as stated in the text - the Lebor Gabala ( Book of Invasions ) is a largely fictional account of the early history of Ireland - ~~~~~ intriguing anyway
The Lebor Gabála Érenn at a Glance: an Overview of the 11th Century Irish Book of Invasions
Lloyd D. Graham*
This document is intended as an orientation for students of the Lebor Gabála Érenn (LGE), a refresher for those who have read it in the past, and a rapid reference in relation to the genealogy of persons mentioned in the LGE.
Nature and Origin of the Lebor Gabála Érenn narratives
The LGE is one of the primary sources of information about the earliest period of Irish mythology, the so-called Mythological Cycle. All of the information in this guide has been abstracted from the Lebor Gabála Érenn - The Book of the Taking of Ireland Parts I-V, R.A.S. Macalister, D.Litt., Irish Texts Society, 1939-1954, reprinted 1993-1995. In general, Macalister provides three redactions of the text (essentially, R1 is from the Book of Leinster, R2 from the Stowe D Collection, and R3 from the Book of Ballymote) and this document provides a composite overview where greater weight has been given to the 'orthodox' or dominant versions. Alternative accounts or variant details are included only when they are deemed interesting or important to the larger context.
In the LGE, the details for figures in Macalister's Section I (From the Creation to the Dispersal of the Nations) have their origins in the Old Testament book Genesis. LGE Section II (The Early History of the Gaedil) is a pseudohistory of the Gaels that seems to have been based on the wanderings of the Israelites in the Old Testament book Exodus. A version of the pseudohistory (in Latin) is found in Nennius's 9th century Historia Brittanorum, and it features in the 9th century poem Can a mbunadas na nGaedel. This pseudohistory traces the lineage of the Gaels from Egypt to Scythia (and, in R2, back to Egypt), whence they travel to the Caspian, the Maeiotic Marshes, Spain, and finally to Ireland. R2 has Mil leading the expedition from the second departure of the Gaels from Egypt onwards. Irrespective of redactions, it is their final migration - from Spain to Ireland, under Mil - that forms the basis for LGE Section VIII (The Sons of Mil). The combined story (equivalent to LGE Sections II & VIII) was in circulation in late 11th century as the Liber Occupationis.
The 9th century Historia Brittanorum not only includes the pseudohistory of the Gael but also an early account in Gaelic of the invasions by Partholon, Nemed and Mil (waves II, III, & VI in Table 1).
Early accounts of the Fir Bolg and Tuatha De Danann invasions (waves IVand V in Table 1) can be found in 9th century poems by Tuán mac Cairell. By the 11th century, the story of Cessair (wave I in Table 1) had also been incorporated into poems describing the invasions. Macalister infers the existence of a late 11th century MS, which he calls the Liber Originum, that would have served to bring these poems together. Macalister divides the Liber Originum into two components: the Pericope Antediluvianorum, containing descriptions of the invasions of Ireland before the Flood (equivalent to LGE Section III), and the Liber Praecursorum, containing descriptions of the invasions after the Flood (equivalent to LGE Sections IV-VII).
The LGE developed its current structure late in the 11th century, when the genuinely traditional sagas of the Liber Originum were embedded in a prose narrative that explained and expanded upon their details, and the result was integrated with the pseudohistory of the Gaels contained in the Liber Occupationis. It is worth remarking that the Annals of the Four Masters relies heavily upon the LGE, and that the Cath Maige Tuireadh saga also contains information that was borrowed from the LGE.
Contents of the Lebor Gabála Érenn narratives
The remainder of this document consists of a Table and a Figure. The Table (Table 1, below) summarizes the successive Invasions of Ireland as described in the LGE, with explanatory footnotes on selected topics of interest. The Figure (Figure 1) is a genealogical tree for key persons mentioned in the LGE. The legend for this Figure is included in the body of this document, but for technical reasons the Figure itself has been provided as a separate file.
Table 1. Key events in the Invasions of Ireland, as described in the Lebor Gabála Érenn.
Each major wave of invasion is identified by a Roman numeral (I-VI). The duration of each settlement is indicated, as well as any intervening periods when the country was unoccupied (d = days, y = years; figures separated by commas indicate alternative values supplied by different redactions). Variant accounts are identified by italics.
Footnotes to Table 1:
a / The Cessair story was originally a cosmogenic flood myth that existed independently of the Biblical Flood, but later the two floods came to be regarded as a single event. In the original Cessair myth, she and her people would have survived their flood, and Ladra/Adna would have united with all of the women and re-peopled the earth. The Cessair story has also become compounded with the Banba story and vice versa, so that the identities of Banba and Cessair are now interlinked. The fact that Cessair, rather than one of the men, is the key figure in this invasion reflects the primal myth of Ireland first being discovered by a woman.
b/ Macalister considered that the name Fir Bolg meant 'Men of Breeches', i.e. serving classes. He also considered them to have a close association with pigs. The Fir Bolg and the Fomoire are closely identified with one another, as follows. The Fir Bolg were dispersed into island strongholds after the Tuatha de Danann arrived, outposts typically associated with the Fomoire. Indeed, in Cath Maige Tuireadh the Fir Bolg returned from these outposts in alliance with the Fomoire to battle the Tuatha de Danann at Second Battle of Mag Tuired. Descendents of the Fir Bolg were later known as 'Sons of Umor', and the earliest Fomorians were also descended from one of this name. However, the Fir Bolg Umor seems to have been born later in time, since he appeared when the exiled Fir Bolg tried to regain territory in Ireland during the Ulster Cycle of Irish mythology. The sons of this Umor were: Oenghus (who built Dun Oenghus, and whose son Conall was slain by Cu Chulann), Cime-four heads (who was slain by Conall Cernach), Taman, Mod, Mil, Concraide, Cutra, Bera, Dalach, Bairnech, Adar the poet, Cing, Mend the poet, Uar, Aenach, Assal, and Irgus.
c/ The various names of Tara through the ages are listed in Macalister's ¶444 (Vol V, p.83)
d/ Several different accounts exist for the origins of the Tuatha De Danann. A harmonized account, which reconciles the major variants into a single narrative, might read as follows:
After the defeat of the Nemedians at Conaing's Tower, the seed of Bethach s. Iarbonel the Soothsayer s. Nemed fled from Ireland into the north of the world (to wit, the northeast of Scandinavia) where they learned magic and wizardry. There were four cities where they acquired this knowledge, to wit Failias, Goirias, Findias, & Muirias. Thereafter they went to Greece for further training and to seek "the maiden", whom they captured. During their time there they were accounted poets of the Greeks, and they had a special power of sailing together on the seas without the need for ships. After their training in Greece was complete, they travelled to Dobar and Iardobar (poss. River Dour, Aberdeenshire) in north Scotland, where Nuada was their king for 4-7 years. Then they came in dark clouds to Ireland, and alighted on the mountain of Clonmaicne Rein (identified as being in southern Leitrim); or alternatively, they came to Ireland in ships, which they burnt on landing, and proceeded under cover of the dark clouds of steam and smoke to Sliabh an Iarinn (a mountain in Co. Leitrim, which still bears this name).
Figure 1. A genealogical tree for key persons named in the Lebor Gabála Érenn, from the Old Testament patriarch Lamech to the early Milesian kings.
The figure is provided as a file called Fig. 1 (LGE Genealogy).pdf, a bitmap saved in PDF format that can be opened using Adobe Acrobat reader. This is how the Figure is structured...
and the following is a close-up from the Tuatha De Danann part of the Figure...
* Contact details: P.O. Box 184, North Ryde, Sydney, NSW 2113, Australia. Article completed in January, 2002.
© Copyright Lloyd D. Graham, all rights reserved. Maintained on Mary Jones’ website with the permission of the author.
Joyce's Refraction of The Book of Invasions
If Joyce is to be taken seriously as an Irishman, the possibility that his primal symbol systems may be Irish must be considered. In particular, we must examine native Irish literature for correlates to his work when realism breaks down, as it does in the case of the configuration of the main characters in Ulysses. Taken one by one, Joyce's main characters in Ulysses are plausibly explained in terms of the shared symbolism of European literary tradition. As a system, however, Joyce's characters have no parallel in European literature; taken together, the three main characters point to a more unified source than European literature can provide. The interface of Stephen, Bloom, and Molly is Irish because Joyce's constellation of characters in Ulysses —a Greek, an ersatz Jew, and a lady from Spain—is based on the mythic structures of Lebor Gabála Érenn (The Book of the Taking of Ireland), generally known in English as The Book of Invasions.