I am not saying I’m running out of actual Irish women to be inspired by. I was looking for women before the Irish wars of the early 20th century. I read a story about a kickass Irish goddess that I didn’t know existed. (I’m now in an American Gods-inspired thought spiral wondering when she was lost.) So while it’s cheating a little, real Irish women and men once worshiped today’s heroine.
Day 6 – Medb (or Maev), Sovereign Queen and Goddess of War, Earth and Fertility
Medb, or Maev, who’s name means “she who intoxicates,” may be an etymological beginning of mead. She was bequeath the land of Connacht in the west of Ireland by her father and from there on it was impossible for a man to rule that land without marrying her. She had many husbands.
It’s important to note that Queen Medb “reigned during a time when Celtic women maintained a status of freedom and equality not granted to women in most other parts of the world. They both owned property and held important positions in society. Who ever possessed the most wealth in a marriage, could be considered the ruler of that household.”
Stories of Medb describe clothed “with live birds and animals across her shoulders and arms.” She could run faster than a horse. According to Bard Mythologies, “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.”
The most famous story of Medb is the Táin Bó Cúailnge (or the Cattle Raid of Cooley). Her is a description from a blog:
In the Táin, Medb has a dispute with her husband, Ailill, over who is more affluent. Ailill turns up to be the one more wealthy, because of one white-horned bull. Incensed, Medb decides to obtain the even more famous brown bull of Cooley from the neighboring province of Ulster. Long story short, Medb doesn’t head the words of a prophetess (who would?), and marches into Ulster. She’s eventually routed by Ulster forces, lead by Cú Chulainn (but not before an epic duel with his foster brother, Fer Díad, who is in exile and fighting with Connacht forces) BUT DAMMIT, SHE GETS THAT BULL, which defeats Ailill’s bull, causing a truce. Oh, and this time she was having an affair with the legendary hero Fergus. Because why not? Eventually, tired of living in the shadow of his Queen, Ailill ditches Connacht and goes elsewhere.
An important thing to note is that in this conflict, Medb lead her own troops into Ulster, and fought in the battle herself, with her own weapons. Medb didn’t need magic to obtain victory, she just needed her own spears and sword.
The worst thing about Medb, in my opinion, is that her reign was brought down by a piece of cheese. A son of a woman she killed sought revenge and killed her with a sling shot of cheese while she bathed. (I have questions. This would have to be a hard cheese, like parmesan, yes? Or maybe a wheel of cheese? They say piece, but a big piece, right?)
Medb is buried upright in a cairn facing her enemies.
I really like this quote from Feminism and Religion: Medb opens the door to the acceptance of our own sovereignty, to owning our power, to claiming our truth. With Medb by our side, we can ride forth to battle those who would rob us of our birthright as fully sovereign beings.