The Tale of the Ordeals
And the Decision on Cuchulain's Sword
Once upon a time, a noble illustrious king assumed
soveranty [sic] and sway over Ireland: Cormac grandson of Conn was he. At the time of that king the world was full of every good thing. There were mast and fatness and seaproduce. There were peace and ease and happiness. There was neither murder nor robbery at that season, but every one [abode] in his own proper place.
Once, then, the nobles of the men of Ireland happened to be drinking the Feast of Tara with Cormac. And these are the kings who were enjoying the feast, even Fergus the Black-toothed and Eochaid Gunnat, two kings of Ulster: Dunlang son of Enna the Hero, king of Leinster: Cormac Cas, son of Ailiul Bare-ear, and Fiacha Broad-crown, son of Eogan, two kings of Munster: Nia the Great, son of Lugaid Firtri, who was the son of Cormac’s mother, and Aed son of Eochaid son of Conall, two kings of Connaught: Oengus Bloody-spear king of Bregia: Fera-dach son of Asal son of Conn the Champion, king of Meath.
At that time the men of Ireland used to proceed to assemblies and great meetings in this wise: every king with his royal robe around him and his golden helmet on his head, for they used to wear their kingly diadems only on a field of battle. Splendidly did Cormac enter that great meeting, for excepting Conaire son of Etarscél, or Conchobar son of Cathbad, or Oengus son of the Dagda, his like in beauty had never come. Distinguished, indeed, was Cormac’s appearance in that meeting. Hair-braids slightly curled, all-golden upon him. He bore a red shield with engraving and with mila of gold and bow-ridges of silver. Around him was a mantle purple . . . folded. A jewelled brooch of gold on his breast. A necklace of gold round his throat. Around him was a white-hooded shirt with a red insertion. A girdle of gold with gems of precious stone over him. He wore two golden shoes of network with buckles of gold. In his hand [he carried] two golden-ringed spears with many clasps [?] of bronze. He was, moreover, shapely, fair, without blemish, without disgrace. Thou wouldst deem that a shower of pearls had been cast into his head. Thou wouldst deem that his mouth was a cluster of rowan-berries. Whiter than snow was his nobly-built body. His cheek was like a forest-forcle or a mountain-foxglove. Like blue-bells were his eyes: like the sheen of a dark-blue blade his eyebrows and his eyelashes.
Such then was the shape and semblance in which Cormac fared to that great meeting of the men of Erin, and they say that that convention is the noblest ever held in Erin before the Faith. For the rules and laws which were made in that meeting shall abide in Erin for ever.
The nobles of the men of Erin declared that every man should be arranged according to what was due to himself, both kings and ollaves and fools and landholders and soldiers, and every class besides. For they were sure that the arrangement made in Erin at that meeting by the men of Fodla would be that which would abide therein for ever. For poets alone had judicature from the time that Amairgen Whiteknee the poet delivered the first judgment in Erin till the dialogue, in Emain Macha, of the two Sages, even Fercertne the Poet and Nede son of Adna, concerning the ollave’s robe of office. Obscure to every one seemed the speech which the poets uttered in that discussion, and the legal decision which they delivered was not clear to the kings and to the (other) poets. ‘These men alone’, say the kings, ‘have their judgement and skill and knowledge. In the first place, we do not understand what they say.’ ‘Well then’, says Conor, ‘every one shall have his share therein from today forever. But the judgment which is proper to them out of it shall not pass away[?]. Every one shall take their shares of it’. So the poets were then deprived of their judicial power save only what was proper to them; and each of the men of Erin took his share of the judicature: as there are the Judgments of Eochaid son of Luchta, and the Judgments of Fachtna son of Senchaid, and the Wrong Judgments of Carat-nia Tesctha, and the Judgments of Morann Mac main, and the Judgments of Eogan son of Durthacht, and the Judgments of Doet Nemthenn, and the Judgments of Brig Ambae, and Diancecht’s Judgments concerning Leeches.
And though these had been previously [settled], the nobles of the men of Erin at that time prescribed the measure of advocacy and speech to every one in accordance with his dignity, as they are in the Bretha Nemed.
Howbeit each man again encroached on the other’s profession, until that great meeting was held by Cormac. So in that great meeting they again separated the men of each art from the others; and every one of them was ordained to his own art.
The nobles of the men of Erin were requesting Cormac to ordain his proper right to every one in Tech Midchuarta. This, then, was the solution which Cormac invented, namely, to place on the fire the Five-fist Caldron which was in Tara, - it was a coire aisicain or ansirc - and to put into it swine and beeves, and to sing over it an incantation of lords and poets and wizards.
It was a caldron of this kind that used to be of old in every hostel of the royal hostels of Erin. And this is why it was called coire aisic ‘caldron of restitution’, because it used to return and to deliver to every company their suitable food.
For however long the food might be therein, until the proper company would come, it would in nowise be spoiled. Moreover, no boiled [meat] was found therein save what would supply the company, and the food proper for each would be taken thereout. It was this kind of caldron that Cormac then had at Tara.
Now each in turn was brought up to that caldron, and every one was given a fork-thrust out of it. So then his proper portion came out to each, to wit, a thigh to a king and to a poet, a chine for a literary sage, a shinbone for young lords, heads for charioteers, a haunch for queens, and every due share besides. Wherefore in that assembly his proper due fell to each.
Moreover the Twelve Ordeals were published by them. These are what they had to decide truth and falsehood. And here they are:
Morann [Mac main’s] Three Collars:
Sencha ‘s Lot-casting:
The Vessel of Badurn:
The Three Dark Stones:
The Caldron of Truth:
The Old Lot of Sen son of Aige:
Luchta’ s Iron:
Waiting at an Altar:
Morann Mac Main’s Collar
Morann son of Carpre Cat-head, of the race of the peasants was he. Carpre Cat-head assumed the kingship of Ireland, and he slew all the nobles of Ireland save three boys, namely Corp Bare-ear and Tibraite Tirech and Feradach Findfechtnach, who were carried off in their mothers’ wombs, and were born in Scotland. Now Carpre, Morann’s father, had a cat’s snout, and every son that was born to him used to have a blemish, and so then he killed them. Carpre had a famous wife and of a noble race. She gave him this advice: to hold the Feast of Tara, and to summon to it the men of Em in order that they might make prayer to their gods so that, may be, some profitable children might be given him. He held the Feast, and the men of Ireland were at it till the end of three months; and in each month they all used to fast and to pray a prayer to God that prosperous offspring might be born of Carpre and his wife. And that was done then, in spite of him, because he was a wicked man. So then the wife conceived, and bore a man-child, and it seemed as if he were all one hood [?] from his two shoulders upwards, and no mouth was seen in him, nor any (other) apertures. Said the queen: ‘I have borne a maen [mute]. He is equal [?] to thy other son. [This] is the blessing of the men of Ireland to thee their enemy!’ ‘Take him,’ says Carpre, to his steward, ‘tomorrow to the slough and drown him.’ That night a man of the fairy-mound appeared to the boy’s mother and said to her: ‘It is to the sea that the child must be taken, and let his head be placed on the surface till nine waves come over it. The boy will be noble: he will be king. “Morann” this shall be his name’ (he was mór ‘great’ and he was find ‘fair’).
The steward is summoned to her and she told him this. Then the boy was taken to the sea and is held against the surface. When the ninth wave came to him the membrane that surrounded his head separated and formed a collar on his two shoulders. Thereat he sang a lay and said:
Worship, ye mortals,
God over the beautiful world!
* * * *
* * * *
* * * wherein is a festival with joyance
with my forgiving God,
Who formed about clouds a heavenly house.
Now the steward did not kill the boy, and he durst not take him with him for fear of the king. So he delivered him to the king’s cowherd. He went home and declared that to the king and the queen, and [the king] adjudged that the boy should be killed. The king said of him that maen [treachery] would come of him, even of that boy. Wherefore he, the son of Carpre Cennchait, is called ‘Morann mac main.’ A covering of gold and silver was made round that membrane, and thus it became the ‘Collar of [Morann] Mac main’. If he round whose neck it was put were guilty, it would choke him. If, however, he were innocent, it would expand round him to the ground.
Morann Mac Main's Second Collar
Morann had another collar, namely, a circlet that he had, like a wood en hoop. That circlet he got from Ochamon the Fool on Sid Arfemin. For he sent him into that [fairy-mound], and thereout Ochamon brought that little collar. He saw in the fairy-mound that it was the thing [used] there in distinguishing between truth and falsehood. Now that collar used to be put round the foot or the hand of the person [whose guilt was in question], and if he were false it would close itself round him till it cut off his foot or his hand. But if he were innocent it would not close itself round him.
Morann Mac Main’s Third Collar
Then there was another Sin Morainn ‘Collar of Morann’. Morann of - the Great Judgments went to Paul the Apostle, and brought from him an epistle and wore it round his neck. So when Morann returned from - Paul and went to his fortress he chanced to meet one of his bondmaids at the fortress-gate. Then when she saw the epistle round his neck she asked him: ‘What collar (sin) is that, O Morann?’ ‘Truly,’ says Caimmin the Fool, ‘from today till doom it shall be [called] Morann’s sin’ [collar]. Now when Morann used to deliver judgment he would - put the epistle round his neck, and then he would never utter falsehood.
Namely, an adze of brass which Mochta the Wright possessed. It used to be put into a fire of blackthorn [until it was red-hot], and the tongue [of the accused] was passed over it. He who had falsehood was burnt. He who was innocent was not burnt at all.
That is, a casting of lots which Sencha son of Ailill practised. He used to cast two lots out of fire, one lot for the king and one for the - accused. If the accused were guilty the lot would cleave to his palm. If, however, he were innocent, his lot would come out at once. Thus was that done: a poet’s incantation was recited over them.
The Vessel of Badurn
That is, Badurn the name of a king. Now his wife went to the well, and at the well she saw two women out of the fairy-mounds, and - between them was a chain of bronze. When they beheld the woman - coming towards them they went under the well. So she went after - them under the well, and in the fairy-mound she saw a marvellous ordeal, even a vessel of crystal. If a man should utter three false words under it, it would separate into three [parts] on his hand. If a man should utter three true words under it, it would unite again. Then Badurn’s wife begged that vessel from the folk of the fairy-mound. It was given to her. So that was the vessel which Badurn had for distinguishing between falsehood and truth.
The Three Dark Stones
That is, a bucket was filled with bogstuff and coal and every other kind of black thing, and three stones were put into it, even a white stone and a black stone and a speckled stone. Then one would put his hand therein, and if the truth were with him, he would bring out the white stone. If he were false, he would bring out the black stone. If he were half-guilty, he would bring out the speckled.
The Caldron of Truth
That is, a vessel of silver and gold which they had to distinguish between truth and falsehood. Water was heated therein until it was boiling, and then [the accused person’s] hand was dipt into it. If he were guilty the hand was scalded. But if he had no guilt no harm was done to him. For these are the three things most used by the heathen, to wit, the Caldron of Truth, and Equal Lot-casting, and Waiting at an Altar. Hence has [the practice] still grown with the Gael of casting lots out of reliquaries.
The Old Lot of Sen
That is, the lot-casting of Sen son of Aige, that is, to cast into water three lots, to wit, the lord’s lot and the ollave’s lot and the lot of the accused. If he, the accused, had guilt his lot would sink to the bottom. If, however, he were innocent it would come to the top.
That is, Luchta the wizard went to study in Brittany, and there he saw a strange thing [used] for discerning truth and falsehood, namely, an iron was hallowed by the wizards, and then cast into a fire until it became red, and then it was put on the palm of the accused. Now if guilt were with him the iron used to burn him. But it did him no harm unless he were guilty. Thereafter Luchta told them that it would be needed ‘for us, the men of Erin,’ saith he, ‘to distinguish between truth and falsehood’. Luchta afterwards brought with him his hallowed iron, and it was [used] in distinguishing between truth and falsehood. Hence then [the ordeal of] the hallowed iron is still continually practised by the Gael.
Waiting at an Altar
That is, a proof which they used at that time to distinguish between truth and falsehood, namely, Waiting at an Altar, that is, to go nine times round the altars, and afterwards to drink water over which a wizard’s incantation had been uttered. Now if [the accused] were guilty the token of his sin was manifest upon him. But if he were innocent [the water] would do him no harm. Now Cai Cainbrethach, - the pupil of Fenius Farsaid, the twelfth, or the seventy-second, disciple of the school which Fenius collected from the Greeks in order to learn the many languages throughout the countries of the world, - it was that Cai who brought this ordeal from the land of Israel when he came to the Tuath Déa, and he had learned the law of Moses, and it was he that delivered judgments in the school after it had been gathered - together from every side, and it is he that ordained the ‘Judgment of Cai.’ It was that same Cai, moreover, who first ordained in Erin the Law of the Four Tracks, for only two of the school came to Erin, namely, Amergin White-knee the poet and Cai the judge. And Cai remained in Erin until he had outlived nine generations, in consequence of the righteousness of his judgments, for the judgments which he used to deliver were judgments of the Law of Moses, and therefore the judgments of the Law are very abundant in the Fénechas. They were judgments of the Law [of Moses], then, that served for Cormac.
Cormac’s own Cup, then, was a cup of gold which he had. The way in which it was found was thus:
One day, at dawn in Maytime, Cormac, grandson of Conn, was alone on Mur Tea in Tara. He saw coming towards him a warrior - sedate [?], greyhaired. A purple, fringed mantle around him. A shirt ribbed, goldthreaded next [?] his skin. Two blunt shoes of white bronze between his feet and the earth. A branch of silver with three golden apples on his shoulder. Delight and amusement enough it was to listen to the music made by the branch, for men sore-wounded, or women in child-bed, or folk in sickness would fall asleep at the melody which was made when that branch was shaken.
The warrior saluted Cormac. Cormac saluted him.
‘Whence hast thou come, O warrior?’ says Cormac. ‘From a land,’ he replied, ‘wherein there is nought save truth, and there is neither age nor decay nor gloom nor sadness nor envy nor jealousy nor hatred nor haughtiness.’
‘It is not so with us,’ says Cormac. ‘A question, O warrior: shall we make an alliance?’
‘I am well pleased to make it,’ says the warrior.
Then [their] alliance was made.
‘The branch to me!’ says Cormac.
‘I will give it,’ says the warrior, ‘provided the three boons which I shall ask in Tara be granted to me in return.’
‘They shall be granted,’ says Cormac.
Then the warrior bound [Cormac to his promise], and left the branch, and goes away; and Cormac knew not whither he had gone.
Cormac turned into the palace. The household marvelled at the branch. Cormac shook it at them, and cast them into slumber from that hour to the same time on the following day.
At the end of a year the warrior comes into his meeting and asked of Cormac the consideration for his branch. ‘It shall be given’, says Cormac.
‘I will take [thy daughter] Ailbe today,’ says the warrior.
So he took the girl with him. The women of Tara utter three loud cries after the daughter of the king of Erin. But Cormac shook the branch at them, so that he banished grief from them all and cast them into sleep.
That day month comes the warrior and takes with him Cairpre Lifechair [the son of Cormac]. Weeping and sorrow ceased not in Tara after the boy, and on that night no one therein ate or slept, and they were in grief and in exceeding gloom. But Cormac shook the branch at them, and they parted from [their] sorrow.
The same warrior comes again.
‘What askest thou today?’ says Cormac.
‘Thy wife’, saith he, ‘even Ethne the Longsided, daughter of Dunlang king of Leinster.’
Then he takes away the woman with him.
That thing Cormac endured not. He went after them, and every one then followed Cormac. A great mist was brought upon them in the midst of the plain of the wall. Cormac found himself on a great plain alone. There was a large fortress in the midst of the plain with a wall of bronze around it. In the fortress was a house of white silver, and it was half-thatched with the wings of white birds. A fairy host of horsemen [was] haunting the house, with lapfuls of the wings of white birds in their bosoms to thatch the house. A gust of wind would still come to it, and still the wind would carry away all of it that had been thatched.
Then he sees a man therein kindling a fire, and the thick-boled oak was cast upon it, top and butt. When the man would come again with another oak the burning of the first oak had ended.
Then he sees another fortress, vast and royal, and another wall of bronze around it. There were four houses therein. He entered the fortress. He sees the vast palace with its beams of bronze, its wattling of silver, and its thatch of the wings of white birds.
Then he sees in the garth a shining fountain, with five streams flowing out of it, and the hosts in turn a drinking its water. Nine hazels of Buan grow over the well. The purple hazels drop their nuts into the fountain, and the five salmon which are in the fountain sever them and send their husks floating down the streams. Now the sound of the falling of those streams is more melodious than any music that [men] sing.
He entered the palace. There was one couple inside awaiting him. The warrior’s figure was distinguished owing to the beauty of his shape and the comeliness of his form and the wondrousness of his countenance. The girl along with him, grown-up, yellow-haired, with a golden helmet, was the loveliest of the world’s women. Her feet are washed without being observed. [There was] bathing on the partition without attendance of any one, but the [heated] stones [of themselves went] into and [came] out [of the water].
Cormac bathed himself thereafter.
As they were there after the hour of none they saw a man coming to them into the house. A wood-axe in his right hand, and a log in his left hand, and a pig behind him.
“Tis time to make ready within,’ says the warrior; ‘because a noble guest is here.’
The man struck the pig and killed it. And he cleft his log so that he had thee sets [?] of half-cleavings. The pig is cast into the caldron.
‘It is time for you to turn it,’ says the warrior.
‘That would be useless,’ says the kitchener; ‘for never and never will the pig be boiled until a truth is told for each quarter of it.’
‘Then’, says the warrior, ‘do thou tell us first.’
‘One day,’ says he, ‘when I was going round the land, I found another man’s cows on my land, and I brought them with me into a cattle-pound. The owner of the cows followed me and said that he would give me a reward for letting his cows go free. I gave him his cows. He gave me a pig and an axe and a log, the pig to be killed with the axe every night, and the log to be cleft by it, and there will [then] be enough firewood to boil the pig, and enough for the palace besides. And, moreover, the pig is alive on the morning after, and the log is whole. And from thence till today they are in that wise.
‘True, indeed, is that tale,’ says the warrior.
The pig was turned [in the caldron], and only one quarter of it was found boiled.
‘Let us tell another tale of truth,’ say they.
‘I will tell one,’ says the warrior. ‘Ploughing-time had come. When we desired to plough that field outside, then it was found ploughed, harrowed and sown with wheat. When we desired to reap it, then [the crop] was found stacked in the field. When we desired to draw it into that side out there, it was found in the garth all in one thatched rick. We have been eating it from then till today; but it is no whit greater nor less’.
Then the pig was turned [in the caldron], and another quarter was found to be cooked.
‘It is now my turn,’ says the woman. ‘I have seven cows,’ says she, ‘and seven sheep. The milk of the seven cows is enough for the people of the Land of Promise. From the wool of the seven sheep comes all the clothing they require.’
At this story the third quarter [of the pig] was boiled.
‘It is now thy turn,’ they say to Cormac.
So Cormac related how his wife and his son and his daughter had been taken from him, and how he himself had pursued them until he arrived at yonder house.
So with that the whole pig was boiled.
Then they carve the pig, and his portion is placed before Cormac. ‘I never eat a meal,’ says Cormac, ‘without fifty in my company.’ The warrior sang a burden to him and put him asleep. After this he awoke and saw the fifty warriors, and his son and his wife and his daughter, along with him. Thereupon his spirit was strengthened. Then ale and food were dealt out to them, and they became happy and joyous. A cup of gold was placed in the warrior’s hand. Cormac was marvelling at the cup, for the number of the forms upon it and the strangeness of its workmanship. ‘There is somewhat in it still more strange,’ says the warrior. ‘Let three words of falsehood be spoken under it, and it will break into three: Then let three true declarations be under it, and it unites [?] again as it was before.’ The warrior says under it three words of falsehood, and it breaks into three. ‘It is better to utter truth there,’ says the warrior, ‘for sake of restoring the cup. I make my declaration, O Cormac,’ saith he, ‘that until today neither thy wife nor thy daughter has seen the face of a man since they were taken from thee out of Tara, and that thy son has not seen a woman’s face.’ The cup thereby became whole.
‘Take thy family then,’ says the warrior, ‘and take the Cup that thou mayst have it for discerning between truth and falsehood. And thou shalt have the Branch for music and delight. And on the day that thou shalt die they all will be taken from thee. I am Manannan son of Ler,’ says he, ‘king of the Land of Promise; and to see the Land of Promise was the reason I brought [thee] hither. The host of horsemen which thou beheldest thatching the house are the men of art in Ireland, collecting cattle and wealth which passes away into nothing. The man whom thou sawest kindling the fire is a young lord, and out of his housekeeping he pays for everything he consumes. The fountain which thou sawest, with the five streams out of it, is the Fountain of Knowledge, and the streams are the five senses through the which knowledge is obtained [?]. And no one will have knowledge who drinketh not a draught out of the fountain itself and out of the streams. The folk of many arts are those who drink of them both.’
Now on the morrow morning, when Cormac arose, he found himself on the green of Tara, with his wife and his son and daughter, and having his Branch and his Cup. Now that was afterwards [called] ‘Cormac’s Cup’, and it used to distinguish between truth and falsehood with the Gael. Howbeit, as had been promised him [by Manannan] it remained not after Cormac’s death.
Now rules and laws and duties were ordained at that meeting, and the men of Erin’s councils were determined. Three preeminent assemblies used to be held at that time, namely, the Feast of Tara on Allhallowtide - for that was the Easter of the heathen, and all the men of Erin were at that meeting, helping the king of Erin to hold it - and the Fair of Tailtiu at Lammas, and the Great Meeting of Uisnech on Mayday. Seven years lasted the preparation for the Feast of Tara, and still at the end of seven years then used to be a convention of all the men of Erin at the Feast of Tara, and there they would determine a jubilee, namely, the Rule of Seven Years from one Feast of Tara to another. And he who broke those rules was a mortal enemy and was banished from Ireland, with this exception that manslayings were permissible in these [eight] places, to wit, Sligo Midluachra, the Ford of Fer-Diad, Ath cliath, Belach Gabráin, Ath n-O, Cnám-choill, Conachlaid and the Two Paps of Anu. If it were in one of these places that any man avenged his wrong no retaliation was made upon him.
Then the king of Erin appointed his soldiers over the men of Erin. He appointed thrice fifty royal champions over them to maintain his rule and his discipline and his hunting. He gave the headship of all and the grand-stewardship of Erin to Find grandson of Baiscne.
Afamous deed was also done by Cormac then, namely, the compilation of the Saltair Cormaic. The old men and the historians of the men of Ireland, including Fintan son of Bochra and Fithel the Poet, were gathered together; and [then] the synchronisms and the pedigrees were recorded in writing, and the careers of their kings and princes, and their battles and contests, and their antiquities, from the beginning of the world down to that time. Wherefore this, the Psalter of Tara, is a root and a foundation and a source for Erin’s historians from thence to the present day.
Great, then, and not to be told was Cormac’s control over Erin at that time. The hostages of Erin were in his hand. One of them was Socht son of Fithel, son of Oengus, son of Glangen, son of Sech, son of Socht, son of Fachtna, son of Senchaid, son of Ailill Cestach, son of Rudraige.
Out of the Book of Navan cecinit.
Socht had a wonderful sword, with a hilt of gold and a belt of silver: gilded was its guard, diverse-edged its point (eo). It shone at night like a candle. If its point (rind) were bent back to its hilt it would stretch [back again] like a rapier. It would sever a hair [floating] on water. It would cut off a hair on [a man’s] head, and without touching the skin. It would make two halves of a man, and for a long time one half would not hear or perceive what had befallen the other. Socht said that it was the Hard-headed Steeling, Cúchulainn’s sword. They held this sword to be a tribal bequest [?] both of fathers and grand fathers.
At that time there was a famous steward in Tara, even Dubdrenn son of Urgriu. The steward asked Socht to sell him the sword, and told him that he should have a ration of the same meal as he [Dubdrenn] had every night, and that his family should have, every day, four men’s food in sub-payment for the sword, and the full value thereof, at his own award, after that. ‘No,’ says Socht; ‘I am not competent to sell my father’s treasures while he is alive.’
For a long time they went on thus, Dubdrenn seeking and thinking about the sword. Once upon a time he brought Socht to a special drinking-bout. Then Dubdrenn begged the cupbearer to press wine and mead upon Socht until he became drunk. Thus was it done, so that Socht knew not where he was, and so he fell asleep.
Then the steward takes the sword and went to the king’s brazier, Connu.
‘Art thou able,’ says Dubdrenn, ‘to open the hilt of this sword?’
‘Yea, I am able,’ says the brazier.
Then the brazier sundered the sword, and in the hilt he wrote the steward’s name, even Dubdrenn, and set the sword again [by Socht] as it was before.
So things remained for three months after, and the steward kept on asking for the sword, and he could not [get it] from Socht. At last the steward sued for the sword, and fulfilled all the requirements of the suit, and declared that the sword was his own, and that it had been taken from him. Then Socht pleaded that he himself had a prescriptive title to the sword and its trappings [?] and ornament, and, moreover, that he had an equitable right to it.
Socht went to consult Fithel and to request him to take part in that action, and to bring his father to defend [his claim to] the sword. ‘No,’ says Fithel: ‘act for thyself in thy causes. It is not I who will ever arbitrate for thee, for greatly dost thou put thyself and take thyself [?] in thy causes; and [it is] not to say truth without falsehood. Falsehood is opposed in falsehood . ..
The right is done, and Socht is allowed to prove that the sword is his, and Socht gives the oath that the sword was a family treasure of his, and that it belonged to him.
Said the steward. ‘Well, in sooth, O Cormac: yon oath that Socht has uttered is perjurous.’
‘What proof hast thou’, says Cormac, ‘that the oath is false?’
‘Not hard to say,’ quoth the steward. ‘If the sword is mine, my name stands written therein, covered up and concealed in the hilt of the sword.’
Socht is summoned to Cormac, who told him what had been said. ‘It will be a short story till this is known,’ says Cormac. ‘Let the brazier be summoned to us,’ quoth he. The brazier comes, and breaks open the hilt, and the steward’s name was found written therein. Then a dead thing testified against a living, value being ascribed [?] to the writing.
Said Socht: ‘hear ye this, O men of Erin, and Cormac with you! I acknowledge that this man is the owner of the sword. The property therein, together with its liabilities, passes from me to thee.’
‘I acknowledge,’ says the steward, ‘property therein, together with its liabilities, passes from me to thee.’
Then said Socht: ‘This is the sword that was found in my grandfather’s neck, and till today I never knew who had done that deed. And do thou, O Cormac, pass judgment thereon.’
‘Thy liability,’ says Cormac [to the steward], ‘is greater than [the value of] this [sword].’
Then seven cumals are adjudged by Cormac [as compensation for the slaying of Socht’s grandfather], and also restitution of the sword.
‘I confess’, says the steward, ‘the story of the sword.’ And then he relates the whole tale of it in order, and the brazier tells the same tale concerning the sword. Cormac then levied seven cumals from the steward, and other seven from the brazier. Said Cormac: ‘Mainech etc. This is true’, says Cormac: ‘yon is Cúchulainn’s sword, and by it my grandfather was slain, even Conn the Hundred-battled, by the hand of Tibraite Tirech, king of Ulaid, of whom was said
With a host over valiant bands
Well did he go to Connaught.
Alas that he saw Conn’s blood
On the side of Cúchulainn’s sword!’
With that they, even Cormac and Fithel, decided the case, and it was Cormac that ensnared [Socht], and Cormac obtains by [his] decision the sword as a wergild for Conn. Now neither battle nor combat was ever gained against that sword and against him who held it in his hand. And it is the third best treasure that was in Erin, namely [first], Cormac’s Cup, and [secondly] his Branch, and [thirdly] his Sword.
So that tale is the tale of the Ordeals, and of Cormac’s Adventures in the Land of Promise, and of Cormac’s Sword.
The wise declare that whenever any strange apparition was revealed of old to the royal lords, - as the ghost appeared to Conn, and as the Land of Promise was shown to Cormac, - it was a divine ministration that used to come in that wise, and not a demoniacal ministration. Angels, moreover, would come and help them, for they followed Natural Truth, and they served the commandment of the Law. It was a divine ministration, moreover, that freed the men of Erin at Uisnech from the Great Bardic Company, without leaving it to them.