One of the fiercest goddesses in Irish mythology is the beautiful Macha. An imposing woman armed with powerful magic and a taste for revenge, Macha is associated with the land, kingship, battle, horses, crows and fertility.
Macha is a complex goddess who appears five times throughout Irish mythology, each tale unrelated. This makes it difficult to pin down her parentage, as it varies so much.
In some tales Macha is a Queen of Ireland, and in others she fights as a druid alongside her famous sisters Badb and The Morrigan. However, in the most famous of her tales she appears as the fairy wife of a man named Cruinniuc.
This tale is from the Ulster Cycle of Irish mythology. Cruinniuc is a wealthy Ulster farmer, and Macha is expecting to give birth to twins. One day, close to the end of her pregnancy, Cruinniuc has to leave Macha to attend a festival organised by the King of Ulster. Macha let’s him go, but tells him not to mention her to anyone there.
At the festival, the King brags about the speed of his horses, and despite Macha’s request for him not to mention her, Cruinniuc claims that his wife could outrun any horse. Outraged, the King commands him to bring his wife immediately to race.
Macha is in labour, but she is forced to race anyway at the behest of the King. She wins the race, and collapses to give birth to her twins. In pain, she curses the men of Ulster to endure nine days of labour pain at their time of greatest need, for nine generations. After giving birth she passes away, but her curse lives on long after her.