Once Cú Chulainn was beside the river Boyne in his chariot, and Lóeg mac Riangabra along with him, and the feat (cles) of nine champions was above him; he was killing the salmon in Linn Féic. They saw a little man in purple clothes, (sitting) in a bronze skiff, travelling (?) on the Boyne without rowing at all.
Cú Chulainn set him and his boat on the palm of his hand. “Here you are,” Cú Chulainn said. “So it seems,” he said. “I will give you my cloak and my tunic as reward for my safety. They have a special property: they fit anyone, whether small or big. No one is drowned or burnt so long he wears them. No deterioration will come upon them nor upon him who wears them, and every colour which anyone likes is upon them.” “I have them already,” Cú Chulainn said. “Take my shield and my spear, and no battle or combat will be gained against you; and you will never be wounded as long as the shield protects you.” “I have them all,” Cú Chulainn said, “in the hollow of my fist.” “You are hard on me,” said Senbecc grandson of Ebrecc, from the Síde.
“What is that thing there,” asked Cú Chulainn. “A little timpán (stringed musical instrument),” said Sebecc; “shall I play it for you?” “I would like that,” Cú Chulainn said. He drew his finger across it so that Cú Chulainn was lamenting at the wailing-strain. Then he played the laughing-strain until Cú Chulainn was carried away with laughter. He played the sleeping-strain so that Cú Chulainn fell into a deep sleep and slumber from one hour to the next. Senbecc went home………………
(‘Revue Celtique’ Kuno Meyer and translated by John Carey)
Senbecc grandson of Erbrecc, from the Síde, came from the plain of Segais seeking imbas, and Cú Chulainn encountered him upon the river Boyne. Cú Chulainn captured him, and he explained that he had come looking for the fruit of the nuts of a fair-bearing hazel. There are nine fair-bearing hazels from whose nuts he got imbas: it used to drop into the wells, so that the stream bears the imbas into the Boyne. The Senbecc sang to him some of his lore, and a song:
I am not a lad, I am not a man,
I am not a child in learning.
The mysteries of God have made me gifted.
I am Abcán, a sage of learning, a poet from Segais.
Sembecc is my name, Erbrecc’s grandson from the Síde.
(These are the names of the nine hazels: Sall, Fall, Fuball, Finnam, Fonnam, Fofuigell, Crú, Crínam, Cruanbla.)
The Senbecc offered great rewards to Cú Chulainn for letting him go free, and Cú Chulainn would not grant it. Then he stretched out his hand to his harp. He played him a wailing-strain, so that he was wailing and lamenting; he played him a laughing-strain so that he was laughing; and finally, he played him a sleeping-strain so that he cast him into slumber. Then Senbecc escaped down the Boyne in a bronze boat…………….
(‘Ériu’ EJ Gwynn)
The Irish (one could say international as well) National holiday, Seachtain na Gaeilge (Irish speaking week) and Féileadh Sheelagh/ Spring Equinox is coming around the corner and I could be here sharing related anecdotes, experiences and such with you but more serious world events taking place currently take precedent.
Both of these similar tales of Cú Chulainn and Senbecc come from The Ulster/Ulaid Cycle. The first and earliest rendition is from the ‘Book of Lecan’ whereas the last is from the later ‘Book of Armagh’. In these two Cú Chulainn is shown to have a flaw in the otherwise ‘Champion of Ulster’ where he is the aggressor attacking a seeming weaker opponent and taking what is not his as well as ignoring the pleas for release. (There is another later manuscript that has a tale without the mention of Senbecc but has the Síde as the attackers of Cú Chulainn while he seeks imbas along the Boyne). Although trapped, Senbecc uses his quick wit and skill to peacefully subdue the Ulsterman and carry on his travels along the Boyne. Quite similar to what is currently happening in Ukraine where it’s people are subject to the tyranny of a Russian madman. And the Ukrainians are no easy push-over either.
Although our country leaders cannot impose military action on Russia without sparking off World War 3 and remember Putin has an arsenal of both nuclear and chemical weaponry as his disposal (as well as arresting his own people for anti-war protests), the imposed economic sanctions are having the desired detrimental effect. Western Europe has opened its door and spare beds to welcome the mass displacement of women and children. Aid is sent in large convoys by volunteers who are more than willing to donate their time and efforts. People are standing with the people of Ukraine and protesting in the streets outside the Russian embassies worldwide. If you haven’t seen or heard, there has been funny occurrences outside the Russian embassy in Ireland. A catholic priest spray painted the outside walls and gate with the Ukrainian colours, a lone driver drove a van full of ecclesiastical supplies through the gates (he was arrested by unwilling gardaí, represented himself at court who just called him a ‘naughty, naughty boy’ and don’t do it again…..wink, wink….) and the gardaí parked their car outside the damaged embassy gates (look at the car markings lol).
I am not appealing just to the Pagan community but to all communities. I know the knock-on effect of oil prices are driving up prices in all our communities and we are all moaning and groaning about it. Thoughts and prayers are nice but physical acts are more positive a force to aid our Ukrainian kin. Remember that we are empowered via our personal rituals to physically act in order to make a reality. Donate to charity drives if possible. Peacefully stand with the protesters outside Russian embassies if possible. Let’s all do our part within the legal framework. Let’s all try to see a peaceful resolve occur between Russia and Ukraine with no further atrocities being committed. Next Thursday I will be celebrating my country’s heritage and the approaching Equinox and I will be standing for Ukraine at both in solidarity as most of us will in such events but I will also be donating my time and effort whenever possible and so hopefully will you. Tyrants fall.
Is mise le a meas,
Seán Ó Tuama.