Ailill Mór (Táin Bó Cúailnge)

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About Ailill Mór (Táin Bó Cúailnge)

Ailill Mac Mata

Ailill was the king of Connacht. Ailill was the son of Russ Ruad, and he had two brothers, Connra Cas and Eochaid Dála, who were also kings of Connacht.

Ailill was married Medb (Maeve), who became his queen. The real power seemed to come from his wife, as she may be the sovereignty goddess of Connacht. And not only this, all three sons of Russ Ruad only became kings only when each had married Maeve.

Medb bore him three daughters Finnabair, Cainder and Faife. Ailill also sevens sons, and they were all named Maine, because a prophecy say that his son (Maine) would kill King Conchobar of Ulster.

The quarrel between Ailill and his wife, of who had the best bull in Connacht, set off the war between Connacht and Ulster. Ailill possessed Finnbennach, the White Bull of Connacht; and Medb had none that matched her husband's prized bull. Medb decided to take Donn Cuailnge, which is the Brown Bull of Cuailnge (Cooley), by force, since she couldn't buy it or borrow it from the owner. In the end, Connacht was defeated when Cu Chulainn took part in the battle, and their allied provinces deserted them. Both bulls killed one another at the end of the tale, so neither Ailill nor Medb won their wager.

Ailill knew of his wife's numerous infidelities, particularly with Fergus Mac Roich, a former captain of the Red Branch. Fergus rebelled against Conchobar Mac Nessa (king of Ulster), over the death of sons of Uisnech. Fergus came to his court as an exile with his followers.

One day, after the death of Cu Chulainn, Ailill jealously murdered Fergus while he bathed in a lake. The hero Conall Cernach avenged Fergus by slaying Ailill.


Related Information Name Ailill Mac Mata, Ailill MacMata.

Period/Cycle Ulaid Cycle.

Related Articles Medb (Maeve), Fergus Mac Roich, Cu Chulainn, Conall Cernach.

Genealogy: House of Connacht.


Medb (Maeve)

Medb was the warrior queen of Connacht during the Ulaid Cycle. She was also called Maeve. Medb was remembered as the queen who took on the might of Ulaid (Ulster).

Medb was the daughter of Eochaid Feidlech, who was the king of Leinster, and of Cruachu. Medb always claimed that she had resided in Cruachain, which was named after her mother.

Some confuse her with another queen or goddess, whose name was Medb Lethderg, the sovereignty goddess of Tara and queen of Leinster. If she was a goddess, then she would be the sovereignty goddess of Connacht. This is particularly true, since she had married the three sons of Russ Ruad of Leinster; each brother only became king when he married Maeve. The sons of Russ Ruad were named: Tinde (son of Connra Cas) and Eochaid Dála and Ailill Mac Mata.

Some say she was possibly one of the aspects of Morrígan (Morrigan). For any one who wished to become king, they must enter a sacred marriage with the sovereignty of the land (Connacht), and she was Maeve.

Ailill and his brothers were not the only kings, she had married. Medb had 3 sisters, Clothra, Eithne and Mugain, and all four of them had married King Conchobar of Ulster. (Medb probably have another two sisters, named Derbriu and Ele.) Conchobar was probably her first husband.

When Medb left Conchobar, she killed her pregnant sister, Clothra. However Clothra's son by Conchobar, had somehow survived. Her nephew was named Furbaide Ferbend, who would avenge his mother (Clothra) and killed Medb as she bath in the spring.

By Ailill, Medb bore three daughters: Finnabair, Cainder and Faife. Medb was also mother of sevens sons, and they were all named Maine, because they have heard from a prophecy say that her son (Maine) would kill King Conchobar of Ulster.

Conchobar Mac Nessa and Ulster, were Connacht's traditional rival and chief enemy.

Medb was renown for a number of infidility she had committed, particularly her long liason with Fergus Mac Roich, Ulaid exile and former leader of the Red Branch. By Fergus, Medb was also the mother of Ciar and Conmac. She had once boasted that it took 32 men to satified her sexually.

Cu Chulainn was responsible for her defeat in the cattle raid of Cuailnge. She later sought Cu Chulainn's death. She allied herself with Lugaid Mac Cu Roi and the daughters of Calatin. They lured him to fight her army alone. The combination of breaking his geis and magic resulted in Cu Chulainn's death.

When her husband killed her lover Fergus, and Conall Cernach in turn killed Ailill, Medb retired to an island. Furbaide Ferbend, son of Conchobar and Clothra (her sister), killed her where she was to known to bathe regularly in the lake.