~ Illumination Tales ~
I would like to introduce you to Finn mac Cumhaill. You may have heard of his name before, perhaps in a book of Irish fairy tales, mayhap in the voice of the wind atop a craggy cliffside, or was it in the whisper of a foam white sea wave? Maybe you heard myself telling tales of Finn, maybe your namesake is Finn... Whatever the case may be, Finn mac Cumhaill is a very complex and fascinating figure among the gargantuan corpus of Irish lore. Part God, part hero, part man, part giant, part trickster, part historical, part mythical and yes, part poet and seer.
Illumination Tales is a story and song cycle I have written based on Finn and his archaic appendage, the thumb of knowledge. This knowledge thumb crops up in Welsh and Icelandic sagas too, yet the earliest conception occurs in the Fenian branch of Irish mythology wherein Finn mac Cumhaill unwittingly acquires the universal wisdom of enlightenment and poetic inspiration. Finn thusly becomes elevated above the mundane level of society into the liminal, numinous realm of the Gods.
Finn possessed what are the three qualifications of becoming a poet in ancient Ireland. Dichetal di Chennaib, Teinm Laida and Imbas Forosnai. These are the esoteric means by which inspired poets would utilize the full range of their mantic powers. Satire, curse, prophecy, vision, divination, enchantment and revelation; the sacred voice of the Irish poet was both feared and revered. Finn was no exception to this rule.
Regarding the universal wisdom of his complete and total enlightenment, I’ll let Finn have a say now,
Woe be to anyone who has nothing more to learn and nowhere else to grow. For to always know and never guess? That is the lonely road of unhappiness. The broad road there which has no end. This road I choose instead.
The thumb of knowledge tales revolving around Finn mac Cumhaill are found surviving in a scant few precious lines of text housed in rare and extremely treasured manuscripts. These stories only offer a tantalizing glimmer of what the 'whole' must have contained. A fleeting bit of dialogue here, an obscure topographical reference there and then a hopeful fragment cut off mid-sentence. In my own rendering of these stories, I have endeavored to find that missing 'whole' and breathe new life into the dusty vellum of antiquity. When reaching back to the roots of these myths, I have opened a door to a landscape shrouded in what I call,
The terrific and terrifying mysteries.
The Illumination Tales film series began in May 2020 to offer a glimpse into the world of Finn mac Cumhaill and the traditions of storytelling surrounding him. Throughout these films we will get a chance to understand Finn a bit better and meet some of his friends along the way. We will hear his poetry come alive with harp strings and vocal intonations. We will gain admission into the fairy fort of his enemy, Culdub mac Dein. We will witness his unabashed love for the wilderness of Ireland where he makes his home. We will see him both young and old and decide for ourselves which is the wiser of the two.
*Forthcoming book/CD publication~ The full published recording of Illumination Tales will take place at three sacred sites in Ireland, the hill of Almu in county KIldare, the bend in the Boyne near Brú na Bóinne in county Meath and sid ar femin atop Slievenamon in county Tipperary. This recording will hopefully commence in the Spring of 2021 pending travel restrictions.
*Illumination Tales is intended to be a three-part series, with part one focused on the Irish lore of Finn mac Cumhaill, part two on the Welsh Bardic mysteries of Taliesin and part three on the Icelandic legends of Sigurd. Stay Tuned!