Mogh Ruith, the Blind Magician

Without a doubt, one of the most interesting and mysterious figures from Irish mythology is the One known as Mogh Ruith. He’s right up there with Manannán, as far as I’m concerned. His name is said to mean ‘slave of the wheel’, curious in itself, and he was a blind Munster Druid who lived on Valentia Island  in Co Kerry, which is now part of the celebrated Wild Atlantic Way.

Mogh Ruith was the father of tragic Goddess, Tlachtga, who left her name in the landscape of Ireland  at a place anglicised as the Hill of Ward, sacred to the festival of Samhain.

He is perhaps most famous for his flying machine, roth rámach, meaning ‘the oared wheel’, or ‘rowing wheel’ (could be a helicopter, don’t you think?), in which night appeared as bright as day. For this reason, it is believed that he must have been a sun god. I don’t know about you, but that sounds too easy to me. Perhaps it was a space ship… remember, the Tuatha de Danann were said to have descended from great storm clouds in the sky.

However, blaming aliens for something we don’t understand is also too easy. It’s just as likely that in the long history of the existence of our planet, there must have been advanced civilizations elsewhere on Earth. Unless, of course, you believe that life only came into being 6000 years ago, as some poor children are now being brainwashed taught. But that’s a discussion for another time.

If ancient civilizations could build pyramids, and incredible temples that we still can’t explain, never mind replicate, today, why not flying machines?

Interestingly, there is much talk of flying machines in Sanscrit and Hindu texts; here, they are known as Vimana, in which the Gods are transported by flying wheeled chariots, sometimes pulled by animals. There are descriptions of wheels, spokes, and the colour gold.

It is intriguing that in the name of Mogh Ruith’s flying vehicle, roth rámach, we can see a reference to the Hindu deity, Rama. This could be coincidence, of course, but many people seem to see a connection between the Irish myths and Sanskrit. Personally, I am open to this.

After all, despite the recent preference for separatism, and white elitism, we all share a common Proto-Indo-European heritage… and yes, that includes you, White America, who are descended from a right cocked-up cocktail of us Europeans and native Americans, in spite of what you might think.

But back to the man in question. Mogh Ruith pops up at various intervals in Ireland’s pre-history, according to Medieval sources. The ancient text,  Lebor Gabála Érenn, claims he died some time during the 10th century BC; the Annals of the Four Masters date him to around 1651–1621 BC. According to Christian lore, he is the man who executed John the Baptist.

According to legend, he became blind when he lost an eye in the Alps, how, I don’t know. The other was destroyed when he tried to stop the course of the sun for two days.  Again, I don’t know why he tried to do this, but it seems feasible… we know today that looking directly at the sun can cause damage to the eyes.

Was he a historical figure? No evidence survives, but for an abundance of fascinating stories. In my view, stories are a way of keeping someone, or something alive. If not the personage himself, then certainly something he stood for, whether fictional or real.

Mogh Ruith and his daughter, Tlachtga, were said to have been students of Simon Magus, also known as Simon the Sorcerer. He was supposed to have helped them build their flying machine. Simon was a Samaritan and religious figure mentioned in the Bible, who lived c. 1st century AD, and who converted to Christianity.

He received a lot of attention, not particularly positive, from ancient writers, such as Irenaeus, Justin Martyr, Hippolytus, and Epiphanius, who regarded him as ‘the source of all heresies‘, and in fact,  the sin of simony (paying for position and influence in the church) is said to be named after him.

In addition to this less than glowing reputation, his three sons were said to have raped and impregnated Mogh Ruith’s daughter, Tlachtga. She fled from them to the Hill of Ward, where she gave birth to her three sons, Doirb, Cuma, and Muach, before dying from her injuries and a very hard labour.

So far, it’s not looking good for Mogh Ruith. Perhaps it’s time to have a quick gander at some of the stories about him.

Cormac mac Airt is one of Irish mythology’s most well known and best loved High Kings. He lived during the 3rd century AD. So loved was he, that the Christians tried to claim him as a convert, even though he lived well before the accepted age of Christianity in Ireland.

Cormac was contemporary with the legends of Fionn mac Cumhall. Fionn and his Fianna carried out much of the defence of the realm on Cormac’s behalf, and thus the High King rewarded him with the gift of marriage to two of his daughters, Aoife, and when she died only a year later, the young Grainne. Well, we all know how that went!

Anyhoo. In The Siege of Knocklong,  recorded in the Book of Lismore, dated 1480 AD, which was discovered hidden in the walls of Lismore Castle, Co. Waterford in 1814 (ooooh… isn’t that a fab story?)the King of Munster and Cormac go to war because Cormac has demanded too high a price of tribute.

Over the period of a year, Cormac lays siege to Fiacha Moilleathan, King of Munster, and they engage in five battles. Finally, Cormac resorts to magical means; he calls in his Druids, who dry up all the rivers and wells in the region. The Munster men are almost defeated, until King Fiacha employs Mogh Ruith. But the services of Mogh Ruith do not come cheap. This is what he demands…

A hundred bright white cows in milk, a hundred well-fattened pigs; a hundred strong working oxen; a hundred racehorses; fifty soft white cloaks; after the project is over, the daughter of the first lord of the East or the most prominent after him, to bear me children the first place in the files of Munster’s army for my successor who shall have in perpetuity the rank of a provincial king…; that the King of Munster should choose his counsellor from among my descendants;… that I am given the territory of my choice in Munster.

quote from Shee-Eire

He then restores all the water in the province so that man and beast may drink. With his breath, he blows up storms, and turns Cormac’s Druids to stone. He raises fire, and stone and sand storms, and eventually wins the day for the Munster men. He then chooses the territory Fir Maige Féne, which comes from the Irish for ‘men of the monastery of the plain’, later known as Fermoy, for his own.

There is an Iron Age hill fort at Fermoy, one of only three in northern Co Cork, called Carntierna, which means ‘Tigernac’s cairn’. It is named after legendary Munster King, Tigernac Tetbannach, who was said to have reigned during the time of Conchobar mac Nessa. A great cairn crowns the hill’s summit, supposedly the king’s burial-place. Perhaps this king and his people could have been Mogh Ruith’s descendants.


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30 Comments on “Mogh Ruith, the Blind Magician

  1. I am going to propose Mogh Ruith and his “rowing wheel” vimana to the makers of Ancient Aliens (no, really!). They might be interested in a little trip out to Valentia Island. What a great character he is. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Haha! He is indeed! There are certain characters from Irish mythology which stand out from the usual portrayals of the Tuatha de Danann; Mogh Ruith is one, and another is Manannán. I can’t help wondering if their legend comes from somewhere else, and has become entangled with the rest of Irish lore. Thanks for your comment!


  2. Pingback: Donn, Lord of the Dead – aliisaacstoryteller

  3. Reblogged this on Tales of the Wild Atlantic Way and commented:
    The blind magician of County Kerry. Reblogged from Ali Issac’s site.


    • Thank you! There are some characters from Irish myth who really stand out for me. They just don’t fit the normal pattern. Mogh Ruith is one of them. He’s intriguing and mysterious.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Intriguing, as always, Ali. But why not aliens? With all the galaxies that exist, surely we aren’t the only planet with life. That mystical wheel and ancient legends of flying machines that Diana mentioned could possibly substantiate the alien theory.
    I’ve enjoyed reading both your post and the comments.
    Hugs, my friend.


    • Hugh, I love the way your mind works! I hadn’t considered that! But yes, why not? What a great premise for a story! Will you write it, or me??? 😁😂😁

      Liked by 1 person

          • Oh, I don’t know, Ali. I think I’ve written too many time-traveling stories. There’s already three for book 2, one of which you inspired me to write after a comment you left on one of my posts. I’ve also entered the story into a writing competition. If it wins, I’ll buy you a drink or two. 🍹😀

            Liked by 1 person

  5. With you on the probability of lost advanced civilisations Ali. A blogger friend Diane Gray wrote an engaging novel ‘The Everything Theory’ which took a look at the subject.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. It would almost be worth losing an eye to be able to say “oh, I lost it in the Alps somewhere”. Almost. Well, not nearly. He sounds really cool, though. Have to hand it to him. (He had both hands, right?)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Haha! As far as I know he had both hands. And feet. And all other appendages. At least, we’re not told that he didn’t. I think what I like most about this story is that, in a society which supposedly would not permit a blemished king to rule, here we have a disabled man with extremely high status and power. Kind of makes you wonder about the whole blemished/ sacrificial king business, doesn’t it? Well, it does me. 😂😂😂

      Liked by 1 person

      • Imagine if our current rulers had to be blemish-free, Ali. It often seems like it’s a prerequisite for a modern politician to have at least one wonky eye.


  7. Fascinating stories, Ali. The mystical wheel is almost universal as a cosmic symbol and all the ancient legends of flying machines really makes one wonder. 🙂


  8. Dear Ali, from next May 17th I’m coming to Irland for few days with my husband (we celebrate our twentieth wedding year).
    We will hire a car to allow us to roam your country… even if I know we could stay there for months, without being able to see everything we wish!
    Who knows, maybe we have the occasion to share a glass of ale with you!
    Hugs :-)claudine


  9. What struck me is the similarity with the French: rame = oar, roue = wheel, and of course we have rotary, rotate etc. Maybe we don’t have to look as far as Sanskrit; alternatively maybe those words have a common origin with Sanskrit.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Well said Ali. It has always seemed to me that Ireland has its fair share of gods who were legends in their own lunchtimes. You’ve just proved it. 😉


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