon honour and hierarchical states within ancient clans, rank and honour had to be earned, the king’s champion always sat near the king, like some sort of bodyguard at the head table of the banquet.

    Dubthach, the Chafer-Tongue, who was a fearless warrior as well as a famed poet, it was recorded that his tongue was a murderous weapon and as deadly as his spear cast. The absence of Fergus & Dubthach from the feast might have hidden meanings, as a testing of the heroes in the ‘Fled Bricrend’.

    The final interpretation of this chapter is the mentioning of the white rushes, the rushes surround Emain Macha were always green, the given colour of white suggests the image of cleanliness the warriors were enforced to keep. When Lugh first appears at the court of the Tuatha de Danann, he announces himself in a similar but far more elaborate manner to the porter or gatekeeper as an expert in not one thing but in all things.

    Reference : Author’s & Reader’s Reflections.

     

Please login logged in to reply to this topic. Login Register