Emerald Isle

The Rock of the Candle

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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.


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