Photo by P.J. McKenna
Am gaeth i m-muir
Am tond trethan
Am fuaim mara
I am the wind on the sea
I am the stormy wave
I am the sound of the ocean
— Song of Amergin
According to the legend, Ireland was once inhabited by a magical race known as the Tuatha Dé Danann. They survived several threats from invaders, until the last.
The last invaders came from Galicia in what is now Northern Spain, descendants of a man named Míl Espáine (“soldier of Spain”) and therefore known as the “Milesians”. They fought several battles until a truce was drawn. As one of the conditions, the Milesians were forced to withdraw to sea and set anchor beyond the ninth wave from the shore.
Of course the Tuatha Dé Danann had a magical trick up their sleeves. They brewed up a storm and sent it towards the Milesian ships. The wind roared; the ocean churned. Many Milesians lost their lives to the waters, and others clung on as the storm threatened to overwhelm them. The invaders had no magic of their own, so how could they hope to survive, let alone defeat the Tuatha?
But they had a secret weapon on board. He was Amergin, a poet. He took out his harp and he sang.
Coiche nod gleith clochur slébe
Cia on co tagair aesa éscai
Cia du i l-laig fuiniud gréne
Who made the trails through stone mountains
Who knows the age of the moon
Who knows where the setting sun rests
— Song of Amergin
His music had charms to soothe the savage seas, and the Milesians were able to come ashore at Kenmare Bay. They had several more battles to fight, but they eventually defeated the Tuatha Dé Dannan.
Amergin was given the task of dividing the land between both sets of peoples. He gave the portion above ground to the Milesians, and the underworld to the Tuatha Dé Danann, where they still reside and only occasionally meddle in the lives of humans.
According to the legend, the people of Ireland are descended from the Milesians, those warriors and poets from Northern Spain. Of course, that’s just the legend. However, recent DNA analysis found the closest relatives to the Irish people in Galicia and the Basque country. So perhaps some Iberian poet led them here, after all.
- Milesians, Wikipedia
- Song of Amergin, sung by Lisa Gerrard
- Genetic studies show our closest relatives are found in Galicia and the Basque region Irish Times 2009-02-16