In Irish mythology, Cessair (or Ceasair) was the leader of the first inhabitants of Ireland before the Biblical Flood, in what may be a Christianisation of a legend that pre-dates the conversion, but may alternatively be the product of post-conversion pseudohistory.
She was daughter of Noah's son Bith and his wife Birren. According to legend, when her father was denied a place in the ark by Noah, Cessair advised him to build an idol. This idol advised them that they could escape the Deluge in a ship. Cessair, along with three men, Bith, Fintan and Ladra, and fifty women, set off and sailed for more than seven years. They landed in Ireland at Dún na mBarc (Donemark, on Bantry Bay in County Cork), forty days before the Flood, in Age of the World 2242 according to the Annals of the Four Masters, or 2361 BC according to Seathrún Céitinn's chronology.
The three men shared out the women as wives between them. Cessair and sixteen others went with Fintan, seventeen, including Barann, went with Bith and sixteen, including Balba, with Ladra, but Ladra died and his wives were shared between Fintan and Bith. Then Bith died. Fintan found himself with all the women, and fled. Six days before the Flood, Cessair died of a broken heart at Cuil Ceasrach in Connacht.
The rest of Cessair's people were wiped out in the Flood, with the exception of Fintan, who turned into a salmon. After a series of animal transformations he eventually became a man again and told his people's story.
A variant version of the legend, apparently contained in the Book of Druimm Snechta, says that it was Banba who came to Ireland with three men and fifty women, two hundred and forty years before the Flood (2490 BC by his chronology). Her people lived in Ireland for forty years and died of plague. In the usual scheme Banba is numbered among the Tuatha Dé Danann, who lived in Ireland much later.
Seathrún Céitinn also refers to a legend that three fishermen from Spain, Capa, Laigne and Luasad, were driven to Ireland by a storm a year before the Flood. They liked it, so they went home to get their wives, returned shortly before the Flood, and were drowned.
Cessair is also the name of a daughter of the king of Gallia who married the High King of Ireland, Úgaine Mor, in the 5th or 6th century BC.
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