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Fintan mac Bóchra


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Ptolemy (fl. 146—170) Greek astronomer and geographer

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The only Irishman to survive the biblical Flood, Fintan was a mythical seer whose name is cited in many texts. The Bóchra/Bóchna of his patronymic is never identified; it may refer to his mother or may imply the sea. He may be yet another figure derived from the shadowy Find implied in Ptolemy (2nd cent. ad). According to the pseudo-history Lebor Gabála [Book of Invasions], Fintan was one of three men who accompanied the lady Cesair, whom he took as a wife, and her fifty women, forty days before the Flood. When the other two men died, all the women approached Fintan, who fled from them. A poem later ascribed to Fintan explains how he survived the Flood when all others perished by hiding in the hill of Tounthinna [Ir. Tulach Tuindi, Tul Tuinne] over the River Shannon (near Portroe, Co. Tipperary). In another story Fintan details in a dialogue with the hawk of Achill how he escaped the Flood. He had been 15 years old at the coming of the waters, but survived for another 5,500 years. In surviving he had been transformed into a one-eyed salmon, an eagle, and a hawk before resuming his own shape. The hawk responds that it also is very old and has witnessed many of the events Fintan describes, including the exploits of Cúchulainn, the coming of Christianity, and the whole history of the Western world. Fintan is usually presumed to be a seer of great knowledge, partially because of his animal transformations and also because of his great age, and becomes a patron of history and poetry. His wife of later years is Ébliu (1), the sister of Lug Lámfhota.

See Kuno Meyer (ed.), ‘Colloquy between Fintan and the Hawk of Achill’, in Anecdota from Irish Manuscripts, i, ed. R. I. Best et al. (Halle, 1907), 24–39.

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