Medb was a queen living in approximately the 1st century B.C. (She was once considered a historical queen but now is considered mythological). She is most famous as a protagonist in the story of the Cattle Raid of Cooley (The Táin Bó Cuailnge) and adversary of Cúchulainn the legendary Celtic hero.
She lived in Co. Sligo in Connaught and there are many monuments which are linked to her name. She was named after the Celtic Goddess of Intoxication. Firstly she married Conchobar Mac Nessa of Ulster but they did not get on well so her sister Ethne married him instead. She then married a Connaught chieftain called Ailill but that did not work out either, so finally she was married to Ailill a son of the King of Leinster. She also frequented the area in Roscommon known as Rathcroghan today which was called Cruachain in ancient times and was said to hold the entrance to the Otherworld, which is now called the Cave of the Cats.
In many accounts the attributes of Medb are very similar to the attributes of the Goddess Medb and there is therefore confusion over which of them is the mortal and which the immortal. There also was a Medb in Leinster called Medb Lethderg (Red-Side or Half-Red) who married nine men in order to give them Kingship of their territories. This story sounds more like the Goddess Medb who conferred sovereignty on the Kings by a ritual of intoxication and then a ‘marriage’ to them.
Queen Medb has many attributes of the goddess and may be an aspect of the goddess in human form just as the Goddess Macha lived among mortals and married the farmer Crundchu in one of her manifestations. Medb has an insatiable sexual appetite and boasts openly of sleeping with thirty men in one day. She has a sacred grove known as Bile Meibe and two tree-dwelling creatures perch on either of her shoulders the squirrel and the raven.
She mates with the hero Fergus Mac Roich ‘Son of Great Horse’ who himself has a large sexual appetite so that he satisfies her. ‘she used to know thirty men every day or go with Fergus once.’ During the battle of the Táin Bo, Medb wanted to pass water and Fergus hid her with his shield, the water she passes forms three great dykes ‘so that a mill could find room in each dyke’. The place became known afterwards as Fual Medba, ‘Medb’s Urine’. Natural features are frequently formed through the actions of supernatural beings.
Medb murdered her sister Clothra while she was pregnant with Furbaide son of Conchobar Mac Nessa, the baby survived this and when he grew up he murdered Medb in revenge with a slingshot of hard cheese while she was bathing in a lake on an island in Lough Ree, Co. Roscommon. His name was Furbaide Ferbend.
The burial mound of Queen Medb in Knocknarea in County Sligo, Ireland