The Foretelling of Fedlem -"Crimson-red from blood they are; I behold them bathed in red!"

The Táin Bó Cúailnge or Cattle Raid of Cooley is one of Ireland's most famous epic sagas. Forming a core element of the Ulster Cycle of Ireland's ancient lore, it plays out one of the most interesting and engaging conflicts between provinces, Otherworldly powers, and rival rulers.

It is to these Otherworldly powers that we will draw our attention this day for in the réamhscéal - or 'before stories' we find a much concerned Medb, Battle Queen of all Connaught, seeking wisdom from sources outside our own world.

She journey's to her druid there to have him cast his divination magic and lay some light upon her thoughts for they are heavy with concern for her people. Well aware is Medb that she gathers a war host, built from four of the five great provinces of Ireland, and that she will lead them in blood and death against the fifth. Ulster, province of battle. She asks of her druid, who shall return, for though some may fall surely most will return unharmed. Her druid cannot give her more than guidance that at least she herself, will return home.

Of course this leaves our Queen Medb with no great reassurance and indeed some confusion. The Curse of Macha lies upon the men of Ulster and they are all abed in their pains. How then could her victory not be plain for the draoi to recount?

Upon her chariot she leaves the druid and her charioteer decides its best to wheel the chariot around by the right so that good fortune can be upon them. It is in this moment that again the Otherworld shows its influences. A chariot approaches bearing upon it a most wondrous and beautiful maiden.

Medb gazed at her. "And what doest thou here now, O maiden?" asked Medb.

"I impart to thee thine advantage and good fortune in thy gathering and muster of the four mighty provinces of Erin against the land of Ulster on the Raid for the Kine of Cualnge."

"Wherefore doest thou this for me?" asked Medb.

"Much cause have I. A bondmaid 'mid thy people am I."

"Who of my people art thou and what is thy name?" asked Medb.

"Not hard, in sooth, to say. The prophetess Fedelm, from the Sid ('the Fairy Mound') of Cruachan, a poetess of Connaught am I."

Presented with this opportunity and familiar with the workings of the Otherworld Medb knew that it was only right to put the 'ceist' or question to this seer and to seek insight as to the fate of the people of her battle host.

"Tell, O Fedelm, prophet-maid How beholdest thou our host?"

Fedelm turned her gaze upon the future of Medb's army and in that world she saw the coming of the Hound of Chulann. She saw the feats of the Champion who stood in Ulster and the reaping that he would place upon the forces of the Queen of Connaught.

This is how she answered;

"Crimson-red from blood they are; I behold them bathed in red!"

 

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