Emerald Isle


Irish and Celtic myths and legends, Irish folklore and Irish fairy tales and Legendary Places in Ireland

The hero-light undimmed

Alone in County Louth rises a tall standing stone, its only company the ravens overhead and the whispering wind given voice by nearby trees. This is Clochafarmore, which means "the stone of the great man". It was first raised during the bronze age and rises to ove three meters in height, in a place whose name means The Field of Slaughter, in a region called The Great Carnage in the old language, An Breisleach Mór.

It may have been the site of one great battle or many, perhaps an important location between two realms or the traditional site for arranged conflicts to settle disputes. However it came by the name, the stone is today closely associated with the ancient Irish hero Cú Chulainn, and with his final doom. This hero was known for his ferocious warp-spasm which made him invincible in battle:

The first warp-spasm seized Cúchulainn, and made him into a monstrous thing, hideous and shapeless, unheard of. His shanks and his joints, every knuckle and angle and organ from head to foot, shook like a tree in the flood or a reed in the stream. His body made a furious twist inside his skin, so that his feet and shins and knees switched to the rear and his heels and calves switched to the front... His face and features became a red bowl : he sucked one eye so deep into his head that a wild crane could not probe it onto his cheek out of the depths of his skull; the other eye fell out along his cheek... His heart boomed loud in his breast like the baying of a watch-dog at its feed or the sound of a lion among bears.” ~ Kinsella

His enemies and those men he had made fatherless and sonless conspired together to come up with a way to defeat him and avenge their lost ones. Lugaid mac Con Roí, father of one of the men defeated by Cú Chulainn, has three magical spears, each destined and prophecised to kill a king, but they were in Cú Chulainn's hands!

So he got his three chief druids to approach the hero one by one, and threaten to satirise him and blacken his name forever more unless he gave them each a spear. Regretfully Cú Chulainn did just that, by throwing it through their bodies! With each sacrifice Lugaid got a spear, and so he slew Cú Chulainn's charioteer, then the Grey of Macha, Cúchulainn’s king of horses.

"‘You do your kindness unkindly, Cúchulainn,’ said the Druid, as he fell.

Then Cúchulainn drove for the last time through the host, and Lugaid took the spear, and he said: ‘Who will fall by this spear, children of Calatin?’ ‘A king will fall by it,’ said they...

Then Lugaid threw the spear, and it went through and through Cúchulainn’s body, and he knew he had got his deadly wound; and his bowels came out on the cushions of the chariot, and his only horse went away... and left his master, the king of the heroes of Ireland, to die upon the plain of Muirthemne."

Though stricken with a mortal wound, the hero got permission from his slayer to drink water from a nearby lake, but he noticed a tall pillar near to this place, and used the cords of his belt to tie himself to the stone. As he died he gave a deep sigh, which cracked the stone downwards from the top, a crack we still see today. His enemies stayed well back and watched to be certain he was dead.

"So afar they retreated, when they beheld him standing with the drawn sword in his hand, and the rays of the setting sun bright on his panic-striking helmet. So stood Cúchulainn, even in death pangs a terror to his enemies and the bulwark of his nation."

At last after three days they saw a raven, one of Morrigan's creatures, land on his shoulder, and Lugaid approached to behead him. As he swung his sword, the hero-light burned around Cú Chulainn one final time and his sword fell, slicing off Lugaid's own hand, and only then did the light dim.

Legendary Places in Ireland

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