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Sunday, September 18, 2016

Morgan's Re-telling of the Morrigan's Interactions with Cu Chulainn part 2

Part 2 - the Tain Bo Cuiligne

So the big cattle raid that the Morrigan predicted in the Tain Bo Regamna, which we re-told in part 1, has now come to pass. In this part we are going to look only at the actions of the Morrigan in dealing with Cu Chulainn - keep in mind though this is not her only appearances in this story, nor even her most important ones in my opinion.

We begin with the story of King Buan's Daughter, but here's the thing about that - 1. it only appears as far as I know in one recorded version of the Tain Bo Cuiligne, 2 it is basically a modified and condensed version of some of the events in the Tain Bo Regamna which is older, specifically the threats to attack Cu Chulainn; some scholars have suggested this episode was added later by a scribe trying to justify the Morrigan's interaction with Cu Chulainn within the text and 3 I would highly advise taking the events with a huge grain of salt as we know that the Morrigan has previously been deceptive towards Cu Chulainn. I personally don't think the proclamation of love or offer to help him are genuine, but you can decide for yourself.

King Buan's Daughter

Cu Chulainn was guarding the ford after many long days fighting when he saw a beautiful young woman approaching. He asks her who she is and she says that she is the daughter of King Buan, and that she fell in love with him after hearing of his glorious deeds and has brought her treasure and her cows with her. He tells her its not a good time, and that they are struggling and hungry so he isn't in a good position to meet a woman. She says that she could help him, but he replies 'I am not here for a woman's ass'.

She then promises to cause him trouble by coming against him when he is fighting, tangling his legs in the form of an eel. Cu Chulainn replies that he prefers that to the King's daughter and says he will break her ribs and she will not be healed unless he blesses her. She then says she will drive cattle at him while in the form of a wolf to which he replies that he will smash her eye with a stone from his sling and she won't be healed unless he blesses her. Finally she says she will come at him in the form of a hornless red heifer, and he says that he will break her legs with a sling stone and she won't be healed unless he blesses her. Then they parted

The Death of Loch

Now Cu Chulainn found himself fighting against the warrior Loch who was a formidable opponent and while they fought in the river ford the Morrigan came from the sidhe to fulfill her promise to destroy Cu Chulainn. She came in the form of a white red-eared heifer with fifty white cows, each bound to another with a bronze chain. Cu Chulain threw a stone with his sling and broke one of her eyes.

Then she came at him again, this time in the form of a black eel who twined around his ankles and tripped him, so that he fell and Loch wounded him in the chest. Cu Chulain rose when he was wounded and smashed the eel against some rocks, breaking its ribs.

Finally she came at him as a grey-red wolf bitch, driving cows before her, and she bit him and distracted him so that Loch wounded him again this time in the loins. Cu Chulainn cast a spear at her and wounded her a third time, and was so enraged that he cast teh Gae Bulga at Loch, impaling him upon it and mortally wounding him. Dying Loch asked that Cu Chulainn grant him the dignity of dying on his face not his back so that everyone would know he had not died trying to run away, which Cu Chulainn did.

Cu Chulainn then composed a poem of the fight in which he recounted the events, and mentions the wolf and eel attacking him, calling the Morrigan 'Badb'

The Healing of the Morrigan

After fighting Loch Cu Chulainn has what may fairly be called a very bad day, with Medb violating the agreement of fair combat which dictated that warriors would fight one on one by sending 6 warriors at once against Cu Chulainn.

The Morrigan then appeared again to Cu Chulainn disguised as an old woman* who was milking a three teated cow. Because he had wounded her and no one could be healed from such wounds unless Cu Chulainn blessed them.

Desperately thirsty Cu Chulainn begs the old woman for a drink and she gives him some milk from the first teat. He responds by saying "May this be a cure for me, O old woman" and so the Morrigan's eye was healed. He begged for another drink and she gave him milk from the second teat to which he said "May she be healthy now who gave this" and her ribs were healed. He begged a third drink and she gave him one from the final teat, after which he said "blessing of the Gods and un-Gods on you, woman" at which her leg was healed. And so the Morrigan was healed.

Medb then attacks him again with her warriors and he defeats them


*just want to note the Irish used actually specifies a woman over 70 years old.

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