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QUEEN MEAVE AND THE WOMAN-SEER
RAFTILY Fergus wrought upon Queen Meave that she should espouse
his cause and lead an army into Ulster's coasts, to win
the kingdom back for him again. And Meave was no way
sorry to make war, for Connaught and the North at all
times were at strife, and frays and battle-raids were
common between them. So with light heart Queen Meave
sent heralds out and messengers through Connaught to
collect her armed bands, bidding them meet her within
three months' space before her palace-fort of Cruachan.
And in three months a goodly host was gathered there,
and tents were pitched, and for awhile they tarried
round the palace-courts, eating and drinking, so that
with good heart and strength they might set forth to
march towards Ulster's borders.
Now, in the dark and dead of night before the break of
day when all the host should start their forward march,
Meave could not sleep; and stealthily she rose and bid
them make her chariot ready, that she might seek a
Druid whom she knew, and learn from him the prospects
of the expedition and what should be the fate before
Far in the depths of a wide-spreading wood the Druid
dwelt. An old and reverend man was he, and far and
wide men knew him for a prophet and a seer. The
"Know-  ledge that enlightens" he possessed, which opened to
his eyes the coming days and all the secret things the
future held. Gravely he came out to meet the troubled
Queen, and he from her chariot handed her, as proudly
she drew up before his door.
"We have come to thee, O Druid and magician," said the
Queen, "to ask of thee the fate and fortune of this
expedition against Ulster which we have now in hand,
whether we shall return victorious or not."
"Wait but awhile in patience," said the aged man, "and
I will read the future, if the gods allow."
For two long hours Meave waited in the hut, while on
the hearth the fire of peat burned low, and a strange
dimness spread about the house as though a mist had
risen between herself and the magician, who, on his
palms performed his curious rites, and in a slow and
solemn chant sang charms and incantations; by strange
and magic arts known to his craft seeking the
"Knowledge that enlightens." And, at the last, when
all was still, he rose to his full height, stretched
out his arms, and called upon the gods of fire, and
air, and wind, and light, to open up and lay before his
gaze the future things that were in store for Meave and
for her hosts.
QUEEN MEAVE AND THE DRUID.
Then he made total darkness in his hut, and ate a
curious food, concocted by magicians; and when he had
eaten, he fell into a sleep, his servant watching over
him, his two palms laid upon his cheeks. Then in a
minute or two minutes, he uttered sounds, but like one
talking in his sleep, and the servant bade Meave
question him, for his sleep of inspiration was upon
him. So Meave said: "In mine host this day are many
who do part from their own people and their friends,
 country and their lands, from father and from mother.
Now, if these all return not safe and sound, upon me
will be the anger of their friends, and me they will
upbraid. Tell me, then, will these return alive?"
And the magician said: "These might return; but yet I
see a little boy who stands upon the way to hinder
them. Fair he is and young and but a boy; and yet on
every path I see him, holding back thy hosts,
slaughtering and pursuing, as though the strength of
the gods were in his arms. On every path they fall, in
every battlefield the ground is strewn with dead, and
in the homes of Connaught men and women weep the sons
and husbands who return no more. Who this youth may be
I know not, but I see that he will bring trouble on thy
Then Meave trembled at the saying of the Druid; but she
asked again, "Among all those who will remain behind
and those who go, there is none dearer to us than we
are to ourselves; inquire therefore of thy gods if we
ourselves shall come alive out of this hosting?"
The wizard answered: "Whoever comes or comes not, thou
thyself shalt come."
Then Meave mounted her chariot again, and turned her
horses' heads towards Cruachan. But heaviness was at
her heart, and deep dejection lay upon her mind, and
moodily she thought of what the Druid prophesied to
They had not driven far when suddenly the horses
swerved aside and reared and snorted with affright.
Meave started up, and shaking off her reverie, in the
dim twilight of the breaking dawn, close beside her
chariot-shaft, she saw a woman stand. Red as a
fox-  glove were her cheeks and blue as the spring hyacinth
beneath the forest trees her sparkling eyes. Like
pearls her teeth shone white between her lips, and all
her skin was fair as the white foam that dances on the
wave. Around her fell, in waving folds of green, a
cloak such as the fairy women wear, which hides them
from the eyes of mortal men.
But while she looked in wonder on the maid, astonished
at her lovely face and mien, Meave saw her garment
change to dusky red. And in the dimness, she perceived
the maiden held a sword, point upward, in her hand, a
massive sword, such as a mighty man-of-war might wield.
And from the point blood dripped, and one by one the
drops fell on the Queen, till all her cloak and
garments, and the chariot-floor ran red with streams of
And terror came on Meave, and all in vain she sought to
force her horses forward, but still they reared and
curvetted, but would not advance. "Girl," cried the
Queen at last, "what doest thou here, and who and what
"I am a woman of the fairy race," the maid replied; "I
come to-night to tell thee of thy fortunes, and the
chance that shall befall thee and thy hosts upon this
raid that thou dost make on Ulster."
"What is thy name, and wherefore thus, without my will,
hast thou presumed to come and speak with me?" replied
the angry Queen.
"Great cause have I to come; for from the fairy-rath of
thine own people, near to Cruachan, am I here; and
Feidelm the prophetess my name."
"Well, then, O prophetess Feidelm," said Queen Meave,
"how seest thou our host?" but yet she
 trembled as she spoke. And Feidelm said, "I see thy
hosts all red, I see them all becrimsoned."
"Thou seest ill, O prophetess," said Meave; "for in the
courts of Emain now the king lies sick and ill; my
messengers have been to him, and nought there is that
we need fear from Ulster. Therefore, O Feidelm,
woman-prophet Feidelm, tell us now but the truth; how
seest thou our hosts?"
"I see them all dyed red, I see them all becrimsoned,"
said the girl again.
"It cannot be," said Meave. "For many months my spies
have been in Ulster, and this well I know; that in
Ulster they dream not of the coming of a host. Now
tell us this time true, O Feidelm, O woman-prophet
Feidelm, how seest thou our host?"
But again the maiden answered as before: "I see all
red on them, I see them all becrimsoned."
Then Meave grew angry, and fury came upon her, and she
called on her charioteer to slay the fairy maid. But
the man was afraid to touch her, so strange and
formidable did she stand there, holding the dripping
Then once again Meave answered her: "Girl, I care not
for thy threats, for well I know, that when the men of
Ulster come together, frays and quarrels will arise
among themselves, either as regards the troop which
shall precede the host, or that one which shall follow;
or about precedence among the leaders, or about forays
for cattle and for food. Therefore, I conclude that
they will fall upon each other, and that it will be but
a little matter for me to disperse them, and return
again with spoils to Cruachan."
Then the maiden's face grew grave, and she spoke as
 though she saw a vision, and Meave trembled as she
listened to her words. "I see thy host," she said,
"crimson and red, fall back before the men of Ulster,
Yet the host of Ulster seems not a mighty host, but
faint and weak through sickness, and the King of Ulster
lies on his bed. Through all my dreams there comes a
lad, not old in years, but great in weapon-feats.
Young though he is, the marks of many wounds are on his
skin, and round his head there shines the 'hero's
light.' A face he has the noblest and the best, and in
his eyes sparkle the champion's gleams; a stripling,
fair and modest in his home, but in the battle fierce
and tough and strong, as though he wore a mighty
dragon's form. In either of his hands four darts he
holds, and with a skill before him unknown, he plies
them on your host. A formidable sword hangs by his
side, and close beside him stands his charioteer,
holding his pointed spear. A madness seems to seize
him in the fight; by him your hosts are all hewn down,
and on the battle-field the slain, foot laid to foot
and hand to hand, do thickly lie. Before the hosts of
Ulster all unmoved he stands as if to guard them from
the fight; all on himself the burden of the uneven
contest falls. Strong heroes cannot stand before his
blows, and in the homes of Connaught women weep the
slain who come not back. This is the vision that I
see, and this the prophecy of Feidelm, Cruachan's
Then all her pride and courage fled from Meave, and
fearfully she asked the woman-seer, "What is the name
by which this youth is known?"
And Feidelm said: "To all the world the youth's name
will be known, Cuchulain son of Sualtach, of the Feats;
but in the North, because he guards their homes
 as a good watch-dog guards the scattered flocks upon
the mountain-side, men call him lovingly, 'The Hound of
Then to her fairy-dwelling Feidelm returned, and Meave
went to her tent again.