Emerald Isle

The Bodach

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Irish and Celtic myths and legends, Irish folklore and Irish fairy tales from Irish Gods and Monsters

Consort to the Cailleach, a mischevious fellow

Whispered across misty ages from times long gone are stories of the Cailleach, one of the ancient goddesses of the first people to walk in Ireland, queen of the mighty glaciers that once clenched the land in their frozen grip. Many tales are told of the old hag, but fewer speak of her consort, the Bodach!

His name means “the old man” or “the poor farmer”, and it may be that he was father in some manner to the banshees, for his appearance usually foretells death and disaster. Dressed in poor and rustic clothes, maybe chewing a straw with an old hat perched low on his head, the old man looks on with a dark and knowing eye filled with laughter at the doings of mortals, soon to pass.

The Bodach loves to play tricks on people, and especially on children, tricks of a sort that don't usually end well. He comes down chimneys in the form of a shadow and slips through open windows or even thin cracks too narrow for so much as a mouse to get through, poking and irritating people, keeping them awake, but it is said he will not cross salt spread in a hearth or across a threshold.

His name is mentioned in the footrace of the Fianna, when Prince Ironbones of Thessaly challenged the best of the Fianna to beat him in a run from Ben Etair to Munster. Fionn couldn't find their best runner, but while he was searching he came across the Bodach, who agreed to run the race.

Well the Bodach got up late, missing the start of the race entirely, but then overtook Ironbones twice, stopped again to get some blackberries for his lunch, and even ran backwards looking for his lost coat! But when all was said and done he still won the race.

For all his sinister reputation, he was also known as the King of Mag Mell, pronounced Moy Mell, the plain of delights. This was said to be a pleasurable paradise, but it was no afterlife, being reserved for the living, and of them only a select few who were chosen to visit and were bold enough to make the journey.

Here there was no death or hunger, no sickness or suffering, only music, youth, strength, life and all pleasurable pursuits. Mag Mell can be many places and in many times, but it most often appears as a mystical island off the west coast of Ireland.

Beware though should you long for your family and loved ones back in the realms of the mortal, for if you should set but a foot on mundane earth after spending too long in Mag Mell, you may find the weight of every year you have missed landing on your shoulders, and all the heavier for it!

Ben Etain can be seen on the map below.


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