the cattle raid of cooley

Rider (Medb)

Queen of Connaught and the archenemy of Cú Chulainn. She was said to have had five husbands, one of whom was the King of Ulster. She was also famous for starting the Táin Bó Cúailnge (Cattle Raid of Cooley) to steal his prize bull and her voracious sexual appetite.

She rose a great army, but was opposed by only one man, Chulainn. Using her daughter as a prize, Medb sent many heroes to kill Chulainn but all were defeated. In the end, she managed to steal the bull and made a hasty retreat. For many years, Chulainn would appear before her, killing her pets and handmaidens.

Humorously, she died whilst bathing in a pool when her nephew, Furbaide slung a piece of cheese at her head after she had killed his mother, her sister.

The Irish Goddess, Medb Lethberg who ruled over intoxication and sovereignty is also thought to be her.

COW FIGHT!

ULSTER IS UNDER ATTACK BY MEDB, THE QUEEN OF CONNACHT. MEDB WANTS TO STEAL THE TOWN’S MAGIC FUCKING COW (IT USED TO BE A PERSON, NOW IT’S A MAGIC COW. JUST ACCEPT IT. IRELAND IS FUCKING WEIRD SOMETIMES). SHE STRIKES ALL THE MED OF ULSTER EXCEPT CU CHULAINN DOWN WITH SOME BULLSHIT MAGIC PLAGUE, AND SENDS IN THE ARMY.

CU CHULAINN IS MEANT TO BE GUARDING THE BORDER, BUT HE’S AT HOME FUCKING HIS WIFE INSTEAD SO THE ARMY JUST WALK STRAIGHT IN. FORTUNATELY, HE MANAGES TO GET IN THE WAY BEFORE THEY MAKE IT ACROSS THE FUCKING RIVER. ON THE WAY, THOUGH, HE RUNS IA REALLY HOT HALF-NAKED GIRL, WHO OFFERS HIM SEX. HE TELLS HER TO FUCK OFF, BECAUSE HE’S GOT SHIT TO DO. AT THIS POINT SHE REVEALS HERSELF TO BE THE MORRIGAN (SUPER IMPORTANT WITCHY GODDESS) AND TELLS HIM HE’S FUCKED UP, BUT HE DOESN’T GIVE A SHIT.

WHEN HE GETS TO THE RIVER, HE CHALLENGES EVERY MAN IN THE ARMY TO SINGLE COMBAT AS THEY CROSS THE FORD, AND SPENDS SEVERAL MONTHS BEATING THE SHIT OUT OF THEM ONE AT A TIME. THE MORRIGAN IS DETERMINED TO FUCK SHIT UP FOR HIM, THOUGH, SO SHE TURNS INTO AN EEL AND ATTACKS HIM. HE BREAKS HALF HER FUCKING RIBS. THEN SHE TURNS INTO A WOLF AND HE POKES HER EYE OUT. THEN SHE TURNS INTO A COW AND HE BREAKS HER LFUCKING LEGS. THEN SHE JUST FUCKS OFF AND LEAVES HIM ALONE.

AFTER A WHILE, CU CHULAINN GETS SO ANGRY THAT HE GOES INTO ANOTHER UNCONTROLLABLE STABBY MURDER RAGE, AND SLAUGHTERS EVERY SINGLE MAN IN THE ARMY SINGLE HANDEDLY. HE’S ONE HELL OF A MURDEROUS MOTHERFUCKER. THEN HE BUILDS NEW FORTIFICATIONS FOR THE TOWN. OUT OF MOTHERFUCKING MANGLED DEAD BODIES. WHAT THE FUCK. THERE’S BLOOD EVERYWHERE, AND HE DOESN’T GIVE A SHIT. HE JUST SITS THERE HAPPILY BUILDING WALLS. CU CHULAINN IS A FUCKING LUNATIC.

anonymous asked:

Hi there Saoirse! Thank you so much so far for both your work, support AND tips on Irish dancing. Now I am here to ask you: What Irish fairytales/folklore does fascinate you the most? Share and elaborate please :3 ~Sia

Hey Sia! Thank you for your question! (I was actually thinking about doing a post related to this topic, great timing)

Now when it comes to Irish folklore, there is a LOT that I could discuss, but the most interesting aspect of it, in my humble opinion, are the myths and legends.

Many of these myths and legends can be traced back as far as the Celts, though do to the conversion to Christianity before the 5th century, a lot of it was either lost are altered to fit Christian beliefs (many Pagan customs/traditions were also changed due to this) Because of this, a lot of what we do know about Irish mythology today is quite vague :/

Luckily though,Many of these stories were preserved in manuscripts.And although many haven’t survived (some stories weren’t even written at all!), there are manuscripts that can still be viewed to this day. (e.g the Book of Leinster)

Irish legends are divided into four cycles, which mark important periods in early Irish history. They are..;

  • Mythological
  • Ulster
  • Fenian
  • Historical

Mythological Cycle

These stories are set in pre-Christian Ireland and are the last remnants of the Iron Age Celts in Ireland (500 BC- 400 AD). Christian preserved them in highly decorative and detailed illuminated manuscripts.(The Book of Kells (though not a book of mythology) is a good example of an illuminated manuscript.) Celtic gods were often depicted, though due to vast alterations, many god-like characters were changed and presented as people who had lived in Ireland long before mortals. The Book of Invasions, or An Leabhar Gabhála (pronounced “On Lao-er Gov-Aw-La) is a collection of poems and stories from the Mythological Cycle and tells us a lot about what life was like from Pre-Christian Ireland to the Middle Ages.

A favourite legend of mine from the Mythological Cycle would be the Children of Lir. You can read the full story here, but to put it simply, There was once a king called Lir who had four children, one daughter named Fionnuala, and three sons, Aodh, Fiachra and Conn. Their mother had passed away, but the King then decided to marry again, to a woman called Aoife. Aoife was jealous of the love the King had for his children, so one day she put a curse on them, turning them into four swans. They had to remain swans for 900 years, and only the sound of a church bell could break the spell.

(A sculpture of the Children of Lir in the Garden of Remembrance, Dublin.X

Ulster Cycle

Formerly known as the Red Branch Cycle ( Rúraíocht in Irish), these legends deal with the heroic tales of the Ulaids (from which the modern word Ulster derives from) set in around 1st century BC. Like many of the Irish legends, they were carried on through oral tradition between the 8th and 11th centuries, until they too were preserved and written down in the 12th century. Notable resources about the Ulster Cycle include the Book of the Dun Cow (Lebor na hUidre) and the Book of Leinster.

Generally, stories from this cycle have a more serious and realistic tone to them, and center around tales of heroic warriors and epic battles. A good example of this type of story would be An Táin Bó Cúailnge”, or The Cattle Raid of Cooley. Another example of a legend from this cycle would be Deirdre of the Sorrows.

Cú Chulainn (literally Culann’s Hound in English) is also a famous figure from the Ulster Cycle, if not one of the most famous characters in Irish mythology. I could make an entire post about him alone, but for now I’ll just go over the story of how he got his name. (Here’s just an overview of his life, according to legend)

Setanta, as he was called as a child, wanted to be a member the Red Branch Knights and join the Macra, a special school for young boys in Armagh who trained to became warriors for the Red Branch Knights. His father, the King of Dundalk, however refused to let him go because he was too young. Setanta decided that he could wait until he was older. So with his hurley and sliotar, he ran away to Armagh by himself.

When he arrived at the castle of King Connor at Armagh, he spotted the boys of the Macra playing hurling(one of Ireland’s national sports, imagine a game like lacrosse mixed with field hockey) on the green plain in front of the castle and decided to join them. He was immediately able to show off his incredible skills, which made the other boys angry, so they started to gang up on him for joining their game uninvited.

The noise disturbed the king from inside the castle and he sent out one of his servants to find out what was happening and brought Setanta before him. When he stated who he was and why he was there, the King then allowed him to become a member of the Macra.

One day Culann, the King’s blacksmith,invited Setanta to a feast. Setanta made his way to the house where the feast was taking place, but when he got there he could see a large wolfhound guarding the entrance. Suddenly without warning, the wolfhound leapt forward at him and barred its sharp teeth. Without a second thought, Setanta got his hurley and sliotar and aimed it at the dog, hurling the sliotar down its throat. Soon, the dog laid dead on the ground.

The people inside the house heard all the commotion outside and were astonished to see the boy standing over the wolfhound’s body, amazed by his bravery and great strength. He promised to Culann to protect his house as a replacement for his dog, and from that day on he was known as Cú Chulainn.

(“Cuchulain Slays the Hound of Culain”, X)

OKAY. Since I think this is starting to get a bit longer than I though it was gonna be and since I have a lot more that I wanna talk about (with pictures and everything :’)), I will talk about the Fenian Cycle and the Historical Cycle in another post to go along with this one! 

(If you see anything here that seems inaccurate and can be improved upon, please let me know and I’ll be happy to change it Xx)

I hope this was interesting so far, and please stay tuned for the next post!

Slán go fóill!!

The role and power of women in Irish culture.

As illustrated in “The Tain." 

The level of equality that men and women shared within Irish culture was extremely unusual in the world of ancient and medieval Europe. Since before the times of early Greeks and Romans, women were considered second class citizens. But not in Ireland. Celtic women enjoyed the same freedoms as Celtic men did, despite the repression of women’s rights in the rest of Europe. Nothing can stand as a better testament to Irish culture then the tales and epics they passed down from each generation, first orally and eventually chronicling their tales in writing.

One tale in particular, the great Irish epic The Táin, outlines the dominant role of women clearly within its narrative. In the Táin, women use their sexuality, power, physicality, wealth and even some supernatural abilities to prove that they’re as equal a member of society as men. Although men in the Táin are typically portrayed as the strongest and most important, their power becomes weak under the woman’s influence. The male heroes of the story, Cú Chulainn, Ailill and Conchobar would have achieved nothing if it wasn’t for the efforts of the females Medb, Macha and Fedelm. The Táin clearly illustrates one surprising point about Irish culture: societal influence was split between men and women, if not leaning more towards the matriarchal side. Irish women were just as strong physically and emotionally as men.  

The Táin, otherwise known as The Cattle Raid of Cooley, is a legendary epic from early Irish literature. A part of why women held such a dominant role within the story can be associated with the fact that this literature is pre-Christian. Christianity brought with it several restrictions to a woman’s way of life. Christian women could not remarry and adultery was punishable by death. This was certainly not the case in Ireland. Sexuality was much more celebrated by the Celts as it was free from the sexual restraints and taboos that a Christian society fostered. Women could divorce their husbands if they wanted and were not punished if they were found to be adulterous. One of the main female characters, Queen Medb, had been married twice before she was married to the to the character we know as her current husband King Aillil of Connacht. During those previous marriages she had plenty of extramarital affairs and was known to take several lovers when not married. Yet despite all these acts that would have been considered barbaric and sacrilegious in another European culture, Queen Medb holds quite a strong position of power and influence which sometimes even rivals that of her husband King Ailill. The relationship between the King and Queen is very much a struggle for power, despite different genders. “Her words were sharp they cut him deep, in a war between the sheets.”

Queen Medb is described as beautiful, powerful and wealthy. Her role and influence is on par with the King Ailill. At one point they take the time to compare their assets. To Medb’s displeasure she finds out that her value (from her wealth and assets) is one less than her partner King Aillil. One Brown Bull of Cooley less. This is where the Táin begins, with the frivolous pursuit of Medb to share wealth exactly equal to her husband. She embarks on a quest, with an army to back her, to steal Donn Cualinge the prized Brown Bull of Cooley, from the couple’s enemies the people of Ulster. During this quest for the possession of the famed bull Medb and other females use their powers to direct the conflict in their favor and illustrate the importance of women in Irish culture.

Sexuality and beauty is a major tool at the disposal of the women of the Táin and is used throughout to conquer the men. Medb uses her beauty and that of her daughter Finnibair to control men with their desires. Finnabair was used by her mother as a bargaining chip to motivate soldiers to fight the enemy Ulster hero Cú Chulainn, the main protagonist of the story. Queen Medb offers Finnabair’s hand in marriage to whomever could slay Cú Chulainn. By her beauty, Finnabair unintentionally manipulates hundreds of soldiers to fight and die in her honor. However her virtue stays intact. That’s what is special about this character; her personality and morales are reminiscent of the mindset of many Irish women. Finnabair sweet talked many a soldier, convincing them to take up arms for her, for a chance to lay with her, but yet she keeps her virginity. Finnabair has love for only one man, Roachad, and feels incredibly guilty when she finds out about the men who died in her name. She’s so overwhelmed by the "harsh, hideous deeds done in anger at Ulster’s high king, and little graves everywhere” from her teasing seduction that she dies of shame on the battlefield. Finnabair shows that Irish woman did value purity and abstinence in some capacity. However this innocence was a quality only present in the character of Finnabair, for Queen Medb used her sexuality in consciously devious ways. Could Queen Medb’s contrasting virtues represent the way males viewed females in Irish societies?


With a name literally meaning “the intoxicater,” Queen Medb’s uses her beauty to get what she wants by offering “her own friendly thighs” to Dáire mac Fiachna, the owner of the Brown Bull. She essentially is willing to prostitute herself for the sake of material possessions. The fact that she goes to these lengths to acquire the Brown Bull of Cooley says a lot of things about her character. Medb uses her sexaulity as a weapon and the men of both Ulster and Connacht fall victim to it. She’s very prideful and is determined to achieve equal status to her husband. She’s violent and takes what she wants. Queen Medb raises an army in determination to see her goals fulfilled. She’s also physically strong, skilled in combat and present on that battlefield. This hints at some roles that women may have played in Irish warfare. Woman were around on the campsites and battlefields of Ireland’s army and were as much a part of the military movement as the men. One of Cú Chulainn’s many lovers, Aife, was a warrior woman who loved her chariots and her horses. Her story also suggest that women were not restricted from the same career opportunities as men. Cú Chulainn’s own combat trainer was a woman by the name of Scathach. Queen Medb’s presence during the battles and even in a personal duel with Cú Chulainn also connotates a woman’s power as a leader in Ancient Ireland. Indeed in Celtic culture if a king died, his wife would inherit all the wealth along with the power and authority. Many powerful female figures and deities arise out of Celtic mythology and history. One example is that of Boudica who was a female druidess who defended Britannica from waves of invading Romans. Celtic women, as illustrated by these tales, were just as fierce as the men. One thing this says about Irish and Celtic culture is that while beauty was important, men valued intelligence and prowess greatly in women.

A woman’s intellectual ability was a trait long sought after in women by Irish men because it was only by looking beyond someone’s physical appearance that the men showed true integrity. It’s actually a common motif in Celtic mythology where young men sleep with unattractive or very old women for their intellect and find out later that they’ve actually coupled with beautiful goddesses in disguise. The character of Fedelm embodies that quality. She’s a poetess that has the gift of “Second Sight,” which grants her precognition and foresight of future events. She uses this gift to make accurate predictions of the future for Queen Medb and her army, “"I see it crimson, I see it red.” Fedelm’s supernatural ability is a metaphor for the smart intellect of Irish women and the ability to use their brains to overcome obstacles.

The Táin also alludes to the notion that women have a subtle but focused controlling effect on the minds of men. This can be observed in the story of Macha, or the horse goddess. In the Táin, Macha curses all the people of Ulster to experience the pains of her labor, rendering them useless and vulnerable to Medb’s forces. This unique and unexpected plague is an homage to the suffering that women have to go through during childbirth. It’s also serves as a commentary for the power that women held over men. In fact Macha says it quite plainly after the curse: “Although you may develop sophisticated doctrines of rebirth; although you may have taken on yourselves the right of life and death; although your efforts may seem logical and plausible in the light of a patriarchal culture; your efforts cannot but be doomed to failure as long as they are based on the subordination of women.”

No matter how tough a man is, it’s hard to resist the soft tone of a woman’s voice. This subconscious feminine power and the easy subjectability of the male psyche can also be observed through the character of Morrigan, another goddess. With her supernatural shapeshifting abilities, Morrigan is able to trick, confuse and thwart the plans of Cú Chulainn. She trips him up in battle by turning into an eel, leads a charge of cattle towards him, and eventually perches on his dead body in the form of a raven. All evidence suggests the Irish held the role of being a woman to a much higher standard than most cultures of the time. Sure Cú Chulainn has supernatural like combat abilities and an immunity to Macha’s plague, but his powers pale in comparison to the forces of the sacred feminine.

The actions of the females in the Táin also help convey the idea of the existence of female druids in Ancient Ireland. Druids, or badrui, were members of the priestly class and were said to have supernatural powers as well as being very highly esteemed members of society. They healed the sick, held lectures, practiced alchemy and blessed the dead during public funeral ceremonies. Several of the characters in the Táin reflect clear examples of druidism duties. Conchobor’s mother Nessa was a druid and the enchantress Scathach is explicitly called one. Fedelm’s gift of precognition and the fact that she’s a prophetess also strongly suggests that she is a druid. With her claims of possessing an all-encompassing illuminating knowledge, men bend to her will.  Not only did women hold positions of immense political power, but they also held seats with religious authority.


In a time where religious persecution and strict gender roles ravaged across Europe, women enjoyed a unique level of distinction in Irish society, as illustrated by the Táin. Women in Celtic culture could be warriors, doctors, judges, priestesses, artists and in Medbs case, a royal leader. Women and their rights were protected by law. The Táin does indeed tell the story of the fearless male warrior Cú Chulainn who courageously rides into the battle. It is the tale of men and brothers who band together to defend their homeland. But first and foremost it’s a tale about the power of women. Medb’s petty pursuit, and the hundreds of deaths caused by it, is a clear example of how effective women are at getting what they want, no matter the cost. The real heroes in this story are the women. The entire conflict in the Táin was created by, facilitated and eventually ended by Medb and other supporting female characters. Men are just pawns in the hands of a prideful Medb, a vengeful Morrigan, a cruel Macha and a manipulative Finnabair. Whether used for evil or beneficial intentions the women in the Táin exhibit great strength. The epic tale of the Táin showcases the ancient celtic woman as intellectual, defiant and most importantly in a role equal to men within the culture of Ireland as a whole.

 Berserker (Cú Chulainn Alter)

Irish hero that was prominently featured in the Ulster Cycle and was famous for his battle frenzy, know as a warp spasm, where he became a terrible monster that cut down both allies and enemies alike. He was also known to fight from atop his chariot that was driven by his loyal horses, Liath Macha and Dub Sainglend.

At only seventeen, he single-handedly held back the forces of Medb during the Cattle Raid of Cooley and was beset by The Morrigan in various animal forms when he refused to love her. He was also a member of the Red Branch Knights and tried to marry the Princess Emer, whose father, Forgall, refused him because he was not strong enough and suggested he should find the warrior Scáthach to train him, hoping he would die instead.

When he returned alive however, Forgall still refused the two to be married. Chulainn flew into a rage and stormed Forgall’s castle, killing him along with his men and escaping with Emer. Now that they were free, the two were quickly married.

His name was pronounced ‘Coo Hullen’.

táin bó cúailnge au where medb and aillil are in college and they’re arguing over who made whose life better and it turns out they’re exactly equal except that aillil has a dog in his dorm and medb doesn’t so she goes to her neighbor and tells him she’ll make out with him if she can borrow his dog for the weekend. he agrees, but when he catches her texting her friends that she’d have taken the dog anyway he changes her mind and she spends weeks trying to steal the dog with her friends

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Trigger warning: sexual violence

Warning: strong language, assorted adult content

A beautiful interpretation of the Táin Bó Cúailnge (also known as The Tain, or The Cattle Raid of Cooley) by Portland Oregon band The Decemberists, with music video directed by Andy Smetanka.