Fionn, on top of being kinfolk to the Fianna, was also one of the great war leaders of their human kin.
The Fenian Cycle EditThe Fenian Cycle celebrates the values of the Celtic culture from which it sprang. The heroes are loyal to their clan, warlike, extravagant, larger than life, boastful, and filled with pride. They also value honor, prowess in battle, and poetry. Because of the end of the stories, they also represent a transition period during which Ireland moved from paganism to Christianity, and the Sundering rendered the things of faerie more and more distant from the things of the Earth.
The songs and poems of the Fenian Cycle concern the great hero Finn MacCool and his warband, the Fianna. Like the Red Branch Knights of the Fae, the Fianna (or Fenians) of Erin were a famous band of heroes, each chosen for his strength, bravery, prowess in battle, and athletic ability. Many among them were also accomplished poets and diplomats. Sworn to fight against any foreign invaders for the high king, they roamed the island (particularly the southern and eastern portions) and served as peacekeepers among the lesser kings of the realm.
Finn’s father Cool was leader of the Fianna until his rival, Goll Mac Morna, slew him, stole the Treasure Bag of the Fianna, and drove Cool’s family into Connaught. Fleeing Clan Morna, Cool’s wife gave birth to Finn and gave him into the care of two of her bondswomen to rear him in secret until he was old enough to challenge Goll for leadership of the Fianna. His caretakers took him to the Slieve Bloom Mountains in Tipperary where he grew up learning all the skills of a warrior and many secrets of nature. When Finn was 14, Goll heard tales of the golden youth and Finn was forced to leave and take service with kings and nobles.
Gathering a band of youths around him, Finn traveled through the countryside. They came upon a woman who put Finn under a geas to avenge her son’s death. When he did so, he recovered a strange bag made from the skin of a crane. Taking the bag, they traveled until they came upon the remnants of his clan, led by his uncle Crimnal. Crimnal identified the bag as the Treasure Bag of the Fianna, and said it had been prophesied that when the bag was recovered, Finn’s clan would once again rule the Fianna.
Along the way to reclaiming his heritage, Finn studied poetry with a bard named Finnegas who fed him the Salmon of Knowledge, said to impart to its eater all the wisdom of the world. Finn traveled to Tara where he promised to slay a goblin who burned down Tara every year in return for the leadership of the Fianna. He succeeded with the help of an enchanted spear. Goll swore fealty to him, and Finn became captain of the Fianna. Under his leadership, the Fianna were renowned for their honor, bravery, and generosity.
Finn fell in love with the faerie maiden Sava and sheltered her in his home from the Black Druid, who wished her ill. When he was called away to fight raiders, he cautioned her to stay within his dun’s ramparts, but she was lured out by an illusion of Finn, changed into a fawn by the Black Druid, and driven away. Finn searched for her for seven years. Though he never found her, he discovered a wild, golden-haired boy who was the son Sava bore him. Finn took his son home and named him Oisin.
Finn’s quarrel with Diarmaid over the fair Gráinne became the basis for the tale of Tristan and Isolde. Oisin, the poet of the Fianna, was taken away to the Land of the Ever Young by Niav of the Golden Hair, daughter of the king of Faerie. Desiring to see his homeland once more, Oisin rode a faerie steed back to Erin, but was told by Niav not to let his foot touch the ground or he would never see the Land of the Ever Young again. When he returned, Oisin saw a holy man and asked where the Fianna were. The priest replied that the Fianna had been gone from the world for 300 years. Disbelieving, Oisin rode on, but stopped to help some men lift a slab of granite out of a quarry. His saddle girth broke, and he plummeted to the ground. The faerie horse became a wisp of smoke as all 300 years of Oisin’s true age rushed on him at once and he sank to the ground in death.
It is claimed that before he died, Oisin had time to tell his story and that of the brave Fianna to the holy man… a holy man named Saint Patrick.
Garou Legends Edit
Born in the 300s BCE, Fionn had adventures with a band of mercenaries called The Fianna Eireann, after the Garou tribe. His spirit and those of his comrades were eventually bound into the Sword of Fionn, a powerful Fianna Fetish.
Fae Connection Edit
Fionn MacCumhail is directly involved in the history of one of the founders of a Great House of the Fae. The story of Fionn and Daireann is still sung at moots to this day, even if many of the particulars of the tale have been forgotten (which is probably better for the sidhe of House Daireann). For more on this tale, see the article Daireann (Founder).