The Meaning of Myth – Fintan mac Bóchra, the hawk and the flood

In a brand new episode of The Meaning of Myth, Anthony Murphy and Treacy O'Connor discuss the symbol of the hawk from Irish mythology, and how the myth of Fintan mac Bóchra inspired the novel The Cry of the Sebac.

The myth of Fintan mac Bóchra is one that pertains to the survival of wisdom and myth through all the ages and all of the disasters that happen to humans. It comes from the Lebor Gabála, the Book of Invasions, in which the whole history of Ireland is traced as far back as the Biblical flood.

Fintan comes to Ireland with two other men and fifty women, a group led by Cessair, granddaughter of Noah. Cessair was refused a place on the ark, but Noah advised her to sail to Ireland, where no one was living and therefore Ireland would not be subjected to the wrath of God. 

However, the flood covers Ireland and Cessair and all the women, along with two of the men, are drowned. Fintan is the sole survivor. He survives by changing into a salmon, and then an eagle, and finally a hawk, before eventually resuming his own shape.

In the story The Hawk of Achill, he describes the whole history of the world, saying that he has lived for 5,500 years. He has seen all of the great ages of the world and is a seer of great knowledge and wisdom.

In The Settling of the Manor of Tara, he is consulted by the chief priests and poets of Tara who are trying to ascertain why the king is entitled to so much land. Fintan reminds them that they have merely forgotten, reinforcing his status as the figure representing the community's shared mythical and wisdom heritage.

It is Fintan's transformation into a hawk that inspired the novel The Cry of the Sebac (click here for link to Amazon Kindle book). In the book, a boy meets a talking hawk, and is encouraged to undertake a fascinating journey into myth and landscape, where he meets many of the important figures of Irish mythology and legend. This is preparation for a greater destiny. I will say no more, for fear of spoiling it for you.

The overarching theme of Fintan and the hawk is, I think, related to the importance of a community or nation's mythical heritage, the wisdom that emerges from same, and the continuation, propagation and preservation of that wisdom heritage by the poets, seers, shamans, priests or druids of that community.

My books

If you are interested in reading more about Irish myth and its meaning, you might be interested in purchasing signed copies of my books from my secure online store:

Newgrange: Monument to Immortality

Mythical Ireland: New Light on the Ancient Past

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This page was last updated on 23rd July 2018 @ 9:22 AM