Ogma, or Oghma, is one of the Tuatha De Dannan. His name means “To Cut” or “Cutting One” in reference to his pioneering the early Celtic writing system Ogam – named for him. Ogam involved cutting lines into wood or stone to create its alphabet. As the creator of writing, Ogma is considered not only the god of writing, but oration, speechcraft and poetry as well. Poetry in the ancient Celtic sense included the memorization and recitation of vast bodies of knowledge and lore, specific to genealogy, geography and language – it was quite an undertaking! Poets were also skilled in lampooning and had a broad knowledge of politics.
Ogma’s titles included Grianainech (“Sun-Faced”) and Trenfher (“Strongman”). He is the warrior god of athleticism, battle poetry, and is called “The Father of Ogam” for the reasons described above. Ogma is often depicted in a triad with his brothers, Dagda and Lugh, forming a trinity called the Tri Dee Dana, the “Three Gods of Skill.” He is attested to in the X, Y, Z and the Ogam Tract, where he declares he is the father of the alphabet and his carving knife, its mother.
In the Irish texts Ogma’s father is Elatha, a Fomorian king. His mother is Ethliu (also known as Eriu) the Formorian goddess who gives her name to Ireland. Ogma is the brother of Bres, who marries Brigid to help unite the Tuatha and Fomorian tribes, and takes the throne after Nuada. Ogma is the father of Dalbaeth and Tuireann. He is also the father of Taranis, a thunder god associated with Dagda and very similar to Thor. Ogma is depicted as a mighty, heavily muscled older man wielding a club and bow and arrows.
When King Nuada loses his arm – and thus his right to the throne – King Bres demotes his brother from the role of Champion to the King and giving him the menial labor of carrying firewood. During his time of indentured servitude, Ogma impresses Bres with his display of athleticism and combat prowess in competitions.
When Bres is overthrown and Nuada is reinstated as king of the Tuatha, Ogma is reinstated as the king’s Champion. However, with Lugh on the scene, Ogma must defend this position. He does so by challenging Lugh to a boulder-hefting competition, shot-putting rocks which otherwise would take eighty oxen to drag. Lugh wins the contest by hurling the rocks back to the position Ogma lifted them from. When Lugh is given command of Nuada’s armies, Ogma is honored to become Lugh’s Champion. In the final battle against the Fomorians, Ogma wins the sword of the Fomorian king, the Orna, which proclaims the victories of its wielder when drawn. In the Irish tales, Ogma and Indech, champion of the Formorians, defeat each other in combat.
Scholars have linked Ogma to the Gallic deity Ogmios, god of eloquence, who is associated with rousing and inspiring his warriors with impassioned speeches. In the archeological record, Ogmios is depicted as a massive warrior with chained warrior bands in tow. The chains extend from Ogmios’ mouth or tongue, and are attached to the ears of his band. These “prisoners” are described as happily enslaved, following their war chief’s inspiring words, inciting them to victory.
In the Mabinogi, Ogma has been identified as Eufydd fab, son of the mother goddess Don. He is described as a magician and assists his brothers just as Ogma aids his brothers in the Irish lore.
The Roman sources syncretized him with Hercules, and he is thus often referred to as Gaullish Hercules.
Ogma excels in body and in mind: there is no academic nerd and rugby jock dichotomy here. In Celtic culture, eloquence is one of the gifts of old age. Elderdom was not denigrated as it is now, and it bestowed many gifts. Ogma is depicted as a swole, jacked granddaddy – an elderly man who has lived a full life and has a tale to tell. Alongside the wise old wizard motif perhaps suggested by the likes of Óðin, Merlin, or Manawydan, perhaps Ogma provides a template for aging men in staying in robust shape and virile health. His incredible shape – he is compared to Hercules – gives us a vision of becoming an old man that is healthy and robust. In this regard, old age is something to look forward to.
He is similar to a modern-day sports coach. His inspirational speeches and cheering his team along – pumping up his players. Even Ogma’s sword proclaimed his exploits, not unlike a sports announcer.
It’s easy to draw a comparison between Ogma and Óðin, who is a fellow warrior-poet, and god of might in battle and in knowledge. Like Ogma he is depicted as an old man who is virile and strong. Like Ogmios, Óðin is depicted with a retinue of warriors whom he is collecting to march into battle. Ogma’s descendance from the Formorian gods parallels the Æsir gods, who descend from an older generation of deities – the Jötnar – and of the Vanir hostage exchange, whereby gods of one tribe join the other in diplomacy.
“God of Poetry” doesn’t have quite the same connotation in modern English as it did in ancient Irish. The poet, or filidh (“fee-lee”) did much more than rhyme about ex-girlfriends in coffee shops. In addition to essentially functioning as community journalist, Celtic poets had the important political role of roasting and lampooning their political enemies, inflicting the “poet’s curse” which could destroy a person’s reputation. Devastating in a smaller, tribal society. In such a culture, reputation was everything. Ogma was thus a god who won battles not only with strength, but also with words.
Warrior poets were, among other things, entertainers who sang and storied the heroic exploits of great heroes. They served a function in society that today is filled by action movies, from Die Hard, to John Wick, to the MCU. Ogma and his trinity of brothers were all-around superheroes, awesome at pretty much everything, and because of Ogma their stories live on to inspire us.
Manannán mac Lir is also known as simply Manannán or Manann. His surname, Mac Lir (Irish), Mac y Leir (Scottish) and fab Llyr (Welsh) mean “Son of the Sea.” In Irish myth, his father Lir appears to be a primordial sea god, about whom little else is known. Manannán is a significant figure throughout Irish, and later Welsh mythology and Scottish folklore.
To the Irish, he is one of the Tuatha De Danann, a god of the sea, kingship, magic, and a guardian and gatekeeper to the Otherworld: Tír na nÓg. His resident domain in Tír na nÓg is Emain Ablach, the Isle of Apples, which would later reappear as Avalon in Arthurian legend. He is associated with the Otherworld provinces of Mag Mell, the Plain of Delights, and Tir Tairngire, the Land of Promise. His Otherworld provinces are described as being in the West and can be reached by boat, provided Manannán parts the mists that divide the worlds.
Manannán is also known as Manannán mac Alloit, meaning “Son of the Land,” possibly signifying that his mother is an earth goddess. He is named after the Isle of Man, whose inhabitants claimed him as their first king and dynasty ancestor, Mannin or Manau. In the Welsh Mabinogi he appears as the wise wizard-king Manawydan fab Llyr – one of the most famous figures in Celtic myth – leading scholars to conclude that his roots are possibly pre-Celtic. In Irish myth, he is one of the chieftains of the Tuatha De, coming into power after the godly tribe leave Ireland to the mortal ancestors of the Irish people, referred to as the Milesians. Manannán leads his immortal people to forevermore dwell in the Otherworld and draws the mists between the two worlds, more or less permanently.
These world-dividing mists are described as his cloak, which shimmers like the multi-hued rippling of the sea. Lifting his cloak seems to make all the difference between scrambling about in a dark, dank, wormy barrow mound – or being lost in lonely waters – and finding transport into the Elysian Tír na nÓg. His mists not only barricade the path between worlds but can also cause forgetfulness among those on either side: mortals who crossover do not recall in detail their journeys to the Otherworld, and those who dwell in the undying lands do so blithely unconcerned with the troubles of the mortal world.
When he travels about on land, he often does so in the form of a bird, such as a hawk or sparrow. He also can take on the form of a storm or “fiery wheel” (suggesting churning wind and lightning). In this form, his legs can sometimes be seen whipping about like a wheel, in a comedic fashion, like the Road Runner of Looney Toons. This image is the folkloric origin behind the flag of the Isle of Man, the three-legged triskelion.
He sometimes travels mortal lands as an anonymous warrior, who vaguely describes where he comes from as a place without death or dishonesty. There are places named after Manannán throughout Ireland, the Isle of Man and Scotland. In Ireland, most of them are watery or water-associated regions. On Man he was ceremonially offered rushes – wetland plants that were sacred to him.
Manannán is associated with magic and magical treasures, and is variously described as a Druid, illusionist and necromancer. His boat, the Squabe Tuinne (“Wave-sweeper”) can move on command without need for a sail or rowing. His horse Aonbharr and chariot can travel over water as well as land. He possesses Fragarach, a sword which can pierce any armor and kill with the slightest of blows. These items he loans to Lugh that he might succeed in the battle against the Fomorians and become the next king of the Tuatha De. Manannán possesses a magic wand, a silver branch with golden apples, which produces enchanting music that sedates all who hear it. This, along with something called the Goblet of Truth, he gives to the aid of another great Tuatha king, Cormac mac Airt, who becomes the High King of Ireland.
Manannán‘s wife is Fand, who famously falls in love with the Cu Chulainn. When things between her and the heroic demi-god do not work out, Manannán separates them with his misty cloak, giving his wife the gift of forgetfulness. He also appears to have had as a wife the goddess Aine with whom he fathered Niamh, an enchanting maiden who was able to cross back and forth between the mists on horseback.
Manannán is an over-king of the Tuatha De when they retreat through the mists, and he divides up the fairy kingdoms and sidh mounds (gateways between the worlds) amongst the surviving immortals. His mists hold back the passing of age and time, such that those on the Otherworld-side do not age. Like Dagda, he possesses immortal pigs who grant a never-ending supply of pork, the eating of which, like Iðunn’s apples in Germanic myth, grant renewed youth and vitality.
Manannán created the treasure Crane-Bag, which he made from Aoife, a female figure in the myths who was turned into a crane by a Druid’s curse. In this form she died, and Manannán used her crane-form’s skin to make the sacred bag. This was a “bag of holding” of nigh-infinite capacity. Its contents could only be seen during high tide, and it appeared completely empty at low tide. The bag contains all of the magical treasures of the Tuatha De Danann, and Manannán shared it widely. It later appears in the story of Rhiannon (who is another of his wives, or perhaps simply a title for his wife, as Rhiannon means “Great Queen'').
In the Mabinogi, Manannán appears as Manawydan, and he has two brothers. He is described as one of the three humble chieftains of the De Danann, because he sought to rule through the virtue of having deserved and being given his position, rather than through war-lording his way to his own kingdom. He travels from Ireland to London to bury the head of his giant brother, the great king Bran the Blessed. He ends up at the court of the noble king Pryderi Dyfed in Wales, the son of Rhiannon, to woo his mother. Manawydan sought to retire from the life of a warrior-king and settle down with the immortal queen who had outlived her human husband Pwyll. Manawydan and Rhiannon’s domestic bliss is interrupted by an enchanted, mysterious mist which swallows up all the kingdom’s resources, its people, livestock, possessions, and even the land’s fertility. Leading the adventure to undo this mist, Rhiannon and Pryderi become spellbound, entrapped to a golden grail or bowl. Manawydan untangles a complex web of wizardry to save his wife and his nephew, and restore fertility to the land.
In the Irish, and later told in Scottish folklore, Manannán prophesies the birth of the rightful king Mongan, who he then conspires to help the future conception of. Mongan is said to be the reincarnation of the hero Fionn mac Cumhaill. To do so, he calls upon the mighty power of his mists.
Manannán‘s folk memory lasted long into the early modern era, in many folk tales and oral traditions as a wandering wizard throughout the land.
Like all the Tuatha De Dannan, Manannán is depicted as a handsome, strong, and exceptional warrior. However, he is closer to what we in a modern age might think of as a wizard. He is a divine escort and ally to earthly kings, seeking to install them in their sacred positions. He seems to be one of the informants of the Arthurian character Merlin. His episode with the mists in siring Mongan with Caintigern bears similarities to Merlin leading Uther into Tintagel to seduce Igraine through the power of illusion and mist, towards the conception of Arthur. His endeavors are always to ensure that the land continues to be fruitful – a role that ancient kings were required to perform.
A significant theme for Manannán is that of benefactor of the Good King. He himself is such a king, and he works towards the begetting, educating, counseling and ennobling of other kings – to ensure the installment and functioning of Goodly Kings. In the Irish lore, he works to liberate the land and her people from the Fomorians, the previous dynasty of gods under whose rule the people must sacrifice the land’s fertility in tribute, and in doing so may, or may not appease the Fomorians. The Fomorians travel by sea, often accompanied by foul weather and mist. In the Welsh lore, it is the mysterious mist (sans Fomorians) which appears to steal away the land’s fertility, setting off a series of events in which the goddess of the land’s sovereignty and its rightful heir (Rhiannon and Pryderi) become trapped. It is Manawydan who must solve this mystery and restore rightful power and prosperity to the land.
His wandering the lands in and out of the mists is reminiscent of Óðin, wandering gray wizard associated with moody weather, stirring events to ensure that men achieve their destiny and recruiting heroes to his cause. Manannán also strongly resembles Norse Heimdallr. Heimdallr is also born of the sea, the son of the Nine Waves, sea goddess daughters of Aegir and Ran, the primordial powers of the sea in Norse tradition. Heimdallr is associated elsewhere with sheep and rams, which are poetic names for the waves. He wanders mortal realms in disguise, and ensures the installment of the social orders, signifying who will be the jarls, and who will work the land. Like Manannán, Heimdallr is the doorman, the guardian of the gate to the Otherworld, the watchman of the Rainbow Bridge into Ásgard, the abode of the gods.
Tír na nÓg is commonly now referred to as Fairyland, or simply as Faerie, with various spellings. As god of the Otherworld and of right kingship, he is clearly a guide to the pursuit of something greater, to the project of living for something greater than oneself. He functions as something of a spiritual tourist, taking kings on journeys of the Otherworld, and showing mortals glimpses of the magic beyond. He might be in modern times thought of as a god of calling and life purpose. He also seems to be a deity who counsels, and so might be a helpful reminder of helping others live in their own integrity as goodly kin
Manannán appears also in Scottish and Manx legend, where he is known as Manannan mac y Leir ("little Mannan, son of the sea"). The Isle of Man (Mannin) is named after him, while others say he is named after the island. He is cognate with the Welsh figure Manawydan fab Llŷr
Manannán rode his chariot over the sea, meeting with Bran and his crew sailing by ship, in the tale Imram Brain ("Voyage of Bran"), considered an early work.] In this story he told Bran that sea was not actually water to him but rather "I [Manannán] see in the Plain of Feats/red topped flowers without fault." He goes on to tell Bran about how he is heading to Ireland to have relations with Caintigern who would go on to bear Mongán.
In late sources, Manannán visits the land of the living, his movement is compared to the wind, a hawk or swallow, and sometimes takes the form of a thundering wheel rolling across the landscape, such as in the "Pursuit of the Gilla Decair", a 16th-century comic tale. There is also the local lore the Manannán moved like a wheel turning on his three legs, a tradition widespread on the Isle of Man (cf. triskelion), but also found in some eastern Counties of Leinster according to John O'Donovan, though this folklore was unfamiliar to Whitley Stokes.
After the Tuatha Dé Danann were defeated by Érimón of the Milesians (humans), Bodb Derg was chosen as king of the Tuatha Dé Danann, and Manannán as co-king or perhaps the king's overseer. In one passage Manannán declares he has assumed over-kingship above the petty kings of the Tuatha Dé Danann.
Manannán was tasked with allotting which sídhe or fairy mounds the surviving members of the Tuatha Dé Danann were to be settled. Manannán's own dwelling was at Emain Ablach, in the city of Cruithin na Cuan, as the tale later reveals. Manannán ensured the welfare of the Tuatha Dé Danann by concealing in the féth fíada or a mist of invisibility, holding the Feast of Goibniu (Fleadh Goibhneann) which conferred eternal youth, and feeding them Manannan's Swine (Mucca Mhannanain) which gave an inexhaustible supply of food.
Manannán in the tale "Echtra Cormaic" owned two magical items which he gave away to Cormac mac Airt, high king of Tara: a soothing musical silver branch with apples made of gold, and the Goblet of Truth.
Manannán initially appeared in the guise of a warrior, and described without naming his homeland as a place where old age, sickness, death, decay, and falsehood were unknown. He eventually coaxed the king to arrive as guest to this Land of Promise (Tír Tairngire).
Manannán had other magical items according to the Oidheadh Chloinne Tuireann, a romance that only survives in early modern Irish recensions.
He had a self-navigating boat called "Manannán's currach (coracle)" aka Sguaba Tuinne (Scuab-tuinne) or "Wave-sweeper" was self-navigating, as well as a horse that could travel over land or sea called Aonbharr of Manannan, translated in popular re-telling as "Enbarr of the Flowing Mane". Both the horse and boat were on loan to Lugh Lamhfada, but the Sons of Tuireann managed to borrow the boat.
Manannán also supplied Lugh with a full array of armor and weapon as the Tuatha Dé gathered their host to battle the Fomorians. Lugh rode Manannán's steed Aonbharr, and was girt with Manannán's sword Fragarach ("Retaliator or "The Answerer"). Any wound this sword gave proved fatal, and its opponent was reduced to the weakness of a woman in childbirth.
Lug also wore Manannán's helmet Cathbarr, which O'Curry amends to Cennbhearr, which he regards as a common noun and not a proper name. This helm was set with two precious gems on the front and one in the rear. Manannán's lúirech or body armour] and Manannán's scabal (neck-piece or breastplate) were also part of Lugh's panoply.
Manannán was also the owner of the "crane-bag" (Irish: corrbolg) full of treasures] according to the Middle-Irish Fenian lay "The Crane-Bag" (Duanaire Finn Poem VIII) datable to the 13th century,
To Manannán was sent a woman transformed into the shape of a crane. She was Aoife, daughter of Dealbhaoth (Irish: Áiffe ingen Dealbhaoíth), and mistress of Ilbhreac of many beauties (Irish: Ilbric Iolchrothaigh). Ilbhreac here may have been Ilbhreac son of Manannán. Aoife was transformed by the druidery of her jealous love-rival (Iuchra daughter of Ábartach), whose spell was to last 200 years.
When Aoife died, Manannán crafted her crane's skin into a magical treasure bag, whose contents were only visible when flooded during full tide, and would seem empty when the tide had ebbed.The bag was in the possession of Lugh Lamhfada, then taken by Lugh's killers, the three sons of Cermait. Later Manannán endowed it to Conaire Mór the high king at Tara. The crane-bag was eventually owned by Cumhall mac Trénmhóir, as told at the outset of this lay.Macgnímartha Finn. This is assumed to be the "treasure-bag" that was lost to Cumhall's "servant-turned-traitor", Liath Luachra, who treacherously wounded Cumall in the Cath Cnucha, but recovered later by Cumhall's son, Finn when he grew up.
Manannán also commissioned the craftsman Lucra (recté Luchta) to make him a shield to be made of wood, and this later passed on to Finn, according to the lay (duan) "Shield of Fionn". The wood came from a withered hazel tree, on the fork where Lugh had set the severed head of Balor. The venom had penetrated this tree, killing or blinding workers trying to uproot or handle it. Various owners are named, such as Tadg mac Nuadat, but was given by Manannán to Crimall mac Trenmor, Finn's uncle, after the death of Finn's father.
Manannán is furthermore identified with several trickster figures including the Gilla Decair and the Bodach an Chóta Lachtna ("the churl in the drab coat").
The similarity of Manannan's inexhaustible swine to Odin's boar Sæhrímnir in Scandinavian myth has been noticed. Mannanán also owned a speckled cow that he and Aengus retrieved from India along with a dun cow, two golden goblets, and two spancels of silk.
In Manx mythology:
According to the local lore of the Isle of Man, Manannán was the island's first ruler.
A document called the "Supposed True Chronicle of Man" (16th century) asserts that Manannan was the first "ruler of Mann" and "was as paynim (pagan), and kept, by necromancy, the Land of Man under mists", and imposed as tax a bundle of green rushes, which was due every Midsummer Eve at a place called Warfield (the present-day South Barrule). More or less the same thing is stated in verse within "The Traditionary Ballad" aka "Manannan beg va Mac y Leirr", whose third quatrain ran:[The poem thus identified the king of the island as one Manannan-beg-mac-y-Lheirr, "little Manannan, son of the Sea" (or, "son of Leir"). Manannan was later banished by Saint Patrick according to the poem.
As to the Manx offering rushes to Manannán, there is evidence these wild plants—which typically grow in wetlands—were sacred to him.
According to tradition, Manannan once held Peel Castle, and caused a single man guarding its battlements to appear as a force of a thousand, thus succeeding in driving out his enemies.] Manx storyteller Sophia Morrison repeats this story except reducing the amplification to hundredfold men, and referring to the rampart "a great stone fort on Peel Island". She also appends a story that Manannan once crafted makeshift boats out of sedges, creating an illusion of a larger fleet, causing the Viking invaders to flee in terror from the bay of Peel Island.
In Gaelic (Irish, Scottish and Manx) myth, the Cailleach (Irish: [kɪˈl̠ʲax, ˈkal̠ʲəx], Scottish Gaelic: [ˈkʰaʎəx]) is a divine hag and ancestor, associated with the creation of the landscape and with the weather, especially storms and winter. The word literally means 'old woman, hag', and is found with this meaning in modern Irish and Scottish Gaelic, and has been applied to numerous mythological and folkloric figures in Ireland, Scotland, and the Isle of Man.In modern Irish folklore studies she is also known as The Hag of Beara, while in Scotland she is also known as Beira, Queen of Winter.
The Cailleach, also known as the Cailleach Bheirre or Bhéara, and the Cailleach Bheur, or Bhuerra. On the Isle of Man she is called the Caillagh, or Caillagh ny Groamagh. She appears in various Irish poems as Digdi/Digde, Biróg, Buí or Bua/ch. Her name means Veiled or Cloaked One.
She is a hag, or what might sometimes be known as a crone goddess. She is a goddess of Winter, stones and mountains, the wilderness, and is the protectress of wild beasts – specifically red deer who are referred to as her cattle. She is associated with the stone carvings of Sheela na gig, the grinning gargoyle woman stretching wide her enormous vagina who adorns various stone buildings throughout the British Isles.
She is related to pre-Celtic Irish goddess Mor Mormain. Scholars have also equated her with the Jötunn goddesses of Germanic tradition, notably Jörð the earth giantess and mother of Thor, and Skaði the mountain etin-bride of Winter. In her various stories, she is at odds with the forces of Summer.
She is depicted as crotchety and at times sinister, but not truly villainous. The Cailleach is described as having lived seven lives, and in each of these lifetimes she had many husbands, giving birth to many tribes and clans. She laments her lost loves, having outlived them all. In the stories, she mourns her youth and laments being particularly wise (ignorance is apparently bliss).
In Scottish lore, she is also called Beira, Queen of Winter and is the mother of the gods; or alternatively as Duan na Muileartaich, the Water Hag. Her name is related to Gaelic words for owl, nun and witch. She is described as a giantess by the Scots, and as having dark blue skin, white hair, teeth as red as rust, and only one working eye.
In Scottish folklore she also wields a hammer, and travels the land carrying a basket of rocks, which cause thunder as they tumble down from inside. Her banging about the land created many land formations throughout Scotland and Ireland.
There are many place names throughout the Scottish highlands and the Hebrides named for her. Many standing stones are also named for her, usually a result of her turning to stone, turning her family to stone, or dropping a stone from her basket of rocks. She is particularly associated with Ben Nevis, Britain’s highest mountain peak. Tiring of her lazy maid Nessa, the Cailleach has her transformed into Loch Ness, creating another famous landmark.
She is associated with many place names in Ireland, such as the Beara Peninsula in County Cork. The megalithic tombs at Loughcrew in County Meath are also hers, where the rising sun’s rays illuminate an inner chamber filled with megalithic stone carvings.
The commencement of Winter is signaled when the Cailleach washes her plaid dress in “her cauldron” the Corryreckan whirlpool (which is the third largest in the world). Her swirling and swooshing it around stirs the atmosphere. She washes for three days, after which her blue and green plaid is washed out, and now white, as snow gently covers the land.
The Cailleach can take on a plural form of eight sisters called the Cailleachan, or Storm Hags. The worst weather of the season, sleet in particular, are attributed to them. If one Cailleach is cranky – imagine what eight are like!
In the Scottish legends, the Cailleach alternates power with Brigid the goddess of fire, and the two sometimes battle for control of the seasons. Cailleach ruled the land between Samhain and Beltaine, Brigid from Beltaine to Samhain. Some versions depict Cailleach as turning to stone during Brigid’s rule, and Cailleach kidnapping and imprisoning Brigid during her season, beneath Ben Nevis. Aengus, a son of the Cailleach, must rescue Brigid from his mother, and the often turbulent weather during the month of March is said to represent this struggle between the three.
In yet another version, the Cailleach is Brigid, and changes form with the turning of the seasons. She comes into full crone-dom and power on the Winter Solstice, where she generates all of the foul weather. Her power wanes after this apex and she drinks from the Well of Youth. As she does, she becomes young and beautiful again and with her transformation comes the spring. In time, the power of the Well beings to wear off and she begins to age once more.
In Ireland, the Cailleach is associated with craggy, prominent mountains and outcroppings, such as Hag's Head (Irish: Ceann Caillí, meaning 'hag's head') the southernmost tip of the Cliffs of Moher in County Clare.
The megalithic tombs at Loughcrew in County Meath are situated atop Slieve na Calliagh (Irish: Sliabh na Caillí, meaning 'the hag's mountain') and include a kerbstone known as "the hag's chair".Cairn T on Slieve na Calliagh is a classic passage tomb, in which the rays of the equinox sunrise shine down the passageway and illuminate an inner chamber filled with megalithic stone carvings.
The summit of Slieve Gullion in County Armagh features a passage tomb known locally as the 'Calliagh Beara's House'. There is also a lake, where the Calliagh is said to have played a trick on the mythical warrior, Fionn mac Cumhaill, when he took on the physical appearance of an old man after diving into the lake to retrieve a ring that the Calliagh fooled him into thinking was lost.
Aillenacally (Aill na Caillí, "Hag Cliff") is a cliff in County Galway.
The Carrowmore passage tombs on the Cúil Iorra Peninsula in County Sligo, are associated with the Cailleach. One is called the Cailleach a Bhéara's House. William Butler Yeats refers to the Sligo Cailleach as the 'Clooth na Bare'. In County Sligo she is also called the Garavogue Cailleach.
She is often not shown in a favorable light – and yet great lengths are taken to appease and honor her. The times she is revealed as a benefactor are often the times when she decides to reward mortals for their work or their deeds.
In the Scottish tradition Caillech is a deer-herder, and the deer who get away and escape from hunters are said to have been led from harm by the goddess.
Although compassionate to the deer, these acts are associated with curmudgeonly Cailleach keeping food from the people during the lean Winter months. Her walking stick causes the ground to freeze, so not only is she responsible for hiding the deer, she causes the cold in the first place!
In both Scotland and Ireland, the Cailleach was venerated in the making of Carline, a corn dolly (“corn” in Europe referred to wheat prior to Christopher Columbus) from the last sheaves of the season. Carline would be made in the likeness of a maiden for a good harvest … and a hag for a poor one, which would be tossed into whichever field in the community had not finished bringing in that year’s crop. The farmer was then required to care for the corn dolly, keeping her in a little bed and “feeding” her throughout the Winter, presumably making little food offerings. It was fierce competition to not be stuck with little Carline all Winter! The properly cared for Carline would be buried with the first seedlings of Spring or fed to the horses who would do the first plowing.
In Irish tradition she is the sister of Áine, the Summer goddess. On Imbolg in Ireland, or Là Fhèill Brìghde in Scotland, the Cailleach goes out to gather firewood to last the rest of Winter. If she’s feeling extra crabby and decides to make Winter last longer, she will ensure that on Imbolg the weather is bright and sunny, so that she can gather more than enough wood to last her through the longer season. If the weather is poor on Imbolg, it’s a good sign indicating that Cailleach will spend the day napping, won’t procure enough firewood, and so will concede when it is time to hand over the season. Birds seen carrying sticks in their mouths on Imbolg are thought to be helping the Cailleach, or sometimes are the hag goddess in bird form.
She appears in later Arthurian legend as the Loathly Lady, in which a hideous hag is sought to help break a curse that has befallen the land, causing King Arthur to weaken to the point of death. She agrees to Sir Gawain’s request to break the curse, provided he take her as his wife.
Heavy-hearted young Gawain agrees and on their wedding night she transforms, revealing herself to be the beautiful dame Ragnell. She tells Gawain she can appear as a hag by day and beauty by night, or in reverse, and that he must choose. Gawain tells her that he would like for to choose for herself. For his respectful answer, she rewards him by choosing to take her fair form at all times that she is with him.
At Beltane in Scotland, a figure from the community would dress up as the Cailleach, and would have eggs thrown at her, being mocked and ridiculed by the community before she would take a ritual bath of purification, becoming the maiden goddess once more. On the Isle of Man, mock battles would be held between the May Queen and an actress depicting the Cailleach and the May Queen.
The folk tales and observances are nearly endless – a testament to the greatness of the goddess, her influence on mortal affairs, and her position amongst the other gods.
Brigid (/ˈbrɪdʒɪd, ˈbriːɪd/ BRIJ-id, BREE-id, Irish: [ˈbʲɾʲɪjɪdʲ, ˈbʲɾʲiːdʲ]; meaning 'exalted one' from Old Irish), Brigit or Bríg is a goddess of pre-Christian Ireland. She appears in Irish mythology as a member of the Tuatha Dé Danann, the daughter of the Dagda and wife of Bres, with whom she had a son named Ruadán.
She is associated with wisdom, poetry, healing, protection, blacksmithing and domesticated animals. Cormac's Glossary, written in the 9th century by Christian monks, says that Brigid was "the goddess whom poets adored" and that she had two sisters: Brigid the healer and Brigid the smith. This suggests she may have been a triple deity. She is also thought to have some relation to the British Celtic goddess Brigantia.
Saint Brigid shares many of the goddess's attributes and her feast day, 1 February, was originally a pagan festival (Imbolc) marking the beginning of spring. It has thus been argued that the saint is a Christianization of the goddess; a form of syncretism.
In the Middle Ages, some argue that the goddess Brigid was syncretized with the Christian saint of the same name. According to medievalist Pamela Berger, Christian "monks took the ancient figure of the mother goddess and grafted her name and functions onto her Christian counterpart," St. Brigid of Kildare.
St. Brigid is associated with perpetual, sacred flames, such as the one maintained by 19 nuns at her sanctuary in Kildare, Ireland. The sacred flame at Kildare was said by Giraldus Cambrensis and other chroniclers to have been surrounded by a hedge, which no man could cross. Men who attempted to cross the hedge were said to have been cursed to go insane, die or be crippled.
The tradition of female priestesses tending sacred, naturally occurring eternal flames is a feature of ancient Indo-European pre-Christian spirituality. Other examples include the Roman goddess Vesta, and other hearth-goddesses, such as Hestia.
Both the goddess and saint are associated with holy wells, at Kildare and many other sites in the Celtic lands. Well dressing, the tying of rags, (called clooties in Scotland), to the trees next to healing wells, and other methods of petitioning or honoring Brigid still take place in some of the British Isles and the diaspora.
Brigid is considered the patroness of poetry, smithing, medicine, arts and crafts, cattle and other livestock, sacred wells, serpents (in Scotland) and the arrival of early spring. In the Christian era, nineteen nuns at Kildare tended a perpetual flame for the Saint, which is widely believed to be a continuation of a pre-Christian practice of women tending a flame in her honour. Her festival day, Imbolc is traditionally a time for weather prognostication:
Brigid’s name means “Exalted One” and “She Who Rises.” In Scotland she is known as Brighide (Bride). In Wales, she is known as Ffraid, Baint and Breint, and there are several place names in her honor.
More modern spellings of her name include Brigit, Brid and Brig. In Irish literature she is one of the Tuatha Dé Danann, and daughter of the Dagda, wife of Bres and mother of Ruadan. She is the goddess of dawn, blacksmithing (synonymous in the ancient Celtic world with what we might think of as “technology” today), wisdom, and domesticated animals.
Brigid was appealed to for protection for both humans and animals. She is a goddess of healing and medicine – for both people and animals.
She is described as having two sisters as part of a trinity. Brigid is often referred to as Goddess of Fire, and is also importantly a water goddess, associated with various wells and rivers. As a goddess of poetry, it must be noted that Celtic poetry involved the oral transmission of all important cultural knowledge, and the memorization of vast bodies of lore.
Perhaps most well known for being an Irish goddess, she was also found throughout Britain – known to the Brythonic Celts as Brigantia. The Brigantes tribe of northern England claimed her as their spiritual ancestor. Numerous archeological finds have been found attested to her, and the River Brent was named for her. As with Irish Brigid, Brigantia presided over rivers and wells and the Romans called her “Nymph Goddess.”
Various wells are attributed to her throughout Ireland and Scotland. Both the goddess (and later Saint Brigid, see below) are venerated at sacred wells through the tying of cooties on trees next to the wells.
Both goddess and saint are associated with Imbolg, an ancient fertility festival around February 1, which marks the shift from Winter towards Spring. In this she is strongly associated with Cailleach (who in some stories is Brigid’s crone aspect). Imbolg was a time for divination of the weather, along with traditions across Europe, which informed the modern-day folk traditions of Groundhog Day.
In Irish myth, Brigid has a menagerie of animal companions, including guardian beasts who cry out at any sign of danger. Two named oxen called Fea and Femen, give their monikers to two plains in Ireland, and Cirb the boar, also named Torc Triath “the King of the Boars,” has his own plain as well.
The figure Saint Brigid inherited many of the goddess’ attributes, and was said to charm wild wolves into domestication. Likewise, she could charm wild boars to domestic pigs, and summon wild ducks. As a saint she is strongly associated with pregnancy and motherhood.
According to the Cath Maige Tuired, at the death of her son Ruadan, Brigid began the folk custom of wail-singing called keening, which lived on as an important lamentation practice among the Irish and Scottish. Professional keeners were women who earned a wage by performing this duty, and in addition to conducting cathartic wailing, would recite the deceased person’s lineage, history and family.
Brigid’s husband in the Irish lore is Bres, a Fomorian who serves as king of the Tuatha Dé Danann. The Fomorians can be compared to other earlier families of gods, such as the Jötnar, and their story is similar to their conflicts with the Vanir and Æsir in Norse-Germanic myth. The wedding of Brigid and Bres is an act of diplomacy between the two tribes.
Brigid is one of the most beloved of Celtic figures among many traditions: Celtic pagan, Wiccan, the women’s spirituality movement, and even Catholic and Anglican (Protestant) Christianity (as a saint).
Brigid was so beloved and culturally significant that the Christians who arrived in Ireland kept and adopted her during the conversion period. The goddess was syncretized by Celtic Christians with the figure of Saint Brigid of Kildare. Scholars have learned a lot about the goddess Brigid through deconstructing the saint. While there indeed appear to be several candidates for a real-life personage dubbed Saint Brigid of Kildare, the aspects of the goddess are obvious when you look at them. Saint Brigid is associated with the tending of a perpetual, sacred flame. Nuns today tend such a flame in the sanctuary of the saint.
Among the saint’s attributes was the ability to manifest never-ending quantities of food, in particular cheese, milk, butter, porridge, and pork. She could also turn rock into nutritious salt, and turn water into beer. She was able to ask trees to get up and move!
Scholars think that there were several nuns who modeled their lives after the goddess, and took her name, in a like manner that nuns practice the taking of names of Mary and other spiritual role-models. Celtic Christianity, as begun in Ireland was a relatively harmonic fusion of the faiths. So much so that the monks who painstakingly preserved the old faith in their records appear to have done their best to preserve much of the pagan past and merge it with their own mythology.
Hence, the Irish cosmogony in the Lebor Gabála is a hodgepodge, grafted onto Hebrew myth. This blending, now called Celtic Christianity horrified Roman Catholicism, who in the 1100s came to Ireland to clean things up, a process which among other things saw the demotion of Christian priestesses called Abbesses.
Brigid is one of mythology’s great diplomats. Her wedding to Bres the Fomorian prince is an act of statecraft between two warring tribes of gods. She brings together wild and domestic animals. Her soothing, summoning, and putting to domestic task various wild animals places her a part of world folkloric motif of Fairy Tale maidens pacifying beasts.
The Romans syncretized her with Minerva, goddess of wisdom and technology. This fused deity is often referred to by scholars as Gaulish Minerva. Like Minerva, Brigit is credited with creating the first whistle instrument. This goddess was called upon as a goddess of war and defense of the Homefront by her Brythonic children, the Brigantes, in their resistance to Roman occupation.
The tradition of female priestesses tending sacred, naturally occurring eternal flames is a feature of ancient Indo-European pre-Christian spirituality. It is possible that Brigid is linked with Greco-Roman Vesta-Hestia, goddess of the physical and spiritual hearth. There is evidence in the Celtic period of priestesses who tended fires in early Iron Age Ireland.
With the power to end unwanted pregnancy and her role as a midwife, Brigid is often thought of by modern pagans as a goddess of women’s reproductive health and choice.
Brigid’s name appears to be connected with the Hindu goddess of the dawn, one of whose names is Bṛhatī.
The Dagda (Irish: An Dagda) is an important god in Irish mythology. One of the Tuatha Dé Danann, the Dagda is portrayed as a father-figure, king, and druid. He is associated with fertility, agriculture, manliness and strength, as well as magic, druidry and wisdom. He can control life and death, the weather and crops, as well as time and the seasons.
He is often described as a large bearded man or giant wearing a hooded cloak. He owns a magic staff, club, or mace (the lorg mór or lorg anfaid), of dual nature: it kills with one end and brings to life with the other. He also owns a cauldron (the coire ansic) which never runs empty, and a magic harp (uaithne) which can control men's emotions and change the seasons. He is said to dwell in Brú na Bóinne (Newgrange). Other places associated with or named after him include Uisneach, Grianan of Aileach, and Lough Neagh. The Dagda is said to be husband of the Morrígan and lover of Boann. His children include Aengus, Brigit, Bodb Derg, Cermait, Aed, and Midir.
The Dagda's name is thought to mean "the good god" or "the great god". His other names include Eochu or Eochaid Ollathair ("horseman, great father" or "all-father"), Ruad Rofhessa ("mighty one/lord of great knowledge") and Dáire ("the fertile one"). The death and ancestral god Donn may originally have been a form of the Dagda, and he also has similarities with the later harvest figure Crom Dubh. Several tribal groupings saw the Dagda as an ancestor and were named after him, such as the Uí Echach and the Dáirine.
The Dagda has been likened to the Germanic god Odin, the Gaulish god Sucellos, and the Roman god Dīs Pater.
Tales depict the Dagda as a figure of immense power. He is said to own a magic staff, club or mace which could kill nine men with one blow; but with the handle he could return the slain to life. It was called the lorg mór ("the great staff/club/mace") or the lorg anfaid ("the staff/club/mace of wrath"). His magic cauldron was known as the coire ansic ("the undry cauldron") and was said to be bottomless, from which no man left unsatisfied. It was said to have a ladle so big that two people could fit in it. Uaithne, also known as "the Four Angled Music", was a richly ornamented magic harp made of oak which, when the Dagda played it, put the seasons in their correct order; other accounts tell of it being used to command the order of battle. He possessed two pigs, one of which was always growing whilst the other was always roasting, and ever-laden fruit trees. He also described as being the owner of a black-maned heifer that was given to him for his labors prior to the Second Battle of Moytura. When the heifer calls her calf, all the cattle of Ireland taken by the Fomorians as tribute graze.
The Dagda was one of the kings of the Tuatha De Danann. The Tuatha Dé Danann are the race of supernatural beings who conquered the Fomorians, who inhabited Ireland previously, prior to the coming of the Milesians. The Mórrígan is often described as his wife, his daughter was Brígh, and his lover was Boann, after whom the River Boyne is named, though she was married to Elcmar. Prior to the battle with the Fomorians, he coupled with the goddess of war, the Mórrígan, on Samhain in exchange for a plan of battle.
Despite his great power and prestige, the Dagda is sometimes depicted as oafish and crude, even comical, wearing a short, rough tunic that barely covers his rump, dragging his great penis on the ground. Such features are thought to be the additions of Christian redactors for comedic purposes. The Middle Irish language Coir Anmann (The Fitness of Names) paints a less clownish picture: "He was a beautiful god of the heathens, for the Tuatha Dé Danann worshiped him: for he was an earth-god to them because of the greatness of his (magical) power."
The Dagda has similarities with the later harvest figure Crom Dubh.
The Dagda is said to be husband of the Morrígan, who is called his "envious wife"] His children include Aengus, Cermait, and Aed (often called the three sons of the Dagda), Brigit and Bodb Derg.He is said to have two brothers, Nuada and Ogma, but this may be an instance of the tendency to triplicate deities. Elsewhere the Dagda is linked exclusively with Ogma, and the two are called "the two brothers." In the Dindsenchas, the Dagda is given a daughter named Ainge, for whom he makes a twig basket or tub that always leaks when the tide is in and never leaks when it is going out. The Dagda's father is named Elatha son of Delbeath. Englec, the daughter of Elcmar, is named as a consort of the Dagda and the mother of his "swift son". Echtgi the loathsome is another daughter of the Dagda's named in the Banshenchas.
Before the Second Battle of Maig Tuired the Dagda built a fortress for Bres called Dún Brese and was also forced by the Fomorian kings Elatha, Indech, and Tethra to build raths. In the lead up to the Second Battle of Maig Tuired, when Lugh asks Dagda what power he will wield over the Fomorian host, he responds that he "[…] will take the side of the men of Erin both in mutual smiting and destruction and wizardry. Their bones under my club will be as many as hailstones under feet of herds of horses."
The Dagda had an affair with Bóand, wife of Elcmar. In order to hide their affair, Dagda made the sun stand still for nine months; therefore their son, Aengus, was conceived, gestated and born in one day. He, along with Bóand, helped Aengus search for his love.
Whilst Aengus was away the Dagda shared out his land among his children, but Aengus returned to discover that nothing had been saved for him. Aengus later tricked his father out of his home at the Brú na Bóinne (Newgrange). Aengus asked his father if he could live in the Brú for láa ogus oidhche "(a) day and (a) night", which in Irish is ambiguous, and could refer to either "a day and a night", or "day and night", which means for all time, and so Aengus took possession of the Brú permanently. In The Wooing of Étaín, on the other hand, Aengus uses the same ploy to trick Elcmar out of Brú na Bóinne, with the Dagda's connivance.
The Dagda was also the father of Bodb Dearg, Cermait, Midir, Áine, and Brigit. He was the brother of Oghma, who is probably related to the Gaulish god Ogmios; Ogmios, depicted as an old man with a club, is one of the closest Gaulish parallels to the Dagda. Another Gaulish god who may be related to the Dagda is Sucellus, the striker, depicted with a hammer and cup.
He is credited with a seventy- or eighty-year reign (depending on source) over the Tuatha Dé Danann, before dying at the Brú na Bóinne, finally succumbing to a wound inflicted by Cethlenn during the second battle of Magh Tuiredh.
In a poem about Mag Muirthemne, the Dagda banishes an octopus with his "mace of wrath" using the following words: "Turn thy hollow head! Turn thy ravening body! Turn thy resorbent forehead! Avaunt! Begone!", the sea receded with the creature and the plain of Mag Muirthemne was left behind.
In the Dindsenchas the Dagda is described as swift with a poison draught and as a justly dealing lord. He is also called a King of Erin with hosts of hostages, a noble, slender prince, and the father of Cermait, Aengus, and Aed.
The Morrígan or Mórrígan, also known as Morrígu, is a figure from Irish mythology. The name is Mór-Ríoghain in Modern Irish, and it has been translated as "great queen" or "phantom queen".
The Morrígan is mainly associated with war and fate, especially with foretelling doom, death, or victory in battle. In this role she often appears as a crow, the badb. She incites warriors to battle and can help bring about victory over their enemies. The Morrígan encourages warriors to do brave deeds, strikes fear into their enemies, and is portrayed washing the bloodstained clothes of those fated to die. She is most frequently seen as a goddess of battle and war and has also been seen as a manifestation of the earth- and sovereignty-goddess,chiefly representing the goddess's role as guardian of the territory and its people.
The Morrígan is often described as a trio of individuals, all sisters, called "the three Morrígna". Membership of the triad varies; sometimes it is given as Badb, Macha, and Nemain while elsewhere it is given as Badb, Macha, and Anand (the latter is given as another name for the Morrígan). It is believed that these were all names for the same goddess. The three Morrígna are also named as sisters of the three land goddesses Ériu, Banba, and Fódla. The Morrígan is described as the envious wife of The Dagda and a shape-shifting goddess, while Badb and Nemain are said to be the wives of Neit. She is associated with the banshee of later folklore.
The Morrígan's earliest narrative appearances, in which she is depicted as an individual, are in stories of the Ulster Cycle, where she has an ambiguous relationship with the hero Cúchulainn. In the Táin Bó Regamna ("The Cattle Raid of Regamain"), Cúchulainn encounters the Morrígan, but does not recognise her, as she drives a heifer from his territory. In response to this perceived challenge, and his ignorance of her role as a sovereignty figure, he insults her. But before he can attack her she becomes a black bird on a nearby branch. Cúchulainn now knows who she is, and tells her that had he known before, they would not have parted in enmity. She notes that whatever he had done would have brought him ill luck. To his response that she cannot harm him, she delivers a series of warnings, foretelling a coming battle in which he will be killed. She tells him, "It is at the guarding of thy death that I am; and I shall be."
In the Táin Bó Cúailnge ("The Cattle Raid of Cooley"), Queen Medb of Connacht launches an invasion of Ulster to steal the bull Donn Cuailnge; the Morrígan, like Alecto of the Greek Furies, appears to the bull in the form of a crow and warns him to flee. Cúchulainn defends Ulster by fighting a series of single combats at fords against Medb's champions. In between combats, the Morrígan appears to him as a young woman and offers him her love and her aid in the battle, but he rejects her offer. In response, she intervenes in his next combat, first in the form of an eel who trips him, then as a wolf who stampedes cattle across the ford, and finally as a white, red-eared heifer leading the stampede, just as she had warned in their previous encounter. However, Cúchulainn wounds her in each form and defeats his opponent despite her interference. Later, she appears to him as an old woman bearing the same three wounds that her animal forms had sustained, milking a cow. She gives Cúchulainn three drinks of milk. He blesses her with each drink, and her wounds are healed. He regrets blessing her for the three drinks of milk, which is apparent in the exchange between the Morrígan and Cúchulainn: "She gave him milk from the third teat, and her leg was healed. 'You told me once,' she said,'that you would never heal me.' 'Had I known it was you,' said Cúchulainn, 'I never would have.' As the armies gather for the final battle, she prophesies the bloodshed to come.
In one version of Cúchulainn's death-tale, as Cúchulainn rides to meet his enemies, he encounters the Morrígan as a hag washing his bloody armor in a ford, an omen of his death. Later in the story, mortally wounded, Cúchulainn ties himself to a standing stone with his own entrails so he can die upright, and it is only when a crow lands on his shoulder that his enemies be
The Morrígan also appears in texts of the Mythological Cycle. In 12th-century pseudo historical compilation the Lebor Gabála Érenn ("The Book of the Taking of Ireland"), she is listed among the Tuatha Dé Danann as one of the daughters of Ernmas, granddaughter of Nuada.
The first three daughters of Ernmas are given as Ériu, Banba, and Fódla. Their names are synonyms for "Ireland", and they were respectively married to Mac Gréine, Mac Cuill, and Mac Cécht, the last three Tuatha Dé Danann kings of Ireland. Associated with the land and kingship, they probably represent a triple goddess of sovereignty. Next come Ernmas' other three daughters: Badb, Macha, and the Morrígan. A quatrain describes the three as wealthy, "springs of craftiness", and "sources of bitter fighting". The Morrígu's name is also said to be Anand, and she had three sons: Glon, Gaim, and Coscar. According to Geoffrey Keating's 17th-century History of Ireland, Ériu, Banba, and Fódla worshiped Badb, Macha, and the Morrígan respectively.
The Morrígan also appears in the Cath Maige Tuired ("The Battle of Magh Tuireadh"). On Samhain, she keeps a tryst with the Dagda before the battle against the Fomorians. When he meets her, she is washing herself, standing with one foot on either side of the river Unius. In some sources, she is believed to have created the river. After they have sex, the Morrígan promises to summon the magicians of Ireland to cast spells on behalf of the Tuatha Dé, and to destroy Indech, the Fomorian king, taking from him "the blood of his heart and the kidneys of his valour." Later, we are told, she would bring two handfuls of his blood and deposit them in the same river (however, we are also told later in the text that Indech was killed by Ogma).
As battle is about to be joined, the Tuatha Dé leader, Lug, asks each what power they bring to the battle. The Morrígan's reply is difficult to interpret, but involves pursuing, destroying and subduing. When she comes to the battlefield, she chants a poem, and immediately the battle breaks and the Fomorians are driven into the sea. After the battle, she chants another poem celebrating the victory and prophesying the end of the world.
In another story, she lures away the bull of a woman named Odras. Odras then follows the Morrígan to the Otherworld, via the cave of Cruachan, which is said to be her "fit abode." When Odras falls asleep, the Morrígan turns her into a pool of water that feeds into the River Shannon. In this story, the Morrigan is called the Dagda's envious queen, fierce of mood. She is also called a "shape-shifter" and a cunning raven caller whose pleasure was in mustered hosts.
The Morrígan is often considered a triple goddess, but this triple nature is ambiguous and inconsistent. These triple appearances are partially due to the Celtic significance of threeness. Sometimes she appears as one of three sisters, the daughters of Ernmas: Morrígan, Badb and Macha.Sometimes the trinity consists of Badb, Macha and Anand, collectively known as the Morrígna. Occasionally, Nemain or Fea appear in the various combinations. However, the Morrígan can also appear alone, and her name is sometimes used interchangeably with Badb.
The Morrígan is mainly associated with war and fate, and is often interpreted as a "war goddess". W. M. Hennessy's The Ancient Irish Goddess of War, written in 1870, was influential in establishing this interpretation. She is said to derive pleasure from mustered hosts. Her role often involves premonitions of a particular warrior's violent death, suggesting a link with the banshee of later folklore. This connection is further noted by Patricia Lysaght: "In certain areas of Ireland this supernatural being is, in addition to the name banshee, also called the badhb". Her role was to not only be a symbol of imminent death, but to also influence the outcome of war. Most often, she did this by appearing as a crow flying overhead, and would either inspire fear or courage in the hearts of the warriors. In some cases, she is written to have appeared in visions to those who are destined to die in battle as washing their bloody armor. In this specific role, she is also given the role of foretelling imminent death with a particular emphasis on the individual. There are also a few rare accounts where she would join in the battle itself as a warrior and show her favoritism in a more direct manner.
The Morrígan is also associated with the land and animals, particularly livestock. Máire Herbert argues that "war per se is not a primary aspect of the role of the goddess." Herbert suggests that "her activities have a tutelary character. She oversees the land, its stock and its society. Her shape-shifting is an expression of her affinity with the whole living universe." Patricia Lysaght notes that the Cath Maige Tuired depicts the Morrígan as "a protectress of her people's interests" and associates her with both war and fertility. According to Proinsias Mac Cana, the goddess in Ireland is "primarily concerned with the prosperity of the land: its fertility, its animal life, and (when it is conceived as a political unit) its security against external forces." Likewise, Maria Tymoczko writes, "The welfare and fertility of a people depend on their security against external aggression," and notes that "warlike action can thus have a protective aspect." It is therefore suggested that the Morrígan is a manifestation of the earth- and sovereignty-goddess, chiefly representing the goddess' role as guardian of the territory and its people. She can be interpreted as providing political or military aid, or protection to the king—acting as a goddess of sovereignty, not necessarily of war.
It has also been suggested that she was closely linked to the fianna, and that these groups may have been in some way dedicated to her. These were "bands of youthful warrior-hunters, living on the borders of civilized society and indulging in lawless activities for a time before inheriting property and taking their places as members of settled, landed communities." If true, her worship may have resembled that of Perchta groups in Germanic areas.
There is a burnt mound site in County Tipperary known as Fulacht na Mór Ríoghna ("cooking pit of the Mórrígan"). The fulachtaí sites are found in wild areas, and are usually associated with outsiders such as the fianna, as well as with the hunting of deer. There may be a link with the three mythical hags who cook the meal of dog flesh that brings the hero Cúchulainn to his doom. The Dá Chích na Morrígna ("two breasts of the Mórrígan"), a pair of hills in County Meath, suggest to some a role as a tutelary goddess, comparable to Anu, who has her own hills, Dá Chích Anann ("the breasts of Anu") in County Kerry. Other goddesses known to have similar hills are Áine and Grian of County Limerick who, in addition to a tutelary function, also have solar attr
There have been attempts by some modern researchers and authors of fiction to link the Morrígan with the character of Morgan, the latter often being depicted in the legend as a fairy or otherwise supernatural sister of King Arthur. Morgan first appears in literature in Geoffrey of Monmouth's 12th-century Vita Merlini as a goddess-like figure in no blood relation to Arthur, whom she takes to her Otherworld style land of Avalon following his mortal wound in a battle. In some Arthurian texts, such as Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Morgan is portrayed as a hag whose actions set into motion a bloody trail of events that lead the hero into numerous instances of danger. Morgan is also depicted as a seductress, much like the older legends of the Morrígan, and has numerous lovers whom she might be even abducting for this purpose (as in some stories of Lancelot and Ogier the Dane, among others). The character is frequently depicted as wielding power over others to achieve her own purposes, allowing those actions to play out over time, to the benefit or detriment of other characters.
However, while the creators of the literary character of Morgan may have been somewhat inspired by the much older tales of the goddess, the relationship likely ends there. Scholars such as Rosalind Clark hold that the names are unrelated, the Welsh "Morgan" (Wales being the original source of the Matter of Britain) being derived from root words associated with the sea, while the Irish "Morrígan" has its roots either in a word for "terror" or a word for "greatness".
In Irish mythology, Abcán (modern spelling: Abhcán) was the dwarf poet and musician of the Tuatha Dé Danann, the early Celtic divinities of Ireland. He was said to have a bronze boat with a tin sail.
In the story of the death of the goddess Ruad, Abcán is the dwarf that ferries her from the Otherworld to this one so that she can seduce the human, Aed Srónmár. The sounds of mermaids singing, or in some versions, music from a fairy mound cause her to leap into the water and drown.
In another story, Abcán is captured by the hero, Cúchulainn. He frees himself by playing lullabies so irresistible that the warrior goes to sleep.Abcán has much in common with, and may be another name for, the dwarf musician Fer Í
One tale of Abarta's trickery is where he offered himself as a servant to Fionn mac Cumhaill, shortly after Mac Cumhaill had succeeded his father as leader of the Fianna, a band of mighty Milesian warriors. In a gesture of goodwill, Abarta then gave them a wild grey horse, which fourteen Fianna had to mount onto its back before it would even move. After Abarta had mounted behind the Fianna on the horse, it galloped off taking the warriors to the Otherworld where the Tuatha Dé Danann had been driven underground by the Milesians.
The Fianna, led by Fionn mac Cumhaill's assistant Foltor, had to acquire a magical ship to hunt down Abarta's steed. Foltor, being the Fianna's best tracker, managed to navigate into the otherworld, where Abarta was made to release the imprisoned Fianna warriors, and to satisfy honour, had to hold on to the horse's tail and be dragged back to Ireland.
Abarta was later rejected from being allowed to join the Fianna over this incident.
Abarta may have been associated with a servant of Apollo, who was said to have given him a golden arrow (i.e. a sunbeam) which could teleport him, cause him invisibility and give prophecies. In later, more purely Celtic myths, the golden arrow was changed to a magical horse. Some similarities can be noted between Abaris and Paris), who slew Achilles with an arrow and the help of Apollo (a solar deity). Abaris' murder of Diarmuid Ua Duibhne by stabbing his heel with a boar's poisonous bristles has parallels with Achilles' story.