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16 October 2014
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Céara Ní Choinn looks at the place name ARD MHACHA.

Ard Mhacha is eccelesiastical capital of both of Ireland’s main Christian traditions and owes it’s origins to Naomh Pádraig Ardeaspuig na hÉireann who built his cathedral there in the fifth century. The schools and churches which grew up around Ard Mhacha or Macha’s height, formed the foundations of what is the modern city of Ard Mhacha. But Patrick only built his church there because the place had an older, pre christain importance that goes way back into Celtic Mythology. Ard Mhacha, was always known as the ancient capital of the high kings of Ulster, and that Macha in the name was the name of a very important mythological warrior queen who protected the fort of Emhain Macha, the capital of the kings of ancient celtic Ulster. According to documented tales this prosperous residence of the the high king of Ulster who at the time was Conchur Mac Nessa and his fearsome warriors an Craobh Rua was named Emhain Macha meaning ‘the twins of Macha’ –

The story says that Macha was cursed by her husband to race against the best horses even though she was in labour. She won the race and delivered twins on the finish line. She was so humiliated angry and tired at the end of the race that she cursed the men of Ulster- that in their time of greatest danger they would be as weakas a woman in labour.

I don’t know if the curse is still there but the name certainly is. In English Eamhain Macha is known today as Navan, ‘an’ meaning ‘the’ and ‘eamhain’ twins . Put them ogether and you get ‘an-navan’ , ‘navan fort’,

Tá súil agam gur bhain tú sult as mythical mystical Ard Mhacha. Go dtí an tseachtain seo chugainn.

Listen to Céara Ní Choinn Listen To Céara talk about Armagh.


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