The Rock of the Candle
Irish and Celtic myths and legends, Irish folklore and Irish fairy tales from the Fenian Cycle
An ancient monster does battle with the Fianna, in The Rock of the Candle
Close by where Limerick city stands today lie the ruins of an ancient and once mighty fortress called Carrigogunnel, which commanded all the lands about with a stern hand. It was known then as a place of ill omen, and it is known today as the same, for it was once the home of an uncanny hag by the name of Gráinne.
Amid the surrounding marshes and binding briar she dwelt on her rock, enormous in size and frightful of countenance, with greenish skin and long hooked fingers ending in iron talons, a nose as bent as a blackthorn tree and almost as long, hair like pond weeds hanging lank and bristles upon her chin. Most unsavoury of all were her black and glistening eyes, for it was said they could see times to come and help her hatch schemes to cause misery.
There wasn't much this old hag loved, but what she did love above all other things was to cause death untimely. She had in her hovel a candle she had made from the whispered lies of spiders and midnight oozings, a twisted thing of woven hair from a drowned banshee and rushes from a ditch over which a Pooka had leaped three times, set in the misty breath of old fairy mounds on Samhain night cupped in the skull of a man betrayed by his kin.
She didn't think it hard work or any difficulty at all to put that candle atop her rock every night when she knew someone was coming along the road below, and should they chance to glance up and see her candle, death would come for them before the morning sun rose!
The number of victims grew too great to count, and before long the land about was desolate and bereft of people, as the dark legend of the Rock of the Candle spread far and wide.
So it should be no surprise then that word of this mischief-working should reach the ears of none other than Fionn Mac Cumhaill, the greatest hero of that age, and his band of heroes, the Fianna!
These famed warriors of Eireann were known throughout the land and throughout the world beyond as well, for their fame had travelled with the ragged remnants of the armies of those who had sought to conquer Ireland.
Avengers of the weak and protectors of the innocent, death-dealing was in their weapons, mighty and keen-edged. Long lived the maimings and brutal the injuries suffered by those who stood against the bright Fianna, foe-like and with hearts brimming with fell-handed fury.
Grimly Fionn heard the petitions of the weeping sisters and daughters of those slain by the hag, and ever colder grew his eye to see the bereft brothers and sons of the dead before him. When he'd heard enough, he raised his voice and told Regan to go forth and put an end to it.
Before he left, Regan was given a cap enchanted by the druid Kuno of Lochlainn, and told he'd know what to do with it when the time was right.
Regan made haste to the west where the Rock lay, and kept his head low for he knew the candle would light with the stars, and should he glance up or happen to look in that direction, the charmed cap would slip down over his eyes, protecting him from certain doom.
Steep was the rock and jagged its edges, but so swift and sure was his climb, even by darkness, that the hag never saw or heard him coming until he'd seized the candle in his two hands and hurled it with all his might into the river Shannon, which doused its baleful light in a hissing of hellish green steam forevermore!
Up from his head popped the charmed cap, and he saw the hag bearing down on him like an infernal wave, stooped over and yet taller than himself, ready to throw him in after the candle! Well, he bent his spear and sprang up from that rock a great distance, too far for the hag to follow. Instead she bent and tore up a huge lump of rock and hurled it after Regan so hard that she near broke her own arms in the throwing.
The great boulder fell short, for none could beat Regan's leap, and he triumphantly returned to Fionn with his news. The hag was baffled in her fury and was never heard from again, but the rock she cast lies still nearby, and the deep gouges her iron-hard fingers cut in it can still be see to this very day! And I'll tell you, not forty men could lift that rock together, called Clough a Regán.
The Rock of the Candle is marked on the map below, should you fancy a visit.
We now have an amazing Patreon page as well, where you can listen to the many myths and legends on the Emerald Isle! Exclusive to our Patreon, you can now hear stories of ancient Ireland, folklore and fairy tales and more, all professionally narrated. It's at times like these that it's most important to support artists and creative people whose income might be reduced, so if you'd like to support the work that goes into Emerald Isle, the Patreon can be found here: https://www.patreon.com/emeraldisle
More Legends from the Fenian Cycle
One day Fionn Mac Cumhaill, doughty hero of Ireland, and his friends Goll, Cialta and Oscar, as well as others of the Fianna, were resting after the hunt on a certain long hill now known by a different name. Their meal was being made ready, when what should happen only a girl of the kin of the giants came striding up and sat down among them, a grea ... [more]
Something which often appears in the most ancient tales of Ireland is the grisly vision of heads which speak after being separated from their bodies! This was said to be an art of the druids inherited from the necromancy of the Dé Danann, who were themselves said to be able to raise a whole army from the grave to fight again day after day! ... [more]
There once was a young fellow called Conall, and he lived with his parents in the east of the country. They lived a quiet life, catching fish and digging up oysters for meat and lamps, but one dark day the Fomors came and demanded tribute. Having none to give, his father bid the sea demons begone, but instead they made to take himself and his famil ... [more]
Young Fionn Mac Cumhaill was out walking with his dog Bran one fine morning, and he happened to pass into a deep and thick dark wood of the kind that once covered all of Ireland, for the hunting was better there, when what did he come across but a thousand horses hauling timber and men chopping down the trees and preparing the logs. "What a ... [more]
There was a mighty warrior in the west of Eriu, and Cumhal Mac Art was his name. Feared was his axe and he could skewer two men with a single cast of his feathered war-dart, and yet for all that he lived a lonely life, and a life of fear – for it had been foretold that should he ever marry, he would die in battle the very next day! But all ... [more]
It was in the day of Fionn Mac Cumhaill when he was an old man, yet still hale and hearty, that one of his warriors, whose name was Diarmaid son of Donn and grandson of Duibne, had carried off his young bride-to-be, Gráinne daughter of Cormac! The two had fallen in love and Gráinne, for all of Fionn's fame, wanted nothing to do wi ... [more]
One warm summer's day Fionn and his men were out hunting through the darkling forests of Ballachgowan in Munster, chasing deer and boar through the gloomy glades, when they stopped short all of a sudden and came face to face with a startling sight! For what had stepped between them and their prey but a strange, damp giant of a man. Black wer ... [more]
Fionn Mac Cumhaill stood at the door of his hunting lodge with his fists on his hips, his heart sinking as he realised his intentions to hunt for deer this day were lost in the waves of mist and fog that had rolled in from Dublin bay, although at that time it was known by a different name. It had come as far inland as Gleann na Smol, the Glen of th ... [more]
When Fionn Mac Cumhaill became leader of the Fianna, the fiercest and most warlike of those bands of heroes who lived in the wild places, hunting and acting as champions for their kings, and defending Ireland from evil, he decided that he wished to have only the best warriors to follow him. So he sat down and sucked his thumb to taste the wisdom ... [more]
Close by where Limerick city stands today lie the ruins of an ancient and once mighty fortress called Carrigogunnel, which commanded all the lands about with a stern hand. It was known then as a place of ill omen, and it is known today as the same, for it was once the home of an uncanny hag by the name of Gráinne. Amid the surrounding mar ... [more]
A dark horde of fell-handed warriors approached Ireland, sails gathered off the coast like storm clouds, billowing out in the gusts of uncertain wind, while oars bent to the rolling thunder of drums. Fierce indeed was the host of King Colgan, master of Lochlainn, and he came to make war on Cormac Mac Airt, High King of Ireland! As soon as Fionn ... [more]
Diarmuid the Fair, son of Donn or Duibhne of the Tuatha De Danann was one of the Fianna, the great warriors of ancient Ireland who protected the land from dangers near and far. It was said that no woman could resist his gaze, for he'd been granted the blessing of comeliness by the Ghost Queen Morrigan after he helped her out of a spot of bother ... [more]
Fionn Mac Cumhaill and the rest of the Fianna were resting after a great battle, weary and sore with sorrow at the loss of their fellows, when they spied coming along the shores of Loch Lein in County Kerry a beautiful young woman riding a swift horse, so swift indeed that its hooves scarcely seemed to touch the ground! Now although the women of ... [more]
Now it is known by some that the fairies of Ireland weren't much like the fairies we hear about in these latter days, harmless things of mischief and frolic, but were instead respected and often feared, for their anger was quick and their kindness was whimsical. Some would join men in battle, and some would make war on men, others were omens of ... [more]
It was a fine brisk spring morning in Ireland when Fionn Mac Cumhaill decided to take himself for a stroll along the white sandy beaches of the seashore, the better to breathe the air and enjoy the simple pleasures life had to offer. But that morning, life had more to offer and it didn't look pleasant, for it was a giant bearing down on the bea ... [more]
Fionn MacCumhaill was well known as a fair and handsome man, but his most distinguishing feature was his grey hair - and he was not born with it! Fionn was one time out on the green of Almhuin, and he saw what had the appearance of a grey fawn running across the plain. He called and whistled to his hounds then, but neither hound nor man heard hi ... [more]
After his seven years of training with the poet Finegas were done, Fionn Mac Cumhaill took himself from the river Boyne to the great hall of the High King in Tara, Conn of the Hundred Battles, to present himself there as a member of the Fianna, the very best of the best warriors throughout Ireland. Announcing himself, Conn took him into the band an ... [more]
Here is the story of how Fionn MacCumhaill gained the knowledge of the world. And wouldn't it be a great thing to know it all? Still, knowledge and wisdom must be balanced, and this was known to the young man called Fionn, which means fair and bright. He was fleeing from the warriors who had murdered his father when he came upon the hiding plac ... [more]