Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race

Page: 75

A woman then came by and saw mac Cecht lying exhausted and wounded on the field.

“Come hither, O woman,” says mac Cecht.

“I dare not go there,” says the woman, “for horror and fear of thee.”

But he persuades her to come, and says: “I know not whether it is a fly or gnat or an ant that nips me in the wound.”

The woman looked and saw a hairy wolf buried as far as the two shoulders in the wound. She seized it by the tail and dragged it forth, and it took “the full of its jaws out of him.”

“Truly,” says the woman, “this is an ant of the Ancient Land.”

And mac Cecht took it by the throat and smote it on the forehead, so that it died.

Is thy Lord Alive?

The tale ends in a truly heroic strain. Conall of the Victories, as we have seen, had cut his way out after the king's death, and made his way to Teltin, where he [pg 177] found his father, Amorgin, in the garth before his dūn. Conall's shield-arm had been wounded by thrice fifty spears, and he reached Teltin now with half a shield, and his sword, and the fragments of his two spears.

“Swift are the wolves that have hunted thee, my son,” said his father.

“'Tis this that has wounded us, old hero, an evil conflict with warriors,” Conall replied.

“Is thy lord alive?” asked Amorgin.

“He is not alive,” says Conall.

“I swear to God what the great tribes of Ulster swear: he is a coward who goes out of a fight alive having left his lord with his foes in death.”

“My wounds are not white, old hero,” says Conall. He showed him his shield-arm, whereon were thrice fifty spear-wounds. The sword-arm, which the shield had not guarded, was mangled and maimed and wounded and pierced, save that the sinews kept it to the body without separation.

“That arm fought to-night, my son,” says Amorgin.

“True is that, old hero,” says Conall of the Victories. “Many are they to whom it gave drinks of death to-night in front of the Hostel.”

So ends the story of Etain, and of the overthrow of Fairyland and the fairy vengeance wrought on the great-grandson of Eochy the High King.

[pg 178]


The Curse of Macha

The centre of interest in Irish legend now shifts from Tara to Ulster, and a multitude of heroic tales gather round the Ulster king Conor mac Nessa, round Cuchulain,132 his great vassal, and the Red Branch Order of chivalry, which had its seat in Emain Macha.