The motif of the divine lady drowned in the river is found again in the story of the goddess Eithne, whose name is eponymous of the two rivers called Inny, an Eithne in Irish. The major one flows from Lough Sheelan and joins the River Shannon at Lough Ree in the centre of Ireland (Co. Westmeath and Longford) and the smaller one flows in the peninsula of Iveragh (Co. Kerry).1774 Eithne’s name is derived from the Irish word ét, ‘envy’ and means ‘She who causes Envy’.1775 A legend, contained in an early text in Old Irish, entitled Ferchuitred Medba, recounts that Eithnewas drowned in the stream of Bearramhain while she was pregnant by the mythical King Conchobhar mac Neasa.1776 Their son Furbaidhe was cut from her womb and the river was called after her:‘7 Eithne ingen Echach Fedlig, ben aili don Concobur cetna, mathair Forbaidi mic Concubuir 7 is aire atbertha Forbaidi dhe .i. a forbud .i. a gerrad do roinduib (sic) a broinn a mathar iarna bathad a nGlais Berramain frissa raiter Eithne indíu 7 is uaithi sloindter ind aband .i. Eithni.
The same tale is related in Cath Boinde [‘The Battle of Boind’], dating from the early 10th c.,1778 and in the c. 13th-century Cóir Anmann.1779 Another poem, entitled Carn Furbaide [‘The Carn of Furbaide’], contained in the Metrical Dindshenchas, offers a slightly different story. It tells that Eithne was the wife of Conchobhar and Lugaid drowned her while she was expecting Furbaidhe in a river which now bears her name:‘Atá sund Carn uí Chathbath fors'rimred arm imathlam, lechtán láechda laích col-lí, fertán fráechda Furbaidi.
Even though Eithne is not represented as a river-goddess in Irish mythology, like Bóinn or Sionann, in this legend clearly lies the pattern of the lady who, after being drowned, becomes the river. The divine lady is eponymous of the river she embodies.
Hogan, 1910, pp. 403-404.
Ó hÓgáin, 2006, p. 192.
For details about Conchobhar, see Ó hÓgáin, 2006, pp. 109-112 ; Mackillop, 2004, pp. 99-100.
Bergin, 1913, p. 18, lines 17-22.
O’Neill, 1905, pp. 176-177 ; Wong, 1996, pp. 234, 241.
Stokes, 1897, p. 396 ; Wong, 1996, pp. 233, 241.
Gwynn, 1924, pp. 30-31.