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Women in Celtic Myth

So, this is an experiment. I began the Women in Greek Myths page when I was 13 and it was just a dictionary list of cool ladies. Bit by bit I added information and myths. Now I should be focusing on connecting the myths to their bibliographical roots, but I'm bored with that! So, instead, here's another project I've had in my head. These are the super cool chicks of Celtic mythology. Now, Celtic mythology is REALLY different from Greek mythology, and I'm not even sure if this format will work, but we're gonna give it a shot. Please make note: Irish individuals are in written in Blue, Scottish skirts are Red, Welsh women are Violet, the British broads are Brown, and if we're callin' 'em Celtic, they'll be written in Green.

Aine was an Irish goddess of love - primarily human love, although she did have romances of her own - and fertility. People continue to celebrate her on Midsummer's Eve on Knockainy ("Aine's Hill") in Kerry (a county in Ireland). She was with this one dude, Ailil (the King of Munster). She liked him as much as a goddess can be expected to like a mortal, but then, one day, he tried to have sex when she didn't want to and she killed him with her magic.
See Danu below.
Aoifa, by Seefried
She was a warrior princess (like Xena, except Irish, and part of actual mythology, not invented for the WB) who was sometimes called Aoife and lived in the Land of Shadows. Now Aoifa was a terrifying warrior. Like unbelievable. But, like all awesome people, she had a weakness, and her's was her chariot. So when her sister Scathach's pupil Cuchulainn challenged Aoifa to combat, he overcame her at the moment of truth by distracting her and making her think that her chariot horse was in trouble. Aoifa was so impressed with him that she became his lover for a while and even gave birth to his child, Conlai. Sadly, it was the child's destiny to have an unconsciously deadly dad and the boy was killed.
Arianrhod, by KattZ
She was a goddess and the daughter of Don, the Welsh mother goddess. Arianrhod has a really cool life, but her first myth begins when she is a young maiden. And when I say maiden here, I mean it in the looser sense. You see, her uncle, an old man named Math, had this weird fetish and he could only sleep if some virgin girl was holding his feet in her lap. For a long time this chick named Goewin did it, but then she got raped by Arianrhod's cousin and that was that. Arianrhod was recommended for the position, but when she was made to step over Math's wand in a test of her virginity, she failed and dropped out two sons, Dylan and Lleu. She was very involved in her son's lives, which she made very difficult (particularly that of Lleu), but there will be more on that later.
Bodbh, by Howard David Johnson
The Irish goddess of battle. Her name, appropriately, means "Crow" (think about battlefields and this will make sense. She inspired fighters with either fear or courage and she was thought to be especially influential in the battle in 1014 when the then High King Brian defeated the marauding Vikings. She was one of a bunch of warrior goddesses, the others included Macha, the Morrigan, and Nemain.
The was we say the "bean sidhe", the fairy who haunts the Irish countryside, washing the bloody clothes of her dead children. It is said that seeing her fortells someone's death.
Check out The Tain - more later.
Blodeuwedd, by Hrana Janto
Blodeuwedd was the most beautiful woman alive and was made of flowers to be the wife of Lleu (Arianrhod's son). See, Arianrhod had decided that Lleu couldn't marry any mortal woman. This severely limited his options, and, unfortunately, Blodeuwedd really wasn't the woman for him. She appeared to be at first, even she thought so. But when she opened her home to a hunter in need of shelter she truly fell in love. After a lot of plotting with her lover, they figured out their best bet for killing Lleu, but they still failed in the end. Blodeuwedd ended her life as an owl, because that is the shape that Gwydion (Lleu's uncle and guardian) turned her into.
A god's daughter who became a queen to make peace, but was made a cook which started a war.
Brigit, by Sandra M. Stanton
Daughter of the Dagda (the all-powerful type Good God of the Irish), she was one of the most popular goddesses in the pantheon. So much so, that when the Christians came, she became syncretized with Christianity and made into Saint Brigid. The nuns even kept tending the sacred flames that her priestesses had tended before! She was also associated with healing wells. Anything real high up tends to fall under her purview as well (leaping flames, highlands, even high-minded thinking like wisdom, poetry, druidic knowledge, etc.). She starts Spring off sometime in early February, celebrated with the Imbolc festival. With two sisters, both unoriginally also named Brigid, she is a perfect example of a Triple Goddess.
The divine hag of Scottish and Irish mythology embodies Winter. With her staff she freezes the ground and battles against Spring. Still her reign (thank goodness) only lasts from Samhain (November 1) to Beltaine (May 1).
The lady with the magic cauldron, that's Ceridwen. Witch much? Absolutely. A goddess-witch, according to Wiccans, but her role in mythology is more supernaturally human. Her story is told in the Mabinogion. Her son Morfan was super-ugly, so she decided to make him equally wise. Her plan was make a potion in her cauldron for that end, but Gwion - the boy who was stirring for her - accidentally scalded himself, thereby stealing the wisdom she'd been saving for her son. Well now, Ceridwen wasn't having it, so she chased him, but his wisdom was now as great as hers and he ran, changing himself into different animals and shapes with her seconds behind him. Eventually she got him and ate him, but he managed to become a fetus inside her and when he was born, he was so beautiful she did not have the heart to kill him. He became Taliesin.
The Queen of the Banshees! Can we take a moment to appreciate the awesomeness of that job? In some Irish myths, there is the tragic story that Cliodhna (Cleena in English) was a goddess of love and beauty who left her otherworldly island Land of Promise to be with her mortal lover and drowned in her sleep. The banshees wails forewarned or mourned death, and her's was associated with a particularly old Irish family: the O'Donovans.
Also called Dana and Anu, she was the mother goddess of all those fairy types as well as many of the other gods and goddesses who ruled Ireland. She may or may not have been identified with water. She really doesn't have much of a role in mythology, but I hope to learn more about her. The Welsh mother-goddess Don appears to be basically the same. Her cult was especially associated with Munster.
Dechtire, by Johnson
She was also called Dechtine. She was the charioteer - and sister - of Conchobar, so she was part of the Ulster Cycle. She mothered the hero Cuchulainn. When she married this dude named Sualtam mac Roth, she swallowed a fly that was in her cup then passed out and dreamed that she and 50 of her kinswomen were supposed to become a flock of birds and follow Lugh (the Sun God) into the Otherworld. Then, three years later, a huge flock of beautiful birds showed up. The warriors of Ulster decided to shoot the birds, but failed, and so decided to try to catch the birds by surprised at night. Instead, they caught Dechtire and her kinswomen sleeping with Lugh. Conchobar sent for her, but she was feeling too sick to travel. The next day, however, she showed up with a new-born son who was a gift to Ulster.
Deirdre, by Howard David Johnson
Lady of the Sorrows. Whose sorrows? Ulster's sorrows. Her birth - including future sorrows and beauty - was foretold by Cathbad, druid and Dechtire's daddy. Conchobar, the king of Ulster, decided he wanted to marry her, but just being King wasn't enough for Deirdre. She ran away from Ulster with a bunch of boys - including her beloved Naoise - who vowed to protect her, but they got tricked into coming back and killed. Except Deirdre who got tricked into coming back and had to marry Conchobar. Not surprisingly, she was sad. When Conchobar handed over Naoise's killer - as if it were really his fault - she just decided enough was enough and killed herself by biting it off the side of his chariot as it was hurtling somewhere or another.
Don was the Welsh mother goddess, more or less equivalent to Danu, except Don was married to the God of Death, too.
Emer, by Howard David Johnson
Beloved of the big hero Cuchulainn, her wooing is the story that makes her interesting. But I'm not telling it yet.
Wife of stupid Geraint. This actually reminds me a bit of the Greek myth of Procris and Cephalus. Anyway, Enid and Geraint got married and eventually rumors started going around that Geraint was getting soft. Enid took those rumors as a reflection of her wifely abilities. She started crying that she had been a bad wife (meaning that she was somehow responsible from keeping his attention from other chivalric things), and he took it to mean that she'd been sleeping around. So, rather than talk it out, he made her follow him around and keep her mouth shut. Well, because his life was in danger a bunch of times, and she cared more about his life than being obedient, she piped up and saved him a couple of times. Good thing she did, because it proved her love for him and they were reconciled in the end.
Epona, by Sandra M. Stanton
Horse goddess who captured the imagination and admiration of the Roman army. She even had a festival in Rome on December 18! She was a woman, but in many representations she shown as a white mare. Likely also a goddess of fertility. She is somehow associated with Rhiannon.
This was the original Guinevere who was in the old Welsh Arthur stories.
The goddess who was the inspiration for the character of Morgan le Fay
Medb, by Howard David Johnson
Also called Maeve. The Irish queen of Connacht and, per usual, sex and violence make up the bulk of her story. She marries Conchobar, then when that doesn't work out and he marries her sister Ethne, Medb kills her sister. Later, Conchobar rapes her. But beyond that stuff, Medb was hardcore. Any man interested in marrying her had to be without three things: 1) fear, 2) meanness, and 3) jealousy. Why the last? Because monogamy was not really part of her idea of marriage. It didn't work out because one of her husbands died after challenging her lover, her bodyguard, in single combat. That man was Ailill, and the contest born of their relationship is told in the Táin Bó Cúailnge. Why was a contest needed? Because she found out her husband had one bull more than she did and wasn't having it. A passionate woman, to say the least.
Morgan, by Janto
Morgan Le Fay
Morgan was originally a fairy - thus the whole "fay" name - but later, as a human, she was an enchantress. She was associated, obviously, with King Arthur. She was, according to most stories, his half-sister. Lots of his downfall - and Guinevere's - was related to her intervention. She was also associated with the Isle of Apples. More on that when I learn about it.
Rhiannon, by Nelson-Reed
It was her marriage that was the root of the drama in her life. She was married to Pwyll, but she had been promised to another man who was not happy about not ultimately being chosen. He cursed her house, and her, and she lost the ability to have children. Well now, she wasn't going to just sit and take it. Eventually, she overcame the curse and had a son, but he was stolen from her. At the end of the adventure, he turned up in a stable (Rhiannon was associated with horses) and she got him back.
She was a real warrior princess and a teacher of all things war-like. She taught Cuchulainn - THE hero of the Ulster cycle - and gave him his spear. The spear was terrifying. It went into a body then opened up into thirty barbs. She was also the mother of Uathach. Despite the fact that Cuchulainn was chilling with her daughter, she had no problem with offering to fool around with him, too. Really, he was the perfect hero? What more could you want?
The mythical ancestor of all Scots.
Uathach was the daughter of Scathach who met this hunky guy named Cuchulainn when he came to study swordplay with her mom. Mama was pretty impressed by Cuchulainn's skills and decided to forego her daughter's brideprice and give up Uathach's goodies for free. The couple had a rough start - the hero accidentally broke Uathach's finger when taking food that she was serving him. She screamed and her other lover (with whom she'd been pre-Cuchulainn) came running all huffy and aggressive, but when the two men fought, Lover 1 got his butt kicked right out of Uathach's life. It was then that Uathach turned her whole heart to the hero, Cuchulainn. She stayed with him until Cuchulainn tricked Aoifa in battle and won and decided to be Aoifa's lover instead.

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Last Updated February 12, 2008