Ancient Irish Women in Mythology


Grainne was the daughter of Cormac Mac Art, the High King of Ireland and lived at Tara. She was promised in marriage to Finn Mac Cumhal, the Fianna’s commander. On the night before the wedding, Grainne decided ” to play the field” because she was not really interested in the elderly Finn Mac Cumhal. She made a proposition to Finn’s son, Oisin, who rejected her proposal indignantly.
Then, she turned to a young warrior, Diarmuid, whom she persuaded to elope with her. Being a honourable man, he at first refused to get romantically involved, but she tricked him with a geis (a magic spell), which gave him no choice but to give in to her desires and he rapt her.
Thus, the pursuit of Diarmuid and Grainne by Finn began. At first, Diarmuid avoided the advances of Grainne because he wanted to be loyal to Finn, but over a period of a number of years Grainne used all her powers and finally seduced him. Diarmuid was now well and truly under the ‘spell’ of this capricious and wilful woman and, in time, grew to love her.
During these years, Finn had become extremely angry and increased his efforts in an attempt to find the lovers. His pursuit continued for sixteen years until Oengus, the love god, interceded. A peace treaty was agreed and Finn came to dine in Diarmuid’s fortress. The following day, they went hunting. To ensure a fair fight during the hunt, Diarmuid had to break a geis (a spell bestowed on him by his foster father) making him invulnerable and he was wounded by a magic boar. Finn could have saved him but he chose not to do so, instead he watched as Diarmuid was gored to death by the boar.
At first, Grainne asked her sons to seek vengeance on Finn, but later relented. Having changed her mind, she asked for a meeting with Finn instead. Finn agreed to the meeting and they fell in love. Grainne went back to live with him at his fortress but Finn’s warrior’s refused to have anything to do with her, they had no respect for Grainne and said that they would not exchange even one of Diarmuid’s fingers for twenty of Grainne’s fingers. 



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