Celtic Legends of Cú Chulainn; featuring realistic illustrations of Celtic Myth & Legend by Contemporary American Illustrator Howard David Johnson, whose Mythology, Folklore, Religion and History paintings have been published all over the world by distinguished learning institutions and publishers including the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge.

Queen Mave surprises Cú Chulainn celtic mythology painting art irish  art

Presents: A Contemporary Mythical Art Gallery:

   The Legends of Cú Chulainn; A Gallery of Gaelic Celtic Themed Artwork.  New Illustrations~ Paintings, Drawings and Pictures from Celtic Mythology in traditional oil paints, Contemporary acrylics & colored pencils and cutting edge digital media in a style inspired by classic illustrators."Cú Chulainn is betrayed by Queen Mave" and  "Cú Chulainn slays Mave's champion and his men at Áth Meislir". 

Cúchulainn slays Mave's champion and his men at Áth Meislir

Legends of Cu Chullainn title card

                                     

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The Contemporary Gaelic Celtic Mythological Art of Howard David Johnson

"There are more than 34.5 million U.S. citizens of Irish ancestry, nine times the population of Ireland. Irish is the second-most common ancestry among Americans,  just behind Germanic. I started creating these illustrations to share my Gaelic Celtic heritage with my children. This gallery is dedicated to my kinsmen, to kindred spirits everywhere, and to our children, and to our children's, children's, children..."

~HDJ


'Celtic Art and Celtic Mythology: The Ulster Cycle illustrated.'

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         Cu Chulainn is one of the most famous Irish mythological heroes. He appears in the stories of the Ulster Cycle, and Scottish and Manx folklore. Son of Deichtine and the god Lugh, and the nephew of Conchobar mac Nessa, the King of Ulster. He was born Sétanta, a young boy with great potential. but he gained the name Cu Chulainn, meaning ‘Culann’s Hound’ after he killed a ferocious guard dog belonging to a smith named Culann. Cu Chulainn offered to take the place of the guard dog until a replacement could be reared. Cú Chulainn, with the responsibility as the hound of Ulster, or its protector, was left to single-handedly defend the land...










        The heroes of the Celts, although of divine ancestry are in a different category than the gods of the Gaelic Celts, just as Perseus and Siegfried are sons of Zeus and Woten in Greek and Nordic mythology. The Red Branch Knights served Concobar mac Nessa, king of Ulster, a province of ancient Ireland.

       The greatest Red Branch commander was Cú Chulainn, a demigod, the mightiest of the heroes of Irish romance. The other chief heroes were Conall Kernach; Laegaire (or Laery) the Victorious; Keltar of the Battles and Fergus mac Roy. These Red Branch Knights, and their contemporaries, heroes of Munster and Connaught, fought, rode, and raced in chariots; and that they erected immense duns or forts like Emain Machawere all over Ireland.  Scáthach taught Cú Chulainn all the arts of war, including the use of the Gáe Bulg, a terrible barbed spear, thrown with the foot, that has to be cut out of its victim.

         Cú Chulainn notably appears in Tochmarc Emire (AKA The Wooing of Emer), called the Irish Iliad, it was an ancient folk tale preceding the great epic Táin Bó Cúailnge. (AKA The Cattle raid of Cooley)  In it, Cú Chulainn was said to be so beautiful and highly skilled that the women were unable to control themselves and it was decided he must marry as soon as possible. None of the choices brought before him were to his liking so he set out to find a bride on his own.

Cú Chulainn, Lion of Ulster,  Son of Lugh, Champion and Paladin of Emain Macha painting art celtic 

"Cú Chulainn, Lion of Ulster,  Son of Lugh, Champion and Paladin of Emain Macha

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        After much searching, Cú Chulainn heard of Emer, who he hoped would meet his standards. She was noble daughter to the Chieftain Forgall Monach, who was very protective of her. Forgall tried to pair Cú Chulainn with his oldest daughter Fial, whom he had already pledged in marriage to Carpre Niafer but Cú Chulainn refused her. Forgall did not want him to marry Emer.  Emer possessed the six gifts that made her ideal for her time. They were beauty, wisdom, chastity, voice, sweet speech, and needlework. Cuchulainn set out to pay Emer a visit...

 wooing of Emer, wife of Cú Chulainn painting art Tochmarc Emire Ulster Saga Celtic Mythology  daughter of Chieftain Forgall Monach Irish
"The  Wooing of Emer"


 Emer, wife of Cú Chulainn Ulster Saga Celtic Mythology painting daughter of Chieftain Forgall Monach wooing of Emer Irish art Tochmarc Emire

"Emer, wife of Cú Chulainn & noble daughter of Chieftain Forgall the Clever"

Tochmarc Emire The Wooing of Emer  painting Celtic Mythology Celtic Art Irish myth

"Cú Chulainn wooing Emer"

       Cú Chulainn, when he arrived, spoke to Emer in code words and phrases; riddles and puns that made no sense to the other listeners. They went on in that way for some time, and then Cú Chulainn peeked down the top of her shirt and said “ Fair is this plain, the plain of the noble yoke,’ said Cú Chulainn. ‘No one comes to this plain,’ said she, ‘who has not achieved the feat of slaying three times nine men with one blow, leaving one man in each group alive, and slay one hundred men at each of the fords between here and Emain Macha.”They had spoken in riddles, and that Emer had not only been quick enough to figure out what he was saying, she was clever enough to play the game with him. They both knew her over-protective father would not approve of him seeking her out, but he had wooed her, and she had accepted.  this had been Forgall’s plan all along.
 
Cú Chulainn Forgall Monach Emer celtic mythology art painting irish myth ulster saga
Celtic princess Ulster cycle Emer art painting mythology

 Cú Chulainn Ulster Saga Celtic Mythology painting Scatha Isle of Skye wooing of Emer Irish art Tochmarc Emire

"Forgall tries to deceive CúChulainn"
"Cú Chulainn finds favor in Emer's Eyes" "The Search for Scatha"
      She had set him certain tasks that he had to complete before they could be married.  It is said, it shall be done,’ said Cú Chulainn. ‘It is offered, it is granted, it is taken, it is accepted,’ said Emer. To win the Chieftain's favor Cú Chulainn became honour-bound to train under Scáthach and perform a number of Herculean tasks before being able to be found worthy to marry his beloved Emer. When he completed his training Forgall refused to keep his word and of course, this had been Forgall’s plan all along.

Aided Óenfhir Aífe or The Death of Aífe's Only Son


    The journey to Scathach’s island was long and perilous, and with luck, Cuchulainn would perish along the way. Even if he did get there, Scathach’s training was harsh and many did not survive it, and she was waging a war against a neighbouring warrior-woman named Aoife, and that war claimed the lives of many students. At best, Cuchulainn would be killed, but at worst, he would be gone for several years, and Forgall could see Emer safely married to a more suitable man before he returned.

    Forgall quickly arranged for Emer to marry the King of Munster, a man named Lugaid. The wedding feast was arranged, and all was ready, but when Emer came out to meet her bridegroom, she took his face between her two hands and said to him “I love Cuchulainn, and Cuchulainn loves me. He will come back for me, and if you take me against my will, it will mean you have no honour, and he will take his revenge on you for it.” In spite of Forgall's protests, Lugaid left. Cú Chulainn came and claimed her by force of arms and in the conflict her father was killed. Emer mourned her father, but as Cuchulainn had not actually killed him she did not hold it against him. His death was accidental, and his own fault.

   So the two of them were married, and proved to be well-suited. They were equal to one another in wit and wisdom, and while Cuchulainn was often away with battles and feats of arms, and spent time with other women, Emer was not jealous, because she knew he would always return to her except one time... but that's another story...


Aoife the Amazon Painting Celtic Mythology Aífe Celtic Art warrior woman irish myth ulster saga Aided Óenfhir Aífe

"Aoife the Amazon, sister of Scatha"
 "Scáthach's twin sister Aoife [pr. EE-fa] or Aífe was at war with her when Cú Chulainn came to train on the isle of Skye. He fought Aoife and bested her in combat and then became her lover and she bore a son, Conlaoch [conn ”chief” + laoch ”hero” ] or Connla. Aided Óenfhir Aífe (English: The Death of Aífe's Only Son) is a story from the Ulster Cycle of Irish mythology.  In Aided Óefhir Aífe their son Conlaoch, at the age of seven, comes to Ireland in search of his father, following Cú Chulainn's instruction not to identify himself.

The Search for Scatha, Master of War and goddess of Death

 Scáthach Painting Celtic Irish Mythology Celtic Art Scátha warrior woman shadowy one Tuatha De Nanann


" Scáthach ~ teacher of fighters on the the Isle of Skye"

 "Scáthach was also a formidable magician with the gift of prophecy. She became the Celtic goddess of the dead, ensuring the passage of those killed in battle to Tír na nÓg, the Land of Eternal Youth and the most popular of the Otherworlds in Celtic mythology..."

        Scatha, Scáthach (Scottish Gaelic: Sgàthach, Scathach, ) was the most fearsome warrior woman of old Irish legend. Her name means “the shadowy one” in Gaelic and she trained great soldiers at her school for heroes. In the legends, dying while training with Scáthach wasn’t at all unusual. Scáthach’s training was notoriously intense as she taught skills like pole vaulting over castle walls and underwater fighting. If her trainees didn’t survive her regimen, then her charges simply weren’t worthy.

     "The Warrior Maid" was also the rival and sister of Aífe, both of whom are daughters of Árd-Greimne of Lethra; If you wanted the honor of training with her, first you had to find her.

Finding Scáthach?

          Indeed, before any warriors could even ask Scáthach for help, they had to first find and then reach her domain. The woman’s fortress, called Dun Scaith (Castle of Shadows), reportedly sat on Isle of Skye northwest of Scotland. Kings and princes who wanted to get there had to cross the Irish Sea, known for its deadly storms and choppy waters, eastward or navigate the cold waters of the Atlantic northward along the craggy islands of western Scotland.
Scáthach's instruction of the young hero Cú Chulainn;  In Ireland’s mythological epic, the Táin Bó Cúailnge, it was said of him "You will not encounter a warrior harder to deal with, nor a spear-point sharper or keener or quicker, nor a hero fiercer, nor a raven more voracious, nor one of his age to equal a third of his valour.”
Cú Chulainn and Aoife at the battle of ALBA
Cú Chulainn the wooing of Emer painting Irish Mythology Celtic Art illustration Ulster saga

"Cú Chulainn and Aoife at ALBA"

" Scátha" (close-up)

 "Cuchulain takes Emer by Force"



Cú Chulainn takes Ener by Force [detail] painting art celtic mythology ulster saga

"Cú Chulainn takes Emer by Force" [detail]


The Death of Fer Diad

"The Death of Fer Diad"


Tochmarc Emire painting art the wooing of Emer celtic mythology

"Cú Chulainn wooing Emer"  [detail]

 

Táin Bó Cúailnge Masthead text
or "The Cattle Raid of Cooley"


The CURSE of MACHA morrigu morrigan cattle raid of cooley ulster saga art painting celtic mythology irish

" The CURSE of MACHA "
      The Influence of Macha was profound on the cattle raid of Cooley because of the famous race she ran and won while pregnant with twins. The legends say she went to the house of Cruind, a farmer, and circled the flagstones outside his house three times before choosing him to father her children. When Macha was pregnant she had a conversation with the king of Ulster and Cruind boasted that Macha could outrun any horse. The king demanded to see this put to the test despite the protestations of Macha. She insisted she be given time to give birth but the king refused and forced her to compete. She died after the race, giving birth to twins. In her dying pain and anger, she curses the men of Ulster to nine times nine generations, that in their time of worst peril they should suffer the pain of child birth. When the time came for Queen Mave to invade Ulster, the curse struck down all the men...
Cuchullain painting art EMAIN MACHA celtic cattle raid of cooley irish myth

" Lone Defender of EMAIN MACHA "



EXCEPT
Cú Chulainn, who stood alone against an army...

Cú Chulainn The Cattle Raid of Cooley painting Celtic Mythology Celtic Art Ulster saga Irish myth         Queen Mave surprises Cú Chulainn celtic mythology painting art irish  art          Cú Chulainn Táin Bó Cúailnge Cattle Raid of Cooley Painting Celtic Mythology Celtic Art Tuatha De Nanann
"Cú Chulainn in his War Chariot", "Queen Mave betrays Cú Chulainn", and "The Fury of Cú Chulainn"



Queen Mave Medb Madb Mab Queen of the Sidhe Fairies fairy Tuatha De Nanann Irish Painting Celtic Mythology Celtic Art

 "Queen Medb" [Mave]

Queen Medb [Mave] sent her army to raid Ulster and steal their prize bull.The Heroes of Ulster have little to do with fairyland, but their enemy, Medb, Madb or Mave  is credited with Queenly rule among the Sidhe (Fairies) and is held by some to be the original "Queen Mab". 

   The Book of the Dun Cow, the Book of Leinster, and other old manuscripts tell romantic stories about those Red Branch Knights, and about the Knights of Munster and Connaught. The most celebrated of all these tales is what is called the Táin Bó Cúailnge or "Cattle spoil" of Cooley. Queen Maive, having some cause of quarrel with an Ulster chief, set out with her army for the north on a plundering expedition, attended by all the great heroes of Connaught. During the march northwards, the queen, as the story tells us, had nine splendid chariots for herself and her attendant chiefs, her own in the centre, with two abreast in front, two behind, and two on each side, right and left; and—in the words of the old tale—"the reason for this order was, lest the clods from the hoofs of the horses, or the foam-flakes from their mouths, or the dust raised by that mighty host, should strike and tarnish the golden diadem on the head of the queen."

     The invading army entered Ulster when the men were under Macha's curse, suffering the pain of childbirth, all but Cuculainn, who had to defend single-handed the several fords and passes, in a series of combats against Maive's best champions, in all of which he was victorious. But, in spite of what he could do, Queen Maive carried off nearly all the best cattle and, at their head, a great brown bull which indeed was what she chiefly came for. At length the Ulstermen, having been freed from the spell, attacked and routed the Connaught army. The battles, single combats, and other incidents of this war are related in the Táin Bó Cúailnge, or The Cattle raid of Cooley, which consists of one main story, with about thirty minor tales grouped round it.

"Serglige Con Culainn ocus Óenét Emire"
(The Only Jealousy of Emer)

     The Wasting Sickness of Cú Chulainn and the Only Jealousy of Emer chronicles the struggle of three women... Emer, Eithne Inguba and Fand the Faerie Queen for possession of Cuchulain. After Emer has shamed him for allowing a woman's love to weaken him, Cú Chulainn travels with Liban, defeats Fand's enemies, and stays with her for a month. When he returns to Ireland he arranges a tryst with her, but Emer finds out and sharpens a knife, intending to kill Fand, but when she sees the strength of Fand's love she offers to give her up husband to her. Fand is so impressed by Emer's magnanimity that she gives up her claim on Cú Chulainn and returns to her husband. The druids give Cú Chulainn and Emer a potion to wipe the whole affair from their memories, and Manannán shakes his cloak between Cú Chulainn and Fand, ensuring they will never meet again.
    Emer's behavior is brave as well as insightful. Fand's allurements are transitory. Fand's calculated allurement contrasts with Emer's passionate suffering. Fand wants to catch him to fulfill herself, not to aid in his salvation. Emer is more courageous than Eithne Inguba, more self-sacrificing than Fand, and more forgiving than Aoife. Emer's love for her husband transfigures her, whereas Aoife's vindictive hatred for Cuchulain cost them their only child. Instead of bring the jealous wife seeking vengeance for herself, she is jealous only for her husband's well-being.

The Only Jealousy of Emer celtic mythology painting art cuchullainn

"The Only Jealousy of Emer"
Emer's hope to win back Cuchulain's love for her during her initial inability to give up hope of winning back his love, and through to her final renunciation of his love, the depth of her love and the extent of her sacrifice is shown. By renouncing the love of her life, Emer proves herself to be a sublime and superior heroine.

The Death of Cú Chulainn
     During his many years as champion of Ulster, Cú Chulainn slew all the men who challenged him. One was Calatan, a great sorcerer who left a pregnant wife who bore sextuplets: three girls and three boys, raised in all the arts of druidry and sorcery. When the time came, they set out with a troop to take revenge. Cuchulainn, knowing nothing of this, carried on his life for many years, and one day came on three hags roasting a hound, and inviting him to join their meal. These were the Morrigan, the goddess of war. Long before that, she had offered Cuchulainn her love, and he turned her down. Cuchulainn tried to decline them but they bewitched and cursed him, breaking his solemn vow and losing him half his strength. This was his punishment for rejecting the goddess. In his weakened state, he still killed the three sons of Calatan, but Lugaid Cu Roi pulled the spear out, and threw it back at Cuchulainn, straight through his stomach, spraying out his intestines. Cuchulainn, mortally wounded, set his eye upon a standing-stone in the plain, and put his breast-girdle round it that he might not die on the ground like an animal, but so he might die on his feet like a warrior. The warriors gathered round about him, daring not to approach. Then came the battle goddess Morrigu and her sisters in the form of scald-crows and perched on his shoulder.

Cú Chulainn & the three one-eyed hags painting Death of Cú Chulainn Celtic Art Celtic Mythology Irish Ulster Saga

"Cú Chulainn & the three one-eyed hags"


Death of Cú Chulainn painting Celtic Art Celtic Mythology Irish Ulster Saga morrigan crow morrigu sisters

"The Death of Cú Chulainn"  [detail]

Death of Cú Chulainn painting Mythology  Celtic Art   Irish Ulster Saga morrigan crow morrigu sisters

"The Death of Cú Chulainn"

     As he stood there, dying, one of the birds tripped over his intestine. Cuchulainn laughed, and died with the laugh in his mouth. For three days after he died, he stood tied to the rock, and still none of his enemies were brave enough to approach, and make sure he was dead. At the end of three days, the Morrigan took the shape of a raven, and perched on his shoulder, and when he did not move, they knew it was safe. Lugaid Cu Roi  wanted Cuchulainn’s sword as a trophy, but he had died with such a tight grip on it that Lugaid could not get the sword free. He drew a knife and cut the tendons on Cuchulainn’s hand to loosen his grip, and when the sword fell it cut off Lugaid Cu Roi’s hand.

So fell
Cú Chulainn, king among warriors.

         Popular retellings of the Cú Chulainn legends include Lady Gregory's Cuchulain of Muirthemne (1902) and Eleanor Hull's The Boys' Cuchulain, were published, and William Butler Yeats wrote a series of plays, On Baile's Strand (1904), The Green Helmet (1910), At the Hawk's Well (1917), The Only Jealousy of Emer (1919) and The Death of Cuchulain (1939), featuring the hero. More recent literary retellings of Cú Chulainn's story include Morgan Llywelyn's 1989 historical novel Red Branch, Rosemary Sutcliff's children's novel The Hound of Ulster (1963), and in The Ulster Cycle (2002-13) Randy Lee Eickhoff translates Ireland's ancient mythology into vital, accessible and novelistic retellings.

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All these pieces of art and the text are legally copyrighted and were registered with the U.S. Library of Congress Office of Copyright by the author, Howard David Johnson All rights reserved worldwide. Permission for many academic or non-commercial uses is freely and legally available by simply contacting the author via e-mail or visiting www.howarddavidjohnson.com/permission.htm




                                     

 

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