We’re back in Ireland, though I’m taking a bit of a detour from the Ulster Cycle for a story that really isn’t part of said cycle, but is tangentially related.
So, to start off, we have this farmer from Ulster named Crunden. Crunden’s wife died, leaving him with three small children to raise, a farm to run, and a household to take care of. Now, with the first two taking up most of his attention, the latter kinda falls by the wayside a bit.
The house is a mess, is what I’m saying.
Which makes it really, really surprising when Crunden gets home from the fields one day to find the house miraculously clean, with a random lady cooking supper.
“Hi,” she says. “I’m Macha, and I’m your new wife.”
Crunden, apparently not finding anything about this weird or off-outting, says, “OK,” and the two go on their merry way.
Now, it should be noted that Macha is clearly not human. In fact, she’s from the otherworld, which is where all the gods and the sidhe live. This is indicated by the fact that she runs really, really, ridiculously fast.
Anyway, things are going pretty well, at least up until the king, Connor, gets himself some new chariot horses and decides to throw a huge party for this. Everyone, including Crunden, is invited.
It should also be noted at this point that Macha is super, super pregnant. As in about-to-give-birth-at-any-moment preggers. So she takes her husband aside before the party and warns him not to brag her up, or bad shit will happen. He assures her that he won’t, and heads off to party down.
Crunden manages to keep his promise in the face of all the other dudes their bragging about their wives, but then the king says that his horses are the fastest things alive.
Crunden says, “Oh, yeah? Bet my wife can outrun your horses.”
The king does not take to kindly to this boast, and has a couple of his guards bring Macha by so her husband can put his money where his mouth is. Macha, desperately, tries to get the king to realize that maybe forcing a heavily pregnant woman to run a race is a terrible idea. When this doesn’t work, she tries to appeal to his cadre of warriors, but they want to see where this is going too.
So, with no other choice, the race is on. Surprise, surprise, Macha goes into labor during the race, which she wins. Right on the finish line, she then gives birth to stillborn twins.
Understandably upset by this turn of events, she scoops up her dead babies and lays a curse on the men of Ulster. Basically, from now until the end of time, they’ll experience labor pains at the time they need their strenght the most. She then runs off, never to be seen again.
The fortress is then named Emain Macha, or “Macha’s twins.”
And the moral of the story is Jesus Christ don’t force pregnant women to race horses.