The Second Battle of
Moytura (Mag Tured)
The Tuatha De Danann lived in the northern isles of the world, learning lore
and magic and druidism and wizardry and cunning, until they surpassed the sages
of the arts of heathendom. There were four cities in which they learned lore and
science and diabolic arts, to wit Falias and Gorias, Murias and Findias. Out of
Falias was brought the Stone of Fal, which was in Tara. It used to roar under
every king that would take the realm of Ireland. Out of Gorias was brought the
Spear that Lug had. No battle was ever won against it or him who held it in his
hand. Out of Findias was brought the Sword of Nuada. When it was drawn from its
deadly sheath, no one ever escaped from it, and it was irresistible. Out of
Murias was brought the Dagda's Cauldron. No company ever went from it
unthankful. Four wizards in those four cities. Morfesa was in
Falias: Esras was in Gorias: Uscias was in Findias: Semias was in Murias. Those
are the four poets of whom the Tuatha De learnt lore and science.
Now the Tuatha De Danann made an alliance with the Fomorians, and Balor
grandson of Net gave his daughter Ethne to Cian son of Diancecht, and she
brought forth the gifted child, Lug. The Tuatha De came with a great fleet to
Ireland to take it from the Fir Bolg. They burnt their ships at once on reaching
the district of Corcu Belgatan (Connemara today), so that they should
not think of retreating to them; and the smoke and the mist that came from the
vessels filled the neighboring land and air. Therefore it was conceived that
they had arrived in clouds of mist. The first battle of Moytura was fought
between them and the Fir Bolg; and the Fir Bolg were routed and a hundred
thousand of them were slain, including their king Eochaid son of Ere.
In that battle, moreover, Nuada's hand was stricken off
-- it was Sreng son of
Sengann that struck it off him, so Diancecht the leech put on him a hand of
silver with the motion of every hand; and Credne the brazier helped the leech.
Now the Tuatha De Danann lost many men in the battle including Edleo son of
Alla, and Ernmas and Fiachra and Turil Bicreo.
But such of the Fir Bolg as escaped from the battle went in flight to the
Fomorians, and settled in Arran and in Islay and in Mann and Rathlin.
A contention as to the sovereignty of the men of Ireland arose between the
Tuatha De Danann and their women; because Nuada, after his hand has been stricken off,
was disqualified to be king. They said that it would be fitter for them to
bestow the kingdom on Bres son of Elotha, on their own adopted son; and that
giving the kingdom to him would bind the alliance of the Fomorians to them. For
his father, Elotha son of Delbaeth, was king of the Fomorians.
Now the conception of Bres came to pass in this way:
Eri, Delbaeth's daughter, a woman of the Tuatha De Danann, was one day looking at
the sea and the land from the house of Maeth Sceni, and she beheld the sea in
perfect calm as if it were a level board. And as she was there she saw a vessel
of silver on the sea. Its size she deemed great, but its shape was not clear to
her. And the stream of the wave bore it to land. Then she saw that in it was a
man of fairest form. Golden-yellow hair was on him as far as his two shoulders.
A mantle with bands of golden thread was around him. His shirt had trimmings of
golden thread. On his breast was a brooch of gold, with the sheen of a precious
stone therein. He carried two white silver spears and in them two smooth riveted
shafts of bronze. Five circlets of gold adorned his neck, and he was girded with
a golden-hilted sword with inlays of silver and studs of gold.
The man said to her:" Is this the time that our lying with thee will be
"I have not made a tryst with thee, verily," said the woman.
But they stretched themselves down together. The woman wept when the man
"Why weepest thou?" said he.
"I have two things for which I should lament," said the woman. "Parting from
thee now that we have met. And the fair youths of the Tuatha De Danann have
been entreating me in vain, and my desire is for thee since thou hast possessed
"Thy anxiety from these two things shall be taken away," said he. He drew his
golden ring from his middle-finger, and put it into her hand, and told her that
she should not part with it, by sale or by gift, save to one whose finger it
"I have another sorrow," said the woman. "I know not who hath come to me."
"Thou shall not be ignorant of that," said he. "Elotha son of Delbaeth, king
of the Fomorians, hath come to thee. And of our meeting thou shalt bear a son,
and no name shall be given him save Eochaid Bres, that is Eochaid the beautiful;
for every beautiful thing that is seen in Ireland, whether plain or fortress or
ale or torch or woman or man or steed, will be judged in comparison with that
boy, so that man say of it then "it is a bres".
After that the man went back again by the way he had come, and the woman went
to her house, and to her was given the famous conception.
She brought forth the boy, and he was named, as Elotha had said, Eochaid
Bres. When a week after the woman's lying-in was complete the boy had a
fortnight's growth; and he maintained that increase till the end of his first
seven years when he reached a growth of fourteen years. Because of the contest
which took place among the Tuatha De Danann the sovereignty of Ireland was given to the
boy; and he gave seven hostages to Ireland's champions, that is, to her chiefs,
to guarantee the restoring of the sovereignty if his own misdeeds should give
cause. His mother afterwards bestowed land upon him, and on the land he had a
stronghold built, called Dun Bresse; and it was the Dagda that built that
Now when Bres had assumed the kingship, the Fomorians, --Indech son of Dea
Domnann, and Elotha son of Delbaeth, and Tethra, three Fomorian kings, laid
tribute upon Ireland so that there was not a smoke from a roof in Ireland that
was not under tribute to them. The champions were also reduced to their service;
to wit, Ogma had to carry a bundle of firewood, and the Dagda became a rath
builder, and had to dig the trenches about Rath Bresse.
The Dagda became weary of the work, and he used to meet in the house an idle
blind man named Cridenbel, whose mouth was out of his breast. Cridenbel thought
his own ration small and the Dagda's large. Whereupon he said: "O Dagda! Of thy
honor let the three best bits of thy ration be given to me!" So the Dagda used
to give them to him every night. Large, however, were the lampooner's bits the
size of a good pig. But those three bits were a third of the Dagda's ration. The
Dagda's health was the worse for that.
One day, then, as the Dagda was in the trench digging a rath, he saw the Mac
Oc coming to him. "That is good, O Dagda," says the Mac Oc.
"Even so," said the Dagda.
"What makes thee look so ill?" said the Mac Oc.
"I have cause for it," said the Dagda, "every evening Cridenbel the
lampooner demands the three best bits of my portion."
"I have counsel for thee," said the Mac Oc. He put his hand into his purse,
took out three crowns of gold, and gave them to him.
"Put these three gold pieces into the three bits which thou givest at close
of day to Crindenbel," said the Mac Oc. "These bits will then be the goodliest
on thy dish; and the gold will turn in his belly so that he will die thereof,
and the judgment of Bres thereon will be wrong. Men will say to the king; "The
Dagda has killed Cridenbel by means of a deadly herb which he gave him." Then
the king will order thee to be slain. But thou shalt say to him: "What thou
utterest, O king of the warriors of the Fene, is not a prince's truth. For I was
watched by Cridenbel when I was at my work, and he used to say to me "Give me, O
Dagda, the three best bits of thy portion. Bad is my housekeeping tonight". So I
should have perished thereby had not the three gold coins which I found today
helped me. I put them in my ration. I then gave it to Cridenbel, for the gold
was the best thing that was before me. Hence, then, the gold is inside
Cridenbel, and he died of it." The Dagda followed this advice, and was called
before the king.
"It is clear", said the king. "Let the lampooner's belly be cut open to know
if the gold be found therein. If it be not found, thou shalt die. If, however,
it be found, thou shalt have life."
After that they cut open the lampooner's belly, and the three coins of gold
were found in his stomach, so the Dagda was saved. Then the Dagda went to his
work on the following morning, and to him came the Mac Oc and said: " Thou wilt
soon finish thy work, but thou shalt not seek reward till the cattle of Ireland
are brought to thee, and of them choose a heifer black-maned."
Thereafter the Dagda brought his work to an end, and Bres asked him what he
would take as a reward for his labor. The Dagda answered: " I charge thee," said
he, "to gather the cattle of Ireland into one place." The king did this as the
Dagda asked, and the Dagda chose of them the heifer which Mac Oc had told him to
choose. That seemed weakness to Bres: he thought that the Dagda would have
chosen somewhat more.
Now Nuada was in his sickness, and Diancecht put on him a hand of silver with
the motion of every hand therein. That seemed evil to his son Miach. Miach went
to the hand which had been replaced by Diancecht, and he said "joint to joint of
it and sinew to sinew," and he healed Nuada in thrice three days and nights. The
first seventy-tow hours he put it against his side, and it became covered with
skin. The second seventy-tow hours he put it on his breast ... that cure seemed
evil to Diancecht. He flung a sword on the crown of his son's head and cut the
skin down to the flesh. The lad healed the wound by means of his skill.
Diancecht smote him again and cut the flesh till he reached the bone. The lad
healed this by the same means. He struck him a third blow and came to the
membrane of his brain. The lad healed this also by the same means. Then he
struck the fourth blow and cut out the brain so that Miach died, and Diancecht
said that the leech himself could not heal him of that blow.
Thereafter Miach was buried by Diancecht and herbs three hundred and
sixty-five, according to the number of his joints and sinews, grew through the
grave. Then Airmed opened her mantle and separated those herbs according to
their properties. But Diancecht came to her, and he confused the herbs, so that
no one knows their proper cures unless the Holy Spirit should teach them
afterwards. And Diancecht said "If Miach be not, Airmed shall remain."
So Bres held the sovereignty as it had been conferred upon him. But the
chiefs of the Tuatha De murmured greatly against him, for their knives were not
greased by him, and however often they visited him their breaths did not smell
of ale. Moreover, they saw not their poets nor their bards nor their lampooners
nor their harpers nor their pipers nor their jugglers nor their fools amusing
them in the household. They did not go to the contexts of their athletes. They
saw not their champions proving their prowess at the king's court, save only one
man, Ogma son of Ethliu. This was the duty which he had, to bring fuel to the
fortress. He used to carry a bundle every day from Clew Bay islands. And because
he was weak from want of food, the sea would sweep away from him two thirds of
his bundle. So he could only carry one third, and yet he had to supply the host
from day to day. Neither service nor taxes were paid by the tribes, and the
treasures of the tribe were not delivered by the act of the whole tribe.
Once upon a time there came a-guesting to Bres' house, Cairbre son of Etain,
poet of the Tuatha De. He entered a cabin narrow, black, dark, wherein there was
neither fire nor furniture nor bed. Three small cakes, and they dry, were
brought to him on a little dish. On the morrow he arose and he was not thankful.
As he went across the enclosure, he said:
Without food quickly on a dish:
Now that was true. Naught save decay was on Bres from that hour. That is the
first satire that was ever made in Ireland.
Without a cow's milk whereon a calf grows;
Without a man's abode in the gloom of night:
Without paying a company of story-tellers, let that be Bres' condition.
Let there be no increase in Bres.
Now after that the Tuatha De Danann went together to have speech with their
fosterson, Bres son of Elotha, and demanded of him their sureties. He gave them
the restitution of the realm, and he was not well pleased with them for that. He
begged to be allowed to remain till the end of seven years. "That shall be
granted," said the same assembly; "but thou shalt remain on the same security.
Every fruit that comes to thy hand, both house and land and gold and silver,
cows and food, and freedom from rent and taxes until then"
"Ye shall have as ye say," said Bres.
This is why they were asked for the delay: that he might gather the champions
of the fairy-mound, the Fomorians, to seize the tribes by force. Grievous to him
seemed his expulsion from his kingdom.
Then he went to his mother and asked her whence was his race. "I am certain
of that," said she and she went on to the hill hence she had seen the vessel of
silver in the sea. She then went down to the strand, and gave him the ring which
had been left with her for him, and he put I round his middle-finger and it
fitted him. For the sake of no one had she formerly given it up, either by sale
or gift. Until that day there was none whom it suited.
Then they went forward till they reached the land of the Fomorians. They came
to a great plain with many assemblies therein. They advanced to the fairest of
these assemblies. Tidings were demanded of them there. They replied that they
were of the men of Ireland. They were then asked whether they had hounds; for at
that time it was the custom, when a body of men went to an assembly, to
challenge them to a friendly contest. " We have hounds," said Bres. Then the
hounds had a coursing-match, and the hounds of the Tuatha De Danann were swifter than
the hounds of the Fomorians. Then they were asked whether they had steeds for a
horse-race. They answered, "We have"; and their steeds were swifter than the
steeds oaf the Fomorians. They were then asked whether they had any one who was
good at sword-play. None was found save Bres alone. So when he set his hand to
the sword, his father recognized the ring on his finger and inquired who was the
hero. His mother answered on his behalf and told the king that Bres was a son
of his. Then she related to him the whole story even as we have recounted it.
His father was sorrowful over him. Said the father:
"What need has brought thee out of the land wherein thou didst rule?"
Bres replied: "Nothing has brought me save my own injustice and arrogance. I
stript them of their jewels and treasures and their own food. Neither tribute
nor taxes had been taken from them up to that time."
"That is bad," said the father. "Better were their prosperity than their
kingship. Better their prayers than their curses. Why hast thou come hither?"
"I have come to ask you for champions," said he. "I would take that land by
"Thou shouldst not gain it by injustice if thou didst not gain it by
justice," said the father.
"Then what counsel hast thou for me?" said Bres.
Thereafter he sent Bres to the champion, to Balor grandson of Net, the king
of the Isles, and to Indech son of Dea Domnann the king of the Fomorians; and
these assembled all the troops from Lochlann westwards unto Ireland, to impose
their tribute and their rule by force on the Tuatha De, so that they made one
bridge of vessels from the Foreigner's Isles to Erin. Never came to Ireland an
army more horrible or fearful than that host of the Fomorians. Men from Scythia
of Lochlann and men out of the Western Isles were rivals in that expedition.
Now as to the Tuatha De Danann, this is what they were doing. After
Bres, Nuada was
again in sovereignty over the Tuatha De Danann. At that time he held a mighty feast at
Tara for them. Now there was a certain warrior on his way to Tara, whose name
was Lug Samildanach. And there were then two doorkeepers at Tara, namely Gamal
son of Figal and Camaall son of Riagall. When one of these was on duty he saw a
strange company coming towards him. A young warrior fair and shapely, with a
king's trappings, was in the forefront of that band. They told the doorkeeper to
announce their arrival at Tara. The doorkeeper asked: "Who is there?"
"Here there is Lug Lamfada (Lugh Long-Arm) son of Cian son of Diancecht
and of Ethne daughter of Balor. Fosterson, he, of Tailltiu daughter of Magmor
king of Spain and of Eochaid the Rough son of Duach."
The doorkeeper asked of Lug Samildanach: "What art dost thou practice?" Said
he; "for no one without an art enters Tara."
"Question me," said he; "I am a wright."
The doorkeeper answered: "We need thee not. We have a wright already, even
Luchta son of Luachaid."
He said: "Question me, O doorkeeper! I am a smith."
The doorkeeper answered him: "We have a smith already, Colum Cualleineach of
the three new processes."
He said: "Question me: I am a champion."
The doorkeeper answered: We need thee not. We have a champion already, Ogma
son of Ethliu."
He said again: "Question me: I am a harper."
"We need thee not. We have a harper already, Abcan son of Bicelmos whom the
Tuatha De Danann chose in the fairy mounds."
Said he: "Question me: I am a hero."
The doorkeeper answered: "We need thee not. We have a hero already, even
Bresal Etarlam son of Eochaid Baethlam."
Then he said: "Question me, O doorkeeper! I am a poet and I am a historian."
"We need thee not. We have already a poet and historian, even En son of
He said, "Question me: I am a sorcerer."
"We need thee not. We have sorcerers already. Many are our wizards and our
folk of might."
He said: "Question me: I am a leech."
"We need thee not. We have for a leech Diancecht."
"Question me," said he: "I am a cupbearer."
"We need thee not. We have cupbearers already, even Delt and Drucht and
Daithe, Tae and Talom and Trog, Glei and Glan and Glesi."
He said: "Question me: I am a good brazier."
"We need thee not. We have a brazier already, Credne Cerd."
He said again, "Ask the king." Said he, "whether he has a single man who
possesses all these arts, and if he has I will not enter Tara."
Then the doorkeeper went into the palace and declared all to the king. "A
warrior has come before the enclosure," said he. "His name is Samildanach
(many-gifted), and all the arts which thy household practice he himself
possesses, so that he is the man of each and every art."
The king said then that the chess-boards of Tara should be taken to
Samildanach, and he won all the stakes, so that then he made the Cro of Lug.
Then that was related to Nuada. "Let him into the enclosure," says he; "for
never before has man like him entered this fortress."
Then the doorkeeper let Lug pass him, and he entered the fortress and sat
down in the sage's seat, for he was a sage in every art.
Then the great flag-stone, to move which required the effort of four-score
yoke of oxen, Ogma hurled through the house, so that it lay on the outside of
Tara. This was a challenge to Lug. But Lug cast it back, so that it lay in the
center of the palace and made it whole.
"Let a harp be played for us," said the company. So the warrior played a
sleep-strain for the hosts and for the king the first night. He cast them into
sleep from that hour to the same time on the following day. He played a
wail-strain, so that they were crying and lamenting. He played a laugh-strain,
so that they were in merriment and joyance.
Now Nuada, when he beheld the warrior's many powers, considered whether
Samildanach could put away from the bondage which they suffered from the
Fomorians. So they held a council concerning the warrior. The decision to which
Nuada came was to change seats with the warrior. So Samildanach went to the
king's seat, and the king rose up before him till thirteen days had ended. Then
on the morrow he met with the two brothers, Dagda and Ogma, on Grellach Dollaid.
And his brothers Goibniu and Diancecht were summoned to them. A full year were
they in that secret converse, wherefore Grellach Dollaid is called Amrun of the
Tuatha De Danann.
Thereafter the wizards of Ireland were summoned to them, and their medical
men and charioteers and smiths and farmers and lawyers. They held speech with
them in secret. Then Nuada inquired of the sorcerer whose name was Mathgen what
power he could wield? He answered that through his contrivance he would cast the
mountains of Ireland on the Fomorians, and roll their summits against the
ground. And he declared to them that the twelve chief mountains of the land of
Erin would support the Tuatha De Danann, in battling for them, to wit, Sliab
League, and Denna Ulad and the Mourne Mountains, and Bri Ruri and Sliab Bladma
and Sliab Snechtai, Sliab Mis and Blisliab and Nevin and Sliab Maccu Belgadan
and Segals and Cruachan Aigle.
Then he asked the cupbearer what power he could yield. He answered that he
would bring the twelve chief lochs of Ireland before the Fomorians, and that
they would not find water therein, whatever thirst might seize them. These are
those lochs: Dergloch, Loch Luimnigh, Loch Corrib, Loch Ree, Loch Mask,
Strangford Loch, Belfast Loch, Loch Neagh, Loch Foyle, Loch Gara, Loch Reag,
Marloch. They would betake themselves to the twelve chief rivers of Ireland-
Bush, Boyne, Baa, Nem, Lee, Shannon, Moy, Sligo, Erne, Finn, Liffey, Sui; and
they will all be hidden from the Fomorians, so that they will not find a drop
therein. Drink shall be provided for the men of Ireland, though they bide in the
battle to the end of seven years.
Then said Figol son of Matmos, their druid: "I will cause three showers of
fire to pour on the faces of the Fomorian host, and I will take out of them two
thirds of their valor and their bravery and their strength, and I will bind
their urine in their own bodies and in the bodies of their horses. Every breath
that the men of Ireland shall exhale will be an increase in valor and bravery
and strength to them. Though they bide in the battle till the end of seven
years, they will not be weary in any wise."
Said the Dagda: "The power such ye boast I shall wield it all by myself" "It
is thou art the Dagda (good hand), with everyone". Then they separated from the
council, agreeing to meet again that day three years.
Now when the provision of the battle had been settled, Lug and Dagda and Ogma
went to the three Gods of Danu, and these gave Lug the plan of the battle; and
for seven years they were preparing for it and making their weapons.
The Dagda had a house in Glenn Etin in the north, and he had to meet a woman
in Glenn Etin a year from that day, about Samain (Hallowe'en) before the battle.
The river Unis of Connacht roars to the south of it. He beheld the woman in
Unius in Corann, washing herself, with one of her two feet at Allod Echae (Echumech) , to the south of the water, and the other at
Loscuinn, to the north
of the water. Nine loosened tresses were on her head. The Dagda, conversed with
her, and they made a union. "The bed of the Couple" is the name of the place
thenceforward. The woman that is here mentioned is the Morrigu. Then she told
the Dagda that the Fomorians would land at Mag Scetne, and that he should summon
Erin's men of art to meet her at the Ford of Unius, and that she would go into
Scetne to destroy Indech son of Dea Domnann, the king of the Fomorians and would
deprive him of the blood of his heart and the kidneys of his valor. Afterwards
she gave two handfuls of that blood to the hosts that were waiting at the Ford
of Unius. "Ford of Destruction" became its name, because of that destruction of
the king. Then that was done by the wizards, and they chanted spells on the
hosts of the Fomorians.
This was a week before Samain, and each of them separated from the other
until all the men of Ireland came together on Samain. Six times thirty hundred
was their number, that is, twice thirty hundred in every third.
Then Lug sent the Dagda to spy out the Fomorians and to delay them until the
men of Ireland should come to the battle. So the Dagda went to the camp of the
Fomorians and asked them for a truce of battle. This was granted to him as he
asked. Porridge was then made for him by the Fomorians, and this was done to
mock him, for great was his love for porridge. They filled for him the king's
cauldron, five fists deep, into which went four-scored gallons of new milk and
the like quantity of meal and fat. Goats and sheep and swine were put into it,
and they were all boiled together with the porridge. The were spilt for him into
a hole in the ground, and Indech told him that he would be put to death unless
he consumed it all; he should eat his fill so that he might not reproach the
Fomorians with inhospitality.
Then the Dagda took his ladle, and it was big enough for a man and woman to
lie on the middle of it. These then were the bits that were in it, halves of
salted swine and a quarter of lard. "Good food this," said the Dagda.
At the end of the meal he put his curved finger over the bottom of the hole
on mold and gravel. Sleep came upon him then after eating his porridge. Bigger
than a house-cauldron was his belly, and the Fomorians laughed at it. Then he
went away from them to the strand of Eba. Not easy was it for the hero to move
along owing to the bigness of his belly. Unseemly was his apparel. A cape to
the hollow of his two elbows. A dun tunic around him, as far as the swelling of
his rump. It was moreover, long breasted, with a hole in the peak. Two brogues
on him of horse-hide, with the hair outside. Behind him a wheeled fork to carry
which required the effort of eight men, so that its track after him was enough
for the boundary-ditch of a province. Wherefore it is called "The Track of the
Then the Fomorians marched till they reached Scente. The men of Ireland were
in Mag Aurfolaig. These two hosts were threatening battle. "The men of Ireland
venture to offer battle to us." Sais Bres son of Elotha to Indech son of Dea
Domnann. "I will fight anon," said Indech, "so that their bones will be small
unless they pay their tributes."
Because of Lug's knowledge the men of Ireland had made a resolution not to
let him go into battle. So his nine fosterers were left to protect him, Tollus-dam and
Ech-dam and Eru, Rechtaid the White and Fosad and Fedlimid, Ibor
and Sclbar and Minn. They feared an early death for the hero owing to the
multitude of his arts. Therefore they did not let him forth to the fight.
The chiefs of the Tuatha De Danann were gathered round Lug. And he asked his
smith, Goibniu, what power he wielded for them? "Not hard to tell," said he.
"Though the men of Erin bide in the battle to the end of seven years, for every
spear that parts from its shaft, or sword that shall break therein, I will
provide a new weapon in its place. No spear-point which my hand shall forge,"
said he, "shall make a missing cast. No skin which it pierces shall taste life
afterwards. That has not been done by Dolb the smith of the Fomorians."
"And thou, O Diancecht," said Lug, "what power canst thou wield?"
"Not hard to tell," said he. "Every man who shall be wounded there, unless
his head be cut off, or the membrane of his brain or his spinal marrow be
severed, I will make quite whole in the battle on the morrow."
"And thou, O Credne," said Lug to his brazier, "what is thy power in the
"Not hard to tell," said Credne. "Rivets for their spears and hilts for their
swords, and bosses and rims for their shields, I will supply them all."
"And thou, O Luchta," said Lug to his wright, "what service wilt thou render
in the battle?"
"Not hard to tell," said Luchta. "All the shields and
require, I will supply them all."
"And thou, O Ogma," said Lug to his champion, "what is thy power in the
"Not hard to tell," said he. "I will repel the king and three enneads of his
friends, and capture up to a third of his men."
"And ye, O sorcerers," said Lug, "what power will you
"Not hard to tell," said the sorcerers. "We shall fill them with fear when
they have been overthrown by our craft, till their heroes are slain, and deprive
them of two thirds of their might, with constraint on their urine."
"And ye, O cupbearers," said Lug, "what power?"
"Not hard to tell, "said the cupbearers. "We will bring a strong thirst upon
them, and they shall not find drink to quench it."
"And ye, O druids," said Lug, "what power?"
"Not hard to tell," said the druids. " We will bring showers of fire on the
faces of the Fomorians, so that they cannot look upwards, and so that the
warriors who are contending with them may slay them by their might."
"And thou, O Cairbre son of Etain," said Lug to his poet, "what power canst
thou wield in the battle?"
"Not hard to tell," said Cairbre. "I will make a satire on them. And I will
satirize them and shame them, so that through the spell of my art they will not
"And ye, O Be-cuile and O Dianann," said Lug to his two
witches, "what power
can ye wield in the battle?"
"Not hard to tell," said they. "We will enchant the trees and the stones and
the sods of the earth, so that they shall become a host under arms against them,
and shall rout them in flight with horror and trembling."
"And thou, O Dagda," said Lug, "what power canst thou wield on the Fomorian
host in the battle?"
"Not hard to tell," said the Dagda. "I will take the side of the men of Erin
both in mutual smiting and destruction and wizardry. Under my club the bones of
the Fomorians will be as many as hailstones under the feet of herds of horses
where you meet on the battlefield of Moytura."
So thus Lug spoke with every one of them in turn; and he strengthened and
addressed his army, so that each man of them had the spirit of a king or a
mighty lord. Now everyday a battle was fought between the tribe of the Fomorians
and the Tuatha De Danann, save only that kings or princes were not delivering it, but
only keen and haughty folk.
Now the Fomorians marveled at a certain thing which was revealed to them in
the battle. Their spears and their swords were blunted and broken and such of
their men as were slain did not return on the morrow. But it was not so with the
Tuatha De Danann. For though their weapons were blunted and broken today, they were
renewed on the morrow, because Goibniu the smith was in the forge making swords
and spears and javelins. For he would make those weapons by three turns. Then
Luchta the wright would make the spear-shafts by three chippings, and the third
chipping was a finish and would set them in the ring of the spear. When the
spearheads were stuck in the side of the forge he would throw the rings with the
shafts and it was needless to set them again. Then Credne the brazier would make
the rivets by three turns, and would cast the rings of the spears to them. And
thus they used to cleave together.
This then is what used to put fire into the warriors who were slain, so that
they were swifter on the morrow. Because Diancecht and his two sons, Octriull
and Miach, and his daughter Airmed sang spells over the well named Slane. Now
their mortally wounded men were cast into it as soon as they were slain. They
were alive when they came out. Their mortally wounded became whole through the
might of the incantation of the four leeches who were about the well. Now that
was harmful to the Fomorians, so they sent a man of them to spy out the battle
and the actions of the Tuatha De Danann, namely Ruadan son of Bres and of Brig the
Dagda's daughter. For he was a son and a grandson of the Tuatha De Danann. Then he
related to the Fomorians the work of the smith and the wright and the brazier
and the four leeches who were around the well. He was sent again to kill one of
the artisans, that is Goibniu. From him he begged a spear, its rivets from the
brazier and its shaft from the wright. So all was given to him as he asked.
There was a woman there grinding the weapons, Cron mother of Fianlug; she it is
that ground Ruadan's spear. Now the spear was given to Ruadan by a chief,
wherefore the name "a chief's spear" is still given to weaver's beams in Erin.
Now after the spear had been given to him, Ruadan turned and wounded
But he plucked out the spear and cast it at Ruadan, so that it went through him, and
he died in the presence of his father in the assembly of the Fomorians. The Brig
came and bewailed her son. She shrieked at first, she cried at last.
So that then for the first time crying and shrieking were heard in Erin. Now
it was that Brig who invented a whistle for signaling at night.
Then Goibniu went into the well, and he became whole. There was a warrior with the
Fomorians, Octriallach son of Indech son of Dea Domnann, son of the Fomorian
king. He told the Fomorians that each man of them should bring a stone of the
stones of Drowes to cast into the well of Slane in Achad Abla to the west of
Moytura, to the east of Loch Arboch. So they went, and a stone for each man was
cast into the well. Wherefore the cairn thus made is called Octriallach's Carn.
But another name for that well is Loch Luibe, for Diancecht put into it one of
every herb (lub) that grew in Erin.
Now that when the great battle came, the Fomorians marched out of their camp,
and formed themselves into strong battalions. Not a chief nor man of prowess of
them was without a hauberk against his skin, a helmet on his head, a broad spear
in his right hand, a heavy sharp sword on his belt, a firm shield on his
shoulder. To attack the Fomorian host on that day was "striking a head against a
cliff," was "a hand in a serpent's nest," was "a face up to fire". These were
the kings and chiefs that were heartening the host of the Fomorians, namely,
Balor son of Dot son of Net, Bres son of Elotha, Tuiri Tortbuillech son of
Lobos, Gol and Irgol Loscennlomm son of Lommgluech, Indech son of Dea Domnann
the king of the Fomorians, Octriallach son of Indech, Omna and Bagna, Elotha son
On the other side the Tuatha De Danann arose and left their nine comrades
keeping Lug, and they marched to the battle. When the battle began, Lug escaped
from his guardians with his charioteer, so that it was he who was in front of
the hosts of the Tuatha De Danann. Then a keen and cruel battle was fought between the
tribe of the Fomorians and the men of Ireland. Lug was heartening the men of
Ireland that they should fight the battle fervently, so that they should not be
any longer in bondage. For it was better for them to find death in protecting
their fatherland than to bide under bondage and tribute as they had been.
The hosts uttered a great shout as they entered the battle. Then they came
together and each of them began to smite the other. Many fine men fell there.
Great the slaughter and the grave-lying that was there. Pride and shame were
there side by side. There was anger and indignation. Abundant was the stream of
blood there over the white skin of young warriors mangled by the hands of eager
men. Harsh was the noise of the heroes and the champions mutually fending their
spears and their shields and their bodies when the others were smiting them with
spears and with swords. Harsh, moreover, was the thunder that was there
throughout the battle, the shouting of the warriors and the clashing of the
shields, the flashing and whistling of the glaives and the ivory-hilted swords,
the rattling and jingling of the quivers, the sound and winging of the darts and
the javelins, and the crashing of the weapons. The ends of their fingers and of
their feet almost met in the mutual blows, and owing to the slipperiness of the
blood under the feet of the soldiers, they would fall from their upright posture
and beat their heads together as they sat. The battle was a gory, ghastly melee,
and the river Unsenn rushed with corpses.
Then Nuada Silver-Hand and Macha, daughter of Ernmass, fell by Balor grandson
of Net. And Cassmael fell by Octriallach son of Indech. Lug and Balor of the
Piercing Eye met in the battle. An evil eye had Balor the Fomorian. That eye was
never opened save only on a battlefield. Four men used to lift up the lid of the
eye with a polished handle which passed through its lid. If an army looked at
the eye, though they were many thousands in number they could not resist a few
warriors. It had a poisonous power. Once when his father's druids were
concocting charms, he came and looked out of the window, and the fume of the
concoction came under it, so that the poison of the concoction afterwards
penetrated the eye that looked. He and Lug met. "Lift up mine eyelid, my lad,"
said Balor, "that I may see the babbler who is conversing with me."
The lid was raised from Balor's eye. Then Lug cast a sling-stone at him,
which carried the eye through his head while his own army looked on. And the
sling-stone fell on the host of the Fomorians, and thrice nine of them died
beside it, so that the crowns of their heads came against the breast of Indech
son of Dea Domnann, and a gush of blood sprang over his lips. Said Indech: "Let
Loch Half-green my poet be summoned to me!" Half-green was he from the ground to
the crown of his head.
Loch went to the king. "Make known to me," said Indech, "who has flung this
cast on me."
Then the Morrigu, daughter of Ernmass, came, and heartened the Tuatha De
fight the battle fiercely and fervently. Thereafter the battle became a rout,
and the Fomorians were beaten back to the sea. The champion Ogma son of Ethliu,
and Indech son of Dea Domnann the king of the Fomorians, fell in single combat.
Loch Half-green besought Lug for quarter. "Give me my three wishes," said Lug.
"Thou shalt have them," said Loch. "Till Doom I will ward off from Ireland
all plundering by the Fomorians, and, at the end of the world, every ailment."
So Loch was spared. Then he sang to the Gael the "decree of fastening."
Loch said that he would bestow names on Lug's nine chariots because of the
quarter that had been given him. So Lug told him to name them.
[At this point the original gives a list of the names of the chariots,
charioteers, and their equipment]
"What is the number of the slain?" said Lug to Loch.
"I know not the number of peasants and rabble. As to the number of Fomorian
lords and nobles and champions and kings sons and overkings I know, even five
thousand three score and three men: two thousand and three fifties: four score
thousand and nine times five: eight score and eight: four score and seven: four
score and six: eight score and eight: four score and seven: four score and six:
eight score and five: tow and forty including Net's grandson. That is the number
of the slain of the Fomorian overkings and high nobles who fell in the battle.
Howbeit, as to the number of peasants and common people and rabble, and folk of
every art besides who came in company with the great army- for every champion and
every high chieftain and every overking of the Fomorians came with his host to
the battle, so that all fell there, both his freemen and his slaves- we reckon
only a few of the servants of the overkings. This then is the number that I have
reckoned of these as I beheld: seven hundred, seven score and seven men together
with Sab Uanchennach son of Cairbre Cole, son was he of a servant
of Indech son of Dea Domnann, that is a son of a servant of the Fomorian king.
As to what fell besides of "half men" and of those who reached not the heart of
the battle, these are in no wise numbered till we number stars of heaven , sand
of sea, flakes of snow, dew on lawn, hailstones, grass under feet of herds, and
Manannan mac Lir's horses (waves) in a sea storm." Thereafter Lug and his
comrades found Bres son of Elotha unguarded. He said: "It is better to give me
quarter than to slay me."
"What then will follow from that?" said Lug
"If I be spared," says Bres, "the cows of Erin will always be in milk."
"I will set this forth to our wise men," said Lug.
So Lug went to Maeltne Mor-brethach, and said to him:
"Shall Bres have
quarter for giving constant milk to the cows of Erin?" "He shall not have
quarter," said Maeltne; "he has no power over their age or their offspring,
though he can milk them so long as they are alive."
Lug said to Bres: "That does not save thee: thou hast no power over their
age and their offspring, though thou canst milk them. Is there aught else that
will save thee, O Bres?" said Lug.
"There is in truth, tell thy lawyer that for sparing me the men of Ireland
shall reap a harvest in very quarter of the year."
Said Lug to Maeltne: "Shall Bres be spared for giving the men of Ireland a
harvest of corn every quarter?"
"This has suited us," said Maeltne: "the spring for ploughing and sowing, and
the beginning of summer for the end of the strength of corn, and the beginning
of autumn for the end of the ripeness of corn and for reaping it. Winter for
"That does not rescue thee," said Lug to Bres; "but less than that rescues
"What?" said Bres.
"How shall the men of Ireland plough? How shall they sow? How shall they
reap? After making known these three things thou wilt be spared."
"Tell them," said Bres, "that their ploughing be on a Tuesday, their casting
seed into the field be on a Tuesday, their reaping on a Tuesday." So through
that stratagem Bres was let go free.
In that fight, then, Ogma the champion found Orna the sword of
Tethra, a king
of the Fomorians. Ogma unsheathed the sword and cleansed it. Then the sword
related whatsoever had been done by it; for it was the custom of swords at that
time, when unsheathed, to set forth the deeds that had been done by them. And
therefore swords are entitled to the tribute of cleansing them after they have
been unsheathed. Hence also, charms are preserved in swords thenceforward. Now
the reason why deamons used to speak from weapons at that time was because
weapons were worshipped by human beings at that epoch, and the weapons were
among the safeguards of that time.
Now Lug and the Dagda and Ogma pursued the Fomorians, for they had carried
off the Dagda's harper, whose name was Uaitne. Then they reached the
banqueting-house in which were Bres son of Elotha and Elotha son of Delbaeth.
There hung the harp on the wall. That is the harp in which Dagda had bound the
melodies so that they sounded not until by his call he summoned them forth; when
he said this below:
Now that harp had two names, Daur-da-bla "Oak of two greens" and
Coir-cethar-chuir "Four-angled music."
Come summer, Come winter!
Mouths of harps and bags and pipes!
Then the harp went forth from the wall, and killed nine men, and came to the
Dagda. And he played for them the three things whereby harpers are
distinguished, to wit, sleep-strain and smile-strain and wail-strain. He played
wail-strain to them, so that their tearful women wept. He played smile-strain to
them, so their women and children laughed. He played sleep-strain to them, and
the company fell asleep. Through that sleep the three of them escaped unhurt
from the Fomorians though these desired to slay them.
Then the Dagda brought with him the heifer which had been given to him for
his labor. For when she called her calf all the cattle of Ireland which the
Fomorians had taken as their tribute, grazed.
Now after the battle has won and corpses cleared away, the Morrigu, daughter
of Ernmas, proceeded to proclaim that battle and the mighty victory which had
taken place, to the royal heights of Ireland and to its fairy hosts and its
chief waters and its river mouths. And hence it is that Badb (i.e., the Morrigu)
also describes high deeds. "Hast thou any tale?" said everyone to her then. And
Peace up to heaven
Then moreover she was prophesying the end of the world, and foretelling every
evil that would be therein, and every disease and every vengeance. Wherefore
then she sang this lay below:
Heaven down to earth
Earth under heaven
Strength in every one, etc....
I shall not see a world that will be dear to me
Summer without flowers
Kine will be without milk,
Women without modesty,
Men without valor,
Captures without a king...
Woods without mast,
Sea without produce...
Wrong judgments of old men,
False precedents of lawyers,
Every man a betrayer,
Every boy a reaver
Son will enter his fathers bed,
Father will enter his son's bed,
Every one will be his brother's brother in law....
An evil time!
Son will deceive his father,
Daughter will deceive her mother.
Cross, Tom Peete and Clark Harris Slover, Ancient Irish
Tales, Figgis, Dublin,1936.