Tuesday 9 December 2014

Saints Feidhealm and Mughain, daughters of Oilill, December 9

The Martyrology of Oengus devotes its entire entry for December 9 to the praise of two daughters of Oilill (Ailill) whom it describes rather beautifully as 'the two suns of the east of Liffey':
9. Comely are the two daughters of Ailill,
who is not to be concealed: 
fair is the host of their day - 
the two suns of the east of Liffey.
The scholiast notes add:
9. the two maidens, i.e. Mugain and Feidlimid: in Cell ingen n-Ailella (* the church of Ailill's daughters') in the west of Liffey they are, beside Liamain.
of Ailill, i.e. son of Dunlang, king of Leinster, was their father, and in Cell Ailella in the east of Mag Lifi sunt simul Mugain and Liamain.
In Cell ingen Ailella in Mag Laigen they are.
The later Martyrology of Gorman reproduces the details of their church and patrimony, describing these saintly Leinster princesses as 'the mild ones'. They are also listed in the Martyrology of Donegal.

Interestingly, Pádraig Ó Riain's Dictionary of Irish Saints notes that the name of a third sister, Eithne, is present in the genealogical sources but absent from the martyrologies. That immediately called to mind the sisters Ethnea and Fidelmia, daughters of King Laoighaire, who are commemorated on January 11, (at least according to the seventeenth-century hagiologist, Father John Colgan). These saintly siblings are the subject of a touching episode from Patrician hagiography which I have posted here. The overlap between the stories does not end there, for the daughters of Oilill are also received into the Church by Saint Patrick, along with their father and uncle:
Thereafter Patrick went to Naas. The site of his tent is in the green of the fort, to the east of the road, and to the north of the fort is his well wherein he baptized Dunling's two sons (namely) Ailill and Illann, and wherein he baptised Ailill's two daughters, Mogain and Fedelm; and their father offered to God and to Patrick their consecrated virginity. And Patrick blessed the veil on their heads.
W. Stokes, ed.and trans., The Tripartite Life of Patrick, Part 1 (London, 1887), 185.

It seems from Ó Riain's  research that Mughain was the more important of the pair as her name occurs in other sources and she was also remembered on December 15, the octave of this feast, at Cluain Boireann, which may now possibly be identified with Cloonburren in Roscommon.

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