Articles Tagged with: fintan

Wave 4 – The Settling of the Manor of Tara

A foundational political structure: distributed power and the fifth province

The tradition was that the High King of Tara had to throw a feast for all the people of Ireland every three years.  It lasted seven days and seven nights.  What a way to ensure friendship and cultural unity?

One year King Diarmuid mentioned that he was considering reappointing “The Manor of Tara” – today we might call it a reorganisation.  The people said they would not eat until this matter was decided.

Diarmuid wanted advice and sent out for the wisest man he could think of, Fiachra.  He deferred to someone wiser, who also deferred, who also deferred.  Finally Fintan MacBochra was called.  Fintan though known had become marginal.

Fintan arrived to a great welcome to spell out the ‘settlement’ based on the idea of ‘cuige’  provinces.  This was the four (Munster, Leinster, Connacht and Ulster) that is five (the fifth province).  He also spelt out the qualities and gifts of each province. (See the diagram below).

Here is a mythology of distributed power and the idea of the sacred centre – the fifth province.  It is a political structure with global resonances, especially in India and other parts of Asia.


The Connections and insights from Participants

Here are some of the most significant connections and insights from participants and collected by the Bard team in the breakout groups and the large group discussions.

Connection 1 – Nothing has changed!
When the ancient model and framework was shared, along with the various qualities of each of the provinces and their attributes (Munster – Music, Ulster – toughness/wars, Leinster – elegance/prosperity, Connacht – wisdom) there was a collective feeling that the scheme and the qualities have not changed despite the passage of thousands of years.  In modern parlance, the operating system remains the same.   The Ancients had set something in place that was to last.

Connection 2 – A Mythology of Power – And its Right Use

The Five Provinces model can be seen as a Mythology of Power, in which real power is vested in the people, in the local, supported by the fifth province idea but led and inspired by those with the greatest wisdom and memory.  Precedent, tradition and memory seen as very central.  Reference was made to the Citizens Assembly and its role in the recent successful referenda as an example of a fifth province thinking and approach in action in modernity.

Connection 3 – The Centre’s Balancing Role
The image of the two kidneys from a beast as a chosen body part for Tara and Uisneach had strong resonances for participants especially in its ‘balancing’ role in the body.  It felt very significant that it was not the head -r the heart – the usual suspect!  The fifth province/centre’s role in this context is not command and control but rather balance and coordination, not power over in a hierarchical sense but ‘power with’.  Insight from participants was that in a present day context, the banking crisis, climate change and Covid 19 were seen as a consequence of going against the natural state of the world and violating the ‘Fifth Province’ for private gain.

Connection 4 – Global Echoes
Symbolic numerology and compass directions have parallels in the thinking and cosmology of other cultures.  For example in the Nature American tradition compass points reflects different qualities, in China certain numbers are assigned qualities.  This places this ancient Irish thinking within a global context with echoes from indigenous cultures around the world.

Connection 5 – Ollamhship, Wisdom and the Law
Wisdom was seen as central but it was a result of having a depository of information, a compendium of story/myth and that it was held by the Ollamh (highest rank of fili) and included a shared legal system of laws.  Each person knew where they stood in regards to the laws and each had rights and responsibilities.  These principles were felt as very relevant and interesting.

Connection 6 – The Attributes of Ulster
One of the areas of contention that has come up in these discussions of the Five Province Framework is the attributes associated with Ulster.  Firstly the main descriptor is battle followed by contentions, rough places, strikes, captures, assaults, hardiness, war, conflicts.  These are not descriptors that would be called “good” in modernity.  Some participants felt that these, while maybe having some truth, were overly harsh on Ulster.  That in Ancient Ireland that these were not necessarily negative or that fighting was an escapable part of human existence did not address the overall concern regarding the portrayal of Ulster.

Connection 7 – A Vision of Leadership and The Fifth Province
What is laid out in this framework was felt to be a unique description of leadership/kingship as convening power and a facilitative style of Kingship.  The idea being that the Fifth Province is a view from a height over all the provinces at once, with the fifth reaching openly in and out of all with no hard boundaries.  Importantly the view from a height did not mean superior, rather different.  The collection of judgements, history, story, science from all the provinces to collaboratively bring people together and distributing this out to the benefit and dignity of all was what was understood, and positively understood.  The contrast between Ireland’s handling of Covid 19 as a marked contrast to how England had handled the virus was pointed out.

The Primary Sources

The main source used in this retelling is that of RI Best in Ériu 4 121 – 137.  Emmet’s adaptations are outlined above.

Wave 2 – The Cesair Journey

An epic journey and a foundation myth of Ireland

In regard to the beliefs of the ancient Irish about their origins what we know is that we don’t know.  Whatever nature origin legends there may have been did not survive the arrival of Christianity.  What we do know, however,  is that these origin questions were important to them.

What does emerge from literary and historical sources is a series of settlements of “people who come from somewhere else” often fleeing hardship, wars, floods.  This foundation mythology is captured in a collection of stories put together in the late eleventh century, Lebor Gabála Érenn, “The Book of the Taking of Ireland”.

The first arrivee was Cesair, fifty women and three men including her partner, Fintan MacBochra.  She arrived after an epic journey that started in East Africa, in Meroe and travelled all the known world.  In some versions she was refused a place in the Ark.  In a sense the first arrivee was an outcast, and her myth was that of a “Not Chosen” people.   We also told a version in which Cesair and her people were the ‘great founders’ of Ireland – its first people.     

The first arrivee brought a formidable woman and the ‘mothers of the world’.  Imagine that she was informed by the wisdom of knowing the Myths of all the Known World in the various cultures she passed through on her epic journey.

The Connections and insights from Participants

Here are some of the most significant connections and insight from participants collected by the Bard team after the storytelling:

Connection 1 – The Flood as a Primal Mythic Moment
Myths have frequent recourse to a primal moment .  These are events or happenings that affects everyone in the society and which they remember for a very long time.  In the case of Cesair and her people it was floods as their primal moment.  Today it is a ‘virus – Covid 19’ but both are primal world shaping moments and times.  A war whether external or a civil is another typical primal moment.

Connection 2 – Difference between the Versions
The participants observed how little you have to do to oral story to fundamentally change its meaning fundamentally.  In one version Cesair and her folk are the ‘great founders’ of Ireland as its first arrivees.  In another version (based on old texts) the Cesair party are essentially ‘outcasts’ in that they are not allowed on Noah’s Ark.  Each version has very different meanings and identity value.  Which do you prefer to tell and believe is an important question.

Connection 3 – Why do we not know this story?
Every time the Bard team tell the Cesair story we find there is little knowledge among the public of the story.  The Bard Global Survey confirmed this lack of knowledge.  Participants ask why?  Was this founding myth of a strong woman and her accompanying 50 ‘mothers of the world’ effectively written out of history?  Did the monks or other Christians seek to marginalise it

Connection 4 – An Irish Dreamtime
The aborigines have the idea of ‘dreamtime’ where they essentially imagine (dream) a world into existence.  Given, as outlined, there is little knowledge of this story.  It obviously offers itself as an alternative creation myth – perhaps of a people who came from somewhere else?  To embrace this epic story could mean a people changing the story/myth they tell about themselves.
Myths, if they are implicit or unconscious drive us though we don’t know it.  To become conscious of the myths we live by is to gain agency.  It is about an individual or a people owning the myths it lives by.  A people can change its identity and its myths.  And to do so is to create a dreamtime – an Irish dreamtime.

Connection 5 – The Gendered Aspect – Women/Goddess
One of the connections and insights made was that this is a ‘women led’ venture and one in which women are dominant.  The new religion, Christianity had its own ‘myth of origins’ to propagate, an intention to repudiate the old gods.  It was also a patriarchal religion.  The Bard participants were of course acutely aware of the gendered aspects of this story.  And many inspired by the obvious gender of the key protagonists!

Connection 6 – Parallels with Greek Mythology
There is an obvious parallel in Greek Myth with the great sea journey of Odysseus and his companions back to Ithaca from Troy.  The obvious differences being the sheer length of Cesair’s Journey (is it ten times as long?) and the face of it being a new start rather than a journey home as in the Odyssey.

Connection 7 – Archetype of the Mother

Cesair as the archetype of the mother as creator, founder, protector, nurturer and source of strength was noted.  At the same time Cesair is not a typical ‘maternal’ mother but rather one with a very strong sense of agency, independence and purpose.

Join the BARD

Privacy Settings
We use cookies to enhance your experience while using our website. If you are using our Services via a browser you can restrict, block or remove cookies through your web browser settings. We also use content and scripts from third parties that may use tracking technologies. You can selectively provide your consent below to allow such third party embeds. For complete information about the cookies we use, data we collect and how we process them, please check our Privacy Policy
Consent to display content from Youtube
Consent to display content from Vimeo
Google Maps
Consent to display content from Google