22 May Myths and Legends of Lough Neagh
Lough Neagh Origins
History Meets Mythology, Geology & Cosmology
Lough Neagh has more origin stories than most places. It is the biggest and oldest lake in these islands. It was formed, so one legend goes, after Fionn Mc Cumhaill was chasing a Scottish giant and picked up a lump of earth from the north of Ireland and threw it after him, but it landed in the sea. Depending on where you come from, the lump formed either the Isle of Man or Ailsa Craig, while the hole that was left in the ground became Lough Neagh.
The truth is even more intriguing in that most scientists believe that the great lake formed when the earth’s surface subsided more than 40 million years ago, partly under the weight of the basalt rock above (the basalt formation of the Giant’s Causeway is also attributed to Fionn Mc Cumhaill as he built them as stepping stones to get to Scotland!) and partly because the ground below was undermined when vast quantities of magma were removed during the volcanic era 20-25 million years before. The result was an enormous lake basin, about twice the size of modern Lough Neagh.
The other great myth is of the Lough Neagh is connected to Fionn Mc Cumhaill and ties together cosmology and mythology. Much research on this has been conducted by Prof Mike Baillie of Queens University Belfast in that he raises the question that the Fionn Mc Cumhaill legend could be the record of a brush with a comet. The Isle of Man is named after the god Manannan, which is just another aspect of the Lugh, CuChulainn, Finn, Arthur… deity. Manannan’s symbol is the triskele…the three legged wheel (swastika). It is quite widely acknowledged that the swastika is a comet symbol. So it could mean that Finn is the bright sky god (not a “proper giant”). A bit of the sky god (comet) strikes the earth close to Lough Neagh. It leaves a circular hole in the ground, namely Portmore Lough. Finn, the comet god, passes over catastrophically and leaves a hole in the ground near Lough Neagh. Some “druid” wants to record the event: They give us “the bright god” Finn = comet. They link to Manannan = comet. They link to Man symbol = comet symbol and they tell us there is a hole in the ground filled with a lake and locate it at Lough Neagh
The other great myth is that of the Loch nEachach, the lake of Eochu ( Horsemen ) and the outburst or overflowing of a well. In the medieval Dinsheanchas or Lore of Places, Eochu eloped from Munster with his stepmother, his father’s wife and they stopped for the night near the river Boyne at the tumulus of New Grange, dwelling of the pagan gods, where the god Aengus took offence at their behaviour and killed their pack animals. Aengus then lent them a horse of his own, on condition that when they reached their destination, they would send their horse straight home. Of course, they forgot, and when the horse relieved himself, its urine made a magic well in the ground (did you ever see a horse pee?). This was kept covered, but one night the cover was forgotten and the well overflowed to make Lough Neagh!
And we have not even got into Li Ban yet ! Great origin stories – giants, floods and horsemen – so there was a lot to inspire the founders of Celtic rock – Horslips and Barry Devlin. The name is a spoonerism for The Four Great Horsemen of the Apocalypse which became The Four Poxmen of the Horslypse !!!!
Written by Dr. Liam Campbell