BIRTH OF CUCHULAINN
the time of Cuchulainn's birth, Conor Mac Nessa
was the king of Ulster. He had a sister named
Dechtiré who was about to be married to an
Ulster chieftain named Sualtam when she
mysteriously fell into a deep sleep. The next
morning, she was gone as were fifty of her
attendants. No one had an idea where they had
years passed without word of the women. One day,
a large flock of birds landed at Emain Macha and
ate everything in sight as the Ulstermen
helplessly watched. Not a single growing thing
was left. Conor was so angry he ordered his
chariot and set off after the flock to hunt them
down. He was joined by some members of his
the king and his followers started after them,
the birds flew off in the direction of the Boyne
river, where the dwellings of the Tuatha Dé
Danaan were located. Although they rode quickly
and unhindered, the birds were always just ahead
evening approached, three birds broke off and led
the king and his group towards Brugh na Boinne.
As they reached the river, a sudden snow storm
hid the birds from view. Conor order his company
to dismount and find shelter for the night.
Poison-Tongue, a satiric poet, was wandering in
the dark when he heard a strange, low sound. He
saw nothing, but started off in the direction
from which the sound came. Suddenly, he came upon
a large, spacious house. He went to the door and
saw a handsome couple.
are welcome, Bricriu," said the man. Since
the man knew his name, Bricriu knew his must be
one of the Tuatha Dé Danaan. Looking more
closely at the man, he realized that it was Lugh
of the Long Arm. "You are welcome a thousand
times over," added the woman at Lugh's side.
returned to the King and his company to tell him
that he had found shelter for the night. Conor
was delighted to hear this and the group followed
Bricriu back to Lugh's house. When they arrived,
Lugh was there to greet them, but the woman had
retired for the evening. They were made welcome
and retired for the night.
he next morning they met
the woman, who had given birth to a son the
previous evening. It was then that they realized
that the woman was Dechtiré. She and the fifty
maidens had been spirited away in the shape of
birds by Lugh who was taken with Dechtiré's
beauty. Lugh asked them to take the child and
raise it among the warriors of Ulster.
they took the baby, Dechtiré and the fifty
maidens and returned to Emain Macha. Dechtiré
married Sualtam, and all the chiefs, champions,
druids, poets, and lawgivers of Ulster raised the
boy, each sharing with him the special knowledge
which they possessed. He was called Setanta.
was raised in Dun Breth on the Plain of
Muirthemne. When he was six years old, he asked
to join the boy's camp in Emain Macha which Conor
had set-up to train specially selected boys to be
warriors. His mother said that he was too young,
but Setanta insisted.
took his bronze stick and ball, his javelin, a
toy spear, and a small wooden shield and left for
the camp. The boys were all on the green when
Setanta arrived. Some were practicing their
fighting skills and others were playing hurley.
rushed straight into the game, stealing the ball
from one of the boys and dodging around the
others. He scored a goal easily. Their captain
was Folaman, Conor's son. He was outraged at the
intrusion and rallied the boys together to attack
this ruffian who had interrupted their game.
boys threw their burley balls at Setanta, but he
dodged every one of them. Then they threw their
spears at him, but he deflected them all with his
wooden shield. Suddenly a war spasm came over the
boy. His face became distorted with anger, his
teeth were bared and his hair stood straight up
frenzy, Setanta rushed at the group of boys and
knocked down fifty of them who were far bigger
than he. Then he chased five others through a
hall where the king and Fergus Mac Roi were
playing chess and jumped right over the chess
board set out between the two men. Conor grabbed
the boy by the arms and asked what was going on.
explained who he was and the welcome which the
boys had given him on his arrival. Conor then
explained that the boys are forbidden to allow a
newcomer to join them until he has first claimed
their protection. Setanta apologized saying that
had he known that, he would have done what was
explained the situation to the boys and asked
them to take Setanta under their protection. They
agreed and Setanta was allowed to join their
ranks. No sooner had they restarted the game than
the boy attacked them once again.
the king asked him what he was doing, Setanta
said that the boys had to agree to come under his
protection just as he had agreed to come under
theirs. The terrified boys agreed to place
themselves under Setanta's protection although he
was not yet seven years old.
Birth of Cuchullainn from the Ulster Cycle.