Pine Marten ~ Cat Crainn ~ Martes martes
The Irish for this being translates as ‘Tree Cat’, which is obvious once you see their amazing, non-retractable claws. They do not belong to the cat family, however, but to the family Mustelidae, along with otters, badgers & stoats. They spend most of their time in the trees, living a solitary life, coming down only to hunt at night, mate and with their young in the late spring time. They are omnivores and eat small manmals, birds, amphibians, berries, nuts & seeds.
In Ireland, there are lots of place names which refer to ‘cat’ and it is thought that this refers more to the pine marten, cat crainn, since we do not have wild cats. Examples include: Creag na gCat- Rock of the cats, County Antrim & Oweynagat- Cave of the Cats, County Roscommon.
Interestingly enough, Cave of the cats is located in Rathcroghan, where the Warrior Queen Meadhbh hailed from. It is said that Meadhbh wore a pet Pine Marten around her neck until Cú Chulainn killed it with a slingshot.
Pine Marten populations are strongest in Connacht, the land of Meadhbh, as well as in the Midlands. They live in the woods where I live 🤗
They suffered so much persecution in Ireland for their fur in the Middle Ages. Since 1976, they have been protected by the Wildlife Act and their numbers on the rise. There are an estimated 4,000 animals now across the country, though largely absent in mid-Ulster, Cork & Limerick. As their range increases once again, so too does the population of the native red squirrel. Evidence suggests that as the Pine Marten more easily predates the Grey Squirrel, the native Red Squirrel is returning.
In Irish folklore, cat crainn appears in the stories of the Fianna. It was said to have been Fionn’s first “heroic” act as an infant to strangle a Pine Marten, skin it and wear it as a blanket.
I love this poem which refers to a favourite hunting place of the Fianna, Beann Ghualainn: ‘Martens in your mysterious woods,
Squirrels abounding in your trees,
Badgers that are good to hunt
Many wild fawns running free’. Reference: “Ireland’s Animals, by Niall Mac Coitir”. I found this one on the road to Donegal with @feral.lion, bark-tanned.
Bulmak için kendimi,
Çiçeklerde, kuşlarda, tarlalarda, kentlerde;
Sözlerinde ve düşüncelerinde;
Ve artık yok olmuş dünyaların
Unutulmuş harabelerinde aramalıyım.