Spooky Bits For Halloween

Reicne Fothaid Canainne (trans. Kuno Meyers) Verses 41 - 49 (Source)

Here is a text relating how a fiana leader of Connacht, Fothaid Canainne got in a bit of a scuffle with a fiana leader from Munster, Ailill Flann Bec, over a mutual interest in Ailill’s wife. Fothaid and his men are slaughtered in the battle and his lover (Ailill’s wife) brings his severed head back to his body, where her relates the events of the battle and mourns his comrades; it ends with the following verses, making one of the earliest references to the Mórrígan.

There are around us here and there
many spoils whose luck is famous;
horrible are the huge entrails
which the Mórrígan washes.

She has come to us from the edge of a pillar (?),
‘tis she who has egged us on;
many are the spoils she washes,
horrible the hateful laugh she laughs.

She has flung her mane over her back,
a stout heart
[gap: meaning unclear]
that hates her;
though it is near us here where she is,
let not fear attack thy shape.

If hitherto I have been in peril,
[gap: meaning unclear]
for my salvation;
O woman,
[gap: meaning unclear]
fair was the aspect under which we parted.

I shall now part from all that is human,
in the morning after the band of youths.
Go to thy house, do not stay here,
the end of the night is at hand.

Some one will at all times remember
the reicne of Fothad Canainne;
my discourse with thee shall not be unrenowned,
if thou consider my bequest.

Since my grave will be frequented,
let a […] be placed, a conspicuous tomb;
no loss of labour thou seest
from thy trouble after thy love.

My riddled body must part from thee awhile,
my soul to be tortured by the black demon.
Save for the worship of Heaven’s King,
love of this world is folly.

It is the dusky ousel that laughs
a greeting to all the faithful:
my speech, my shape are spectral—
hush, woman, do not speak to me!

Echtra Nerai (Egerton 1782, Fo.71 b, Trans. Kuno Meyer) Lines 1 - 42 (Source)

A little bit different this one, more living dead than mournful dying severed head. It’s Halloween and Ailill’s daring his mates to go out and poke dead bodies. Nera turns out to be the only one brave enough but is so bad at tying knots he has to take some unexpected advice, leading us on a journey that teaches the benefits of household cleanliness.

One Halloween Ailill and Medb were in Rath Cruachan with their whole household. They set about cooking food. Two captives had been hanged by them the day before that. Then Ailill said: “He who would now put a withe round the foot of either of the two captives that are on the gallows, shall have a prize for it from me, as he may choose”.

Great was the darkness of that night and its horror, and demons would appear on that night always, Each man of them went ‘out in turn to try that night, and quickly would he come back into the house. “I will have the prize from thee”, said Nera, “and I shall go out, Truly thou shalt have this my gold-hilted sword here”, said Ailil!.

Then this Nera went out towards the captives, and put good armour on him. He put a withe round the foot of one of the two captives. Thrice it sprang off again. Then the captive said to him, unless he put a proper peg on it, though he be at it till the morrow, he would not fix his own peg on it. Then Nera put a proper peg on it.

Said the captive from the gallows to Nera: “That is manly, oh Nera!” “Manly indeed!” said Nera, “By the truth of thy valour, take me on thy neck, that I may get a drink with thee. I was very thirsty when I was hanged.” “Come on my neck then!” said Nera. So he went on his neck. “Whither shall I carry thee?” said Nera. “To the house which is nearest to us”, said the captive.

So they went to that house. Then they saw something. A lake of fire round that house. “There is no drink for us in this house”, said the captive. “There is no fire without sparing in it ever”. “Let us therefore go to the other house, which is nearest to us”, said the captive. They went to it then and saw a lake of water around it. “Do not go to that house!” said the captive. There is never a washing-nor a bathing-tub, nor a slop-pail in it at night after sleeping. “Let us still go to the other house”, said the captive. “Now there is my drink in this house”, said the captive. He let him down on the floor. He went into the house. There were tubs for washing and bathing in it, and a drink in either of them. Also a slop-pail on the floor of the house. He then drinks a draught of either of them and scatters the last sip from his lips at the faces of the people that wee in the house, so that they all died. Henceforth it is not good (to have) either a tub for washing or bathing, or a fire without sparing, or a slop-pail in a house after sleeping.