The Nine Waves

From An Illustrated History of Ireland by Margaret Anne Cusack

« start... Chapter V. ...continued

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The Milesians, however, did not obtain a colonization in Ireland without some difficulty. According to the ancient accounts, they landed at the mouth of the river Sláingé, or Slaney, in the present county of Wexford, unperceived by the Tuatha Dé Dananns. From thence they marched to Tara, the seat of government, and summoned the three kings to surrender. A curious legend is told of this summons and its results, which is probably true in the more important details. The Tuatha Dé Danann princes complained that they had been taken by surprise, and proposed to the invaders to re-embark, and to go out upon the sea "the distance of nine waves," stating that the country should be surrendered to them if they could then effect a landing by force. The Milesian chiefs assented; but when the original inhabitants found them fairly launched at sea, they raised a tempest by magical incantations, which entirely dispersed the fleet. One part of it was driven along the east coast of Erinn, to the north, under the command of Eremon, the youngest of the Milesian brothers; the remainder, under the command of Donn, the elder brother, was driven to the south-west of the island.

But the Milesians had druids also.[6] As soon as they suspected the agency which had caused the storm, they sent a man to the topmast of the ship to know "if the wind was blowing at that height over the surface of the sea." The man reported that it was not. The druids then commence practising counter arts of magic, in which they soon succeeded, but not until five of the eight brothers were lost. Four, including Donn, were drowned in the wild Atlantic, off the coast of Kerry. Colpa met his fate at the mouth of the river Boyne, called from him Inbhear Colpa. Eber Finn and Amergin, the survivors of the southern party, landed in Kerry, and here the battle of Sliabh Mis was fought, which has been already mentioned.

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[6] Also.—This tale bears a simple and obvious interpretation. The druids were the most learned and experienced in physical science of their respective nations; hence the advice they gave appeared magical to those who were less instructed. 

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