At one time there was a man, known as Crunnchu, and his wife,
Macha. There was to be a gathering at King Conchobar's court and Crunnchu wished to
attend. Macha warned him not to go for he would speak of things she did not wish to have
spoken, but he promised to say anything and left.
While at the gathering he heard someone speak of the king's horses and
how swift they were. Forgetting himself he spoke up and claimed his wife was faster.
The king had him captured and only his wife proving his boast true
could free him. At the time she was pregnant and near her time. She appealed to the king
to allow her to have the child first and then to run but he was adamant that she would run
So she raced the horses and outstripped them easily, but as she reached
the winning post she gave birth to twins.
Other people tried to reach her but found themselves lethargic. And
thus she cursed them with her dying breath.
For nine generations the warriors would be lethargic whenever Ulster
was in danger. The only ones not effected were women, children and Cu Chulainn for his
father was of the Otherworld.
While this curse was in effect two swineherds had a disagreement. Rucht
was from Connacht and Friuch was from Munster.
These two were great friends and also druids. At some point a dispute
broke out between the people of Connacht and Munster as to which one was a better
While these two friends tried not to let it get between them it
eventually did and they began to practise their druidic magic on each other's pigs.
Ochall, ruler of the sidh at Connacht and Bodb, ruler of the sidh at
Munster were not pleased and dismissed the swineherds.
Each blamed the other and so they began to battle each other in
different forms. For years they fought each other in the air and then they fought each
other in the water.
It was in their watery shape that they were separated. One was swallow
by a cow in Cuailnge in Ulster and the other in a well, in Connacht, when it was swallow
by a cow belonging to the queen.
Both cows gave birth to bull calves. They became the magic bulls, the
Donn of Ulster and Findbennach in Connacht.
A bull calf, sired by the Donn, was in a herd that was being led away
from the sidh at Connacht when it bellowed a challenge, only to be answered by
Findbennach. They fought a terrible fight but eventually the bull calf was beaten. He
cried out in defiance and his call was translated, for the queen, by her druids. He had
told Findbennach that if his father, the Donn, had been there, Findbennach would have been
One night, following this, Queen Medb and her consort, Ailill, were
having a discussion, regarding jealousy and greed. Ailill said that he was well off before
he married Medb, Queen of Connacht, and did not need her wealth and Medb said that she
could equal him in anything.
So when morning came they both had their possessions brought to them.
They were equal in all things except that Ailill had a bull, Findbennach, and Medb didn't.
Findbennach had scorned to be in a woman's herd and had joined Ailill's.
When she realised that she couldn't equal him, she became dejected
until a messenger told her of the Donn, in Ulster and Medb remembered the bull calf and
what he had said.
Medb sent the messenger to negotiate her borrowing the bull for one
year. The owner agreed and a feast was held. The messenger and the men with him had too
much to drink and became boastful. They said that they could've taken the bull even if the
owner hadn't agreed. The owner heard of this and swore that none of his property would
leave his land.
Nothing could be done to change his mind and so Medb agreed that they
would prove their boast and take the bull by force.
This was the start of the Cattle Raid of Cooley.
Medb advanced her army into Ulster, where they met little resistance
from the men of Ulster, who were all under Macha's Curse. All that is except for Cu
Chulainn who came from another place.
On his way to the battle, Cu Chulainn was beset with signs of his bad
luck. A cup of wine turned into blood three times and he saw one of the fairy folk,
members of the sidh, crying over blood covered tunic.
Cu Chulainn harassed the army, killing a hundred everyday.
Eventually Medb agreed to a truce. She would halt her army and send one
warrior per day to fight Cu Chulainn, who for al that he was only seventeen, managed to
defeat her best warriors.
Fergus, an exiled Ulster hero, was sent to fight Cu Chulainn, but they
knew each other well and so they fought mock battles, with Cu Chulainn running away, so
that their reputations were preserved. Fergus promised that when next they met in battle
he would retreat.
So Medb sent Cu Chulainn's half-brother, Ferdiad, who was in exile in
Connacht. He didn't wish to fight but Medb had learnt her lesson with Fergus and implied
that Cu Chulainn had said belittling things and Ferdiad's anger rose.
He went out to confront Cu Chulainn and through ridicule and insults
they ended up fighting an earnest battle. By nightfall they were exhausted and, having
exhausted their insults, they became friends again. But the next day the same thing
This went on until one day Cu Chulainn asked his charioteer to mock
him, when he saw him failing. This would spur him on.
This worked until Cu Chulainn realised that to defeat Ferdiad he would
have to use a weapon only he could use. So he got his charioteer to float it downstream,
for they were fighting in water. He picked it up and threw it towards Ferdiad and this
Now Cu Chulainn was also almost dead from his own wounds. Laeg, his
charioteer, watched over him but despaired when his magic herbs didn't work.
Just as Laeg was about to give up he noticed a man approaching. The
strange thing was that no one else noticed him, nor did he look at anyone else. When Laeg
told Cu Chulainn this Cu Chulainn knew that it was someone from the Otherworld.
The young warrior from the Otherworld said that he was Cu Chulainn's
father from the Otherworld, Lugh Long Arm and that he had come to help Cu Chulainn.
He sang Cu Chulainn to sleep and placed healing herbs from the
Otherworld in all his wounds. For some days after this he fought, bearing Cu Chulainn's
likeness, while Cu Chulainn himself recovered.