Celtic Queen Medb

Fairy Queen Medb of the Sidhe

The Celtic Queen Medb (Maeve) of the Province of Connaught was the most famous queen of ancient Ireland. She was a warrior queen living in approximately the 1st century B.C., who was once considered an historical queen, but now is considered to be mythological. She is most famous as a protagonist in the story of the Cattle Raid of Cooley (Táin Bó Cuailnge) and adversary of Cúchulainn the legendary Celtic hero.

Medb lived in Co. Sligo in Connaught and there are many monuments which are linked to her name. She was named after the Celtic Goddess of Intoxication. First she married Conchobar Mac Nessa of Ulster but they were not compatible, so her sister Ethne married him instead. She then married a Connaught chieftain called Ailill, which also did not work out, so finally she was married to Ailill a son of the King of Leinster. Medb also frequented the area in Roscommon known today as Rathcroghan. The area was called Cruachain in ancient times and was said to hold the entrance to the other world, now known as the Cave of the Cats.

In many accounts, the accomplishments of Queen Medb are very similar to the those of the Goddess Medb. Therefore, there is confusion over which of them is the mortal and which is mythological. There also was a Medb in the Province of Leinster, called Medb Lethderg, meaning Red-Side or Half-Red, who married nine men in order to give them kingship of their territories. This tale sounds more like the Goddess Medb, who conferred sovereignty on the kings by a ritual of intoxication and then a marriage to them.

Medb murdered her sister Clothra while she was pregnant with Furbaide, son of Conchobar Mac Nessa. Clothra's baby survived this and, when he grew up, he murdered Medb in revenge. It is said that he hit her with a slingshot of hard cheese while she was bathing in a lake on an island in Lough Ree, Co. Roscommon. His name was Furbaide Ferbend.

Which one of these three woman called Medb is the real Celtic Queen? I guess we will never know for sure but folklore gives us the following information about our subject:

Queen Medb was also know as Maeve, Maebh, Medba, Maev, Meadhbh, Méadhbh, Meave and Maive. She was the daughter of Eochu Fedlech and Cruacha. Her family included three brothers known as Finn Emna, the three Finns of Emain; and three sisters, Ethne, Clothra and Mugain. She had several uncles, cousins and nephews, and had a very large family of her own children. Her nine sons were Orlam, Ciar, and seven sons called Maine. They were Maine Mathremail (like his mother), Maine Athremail (like his father), Maine Mo Epert (the talker), Maine Milscothach (the honey worded), Maine Andoe (the quick), Maine Mingor (the gently dutiful) and Maine Morgor (the very dutiful). Medb's three daughters were Finnabair, Cainder and Faife. She also raised a foster son called Etarcomol. She died on Inchcleraun Island at Lough Ree in Co. Roscommon by the hand of her nephew Furbaide Ferbend.

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