Lusmagh Fields so Green

Click on the picture to hear Johnny McEvoy sing "The Lusmagh Fields so Green."

The Naming of Lusmagh

The Arrival of the Dana People

According to tradition, it was the Dana People, (Tuatha Dé Danann) who named Lusmagh.

They did not call themselves "People of the God Dana," but simply "Tuatha Dé," meaning "People of God." It was the scribes, in Christian Times, who, using the term "People of God," to describe the Jews of the Old Testament, added the "Dana" descriptor to this people's name.

In an era of global warming, they left their parched land in North Africa or Spain in search of someplace greener. At first they settled in a north land, but then headed out west into the Atlantic Ocean to find the fabulous western land.

An Atlantic Storm threw their boats onto the rocky shore of Sligo.

Even though they came originally from Spain or North Africa, they were red-haired and blond.

Burning the Boats

The boats, made of reeds, probably papyrus, were wrecked.

With heroic effort, they dragged their animals (oxen, sheep, goats and dogs) ashore.

Some said that the Dana People burnt their boats so that there would be no question of abandoning their new-found land. However, our version is that they burnt their boats to ward off their attackers.

They were attacked by the wild, naked, natives, the Parthalonians. It is recorded in the Book of the Invasions that the Parthalonians had all died before the invaders arrived, but this was a white-wash for the fact that the invaders came uninvited to oust them from their property. Genetic studies have found that the older, mesolithic people, survived and passed their genes down to our time, and that these genes are more prevalent in the traveller community than the settled community.

The Dana People set fire to the already-wrecked boats to make smoke that the western winds blew into the eyes of their attackers. At the same time they released hunting birds that flew at and terrified the attackers and raised great wailing terrifying shouts and flung burning darts, so that the attackers pulled back.

The Stone Walls of Connacht

Then they built defensive walls from the rocks they found strewn around, the first of the stone walls of the West of Ireland.

When the wild people returned next day they found the Dana People entrenched behind the walls.

The Vaginal Witch

A vaginal witch (or Gast Gaoithe, a term later commuted to "Sheila na Gig") stood brazenly on the wall, (probably a wooden effigy), and sight of her genitals so cursed the attackers that they fell down dead. (In actual fact, what killed the wild people was probably germs like Measles, Whooping Cough, Cholera, Typhoid, Typhus, Dysentry and others associated with farming that the existing mezo-lithic population had no immunity against).

Searching for Papyus, they found Lusmagh

When they had established a foothold in the part of the country now known as Sligo and Mayo, the Dana People set out to find Papyrus reeds with which to re-build their boats.

They found the River Shannon, and travelled down the river hoping to find suitable Reeds. All they found was our native reeds and rushes, which were not considered strong enough for their purpose.

On their journey they came to a plain that had fields of garlic and dandelions as well as umpteen other herbs and fruit trees. They called the place Lus Magh: Herb-Plain.

They came with a great knowledge of medicine and herbs, and Lus Magh was a marvellous find. Soon they were harvesting the herbs an putting them to good use.

Dana People put the herbs of Lusmagh to good use

The Book of the Invasions, (rewritten in the 12th century from texts dating from the 8th or 9th century which recorded the oral tradition), recounts how the Tuatha Dé Danaan (People of the God Dana) used Lusmagh herbs to help them secure victory over the Fir Bolg (Bag People) and the Fomorians.
Each day after the fighting, during the battles of Moytura, the wounded warriors of the Tuatha Dé Danaan bathed in herbal baths prepared with herbs collected in Lusmagh. The healing powers of these herbs restored the health and strength of the warriors, and contributed to the eventual victory.

In the first battle of Moytura the Tuatha Dé Danaan defeated the Fir Bolg. In the second battle of Moytura, they defeated the giant Fomorians, led by Balor of the Evil Eye, in the same battle field.

John O'Donovan, in his Ordnance Survey letters, reports a poem on the  subject, as follows:

“Know ye the cause from which Lusmaw is named?
That plain of rushes grey at first was called
The Plain of Murray Munchy, but since the time
The famous Battle of Moy Tuire north
Was fought, its name has ever been Lus Maw
Or Plain of Herbs. ‘Twas here Dianceach, the sage,
And learned AEsculpius of this isle,
Found all the herbs, which to the battle field
He brought, and with whose healing juice he tinged,
The spring called Tobar Slany at this day
Which lies in Acha Abhla, blood stained field.
The wounded soldiers in the Danaan lines
Retired to this fair spring and in it laved
Their wounds, and some, who writhed with the pangs
Received from poisoned arrows, plunged themselves
Into its medicated (?) waters, and
Returned soon healed of all the dreadful wounds
Inflicted on them by Fomorian swords (arms).
This is the reason why that famous plain,
Received the name of Lus Magh, Plain of Herbs,
For since the day that Dianceact sought the place
Physicians know the virtue of its herbs
And use them as the best in this our isle
For here, observe, in rich luxuriance grow,
All sorts of herbs which moor or meadow knows
Which fairies love and into which they breathe
Poison or balm to serve or injure men!

1 comment:

  1. The Source of this story:

    As a young jackeen, I holidayed every year in Lusmagh as soon as the National Schools closed for Summer holidays. (It was in Lusmagh I first heard the pejorative "Jackeen").

    One year, my country pal, Johnny Searson, said he had to visit the Parish Priest, the infamous Father John Fahy, to deliver a project he had done for school but had been unable to deliver before the school closed, because he had missed the last few days of school.

    My two brothers and I decided we would go with him on this excitign outing.

    On the way, Johnny told us what his project was about. It was the story of Lusmagh.

    Father Fahy ushered us in. There were pictures around the walls, which I remember (possibly through the machinery of my imagination as well as memory), and, as Johnny was discussing his project with the priest, I had a look at these pictures.

    I was looking at a picture of a baby being found among the bullrushes, when Father Fahy spoke behind me, saying: "What do you think that is."

    I said: "It is Moses being discovered among the bullrushes."

    "No," said Father Fahy; "these panels represent the history of Ireland and Lusmagh, not the bible. This is a depiction of Finn McCool being found by the Fianna, the Wild People. Of course, it is not the historic Finn McCool, father of Osheen and grandfather of Oscar, it is the legendary Finn McCool after which the latter took his name. He was the baby of an ummarried Cool, or slave-girl, and was abandoned by her to avoid the punishment she would receive for giving birth to a nobleman's child."

    This explanation led me to review my understanding of another of the panels, which I had taken for Noah's Ark, but being perplexed by the fact that there were several Arks and, among the animals, no sign of Giraffes and Elephants.

    I stood in front of another panel, a rude depiction of an emaciated woman showing her genitals. "Don't look at that," said Father Fahy, "Or you may be cursed."

    But he immediately corrected himself, explaining that, like the Tinker's Cusrse, the image could do no harm unless you believed in it.

    Then he told me a story of a parishioner who had come to him worried about a curse a tinker-woman had put on him. She had told him he would drop dead on Saint Patrick's Day. The priest explained to him that God would not allow such a curse to have any effect, so to forget about it and drown the Shamrock as usual. On Saint Patrick's Day, the man dropped dead while drowning the Shamrock.

    "So," said the priest; "We might express our beliefs and dis-beliefs, but do we really know what we really believe deep down?"

    My brothers and Johnny were beckoning at me to come on and stop delaying. I told the priest I had to go, and he invited me to come back another time and continuing reviewing his exhibition. I said that I would. However, I was the youngest of three brothers and had little say in where we went or what we did, so I never went back and it was left to my imagination to complete the story.

    My brothers found Father Fahy's company distasteful because of a previous event that I did not remember. One day, we (or perhaps only my two big brothers) had found Uncle Rody's boat, and gone out onto the Shannon in it, managing it clumsily and with great difficulty. Father Fahy was passing on his horse (horse-riding being his favourite pastime). On the next Sunday, he read my father from the alter for allowing young Jackeens out on the dangerous river unaccompanied, much to the discomfiture of my siblings.