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Irish Celtic Story or Myth- the pursuit of Diarmaid and Grainne

By Edited Aug 21, 2015 0 0

Image of Celtic Cross
Credit: By Petr Vodicka [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

These Celtic stories really bring pictures of ancient tribes to life, people would have sat around their fires in the dark evenings and listened to someone telling a story . Some were supernatural or gave super human powers to the characters, quite easy to believe if you are sitting in a dark hut with only the fire light to see by.- This  story is about marriage which was a central theme to many lives as  births, marriage and death were rites of passage in tribal life. They were often not love matches but seem as a means of extending power and influence if an advantageous match could be made.


Finn Mac Cool was the leader of the Fianna tribe and was growing old.  He was a widower and despite his age he decided to get married , choosing to marry Grainne who was the daughter of the High King at Tara. Finn wanted more sons and he believed that the young and heathy Grainne would supply him with at least one heathy son. Grainne did not want to marry an old man and could not find it in her heart to love him. At the wedding feast her eye caught sight of a tall, good looking warrior named Diarmaid. As quickly as she could she ordered that drinks laced with a sleeping potion be given to all of the guests, except Dairmaid, and as soon as they were asleep, she begged him to take her away from her unwanted marriage. Ok the modern reader is going to challenge this and say what servant would have taken notice of the masters wife ordering a sleeping potion, but in Celtic Myths anything is possible.

Clothes that Diarmaid might have worn into battle

Warriors clothes
Credit: By Gorinin (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC-BY-SA-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5-2.0-1.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Diarmaid  was a loyal and trusted soldier and did not want to be disloyal to Finn but he weakened under the pleading of the beautiful Grainne., he was after all a young and fit man. The couple ran to the stables and stole a cart and pair of horses and made their escape whilst Finn and the others were still sleeping.

Finn woke up  with a headache and was full of rage when he discovered Grainne's absence.. Not only had he lost his wife before he had consummated the marriage, but he had also lost his trusted lieutenant and one of his best soldiers. Finn ordered that all the men of the tribe and their dogs, should search through the land looking for the missing couple. The tribe were not far behind the missing pair, and neither stopped for refreshments or sleep. The road they travelled was long and cold but they  came  upon Diarmaid's foster father who gave them received  in the form of a magic cloak which made them invisible and let them sleep, eat and drink. The couple used the cloak for sixteen years, sleeping rough and taking food and drink from where they could find it.


 After many years of searching the couple could not be found, though the Island had been scoured from one end to the other. Surprisingly, in a country where the oldest men tended to be 35-40,Finn Mac Cool was still alive and when approached by Grainne's and Diarmaid's families he agreed to stop the hunt as long as the couple agreed to return and Grainne was not flaunted in front of him. A feast was held to mark their return and Diarmaids lands were returned to him and peace and prosperity returned to the kingdom. Outwardly Finn had forgiven Diarmaid, but inwardly he was still seething with anger that he had stolen his wife. Finn received a prediction from a wise woman that Diarmaid would die if he hunted for the Boar of Boann Ghulban. Telling no one of this prediction Finn asked Diarmaid to lead an expedition to capture the Boar. Diarmaid was happy to accept this quest as he felt that Finn was showing him forgiveness and had confidence in his ability. Grainne was sad to see him go but waited with her family anxious for his return.

The prediction was fulfilled and Diarmaid lay dying. Finn was blessed with magic powers.He had shown in the past that  if  he cupped his hands, filled then with water and gave it to a dying man, then he could save his life. Finn made two attempts to carry the water back from the stream but each time he managed to trip and spill the water. On his third trip Finn was given support by friends of Diarmaid and not allowed to trip, but by the time he got to Diarmaid he was dead. The old man had extracted his revenge on the warrior without anyone noticing.



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