The Wolf King of Tara
Updated: Aug 1, 2020
My post on the Hill of Tara a couple of weeks back somehow managed to really offend someone, much to my surprise, who proceeded to respond in rather unpleasant troll-like tones on Facebook. Well, I thought to myself, all the more reason to do it again.
Not with the intention of causing offence, but because my blog is my own little patch where I can have freedom of speech; where I can express my thoughts and feelings on the ancient places of Ireland, their stories and characters that I love and admire and respect so much, and hopefully share it all with like-minded folk.
I understand there are people out there who know more about these special places than I ever will. I don’t claim to be an expert. The more I learn, the more I realise I don’t know.
I’m on a journey. I am drawn to these places. I want to know them. I want to learn. When you read my blog, I hope I bring you on that voyage of discovery with me.
Rath of Synods viewed from the Mound of Hostages.
So who was the Wolf King of Tara? He’s someone who intrigues me very much. According to legend, Cormac mac Art was the High King of Ireland at the same time as Fionn mac Cumhall was the leader of the Fianna, c. the third century AD. He ruled from Tara for forty years, and during his reign, all of Ireland flourished.
Cormac was born of a one night stand between Achtan, daughter of a Druid/ Smith named Olc Acha, and High King Art mac Cuinn. The day after their liaison, Art was killed in battle by his nephew Lugaid mac Con, who took his place upon the throne.
After giving birth, Achtan decided to take her son to Fiachrae Cassán, Art’s foster-father, where he would be safe from Lugaid’s reach. One night, however, as Achtan slept, exhausted from her day’s travelling. the infant was stolen by a she-wolf and raised alongside her cubs.
Eventually, he was found by a hunter, healthy and well, and duly returned to his mother. He grew to manhood in the home of Fiachrae Cassán, and it was not until the age of thirty that he decided to challenge Lugaid for the Kingship.
When he arrived at Tara, he came across a man consoling a weeping woman. The man told him that the High King had confiscated her sheep because they had strayed into the Queen’s garden and eaten her herbs. Apparently, Cormac claimed “More fitting would be one shearing for the other,” meaning the sheep’s fleeces should be forfeit in payment for the ruined crops, as both the plants and the wool would grow again.
There are various different versions of what happened next; some say that Lugaid abdicated the throne, declaring Cormac to be wiser than himself; some say he was driven out by Cormac in battle, and still others say he was warned by his druids if he did not leave Tara within six months he would die. In any case, Cormac became the next High King.
This is one of my favourite stories. I love the wisdom and the fairness of it. It demonstrates perfectly why Cormac was so beloved of the people, and why they flourished under his rule. In fact, he was said to be so wise and just, that he is often credited with creating the Brehon Laws.
Cormac led many battles during his reign, and many strange things happened to him, some of which seem reminiscent of the Arthurian story to me, leading up to his tragic and mysterious death.
And finally, look what the local bookshop was selling… I have an article published in that magazine!
My article, ‘Tribute to a Queen’, is featured in this magazine! You can just about make out my name on the cover.
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