There is a well-known body of Irish placename lore called the Dindshenchas, which can be found in several different Irish manuscripts. The best known Dindshenchas tales are perhaps the Metrical Dindshenchas, which were translated by Edward Gwynn, and these can be found online in four volumes. There are also prose versions, which Whitley Stokes translated in a further four volumes. The following Dinnshenchas tales are from the lesser-known Edinburgh manuscript, which is dated to the fifteenth century. The selection of tales I’ve chosen relate to several well-known gods of the Irish landscape and also offer slightly different versions of the Dinnshenchas, some of which can only be found in the Edinburgh manuscript.
This tale tells us how Dian Cécht, the famous healer of the Tuatha Dé Danann, formed the plain of Lusmag. It mentions Cath Maige Tuired, ‘The Second Battle of Mag Tured’, where the well is also referred to on pages 95 and 97 of the Stokes translation, but notably not in Elizabeth Gray’s more recent translation, which gives a slightly different version of events. It is thought that the tale is referring to the modern day Lusmagh in County Offaly.
Lusmag, whence is it ?
Not hard (to say). ‘Tis thence that Diancecht brought every herb of healing and grated them on Slainge’s Well in Achad Abla, north-west of Moytura, when there was a battle between the Tuatha De Danann and the Fomorians. Every one of the Tuatha De Danann whom they would lay under that water of herbs would arise smooth and healed of his wounds. Whence Lusmag, “Herb-plain.”
Diancecht brought with him hither
Every herb from precious Lusmag
To the well of the little healths,
North-west of Moytura.
Whitley Stokes, ‘The Edinburgh Dinnshenchas‘, in Folklore IV, 1893, p489-490.