Have you ever heard of the Irish Fomorians? No, they are not characters from a new fantasy novel or some JRR Tolkien book, but rather a fascinating part of Irish mythology.
These mythological beings were said to be powerful and feared. According to ancient Irish manuscripts, they played a significant role in the folklore of ancient Ireland. Their story comes out of the Book of Invasions, an 11th century Irish manuscript, supposedly based on much older sources. The Book of Invasions suggests that the Fomorians were one of the earliest groups to inhabit Ireland, arriving before the arrival of the Tuatha Dé Danann.
In this post, we will take a look at their world. So grab a cup of tea and settle in for a journey into the world of the Fomorians!
Fomorians – Who Were They
They were a supernatural race of beings from Irish mythology. They are often portrayed as monstrous giants who inhabited Ireland in ancient times, long before the arrival of the Celtic people. They were said to be a chaotic, destructive, and malevolent force that represented the darker aspects of nature and the sea. They were described as being skilled in sorcery and magic, using their powers to cause havoc and destruction.
Their story comes out of the Book of Invasions, an 11th century Irish manuscript, supposedly based on much older sources. The Book of Invasions suggests that they were one of the earliest groups to inhabit Ireland, arriving before the arrival of the Tuatha Dé Danann.
Fomorians Celtic Mythology
In Celtic mythology, they were considered the enemies of the gods and the first settlers of Ireland. They were believed to have come from the sea, possibly originating from the north or the west. They were frequently associated with various natural disasters, such as storms, floods, and blights. This association led them to be seen as malevolent spirits of chaos and destruction.
They appear in a variety of Celtic myths and legends, often as antagonists to the gods and heroes of Irish folklore. In these stories, they were depicted as a malevolent force that the gods and the heroes had to defeat to restore order and prosperity to Ireland.
Fomorians and Tuatha De Danaan
The Tuatha De Danaan, or the people of the goddess Danu, were another supernatural race in Irish mythology. They were known for their skill in magic and their association with the arts, knowledge, and wisdom. The Tuatha De Danaan arrived in Ireland after the Fomorians, and their arrival marked the beginning of a new era for the island.
The relationship between the Fomorians and the Tuatha De Danaan was marked by conflict and tension. The two races clashed in several epic battles, with the Fomorians attempting to maintain their control over Ireland and the Tuatha De Danaan seeking to claim the land for themselves. These battles feature prominently in the mythological history of Ireland, shaping its landscape and its people.
One of the most famous battles between the Fomorians and the Tuatha De Danaan was the Second Battle of Magh Tuireadh. In this battle, the Tuatha De Danaan were led by their king, Lugh, who was also part Fomorian. The Fomorians were led by Balor, a one-eyed giant with a deadly gaze that could kill anyone who looked into it. Lugh ultimately defeated Balor and his Fomorian army, securing the rule of the Tuatha De Danaan over Ireland.
What Did They Look Like?
Descriptions of the Fomorians vary across different sources, but they were generally depicted as monstrous beings with distorted and grotesque features. They have been described as having only one eye, one arm, and one leg. Other portrays of them describe them having heads of goats, horses, or other animals. Their monstrous appearance was thought to reflect their chaotic and destructive nature.
In some cases, they were depicted as giants, towering over the other inhabitants of Ireland. They were said to have dark skin and hair, reflecting their association with the sea and the underworld. Despite their fearsome appearance, they were not without their own form of beauty. Some of their number were described as being extremely attractive, using their charms to deceive and manipulate others.
The word “Fomorians” originates from the old Irish word “Fomoire,” which is pronounced “FOH-moh-ree.” In modern English, “Fomorians” is typically pronounced as “fuh-MOHR-ee-uhns”. In the Irish language, the term for the Fomorians is “na Fomhóraigh,” which is pronounced “nuh FOW-ree”.
Summary of Key Events Involving Fomorians
The Fomorians played a significant role in Irish mythology, and their presence can be found in several key stories and events. Here are some of the most notable events involving them:
The First Battle of Magh Tuireadh:
This battle took place between the Fomorians and the Fir Bolg, another race of supernatural beings in Irish mythology. The Fir Bolg, who had inhabited Ireland before the arrival of the Fomorians, were ultimately defeated, and the Fomorians took control of the land. This event marked the beginning of the Fomorians’ reign over Ireland.
Fomorians and Tuatha De Danann
The Tuatha De Danaan came to Ireland in a magical mist, bringing with them the knowledge and skills they had acquired from the four great cities of the world. Their arrival marked the beginning of a new era in Irish mythology, and their presence soon led to conflicts with the Fomorians.
The Marriage of Cian and Ethniu:
Cian, a member of the Tuatha De Danaan, and Ethniu, the daughter of the Fomorian king Balor, were united in marriage. This union resulted in the birth of Lugh, a godlike figure who would later play a critical role in Irish mythology. Lugh’s mixed heritage made him a bridge between the two races and was instrumental in the eventual defeat of the Fomorians.
The Second Battle of Magh Tuireadh:
As mentioned previously, this epic battle saw the Fomorians, led by Balor, face off against the Tuatha De Danaan, led by Lugh. The battle was a turning point in Irish mythology, as Lugh’s victory over Balor and the Fomorians allowed the Tuatha De Danaan to establish their rule over Ireland.
The Legacy of the Fomorians in Irish Culture
While thet were ultimately defeated and faded from prominence in Irish mythology, their legacy can still be found in various aspects of Irish culture. Some scholars believe that the Fomorians were inspired by the memories of real-life invaders or settlers, who were later mythologized as monstrous giants.
Their association with the sea and the forces of chaos and destruction has also led to their presence in Irish folklore, where they are sometimes invoked to explain natural disasters or other calamities. Additionally, some place-names in Ireland are said to be derived from the Fomorians, such as Tory Island, which is named after the Fomorian king Torach.
In contemporary Irish culture, they are often seen as symbols of the darker aspects of nature and the human psyche. They represent the chaos and unpredictability of life, as well as the destructive forces that can sometimes threaten our existence. As a result, they continue to hold a place in Irish mythology and folklore, serving as a reminder of the complex and often contradictory forces that shape our world.
Fomorians have also left their mark on popular culture. They are a race of people in the popular game, Dungeons and Dragons.