Amergin Glúingel and the Song of Amergin

Amergin Glúingel ("white knees") was a Pre historic bard, druid and judge who was appointed by his two brothers, the kings of Ireland as Chief Ollam of Ireland, his poems are part of the Milesian mythology.

The Milesians are thought to be the final settlers in Ireland and Amergin’s work is significant within the Irish Mythological Cycle.

Amergin was one of the seven sons of Míl Espáine who took part in the Milesian conquest of Ireland from the Tuatha Dé Danann. The conquest was in revenge for the death of their great uncle Íth who had been killed by the three kings of Tuatha Dé Danann, Mac Cuill, Mac Cecht and Mac Gréine.

The Milesians had landed at Inber Scéne, named after Amergin's wife Scéne, who had died at sea. The three queens of the Tuatha Dé Danann, (Banba, Ériu and Fódla), gave, in turn, permission for Amergin and his people to settle in Ireland. Each of the queens requested Amergin to name the island after each of them, which he did: Ériu is the origin of the modern name Éire, while Banba and Fódla are used as poetic names for Ireland, as Albion is for used for Great Britain.

The Song of Amergin

During the conquest, the Milesians battled with the three kings, their druids and warriors. Amergin is believed to have set the rules of engagement and was an impartial judge for the warring parties.

An agreement was made for the Milesians to retreat back to the ocean beyond the ninth wave which was believed to be a magical boundary. Once signalled they moved towards land, however the druids of the Tuatha Dé Danann used magic to raise a storm which prevented them from reaching the shore.

Amergin sang an invocation that called up the spirit of Ireland, which parted the storm and enabled the ship to land safely. This invocation has been come to be known as The Song of Amergin.

Although there was more than one major battle, which incurred significant losses on both sides, it is this event that is widely believed to have enabled the Milesians to triumph.

The tree kings of Tuatha Dé Danann were eventually killed in single combat by the three surviving sons of Míl, Eber Finn, Érimón and Amergin.

Irish folklorist and dramatist, Augusta, Lady Gregory translated the poem in her book Gods and Fighting Men (1904) and reads as follows:

"I am the wind on the sea;

I am the wave of the sea;

I am the bull of seven battles;

I am the eagle on the rock

I am a flash from the sun;

I am the most beautiful of plants;

I am a strong wild boar;

I am a salmon in the water;

I am a lake in the plain;

I am the word of knowledge;

I am the head of the spear in battle;

I am the god that puts fire in the head;

Who spreads light in the gathering on the hills?

Who can tell the ages of the moon?

Who can tell the place where the sun rests?"

Having succeeded in battle, Amergin divided the land between his two brothers, Eber taking the southern half of Ireland, Eremon the north. Within the year Érimón defeated Éber in battle and gained the kingship of the whole island, and two years later killed Amergin in another battle. Local tradition in Drogheda locates his burial-place under Millmount.

The Book of Taliesin by 6th century poet Taliesin which contained early medieval Welsh poems on mythological themes also contains similarities to those which have been attributed to Amergin.