Macha was the goddess of land and associated with horses. In ancient Irish Mythology one of the legends tell of her marriage to a wealthy farmer and how his boasting brought on the curse of Macha the Red.
Crunniuc mac Agnoman, a rich lord of the Ulstermen, lived with his four sons in the hills. His wife had died long ago and he slept alone. He had accumulated great wealth, but his house was never in order nor comfortable.
As he lay alone one day, he saw a fine young woman. She was not like the other women around. This one had a stately manner and pleasant demeanor. Her name was Macha. She was beautiful to behold in the eyes of Crunniuc. A lovelier woman he had never seen. Her abundant red hair was so lustrous he longed to run his fingers through it and he yearned for her.
She sat herself down on a chair near the hearth, and stirred the fire. The whole day long she sat there.
A while and she fetched a kneading trough and sieve to prepare food. At days end she took a vessel and milked the cow. Without speaking or being spoken to, she took on the chores and running of the house as if she belonged there and had always been there.
On returning from the kitchen and directing the servants she sat down next to Crunniuc. When all retired to their own couch, Macha put out the fire and lay beside Crunniuc on his couch, for his appearance was pleasing to her and she delighted in his handsome face. Macha stayed long and they dwelt together. As time went by, the lord gained ever more wealth.
Under her care there was an abundance of everything in the house and on the land -- no one was in need of anything. Whatever was needed was there, whatever had to be done was done. The land and the people became very fertile and after time, she herself grew heavy with child.
As the time of the Ulster fair drew near, Crunniuc donned his best clothes and prepared to set out. "My husband", pleaded Macha, "please to stay here lest you meet danger at the fair." Crunniuc assured her he would not meet with danger. "Then do not boast of our union or of me, or we will no longer be together." Crunniuc promised he would not boast.
The Ulstermen gathered at the festival, Crunniuc proud to be among them. There were many races, combats, tournaments, games, and processions to be watched.
The king’s horses were champions of the day in the contests. Then bards appeared to praise the king and the queen, the poets and the druids, his household, the people and the whole assembly. "Never before have two such horses been seen at the festival as these two horses of the king. In all Ireland there is not a swifter pair," cried the people.
Unimpressed, Crunniuc boasted, "My wife runs quicker than these two horses." In anger the king yelled, "Seize the man and hold him until his wife can be brought to me!"
Crunniuc was bound, and messengers were sent forth from the king to collect the woman. When they arrived at Crunniuc's home, Macha bade them welcome, and inquired what had brought them. "We have come for you that you may release your husband, kept prisoner by the king’s command. He boasted that you were swifter of foot than the king’s horses and the king wishes you to appear before him."
"My husband has spoken unwisely," said she. "It was not fitting that he should say so. As for me, I am ill, and about to be delivered of child."
"Alas for that," said the messengers, "for thy husband will be put to death if thou dost not come."
"Then I must needs go," she said with tears in her eyes.
Forthwith she went to the fair and stood before the king. Every one crowded round to see her. "In my condition it is not becoming to be gazed at," said Macha with distaste. "Wherefore am I brought hither?"
"To run in contest against the two horses of the king," shouted the multitude.
"Alas! For I am close upon my hour," she cried.
"Kill her husband!" ordered the king.
"Help me," she pleaded to the people, "for a mother hath borne each one of you. Give me, O King, but a short delay, until I am delivered."
"It shall not be so," replied the king.
"Then shame upon you who have shown so little respect for me," she cried and stood taller among them. "Because you take no pity upon me, a heavier curse will fall upon you."
"What is thy name?" asked the king.
"My name, and the name of that which I shall bear, will for ever cleave to this land. I am Macha, daughter of Sainreth mac Imbaith (Strange son of Ocean). Bring up the horses beside me!"
The race began and she outran the horses and arrived first at the end of the course. With a cry of pain, she called out and bore twins, a son and a daughter, before the horses reached the goal. Therefore is the place called Emain Macha, the "Twins of Macha."
All who heard that cry were suddenly struck with weakness, so that they had no more strength than a woman in labor. And she cried out in her pain, “From this hour the shame and pain that you have inflicted upon me will return and touch each one of you. When a time of oppression falls upon you, each one of you who dwells in this province will be overcome with weakness, as the weakness of a woman in childbirth, and this will remain upon you for five days and four nights. To the ninth generation it shall be so.” And for her love of Crunniuc, there she died.
Thus it was and so it was, from the days of Crunniuc to the ninth generation of the Ulstermen. Three classes there were upon whom the curse had no power, namely, the children and the women of Ulster, and Cu Chulainn, because he was not descended from Ulster.
This is the cause of the curse of Macha The Red upon the men of Ulster.