The Celtic Literature Collective

Life of S. Molasius of Devenish

It was a certain noble, admirable, and laudable sage of free­men’s race—a preeminent member of Heber the Fair’s royal line and of the ancient Eoganacht of Cashel—that once upon a time spent his flesh in honour of the one God Almighty, serving Him:

The great and miraculous Molasius son of
Nadfraech son of
Barr son of
Corbrann son of
Aedh the Fair
Angus sl. A.D. 489
Corc of Cashel fl. 438
Olioll Rubriculus
Fiacha Broad-crown
Eogan Mór sl. 195
Oiloll Oluim d. 234
Moghnuadhat fl. 123
Duach Donn sl. A.M. 5041
Cairbre Broad-eye
Lughaid of Luaighne sl. 5016
Innatmar sl. 4990
Nia-segaman sl. 4887
Adamar Smooth-hair sl. 4787
Ferchorb sl. 4737
Moghcorb 51. 4701
Cobthach the Slight
Rechtadh Red-wrist sl. 4566
Lughiad of Laighde sl. 4469
Eochaid sl. 4422
Olioll the Fair sl. 4415
Art of Emly sl. 4394
Lughaid Redhand sl. 4365
Eochaid Uairches sl. 4356
Enna the Red d. 4319
Duach the Fair sl. 4306
Senna Inarrach sl. 4290
Bresrfgh sl. 4247
Art of Emly sl. 4192
Felim sl. 4177
Rothechtadh d. 4176
Ruann of the royal slaughter
Failbhe... (?)
Cas Cétaichne
Failldergdóid sl. 3882
Muinemon sl. 3872
Cas Clothach
Arus (?)
Nuada Deglaech (?)
Eochaid Bright-edge sl. 3727
Conmael sl. 3579
Heber the Fair sl. 3501
Milesius of Spain
Heber-Scot [a quo ‘the Scoti’]
Gaedhel Glas [a quo 'the Gael’]
Fenius Farsa
Enos son of
Seth son of
Adam son of

Monoa daughter of Midhlogh of the Corcaraighe was this Molasius’ mother; and as for her, by computation of her genealogy her ‘incarnation’ [i.e. birth] was a noble one: for it was the illustrious Feidhlim Rechtmar son of Tuathal Techtmar and monarch of Ireland, that very precisely was her grandfather and (as all allowed) head of her tribe. Which two limpid pedigrees (extant still for constant recitation) set plainly forth how the arch-saint’s ingredients were ordered nobly in Ireland, [emanat­ing as they did] from her two prime seats of precedence: from Cashel namely and from fair Tara, as the poet declaring him said:--

Noble is Molasius the miraculous...

Thirty years before whose birth moreover, Patrick the excellent, of the melodious paternosters, when he the Primate came to Benn-osna once, foretold that ruddy lightning-flame of Europe’s westernmost part: Molasius son of Nadfraech; so that in verification of the Tailchenn’s prophecy the poet said:--

Hail to the guest of virtues many...

Now in the night Molasius’ mother saw a dream: that she got seven fragrant apples, and the last apple of them that she took into her hand her grasp could not contain it for its size; gold (as - it seemed to her) was not lovelier than the apple. This dream she told to her husband, and the man said: “truly I understand it: thou shalt bear an offspring, excellent and famous, with which the mouths of all Ireland shall be filled, and it shall distance its coevals.”
At all events the time came when Molasius’ mother must bring forth, and her pains took her. A magician said to her: “if thou delay thy birth so that thou bear it not till the sun rise to-morrow, then shall that good birth which thou shalt have, woman, be illustrious and for a great dignity, and miraculous, righteous, very noble, and be an offspring profitable for the salvation of the world’s most western portion;" and he said:--

If to-morrow thou shalt bear a son...

The Very God retained the birth in Monoa’s womb, so that, just when the sun was risen on the morrow, she brought forth upon a certain flagstone; and it was taken to bishop Eocho, baptized and blessed: who also conferred first orders on him afterwards, as one said:--

Bishop Eocho the angelic...

And indeed it was clear that the Holy Spirit’s favour accom­panied Molasius, for at the end of a month after his birth~. he spoke and praised the Lord; fulfilling Cthe words ofj the Psalmist, as one said

Even as the psalm says: ex ore infantium...

He swallowed not.., meat, nor meat that was impure, nor any kind of theft; and when they would feed him against his grain he used straightway to ‘throw it up. One thing in especial: every deg’ree of increment that took place in Molasius’ flesh occurred in his humility also and in his excellence, in his... and in his purity, even as Christ hath said:--

He that shall exalt himself...

Thus then Molasius entered upon his studies: so that he became wise, knowledgeable in a high degree, and was head-monk in miracles; nor had aught that was his own peculiar, but, whatsoever he got, that he used to bestow on God’s poor and needy for love of his Maker and Creator, and for an exemplifying of the Psalmist when he says: dispersit dedit pauperibus:--

For God’s sake he gave to the poor...

Another one of Molasius’ wonders: once when a monk of his monks had mixed meal and water and kneaded a cake, but had not fire and made his plaint to Molasius therefore, the saint said to the monk: “bring me hither two coals;" whereupon the coals were brought to him, and he applied his breath to them so that they kindled like torches. Wonderful that was in the monks’ sight and, wonderful though it were, rejoiced them [i.e. they had joy without fear]. “Dear sons,” Molasius said, “the thing which is hard to men is easy to God:" as one said:--

If loyally and dutifully thou believe...

Now Molasius the miraculous with his monks was for the forty days of Lent without consuming bite or sup, or any meat in the world but fruits of trees and earth’s plants and herbs; while yet another Lent he with his monks was for forty days without any kind of meat whatsoever, saving the cellarer’s hand full of barley grain to each monk from the one midday to the other: as one said:--

One Lent Molasius and his monks were...

It was once when two lepers on a quest for entertainment came to Molasius at a season when he had no meat to shew: he summoned his cellarer and said to him: “give to yon men their sufficiency of meat and drink.” The cellarer answered: “I have no food little or much.” “Go into the kitchen,” said Molasius to the cellarer, “and in it thou shalt find two cakes with their accompaniment of butter, and two chunks of fish, and two vessels full of milk.” The cellarer proceeded and found as the saint had said, whereupon he gave the poor their fill: as one said:--

Once on a time Molasius whose delight was not in folly...

Another time: and all Ireland lay under grief of death and dissolution, they being tormented for that the [plague called] buidhe chonnail had now made great slaughter of Ireland’s best men (in which [lit. ‘where’] perished Dermot and Bláthmac joint kings of Ireland,’ and S. Féichín of Fore, S. Ailerán the Wise, and of Ireland’s nobles a great portion) to such pitch that they which died there transcended all count and comparison, all reason and recollection. According to some it was half and one over of the men of Ireland; others again asserting that it was two-thirds of them that expired. The men of Erin took counsel therefore how that sickness might be turned from them; and what they all proposed was to make a day’s and a night’s fast to God and to Molasius for their succour and relief: as the poet said:--

A three days’ fast of zealous abstinence...

Howbeit the men of Erin fast to Molasius, and Molasius fasts to his God, so that they had succour and relief from that sickness; and then it was that to Molasius they assigned [a rate of] one screpall out of every house, if only there were in it three of a family; from every chief of a cantred a ‘cow of three hands;’ a riding horse from every provincial king, and from the king of Ireland a horse with his caparison of battle; the whole to be honourably discharged to Molasius and to his community after him for ever at Lammastide; as the poet said:--

A lamentable plague of hideous sickness...

After which it was that Declan’s sons came to seek Molasius, and he bade them write the Evangile for him. They wrote all the gospels within the space of two days and one night; in which night light failed them not, but was as [it is during] every day. By this wonder Molasius’ miracle-power was lauded much.

He, having about him a hood of badger’s skins (whence the brocainech is named: a good one of Molasius’ relics) and in his hands a small strip of [the same] leather, went to Hell for the purpose of calling up a certain jester, Manann the leper to wit; whereby for Molasius God brought the same out of Hell along with fifty that were his namesakes: as the poet said:--

Thrice fifty Mananns did Molasius bring...

Of another day Molasius was stark naked bathing himself in water (nor though there were ice on it would that hinder him; and when he was thus none durst look on him, for there was but his skin cleaving to his bones: seeing that of meat he used for a whole week but barely so much as to another one would have been a single dinner); a monk of his monks came to look for him, and that was not pleasing to Molasius, who said to him: “do not the like again, but for the deed which thou hast done do penance.” “I will, according to thy pleasure,” the monk said. “Come into this water then,” said Molasius. The monk replied: “truly I will;" but not long he was in it when he said to Molasius: “for the greatness of its virulence and of its cold I may not endure the water.” “If that be what thou sayest, come into this other water;" whereupon the monk entered that water. Short a time as he was in it he found its excessive heat to be such that he said: “help me, lord, for I may not support these griefs; and patent to me it is that God’s grace bears thee company, neither will we do aught that thou mayest prohibit.” Molasius blessed the water then so that it was temperate: between cold and heat. Certain it is indeed that for Molasius the elements were temperate according to his will, and conformably to his intention were obedient: as the poet said:--

God’s elements and O the elements of God...

One night that Molasius with his monks ate their supper they saw the house roof afire, with its flames bursting from it, and the monks thought to abandon the house for fear of their being burnt. “By no means,” quoth Molasius, “but bow ye your heads, and bend your knees and be prepared for death, and leave the matter betwixt me and the fire; neither let one of you look up.” The monks did so; nor was it long they had been there when the roof-tree of the house fell on the ground in front of them, and the fire did them no harm but that. “Understand, brethren beloved,” said Molasius, “that your endurance is manifest to God, and that ye are chosen sons of God. Rise now, for God hath saved us from the fire:" as one said:--

When Molasius with his monks was...

Another time when Molasius was in the house of a good king of the kings of Ireland, it chanced that fire caught in the house so that it was not possible to save it. Molasius blessed the house and extended his arms for the croisfighill, and the fire burned but three wattles in the house (the name of which place to-day is druim clethchoir) and the king offered it to God and to Molasius for ever, after himself.

Molasius was one day and a synod of clergy came in his way: these had a good ‘book of ways’ [i.e. itinerary] out of which he would fain have copied somewhat; but he had not a pen, neither had the company. Molasius however spied a flock of birds that hovered over him, and he stretched forth his hand to them; whereby from them to him there fell a quill, so that then he wrote the book: as one said:--

The bird bestowed his quill...

Once when Molasius, and certain of his clerics with him, journeyed in the land of Carbery, he saw a woman milking, of whom he craved a drink for his attendant, and the woman said: “not to the lad only will I give the milk, but to you all.” “That is better still,” said Molasius. “Well then, my lord,” the woman went on, “hitherto I am a barren woman; but do thou relieve me, and make intercession for me that it fall to my share to have issue.” “If so,” Molasius said, “call to us thy husband; let him take my cup to the well and bring back to us its fill of water in it.” Then the water was given into Molasius’ hand, he blessed and consecrated it, and passed it to the woman to drink: “woman,” he said, “have it for a thing assured that henceforth thou shalt be pregnant, and shalt bear a son: good, miraculous, saintly, wonder- working, righteous; to him it is that God the Creator and all Ireland’s saints will give honour very great, and perfect privilege: whose first name shall be mac na cretra, from the sanctifying and consecration which I imparted to the water; but for us it is ‘the very noble bishop Finnacha’ that shall be his permanent designation; him I hail before his advent and make welcome:" and he pronounced these words:--

A welcome I utter for [the subject of] a truthful vision...

Then Molasius blessed bishop Finnacha in his mother’s womb, and what he said was: “Ireland’s saints and the Creator of all creatures shall bestow on him exceeding great honour and privilege, and the right of sanctuary and he himself shall be the fifth high saint [that shall have been] in his place: protecting it, giving effect to every supplication that shall be addressed to him, avenging the violation of it, and requiting every ill thing and injustice that shall be done to it. Shortness of life, and Hell, be to. them that spoil it; Heaven to his successor, but that his privileges he curtail not, neither diminish his dues:" as one said:--

‘Tis a birth of virtue that is in thy womb, woman...

Howbeit Molasius became famous, and (his age being now advanced; his faith and devotion, his wisdom and guidance also being notorious) like every other apostle besides he went to Finnian of Clonirard and read [i.e. studied] the Gospel there; after which the apostles said to Finnian that he should come with each man of them [in turn] to his church to consecrate it. Finnian cared not to do this (for he was an old man), but said: “I will go with the saint, whosoe’er he be of you that my dun cow shall follow.” Thereupon the saints break up, the dun cow follows Molasius and Nindidh, and Finnian with his twelve apostles follows these to Devenish, where for a year they were with Molasius:--

Twelve saints that yonder were ordained...

He that at this time was chief over that land was Red Conall son of Daimhín, to whom his wizard said: “unless thou go to Molasius to Devenish, and unless this night thou quench his fire, he it is that shall be lord over this domain and over the [whole] loch in which it is; and his successor after him it is that in voice, in power and in privilege, shall preponderate.” Then for Red Conall his horses were harnessed, and he took his way to Devenish, lashing them hard until he attained to the place that has the appellation of omna gabtha [i.e. ‘the sticking oak’] for there [hard by an oak-tree] the horses’ feet were held fast so that they could not stir a step [lit. ‘so that they had not a step’]; but to the king and to his people this was a wonderment, a marvel, and moreover most displeasing to them. Said a young man of his people to the king: “let turn the horses’ heads eastwards and, if straightway they start, then is Molasius a man of God.” The horses’ heads were turned to the east and they went at once.

As for Red Conall: the horses he let be, and made his way on foot; the wicker boat that he had he launched upon linn an tairbh [i.e. ‘the bull’s pool’] with, in the bottom of it, a bull all cooked [lit. ‘sodden’], but the bull leaped into the loch and the boat was swamped. Further: two white horses that the king had, with crimson manes and tails on them, they died out of hand. Then fear took Red Conall, and by him an embassage was sent to Molasius in order that he should raise the horses up from death. Molasius came, brought the horses to life again, and that pleased the king well. Molasius said: “make we now a bargain: I of my Lord’s part will to thyself, and to thy son after thee, grant this region; and leave thou me this spot of land upon which I am.” Quoth the king: “I thank thee not for that: mine own land, and my father’s and my grandfather’s before me!” “If that be what thou sayest,” Molasius answered, “may neither thy son, nor yet man of thy seed for ever, have the dominion of this land.” Molasius turned his back on him, and on the instant the king’s eyes [i.e. sight] were taken from him.

To continue the king’s story: it was people he had leading him, to shew him the way, till he gained his house. Thereupon in all haste he had a great feast made, which he sent as a present to Molasius, and with it conveyed the land to him; then besides settled on him all its dues for ever. “On my Lord’s behalf” Molasius said, “I restore to thee thine eyes whole and, so long as thou livest, neither thine own fortune nor thy rule shall be opposed; but certain it is that by no one of thy posterity shall the rule ever be assumed:" as one said:--

A stubborn war unjust arose...

It was once upon a time that the apostles came to inis cométa: and they were for a night without fire, so that they sent a little boy that they had with them to Edardhruim to fetch fire; and he brought away two live coals, but on the return was drowned: himself and both his coals. The little boy was searched for then and brought up with the black coals in his hand. In virtue of his Lord’s power Molasius summoned him back to life, and his soul entered into him then; and to the black wet coals the saint applied his breath, so that they blazed like a torch. God’s and Molasius’ names were magnified hereby, and one uttered a lay:—

Ireland’s apostles came...

Yet another time that Molasius was in Devenish and no meat by him: and there came a number of [self-invited] guests to visit him (for he was the general repair of sick, and of such as sought entertainment, and of the extern; he was moreover a resort of poor and of naked, of orphans and of such as were in distressful straits; every one too that from none other in Ireland could find help, and all such for whom work was not suitable, nor deference forthcoming, nor kindly care, used at the last to come to Molasius that he should help them against cold and famine, against thirst and hunger). But at all events, what Molasius on that occasion did with his guests and poor was this: he caused bring to him all that in Devenish there were of decayed and black old pots; these he broke up, made into portions, and gave to all as though he had served out bread; and then, whatsoever kind of meat any one of them fancied individually, the same was produced from his fragment of the pots; while, to each one that so desired, it turned to raiment as well, according to their mind and inclination: as one said:--

Devenish the isle of oxen...

It was once upon a time that Molasius went to Moycarne when the king, when Aedh, had a great feast on: Molasius sent his lad, and his pitcher with him, to request ale and meat; but he was denied and, coming back to where Molasius was, told him. “Why then,” quoth the saint, “let the feast, both ale and meat, vanish into nothing.”

For the king’s part, his ale was turned to brine and his meat to foulness. The king came and asked what had ruined the banquet; “that is soon told,” the house-steward answered; “Molasius’ lad came hither, and in the matter of liquor and of meat I denied him.” “An evil deed thou hast done,” the king said; “this spot [I dedicate] to him [the saint] in lieu of the denial that thou gayest him, and let it serve him for ever.” Molasius was conducted to them then; the king made genuflection to him, and offered him up the land. Molasius blessed it and the banquet with its meats, and renovated these so that in the sequel they constituted a feast befitting the king and Molasius himself: as the poet said:--

Moycarne the resort of hundreds...

After all these miracles which Molasius had performed through­out Ireland, the resolve that he took was to go to Rome: to the intent that there he should write his life, and should bring back to Ireland somewha~t of her soil and of her relics. The way he took was by Ferns of S. ZlIaedóg; and forthwith this was revealed to Maedóg, who uttered a lay:--

To-night a company repairs to us...

Hard upon this Molasius reached Ferns; Maedóg goes to meet him, gives him welcome, and afterwards according to his wish and to his inclination ministers to him with meat and drink, with bed, and with all privacy of conversation; and so those two high saints agreed that, either of them in secret craving any boon, the prayers of both respectively should take the one direction: that any whom Molasius might bless should be blessed of Maedóg also; and that any whom Molasius might curse should be cursed of Maedóg likewise, et e contrario. All behests whatsoever that one saint of them should promulgate, both of them to co-operate to their fulfilment. Molasius said too: “pray with me that this journey on which I go be a profit to the Church in general, and to Ireland universally.” Between them then they uttered a little lay there:--

Thy prayer, O gentle Maedóg, I entreat...

Then Molasius, journeying Romeward, crossed the sea and came to Tours of S. Martin. The church of Martin’s precinct he found shut, with a single warder appointed by God and by S. Martin to watch it. Molasius asked to have it opened before him: “by no means will I open,” said the warder; “but if they deem it expedient let God and Martin open before thee.” Whereupon the seven locks that were on the door opened alone before Molasius, and the door’s valve receded so that the entrance was thrown wide. There Molasius said Mass then, to God and to S. Martin; which done, he took the way to Rome.

As they [i.e. he and other pilgrims] were of a night, when Molasius supped, they saw a snake approach him. Fear and horror seized them all before it, but Molasius calls it to him and crumbles some of the bread for it; which it ate, and then licked his hand nor did him any harm.

It was yet another day that Molasius travelled through the eastern world: and he came upon masons that did their work. Molasius halted to find fault with them, for the way in which the task was done pleased him not. The masons made at Molasius, and laid hands on him violently: that was evil in God’s ‘sight, therefore He turned the masons back, and their hands and feet refused their office (for their feet clove to the ground and their tongues [i.e. speech] departed from them); till [at last] Molasius took compassion on them and restored them to their mind and senses in order that they should believe, and believe they did then, vehemently, in God and in Molasius; and the grace of God came on them: as one said:--

[scribe omits this poem.]

Howbeit, in the gloaming of the eventide Molasius eached Rome, and the city was shut before him [i.e. he found it shut]; he asked to have it opened, but the gatekeeper opened not for him, and thrice Molasius struck the hand-log upon the city’s gate. Then throughout the city a great din and a booming roar occurred: such that huge fear took them of Rome thereat, and they said that it was the Judgment there. Rome’s great gate opened, and in the city every single thing on which was lock or any fastening (whether internal or exterior) opened of itself. The gate being opened before him thus, Molasius entered into Rome and there abode that night.

On the morrow however all the populace of Rome gathered together to one place, where the Pope of Rome was; and the Pope enquired of them all in one spot [saying]: “know ye what was the great noise that occurred in Rome, at which fear seized on all in general?" The gatekeeper came and said: “last night at even, when the gates were closed, there came a tall and pale-faced cleric of the Gael and sought to have them opened. I opened not, but, though I did not so, yet God opened before him.” The Abbot of Rome said: “bring us that Irish cleric.” Then Molasius was conducted to him, and was made welcome, and bidden to say Mass in presence of the Pope and of Rome’s people all. They forgot nothing in the way of belittling Molasius, of deceiving him, and of testing him: he went with them to S. Peter’s high altar in Rome; the altar was dressed then for Molasius’ use, but no missal was given him at all, nor cruet, nor any bell. Molasius put on the vestments now, but said that in absence of those three things the altar was not adequate to the celebration of Mass thereat. The Romans said: “let the God that gives thee everything provide thee with the three things also which thou requirest of us.” “This is a proving of me,” Molasius said, “and my Lord in Heaven hears it;" even as he said it he to his Lord lifted his two hands on high and besought Heaven’s King for help in this conjuncture. When the Creator of all creatures heard that, He sent down upon the altar a small missal; He sent a cruet, and along with it a bell. This pleased Molasius well, and there, in presence of the Pope and of the Romans too, he said Mass and performed pure sacrifice; after which he preached a sermon and purged all hearts in which were evil, and wrong, and malice, of such as heard the same. After the Mass that he had said and the sermon that he preached, the Pope and his twelve cardinals and what was there [of the people] all gave him their blessing, and with one accord bestowed on him their souls’ affection.

Then Molasius said: “what shall be done with these three things which God hath laid on the altar?“ “Take thou with thee thy choice of them,” the Pope made answer, “for to-day thou art the one of us that hast the greatest labour.” “I will take,” Molasius said, “that little Gospel.” The Pope rejoined: “beg [i.e. ‘little’] shall be its name for ever:" wherefore men call it soscéla beg Molaise [i.e. ‘Molasius his little Gospel']. Molasius continued excelling in gentleness and in honour, in faith, in devotion, in wisdom and in knowledge, and this time was for a season in Rome; so that there he transcribed all that was needed of [canonical] law and rule, and of all knowledge, such as was not before in Ireland. In accordance with the Pope’s permission he came later as an illustrious archlegate to Ireland, and when he reached his house found, [hanging] on a birchen bough, the bell that in Rome was given him on the altar; and the cruet he got in another place. Thrice it was remitted to Rome, and each time stole away again after Molasius, wherefore [the name of] éloidhech [i.e. ‘the deserter’] was bestowed on it.

A load of Rome’s soil he brought moreover; with relics of Paul, of Peter, of Laurence, of Clement and of Stephen. Somewhat of [the B.V.] Mary’s hair too, with an ankle-bone of Martin; of other illustrious saints’ relics a great share, and some relics of the holy successors [of Peter] that were sepulchred in Rome.

Molasius arrived in Ireland now; that was revealed to Maedóg, and he said these words:--

I hail miraculous Molasius...

After this, Maedóg was not long there when Molasius came to Ferns. Maedóg goes to meet him and bids him be welcome. Maedóg enquired of Molasius concerning all his travel, from the day in which he went out of Ireland until he was come back again. Molasius related to him how he had fared both in Rome and in every other place. “Leave me my share of the gifts thou bringest from Rome,” said Maedóg. “I will indeed,” Molasius answered, “and open the bosom of thy frock that I may lay them in it for thee.” Then Maeddg opens out his bosom, and into it Molasius puts some of Mary’s hair and of Martin’s ankle-bone; somewhat of Paul’s relics and of Peter’s, a share of Laurence’s relics and of Clement’s, and of Stephen the martyr’s relics. Maedóg rejoiced to see the sacred relics in his bosom, and said to Molasius: “now am I well assorted by thee.” Molasius answered: “brec Maedhóig shall be its name for ever, its privilege shall be complete and its miracles many; none shall dare violate it; not to obey it when it shall happen to be among them shall to the seed of Fergna be a red wound of death; and to the children of Brian all, both east and west, a venomous fire; and to the children of Niall and to them of Oriel a destruction and a manslaying. Be it well enshrined; neither is it lawful that any but one in orders carry it, or else one that is free from all defilement whatsoever:" and one has pronounced a lay:--

By us Molasius’ tale is told...

As he came from Rome, Molasius chanced upon a certain holy man (one that was a namesake of his own: Molasius the Hebrew namely) that in the midst of the sea [i.e. in the open sea] floated on a flagstone. Then Molasius and that man changed places, and it was upon that stone that Molasius came to Ireland; for a proof of which miracle and for a commemoration of which story the same stone endures still in Devenish.

At all events Molasius, being now returned from Rome, reached Devenish, where he deposited the relics of Paul, of Peter, of Laurence the martyr, of S. Clement and of the martyr Stephen, of Mary, and of other that were saints of Rome. Now the reason for which he brought hither those relics and those bits of soil was that, unless they went for some weighty [special] reason, or unless a saint might go thither to write his life, it should not be imperative on the Gael to repair to Rome:--

Well gotten is the land that we have gained...

Molasius having committed those holy relics to the little sanctuary as we have said, he was not long in Devenish when out of Tara ‘the apostles’ sent a message to fetch him; for that was the hour and the season in which betwixt Dermot, son of Cerbhall and king of Ireland, [of the one part] and, of the other, Ruadhan of Lothra and all the apostles, there was war and great conflict because of the saint’s prerogative violated in the matter of Aedh Guaire that was king of Connacht: whom Dermot the king had taken from Ruadhan and from the saints of Ireland forcibly, and he under their protection. Which Aedh Guaire king of Connacht it was that a short time before had slain Aedh Baclamh because he was displeasing to him [i.e. had offended him].

Molasius reached the spot where upon Tara’s green the apostles were in their tents; they all rose to receive him, and bowed their heads to him, and then Molasius’ tent was pitched in the midst of all the other saints’ tents. Now the [form of] contest which they and the king of Ireland maintained was that they, relying on their sanctity, on their prayers and on their miracles, fasted the one night; the king of Ireland on the other hand, strong in the truthfulness of his cause, in his kingly prerogative and in his princely right, fasting the next night against them. Up to which time they had been eleven saints that fasted [lit ‘at the fasting’], but now that Molasius was come they were twelve; and those apostles were Ireland’s prime saints: Ruadhan of Lorrha, Maedóg of Ferns, Féichín of Fore, Columba, Cainnech the Pious, Tighernach of Cluain-eois, Enan the angelic, the presbyter Fraech, Becan son of Culu, the bishop mac Carthainn, the elder Mochta of Lughba, Mochuda the devout, and Molasius of Devenish. It was nightfall with Molasius as he came to Tara, and snow falling heavily; but it was the saints that fasted that night, and Molasius [just off his journey] fasted with them. On that night it was not permitted to the king of Ireland to settle himself comfortably nor to be at rest, and he had neither doze nor nap of sleep; but [as in a waking dream] it was shewn to him that the men of God, fasting against him on the green of Tara, dealt inequitably. Dermot thought it all too long till day came, and when come it was they must needs use main force to open the doors, .for the thickness of the snow. The king of Ireland rises and looks abroad upon the tents, and the way they were was all pure white with snow, saving only Molasius’ tent. To this the snow had not adhered at all, nor for seven feet on every side of it had the earth taken snow, “Who is in yon tent which the snow has not caught at all?" asked the king. “Molasius of Devenish,” the others answered all, “that came yesterday about the hour of nones.” “For him it is that this [oppression] is flung on me,” said Dermot, “and heavily the pale-face of loch Erne last night affected me; he is indeed a living fire ablaze, but (as I deem) ought not to have been heavy on me, for my burden was very great before; and now I place myself under his safeguard and under that of Heaven’s King and Earth’s, in whom we on either side believe.” The matter was shewn to Molasius and stirred his pity; also it was appointed for the king of Ireland to confer with the saints that day, and Molasius strove to make peace between the king and Ruadhan with the others, but prevailed not. Then, when he prevailed not, to the king of Ireland Molasius gave his choice: whether to have his life cut short and his body tormented [first], with Heaven for his soul and with rulership for his seed after him for ever; or length of life coupled with Hell for himself, and none of his seed after him to attain to kingly rule and reign for ever and for ever, The choice that the king made was to have his body pained, with dominion to his seed after him. Even so did God well bring it to pass, and therefore it is that Clan-Colman and the seed of [Dermot’s son] Aedk Sláine are bound to pay to Molasius a tribute every year continually in winter: as one said

The apostles twelve of Innisfail...

As for Molasius however, after this he made no farther stay at all at this contest with the saints by Tara; for in his eyes it was a lamentable thing that Tara must be abolished and the seat of Ireland’s sovereignty put from her vigour: he knowing well as he did that in the end the saints would prove stronger than the king of Ireland, Upon which occasion it was that both the saints of Ireland and her [lay]men all conferred on Molasius the pre­eminence in miracles, and precedence in working of wonders [i.e. allowed that he was pre-eminent etc.]; for he never ceased from performing of miracles, from rooting out the sons of accursedness [i.e. the reprobate], from lifting up the righteous, from blessing the tuatha and the triucha generally throughout all Ireland.

Next he came to Devenish, and in his way there chanced a company of young ecclesiastics that cleared away [a brake of] briars and blackthorn; and they began to bemoan to him their hands and their feet, for the thorns pierced them. Forthwith [he rent] his mantle for them, and of one portion of the same were made [miraculously] gloves of price, as though it had been kneaded [i.e. well suppled] glover’s leather; while of the other part were produced thick [and as it were] bark-soaked brogues like tanner’s leather.

It was in that time that the [tribe called] Dartraighe were in the latter end of the great vindictive banishment which they of Munster inflicted on them because that to Cashel their rule had been so pernicious, and because they had slain so many of the úi Chonaill Ghabra; and for the great extent to which they aided foreigners and gentiles as against the Gael, shewing them all ways and paths in which their enemies used to be [i.e. the most secret recesses of their countries]; and for this reason it was that the Dartraighe were exiled from their original land and from their own natural leasc láimhe, viz, a triucha céd of their ancient patrimony in the Southern Half: from céide ua Cairbre in the south to uaimh an fhómorach on the borders of the Cechtraighe westward; and from abhann na hechraidhe to...

Forty years it was that throughout Ireland in her length and breadth they were in banishment; five hundred armed men: that was their strength. During which time not more than three years they were on any one land; for the provincial kings used to have them under conditions and protection till such time as the Dartraghe’s own misdeeds would prevail against them: that is to say until, for the exorbitant extent of land that they ‘sucked’ to themselves [i.e. grabbed and absorbed] and for their turbulence, their rudeness, and their so frequent brawls and fights in set assemblies, in conventions, and in every other meeting whatsoever, the said provincial kings would weary of them. They used moreover to make assaults on, and do violence to, Ireland’s various chieftains: essaying forcibly to occupy their land against them; so that to their ‘friends’ [i.e. allies by bond of blood] and neighbours these needs must make complaint of them.

Through all this, interval it was in Connacht that they were fo.r the longest period, and until in attacking western Connacht they on the one day slew the king of Umhall and the king of Partraighe [baronies of the Owles and of Partry, county Mayo], so that they [of Connacht] drove them across Luan’s Ford [Athlone] westwards into Meath; there they sat down in the centre of Delvin. Delvin and Westmeath came at them and harried them; but they had done no more than barely to knock up bothies [in which to camp together] in one place when the Dartraighe caught them in the middle of the plain of Durrow [in the King’s county]. Here they fought out a stubborn and a hardy battle, until they of Delvin with Westmeath were routed and a vast ‘red slaughter’ was executed on them. Then the Dartraighe returned and made peace with Connacht; [which done] they seized both the Delvins [two baronies in Westmeath] forcibly for three half years. Thence again they came to the fir ceall [barony of Fircall, King’s county], with whom for a spell and for a space of time they strove for their land; whereupon Fircall, and the Delvins, and the men of Meath, gathered together to the Dartraighe and devastated them all but utterly. The Dartraighe overhauled them in the rear of their cattle [as they drove them], and upon fán na neach, which to-day is called fán an ghribaigh, they fought a battle. The Delvins and Fircall were defeated there, great carnage was inflicted on them, and they abandoned the Dartraige kine. Now the Dartraigke had a poet there, and he made a lay:--

A fight victorious ye have fought...

Here ends the Life of Molasius.


Silva Gadelica (I-XXXI). ed. Standish Hayes O'Grady. Reprint of the 1892 ed. New York, Lemma Pub. Corp., 1970.

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