Lugaid mac Con

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[son of hound]. Mythical leader of the Érainn of Munster, to be distinguished from the similarly named Lugaid mac Con Roí. A leading figure of the Cycle of Kings, Lugaid mac Con suffers defeat from the Eóganacht under his fosterbrother Eógan (3) in the Battle of Cenn Abrat, goes into exile in Scotland, and regains power at the Battle of Mag Mucrama [Cath Maige Mucrama]. Annalists date Lugaid's reign in the 2nd century ad, but most stories about him date from centuries later, many of them influenced by the antagonistic Uí Néill dynasties who saw his usurpation as a cause of drought and suffering.

Lugaid gained his patronymic, mac Con, when he was suckled by a dog while being fostered in the house of Ailill Aulomm. Also in this household was Ailill's own son, Eógan (3), a constant adversary in later life. In their first encounter, at Cenn Abrat, Eógan was triumphant; Lugaid mac Con escaped only when his fool, Do Dera, who looked very much like him, wore a crown to impersonate him and was killed. But recognizing Lugaid's white legs as he ran, Eógan pursued him.

Lugaid escaped to Scotland with twentyseven companions, hoping to lie low. All agreed not to reveal their leader's identity. A Scottish king generously offered them a year's hospitality but was surprised at their orderliness and prowess with no chief. Two events broke the anonymity. First a poet arrived from Ireland with news of Eógan's mistreatment of the land, causing Lugaid's pointed distress. This signalled to the Scottish king, who then devised a test; he offered Lugaid several dead mice for dinner. Being a regal guest, Lugaid did not refuse, and his men followed his example in eating the rodents. The Scottish king then asked Lugaid to admit his identity, which he did. Mightily impressed, the Scottish king then joined with Lugaid to help him regain his throne, bringing with him a host of Scotsmen and Britons that extended from the coasts of Scotland to Ireland.

At the head of this allied army, Lugaid swept all opposition before him, culminating in the Battle of Mag Mucrama. On the night before the battle Lugaid's adversary Art mac Cuinn, who was to die the next day, conceived Cormac mac Airt. The blind druid Dil foretold defeat for Eógan (3) because Eógan's cause was unjust. Going down in defeat were not only Art and Eógan but also the seven sons of Ailill.

Lugaid then ruled Tara for seven years and took the young Cormac mac Airt in fosterage with him. Within a few years, when Lugaid made a false judgment in the confiscation of an old woman's sheep, he was expelled and Cormac made king in his place. Returning to the home of his fosterage, Ailill Aulomm kissed Lugaid in the pretence of welcome, but Ailill's poisonous tooth touched Lugaid's cheek and within three days half his face was eaten away. Shortly after, Ailill's retainers dispatched him at a waterfall of the Bandon River.

Later accretions to Lugaid's story include an inventive etymology for his patronymic, mac Con: that his mother while bathing was impregnated by an otter [cú dobráin, waterhound]; later when Lugaid suffered from sleeplessness, his otter-father cured him by taking him beneath the waves. See also LUGAID CONMAC; LUGAID LÁGA; LUGAID MAC ÍTHA.


Subjects: Religion.

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