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Irish Myths and Legends

Fintan MacBochra: The Shape-Shifting First Man in Ireland


Fintan MacBochra
In the legends of old Irish mythology Fintan MacBochra was renowned as being the first man in Ireland.

He travelled with the granddaughter of Noah, named Cesair (pronounced 'sesser'), who escaped at the time of the great flood. Cesair had been refused entry onto the Ark by her grandfather and so decided to create three Arks of her own to escape the impending deluge.

When Cesair was but ten years old her foster father, a priest in Egypt, told her to gather together a group and set out in order to escape the flood that was to soon follow. She built a fleet of three ships which she populated with as many capable women as she could find, each of whom possessed a different skill. When her own father Bith was refused entry onto the Ark, along with Fintan MacBochra and Ladra, Cesair offered to bring these three men to safety as long as they acknowledged her leadership!

They set sail for the land of destiny known as 'Inis Fail', meaning Ireland. They hoped that since Ireland was as yet unpopulated by any man that no sin could have ever been committed there, and so that place would be safe from the flood sent to cleanse the world of all evil.

Their incredible journey was very perilous and took seven years but finally they arrived in Ireland. It was the year 2361 BC according to 'The Annals of the Four Masters', but only one ship had survived the epic journey, this containing fifty women and three men. Among the survivors was Fintan MacBochra.

They decided to divide the women into three groups, each group to take one of the men to populate this new land. They also divided up the sheep they had brought with them (the first sheep to come to Ireland). Cesair allocated herself to Fintan's group. Banba, a great warrior woman, was the leader of Ladra's group.

This was a fantastic burden that had been placed onto these beleaguered men!

And when both of his male companions died it was left to Fintan to populate the new island alone, with the fifty women for he was now responsible. Faced with such a huge task he did what could be expected. He fled!

Fintan traveled deep into the Irish forests and hid out in a mountain cave in Tul Tuinne, near the River Shannon in Tipperary. When the flood eventually struck he took the form of a salmon fish, and then a hawk, surviving in Ireland for over five thousand years.

Cesair was broken-hearted at having been abandoned by her great love and died shortly afterwards. As for the remaining women they were all washed away in the flood, all apart from Banba. Legend recalls that Banba and Fintan, the only two to survive, later gave existence to the mysterious and supernatural Formorians.

By this time Fintan had developed the gift of 'shape-shifting' and was easily able to transform from one creature to the next. It is said that he gained much of his wisdom by being able to communicate with animals, and especially by taking their physical form.

Fintan means 'the wise' and Bochra means 'the sea', so the connection that Fintan had with the great oceans is paramount, and he may have even been a son of the seas.

Such was his longevity that he observed much of the history and events of old Ireland unfold before him. He thus became very knowledgable of the ways of mankind. He was a bard of the ages, a sage, a seer, a person of magnificent knowledge and wisdom.

He advised the Kings of Ireland. He helped the Firbolg King Eochaid Mac Eirc when the Tuatha de Dannan attacked and also fought in the first battle of Moytura.

It was not until the advent of Saint Patrick and Christianity in Ireland that Fintan departed this mortal realm.

Fintan MacBochra: the shape-shifting first man of Ireland!



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