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.
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.
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.