Irish Sagas at UCC University College Cork



Noínden Ulad ocus Emuin Macha

Background information

References in the Annals of the Four Masters

M2850.1 Neimhidh came to Ireland. On the twelfth day after the arrival of Neimhidh with his people, Macha, the wife of Neimhidh, died.

M4532.1 After Cimbaeth had been seven years in the sovereignty of Ireland for the third time, Macha, daughter of Aedh Ruadh, son of Badharn, said that her father’s turn to the sovereignty was her’s. Dithorba and Cimbaeth said that they would not give the sovereignty to a woman. A battle was fought between them; Macha defeated them, and expelled Dithorba, with his sons, into Connaught, so that he was slain in Corann. She afterwards took to her Cimbaeth as husband, and gave him the sovereignty. She afterwards proceeded alone into Connaught, and brought the sons of Dithorba with her in fetters to Ulster, by virtue of her strength, and placed them in great servitude, until they should erect the fort of Eamhain, that it might always be the chief city of Uladh.

M4533.1 The first year of Cimbaeth in the sovereignty of Ireland, after Macha had taken him to her as husband.

M4539.1 Cimbaeth, son of Fintan, having been seven years in the sovereignty of Ireland, after he had been taken to her as husband by Macha, died at Eamhain Macha. This Cimbaeth was the first king of Eamhain.

M4540.1 The first year of Macha in the sovereignty of Ireland, after the death of Cimbaeth, son of Fintan.

M4546.1 Macha Mongruadh, daughter of Aedh Ruadh, son of Badharn, after she had been seven years in the sovereignty of Ireland, was slain by Reachtaidh Righdhearg, son of Lughaidh. It was Macha that commanded the sons of Dithorba (after bringing them into servitude) to erect the fort of Eamhain, that it might be the chief city of Ulster for ever.

The History of Ireland (Geoffrey Keating), Volume 1

p. 177 Four lake-eruptions in Ireland in the time of Neimheadh, namely, … Loch Dairbhreach and Loch n-Ainnin sprang up in Magh Mór in Meath: for when the grave of Ainnin was dug, it is then Loch Ainnin sprang forth. … The wife of Neimheadh — Macha her name — died in Ireland sooner than Annin; and the twelfth year after their coming into Ireland this Macha died; and she was the first dead person of Ireland after the coming of Neimheadh into it. And it is from her Árd Macha is named; for it is there she was buried.

The History of Ireland (Geoffrey Keating), Volume 2

pp. 153-157 Macha Mhongruadh, daughter of Aodh Ruadh son of Badharn, … held the sovereignty of Ireland seven years, till Reachtaidh Righdhearg slew her. And it was in her time that Eamhain Mhacha was built. Now the reason why it is called Eamhain Mhacha is this: three kings out of Ulster held the sovereignty of Ireland, namely, Aodh Ruadh son of Badharn, from whom is named Eas Ruaidh, and Diothorba son of Deaman of Uisneach in Meath, and Ciombaoth son of Fionntan from Fionnabhair; and it was with this Ciombaoth that Ughaine Mor son of Eochaidh Buadhach was brought up. And each of these kings reigned seven years in succession, until each had held the sovereignty of Ireland thrice. And the first of them to die was Aodh Ruadh; and he left no issue but one daughter named Macha. Macha demanded the sovereignty in her turn after her father's death; and Diothorba and his children said that they would not cede sovereignty to a woman; and a battle was fought between themselves and Macha; and Macha triumphed over them in that battle, and held the sovereignty of Ireland seven years; and Diothorba died and left five sons, namely, Baoth, Bedach, Bras, Uallach, and Borbchas. These demanded the sovereignty of Ireland for themselves, as it was held by their ancestors before them. Macha said she would only give them battle for the sovereignty. A battle was fought between them, and Macha defeated them. The children of Diothorba fled for safety to dark and intricate woods; and Macha took Ciombaoth son of Fionntan as her husband, and made him leader of her warriors, and went herself in pursuit of the sons of Diothorba in the guise of a leper, having rubbed her body with the dough of rye, and found them in an intricate forest in Burenn, cooking a wild boar. The sons of Diothorba asked news of her, and gave her a portion of the meat. She told them all the news she had.
And then one of the men said that the leper had a beautiful eye, and that he desired to lie with her. Thereupon he and Macha retired into the recesses of the wood, and Macha bound this man and left him there, and returned to the rest. And they questioned her, ‘Where didst thou leave the man who went with thee?’ said they. ‘I know not,’ said she; ‘but I think he feels ashamed to come into your presence after embracing a leper.’ ‘It is not a shame,’ said they, ‘since we will do the same thing.’ Thus she went into the wood with each of them in turn; and she bound them all, and so took them bound together before the men of Ulster at Eamhain; and she asked the Ulster nobles what she should do with them. They all said with one accord that they should be put to death. ‘That is not just,’ said Macha, ‘for that would be contrary to law; but let them be made slaves of and let the task be imposed on them of building a fort for me which shall be the capital of the province for ever.’ Thereupon Macha undid the gold bodkin that was in the mantle on her breast, and with it measured the site of the fort which the sons of Diothorba were obliged to build. Now, the fort is called Eamhain eo being a word for ‘a bodkin’, while muin means ‘the neck’, and hence the fort is called Eamhain, that is, eo mhuin. Or, it is called Eamhain from Eamhain Mhacha, that is, the wife of Cronn son of Adhnaman. Now this woman was forced against her will to run with the horses of Conchubhar, king of Ulster; and she, though pregnant, outran them; and at the end of the race she gave birth to a son and a daughter; and she cursed the men of Ulster, whence they were visited with the pangs of labour; and these pangs continued to afflict them during nine reigns, that is, from Conchubhar to the reign of Mal son of Rochruidhe. Eamhain accordingly is the same as amhaon, amh denying that it was but one, it being two, Macha gave birth to on that occasion. And hence it was called Eamhain Mhacha, according to this opinion. After this, Macha Mhongruadh was slain by Reachtaidh Righdhearg.

Lebor Gabála Érenn (Macalister), Volume 3

pp. 131-133 There were four lake-bursts over land in the time of Nemed: … Loch Dairbrech and Loch Annind in Mide. When his grave was dug and he — Annind — was a-burying, then it was that the lake burst over land. But Macha wife of Nemed died earlier than Annind; in the twelfth day (or year) after they came into Ireland Macha died, and hers is the first death of the people of Nemed. [and from her is Ard Macha named.]

Lebor Gabála Érenn (Macalister), Volume 5

p. 267 Now Macha was seven years in the regality after Cimbáeth, till she fell at the hands of Rechtad Rígderg.

Related saga online: Ces Ulad (The Affliction of the Ulstermen)
Kuno Meyer (ed.), Die Ursache von Noinden Ulad, in: Mitteilungen aus irischen Handschriften, Zeitschrift für Celtische Philologie, 8, 1910, p. 120.
Digital Edition at Archive (p. 120); Irish text at CELT

Vernam Hull (ed. & tr.), Ces Ulad: The Affliction of the Ulstermen, Zeitschrift für Celtische Philologie, 29, 1962-64, pp. 305-314.
English translation at Tech Screpta

Related saga online: Tochmarc Cruinn ocus Macha (The Courtship of Cruinn and Macha)
Rudolf Thurneysen (ed. & tr.), Tochmarc Cruinn ocus Macha, Zeitschrift für Celtische Philologie, 12, 1918, pp. 252-254.
Digital Edition at (pp. 252-254); English translation at Tech Screpta

Related text online: The Dindshenchas of Emain Macha
Kuno Meyer (ed.), The Dindshenchas of Emain Macha, A medley of Irish texts XIV, Archiv für celtische Lexikographie, 3, 1907, pp. 325-326. 
Digital Edition at (pp. 325-326 (859-860)); Irish text at CDI (PDF) (pp. 325-326 (24-25)); Irish text at CELT

Sanas Chormaic: Cormac’s Glossary (O’Donovan/Stokes)
p. 63 (81)

EMAIN ‘Emania’ i.e. eo-muin i.e. eo ‘pin’ and muin ‘neck’: eo-muin, then, i.e. a pin behind or across a neck i.e. a brooch. Thus was the outline of the fort described by the woman (Queen Macha), when she was sitting she took her pin from her garment to measure around her with her pin. Further, then, the pin extended from her eastwards before her than when returning behind her. Therefore the fort is uneven.

EMUIN [Emon B] ‘twins’, i.e. é a negative. Emuin, then, is é-oen i.e. not one but two [lelab ‘children’ B] are born there; and the poets afterwards inserted muin (the letter m) in the middle of it to avoid error [?], for to them emoen or emon was finer than e-oen. … Emon, then, non unus sed duo [.i. ni hoen ni acht da ní B].

Lectures of the Manuscript Materials of Ancient Irish History (O’Curry)
Original (with Translation) of the account of the foundation of the palace of Emain Macha from the Book of Leinster, pp. 526-528 (560-562); English translation at

List of Historic Tales in the Book of Leinster includes:
Tochmarc mna Cruinn (The Courtship of the wife of Cruinn) (See Section 1), p. 586 (622)

R = The Rennes Dindshenchas (Stokes), Revue Celtique, 15-16, 1894-1895
M = The Metrical Dindshenchas (Gwynn)
E = The Edinburgh Dinnshenchas (Stokes), Folklore, 4, 1893
R: Ard Macha §94 (See Section 4), Part 3, pp. 44-46, (‘Ard Macha’)
M: Ard Macha (See Section 4), Volume 4, pp. 125-131, pp. 407-408
E: Ard Macha §61 (See Section 4), pp. 480-481, (‘Ard Macha’)
R: Emain Macha §161 (See Section 4), Part 5, pp. 279-283
M: Emain Macha (See Section 4), Volume 4, pp. 309-311, p. 459

Cóir Anmann: Fitness of Names (Stokes), Irische Texte, Ser. III.2
Ulaid §245 (See Section 1 above), pp. 387-389, p. 422

Book of Leinster
Yellow Book of Lecan
Ulster Cycle
Emain Macha

Back to top