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Irish Myths and Legends

Sadhbh, the Mother of Oisín who was
Cursed by a Dark Druid


note: Sadbh is pronounce 'sigh-ve'. Fionn is pronounced 'fyun'. Oisín is pronounced 'ush-een'.

Sadhbh was the mother of Oisín, famed for his journey to Tir na nÓg, the land of eternal youth.

As a young woman Sadhbh had refused the advances of the Druid Fer Doirich (or 'Fear Doirche', meaning 'dark man') who was Druid to the Tuatha Dé Danann. Outraged by her refusal the Druid cast her into the form of a young deer, a doe, in which form she remained for more than three years.

Taking pity on her, one of the men of the Dark Druid told her that if she entered a castle or home of the Fianna then the spell of the Druid would be broken.

Sadhbh heeded his advice and escaped, eventually arriving at Almhuin (the Hill of Almu), the home of no less a legendary figure than Fionn MaCumhaill. When Fionn arrived home he observed the young doe and expected his hounds, Bran and Sceolan, to attack it. But they did not. For they too were human creatures that had been transformed into animal form and instead they approached the deer, protecting it.

Suddenly Sadhbh was transformed back into the beautiful woman she once was. Instantly Fionn fell in love and the couple were soon united in marriage. There was further joy for Fionn when his wife informed him that she was with child, but alas it is at this point that the Dark Druid once again cursed her life. For he had never stopped searching for Sadhbh and when he learned of her location he awaited his chance.

It was not long before Fionn had occasion to leave his home, as, since he was a man of the Fianna, he was expected to lead his warriors in battle. As soon as he left his dún (fort or castle) the Druid cast a false image of Fionn outside it in the hope that he could draw Sadhbh outside where his powers would again hold sway.

His trickery worked. Thinking she was greeting her husband Sadhbh ran from the dún only to be again transformed instantly by Fer Doirich back into the form of a young deer once more.

Fionn returned to find his wife missing. He was distraught and searched the lands of Ireland for more than seven years. Nearing despair he eventually found a young boy wandering on the stunning mountain, Benbulbin, and who had been living wild in the forests and mountains. His hounds, Bran and Sceolan, quickly approached and protected the boy.

Realizing that he had seen this scene before Fionn looked deep into the young face of this wild human creature and recognized the features of his missing wife. Amazingly he had now found his son that had somehow been born in human form.

He named him Oisín, who went on to become one of the greatest of all of the Fianna.

Sadhbh was never found, with legend having it that she still to this very day wanders the forests of Ireland, in the form that the Dark Druid of the Tuatha Dé Danann commanded.

Seemingly cursed for all time.

Alternative forms of the name Sadhbh: Sive, Sadb, Saibh, Saeve, Sadbh, Saba.
The town Cahersiveen in County Kerry roughly translates as 'The Fortress of Little Sadhbh'

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