Macha’s Curse

(C)Emily Holbert Kellam

I came from beneath the green hills of the sidhe
With gold and with cattle, your wife for to be
Now I bear you a daughter and also a son
But Crunnuic, my husband, what have you begun?
Is this how your repay me?
By your boasting, husband, you’ve betrayed me

So I’ll run for your pleasure, and damn all you cowards
Who’ve watched me in pain, may your lot be the same
‘Till the ninth generation I curse those to blame
For my anguish and shame, may your lot be the same

O Great King, what fine horses you own
Like the steeds of Manannan that run on the foam
Do these wondrous creatures come so soon to bore you
That I who am pregnant must run races for you?
Beware, O great King!
Of the bards and the satires they’ll sing

People of Ulster, defend what is true
For a woman, a mother bore each man of you
Stand up for the rights of a woman in pain
Lest all of this land bear my curse and my name
Will no man speak free?
Then you’ll soon feel the wrath of the sidhe!

For the pride of the Ulaid, the king, and the boast
May all your strength fail you when you need it most
And as I’ve born by children alone and in pain
Shall you each feel such birth-pangs
Again and again and again and again and again!

This song relates the tale of Macha, a sidhe (faerie woman) famed for speed and beauty, forced to run a race for men’s pride. The high-seat of Ulster was ever after named Emhain Macha, “the Twins of Macha”, for the children born on that race-field, and when the great Cattle-Raid of Cooley (Tain Bo Cuilagne) happened, the time of their greatest need, no man in Ulster save the hero Cuchulainn could stand against the Connacht invaders, because of the curse laid upon them: that they should suffer labour-pains, just as Macha herself once had… ~EHK~

Curses & Lullabies, forthcoming

The Bardic Kitchen Party, The Bardic College of Ealdormere (2004)