The Tragic Death of Celtchar mac Uthechair

Because it was National Dog Day this week and because I bored people on holiday the week before that with tales of the Luch Donn, I have to decided to tell you The Tragic Death of Celtchar or Aided Cheltchair maic Uthechair. These aren’t flimsy reasons. You’re flimsy reasons!

If you keep this image in your head as we go on it'll be more tragic.
If you keep this image in your head as we go on it’ll be more tragic.

It begins, as these stories tend to do, with a rich hospitaller named Blái. Not only did he have the most cows for miles around but he was also under a geis. In case you were wondering, a geis is a supernatural command which, if you don’t follow it, will lead to your death. Intense responsibility. Blái’s geis was to sleep with every woman who came to his house without her husband. As a hospitaller this was a fair few women. He didn’t complain much until Brig Brethach, Celtchar’s wife, came to his house unaccompanied. Blái was pretty dismayed at this because he was an old man at this stage and he knew what Celtchar’s reaction would be if he slept with his wife. But Brig, the saucy minx, incites Blái to sleep with her, which he does. Once more medieval literature portrays women in a realistic and sympathetic light.

Look at her. With those
Look at her. With those “uphold your geis” eyes.
When Celtchar finds out he chases Blái to the royal court of Ulster. At the court Cú Chulainn, the most famous hero of Ulster, and Conchobur, the king, are playing a game of fidchell, which is sort of medieval Irish chess or backgammon. Blái runs behind the two Ulster grandees, presumably seeking their aid. However we’ll never know because at that moment Celtchar throws his spear which goes through the hospitaller, pinning him to the wall. A drop of blood runs down to the spear and falls onto the fidchell board between Cú Chulainn and Conchobur.

Conchobur sucks his teeth and looks meaningfully at Cú Chulainn.

“Well, Conchobur” says Cú Chulainn, raising his eyebrows.

“One of us should do something about this”

“You’re right. Who’s been most insulted by this vicious murder?”

“Probably you, Cú Chulainn. The drop of blood is closer to you after all.”

“I beg to differ, my king. I think you’ll find it’s closer to you. And you’re the king.”

In the end they measure the board to see who the drop of blood is closest to. Turns out it was Conchobur all along. However in this delay Celtchar escapes to Munster.

K-9 represents Cú Chulainn.
K-9 represents Cú Chulainn.
The people of Ulster are very upset. Not only has their hospitaller been killed but one of their best champions is hiding out down south. So that they don’t end up losing two heroes they ask Conchobur to bring Celtchar back to them. The king sends Celtchar’s own son to Munster to ask him to come back. The son is also to act as Celtchar’s surety if any treachery is being planned. This is a medieval Irish legal slam. Trust me on that.

“What brings you here, son?” asks Celtchar seeing his boy arrive from the north.

“I’ve been sent by the men of Ulster to take you home, dad”.

“What if they’re up to something? Look what they did to Noísiu and his brothers”, Celtchar said, metatextually.

Didn't think I'd break the fourth wall, did you?
Didn’t think I’d break the fourth wall, did you?
“I am to be your surety”.

“This is a subtle slam, my boy. My own son as my surety and guarantee.! What next!?”

“You’ve hit the nail on the head there”, said a druid who happened to be nearby. “Let his name be ‘Subtle’ from now on”. So from then on Celtchar’s son was called Semon, which sounds like the diminutive of one of the Irish words for ‘subtle’. This was a very common way in which people were named in medieval Irish literature and one that I’ll use on my own child.

“I’ll go back. You stay here”, said Celtchar.

The reparations that Celtchar had to make for killing Blái were to rid the Ulstermen of the three worst pests devastating their lands. The first pest was Conganchness, who was (probably justifiably) wreaking his revenge for the Ulstermen’s killing of his brother Cú Roí. That’s quite a cool story in itself.

The problem with Conganchness was that no weapons could pierce his skin. His name is literally ‘Horny-skin’. Celtchar’s plan began with marrying his daughter, Niamh, to this worst pest in Ulster. Maybe treachery’s afoot but Conganchness doesn’t seem to realise it. Indeed, as the story goes on you’ll see that he’s not really a Mensa candidate. Niamh, using her wicked womanly wiles, one day asks Conganchness, subtle-like, how he can be killed. He replies that the only way of doing it is to drive red-hot iron spikes through the soles of his feet. And then went on with his day, wondering at his wife’s odd question.

Conganchness was the only person who could actually pull this off.
Conganchness was the only person who could actually pull this off.
So Celtchar prepares a great feast for his new son-in-law with two huge spits roasting over two huge fires. When everyone has had their fill a sleeping spell is put over the host. While they sleep Celtchar takes the two spits and rams them up the soles of Conganchness’s feet with a sledgehammer. This does the trick and in a final act Celtchar cuts his head off and buries it in a cairn.

The second pest was the Luch Donn, the Brown Mouse. This terror was found by the son of a widow in a hollow oak and the widow reared it there until it was big. In a fit of ingratitude, once it was big the Luch Donn killed the sheep of the widow, her son, and finally the widow herself. From then on it would destroy an enclosure in Ulster every night.

Terrifying.
Terrifying.
To deal with this Celtchar took an alder log as long as his arm. He hollowed it out and then boiled it in a bath of herbs, honey, and grease. This made it soft and tough (don’t try this with a real alder log). He then went to the Mouse’s cave. The Mouse came out, snout in the air, sniffing at the smell of the fragrant log. Our hero waved the log in front of the beast’s face until it snapped at the log and took it in its jaws. Because of the herbal treatment, the log was sticky and tough so the Mouse’s teeth stuck in it. Celtchar then shoved his arm down the hollow into the Mouse’s throat and ripped out its heart. Metal.

Now it had been a year since Celtchar buried Conganchness’s head in a cairn and the people who lived nearby started to hear yelps and whimpers from the pile of stones. When they shifted the stones they found three puppies in the cairn: a brown one, a spotted one and black one. The brown dog was given to Culann the smith and we all know what happened there; the spotted one to Mac Dá Thó and it caused much trouble; and finally the black dog was given to Celtchar who named him Dóelchú.

I know. Sometimes this blog is too realistic.
I know. Sometimes this blog is too realistic.
Dóelchú was a fierce old thing and would only let Celtchar control him. One day he broke free and started to slaughter the herds and flocks near where Celtchar lived. As the hero was away at the time, nothing could be done to stop Dóelchú ravaging the land and becoming the third pest Celtchar had to deal with. He gathers some men and goes to the copse where Dóelchú was hiding.

Celtchar calls the hound three times and he eventually comes out of the undergrowth to his master. He begins to lick Celtchar’s feet.

“It’s a real shame,” say the people who have come with Celtchar. “A real Old Yeller moment. We’re choking up.”

“I’ll not be shamed for this dog’s sake!” cries the hero and stabs the hound with his spear.

The people start crying and Celtchar is similarly moved. As he is raising his spear out of the dead dog a drop of its blood runs down the shaft. At this stage I’m going to have to rely on a literal translation because this makes little sense: The drop of blood ran down the length of the spear and went through him to the ground so that he died of it. Celtchar was then buried and his lament was sung.

Totes emosh.
Totes emosh.

Once more we have some classic misogynist presentations of women. The one of the widow, suckling the great pest Luch Donn, is particularly interesting.
As a death tale we have the geis which often appears in these types of story, as well as the air of the ridiculous, which appears more often. The motif of the drop of blood on the spear neatly ties the thing up, as does the idea of destruction falling back on itself.

As always here are the translation and the Irish.

The Head of Donn Bó

You may be wondering why this site is called ‘The Head of Donn Bó’. Well, I don’t have to explain myself to you. However, I will. It comes from the tale known as Cath Almaine, The Battle of Allen, which is written in Old Irish.

Once upon a time there was great warfare between the north and the south of Ireland. Plus ça change. The king in the north was trying to gather his army but no one would come to him until he had Donn Bó in the host. Donn Bó was awesome. He was the best man in Ireland for plaiting hair, training horses and setting spears. He was the best looking man in Ireland as well. But more than this he was the best at telling stories, both tales of kings and hilarious jokes. (I know, this reminded me of me too.) However Donn Bó’s mother is very protective of him since her husband died and he has never left her house since then. Fergal, the king of the north gives her all sorts of guarantees that her son will be safe and so he gets his army.

Controlling mother. Son in the army. We've seen this before.
Controlling mother. Son in the army. We’ve seen this before.

The army of the north is led astray, taking a rambling and difficult route south to Leinster. They finally make camp in Allen beside a church. A poor leper lives nearby and sadly for him the army decide to steal his only cow. Not only that but they stab the leper with a spear. The dying leper stumbles to Fergal’s tent and curses all the men there. All except Cú Bretan who gets up to help the dying leper. This’ll become relevant later on.

With a long day’s march behind them and a dead leper in front of them Fergal decides that everyone could do with a bit of a distraction. So he turns to Donn Bó, the best story-teller in Ireland, and asks him to entertain them. The muse is not with Donn Bó that evening, however, but he promises to tell Fergal whatever story he wants the next evening, wherever he may be. In Donn Bó’s stead Hua Maiglinni, the chief buffoon of Ireland, entertains the host. He tells them all stories of the great victories of the southern Irish and the Leinstermen – foreboding! These tales put such fear into the northern Irish that they could not sleep. The massive storm that also struck that night didn’t help.

A fool and a storm from a much more famous story.
A fool and a storm from a much more famous story.

Battle is joined the next day in Duncannon. The slaughter was great, of kings and princes, lords and nobles. The bloody-mouthed goddess of death rejoiced over the number of the slain that day. Even the supernatural powers were on the Leinstermen’s side. St Colm Cille abandoned the northerners when he saw St Brigit floating over the host from Leinster. Hua Maiglinni, the royal fool, was captured. He gave a great “fool’s shout”. It was so loud that it echoed all around Ireland. Even when his throat was slit, the cry still remained in the air for three days and nights. Aed Laighen was killed while his sons were carrying his wounded body off on a litter made of their spears. Donn Bó himself was slain defending king Fergal, who was slain not long after. All the nobles who accompanied Fergal were killed. All except Cú Bretan because of the care he showed to the leper.

At the Leinster victory feast Murchad son of Bran stood up and said that he would give 21 cows to anyone who would go and fetch a man’s head from the battlefield. Baethgalach said he would go out. He strode over the bodies until he came to the place where Fergal lay. All at once a voice cried out from heaven “The Kingdom of Heaven commands you to make music and tell stories for your lord, king Fergal. Although every poet has been killed and every story-teller lies dead here, do not fear to make music tonight!”. Then Baethgalach heard the most beautiful music he had ever heard coming from heaven and the most beautiful singing and poetry coming from behind a clump of rushes.

Medieval Ireland did it first. Just saying.
Medieval Ireland did it first. Just saying.

He approached the reeds but was stopped by a voice.

“Don’t come any closer!”

“What? Who said that?” said the warrior.

“I am Donn Bó,” said the voice. “I vowed to make music and tell tales to my lord, Fergal, tonight. I will not perform any task for Murchad, so go away!”

“Where is Fergal?” asked Baethgalach.

“His is the shining body, lying just over there”, said the head of Donn Bó.

“I have to take a head from the battlefield tonight. I would prefer to take yours but if not whose should I take?”

“If it pleases Christ, you can take my head. But if you do, be sure to return me to my body after.”

So Baethgalach returned to celebrating Leinstermen with the head of Donn Bó. They all recognised the beautiful story teller and bemoaned his death. Baethgalach put the head on a pillar in the corner of the hall and asked him, in the name of Jesus, to entertain the Leinstermen as he had entertained his former lord. He does so despite his earlier protests because  ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. The head turns itself to the wall and begins singing a melody sweeter than any before heard on earth. The celebrating hosts of Leinster are moved to weeping and wailing at the piteousness of the song.

See, it all makes sense now.
See, it all makes sense now.

On the next day Baethgalach returned the head to its body, as he had promised. Through the miracle of Colm Cille the head stuck on its body and Donn Bó was returned to life. He was able to return to his mother safe and sound as the only other survivor of the battle of Allen.

Fergal’s head was taken away to be buried in the west, but that is the beginning of a whole other thing and I’m not getting into that.


An old edition and translation of Cath Almaine can be found here. There is a more modern edition here, but this is only the Irish.

Obviously heads are very important in this tale, what with all the decapitations. As is the semi-magical power of poetry – it can deeply effect the emotions of all who hear it and its obligations can extend beyond the grave. This tale leans quite heavily on dramatic foreshadowing and the disastrous nature of the battle is repeatedly emphasised. There is a long list of the dead which I missed out here.

However, the disembodied head on a pole is a good image for me to use to tell tales, not just of the Leinstermen but of all medieval Ireland, to the celebrating hosts of the internet.

The Life of Findchú – part four

This is the end, my friend.

Having dealt with war among the Ulstermen, Leinstermen and Munstermen, Findchú has only one province left. Luckily for him Connacht was being raided yearly by foreigners and the king, Tomaltach, sent for aid from your favourite warrior saint. Once the man of Connacht submitted to the saint’s will, Findchú went to deal with the battalions of the foreigners camped on Cúil Cnamrois. Iron bars were used in the camp as part of the pallisade surrounding the tents and as tent poles. Praying to God Findchú caused a great heat to seize the iron poles and all the camp. In the morning all that was left of the foreigners was bone and ash. For this deed the community of Brí Gobann receives a yearly tribute from the king of Connacht.

This is what you get.
This is what you get.
At that time Mothla was king of Kerry. He was bringing up his brother’s son Ciar at his court. The courtiers around Mothla, seeing the boy grow, become concerned for the future of the kingship and advise Mothla to do away with the child. The plan is hatched to kill him in a “hunting accident” – the old William Rufus trick. However, they did not succeed. So the courtiers come up with another plan, becoming more and more like Wile E. Coyote in the process. At the feast after the hunt they get Ciar drunk, put him in a boat with one oar and set him out into the Atlantic. Luckily Ciar is blown to Inis Fuamnaige where he wakes, confused and with a massive hangover. Magor the viking lives on Inis Fuamnaige and agrees to look after Ciar if he tells him where to raid in Kerry. This is important because Magor, like all good TV vikings, does not sow. Over three years Magor and Ciar steal all the corn from Kerry.

Magor, Ciar, and the obligatory Game of Thrones reference.
Magor, Ciar, and the obligatory Game of Thrones reference.
Mothla calls on Findchú’s help to deal with these raids. So Findchú comes and decides to attack the raiders when they are making off with the corn. Through his miracles the army of Kerry comes upon the raiders unseen as they are loading their ships. Then Findchú unleashes hell. The sea, once smooth, rises up in waves as high as a mast. The saint runs at the raiders trapped on the shore howling like a wolf and swinging his crozier over his head. Even if the army of Kerry wasn’t there he would have routed the foreigners, attacking them with his teeth and nails as well as his weapons. It was pretty awesome. None of the raiders escaped alive, except Ciar.

This guy's a saint. Try and remember that.
This guy’s a saint. Try and remember that.
Mothla gives a tribute to Findchú, as a reward for his help, with malt and food coming from every household in Kerry. Although Ciar was spared, he could no longer live in Kerry so Findchú takes him away and sets him up near, what is now Cork. I’m not entirely sure that Ciar was treated fairly in all this, you know.

Once again the Uí Néill come from the north to invade Munster. That is to say the people in the north who are not Ulstermen – roughly. Gaelic kingdoms are a pretty fluid notion. They picked on Munster because they heard that it was full of fertile land and had no over-king, but rather all chieftains were of equal rank. The Munstermen usually trusted in their saints to save them and in this instance one chieftain declares that seven saints would come to save them if they could find a hero to accompany their army. The Munstermen heard that there was a brave man called Cairpre the Bent who was hunting game in the wilderness. Messengers were sent into the wilderness to find him and ask him to come with the army to save Munster. Cairpre replies that he will not come unless Findchú was with the army. In order to start this chain reaction of hero recruiting, the messengers are sent to Brí Gobann. I always thought I’d like to be a messenger if I was alive in the Middle Ages but these lads seem over worked. Findchú says he will come with the army but he is an old man by now and not too happy about it.

Even saints get too old for this shit.
Even saints get too old for this shit.
The Uí Néill outnumber the Munstermen three to one. They have heroes and champions a plenty. In the face of their wall of shields and forest of spears everyone flinches, save Findchú and Cairpre alone. “All your homes will be burned to the ground if you flinch!” said Findchú, not really nailing the pregame pep talk. “What are we to do, Findchú?” said the Munstermen, “we are outnumbered three to one!” Findchú replies (and this is a word for word quote, which makes it even better) “You should kill all the extra Uí Néill until they are the same number as you, and then just kill one man each”. Boom. Suitably heartened the Munstermen engage in battle. The fighting is fierce but the Munster saints rise above the host and the battle goes in their favour. The severed heads are gathered at Loch Cenn – the lake of heads.

Findchú really wanted to be in a macho action movie.
Findchú really wanted to be in a macho action movie.
Since the battle went so well the Munstermen decide to make Cairpre king. Findchú blesses him so that he no longer is known as Cairpre the Bent but Cairpre the Fair. Once again, say it with me now, tribute is given from Munster to Brí Gobann for the help given in battle.

At the end of his life Findchú begins to think on his warlike ways. Turns out hacking Irishmen, raiders and foreigners to pieces, even with your hands and teeth, is not so Christian. So he journeys to Rome in pilgrimage to atone for his sins. The Life ends with this poem that he recites:

Seven battles have I fought-
I am Findchú without disgrace-
From the battle of Dubcomar
To the battle of Finntracht against Magor.

A battle at Tara I delivered,
A battle in Leinster, with my devotion,
A battle in the middle of Munster,
I gave it without danger.

The contentious battle of Loch Cenn
Against the clans of Niall without disgrace;
The renowned battle of Cruachan Aí
It broke before me.

My fight against the Munstermen,
With Aed’s son, with my miracles,
My battles for the mindful,
It’s good to reckon them in their sevens.

My pilgrimage is to Rome in Latium,
On the road of Peter and Paul,
In Bronaide’s monastery
I have been reckoned in their sevens.

Always good to end on a song.


There is a nod at contrition at the end of the life but it is easy to see why older commentators have seen Findchú as a euhemerised god or at least an example of the very un-Christian nature of Irish Christianity. This view is a bit outdated now and we can see that the main concern is with establishing the dues owed to Brí Gobann from all over Ireland (but especially from its neighbours in Munster and Leinster). I hope you enjoyed this saint’s life, though it may be a while before we go through another one.

As ever the Irish and an old translation can be found here.

A Quick Note on ‘Translation’.

Now that we are a few blog posts in I consider us friends. Now that we are friends it’s time that we had a talk. I want to say something about translation and why this blog is, deep down, a translation blog. 
I was loathe to call The Head of Donn Bó a translation blog for a while. It will be clear to anyone who has perused any of the tales that I have posted here that we are no dealing with literal translations. Nor are we really rendering the tone and diction of the Irish into comparable English phrases. The tone is uniformly my conversational tone and the diction comes from those words and phrases I found most amusing at the time of writing. So how could I have the temerity to call anything that I write here a translation?

I call these translations because the medieval Irish called Merugud Ulix, In Cath Catharda and Imtheacht Aeneasa translations – sort of. For the medieval writer of In Cath Catharda was clear that he was presenting the story of Lucan’s Civil War to a medieval Irish audience. The story was changed in many ways from Lucan’s original but the purpose of the text was maintained. The characters were maintained. The link to Classical Rome was maintained. It is in this sense that I think I can get away with calling what I am doing translation. 
 As you can see the nineteenth century was nutty for historical accuracy 
What I am presenting to you are medieval tales. The plots have not be altered, characters have not been added, removed or combined, the names and places are all the same. What is missing is the medieval Irish. This is missing both as a language and as a style. What has been added is my own voice. The translator’s voice is always present in a translation but the thing is I have made no effort whatsoever to hide mine. Given that almost all of the translations I will be providing are of anonymous tales, it’s nice to have some kind of explicit authorial presence.

The whole purpose of these translations are to make the tales a bit more accessible (arguably the point of all translations). When you become aware of the brilliance, inventiveness, humour, and tragedy of the medieval Irish corpus, I hope that you will go and try and find out more. I hope you will try to find out what you have missed by reading my sketchy translations. That is why I have put links to older, more literal translations at the bottom of every post.

This blog does not have literal translations (they won’t help with your Irish homework). This blog does not have modern retellings (almost) everything comes from the medieval text. This blog has modern translations (in a very medieval sense) of old Irish literature.

I’m glad we sorted this out.

The Life of Findchú – part three

War! Huh! Good God, ya’ll! What is it good for?

When we last left Findchú he was breast feeding the child of the king of Leinster. As if this wasn’t bad enough for the king, war came to his province. The Uí Chennselaig were kicking off. The king, though, knew what to do in such a situation. He calls on his friend Findchú, who should come to his aid because of the affection he has for the king’s son. So Nuadu sends poets to ask Findchú to accompany the army when it goes on campaign. The poets arrive at the river beside Brí Gobann and ask to see Findchú. The saint, however, has just got in his ascetic bath and so asks that they wait for him to finish. The poets are offended by this and get angry. Findchú is offended that they are offended and gets angry himself. From that day forward no poets were allowed to get closer than the river to Brí Gobann. Also the king of Leinster can no longer use poets as messengers. Tetchy bunch anyway. Despite this rudeness Findchú agrees to help the army of the Leinstermen.

Poets can be annoying
Poets can be annoying

Findchú comes to the fortress with his clerics in tow, including young Fintan. Nuadu is pleased to see his son, who seems to have learned a lot with Findchú. The saint’s advice is that Nuadu send a gift of peace to Cennselach, the leader of the opposing army. Nuadu gets in touch to see what trinkets he fancies, but Cennselach will only accept the destruction of the fort the next day. Them’s fighting words. Indeed, in a pattern we’ll be comfortable with now, Findchú flies into a rage at hearing these words and want to have the fight there and then: “He wants to go, let’s go. I’ll take him right here, right now”. The two armies line up opposite each other, Findchú takes the lead in the Leinster forces. Seeing the enemy for the first time he is seized by a “wave of boldness” (direct quote) and the feet, hands, and eyes of the Uí Chennselaig are rendered useless.The saint is then seized by a “wave of godhead” (direct quote again) and offers the enemy one last chance to hand over hostages and go home safely. Rather foolishly the Uí Chennselaig refuse and in the following battle they are all killed, except Cennselach himself. For sparing his life Cennselach offers a tribute from himself and his descendants in perpetuity for Findchú. Handy that. As a final action Findchú blesses both the king of Leinster and Cennselach with chastity in all their queens and wives. Which was nice of him.

Since Nuadu has had a touching father-son reunion over the bodies of dead Leinstermen, he realises that misses the young tyke (although he’s never met him before in his life). So Nuadu asks Findchú if he would leave the boy Fintan with him in Leinster. Obviously it would be a shame if the boy was turned away from his holy calling but the choice was left up to the kid. Unsurprisingly, in a saint’s life, Fintan chooses to remain a monk and he stays in Leinster to found Clonenagh. This bit isn’t that exciting but if you were a medieval Irish monk you’d be all over these stories about monasteries and how they relate to each other.

This is an excited monk.
This is an excited monk.

This concludes Findchú’s adventures in Leinster. He next moves on to Munster. The Munstermen were in a spot of trouble because of the wife of the king of Ulster. Let me explain. The king of Ulster was Eochu, the son of Scannlan who we met in part one, remember? His wife was Mongfinn. She was the daughter of Daire and came from Munster. The only thing that she wanted in life was for her husband to conquer Munster so that the land could be divided up between her three sons Cas, Cian, Cingid. She had a Kardashian sort of naming practice going on. Once again, we are dealing with medieval literature so the scheming of a woman is just terrible and ends up destroying all the virtuous men around her. I know, right?

Findchú learns that Eochu is about to invade Munster and sends him a warning not to invade as it will end in his death. The king is seduced by the wiles of his wife and before you know it the Ulster army has set up camp on Knocksouna in Munster. The current king, Cathal (who you’ll recall from part two – see how it all comes together?) then turns up with his own army. When he realises that the Ulstermen have invaded he sends for Findchú to come and help him out. Findchú had previously promised to aid Cathal in all his battles, using his magic crozier Cennchatach – the Chief Battler. Lots of people name croziers.

What she said.
What she said.

The saint comes to Cathal straight away without waiting for any of his clerics. Once again, before it all descends into madness Findchú goes with a gift to Eochu, to tell him that he has no right to the kingship of Munster, so should go on his way. Mongfinn recognises the saint as he approaches and comes up with a plan to kill him off. She tells her sons to pretend to argue so that when Findchú comes to split them up, they can all jump him and deprive the Munstermen of his holy aid. Findchú enters the camp and Mongfinn runs up to him, saying that her sons are fighting about who should be king after they win the battle. She appeals to the saint to calm them down. The thing I like about Findchú is that he is good with a put down and one liner. Since he knows that it’s all a trap, he walks past the queen saying: “Mongfinn’s sons are peaceful”. However this means that the peace talks have broken down so Findchú returns to Cathal ready for war.

Findchú advises the Munstermen to make a battle line at the top of the hill. Cathal asks for Findchú’s crozier, since it is a mighty powerful weapon, but Findchú keeps it for himself so that he’ll be the one to kick most arse. Like a good Christian. The Ulstermen make their battle line at the bottom of the hill and prepare to meet the Munster charge. They kneel down, ready to rise up at the last minute but Findchú uses the power of God to stick them to the ground. When the Munstermen charge down the hill the Ulstermen are stuck fast to the floor and slaughtered in short order. Eochy, Mongfinn and their three sons were all killed that day and buried in the same place.

Shit. I'm stuck.
Shit. I’m stuck.

Before destroying the entire host some of Findchú’s fosterlings come to him and ask that he spare the Ulstermen. So the rest of the host goes back north unharmed. In a final good deed to the Munstermen, the saint cures some of their maimed and wounded, thereby also getting a tithe from their families for the rest of time.


The middle of a saint’s life does tend to drag as miracles get repeated often. What we see here is that Findchú is a great help in battle. This excellence in battle is something that Findchú’s successors would lean on to influence any kings in their own time, who were thinking of going into battle. Which happened a lot. We also see the figure of the scheming woman, bringing destruction – a common trope, especially in ecclesiastical texts. As ever the Irish can be found here.