Book Title and Author: The Táin translated by Ciaran Carson
Status? : Finished
My overall rating of the book : 10/10
How does this book relate to my magickal practice?: This book details one of the most important mythological battles in Irish mythology. It’s relevant to my practice for the understanding of culture and context when it comes to Irish history.
My personal thoughts/opinions: This is a more modern translation of the Táin Bó Cúailnge (The Cattle Raid of Cooley), an epic battle in the Ulster cycle of mythology in Ireland. The entire book is a detail of a cattle raid, the stealing of cattle from one kingdom or lord. Ailill and Medb were laying in bed one night talking (they are married) and Ailill said to her that she is lucky to be a rich man’s wife. Now, Medb is a Goddess and her wealth is her power, as it was back in the day for women. This entire cattle raid and war, basically, started because Ailill, her husband, insulted her wealth. She needed to prove to him that she was wealthy (and powerful) in her own right and sought to steal back a bull that had once belonged to her.
Without giving much of the story away (because if you’re interested in Irish mythology, you should definitely read it), the modern take on this book really helped me to understand the context of the story. It is told in such a way to retain the original feel of the wording while making it easier to understand for the modern reader. This story in the Ulster cycle helps us see the importance of cattle to the Irish people, the fierceness with which they fight for one another, and the loyalty that they have for those they care about.
An interesting quote from the book: “…for 'tis I that exacted a singular bride-gift, such as no woman before me had ever required of a man of the men of Erin, namely, a husband without avarice, without jealousy, without fear. For should he be mean, the man with whom I should live, we were ill-matched together, inasmuch as I am great in largess and gift-giving, and it would be a disgrace for my husband if I should be better at spending than he, and for it to be said that I was superior in wealth and treasures to him, while no disgrace would it be were one as great as the other. Were my husband a coward, 'twere as unfit for us to be mated, for I by myself and alone break battles and fights and combats, and 'twould be a reproach for my husband should his wife be more full of life than himself, and no reproach our being equally bold. Should he be jealous, the husband with whom I should live, that too would not suit me, for there never was a time that I had not my paramourb.”
I chose this quote because it’s from the very beginning of the story. Medb is telling her husband that she chose him because they were equals in all things and that’s the way she likes it. Then, of course, he tells her that he is richer than her because he has the best bull in his herd and she doesn’t like that
All in all, would I recommend this book?: Yes, definitely for anyone following an Irish practice.