The Tale of Oisin

Oisín (Old Irish, pronounced [ˈɔʃiːnʲ], roughly uh-SHEEN; often anglicized to Ossian), was the son of Fionn mac Cumhail and of Sadb (daughter of Bodb Dearg). He was regarded in legend as the greatest poet of Ireland, and a warrior of the Fianna in the Ossianic or Fenian Cycle of Irish mythology. and is the narrator of much of this cycle. [wikipedia] “Oisin” means “Young Deer or Fawn”. Apparently, Oisin’s mother Sadbh was turned into a deer by the Druid “Fear Doirche” who was angered with her because she refused him. When the great hunter Fionn was out on a hunt, he caught her and she returned to human form. He was amazed by her beauty and spirit that he retired from hunting and decided to settle down with her. They became pregnant with a son. When “Fear Doirche” discovered this, he turned her back into a deer, and she ran off into the woods never to be seen again. Seven years later, Fionn found her child lying naked on the Benbulbin. He raised Oisin to be a great poet, hunter, and warrior. In the “Oisín in Tir na nÓg” adventure tale, we are told that Oisin is visited by a Faerie woman named “Níamh Chinn Óir – Niamh of the Golden Hair or Head”. Niamh was one of Manannán Mac Lir’s daughters. Manannan was an Irish God of the Sea. Niamh announced to Oisin that she was his true love and soul mate and that he must come with her to the “Tir na nÓg” (“the land of the young”, or “the land of promise”). Niamh and Oisin gave birth to a son and daughter. Oisin’s son is “Oscar” and his daughter was “Plor na mBan” the “Flower of Women”. They were all quite happy. However, after what seemed like three years in Faerieland, Oisin grew weary to see his family in Ireland and persistently requested Niamh’s permission to return for a visit. Little did Oisin know that those three years in Faerie were in actuality 300 human years that had passed. So Niamh gives him “Embarr”, her white faerie steed, with specific instructions that he shall not dismount for any reason for if his feet touch the ground those 300 years would immediately turn him into an ancient withered old man. Oisin returns to find his home on the hill of Almu abandoned and in disrepair. As he tries to find his father he encounters some men trying to lift a great stone onto their wagon. As he tries to help, his girth breaks and he falls to the ground, becoming a blind old man just as Niamh warned. Embarr returns back to the Tir na nÓg without him. Oisin is then left to wander the countryside of the human realms as a wise old blind man. He teams up with Caílte mac Rónáin and takes on the bardic path sharing folklore, faerie tales, and stories of the Fianna. He becomes the Epitome of the term “Wanderlust”. He is also rumored to be a staunch advocate of the Pagan faiths. He becomes quite bothered by the fact all his comrades, family, and friends are gone as is the Pagan faiths of Ireland. He encounters the Irish Catholic Saint Patrick who was responsible for destroying the Pagan faiths of Ireland. Oisin tries to teach Saint Patrick about the glories of Ancient Ireland and the land of the Faerie. This is the source of William Butler Yeat’s poem on the “Wanderings of Oisin”. Further mythology tells of Niamh coming to the shores of Ireland in search of her long lost love to find him and bring him back to Faerie. Story has it she does not ever find him and Oisin dies of old age. Oisin’s grave is believed to be located close to the foot of the Glenann in the Glens of Antrim in Northern Ireland. Yeats, James Macpherson, Goethe, and Walter Scott all wrote about Oisin and were obsessed with translating his poems. Books have been written about him. Films have been made about his story.

[More stories of Oisin: Oisin and Niamh; The Youths of Oisin; The Wanderings of Oisin; and Oisin and Patrick.]

To be continued ….