Welcome to the Order of the Sacred Star! This Pagan/Wiccan group, based in Winnipeg, Canada, is committed to teaching the Craft to all those who wish to learn. Our goal is to provide a complete and fulfulling learning experience. Our public classes are offered through the Winnipeg Pagan Teaching Circle.

Friday, August 17, 2012

The Mythology of Ancient Ireland — The Fiana

The fiana were roving war bands that served the kings of Ireland in approximately the 3rd century C.E. around the time of the Fenian Cycle. The fiana were soldiers in times of war, but served as national police during times of peace; they were poets and romantics at all times. When they weren’t protecting the realm from its enemies, they prevented robberies, collected tributes and fines, and generally handled anything that might adversely affect Ireland.

There is a great deal of evidence to suggest that tales of the fiana were a part of popular tradition in Ireland through the 11th century. Their stories of honor, law, and loyalty were considered to be essential to the welfare of the community. Even after this time, they were studied in fairy tales as the ideal warriors.

How Did Candidates Enter the Fiana?

It was not easy for anyone to join the fiana. The tests were incredibly difficult and varied, and few people could meet these requirements today. Some of these legendary tests included:
  • All candidates had to master the twelve books of Irish poetry before he could be considered.
  • Standing in a trench the depth of his knee, the candidate must protect himself with only a shield and staff from nine warriors, who will be casting javelins at him.
  • With only a head start of a single tree, the candidate must escape from his pursuers in a thick wood, and must remain unwounded.
  • During this flight, he must be so quick and agile that not even a single braid of his hair is loosened by a hanging branch, and he must break no withered branch upon the ground.
  • The candidate, during his flight, must bound over branches the height of his forehead and crawl under branches the height of his knee. He must do this with all speed, and without leaving a trembling branch behind.
  • In facing the greatest odds, he must stand firm, and his weapon must not shake in his hand.
Whether these requirements were true, or whether time has exaggerated them, we may never know. Regardless, the legendary fiana were certainly well qualified and well trained.

What Were the Duties of the Fiana?

For the most part, the fiana served their king. They carried out the tasks set before them by their leader, and they did so as a well formed and cohesive group. There were also four restrictions, sometimes called geasas that were placed upon each candidate once they passed all the tests of the fiana. These were:
  • He shall marry his wife for her manners and her virtues, not for any wealth she might possess.
  • He shall be gentle with all women, no matter her station.
  • He shall never keep for himself that which another needs.
  • He shall stand and fight against all odds, as far as nine to one.
These were considered the most basic principles of the fiana. They were to life their lives in honor and love, and to never waver from their purpose.

The life of a fiana might have seemed difficult to some, but it had its rewards. They were a close nit family of brothers, and they faced adventure and danger together, and so they enjoyed the rewards of such a life as one single entity.

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