The Celtic Literature Collective

The Foundation of the Palace of Emain Macha
Book of Leinster
TCD 1339 (formerly H.2.18) fol. 20a-b

What is Emain Macha named from? It is not difficult to tell? Three kings that were over Erinn in co-sovereignty; they were of the Ultonian race, namely, Dithorba, son of Diman, from Usniuch of Midhe (Meath); Aedh Ruadh, son of Bádhurn, son of Argatmar, from Tír Aedha; Cimbaeth, son of Fintan, son of Argatmar, from Finnabhair of Magh Inis. These kings, now, made an arrangement, that each man of them should reign seven years [in turn].

There were three times seven guarantees between them [namely]: seven Druids, seven poets, seven military leaders [or captains]. The seven Druids to scorch them by incantations; the seven poets to satirize and denounce them; the seven captains to wound and to burn them, if each man of them did not vacate the sovereignty at the end of his seven years; and to maintain the [evidences of the] righteousness of a sovereign, namely: abundance of fruit every year; and no failure of the dye-stuffs of every colour; and women not to die in childbirth. They revolved three revolutions each man of them in the sovereignty, that is, sixty-three [years, in all]. Aedh Ruadh was the first of them that died, i.e. of drowning, he died in Eas-Ruaidh, and his body was buried in that hill [Sidh] unde Sidh Aedha [Aedh's hill], and Es-Ruaidh [or, the Redhaired Man's Cataract]. This Aedh left no children but one daughter, Macha Mong-Ruadh [that is, Redhaired Macha] was her name. She demanded her father's turn of the sovereignty. Cimbaeth and Dithorba said that they would not give sovereignty to a woman.

There was a battle fought between them, and Macha gained the battle. She spent seven years in the sovereignty. Dithorba was killed in the Corann in that time. He left five good sons, namely, Baeth, and Bras, and Betach, and Uallach, and Borbchas. These demanded the sovereignty. Macha said that she would not resign it to them, because it was not from securities she had obtained it, but in the battle-field by force. A battle was fought between them, Macha gained the battle over the sons of Dithorba, so that they left a slaughter of heads with her; and she sent them into banishment afterwards into the wildernesses of Connacht. Macha after that took Cimbaeth to her to be her husband, and to take on him the command of her soldiers.

When Macha and Cimbaeth had thus formed an union, Macha set out to discover the sons of Dithorba, in the shape of a leprous woman, i.e., having rubbed herself with the dough of rye and rota [some kind of red colouring stuff]. And she found them in Bairinn of Connacht, cooking a wild hog. The men asked news of her, and she told them, and they gave her food at that fire. A man of them said: "Beautiful is the eye of the hag: let us cohabit with her". He took her with him into the wood. She tied that man by main strength, and she left him in the wood. She came again to the fire. "What of the man who went with you?" said they. "He was ashamed", said she, "to come back to you after cohabiting with a leprous woman". "It is no shame", said they, "for we will all of us do the same". Each man of them took her into the wood. She tied each man of them by her strength, and carried them in one tie with her to Ulster. The Ultonians proposed to have them killed. " Not so", said she, " because it would be the defilement of the righteousness of a sovereign to me; but they shall be condemned to slavery, and shall raise a Rath around me, and it shall be the chief city of Ulster for ever". And she marked for them the Dún with her brooch of gold [Eó óir] from her neck [or at her neck], i.e. Emuin, i.e. Eomuin, i.e. the Eó [brooch] of Macha at her neck. [Eó and muin, brooch and neck.]

This is a brief anecdote from the longer tract Do Flathiusaib Hérend, which follows Lebor Gabala Érenn.

O'Curry, Eugene. Lectures on the manuscript materials of ancient Irish history Dublin: 1861. pp.527-528