Emerald Isle

The Prophecy of Scathach

Irish and Celtic myths and legends, Irish folklore and Irish fairy tales from the Ulster Cycle

Cú Chulainn hears echoes of the future

It was often the way in olden times in Ireland that women would fight alongside the men, fierce and unbowed, and accorded the honour of warriors too. So it was with the fearless Scáthach, the legendary Scottish warrior woman whose name meant "the Shadow"!

She lived in a sinister castle called Dún Scáith, or the Fortress of Shadows, situated on the Isle of Skye in Scotland, and it was her teaching that Cú Chulainn sought in order to perfect his mastery of the arts of battle. As they parted company, she gave him the words of a prophecy which had come to her through the Imbas of illumination, the Vision which shines:

When you are an unbeaten champion,
great challenges await you,
alone against the vast hoard.

Warriors will be set aside by you,
necks will be broken by you,
you sword will strike blows to the rear
against Setante's red river.

Hard-bladed, you will cut the trees
by the sign of slaughter, by manly feats.
Cattle will be carried from your hill,
captives will be surrendered by your people
harried by an army for a fortnight,
your cattle will walk the passes.

You will be alone in great hardship against the host.
Scarlet gushes of blood will strike
upon many split and shattered shields.

A band of brigands you will join
and will bring away many people and oxen.

Many wounds will be inflicted
upon you, O hound of Chulainn.

You will suffer a vengeful wound
when you do battle at the last wall.

From your red-pronged weapon there will be defeat,
men pierced against the furious wave,
against the whale-tooth fiercely thrust,
a whale performing feats with blows.

Women will wail and tear their clothes,
Medb and Ailill boast of it.
No death-bed awaits you
after slaughters of great ferocity.

Clochafarmore standing stone, where Cú Chulainn died, is marked on the map below.

Further Tales from the Ulster Cycle

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