Irish War-goddesses

From A Smaller Social History of Ancient Ireland 1906

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CHAPTER V....continued

There were war-goddesses or battle-furies, who were usually called by the names Mórrigan [more-reean] and Badb [Baub or Bauv]: all malignant beings, delighting in battle and slaughter. The Badb often showed herself in battle in the form of a fennóg, i.e. a scallcrow, or royston crow, or carrion crow, fluttering over the heads of the combatants.

The Badb or Mórrigan, sometimes as a bird, and sometimes as a loathsome-looking hag, figures in all the ancient battles, down even to the Battle of Clontarf (A D. 1014). In the midst of the din and horror she was often seen busily flitting about through the battle-cloud overhead: and sometimes she appeared before battle in anticipation of slaughter. Just before the Battle of Moyrath (A.D. 637), the grey-haired Mórrigan, in the form of a lean, nimble hag, was seen hovering and hopping about on the points of the spears and shields of the royal army who were victorious in the great battle that followed. Before the Destruction of Bruden Da Choca, the Badb showed herself as "a big-mouthed, swarthy, swift, sooty woman, lame, and squinting with her left eye."

"Neit," says Cormac's Glossary, "was the god of battle with the pagans of the Gael: Nemon was his wife." They were malignant beings:—"Both are bad: a venomous couple, truly, were they," says Cormac.

The Badbs were not the only war-goblins. There was a class of phantoms that sometimes appeared before battles, bent on mischief. Before the Battle of Moylena (second century), three repulsive-looking witch-hags with blue beards appeared before the armies, hoarsely shrieking victory for Conn the Hundred Fighter, and defeat and death for the rival King Eoghan. Before the Banquet of Dun-nan-ged, two horrible black spectral beings, a man and a woman, came to the assembly, and having devoured an enormous quantity of food, cursed the banquet, after which they rushed out and vanished. But they left their baleful trail: for at that feast there arose a deadly quarrel which led to the Battle of Moyrath (A.D. 637).

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