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Format of the book
Part I gives an introduction to ancient Irish mythology, manuscripts and annals, cultural background and setting of the Ulster Cycle, including beliefs, the oral tradition and ancient Irish law.
Part II focuses on the Táin stories, giving a brief outline of the stories leading up to the gathering of the Men of Ireland at Cruachan; an introduction to two of the fore-tales, Táin Bó Fraech and Táin Bó Flidhais, and finally an outline of the most famous epic saga in Irish literature, the Táin Bó Cúailnge.
Part III gives a brief introduction to the revival of Celtic traditions in Modern Ireland.
‘Queen Maeve and the Táin Stories is not just a lucid account of the stories that are fundamental to our identity, it carries us back to the source of our evolution as a Celtic nation and makes us wonder at an art form we are in danger of losing: our gift of storytelling.’ – Frank Ryan, Archaeologist
The Táin Bó, or Cattle Raid, is one of the genres of early Irish literature where the object of the raid was the ‘driving-off of cows.’ In storytelling it seems to have been customary in ancient Ireland to precede the recital of the great Táin, the Táin Bó Cúailnge, the central story of the Irish Heroic Age, by shorter stories, or remscéla, such as the Táin Bó Fraech and the Táin Bó Flidhais.
The primary tale, the Táin Bó Cúailnge, tells of a conflict between the Ulstermen on the one hand and Maeve, Ailill and the Connaughtmen, on the other. The object of Maeve’s drive against Ulster was to seize possession of the great Brown Bull of Cúailnge, Donn Cúailnge. The Táin Bó Cúailnge is the most famous and extensive of the legends of Cúchulann and is the story of the war fought over the Brown Bull of Cooley (Cúailnge).
The central figures of the Táin stories are Queen Maeve of Connaught and her husband, Ailill, who resided at Cruachan, now Rathcroghan, near Tulsk in Co. Roscommon. Their exploits were legendary and their stories have stood the test of time, being passed on by an oral tradition. These stories give us an insight into the life and times of pre-Christian Ireland and lead into the main story, the Táin Bó Cúailnge.
Queen Maeve and the Táin Stories gives an introduction to the oral tradition, bardic schools, ancient Irish literature, Celtic beliefs and culture as a background to the Táin or cattle-raid stories of Irish mythology. It also traces the influences of pre-Christian society on modern culture.
This book is written for the general reader. However, for those who want to delve further into the stories I have included an extensive reading list with references. The intention is to whet the appetite for those who would like to get an overview of ancient Irish mythology in general, and the Ulster Cycle, in particular.
Have just finished “Queen Maeve and the Táin Stories” – truly amazing. It was incredibly easy to read, highly informative particularly for someone without knowledge of Irish history or mythology of any mentionable kind. Bit difficult at times to get through the plethora of Irish names and I’d like to find out from you some of the more “problematic” pronunciations I knew some but far from all.
The links and connections are incredible, so are the strong social and ethnological structures that existed and have sadly gone amiss. I was particularly fascinated with the transmigration / reincarnation theory that existed thousands of years ago and – most incredibly – over here and not only in Asia. Seems that Buddhists and Hindus are today living a global consciousness that existed even as far West as Ireland (comparing the two life cycles of Finnbennach and Donn Cuailnge and their many different reincarnations or transmigrations with the many reincarnations of Vishnu or the many appearances of Shiva).
Really enjoyed it – many thanks. – Gert Venghaus