To Battle

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  • Táin Bó Cúailnge: The Cattle Raid of Cooley

Failed Negotiations

In return for the loan of the bull, Medb's messengers offered Daire fifty heifers, a plot of land in Connacht, a chariot and the friendship of Medb. Daire jumped for joy at this generous offer and accepted immediately. He called a feast to celebrate and invited all the messengers.

Alas, some of them had too much to drink and became very brash and loud. They were overheard saying that if Daire had refused Medb's offer, they would have robbed the bull anyway. When Daire heard this, he was furious and he sent them packing in the morning empty-handed.

When Medb received the news, she did not think twice about going to war. She wanted the bull and she would have it, even if this meant going to Ulster and taking it by force. So she began to assemble a huge army from the other three provinces of Ireland. Ailill also called together his armies to join with those of his wife.

Some of the greatest warriors in the country were included in the joint forces of Medb and Ailill. Most of Ulster's best warriors were suffering from the terrible pangs of Ulster at the time, due to a curse that had been put on them by the figure of Macha. Therefore, Medb felt very confident of success in battle.

Fedelm's Prophecy

Before the army of Medb set off from Connacht, a fortune teller called Fedelm came to see Queen Medb. She foresaw a disturbing vision, which frightened Medb.

Little did Medb know how accurate Fedelm's prophecy would prove to be. The prophecy was as follows:

'I see him moving to the fray:
take warning, watch him well,
Cúchulainn, Sualdam's son!
Now I see him in pursuit.

Whole hosts he will destroy,
making dense massacre.
In thousands you will yield your heads.
I am Fedelm. I hide nothing.'