Conan's Delusions in Ceash

Patrick Kennedy
1891 (2nd Edition)

As Fion and some of his curai were one day employed in the chase, a druidic dwarf observing that they were tired, invited them to his hut. However much they distrusted him, they would have deemed it unworthy of their fame to shun anything that promised an adventure. They followed him home, and ate and drank, and were then accommodated with beds. They slept each in a separate apartment on beds of heath, with the flowers upwards, covered with wolf-skins. The following adventure happened to each in succession:—The room in which Fion slept was lighted up suddenly, and a woman fairer than Aoife or Maev, seated in a rich chariot drawn by dwarfish horses, drove up to the bed. She addressed him in musical tones, requesting him to take his seat beside her, and come with her to her hill palace. Fion was enchanted with her beauty, but had presence of mind to put his thumb between his teeth, and an old withered creature was before him, seated on a car of rotten sticks. He turned to the wall and remained immoveable. After some seconds the light changed to gloom, and at the moment, he put his enchanted bugle the Dord Fionn between his lips, and blew some notes on it expressive of imminent danger and caution. It was heard by Fergus, Caeilte, Diarmuid, Oisin, Luacha, Goll, and Conan; and much as each knight was under the thrall of female loveliness, each turned his face to the wall at the Sighe's appearance, even as did his chief.

At last all had been visited but Conan the incontinent, the abusive, the cunning, and the only one of the Fians unpossessed of a noble soul. At the first invitation of the fay he sprang into the chariot, and found himself tumbling headlong into a deep well in which he could hear the roar of uprushing waters, and feel the hot steam scalding him to the bone. He caught at a beam that lay across, uttered a roar that might be heard from Ceash (in Sligo) to Inis na Gloria, and was soon surrounded by his brother Fians. By the dull firelight they found him astride on a flesh-fork that lay across the caldron in which their supper had been cooked. After administering some comfort of that quality once so liberally bestowed on Job, they left him to his repose, first exhorting him to resist temptation.

He had not time to fall asleep when the same bright vision again filled the room. This time he delayed ten seconds before he sprung into the car; when he did so he found himself in the midst of a forest, and a dreadful beast, resembling a wild cat, gigantic, such as he had heard of, but never seen, springing on him from behind a tree, pinned him to the earth, and got his head in a moment into its horrid mouth. While power was left him to roar he roared, and the room was soon filled by the knights. They found him on his back writhing and crying out, and a large cat sitting at his head, and licking his greasy chin and crommeal [1] (moustache). "Misfortune be on you for a troublesome Conan," said Caeilte; "if you disturb us again you shall receive the discipline of the sword-belts."

Alas! when all was quiet for a while, such shouts shook the house as if the Donn Cuailgne and the Donn Finnbeanach [2] were employed at single combat. When the champions entered they could see no outward cause of torment; but the unfortunate victim was lying on his back, his hair fastened to the floor, and he twisting about in agony. "What is the matter now, you unblest Son of Mischief?" cried Fion. "Oh, have pity on me!" he cried. "I am suffering the pangs inflicted on womankind. Chew your thumb, O son of Cumhail, and give me relief." He did so, and beheld through walls and doors the dwarf in a far-off cell, rocking himself and singing a cronan. Doors and gates gave way before the feet of the Fianna, and they were all soon surrounding the sorcerer with their javelins at his throat. "Release our companion, O Danaan of evil, or taste the bitterness of dissolution." He drew a vial from his breast-clothing, and handed it to Fion, who placed it in Oisin's hand, motioning him to go to the relief of Conan. The rest remained to watch the Druid, till they heard from the distant room a burst of laughter. Hastening back they found Conan sitting painless, but silent and sad—the upper part of his head resembling the moon at full, while a long veil of his black hair hung sorrowfully from its outer rim.

A laugh rung out from the warriors as they entered, but it was soon checked by the chief; and for fear of further evils they immediately quitted the ill-omened abode of the sorcerer; and to this day it is said to a traveller or seeker of adventures, "May you come off with better fortune than Conan did at Ceash!"

End of this Story


[1] The ancient Irish gentry let their hair grow as long as it would, but carefully shaved the face and neck, with the exception of the upper lip.

[2] The two rival bulls in the Tain Bo Cuailgne, the Cattle Raid of Cooley (in Louth), the queen of Celtic epics.