The Celtic Literature Collective

Baile in Scáil: The Phantom's Frenzy

One day Conn was in Tara, after overthrowing the kings. Early in the morning he went up onto the royal rampart of Tara, before sunrise, together with his three druids, Mael and Bloc and Bluicne, and his three filid [poets], Ethain and Corb and Cesarn. For that company used to arise every day to keep watch, lest the men of the sídhe [fairies; Tuatha de Dannan] capture Ireland without his noticing. 

It is onto the rampart that he used always to go; and he chanced upon a stone beneath his feet and trod upon it. The stone cried out beneath his feet, so that it was heard throughout all Tara, and throughout Brega. Then Conn asked his druids why the stone had cried out, what was its name, whence it had come and whither it would go, and why it had come to Tara. The druid said to Conn that he would not name it to him until fifty-three days had passed. When that number was complete, Conn asked the druid again. 

Then the druid said: "Fáil [destiny] is the name of the stone. It is the island of Fáil from which it was brought. It is in Tara of the land of Fáil that it has been placed. It is in the land of Tailtiu that it will remain until the Day of Judgment. And it is in that land that there will be a festive assembly for as long as there is kingship in Tara; and the ruler who does not find it [or leave it?] on the last day of the assembly will be a doomed man in that year. Fáil cried out beneath your feet today," said the druid, "and prophesied. The number of cries which the stone uttered is the number of kings that there will be of your race until the Day of Judgment. It is not I who will name them to you," said the druid. 

Then they saw a great mist around them, so that they did not know whither they were going because of the greatness of the darkness which had come upon them. They heard the noise of a horseman coming towards them. "Woe is us," said Conn, "if he brings us into an unknown land!" Then the horseman made three spear casts at them, and the last cast came to them more quickly that the first. "He is setting out to wound a king," said the druid, "whoever makes a cast at Conn in Tara!" Then the horseman ceased his casting, and came up to them, and bade Conn welcome, and invited him to come with him to his dwelling. 

Then they went on until they came into a plain, and a golden tree was there. There was a house there with a ridge-pole of findruine [a white alloy], thirty feet in length. They went into the house, and saw a young woman there, and a crown of gold was on her head. There was a silver vat with hoops of gold around it, full of red ale. There was a dipper of gold on its lip, and a cup of gold before her. They saw the scál [phantom] himself in the house, before them on his throne. There was never in Tara a man of his size or his beauty, on account of the fairness of his form and the wondrousness of his appearance. 

He answered them and said, "I am not a phantom nor a specter. I have come on account of my fame among you, since my death. And I am of the race of Adam: my name is Lugh son of Eithliu son of Tigernmas. This is why I have come: to relate to you the length of your reign, and of every reign which there will be in Tara." 

And the girl who sat before then in the house was the Sovereignty of Ireland, and it was she who gave Conn his meal: the rib of an ox and the rib of a boar. The ox rib was twenty-four feet long and eight feet between its arch and the ground. When the girl began to distribute drinks she said, "To whom shall this cup be given?"; and the phantom answered her. 

When she had named every ruler until the Day of Judgment, they went into the phantom's shadow, so that they saw neither the enclosure nor the house. The vat and the golden dipper and the cup were left with Conn. And hence are the stories "The Phantom's Dream" and "The Adventure and Journey of Conn".

The Cycle of the Kings ed. and trans. Myles Dillon. Oxford: OUP 1946.

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