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Irish Myths and Legends

Bricriu of the Poison Tongue

Bricriu (pronounced bree-croo) was known in Ulster as 'Bricriu of the Poison Tongue'. He was sarcastic and devilish, humorous, cunning and manipulative.

His main aim was to cause as much trouble as he could and he succeeded greatly! Despite the anger and wrath he aroused he was able to save his skin by the use of his quick wit and cunning nature. It was also a help that he was incredibly wealthy.

So wealthy was Bricriu in fact that he was able to host lavish banquets and gatherings at his feast hall built just for that sole purpose. So magnificent was the great feast hall that even the royalty of Ireland were determined to promote their own status by attending, despite the risk of failing victim to the poisoned tongue!

The stage was ready then for the great feast of Bricriu with even the mighty Cuchulainn set to attend. But not all of the Irish leaders were so enthralled by the prospect of entering Bricriu's lair. Fergus MacRiogh warned the Ulster champions to avoid the gathering, fearing for calamity and doubting Bricriu's intentions.

'....No! for if we go our dead will outnumber our living, when Bricriu has incensed us against each other!'

Of course his warnings went unheeded.

Cuchulainn entered the great hall with wife Emer, she of the six Womanly Gifts of music, physical beauty, the gift of song, embroidery, the gift of wisdom, and of modesty.

Conal Cearnath attended with his wife 'Lendabair the Fair' whose golden hair was famous throughout the land. Laoghaire Buadach arrived with his wife 'Fedelm the Ever-blooming'.

The attendance of these women became the focal point of Bricriu's plan for he intended to use the vanity of the women to divide the men, and to cause mayhem.

Shortly after their arrival Bricriu found an opportunity to whisper into the ear of each of these graceful visions of womanhood, describing each as being the most beautiful and powerful of all of the women of Ulster, that each in turn had the most powerful husband and that each in turn should be no less than Queen of Ulster!

He informed each of the three that the first woman to return from their walk in his garden and to enter the feasting hall would become Queen.

Unaware that they had been set against each other the three beautiful women and their fifty attendant maids each made their way back to Bricriu's feasting hall after their walk in the garden.

Gradually they approached, initially walking with a stately gentle purpose but their pace increased gradually as they observed each other, each wanting to be first through the door.

Panic soon set in with the women even raising their dresses above their knees and making such haste and creating such noise that the women and their fifty attendants caused a stampede and commotion of such volume that the whole building shook to its foundation.

The warriors within the house rushed out to find the cause of the mayhem and to their amazement found the masses of women, royalty and attendants alike, in an undignified pile at the entrance to the building, while Bricriu of the poisoned tongue laughed heartily at the trouble he had caused.

Cuchulainn took charge, lifting the entire feasting hall above his head so that his wife Emer might enter first, claiming her rightful place as Queen of Ulster, while every other soul in attendance regretted that they had ever set foot in the lair of 'Bricriu of the Poison Tongue'.

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