Áine

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Background:
Áine was the wife of Laoghaire Lorc, the high king of Ireland. When her husband was killed by his jealous brother, Áine protected her young son, and raised him to be a great king.

Stories of Áine: 
Laoghaire Lorc was high king of Ireland. His brother Cobhthach was jealous, and killed him. He then poisoned Laoghaire’s son, Aillil. He saw Aillil’s young son Labhraidh as being no threat, and showed his control over the child by gruesomely feeding him the heart of his father and his grandfather. Labhraidh’s mother, Áine, was made to watch while this occurred, held by two strong men to prevent her from doing anything to help her son. She was broken hearted, and the child was so traumatised by this incident that he was struck dumb.

She then cherished her dumb child, making sure that he received an education fit for a king, and also making sure that nobody discounted him as a person because of his affliction. He became so learned under her attentions that he became known as “Labhraidh Ollamh”. Eventually, as he grew older, he got over the trauma and began to speak again.

Cobhthach was jealous of Labhraidh, as he was perceived to be more generous than Cobhthach. And now that speech had returned to him, and that he was an educated man, Cobhthach began to realise that Labhraidh might be a threat to him. Áine advised him to go into exile until he was ready to come back.

When he was old enough to seek revenge, he attacked Lenister and won. He then sent a message to Cobhthach telling him that he would be satisfied with the kingship of Leinster, and invited Cobhthach to a feast. The feast was to be held in a magnificent building made entirely of iron. Cobhthach did not trust Labhraidh and decided to bring with him his entire armed retinue. When he arrived for the feast he was suspicious, and refused to enter. He sent in half his men, and when nothing happened to them, he was somewhat mollified. Áine saw that he was still reluctant to enter the building, and realized that her son’s plan was about to fall apart. She decided to take matters into her own hands.

She whispered to her son “I am nearly dead anyway, regain your honour though me”, and walked straight into the building before he could stop her. Seeing this, Cobhthach believed it was safe to enter. As soon as the last man stepped inside Labhraidh closed the great iron doors, fastened great chains around the entire building and, weeping for his mother, placed faggots all around the building to be set alight. The burning faggots transformed the building into a giant oven. Áine died exultantly, knowing that her husband had been avenged, and that her son had achieved the birthright of which he had been robbed.

Conclusion:
Áine was an extraordinarily strong figure, who survived the death of her husband, protected and raised her son to be a formidable and worthy king, and ultimately had her revenge on the man who had devastated her family.

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.

Liath Luachra

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Background
Liath Luachra was a great warrior woman with a fierce spirit and the steadfast heart of a warrior. She lived in the mountains with Bodhmall, a druidess. Liath was not the marrying kind, preferring Bodhmall’s company, but she took in Bodhmall’s nephew Demne to raise from infancy.

Story of Liath Luachra
When Liath heard that Bodhmall was planning a journey to help her sister Muirne, She decided to accompany her, to ensure that everything was safe. On discovering that Muirne feared for the life of her newly born son Demne, Liath and Bodhmall resolved to take the child and rear him in the wilderness, away from his enemies.

While Bodhmall softly cherished her sister’s child, and taught him wisdom, Liath set about teaching him all the tricks of survival and all the martial skills she possessed. By night she slept with one eye open, keeping guard on her two precious charges. By day she would take Demne and teach him how to learn from his surroundings. Each week she would tell him to study a different animal and not to stop watching until he had learned something important from them. From the ant he learned to have an indomitable spirit. From the fox cubs he learned to be playful, but also to give as good as he got. From the salmon he learned the valuable art of being still, and from this lesson he came home with his arms filled with a large salmon for them to eat.

She would encourage him to race with the deer in the forest. She taught him to seek playmates in the animals of the forest, and to imitate all they did, thus allowing him to pick up the great arts of hunting naturally. She taught him how to cut and peel a birch bark to create an arrow that shot straight and true. She taught him to respect animals, but didn’t foster sentimentality. Demne knew well that to kill was a necessity for survival for them.

In this way Liath encouraged Demne’s independence, yet at the same time ensured that he was taught all he needed to know. When he was older she put a switch in his and, and held one in her own. She ran around a tree after him, hitting him with the switch when she caught up. He learned to run swiftly from this, and his desire to hit her back gave him the impetus to train as hard as he could. She demonstrated the great salmon leap and other great martial feats of the warrior, so that he could aspire to perfect them also. Eventually, when he hit her as many times as she hit him, Liath declared that he was fit to go his own way. So at the age of seven, Demne bid farewell to his foster mothers, and set out with a passing band of travelling bards. He was later to become the great hero Fionn Mac Cumhaill

Conclusion
Finding herself entrusted with the upbringing of a child, she dealt with it as she saw best, by teaching him the tools he would need in life. She put a lot of effort and focus into everything she did in life, from perfecting her own great skills to developing the warrior heart in a young boy. As a warrior she values competency, and the high expectations she had for Demne likely played a great part in making him the great man he was to become.

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.

Grainne

Background
Diarmuid was a young lieutenant of Finn, the now aging hero and leader of the Fianna. At a banquet Grainne, who was at the time betrothed to Finn, fell in love with the young hero Diarmuid. She placed him under a geis, a bond that compelled him to take her from the palace at Tara. Therefore Diarmuid fled Tara with his leader’s fiancée.

Tales of Grainne & Diarmuid
Diarmuid faced the double-edged sword of betraying the geis or betraying his leader. He took Grainne into exile and they fled the Fianna who pursued them to win her back for the king. She had initially tricked Diarmuid into this situation and her powers of manipulation were strong. The couple were chased all over Ireland, but they were assisted by the god of love, Oenghus. They entered the forest of Duvnos which contained the tree of Immortality. In the forest a giant, Sharavan the Surly, guarded the tree of Immortality, and Diarmuid made an agreement with him that Sharavan would leave the lovers in peace if Grainne and Diarmuid did not take any of the berries from the tree. But Grainne soon persuaded her lover to pick berries and Diarmuid killed Sharavan in the process. Soon Finn and his men caught up with the pair, and they entered the forest. Finn knew that they were hiding in the tree of Immortality but decided to try to draw Diarmuid out. He and Oisín played chess beneath the branches and Diarmuid couldn’t resist dropping a berry onto the board to signify to Oisín which move to make. Having been assured that Diarmuid was indeed amongst the branches, Finn sent Garva up to kill him. But Diarmuid won and threw the body down. But Oenghus changed his appearance so that Finn believed the body thrown to the ground was in fact Diarmuid.

Conclusion
Grainne manages to pull Diarmuid away from his allegiance to the king and using the geis draws him into an unbreakable bond to her. From this the love between the two appears to be strong, and Grainne plays a masterful role in the relationship.

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.

Aife

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Overview:
Aife was the mother of Connla, Cú Chulainn’s only son. She was a deadly warrior queen and the archenemy of Scathach, who trained Cú Chulainn in the arts of war.

Stories of Aife:
Afraid that her star pupil would be hurt, Scathach gave Cú Chulainn a sleeping potion before going into battle against Aife. On any other man, that potion would have lasted twenty-four hours, but on Cú Chulainn it only lasted one, so he went into battle against Aife’s army without her knowing.

Aife’s three champions, Ciri, Biri and Blaicne, the sons of Eis Enchenn the bird-headed, challenged Scathach’s two sons to a fight. Scathach was worried about the outcome as they were two against three, but Cú Chulainn joined the fight, and Aife’s three soldiers were killed.

Aife then challenged Scathach to single combat, a type of battle that meant that either both women could fight one-on-one, or they could nominate a champion. Cú Chulainn insisted on fighting as Scathach’s champion, but before the fight, he asked Scathach what Aife held most dear in the world. Scathach told him: her two horses, her chariots and her charioteer. Cú Chulainn met and fought with Aife, and she was deadly in battle leaving him only the stump of his swords.

“Oh look,” Cú Chulainn cried when he was sorely pressed, “Aife’s charioteer, her two horses and her chariot are falling over the cliff!”

Aife looked around, distracted, and Cú Chulainn took his chance, seizing her and holding her down by her two breasts. Now in a position of power, Cú Chulainn bargained with Aife for hostages for Scathach’s army, a promise never to attack her again, and for her to bear him a son. These she granted him, and Cú Chulainn left Aife with a child and with a gold thumb-ring which he was to wear when he was old enough to come to his father. He named their son Connla before he left her.

Conclusion:
Aife was the equal in prowess to Cú Chulainn, one of the greatest warriors of Irish myth. Where he won most victories against famous warriors with ease, Cú Chulainn had to resort to trickery to get the better of Aife, which shows just how formidable she was.

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.

Medb

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Background
Medb was one of the daughters of the king of Tara, who killed her pregnant sister. Medb then married Aillil and took over the territory of Connacht which would have belonged to her sister. She was most famous for her role as the queen of Connacht during the Battle or the Brown Bull of Cooley, but she also has many mystical qualities, which mark her out as one of the many Celtic goddesses. She was the goddess of sovereignty and territory, as can be seen from her independent and territorial character. She refused to let any king rule at Tara who had not first mated with her, and she was generally depicted as extremely promiscuous. Her name has strong links to twhe word ‘mead’ and her constant seducing of different men is related to the intoxicating effects of this drink.

Medb and the Táin Bo Cuailnge
As in all her relationships, Medb had to be the dominant partner in her marriage with Aillil. She felt her superiority was being challenged one evening during a recital the two made of their respective property. Aillil said he had a white bull of matchless beauty among his herds. Medb had nothing to compare with this, but she had heard that an Ulster man, Cooley, had a famous brown bull. Medb wanted to possess this bull in order to surpass her husband, and she sent messengers to Cooley, demanding the bull. Cooley was inclined to grant her request until he heard one of the messengers, while drunk, say that even if Cooley did not give up the bull, that Medb would take it by force. Cooley resented being dictated to by such a woman and so refused to part with the bull. Thus began the famed Táin Bo Cuailnge, “the Cattle Raid of Cooley”, in which Medb sent all the hosts of Connacht to try to seize the bull. Cúchulainn, the famous hero of Ulster, stood against them for a time until the armies of Ulster were in a position to fight back. Medb tried to weaken the opposition through bribery and trickery, but was unsuccessful. She persuaded her greatest warrior, Ferdia, to fight against Cuchulainn, who was his foster brother, in single combat, and this led to the death of the last champion of Connacht. Her followers were then heard to repent that they had ever been guided by such a vengeful woman. On the eve of the final confrontation between the two armies the bull of Cooley was sent into Connacht for safe keeping. The bull bellowed on entering new pastures and was heard and set upon by Aillil’s bull. The two animals gored each other to death, symbolising the wasteful conflict between Connacht and Ulster. Medb was ultimately killed herself by the son of her murdered sister, and it was thought that she was killed by a sling shot bearing a piece of cheese!

Conclusions
Medb was a strong and independent character, with a knowledge of magic and sorcery. She never shirked her part of the work, and knew well how to encourage and lead her followers. She was definitely the stronger partner in her marriage with Aillil. She was always depicted as beautiful but was often seen dressed for war, leading the charge in her own chariot. At times she was depicted as laughable, but she was a strong woman who was not to be crossed. She was harsh and domineering, and thought nothing of causing an entire war simply to acquire more possessions and reassure herself of her superiority.

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.

Aoife

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Background
Aoife (The Bright One) was the daughter of Ailill of Aran, foster daughter to Bodhbh Dearg the King of the Tuatha Dé Danann, and younger sister to Aobh who was the first wife of Lir of SídhFionnachaidh.

Stories of Aoife
After Lir’s wife died giving birth to twin boys, Aoife was offered as a second wife to console him. At first, Aoife was happy. She loved her four stepchildren and showered her affections on them. And her new husband was so besotted with his children that he wanted them all to sleep in the same room, so he could see them last thing at night and first thing in the morning when he opened his eyes. But Aoife became jealous of Lir’s affections for his children. And as time passed her jealousy got the better of her. She planned a trip that fooled the children into thinking they were going to visit their step grandfather, Bodhbh. Aoife’s plan was to kill the children along the way. But, she could not bring herself to wield her sword on the innocent children. Instead she cast a spell with her magic wand which turned the children of Lir into swans. She left them with their human sense and reason, their voices and their Irish. Fionnuala, the eldest and only girl begged and pleaded for the spell to be reversed. And Aoife did feel some remorse at this stage, but it was too late. She did not have the power to reverse the spell. Instead she placed a limit on it, saying that it would last until a noble woman from the south married a noble man from the north.
When Bodhbh discovered Aoife’s terrible deed, he changed her into a demon that was banished to the four winds forever. And some people say you can still hear her voice on a stormy night, sighing and sobbing above the sound of the wind.
Some say Aoife was turned into a crane like bird condemned to spend eternity in the skies. It is also said that a bag (crane bag) which contained the treasures, sacred or symbolic objects of the Fianna was made from the skin of Aoife. Cranes are regarded as good luck omens because they depart the countryside in times of war. Hence, their presence suggests that peace will prevail. The relationship between women and birds is a constant theme in folklore and myth all over the world.

Conclusion
Aoife was a jealous stepmother who suffered terrible punishment for her deeds.

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.

Lavercham

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Overview:
Lavercham was a woman resident in the court of Conor MacNessa, and she agreed to take sole charge of the infant Deirdre until such time as she could be married to the king.

Stories of Lavercham:
Some sources say that Lavercham was a satirist and that all were wary of her sharp tongue. Nevertheless, she was kind and motherly to Deirdre, and brought her up as a noble woman befitted to be a king’s bride, not allowing her to see any other man. She did feel that it was unfair for such a beautiful young girl to be married to a man so much older than herself, so that when Deirdre said she would only love a man with white skin, red cheeks and black hair, Lavercham told her where such a man might exist. She may even have colluded in the elopement of Deirdre and Naoise. Little else is known about her.

Conclusion:
Lavercham was a respected woman for her wisdom and good sense. She was an excellent mother figure to Deirdre, and the two enjoyed a genuine affection. Lavercham had an innate sense of fairness and romance, which prompted her to assist the unlucky lovers, and although she did the king’s bidding for many years, she was not above disobeying him when she saw fit.

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.

Fand

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Background:
Fand is a Fairy Woman, described as ‘the pearl of beauty’, wife of Manannan MacLir, the Sea God. Her story is a small intriguing part of the Ulster Cycle and the story of Cuchulainn.

Stories of Fand:
Cuchulainn, the great warrior, as he would sleep after hunting had a vision of two women of the Tuatha De Danann who would come and beat him till he was all but dead. The next day he would lie in bed with a sore sickness and stay there for a year. He needed help.
Then a man whom none knew came and told him to go to the pillar stone where he had seen the vision, and he would learn what was to be done for his recovery. There he found a Danann woman in a green mantle, one of those who had chastised him, and she told him that Fand, the Pearl of Beauty, wife of Manannan the sea god, had set her love on him: and she was at enmity with her husband Manannan; and her realm was besieged by three demon kings, against whom Cuchulainn’s help was sought, and the price of his help would be the love of Fand. Laeg, the charioteer, was then sent by Cuchulainn to report upon Fand and her message. He entered Fairyland, which lies beyond a lake across which he passed in a magic boat of bronze, and came home with a report of Fand’s surpassing beauty and the wonders of the kingdom; and Cuchulainn then betook himself thither. Here he had a battle in a dense mist with the demons, who are described as resembling sea waves – no doubt we are to understand that they are the folk of the angry husband, Manannan. Then he abode with Fand, enjoying all the delights of Fairyland for a month, after which he bade her farewell, and appointed a trysting place on earth, the Strand of the Yew Tree, where she was to meet him.
Emer, Cuchulain’s wife, was none too happy when she heard of this tryst and assembled 50 of her maidens to slay Fand. Cuchulainn and Fand see them coming and he prepares to protect his mistress against these armed angry women with golden clasps on their breasts.
He addresses Emer in a curious poem, describing the beauty and skill and magical powers of Fand: “There is nothing the spirit can wish for that she had not got”. Emer replies: “In good sooth, the lady to whom thou dost cling seems in no way better than I am, but the new is ever sweet and the well known is sour; thou hast all the wisdom of the time, Cuchulainn! Once we dwelled in honour together, and still might dwell if I could find favour in thy sights”. “By my word thou dost”, said Cuchulainn, “and shalt find it so long as I live”.

“Give me up”, then said Fand. But Emer said: “Nay, it is more fitting that I be the deserted one”. “Not so”, said Fand; “it is I who must go”. “And an eagerness for lamentation seized upon Fand, and her soul was great within her, for it was shame for her to be deserted and straightway to return to her home; moreover, the mighty love that she bore to Cuchulainn was tumultuous in her”.

But Manannan, the son of the Saea, knew of her sorrow and her shame, and he came to her aid, none seeing him but she alone, and she welcomed him in a mystic song. “Wilt thou return to me?” said Manannan, “or abide with Cuchulainn?” “In truth”, said Fand, “neither of ye is better or nobler than the other, but I will go with thee, Manannan, for thou hast no other mate worthy of thee, but that Cuchulainn has in Emer”.
Conclusion: So she went to Manannan, and Cuchulainn, who did not see the god, asked Laeg what was happening. “Fand”, he replied, “Is going away with the Son of the Sea, since she hath not been pleasing in thy sight”. Then Cuchulainn bounded in the air and fled from the place, and lay for a long time refusing meat and drink till the Druids gave him a drink of Forgetfulness.

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.

Emer

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Overview: 
Emer was the noble daughter of a Chieftain named Forgall the Clever and he had a reputation for slyness. She was the only woman Cuchulainn deemed worthy to be his wife.

Stories of Emer:
The leaders of Ulster were anxious to have Cuchulainn married since his extraordinary beauty was causing great disturbance among their women folk. Messengers were sent out far and wide but none could find a woman that Cuchulainn approved of. He then set out to look for himself and came to the court of Forgall where he saw Emer conversing with her attendants. She has six gifts which made her suitable to be Cuchulainn’s wife; the gift of beauty, the gift of a good voice, the gift of sweet speech, the gift of needlework, the gift of wisdom and the gift of chastity.

When Cuchulainn arrived, he and Emer began to converse in a very ritualistic style of speech, in which they exchanged their lineage and special skills. Cuchulainn was delighted that he had finally found a woman who could hold a conversation with him in this way, since every other woman had lacked the necessary knowledge. He asked to marry her but she told him that no man could wed her who had not performed a number of specific tasks. She enumerated these tasks and they all consisted of feats of strength and bravery. Cuchulainn completed them all but Forgall was unhappy about the proposed alliance and told Cuchulainn that he could not wed Emer until he had first completed his warrior training under the warrior queen Scathach. Forgall swore that on Cuchulainn’s return he could have whatever he wanted hoping that he would die in the attempt. Cuchulainn trained under Scathach for a number of years and fathered a son with Scathach’s arch rival Aife before he returned and married Emer. After they were marred she had cause for jealously only once when Cuchulainn had an affair with the fairy princess, Fand. Emer was enraged and collected fifty women to find Cuchulainn. They found him playing chess with Fand in the land of the fairies. Emer was deeply sorrowed by the fact that Cuchulainn preferred other women to her and she offered to stand aside in Fand’s favour. But Fand agreed that she should be the one to go and she returned to her fairy husband Manann who cast a spell of forgetfulness over all concerned so that Fand would not sorrow over Cuchulainn. The two lived very happily from that time onwards. Cuchulainn was often away from Emer but she waited patiently for his return and when he was sick she journeyed instantly to his sickbed to care for him. She offered him advice and consolation at various times in his career and she remained the only woman with whom he could have an intelligent conversation.

Conclusion:
Emer was a lively and intelligent woman with an independent spirit. It was this that drew Cuchulainn to her but it also meant that she had a full life in her own right and was not solely dependent on him. She was renowned for her great beauty. They had a happy marriage and she made no demands on her husband even though she loved him dearly. She knew her own mind and offered excellent counsel to Cuchulainn on many occasions. She lived up to his first impressions of her and apart from his affair with the beautiful Fand, they were never parted.

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.

Deirdre

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Overview:
Deirdre was the daughter of Fedlimid, storyteller to king Conor MacNessa. Before she was born, she gave a terrible shriek from her mother’s womb that terrified all that heard it. Cathbad the druid foretold that the unborn child would turn out to be the most beautiful woman in Ireland, but that a terrible evil would come from her, and that she should be killed at birth to forestall disaster.

Stories of Deirdre:
Conor McNessa refused to give the order for the infant’s death. Instead he decreed that she should be brought up in seclusion, having nothing to do with any man, until she came of an age when he himself would marry her. She was therefore given into the care of Lavarcham, a wise and satiric woman, to be raised as a fitting bride for a king. Deirdre grew up in the charge of her motherly nurse, never seeing a man, and becoming accomplished in skills befitting a noble woman. One day she saw from her window the slaughter of a calf, and declared she would only love a man who had the three colours she saw there before her; skin as white as the snow on the ground, cheeks as red as the blood which flowed from the slain calf, and hair as black as the raven that had swooped down to feed on the carcass. Lavarcham declared that such a man already existed – his name was Naoise, and he was the son of Ushna. Deirdre went into a decline until such time as she should meet this man. It happened that one day Naoise was out hunting and Deirdre escaped from her house to go out and meet him. She begged him to elope with her, and he tried to refuse, since he knew the orders of Conor McNessa. But she refused to release him, and so Naoise summoned his two brothers and they left Ulster, taking Deirdre with them. Naoise and Deirdre were happily married, and loved each other dearly. Conor McNessa would allow them no peace however, and sent many men after them to retrieve Deirdre. Naoise and his brothers were almost invincible when they fought together, killing many of Ulster’s best men, and so Conor had to resort to trickery. He sent a message via Fergus MacRoy, his chief advisor, who stood guarantor for the king’s good behaviour. Deirdre and the son of Ushna were told that they could return in safety to Ulster, that the king no longer bore them malice. But when the brothers arrived, mercenary allies of Conor set them upon, and they were overpowered and killed. Some say that Deirdre was taken into captivity by Conor, and made to live with him for a year, during which time she never laughed or slept. One year after the death of Naoise, Conor brought her to meet Eogan MacDurthacht – the slayer of her husband. She was thus caught between the two men she hated most on earth, and in rage and despair she dashed her brained out on a standing stone that was before her. Others say that she was overwhelmed with grief at the sight of Naoise’s dead body on the day he was killed, and cast herself on to it, mourning loudly. She then died of a broken heart, and they were buried together.

Conclusion:
Deirdre was most famous of her extraordinary beauty, and it was this beauty, which caused such terrible bloodshed among the men of Ulster. She was headstrong in that she would not allow Naoise to go away without taking her with him, and she was responsible for the exile of him and his brothers. She loved Naoise dearly, and was broken hearted at his death, which was brought about by the trickery of Conor McNessa who wished to have her as his own possession.

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.

Danu

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Background:
Danu is the most ancient of the Celtic gods. She was referred to as the mother of the Irish gods, which indicates that she was a mother goddess. In this guise she probably represented the earth and its fruitfulness. Many place names in Ireland are associated with her, most notable the Paps of Anu in Kerry, which resemble the breasts of a large supine female, part of the land. She is the ‘beantuathach’ (farmer), which reinforces the fertility aspect of the goddess. Rivers are associated with her, and represent the fertility and abundance in a land. There is a suggestion that Danu might have had dual characteristics, one being the beneficent, nurturing mother goddess, and another being the strong, malevolent side of the warrior goddess. The root “dan” in ancient Irish means art, skill, poetry, knowledge, and wisdom.

Stories of Danu:
Not many stories of the goddess Danu survive, but there are several allusions to her that help us to piece together her personality.

She is associated in one story with Bile, the god of light and healing. Bile was represented as a sacred oak tree that was fed and nurtured by Danu. This union resulted in the birth of Daghdha. The strength and stability of this male figure needed the nurturing nature of the land in order to flourish.

She is most associated with the Tuatha Dé Danaan, the people of the goddess Danu. These were a group of people, descended from Nemed, who had been exiled from Ireland, and scattered. It is thought that Danu offered them her patronage, under which they succeeded in rebanding, learning new and magical skills, and returning to Ireland in a magical mist. The mist is thought to be the loving embrace of Danu herself. She is seen as having influenced them, nurturing these broken people back to strength, and imparting magic and esoteric wisdom to them. The Tuatha Dé Danaan are the clearest representatives in Irish myth of the powers of light and knowledge. In this story we can identify aspects of the nurturing mother goddess, the teacher imparting wisdom, as well as the warrior goddess who does not give up.

The Tuatha Dé Danaan were associated with Craftsmanship, music, poetry and magic, as was Danu herself.

Conclusion:
Danu was clearly a very powerful and fundamental earth goddess, from which all power, wisdom and fecundity of the land poured forth. She was a wisdom goddess of Inspiration and intellect (In this case she is very similar to the goddess Brigit, who is thought to be the same goddess with a different title). She was also a teacher, as she passed many of her skills on to the Tuatha Dé Danaan. She also had aspects of the warrior goddess. In Danu we find traces of the triple goddess, so commonly associated with 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.

Cliodhna

Background: 
Cliodhna was a Munster goddess whose especial domain was Glandore in Co. Cork. She presided over the Celtic Otherworld, which was a happy place for feasting and hunting, without death or aging. It was also a place full of beauty, and Cliodhna herself is supposed to have been extremely beautiful.

Stories of Cliodhna:
She possessed three magic birds, the song of which was so sweet that any of the sick who heard it were lulled to sleep and cured. However, legend also tells of a harder edge to the goddess Cliodhna. It is said that she used to employ her beauty in order to seduce men and to lure them to their deaths by the sea shore. This is supposedly what gave rise to the old Irish superstition that it is unlucky to see a woman before you put to sea. One young mortal is said to have learnt her magic and plotted to kill her, but she took the form of a wren and escaped. She is said to have drowned in the harbour of Glandore and the noise of the waves entering cliff caves near that spot has since been called Tonn Cliodhna – Cliodhna’s wave. Its noise is loud and sudden and is said to foretell the death of a king or noble man in Ulster. Cliodhna foretold, that because of the way she was treated by mortals, a great wave sent by her, would one day engulf all of Munster.

Conclusions:
Cliodhna is another of the beautiful feminine Irish goddesses. Her responsibility is the Celtic heaven and so she is associated with light and happiness. There is a colder edge to her character however, and she is often depicted as stealing or causing the death of mortals, not necessarily from malice, but more out of cold disregard for insignificant mortal life.

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.

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. Click here to read the myth of Fuamnach, retold by Karina Tynan from the perspective of the feminine. 

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.

Click here to read the myth of Fuamnach, 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. 

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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. Click here to read the myth of Meas Buachalla, retold by Karina Tynan from the perspective of the feminine. 

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

Click here to read the myth of Meas Buachalla, retold by Karina Tynan from the perspective of the feminine. Herstory is thrilled 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. 


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.