Heritage > Myths and Legends > Ireland

The Curse of Macha


Navan Fort (previously known as Emain Macha) was the stronghold of the Celtic kings of Ulster. There is a story behind this.

Crunniac (a chieftain) lived by himself in the mountains. One morning after a terrible storm, he gazed upon a beautiful woman running towards his house at incredible speed. He had never seen anything move so fast!

He let her in his house, where she quickly made herself comfortable. She refused to give him her name. However they fell in love and married. A happy marriage followed which was made complete by the news that she was pregnant.

Conor (the King of Ulster), invited them to a feast at the palace, with a fair and royal games there after. Crunniac had reservations, and felt his wife should stay at home and rest because the birth of their baby was nearing. In the end they both attended because the King had so wished.

The fair was lively and full of enjoyment, much wine was drunk. Then came the chariot racing ~ the main attraction of the day! As you would expect, the Kings horses won every race, simply because they were the fastest. Having drunk too much wine, Crunniac blurted out, "My wife is faster." The King was angry, and declared a challenge: "Crunniac's wife vs. my horses!"

Crunniac's wife did not want to undertake the challenge, but the King made it clear that if she did not, Crunniac would be put to death. She had no choice, therefore she raced ~ and won!

The King was flabbergasted by this act and wanted to know who this woman was? "My name is Macha," she spoke. The skies darkened, and as the thunder rolled, she gave birth to a boy and a girl ~ twins they were!

A blessing and a curse would arise from the birth of the twins. "The blessing will bring them power. The curse will make them weak when they most need strength," she exclaimed.

This is where the name Emain Macha "Twins of Macha" came from. That is, from the day the twins were born, a curse was put on the men of Ulster.

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