#ooc. ° ( tain rants. )
^^^^^^^^ thinks of how protopup is only 18 but already fought a one man war against the rest of men of the country, had to kill his heart-companion and star-crossed lover to protect his homeland, already had two kids, angered gods and destroyed private property, became the legendary protector of his homeland, and became a trans icon.
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thinking of conall and the fact that at some point he had children and raised said children, who you think would be just be just as wild and blood-thirsty as him, but instead they became kings (to further ‘prove’ the legitimacy of a king, their ancestry would go all the way back to the great heroes of ireland, one of the principal ones being conall cernach, therefore where he gets the nickname of father of kings).
also, something that never changed about conall is that he continued to kill a connachtman and bring their severed head to his home (and he would sleep with a knee on top of the severed head) until he reached old age and fell ill. which means that he it was a very common thing for conall’s sons to see their dad arrive with a severed head tied to his belt. and knowing conall, he would most likely just... place toddler on his lap, place severed head on the table, proceed to narrate how he killed that warrior and let his kids have fun looking and poking at the severed head. creative toys. what a good father.
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*stares to the left, stares to the right*
anyway, so something that is really fascinating about the táin and other tales that are written in old gaelic, proto-celtic is that there’s plenty of translations and interpretations of the same texts, especially because the literal translations of some passages just don’t make much alone so they needed to be interpreted and so far my favorite translation comes from the battle between cú and ferdiad, when cú is losing, láeg, his charioteer and best friend, taunts him saying:
Tét an fer tarat amail téti bott tar catt
which could be translated as ‘the man ( ferdiad ) stands over you ( cú chulainn ) like a tail stands over a cat.’ but Pokorny translates it as ‘the man stands over you like a cock stands over a pussy’ and honestly i’m still howling at that translation 10/10 taunt, gg láeg.
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you ever think of how in the tain, after going ríastrad the night before (and killing thousands of the enemy side), cú decided that he didn’t give a good impression so he put on his good clothes and pretty much did a runway show in front of the tents of the men of ireland. but the best part of it is that, because cú chulainn was so pretty, the men of enemy side just kind of lined up to look at this limited edition super pretty cú chulainn, and the wives and daughters of said men of the enemy side stood on the men’s shoulders because (cú is canonically very short) they wanted to look at cú too. a freaking power move.
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Ever had one of those ‘aw shit, I fucked up.’ moments? For Conall, in particular, was one time when he rushed into a fight ( as he saw that the Ulster warriors were losing ) and killed the first guy he saw. Whoops! That was Fergus’ son actually! A prince that was helping Deirdre, Naoise and Naoise’s brothers get away from King Conchobar, aka the biggest asshole of the Ulster cycle. Uh oh. O shit. O fuck. What to do now? Fuck.
> Help Deirdre + company in the fallen prince’s stead.
> Kill King Conchobar’s son so that it’s fair now.
> ??? Anything except the option above ???
You, Conall Cernach, choose...
> Kill King Conchobar’s son so that it’s fair now!!!
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Liath Matcha & Dub Sainglend.º
One of the similarities between Achilles and Cú Chulainn that isn’t talked about much is the role of the heroes’ horses in their stories and the bond between them and their respective masters (and deaths). Truth to be told, I don’t know that much about the Iliad to make proper commentary but the basics: Balius and Xanthus were immortal horses that couldn’t be controlled by just any man, wept when Patroclus was killed and talked back to Achilles (they could talk. cool) and kind of foreshadow Achilles’ death(?). Also, the horses first belonged to Peleus and they were a wedding gift from Poseidon.
In Cú Chulainn’s case, his horses were the Liath Macha (Grey of Macha) and Dub Sainglend (Black of Saingliu). They were creatures of the Otherworld, both rosing from the gray lake of Linn Liaith, gifts of Macha, goddess of the land/otherworldly woman (who also cursed the men of Ulster with the Pangs of Macha (except for Cú Chulainn) but that’s another story), and when Cú jumped on their backs, they ran all over Ireland for a day (they really went to a fuckton of places) and, since they couldn’t throw Cú, they became loyal to him. Note: The celts associated horses with wealth, fertility and the sun, meaning that Cú Chulainn was given all those gifts but first had to prove that he was worthy of them. I love Macha’s favoritism.
The otherworldly horses accompany Cú during the events of the Táin and other of his biggest adventures, but their biggest role is during Cú Chulainn’s death.
1) Once Cú was fell to madness because of the visions and magic of the Children of Calatin to and made up his mind to go to ‘war’, he told Láeg to bring him his chariot but Liath Macha refused to be brought to the chariot, rare of the otherworldy horse because Liath Macha never disobeyed nor caused trouble. (Read as one the first foreshadowing of Cú’s death) Cú. had to go bring Liath Macha by himself but the horse still disobeyed 3 times until Cú talked to him. In the end, Liath Macha lowered his head and cried tears of blood as he went to the chariot, aware that he was going to lead his master to his own death.
2) The 3 spears that were thrown at Cú Chulainn were meant to kill a King each. The first spear hit and killed Láeg mac Riangabra, King of Charioteers. Liath Macha, King of Horses, was hit by the second spear and left fatally wounded. Dub Sainglend went into a rage and never stopped running. The third spear hit Cú Chulainn, King of Warriors, and… he tied himself to a rock with his own guts so that he would die standing up and facing his enemies.
3) After Cú Chulainn tied his body to the rock, Liath Macha protected his dying master from his enemies with its remaining strength, killing 50 men with its teeth and 30 men with each of its hooves, until Cú finally passed away.
4) The dying Liath Macha went looking for Conall Cernach and guided him to where Cú Chulainn’s corpse was. Once the task was done, the horse went to his master and laid his head on Cú Chulainn’s chest, where it took its last breath. 5) Liath Macha was buried next to Cú Chulainn and Emer’s (and Láeg’s(?)) corpses.
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Falsifying the proof of man.º
For the nerds who have yet to hear the good news, j.stor has expended the limit of articles you can read for free, which gave the opportunity to come across one of the articles ( Age and masculinity in the Táin ) that best describes Cú Chulainn’s character and how he transforms and personifies manhood in a manner that destroys all previous paradigms of the perfect hero.
This young hero fated to die before he can even grow a single white hair on his head has to lie and trick his way into becoming a warrior. To pick up weapons is to reach maturity as a man and become a warrior that can fight and protect his people and land. But Cú is still a kid when does do, not perceived as man enough for weapons that still are too big for him, and so his actions and being are disapproved. And, at 17, he has to defend Ulster against the Connacht army all by himself. At age 17, Cú is perceived as a boy carrying the responsibility of a man.
On various occasions through the tale, Cú is mocked or not taken seriously for his boyish and feminine appearance. He’s called a little lamb, a beardless boy, Medb even questions his gender comparing him to an adolescent girl, and enemy warriors refuse to fight him because they don’t perceive him as a man. And what does Cú do about it? He changes his appearance and tricks his enemies to fit their ideal of a masculine warrior worthy of Cú Chulainn’s feats. No, he doesn’t become powerful, he doesn’t use intelligent traps or new weapons against his enemies, he’s just in disguise to have a proper and fair battle against the enemy warriors that, not long ago, didn’t deem him worthy to fight.
And that’s the one thing Fate fails the most in the interpretation of Cú Chulainn’s character. Cú just isn’t a young and attractive hero that was meant to shine and burn fast like a shooting star, he doesn’t grow to become the perfect masculine warrior, and he’s not the celebrated hero one would expect him to be. Cú Chulainn is a youth, more god in body, and more human at heart, determined to fill the role others deemed too big for him with wrath and a strong desire to prove himself as a man.
And, as the article says...
Cú Chulainn does not fulfill the masculine warrior ideal, he surpasses it and in doing so by-passes the most significant and symbolic markers of manhood.
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i was gonna make a long ass hc post about the usage of geasa and their role in the fall of irish heroes but, honestly, who even has time for that? so, to summarize, these geas are curses in which you must fulfill very specific conditions/requirements every time or you fucking die (or are nerfed, but that also ends up in death) best known cases, thanks to f.z., is the geis Gráinee puts on Diarmuid that forced him to follow her and aid her in escaping from Fionn, who could be her grandfather at the time. or the geis of connla, who couldn’t give his name, refuse any battle, go back, yeah, the kid was fucked. there’s many, many geasa like that through the myths, they’re often made by women on male warriors, but they can also be self-imposed. example of that is conall cernach, who said fuck it to the kingship of the world (on his almost deathbed), because he would rather be sliced by another warrior than die at the hand of just one warrior. but! there also are quite interesting and convenient geis, that are so specific and useless that it’s comical. for example, king conchobar had a FUCKTON of geasa placed on him, because, you see, he was supposed to be a revered and wise king (he was not), and then he proceeded to break one after another like it was some contest, which ended in the death of many ulstermen. but out of all the geas i’ve seen so far, THE BEST so far is the geas that bricriu puts on all his guests when cú, conall and logaire, and their respective wives, kind of decide to throw hands in the castle (the wives, emer included, have a rap battle) and completely wreck it. but bricriu would have none of that so the geas he put on his guests was that no one was allowed to eat, drink or sleep until his castle was back on acceptable state once again. so, yes, the geas was pretty much FIX MY FUCKING HOUSE THAT YOU DESTROYED YOU BASTARDS! 10/10 geis imo.
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Conall Cernach’s otherworldly horse was known as the Derg Drúchtach, The Red Dewy (One) or DRIPPING RED.
Unlike Cú Chulainn’s majestic and heroic horses, the Dripping Red was a dog-headed vicious creature that would eat the flesh of humans. Because of the name, it probably was an aquatic horse (similar to a kelpie, a malevolent horse water spirit that would drown and eat children), or a gore-covered horse as it scattered blood when it ran.
When Lugaid’s ( Cú Chulainn’s killer ) charioteer noticed that Conall Cernach was following them, he described the Derg Drúchtach as a creature that ran with such ferocity that her stomps threw dirt onto the air that made it look like ravens were following them, she foamed to the point that it appeared that she was leaving a trail of snow, and, well... she was dripping red.
Once Lugaid and Conall Cernach were fighting but Conall Cernach couldn’t defeat Cú’s killer, Derg Drúchtach attacked Lugaid, tearing a chunk of meat from his chest and making his guts fall to the ground. The dying Lugaid accused Conall Cernach of breaking his promise of a fair fight, to which Conall Cernach replied, “I GAVE MY WORD NOT ON BEHALF OF SAVAGE BEASTS AND SENSELESS THINGS.”
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O pale head, which after the de cision (of the battle)
The three Red-wolves of Martine carry off.
It is the face of a hero...,
The head of Conall, son of Amargen.
After killing Cet Mac Mágach, Conall was badly wounded and dying. But he had vowed that no single man of Connacht would kill him, and that, rather than the kingship of the world, he would rather be wounded by another Connacht warrior, so that his death wouldn't to a single man of Connacht. Fate allowed Conall to live and continue massacring enemy lands. Eventually, King Conchobar and his son, Cormac Cond Longas, were killed, and so Conall was offered the kingship of Ulster, but he refused it, putting forward instead his foster-son, Cúscraid, who was proclaimed king.
In his declining years he contracted leprosy and went to stay with Ailill and Medb of Connacht, who were best placed to look after him, since they had the resources to satisfy his enormous appetite. A house was made for him, and a pig, a bullock-calf, twelve cakes, a wether and the caldron of broth were taken (to him), and he consumed all that in one sitting. They gave him the same feast for a full year and, each day, he would amuse the men of Connacht by relating them how he had killed their sons, brothers and fathers. The men of Connacht would bring their spears to him to be set and to be chipped, and he would set them before any cow arose. Meanwhile, Medb became jealous of Ailill because he was seeing other women and incited Conall to kill Ailill, something he was happy to do as Ailill had killed Fergus mac Róich. Conall Cernach killed Ailill on Bealtaine, on a tuesday. After that, Conall fled, but the men of Connacht pursued and killed him at a ford on the following monday on Ballyconnell, County Cavan because of a geis that had been placed on him.
And it is Conall Cernach’s vow and geis that he can’t be killed by a single man, no matter how strong or powerful they are. Like a wild and wounded beast being chased by a group of hunters, Conall can only die and be chopped to pieces at the hands of many, but never by just one man.
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Interesting Conall Cernach fact: Conall had 6 wives, whom he married at different moments in his life and had children with some of them: Lendabair, Aife, Niamh, Feibe, Fedelm Noíchrothach, and Londcaidhe. Polygamous marriages weren’t uncommon for the time (and culture), though instead of living with his many wives, each had their own house (one of them even was a Pictish princess, meaning she lived in Scotland) and Conall was often traveling to be with his different wives and families. Despite having about six times the number of wives the average Ulster warrior used to have, there actually are no romances nor tragedies written about any of his relationships.
The most we know about Conall’s wives (besides their homeland and mother of which son of Conall they were) is that one of them (Fedelm?) was first married to another man, but she had grown tired of him and cheated on him. She began a relationship with Conall and told him to kill her husband so that she could marry him... and he did just that! And, as often Conall does, took the man’s severed head. This is particularly worse when you remember that it was Conall’s tradition to use severed heads to rest his knee on while he slept, in the bed, in which he most likely would be fucking his wife. A couple meant to be, I guess? Another wife of Conall (Lendabair), who was better known for her participation in the tale of Bricriu’s feast, was a beautiful young woman that hadn’t earned a nickname yet, but truly admired her husband as she sang praise to Conall’s accomplishments and was quite into the fact that Conall would bring a new severed head of his enemies each night. Also, Emer absolutely destroyed her in a War of Words (aka rap battle from 2,000 years ago).
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Findchóem, daughter of Cathbad, wife Amergin mac Echit, was unable to have children so a druid came to see her and said that, if his fee was good, Findchóem would bear a good son for Amergin. Findchóem agreed and the next day they went to a well, where the druid sang spells and prophesies over it. The druid told her to wash herself in the well so that she would bring forth a son and, "...no other will be more impious to his mother’s family than him (Connacht)." But Findchóem drank a draught from the well, swallowing a worm with it, which pierced the hand of the boy in her belly and consumed it. Cet mac Mágach, Findchóem's brother, protected her until she gave birth to her son. When the druids baptised the boy into paganism, they said, “there will not be born a boy more impious than this boy to the Connachta, and he will not be a night without the head of a Connachtman on his belt, and he will kill more than half of the Connachta.” Upon hearing that, Cet took the little boy, put him under his heel and crushed his neck, but he didn't manage to crush the boy's spine marrow. It’s then Findchóem said to Cet, “Wolfish is the treachery you do, brother!” “It’s true,” said Cet. “Conall, or Confhell, will be his name from here on.” And he gave her son to her. From which his was named Conall Crookneck Cernach.
One of the many things I love about Conall’s tales is how brutal and vague they tend to be. Amusingly enough, Conall has some sort of virgin/miraculous birth, but that instead of it being considered a blessing and perhaps because his mother didn’t follow the druid’s word and drank from the well instead of just washing herself, Conall’s tale of birth was a twisted one. It’s not specified if the worm that Findchóem drank by accident only ate the hand of the boy in her (though Conall does have two hands in the Ulster cycle tales) or the worm consumed the boy and took its place. WHICH! actually is a really sweet reference to changelings and how fae would replace human babies with their own. The changelings usually were sick and died young or grew up to be awful and violent creatures that caused brutal damage to its surroundings. You know like Conall!
And the moment Conall was born, he was prophesied to be one hell of a sadistic murderer! But jokes aside, I found infinitely interesting the contrast between Conall’s birth and his cousin, Cú Chulainn. While Cú is celebrated and is prophesied to defend and solve the problems of the Ulster people, Conall was specifically prophesied to to kill Ulster’s enemies, there’s nothing to celebrate and reason why his uncle Cet, who would later become Conall’s biggest enemy, decided to kill the baby by crushing his neck. Conall didn’t die but his neck was bended, which just fuels the monstrous rage of Conall against the Connachta (Cet was a Connacht man). Because of the importance of this event in Conall’s life, as a servant, he still tilts his head to the side a lot, almost unnaturally, without noticing. And often kind of just... needs to rearrange his neck so he cracks it quite often and that makes some of the most nerve-wracking sounds ever.
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Sometimes I think of how Cú asked Láeg to make him a fake beard (from bilberries and grass) so some warriors would think of him as a manly manTM and fight him TWICE and I cry into my hands because he’s so stupid I love him. Also, the best part that everyone fell for it. Láeg has some godly make-up skills tbh.
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Finnscoth ( aka Cú Chulainn’s daughter ) is mentioned only once in a line in the entirety of all of the Ulster cycle lore and has no meaningful participation nor voice, which means I can make her say absolutely nothing at all and just let her react with exclamation symbols as her relevance to the tale is little to none. yuy
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ooc: I often need to re-read Conall Cernach’s tales to remember just how brutal is this man and his dark humor because...
Conall Cernach announced that, ever since he took up arms (weapons) not a day passed without him slaughtering and beheading a Connacht men, raiding and burning their lands, and that he always went to sleep with the (severed) head of a Connacht man under his knee. Cet admitted defeat but claimed that, if his brother Anluan were present, his feats would top Conall's. To that Conall Cernach answered, "Aye, but Anluan is here!" and plucked Anluan's severed head from his belt. He threw the head towards Cet, so that it smote Cet upon the chest, and a gulp of the blood was dashed over his lips.
When you trying to roast your Connacht enemy and therefore specifically throw the severed head of their brother at them for a punchline + make them taste the severed head’s blood.
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There’s plenty of amusing things about Conall Cernach and his ways like how he’s considered one of the greatest heroes of Ulster despite being quite the sadistic psychopath with a taste for genocide... but still coming off as everyone’s bro and a fun party guy! His dark humor and interesting usage of severed heads for comic relief, the fact that he’s cú’s cousin and that he has a dog-headed, foaming, man-eating horse, but, honestly, one of my favorite things about Conall is that he was asked to be King of Ulster ( as everyone else was freaking dead ) and he went ‘No thanks, I like traveling in my man-eating horse and going cattle-raiding better.’ I love him.
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Sexuality, Ulster Cycle Edition.º
So I’ll be forever amused by the fact that around the 50 B.C.E., Diodorus Siculus, that historian who is known for writing the Bibliotheca historica, was so shocked by the fact that the ‘Celts’ were so accepting of homosexuality and bisexuality, and that there was no shame in taking a receptive/passive role because they considered both partners to be equals. (Consenting adults treating each other as equals??? Instead of considering the one on the passive role as ‘lesser’??? What a concept!). Diodorus was so appalled by these Celts that he went as far as writing one the funniest history-related rants I’ve ever read and I’m so glad it survived the ages:
‘Despite the fact that their wives are beautiful, the Celts… abandon themselves to a passion for other men. They usually sleep on the ground on skins of wild animals and tumble about with a bedfellow on either side. And what is strangest of all is that, without any thought for a natural sense of modesty, they careslessly surrender their virginity to other men. Far from finding anything shameful in all this, they feel insulted if anyone refuses the favors they offer’
Damn Diodorus, not everyone lives in a society where there’s social pressure to be a top. There also are other roman and greek historians who were deeply shocked by these beautiful young men of Gaul that, and I quote Strabo, ‘who are shamelessly generous with their boyish charms’. And don’t even get me started on when they learned about the polygamous and polyandrous marriages and how much freedom their women had (or how defiant they were in their tales): Medb, the cunning queen who never had a lover without another in his shadow; Deirdre, who chose the man she wanted to be with and refused to be the child bride of the King of Ulster, and; Emer, the girl who always spoke her mind and chose to remain chaste even after getting married.
Besides me laughing at these prudes from centuries ago, this type of information reminds me of some of Cú Chulainn’s tales and how the re-telling (aka the Christianized version) of said tales change a lot about the way his character is perceived. For starters, I think of his relationship with Ferdiad and, in all honesty, I don’t think we can get more proof that these fucked and also treated each other as equals because that ‘so who’s the man and who’s the woman?’ bullshit didn’t exist in their society. Also, bless all the writers and historians who put Cú Chulainn and Ferdiad as an example when talking about homosexuality between Celtic warriors because my little heart feels many happy and positive emotions when reading about these boyfriends from over 2,000 years ago.
I didn’t go in detail about the polygamous marriages but this also changes a lot of his relationship with Emer, his lovely wife that he loved so very much. Mostly because Cú having other lovers besides Emer is seen as bad and that he was ‘cheating’ but… that wasn’t the case at all (with the exception of Fand, but that’s another thing entirely). They just had an open marriage, which was pretty normal between the nobles during their time (example of that is Conall Cernach, who was happily married to six princesses). In the re-telling of some of Cú Chulainn’s tales, aka Christianization of these myths, Cú having lovers outside of marriage is demonized but that wasn’t how things worked back then. The tale of Emer’s only jealousy is a good example of how Christianity meddled a little in Irish mythology and how not so subtly tried to push its beliefs.
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