Another Irishwoman of a similarly legendary background is Queen Medb who was co-ruler of Connaught and a key character in Ireland’s epic tale ‘The Cattle Raid of Cooley’ (Táin Bó Cuailnge) .
Medb essentially sets off the cattle raid that gives the epic its name by launching a war against the men of Ulster to retrieve a famous brown bull. Her motive is a quest for equal power, as the story begins with Medb and Ailill tallying their respective possessions, down to their cows, the main unit of currency in ancient Ireland and the measure of a person’s wealth.
When one of Medb’s cows crosses over to join Ailill’s, she demands the capture of the brown bull of Cooley for herself to even the score. Along with enlisting the fighting talents of some of the most famous warriors in Irish legend, including Cú Chulainn, the subsequent battle sees Medb engaging against men on the battlefield.
She eventually succeeds in winning the brown bull, at great cost of life, and the tale is summed up with a misogynistic moral that warns against women in power. Many scholars have come to the conclusion that the fearless Connaught queen was in fact a Celtic war goddess and that there was no such person as Queen Medb.
However in Sligo, at the top of a hill outside Sligo Town, lies an immense cairn said to mark the tomb of Medb.
Second Irish saint after Saint Patrick
She was born near Dundalk, County Louth, to a Christian slave woman and a pagan chieftain in the mid-5th century. She declined an arranged marriage by her father to a king in order to pursue religious life and went on to form the first nunnery in Ireland. She established convents throughout the country, as well as an important monastic community for both monks and nuns in Kildare. Upon her death in the early 6th century, she was buried in a tomb at the cathedral in Kildare, but her remains are said to have been later buried alongside Saint Patrick and Saint Columcille at the Downpatrick cathedral in Northern Ireland. Saint Brigid’s feast day, which falls on 1st of February, is celebrated with visitations to the many holy wells named after her such as St. Brigid’s Well in Liscannor, County Clare and the weaving of ‘Brigid's crosses’ which are said to protect against fire and evil spirits.