The Mythological Cycle:
The understanding of the folktales, folklore, myths, and legends of “Otherworldly” creatures who landed in Ireland in prehistoric times is known as “The Mythological Cycle.” A notable work exists called the Lebor Gabála Érenn (The Book of the Taking of Ireland) or otherwise known as the “Book of Invasions” which is a Middle Irish title of a loose collection of poems and prose narratives recounting the history, mythology, and origins of the Irish race from the creation of the world down to the Middle Ages.
According to the myths and legends of early Ireland, the very first human-like inhabitants of the Green Island of Eire were the Fomorians. The Fomorians are believed to be beings who preceded the Gods, similar to the Greek Titans representing Gods of Chaos and wild nature. They were also depicted as the supernatural undead and magical beings of the Underworld or Otherworld. They were seen as a giant demonic race of beings who lived in boats off the coast of Ireland, often coming ashore to plunder and pillage all that existed on this grand Green Isle. According to medieval scholars, the name “Fomorians”, “Fomhoire”, “Formorian”, “Fomoraig”, and “Faoi-Mhuir” came from “Fomoire” a word combination of “fomó” meaning “giant” or “pirate”, the Gaelic “Faoi-mhuir” meaning “beneath the sea”, with the elements ‘muire’ or ‘sea’ or “mor” as “spirit” or “phantom” giving them the reputation as ‘sea pirates or under-sea phantoms.’ Some legends suggest that the Fomorians originally came from Asia or Northern Africa having been birthed by Noah’s son Ham after he was cursed by Noah. Some believe the Fomorians were the descendants of GogmaGog. They left Africa as seafarers who were often depicted as having black skin, black haired with the body of a man and the head of a goat according to the Eleventh century text called the “Book of the Dun Cow” or the Lebor na hUidre. In some manners, they have similarities to the descriptions of Ancient Egyptian and Nubian Gods, Goddesses, and half-human/half-animal creatures. Some of them have also been described as having one eye, one arm, and one leg; while others were fancied as elegant beauties as with “Elatha” the father of “Bres”. They were also notorious for their powers over the forces of nature, such as being able to bring forth fog, storms, diseases, blights, and plagues with their so-accused “evil” magic. Through history, they claimed several famous royalties, especially in guise as “kings” by various names, the most remembered as King Conaing, King Morc, King Indech, King Tethra, King Balor, King Elatha, the Warrior Cichol, the Smith Dolb, the Steward Liagh, the Poet Oghma, and Queen Ceithlenn. Throughout the lands of present day Ireland and the United Kingdom, are their mythical tromping grounds of Conaing’s Tower, Tory Island, The Hebrides, Rathlin, Islay, Lochlann (Norway), and Dun Aengus. By the period of history when they participated in the Second Battle of Magh Tuiredh, the rumor was that their fleet stretched far and wide from the Northeastern coast of Ireland all the way to Norway.
The first Fomorian King to have settled in Ireland was “Conaing” taking root on all the Northern Islands along the coasts of Ireland, Scotland, and Norway. In some respects, they had a “under the seas” glamour about them having lived “beneath the waves” giving some affiliation with “mer-folk”, “selchies,” and “mermen or mermaids”. They were then reputed to have split themselves up into different tribes, residing in the Underworld, which was later ruled by “Tethra” the Fomorian Faerie King. Often described to have the color and composure that is common-place for a Nubian with the darkest of black skin and hair, oddly though “Elatha” the father of “Bres” was depicted as having the most “golden hair” and the handsomest man in sight. He seemed the fairest of the leaders, not being so blood-thirsty as the other Fomorian leaders, and very interested in justice. In later years, he refused to go to war with his son “Bres” against the later faerie invaders known as the “Tuatha de Danann” as he felt such actions was “unjust”. By right of the myths and legends, the Fomorians were unique in their DNA, racial, and family lineage with their own customs and language dialects than the other invading inhabitants of Ireland. Whereas the Nemedians, the Fir-Bolg, and the Tuatha de Danann were believed to have shared the same DNA, family lines, languages, and were considered to be of the same races. At a later point in history, they were known to have intermarried with the Tuatha De Danann according to faerie tales and legends. Popular stories relating to the Fomorians were the “Bres Mac Elatha and the Tuatha De Danann”, “The Second Battle of Magh Tuiredh”, “How Balor was Defeated”, “The Courting of Emer”, “The Fate of the Children of Turenn”, “the Fir Bolg”, “The Story of the Tuatha De Danann”, “The Death Tales of the Tuatha De Danann”, “Credhe’s Lament”, “the Hard Servant”, and “Partholon” myths. They came to be defeated by the first invaders of Ireland from Greece known as the “Partholon” by 2680 or 2061 B.C.E. (dates differ to scholar’s theories). Shortly after defeat by the Partholon, they took back the land by instilling a plague that killed off the Partholon, laying them waste in the fields. They battled again with the Nemeds and then finally defeated and vanquished by the Tuatha de Danann. Ever since, any settled pirates or sea-based raiders were labeled “Fomorians”.
By Thomas Baurley
- Anomymous scholar:
11th c. C.E. Lebor Gabála Érenn (The Book of the Taking of Ireland)
- Encyclopedia Mythica:
2012 The Fomorians. Website referenced March 2012.
- Magic & Mythology:
2012 The Fomorians. Website referenced March 2012.
- Slavin, Michael:
2010 “The Book of Tara”. Wolfhound Press: Dublin, Ireland.
- Walsh, Brian:
2006 “The Riddle of the Hobbit”: August 28, 2006: Time Magazine Online:
- Wikipedia: The Free Online Encyclopedia.
2012 “The Fomorians”. Website reerenced February 2012.
- W.Y. Evans-Wentz:
1966 “The Fairy Faith in Celtic Countries”. Citadel Press: New York.