Slánugud na Mórrigna ‘The healing of the Morrígan’

  • Early Irish
  • prose
  • Táin bó Cúailnge

The narrative covered here consists of two main threads: (1) Slánugud na Mórrigna proper: Cú Chulainn’s meeting with the Morrígan, who is disguised as an old woman with a cow, and his unwitting healing of her injuries as he utters a blessing at every drought of milk he accepts from her; and (2) Cú Chulainn’s victories in a series of fights with numerous opponents sent by Medb of Connacht as he defends Ulster in the area of Delgu Muirtheimne.

Slánugud na Mórrigna
‘The healing of the Morrígan’
The title heading used in copies of TBC I, at least for part of the narrative covered here, is Slánugud na Mórrigna (‘The healing of the Mórrígan’). No separate heading is used for the account of Cú Chulainn’s martial encounters that accompanies this story.
Context(s)The (textual) context(s) to which the present text belongs or in which it is cited in part or in whole.
  • Early Irish
prose (primary)


Táin bó Cúailnge
Táin bó Cúailnge
id. 624

The healing of the Morrígan

» Comments: This episode forms a sequel to that where the Morrígan assails Cú Chulainn in various animal shapes and leaves severely wounded (known in TBC I as Imacallaim na Mórígna fri Coin Culaind). The account of her wounding and subsequent healing is retold in Cóir anmann, s.v. ‘Túatha Dé’.

Cú Chulainn’s fights in the area of Delgu Muirtheimne and Cuillenn Cind Dúin

In both TBC I and TBC II, more than a hundred opponents are sent to attack Cú Chulainn, who overcomes them all in an area which includes Delgu Muirtheimne and Cuillenn Cind Dúin. Two general differences stand out: (1) In TBC I, the Morrígan episode immediately precedes these accounts, while in TBC II, it is inserted between the encounter with the druids and that with Medb’s people; (2) TBC I explains that Cú Chulainn is opposed in single combat because Fergus has arranged terms of fair play for him; TBC II states, following the hero’s encounter with the druids, that such terms were violated and that Cú Chulainn proceeds to use his sling-shot before taking on a hundred warriors in combat.

Cú Chulainn fights and slays the following:

  1. TBC I: the five men of Cend Coriss (or Dún Chind Coross), then called Delgu Murthemne. The fight is not mentioned in TBC II, although it corresponds geographically to the statement that Cú Chulainn uses his slingshot to attack the host northwards from Delga, preventing it from marching across.
  2. TBC I: (1) Fota in his field (róe); (2) Bó Mailce in his ford (áth), (3) Salach in his marsh (imliuch); (4) Muinne in his stronghold (dind), (5) Lúar in Lethbera, and (6) Fer Toíthle in Toíthle. Their names are said to have clung to these areas. TBC II includes the killing of Fer Taidle at Taidle in the section that is known in TBC I as Fagbáil in tairb (cf. the killing of Bó Bulge in Grellach Bó Bulge and Lúasce in Leitre Lúasce).
  3. TBC I/II:
    1. TBC I: three druids (Traig, Dorna and Derna) and their wives (Col, Mebal and Eraise) at Méthe and Cethe on Áth Tíre Móir.
    2. TBC II LL: three druids (Traig, Dorna and Dernu) and three druidesses (Col, Accuis and Eraíse)
  4. TBC I/II: a hundred men of Medb’s household (at Áth Chéit Chúile—TBC I). In both recensions, Medb remarks that the slaughter of her people is (like) ‘an object of holly(?) to us’ (cuillend dúin/dúnd). The phrase is glossed is col lind by scribe H in the LU version of TBC I. The bloody events are said to have produced the folllowing placenames:
  • Glais Chró (TBC I) or Áth Chró (TBC II)
  • Cuillenn Cind Dúin/Dúne (TBC I/II)
  • Áth Chéit Chúile (TBC I only)
» Comments: The phrase attributed to Medb has been translated and interpreted in two main ways. Based on the gloss col ‘destruction’ (also ‘hazel’), Meyer tentatively translates cuillend as ‘abomination’. This approach has been followed in DIL and the translations of both recensions by Cecile O'Rahilly. Ann Dooley, Playing the hero: reading the Irish saga Táin bó Cúailnge (2006): 92, 245 has suggested, however, that the word being used is cuilend ‘(object, e.g. a pointed stick, of) the holly-tree’ (where the double l in the spelling is a feature of the placename—see below), possibly in the figurative sense of ‘something that torments’. Whatever the meaning of the phrase, it is intended to give an etymological rationale for the placename Cuillenn Cind Dúin (otherwise ‘Holly of the Head of the Fortress’). Ann Dooley has wondered whether the original expression could have been cuillend cind dund, which was then incompletely transcribed by scribe M. Scribe H, in turn, would have supplied his gloss not only to offer a (re)interpretation but to give a reading which punningly echoes Coll, the name of one of the druids’ wives. David E. Thornton, Kings, chronologies, and genealogies (2003): 209, 218 tentatively identifies Cenn Dúin as present-day Dundalk, associating the placename with the ‘men of Cenn Dúin’, a ruling branch that traced descent from one Lethaithech/Lethach, son of Cú Charad mac Dícholla. » People: Medb Crúachna • Fergus mac Róich • Cú Chulainn » Places: Dún Chind Coross • Róe Fota • Áth Bó Mailce • Imlech Salaig • Dinn Muine • Lethbera Lúair • Toíthle • Áth Chéit Chúile • Glais Chró • Áth Chró • Cuillenn Cind Dúin » Keywords: cuilenn


Primary sources Text editions and/or modern translations – in whole or in part – along with publications containing additions and corrections, if known. Diplomatic editions, facsimiles and digital image reproductions of the manuscripts are not always listed here but may be found in entries for the relevant manuscripts. For historical purposes, early editions, transcriptions and translations are not excluded, even if their reliability does not meet modern standards.

See Táin bó Cúailnge for the complete list
[ed.] [tr.] OʼRahilly, Cecile [ed. and tr.], Táin bó Cúailnge: Recension I, Dublin: DIAS, 1976.
CELT – edition: <link> CELT – translation: <link>
Lines 2038–2071 Recension I.
[ed.] [tr.] OʼRahilly, Cecile [ed. and tr.], Táin bó Cúalnge: from the Book of Leinster, Irish Texts Society, 49, Dublin: Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies, 1967.
CELT – edition: <link> CELT – translation: <link>
Lines 2103–2111 Recension II in LL.
[ed.] Nettlau, Max [ed.], “The fragment of Tain Bó Cuailnge in MS. Egerton 93 (ff. 26a 1-35b 2) [part 2]”, Revue Celtique 15 (1894): 62–78, 198–208.  
comments: Edited from BL MS Egerton 93.
Internet Archive: <link> Internet Archive: <link>
§§ 99–111 Recension III

Secondary sources (select)

Dooley, Ann, Playing the hero: reading the Irish saga Táin bó Cúailnge, Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2006.
Thurneysen, Rudolf, Die irische Helden- und Königsage bis zum siebzehnten Jahrhundert, Halle: Niemeyer, 1921.  

Contents: Part 1 (chapters 1-23): Allgemeines; Part 2 (chapters 1-85): Die Ulter Sage.

Internet Archive: <link>
175–177, 162
Dennis Groenewegen
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July 2012, last updated: January 2024