Sacred Texts  Legends and Sagas  Celtic  Index  Previous  Next 
Buy this Book on Kindle

The Cattle Raid of Cualnge, by L. Winifred Faraday, [1904], at

The Arming of Cuchulainn

'The scythe-chariot, O my friend Loeg!' said Cuchulainn; 'can you yoke it? and is its equipment here? If you can yoke it, and if you have its equipment, yoke it; and if you have not its equipment, do not yoke it at all.'

It is then that the charioteer arose, and he put on his hero's dress of charioteering. This was his hero's dress of charioteering that he put on: his soft tunic of skin, light and airy, well-turned, 1 made of skin, sewn, of deer-skin, so that it did not restrain the movement of his hands outside. He put on his black (?) upper-cloak over it outside: Simon Magus had made it for Darius, King of the Romans, so that Darius gave it to Conchobar, and Conchobar gave it to Cuchulainn, and Cuchulainn gave it to his charioteer. The charioteer took first then his helm, ridged, like a board (?), four-cornered, with much of every colour and every form, over the middle of his shoulders. This was well-measured (?) to him, and it was not an overweight. His hand brought the circlet of red-yellow, as though it were a plate of red-gold, of refined gold smelted over the edge of an anvil, to his brow, as a sign of his charioteering, in distinction to his master.

He took the goads (?) of his horses, and his whip (?) inlaid in his right hand. He took the reins to hold back his horses in his left hand. 2 Then he put the iron inlaid breastplates on the horses, so that they were covered from forehead to forefoot with spears

p. 88

and points and lances and hard points, so that every motion in this chariot was spear-near, so that every corner and every point and every end and every front of this chariot was a way of tearing. It is then that he cast a spell of covering over his horses and over his companion, so that he was not visible to any one in the camp, and so that every one in the camp was visible to them. It was proper that he should cast this, because there were the three gifts of charioteering on the charioteer that day, the leap over ———, and the straight ———, and the ———.

Then the hero and the champion and he who made the fold of the Badb 1 of the men of the earth, Cuchulainn Mac Sualtaim, took his battle-array of battle and contest and strife. This was his battle-array of battle and contest and strife: he put on twenty-seven skin tunics, waxed, like board, equally thick, which used to be under strings and chains and thongs, against his white skin, that he might not lose his mind nor his understanding when his rage should come. He put on his hero's battle-girdle over it outside, of hard-leather, hard, tanned, of the choice of seven ox-hides of a heifer, so that it covered him from the thin part of his sides to the thick part of his armpit; it used to be on him to repel spears, and points, and darts, and lances, and arrows. For they were cast from him just as if it was stone or rock or horn that they struck (?). Then he put on his apron, skin-like, silken, with its edge of white gold variegated, against the soft lower part of his body. He put on his dark apron of dark leather, well tanned, of the

p. 89

choice of four ox-hides of a heifer, with his battle-girdle of cows’ skins (?) about it over his silken skin-like apron. Then the royal hero took his battle-arms of battle and contest and strife. These then were his battle-arms of battle: he took his ivory-hilted, bright-faced weapon, with his eight little swords; he took his five-pointed spear, with his eight little spears; 1 he took his spear of battle, with his eight little darts; he took his javelin with his eight little javelins; his eight shields of feats, with his round shield, dark red, in which a boar that would be shown at a feast would go into the boss (?), with its edge sharp, keen, very sharp, round about it, so that it would cut hairs against the stream for sharpness and keenness and great sharpness; when the warrior did the edge-feat with it, he would cut equally with his shield, and with his spear, and with his sword.

Then he put on his head a ridged-helmet of battle and contest and strife, from which there was uttered the shout of a hundred warriors, with a long cry from every corner and every angle of it. For there used to cry from it equally goblins and sprites and ghosts of the glen and demons of the air, before and above and around, wherever he used to go before shedding the blood of warriors and enemies. There was cast over him his dress of concealment by the garment of the Land of Promise that was given by his foster-father in wizardry.

It is then came the first contortion on Cuchulainn, so that it made him horrible, many-shaped, wonderful, strange. His shanks shook like a tree before the stream, or like a rush against the stream, every limb

p. 90

and every joint and every end and every member of him from head to foot. He made a ——— of rage of his body inside his skin. His feet and his shins and his knees came so that they were behind him; his heels and his calves and his hams came so that they were in front. The front-sinews of his calves came so that they were on the front of his shins, so that every huge knot of them was as great as a warrior's clenched fist. The temple-sinews of his head were stretched, so that they were on the hollow of his neck, so that every round lump of them, very great, innumerable, not to be equalled (?), measureless, was as great as the head of a month-old child.

Then he made a red bowl of his face and of his visage on him; he swallowed one of his two eyes into his head, so that from his cheek a wild crane could hardly have reached it [to drag it] from the back of his skull. The other sprang out till it was on his cheek outside. His lips were marvellously contorted. He drew the cheek from the jawbone, so that his gullet was visible. His lungs and his lights came so that they were flying in his mouth and in his throat. He struck a blow of the ——— of a lion with his upper palate on the roof of his skull, so that every flake of fire that came into his mouth from his throat was as large as a wether's skin. His heart was heard light-striking (?) against his ribs like the roaring of a bloodhound at its food, or like a lion going through bears. There were seen the palls of the Badb, and the rain-clouds of poison, and the sparks of fire very red in clouds and in vapours over his head, with the boiling of fierce rage, that rose over him.

His hair curled round his head like the red branches

p. 91

of a thorn in the gap of Atalta (?). Though a royal apple-tree under royal fruit had been shaken about it, hardly would an apple have reached the ground through it, but an apple would have fixed on every single hair there, for the twisting of the rage that rose from his hair above him.

The hero's light rose from his forehead, so that it was as long, and as thick, as a warrior's whet-stone, so that it was equally long with the nose, till he went mad in playing with the shields, in pressing on (?) the charioteer, in ——— the hosts. As high, as thick, as strong, as powerful, as long, as the mast of a great ship, was the straight stream of dark blood that rose straight up from the very top of his head, so that it made a dark smoke of wizardry like the smoke of a palace when the king comes to equip himself in the evening of a wintry day.

After that contortion wherewith Cuchulainn was contorted, then the hero of valour sprang into his scythed battle-chariot, with its iron points, with its thin edges, with its hooks, and with its hard points, with its sharp points (?) of a hero, with their pricking goads (?), with its nails of sharpness that were on shafts and thongs and cross-pieces and ropes (?) of that chariot.

It was thus the chariot was, with its body thin-framed (?),dry-framed (?), feat-high, straight-shouldered (?), of a champion, on which there would have been room for eight weapons fit for a lord, with the speed of swallow or of wind or of deer across the level of the plain. The chariot was placed on two horses, swift, vehement, furious, small-headed, small-round, small-end, pointed, ———, red-breasted, ———, easy to recognise,

p. 92

well-yoked, … One of these two horses was supple, swift-leaping, great of strength, great of curve, great of foot, great of length, ———. The other horse was flowing-maned, slender-footed, thin-footed, slender-heeled, ———.

It is then that he threw the thunder-feat of a hundred, and the thunder-feat of four hundred, and he stopped at the thunder-feat of five hundred, for he did not think it too much for this equal number to fall by him in his first attack, and in his first contest of battle on the four provinces of Ireland; and he came forth in this way to attack his enemies, and he took his chariot in a great circuit about the four great provinces of Ireland, and he put the attack of an enemy among enemies on them. And a heavy course was put on his chariot, and the iron wheels of the chariot went into the ground, so that it was enough for fort and fortress, the way the iron wheels of the chariot went into the ground; for there arose alike turfs and stones and rocks and flagstones and gravel of the ground as high as the iron wheels of the chariot.

The reason why he cast the circle of war round about the four great provinces of Ireland, was that they might not flee from him, and that they might not scatter, that he might make sure of them, to avenge the boys on them; and he comes into the battle thus in the middle, and overthrew great fences of his enemies' corpses round about the host thrice, and puts the attack of an enemy among enemies on them, so that they fell sole to sole, and neck to neck; such was the density of the slaughter.

He went round again thrice thus, so that he left a

p. 93

layer of six round them in the great circuit; i.e. soles of three to necks of three in the course of a circuit round the camp. So that its name in the Foray is Sesrech Breslige, and it is one of the three not to be numbered in the Foray; i.e. Sesrech Breslige and Imslige Glendamnach and the battle on Garach and Irgarach, except that it was alike dog and horse and man there.

This is what others say, that Lug Mac Ethlend fought along with Cuchulainn the Sesrech Breslige. Their number is not known, and it is impossible to count what number fell there of the rabble. But the chief only have been counted. These are the names of the princes and chiefs: two Cruads, two Calads, two Cirs, two Ciars, two Ecells, three Croms, three Caurs, three Combirge, four Feochars, four Furachars, four Cass, four Fotas, five Caurs, five Cermans, five Cobthachs, six Saxans, six Dachs, six Dares, seven Rochads, seven Ronans, seven Rurthechs, eight Roclads, eight Rochtads, eight Rindachs, eight Corpres, eight Mulachs, nine Daigs, nine Dares, nine Damachs, ten Fiachs, ten Fiachas, ten Fedelmids.

Ten kings over seven fifties did Cuchulainn slay in Breslech Mor in Mag Murthemne; and an innumerable number besides of dogs and horses and women and boys and people of no consequence and rabble. For there did not escape one man out of three of the men of Ireland without a thigh-bone or half his head or one eye broken, or without being marked for ever. And he came from them after giving them battle without wound or blood-stain on himself or on his servant or on either of his horses.

Cuchulainn came next day to survey the host and

p. 94

to show his soft fair form to the women and the troops of women and the girls and the maidens and the poets and the bards, for he did not hold in honour or dignity that haughty form of wizardry that had appeared to them on him the night before. Therefore he came to show his soft fair form that day.

Fair indeed the boy who came then to show his form to the hosts, that is, Cuchulainn Mac Sualtaim. The appearance of three heads of hair on him, dark against the skin of his head, blood-red in the middle, a crown gold-yellow which covers them. A fair arrangement of this hair so that it makes three circles round the hollow of the back of his head, so that each hair ———, dishevelled, very golden, excellent, in long curls, distinguished, fair-coloured, over his shoulders, was like gold thread.

A hundred ringlets, bright purple, of red-gold, gold-flaming, round his neck; a hundred threads with mixed carbuncle round his head. Four dimples in each of his two cheeks; that is, a yellow dimple, and a green dimple, and a blue dimple, and a purple dimple. Seven gems of brilliance of an eye, in each of his two royal eyes. Seven toes on each of his two feet, seven fingers on each of his two hands, with the grasp of a hawk's claws, with the seizure of a griffin's claws on each of them separately.

Then he puts on his feast-dress that day. This was his raiment on him: a fair tunic, proper, bright-purple, with a border with five folds. A white brooch of white silver with adorned gold inlaid over his white breast, as if it was a lantern full of light, that the eyes of men could not look at for its splendour and its brightness. A silken tunic of silk against his skin so that it covered

p. 95

him to the top of his dark apron of dark-red, soldierly, royal, silken.

A dark shield, dark red, dark purple, with five chains of gold, with a rim of white metal on it. A sword gold-hilted, inlaid with ivory hilt of red-gold raised high on his girdle. A spear, long, grey-edged, with a spear-head sharp, attacking, with rivets of gold, gold-flaming by him in the chariot. Nine heads in one of his two hands, and ten heads in the other hand. He shook them from him towards the hosts. So that this is the contest of a night to Cuchulainn. Then the women of Connaught raised themselves on the hosts, and the women were climbing on the men to look at Cuchulainn's form. Medb hid her face and dare not show her face, but was under the shield-shelter for fear of Cuchulainn. So that it is hence Dubthach Doeltenga of Ulster said:

'If it is the Riastartha, there will be corpses
    Of men therefrom,' etc. 1

Fiacha Fialdana from Imraith (?) came to speak with the son of his mother's sister, Mane Andoe his name. Docha Mac Magach went with Mane Andoe: Dubthach Doeltenga of Ulster came with Fiacha Fialdana from Imraith (?). Docha threw a spear at Fiacha, so that it went into Dubthach. Then Dubthach threw a spear at Mane, so that it went into Docha. The mothers of Dubthach and Docha were two sisters. Hence is Imroll Belaig Euin. 2

(Or Imroll Belaig Euin is from this: the hosts go to Belach Euin, their two troops wait there. Diarmait Mac Conchobair comes from the north from Ulster.

p. 96

'Let a horseman go from you,' said Diarmait, 'that Mane may come to speak with me with one man, and I will come with one man to meet him.' They meet then.

'I have come,' said Diarmait, 'from Conchobar, who says to Medb and Ailill, that they let the cows go, and make whole all that they have done there, and bring the Bull 1 from the west hither to the Bull, that they may meet, because Medb has promised it.'

'I will go and tell them,' said Mane. He tells this then to Medb and Ailill.

'This cannot be got of Medb,' said Mane.

'Let us exchange arms then, 'said Diarmait, 'if you think it better.'

'I am content,' said Mane. (Each of them throws his spear at the other, so that the two of them die, and so that the name of this place is Imroll Belaig Euin.)

Their forces rush at each other: there fall three twenties of them in each of the forces. Hence is Ard-in-Dirma. 2

Ailill's folk put his king's crown on Tamun the fool; Ailill dare not have it on himself. Cuchulainn threw a stone at him at Ath Tamuin, so that his head broke thereby. Hence is Ath Tamuin and Tuga-im-Tamun. 3

Then Oengus, son of Oenlam the Fair, a bold warrior of Ulster, turned all the host at Moda Loga (that is the same as Lugmod) as far as Ath Da Ferta. He did not let them go past, and he pelted them with stones, and the learned say ——— before till they should go under the sword at Emain Macha, if it had been in single combat that they had come against him. Fair-play

p. 97

was broken on him, and they slew him in an unequal fight.

'Let some one come from you against me,' said Cuchulainn at Ath Da Ferta.

'It will not be I, it will not be I,' said every one from his place. 'A scapegoat is not owed from my race, and if it were owed, it would not be I whom they would give in his stead for a scapegoat.'

Then Fergus Mac Roich was asked to go against him. He refuses to go against his foster-son Cuchulainn. Wine was given to him, and he was greatly intoxicated, and he was asked about going to the combat. He goes forth then since they were urgently imploring him.

Then Cuchulainn said: 'It is with my security that you come against me, O friend Fergus,' said he, 'with no sword in its place.' For Ailill had stolen it, as we said before.

'I do not care at all,' said Fergus; 'though there were a sword there, it would not be plied on you. Give way to me, O Cuchulainn,' said Fergus.

'You will give way to me in return then,' said Cuchulainn.

'Even so,' said Fergus.

Then Cuchulainn fled back before Fergus as far as Grellach Doluid, that Fergus might give way to him on the day of the battle. Then Cuchulainn sprang in to Grellach Doluid.


'Have you his head, O Fergus?' said every one.

'No,' said Fergus, 'it is not like a tryst. He who is there is too lively for me. Till my turn comes round again, I will not go.'

p. 98

Then they go past him, and take camp at Crich Ross. Then Ferchu, an exile, who was in exile against Ailill, hears them. He comes to meet Cuchulainn. Thirteen men was his number. Cuchulainn kills Ferchu's warriors. Their thirteen stones are there.

Medb sent Mand of Muresc, son of Daire, of the Domnandach, to fight Cuchulainn. Own brothers were he and Fer Diad, and two sons of one father. This Mand was a man fierce and excessive in eating and sleeping, a man ill-tongued, foul mouthed, like Dubthach Doeltenga of Ulster. He was a man strong, active, with strength of limb like Munremar Mac Gerrcind; a fiery warrior like Triscod Trenfer of Conchobar's house.

'I will go, and I unarmed, and I will grind him between my hands, for I deem it no honour or dignity to ply weapons on a beardless wild boy such as he.'

He went then to seek Cuchulainn. He and his charioteer were there on the plain watching the host.

'One man coming towards us,' said Loeg to Cuchulainn.

'What kind of man?' said Cuchulainn.

'A man black, dark, strong, bull-like, and he unarmed.'

'Let him come past you,' said Cuchulainn.

He came to them therewith.

'To fight against you have I come,' said Mand.

Then they begin to wrestle for a long time, and Mand overthrows Cuchulainn thrice, so that the charioteer urged him.

'If you had a strife for the hero's portion in Emain,' said he, 'you would be mighty over the warriors of Emain!'

His hero's rage comes, and his warrior's fury rises, so

p. 99

that he overthrew Mand against the pillar, so that he falls in pieces. Hence is Mag Mand Achta, that is, Mand Echta, that is, Mand's death there.


87:1 Lit. 'kneaded.'

87:2 Gloss incorporated in test: 'i.e. to direct his horses, in his left hand, for the great power of his charioteering.'

88:1 The Badb (scald-crow) was a war-goddess. This is an expressive term for the piled-up bodies of the slain.

89:1 In the margin: 'and his quiver,' probably an interpolation.

95:1 Rhetoric, fifty-four lines.

95:2 i.e. the Random Throw of Belach Euin.

96:1 i.e. bring Findbennach to meet the Dun of Cualnge.

96:2 The Height of the Troop.

96:3 i.e. Covering about Tamun.

Next: Continuation (from the Yellow Book of Lecan)