Celtic mythology, daughter of Conchobar's bard, Fedelmir. Her name means danger and before her conception, it was foretold that she would bring ruin to a king. Raised by Leborcham the magician, she saw Naoise and swore to have him as her husband. Because she was the betrothed of Conchobar, Naoise refused and she bespelled him. Naoise was killed by Eogan and Conchobar gave her to Eogan. She threw herself from a chariot and died.

Also know as Deirdre of the Sorrows

The most tragic heroine in all of Irish legend, Deirdre was the most beautiful woman in the world, and one who bore the curse that only sorrow would come from her beauty. The warriors of the Irish north, on hearing the prophecy at her birth demanded her death. But the Ulster king Conchobar, pitying her, sent her into exile.

As she grew into the lovely woman prophecy had foreseen, Deirdre lived happily enough in her exile. One day, though, she saw blood on the snowy ground and a raven nearby. Instantly she remembered a dream she had, of a young man with the same coloring: black hair, white skin, and red lips. She sank into depression until her nurse Lavercam told her of Naoise, who lived with his brothers Ardan and Ainle, nearby. Lavercam arranged a secret meeting, and Deirdre, literally seeing the man of her dreams, demanded that he free her from her woodland exile.

They fled to Scotland, where they took refuge with a noble family. But Deirdre attracted the attention of the king, who laid plans to steal her from her lover. To avoid this, Deirdre and Naoisse, together with his brothers, fled to the coast. There they lived a rugged but happy life, until rumor reached them that Conchobar would welcome them back into Ireland. But the rumor had been deliberately planted; the king, angry at having his captive run away, wanted her back for evil purposes.

Deirdre knew by intuition that if they returned to Ireland, tragedy would follow. But Naoise was a proud man, loyal to his king, and he overruled his lover. The party of four sailed across to Ireland while Deirdre continued to see gloomy portents, including a blood red cloud. Naoise and his brothers, however, continued to ignore her warnings.

Alas for them all, Deirdre's premonitions proved correct. Through treachery, Naoise and his brothers were murdered by the warriors of Canchobar; Deirdre herself was taken captive. Submitting to her captures, Deirdre saw that she had one way out. So, as she was being transported to the king in a speedy chariot, she suddenly stood up and let her head smash against a tree.

One of my favorite poems is about Deirdre of the Sorrows. This version of her story is from sometime in the 11th century and the author is unknown. I committed this poem to memory many years ago, but I've long since forgotten in what book I originally read it. I loved this poem so much that, when I was a freshman in college (I was such a silly, romantic girl way back when), I typed the whole poem out and framed it. This it has hung on the wall of every office I have ever worked in since I graduated college.

Deirdre's Lament for the Sons of Usnagh

The lions of the hill are gone,
And I am left alone - alone -
Dig the grave both wide and deep
For I am sick, and fain would sleep!

The falcons of the wood are flown,
And I am left alone - alone -
Dig the grave both deep and wide,
And let us slumber side by side.

The dragons of the rock are sleeping,
Sleep that wakes not for our weeping:
Dig the grave, and make it ready;
Lay me on my true-love's body.

Lay their spears and bucklers bright
By the warrior's sides aright;
Many a day the three before me
On their linked bucklers bore me.

Lay upon the low grave floor,
'Neath each head, the blue claymore;
Many a time the noble three
Reddened these blue blades for me.

Lay the collars, as is meet,
Of their greyhounds at their feet;
Many a time for me have they
Brought the tall red deer to bay.

In the falcon's jesses throw
Hook and arrow, line and bow;
Never again by stream or plain
Shall the gentle woodsmen go.

Sweet companions ye were ever -
Harsh to me, your sister, never;
Woods and wilds and misty valleys
Were, with you, as good's a palace.

Oh! to hear my true love singing,
Sweet as sound of trumpets ringing:
Like the sway of ocean swelling
Rolled his deep voice round our dwelling.

Oh! to hear the echoes pealing
Round our green and fairy sheeling,
When the three, with soaring chorus,
Passed the silent skylark o'er us.

Echo, now sleep, morn and even -
Lark, alone enchant the heaven! -
Arden's lips are scant of breath,
Neesa's tongue is cold in death.

Stag, exult on glen and mountain -
Salmon, leap from loch to fountain -
Heron, in the free air warm ye -
Usnagh's sons no more will harm ye!

Erin's stay no more you are,
Rulers of the ridge of war;
Never more 'twill be your fate
To keep the beam of battle straight.

Woe is me! by fraud and wrong -
Traitors false and tyrants strong -
Fell Clan Usnagh, bought and sold,
For Barach's feast and Conor's gold!

Woe to Eman, roof and wall! -
Woe to Red Branch, hearth and hall! -
Tenfold woe and black dishonor
To the foul and false Clan Conor!

Dig the grave both wide and deep,
Sick I am, and fain would sleep!
Dig the grave and make it ready,
Lay me on my true love's body!

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