Stories, Myths & Legends

Baile In Scáil - The Phantom's Frenzy

An Irish adventure or Echtrae narrative composed before a.d. 1056. In a preliminary Conn Cetchathach [of the Hundred Battles] was mounting the ramparts at Tara when a stone he trod upon screamed. The court poets explained, after a requested delay of fifty three days, that the stone had come from Inis Fail to Tara, that it wanted to go to Teltown where the games were held, and that any prince who did not find it on the last day of the week of the Fair at Teltown would die within the year. 

The number of cries uttered under Conn’s feet signified the number of kings from his seed who would rule over Ireland, When Conn asked to know the number, his druid replied that he was not destined to tell. 

Conn and some retainers set out, but were, soon surrounded by a great mist so that they lost their way. A horseman approached them, inviting Conn to his dwelling. They went to a house 30 feet long with a ridgepole of white gold. In the house, in a room full of gold, they found a damsel seated in a chair of crystal and wearing a crown of gold. 

Upon a throne they saw the Phantom, whose like had never been seen in Tara. He revealed himself as Lug Lamfhota, and the damsel as the Sovereignty of Ireland, Lug’s wife, who then served Conn with enormous portions of meat; though she is not named, commentators identify the 'wife' with the goddess Eriu

When she served the red ale, she asked to whom the cup should be given, and the Phantom answered her. He named every prince from the time of Conn onward, and then disappeared, along with his house. The gold cup and other vessels remained with Conn. None of the names mentioned in the prophecy appears in records as kings of Ireland. 

 An earlier text of the same story is Baile Chuind Chetchathaig. 

Source: Translated by R. Thurneysen, Zeitschrift fur celtische Philologie, 20 (1935), 213 – 27.

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