A poem from the Duanaire Finn, ‘The Poem-Book of Finn’. There’s a huge amount of interest in these poems, not least this one here, which describes the magical crane-bag of Manannán: Aoife, the daughter of Delbaeth, had been turned into a crane by the jealous Iuchra, and she went to live in Manannán’s household until she died. Manannán made the magical bag out of her skin, and it held many things and passed through many hands – some of which are detailed below.
The poem is not complete, but illuminating nonetheless.
I have a question for thee, Caoilte, man of the interchanged weapons: to whom did the good Crane-bag belong that Cumhall son of Treanmhor had?
A crane that belonged to gentle Manannan — it was a treasure of power with many virtues — from its skin, strange thing to prize — from it was made the Crane-bag.
Tell us what was the crane, my Caoilte of many exploits, or, tell us, man, why its skin was put about the treasures.
Aoife, daughter of dear Dealbhaoth, sweetheart of Ilbhreac of many beauties — both she and luchra of comely hue fell in love with the man.
luchra, enraged, beguiled Aoife to come swimming, it was no happy visit: when she drove her fiercely forth in the form of a crane over the moorlands.
Aoife then demanded of the beautiful daughter of Abhartach: ‘How long am I to be in this form, woman, beautiful breast-white luchra?’
‘The term I will fix will not be short for thee, Aoife of the slow-glancing eyes: thou shalt be two hundred white years in the noble house of Manannan.
‘Thou shalt be always in that house with everyone mocking thee, a crane that does not visit every land: thou shalt not reach any land.
‘A good vessel of treasures will be made of thy skin — no small event: its name shall be — I do not lie — in distant times the Crane-bag.’
Manannan made this of the skin when she died: afterwards in truth it held every precious thing he had.
The shirt of Manannan and his knife, and Goibhne’s girdle, altogether: a smith’s hook from the fierce man: were treasures that the Crane-bag held.
The King of Scotland’s shears full sure, and the King of Lochlainn’s helmet, these were in it to be told of, and the bones of Asal’s swine.
A girdle of the great whale’s back was in the shapely Crane-bag: I will tell thee without harm, it used to be carried in it.
When the sea was full, its treasures were visible in its middle: when the fierce sea was in ebb, the Crane-bag in turn was empty.
There thou hast it, noble Oisin, how this thing itself was made: and now I shall tell its faring, its happenings.
Long time the Crane-bag belonged to heroic Lugh Long-arm: till at last the king was slain by the sons of Cearmaid Honey-mouth.
To them next the Crane-bag belonged after him, till the three, though active, fell by the great sons of Mile.
Manannan came without weariness, carried off the Crane-bag again; he showed it to no man till the time of Conaire came.
Comely Conaire slept on the side of Tara of the plains: when the cunning well-made man awoke, the Crane-bag was found about his neck. Etc.
MacNeill, Duanaire Finn: The Book of the Lays of Finn, 1908, pp118-120.