Part 9 – Dearg Corra
I found a Book Proposal from 13 years ago, that I had agreed to write before life took a different turn for me – a ‘Who’s Who of Irish Mythology & How to Work with Them’.
I may or may not turn it into a book at some stage…?! But for now it may as well be out in world as sitting on my computer.
WARNING: It’s an unedited old photo of my thoughts and practice 13 years ago. So, be aware.
Placement ~ Fenian Cycle
Pronunciation: Jee-arr-g Korr-ah. Also called Derg Corra.
Dearg Corra will usually only be referred to as a servant of Fionn Mac Cumhaill. This is due to the somewhat strange story about him from an 8th Century text, which seems to be a survival of (or a way of collecting) older stories/references concerning the character.
The story goes that he was Fionn’s servant, and was propositioned by a lover of Fionn’s who had taken a liking to him. When Dearg Corra rejected the woman, she went to the Fenian leader with a story of being raped, and the servant was banished. While hunting in a forest, Fionn later came across “a man on the top of a tree with a blackbird on his right shoulder, and a bright bronze vessel in his left hand, in which was a leaping trout; and a stag was at the foot of the tree.” Fionn didn’t recognise the man as he had hidden himself in a Féth Fiadha (pron. Fay Fee-ah), which is a magical ‘cloak of concealment’, but he could see that the stag was sharing apples with him, the blackbird was sharing nuts with him, and the trout was sharing water from the bronze vessel with him. Fionn then placed his thumb in his mouth to access his own magical seeing ability, and proclaimed the following: “It is Dearg Corra, son of Daighre’s descendant, who is in the tree!” These quotes were given by Kuno Meyer in the Revue Celtique 25.
Alwyn and Brinley Rees “merely mention” the character of Dearg in the context of an enemy of Fionn, who is perhaps a supernatural malevolent burner. They use the fact that he is said to have jumped “to and fro across the cooking hearth” to support this. Dáithí Ó hÓgáin goes into the whole thing in far more detail. His take on the story is that the only way to explain the supernatural elements contained within it, is to view it as a survival of a “cult of some divinity”. He links Dearg Corra to a fire God, giving the word Dearg (which means ‘Red’) as a common enough name for a God in Early Ireland, along with the connection to his ancestor Daighre (pron. Dar-ah, meaning ‘flame’) and attributes his aforementioned fire leaping as symbolic of the flames cooking food. He links the deity to a possible Irish representation of the horned animal God whom the Continental Celts referred to as Cernunnos; a name which will be at least familiar to most modern Witches, Wiccans, and Pagans. The evidence for this is, admittedly, circumstantial. Dearg Corra symbolising the provision of sustenance (his role as a servant, his connection to the cooking of food), his role as protector and sustainer of wild animals as the hunters quarry, his skill at concealing himself from your average prying eye (even Fionn with his Seer’s abilities had a bit of a job in identifying him), and the best surviving example of the Cernunnos figure in all his glory (seen on the inner plates of the Gundestrup Cauldron, now housed in the National Museum, Copenhagen, Denmark) shows him surrounded by animals such as the stag and the fish, among others – all of this does seem to point to the true role of Dearg Corra being more than it initially may appear. Ó hÓgáin also further connects the character (or at least the name) of Dearg with aspects of the God of death, Donn, and with the Dagda; seemingly in the context of more violent deaths and slaughter.
Though there is little concrete evidence for the death connection, it makes sense to me that a God of life would also have a flip side concerned with death, and that a protector of animals who also works for or with a hunter figure such as Fionn, would preside too over the violence and death of the kill. If nothing else, he could make sure it was done right. And as the prevalent horned animal God figure, referred to as Cernunnos by archaeologists, appears to have been quite widespread among the Continental Celts – and indeed, Proinsias MacCana even makes connections with an Indian God form appearing on a seal found at Mohenjodaro; who may be a prototype of Shiva in his aspect as Pashupati, ‘Lord of the Beasts’ – I am not sure it is too far fetched to conclude that there quite possibly was an Irish God who represented the same values and concerns, at some stage in our history. There is certainly, in my experience, a native Irish Being who responds quite happily to the evocation and invocation of Cernunnos or the ‘Horned God’, which I have experienced while working in the Irish landscape.
From a modern magical perspective, Dearg Corra can be seen to be primarily concerned with, or representative of, the following:
- Fire; for cooking, and sustenance.
- Forestry, and forest dwelling wildlife.
- Protection of, and continual provision for, the hunted.
- Concealment, especially from those who have no business with seeing.
- Right conduct of the hunter, honour and respect in the kill.
If you choose to work with Dearg Corra, or indeed, he chooses to work with you, a forest setting would be particularly appropriate. Look for him in the trees, and by the camp fire or cooking pit. The wildlife he sustains could be your guide: especially look to the stag, the blackbird, or the trout to direct you to him. Whether you visit his dwelling places in this world or through connection to the Otherworld, be watchful. Trust in your own ability to see and your power to connect, as Fionn did.
This is the End of This Book Proposal! Thanks for Following the Series 🙂