EVEN those of us with little knowledge of history and mythology will be aware that Armagh (Ir: Ard Mhacha – ‘Macha’s Height’), the ancient capital of Ulster, once played host to the legendary figures of Cú Chulainn, Queen Macha, King Conor Mac Neasa and the legendary band of warriors known as ‘The Red Branch Knights’.
Before the arrival of Christianity in the fifth century, Armagh, and particularly ‘Eamhain Mhacha’ [Navan Fort] on the outskirts of the City, was a place of huge ritual and ceremonial importance.
Only recently came news that archaeologists from Queen's University Belfast and the University of Aberdeen have uncovered evidence of Iron Age temples and other intriguing structures at this internationally famous heritage site in our midst.
Drawing their inspiration from the Iron Age tales described in the ‘Ulster Cycle’, which is comparable to the Greek Iliad in theme and tone, the team at the new Aonach Mhacha Centre in the Shambles have announced plans to develop an annual ‘Camino Mhacha’ [‘Macha’s Way’] from the Tí Chulainn Centre in Mullaghbane to the Aonach Mhacha Cultural Centre in Armagh City.
The inaugural ‘Camino’ on the Festival of Lúnasa (August 1) attracted huge interest both locally and nationally. Its purpose was to raise funds for the new Irish language facility which was forced to close its doors just one week after opening, prior to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. Donations have arrived from as far away as the USA and China.
Aonach Mhacha director Réamonn Ó Ciaráin said the sponsored Camino supported by Foras na Gaeilge will take place to coincide with the Lúnasa Harvest Festival. Walkers will follow in the footsteps of Setanta, the boy hero from Ulster who made his heroic return to the Red Branch Warriors at Eamhain Mhacha [Navan Fort] from Tí Chulainn with his new hero’s name, Cú Chulainn, the Hound of Culann. He became the foremost warrior of the Red Branch Heroes and the legendary defender of Ulster.
Réamonn added: “The Camino was preceded by ‘The Hero’s Breakfast’ in Cultúrlann Aonach Mhacha at the Shambles, after which transport was provided to Tí Chulainn, Mullaghbane, for the commencement of the epic return walk.
“Camino Mhacha re-imagines Cú Chulainn’s Trek which gained legendary status in the mythology of Ulster. The heroic tales of Cú Chulainn have inspired men and women to great achievements since first written down by early Christian monks in the 7th Century.
“Camino Mhacha re-enacted this ancient episode which forms part of our unique Gaelic heritage on an annual basis. Upon their return to the new Aonach Mhacha Centre walkers enjoyed ‘The Heroes’ Feast’ with friends and supporters, courtesy of our friends at The Spice Lounge.”
For donations or further information contact Réamonn via email at eolas@aonachmhacha
.com or phone 077 1168 9665. You can also donate directly to the group by following the Go Fund Me link gf.me/u/yccpih.