Brigid

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Brigid

Thanks to Bard Mythologies, keepers of ancient wisdom, for the story Brigid. Click here to read the myth of Brigid, retold by Karina Tynan from the perspective of the feminine. 

Overview: 
The character of Brigid is extremely interesting in that she seems to have been both a pagan goddess and a Christian saint, with a smooth transition over time. As a goddess she was the patron of healing, crafts and poetry. Although venerated all over Ireland, Brigid had special territorial power over Leinster. She was an expert in prophecy and she was invoked by women in childbirth. This fertility aspect of her character is strong, and her pagan feast day was the feast of Imbolc, which was a season al fertility feat celebrating the lactating of ewes.

Stories of Brigid:
The Christian story of Brigid tells of her growing up in a pagan, perhaps druidic house. She was surrounded by magic, being fed by the milk of Otherworld cows. Her father was enraged at his daughter’s profession of Christianity. And was even more angry when s he said she wished to live a celibate life tending to the poor and needy. Brigid is admired for her strength in standing up to her Father, and she became the first Irish nun. In spite of her celibacy, Brigid remained strongly connected to images of fertility. She had a food store that never decreased, and from her cloak she could provide a lake of milk. A story tells of how she and a small band of followers wished to establish a convent for themselves somewhere in Kildare. Brigid sent a request to the local, pagan, land owner asking for a portion of land on which to build this convent. The reply came back that she could have whatever land her cloak covered when laid on the ground. Not daunted by this rebuff, Brigid laid her cloak on the ground and it grew to a size big enough for a convent and a substantial farm besides. The Brigid’s cross which is so popular in Irish country homes today came into being when Brigid visited a sick man in her locality. While she tended him he asked her the nature of her Christian God, and while telling him the story of Christ, Brigid picked up the rushes from the floor and started to weave them into a cross, fastening the points together. The sick man asked what she was doing. She began to explain the cross, and as she talked, his delirium quieted and he questioned her with growing interest. Through her weaving, he converted and was baptized at the point of death. Since then, the cross of rushes has been venerated in Ireland.

Conclusion:
Brigid as a female was a gentle, cultured woman, with strong powers of healing and providing. In her guise as a Christian woman she had the strength of her convictions and pursued her aims, but in a quiet, determined way, and not with harshness or stridency. She is surrounded by magic and mystery, and it is impossible to say where paganism stops and Christianity begins.

Herstory is delighted to partner with Bard Mythologies, master storytellers and keepers of ancient wisdom. The primary purpose of the Bard is the re-engagement with a unique traditional heritage in order to help us reflect on where we are today. At the very start in August 1995 in the Pearse Museum, was Sandy Dunlop, his wife, Ellen O’Malley-Dunlop and Bill Felton, the creative talent who created all the wonderful images at the beginning of each story. Since then, Clare Island, Co. Mayo has been the location for the Bard Summer School week in July, and The Civic Theatre, Tallaght, plays host to monthly workshops. CandleLit Tales also host incredible nights of mythic storytelling and music around Ireland. Discover more: bardmythologies.com.

Click here to read the myth of Brigid, retold by Karina Tynan from the perspective of the feminine. Herstory is delighted to collaborate with Karina Tynan; writer, psychotherapist and team member of the Bard Summer School. Karina has been inspired by our rich mythology to write a series of retellings of the Irish myths from the eyes and experience of the feminine. Through her empathy and imagination she seeks to meet the light, shadow, creativity and heroism of mythic women It is Karina’s belief that myths are boundless and will forever yield fresh wisdom as they encounter the human imagination. Each retelling is imaginatively recreated while being fundamentally true to the myths themselves. 

Fuamnach

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Fuamnach


Thanks to Bard Mythologies, keepers of ancient wisdom, for the story Fuamnach, as told in the myth of Midir and Etain.

Midir was a king of the Tuatha de Dannan; proud, handsome and regal. His wife was called Fuamnach, and was his equal in every way. She too was tall and proud, and she was herself the daughter of a king. She was a good wife to Midir, she looked after him well, and looked after their children and foster-children well.

One of their foster children was Aengus Óg, the god of love. He was a dotie child, and their favourite foster child, and through the years that they raised him, they fell ever more in love with him – as you would, with a love god. When he grew up, and moved away to his own home, they were bereft, and Midir especially missed him terribly.

One day Midir announced to Fuamnach that he was going to pay Aengus Óg a visit. On his way, he met a very beautiful young lady, so he stopped and asked her name. She told him her name was Etain, and the moment she looked into his eyes, he fell in love with her, and she with him. He asked her to come with him, and she readily agreed. The two of them then spent a year and a day at Aengus Óg’s house at Brúgh na Boinne, living as husband and wife. Then Midir decided that it was time for him to go home, but he could not bear to be parted from Etain, and so he brought her with him.

The moment Fuamnach saw Etain, she realized what had happened, and she was furious. In secret, she performed a magic spell on Etain, transforming her into a pool of water. Then she conjured up a magic wind that dried up the water. The steam from the water condensed into a butterfly, and then Fuamnach was satisfied. But then the butterfly flew to Midir, and wafted him with its wings. Beautiful music came up from its wings, and a beautiful scent, and Midir recognized his love, Etain. From then on, everywhere he went, the butterfly Etain perched on his shoulder, and the two of them were never seen apart.

Fuamnach was furious that her trick hadn’t worked. She turned to magic again, and conjured up a magical storm. The storm caught Etain up, and dragged her away from Midir. She was blown and buffeted by the winds for many years, until at last the storm blew itself out, and she found herself at Brúgh na Boínne, near the house of Aengus Óg. Aengus was able to recognize her, and he built a room of glass especially for her, where she would be safe from any ill winds. He filled it with flowers, and made it the most comfortable home for a butterfly that he could. Etain lived there for some time, until one day she mistakenly fluttered outside. Fuamnach’s storm, which was always waiting, swept down and caught her up again.

The storm battered Etain for seven long years, and then it blew her in through the high window of a mortal king’s banqueting hall. The king and his wife were having a feast for all their subjects. Exhausted, Etain the butterfly fell in a faint off a rafter, and landed in the wine cup of the king’s wife. She drank back the butterfly, and turned to her husband, saying “I am with child.” Nine months later, she gave birth to a beautiful baby girl.
The king and his wife named the girl Etain, and she grew up to be the loveliest young woman that anyone had ever seen, with no memory of her immortal life before.

Now, the High King in Ireland, a man named Eochaid Airem, was told by his advisors that it was time for him to find a wife. He heard rumours of this beautiful king’s daughter, Etain, and decided that she should be the one for him. He called for Etain, to meet her, and she was well pleased with the match, and so they married and lived happily together.

After some time, King Eochaid Airem’s brother fell sick. In his sickbed, he called for Etain, and when she came to him, he told her that he was lovesick, because of the great love he had for her. He insisted that he would die if she would not agree to meet him in a love tryst the very next day. She agreed, and at once he felt better.

The next day, Etain came to meet the king’s brother at the arranged place, but as soon as she saw him, he changed form. He grew taller, and a glorious light shone out of him, and she realized that this was not her husband’s brother. Indeed it was Midir, who told her the story of their love, and how he had been searching for her for three hundred years, and now that he had found her, after all the obstacles that they had overcome, he was never going to let her go again.

But Etain drew herself up. She told him she knew none of this, and had no memory of the things he was telling her, and besides all that, she was a married woman. Midir called after her and said, “If I get your husband’s permission, will you come away with me?”

Etain said yes, thinking it unlikely.

The next day, Midir turned up at the house of Eochaid Airem, and challenged him to a game of chess. Eochaid Airem won the first game, and the second game, and was so confident in his skills that he agreed to wager that the winner of the next game could claim any gift he asked from the loser. Midir won, and demanded that he be allowed to embrace and kiss the king’s wife, Etain.

Eochaid Airem was annoyed at this request: he certainly did not want another man to embrace and kiss his own wife! So he asked Midir for a month’s grace, and Midir left, promising to come back and claim his prize.

Eochaid Airem readied all his army, and spent the month training them and making sure they were fit and well-equipped, and battle-ready. On the day Midir was to return, he put all the men in his banqueting hall, surrounding Etain and prepared to repel any invader. But Midir entered by magic, and appeared inside the fort. He embraced Etain, and the moment he put his arms around her, she remembered everything. She remembered the storm, she remembered her immortal life, and she remembered Midir and their great love. She kissed him passionately, and as the king and all his men watched, Etain began to shine with the light of the immortals. She and Midir rose up off the ground, and floated out of the window, never to be seen again. Eochaid Airem, broken-hearted, spent the rest of his life digging up every fairy fort he came across, in search of his lost love.

Herstory is delighted to partner with Bard Mythologies, master storytellers and keepers of ancient wisdom. The primary purpose of the Bard is the re-engagement with a unique traditional heritage in order to help us reflect on where we are today. At the very start in August 1995 in the Pearse Museum, was Sandy Dunlop, his wife, Ellen O’Malley-Dunlop and Bill Felton, the creative talent who created all the wonderful images at the beginning of each story. Since then, Clare Island, Co. Mayo has been the location for the Bard Summer School week in July, and The Civic Theatre, Tallaght, plays host to monthly workshops. CandleLit Tales also host incredible nights of mythic storytelling and music around Ireland. Discover more: bardmythologies.com.

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Meas Buachalla

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Meas Buachalla

Thanks to Bard Mythologies, keepers of ancient wisdom, for this story of Meas Buachalla.

Background:
Daughter of King Cormac of Ulster and Etain, who was daughter of a fairy-woman, she was abandoned because her father had wanted a son and was furious that the only child his wife bore him was a girl-child.

Mess Buachalla’s Story:
Rejected from the time of her birth, Mess Buachalla was cast aside by her father. He ordered his servants to cast the girl-child into a pit, but the baby smiled up at them with such love and trust that they could not bear to harm her. Against the king’s orders, they took her to the cowherds of Tara, who fostered her and loved her dearly. (Mess Buachalla means “the cowherds’ fosterchild”

However, Mess Buachalla’s life was still in danger. If her father ever found out that she was still alive, he might kill her. Her foster family built a house for her to keep her safe and hidden. The walls were high wicker, and there were no doors, only a window and a skylight. One day, one of King Eterscel’s people looked in the window, expecting to see some food or stores that the cowherders kept. Instead he saw the most beautiful maiden he had ever laid eyes on! When the king heard of her, he was determined to make Mess Buachalla his wife. He sent his men to break down her house and carry her off without asking the cowherds. It had been prophesized to King Eterscel that a woman of unknown race would bear him a son, and he was sure that the woman in the prophecy was this beautiful and mysterious maiden.

Mess Buachalla knew nothing of this, safe within her little home. Before the king ever arrived, a bird flew through her skylight, and when he landed on the floor, he cast off his birdskin. This beautiful otherworldly man made love to Mess Buachalla. He told her that King Eterscel’s peple were coming for her, but that the son she bore would be his, and she was to call him Conaire and instruct him to never kill birds.

Mess Buachalla was brought to the King, and he gave her every kind of luxury and sign of respect. Even her fosterers were raised up and made chieftains. When her son was born, she named him Conaire son of Mess Buachalla, and sent him to be fostered among three households so that he could be loved and cared for three times over, and learn all that he could.

In due course, Conaire met with his true father and became the High King of Ireland.

Conclusion: 
Mess Buachalla was the daughter of a king and the granddaughter of a fairy woman. Her connection to the Otherworld was strengthened when she met her lover, the bird-man. Thanks to her wisdom and guidance, Conaire received more love, and more perspective, by being fostered by three families.

Herstory is delighted to partner with Bard Mythologies, master storytellers and keepers of ancient wisdom. The primary purpose of the Bard is the re-engagement with a unique traditional heritage in order to help us reflect on where we are today. At the very start in August 1995 in the Pearse Museum, was Sandy Dunlop, his wife, Ellen O’Malley-Dunlop and Bill Felton, the creative talent who created all the wonderful images at the beginning of each story. Since then, Clare Island, Co. Mayo has been the location for the Bard Summer School week in July, and The Civic Theatre, Tallaght, plays host to monthly workshops. CandleLit Tales also host incredible nights of mythic storytelling and music around Ireland. Discover more: bardmythologies.com


Morrigán

Morrigán

Thanks to Bard Mythologies, keepers of ancient wisdom, for this story of the Morrigán.

Background
Morrigán means “phantom queen” and the Morrigán in Irish Mythology was a deity who could change shape and would influence the outcome in battles by playing with armies psychologically. Rather like Dionysus in Greek myth, the Morrigán could embody the darker side of nature, and work through alternate means, whether through drink or metamorphosis.

The Morrigan is a goddess of battle, strife, and fertility. She sometimes appears in the form of a crow, flying above the warriors, and in the Ulster Cycle, she also takes the form of an eel, a wolf, and a cow. She is generally considered a war deity comparable with the Germanic Valkyries, although her association with cattle also suggests a role connected with fertility, wealth, and the land.

Tales of the Morrigán
One tale of the Morrigán’s changing appearance concerned Cúchulainn. She appeared to the hero in the form of a beautiful young girl and declared her love for him. But he spurned her advances and in revenge she attacked him, first as an eel, then as a wolf, and then as a heifer. Cúchulainn overcame her and in her exhaustion she appeared to him as an old woman milking a cow. She gave him milk and he blessed her.

The Morrigán also represented sexuality, and she ritually mated with Daghda astride a river, with one foot on either bank. She also possessed herbal magic and used it to cast spells. She turned Odras into a pool of water as Odras’ bull had mated with the Morrigán’s cow.

Conclusion
The Morrigán had close associations with magic and death and her dark nature was a danger to her enemies.

Herstory is delighted to partner with Bard Mythologies, master storytellers and keepers of ancient wisdom. The primary purpose of the Bard is the re-engagement with a unique traditional heritage in order to help us reflect on where we are today. At the very start in August 1995 in the Pearse Museum, was Sandy Dunlop, his wife, Ellen O’Malley-Dunlop and Bill Felton, the creative talent who created all the wonderful images at the beginning of each story. Since then, Clare Island, Co. Mayo has been the location for the Bard Summer School week in July, and The Civic Theatre, Tallaght, plays host to monthly workshops. CandleLit Tales also host incredible nights of mythic storytelling and music around Ireland. Discover more: bardmythologies.com

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Macha

Macha

Thanks to Bard Mythologies, keepers of ancient wisdom, for this story of Macha. Click here to read the myth of Macha, retold by Karina Tynan from the perspective of the feminine. 

Background
Macha was an Irish war goddesss, strongly linked to the land. Macha was the wife of Crunniuc. She, was thought to be one aspect of the triple death-goddess, the Morrigán (the “Great Queen” or “Phantom Queen”), consisting of Macha “Raven”, Badb “Scald Crow” or “Coiling”, and Nemain “Battle Furey” Macha is associated with both horses and crows. They often appeared at the scene of a battle disguised as a raven or other bird, and took a decisive role in the battle. There were three elements in Macha: the first was the maternal reproductive part, the second the agrarian element and the third was the element of sexual fertility. All three parts combined to form a mother goddess figure based on war and fertility.

As Goddess of the land, they are said to be cognate with Ana or Danu, and Macha is said to the one of the Tuatha de Danann.

Tales of Macha 
The most famous part of the Macha legend was the race in which she ran while pregnant. It was said that she went to the house of Cruind, a farmer, and circled on the flagstones outside his house three times before entering the dwelling and embarking on an affair with him. Macha became pregnant and later in a conversation with the king of Ulster, Cruind boasted that Macha could outrun any horse. The king demanded to see this put to the test despite the protestations of Macha. She appealed for a delay until she had given birth but the king refused and she was forced to compete. One version of the tale states that she died after the race, giving birth to twins. In her drying pain and anger, she curses the men of Ulster to nine times nine generations, that in their time of worst peril they should suffer the paid of child birth.

Conclusion
Macha combined many elements, some associated with mother goddesses, such as the power to offer fertility. She also was able to take such gifts away, leaving suffering behind.

Herstory is delighted to partner with Bard Mythologies, master storytellers and keepers of ancient wisdom. The primary purpose of the Bard is the re-engagement with a unique traditional heritage in order to help us reflect on where we are today. At the very start in August 1995 in the Pearse Museum, was Sandy Dunlop, his wife, Ellen O’Malley-Dunlop and Bill Felton, the creative talent who created all the wonderful images at the beginning of each story. Since then, Clare Island, Co. Mayo has been the location for the Bard Summer School week in July, and The Civic Theatre, Tallaght, plays host to monthly workshops. CandleLit Tales also host incredible nights of mythic storytelling and music around Ireland. Discover more: bardmythologies.com

Click here to read the myth of Macha, retold by Karina Tynan from the perspective of the feminine. Herstory is delighted to collaborate with Karina Tynan; writer, psychotherapist and team member of the Bard Summer School. Karina has been inspired by our rich mythology to write a series of retellings of the Irish myths from the eyes and experience of the feminine. Through her empathy and imagination she seeks to meet the light, shadow, creativity and heroism of mythic women It is Karina’s belief that myths are boundless and will forever yield fresh wisdom as they encounter the human imagination. Each retelling is imaginatively recreated while being fundamentally true to the myths themselves. 

Eithne

Eithne

Thanks to Bard Mythologies, keepers of ancient wisdom, for this story of Eithne. Click here to read the myth of Eithne, retold by Karina Tynan from the perspective of the feminine. 

Overview
Eithne was the beautiful daughter of Balor of the Evil Eye who lived in fear of the prophesy of a Druid that said; he would die at the hand of his own grandson.

Stories of Eithne
Balor lived in a shining tower of glass on an island off the coast of Ireland. Beside this, he built another tower for his daughter Eithne. There, she was locked up with twelve women to guard her. Balor’s orders were not only that Eithne must never see a man, but that a man’s name was never to be mentioned in her company.

Eithne grew to be a beautiful woman and although she was a prisoner, she was treated with kindness. The twelve women kept her company and taught her skills but Eithne spent long lonely hours looking out of her window to the sea. And each night she saw a face in her dreams that she did not know in her imprisoned life.
One night two women screamed at the foot of the tower for help. They said that one was a Queen of the Tuatha De Danann who was escaping from a terrible enemy. Eithne’s minders took pity on the women and let them in. But one of these women was a druid called Birog who cast a spell that sent all twelve women to sleep. Then Birog lifted a spell from the woman who accompanied her revealing Cian a man of the Tuatha De Danann who was looking for a valuable cow, stolen from him by Balor. Cian climbed to the top of the tower and found Eithne staring out to sea. He thought she was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. Immediately Eithne recognised Cian from her dreams and they fell in love. They made love to each other and Cian wanted to take Eithne with him, but Birog did not have the magic to help them. She was afraid of Balor and swept Cian up in a spell that brought him back to Ireland.

Eithne gave birth to a son called Lugh. He was taken from her and cast into the sea despite her pleading and the weeping of her women.

Conclusion
Eithne is a tragic figure who loses her lover and her son for her father’s protection.

Herstory is delighted to partner with Bard Mythologies, master storytellers and keepers of ancient wisdom. The primary purpose of the Bard is the re-engagement with a unique traditional heritage in order to help us reflect on where we are today. At the very start in August 1995 in the Pearse Museum, was Sandy Dunlop, his wife, Ellen O’Malley-Dunlop and Bill Felton, the creative talent who created all the wonderful images at the beginning of each story. Since then, Clare Island, Co. Mayo has been the location for the Bard Summer School week in July, and The Civic Theatre, Tallaght, plays host to monthly workshops. CandleLit Tales also host incredible nights of mythic storytelling and music around Ireland. Discover more: bardmythologies.com.

Click here to read the myth of Eithne, retold by Karina Tynan from the perspective of the feminine. Herstory is delighted to collaborate with Karina Tynan; writer, psychotherapist and team member of the Bard Summer School. Karina has been inspired by our rich mythology to write a series of retellings of the Irish myths from the eyes and experience of the feminine. Through her empathy and imagination she seeks to meet the light, shadow, creativity and heroism of mythic women It is Karina’s belief that myths are boundless and will forever yield fresh wisdom as they encounter the human imagination. Each retelling is imaginatively recreated while being fundamentally true to the myths themselves. 

Cesair

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Cesair

Thanks to Bard Mythologies, keepers of ancient wisdom, for this story of Cesair. Click here to read the myth of Cesair, retold by Karina Tynan from the perspective of the feminine. 

Background:
Cesair was one of the first goddesses of Ireland, and a great leader. She was the granddaughter of Noah, who when refused entry onto the ark, decided to create one of her own. She led a large group of people to Ireland in the hope of starting afresh there.

The Story of Cesair:
When she was ten years old her foster father, a priest in Egypt, told her to gather together a group and set out in order to escape the flood. She built a fleet of three ships, which she populated with many capable women, each with a different skill. When her father Bith was refused entry onto the ark, along with Fintan and Ladra, Cesair offered to bring them to safety as long as they acknowledged her leadership. She set sail for Inis Fáil (Land of destiny, or Ireland), reasoning that as Ireland had as yet been unpopulated by man, no sin would have been committed there, and so would be safe from the flood sent to cleanse the world of evil.

After many years of traveling they finally arrived in Ireland. Only one ship remained, which contained fifty women and three men. They decided to divide the women into three groups, each group to take one of the men to populate the land. They also divided up the sheep they had brought with them (the first sheep to come to Ireland). Cesair allocated herself to Fintan’s group. Banba, a great warrior was the leader of Ladra’s group.

Bith died, overwhelmed by the responsibility of impregnating 16 women. Cesair and Banba divided his women and brought them into their own groups. Ladra, incapable of surviving the greater demands, also died, which left Fintan as the only man on an island of fifty women. Feeling inadequate in the face of this mammoth task, Fintan fled in the form of a salmon. Cesair, abandoned by her great love, was broken hearted, and soon died. The rest of the women died in the flood, apart from Banba. Fintan, in the form of a salmon, also survived. It is thought that the Formorians were descended from this pair.

Conclusion: 
Cesair was a formidable woman, taking the future of her and her people into her own hands, unwilling to wait patiently while a wrathful god planned her extermination. She is thought to have been an early Irish goddess, with a strong agricultural role. She displays power and sexuality, common traits in Irish goddesses.

Herstory is delighted to partner with Bard Mythologies, master storytellers and keepers of ancient wisdom. The primary purpose of the Bard is the re-engagement with a unique traditional heritage in order to help us reflect on where we are today. At the very start in August 1995 in the Pearse Museum, was Sandy Dunlop, his wife, Ellen O’Malley-Dunlop and Bill Felton, the creative talent who created all the wonderful images at the beginning of each story. Since then, Clare Island, Co. Mayo has been the location for the Bard Summer School week in July, and The Civic Theatre, Tallaght, plays host to monthly workshops. CandleLit Tales also host incredible nights of mythic storytelling and music around Ireland. Discover more: bardmythologies.com.

Click here to read the myth of Cesair, retold by Karina Tynan from the perspective of the feminine. Herstory is delighted to collaborate with Karina Tynan; writer, psychotherapist and team member of the Bard Summer School. Karina has been inspired by our rich mythology to write a series of retellings of the Irish myths from the eyes and experience of the feminine. Through her empathy and imagination she seeks to meet the light, shadow, creativity and heroism of mythic women It is Karina’s belief that myths are boundless and will forever yield fresh wisdom as they encounter the human imagination. Each retelling is imaginatively recreated while being fundamentally true to the myths themselves. 

Étain

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Étain

Thanks to Bard Mythologies, keepers of ancient wisdom, for this story of Étain. Click here to read the myth of Midir and Étain, retold by Karina Tynan from the perspective of the three women. 

Background:
Etain (Eadaoin) was a maiden of the Tuatha de Dannan, renowned for her beauty, who fell in love with Midir of the seven-pointed spear. Unfortunately for her, Midir’s wife took exception to this, and Etain had to endure terrible hardship.

Stories of Etain: 
Etain met Midir while he was staying with his foster-son, Aengus Óg, the god of love. Midir was wounded, losing an eye while under Aengus’ protection, and this was such a blow to his status that even after his eye was restored, he demanded that Aengus make it up to him. Now, being the god of love, Aengus made it up to Midir by introducing him to the beautiful Etain. The two began a passionate love affair, and all was well with them until the time came for Midir to return home. Midir was already married, to Fuamnach, a powerful woman and his equal in every way. She had raised children and foster-children with him, and was deeply insulted when he brought this strange woman home with him. She took her anger out on Etain, turning her into a shower of rain, which fell in a puddle and condensed into a jewelled fly. However, to Fuamnach’s surprise, the fly Etain did not leave Midir, and his love for her did not diminish. The sound of her wings was sweet music to him, and the fly perched on his shoulder wherever he went.

Fuamnach then sent a storm to blow Etain away. Aengus managed to rescue her for a short time, but the storm found her again, and Etain was blown and battered about for time out of mind. At last, she was blown in through the window of a mortal king’s hall and fell into the goblet of the king’s wife, who swallowed the fly Etain, and became pregnant at that instant. Born again as a mortal woman, Etain grew up with no memory of her past life, though her appearance was the same. When the High King of Ireland, Eochaid Airem, asked for her hand in marriage, she agreed, and was a loyal and good wife to him. At last, Midir found her. He had been searching for her for thousands of years, and begged her to run away with him, but Etain refused to break faith with her mortal husband, demanding that Midir get Eochaid’s permission before she so much as kissed him. Midir managed to trick King Eochaid into giving him permission to kiss and embrace his wife, but Eochaid spent a whole month training and equipping his army to prevent Midir from claiming this prize. This was no obstacle to a man of the Tuatha de Dannan, and Midir simply appeared in the king’s hall next to Etain on the appointed day. When he kissed her, Etain’s memories of him returned, and the two of them vanished from the king’s hall to live their immortal life together.

Conclusion: 
Etain was faced with terrible hardship, but held onto her essential self, and her love for Midir, through her transformation into a fly. Her integrity and strong sense of values come through in the story when she refuses the beguilement of her faery lover, and insists on keeping faith with her husband. But love wins out, and she follows her heart in the end.

Herstory is delighted to partner with Bard Mythologies, master storytellers and keepers of ancient wisdom. The primary purpose of the Bard is the re-engagement with a unique traditional heritage in order to help us reflect on where we are today. At the very start in August 1995 in the Pearse Museum, was Sandy Dunlop, his wife, Ellen O’Malley-Dunlop and Bill Felton, the creative talent who created all the wonderful images at the beginning of each story. Since then, Clare Island, Co. Mayo has been the location for the Bard Summer School week in July, and The Civic Theatre, Tallaght, plays host to monthly workshops. CandleLit Tales also host incredible nights of mythic storytelling and music around Ireland. Discover more: bardmythologies.com.

Click here to read the myth of Midir & Étain, retold by Karina Tynan from the perspective of the feminine. Herstory is delighted to collaborate with Karina Tynan; writer, psychotherapist and team member of the Bard Summer School. Karina has been inspired by our rich mythology to write a series of retellings of the Irish myths from the eyes and experience of the feminine. Through her empathy and imagination she seeks to meet the light, shadow, creativity and heroism of mythic women It is Karina’s belief that myths are boundless and will forever yield fresh wisdom as they encounter the human imagination. Each retelling is imaginatively recreated while being fundamentally true to the myths themselves. 

Scathach

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Scathach

Thanks to Bard Mythologies, keepers of ancient wisdom, for this story of Scathach.

Background:

Scathach was a warrior queen whose name meant “The Shadowy One”.  She lived in Western Scotland and ran a training academy for young warriors.

Scathach: educator of warriors

The great Ulster warrior Cuchulainn was Scathach’s most famous student. He sought her out because the father of the woman he wished to marry, Emer, had said they could not wed until Cuchulainn had been trained as a champion by Scathach.  In this he was hoping to avoid giving his daughter to the hero, since it was notoriously difficult to find Scathach’s island and survive her training course.  Through his bravery and strength Cuchulainn found his way there and used his famous “salmon leap” to gain access to her stronghold.  He threatened her at sword point in order to persuade her to teach him everything she knew.  She granted the young warrior three wishes, to instruct him properly, to grant him her daughter without bride price and to foretell his future.  She told him she foresaw a great and glorious career for him but did not see him living any longer than thirty years of age.  Scathach did grant her daughter, Uathach, to Cuchulainn but it is said that she also lay with him.  She taught him his art carefully and at the same time she taught the young warrior Ferdia, who became Cuchulainn’s brother in arms.  Both were educated to an equal level, but Scathach gave Cuchulainn one gift in secret.  This was the legendary Gae Bolga, a spear which separated in to barbs on entering human flesh.  Its first strike was always fatal.  It was this weapon, which caused the death of Ferdia when the two men were forced to fight against each other in the saga of the Tain.

In return for this instruction, Cuchulainn stood against the enemies of Scathach led by the warrior queen, Aife.  He saved the lives of Scathach’s two sons and went into battle as her champion against Aife.  He held a sword at Aife s throat and made her promise to give hostages to Scathach, to keep peace forever more, and to bear him a son.  This Aife did and Cuchulainn returned to Scathach to rest after his great deeds.  He left her island after seven years fully trained in the arts of war and was famed as the greatest warrior Ireland has ever known as a result of her teaching.

Conclusion

Like her name suggests, Scathach  is a largely shadowy figure.  We have an impression of a strong and fiercly independent woman who was respected and revered by the warrior society.  She is an otherworldy character and her granting of the Gae Bolga to Cuchulainn is strongly reminiscent of the Lady of the Lake granting Excalibur to Arthur.  Through her instruction he became the champion for all Ireland while she herself remained famed for her own skills and magic.

Herstory is delighted to partner with Bard Mythologies, master storytellers and keepers of ancient wisdom. The primary purpose of the Bard is the re-engagement with a unique traditional heritage in order to help us reflect on where we are today. At the very start in August 1995 in the Pearse Museum, was Sandy Dunlop, his wife, Ellen O’Malley-Dunlop and Bill Felton, the creative talent who created all the wonderful images. Since then, Clare Island, Co. Mayo has been the location for the Bard Summer School week in July, and The Civic Theatre, Tallaght, plays host to monthly workshops. CandleLit Tales also host incredible nights of mythic storytelling and music around Ireland. Discover more: bardmythologies.com

Deichtre

Art by Bill Felton

Art by Bill Felton

Deichtre

Thanks to Bard Mythologies, keepers of ancient wisdom, for this story of Deichtre.

Background:
Deichtre was the mother of Cuchulainn and the sister of the King of Ulster Concobhar Mac Nessa.

Stories of Deichtre:
One day Deichtre collected fifty maidens and left Ulster without telling the King. The men of Ulster looked for them for three years but could not find them. It was said that the women often took the form of a flock of birds who stripped the land of all vegetation. Deichtre and her companions found a new home for themselves in the land of the fairies. Story has it that Deichtre was sitting outside her house one day, drinking from a great goblet when a tiny fly settled on the rim. She swallowed the fly with her drink. That night she dreamt that a tall and beautiful man came to her and said that she would bear a son who was to be called Setanta. This vision was of the god Lugh and it is said that he was the divine father of Cuchulainn.

Meanwhile the men of Ulster had drawn near to the first stronghold where the women were staying. A fairy man, with Deichtre by his side, welcomed them and asked them why they came. They answered that they were missing fifty maidens for whom they had been searching for three years. The fairy lord invited them in, saying that they would find the women inside and Deichtre offered them hospitality. Concobhar claimed his right as king of Ulster to sleep with his host’s woman and so asked that Deichtre be sent to him in the night, without realising she was his own sister. The woman asked for a night’s respite, since she was in labour and Concobhar went to sleep. In the morning the infant was found in the folds of his cloak. Deichtre left the fairy land and returned to Ulster with her brother and he gave her the charge of bringing up the boy who was named Setanta. He was well trained and educated and later became known as Cuchulainn, a name he acquired from his boyhood deeds.

Conclusion:
Deichtre was an independent and fearless woman as shown by the way she left Ulster of her own accord and without the permission or knowledge of the king. It is said she used to drive his chariot for him when he went into battle. There was a strongly magical element to her in that she dwelt in the land of the fairies and attracted the god Luch. Once she gave birth to her son she was a devoted mother and loved him dearly.

Herstory is delighted to partner with Bard Mythologies, master storytellers and keepers of ancient wisdom. The primary purpose of the Bard is the re-engagement with a unique traditional heritage in order to help us reflect on where we are today. At the very start in August 1995 in the Pearse Museum, was Sandy Dunlop, his wife, Ellen O’Malley-Dunlop and Bill Felton, the creative talent who created all the wonderful images at the beginning of each story. Since then, Clare Island, Co. Mayo has been the location for the Bard Summer School week in July, and The Civic Theatre, Tallaght, plays host to monthly workshops. CandleLit Tales also host incredible nights of mythic storytelling and music around Ireland. Discover more: bardmythologies.com

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