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The Book Of Invasions

Exploring Celtic Mythology The The Music of Horslips

By Mike Singleton 🌜 Mikeydred 🌛Published 3 years ago 3 min read
If I Were King of Morning , and You Were Queen Of Day .......

As a teenager I tended to be outside all the standard musical groupings , although I did grow to appreciate a huge swathe of music as I grew up. Early in the seventies I picked up on “The Tain” by the Irish band Horslips, based on a legend from Irish Mythology.

Growing up I was pulled in by Greek , Roman , Egyptian , Norse , English and Celtic mythology cycles. Ragnarok , Beowulf , Mount Olympus were all touchstones and Michael Moorcock’s “Corum” stories took a lot of images and scenarios from Celtic mythology.

This is the background that the Tain album was based upon so you can see how this doubly attracted me:

The Táin depicts a war between two great kingdoms, Connacht and Ulster. That they are fighting over nothing more than a prize bull does little to discourage them from spilling countless gallons of human blood in every conceivable manner.

This catalog of unbounded cruelty and slaughter begins with a husband and wife chatting in bed after sex. Queen Medb of Connacht is amused but a little annoyed when her husband Aillill mentions he’s done her a financial favor by marrying her. She argues that, in fact, her possessions are more valuable than his. A full audit reveals their holdings to be equal until Aillill’s magical white bull is taken into account. Medb decides that to even things out she must get hold of the famous brown bull of Cúailnge in Ulster. When peaceful negotiations break down, ruthless Medb decides she’ll take the animal by force.

Medb believes she holds an advantage over the men of Ulster, because they famously suffer under a terrible curse. The origins of the curse are described in an earlier portion of the Ulster cycle: Macha, a legendary female athlete, was forced to race against the king of Ulster’s horses after her husband boasted she could outrun them. According to the tale, she had to win the race to save his life. But Macha was nine months pregnant! Collapsing in agony at the finish line while delivering twins, she declared the Ulstermen would suffer similar pains for five days and nights whenever they found themselves in trouble. Cú Chulainn was the only warrior exempted from her curse.”

I was then aware of a follow up album to this “The Book of Invasions” which I purchased on the day of release. I played it , turned the record over and played that too. This stayed on my turntable for more than two weeks. I listened to nothing else. It had everything , traditional tunes , folk , rock and a story, and an impressive cover. Below is a decision of what the Book of Invasions was based on.

Lebor Gabála Érenn (literally "The Book of the Taking of Ireland"), known in English as The Book of Invasions, is a collection of poems and prose narratives in the Irish language intended to be a history of Ireland and the Irish from the creation of the world to the Middle Ages. There are a number of versions, the earliest of which was compiled by an anonymous writer in the 11th century. It synthesised narratives that had been developing over the foregoing centuries. The Lebor Gabála tells of Ireland being settled (or "taken") six times by six groups of people: the people of Cessair, the people of Partholón, the people of Nemed, the Fir Bolg, the Tuatha Dé Danann, and the Milesians. The first four groups are wiped out or forced to abandon the island; the fifth group represent Ireland's pagan gods,while the final group represent the Irish people (the Gaels).”

I bought the album on CD and share bits on instagram and while it does not now monopolise my listening time, it is still one of my favourite albums and is always played end to end. I’m also considering buying it on vinyl once more. I am so impressed with it.

Highly recommended if you have an interest in Irish or Celtic mythology and Folk Rock.

70s music

About the Creator

Mike Singleton 🌜 Mikeydred 🌛

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    Mike Singleton 🌜 Mikeydred 🌛Written by Mike Singleton 🌜 Mikeydred 🌛

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