Friday, July 29, 2005


UI's Celtic Mythology - Cuchulainn

Yesterday I wrote about the death of Cuchulainn's lifelong friend Ferdia and for today, I will detail the events which led to Cuchulainn's death in the war of the brown bulll of Cuailgne.

One prophecy told Queen Medb that there would be "crimson and red" upon her forces because of Cuchulainn's prowess, but she was determined to invade and also she had three advantages. First, the great hero had made bitter enemies of the Calatin family, whose daughters were witches. Just prior to his last stand along with his faithful charioteer Laeg, they cast a spell on Cuchulainn which withered a shoulder and a hand. Second, Medb attacked when Ulster's heroes were laid low by Macha's curse, and were unable to fight for five days and five nights. Finally, Cuchulainn had lost the support of the goddess Morrigan, because he had rejected her passionate advances. Yet he still managed to conduct a successful single-handed defence and was able to slow the advance of Queen Medb's forces by the use of clever tactics and lightning attacks, until the effects of Macha's curse had almost worn off, and the dazed warriors were able to respond to Sualtam Mac Roth's call to arms. But their help came too late for Cuchulainn. Pressed on all sides by his enemies, the Ulster champion was overcome in spite of aid from his divine father, the sun god Lugh. His only companion, Laeg, was laid low with a spear, then Cuchulainn himself suffered a terrible stomach wound that even Lugh could not heal. Finally, Cuchulainn tied himself to an upright stone in order to fight till his last breath. As soon as he died Morrigan, in the form of a crow, settled on his shoulder and his enemies cut off his head and right hand, leaving his body for the carrion birds. Conall, his foster-brother, managed to recover the missing parts, but Ulster wept for the loss of their champion. Indeed, so widespread was Cuchulainn's fame that his exploits influenced the development of the Arthurian myths in Britain and France.

So that is the story of Cuchulainn. Even the way he dies is heroic. In my eyes he is definitely the greatest figure in Irish mythology.


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