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Ben Bulben

Legendary home of the Irish third century warriors known as the Fianna, Ben Bulben (or Benbulben, Benbulbin, Binn Ghulbain) is a large glacial rock formation in the Darty Mountains.

Ben Bulben is said to be the final resting place of Gráinne (daughter of Cormac mac Airt, High King of Ireland )and Diarmuid. The folk tale The Pursuit of Diarmuid and Gráinne (17th century), details the elopement of Gráinne with Diarmuid Ua Duibhne who was one of the Fianna. Gráinne was however betrothed to the giant Fionn Mac Cumhaill (or Finn McCool), leader of the Fianna. At the betrothal feast Gráinne first saw Finn and was horrified to see he was older than her father.

When Gráinne saw Diarmuid she became enamoured by the young warrior and decided that being with him was a preferable to marrying Fionn. Unfortunately the wedding plans had developed too far, with tributes having been paid and agreements made. Gráinne relised that breaking that calling the wedding off now would lead to blood shed between the High King and Fionn, but she could not bring herself to marry him.

She put the wedding guests asleep with a potion then asked Diarmuid to leave with her. But Diarmuid was a loyal Fianna warrior and refused to betray Fionn his leader. Left with no other choice she places a geis on Diarmuid, forcing him to elope with her. The couple fled for their lives and were chased over all across Ireland, always hiding and evading Fionn. Along the journey they received aid from Aengus Og, the foster father of Diarmuid who hid Gráinne under a cloak of invisibility on one of the occasions when Fionn got close.

The leader of the Fianna eventually gave up his chase and seemingly putting vengence aside he let Diarmuid and Gráinne settle down with each other. Years passed and Fionn invited Diarmuid to a boar hunt at Ben Bulbin. A phrophesy had informed Diarmuid that he would one day be killed by a boar, but desite the evident danger he attended the hunt and was fatally wounded when an enchanted boar gored him.

Diarmuid had one chance to live, that required Fionn to magically heal him by letting the wounded man drink water from the giants cupped hands. Fionn refused to help. The Fianna begged Fionn to save Diarmuid and still he refused. It was only when Fionn’s grandson Oscar threaten to fight the Fianna leader, that he relenquished and tried to save Diarmuid, though it was too late and the young warrior died.

Ben Bulben is also associated with St Columba. In 561 an argument he was having with St Finnian over the rights to a copied psalter (A volume of the Book of Psalms) led to armed conflict, the Battle of Cúl Dreimhne, when Columba took between 2000 and 3000 troops to Ben Bulben.

County Sligo is sometimes referred to as Yeats Country after the poet and member of the Golden Dawn, William Butler Yeats (born13 June 1865– died 28 January 1939). In his ‘Writings On Irish Folklore, Legend and Myth’ he alludes to the fairies that live on the slopes of Ben Bulben. He also wrote the poem ‘Under Ben Bulben’.

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