“I would rather spend one lifetime with you, than face all the ages of this world alone.“J.R.R. Tolkien
Cover art by Marcellyne on Deviant Art
Dáire Dóidgheal, a powerful ruler from Europe and the enemy of Finn Mac Cumaill arrived in Ventry, County Kerry where a huge battle ensued called The Cath Finntrága or The Battle of Ventry. There were momentous losses on both sides but Finn Mac Cumaill decapitated Dáire Dóidgheal and ended the battle victoriously. Afterwards, Dáire’s daughter, Mis, searched frantically for her father’s body on the battlefield and in some variations, she witnessed him being decapitated. She fell to her knees in agonizing grief upon finding him, and licked his wounds in an attempt to heal him. She fell into a crazed and confused state and began drinking his blood. She transformed into a terrible creature, grew claws and feathers that were the length of her entire body from her head to the ground as well as on her legs. It was said she then ran off into the wilderness ‘as fast as the wind’ and stayed ageless for 300 years on Sliabh Mis (named after her) near Tralee, County Kerry.
She had a dreadful reputation terrorizing the local woodlands and it was finally decided by the King of Munster that she must be killed. However, every man that went to find her fell victim to her instead and never returned. Finally, the king’s harper Dubh Ruis went and with only his wits and his harp, he roamed the famous mountain to find her. He laid down on a blanket naked, and laid his harp over his body playing his soft music until she appeared and cautiously approached him. After a while, she asked about the songs he was playing and moment by moment, Dubh did various things to bring her memory back.
He scattered coins, showed her a trick and prepared and cooked a deer she brought him in a fulacht fiadh, an Irish neolithic bath made of a pit in the earth and heated stones. She remembered and calmed. He then undressed her, gave her a hot bath and tenderly washed her battered and bloody body, healing her broken bones. She remembered even more and remarked sadly, “I used to have a father. Don’t go.” to which Dubh affectionately replied, “I won’t, I’m not going away.” They slept together on a soft bed he prepared for her and from that day forward they would not be parted. Months were spent in the woods together living on the land and loving over one another. Over this time Mis became completely present and cured of her madness as well as physical deformities. They both returned to the King of Munster’s halls to be married and would go on to have four children together.
*This is an interpretation based on the following two texts coupled with other versions. Her bearing and growing feathers may represent her liminality of walking between worlds. The representation of the transformative power of both grief and love are incredibly immense.*
- Meyer, Kuno. The Cath Finntrága.