is no greater hero in the ancient Irish tales than the Celtic warrior
Cú Chulainn. His birth has supernatural elements, since he was
the son of the human woman Dechtire and the sun god Lug (Lugh). He was
named Sétanta as a young boy, and he got his adult name when
he killed a gruesome watchdog by hurling a ball down the beast's throat.
He paid his debt to the dog's owner, the weapon smith Culann, by guarding
his homestead for a year. Thus he was know as Cú Chulainn, "the
Hound of Culann".
Cú Chulainn was possessed by a battle fury that terrified his enemies. No one else had weapons like him. The most famous was his spear, the Gae Bolg, which like a modern missile could search its target. In the part of The Ulster Cycle called "The Cattle Raid of Cooley", he alone defended the Ulster province from an invasion army of Connaught. The rest of the warriors of the Red Branch were suffering severe pangs as a result of the curse of Macha.
Eventually Cú Chulainn was mortally wounded in battle and he strapped himself to a pillar in order to continue the fight. Not until he was dead were his enemies capable of taking his head. On the shoulder of the dead body was a raven, the symbol of the war goddess Mórrígán.
First published: Sunday 27th October, 1996.
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