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Gae Bulg (also known as Gae Bolg)


In Irish mythology, Gae Bulg ("Barbed Spear") is the spear of Cuchulainn. It was made from the bone of a sea monster named the Coinchenn. A wound from the Gae Bulg is always fatal, it is said that the spear's tip would expand into 30 or more barbs which spread through the body of those struck by it, and could not be removed save by cutting away the flesh around them. Cuchulainn used the Gae Bulg to kill both his foster-brother Ferdiad and his son Connla on separate occasions, but only as a last resort.

In some translations of the Ulster Cycle, Gae Bulg is not just a weapon, but also a spear technique that Cuchulainn excelled at. In The Cattle Raid of Cooley when Cuchulainn fought Ferdiad, it is said that neither of them could overmatch the other except in the "feat" of the Gae Bulg, which only Cuchulainn possessed. During the fight, they displayed all of their "skill and secret cunning, save for the Gae Bulg which was Cuchulainn's alone." Finally, when it is obvious that neither warrior can best the other, Cuchulainn called for the Gae Bulg to be brought to him as a last resort, and used it to kill Ferdiad.

Also depending on the translation, the Gae Bulg could be interpreted as a venomous spear rather than literally splitting into multiple barbs. When Ferdiad was killed, the spear is said to "cut through Ferdiad's protection until every limb and every joint was filled with barbs." This does not have to be taken literally, and could indicate what we consider a poison or nerve agent afflicting the body.

Ireland, Mythology, Spear, Weapon


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