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Mór Muman


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[Ir. Muman, of Munster].

Territorial goddess from early southern Ireland. She also has associations with the powers of the sun and of sovereignty; she was thought so beautiful that every woman in Ireland was compared with her. Of deeply mysterious origin, perhaps a goddess of the Érainn people before the advent of writing, she is apparently identical with Mugain (1) and contributes to the characterization of Medb and Mórrígan. In time she became a patroness of Munster in general, occasionally taking the name Mumain or Mugain alone, and patroness of the powerful Eóganacht in particular.

In an attempt to historicize her, medieval scribes assigned extraordinary qualities to her. Mór knows exaltation or frenzy, lives for a while under enchantment, hears voices, can fly, yet wanders Ireland in rags for two years. More pertinent to a territorial goddess, she is thought to have enjoyed sexual intimacies with known historical figures. At Cashel she persuades the wife of the reigning king, Fíngein mac Áeda (d. 613), to have him lie with her. She bears him a son, Sechnasach, but, hearing voices, flees before he is born; Fíngein dies shortly after. She subsequently visits the two other Munster capitals of that time, Glendamain in north-east Co. Cork and Cnoc Áine in Co. Limerick. Mór's name lived on in Munster oral tradition and proverbs, in which her children are thought to have suffered misfortunes; she and Mugain (1) are also commemorated in place-names. See Proinsias MacCana, ‘Aspects of the Theme of King and Goddess in Irish Literature’, Études Celtiques, 7 (1955/6), 76–114, 356–413; 8 (1958/9), 59–65. See also CAILLEACH BHÉIRRE; DÍGDE.

Subjects: Religion.


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