Exploring spirituality somewhere between the Emerald Isle and the Black Land....

Friday, June 29, 2012

Medb, Queen of Connacht (PBP)

Queen Medb is probably my favorite mythological character. She is a self-assured woman with so much attitude and pride, she leads her entire province to war so that she will not be shown up by her husband, Ailill. The ensuing events, known as the saga of the Táin Bó Cúailnge, is set off when Ailill remarks that she is much better of now than the day they married. Medb's response is both indignant and confident, painting a vivid picture of who she is as a character. It also happens so be my all-time favorite Medb moment:

"The High King of Erin himself was my father, Eocho Fedlech son of Finn, by name, who was son of Findoman, son of Finden, son of Findguin, son of Rogen Ruad, son of Rigen, son of Blathacht, son of Beothacht, son of Enna Agnech, son of Oengus Turbech. Of daughters, had he six: Derbriu, Ethne and Ele, Clothru, Mugain and Medb, myself, that was the noblest and seemliest of them.

"I was the goodliest of them in bounty and gift-giving, in riches and treasures. I was best of them in battle and strife and combat. I had fifteen hundred royal mercenaries, the sons of those exiled from their own land, and as many more of the sons of freemen of the land. And there were ten men with every one of these hirelings, and nine, and eight, and seven, and six, and five, and four, and three, and two, and one hireling with every hireling. These were as a standing household-guard; hence my father bestowed one of the five provinces of Erin upon me, even the province of Cruachan; wherefore 'Medb of Cruachan' am I called.

"Men came from Finn son of Ross Ruad, king of Leinster, to seek me for a wife, and I refused him; and from Carbre Niafer son of Ross Ruad, king of Temair, to woo me, and I refused him; and they came from Conchobar son of Fachtna Fathach, king of Ulster, and I refused him in like wise. They came from Eocho Bec, and I went not; for it is I that exacted a singular bride-gift, such as no woman before me had ever required of a man of the men of Erin, namely, a husband without avarice, without jealousy, without fear.

"For should he be mean, the man with whom I should live, we would be ill-matched together, inasmuch as I am great in grace and gift-giving, and it would be a disgrace if I should be more generous than he, while no disgrace would it be were one as great as the other. Were my husband a coward, it would be as unfit for us to be mated, for I by myself and alone break battles and fights and combats, and it would be a reproach for my husband should his wife be more full of life than himself, and no reproach our being equally bold. Should he be jealous, the husband with whom I should live, that too would not suit me, for there never was a time that I had not my paramour.

"Howbeit, such a husband have I found in you, Ailill son of Ross Ruad of Leinster. You are not churlish; you are not jealous; you are not a sluggard. When we wed, I gave a gift to you of clothing enough for twelve men, a chariot worth thrice seven bondmaids, the breadth of thy face of red gold, and the weight of thy left forearm of silvered bronze. Whoever brings shame and sorrow and madness upon you, it is to me the compensation belongs, for a kept man is what you are."

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