This friday we’re going to be looking at an old friend of mine, Cu Chulainn, this might be a short article as I’m having a very hectic night.
Me and Cu Chulainn are old friends, I did half a GCSE on ‘What Celtic Mythology tells us about the Relationship Between the Ancient Celts and their Gods’ it was one of the best things I’ve ever done and I’m very proud of it. My essay focussed heavily on Cu Chulainn as he’s one of the most well known figures in Celtic Mythology.
So, what I’m looking at today is Cu Chulainn and what he can tell us about the (ancient) Celtic idea of a ‘hero.’
Strength is a large part of Cu Chulainn and many other Celtic heroes, they have to be strong in life and strong in battle. Strength was a marker of masculinity with the Celts just as it is in our society today.
Cu Chulainn does many fairly despicable things, such as killing twenty-four of Forgall’s (the father of his future bride, Emer) men just when trying to prove a point- though this can be explained by looking at the Celtic attitude towards death.
CHALLENGES THE GODS
This is a quality I find really perplexing and striking in Cu Chulainn and many Celtic heroes and heroines; it’s something that took me a while to get my head around. Cu Chulainn ends up refusing the advances of the Morrigan and openly fighting with her (The Cattle Raid of Cooley)- something that will horrify anyone familiar with Morrigan! I looked quite deeply into this story for my essay and fairly quickly realised that Morrigan was in control the whole time and does come out on top. I think that this quality speaks more about the exalted status of Celtic heroes and the Celts’ familiarity with their gods than anything else.
Cu Chulainn is not a man afraid of his emotions- nor are many other Celtic men. He grieves deeply after accidentally killing his son and is shown to be incredibly compassionate by doing things like carrying his foster-brother across a river. Emotion was clearly not a weakness to the Ancient Celts like it is to us today, maybe we could learn a valuable lesson from them.
Cu Chulainn sleeps with many women, both before and during his marriage to Emer; this could perhaps speak of the polyamorous nature of the Celts but clearly shows that they value sex and fertility highly.
So there you have it, a quick run down of Cu Chulainn’s many qualities and what they tel us about Celtic heroes 🙂