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Synopsis

The Second Battle of Mag Tuired
Translated by Elizabeth A. Gray

This Irish saga, from before the ninth Century A.D., is an account of the epic battle between the mythical Tuatha De Danann and Fomoire for Ireland.

It has deep roots in Indo-European mythology, told with Homeric grace and bawdy humor. There are many allusions to ancient pre-Christian Celtic traditions.

Cath Maige Tuired ("The Battle of Mag Tuired") is the name of two saga texts of the Mythological Cycle of Irish Mythology. The name Mag Tuired (modern Irish Magh Tuireadh) means "the plain of pillars" and is anglicised as Moytura or Moytirra. It refers to two separate places, both in Connacht: the first near Cong, County Mayo on the border with County Galway; the second by Lough Arrow in County Sligo. The two texts tell of battles fought by the Tuatha Dé Danann, the first against the Fir Bolg, the second against the Fomorians.

The Second Battle of Mag Tuired

The second text of this name, also known as Cath Dédenach Maige Tuired ("The Last Battle of Mag Tuired"), Cath Tánaiste Maige Tuired ("The Second Battle of Mag Tuired"), and Cath Maighe Tuireadh Thúaidh ("The Battle of Northern Mag Tuired"), tells how the Tuatha Dé Danann, having conquered Ireland, fall under the oppression of the Fomorians, and then fight a battle to free themselves from this oppression. It expands on references to the battle in Lebor Gabála Érenn and the Irish Annals, and is one of the richest sources of tales of the former Irish gods. It is found in a 16th century manuscript, but is believed to be a composite work compiled in the 12th century from 9th century material.

It begins with a brief account of the first battle, the loss of Nuada's arm, and his replacement as king by Bres, and then tells how Bres was conceived from a union between Ériu of the Tuatha Dé and Elatha of the Fomorians. Because of his ancestry Bres oppressed the Tuatha Dé, making the noblest of them do menial work, imposing heavy tribute, and failing to show the level of hospitality expected of a king. He is deposed as king, and Nuada, who has had his arm replaced with one of silver by the physician Dian Cecht (whose son Miach caused flesh to grow over it), is restored. Bres appeals for assistance from the Fomorians to take back the kingship, and although his father Elatha refuses, another Fomorian leader, Balor of the Evil Eye, agrees to help him and raises a huge army. Meanwhile, Lugh, another product of a Tuatha Dé/Fomorian union, arrives at Nuada's court, and, after impressing the king with his many talents, is given command of the Tuatha Dé. Nuada is killed by Balor in the battle, but Lugh, Balor's grandson, kills the Fomorian leader with his sling, smashing his deadly eye through the back of his head where it wreaks havoc on the Fomorian ranks. Bres is found alive in the aftermath of the battle, and is spared on the condition that he teach the Tuatha Dé how to plough, sow and reap. Finally, Lugh, the Dagda and Ogma rescue the Dagda's harper, Uaitne, who had been captured by the retreating Fomorians.

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