Fabled Cuchlain

CuchulainStatue

In the lobby of the General Post Office in Dublin is a bronze statue.  It depicts an ancient Irish warrior, standing but slumped over in death.  If you look closely, you can notice that he is really not standing…he is tied to a stake.  A raven stands on his shoulder.  The sculpture is by Oliver Sheppard and was completed in 1911.

Is there a story here?  You can bet your last pot of gold there is

Cuchlain is perhaps the greatest of all Irish heroes. That’s saying a lot, since Ireland is a land of legends, folklore and myths that is second to none.

His story is complicated, his lineage is convoluted.  His legend is beyond doubt.

Cuchlain is believed to have lived in the 1st century, BC.  Legends began to be written about him in 700 AD.

With so much to his history, I will give you the only facts that bring us to the sad statue.

Cuchlain’s greatest victory was when Queen Medb of Connacht sent a great army to steal the Brown Bull of Ulster.  Cuchlain stopped the enemy single-handedly.  During one of the battles, he was put into a position to challenge his good friend, Ferdiad.  He fought him and killed him.

Later, he killed his own son, Connla, but learned his true identity after the fact.  Cuchlain went onto offend the goddess of death and battles, Morrigan.  Because of this, he was summoned to fight when he was ill.  On his way to enter the battle, he had a vision of a woman washing the body and sword of a dead warrior.  Cuchlain recognized the dead man…it was himself.  He knew then that his own death was at hand.  He fought with strength and honor and bravely.  Soon he was too weak to stand.  He knew his enemy feared him greatly.  So, he had his men lash him to a post so that he could continue to stand upright.

He died, still tied upright to the wood.  The enemy was unaware of his death until a raven landed on his shoulder.

There we have it.  Another Irish hero is dead, another Irish legend is born.

Perhaps, just perhaps, a tiny bit of Cuchlain’s blood flows in my Irish blood.

I’m no warrior and I carry no sword, but I’ve fought battles of many kinds, and even stranger things have been known to happen to those whose roots are on a small emerald-green island in the North Atlantic.

 

 

Last Stop: Tir Na Nog!

Hardly a mythology exists that doesn’t include a “Land of Eternal Youth” tale.  It could be a Shangra-La, isolated in a mountain valley somewhere or Ultima Thule for those brave souls who travel to the Northern Realms.  There are Gypsy versions and Japanese variations, but, for my money, the Irish story is the most haunting in its terrible beauty and tragic end.  How else can the Irish see things?

Tir Na Nog–Land of the Young.  No, it is not a place on a distant and dismal shore across a dreadful river where the dead go to reside.  Indeed, it’s a place of beauty and love and youth.  Those who dwell there, however, are not mere mortals, they are god-like in a way.  But it is a paradise.  You stay there and everything stays fine…you are forever young.

But, as with all good things, there is a string attached.  It’s only a minor point, though–you see, you can never leave Tir Na Nog.  In truth, you can leave…but you can never return.  This  is not like leaving behind a dusty farm town full of broken-hearted maidens…and perhaps a child or two.  There is more at stake here.

If you get restless, and you find the path out…you’d better think twice, for if you depart, you must never touch the ground of the outside world.  If you do, by accident or intention, serious stuff will happen to you.  Age will fall on your body very, very fast.  If you lived 500 years in Tir Na Nog, well, you’ll soon look like a fast forward video of Joan Rivers’ life.

In the ancient day of Irish past, Niamh of the Golden Hair led the hero, Oisin to the “Land of the Young.” (Don’t ask, it’s a long story.)  Oisin, a mortal, needed a guide to take him to that magical place.  That’s the way it is in journey stories.  The guide could be Gandalf, Yoda or Virgil.

In my case, it was Mariam, my wife.  She saw this house and she loved it.

Which takes us to our home in the Adirondacks and the completion of the Tir Na Nog connection.  We moved here full-time in 2011.  We came up from New York City (now, there’s a place that can age you fast).

Our bodies are older now but our spirit has grown younger.  Instead of collapsing on the sofa from riding the No. 2 train from downtown, we now collapse from kayaking for five hours or hiking ten miles.  We continue to age when we visit the City, but, it seems to be at a faster rate.

So, I’ve come to the end of my story, sort of.

The real end is this:

  • We bought a camp on a lake.
  • We named it Tir Na Nog.

                                           [Thanks  to Wikipedia]

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