Ancient Roman Coin- Remus removed

THE BIRTH OF CORMAC MAC ART

Of all the kings that ruled over Ireland, none had a better and more loyal servant than was Finn mac Cumhal, and of all the captains and counsellors of kings none ever served a more glorious and a nobler monarch than did Finn, for the time that he served Cormac, son of Art, son of Conn of the Hundred Battles. At the time at which this monarch lived and reigned, the mist of sixteen centuries hangs between us and the history of Ireland, but through this mist there shine a few great and sunlike figures whose glory cannot be altogether hidden, and of these figures Cormac is the greatest and the brightest. Much that is told about him may be true, and much is certainly fable, but the fables themselves are a witness to his greatness; they are like forms seen in the mist when a great light is shining behind it, and we cannot always say when we are looking at the true light and when at the reflected glory.

The birth of Cormac was on this wise. His father, as we have said, was Art, son of Conn, and his mother was named Achta, being the daughter of a famous smith or ironworker of Connacht. Now before the birth of Cormac, Achta had a strange dream, namely, that her head was struck off from her body and that out of her neck there grew a great tree which extended its branches over all Ireland and flourished exceedingly, but a huge wave of the sea burst upon it and laid it low. Then from the roots of this tree there grew up another, but it did not attain the splendour of the first, and a blast of wind came from the West and overthrew it. On this the woman started from her sleep, and she woke her husband, Art, and told him her vision. "It is a true dream," said Art. "I am thy head, and this portends that I shall be violently taken from thee. But thou shalt bear me a son who shall be King of all Ireland, and shall rule with great power and glory until some disaster from the sea overtake him. But from him shall come yet another king, my grandson and thine, who shall also be cut down, and I think that the cause of his fall shall be the armies of the Fian host, who are swift and keen as the wind."

Not long thereafter Art, son of Conn, fell in battle with the Picts and Britons at the Plain of the Swine, which is between Athenry and Galway in Connacht. Now the leader of the invaders then was mac Con, a nephew to Art, who had been banished out of Ireland for rising against the High King; and when he had slain Art he seized the sovranty of Ireland and reigned there unlawfully for many years.

But before the battle, Art had counselled his wife:

"If things go ill with us in the fight, and I am slain, seek out my faithful friend Luna who dwells in Corann in Connacht, and he will protect thee till thy son be born." So Achta, with one maid, fled in her chariot before the host of mac Con and sought to go to the Dún of Luna. On her way thither, however, the hour came when her child should be born, and the maid turned the chariot aside into the wild wood at the place called Creevagh (the Place of the Twigs), and there, on a couch of twigs and leaves, she gave birth to a noble son.

Then Achta, when she had cherished her boy and rejoiced over him, bade her handmaid keep watch over both of them, and they fell asleep. But the maid's eyes were heavy with weariness and long travelling, and ere long she, too, was overpowered by slumber, and all three slept a deep sleep while the horses wandered away grazing through the wood.

By and by there came a she-wolf roaming through the wood in search of prey for her whelps, and it came upon the sleeping woman and the little child. It did not wake the woman, but very softly it picked up the infant and bore it off to the stony cave that is hard by to Creevagh in the hill that was afterwards called Mount Cormac.

After a while the mother waked up and found her child gone. Then she uttered a lamentable cry, and woke her handmaid, and both the women searched hither and thither, but no trace of the child could they find; and thus Luna found them; for he had heard news of the battle and the death of his King, and he had come to succour Achta as he had pledged his word to do. Luna and his men also made search for the infant, but in vain; and at last he conveyed the two sorrowing women to his palace; but Achta was somewhat comforted by her prophetic dream. Luna then proclaimed that whoever should discover the King's son, if he were yet alive, might claim of him what reward he would.

And so the time passed, till one day a man named Grec, a clansman of Luna the lord of Corann, as he ranged the woods hunting, came on a stony cavern in the side of a hill, and before it he saw wolf-cubs at play, and among them a naked child on all fours gambolling with them, and a great she-wolf that mothered them all. "Right," cried Grec, and off he goes to Luna his lord. "What wilt thou give me for the King's son?" said he. "What wilt thou have?" said Luna. So Grec asked for certain lands, and Luna bound himself to give them to him and to his posterity, and there lived and flourished the Clan Gregor for many a generation to come. So Luna, guided by Grec, went to the cave on Mount Cormac, and took the child and the wolf-cubs all together and brought them home. And the child they called Cormac, or the Chariot-Child. Now the lad grew up very comely and strong, and he abode with Luna in Connacht, and no one told him of his descent.




Text Source:
The High Deeds of Finn and other Bardic Romances of Ancient Ireland.
T. W. Rolleston, ed. Illustrations by Stephen Reid.
London: G. G. Harrap & Co., 1910. 172-175.







Background courtesy of Windhaven Web Art.

Web-presentation ©2007 Anniina Jokinen. All Rights Reserved.
May be printed for personal and schoolroom use. All further publication requires permission.