Thursday, February 27, 2014

Mesolithic #Ireland - The Legends: Fomorians, People of the Dann and Werewolves #Irish #history #celtic #culture

The last time we visited upon Ireland she had been attached to Europe and was an inhospitable place to live. After the glaciers retreated the sea levels rose and Ireland became an island. Ireland drifted to her current position.

Mesolithic Ireland
The Mesolithic period in Ireland lasted from 8000 to 4500 B.C. and is commonly known as the Middle Stone Age. Ireland was the last place in Western Europe that humans occupied because it had not been previously accessible. The Irish landscape wasn't full of forest but had thick patches of hazel scrubs and lakes that would eventually become bogs.

The Fomorians

Irish legend claims the first inhabitants of the Emerald Isle were sea fearing, black haired, black skinned Fomorians. The Fomorians came to Ireland via the south and settled along the coastline. They often depicted as monsters or demons. The Lebor Gabála Érenn (aka: Book of Invasions), a collection of poems and prose that recalls every invasion in Irish history,  describes the most ancient of Irish inhabitants as "crowds of abominable giants and monsters." The Fomorians were giants with different numbers of eyes and extremities. The descriptions of these monsters varied. Some had one arm, or one leg, or one eye or any other genetic abnormalities.
The most famous of the Fomorian leaders was Balor of the Evil Eye.

Balor of the Evil Eye
King Balor lived on Tory Island. He was the son of Buarainech and Cethlenn. King Balor had an eye
Public Domain
in the middle of his forehead and another one directly behind it on the back of his head.  In Irish Mythology he is considered the god of death and destruction. He is also the King of the Fomorians. According to Irish mythology he was spying on some druids one day when some of their potion spilled into his eye. The aftereffect of the potion made his eye appear threatening anyone who happen to stare upon it. He was known as Balor of the Evil Eye after that incident. Balor once looked upon the small islands off the coast of Scotland. The islands disappeared after that. Neither giants nor gods could save themselves from the destruction that Balor's eye brought upon them.  Balor kept his eye closed unless he was in battle. It took four attendants to hold down his eyelid.
A druid prophecized that Balor would be killed by his own grandson. At the time he only had one child, a daughter named Ethnea Ni Bhaloir. Balor locked his daughter away in an impregnable tower with twelve matrons. She grew to become a very beautiful young woman who was eventually rescued by Cian, a Tuatha Dé. We'll talk more about the Tuatha Dé in another post. Balor was killed by their son,  Lug mac Ethlend. You can read about Balor's defeat at Magic and Mythology.

The Fomorians and the Tuatha de Danann
The Tuatha de Danann were a tribe that settled in Northern Ireland close to the Fomorians. They were described in the Battles at Mag Tuired as:

"On northern islands of the earth there were tribes of the goddess Dana and  there they comprehended knowledge, magic, knowledge of druids, charms and other secrets, while didn't surpass skillful people from all over the world. In four cities they comprehended knowledge, secret knowledge, devil craft - Faliase and Goriase, Muriase and Findiase. From Falias they brought Lia Fal that was then in Tara. He screamed under each king who could rule Ireland. From Gorias they brought a spear which Lug owned. Nothing could resist it or before the one in which hand it was.
From Findias they brought Nuada sword. It was necessary to take out it from a fighting sheath as anybody couldn't evade from it, and it was  truly irresistible. From Murias they brought Dagd's copper. Never happened so that people  leave it hungry …
… it was possible for tribes of the goddess Danu to make peace with Fomorians, and Balor, the grandson of Netab, gave His daughter  Etne to Kean, to son of Dian Kekht. She gave birth to a  wonderful child, and there was it Lugh. The Tribes of the Goddess Dana came on a set of the ships that force to take away Ireland from Fir Bolg. They burned the ships at Cork Belgatan which now is named as  Konnemara Land, that not in their will was to recede to them. Ashes and a smoke descending from the ships, shrouded  near lands and the sky. Since then people consider that the Tribes of the  Goddess Danu came from smoky clouds". 

According the Irish mythology the Fomorians were excellent farmers and breeders. They taught the Tuatha de Danann how to properly milk cows and how to till, sow and reap a harvest. They two tribes shared many resources and would breed with one another. The result of the mixed marriages created Faoladh otherwise known as werewolves.

The Faoladh
Unlike other European werewolves, Irish werewolves were not considered monsters. An Irish werewolf's predatory habits resembled those of wolves and occasionally raided local sheep or cattle herds. They never harmed humans. If a werewolf was attacked or surprised in wolf form they would run away and revert back to their human form. After they reverted to their human form the evidence of what they had done in wolf form would remain on their body. If they were injured as a wolf that injury would remain even if they were in human form.
The Irish werewolf was a creature of good that protected children, wounded humans, and anyone who was lost. They were often recruited by Irish kings during times of war.

Public Domain
Spanish Invasion
The Fomorians and the Tuatha de Danann both possessed magical abilities. The tribe of giants were said to be able to hear any sound carried by the wind. They could manipulate large bodies of water, clear away a fog and stop a storm. Between 1700-700 BC the Fomorians and Tuatha de Danann joined forces to fight an invasion of the Sons of Mile Spanish. Together they withstood three to five invasion attempts.

According to legend, some three hundred years after the Great Flood a new people, known as the Partholonians, arrived in Ireland. The Fomorians once again defended their island against invaders but this time they would not live to tell their tales. Author John Huddlestone Wynne (1743-1788) stated in his 1784 book A Compleat History of Ireland, from the Earliest Accounts to the Present, about the extinction of the Fomorians, “And thus, say they, was Ireland first inhabited. — But unhappily a certain band, of the stock of Nimrod, whom they termed Fomorians, or giants, arriving amongst them, attempted to subdue the country; after many desperate engagements they were at last routed by the Partholanians, and far the greater part of them destroyed on one decisive day. But the dead carcasses of these Fofmorians being denied burial, it is said the stench occasioned a plague which presently swept off the victors and left the land uninhabited." 

Giant's Causeway 
 Giant's Causeway, Northern Ireland. Hexagonal basalts.
The Fomorians have left their mark not only on Irish mythology but on the Irish landscape. The Giant's Causeway, located on the northern coast of Ireland, is said to have been constructed by the Fomorian Fionn mac Cumhaill. Fion was challenged by a Scottish giant by the name of Benandonner to create a causeway on the North Channel so the two could meet. After Fionn finished the causeway and realized Benandonner was bigger than he was, his wife, Oonagh, disguised him as a baby then tucked him away in a cradle. When Benandonner saw the size of the baby, he deduced Fionn must be a giant among giants. He ran back to Scotland, destroying the causeway behind him so Fionn could not follow.

Did the Fomorians Exist?
That is the question many scientists have asked over the centuries and has yet to be answered. Christian Irish scholars had once believed the Fomorians were either descended from Cain or from Shem. The theory that they are descended from Cain does not work because none of Cain's descendants survived the flood. As for the Fomorians being descended from Shem that wouldn't explain the history of the giant race in Ireland before the Great Flood.
In 1913, Professor Grafton Elliot Smith deduced the Fomorians were Iberians who had travelled to Ireland from North Africa.  He proposed they either came from Liberia or Africa and were stone masons who were taken to Europe.


  1. This post is really interesting and informative. I'm trying to incorporate Formorians into a story I am developing, and I'm really glad I came across this.

  2. You're welcome. Good luck on your writing adventures.