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The hero of a Scottish Gaelic folktale; he is probably identical with Gawain. Arthur, who is called the King of Ireland, married a mysterious woman who was brought to him on a bier. He fought and was defeated by a man whom he took to be her lover. Uallabh killed the man who, it transpired, was the queen's brother and the son of the King of Inneen. The latter later imprisoned Uallabh, but the queen's younger sister freed him and he eventually married her and succeeded Arthur. # 156


(ooth mok immoman)


She was the daughter of Scathach and her name means 'spectre'. She let CuChulain into her mother's military academy, but he slew her lover and was forced to take over his duties, of guarding the fort. Uathach became his mistress. # 454


Records of sightings of unidentified flying objects can be found in many ancient literary sources including the Bible. One of the earliest records of a strange object in the sky seen over Wales was found in an ancient manuscript said to have been obtained by Geoffrey of Monmouth in the twelfth century. It was written in the Breton Celtic tongue and was apparently first discovered by an old archdeacon of Oxford, who had been wandering around Brittany during the reign of King Henry I of England. The manuscript turned out to be a very old Celtic history of the British Isles. There is a strange passage in it which tells of a weird sight seen in the skies over Wales and the Irish Sea. At the time a certain tribal ruler, Guintmias, was at war with Uther Pendragon King of old Cornwall. " A star of wonderful magnitude and brightness suddenly appeared in the skies over Wales, while Aurelius [or Guintmias] was defending himself. It contained a beam. Towards the ray [ad radium], a fiery globe in the likeness of a dragon was stretched out. From its mouth proceeded two rays [or beams] and the length of one beam was seen to stretch out beyond the region of Wales. The other in truth was seen to lie towards the Irish Sea, and it ended in seven lesser rays". The following brief notes provide only a couple of the fascinating unexplained sightings of strange objects in the sky over Wales in the early nineteenth century. - In 1822 a mysterious explosion in the sky was recorded in Cardiganshire and similar noises occurred in many parts of England at the same time. - On 25 January 1894 a disc-shaped object flew over Llanthomas and lit up the surrounding countryside with a brilliant glare. A loud explosion was then heard. It was also observed in Herefordshire, Worcestershire and Gloucestershire. - In C. Barber's book MYSTERIOUS WALES you may find many more sightings. # 49


(oo'gany) Ruler of Ireland, husband of Kesair, father of Laery and Covac. # 562


(oo'e) Ui means Descendants. The plural of o. # 166


(oo'e cel'i) The O'Kelly's , settled in the southern part of what is now co. Dublin. # 166


An Irish dynasty that ruled in Dyfed. It may have been expelled, in the Arthurian period, by Agricola. # 156 - 484


(see also: USNECH). This, the most stunning tale ever written in Irish, is better known as the story of Deirdre, (q.v.); yet originally it was as much a story of treachery and honour as of romance. 'The Exile of the Sons of Uisliu' answers the question 'Why were Fergus and so many other Ulaid chieftains in Exile at the time of the cattle raid of Cuailnge?' At this level, Fergus is the key figure: once his word - his guarantee of Noisiu's (Naoisi) safety has been violated, he becomes Conchobar's enemy; any other course would be shameful. 'The Exile of the Sons of Uisliu' moves from personal exile to political exile; it thus marks the decline of the Ulster Cycle. Underlying literature and history, of course, is myth, the familiar regeneration pattern of old king-goddess-young king: Conchobar-Derdriu-Noisiu. Derdriu passes from Conchobar to Noisiu and back to Conchobar; myth becomes history with Noisiu's death, and yet it is at the threatened resumption of the pattern, with Eogan replacing Noisiu, that Derdriu kills herself. CuChulain is notable by his absence; perhaps he arrived in the Ulster Cycle too late to play a major part (a small one being out of the question), or perhaps he simply never fitted in. Although much of the tale is presented in verse the poetry generally repeats and elaborates upon the narrative rather than adding to it. The tone is markedly less severe and more romantic than that of the prose, and the lines do not have the elegant simplicity and chaste beauty of those in 'The Wasting Sickness of Cu Chulaind' (The Sick Bed of CuChulain). But subsequent versions of the story - and there are many - are less restrained still: Noisiu, Aindle and Arddan, having been captured, are executed with one blow of Eogan's sword so that none will outlive the others; Derdriu seizes a knife and kills herself as soon as Noisiu is dead; the lovers are buried next to each other, and yews growing out of their graves intertwine. These later versions are not without their own appeal; yet it is the earliest (surviving) recension, from the Book of Leinster, that Geffrey Gantz has translated and bring in 'Early Irish Myths and Sagas'. 'The Exile of the Sons of Uisliu' is the inspiration (through intermediary translations and retellings) for Yeat's play DEIRDRE, for Synge's play DEIRDRE OF THE SORROWS and for James Stephen's novel DEIRDRE. See also: DEIRDRE, and USNECH. # 236


One of Uther's knights who persuaded Merlin to work a magical spell which enabled Uther to sleep with Igraine. He accompanied Uther on this occasion, magically disguised as Sir Brastias. When Arthur became king, Ulfius was made his chamberlain. In the French romances he is sometimes called Urfin or Ursin. # 156 - 418


The kingdom of Ulster (Ulaid) founded in the reign of Kimbay (Cimbaoth) about 300 BC. 'All the historical records of the Irish, prior to Kimbay, were dubious' - so, with remarkable critical acumen for his age, wrote the eleventh-century historian Tierna of Clonmacnois. There is much that is dubious even in those that follow, but we are certainly on firmer historical ground. Ulster (modern) covers 26,3 % of Ireland and consists of nine counties: Londonderry, Antrim, Tyrone, Armagh, Fermanagh and Down, which are within Northern Ireland, and Cavan, Donegal and Monaghan which are in the Republic. # 562


This tale was composed ostensibly to explain the fact that when Queen Medb, with her allies, sought to invade Ulster all the warriors of Ulster except CuChulain were unable to fight. It also accounts for the origin of the name Emain Macha by one of those fanciful etymologies common in the DINNSHENCHAS. Essentially, it is typical of a large class of early Irish tales which deal with the love between mortals and fairy beings. Cross and Slover brings the story in their ANCIENT IRISH TALES. # 166


# 166: This story is an excellent example of a class of Irish tales in which the author, instead of following a definite plot, gives free reign to his imagination, using a slender narrative as a thread on which to hang a bewildering array of descriptive and other details that had long been familiar to professional story-tellers. There are few wilder scenes in any literature than that of the drunken chariot heroes of Ulster losing their way and careering southward across country from Ulster to Kerry, only to find themselves at length trapped in an iron house concealed within wooden walls under which raging fires are lighted by their enemies. The story is to be found in Cross' and Slover's ANCIENT IRISH TALES.

# 236: One of the wildest and most comical of the Ulaid (Irish name for Ulster) stories, 'The intoxication of the Ulaid' reveals both a mythic and a historical subtext. The text itself, however, is a problem. The story survives incomplete in both of our early manuscripts, and while the Lebor na huidre account takes up about where the Book of Leinster account leaves off, the jubcture is only approximate. Moreover, the two versions are disparate: names change (Triscatail becomes Triscoth; Roimit turns into Reordae), roles change (the gadfly part played by Bricriu is taken up by Dubthach Doeltenga), important plot elements (such as the iron house) disappear altogether. The Lebor na huidre version is generally less psychological and less refined, and, while it has its own merits, it is frustrating not to know how the Book of Leinster story would have been resolved. The mythic subtext harbours the remains of a ritual killing story. 'The Intoxication of the Ulaid' takes place at Samuin (Samhain), which as the end of the old year and the beginning of the new one would have been an appropriate time for a new king to replace an old one; moreover, there are traditions that make CuChulain and Cu Rui rivals, and in 'The Death of Cu Rui', CuChulain kills Cu Rui for the sake of his wife, Blathnait (another example of the regeneration motif found so often in these stories). The idea appears also in 'The Destruction of Da Derga's Hostel' (which takes place at Samuin and wherein invaders attempt to burn and perhaps drown Conare) and in 'The Destruction of Dind Rig' (wherein Labraid burns Cobthach in an iron house).

The historical subtext treat the theme of tribal warfare that obtains in all three stories. It may well be that, in an older recension, 'The Intoxication of the Ulaid' described an attack by the Ulaid upon Temuir, which would have been a much more logical target. Subsequently, however, the story was grafted on to a mythological fragment involving CuChulain and Cu Rui, and since the 'historical' Cu Rui had been localized in the south-west, it became necessary to reconcile that tradition with the one about the attack on Temuir. The result: Temuir Luachra (Temuir of the Rushes), located, conveniently, in south-west Ireland. In any case, the storytellers have turned the improbability of the Ulaid's careering across Eriu into a splendidly comic tale. What might have been a heroic foray is reduced to a drunken stagger; CuChulain's inability to navigate from Dun Da Bend to Dun Delga except by way of Temuir Luachra (like going from London to Canterbury by way of Edinburgh) is a humorous reflection upon his original name, Setanta, which means 'one who knows the way'; and the exchanges between Cromm Deroil and Cromm Darail are more characteristic of comedians than of druids. # 66 - 166 - 236


The Unholy Court. Members of the Seelie Court, which is the general Scottish name for the good fairies, can be formidable enough when they are offended, but the Unseelie Court are never under any circumstances favourable to mankind. 'The Host' that is, the band of the unsanctified dead who hover above the earth, snatching up with them undefended mortals whom they employ to loose elf-shot against men and cattle, so they can never be too much avoided. # 100


In an Irish romance, the father of Arthur. This is due to a misunderstanding on the part of the author who did not realize that Iubhar (the Irish name for Arthur's father) was actually a translation of Uther, so he made Iubhar Arthur's grandfather and Ur his father. # 156


The guardian of a certain ford to which Perceval comes and overthrows him, in the DIDOT PERCEVAL. He is aided by several women in the shape of birds, and when Perceval kills one of them it regains its human form and is carried off by the rest to Avalon. There are references here both to the Irish battle goddess the Morrigan, who also took the shape of a bird, and to the ravens of OWAIN AP URIEN, whose followers also had this ability. The common bird in all cases was the raven, which was sacred to the Celts. # 185 - 438 - 454


Father of King Solomon of Brittany and grandfather of Constantine, Arthur's grandfather, in Gallet's pedigree. # 55 - 156


A giant who had a magic dog, Petitcrieu. Tristan fought and slew him as he intended to give this dog to Iseult. # 156


(oor'gryü) Son of Lugaid Corr; the opponent of Finn for the chieftaincy of the Fianna; his sons appear in the battle in which Finn was slain. # 166


He was a historical king of the land of Rheged, a Brythonic kingdom in north-west England, around AD 570, some time later than the traditional Arthurian period. He was assassinated by an ally, possibly in AD 590, after defeating the Bernicians, the inhabitants of Bernicia in north-east England. He was the father of Owain and also of three sons called Riwallawn, Run and Pascen. In older versions of the legend, he met Modron at a ford and lay with her. As she was the daughter of Afallach, King of the Otherworld and herself a shape-shifter, she promised to aid Urien and his family forever in the shape of a raven. This associates her closely with Morrigan - of which Morgan is derived. He parted from Morgan and became a supporter of Arthur and a Round Table Knight. Arthurian writers seem to have been vague about where he ruled. Malory calls him King of Gore and Geoffrey terms him King of Mureif, which is generally thought to be Moray but may be identical with Monreith. In the HISTORIA MERIADOCI (medieval Latin Arthurian romance) he is regarded as the King of the Scots. A Welsh folktale makes him the father of Owain by the daughter of the Otherworld King of Annwfn. TRIAD 70 calls Urien the son of Cynfarch by Nefyn, daughter of Brychan Brycheiniog and says he had a twin sister named Efrddyl. The VULGATE MERLIN Continuation gives him a wife called Brimesent, while another version let him die while fighting with Arthur against Mordred. See: KYNVARCH. # 104 - 156 - 185 - 243 - 401 - 418 - 439 - 484 - 604


The Great Bear constellation. Arthur was associated with it, perhaps from the fact that Welsh ARTH signifies a bear. The English astronomer William Smyth (1788-1869) in his SPECULUM HARTWELLIANUM suggests that the circular motion of the constellation may have been the origin of the idea of the Round Table. # 156




The master of wisdom who dwelt in Findias, one of the four cities from which the Tuatha de Danaan came to Ireland. He gave Nuadu the Sword of Light from which no enemy came unwounded in combat. See: HALLOWS.#258 - 454


(oosh'ne) Father of Naoisi, Ainle and Ardan, who eloped with Deirdre; Sons of Usnach inquired for by Conor. Usnech is probably a substitute for an older name Uisliu; a hill (now Usney or Ushnagh) in co. Westmeath, the geographical center of Ireland. # 166 - 562


This is one of the best known ancient Irish sagas. It is also one of the few stories of the Ulster cycle that have been preserved on the lips of the folk down to modern times. Versions composed as early as the eighth or ninth century exist in medieval manuscripts, and variants of the story are still to be heard in the remote country districts of Ireland and Scotland. Folk versions of the story have been especially popular in the Gaelic-speaking districts of Scotland, a fact perhaps due to the complementary references to Scotland in certain forms of the narrative. 'The Exile of the Sons of Usnech' owes its popularity to the fact that it tells the tragic love story of the beautiful but ill-starred Derdriu (Deirdre), the Helen of ancient Irish tradition. Fated from birth to bring misfortune to others, this primitive epic woman flees from the court of the elderly and uxorious King Conchobar with the handsome young Naisi, one of the three 'sons of Usnech,' only to involve herself, her lover, and his brothers in sorrow and disaster. Though not so well known as her Greek counterpart, Deirdriu still deserves to rank as one of the great tragic heroines of literature. As regards its connection with the Ulster cycle, this tale explains how Dubtach, Fergus mac Roig, Conchobar's son Cormac, and other Ulstermen are arrayed among the forces of Connacht, the traditional enemy of their native province, during the Cattle-Raid of Cooley. In revenge for the murder of the 'sons of Usnech,' Fergus, Dubtach, and Cormac slay many of their fellow-tribesmen and betake themselves with three thousand followers to the court of Ailill and Medb of Connacht, whom they assist on the Cattle-Raid of Cooley and other raids upon Ulster. The Deirdre story is the theme of several recent Anglo-Irish dramas. # 166


History provides no record of the father of Arthur, although there seems to be some historical basis on his brother, Ambrosius Aurelianus, whom he succeeded as King of Britain, and took the name Uther Pendragon. He fell in love with Igraine, wife of Gorlois of Cornwall. During the following war between them, Merlin magically made Uther assume the likeness of Gorlois and in this guise he visited Igraine and became the father of Arthur. When Gorlois died, Uther married Igraine. He died in battle and was buried side by side with his brother Ambrosius at Stonehenge. When Uther died, he was leaving the kingdom in anarchy. The PROSE TRISTAN says Uther was in love with the wife of Argan who defeated him and made him build a castle. The PETIT BRUT tells how he fought a dragon-serpent in Westmorland (now part of Cumbria). Henry of Huntingdon calls him Arthur's brother while a Cumbrian legend makes him a giant. In Cumbria, he is said to have founded his kingdom in Mallerstang and to have tried to divert the River Eden to make a moat around his castle.

It has been suggested that Uther is a chimerical character created by a misunderstanding of the Welsh phrase ARTHUR MAB UTHER, which was taken to mean ARTHUR SON OF UTHER but actually means ARTHUR, TERRIBLE SON, i.e. youth. However, there is evidence for independent tradition regarding Uther. # 51 - 156 - 221 - 243 - 418 - 524 - 697