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March 17, 2008

Evil Sluts of Celtic Myth

We thought that since the Christians "borrowed" so many aspects of pagan traditions and celebrations for their holidays, we would spend some time on St. Patrick's Day talking about a few of our favorite evil sluts from Celtic mythology. Who knows, maybe one of them will end up in the Clique someday.

Aine--Aine is an Irish goddess of...just about everything. Goddess of the sun, of agriculture and cattle, love and fertility. In some stories she is said to have the power to inspire either great poetry or great madness in people (guess it depended on how she felt about you). She is sometimes called a fairy queen. She is associated with the Lady of the Lake from the later Arthurian legends, and she had a son called The Magician, who may have been Merlin.

Aine was not a big fan of monogamy. She apparently enjoyed appearing to mortal men to have sex with them, although this sometimes resulted in their death (oops). Actually, by some accounts, appearances in the night by Aine and other 'fairy lovers' like her are the cause of wet dreams. (Isn't it amazing how far some men will go to blame slutty women for everything? But that's a subject for another blog.) She once made a vow never to have sex with a gray-haired man, and outsmarted a jealous sister who tried to mess with her by changing the color of one hair on her lover's head by finding it and plucking it out in time.

Aine was really not someone to be messed with.

She is in several tales strongly associated with the Yew tree which shows her as a Goddess of Life and Death. In all her aspects it is clearly shown that Aine was no deity to offend, for in spite of all her beneficent attributes, if crossed she could have coined the phrase "Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned". There are many tales of her revenge and her infinite patience in its pursuit. In one story she was offended by an Irish High King whereupon she caused a great battle to ensue in which he was killed. It was said that at his death her mocking laughter could be heard over the din of battle.

There is also a story about Aine and the king of Munster. In some versions they were married, but in others he either raped her or tried to rape her. Her response, depending on the version, was to use her magic to turn him into a goose, kill him, or both. The early Christian church didn't much care for the worship of a smart powerful woman who owned her own sexuality and demanded respect. We love her.

Aeval--Aeval was a fairy queen who has been called the Lady of Sexuality. In one story about her, she presided over a midnight court to determine whether men were meeting the sexual needs of women. After hearing the evidence, she ruled in favor of the women and ordered the men to do a better job satisfying their partners. What more do we really need to know to say that she rules?

Medb--Medb is queen of Connacht in the Ulster Cycle of Irish mythology. She had several husbands and was all about equality and power.

Medb demanded her husband satisfy her three criteria—that he be without fear, meanness, or jealousy. The last was particularly important, as she had many lovers. While married to Eochaid Dála, she took Ailill mac Máta, chief of her bodyguard, as her lover. Eochaid discovered the affair, challenged Ailill to single combat, and lost. Ailill then married Medb and became king of Connacht.

Medb also insisted that she be equal in wealth with her husband, and started the Táin Bó Cúailnge (Cattle Raid of Cooley) when she discovered that Ailill was one powerful stud bull richer than her. Fighting on her side in that campaign against the Ulster hero Cú Chulainn, was Fergus mac Róich, exiled former king of Ulster and one of Medb's lovers. It is reported that it took seven men to satisfy her, or Fergus once. She had Conall Cernach kill Ailill after he had contrived Fergus's death.

Of course, Medb was also killed by her own nephew for killing his mother, Medb's sister, while she was pregnant with him. That 'all about power' thing does have its limits.

Macha--Macha is a goddess who was around for a long time, and there are many different versions of her and stories about her. In one story, Macha was the daughter of one of the High Kings of Ireland, who shared the throne with his two cousins. After her father died, Macha claimed her place on the throne, and had to defend herself against her father's cousins, who claimed that a woman couldn't rule:
Díthorba and Cimbáeth refused to to allow a woman to take the throne, and a battle ensued. Macha won, and Díthorba was killed. She won a second battle against Díthorba's sons, who fled into the wilderness of Connacht, and married Cimbáeth, with whom she shared the kingship. She pursued Díthorba's sons alone, disguised as a leper, and overcame each of them in turn when they tried to have sex with her, tied them up, and carried the three of them bodily to Ulster. The Ulstermen wanted to have them killed, but Macha instead enslaved them and forced them to build the stronghold of Emain Macha (Navan Fort near Armagh), to be the capital of the Ulaid, marking out its boundaries with her brooch (explaining the name Emain Macha as eó-muin Macha or "Macha's neck-brooch"). Macha ruled together with Cimbáeth for seven years, until he died of plague at Emain Macha, and then a further fourteen years on her own, until she was killed by Rechtaid Rígderg.
Another version of Macha took on the role of wife for a farmer after his own wife had died. He attended a festival and Macha agreed to go with him as long as he kept quiet about her goddessness. Of course, he opened his big mouth immediately, bragging after a horse race that his wife could run faster than the king's horses. The king's pride wounded, he ordered Macha to race the horses even though she was pregnant. She raced the horses, beat them, gave birth to twins at the finish line, and then cursed the men of Ulster to "suffer her labour pains in the hour of their greatest need, which is why none of the Ulstermen but the semi-divine hero Cúchulainn were able to fight in the Táin Bó Cuailnge (Cattle Raid of Cooley)". We think they're lucky that's all she did to them.

Let's drink a toast to these ladies and their stories today. Just try to avoid the green beer if you can, that stuff is weird.


Anonymous said...

this is soooooooo coooool!

Anna said...

Don't forget the Morrighan!
There are so many bad-assed women in Celtic lore. Maybe that's why I relate so well to that bit of the heritage.

If you haven't seen Robert D San Souci's children's book "Brave Margaret", you should take a look...actually, read all his books...the young women in them are strong, tough, and determined.