The Lake Spirits
THE LAKE SPIRITS
It is generally supposed that underwater cities lie under the surface of nearly all our Irish lakes. Such ideas as these, probably originated from the frequently recurring optical illusions caused by the shadows of overhanging mountains, and cloud being fantastically reflected from the unruffled surface of the loughs. In fact, most of the Irish lakes are said to have sprung up from the magic wells that bubbled up at certain times, until they had filled their valley basins.
‘The Psalter of the Pig’ contains one legend regarding Caon Comral, an ancient bishop of Clonmacnois, and it mentions an enchanted, or miraculous monastery and people buried under the surface of Lough Ree, along the River Shannon. But, with almost every lake in Ireland some very remarkable and highly poetic legend is connected. It is one of these romances that is taken from documentary resources and written below for you to read..
“In far-off days, while Crimthan Cras reigned, the Princess and heroes of Connaught held a great Provincial assembly near a lake that was situated within the beautiful plain of Maigh Ai, which Is in the present County of Roscommon. Suddenly, the Lords and the ordinary folk assembled there saw a stranger coming towards them from out of the Lough. Wearing a crimson mantle, the stranger carried with him a gold-bordered shield, and a golden-hilted sword. When Laeghaire Liban, the son of Crimthan Cas, saw thw approach of this unexpected stranger he arose from his seat, welcomed him, asked him who he was and what was the purpose of his visit. The stranger replied and told the prince that he was Fiachna MacReatach, one of the Sidhe, or fairy-men. He said that he had come to that place to ask for assistance in his dispute with another fairy chieftain, called Eochaidh MacSail. The stranger told them that MacSail had forcibly carried off Fiachna’s wife and was now considering an invasion of Fiachna’s land. That very day, Fiachna had received a challenge from his opponent and now he was asking the Conacian heroes to assist him in time of trouble. To those brave men who volunteered to help him in his quarrel he promised great rewards of gold and silver.
After Fiachna’s announcement was made, he courteously saluted the Prince of Connaught and then began to move back toward the lake, into which he plunged himself and instantly disappeared. However, the courage and ardour of young Prince Leaghaire and fifty other well-armed reatiners were raised at Fiachna’s request, and they solemnly pledged their assistance to him. Excitedly they all marched to the lake and, as if with one mind, they dived beneath its waters. Soon they were all lined up with their arms and armour on a lawn that stretched out before a magnificent palace. Before them they found an army in prepared ranks opposing them and were ready to engage in hostilities. Prince Leaghaire and his men stood side by side with Fiachna MacReatach as a furious battle ensued between the opposing forces. When the fighting ended it was discovered that the fairy chieftain, Eochaidh Mac Sail, had been killed by the Prince’s spear. Victory was thus claimed by the Conacians, and their allied fairy host.
Fiachna’s wife was quickly restored to her rightful Lord and husband. Meanwhile, the mortal Prince was introduced to Fiachnas’s beautiful daughter, ‘Dergrene’ (The Sun Tear) with whom he immediately fell in love. With his affections being reciprocated by the Princess, Leaghaire asked her parents for their consent to the marriage. This was, of course a simple formality and the Prince, with his retainers chose to live under the waters of the lake thereafter. It is claimed that by the side of the lake, and over its surface, those spirit people are often seen. The music and revelry enjoyed by these spirits can also be heard from beneath the waters’ surface, and the mysteries of their enchanted kingdom remain unknown to mortal beings.