The Hound

CU
The Hound
In human cultures throughout the ages, canines have
been friend and companion to mankind. The Celts are
no exception. In Celtic history, many _a legendary
character has had a canine as faithful guardian or
hunting companion, ranging from the diminutive
Scottish terrier to the great Irish Wolfhound. In some
stories, the hounds are supernatural creatures, such
as the Yell Hounds who accompany Herne in the Wild
Hunt. In others they are protectors of the household,
like the hound of Llewellyn, Prince of Wales, who at
the cost of his own life defended Llewellyn’s infant
son against a marauding wolf.
The hero Finn MacCumhal had two famous hounds,
Bran and Sceolan, who were always loyally at his
side. They were the children of the beautiful Turrean,
a woman who was either Finn’s sister or aunt.
Turrean was transformed into a hound by a jealous
faerie queen of the Sidhe. And, according to some, so
came into being the ?rst Irish Wolfhound. In one tale,
while hunting with Finn, Bran and Sceolan singled
out one deer within a large herd, sensing that it was
of human origin. This deer really was the woman
Sadhb, who when returned to her original beauty in
human form became the wife of Finn and mother to
Oisin. Perhaps the hounds’ own enchanted heritage
enabled them to detect such a kindred spirit, like
their own mother, and thus they refrained from
savaging her. Smart, loyal, faithful, companionable:
the hound is an important member of every family,
and remains man’s (and woman’s!) best friend.
“My life is a waste, and my household like a desert, with
the loss of my hound! He guarded my life and my honour…
a valued servant, my hound, taken from me. He was shield
and shelter for our goods and herds. He guarded all our
beasts, at home or out in the ?elds.” (Culann’s lament for
his hound, from The Tain, translated by Thomas Kinsella
from the Irish epic Téin B6 Cuailnge) ‘
“The Celts were well kIlOW!l for breeding exceptional
hunting dogs of intelligence and skill, and their hounds
were a favorite trade with the Romans, who valued them
greatly.” (Jen Delyth, Celtic Folk Soul, p. 132)

Inspiration of Celtic Horses

Here are some of the stories that inspire the jewelry that I design

 

Since ancient times the Celtic peoples have honored the horse in myth, story and legend. They revered the horse goddess Epona and carved huge figures such as the White Horse of Uffngton into the chalk hills of Britain. The great Iron Age hero CuChulainn drove a chariot drawn by two magical horses, Liath Macha, the Gray of Macha and the Dub Sainglenn, the Black of Saingliu. According to one tale, they were two foals born in the same hour as CuChulainn, and later came to serve as his chariot horses. Such was the affnity between the Gray and the hero, that Liath Macha refused to be harnessed by the charioteer Loeg on the day fated for the passing of CuChulainn. Liath would permit only Cu to harness him’ to the chariot, and he wept tears of red blood, for he knew it was his final day to serve the hero. It was foretold that three kings would perish that day at the hands of CuChulainn’s foes. These were Loeg, king of charioteers, Liath Macha, king of horses, and CuChulainn, king of heroes. Even after being shot with a poisonous spear, Liath Macha first slipped into a magical pool of water, but then returned to guard CuChulainn as he was dying, strapped to a standing stone. The Gray made a final defense with hoof and teeth, and then after laid his head upon the hero’s breast. When at last the hero’s soul had parted from his body, Liath rode on to bid farewell to Emer, CuChulainn’s wife, laying his head on her breast as well. From there we may guess and hope that the noble and loyal Liath Macha returned to the land of the Sidhe, from whence he and the Dub Sainglenn had come, carrying tales of the hero’s valor to be preserved down the ages, even to this day.