Scáthach and CùChulainn


Needing a break from the stresses of our modern life that have kept me away from posting,  I came across a heroic tale recently mentioned by Alexander Irvine, a photographer from the Hebrides, on Facebook. It was another* old story from an island close to my Scots and Irish heart- the Isle of Skye, so after rummaging a bit I pulled it up out of the Time Traveler’s Rucksack.

Let me tell you about the greatest hero of Ulster, CùChulainn (Coo Cullen), son of the god Lugh and a mortal woman, He received his name as a young man for slaying the ferocious guard hound of Cullen. He regretted his action and offered to take the dog’s place until another could be found and so became known from then on as the hound of Cullen.

 King Forgall  did not want CùChulainn to marry his daughter, Emer so he sent him and his best  friend Ferdiad over the Irish Sea to Skye.  Forgall was hoping CùChulainn would be slain by the famed female warrior, Scáthach who lived there.

Legends say that Scáthach (Ska’hawk) was a daughter of the King of Scythia, which encompassed parts of Eastern Europe and Asia. The women of the Scythian steppes were the fierce Amazons described by Homer in the Iliad and in Herodutus’ history of Thermodon.

Scáthach had a fortress on Skye called Dun Scaith and she only trained warriors who could penetrate her formidable defenses of  treacherous water and precipice. CùChulainn overcame these dangerous challenges and so gained her trust and respect. He was welcomed with Ferdiad into her great hall and they became fast friends. Under her tutelage he became a full-fledged warrior and she gave him his famous barbed spear, the gae bulg. It is said in some accounts that they became lovers as well.


CùChulainn accompanied Scáthach on her mission to defeat a neighbouring female chieftain, named Aoife, who was said to be her own twin sister. CùChulainn ended up fathering a child by Aoife’s daughter and he also slept with Scáthach’s daughter whose husband he killed in a duel. Yet it appeared no malice was borne and Cuillen’s mountain range on Skye is named after him.

When CùChulainn returned to Ireland, King Forgall still opposed him so he was forced to abduct Emer who became his wife.

Scáthach later became a goddess of the dead leading those killed in battle to the land of eternal youth. (Tir –na- nog)

CùChulainn went on to fight many brave battles and accomplish extraordinary  deeds, including the great cattle raid at Cooley. Although described as “a dark, sad man but comely” during battle he became frenzied and monstrous ( the ríastrad), which is  the Gaelic counterpart of a Viking beserker.

On the eve of the battle at Muirthemne it is said CùChulainn heard the harp of the bean sidhe Aiobhell,  Her music is too beautiful for mortal ears, and so he knew then that his life was coming to an end. 

But those are other tales.





‘We were heart companions, We were companions in the woods, We were fellows of the same bed, where we used to sleep the balmy sleep. After mortal battles abroad, In countries many and far distant, together we used to practice, and go through each forest, learning with Scathach’. – Ferdiad

Must listen! Davy Spillane emotional Uillean pipes:       Cuchulainn’s Lament


bean sidhe– the fairies who herald death often appearing as a washer woman ( of blood stained clothes) or a sweet singing maiden.

*The Fairy Flag of Dunvegan

shortbread from Skye (Claire MacDonald)

1lb plain flour
8oz semolina or ground rice
8oz castor sugar
1lb butter
1oz melted butter for brushing tin
Wee bit extra castor sugar to dredge over the shortbread when cooked and still hot.
Brush melted butter on prepared baking tin
Sieve the flour, semolina (or ground rice) and castor sugar into mixing bowl. Cut butter into dry ingredients ,then rub in with your fingers( or do in food processor ) ,combine to a dough. Press into your baking tin evenly, prick with a fork, rows over entire surface. Bake in a low oven ( 150C / 300F/gas 2) for about 1 and quarter hours until pale golden colour. Remove from oven and dust with castor sugar. After 10 mins cut into rectangles and leave till cold. Store in airtight container.

32 Comments Add yours

  1. Such an interesting story and such beautiful artwork to bring it to life. And those pipes — just swept me away! Be well, my friend!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. so happy to hear from you Linda!! I hope you are staying well too! Don’t those pipes give you the goosebumps!!? Thank you for your lovely comment,


  2. DG Hardy says:

    As usual you take us to the magical lands, away from this banal, apocalyptic gloom even though earlier times, for all their romance, don’t sound like they were much fun….but there was such beauty, as your photo art confirms. You make a world I want to be in,( without the war and pestilence parts, of course.). Thank you!!!

    Hugs DG


    Liked by 1 person

  3. Beautiful, romantic and wistful images Cybele, to go with a fascinating tale.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. aww I’m sure you know the story!! Thanks so much for visiting and commenting my friend. Hope all is well with you!!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Suzanne says:

    Another fascinating story brought to life through your magical images. I enjoyed this post a lot.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. so good to hear from you Suzanne and thank you! I’ll be over to visit and hope all is well down under!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Suzanne says:

        I’m ok. We are just beginning to come out of our 2nd lockdown. It was harder than the first one

        Liked by 1 person

      2. 😦 we also had a second spike!

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Suzanne says:

        Lets hope we avoid a third!


  5. Sherry Felix says:

    Gorgeous imagery and intersting story. Love your post as always 😍

    Liked by 1 person

    1. thank you so much my friend!


  6. Sue says:

    Ooooh, Classic Cybele, Hannah! I LOVE that first image!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Sue!! do you recognize her lol! loosely composited lol!!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. A beautiful ancient tale. Just to share, Scáthach and CùChulainn are famous in some video games too. Thanks to their frequent appearances in Atlus’ Shin Megami Tensei series.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh wow!! I am not surprised!! thanks so much for scribbling!!!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. glaucoulcigrai says:

    I too heard the harp of Aiobhell this night! Unforgettable moments…!
    I really like your ancient stories full of amiable ladies, female warriors and horsemen.
    Unforgettable moments hearing from you! Hugs!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. so good to hear from you Glauco! I hope all is well in Italy!! My cousin lives in the south. Isn’t Davy Spillane marvelous on the pipes!!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. glaucoulcigrai says:

        Davy’s pipes are really wonderful! I felt completely immersed in the atmosphere of the tales!
        All is right here, thank you! Your posts are always a great pleasure and they make me discover more and more your fantastic world!


  9. Ah such a lovely post Cybele. Right up my street. I always especially love how often there’s folks come from much further afield in these stories, leading me to well believe there ‘s truth there.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My dearest Shehanne. I only just found out if it is to be believed, that along with my Scots and Irish dna I do have some Scythian matches!! or so they say on the Ancient dna site. but you know in the end we are “a Jock Tamson’s Bairns”!!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It will be right enough. We are all these bairns, if only people could see.xxxxxxxxxxxx

        Liked by 1 person

  10. Thanks for this. I was only recently trying to remember who Scathach was, and now you have reminded me. And lovely art too. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yayy!! I’m so pleased you visited me Cath!! Thank you!


  11. Array says:

    Wonderful tale and photos…sons of gods are always divine to look at!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Paula for commenting and I do agree!!


  12. Thanks for the stories, Cybele, and Davy’s pipes, too! We visited your castle in Dunvegan during our three-day tour of Skye four years ago. But we didn’t know it was yours then!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. lol! I’m connected through my mom’s side but yes, it is a grand place!! Thanks Crow!!


  13. disperser says:

    Interesting tale . . . Perhaps a bit more interesting to males than females (his future wife seems very understanding of his amorous/carnal exploits).

    Liked by 2 people

    1. apparently she was!!!

      Liked by 1 person

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