The Taking of the Síd-Mound
The was a wonderful king over the Tuatha Dea [aka the Tuatha Dé Danann, Donann or Domnann] in Ireland, Dagán [or the Dagda] his name. Great was his power, although the land belonged to sons of Míl [the legendary ancestors of the Gaelic aristocracy] after they took it, for the Tuatha Dea used to destroy the sons of Míl’s grain and milk, until they made a covenant with the Dagda. Then he protected their grain and milk.
Great was his power when he was king in the beginning. And it was he who distributed the síd-mounds [the megalithic tombs where the gods were supposed to live] to the Fir Dea: Lug mac Ethnenn in Síd Rodrubán, Ogma in Síd Archltrai. To the Dagda himself went Síd Leithet, the sheep of Síd Cnocc Baine, and Brú Ruair. Síd an Broga [Newgrange] was his to begin with, so it is said.
So the Mac Óc [the “Young Son”, also known as Óengus] went to the Dagda, seeking a grant from the distribution of them all. He was the foster-son of Midir of Brí Léith and of Nindid the seer.
“I have nothing for you,” said the Dagda. “My distribution is complete.”
“Give me a concession then,” said the Mac Óc. “let me stay in this dwelling until night.”
That was given to him then.
“The day you wished for is here,” said the Dagda. “Your time’s up.”
“It’s certain,” he said, “that day and night are the whole world, and it’s that you have given me.”
So Dagán went from there, and the Mac Óc is still in the síd, and wonderful the land in it. There are three trees that always bear fruit, and a pig ever alive on its feet and a roasted pig., and a vat with a unique drink, and all of it will never be exhausted.
Notes and manuscipt sources
- This story is found in the Book of Leinster (c.1160). It isn’t really part of the Ulster Cycle – it’s a mythological story – but it’s included in the list of remscéla (fore-tales) of the Táin in The Revealing of the Táin Bó Cúailnge. This is my own translation, and is © Patrick Brown 2008.
- A different version of how the Mac Óc came to possess Newgrange is found the The Wooing of Étaín.
- R. I. Best and M. A. O’Brien (ed), The Book of Leinster Vol 5, p. 1120
- Vernam Hull (1933), “De Gabáil in t-Sída – Concerning the Seizure of the Fairy Mound”, Zeitschrift für celtische Philologie 19, pp. 53-58
- John Carey (1997), “De Gabáil in t-Sída – The Taking of the Hollow Hill”, The Celtic Heroic Age (eds. John T Koch & John Carey), pp. 134-135
- James MacKillop (1998), Dictionary of Celtic Mythology
- T W Rolleston (1911), Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race (online edition at Celtic Folklore)