Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race

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Such are the pleasant relations that prevail in the “Colloquy” between the representatives of the two epochs. Keelta represents all that is courteous, dignified, generous, and valorous in paganism, and Patrick all that is benign and gracious in Christianity; and instead of the two epochs standing over against each other in violent antagonism, and separated by an impassable gulf, all the finest traits in each are seen to harmonise with and to supplement those of the other.

Tales of Dermot

A number of curious legends centre on Dermot O'Dyna, who has been referred to as one of Finn mac Cumhal's most notable followers. He might be described as a kind of Gaelic Adonis, a type of beauty and attraction, the hero of innumerable love tales; and, like Adonis, his death was caused by a wild boar.

The Boar of Ben Bulben

The boar was no common beast. The story of its origin was as follows: Dermot's father, Donn, gave the child to be nurtured by Angus Ōg in his palace on the Boyne. His mother, who was unfaithful to Donn, bore another child to Roc, the steward of Angus. Donn, one day, when the steward's child ran between his knees to escape from some hounds that were fighting on the [pg 291] floor of the hall, gave him a squeeze with his two knees that killed him on the spot, and he then flung the body among the hounds on the floor. When the steward found his son dead, and discovered (with Finn's aid) the cause of it, he brought a Druid rod and smote the body with it, whereupon, in place of the dead child, there arose a huge boar, without ears or tail; and to it he spake: “I charge you to bring Dermot O'Dyna to his death”; and the boar rushed out from the hall and roamed in the forests of Ben Bulben in Co. Sligo till the time when his destiny should be fulfilled.

But Dermot grew up into a splendid youth, tireless in the chase, undaunted in war, beloved by all his comrades of the Fianna, whom he joined as soon as he was of age to do so.

How Dermot Got the Love Spot

He was called Dermot of the Love Spot, and a curious and beautiful folk-tale recorded by Dr. Douglas Hyde tells how he got this appellation. With three comrades, Goll, Conan, and Oscar, he was hunting one day, and late at night they sought a resting-place. They soon found a hut, in which were an old man, a young girl, a wether sheep, and a cat. Here they asked for hospitality, and it was granted to them. But, as usual in these tales, it was a house of mystery.

When they sat down to dinner the wether got up and mounted on the table. One after another the Fianna strove to throw it off, but it shook them down on the floor. At last Goll succeeded in flinging it off the table, but him too it vanquished in the end, and put them all under its feet. Then the old man bade the cat lead [pg 292] the wether back and fasten it up, and it did so easily. The four champions, overcome with shame, were for leaving the house at once; but the old man explained that they had suffered no discredit—the wether they had been fighting with was the World, and the cat was the power that would destroy the world itself, namely, Death.