ILLAN EACHTACH AND THE LIANAN

From Legendary Fictions of the Irish Celts by Patrick Kennedy

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The terrible superstition of the Lianan Sighe dates, as we here find, from an early period.

It was the fate of those mortals who loved, and were beloved by, women of the Sighe people, that they could not be freed from the connexion unless with the entire consent of their wayward mistresses. In illustration of the system, we subjoin the very old legend of

ILLAN EACHTACH AND THE LIANAN

Illan was a friend of Fion, and was willing to become more intimately connected with him by marrying his aunt Tuirrean. It had come to Fion's ears that Illan was already provided with a sighe-love, so he secured the fate of his aunt in this wise. He put her hand into that of Oisin, who intrusted her to Caoilte, who intrusted her to Mac Luacha, &c.; and thus she passed under the guardianship of Diarmaid, Goll Mac Morna, another Luacha, and so into the arms of Illan. Her married life was happy for a while, but it did not please the Sighe, Uchtdealbh (Fair Bosom) that her mortal lover should be happy in any society but her own. So she paid her a visit in the absence of her husband, and invited her out, as she wished to give her an important message from Fion, relative to a feast he wanted to have prepared. Being safe from the eyes of the household, she muttered some words, and drawing a druidic wand from under her mantle, she struck her with it, and changed her into the most beautiful wolf-hound that eyes ever beheld. She then took her to the house of Feargus Fionnliath, on the shore of the bay of Galway. Illan, hearing on his return that his wife had gone out with a strange woman, and had not since been seen, guessed that Fair Bosom had disposed of her in some way, and began to tremble for the result. It was not long arriving. Fion missing his aunt, demanded her safe in life and limb at the hands of Oisin, who demanded her from Caoilte, who demanded her from Mac Luacha, &c. till Luacha the second demanded from Illan the person of his wife in good health, or his own head. Illan acknowledged the justice of the request, and merely demanded a few days' grace.

He at once set forward to the palace-cavern of his sighe, and obtained his wish, but on the pure condition of being faithful to her till his death, and never more seeking mortal mistress or wife. She then sought out Tuirrean, and bringing her to some distance from Fergus's rath, restored her to her pristine shape, and then delivered her over to her nephew. Luacha the second, the last of the sureties, represented to the great chief, that the least recompense he could make him for the terror he had experienced, was the hand of the restored beauty, and Fion gave his gracious consent to this second espousals of his aunt.

During the lady's transformation she brought to the world the two celebrated hounds Brann and Sceoluing. Fair Bosom was willing to give them the human shape when she restored it to their mother, but Fion preferred them to remain as they were.

End of this Story

When Paganism prevailed, such connexions were not looked on as very baneful or unnatural. Under the Christian dispensation the unhappy person is strictly bound to the unholy being, is always sensible of its presence, and cannot be freed from the alliance without finding a substitute to take his or her place. It is said that the Lianan is nourished by the food received by its companion. Whatever were the circumstances attending the beginning of the connexion, the wretched mortal suffers at a later period such misery allied to horror, that he or she would welcome death, were it not for the torments to be looked for after it.

The person possessed can make the Lianan confer riches and other worldly goods on friends or favourites, but is not in a position to receive or enjoy such things in his or her own person. While the contract is not broken on the mortal side the familiar is the slave, otherwise unendurable misery and slavery is his or her portion. In the tale of Zanoni and in the Lianan Shie, by Carleton, are obscurely figured the indescribable wretchedness of the too rash and too curious mortals who would tear asunder the veil that divides the visible from the invisible world.[1]

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NOTES

[1] Classic scholars will find the memory of the Incubi, and Succubi, and Nympholepts of the Pagan system, preserved in these Lianans and the persons possessed by them.



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