<<<
>>>

The Religion of the Ancient Celts

Page: 59

The Morrigan had warned the bull of the approach of Medb's army, and she had also appeared in the form of a beautiful woman to Cúchulainn offering him her love, only to be repulsed. Hence she turned against him, and described how she would oppose him as an eel, a wolf, and a red heifer—an incident which is probably a variant of that already described. In each of these shapes she was conquered and wounded by the hero, and knowing that none whom he hurt could be healed save by himself, she appeared to him as an old crone milking a cow. At each draught of the milk which he received from her he blessed her with "the blessing of gods and not-gods," and so her wounds were healed.461 For this, at a later time, she tried to ward off his death, but unsuccessfully. During the progress of the Táin, one of Cúchulainn's "fairy kinsmen," namely, Lug, who announced himself as his father, appeared to aid him, while others of the Tuatha Déa threw "herbs of healing" into the streams in which his wounds were washed.462

During the Táin, Cúchulainn slaughtered the wizard Calatin and his daughters. But Calatin's wife bore three {132} posthumous sons and three daughters, and through their means the hero was at last slain. Everything was done to keep him back from the host which now advanced against Ulster, but finally one of Calatin's daughters took the form of Niamh and bade him go forth. As he passed to the fight, Calatin's daughters persuaded him to eat the flesh of a dog—a fatal deed, for it was one of his geasa never to eat dog's flesh. So it was that in the fight he was slain by Lugaid, and his soul appeared to the thrice fifty queens who had loved him, chanting a mystic song of the coming of Christ and the day of doom—an interesting example of a phantasm coincidental with death.464 This and other Christian touches show that the Christian redactors of the saga felt tenderly towards the old pagan hero. This is even more marked in the story in which he appears to King Loegaire and S. Patrick, begging the former to believe in God and the saint, and praying Patrick to "bring me with thy faithful ones unto the land of the living."465 A similar Christianising appears in the story of Conchobar's death, the result of his mad frenzy on hearing from his Druid that an earthquake is the result of the shameful crucifixion of Christ.

In the saga, Cúchulainn appears as the ideal Celtic warrior, but, like other ideal warriors, he is a "magnified, non-natural man," many of his deeds being merely exaggerations of those common among barbaric folk. Even his "distortion" or battle frenzy is but a magnifying of the wild frenzy of all wild fighters. To the person of this ideal warrior, some of whose traits may have been derived from traditional stories of actual heroes,


<<<
>>>