The Book of Invasions
If one should ask regarding the Irish Matter,
I could perhaps be obliging;
for I know the tale of the founding of Her -
The Four Invasions of Eirinne.
In the dark abyss, in the time before Time,
Cassir was First; Bith's venturesome daughter
came over the waves from the Eastern Sea
with fifty maidens and three warriors.
Bith died at the foot of his mountain,
and Ladra in the heights;
Cassir herself by Boyle's limpid fountain
when the Great Flood came,
which encumbered the earth for a year and a day.
[this is not counted among the Invasions]
Then on Beltaín, on the First of May,
Parthalon came from the Underworld
leading his race on the Day of Bilé-
This is counted the First Invasion.
Twenty-four males and twenty-four females
came to the treeless, grassless plain of Sen Mag.
Watered by three lakes, succored by nine rivers -
this was the land of Eirinne then.
Invasion and conquest; that was their business,
and they did it well; they prospered and grew.
On the Plain of Ith, Parthelon was triumphant
against the Leader of the Formor -
the demon Cichol the Footless.
To accomodate the swell of the race
from forty-eight to five thousand men,
the land obliged, and stretched herself;
four plains and seven new lakes she gave
to the people of Parthelon; generous Eirinne!
After three hundred years, another invasion;
this one so small and yet invincible:
a gift from Bilé - a virus, a reaping;
and Parthelon's race were no more.
In premonition they gathered on the Old Plain
Tamlecht Muintre Partholain
was the place they awaited death;
Tamlecht Muintre Partholain,
The plague-grave of Parthelon's people.
Then came (again on the First of May)
The race of Nemed; beautiful Eirinne
welcomed them with open arms;
twelve new plains and four more lakes
were given to them; bounteous Eirinne!
Four great battles the history relates
between Nemed's race and the Formor gods -
Few are the tales that survive this time.
Once more on Bealtinne, another epidemic;
Nemed died, thousands died,
the rest were pressed into durance vile.
Morc, son of Dela
and Conann, son of Febar
built a Tower of Glass
upon an island in the sea
and a dark blood-tithe was demanded.
Two-thirds the top of the fairest crop
on Samhain was collected;
the futures of the race of Nemed
were winnowed by the wickerman.
In a last desperate effort
the Tower was taken;
but Morc inflicted slaughter.
Of sixteen thousand
who stormed the Tower,
only thirty survived,
and those people after
returned into the mists
from whence they came.
Then came three;
the Fir Domnann,
the roving Fir Gallion
and the Fir Bolgs, landing at Erris;
and guess which day it was
that saw their fated coming...
The Day of Bilé -
the Day of Invasion.
The Fir Bolg held Ulaidh;
the Fir Gallion, Leighoen;
The Fir Domnann went three ways -
to North Mumhan, South Mumhan
and the Province of Connaught.
The Five Provinces met at Balor's Hill,
after called the Hill of Uisnech -
the Center of all Eire.
These were the Corca-Duibhne
the People of Night,
and to the West they held the Night Country.
These were the Giants, Children of Domnu.
Nine kings ruled in their allotted span -
these, the first Iberian Celts.
They held Eirinne for many long years.
Then from from the sky,
or the southern isles of the world
(no one knows for sure)
came the Children of Danu -
the Tuatha Dé Danann,
the shining gods of the Gaels.
Four Great Treasures they bore:
the Lia Fáil from Falius;
the Spear of Llew from Gorias;
from Findias, Nuada's Sword;
out of Murias, the Dagda's Cauldron.
They landed near the Shannon
bearing poetry and magic
(it was, of course, on Bealtinne)
The Morrígú, and Badb and Macha
made themselves a glorious magic;
foggy gloom and ghostly mist
did frustrate the advancing ships,
they caused the air to rain down fire
and blood for three nights and three days.
The Tuatha Dé Danann, advancing westward,
reached the Plain of the Sea in Leighoen;
and there it was the two armies met:
The Children of Danu and the People of Night.
The Fir Bolg gazed in wonder and admiration
at the glittering spears of the People of Danu,
and they, in turn, gazed critically at
the heavy and rounded spears of the Fir Bolg.
The armies exchanged weapons,
that they might study them
for signs of each others' strengths;
the Tuatha Dé Danann also offered peace
and a division of land into equal parts for the races.
Eochaid, son of Erc, would not hear the offer -
"If once we give these people half,
soon they'll have the whole."
Desiring a more advantageous position,
the People of Danu wove westware into Connaught
to the plain called Nia, now called Moytura;
there they took stand at the pass of Balgatan.
Nuada, King of the Tuatha Dé Danann,
sued for peace on the same terms as before;
again, Eochaid declined laughing, asking:
"When are you going to stand and fight?"
Replied Nuada, "We must have a truce,
that we may repair our armour;
burnish our helms and sharpen our swords.
And besides, to be courteous,
we will make you spears like ours,
and you must do the same for us,
that the battle will be all sides equal."
A truce of one hundred and five days agreed on,
both sides set about preparing for war.
It was on Midsummer Day that the two sides met.
The Tuatha Dé Danann asked for an an assurance
that the battles would be fought always
with equal numbers on both sides;
agreed with misgivings by Eochaid, son of Erc.
Sreng fought Nuada, the King of the Gods,
'twas at that time Nuada lost his hand
and with it, his Kingship;
but Eochaid lost his life.
The Firbolg, reduced to three hundred men,
demanded single champion combat
until all on one side were slain;
sooner than consent to this slaughter,
the People of Danu offered them one-fifth of Eire,
and the Fir Bolg tribes settled after in Connaught.
Then men came;
praising Erin's temperate clime,
Her richness of fruit;
Her honey and wheat;
he was murdered in a conspiracy of history
(such things happen on Bealtinne)
Mile, his nephew, and eight sons and wives,
thirty-six chiefs and shipsful of warriors
came to the place where Ith had come;
over the waves from distant Spain;
the last invasion - from Iberia.
On the First of May, a hideous hand
stole the colts of Teirnyon -
Rhiannon's child was taken then too -
On the first of May, two Dragons fought
and shrieked in the realm of King Lludd -
On the First of May, Gwyn, son of Nudd,
fights Gwyrthur for the hand of Creudylad)
So omit no proscribed rites
nor kindle the anger of Faerie;
light fires for protection;
carry rowan to feed the gods.
Invasion comes in many forms -
And take care with old Horny!
©1992, 2012 Miso Susanowa
There's some confusion between the legends of Parthelon's people and the legends of Nemed's; Rhys considers them to be variants of the same cycle. Ogham name variants are mixed between the Graves, Everson, Thorsson and standard (modern).