The Centre for Celtic Spirituality

THE STORY OF MACHA

The City of Armagh (Ard Macha) and the ancient site of Emain Macha (for which the Navan Centre is an interpretive centre), are both named after a Celtic Goddess – MACHA.

Her story is told in the Ulster Cycle of Mythologies. This is a brief telling of a deeply significant story.

Macha was a skilled runner and her husband boasted to the King of Ulster that she could outrun his fastest horses. The king accepts this as a challenge, but Macha was heavily pregnant  and begged for postponement. The King would not back down so she was forced to run and ended up outrunning the King’s horses!

However, she gives birth immediately to twins and, before she dies, Macha, in her pain and anger, places a curse and a blessing on the Men of Ulster, represented by each twin. The blessing is that Ulster’s warriors would have great strength and power. The curse is that in their time of greatest crisis the Ulstermen would be struck down with the weakness of a woman in labour, unable to save themselves.

In refusing to protect Macha, the King of Ulster betrays one of the central functions of Kingship – to allow the creativity of women to prosper.

 

You can find these and other ancient mythologies in the Táin Bó Cúailnge, the oldest wisdom stories of Ireland.