Category Archives: Chronicles

Irish Chronicles

The Book of Leinster or Lebor Lainech or Leabhar Laighneach.  A 12th century medieval Irish manuscript of circa 1160. Formery known as Lebor na Nuachongbala – the Book of Nuachongbail.  It comprises early Leinster histories and poetry.

The second best source of Irish myth and legend after the Book of the Dun Cow.  Its monastic site = Oughaval. Date and provenance – composite work – principal compiler and scribe = Aed Ua Crimthainn. Abbot of the monastery of Tir-Da-Glas on Shannon.


Manuscript – produced by Aed + pupils – long period of time between 1151 and 1224. Written between 1151 and 1201. Probably complete by 1160’s. The Dinsenchas = lore and history of places – some is 11th century.

Manuscript may have been commissioned by Diamait Mac Murchada – died qq71 – the king of Leinster. Stronghold or dun = Dun Masc, near Oughal = An Nuachongbail.  History – whereabouts in 13th century unknown. In 14th century it came to light at Oughval. It may have been kept in the vicarage in between.

The Book of Leinster owes its present name to John O’Donavan, died 1861.  Commonly accepted manuscript originally known as the Lebor na Nuachongbala = the Book of Noghoval. Now Oughaval in County Laois.

Manuscript = 187 leaves. As many as 45 leaves lost.  Wide-ranging compilation = medieval Irish literature, sagas, and mythology. Therefore = Tain Bo Cuailnge – 8th century version of the Cattle Raid of Cooley. Also contains – Lebor Gabala Erenn – the Book of Invasions + Deirdre story + the grim tale of Boroama.

In addition – contains – metrical Dindshenshas + De excidio Troiae Historia. Plus the Martydom of Tallaght, the Exile of the sons of Usnech, Melodies of Buchet’s House, and the Destruction of Dinn Ris.

The Book of Ballymote = Leabhar Bhaile an Mhota.  Named – parish of Ballymote, County Sligo.  Compiled circa 1390 to 1391 in Sligo town.

Therefore = late 14th century manuscript of West of Ireland.  Contains mainly historical materials produced by the scribes Aolam O Droma + Robertus Mac Sithigh + Tonnalttagh McDonah.

Manuscript purchased  1522 by Aed Og O’Donnell, prince of Tir Conaill.  In 162 – given to Trinity College, Dublin.  In 1875 – returned to Royal Irish Academy.


Contains one version of the Birth of Cormac + adventures of the Sons of Eochu Muigmedon.  Contains motif of – loathly hag transformed to a beautiful woman by the kiss of the young Niall.  Contains the key to the Ogham alphabet + Irish version of the Aenid.

Leabhar Gabhala –  a narrative recounting the invasions of Ireland.  The work – presented as historical fact = based on myth and legend. Material is a source of Irish mythology.

The Book of Fermoy = A mid-15th century manuscript housed in the Royal Irish Academy.  Includes the text of Alcrom Tige Da Medar.  Fermoy – small town in north-east County Cork, 16 miles east of Mallow.

The Book of Lecan = sometimes called the Great book of Lecan. Distinguished from earlier Yellow Book of Lecan – by the same family of scribes in the same location.  This was thus – Leabhar Mor Mhic Fhir Bhisigh Leacain.

Compiled – circa 1400.  Manuscript = 600 pages contain genealogical material.  Also – a Book of Rights.  Lecan is a ruined former castle in the west of County Sligo – 2 miles north of Inishcrone.

The Book of Ui Maine = in Irish the Leabhar Ui Maine or Book of Hy Many. The manuscript includes portions of the Lebor Gabala or Book of Invasions. Also – genealogies, poetry, and family pedigrees.

A small early 14th or 15th codex.  Long possessed by descendants pf the Ui Maine sept that in medieval times much of County Galway + some of Roscommon.

Book of Armagh = the Liber Ardmachanus.  Includes both Irish and Latin materials.  Begun around 807 AD by Feardomnach in Armagh = the seat of the primate of Ireland.

Irish passages amongst earliest possessed.  Many Latin passages deal with the life of St. Patrick. An 11th century insertion is about Brian Borama (Boru) describing him as the Emperor of the Irish. Manuscript in Trinity College, Dublin.

The Book of the Dun Cow = Lebor na hUidre.  Irish vellum manuscript of 12th century AD.  Oldest extant manuscript in Irish. Badly damaged.  Held in Royal Irish Academy.


Book of the Dun Cow.

Only 67 leaves remain. Many texts incomplete. Made from the hide of a dun cow by Saint Ciaran of Clonmacnoise. Compiled before 1106 AD.

Contains the Mythological Cycle + the Ulster Cycle + the Voyage of Maelduin.  Included is the Tain Bo Cualilnge or Cattle Raid of Cooley. = the oldest epic in ancient European  sagas.

Disappeared at Cromwellian conquest and reappeared in 1837 – in a bookshop.

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Welsh Mythology

Wales Awakening Christopher Williams

The Cymry = tribal aristocracy – Brythonic origin. Holding down a serf class – a mixture of Goidels, Brythons, Bronze Age, New Stone Age peoples plus aboriginals. Cymry invaded Wales from north England in 5th century AD. [Graves: White Goddess].

Proinsas mac Cana (1970). Wales – also rich mythological tradition – poorly documented. Complications = end of 12th century.

Earliest surviving tales = Culhwch and Olwen. The Four Branches (11th). Mabinogion – mythology – “…they represent the mere debris of a tradition recast in a loose narrative framework by a talented author who was less interested in preserving sources than in producing an effective piece of literature.” (18).

Debris = anecdotes, allusions, motifs, characters = paradigms. Welsh evidence – linked – Arthurian Cycle.

Welsh – began to emerge from its common British Celtic parent, along with Cornish and Breton > 5th and 6th centuries AD.

In Welsh – early Brythonic myths and legends survived. Welsh material – not as extensive or as old as the Irish. Welsh literature – flourished by 8th century AD.

The oldest book wholly in Welsh = Llyfr Du Caerfyrddin > The Black book of Carmarthen – 13th century AD. Contains – few poems on Myrddin (Merlin) legends. The mythological texts – preserved in two sources = Llyfr Gwyn Rhydderch > White Book of Rhydderch (1300-1325); Llyfr Coch Hergest > Red Book of Hergest (1375-1425). Stories in these two books = the Mabinogi = in English, the Four Branches of the Mabinogion.

The Mabinogi = 11 tales and romances. At least 3 = period earlier than surviving written texts. Culhwch and Olwen = the Quest for Olwen = style of 200 years earlier.

Welsh > wealth of manuscript archival material. E.g. see – A. Breeze, Medieval Welsh Literature (1997). Thesis = several Mabinogi tales – written by a Welsh princess called Gwenllian (killed in battle with the Anglo-Normans, 1136-1137).

Welsh Creation Myth – found in Trioedd Ynys Prydain. Collection of Triads – serve as a mnemonic device. Speaks of Llyon-Llion – Lake of the Waves. Overflows due to Addunc (monster in the lake). Lured from lair by oxen of Hu Gadarn – disposed of. In some versions = killed by Peredur.

However – Addanc – creates overflow thence ‘ deluge.. Cognate with Griva – role in Hindu deluge myth. Nefyed Naf Nefion > builds a ship. In this Dwyvan and wife Dwyvach escape. Nefyed = cognate with Irish Nemed  (arrived in Ireland after the deluge).

Addanc = hints of pre-Christian origin. Other sources compare more with ‘The Churning of the Ocean’. Comparative figures compare with Celtic Irish myth = Dhanu, Surabhi (the divine cow), the Tree of Knowledge. Dhanvantari = equivalent of Irish Dian Cecht (the physician of the gods).

The Battle of the Trees = Cad Goddeu.  A battle in Brythonic mythology. Fought between Arawn and Amaethon.  In myth became – white roebuck, the whelp, and the lapwing – all taken out of Annwn by Amaethon.

The Triads – describe it as one of three favourite battles in Britain. In the Book of Taliesin – a long, disorganised poem = Cad Goddeu.  Names trees in order of battle. Also called the Battle of Achren – there was a woman of that name in the battle on the side of Amaethon.

Bran – fought on the side of Arawn.  Gwydion sided with his brother Amaethon.  Usual interpretation = Gwydion turned trees into warriors.  Robert Graves – rearranged this poem + sequence which revealed its ancient meaning.  Therefore = not a battle of warriors.

However = a battle of letters of the learned. Thus = symbolism of ancient Celtic Tree Alphabet + mysteries of the druids.  Derwydd means oak-seer.  Thus a complex magic that is centuries old and centuries hidden.

Druid = one of a class of priests, teachers, divinities, magicians and pre-Celtic religion.  Possessed all supernatural and human wisdom. Rank = next to the king.  Their decisions final in all matters. Learning never written down.  Cult mysteries remained mysteries.

Druids functioned at all rituals of naming, burial, sacrifice. Mentioned in connection with human sacrifices associated with Beltane, Cromm Cruac, and at Tara.

Druids – could cause illness, sleep, death.  They could raise storms and mists. Draw the druid’s hedge or airbe druad – a fence around an enemy or army by incantation.  As healers – associated with mistletoe and its ritual gathering.

Annwn or Annwfn = the Brythonic mythological otherworld.  Conceived as an abyss or as an (not) and dwfn (the world). Located – either on the face of or under the earth, or over, or under the sea. A group of fortified islands out at sea.

Also as a great revolving castle at sea. This land was known as – Land Over Sea, Land Under the Wave or – Caer Sidi = revolving castle.  Annwn = land of delight and beauty. Without death or disease.  Its lord or king was Arawn. Who made friends with Pwyll the king of Dyfed in the Mabinogion.  Arawn owned a magic cauldron. The theft of the bitch, lapwing and roebuck led to the Battle of the Trees.

Shared a magic and inexhaustible mysterious cauldron with other Celtic Elysiums. Taliesin – located Annwn under the earth.  Identified it with a magic castle visited by King Arthur.

Gwydion = the son of Don in Brythonic mythology.  Brother of Amaethon and Govannon.  Incestuous lover of Arianhod and by her father of Dylan and Llew Llaw Gyffes.  Gwydion = Brythonic culture hero.  Brought the gifts of gods to mankind.

Celtic magician – popularly credited with instituting the first April Fool.  Conjured up a vision of armies to trick Arianhod who had cursed him.

Llew Llaw Gyffes = an early Welsh mythical hero.  Son of Gwydion by his sister Arianhod.  When born he had a triple curse laid on him  The curse – deprived him of his name, arms and a wife.  The curse was circumvented by Gwydion,  Llew met his death at the hands of his wife and her lover.  Was changed into an eagle. Gwydion found him and restored his shape.

Llyr = Welsh god of the Underworld.  Equivalent of the Irish god Lir.  Father of Bran the Blessed + Manawyddan.

Manawyddan = Celtic mythology.  Son of Llyr by Penardun and brother of Bran and Branwen.  Stepbrother of Evnissyen whose mother was Iweridd.  He was the second husband of Rhiannon.  Went to Prtderi’s aid and saved him from the spells of Lloyd.  Corresponds – Irish Manannan, son of Ler.

Bran =  a giant.  Brother of Branwen + Manawyddan.  Possessed – cauldron with power to bring dead back to life. But – not the power of speech.  Wounded – Battle against Irish.  Beheaded by other survivors.  Legend = head buried in London.  Eyes – turned towards France to ward off invaders.  Sometimes called Bran the Blessed.  Also = Bendigeid Vran.

Mabon =  Welsh god of youth. God of hunters and fishermen.  Son of earthly mother = Modron. Abducted at three days old. Known – north-western Britain.  Cult = extends along Hadrian’s Wall.  Known from many Romano-Celtic inscriptions.  Syncretised with Romano-Greek god Apollo.

Uther Pendragon = Father of King Arthur – according to Geoffrey of Monmouth + later writers.  Nothing in authentic Welsh tradition to link him with Arthur.  Or with Merlin.  Represented as brother of historic Ambrosius Aurelius.  In declining years – defeated Saxons. One version – name means ‘leader of warriors’.

Madoc = Welsh prince.  Alleged to have discovered America with a fleet of two ships.  Landed – Mobile Bay, Alabama, in 1170.  The Madon = extinct Native American tribe – said to be his descendants.  Legend = 15th century Welsh poem.

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