The Fomorians by John Duncan

The Fomorians by John Duncan

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By Lindsay Roseberry, Reference Department

Faith and Begorra! It’s March again, which brings us to think about spring, St. Patrick’s Day, and little people. Eh, what?? Little people, you say?

The Fomorians, John Duncan’s interpretation of the sea gods of Irish mythology

We all know about leprechauns and their pots of gold (if nothing else from the Lucky Charms cereal commercials): little men dressed mostly in green who’ve buried their treasure at the end of the rainbow and don’t want anyone to find it (an ironic choice). In past centuries many have tried to find these pots of gold at the end of rainbows, but most never did.

In Irish folklore, stories and tales of “the little people” abound. We’ve heard these names: leprechauns, banshees, pookas, and selkies. Most of the fantastic creatures from Irish folklore did not like humans. According to the legends, the first inhabitants of Ireland were the Fomorians, who were said to have been giant-like. They were supernatural beings who kept being pushed off the good land of Ireland by humans and the other supernatural race—the Tuatha de Dannann (or the Fae).

Painting by John Bauer of two trolls with a human child they have raised

According to legend, both of these races were pushed out of Ireland by human invaders. The Fomorians and the Tuath de Dannann fought each other regularly, but the Formorians were ultimately defeated. The Fae were also defeated by humans, the early Irish, and were consigned to live underground, occasionally kidnapping children and replacing them with changelings. They were also known to take unwary humans underground to keep as entertainment for a while, which was always longer than the human expected. The Tuatha de Dannann became known as “The Little People” partly to reduce the terror of the stories told about them, and also because they became lost in the myths of Irish legends.

One of the most well-known of the Little People is the leprechaun. Anyone who has seen Darby O’Gill and the Little People knows what a leprechaun looks like most people recognize them from Lucky Charms cereal and remember “They’re magically delicious!” (the Lucky Charms, not the leprechauns). But long ago, leprechauns weren’t nice or friendly. They knew all humans wanted their pot of gold, which as everyone knows is at the end of the rainbow. Here are a few things you probably never knew about them.

  • Leprechauns are fairies. Fairies are the little people of Ireland and leprechauns are little people therefore they are fairies
  • If you are kind to them, they might give you a golden reward—you may find a golden coin for your trouble
  • There are no female leprechauns
  • Sean Connery may have won the role of James Bond after Albert (Cubby) and Jane Broccoli saw the movie Darby O’Gill and the Little People, starring Connery. They thought he had the sex appeal needed to play Bond
  • There is a supposed colony of them in Portland, Oregon in a tiny park dedicated to the magical creatures
  • Sometimes they are dressed all in red—these may be their cousins, the clurichauns, though. These red garbed fairies are mean and drunk. Some say that the red clurichauns are what leprechauns become at night after a wee bit of whisky
  • At Carlingford Mountain, there are supposed actual remains of a leprechaun under glass. A business man found a tiny suit, gold coins and some bones after hearing a scream. The earth was also scorched near the site
  • They are protected under European law. The Carlingford site is considered a Heritage site, protecting the colony of leprechauns and the plants and animals that live in its vicinity
  • Although the legend of the leprechaun is known mainly of Ireland, other countries have legends of small men. Although the gnome doesn’t wear all green, he fits the bill as a small magical creature
  • Leprechaun means small body in Middle Irish—that fits, since they are small men
  • The leprechaun is the mascot for the University of Notre Dame (The Fighting Irish!) now, but it wasn’t always.
  • You can make a leprechaun trap—all you need to get started is something shiny to lure the little men. The traps can be simple as a shoebox, or elaborate as your family can imagine. Although no one has caught anything yet—that anyone knows of—it doesn’t hurt to try!
  • An Irish Blessing for St. Patrick’s Day

Wishing you a rainbow

For sunlight after showers

Miles and miles of Irish smiles

For golden happy hours

Shamrocks at your doorway

For luck and laughter too

And a host of friends that never ends

Each day your whole life through.

Annals of the Four Masters – Four Men, Four Years, and Four Millennia of History

An old Irish 1-shilling stamp, depicting Mícheál Ó Cléirigh at work on the Annals.

In 1632, a Franciscan friar in the monastery at Donegal named Mícheál Ó Cléirigh began to compile a history of the island of Ireland. He was assisted by his brother Cú Choigcríche Ó Cléirigh, his friend Fearfeasa Ó Maol Chonaire and his fellow priest Peregrine Ó Duibhgeannain. (Oddly, before he took holy orders and changed his name, Peregrine was also called Cú Choigcríche – a name with no modern equivalent meaning “foreign hound”.) The book they created was a collection of several lesser histories, and became known (after the four of them) as the Annals of the Four Masters. It has been translated several times, but the most famous is that made by John O’Donovan, a professor at Queen’s University Belfast, in 1856. He split the work into six volumes of equal size, though naturally the Masters covered the more recent years in greater detail. As such, the sixth volume covered the previous 27 years, the fifth covered 87 years, the fourth covered 117 years, the third covered 200 years, the second covered 268 years, and the first? The first is the one we’re going to discuss today, because the first covered 3854 years, from the Great Flood (which they placed at 2952BC) down to 902AD.

Archbishop James Ussher. Painting by Sir Peter Lely.
Image via Wikimedia Commons.

The dating of the Flood and other biblical events was something which was much on people’s minds in the 17 th century. The most famous was that of James Ussher, Archbishop of Armagh, who placed the creation of the Earth at 4004BC (four thousand years before what he believed to be the actual birth of Christ). He also believed that the Earth would end in 1996AD, thus having the six millennia of the Earth’s existence matching the six days of its creation. Although Ussher’s chronology is the most well known today, in fact he was only one of several scholars throughout history who tried to figure this out. For example, the Venerable Bede (the man who invented for the Western World the concept using AD to depict an absolute year, rather than going by “the Nth year of Foo’s Reign” or similar) gave a date of 3952AD for creation. Most other scholars who examined the biblical record gave similar dates, so it’s odd that the Four Masters differed quite significantly. Although their history begins at “The Age of the World 2242”, they give the birth of Christ as the year 5194 – over a millennium away from Ussher’s date. Where they got this number from is unknown, but it sets a suitable tone for the epic scope of their first volume.

Fintan mac Bóchra, the only survivor of the first settlers of Ireland.

The first event recorded in the Annals takes place, as noted, in the year of the world 2242, and in fact details the arrival of the first people in Ireland “Forty days before the Deluge”. This comes from a story in the Book of Invasions, Ireland’s oldest history, that the first people to arrive in Ireland were led there by a woman named Cessair, the granddaughter of Noah. Her father Bith was denied a place on the Ark by his father, so his daughter advised him to build an idol and pray to it, which he did. It told him to build a boat, so he and two friends named Ladra and Fintan built a boat and sailed off with Cessair and fifty other women. They landed in Ireland and split up, each taking a share of the women (including Cessair) as wives. However first Ladra and then Bith died, and Cessair died of a broken heart at the death of her father. Six days later the Flood arrived and killed all those remaining, except Fintan who was cursed to transform into a salmon until people came to Ireland again to hear the story of how he tried to escape God’s judgement.

The Fomorians, John Duncan 1912.
Image via Wikimedia Commons.

The next event in the annals falls 278 years later, and tells of the arrival of Parthalon (who, as we learned in a previous article, landed near Ballyshannon). The annals then follow the events of the Book of Invasions, with Parthalon’s people being invaded by the Fomorians. The Scythians managed to hold the Fomorians at bay, but in the end their entire population succumbed to plague. The Fomorians held the land uncontested until the arrival of another Scythian, Neimhidh in 2850. Neimidh led a third group, known as the Nemedians, who would vie with the Fomorians for the next few hundred years. The Fomorians were led by Conainn, who was of a semi-divine nature and who lived in a tower on Tory Island. Eventually the Nemedians (who had been enslaved by the Fomorians) managed to destroy the tower and kill Conainn, but the retaliation of his lieutenant Morc led to them fleeing Ireland, leaving it empty once again. Two hundred years later their descendants, the Fir Bolg (or “People of the bags”) returned to Ireland. Forty years later, in what the Masters record as the year 3303 since the world’s creation, the Tuatha De Danaan land in Ireland. The Annals then give a chronology for the stories of the Tuatha, giving, for example, Nuada’s maiming as 3330, Lugh Lamhfada’s death as 3370, and so on until the Milesians (the Celtic ancestors of the modern Irish) arrive in 3500. The Annals detail the defeat of the Tuatha, and then fall into a long period of listing the death of kings, occasionally hanging an ancient legend on a date. It is, in fact, much later that they begin to interest us again.

Cormac Mac Airt, as reimagined by Robert E Howard (author of Conan).

In the year 5194 the Annals moved from “The Age of the World” to “The Age of Christ”, and with that move the Annals begin to show a spark more activitiy than simply recording the names of kings. Battles begin to be described – in 226AD, for example, a king named Cormac mac Airt comes to power, grandson of “Conn of the Hundred Battles”. In 240AD, Cormac conquers Scotland, in 241AD his family are massacred by the King of Leinster. Cormac would go onto lose an eye in battle but survive, only to die after forty years as king when he choked on a salmon bone. The Annals tell us that this was a result of a curse the Druids placed on him in retaliation for his conversion to Christianity (although this was some 200 years before St Patrick). Perhaps it was the fact that Cormac was also responsible for the compilation of the first history of Ireland that led to him getting so much coverage in the Annals, however. From here on the Four Masters had much more to draw in, and indeed the 3000 years they have covered so far are only the first third of this first volume.

The ruins of a church founded by St Fechin, who died in the Buidhe Connail.

Of course, not all the oddness in the Annals is in the prehistory. It details, for example, the battle over the corpse of St Patrick, as each king wanted the honour of burying the great man, and of how God sent an illusion of the body to each of them so they departed in triumph, only to have it disappear when they had got home. In the year 664AD they detail an eclipse of the sun (an event which was apparently, and unusually, total throughout Europe as several histories mention it). They also talk of a great plague that they call the Buidhe Connail. Buidhe means yellow, and Connail has sometimes been taken to mean Tir Connail, as Donegal was historically known, so it is thought that this may refer to some disease with jaundice as a symptom that first struck in Donegal. Two hundred years later Loch Lephinn turned to blood. Earlier, in 755AD the bishop of Kildare was killed by one of his priests as he went from the sacristy to the altar, “from whence it arose that ever since a priest does not celebrate mass in the presence of a bishop at Kildare”. In 684AD, there was both a plague of animals that left “not one out of the thousand” alive, and a winter so severe that the sea between Scotland and Ireland froze. In 767AD there came great thunder and lightning and a plague of fear, called (for some reason) “the fair of the clapping of the hands”. In 887 AD they tell of a mermaid, one hundred and ninety five feet in length, cast ashore in “the country of Alba”.

The signatures of the Four Masters.

So it goes with history – the truth becomes impossible to separate from legend. The Annals are a valuable historical source, and the date of their writing (less than thirty years after the Nine Years War) means that they have a great deal of accurate information. The four friends set themselves a great challenge, to compile all the histories of Ireland, and while we may mock (fondly, of course) some of what they chose to include, still it is better for us that they did, for otherwise we would not have read it. Perhaps in a future article I may dive into the annals again, and tell of some of the strangeness of later years, but that shall wait for another day. For now, let us raise a toast to the Masters, who gave to us later generations the great gift of knowledge, which is never to be spurned.

Nobody is Native: The Monstrous History of How Ireland Became Irish

Human history has repeatedly demonstrated that you are only as indigenous as you are able to resist the next wave of invaders or mass migrations that followed your own invasion or migration. Invariably, the proto-history of historical peoples involves the clearing out of monsters (usually the existing local inhabitants) from a given territory and the establishment of that fantastical ideal someone is always arrogantly and self-servingly referring to as “civilization”. The captains of the invaders become gods and culture heroes, while the unfortunate former residents are relegated to the folkloric dust pile as mythical horrors which we are lucky to be rid of. The currently accepted academic definition of indigenous peoples reflects our enlightened modern moral sensibilities in its suggestion that they are “living descendants of pre-invasion inhabitants of lands now dominated by others. They are culturally distinct groups that find themselves engulfed by other settler societies born of forces of empire and conquest” (Anaya, 2004, p3). It does not however, in the narrowness of its purview or overt focus on the impact of a particular time period (the Age of Exploration, and given we were able to do a lot of irreparable damage during that time), accurately reflect the overall history of the brutish little species Homo sapiens. Succinctly put, nobody is a native of anywhere. You are just the latest resident, and you established your residency the same way everyone else in history has—you took it from someone else. Sure, that someone else might have been an uncouth fellow or Neanderthal, but someone was always there first. Now this can and has entailed varying degrees of oppression and outright extermination, and since we are collectively trying to improve our manners, we rightfully express chagrin (or horror, depending on how bad you actually feel about supplanting entire cultures through less than friendly means) about our ancestors’ unpleasant behavior. But bear in mind, when I say “our ancestors”, I’m not being rhetorical. I truly mean all our ancestors, both oppressors and oppressed.

Seventy thousand years ago, Homo sapiens (no doubt in search of places with fewer man-eating carnivores and improved dating opportunities) started spreading out from Africa, probably knocking a few Cro-Magnon on the head in the process when they were parked on a desirable piece of real estate. You see Homo erectus had moved out of Africa about a million years ago, and his descendants likely thought everything was copasetic until waves of hairless humans began appearing on the horizon. Round about 12,000 years ago there was the Neolithic Revolution (the transition from hunting-gathering to agriculture), an important aspect of which is the development of sedentary settlements. You can’t have a bunch of hirsute nomads tromping across your farm seasonally, so even though bands of hunter-gatherers may have moved through the area for thousands of years, you’re just not going to put up with that anymore. So you squat on a parcel of land, build walls, raise armies, and claim that your god bequeathed you your 20 acres and a mule. Archaeologists have suggested that the Proto-Indo-European peoples living somewhere near the Caspian Sea around the 5 th Century B.C. suddenly began spilling out into Anatolia, the Aegean, Western Europe and Central Asia, probably running roughshod over whoever happened to be living there already. There were Indo-Aryan migrations into the Indian subcontinent, followed by a series of invasions from Central Asia. From Late Antiquity to the Early Middle Ages, Germanic tribes from Scandinavia moved south. Romans moved north. Huns, Avars, Slavs, Bulgars and Alans pushed west. Arabs swept out of the Middle East into Africa and Europe. Everybody was heading somewhere else, fleeing bad mojo, bad weather, bad hunting, bad farmland, or big bands of bad people. This leads us to the Irish.

Now, I’m not picking on the Irish, they were simply courteous enough to document a version of proto-historical things for us in appropriately named records such as the 11 th Century A.D. Lebor Gabála Érenn (“The Book of the Taking of Ireland”, or more colloquially, “The Book of Invasions”), which appeared to have been heavily influenced by earlier Medieval works for much of its source material (both Pagan and Christian). The Lebor Gabála Érenn makes one thing abundantly clear – the Gaels (a Celtic-speaking ethnic group that includes Scots, and whom we typically associate with the modern Irish), were relative latecomers to the Emerald Isle, mythologically preceded by the monstrous Fomorians, Nemedians, Fir Bolg, and Tuatha Dé Danann, the earlier residents of an Ireland that had been occupied since roughly 8000 B.C. (archaeologists have found evidence of Mesolithic hunter-gatherer communities in Ireland at about the time the last Ice Age was beginning to recede). Those Mesolithic humans had terrible penmanship, thus we have to rely on those few clues we can dig up. This is true for most of Europe, until the Romans got a hankering for world domination. Lucky for the Irish, the Romans never really got around to seriously stomping Ireland beneath centurion boots, and the few references to Ireland by the Romans confirm that by about 50 B.C., Ireland was already firmly in the hands of Gaelic tribes. Unluckily for aficionados of ancient history, more extensive written records of the early history of Ireland had to await the arrival of Christianity (and monks with lots of free time). This is when folklore, steeped in oral traditions passed from one generation to the next comes in really handy.

Since the lion’s share of our Irish proto-history comes to us through a Christian filter, the mythological timeline for Irish occupation starts with Noah’s flood. It is said that around 2061 B.C., a gentleman named Partholón (son of Sera, son of Sru, a descendant of Magog, son of Japheth, son of Noah) and his followers decided that the Middle East was getting soggy and crowded and set out for Ireland, arriving on Erin’s shores exactly Tuesday, May 15 th (2520 years after the creation of the world, and 300 years after the Flood). To Partholón’s surprise, a race called the Fomorians, led by a chieftain named Cíocal had already been there for 200 years. The 11 th Century Leabhar na hUidhre (“The Book of the Dun Cow”), the earliest extant piece of literature we have in the Irish language traces the genealogy of the Fomorians to Shem (Noah’s eldest son), commenting “”Behold, how it came about that Shem was the first man to be cursed after the Deluge. It is he that has begotten dwarfs, the Fomorians, men with goats’ heads, and all deformed beings that are found among men. That is the reason the descendants of Shem were exterminated, and their country given over to the Children of Israel, because of the curse their father had put upon him. Shem is the ancestor of monsters” (Jubainville, 1903, p52). Some scholars argue that the Fomorians are a memory of the original indigenous inhabitants of Ireland or their gods, but the name itself may derive from Formoire, Old Irish for “From the Sea”, which many have taken to suggest they were either “sea pirates” or monsters of the deep. Historians less inclined towards fantastic realism debate whether the Fomorians were actually African raiders preying on local settlements or Norsemen, while those with a little more lyrical edge argue over whether they were giants, half-goats, or mermen. Of course, when Partholón’s gang arrived, battle ensued, but apparently the Fomorians were already busy bashing each other’s heads, so this is not unexpected. Seathrún Céitinn (referred to in English as Geoffrey Keating) was a 16 th Century Irish priest and historian, and references the presence of the Fomorians prior to Partholon, and seems to indicate that a few escaped after their defeat.

Some of the authors reckon another conquest of Erin before Partholon, viz., the conquest of Ciocal the son of Nel, the son of Garbh the son of Uthmhoir, from Sliabh Ughmhir and Lot Luaimhnioch his mother. They lived 2O0 years by fishing and fowling, till they met with Partholon in Erin, so that the battle of Magh Iotha was fought between them, in which fell Ciocal, and in which the Fomorians were destroyed by Partholon. In Inbhior Domhnann Ciocal with his people took harbour in Erin. Six ships their number: fifty men and fifty women the crew of each ship of them (Keating, 1904, p70-71).

A 9 th Century A.D. Latin text called the Historia Brittonum attributed to Welsh monk Nennius mentions Partholon, as well as the fact that his attempted colonization of Ireland was an abysmal failure. Everybody apparently died from a plague rather quickly.

Long after this, the Scots arrived in Ireland from Spain. The first that came was Partholomus, with a thousand men and women these increased to four thousand but a mortality coming suddenly upon them, they all perished in one week (Nennius, 1819, p6-7).

Along come the Nemedians. Apparently, Partholon had not completely eradicated the Fomorians, as they were there again to meet Nemed and his entourage when they arrived in Ireland. Nemed was supposedly a Scythian (from the Caspian Sea area), and with a fleet of forty-four ships set sail for Ireland with the intention of settling down. Opinions vary, but this is dated in the literature sometime between 2350-1731 B.C. Of course, hostilities with the Fomorians were inevitable, and Nemed knocked some Fomorian heads together for a few years, killing a few Fomorian kings, and generally following in the grand tradition of Partholon, then died nine years after arriving on scene along with 3000 of his fellow Nemedians. The Fomorians, clearly sick of being bullied, decided to oppress the remaining Nemedians for the next 200 years, until Nemed’s son Fergus Red-side (who would have had to have lived for an impossibly long time) led a revolt and fought the Fomorians in an apocalyptic battle, eventually abandoning Ireland entirely with the thirty remaining Nemedians in a single ship, rumored to be heading for Greece. Ireland was then said to be relatively empty for the next 200 years.

They tell us that the posterity of Nemheda dwelt nigh two hundred years in Ireland that, from time to time, they like their predecessors, the followers of Partholan, were attacked by a sea-roving race, known at that remote period by the name Fomorians, which is a Keltic term, meaning sea-robber that in consequence thousands of the settlers, near Cork, in the south of Ireland, perished from plague and pestilence that the Fomorians held strong towers of defence along Donegal and Deny, and chiefly in Tory Island, or the Island of Towers that the native Nemedians made there one grand united attack on them, unlike not the effort made by the Irish in the eleventh century against the Danes at Clortarf: that the Fomorian forces were aided by the arrival of other pirate invaders that in the battle thus renewed, and fought with savage fierceness on the strand of Tory Island, the Nemedians and their foes perished in thousands, either by the sword or in the rolling billows of the angry Atlantic, rushing in to appease, as it were, the fierce wrath of such merciless contending foes. The surviving Nemedians, after a time, forsook the Irish shore, and sailed, under three independent leaders, from the land of their fathers some under Briotau Maol, to Britain some to Scandinavia or Northern Europe others under Simon Breac, or the Speckled, to South-eastern Europe. During a space of two hundred years, the Sea-robbers and a few Nemedians had the “Noble Island” completely to themselves (Bourke, 1887).

The final set of pre-Celtic Irish colonists were reputed to be the fearsome Fir Bolg. The Fir Bolg, assuming they existed, are actually believed to have been immigrant Gallo-Germanic tribe called the Belgae from northern Gaul, or alternatively “a malevolent race of immortals” (Mac Neill, 1920, p88).

These “Fir Bolgs” are found in myth as the next colonizers of Ireland. Varying traditions say that they came from Greece, or from “Spain” — which was a post-Christian euphemism for the Celtic Hades. They consisted of three tribes, called the “Fir Domnann” or “Men of Domnu”, the “Fir Gaillion” or “Men of Gaillion”, and the “Fir Bolg” or ” Men of Bolg” but, in spite of the fact that the first-named tribe was the most important, they are usually called collectively after the last. Curious stories are told of their life in Greece, and how they came to Ireland but these are somewhat factitious, and obviously do not belong to the earliest tradition (Squire, 1905, p68).

The Fir Bolg represent the last set of non-Celts in Ireland before the arrival of the Tuatha Dé Danann (People of the goddess Danu) around 1477 B.C., the heroes of which are thought to represent pre-Christian Celtic deities, the memory of which survived well into the establishment of Christianity in Ireland, when all of this was written down and the Tuatha Dé Danann became mythological, but mortal, kings and queens. Tuatha Dé Danann king Nuada defeated the Fir Bolg, lost an arm in the process, and couldn’t be king anymore. Dynastic nuttiness followed.

Of special importance in this connection is the statement that the Fir Bolg were subdued, but not exterminated indeed the chroniclers enumerate a number of places in the country where communities of Fir Bolg remained down to their own time. This can mean only that in the time of the chroniclers there were people in the country differing from the dominant race in appearance, and possibly also to some extent in religion and in language and that these were rightly regarded as being survivors of an earlier population, who had been at some time conquered by the Celtic-speaking people to which the chroniclers themselves belonged. This is an ethnological datum of great importance, indicating the existence, in the early days of Christianity in the country, of a recognized strain of aboriginal blood (Fletcher, 1922, p77).

Finally, the Milesians arrive from the Iberian Peninsula. These were the Gaelic Celts. They fought a war with the Tuatha Dé Danann, and Ireland was divided. The surface went to the Milesians. Beneath the ground was given to the Tuatha Dé Danann, who became the daoine sídhe, or more familiarly, faeries.

We have now to consider what happened In Ireland before the close of the De Danann period, and this brings us to the fifth and last settlement of the country, the coming of the Milesians, who are the race from which the present Irish people, If they belong to the old Irish race, and not to the Norman or English settlers, who came over afterwards, are descended. If your family has one of the old Gaelic surnames, which generally have an “O” or a “Mac” before them, you are a Milesian yourself, so you should be Interested to hear how your ancestors came to Ireland. They are supposed to have come from Scythia by way of Egypt, Crete and Spain. Wherever they came from, they seem to have had long wanderings, and to have been very glad to reach the shores of Ireland, which they called Inisfail, or the “Island of Destiny,” because one of their prophets had foretold that they should inhabit it. It is just possible, as some legends relate, that they came over from Spain, with which in early times Ireland had friendly communication. It is said in one story that there was a great famine in Spain, which forced the Milesians to leave and they arrived in a large fleet of boats on the north coast of Ireland. But if the followers of Milesius really came from Spain, they would more likely have landed on the south coast, so that we cannot be sure if the old tradition of their origin is true. However this may be, they made inquiries about the rulers of the country to which they had come. They were told that three brothers ruled the land in turn, but that at present they were all gathered at Aileach, in Ulster, quarrelling over the division of a number of jewels which had belonged to their ancestors. Ith, the Milesian leader, entered the room while the dispute was going on, and they were so much struck by his appearance that they referred the question to him, and asked him to settle the dispute. This he did by dividing the jewels equally between them, and then he told them that he could not think how anyone, and especially princes, could spend their time in wrangling and quarrelling-, when they were so happy as to live in such a beautiful island as Inisfail. He said that he had never visited such a delightful land before, where it was neither too hot nor too cold, where fruits and plenty abounded, where the grass was green and the trees luxuriant, and the hills and soft valleys made the landscape beautiful. In such a land, he said, the people should always live in friendliness and harmony together. When he had said this, the princes felt shame at their quarrelling, and Ith bade them a gentle farewell (Hull, 1908, p20-21).

Genetically, humans share about 96% of the DNA of chimps. Take any two human beings, and their DNA is 99.9% identical. Thus, ethnicity, ancestry, race, and national origin are obviously social constructs, but nonetheless figure prominently in our history of kicking each other around, so much so that we invent complex mythological genealogies, dubious supernatural justifications, and folkloric battles of titans to explain how those people most like us landed on top, or on the bottom, as the case may be. Gods have a nasty habit of giving away stuff that they don’t have property rights to, and we take this to mean two things (1) that gods have a special fondness for humans (or is it humans have a special fondness for gods. I always get those two confused), and (2) if our gods happen to give us a land grant that unsuspecting locals already inhabit, the locals must be monsters, and the only good monster is a dead monster. We use mythology as shorthand for an inglorious history of cultural violence and an endless cycle of displacement. The mythical history of Ireland simply mirrors the mythical history of largely every other culture, creed, or nation that has ever existed, firmly rooting itself in the primordial, as if the state of human affairs at any given point in time was inevitable. Sadly, as paleontologist Simon Conway Morris observed, “If there were a clear prospect that such evils were part of a barbarian past, then at least we might find a small crumb of comfort. No such prospect exists: no scientific analysis can even remotely answer or account for past and present horrors of human behavior.” Makes you wonder what they’ll say about us when the next historical wave of barbarians comes through. I hope they at least make me into a cool monster.


Black Fomor

The Black Fomor's body is gray and its horns and hooves are yellow. This monster simply floats around the level and uses glyphs to attack. If attacked, he can teleport behind the player. Only one Black Fomor appears in the entire game, in a room of the Misty Forest Road. Its glyph, Umbra, can only be absorbed during its attempt to use it.

White Fomor

Contrary to his less powerful counterpart, his fur is pale yellow and his horns and hooves are golden. If attacked, he can teleport behind the player. They are found in the Mystery Manor and in Dracula's Castle.

His only attack is summoning the Vol Luminatio glyph, which can be absorbed. He fires off a ball of Light energy with a tracking effect that follows enemies. An oddity with the White Fomor is that when he creates the glyph, if defeated, the glyph will still materialize, unlike when the Black Fomor casts Umbra.

It drops the very rare Cashmere Thread, five of which are required in order to complete Monica's "Is That Cashmere?" quest.

John Duncan (painter)

Duncan was born in the Hilltown area of Dundee on 19 July 1866, the son of a butcher and cattleman. John, however, had no interest in the family business and preferred the visual arts. By the age of 15 he was submitting cartoons to the local magazine "The Wizard of the North" and was later taken on as an assistant in the art department of the Dundee Advertiser. At the same time he was also a student at the Dundee School of Art, then based at the High School of Dundee. In 1887-88 he worked in London as a commercial illustrator, then travelled to the continent to study at Antwerp Academy under Charles Verlat and the Düsseldorf Art Academy. [3]

In 1889 Duncan returned to Dundee and exhibited in the new Victoria Art Galleries extension of the Albert Institute. The following year he became one of the founder members of the Dundee Graphic Arts Association (now Dundee Art Society). Most of his income at this time was derived from portrait commissions, including jute merchant John L Luke and Mrs Hunter of Hilton. [3]

In 1892 Duncan moved to Edinburgh to work with the sociologist, botanist and urbanist Patrick Geddes, whom he had met in Dundee. As part of the Celtic Revival movement, Duncan painted murals for Geddes's halls of residence at Ramsay Garden. He also became the principal artist for Geddes' 1895-97 seasonal magazine "The Evergreen". [2] The magazine also featured work by Dundee artist Nell Baxter and the celebrated decorative artist Robert Burns. [4] Among other subjects, Duncan depicts "Bacchus and Silenus" in a mythical scene. [5] Duncan also acted as director of Geddes's short-lived Old Edinburgh School of Art, [6] and was commissioned by him to design The Witches' Well, Edinburgh, in 1894. [7]

In 1897 Duncan returned to Dundee and exhibited Celtic and symbolist paintings at the Graphic Arts Association as well as the Royal Scottish Academy and the Royal Glasgow Institute among others. It was at this time that he painted The Glaive of Light now in the University of Dundee's collection. He continued to teach art and design, at the Dundee YMCA, the University and the art school at Dundee Technical Institute. He also created Dundee's first design collective by gathering together a group of young talents who created and exhibited decorative art and design pieces for the Graphic Arts Association, including Nell Baxter, Rosa Baxter, Elizabeth Burt and Duncan's sister Jessie Westbrook. [3]

Thanks to Patrick Geddes's influence, in 1900 Duncan was appointed as a Professor at the Chicago Institute founded by Francis Wayland Parker. His stay there was not a happy one, and after Parker's death in 1902 he returned to Scotland and settled in Edinburgh, where he would live for the rest of his life. [3]

Duncan's last major work was entitled 'Mary Queen of Scots at Fotheringhay' (dated 1929). The work was commissioned and is now held by the University of St Andrews. [8] The painting was completed in spite of the critical antagonisms Duncan was facing at the time. A smaller scale replica is held in the Tullie House Museum and Art Gallery, Carlisle. [8] [9]


The Fomorians (Old Irish: Fomóire, Modern Irish: Fomhóraigh or Fomhóire) [1] are a supernatural race in Irish mythology. They are often portrayed as hostile and monstrous beings who come from under the sea or the earth. Later, they were portrayed as giants and sea raiders. They are enemies of Ireland's first settlers and opponents of the Tuatha Dé Danann, [2] the other supernatural race in Irish mythology. However, their relationship with the Tuath Dé is complex some of their members intermarry and have children. The Fomorians have thus been likened to the jötnar of Norse mythology.

The Fomorians seem to have been gods who represent the harmful or destructive powers of nature personifications of chaos, darkness, death, blight and drought. [3] [4] [5] The Tuath Dé, in contrast, seem to represent the gods of growth and civilization.


The Genealogies from Rawlinson B 502 lists the full genealogy of the Fomorians going right back to the Biblical Noah, who was 10th from Adam and Eve. [10]

Rawlinson B 502, Section 26, page 330, [11] says

"Bress m. Elathan m. Delbáeth m. Deirgthind m. Ochtaich m. Sithchind m. Molaich m. Lárgluind m. Ciarraill m. Fóesaim m. Meircill m. Leccduib m. Iachtaich m. Libuirnn m. Lathairn m. Soairtt m. Sibuirt m. Siuccat m. Stairnn m. Saltait m. Cair m. h-Iphit m. Philist m. Fuith m. Caim m. Nóe m. Laméch".

Tale of the Tories (feat. bandits & pirates)

With Theresa May still trying to give birth to Brexit, it’s time to investigate the word Tory, which happens to come from Irish.

Our journey starts with the grand-daddy of languages, Proto-Indo European (or the yummier ‘PIE’), where the root *ret- meant ‘to run or to roll’. This also gave us other rolling words via Latin like rota and rotary, or the Irish roth (wheel), and rothar (bike). In Proto-Celtic *ret shows up in *to-wo-ret, ‘a running up to’. This eventually found its way into Irish as tóir ‘pursuit’, toraigh ‘pursue’, and tóraí ‘bandit, outlaw’.

With this latter meaning, ‘tory’ came into use in mid-17th century Ireland. It referred to the Irish catholics who were dispossessed of their land by the English and turned to outlawry, robbing and and burning down the houses of English settlers. The Inspector General of Police for Connaught, George Warburton was less than delighted with these outlaws. He mentions these ‘tories’ in his letter to English politician Joseph Williamson in December 1666:

“In Connaught we hear of outrages by Tories.
Three or four companies are in quest of them,

but the inhabitants of that country [county]
where they are, are generally their friends,
and will give no intelligence where they may be met with.
They have lately burned several houses, and threaten

others that they will shortly ‘see them’. “

Calendar of the state papers relating to Ireland v.3, 1666-1669.

‘Tory’ takes on a different guise in the late 17th century, in the context of the British political Tory and Whig parties. The Whigs were those who wanted to exclude James II’s succession to the throne on the grounds that he was Catholic and those who opposed the exclusion were labelled as ‘abhorrers’ and later ‘tories’, based on the sense of the Irish outlaws. ‘Whig’ itself also started as a term of abuse, stemming from “whiggamors” Scottish ‘cattle-drivers’, and sadly has nothing to do with their fabulous wigs.

Charles James Fox, Whig MP (right), opposing the policies of Tory PM Lord North.

Labour’s attack speeches still use the term ‘Tory’ when speaking negatively of the Conservative party. In recent years, however, the ‘tory’ epithet has been somewhat reclaimed by Conservatives. On Twitter the hashtag #toryandproud is popular among the younger generation of Conservative supporters, for example. The BBC’s Leala Padmanabhan has written more extensively on this matter:

Returning to the Emerald Isle, if your geography is up to scratch you’ll know that the word ‘tory’ also turns up off the coast of Donegal on one of the most remote Irish islands – Tory island. Theories about the etymology of Tory island differ. Some say that it comes from Tor Rí ‘king’s tower’ in Irish, as the Fomorian king Balor apparently lived in a big tower on the island. There is also the more exciting theory that the island takes its name from the Fomorians themselves, who are said to have inhabited the island initially. They were a semi-divine race of sea pirates who had a soft spot for raiding and destroying things, thus coming to be known as bandits or outlaws (Irish tóraí) .

These Fomorians looked like quite the motley crew (see below). Not the best looking bunch of lads but I’m sure their mammies thought they were only gorgeous:

The Fomorians – John Duncan (1912).

The current Tory islanders they have managed to remain relatively independent from Ireland and have even preserved ancient traditional land tenure systems, naming systems and their own monarchy. The late Patsy Dan Rogers was the last to hold the title of Rí Thoraí (the King of Tory). An interesting piece on Tory island life, including more on Patsy Dan can be found here.

Duncan was born in Wichita, Kansas to parents of English and Scottish ancestry. He was raised with a strict Calvinist upbringing where self-reliance, hard work and the suppression of emotional suffering were considered virtues. Questioning authority was severely punished. [2] In his teens he studied figure drawing and painting together with psychology and the physics of light. His first contact with experimental music was the Jacques Lasry LP Chronophagie, discovered in the record bins of the Wichita Public Library. In 1971 he applied for and received Conscientious Objector status. At 19 he left for Los Angeles to attend CalArts, where he studied under Allan Kaprow.

In the mid-1970s, his Los Angeles performances, events and installations were influenced by the 'Poor Theatre' of Jerzy Grotowski, as well as the cathartic exposure of personal experiences seen in the work of Viennese actionist artist Rudolf Schwarzkogler and early feminist performance art. Several of his early events were held in private or in front of a small number of witnesses. Scare was an encouragement to examine the physical effects of fear. Duncan donned a disguise and fired a blank-loaded pistol at point-blank range at two carefully selected participants, Tom Recchion and Paul McCarthy, chosen “. because they were close friends who would not expect anything like this to happen to them and who would be able to appreciate the event as I intended it”. [3] Bus Ride sexually stimulated unsuspecting passengers on a city bus with a liquid poured into the ventilation system in order to observe the results. [4] Blind Date, involving intercourse with a female corpse followed by a vasectomy, both conducted in private, was presented as an audio-only event to an audience in a darkened warehouse, a demonstration of how men are conditioned to turn emotional suffering into rage. [5] An untitled character-exchange event with McCarthy was held in private in McCarthy's studio, where Duncan recorded actions to video that McCarthy immediately erased.

Other events were presented to radio audiences, at once separated from each other and too large to gather in one place. [6] No was Duncan's first public performance of a Reichian exercise (later known as bioenergetic analysis) broadcast live over Close Radio. Happy Homes, his last performance before leaving Los Angeles, was a telephone exchange with radio therapist Dr. Toni Grant, broadcast live throughout the United States over the ABC radio network. [7] Duncan described several child-abuse cases he had personally witnessed as a Los Angeles city bus driver as he asked the therapist for advice.

His first films were shot in Super-8, silent or with separate audio, intended either as stand-alone works or as elements used in live events. The performance For Women Only is centered around a film intended to erotically arouse the all-woman audience, who were then invited to enter a back room and abuse Duncan sexually. The Secret Film was screened individually to eight viewers before the film itself and the room where it was shown were both destroyed by fire.

Together with McCarthy he co-produced Close Radio, a weekly series of live radio broadcasts over KPFK that provided airtime to artists working in sound, many of them for the first time. The Close Radio archive was donated to the Getty Center in 2007. [8]

In 1978 he became closely associated with the Los Angeles Free Music Society (LAFMS), working on collaborations with Tom Recchion, Fredrik Nilsen and Joe Potts. His earliest recorded audio experiments were also made at this time, including work with Michael LeDonne-Bhennet, McCarthy, Recchion and Nilsen. His first solo LP Organic was released in 1979. His first solo recordings with shortwave radio were released in 1982 on the EP Creed which also included the complete broadcast of Happy Homes.

Duncan left the United States for Tokyo in 1982, where he continued his performance work, and expanded his experiments with recorded shortwave broadcasts and film. The music he produced in this period, including Kokka (National Anthem) with Cosey Fanni Tutti and Chris Carter, the solo LP Riot and Dark Market Broadcast, led to collaborations with a number of Japanese noise music artists, including Masami Akita, Keiji Haino and Hijokaidan. His solo recordings and live concerts from this period establish him as one of the early pioneers of Japanese noise the first non-Japanese to work in the genre in Japan. [9]

It was also here that he began to deliberately limit the exhibition of his visual art to public arenas, outside of established art galleries and institutions. His performances centered on Reichian breath exercises conducted onstage and in public, including Cast performed on the floor of the women's public toilet at the 'Second Annual Alternative Media Conference' in Tokyo in 1986. The collage series that he produced for display in strategically selected public men's toilets called The Toilet Exhibition combined graphic war-damage images from world events with commercial pornography to emphasize links between them, in private stalls frequented by men from government offices (Kokkai-gijidomae), the banking sector (Hibia) and the fashion industry (Shibuya), at moments of absentminded contemplation.

In the mid-1980s he began pirate radio and television broadcasts with portable custom-made transmitters built by Duncan himself, operating illegally from apartment block roofs in central Tokyo and an abandoned US Army hospital near Sagamihara, as well as periodic broadcasts made from his own home. Radio Code broadcasts featured the early live work of musician Keiji Haino and Butoh soloist Hisako Horikawa, which were also relayed throughout Tokyo via other pirate radio stations, particularly Radio Homerun in Shimokitazawa. TVC-1 television broadcasts were transmitted from central Tokyo rooftops, over the frequency assigned to NHK 1 after the station had concluded its broadcast day, limited to 12 minutes in order to avoid contact with Tokyo police. [10]

His work in film and video included the Super-8 films Trigger with a solo soundtrack, Brutal Birthday with a live soundtrack performed by Duncan's group C.V. Massage, and a support film for the performance event Move Forward that included images from hardcore pornography and animated technical drawings of nuclear attack strategies.

He also directed a series of commercial adult videos for Kuki Inc. under the name John See, for which he also wrote the scripts, edited, composed soundtracks and occasionally acted in incidental roles. Several re-edited versions of John See videos were broadcast over TVC-1, also appearing in the 2003 video installation See. [11]

In 1988 Duncan moved to Amsterdam, where his work became more introspective, especially following a month-long stay at a Buddhist monastery in Chiang Mai, Thailand in 1993.

The Kick performance series of Reichian exercises was conducted before live audiences throughout Europe, from 1989 at Ars Electronica in Linz, Austria, to 1993. The final event was held on the altar of the Parochiale Kirche in Berlin, concluding a live solo concert.

His audio installation Stress Chamber consists of three independent motors vibrating the walls of a shipping container at its resonant frequency, remote-controlled from outside. Participants enter one at a time, nude, to be locked inside, allowing the vibrations to move at random around and through the participant's body. Stress Chamber was premiered in Amsterdam at the Absolute Threshold Machine Festival. Initially the festival organizers threatened to cancel the work due to its tendency to vibrate the grounds of the surrounding area to a 90-meter radius, concerned that it would become a 'torture device'. Finally the work was allowed, and the queue it created kept the entire festival open several hours longer than anticipated. [12] [13]

In 1988 and 1989 several of his films were broadcast over Rabotnik TV along with Anthem, a Reichian exercise performed for the Rabotnik TV camera in a derelict building used by heroin addicts. Location sound for Anthem was recorded by Andrew M. McKenzie.

Between 1990 and 1993, Radio Code FM broadcasts continued as weekly programs which he produced and hosted over pirate stations Radio 100 and Radio Patapoe.

The Maze event in June 1995 involved a group of seven volunteer participants, including Duncan and an infant child, locked naked and blind overnight in an Amsterdam cellar in order to directly experience workings of the mind in a situation of unexpected sensory deprivation. The event ended when several participants pried open the exit door with their fingernails and broke it down. The infant child slept through the entire event. [13] A video created from infrared photos taken during the event was produced later that year at Contained in Linz, Austria.

Music from this period includes CD releases Contact with Andrew M. McKenzie, Send with tracks by McKenzie and Zbigniew Karkowski and The Crackling, composed with Max Springer in 1996 from field recordings made by Duncan at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center. A 1997 review by Rob Young claimed The Crackling rendered the Stanford research facility '. perhaps the largest musical instrument ever created'. [14]

In 1996 he met Giuliana Stefani when she posed as a model for Duncan's photo project Icons. Her academic training in mathematics, work in photography and practice of meditation quickly catalyzed a bond between them. In autumn 1996 they left Amsterdam and set up a studio in Scrutto di San Leonardo, a village of fewer than 100 inhabitants in the Friuli-Venezia-Giulia province of Italy at the border with Slovenia. They were married in Scrutto di San Leonardo in 1998. Their collaborations include Charge Field and Palace of Mind. They agreed to separate amicably in 2005.

Art works from this period include the outdoor audio installation The Keening Towers (2003) for the 2nd Gothenburg Biennial composed with children's voices, played continuously for 90 days over speakers suspended 25 meters above the entrance to the Gothenburg Art Museum, as well as the performance event Voice Contact (1998–2000) where volunteer participants enter alone, nude and blind into an empty room as Duncan, also nude and blind, responds uniquely to each according to their movements within the space. The first Voice Contact event was held in a modified suite at the five-star Lydmar Hotel in Stockholm in 1998.

Video from this period includes The North Is Protected, based on the text with the same title written by Leif Elggren.

Duncan's work with radio continued and expanded. Cross Radio broadcasts were three-hour live experimental music programs produced and hosted by Duncan, aired weekly from 23:00 to 02:00 over Radio Onde Furlane in Udine, syndicated over Resonance FM in London, Radio Autonoma in Madrid, Radio Kinesonus in Tokyo and WPS1 in New York. Over Radio Onde Furlane, each show continued until 05:30.

Audio releases from this period include Crucible, Tap Internal, Palace of Mind (cited above), Nav with Francisco López, Fresh with zeitkratzer, Phantom Broadcast, Infrasound Tidal from sources by Densil Cabrera, Tongue with Elliott Sharp, Presence with Edvard Graham Lewis and Da Sich Die Machtgier. with sources by Asmus Tietchens.

Duncan relocated to Bologna in 2005, setting up a studio near Porta San Vitale.

His first project here was the production of The Error, a 50-page hardbound book measuring 40 x 60 cm. of his writings and photographs, printed by letterpress in an edition of 10 copies. The Error was first included together with a DVD video version of the work in Dialogue 1 at Gallery Enrico Fornello in Prato, Italy, curated in 2006 by Simone Menegoi. Copies of The Error are in the collections of Niklas Belenius, Leif Elggren, Piergiorgio Fornello, Paul McCarthy, Giuliana Stefani and François Kaeser, who sponsored the production. [15]

In 2006 he recorded Our Telluric Conversation with Carl Michael von Hausswolff and Nine Suggestions with Pan Sonic members Mika Vainio and Ilpo Väisänen. The audio installation The Garden with Valerio Tricoli was included in the 2006 edition of Eco e Narciso held at the IPCA Ecomuseum [16] in the province of Turin, a deserted factory complex once infamous for production methods that directly caused the deaths of several thousand workers as well as hundreds of residents of the surrounding area. [17] A DVD video The Garden based on the installation and shot at the IPCA site was produced in 2007.

In January 2007 Duncan performed Something Like Seeing in the Dark with Elggren, premiered at Palazzo Re Enzo, Bologna for the Netmage 07 festival. In August, his solo audio installation The Tolling was introduced at Smepp: Società Mezzi Portuali at the Piombino dockyards for Piombino eXperimenta 3. In September, Duncan curated Cross Lake Atlantic with large-scale works by Scott Arford, Gary Jo Gardenhire, Kim Gordon and Jutta Koether, Brandon LaBelle, Teresa Margolles and Fredrik Nilsen at Gallery Enrico Fornello in Prato. In October, three pieces from The Plasma Missives, with texts written in Duncan's blood, and three pieces from his Distractions series, with his blood used as paint, were exhibited together with work by Elggren at Gallery Niklas Belenius in Stockholm.

In 2008, he began teaching Audio Art at l'Accademia di Belle Arti di Bologna. [18]

In February 2008 Duncan's audio installation The Gauntlet was held at Färgfabriken [19] in Stockholm: a series of anti-theft alarms with infrared sensors, turned on at ten-minute intervals and triggered at random by visitors moving blindly through the darkened hall.

In June 2008 Ensemble Phoenix performed interpretations with acoustic instruments of Phantom Broadcast, scored and conducted by Duncan, in live concerts held at Gare du Nord in Basel and Dampfzentrale in Bern. The Dampfzentrale concert was recorded for broadcast in Switzerland over DRS2.

Watch the video: The Fomorians: The Destructive Giants of Irish Legend - Irish Mythology Explained