Druids are the main force at work in the story, as the Druids on both sides battle for supremacy.
Cormac wants to know about his future and what disasters will overcome him. Aonghus predicts a Cattle Disease will occur.
Cormac has five Chief Druids. He refuses their counsel. They will curse him in the end and he will choke on a fish bone.
Báirinn, the daughter of the King of the fairies gives him five Fairy Druids to help him in his expedition to Munster.
Each night on their travels to Munster, Cormac’s Chief Druids leave the army camp and go out to meet the local Druids, and a story of Druidic magic is included.
All the Chief Druids agree that Cormac’s demands are unjust and that he will be defeated.
Cormac’s Druids dry up the rivers and lakes and almost force Fiachu and the Munstermen into submission.
Fiachu and the Munstermen seek the help of the greatest druid of all, Mogh Roith from Valencia, who restores the waters and harries the army of Cormac out of Munster in utter defeat.
Druids had supernatural functions and priestly offices. They were part of the political and spiritual worlds, and had great power in Early Irish society.
They were endowed with gifts of prophecy, wisdom and healing. They were the intermediaries between the worlds of the living and the dead.
They had to undergo a long learning process of over twenty years, memorizing verse, the observation of the stars, philosophy, learning the laws and mysteries of nature, and much more. They were legal and spiritual advisors.
Druids prophezied using rods of yew carved with Ogham symbols. They interpreted omens from the flight of birds and the entrails of animals.
The Irish had a great respect for the Druids. They could travel safely from tuath to tuath, free from the fear of being harmed or attacted by outlaws. They were given food and shelter, and a place of honour in the home of the taoiseach of the tuath.
Aonghus was a Chieftain of the Tuatha Dé Danain and the Irish God of love. His father was Dagda, the father of the gods and the protector of druids, and his mother was the water goddess Boann. Aonghus was gifted with extraordinary wisdom.
He protects Diarmaid and Gráinne (daughter of Cormac). Gráinne was betrothed to Fionn Mac Cumhaill but fled with Diarmaid. Fionn chased them all over Ireland, but they were protected by Aonghus who used his cloak to conceal them. He lived at Brú na Bóinne, Newgrange.
Aonghus arrives in Tara, bringing all his wisdom and knowledge. Cormac wants to know about his future and what disasters will overcome him.
Aonghus predicts a Cattle Disease will occur, and warns Cormac not to be guided by a woman, a slave or a steward. Advice which Cormac ignored.
Cormac had five Chief Druids who had predicted for his father Art and Conn of the Hundred Battles.
The Chief Druids examined the omens and declared that the expedition would be a disaster.
Cormac is angry with the Druids and does not accept the decision. In turn, the Chief Druids are angry with Cormac as he has dishonoured them, and they declare they have never given a wrong prediction.
Cormac was out hunting on Sí Chleithigh, when he became separated from his companions. A dense dark fog descended as though night had fallen. Báirinn, the daughter of the King of Sí Bhairche in Leinster appeared to him. She gives him five Fairy Druids to help him in his expedition to Munster.
Eirge, Eang and Eangain were female Druids and the three daughters of Maol, who could assume the form of sheep with heads of bone and beaks of iron. They dealt in Death.
The Siege of Knocklong : The meetings of the Druids on the journey Southwards, and Druid magic.
Meeting 1 : Cith Rua meets Fios Mac Athfhis, the Chief Druid of Leinster.
The first night the Cormac’s army made camp at Clonard. (Comar na gCuan/Comar Cluana hIoraird)
That night, Cith Rua, one of Cormac’s old druids, left the camp that night and went out to meet Fios Mac Athfhis, chief druid of Leinster.
They spoke about the march. Both agreed that Cormac would not be successful in his attempts to get tribute from the men of Munster and compensation for the death of his father, and that Cormac’s people would suffer greatly as a result. They were overheard by servants who reported the conversation to Cormac.
Cormac ordered that his Druid, Cith Rua, be killed. This was revealed to Cith Rua and he returned to camp disguised.
The army followed the Leinster Druid but he blew a magic breath on them. He made everyone in the army appeared to look like himself, the grey-haired Leinster Druid. The men turned and tried to wound and kill each other.
Cormac called on his fairy druids for help and they blew a magic breath on the army and the men returned to their own form.
Meeting 2 : Crotha meets Fear Fátha, the Chief Druid of the territory of Ath an tSlua.
The next day the army continued the march southwards. They headed towards Kilmaine (Coill Mhéain) and reached Ath an tSlua/Ath na nIarlann. Here they set up camp for the night.
Crotha, the druid, met the druid of the territory, Fear Fátha, at a nearby ford. Fear Fátha inquired about the disturbance that had taken place. Fear Fátha prophetized the destruction of Cormac’s army because his claim for compensation was not justified. The horse attendants heard the druids conversation. Cormac’s army crossed the stream to kill Fear Fátha but the druid caused the river to rise up while a large group of men were in the stream. The others rushed in to rescue them while the druid escaped. Cormac’s fairy druids calmed the river.
Meeting 3 : Céacht meets Art, the local druid in the Slieve Felim mountains.
The army crossed the stream and made their way into the Slieve Felim (Sliabh Eibhinne) mountains. They set up camp on the summit of the slope of Fermoyle (Formhaol na bhFiann) that night.
Céacht, the druid, went out of the camp to meet the local druid, Art. Céacht explained to Art about the cattle disease and the reason Cormac’s army were marching into Munster. Art assured Céacht that Cormac would not get unlawful tribute from the Munstermen. Art told Céacht to go and tell Cormac’s army that it was a evil thing they were doing. Céacht did and the army rose up to pursue Art. Art blew a dark magical cloud over them and escaped in the confusion. The druid put a sleep spell on the men of Cormac that lasted a week, 7 days and 7 nights.
Meeting 4 : Ceathach meets Dubhfhios Mac Dofhis at Ath Cúile Feá .
After that they set out again and reached Ath Cúile Feá /Ath Croí that night.
Ceathach the druid left the camp and met Dubhfhios Mac Dofhis. Dubhfhios told Ceathach that there would be slaughter because of their march into Munster, and that they will not get tribute from the Munstermen.
The meeting of the Druids was reported to Cormac. He decided not to kill him because when he had tried to kill the druids, his own men had suffered.
Meeting 5 : Cith Mór meets Meadhrán, the druid of Meán Mairtine.
The next day they continued their march and set up camp that night in Emly (Druim Meáin Mairtine / Ardchluain na Féne / Mucfhalach Mac Dáire Ceirbe)
Cith Mór left the camp and met Meadhrán, the druid of Meán Mairtine. Cith Mór told the druid that they were heading for Cnoc na gCeann / Droim Dámhgháire the following day. Meadhrán wished the same evil on Cormac’s army that they intended for the army of Fiachra.
Arrival on the Hill of Knocklong
The following day Cormac and his army marched the short journey from Emly to Knocklong and set up camp on the hill overlooking the area. Cormac called Cith Rua to erect his tent. Cith Rua could not drive the Alder post into the ground on the hill and warned Cormac that the ground rejected his unlawful claims.
They could not drive the stake into the ground and so they began to build a great frame to support the tent. It looked like they were building a ship and the area is known as Long Cliach / Ship of Cliach [Cnoc Loinge]
Cormac decided that the Hill of Knocklong was too low and that Fiacha occupied the higher ground of Glenbrohane. His fairy druids raised the hill above Glenbrohane by magic.
Messengers were sent to Fiachra demanding taxes and compensation but they were refused.
The Druids believed the Oak was the
Tree of Life and that Groves were
Druidic wands were made of Ash,
often used for healing.
Druids prophezied using rods of yew carved with Ogham symbols
Elm was associated with female Druids and Goddesses
It is not so much for its beauty
that the forest makes a claim
upon men’s hearts,
as for that subtle something,
that quality of air
that emanation from old trees,
that so wonderfully changes and renews
a weary spirit.
Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894)