The Bull of Cooley
The central story of the Ulster cycle is the Cattle-raid of Cuailnge (Tain Bo Cuailnge). Queen Medbh of Connacht and her vanguard attempt to steal the great bull, Donn Cuailnge, owned by the men of Ulster. She desires this bull so that her possessions will equal those of her husband, King Ailill, who owns a great white-horned bull, Finnbennach. Through the structure of this story the exploits of Cuchulain and his companions, Conall Cernach and Loegaire Buadach, are related. In the warfare against Queen Medbh, Cuchulain realizes that he is fighting against supernatural forces that have been organized against him. Before the last battle, the Great Carnage of Murthemne, Cuchulain realizes the contradictory workings of his geasa. The geasa is a kind of personal obligation or taboo that cannot be violated by the individual without suffering dire consequences. For example, the sorcerers of Queen Medbh are cooking a dog when Cuchulain passes. One of his geasa obligates him to eat the food from any hearth that he passes; another of his geasa makes the meat of dog a forbidden food. When he eats the dog he feels some of his power leave him. In this manner he is depleted of his great powers and eventually is mortally wounded in battle.
THE QUEEN'S TOMB.
The flat-topped hill of Knocknarea, near Sligo, is crowned by a huge cairn of stones. These are said to mark the tomb of Queen Maeve, or Medbh, whose jealousy led to the war between Connaught and Ulster, and the deeds and death of Cuchulainn. The cairn probably does cover a grave, believed to be much older than the Celtic legend.
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