Emerald Isle

Balor of the Evil Eye

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

A mighty sorceror king of antediluvian times, Balor of the Evil Eye

In ancient times, even before the Tuatha De Dannan and the Fir Bolg went to war over the green land of Ireland, the land was ruled by a powerful sorcerous race called the Fomors.

Warped and strange they were in appearance, some say dark of skin while others claim they dwelt at the bottom of deep lakes and in the turbulent depths of the ocean's abyss. One thing is for sure though - they levied ruinous taxes and unpleasant duties upon the sons of Nemed, causing many wars until all fled for distant lands!

Their mightiest king was called Balor, Balor of the Evil Eye, son of Buarainech and husband of Cethlenn, Balor of the Mighty Blows whose name meant death. As a child you see he had happened to spy on his father's druids enacting an eldritch rite to lay a plague upon their enemies in communion with powers best left unnamed, and some of the noisome ur-vapours of that spell entered his eye, causing it to swell to a great size and granting it the power of death.

On that same day and by those same druids was prophecised his death also - at the hands of his own grandson! For this reason he locked away his only daughter Ethnea in a strong tower, to thwart the hand of fate.

Balor himself was said to have been a giant of enormous size, perhaps sharing some kinship through arcane or natural means with the Nephilim of old, those swept away by the great flood. So vast was his form and eye that it took four men to lift the lid, as he kept it closed when amongst his own folk.

It was always covered with seven cloaks to keep it cool. When it was needed, he took the cloaks off one by one. At the first, ferns began to wither. At the second, grass began to redden. At the third, wood and trees began to heat up. At the fourth, smoke came out of wood and trees. At the fifth, everything got red hot. At the sixth and seventh, the whole land caught fire. With his eye he is said to have blasted the islands west of Scotland, which remain bleak and haunted to this day.

Even, it was said, his gaze could turn men to stone, a power he demonstrated at the second battle of Moy Tura, still spoken of with fear by the people of Cong in County Mayo!

Now Balor held sway from his fastness on Tory Island, but he travelled abroad to work his will and in his travels he came across the magical white cow with green spots owned by Goibniu the smith. It could fill twenty vessels full of milk and not run dry, and its hooves were set backwards upon its legs to better deceive thieves. The only thing was the cow had a tendency to wander off, and so had to be held by a champion of Ireland each day; for this service the smith forged swords and gave them to the champions.

Balor knew he had to have it, but the smith and his people were fierce and not to be trifled with - more, they worked metals as none other could, so it was as well to stay on their good side. So he made his way to a shoreline nearby. As it happened on that day a man called Cian and his brothers had business with the smith, so while they were inside Cian was left to guard the cow.

Balor worked a wizardry down the whispering wind, causing Cian to fall slowly asleep, then made off with the cow. Well Cian knew the penalty and that was to lay his head upon the anvil-block and receive the axe, but he begged clemency to right the wrong he had done. The smith agreed and so he took counsel with the wise woman Biroge of the Mountain, who spirited him through the watch-winds protecting Tory Island, depositing him there in the heart of Balor's power.

it was a cold and desolate place and the folk there ate meat without cooking it, but Balor, not recognising the victim of his wiles, agreed to give Cian a place to work as a storyteller and stoker of fires. Cian craftily held counsel with Mannannan the master of the oceans by night, and learned from him the arts needed to get into the tower where Balor's daughter was being held - so they held tryst and from her issued three sons!

Balor was filled with a terrible wrath and drowned two of the babes in the ocean, but Cian managed to bring the third to a little boat he had hidden, and fled with fire and storm from the boiling oceans hard at his heels. He delivered the child to Manannan to raise, and the boy then known as Dal Duana, became in time Lugh, king of the Tuatha De Dannan! And from his line was the touch of magic delivered to all of the heroes of Ireland, even unto Cú Chulainn and Fionn.

But that was a tale yet to be told, for as Balor's power grew so did his depredations, until the return of the Fir Bolg and after them the De Dannan to Ireland, where Balor gave battle in Moy Tura and was slain by his grandson Lugh with a fiery stone shot from a sling, a stone that had fallen from the heavens above, or so it was said. In his falling he slew twenty seven of his own men and his head was cut from his shoulders. Where it fell it burned a deep hole in the earth at a place known as Lough na Súil, or the Place of the Eye, which still drains into a deep hole from time to time today.

The place where he fell is marked on the map below.

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