Fergus mac Roich: FIR-gus mac ROYH

A major figure in the Ulster Cycle. Rightful king of Ulster, who was tricked into giving up the throne by his wife Nessa, who then gave it to her son (his stepson) Conchobor mac Nessa, who became king of Ulster. Fergus decided he liked being a bard better anyway, and so let Conchobhor have the kingship. He was foster-father to Cuchulainn, and a lover of Medb, but was put in exile by Conchobhor for supporting the Sons of Usnech.

Interestingly enough, the Lia Fail or Stone of Destiny at Tara has also been called by locals "Fergus' Phallus," an idea backed up by the legend that it took seven women at one time to satisfy Fergus.

W. B. Yeats' poem "Fergus and the Druid" and "Who Goes with Fergus?" are based on this figure.

Or Róig, Róeg: the erstwhile king of Ulster in the eponymous story cycle, notably the protagonist of the Táin Bó Flidhais. He was king of Ulster until tricked out of the crown by his wife Ness, in favor of her (but not his) son Conchobar; subsequently he gave his word in surety for the safety of the Sons of Uisliu, so that when Conchobar had them killed, it was he, Fergus, who was shamed, since it was he who had broken his word of protection, and he was driven into exile on this account. With him in exile went many of the best warriors of the Ulaid, disgusted with such treachery: Conall Cernach, Lóegaire Búadach, and Fergus' foster-son, Conchobar's eldest son Cormac Cond Longas, among them. These men formed the troop of the Ulstermen in Exile who came to fight against Ulaid in the great Cattle-Raid of Cooley. In this story, Fergus has a particular and prominent relation to Cú Chulainn, being one of his foster-fathers; the latter often excepts Fergus from performing the various challenges he sets for the Connachtmen, knowing as he does that Fergus could easily repeat them.

The name Fergus literally means »man-strength«, to be understood basically as »virtue« or »virility« (two words whose meanings were less distinct in Latin than they are in English and even less so in Old Irish), and is quite clearly connected to the particular nature of his person and feats: he is enormously strong, immense in size, vastly potent, his appetites gigantic; as for nobility or righteousness, those are virtues of little real importance to the men of old Ireland, but he has them too.


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