A Gentle Seismic Shift

I have two books coming out this year which I’m hoping will create a gentle seismic shift around Irish culture and how Irish mythology is understood and portrayed. Both, however, are very different.

The first (Liath Luachra: The Metal Men) is ‘historical fiction’ but it’ll be taking Irish mythological fiction narratives to a place they haven’t been taken before (and hopefully amend some misconceptions along the way).

This will be released on 16 March 2022.

The second (the working title is ‘Irish Mythology:The Fundamentals) is non-fiction and is intended to be the definitive book explaining how Irish mythology (and other mythology) works and should be utilised. This one is anticipated to create a lot of reaction. The proposed release is October 2022.

One way or the other, I suspect this will be an interesting year.

The Púca

I was intrigued by the furore around a sculpture by Aidan Harte based that was based on the mythical Púca back in Clare last year (it’s called the Púca of Ennistymon). The sculpture – paid for by Clare County Council – was originally intended to be installed in Ennistymon, but after feedback from the community, those plans were scrapped.

Given that it’s already cast (i.e. paid for), the sculpture’s since being offered to other towns around Clare to see if anyone wanted it.

The most interesting things about this topic is the way the story was carried by the media with a lot of national and overseas media trying to dramatize the story by giving the impression the opposition was the result of some (unnamed) priest denouncing it from the altar as a ‘pagan’ idol. That was also picked up by various Pagan social media groups who were outraged that they were being oppressed by the Catholic (presumably) Church.

If you actually go back to the original releases however, its’ pretty clear the opposition to its installation in Ennistymon was primarily because people thought the sculpture was really ugly. Given that it’s two meters high, constructed from bronze and not linked to any local stories, I can understand their reticence, particularly if they’re paying for through public rates.

It all seems such a wasted opportunity though. If the Council had linked an appropriate artist to local cultural experts from the start, the resulting joint venture could have been amazing.   

Fionn Mac Cumhaill: A History of a Legend

This is a recent interview/discussion I did as part of a panel on ‘Talking History‘ – an Irish radio show presented by historian Patrick Geoghegan and which specialises in exploring some fascinating topics. I was invited on as that week’s show was focussed on the development of the lore of Irish mythological hero Fionn mac Cumhaill.

The panel for this discussion included some top-notch academics, including Dr Kevin Murray (University College Cork), Dr Sile Ni Muhurchu (University College Cork), Natasha Sumner (Harvard), Dr Jim MacKillop (Editor of  the ‘Oxford Dictionary of Celtic Mythology’) and Dr Joseph Flahive (Royal Irish Academy). I’m quite familiar with most of their works and it was nice to be included in such a line up.

I can promise you that the knowledge/information on Fionn and the Fenian Cycle revealed over the course of this one hour discussion will excede twenty-five years’ worth of blathering from self-declared authorities on You Tube.

You can get to the show by clicking on the image above or clicking the link HERE.

The Music of What Happens

Once, as they rested during a hunt for wild deer, Fionn mac Cumhaill and his men debated what the finest music in the world might be.

“Then tell us what it is,” said Fionn to Oisín, who’d started the discussion.

“The cuckoo calling from the tree that’s highest in the hedge,” cried his son.

Fionn nodded. “That’s a good sound,” he admitted. “And you, Oscar? “What is finest of music to your mind?”

“The finest of music is the clash of a spear against a shield in battle,” the warrior exclaimed.

“It is a good sound,” said Fionn.

Working his way through the party, he asked each of his men what they thought and each gave their answer: the belling of a stag across the water, the baying of a tuneful pack of hunt hounds heard somewhere in the distance, the throaty song of a lark, the happy laugh of a gleeful girl, the whisper of a loved one in the darkness of night.

“These are all good sounds,” said Fionn.“

So, tell us, a Fionn,” one of his men ventured finally, for there was genuine curiosity amongst them.  “What do you think? What would your answer be?”

Fionn considered the question for a moment.

“The music of what happens,” he said at last. “That is the finest music in the world.”

Note: This is a segment I’ve adapted from one of the ‘old style’ Fionn mac Cumhaill stories, in this case from a book called ‘Irish Fairy Tales’  by James Stephens. Stephens actually adapted it from the 12th century Macgnímartha Find [The Boyhood Deeds of Fionn] back in 1920. This is how a lot of the Fenian Cycle (and other Irish mythology) works.

Irish Imbas Projects for 2022

The nice thing about a decent holiday is that it gives you time and space to think outside the rut, to consider new possibilities or the need to change existing circumstances. Like everyone else, I think I’ve been pretty burned out from work and social stress since the emergence of the first Covid strain in 2020. That was something that cut the legs out from under a full year’s work on a potential tv series (while also dramatically escalating my freelance consulting work) on top of all the writing.

Fortunately, sitting in the sun and blobbing over the holidays, does wonders for the soul, in terms of planning what I can realistically achieve over the forthcoming twelve months, at least. Here are the projects I hope to work on over 2022.


Liath Luachra: The Metal Men

I’m currently on the last leg of this story – which turned out to be far longer than I’d anticipated due to the disparate plot threads. I don’t want to finish on another cliff hanger so I’m just going to slog through on this to a close-to-final draft at the end of January. I’m hoping to make this available to Patreons sometime in February and it’ll be available in all the ebookstores sometime on 16 March 2022.


Fionn: Stranger at Mullán Bán:

The next book in the Fionn series will have clear overlaps with ‘The Seeking’ and ‘The Metal Men’ and Demne/Fionn takes a more active role in the narrative. I’m provisionally working to a release date of June 2022, but I now suspect this will be later.  


Untitled Liath Luachra Short Story:

This short story will be available for Patreons only. Further detail later in the year.


Non-fiction Irish Mythology Book:

This is a book explaining how Irish mythology (and other mythology) works. Most of it is already written but I’m trying to work out how to best get the information across. The plan is to release this sometime in the latter part of 2022. I’ll probably do a small ‘fantasy-based’ spin off on that as well to guide fantasy writers on what to consider when dealing with other cultures and mythology.


Liath Luachra: The Great Wild:

A short Liath Luachra series novella. This will cover an adventure prior to Liath Luachra joining Na Cinéaltaí. The story will initially be available for Patreons only. Further detail later in the year.


How to Save the World

Not the usual stuff I publish, this is a non-fiction ‘white paper’ based on the freelance consulting work I’ve been doing over the last 20 years, predominantly for Government Departments. Over that time, I’m come across patterns and behaviours that need to change in New Zealand (and overseas) if the planet and its occupants have any chance of surviving the next fifty years. Normally, I’d write something like this as part of a project for a government agency but, as they’re part of the problem, I’ll need to write it independently. I’m trying to set this at a level that journalists and the general public can utilise.


Obviously, that’s a substantial amount of work (and major breadth) on top of the Vóg newsletter and additional content I’ll be providing for my Patreons). Interest is also rising once again on a potential screen version of the Liath Luachra series so, as always, these projects need to be flexible in terms of responding to events that might occur throughout 2022.

If you’re keen on following this particular journey, feel free to subscribe to my Vóg Newsletter or if you’d prefer more up front and personal updates and woudl like to support the work I do, you might want to join my Patreon Group).

Best wishes to everyone for 2022.

Irish Fires on Facebook

There’s an old adage that goes something along the lines of ‘we mostly make friends with those who agree with us’. Some of the truth behind that adage is subtly evident in modern social media but it tends to be particularly interesting from an Irish viewpoint.

Observing social media patterns – particularly in the Irish-related Facebook Groups – it quickly becomes evident that there’s a tangible cultural divide between native Irish people and the descendants of Irish people from overseas, an interesting development in ‘Groups’ supposedly built for a common interest. Many of the ‘Irish’ Facebook Groups (sometimes referred to as ‘Oirish’ Groups by native Irish) are established by (and populated by) the descendants of Irish people who have a slightly outdated and ‘rose-tinted spectacles’ view of Ireland and its people. As a result, when native Irish members point out the erroneous beliefs and outright untruths that are posted, online engagement quickly descends into open conflict – helpfully aided by provocative Facebook algorithms that toss petrol on the ‘conversational flames’. Add in the Celtic Recreationists, White Supremacist Celts, Profit-Driven Pagans and others using Facebook Groups to drive their own agenda and you quickly end up with a toxic environment where there’s simply no point in engagement.

One of the reasons behind that disparity of engagement is that although people come to such Groups out of a relatively common interest, they also come with different purposes and, more importantly, bearing very different cultural values, something that has become starkly visible in the most recent ‘Global Trends Survey.’

Irish journalist Fintan O’Toole has an explanatory article on the results of that Survey from an Irish perspective and the huge difference between Irish, American, English (and other) cultural values makes fascinating reading. If you want to understand the war between Oirish and Irish, you can find O’Toole’s article here.

When mythology and history clash with fantasy.

One of the problems with writing adventures set in 1st and 2nd century Ireland is that they sit way outside the usual literary genres. Very much in the ‘sword’ (rather than in the ‘sorcery’) of ‘sword and sorcery’, when you mix in Irish mythology they almost automatically get assigned to the ‘fantasy’ classification.

Fantasy is an area that sits uncomfortably with Irish people who know their history and culture, as mythology is always culturally based (not fantasy based).

Designing covers for these books therefore becomes even more complicated as you have to ensure the cultural integrity while also balancing expectations of people who expect them to fall into the fantasy realm. These are some of my own attempts to do so, to date.

Yes, progress is being made

I have to confess I always get a kick posting this image up on Facebook. Several months back when I first released the book, I put it on the Facebook shop only for it to be rejected as “the sale of animals is forbidden” (the Facebook algorithm thought it was a zebra!).

When I resubmitted it a second time, the cover was judged as ‘offensive material’ and therefore unsuitable for the Facebook shop. Neeldess to say, I won’t be adding any more products to the Facebook Shop. Ironically, of course I can still post the image without any qualms whatsoever.

Aaaah Facebook!

The conclusion of this story started in this book will be released in December (porbably through the Irish Imbas website) and through the ususal suspects some time afterwards. Further detail on that over the next few weeks.

Meanwhile, here are some of the Amazon reviews for Liath Luachra: The Seeking. As always, I’m very grateful to those people who’ve made the effort to do a review.

Liath Luachra: The Great Wild

This is the cover image for a small project called ‘Liath Luachra: The Great Wild‘ which I’m hoping to release sometime next year – probably towards the end of the year. Essentially, it’s a prequel novella to the Liath Luachra Series (The Irish Woman Warrior Series) that tells of an event during Liath Luachra’s first year with mercenary group Na Cinéaltaí – The Friendly Ones.

Currently in outline only, I’m expecting the final work to be around 35-40,000 words in length. In terms of style, this story reverts back to the more simple and rugged approach of the first book in the series (Liath Luachra: The Grey One). A simple, stand alone story, it won’t have the ongoing ‘plot baggage’ (that’s a technical term us arty types use!) of the other books in the series which should make it easier (faster) to write.

Prior to releasing that, I have to publish Liath Luachra: The Metal Men (probably in December 2021) and Fionn: Stranger at Mullán Bán (planned for June 2022).

I’m also hoping to get at least five chapters of Beara: Cry of the Banshee (the second inthe Beara Trilogy) drafted but that will really depend on my freelance workloads. Meanwhile, I also have a non-fiction (Irish mythology based) book planned for next year but that’s a pretty big project so I’m not committing to delivery as yet.

Sheesh! I feel tired just thinking about this!

An Emotional Horse (and An Unsubtle Saint)

One of the stories associated with Saint Columcille tells how, on the day before he died, he went to visit his fellow monks working in the field, but was so weak he had to be carried to them in a cart. When he finally arrived, he informed them all of his great longing to ‘go with Jesus’ but that he’d held off as he was very holy and felt obliged to do his holy duty by attending the recent Easter celebrations.

Not being entirely thick, the monks cottoned onto the fact that he was suggesting he didn’t have much time left with them. Accustomed to his tedious harping on however, they pretended not to understand.

A little later, just in case they hadn’t got the message, the saint also obliquely informed his companion, Diarmuid, that it would soon be his own day of rest – the following Sunday in fact (wink, wink!). Diarmuid stared silently at him, not entirely sure whether the saint was talking about him or about himself.

Heading back to the monastery, Colmcille grew weary and was obliged to sit down and rest at the side of the road when a white horse suddenly ran up to him, pressed its head against his chest and started crying, drenching his shirt with the flood of tears.

Unaccustomed to bawling animals, Diarmuid quickly rushed in to save the saint and attempted to drive the horse away. Colmcille, however, never one to miss an opportunity to lecture, latched onto him and prevented him from doing so by saying, “Allow this admirer of mine to shed his tears on my chest. For this horse, being an animal, understood instinctively that I was going to be with my Lord yet you as a man could not foretell this.”

Ever a man to labour a point, oul Colm Cille.

The Vita Columbae – Life of Columba – a hagiography (or ‘propaganda record’ of the saint’s life) indicate that he died the next day.

It’s silent on whether he was helped by the other monks.  

Meath County Council recently produced a short movie of the story which you can find here: St Colmcille and the Depressed Horse

I prefer my own interpretation, of course.

Ráth Meadhbha

Ráth Meadhbha is looking a bit run down these days but after 3000 years (best estimates indicate it was constructed in the early Bronze Age: 2000–1500 BC) I suppose that’s pretty understandable.

Climb in over the shaky ‘geata’, slip through the trees and you find yourself in an open field that could be a farming meadow anywhere in Ireland. It’s only as you return to the road and notice the wide, almost indistinguishable ditches to either side that you realise you’ve been standing in the ‘lis’ of an enormous ráth.   

Although the ráth’s current name relates to Meadhbh Leathdearg (or Meabh or Cruachan) it’s obviously got little connection with the mythological character. It’s not clear when that name was assigned but at a guess (without checking) it was around medieval times (at the very least, 1000 years later) when they were just as good at self-promoting as they are in contemporary times.   

The Metal Men

This is the cover for ‘Liath Luachra: The Metal Men‘ which completes the story commenced in the previous book (Liath Luachra: The Seeking) of the Irish Woman Warrior Series.

The first five chapters have now been edited and are in their final forms and I’m busy drafting up ‘close to final’ versions of chapter six and seven. At this stage, the plan is still to release the book in December 2021, although this might initially be to the Irish Imbas website or Vóg followers before its distributed more widely.

The background imagery is quite dramatic in this piece and I’ll be explaining the full context behind that in the next edition of Vóg (due at the end of the month).

Sad News On Irish Mythology

Sadly, I’ll be making some changes to how Irish Imbas Books operates in the future (and there’ll be more detail on that in the Vóg newsletter at the end of the month).

For the past twenty years or so, I’ve used ancient Gaelic cultural and mythological concepts on a daily basis as part of my publishing and creative work. At its most fundamental, Irish mythology is very simple (and very beautiful) when you use it correctly and with respect.

Unfortunately, over the last year or so, I’ve found a disturbing amount of the original material and research I produce, being plagiarised or misused by self-proclaimed ‘Pagans’, ‘Druids’, and ‘Recreational Celts’, desperate to cash in on the fantasy/recreationist interpretations of Irish culture driven by overseas interests. Some of these individuals follow my work with an almost parasitic intensity …

And I no longer wish to feed them.

To start with, I’ve removed all in-depth content on Irish mythology from the Irish Imbas website. I’ll also be substantially reducing the number of articles on this topic released through our social media (although minor posts will continue). l will continue to publish the more in-depth material, but only through platforms I control – my newsletter etc. (but even these will have their safeguards)

The internet (and Facebook in particular) is full of people claiming that Irish mythology is something it’s not, that it’ll fix something it won’t, that it’ll fill some gap in your soul that desperately needs filling.

Unfortunately, it won’t do any of these things because:

(a) it’s not meant to; and

(b) it’s not – and never will be – a ‘product’.

Early Fionn

This was an early sketch for one of the covers for Fionn: Defence of Ráth Bládhma. The faces of the characters actually ended up quite different in the final cover but I liked the look of them sufficiently to think about an adaptation of the book as a graphic novel at some stage when I have time.

If anyone knows a decent graphic novel illustrator, let them know I’m looking.

Oirish Gaming, Tourism Ireland and the Plastic Paddies

Look, I’ve got to confess I’m not the world’s greatest gamer. I have enjoyed games like ‘Skyrim’ or ‘Fallout’ in the past but, for me, the main enjoyment results from wandering aimlessly through dramatic landscapes (usually as I haven’t worked out the controls) or engaging in the occasional bout of senseless violence after a ‘bad day’ at the office.

Despite my limited gaming credentials however, I’ve played enough to appreciate the artistry of game design. As a writer, I also recognise good plotting and dialogue when I hear them. To be honest, some of the stuff I’ve played over the years, genuinely deserves to be recognised for the spectacular art forms they are.

Fortunately, my lack of expertise in gaming didn’t work against me when I received an approach from a game developer looking to make a video game that incorporated genuine elements of Irish culture in its narrative structure. That approach came a bit out of the blue (probably as a result of an announcement relating to the adaptation of one of my books) but, either way, it did lead to some interesting discussions.

When I first spoke to the producers, I was a bit intrigued and excited, impressed by their energy and creative drive. By the second meeting however, I was already starting to feel a tad uncomfortable, mostly with the way they wanted to portray Irish culture. It quickly became clear that we had very differing views on what ‘genuine’ meant and I ended up distancing myself from the project. Last I heard, it hadn’t progressed much further beyond those initial conversations and I believe the game now lingers in ‘development hell’.

Fast forward two years and I come across this – Wrath of the Druids – a game released in May by Ubisoft (a company far bigger than the one I’d been talking to) as part of its ‘Assassins Creed’ product line. Ubisoft do some of the better AAA games (the term used for the more complex games produced by the larger game publishing houses) and although ‘Wrath of the Druids’ has very little in common with the game I’d been approached about, some of the aspects on how Irish history/mythology were being portrayed were similar.

Aaaah! Fresh morning air and a lovely bit of sport with the ‘Oirish Wherewolvzes’!

I guess the big problem with non-native game producers making games based on Irish culture is that they tend to cherry pick aspects that they like (and omit or change what they don’t) and repackage the altered remnants as the components of a distorted, anglicized (i.e. ‘Celtic’) fantasy that appeals to the masses. That would probably be fine if they didn’t keep passing it off as ‘Irish’ to give it an air of ‘authenticity’ but when it come sto game developers, they generally seem to want to have their cake and eat it. In some ways, it feels as though the whole colonization process has continued unabated except that, nowadays, rather than stealing our land, the feckers are after our cultural identity!!!

So Who Will Protect Us? Yay! Tourism Ireland.

What’s most interesting about the ‘Wrath of the Druids’ game, was the involvement of Tourism Ireland (who approached the developers when they heard it was being produced). To their credit, by engaging proactively with the game developers, Tourism Ireland managed to get some excellent leverage through the inclusion of current day tourist destinations (based on ancient sites) into the game. From a marketing perspective therefore, you’d have to admit the final product was a total ‘win-win’. Tourism Ireland gets a rare opportunity to market directly to an extensive gaming community and Ubisoft can utilise their involvement to lend the game an air of er … cultural authenticity (even if it seems limited to topographical or architectural features).

To be honest, I have plenty of respect for Tourism Ireland and its efforts to support the Irish tourism industry. Unfortunately, its narrow financial objectives and its desperation for marketing ‘airtime’ places it in a tenuous position when it comes to representing Ireland. Tourism Ireland isn’t particularly intersted in genuine aspects of our culture. They’re interested in bringing tourists to the country so that they spend money here and they’ll sell them any oul shitedream they want to get them over. With respect to gaming therefore, Tourism Ireland are more than happy for Ireland to be marketed as a land where druids hang out doing their magic schtick (while wearing antlers), where shaggy Oirish wherewolvzes threaten to gnaw your bones, where fiery, red-haired maidens are waiting to be rescued and where every gaming tourist can have their ultimate wet-dream ‘Oirish’ fantasy come true.

Oi’ve got a roight weird Oirish accent!

Perhaps we should rename them ‘Tourism Oireland’.

I’m being a bit cynical here, of course (no, really!) but it’s important to remember that the aim of products like ‘Wrath of the Druids’ is to entertain. It’s not to inform or to educate – although commercial companies will happily make such claims unless someone takes them to task on the matter.

And, trust me, Tourism Ireland aren’t the entity to take them to task.

Ultimately, allowing non-Irish creatives in the gaming industry to represent Irish culture without credible oversight can lead to some major narrative clangers. It can also have serious downsides that include the replacment of genuine elements of Irish culture by a Plastic Paddy charicatures (anyone remember Cait from Fallout 4!).

Longer term, unless we as native Irish creators regain control of our own stories and heritage, our culture risks continuing to serve as a cheap commodity for ‘Celtic’-style entertainment.   

And the ‘MacDonald’s’ version of Irish culture is not something, we really want to pass down to our children – no matter how good the game is.

 

The Thinking Woman’s Warrior

I’m delighted to announce that the third book in the Irish Woman Warrior Series is now out and available at all the ususal ebookstores. The paperback version is still available only through Amazon but that will change).

Definitely the most popular of all my book series, this is a brief description of what its all about:

———-

The Irish Woman Warrior Series is based on the adventures of the woman warrior Liath Luachra and her mercenary fian (war party), Na Cinéaltaí (The Friendly Ones).

Set against a backdrop of encroaching forest, mythic ruins and treacherous tribal politics, Liath Luachra tells the story of a damaged young woman who can count on nothing but her wits and fighting skills to see her through. Rising above the constraints of her status and overcoming her personal tragedies, she emerges Ireland’s greatest warrior and a protector whose influence lives on one thousand years later.

You can find the full background and details on the new book here: THE SEEKING

Fionn, Fenians and Wild Irish Pigs

Wild pigs, especially boars, were exceptionally important in ancient Ireland due to their abundance throughout the wilderness and their usefulness as a food source. Wild pigs therefore form an important part in ancient stories and tend to pepper the established mythological associations.

Pigs were particularly associated with the Fenian Cycle tales and, indeed, wild pigs form an important narrative element across the range of Fionn mac Cumhaill’s life. The Macgnímartha Finn, for example, reports how, in his early years, the young Fionn defeated his first wild boar in Cuilleann in a kind of coming of age ‘warrior event’ (often used in ancient stories to give characters a certain kudos).  That goes as follows:    


Then he (Fionn) went forth to Cullen of the Uí Cuanach, to the house of the master smith Lóchán, who had a very beautiful daughter, Cruithne by name. She fell in love with the youth.

Apparently, Lóchán was very impressed with the young Fionn (although, amusingly, the Macgnímartha Finn never actually says why) and reacts – ahem – as most fathers would.

‘I shall give thee my daughter, though I know not who thou art.” Thereupon the girl slept with the youth.

“Make spears for me,” said the youth to the smith. So Lóchán made two spears for him. He then bade farewell to Lóchán and prepared to make his away.

“My boy,” said Lóchán. “Do not go upon the road on which is the sow called the Beo. She it was that devastated the mid­lands of Munster.”

But what happened was that youth travelled upon the very road on which the sow was to be found. There the sow charged him but be thrust his spear at her, so that it went through her, and left her without life. Then he took the head of the sow with him to the smith as a bridal gift for his daughter.

Hence is Sliabh Muice (Pig Mountain) in Munster situated.


That hill (no Sliabh na Muc) is located between Tipperary and the glen of Aherlow. In ancient times, the glen was an important travel route between the districts of Tipperary and Limerick so it’s no real surprise to find such stories associated with it.  

Towards the end of his life, another boar plays an important role in Fionn’s story. That occurs in An Tóraíocht when Fionn has supposedly made peace with the warrior Diarmuid Ui Duibhne (who earlier betrayed Fionn by eloping with his future bride, Grainne).

Visiting Diarmuid in his home in Sligo, Fionn joins the warrior in a boar hunt around Benbulbin. During the hunt, the creature gores Diarmuid badly and although Fionn has the power to heal him by letting him drink water from his palms, he refuses to do so.

Pressed by his grandson – the warrior Oscar – a friend of Diarmuid’s – Fionn relents but still overcome by bitterness, he twice lets the water flow through his fingers before he can raise them to Diarmuid’s lips. Finally, when threated by Oscar, Fionn does the right thing but by then it’s too late and Diarmuid has succumbed to his wounds.

Although wild boar may have once been native in Ireland, it became extinct in prehistoric times.  Since then, the environment has changed substantially, and if reintroduced, they would now be considered an invasive/pest species as they’re likely to have a huge impact on local habitats and wildlife. Despite this, there were some interesting happenings in Kerry recently when people were asked by the Parks and Wildlife Service to report any sightings of a large male boar running wild in the Cordal and Mount Eagle area.

I guess there’s always going to be some ‘eegit’ with a wild pig agenda!


The Bird with the Cat’s Head

An Ceann Cait’ – ‘The Cat Head’ owl – is an intriguing part of the Irish landscape, particularly as its ‘working hours’ and natural camouflage make it extremely hard to see. That visual rarity give the bird a bit of a ‘mysterious’ reputation and, hence, there’s been a lot of mythology or folklore ascribed to it. Unfortunately, like much ‘Irish mythology’ out there on the internet, it tends to be more recently invented or the result of contemporary interpretations on topics that aren’t fully understood. To be honest, in its natural environment, the bird’s behaviour is fascinating enough and it doesn’t really need a whole bunch of fantasy background or meaning (or worse, the term ‘Celtic’) applied to make it more interesting.

I was lucky enough to see An Ceann Cait once a few years back, and although the feline ears, facial disc and broad eyes gives the animal a ‘stunned’ expression that looks quite comical, it’s actually a ruthless little predator (mostly preying on mice and other rodents but they take down small birds as well).    

I ended up using the animal in the first chapter of ‘Liath Luachra: The Seeking’ (which is also the short story ‘The Winter Cave’) as it served to present the protagonist with an effective foil for self-reflection. I intentionally kept away from any supernatural or mythological leanings, though.  As mentioned earlier, the animal’s already interesting enough in its own right and like most of the ‘magic’ or ‘meaning’ modern-day spiritualists seem so desperate to find, its often sitting directly in front of you.

Potentially on a branch.