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The Fianna (singular Fian ), also Fianna na hÉireann or Fenier , are wandering warrior groups in medieval Irish literature . The single member of the Fianna is called the fénnid .

Mythology and Etymology

Fianna is the plural of the Irish word fian , which means warband . The Finn Cycle is a wandering group of men without a permanent residence who devote themselves to hunting and sometimes paid warfare. Their most important leader and main hero is Fionn mac Cumhaill (also Finn mac Cumhail), who receives the supreme command after his victory over the demon Aillén .

The respective leader was called rígfhéinnid (about "King of the Fianna"), and this group of warriors is referred to in the Brehon Laws (cf. Brehon Laws ) as men "who were not subject to anyone, landless, but not foreigners". They stood outside of society, were used to defend the freedom of Ireland , and were therefore a good source for stories, e.g. B. on their mastery of the magic of fíth-fáth . This role as the keeper of freedom probably dates back to before the arrival of the Norwegian Vikings (8th and 9th centuries), but did not extend to the Norman invasions (12th century). Fianna appear in many narratives, e.g. B. Duanaire Finn ("Finns songbook") or Acallam na Senórach ("The stories of the ancients"), but also outside of the Finn cycle, for example in a version of the story about the conception of Conchobar ( Compert Conchobuir ) from the Ulster cycle . A regular occurrence of the Fianna in Ulster has not been proven.

Admission of a candidate

The initiation into the Fianna was very difficult, the tests were mentioned in a list of Finn's people - probably exaggerated. The aspirant had to understand the twelve books of poetry , standing in a waist-deep pit with only his shield and a very long stick to fend off the spear attack of nine warriors, to shake off all pursuers in a cross-country run without his hair getting stuck in the branches, to the full Run, jump over a man-high branch and slip under a knee-high branch, and pull a thorn out of your foot with your fingernails while running.

Moral rules

Every fénnid had to observe a number of do's and don'ts ( gessi ). He was not allowed to deny anyone food, not to flee from an overwhelming force of up to nine opponents and always had to be ready to defend the country. When marrying a young woman, a fénnid always had the first choice and only after three unsuccessful requests to the Fianna was the girl allowed to take another, but she could be ransomed from this duty. If a fénnid was murdered, his clan was not allowed to avenge him, if he was the perpetrator, then his clan was also protected from revenge. In the cold season (from Samhain to Beltaine , around November 1st to May 1st) the Fianna was fed by the population, the other time of the year she lived on hunting.

Today's term

In the Irish struggle for freedom against Great Britain, the Fianna was repeatedly cited as a symbol of resistance , although the name was further formed into the neologism "Fenian". This was brought into being in 1804 by Charles Vallancey, who used it as an anglicised form for fianna . The term Fenian was used by Republican Irish especially in the USA , especially for the anti-British secret societies called Irish Republican Brotherhood and Fenian Brotherhood . Now the word mainly refers to the supporters of Irish Republican, anti-British behavior, not least in Northern Ireland. The Irish Republican Army (IRA) later emerged from the Irish Republican Brotherhood , which also took on this nickname. The name of Fianna can still be found in the name of a major Irish party, the Fianna Fáil, founded in 1926 .

See also


  • Helmut Birkhan : Celts. Attempt at a complete representation of their culture. Publishing house of the Austrian Academy of Sciences, Vienna 1997, ISBN 3-7001-2609-3 .
  • Bernhard Maier : Lexicon of Celtic Religion and Culture (= Kröner's pocket edition . Volume 466). Kröner, Stuttgart 1994, ISBN 3-520-46601-5 .
  • James MacKillop: Oxford Dictionary of Celtic Mythology . OUP 2000, pp. 209 ( Féni ), 210 ( Fenian ), 221 ( Fianna ).
  • Kim McCone: Werewolves, cyclopes Díberga and Fíanna: juvenile deliquency in early Ireland . In: Cambridge Medieval Celtic Studies 12 , 1986.

Individual evidence

  1. a b Helmut Birkhan: Celts. Attempt at a complete representation of their culture. P. 1044 ff.