The Sword of Destiny: the Fragarach or Claíomh Solais

“When kings the sword of justice first lay down; They art no kings, though they possess the crown; Titles are shadows, crowns are empty things, The good of subjects is the end of kings.”

Daniel Defoe

Cover art by Jen Delyth

According to myth Ireland was overeun by a successtion of invading tribes, they include the Fomorians, the Fir Bolg, The Tuatha Dé Dannan the last of whom were the Milesians or the Sons of Mil. These people are the ancestors of all the current Irish. They were entrusted with four gifts by their predecessors the Tuatha Dé; namely the Sword of Destiny – the Fragarach or Claíomh Solais , Spear of Destiny, the the Cauldron of Destiny and the Stone of Destiny. The Tuatha Dé Danann are supposed to have brought them from the four island cities from the northern world, Murias, Falias, Gorias and Findias, when they arrived in Ireland. Each object was inbued with potent magic and there is a history attached to each item, some of which survive to the present day.

John William Liberto

Here I will discuss the Sword of Destiny. It was called the Fragarach, translated from the gaelic as “The Whisperer”, “The Answerer”, or “The Retaliator.” It was also called “Claíomh Solais” – the sword of light. The sword was fashioned for Nuada, the first high king and was forged by the gods. It was meant to be wielded only by those who stood above the Stone of Destiny (the Lia Fail) which roared and the sword whispered in response. This came from the city of Falias. No one ever escaped from it once it was drawn from its sheath, and no one could resist it. The sword is also described in the Tain legend as “Nuadu’s Cainnel” — a glowing bright torch and it could cause lightening to strike.

Angus McBride

With Fragarach at their throat, no one could move or tell a lie, thus the name “Answerer”. The sword was also said to place the wind at the user’s command and could cut through any shield or wall, and that it inflicted piercing wounds from which no man could recover. So what became of this mighty sword?

It became the Sword of Excalibur of course, the sword with which Arthur slew four hundred and seventy men in single combat. An older spelling of Excalibur is ex Caliburno derived from Calabolg which was a legendary Irish weapon. Caladbolg was the lightning sword of Fergus mac Roich. Caladbolg was also known for its incredible power, and was carried by some of Ireland’s greatest heroes. The word calad means hard and the word blog means lightning. The lightning sword is close to the description of the Sword of Light of Nuada known as Claíomh Solais.

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