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Mongán


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[Ir. mong, head of long and abundant hair; cf. moing, mane, i.e. a poetic kenning for the sea].

Character in several fantastic narratives in the Cycle of Kings whose persona is rooted in a historical (d. c.624) leader of Dál nAraide. Although his seat was at Ráth Mór [ang. Rathmore] in Mag Líne [ang. Moylinny], near Lough Neagh, Co. Antrim, Mongán is not a character in the Ulster Cycle. The Annals record that he was wellspoken and fond of wooing women, and that he was killed with a stone by a Welshman named Artur ap Bicior. Key aspects of his story, such as his magical conception and his capacity for shape-shifting, appear to date from many years after his lifetime.

By historical record, Mongán was the son of powerful Dál nAraide king Fiachna mac Báetáin and his queen, Caíntigern, thus bearing the occasional patronymic mac Fiachna. In texts dating from the 8th century and after, the sea-god Manannán mac Lir fathers Mongán by cuckolding Fiachna in three different ways: (a) Manannán appears in disguise on a battlefield in Lochlainn offering victory to Fiachna in return for a night with Caíntigern. Fiachna agrees, especially as Manannán takes the husband's form, and he is rewarded with victory. Manannán takes the child three days after birth. (b) Manannán bargains with Caíntigern, offering victory to Fiachna if she will lie with him, to which she agrees. Later Manannán informs Fiachna and grants him victory. (c) Fiachna is fighting in Scotland when Manannán disguised as a handsome stranger visits Caíntigern, telling her that he will protect her husband if she will lie with him. She agrees; soon afterwards the ‘stranger’ departs for Scotland, where he intervenes on Fiachna's behalf and tells him what has happened. Mongán's repeated associations with Manannán make word-play on their names, cf. moing [mane]. When he is three days old Mongán joins Manannán in Tír Tairngire [the Land of Promise], where he gains esoteric knowledge and develops the capacity to take the form of a deer, salmon, seal, swan, and wolf. At 12 he leaves Tír Tairngire, and at 16 he returns to Ulster.

(a) Manannán appears in disguise on a battlefield in Lochlainn offering victory to Fiachna in return for a night with Caíntigern. Fiachna agrees, especially as Manannán takes the husband's form, and he is rewarded with victory. Manannán takes the child three days after birth. (b) Manannán bargains with Caíntigern, offering victory to Fiachna if she will lie with him, to which she agrees. Later Manannán informs Fiachna and grants him victory. (c) Fiachna is fighting in Scotland when Manannán disguised as a handsome stranger visits Caíntigern, telling her that he will protect her husband if she will lie with him. She agrees; soon afterwards the ‘stranger’ departs for Scotland, where he intervenes on Fiachna's behalf and tells him what has happened. Mongán's repeated associations with Manannán make word-play on their names, cf. moing [mane]. When he is three days old Mongán joins Manannán in Tír Tairngire [the Land of Promise], where he gains esoteric knowledge and develops the capacity to take the form of a deer, salmon, seal, swan, and wolf. At 12 he leaves Tír Tairngire, and at 16 he returns to Ulster.

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Subjects: Religion.


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