He was also a poet and seer, who received his training from an old bard named Finnegas on the banks of the river Boyne. During this time we are told Fionn received the wisdom of the great salmon of knowledge that swam in the river. Fionn also received the gift of wisdom from a sacred well of the goddess. The three daughters who guarded the well threw some of the well water at Fionn to prevent him approaching. In doing so the water went into his mouth and so he gained the knowledge of the well. Fionn was the keeper of many weapons, each of them having some magical quality, in true Celtic style. His banner was called the Dealb Greine ('sun shape') for it had the likeness of the sun.
His sword was known as Mac an Luin, Son of the Waves, and was given to him by the mystical God of the sea, Manannan. Fionn's shield, the Skiath Gailbhinn (Storm Shield) was capable of uttering a roar so loud that it could be heard throughout Ireland. The Dord Fian was the famous hunting horn of Fionn, the horn of plenty with which Fionn could rally together the men of the Fianna. Finally, Fionn was entrusted with the magical crane skin bag of Manannan, that contained: the shirt and knife of Manannan, the belt and smith's hook of Gobhniu, the shears of the king of Alban, the helmet of the king of Lochlann, the belt of the skin of a great fish and the bones of Assal's pigs. Each of these items had magical properties which the enthusiastic reader might gain some insight of by close study of the legends. At the full tide the crane bag would be full, whereas at the ebbing tide it would be empty. One of Fionn's greatest achievements took place at the Feast of Tara, after which he gained recognition as a great warrior and was given the leadership of the Fianna. It happened that every Samhain night for nine years a prince of the Tuatha De Danaans would come out of his sidhe mound and burn up Tara. His name was Aillen and he would play such sweet, enchanted music that everyone at the feast would fall into a deep slumber. The high king promised that if a man came forward who could save Tara from this fate, he would grant such a man whatever inheritance he claimed. With the help of a magical spear which he kept pressed to his forehead, Fionn was able to withstand the enchantment. Aillen grew angry and shot a flame of fire from his mouth, but the brave Fionn caught it in his cloak. Realising that here before him stood a man who could overpower him, Aillen made haste to retreat to his sidhe mound. As he entered through the doorway Fionn made a fatal cast with his spear that struck the faerie prince through the heart. There are innumerable stories and legends associated with the exploits of Fionn and the Fenians. Through them all we are shown their close affinity with the wilder places and their inhabitants, the sidhe folk. These heroes of Alba and Erin are no mere mortals, for they pass easily from one world to the other, often in pursuit of a magic fawn or boar which leads them ever deeper into hidden lands and strange encounters. Fionn possessed two magical hounds, Bran and Sceolan, who were once two women of the sidhe that had been changed into dog shape. They accompanied Fionn wherever he went. It was these faithful hounds that came upon the deer woman Sadb, who had been changed into the shape of a fawn by a jealous Druid and who became Fionn's wife for a time. She bore him a son, Oissin, which means 'little fawn' In his older age Fionn was to take another wife, Grainne (Grania). However, his bride-to-be became infatuated with one of the Fianna, Diarmaid of the Love Spot, and the young couple eloped together. This dishonourable act invoked the wrath of Fionn, who tirelessly pursued them from then on across the country. Years later, when Diarmaid was lying mortally wounded by the boar of Beinn Gulben, Fionn refused to
offer him a drink of water from his hands, which had life-restoring powers. By this act we are shown that Fionn Mac Cumhal has the power of Life and Death over Diarmaid. With his two white, red-eared hounds Fionn reveals himself as the White Hunter, the messenger of Death from the Goddess. His two hounds are the fighting dogs found amongst the labyrinth of Celtic knotwork. They guard the gateway that leads to the Mysteries, where only those with Truth in their hearts may walk.
Many stories of his adventures were told, of his hounds and cousins, Branand Sceolan, of the birth of his son Oisin, the poet and warrior, of his
old age, and the last sad moment when he let the saving water trickle
through his fingers, leaving Diarmuid (Dermot with the Love Spot) to die in
revenge for his unwilling abduction of Grania, Finn's young queen.
(finn mac coo'al) (FIONN MAC CUMHAL or FINN MAC COOL)
, find (fen), or fionn (f-yoon) Means: White, beautiful, a fair-haired person. The last and greatest leader of the Fianna. He was the son of Cumhal (coo-al) Mac Baiscne, who had been head of the Fianna of Ireland and had been killed by the sons of Morna who were contending against him for the headship. Finn's mother was Muirne, granddaughter of Nuada of the Tuatha De Danann, and of Ethlinn, the mother of Lugh of the Long Hand, so he was godlike and fairy race. After Cumhal was killed, Finn's mother sent him away to the care of a female Druid, for the sons of Morna were looking for him to kill him too. There he was trained, strenuously and in secret, and sent from place to place for safety and further education. He was trained in poetry, and he aquired two magical skills; whilst he was in training to the poet Finegas he accidentally tasted the salmon of knowledge and gained his magic tooth, and he drank a
mouthful of water of the well of the moon which gave him the power of prophecy. At last his training was complete, and he went up at the time of Samhain (sow-in) to the High King's palace at Teamhair (Tara). The High King recognized him by his likeness to his father, and putting the smooth horn into his hand, which gave him immunity from attack, he asked him who he was. Finn told him his whole story and asked to be admitted to the Fianna; and the king granted it to him, for he was the son of a man whom he had trusted. Now every year at Samhain for the past nine years the Hall of Teamhair had been burned down by a fairy musician called Aillen Mac Midhna, who played so sweet an air that no one who heard it could help falling asleep, and while they slept he loosed a burst of flame against the place so that it was consumed. That night the king asked the Fianna if any man among them would attempt the watch, and Finn offered to do so. While he was going the round an old follower of his father offered him a magic spear of bitterness, which smelt so sharply that it would keep any man awake. By the use of this spear, Finn killed Aillen and rescued the Hall for ever. He was made leader of the Fianna, and Goll Mac Morna, his chief and most bitter enemy, made willing submission to him, and was ever after his true follower and friend, though he still picked quarrels with all his kinsmen.
FINN, THE BOYHOOD DEEDS OF (FINN MAC CUMHAL)
This story gives the reasons for the long enmity between Finn and the sons
of Urgriu, the tragic outcome of which is related in THE DEATH OF FINN.
Stories of the boyhood of traditional characters, in Irish as well as in
other heroic literature, are the natural result of the public demand for
more material concerning favorite national heroes. THE BOYHOOD DEEDS OF
FINN, unfortunately, comes down to us incomple-te. It contains a number of
striking passages of nature poetry, done in the best bardic tradition of
the second period (about 1200 to 1350), as yet unmarred by the exaggerated
piling up of epithets that characterizes much later Irish poetry. The
reader will notice some similarity between this story and THE BOYHOOD DEEDS
OF CUCHULAIN. He will also observe that THE BOYHOOD DEEDS OF FINN differs
in certain respects from the parallel account given in THE CAUSE OF THE
BATTLE OF CNUCHA. The two represent two different streams of tradition, one
older than the other.
FINN, THE DEATH OF
(FINN MAC CUMHAL) No cycle of heroic tales in any country is regarded as complete with-out the story of the death of the central hero. All readers of epic literature recall the death of Beowulf, of Siegfried, and of Roland. In medieval Ireland the desire for harmony and system called into existence the death tales of not only the central heroes CuChulain and Finn, but also of other famous warriors and kings. The story of Finn's death no doubt belongs to an early and authentically Irish tradition. The date of composition of the piece in its present form has not beenestablished, but it is comparatively late, probably of about the same period as THE COLLOQUY OF THE OLD MEN. The rhetoric is flamboyant and, at times, over-conventionalized, yet the narrative is direct, and proceeds inevitably to its conclusion without interruption. The final scene in which the fierce old warrior faces his life long enemies in his last battle is one of memorable tragic dignity. The story begins with a great boar-hunt held
by Finn and his companions. During a pause in the activities there is told the story of the origin of Finn's magic horn, which bears a mysterious
curse. Then the boar-hunt itself is resumed. Oscar kills a terrible boar that has long been feared by the people of Erin. Right there starts the selection brought by Cross and Slover in their ANCIENT IRISH TALES, but the actual death of Finn is not included, since the end of the story is lacking
in the manuscript.
Finn mac Cumhail/Finn mac Coul/Fion mac Cumhail: Father was Cumhal. Sons
were Fergus and Ossian; Ossian's mother was Sadb, the daughter of Bodb the
Red. At first named Deimne (pronounced "demna".)