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Fothad


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[cf. Votadini (?), a Celtic people of early Scotland; cf. Ir. fothad, fothud, the founding or establishing; support, sustenance].

Name borne by many personages in early Ireland, mythological and ecclesiastical, especially the three Connacht warriors of ancient origin who are enemies of Fionn mac Cumhaill. They are the children of Mac Nia and the divine Fuinche, daughter of their leader Dáire Derg, who nurtures them with her three breasts. This triplism implies divine origin. Best-known of the three is ferocious Fothad Canainne, who will not sit down to dinner without placing before him the heads of those he has recently slain. Yet Fothad Canainne is true to his love vows. After he carries off the wife of Ailill (1) of Munster with her consent, he is pursued by the enraged husband and each man dies at the other's hand. But as he has promised to return to his lover after battle, Fothad comes back to meet her regularly, even after death, giving rise to the Fenian poem translated by Kuno Meyer as ‘The Tryst After Death’, Revue Celtique, 15 (1910), 4–17. In later oral tradition Fothad is somehow joined to Fionn's Fianna, and he is sometimes seen as the mate of the Cailleach Bhéirre. His daughter is Smirgat (or Smirnat). The other brothers are shadowy; Fothad Airgthech slew Fothad Cairthech and his death was reported by the Fenian hero Caílte. The trio are often cited by medieval pseudo-historians and genealogists, and Fothad Canainne is described as the ancestor of the Uaithne sept of north-eastern Limerick.

Subjects: Religion.


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