The Irish Celtic Legend of the Fomorians? Who were they?

Lugh vs Balor2


The Irish Celtic Legend of the Fomorians? Who were they? 

In this, I share four different sources of information but none of them, nor in total has the truth behind the myth and legend ever been fully solved. They are more often than not now thought to be ancient settlers from the the Northern Mainland that were physically much larger in comparison to the different migration waves of the Celtic people in the years to follow. 

Source one has this to say: “Quite honestly, Griffon, nobody knows! This drawing of a Fomorian is from an old manuscript. In all of the descriptions from writings derived from the oldest of oral traditions, the Fomorians were hard-fighting giant sea monsters, each of them with a single leg, arm and eye. They made several incursions into Eire, dating all the way back to the island’s earliest history, as they were already in Ireland when Partholon came. A warfaring race, they battled with everyone they met, notably the Tuatha De Danaan with whom they also intermarried.

As to who they actually were, speculations abound. Their symbolic identity is as much debated as their geographical origins. Some sources suggest they were the gods of chaos pitted against the Tuatha De Danaan who were the gods of order. Others theorize they are symbolic of the gods of pre-Goidelic Ireland, or something like the hunter-gatherers who eventually ceded to the neolithic farmers, as they were living off whatever they could kill before Partholon and his tribe came with their plows and cattle.

In Old Irish, fo muire means “under the sea”. After the age of myth had passed, any and all sea raiders were called Fomorians, further muddying their original identity. We’ll probably never know who they really were, especially since actual material (artifacts & archaeology) evidence is almost nil.”(1)

Source two has this to share: “ Fomorians : Having now “disposed of ” the Fomorians it is a good time to review their influence on Ireland. Chronologically they do not fit easily into our picture. They appear first in the antique period of Partholon and continue to reappear until their ultimate defeat by the Tuatha de Danann. Long as their tenure was they are not represented as the “aboriginal” Irish race but as a sea-roving people who established themselves on a base in Tory Island, off the Donegal coast. Their influence seems over the years to have extended over a large part of the country. Sheep-farmers in life-style, they are given a “bad press” by their more civilized (?) rivals. Thus we hear they were associated with evil – night – death. They are described as grotesque — sometimes with one arm, one eye, one leg. Interestingly there are drawings of the” unusual” people found in the West Indies and in America after Columbus which have many points in common with the Fomorians! (Psychological reaction to the new – unfamiliar – and therefore terrifying) .They were also stated to practise child sacrifice, not unknown among many ancient peoples, and certainly attributed to the Phoenicians/Carthaginians — another seafaring race and avid colonists. The name of one of their leaders — Balor — has been suggested as being derived from the Phoenician/Carthaginian god Baal (also spelt Bealiah). As sea-rovers they are also suggested to have a Scandinavian origin. (Rock scribings in Norway indicate the use of quite large ships from the Bronze Age at least).”(2)


Source three offers: “In Irish mythology, the Fomoire (or Fomorians) are a semi-divine race said to have inhabited Ireland in ancient times. They may have once been believed to be the beings who preceded the gods, similar to the Greek Titans. It has been suggested that they represent the gods of chaos and wild nature, as opposed to the Tuatha Dé Danann who represent the gods of human civilization. Alternatively, they may represent the gods of a proposed pre-Goidelic population of Ireland. (3)


Finally, the forth largest contributor to this wonderful myth and legend shares this:

“Ireland’s Wars: The Mythic Conflicts Of The Fomorians, Tuatha De Danann And Milesians
Posted on January 3, 2012 by HandsofBlue  (For the rest of this great article and even more information, please see the original article)

“Next up were the Fomorians, who have many guises depending on who you read, variously described as God-like beings, spirits of chaos and nature, giants, more descendants of Noah, farmers, or just plain old pirates from Africa. They settled Ireland after the demise of Cessair and remained there until the arrival of even more descendants of Noah: the followers of Partholon, a man from Greece or the Middle-East depending on the sources. One wonders why he couldn’t find anywhere better to settle between here and there.

Three years after arriving in South Kerry (and after he had caused several lakes to spring up from the ground miraculously) Partholon and the Fomorians came to blows in the first recorded battle of Irish “history”.

The Fomorians in Ireland were led by a fellow named Cichol Gricenchos – the second name meaning “footless”. The Fomorians were, apparently, a simple people who lived a hunter-gatherer lifestyle, while Partholon and his crowd were farmers, that is, more advanced.

The battle between the two took place at least two millennia before the birth of Christ. Numbers are not made clear, but Partholon had less than 10’000 followers total. Cichol had 800 at the battle. He might have been outnumbered.

They fought at the Battle of Magh Ithe, a plain somewhere between Lough Swilly, Lough Foyle and the River Finn (so, Donegal or Tyrone really). Cichol and his Fomorions were defeated and wiped out to a man, but it was not the last time that race would pop up, Dalek-like, as Irish mythologies stock villain.

With the other contending occupiers gone, Partholon settled in for a more peaceful life, but did not plan for another batch of plague that wiped out him and all of his people at the same time, somewhere near Tallaght in modern day Dublin (“Tallaght” meaning “Plague burial place”).

30 years later, a relative of Partholon, Nemed, arrived in Ireland from the Caspian Sea. He wasn’t there long before more Fomorians, this time under Kings of the name of Gann and Segann began to harass and raid the island yet again, leading to Ireland’s first proper war.

Nemed was a leader of some renown and his people were fierce warriors. He defeated the Fomorians at Ros Fraechain where both of their Kings were killed, following that up with three more victories at Badbgna (somewhere in Connaught), Cnamros (somewhere in Leinster) and Dal Riada (in Ulster), going on to build the first forts. It would seem clear that the Fomorians just weren’t that great in battle, or were more used to simple raidings.

But things were soon looking up for them. The old enemy – plague – stuck the Nemedians hard nine years after their arrival, killing three thousand of them, including Nemed himself. The Fomorians had gained great leaders of their own, in the form of two brothers, Morc and Conand. They had established a mighty tower on Tory Island and from there, were able to oppress what remained of the Nemedians, extracting huge amounts of tribute in goods and slaves.

So things remained for over two centuries (people lived long lives back then) before the Nemedians, all 60’000 of them at this point, had enough and rose up in rebellion. Led by three great champions, Semul, Erglan and Fergus Red-Side, they attacked the Fomorians, reached Tory Island, and pulled down Conand’s tower, killing him and, conveniently, all his heirs too. Morc still remained, and the two sides fought a great sea battle nearby. Whatever it was, bad weather or divine intervention, the seas rose and both fleets were wrecked, only 30 or so Nemedians surviving out of both forces. Those survivors left Ireland, leaving the land desolate once again.” (4)











(I did not write this article in any way. I simply enjoy sharing pearls of wisdom and beauty from different sources into one source for many to enjoy. If inspired to from there, go to the original sources to discover more!)


Art title: ‘The Battle of Lugh and Balor” by artis source:  Ionus @


Note from Artistic source: “In this occasion, here is one of the chapters of Celtic mythology I like the most: the fight between Lugh, the celtic god of Sun, and Balor of the Fomors, his grandfather and foe. It was said that Balor was an one-eyed giant that kept his eye closed, but at the moment he opened it, he was capable of killing instantly in one look an entire army. You can imagine how it ended: Lugh won him by sticking his spear into the Fomor’s eye at the moment he was about to open it.”

4 thoughts on “The Irish Celtic Legend of the Fomorians? Who were they?

  1. I appreciate your contacting me. I haven’t been on the computer too much and rarely actually check my twitter so I’m glad you could contact me this way. I’m thinking that you may be referring to the larger source 4? Is that correct? It’s been a year since I first found that article and shared it somewhere else but now am in the process of transferring things over to a blog. I will be more than happy to comply with your request and again thank you. I hope this reaches you.

  2. Out standing site, One of the best, most comprehensive, covering a wide range of topics and doing it well. Academic in its presentation but information presented in clear, understandable manner that whether one has an advanced academic degree
    or one is looking for information without formal education. In all my years on here, I have never some across a site such as this and commend who arranged it, complied it and came up with such an outstanding finished product. I hope I have the chance to spend time reviewing each topic. Wish such was available when working on and completing my Ph.D. back in the mid 70s.

    • Thank you so much. 🙂 I have to say that the original sources, being writers or artists are what makes this blog what it is. I only hope and love to gather bits and pieces of their wisdom from various sources that both inspire and ignite the mind and the imagination. This blog just started a little while ago and I’m so very thankful for all the support that has been given from the community towards it so far. Many blessings to you. 🙂

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