So far I have been having a ball. I knew nothing about Irish mythology before I began this project, since embarking on it I am buzzing on it! It has all the qualities of an adventure. It has shape shifters changing from human to animal and different human forms again. It has treachery, love, pursuit, seafarers and so called Madness. Reading this material I came to realise that it is almost impossible to simply choose three pieces out of each cycle, so I had to allow the pieces to choose themselves. Each cycle has one large main piece and two smaller pieces. I could taste the salt on the waves of the Nemidian journey and felt Morrigan the shape shifters teeth biting my ass!!
The Flight of the Fiontain
We start in the mythological cycle, sometimes called The Book of Invasions. It begins with the coming of Cesair, the granddaughter of Noah. Noah would not let her on the boat because she was a bit saucy so she built her own ship and sailed across the sea. She brought 50 women, 3 men and 5 sheep with her. The men were shared out amongst the women. It was their job to populate Ireland, their new country. Two of the men died of exhaustion which left one man, Fiontain to service all the women. He escaped with the women in hot pursuit. Just as the women encircled him, Noah's floods crashed into Ireland and Fiontain the shape shifter turned into a salmon. He survived the next 5000 years as a stag and an eagle, while all the Cesairians perished.
The Rise and Fall of the Nemidians
The Nemedians, named after their leader Nemed (holy/sacred) left their land with 34 ships. On their journey they saw a huge golden tower rising out of the sea. Driven by greed, most of the fleet approached the tower. Suddenly a great torrent rose causing the loss of the fleet. Only the chief and his ship survived. They can be see on the bottom right, witnessing the destruction of their tribesmen.
The Ulster Cylce
Cuchulainn Versus Fiar Diad
This is the big painting of the cycle. For me this is the most important battle scene. Fiar Diad and Cuchulainn had been pupils under Scatach and were blood brothers. He did not want to fight Cuchulainn but Medb ridiculed him and told him that everyone would say he is a coward if he did not fight. They too fought in the river where Cuchulainn defeated Morrigan. They treated each other very well at the end of each day, offering medicines and food. Then on the third day Fiar Diad put on a body amour and iron apron as protection against the infamous Gae Bulga. Fiar Diad through his sword which wounded Cuchulainn, burying itself in his side. Cuchulainn threw his Gae Bulga and pierced his friends heart. He stabbed a second time to make sure and it protruded through his body. The only colour here is the blood red of Cuchulainn's eye and the wound of his friend.
The Fenian Cycle
The Travel to Tir na Nog
The scene shows Oisin travelling across the sea to Tir Na Nog, the Land of the Young which can be seen in the top left corner. The waves are monoprinted with large sheets of glass.
The Historical Cycle
What I need to say about this cycle is that I decided to focus on one character only because I think he has enormous importance to Irish arts - the one and only Mad McSweeny. He was a high chieftain of Ireland who took offence to a priest building a church nearby. He promptly marched naked into that church and threw the priest and his chalice into a nearby river. The priest put a curse on him, to live naked and die by the point of a spear. McSweeny was called to assist in the battle of a friend that day and in the battle breakdown, he took all his clothes off again and jumped on an enemies shield high up into a three. He lived high in the sky, roaming Ireland from tree to tree.
A Vision of the Birdman
McSweeny was a chief, a pagan, a hermit, wedded to the birds, the trees and the stars in the sky. He imagined that he was a bird and that he could fly around Ireland. He was Irelands lunatic poet king and many poems are attributed to him. In this scene he is nested int he treetop, staring at the stars. The towers of eyes on each side are a symbol of the paranoia he might have suffered. His story invites a lot of discussion around the fine line between madness, genius and how either is defined by society.