The Pangs of the Ulstermen: An Exchangist Perspective
Why is Cú Chulainn exempt from the curse of Macha in Táin Bó Cuailgne? In the present article, I attempt to resolve the issue of Cú Chulainn’s exceptional status by nominating the curse of Macha and the naming of Cú Chulainn pre-narratives to the Táin as semantic inverses of each other. Specifically, I argue that the former narrative depicts the breaking of a contract between the third functional group and the combined forces of the first and second functions in Georges Dumézil’s Indo-European social taxonomy; while the latter narrative, I suggest, charts the restoration of this same contract. On this basis, I then identify Macha’s curse with the spiritual animation that, according to Marcel Mauss, accompanies all violations of social reciprocity.