Gods and Fighting Men
Fight with the Firbolgs
It was in a mist the Tuatha de Danaan, the people of the gods of Dana, or as
some called them, the Men of Dea, came through the air and the high air to
It was from the north they came; and in the place they came from they had
four cities, where they fought their battle for learning: great Falias, and
shining Gorias, and Finias, and rich Murias that lay to the south. And in those
cities they had four wise men to teach their young men skill and knowledge and
perfect wisdom: Senias in Murias; and Arias, the fair-haired poet, in Finias;
and Urias of the noble nature in Gorias; and Morias in Falias itself. And they
brought from those four cities their four treasures: a Stone of Virtue from
Falias, that was called the Lia Fail, the Stone of Destiny; and from Gorias they
brought a Sword; and from Finias a Spear of Victory; and from Murias the fourth
treasure, the Cauldron that no company ever went away from unsatisfied.
It was Nuada was king of the Tuatha de Danaan at that time, but Manannan, son
of Lir, was greater again. And of the others that were chief among them were
Ogma, brother to the king, that taught them writing, and Diancecht, that
understood healing, and Neit, a god of battle, and Credenus the Craftsman, and
Goibniu the Smith. And the greatest among their women were Badb, a battle
goddess; and Macha, whose mast-feeding was the heads of men killed in battle;
and the Morrigu, the Crow of Battle; and Eire and Podia and Banba, daughters of
the Dagda, that all three gave their names to Ireland afterwards; and Eadon, the
nurse of poets; and Brigit, that was a woman of poetry, and poets worshipped
her, for her sway was very great and very noble. And she was a woman of healing
along with that, and a woman of smith's work, and it was she first made the
whistle for calling one to another through the night. And' the one side of her
face was ugly, but the other side was very comely. And the meaning of her name
was Breo-saighit, a fiery arrow. And among the other women there were many
shadow-forms and great queens; but Dana, that was called the Mother of the Gods,
was beyond them all.
And the three things they put above all others were the plough and the sun
and the hazel-tree, so that it was said in the time to come that Ireland was
divided between those three, Coil the hazel, and Cecht the plough, and Grian the
And they had a well below the sea where the nine hazels of wisdom were
growing; that is, the hazels of inspiration and of the knowledge of poetry. And
their leaves and their blossoms would break out in the same hour, and would fall
on the well in a shower that raised a purple wave. And then the five salmon that
were waiting there would eat the nuts, and their colour would come out in the
red spots of their skin, and any person that would eat one of those salmon would
know all wisdom and all poetry. And there were seven streams of wisdom that
sprang from that well and turned back to it again; and the people of many arts
have all drank from that well.
It was on the first day of Beltaine, that is called now May Day, the Tuatha
de Danaan came, and it was to the north-west of Connacht they landed. But the
Firbolgs, the Men of the Bag, that were in Ireland before them, and that had
come from the South, saw nothing but a mist, and it lying on the hills.
Eochaid, son of Erc, was king of the Firbolgs at that time, and messengers
came to him at Teamhair, and told him there was a new race of people come into
Ireland, but whether from the earth or the skies or on the wind was not known,
and that they had settled themselves at Magh Rein.
They thought there would be wonder on Eochaid when he heard that news; but
there was no wonder on him, for a dream had come to him in the night, and
when he asked his Druids the meaning of the dream, it is what they said, that it
would not be long till there would be a strong enemy coming against him.
Then King Eochaid took counsel with his chief advisers, and it is what they
agreed, to send a good champion of their own to see the strangers and to speak
with them. So they chose out Sreng, that was a great fighting man, and he rose
up and took his strong red-brown shield, and his two thick-handled spears, and
his sword, and he set out from Teamhair, and went on towards the place the.
strangers were, at Magh Rein.
But before he reached it, the watchers of the Tuatha de Danaan got sight of
him, and they sent out one of their own champions, Bres, with his shield and his
sword and his two spears, to meet him and to talk with him.
So the two champions went one towards the other slowly, and keeping a good
watch on one another, and wondering at one another's arms, till they came near
enough for talking; and then they stopped, and each put his shield before his
body and struck it hard into the ground, and they looked at one another over the
rim. Bres was the first to speak, and when Sreng heard it was Irish he was
talking, his own tongue, he was less uneasy, and they drew nearer, and asked
questions as to one another's family and race.
And after a while they put their shields away, and it was what Sreng said,
that he had raised his in dread of the thin, sharp spears Bres had in his hand.
And Bres said he himself was in dread of the thick-handled spears he saw with
Sreng, and he asked were all the aims of the Firbolgs of the same sort. And
Sreng took off the tyings of his spears to show them better, and Bres wondered
at them, being so strong and so heavy, and so sharp at the sides though they had
no points. And Sreng told him the name of those spears was Craisech, and that
they would break through shields and crush flesh and bones, so that their thrust
was death or wounds that never healed. And then he looked at the sharp, thin,
hard-pointed spears that were with Bres. And in the end they made an exchange of
spears, the way the fighters on each side would see the weapons the others were
used to. And it is the message Bres sent to the Firbolgs, that if they would
give up one half of Ireland, his people would be content to take it in peace;
but if they would not give up that much, there should be a battle. And he and
Sreng said to one another that whatever might happen in the future, they
themselves would be friends.
Sreng went back then to Teamhair and gave the message and showed the spear;
and it is what he advised his people, to share the country and not to go into
battle with a people that had weapons so much better than their own. But Eochaid
and his chief men consulted together, and they said in the end: "We will not
give up the half of the country to these strangers; for if we do," they said,
"they will soon take the whole."
Now as to the Men of Dea, when Bres went back to them, and showed them the
heavy spear, and told them of the strong, fierce man he had got it from, and how
sturdy he was and well armed, they thought it likely there would soon be a
battle. And they went back from where they were to a better place, farther west
in Connacht, and there they settled themselves, and made walls and ditches on
the plain of Magh Nia, where they had the great mountain, Belgata, in their
rear. And while they were moving there and Putting up their walls, three queens
of them, Badb and Macha and the Morrigu, went to Teamhair where the Firbolgs
were making their plans. And by the power of their enchantments they brought
mists and clouds of darkness over the whole place, and they sent showers of fire
and of blood over the people, the way they could not see or speak with one
another through the length of three days. But at the end of that time, the three
Druids of the Firbolgs, Cesarn and Gnathach and Ingnathach, broke the
The Firbolgs gathered their men together then, and they came with their
eleven battalions and took their stand at the eastern end of the plain of Magh
And Nuada, king of the Men of Dea, sent his poets to make the same offer he
made before, to be content with the half of the country if it was given up to
him. King Eochaid bade the poets to ask an answer of his chief men that were
gathered there; and when they heard the offer they would not consent. So the
messengers asked them when would they begin the battle. "We must have a delay,"
they said; "for we want time to put our spears and our armour in order, and to
brighten our helmets and to sharpen our swords, and to have spears made like the
ones you have. And as to yourselves," they said, "you will be wanting to have
spears like our Craisechs made for you." So they agreed then to make a delay of
a quarter of a year for preparation.
It was on a Midsummer day they began the battle. Three times nine hurlers of
the Tuatha de Danaan went out against three times nine hurlers of the Firbolgs,
and they were beaten, and every one of them was killed. And the king, Eochaid,
sent a messenger to ask would they have the battle every day or every second
day. And it is what Nuada answered that they would have it every day, but there
should be just the same number of men fighting on each side. Eochaid agreed to
that, but he was not well pleased, for there were more men of the Firboigs than
of the Men of Dea.
So the battle went on for four days, and there were great feats done on each
side, and a great many champions came to their death. But for those that were
alive at evening, the physicians on each side used to make a bath of healing,
with every sort of healing plant or herb in it, the way they would be strong and
sound for the next day's fight.
And on the fourth day the Men of Dea got the upper hand, and the Firbolgs
were driven back. And a great thirst came on Eochaid, their king, in the battle,
and he went off the field looking for a drink, and three fifties of his men
protecting him; but three fifties of the Tuatha de Danaan followed after them
till they came to the strand that is called Traigh Eothaile, and they had a
fierce fight there, and at the last King Eochaid fell, and they buried him
there, and they raised a great heap of stones over his grave.
And when there were but three hundred men left of the eleven battalions of
the Firbolgs, and Sreng at the head of them, Nuada offered them peace, and their
choice among the five provinces of Ireland. And Sreng said they would take
Connacht; and he and his people lived there and their children after them. It is
of them Ferdiad came afterwards that made such a good fight against Cuchulain,
and Erc, son Of Cairbre, that gave him his death. And that battle, that was the
first fought in Ireland by the Men of Dea, was called by some the first battle
of Magh Tuireadh.
And the Tuatha de Danaan took possession of Teamhair, that was sometimes
called Druim Cain, the Beautiful Ridge, and Liathdruim, the Grey Ridge, and
Druim na Descan, the Ridge of the Outlook, all those names were given to
Teamhair. And from that time it was above all other places, for its king was the
High King over all Ireland. The king's rath lay to the north, and the Hill of
the Hostages to the north-east of the High Seat, and the Green of Teamhair to
the west of the Hill of the Hostages. And to the northeast, in the Hill of the
Sidhe, was a well called Nemnach, and out of it there flowed a stream called
Nith, and on that stream the first mill was built in Ireland.
And to the north of the Hill of the Hostages was the stone, the Lia Fail, and
it used to roar under the feet of every king that would take possession of
Ireland. And the Wall of the Three Whispers was near the House of the Women that
had seven doors to the east, and seven doors to the west; and it is in that
house the feasts of Team-hair used to be held. And there was the Great House of
a Thousand Soldiers, and near it, to the south, the little Hill of the Woman