The Second Battle of Moytura – Cosmic Battle between good and evil?
The Fir Bolg were the sensible, hard-working and humble people who ruled in Ireland for a short period of time until a shining beautiful peoples arrived in a magical mist and promptly buried their boats indicating they were here to stay. These were the Tuatha de Danann and they brought four magical gifts: sword, spear, cauldron and stone, Lia Fail. An equal division of Ireland was proposed, but the Fir Bolg decided to fight. This was the First Battle of Moytura. They were roundly defeated but not before cutting off the arm of Nuada, their King. The Fir Bolg were dispatched to Connaught and the Tuatha de Danann took the rest.
The rules at the time were that no man with a blemish could be king so Breas the beautiful was appointed. He was half Formorian and half Tuatha. It was thought this might unite the two people. But Breas had no gift for Kingship and imposed heavy taxes and also allowed the Formorians to come in and do the same. Breas’s worst crime though was meanness. He became the subject of the first satire, that was uttered by the poet, Cairbre. It destroyed Breas’s reputation. The Tuatha de Danann rose up against him and he was deposed.
Breas ran to the Formorians for help. An army was raised to restore Breas’s rule and it was to be led by Balor, the one eye hero with a look that was so poisonous it killed everyone in its way. Meanwhile and some time earlier, Balor’s daughter, Eithne and a Tuatha de Danann called Cian had had a child called Lugh, whom Balor learned would be the death of him. Lugh, when he heard of the impending battle between the Tuatha de Danann and the Formorians decided to go to Tara. He knocked at the gate. They asked what skill he brought. He mentioned many. To each offer the response was that they had already had every one of the skills he mentioned. It was only when he said he had all the skills that it was decided to let him in. They were all very impressed and they asked him to lead them into battle. He was samhildanach, with all the skills.
His first task in preparing for the looming battle was to find out every one’s unique skills. He did establish these. But one role was particularly important.
It concerned the Daghda, the good god, good at everything. His role was to entice the goddess of war, the Morrigan over to his side. She protected herself by standing astride a river. He made love to her anyway. She was pleased and decided to join the Tuatha De Danann. The Formorians then decided to shame him, digging a huge hole and filling it with porridge and meat. No problem to the Daghda, he ate it all and more. He met a beautiful Formorian woman. Had to disgorge all the food to seduce her too. They slept together and she too joined the Tuatha de Danann side.
Everyone had done their jobs so well, particularly the Daghda and Lugh, that they were ready for battle. The Fomorian troops arrived with Balor at their head. Just as his five attendants were starting to pull up his eyelid, Lugh took his sling and flung a stone through Balor’s eye. The eye rolled back in his head till it pointed behind him at the Fomorian army, turning them all into stone. And that was how the Tuatha de Danann defeated the Fomorians. Dian Cecht’s son, Miach, was a physician of even greater skill than his father. He managed to grow Nuada’s arm back and restore him to wholeness. But Dian Cecht was terribly envious of his son Miach’s skill, and in a jealous rage, he killed him. Miach’s sister, Airmed, wept tears of grief over her brother’s grave, and from that grave sprung up all the healing herbs of the world.
The Connections and insights from Participants
Here are some of the most significant connections and insights from participants following the telling of the story. Oral Myth Tellings are always heard in terms of modernity.
Connection 1 – The Four Functions / Gifts
The four gifts of the Tuatha de Danann had been outlined as the four functions from the Jungian Psychology perspective in the presentation on the Wednesday session by Mairin Ni Nualain – herself a trained Jungian. This was sword as mind, spear as sensation, stone as intuition, cauldron as feeling. In the discussion the cauldron was seen as a symbol of the leader’s cosmic relationship with the land and the respect for nature.
Connection 2 – The Great Cosmic Battle
Every mythology has its cosmic battle in Greece it is the gods and the giants, in Norse Myth it is the Aesir and the Vanir, in India the Battle of the Devas and the Asuras. In Ireland it is the battle of the Tuatha de Danann and the Formorians. On an initial level it is natural to interpret this as a battle between good and evil. It could also be read as a battle between open mindedness and single mindedness. Lugh has all the skills and Balor just one eye but the discussions were to complicate matters somewhat!
Connection 3 – The Complicated ParentageThe two protagonists behind the battle both have parents that are Tuatha de Danann and Formorian. Lugh is the result of an encounter between Tuatha de Danann, Cian and a Formorian, Balor’s daughter, Eithne. Breas in turn is the result of a meeting with Ealatha, a king of the Formorians and a maiden of the Tuatha De Danann called Ériu. Ealatha wished to make love and she consented. Breas was the result. With such a clear parental split in both protagonists how are we to read the Second Battle. Is this every battle is a brother battle? Are we essentially fighting ourselves?
Connection 4 – The Tuatha de Danann’s Able-ism
No defects, as in physical defects are allowed in a leader. Hence Nuada loses the kingship when he loses his arm in the first battle. Breas is beautiful and unblemished physically and he is appointed king. But he proves to be seriously blemished in a number of critical ways. It seems inappropriate that physical perfection is valued over an ethical perfection and a basic competence. So does the Breas story undermine the ideology of perfection and able-ism
Connection 5 – The Theme of ChosennessOne of the recurring theme of the Immersion was the contrast between the Myths of the Not Chosen and the Myths of the Chosen. In particular the focus was on comparing the Chosen People’s Myth of the English (Chaobang’s talk on English as Chosen) and the Not Chosen Myths of the Book of Invasions, Lebor Gabálla. The thinking had been that Chosen People’s Myths can have a very destructive effect on the culture of the Not Chosen. Look at 800 years of Colonial history and the attitude of the Chosen to the Not Chosen.
The binary simplicity of this constrict was challenged in the discussion of the Second Battle of Moytura and the Tuatha de Danann not adopting a ‘Chosen People’ mindset in the way they were treating the Formorians. Is discrimination, jealousy, ‘othering’, elitism and violent intrigues not all too evident in their behaviour. Another participant suggested the porridge pot of Daghda could be seen as a symbol of swallowing the uncomfortable culture of the coloniser.
Connection 6 – Second Battle and Irish Colonial History
Comparison was made to the paradox of the Normans – in some cases brutal and destructive to the colonised (i.e. in England), in others they integrated into what was already there (e.g. in Ireland) or even gave rise to diverse and flourishing intellectual and multi-cultural societies (e.g. in Sicily).
Colonisation is not necessary a one way exploitative experience!
Connection 7 – The Origami Group
One of the retelling groups decided to use origami as an expression of the mythological cycle. The symbolism of holding, visible and occluded sides (in relation to Chosen vs. Not Chosen): fractal creation and re-creation. (Video of Presentation to be posted).