Women in Celtic Myth - Sarah Woodbury

Women in Celtic Myth

Women in Celtic societies had more freedom and autonomy than women in feudal Europe.  It is not surprising, then, that women play an important role in Celtic myth, beyond the wives, lovers, and mothers of male gods.

Within Celtic myth, warrior goddesses such as Babd, Aoifa, and Scathach have a significant role; Don (Danu in Ireland) was the mother goddess, giving birth to male and female goddesses such as Gwydion and Arianrhod.   The Irish word, Tuatha de Dannan means “Children of Danu”, the equivalent of the Welsh “Sons of Don” as popularized in Lloyd Alexander’s The Book of Three series.  Note that their children are not referred to as “Sons of Beli” or “Bile”, who was her husband and the god of death.

Also among the Welsh is Cerridwen, keeper of the cauldron of knowledge.  Within Irish mythology, the Morrigan, herself a triple goddess with Nemain (Venomous), Badb (Fury), and Macha (Battle), encouraged fighters to battle madness.

Below is a listing of the some important Celtic female goddesses:

Adsullata:  (British) A goddess of hot springs who came to Brittany from Celtic Gaul. She is the origin of the Anglo-Celtic sun Goddess Sul, and was most likely a minor sun goddess in her own right before the time when the Celts relegated the majority of their sun images to male deities, and moon images to female ones.

Arianrhod:  Her name means ‘silver circle’. This major Welsh goddess is the goddess of reincarnation, the Wheel of the Year, the full moon, fertility, and a primal figure of female power. Some Celtic scholars believe her story represents the shift from woman-centered clans to patriarchal power.

Blodeuwedd:  Blodeuwedd was created from the flowers of oak, broom, and meadowsweet by Gwyddion and Math as a wife for Gwyddion’s nephew Llew. This arose because Llew had been cursed by his mother, Arianrhod, that he would never win a bride of his own people.While Llew was away one day Blodeuwedd saw Gronw hunting in the woods and the two fell madly in love at first sight. She and Gronw made plans to kill Llew, but because he was no mere mortal, Gronw asked his lover to discover for him the secret of his death. Blodeuwedd coaxed the information out of Llew, and not only passed the information along to Gronw, but tricked Llew into being at the right place at the right time. At the moment of his death, Llew turned into an eagle and flew away. Gwyddion sought out Blodeuwedd to seek revenge, and for her punishment decided he would turn her into a bird, on which only lived by night, a carnivore whom other birds shunned and feared. Thus she became an owl.

Brigit:  (Irish) A fire deity and midwife and protector of woman and children. She also ruled over agriculture, healing, divination, occult knowledge, poetry, prophecy and metal work. Other spellings of her name include : Brid, Brig, Brigid, Brighid and Brigindo.

Cailleach Bheur:  (Scottish, Irish, Manx) She is a great goddess in her Destroyer aspect; called “Veiled One”. Another name is Scota, from which the name ‘Scotland’ comes. In parts of Britain she is the goddess of winter. She was an ancient goddess of the pre-Celtic peoples of Ireland. She controlled the seasons and the weather; and was the goddess of earth and sky, moon and sun.

Cerridwen:  In Welsh legend, Cerridwen represents the crone, a darker aspect of the triple goddess. She has powers of prophecy, and is the keeper of the cauldron of knowledge and inspiration in the Underworld. She has two children: daughter Crearwy is fair and light, but son Afagddu (also called Morfran) is dark, ugly and malevolent.

Rhiannon:  Goddess of birds and horses. Enchantments, fertility, and the Underworld. She rides a swift white horse. Rhiannon is believed to be the Welsh counterpart of Gaulish horse goddess Epona. Her son, Pryderi, succeeded his father Pwyll as the ruler of Dyfed and of the otherworld.

She is the wife of Pwyll, and mother of Pryderi. Unjustly accused of destroying her newborn son (who had been kidnapped by a nameless Fiend; see above), She is compelled to take on the role of a horse, until her son is unexpectedly returned to her. She is also considered as an aspect of the Irish Morrigan.

Scathach: (Scottish) A warrior goddess and prophetess who taught martial arts healing and protection. She was also known as Scota, Scatha, Scath, Scathach Scathach Buanand, Skatha. Her name means she who strikes fear.




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