Táin Bó Cúailnge

16A. The Healing of the Morrigan

About this Edition

  • Translated By
    Publishing Date
    • Joseph Dunn

Great weariness came over Cuchulain after that night, and a great thirst, after his exhaustion. Then it was that the Morrigan, daughter of Ernmas, came from the fairy dwellings, in the guise of an old hag, with wasted knees, long-legged, blind and lame, engaged in milking a tawny, three-teated milch cow before the eyes of Cuchulain. And for this reason she came in this fashion, that she might have redress from Cuchulain. For none whom Cuchulain ever wounded recovered there from without himself aided in the healing.

Cuchulain, maddened with thirst, begged her for a milking. She gave him a milking of one of the teats and straightway Cuchulain drank it. “May this be a cure in time for me, old crone,” quoth Cuchulain, “and the blessing of gods and of non-gods upon thee!” said he; and one of the queen’s eyes became whole thereby. He begged the milking of another teat. She milked the cow’s second teat and gave it to him and he drank it and said, “May she straightway be sound that gave it.” Then her head was healed so that it was whole. He begged a third drink of the hag. She milked the cow’s third teat and gave him the milking of the teat and he drank it. “A blessing on thee of gods and of non-gods, O woman! Good is the help and succour thou gavest me.” And her leg was made whole thereby.

Now these were their gods, the mighty folk : and these were their non-gods, the folk of husbandry. And the queen was healed forthwith. “Well, Cuchulain, thou saidst to me,” spake the Morrigan, “I should not get healing nor succour from thee forever.” “Had I known it was thou,” Cuchulain made answer, “I would never have healed thee.” Or, it may be Drong Conculainn (‘Cuchulain’s Throng’) on Tarthesc is the name of this tale in the Reaving of the Kine of Cualtige.

Then it was she alighted in the form of a royston crow on the bramble that grows over Grelach Dolair (‘the Stamping-ground of Dolar’) in Mag Murthemni. “Ominous is the appearance of a bird in this place above all,” quoth Cuchulain. Hence cometh Sgè nah Einchi (‘Crow’s Bramble’) as a name of Murthemne.

Then Medb ordered out the hundred armed warriors of her body-guard at one and the same time to assail Cuchulain. Cuchulain attacked them all, so that they fell by his hand at Ath Celt Cuilè (‘Ford of the First Crime’). “It is a dishonour for us that our people are slaughtered in this wise,” quoth Medb. “It is not the first destruction that has befallen us from that same man,” replied Ailill. Hence Cuilenn Cind Duni (‘The Destruction of the Head of the Dûn’) is henceforth the name of the place where the were, the mound whereon Medb and Ailill tarried that night. Hence Ath Cro (‘Gory Ford’) is the name of the ford where they were, and Glass Cro (‘River of Gore’) the name of the stream. And fittingly, too, because of the abundance of gore and blood that went with the flow of the river.