An Leabhar Mhéibhe

Heroic & Dark Fantasy and Science Fiction Character created by Kevin L. O'Brien

Prey for the Hunter, © by Jon J. Muth

Pedrum, © by Boris Vallejo

An Leabhar Mhéibhen Leabhar Mhéibhe is Irish for "the Book of Medb". It is the grand grimoire written by Medb hErenn in the latter years of her life as High Queen of Ireland. Kevin L. O'Brien originally meant it to be the Irish Necronomicon, but he later changed his mind as he began to further develop her character and her world. His current conception, while preserving the magical instruction, also included a bestiary and a biography. Like the Necronomicon, however, and The Book of Eibon afterwards, he created an elaborate provenance to provide it with verisimilitude.

The History and Chronology of an Leabhar Mhéibhe

Below is presented the opening pages of a modern English translation of the Leabhar Mhéibhe by the leading expert in ancient Celtic languages. As more sections of the book are translated, links will be provided from the table of contents to pages displaying these excerpts.

an Leabhar Mhéibhe
translated by Caoimhín Ó Briain

Prologue

The Leabhar Mhéibhe [1] is a Celtic magic tome reputed to have been written around 100 C.E. by Medb, the heroine of the Táin Bó Cúailnge, in Ogham script. This is the first time in its entire history that it has been translated out of Gaeilge (Irish Gaelic) [2]. As such, this is the first of what I hope will be many published excerpts of the book. The purpose of this article is to describe the contents of the book. Future articles will feature excerpts from different sections.

Though legend claims the book contains the lore and magic of the Tuatha Dé Danann, it is in fact a Cthulhu Mythos tome. This association has fostered a number of erroneous claims. One such as that it is simply a Gaeilge translation of the Greek edition of the Necronomicon with an Irish Celtic apocrypha tacked on. However, this is impossible, because it is too old: though still disputed by some scholars, the consensus is now that the Leabhar Mhéibhe is an authentic document of the late Irish Iron Age, circa first century B.C.E. to first century C.E., whereas the original source for the Necronomicon, a work called Al-Azif, was written in the eighth century C.E.

Another equally erroneous claim is that the Necronomicon is an Arabic translation of the Leabhar Mhéibhe. While some scholars still believe that the latter could have served as a source for the former, the structures of the two books are too different for this claim to be taken seriously. The "modern" version of the work — the version that has been passed down to us today — was largely the creation of an Irish monk living in the seventh century C.E. named Cedbin Chromcruaigh [3]. We know from a journal that he left behind that he had access to at least two, possibly even three or more, earlier versions of the book. However, we also know that these works tended to be incomplete, and that they were all different with regard to content and organization [4]. He created what we believe is the first virtually complete edition of the Leabhar Mhéibhe after the original, and he reorganized it into the form we are familiar with. A century later it was given to the monastery at Kells, where it was called "the Black Book of Queen Medb". There it was used as the template for the first mass "printing" of the book in history. The original disappeared about another half century later, but its copies have endured, many into modern times. It was these copies that in turn served as the basis for the later mass printings.

A monk transcribing a book.The tome is organized into groups of three, in imitation of the tripartation of the Iron Age Irish Celtic gods and heroes. This reflects the deep reverence and magical significance the Celts of Ireland had for the number three. It is divided into three volumes, each of which is then divided into three "books", which are further divided into three parts, and so forth. The first volume deals with the life of Medb. It starts with her early life in Bronze Age Ireland, then describes her wanderings around the world, including through various subterranean domains and mystical lands hidden by magic. It concludes with her final days as queen of the province of Connacht. The second volume is a series of treatises on natural and supernatural beings, such as various races of men, Faeries, monsters, and gods. The third volume is a grimoire describing magical rituals and devices. One book concerns the art and lore of the Fir Bholg, Tuatha Dé Danann, and Milesian druids; a second concerns glamour; and the last concerns various sorcerous disciplines, such as divination, necromancy, daemonology, and thaumaturgy.

According to his journal, at least one of the sources used by Cedbin Chromcruaigh was written in the Ogham script, a form of Celtic script that used patterns of hash marks to indicate the sounds of Gaeilge. Cedbin preserved the sounds, but wrote his work using the Irish miniscule script invented a century before by his fellow monks. This also had the unintended result of changing the way the information was presented. Again according to Cedbin's journal, the Ogham source was a compilation of songs [5]. In the oral tradition of Iron Age Irish Celtic society, stories were told by bards, musicians who literally sang them as poetic ballads. Because the tome provided no musical scores, it was impossible for Cedbin to reproduce the songs exactly as they would be heard, and the verse was somewhat unreadable when written in miniscule, so he rewrote them as prose stories.

The Magic Circle, by John William WaterhouseAs one might expect, it is not my purpose to instruct anyone on how to perform the magical rituals contained within the tome, so I will state now that all such excerpts shall be expurgated. Nonetheless, the loss of such detail will not detract from the readability of these excerpts; in fact, in some cases, it will improve that readability significantly.

Also, I have used the Gaeilge spelling for all proper names, rather than translate them into English; I have done the same with proper names of other languages as well. This is to give the stories something of the feel they have when read in their own languages. Where necessary, I shall translate the names in endnotes.

As a final note, I should point out the difference between a literal translation and a figurative translation. A figurative translation is when you render a text in a manner that is easily readable in the new language, whereas a literal translation is when you render a text into the new language precisely word for word, exactly as it appears in the original language. The key point here is readability: for a text to be readable, readers must be comfortable with the text, such that they immediately understand what they are reading without having to think about it. For a simple example, take the German word foosball. A figurative translation into English would be "soccer", whereas a literal translation would be "football". The literal translation is a precise word for word rendition of the term into English, but it is not readable, because in America and England the term "football" has a completely different meaning from "soccer". As such, the proper translation for foosball is "soccer", even though it is not precise.

In my translations, I always strive for readability, even if that means that some words are not precisely rendered. Nonetheless, I try to use the corresponding word of the new language whose meaning best fits the word of the old language being translated. As such, in many cases I will use English words that best convey the meaning of the text, even if they are not proper literal translations. Where possible I shall present the actual literal translation in an endnote.

Caoimhín Ó Briain
Garthyme University
Cairnsford, Colorado
January 14, 2008

Introduction [6]

I, Medb, High Queen of Connacht, wife of Ailill, daughter of the goddess Danu [7], who seized the sacred Brown Bull of Cúailnge and engineered the downfall of the mighty Cú Chulainn, set down in this book all that I know of the arts of glamour and necromancy, of thaumaturgy and alchemy, as well as the nature and behavior of gods, Faeries, spirits, monsters, and men. Let this be a repository, and a warning, for future generations.

Table of Contents

Volume I: The Life of Medb

  • Book A: The Early Years
    • Part i: Childhood
      • Chapter 1: Family
        • Section a: Mother
        • Section b: Father
        • Section c: Kidnapped
      • Chapter 2: Among the Fir Bholg
        • Section a: Slavery
        • Section b: The Druids
        • Section c: Flight
      • Chapter 3: Among the Danann
        • Section a: Adoption
        • Section b: The Raid
        • Section c: The Bard
    • Part ii: Adolescence
      • Chapter 1: Carnal Knowledge
        • Section a: Onanism
        • Section b: Sapphoism
        • Section c: Intercourse
      • Chapter 2: Training
        • Section a: The Arts of War
        • Section b: Sorcery
        • Section c: Glamour
      • Chapter 3: Social Interaction
        • Section a: Daghda
        • Section b: Teachach
        • Section c: Paramours
    • Part iii: Youth
      • Chapter 1: The Fir Bholg War
        • Section a: Invasion
        • Section b: Stalemate
        • Section c: The First Battle of Magh Tuiredh
      • Chapter 2: The Fomorian War
        • Section a: Invasion
        • Section b: Resistance
        • Section c: The Second Battle of Magh Tuiredh
      • Chapter 3: The Milesian War
        • Section a: Invasion
        • Section b: The Battle of Tailtiu
        • Section c: The Revenge of Elatha
  • Book B: The Wandering
    • Part i: The Old World
      • Chapter 1: Europe
        • Section a: The British Isles
        • Section b: Scandinavia
        • Section c: The Continent
      • Chapter 2: Africa
        • Section a: Asia Minor
        • Section b: The Sahara Desert
        • Section c: Among the Savages
      • Chapter 3: Asia
        • Section a: Arabian Peninsula
        • Section b: India
        • Section c: The Orient
    • Part ii: In the West
      • Chapter 1: North America
        • Section a: The Arctic
        • Section b: The Woodlands
        • Section c: The Plains
      • Chapter 2: Central America
        • Section a: The Desert
        • Section b: The Grasslands
        • Section c: The Jungle
      • Chapter 3: South America
        • Section a: Amazonia
        • Section b: The Mountains
        • Section c: The Pampas
    • Part iii: The Mystical Lands
      • Chapter 1: Underground
        • Section a: Uhrdlen
        • Section b: K'n-Yan
        • Section c: Yoth
      • Chapter 2: Lost Empires
        • Section a: Mu
        • Section b: Lemuria
        • Section c: Atlantis
      • Chapter 3: The Hidden Lands
        • Section a: Hy-Breasail
        • Section b: The Western Islands
        • Section c: Tír na n-Óg
  • Book C: Queen of Ireland
    • Part i: Return
      • Chapter 1: Eochaidh Feidhleach
        • Section a: Arrival in Tara
        • Section b: Introductions and Explanations
        • Section c: Adoption and Grant of Rule
      • Chapter 2: Conchobar
        • Section a: Marriage and Betrayal
        • Section b: Rape and War
        • Section c: Retreat and Regroup
      • Chapter 3: Ailill
        • Section a: Heritage
        • Section b: Youth and Manhood
        • Section c: Challenge to the Kingship
    • Part ii: The Cattle Raid of Cooley
      • Chapter 1: Overture
        • Section a: Pillow Talk
        • Section b: Negotiations
        • Section c: Ferghus Mac Roigh
      • Chapter 2: Stalemate
        • Section a: Curse of Macha
        • Section b: Cú Culainn
        • Section c: The Battle of the Ford
      • Chapter 3: Victory and Defeat
        • Section a: Success
        • Section b: Duel
        • Section c: Aftermath
    • Part iii: Revenge
      • Chapter 1: Cú Chulainn
        • Section a: Discovery of His Weaknesses
        • Section b: The Phantom Army
        • Section c: The Death of Cú Chulainn
      • Chapter 2: Conchobar
        • Section a: Cet Mac Matach
        • Section b: Stealing the Brain-Ball
        • Section c: The Death Conchobar
      • Chapter 3: Ailill
        • Section a: The Death of Ferghus Mac Rich
        • Section b: Conall Cernach
        • Section c: The Death of Ailill
      • Addendum: The Death of Medb
        • Section a:Liam and Clothra
        • Section b:Furbaidhe Ferbend
        • Section c:The Death of Medb

Volume II: The Bestiary

  • Book A: The Living
    • Part i: The Natural World
      • Chapter 1: The Mineral Kingdom
        • Section a: Stone
        • Section b: Metals
        • Section c: Gemstones
      • Chapter 2: The Plant Kingdom
        • Section a: Fungi
        • Section b: Herbs
        • Section c: Trees
      • Chapter 3: The Animal Kingdom
        • Section a: Invertebrates
        • Section b: Cold-Bloods
        • Section c: Warm-Bloods
    • Part ii: Men
      • Chapter 1: Races
        • Section a: The Pre-Men — The Ancient Ones, Fomorians, Gnophkehs, Zobnans, Lomarians, Hyperboreans, Picts, Inuto, Neanderthal
        • Section b: The First Men — The Lemurians, Muvians, Atlantians, Eemites, Thurians, and Hyborians
        • Section c: The Other Men — The Tcho-Tcho and the Miri Nigri
      • Chapter 2: The First Great Civilizations
        • Section a: The Saga of the Eemites
        • Section b: The Saga of the Thurians
        • Section c: The Saga of the Hyborians
      • Chapter 3: The Races of Erin
        • Section a: The Saga of the Hibernians
        • Section b: The Saga of the Aryas
        • Section c: The Saga of the Invasions
    • Part iii: The Inhuman Races
      • Chapter 1: The Tribes of the Sea
        • Section a: The Deep Ones
        • Section b: The Rloedha
        • Section c:The Y'lagh
      • Chapter 2: The Tribes of the Land
        • Section a: The Magma Race of Pele, Serpent People, and Troodontids
        • Section b: The Voormis, Stigyi, and Sand Dwellers
        • Section c: The Ghouls, Tulpans, and Worms of the Earth
      • Chapter 3: The Outré Tribes
        • Section a: The Fire Vampires, Primordial Ones, Flying Polyps, and Great Race
        • Section b: The Gnophkeh, Mi-go, Dimensional Shamblers, Byakhee, Star Vampires, Zarrians, and Galactics
        • Section c: The Dark Young, Lloigor, Nightguants, Shoggoths, and Cthonians
  • Book B: The Supernatural World
    • Part i: The Faerie
      • Chapter 1: The Daoine Sdhe
        • Section a: Origin and Nature
        • Section b: Habits
        • Section c: Strengths and Weaknesses
      • Chapter 2: The Trooping Faeries
        • Section a: The Fir Bholg
        • Section b:The Gruagach
        • Section c:The Kouricaun
      • Chapter 3: The Solitary Folk
        • Section a: The Lepracaun, Cluricaun, Fir Darrig, and Fir Gorta
        • Section b: The Alp-Luachra, Bodacha, and Boccnaigh
        • Section c: The Bean Sídhe, Baobhan Sídhe, and Leanan Sídhe
    • Part ii: The Dead
      • Chapter 1: Revenants
        • Section a: Creation
        • Section b: Habits
        • Section c: Destruction
      • Chapter 2: The Sluagh
        • Section a:Origin and Nature
        • Section b:Habits
        • Section c:Strengths and Weaknesses
      • Chapter 3: Ghosts
        • Section a: The Thevshi
        • Section b: The Dubhlachan
        • Section c: The Fetch
    • Part iii: The Monsters
      • Chapter 1: Humans
        • Section a: Witches
        • Section b: Lycanthropes
        • Section c: Vampires
      • Chapter 2: Near-Humans
        • Section a: Merpeople, Seal-People, and Nymphs
        • Section b: Hags
        • Section c: Giants
      • Chapter 3: Inhumans
        • Section a: The Teine Sídhe
        • Section b: The Poukas and Each Uiscí
        • Section c: The Piastas
  • Book C: The Deific Entities
    • Part i: The Great Powers
      • Chapter 1: The Creation
        • Section a: On the Nature of Nu the Source
        • Section b: The Emergence of Tum
        • Section c: The Creation of Phra
      • Chapter 2: The Aions
        • Section a: The Sundering of Phra
        • Section b: The Generations of the Aions
        • Section c: The Nature of the Aions
      • Chapter 3: Of Azathoth and Nyarlat
        • Section a: The Sophia and Apep
        • Section b: The Rebellion
        • Section c: The Exile
    • Part ii: The Elder Beings
      • Chapter 1: The Servitors of the Aions
        • Section a: The Creation of the Servitors
        • Section b:
        • Section c:
      • Chapter 2: The Archons
        • Section a: The Creation of the Archons
        • Section b:
        • Section c:
      • Chapter 3: The Old Ones
        • Section a: How Isis Stole the Secret of the Great Magic
        • Section b: How Apep Tricked Isis and Acquired the Secret for Himself
        • Section c: Of the War Between the Old Ones and the Elder Gods
    • Part iii: The Lesser Entities
      • Chapter 1: The Outré Gods
        • Section a:
        • Section b:
        • Section c:
      • Chapter 2:
        • Section a:
        • Section b:
        • Section c:
      • Chapter 3: The Xothians
        • Section a:
        • Section b:
        • Section c: The Star-Spawn, the Yuggs, and the Old Ones

Volume III: Grimoire

  • Book A: The Druidic Arts
    • Part i: Hibernian
      • Chapter 1:
        • Section a:
        • Section b:
        • Section c:
      • Chapter 2:
        • Section a:
        • Section b:
        • Section c:
      • Chapter 3:
        • Section a:
        • Section b:
        • Section c:
    • Part ii: Fir Bholg
      • Chapter 1:
        • Section a:
        • Section b:
        • Section c:
      • Chapter 2:
        • Section a:
        • Section b:
        • Section c:
      • Chapter 3:
        • Section a:
        • Section b:
        • Section c:
    • Part iii: Fomorian, Danann, and Milesian
      • Chapter 1:
        • Section a:
        • Section b:
        • Section c:
      • Chapter 2:
        • Section a:
        • Section b:
        • Section c:
      • Chapter 3:
        • Section a:
        • Section b:
        • Section c:
  • Book B: Glamour
    • Part i:
      • Chapter 1:
        • Section a:
        • Section b:
        • Section c:
      • Chapter 2:
        • Section a:
        • Section b:
        • Section c:
      • Chapter 3:
        • Section a:
        • Section b:
        • Section c:
    • Part ii:
      • Chapter 1:
        • Section a:
        • Section b:
        • Section c:
      • Chapter 2:
        • Section a:
        • Section b:
        • Section c:
      • Chapter 3:
        • Section a:
        • Section b:
        • Section c:
    • Part iii:
      • Chapter 1:
        • Section a:
        • Section b:
        • Section c:
      • Chapter 2:
        • Section a:
        • Section b:
        • Section c:
      • Chapter 3:
        • Section a:
        • Section b:
        • Section c:
  • Book C: Sorcery
    • Part i: Divination
      • Chapter 1:
        • Section a:
        • Section b:
        • Section c:
      • Chapter 2:
        • Section a:
        • Section b:
        • Section c:
      • Chapter 3:
        • Section a:
        • Section b:
        • Section c:
    • Part ii: Thaumaturgia
      • Chapter 1: Words and Gestures
        • Section a:
        • Section b:
        • Section c:
      • Chapter 2: Signs and Symbols
        • Section a:
        • Section b:
        • Section c:
      • Chapter 3: Alchemy
        • Section a:
        • Section b:
        • Section c:
    • Part iii: Daemonology
      • Chapter 1: Trafficking with Faeries
        • Section a:
        • Section b:
        • Section c:
      • Chapter 2: Trafficking with Spirits
        • Section a: Mediumism
        • Section b: Sciomancy
        • Section c: Necromancy
      • Chapter 3: Trafficking with the Greater Powers
        • Section a:
        • Section b:
        • Section c:

[1] Gaeilge (Irish Gaelic) for the "Book of Medb".
[2] There were three previous, failed attempts to render it into English; for more details, please see The History and Chronology of the Leabhar Mhéibhe. So far as anyone knows, the Leabhar Mhéibhe has never been translated out of Gaeilge.
[3] Kevin of Cromcruagh.
[4] One source that we know Cedbin used was the Saol Mhéibhe, or the "Life of Medb". In his journal, he explains that none of the earlier editions of the Leabhar Mhéibhe gave any details of Medb's life, so he took it upon himself to add the contents of this other work as a sort of introduction. It has been speculated by other scholars that it may serve the same function as "The Book of Episodes" in the Necronomicon, and the "Histories of the Elder Magi" and the "Episodes of Eibon of Mhu Thulan" in the Book of Eibon; that is, as a set of cautionary tales meant to instruct the novice sorcerer on what not to do. That is certainly possible, since the first volume contains details of Cthulhu Mythos lore otherwise expurgated from the Irish sagas. However, I find it unlikely, since the tales are hardly cautionary at all. Rather, I think he was simply fascinated with Medb's biography and wanted to include it in his redaction. Unfortunately, he does not explain why he did so, so any theories must for the time being remain pure speculation.
[5] In Gaeilge amhráin.
[6] This actually appears in only one edition, produced in Ireland around 1250 C.E. (for more details please see The History and Chronology of the Leabhar Mhéibhe). All subsequent editions, and even those few that came before for which we have copies, have no such entry. This has led some scholars to believe that the claim that the book was written by Medb of Connacht is a hoax. However, Cedbin Chromcruaigh reports that at least one of the editions he saw also had this introduction, and that he had included it in his edition. If this is the case, for some reason the monks of Kells left it out of the copies they made and distributed. Perhaps they thought it vainglorious.
[7] Medb is the Old Irish version of the name and is pronounced "Mayv", Connacht is Gaeilge for Connaught, and Danu is the goddess who was the mother of the Tuatha Dé Danann, which means "People of the Goddess Danu". The reference to her being a "daughter of Danu" may be an affectation, a royal title claimed by the kings and queens of Connacht. However, it may also be accurate in the sense that Medb could have been descended from the Tuatha Dé Danann, and was thus a "daughter" of Danu many times removed. Considering her prowess as a sorceress and a warrior, I would not discount it. Of course, her biography claims that her mother was Danann, so this may also be a statement of literal truth.

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