ON THE ANCIENT RACES OF IRELAND (10)

Ancient Legends, Mystic Charms, and Superstitions of Ireland

By Lady Francesca Wilde

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Although many of the warriors of the Firbolgs fled to their island fastnesses on the coasts of Galway and Donegal, no doubt a large portion of them remained in the inland parts of the country, and in that very locality to which I have adverted, which is almost midway between the sites of the two battles, in a line stretching between Mayo and Sligo, where in time the two races appear to have coalesced by that natural law which brings the dark and the fair together.

Moreover it has been recorded that the conquering race sent their small dark opponents into Connaught, while they themselves took possession of the rich lands further east, and not only established themselves at Tara but spread into the south. It is remarkable that in time large numbers of the Dananns themselves were banished to the West, and likewise that the last forcible deportation of the native Irish race (so late as the seventeenth century) was when the people of this province got the choice of going "to Connaught or Hell," in the former of which, possibly, they joined some of the original stock. The natural beauty of the lakes and mountains of Connaught remains as it was thousands of years ago; but no doubt if some of the legislators of the period to which I have already referred could now behold its fat pasture-plains, they might prefer them to the flax lands of Ulster.

These Dananns had a globular form of head, of which I have already published examples. For the most part I believe they burned their dead or sacrificed to their manes, and placed an urn with its incinerated contents—human or animal—in the grave, where the hero was either stretched at length or crouched in an attitude similar to that adopted by the ancient Peruvians, as I have elsewhere explained. These Irish urns, which are the earliest relics of our ceramic art that have come down to the present time, are very graceful in form, and some of them most beautifully decorated, as may be seen in our various museums.

Specimens of this Danann race still exist, but have gradually mixed with their forerunners to the present day. Here is what old MacFirbis wrote of them two hundred years ago: "Every one who is fair-haired, vengeful, large, and every plunderer, professors of musical and entertaining performances, who are adepts of Druidical and magical arts, they are the descendants of the Tuatha-de-Dananns." They were not only fair but sandy in many instances, and consequently extensively freckled.

It is affirmed that the Dananns ruled in Ireland for a long time, until another inroad was made into the island by the Milesians—said to be brave, chivalrous, skilled in war, good navigators, proud, boastful, and much superior in outward adornment as well as mental culture, but probably not better armed than their opponents. They deposed the three last Danann kings and their wives, and rose to be, it is said, the dominant race—assuming the sovereignty, becoming the aristocracy and landed proprietors of the country, and giving origin to those chieftains that afterwards rose to the title of petty kings, and from whom some of the best families in the land with anything like Irish names claim descent, and particularly those with the prefix of the "O" or the "Mac." When this race arrived in Ireland I cannot tell, but it was some time prior to the Christian era. It is said they came from the coast of Spain, where they had long remained after their Eastern emigration.

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