Warrior Women of the Celts
According to His-Story ... The so-called 'Celts' built no cities, founded no empires and never developed a written language. Their name derives from the Greek 'Keltoi', meaning 'hidden people' ... a reference to their lack of a written language and all tales were memorised and passed down through the generations by the Druids or 'WiseOnes' who studied long years to commit all their knowledge to memory.
Although they functioned as lawgivers as well as priests, and could read and write Greek and Latin, they chose to pass on the chronicle of their people's existence orally in the form of verse.
It wasn't until the 6th and 7th centuries AD that Irish monks began to transcribe Celtic history and lore, and the famous collection of Legends known as the Ulster Cycle which is thousands of years old, that we learn of the ancient traditions of lore, their concepts of 'kingship', of truth and of the 'fitness of things' which held their Society together.
The Gods and Goddesses of the ancient Celts were living forces in their imagination and worship, and although Victorian scholars thought their savage war-goddesses; their barbaric sea-gods and the mysteries of the Otherworld, quaint, barbaric and often incomprehensible, these myths reveal the beautiful and often profound beliefs of a passionate, resourceful and creative people. For the pagan Celt, the essence of the universe and all its creativity was female and they left permanent traces of a culture in which women were the spiritual and moral pivot. The mother goddess and all her personifications of fertility, sovreignity, love and healing, was an essential basis of their very role in the world.
Women feature prominently in Celtic Myth and their Goddesses occupied positions that represented women of practical, everyday Celtic life. They were free to bear arms, become Druids and engage in politics unlike their Greek sisters, who were highly idealised in myth but not representative of the reality governing the lives of Greek women.
The very phrase 'Celtic Women' evokes all kinds of images - fearsome warriors, romantic heroines and tragic, wronged queens - goddesses by the score, from old hags to screaming harpies, to beautiful wise women and learned Druidesses, to the great female saints of the early Celtic church. The women of the Celtic myths are a reflection of the historical women of early Celtic society with all their problems, loves, heartaches and triumphs. They display a range of characters and positions in society being powerful weak, serious, capricious, vengeful and ambitious - there are no empty-headed 'beauty queenszzz' ...
Celtic women then achieved high positions in society and a standing which their sisters in the majority of other contemporary European societies did not have. They were able to govern; they played an active part in political; social and religious life. They could be warriors, doctors, physicians, judges and poets. They could own property and remain the owner even when married. They had sexual freedom, were free to choose their partners and divorce, and could claim damages if molested.
Celtic women could, and often did, lead their men into battle.
Among the ancient Celts women rulers and warriors were so common that when a group of Brigantian captives was brought to Rome in the reign of Claudius they automatically assumed his wife, Agrippina the Younger, was the ruler and ignored the Emperor while making their obeisance to her.
Roman Diodorus Siculus wrote of Celtic women, saying, "Among the Gauls the women are nearly as tall as the men, whom they rival in courage." The historian Plutarch stated this while describing a battle in 102 B.C. between Romans and Celts: "the fight had been no less fierce with the women than with the men themselves... the women charged with swords and axes and fell upon their opponents uttering a hideous outcry." Because Boudicca -- a woman, a Roman subject, and a Britannic royal -- led the rebellion, Rome felt even more disgraced and outraged.
Yet another report by Amicus Marcelling states - "A whole troop of foreigners would not be able to withstand a single Celt if he called his wife to his assistance".............
So women went to war in the ancient Celtic world and took command of men. The training of a warrior was a long task, frequently undertaken by warrior women who were responsible for teaching boys the arts of combat and of love.
Specific titles were given to these classes of female warriors such as BAN-GAISGEDAIG - (BAN-meaning woman and a derivative of GAS which means young warrior) and BAN-FEJNNIDH (which combines BAN with FEINNIDH meaning 'band of warriors') so it seems they were classed according to age and experience, possibly starting their training as very young girls. Women warriors even appear on Celtic coins as a common iconographic theme.
SGATHAICH, THE WARRIOR QUEEN
The Great Scots Warrior Queen SGATHAICH presided over a famous military academy at the South end of Skye. Near to Tarscavaig and overlooking the bay of OB GAUSCA VAIG (Whale Bay) stand the ruins of Dunscaith Castle, said to mean 'the Fort of Shadows', a stronghold of Sgathaich.
A Skye legend tells of how the castle was built in a single night by a witch or faerie "All night the witch sang and the castle grew up from the rock with tower and turrets crowned; All night she sang, when fell the morning dew 'Twas finished round and round". Dunscaith is described as being.. ."surrounded by seven ramparts crowned by iron palisades and protected by a pit full of snakes and beaked toads".....
It is believed that the castle was, in fact, a great deal larger than the remaining fragments would indicate, but even these serve to show what an impregnable fortress it must once have been~en. It is built upon a rock with precipitous sides, and approached by a causeway, partly natural, which leads to a bridge over a gully in the rock. The floor of the bridge is missing and it is safer to view it from the main-land rock.
Most Skye duns have their origin in Neolithic, or even earlier times, and history shows this site to be a vitrified fort of early importance. For several centuries it was the stronghold of the MacLeods and the MacDonalds of the Isles, but in fact it is much older than any clan. It was to this fortress that the hero Cu Chulainn (the 'Hound of Culann' and the archetypal superhuman champion of epic tradition) came to complete his training in arms under the guidance of Sgathaich who instructed men in the martial arts.
Sgathaich was a formidable woman, a teacher of war-craft and a prophetess (Druid) who foretells Cu Chulainn's future through divination. She was reputed to be the matron of self-defence and female independence as well as the guardian of young people who seek to know their full potential. Men came from further afield than Gaul to train with. her, and if they passed her rigorous tests they were more feared than any other fighting men.
Cu Chulainn's intended bride EMER, niece to Ulster's KING TETARA, had refused to marry him unless he proved himself in this way. She said to her father - "He is a green boy. If I wed, it will be to a man who can match me in every way. I am tired of boasting youths and their tedious feats of arms. The man I marry must be the greatest champion ever. He must be capable of protecting me from every danger" And so Cu Chulainn journeyed to Skye, (known as the Isle of Shadows) to seek this Warrior Queen and learn her skills. The way to her castle was dangerous and Cu Chulainn's journey was full of strange and magical happenings but although filled with fear and wonder he acquitted himself with honour, and on his third attempt managed to cross the perilous bridge of Dunscaith which threw off all those who failed to get across in two strides!
Sgathaich taught Cu Chulainn the martial arts, his famous 'salmon leap' and certain tricks and feats of strength as well as giving him magical weapons and armour for battle including her famous GAE BOLGA (the 'belly ripper') - a barbed spear which inflicts only fatal wounds. (This can also be interpreted as GATH BOLAG - Spear of Light). Cu Chulainn also received a magic visor, gift of MA NNA NAN the Celtic Sea-God, and his charioteer LAEG protected him with powers of invisibility. Was it Sgathaich who taught Cu Chulainn his famous 'battle-rage'?
It was said that when the rage was on him he went into 'warp-spasm', a beserk fit which prevented him from telling friend from foe. His enemies were terrified by the sight of such uncontrolled passion but this defence mechanism was to bring Cu Chulainn the greatest grief in his life, as this tale relates. In return for tuition, Cu Chulainn fought battles for Sgathaich as she was constantly at war with her sister AOIFE (Reflection) herself a notable and fearsome warrior. AOIFE proved a formidable opponent, and Cu Chulainn was well matched.
He finally secured her surrender by means of a trick, and peace was restored between the two women. Soon after, Aoife seduced Cu Chulainn and was pregnant by the time he completed his training with Sgathaich and returned to Ulster. Before leaving he gave Aoife his gold ring for their son so that she could send the boy to him in the future. The ring would confirm his identity. Cu Chulainn then left, and Aoife was certain he would return one day. Time passed, the boy CONLAOCH grew to be an amazing fighter like his father, but when Aoife heard that Cu Chulainn had married Emer and would not come back to Skye, she became bitter and angry, planning revenge. She sent Conlaoch to Ulster under GAES or taboo. He was not to reveal his identity to anyone, no matter who asked, and was never to refuse to fight. The youth arrived at Cu Chulainn's court and refusing to name himself was immediately called arrogant and drawn into combat. After defeating several of his father's men, he was eventually challenged by a very angry Cu Chullain, who, in his famous battle-rage struck down Conlaoch with Sgathaich's gift, the Gae Bolga. As his son lay dying, Cu Chullain finally came to his senses and regognised his ring and the boy's identity. His grief was terrifying. Cu Chulainn, who had tremendous resources as a warrior of worldly battles, couldn't cope with the loss of his only son, and was to spend the rest of his short life learning to handle his passions, doubts, and fears. He never fully recovered from his loss and Aoife's revenge was complete.
Boudicca, the Warrior Queen of the Iceni was a ruler of her people in her own right, and accepted as a war leader against the Romans not only by her own tribe but by the Triumvirates and other neighbouring tribes who joined her, such as the Cretan
Queen Boudicca, (Bodiecia, Bouddica, Voadica, Voada), like many other rulers in Britain at this time, witnessed the suffering caused to her people by the heavy taxes, conscription and other indignities generated by the Roman Emperor Nero.
The final outrage came when her husband Prasutagus died, and the Romans plundered her chief tribesmen and brutally annexed her dominions. This was too much for the Queen and she determined to take on Nero and his Legions. In this she was not alone, for tradition tells that all of south east Britain came to her side, ready to die for the Queen who was fierce enough to take on the Roman Empire. It's noteworthy that tribes which remained loyal to the Romans, (like the Catuvellauni) were not spared Boudicca's wrath.
Her battle cry was 'Death before Slavery!' and Dio Cassius writes of her, saying -
'Boudicca was tall, terrible to look on and gifted with a powerful voice. A flood of bright red hair ran down to her knees; she wore a golden necklet made up of ornate pieces, a multi-coloured robe and over it a thick cloak held together by a brooch. She took up a long spear to cause dread in all who set eyes on her.'
Boudicca's opportunity for retalliation against the invaders came when the Roman Governor General Seutonius Paulinus and his troops were stationed in Anglesey and North Wales. By the time Paulinus got back, the Roman municipalities of St Albans and Colchester had been burned to the ground by the Britons. Boudicca's warriors were more than a little intimidating. They virtually routed the Ninth Legion that had been marching from Lincoln to help Paulinus, and without additional support from Rome there was little he could do against the determination of these people. Eventually they marched on London and it was here at last that Paulinus faced Boudicca and her army of Britons in the field. We don't know where, (possibly the Midlands) but we do know that a desperate battle was fought, and although the Romans were the victors, they regained the province at great price.
Many thousands of Britons fell in battle and those who lived were hunted down by Roman soldiers. But it would seem that Boudicca's actions had shocked the Roman world into adopting policies that were a little kinder. Some historians believe that the relative lack of Romano-British remains in Norfolk is testimony to the severity with which the Roman Empire crushed Boudicca and the Iceni peoples. The revolt was eventually suppressed in AD 61 by the Roman military governor, Suetonius Paullinus. The story is told in the Annals of Tacitus, written about AD 110-120. Tacitus had a special interest in Britain because his father-in-law, Agricola, became governor of the Province in AD 77-85 after a successful military campaign in Wales and the north. This campaign, together with some details on the native Celtic tribes, is described in the book Agricola by Tacitus, written in AD 98.This silver Iceni coin was buried in a hoard along with hundreds of similar coins during the Boudiccan revolt. These were minted in great quantities in order to finance the rebellion. After their defeat in AD 61, the Iceni were resettled in a civitas capital at Caistor-by-Norwich (also called Caistor St.Edmunds), located along the River Tas. The site may be visited today, along with related exhibits at the Norwich Museum.
Finally, faced with defeat, the proud warrior Queen took her own life, by drinking from a poisoned chalice. This much is well known; the challenge is to separate fact from the many legends. For instance, is she really buried under Platform 10 at London's King's Cross Station? We'll probably never know, because for centuries people have been claiming their own local sites as her final resting place.
One of the major features of Celtic Goddesses is a fusion of fertility powers with those of war. These goddesses were in effect the Openers and Closers of The Way of Life: the Givers and Takers.
The apparent conflict between a goddess ruling both fertility and death presented no problem to the Celt who knew that death comes from life and life from death. Although the later eastern concept of dominant hero and swooning maid is not inherent in Celtic myth, heroes were drawn into the "Otherworld" by beautiful young maiden-type goddesses. The Celts had no straightforward Goddess of Love, such as the classical Venus or Aphrodite, but they seem to have worshipped nature goddesses, often portrayed as beautiful and desirable young women. They set tasks, not as mere tasks of manhood, but to send the 'improved' hero back to his tribe or clan having achieved something, or gained some higher state of being which would benefit them all. It was often a dangerous task and in many ways the hero was considered a sacrifice for the good of his people.
NIAMH OF THE GOLDEN HAIR.
One such maiden Goddess, Niamh of the Golden Hair, daughter of Mannanan, the Celtic God of the sea who roamed our west coast waters and gave his name to the Isle of Man. It was Leod (Liotr) grandson of Godred the Black, King of Man, who established Dunvegan castle as the seat of Clan MacLeod. Niamh is described thus .
'...her golden hair hung in tresses, and at the end of each plait hung a bead. To some men her hair was the colour of the yellow flag iris which grows by summer water; others thought it like ruddy polished gold. Slender and exquisite as a birch tree, of shape as sweet as the fine clover, of colour as fair as a summer morning, she is the type of the glory of all lands.
Niamh chose a mortal man, QISIN son of FINN chief of the legendary Fenian warriors of Celtic Ireland to be her lover, and took him to Tir-nan-Og, the Celtic "Land of the Ever Young" which lies somewhere in the western sea. The Otherworld was a timeless, ageless, happy place, a source of all wisdom, peace, beauty, harmony and immortality -a world full of magic, enchantment and music. Earthly time has no relevance. If humans visit it they remain young while there, but age catches up if they return home. Oisin, despite all he learns and the happiness he enjoys with Niamh, becomes homesick and plans a visit,to the upper world. Niamh warns him not to set foot on land or he will not return to her. In the upper world Oisin, travelling on horse-back, finds 300 years have passed. His harness breaks, he falls from his horse, and crumbles to dust. This story, like so many others in mythology, is about the inner journey of the human soul/psyche/ spirit - the facing of tests and trials for initiation into the higher or better state of being. Niamh's father was sometimes known as Mannanan Mac Lir, a name meaning Son of the Sea, or as Barmnthus, the primal god of the ocean deeps, and as such he is associated with stellar navigation. Mannanan appeared in many guises, and as a monk called 'Father Barinthus' he visited St Brendan and told him to travel west-wards to the 'Island of Promise of the Saints'.
In the 9th century AD StBrendan of Clonfert in County Galway, Ireland, set out in a skin boat with 14 monks to accompany him to search for this land across the ocean. His voyage of discovery has been claimed as the first visit by a European to America. Mannanan is also referred to in the 12th century 'Vita Merlini', when he ferries the wounded King Arthur, accompanied by the prophet Merlin and the bard Taliesin, to the other world for his cure.
The Cells had no religious dogma that we can trace, though accompanying everything they did was a strong sense of holiness and sacredness of all existence. To them animals and trees had souls and immortality and reincarnation were facts of life, and different levels of reality were taken for granted The old role of the animals was to link man, through the collective myth of dreams, to be mediators between him and his gods, and they were considered sacred.
Many of the gods and spirits of the Celtic world were represented with bird and animal parts, and birds of every kind wing their way through the divine world of the Celts. Indeed birds were generally thought to be bearers of divine information, and their calls and flight patterns were commonly interpreted by the druids for insights into the future.
To the Celts the land itself was a living sacred entity. There was no intellectual separation between religion and living, all life, all acts, all relationships were essentially religious; not in any formal senses but as a matter of simple fact.
There is no clear cut boundary between the end of paganism and the beginning of Christianity in Celtic Europe. The old gods lingered long, but during the 4th century Christianity was officially adopted as the state religion of the Roman world, and in Britain and Ireland, where Celtic traditions were arguably sustained longest, the Celtic church was established during the 5th century.
When he came to England St.Augustine is said to have been advised by Pope Gregory to "accommodate the ceremonies of the Christian worship as much as possible into those of the heathen, that the people might not be too much startled by the change", and he seems to have followed these instructions to the letter. Therefore, when the Christian movement at the Council of Ephesus in AD 431, made Mary officially the Mother of God , the Celts turned to her enthusiastically as the replacement mother goddess , seeing in her the goddesses of fertility, love and healing. The early Celtic Christians pictured Mary as the eternal mother figure, encouraging men and women to turn to her in times of trouble.
It is interesting to note that at the time when the Celts began to accept Christianity, Celtic women, as in pagan times, were equal to men in preaching religion. We are told that both Brigid of Kildare and Beoferlic (St Beverley of York) of the Celtic church in Northumbria, were ordained not simply as priests but as bishops as well. A far cry from the situation today!
And so the Celtic world slowly began to change and with it the major pagan-celtic ceremonies which were gradually assimilated into the Christian calendar.
Festivals such as SAMHAJN, which was celebrated on November 1st, the beginning of the Celtic year. This was the day of changes, of births and deaths when the gate between the worlds is open and spirits can pass freely from one to the other. We celebrate it as All Saints day and even now some people fear the walking ghosts of Halloween. The Spring Equinox is called ALBAN
EILER - or the Light of the Earth - among the reformed orders of Druidry. It marks the mid-point between the suns least and strongest appearance at Midwinter amd Midsummer respectively. The Celts welcomed the sun with a glad heart, for its dancing rays awakened the seemingly dead earth to new life and signalled the ending of the long, cold winter. "As the light lengthens, so the cold strengthens", goes the old saying. The stark coldness of February seems winter-locked until the emerging tips of snowdrops herald the return of spring.
The pagan Celts celebrated the season IMBOLC as spring approached and it encompassed the sprouting period of young growth when the earth emerges from the introspection of winter into the fresh hope of the newspring. This festival coincides with the birth of lambs and the lactation of ewes, which underlies the meaning of the word Imbolic. It was simple to assimilate this pagan festival into the Christian calendar as EASTER.
Easter, though in name entirely pagan, now describes only the Christian festival of the Resurrection. Many explanations of the origin of this word have been put forward, but that generally accepted is the earliest, given by Bcde more than a thousand years ago. Writing of April he says it was called "Eostur-Monath", which is now rendered the Paschal month and formally received its name from a goddess of spring called EOSTRI, worshipped by the ancient nations of the north in whose honour a festival was celebrated at the vernal equinox".
Although little is known about her cult it seems likely that she was once a dawn goddess as she was connected with ideas of rising and new life. The ancient Sanskrit word for dawn was USRA and from it most certainly came both Easter and the east, the direction from where the sun is known to rise. Since spring with its increasing light and warmth is "the dawn of the living year" it was natural that a dawn goddess should be worshipped then.
The Irish cleric Sedulius Scottus wrote. ."Christ the true sun rose from the dark last night. . . may Heavenly Easter joy gather you to the threshold of light". The Germans have a similar name for this season - OSTERN or OSTERFEST -deriving in part from OSTARA, another version of Eostre. In various parts of Germany stone altars called Easter-stones can still be found dedicated to the fair Goddess Eostre.
The Celts believed that Eostre's favourite animal and attendant spirit was the Hare. Everywhere it represented love, fertility and growth and was associated with the moon, dawn and Easter - the enlightenment of the soul through death, rcdcmption and resurrection. The goddess changed into a hare at the full moon and even to this day there is a superstition that hares carry the souls of the dead.
Tradition also has it that the Hare was sacred to the White Goddess - the Earth Mother - and as such was considered to be a royal animal. The warrior queen Boudicca took a hare into battle with her to ensure victory and it was said to have screamed like a woman from beneath her cloak. Legend relates how that same Celtic warrior Oisin, beloved of Niamh, hunted a hare and wounded it in the leg, forcing it to seek refuge in a clump of bushes. When Oisin followed it he found, in the thicket, a door leading down into the ground and eventually emerged into a huge hail where he found a beautiful young woman sitting on a throne bleeding from a wound in her leg.
The transmigration of the Soul is clearly seen in Celtic lore; the life of the body is not the end of the soul, which is understood to take other forms successively.
In Europe there are wide-spread remnants of a cult of a Hare Goddess and man has for centuries feared the hare because of the supernatural powers with which he has endowed her solitude, her remoteness and her subtle, natural skills. Active at night, symbolic of the intuitive, and of the moon.
Like the Moon which is always changing places in the sky, hares have illogical habits and are full of mystery and contradictions. Certainly it has never been regarded as an ordinary creature in any part of the world, and in ancient Egypt the Hare was used as a Hieroglyph for the word denoting 'existence'. Many divergent cultures link the Hare with the Moon and Buddhists have a saying about the 'shadow of the hare in the moon' instead of the man in the moon. They see the hare as a resurrection symbol. The moon is perhaps the most manifest symbol of this universal becoming- birth, growth, reproduction, death and rebirth. The moon disappears, dies and is born again, and this underlies most primitive initiation rites - that a being must die before he can be born again on a higher spiritual level.
The Celts counted time not by days, but by nights, and made their calendars (Coligny) not by the sun, but by the moon. Fortnight means 14 nights or half a lunar cycle.
The symbol of the Hare was used deliberately to transfer old Pagan religion into a Christian context, and the Albrecht Durer woodcut of the Holy Family (1471-1 528) clearly depicts three hares at the family's feet. Later superstition changed the Easter hare into the Easter rabbit or . bunny.- far less threatening than the ancient pagan symbol and very few people will be aware that the hare ever held such standing, and why.
As the Ancient Ways died, superstitions about the hare were rife and many witches were reported to have hares as their familiars. Today we talk of a 'lucky' rabbit's foot. but for many generations a hare's paw or foot was a much used charm against evil, a throw-back to the long forgotten belief in Eostre the Celtic dawn goddess. By AD 410 when Celtic Britain had emerged from the long centuries of Roman occupation, the Celts were struggling to balance the original co-equal society with male dominance.
The Romans had been horrified by the social status of Celtic women. . This was subversive to the patriarchal paradigms of Greece and Rome and had to be destroyed. The destructive influence of the Roman empire, then of Christianity, when women were no longer allowed sexual freedom, coupled with the cultures of the Anglo Saxons and the Franks, certainly forced the Celts into fundamental change ..
MACHA, the Celtic Horse Goddess, who gave her name to Cu Chulainns war horse, the Grey of Macha, cursed the patriarchal age that had just dawned, with these words ...
"Although you may develop sophisticated doctrines of rebirth ... although you may have taken on yourselves the right of life and death ... although your efforts may seem logical and plausible in the light of a patriarchal culture ... your efforts cannot but be doomed to failure as long as they are based on the subordination of Women"
The story did not end with the invasions of the Romans, though ...
. The Celts continued to exist over Europe, although the language died out in most areas, their ideas, their beliefs and folk festivals, and place names, survived. Ireland and much of Scotland were not conquered by the Romans, an there as in Wales and the Isle of Man, Celtic culture continued to exist, retaining its art, its religion and its language ...
WARRIOR WOMEN IN HISTORY
Throughout history war and fighting have been seen as men's activities, however women have always been involved in battles and seiges, not to mention duels, prizefights and so on.
The most common occasion on which women would take part in battles was when their home, castle or town was attacked. A medieval lady would have expected to take charge of defence in her husband's absence.
Some exceptional women like Boudiccia and Joan of Arc also led attacking armies.
There were also a few women disguised themselves as ordinary soldiers or sailors in armies through the ages.
Below is a random selection of historical references to warrior women from various sources.
Pre-History and the Ancient World
Ancient warrior queens included Vishpla, Aahhotep I, Zabibi, Samsi, Tomyris, Himoko, Jingo Kogo, Mavia, Saimei and Dihya al-Kahina. There are depictions of Hittite women warriors dating from 1300 BC. The Bible describes the Judge, Deborah, as a war leader and the Greeks had legends of the Amazons, mainly based upon Scythians or women from Turkey or Libya. Vietnamese rebels included Trung Trac, Trung Nhi, Tran Thi Doan, Phung Thi Chinh and Trieu Thi Trinh. Fa Mulan fought in the Chinese army.
Celtic and Roman
Roman gladiatorial shows included 'women of rank' in 63 AD. There was also a female chariot fighter competing against men. Women gladiators were described again in 88 AD. Women were members of the venatores, (gladiators who fought wild animals in the Roman arena). Emperor Alexander Severus issued an edict prohibiting women combatants in the arena in 200 AD. A display of captured enemies in the 3rd Century included several women warriors.
Legendary Celtic women warriors included Medb (Maeve) of Ireland, Aife (Aoife) of Alba (Scotland), and Queen Sgathaich of Skye. The Romans in Britain fought against Queen Boadicea (or Bodiecia, Boudicca, Voadica, Voada) of the Iceni in 61AD, but they were allies to Queen Cartimandua of the Briganties in a war against her consort in 43AD.
Viking and Saxons
An English Saxon Princess led an invasion of Jutland in the 6th Century. In the 8th Century Queen Aethelburgh destroyed Taunton. In the 9th Century Queen Thyra of Denmark led her army against the Germans. In the 10th Century Aethelflaed, Lady of Mercia led troops against the Vikings and Olga of Russia ended a revolt in which her husband had died.
The Viking Sagas and Saxo Grammaticus' 'History of the Danes' mention many warrior women. Hetha, Visna and Vebiorg led companies of the Danish army. Sela and Alvid were pirates. Stikla ran away from home to become a warrior. Rusilla fought against her brother for the throne. Gurith took part in a battle to help her son. Freydis Eiriksdottir, Auðr and Þórdis all used weapons against their enemies.
Aristocratic ladies who led troops in seige and battle included Emma Countess of Norfolk, Matilda Countess of Tuscany (and her mother), Sichelgaita Princess of Lombardy, Urraca Queen of Aragon, and Teresa of Portugal.
Matilda of Ramsbury (mistress of the Bishop of Salisbury) held the Bishop's Castle in his absence.
Aristocratic ladies who led troops in seige and battle included Alrude Countess of Bertinoro, Eleanor of Castile, Queen Urraca of Aragon, Marguerite de Provence, Florine of Denmark and Berengaria of Navarre, Queen Tamara of Georgia and the Empress Maud (also known as Matilda, Empress of Germany, Countess of Anjou, Domina Anglorum, Lady of the English, Matilda Augusta and Matilda the Good)
Maude de Valerie was a Welsh revolutionary.
Women took part in the Crusades in the armies of Emperor Conrad and William Count of Poitiers in spite of a papal bull forbidding them to do so.
13th Century Nicola de la Haye, daughter of the castellan of Lincoln defended the town against several raids and was made sheriff of Lincolnshire in 1216.
Jeanne of Navarre led her army against that of the Count de Bar.
Ladies were admitted to the Chivalric Order of the Dragon, The Order of St Anthony in Hainault and the Order of the Garter.
Isobel MacDuff Countess of Buchan, Jeanne de Danpierre Countess de Montfort (also known as Jane, Countess of Montfort), Isabelle of England, Christian Lady Bruce, Marjory Bruce, Mary Bruce, Phillipa of Hainault, Lady Agnes Randolph (also known as Black Agnes), Agnes Hotot of Dudley, Adelaide Ponthiey, Jeanne de Belleville, Margaret of Denmark
Ladies were admitted to the Chivalric Order of the Dragon, The Order of St Anthony in Hainault and the Order of the Garter.
Margaret of Denmark, Jacqueline of Bavaria (Countess of Holland, Hainault and Zealand), Jehanne la Pucelle (better known as Joan of Arc), Isabella of Lorraine, Maire o Ciaragain, Isabella I of Castile. The Bridport muster roll (a list of ordinary citizens called up for a battle) of 1457 lists Alis Gare, Alis Hammel, Sally Pens, "Condefer Wife" and Margaret Athyn, three of these women brought their own weapons and armour with them.
Ladies were admitted to the Chivalric Order of the Dragon, The Order of St Anthony in Hainault and the Order of the Garter.
Graine Ni Maille (also known as Grace O'Malley) was an Irish pirate. A group of 350 girls defended fortifications in Paris. Ameliane du Puget led a troop of women in Marseilles. Beatriz de Pardes and María de Estrada fought with the Conquistadors in the New World. Lilliard led the Scots into battle against the English. Isabella I of Castile led her army. Marguerite Delaye and Captain Mary Ambree fought in battles. Explorers in South America reported seeing native women leading warbands.
Kit Cavanagh (also known as "Mother Ross") started her military career disguised as a man, but later fought open;y as a woman soldier. Mme de Saint Baslemont de Neuville and La Maupin, as well as two unnamed aristocratic sisters fought duels. Other notable women included Lady Ann Cummingham, Blanche the Countess of Arundel, Brilliana the Countess of Harley, Alyona of Russia, Anne Chamberlyne and Anne Marie Louise d'Orleans Montpensier.
During the English Civil War ordinary women frequently reloaded guns, as well as carrying powder and bullets to the front during battles. The Scots army which marched on Newcastle in 1644 is reported to have included women regular soldiers.
Women involved in the Jacobite Rising in Scotland in 1745-6 included Jean (Jenny) Cameron, Lady Anne Macintosh, Lady Margaret Oglivy, Margaret Murray and Lady Lude.
Women soldiers included Ann Mills, Phoebe Hessel, Virginie Ghesquiere, Angelique Brulon, Margaret Catchpole, Olympe de Gouges, Rose Lacombe, Theroigne de Mericourt, Mademoiselle de la Rochefoucalt, Jemima Warner and Hannah Snell.
Duellists included Mademoiselle La Maupin, Mademoiselle de Guignes, Mademoiselle d'Aiguillon, Mademoiselle Leverrier, Lady Almeria Braddock, Mrs Elphinstone, Comptesse de Polignac and Marquise de Nesle.
Catherine the Great of Russia led her army in several campaigns.
Women soldiers and rebels included Augustina the "Maid of Saragossa", Marie Schellinck, Gertrudis Bocanegra, Elizabeth Hatzler, Dr 'James' Barry, Mary Ann Riley, Ann Hopping, Jane Townshend, Louisa Battistati, Clemence Louise Michel, Sylvia Mariotti.
Duels were fought by many women including Princess Pauline Metternich, Countess Kilmannsegg, Lady Almeria Braddock and a Mrs Elphinstone.
Increasingly accurate records and improved communications mean that many more women are recorded as regular troops, pilots, rebels, partisans, martial artists etc.
Warrior Women in Scotland
These include the 'Celts', Aife of Alba and Scathach of Skye. Isabelle of England: (A.D. 1285?-1313?) took up arms against her husband and she was forced to flee to Scotland by Edward III.
In 1297 the Countess of Ross led her own troops during William Wallace and Andrew de Moray's battles with the English.
Isobel MacDuff, Countess of Buchan (1296-1358) fought for Robert de Bruce.
Christian, Lady Bruce defended Kildrummy Castle from the English during the Wars of Independence. During the same war, the widow of David of Strathbogie defended the island fortress of Lochindorb against three thousand Scots.
Lady Agnes Randolph (1300?-1369?), known as Black Agnes, fought for de Bruce. In 1334, she successfully held her castle at Dunbar against the besieging forces of England's earl of Salisbury for over five months.
Phillipa of Hainault, Queen of Edward III, led twelve thousand soldiers against invading Scots in 1346 and captured their king, David Bruce.
In 1545, Lilliard led the Scots at the Battle of Ancrum.
The Scots army which marched on Newcastle in 1644 during the English Civil War is reported to have included women regular soldiers.
Jean (Jenny) Cameron, Lady Anne Macintosh, Lady Margaret Oglivy, Margaret Murray and Lady Lude were all involved in the Jacobite Rising in Scotland in 1745-6.
LAWS FORBIDDING WOMEN TO FIGHT ...
These are included, merely to provide evidence that women were definitely fighting immediately before each law was passed, and probably in reasonably large numbers, otherwise there'd be no need for the law. Also, the fact that a law exists doesn't mean that it is universally obeyed, or that those disobeying it would be social outcasts. (consider: traffic laws such as speed limits and parking restrictions, dog licencing in the UK, pirate videos and computer software, and so on)
Emperor Alexander Severus issued an edict prohibiting women combatants in the arena in 200 AD
Women were barred from military participation in a law passed at the synod of Druim Ceat in 590 A.D. The law proved to be unenforceable when the women warriors refused to lay down their arms.
Papal Bull of 1189 prohibited women from joining the Third Crusade
In 1644 King Charles issued a proclamation banning women who were with the armies during the English Civil War from wearing men's clothing.
In 1795 the French revolutionary government ordered Frenchwomen to return to their homes and prohibited them from attending political meetings, or gathering in groups of more than five.
Women were ordered out of the front lines of the Israeli Army by David Ben Gurion in 1950 (the last one left in the mid 1960s)
Due to the ongoing and disastrous confusions regarding the engendering of this Planet and in the Interest of Truth and Clarity ...
We Present -
THE WAYS OF THE ANCIENTS -
GODDESS OF THE SUN
Long before the 'patriarch solar cult' .... ....and still worshipped around the globe, we have the Canaanite Shapshu, Sun goddess....and the Japanese Sun-Goddess Amaterasu - and the Korean Sun Goddess, Hae-soon - and of course Sekhmet Egyptian Solar Goddess, who also wears the title 'Eye of Ra' ..... but wait, there's more ... much, much more ...
(Excerpts from 'The God-Idea of the Ancients', Chapter III - Sun Worship)
It seems to be 'overlooked' by writers whose object is to conceal rather than disclose the Ancient Mysteries, that until a comparatively recent time the moon was worshipped as male.
It was only after the origin and meaning of the ancient religion had been suppressed/forgotten, and the ideas underlying the worship of Nature had been concealed/lost, that the moon was regarded as representing the female principle. "When man began to regard himself as the only important factor in procreation, (ie: when the Sun became masculine and heat or passion constituted the god-idea), the moon was seen as female". In the sacred writings of the Hindus there is an account of the moon, 'Soma', having been changed into a female called 'Chandra' - 'the white or silvery one'.
While speaking of the moon, Kalisch also says: "The whole ritual of the Phoenician Goddess Astarte with whom the Queen of Heaven is identical, and who was the goddess of fertility, seems to have been transferred to her. (the moon)" - 'Historical and Critical Commentary of the Old Testament'
In the earlier Ages of the World, the Female had been regarded as the Creator, and in many countries when her worship was subsequently suppressed, she became identified with the moon, and in these cultures Luna was then adored as the producer of the Sun.
Sir William Jones observes that 'Om' means 'oracle', 'matrix' or 'womb'.
Upon this subject Godfrey Higgins, remarks - ( See Anacalypsis, book iii., ch. ii.) - "The word 'Om' or 'Am' in the Hebrew not only signifies might, strength, power, firmness, solidity, truth, but it means also Mother ..... as in Genesis ii., 24 ... and Love, hence the Latin 'Amo', 'Mamma'.
"In the old language God was called 'Al', 'Ale', 'Alue', and 'Aleim', more frequently 'Aleim' than any other name." According to the testimony of Godfrey Higgins, 'Aleim' denotes the Feminine Plural. The divinities 'Ashtaroth' and 'Beelzebub' were both called 'Aleim'. We are also informed by various writers that Typhon Seth was feminine. She was the early God of the Jews. In other words, the Jews were formerly worshippers of a female Deity and 'Jehovah', 'Iav', was originally female.
The Achts of Vancouver's Island worship sun and moon - the Sun as Female, the Moon as Male. Hindus and Aztecs alike, at one time, said that Luna was male and the Sun was female. ( Tylor, Primitive Culture, vol. ii., p. 272.)
If we bear in mind the fact that the gods of the ancients represented principles and powers, we shall not be surprised to find that the most widely diffused and universally adored representation of the ancient female Deity in Egypt was 'Neith' or 'Isis', who was 'Creator of the Sun', and who was also the first emanation from the Sun. She was called also 'Muth', the Universal Mother, and Pharoahs were especially honored to bear the title 'Son of Neith'. Her Temple at Sais was the largest in Egypt. It was open at the top and bore the following inscription - "I am all that was and is and is to be; no mortal has lifted up my veil, and the fruit which I brought forth was the Sun."
'Athene' of the Greeks and 'Minerva' of the Romans also represents this concept. Minerva is Wisdom - the Logos, the Word. She is Perception, Light, etc. Her name signifies "I came from myself." This Deity represents not only creative Power, but Abstract Intelligence plus Wisdom or Light.
To express the idea that the Female Energy in the Deity incorporated not only the power to 'bring forth', but that it involved all the natural powers, attributes, and possibilities of human nature, it was portrayed by a pure Virgin who was also a Mother. (a concept far more Ancient than Christainity).
"Within the churches and in the streets of many cities of Germany are to be observed figures of this traditional Virgin. She is standing, one foot upon a crescent and the other on a serpent's head, in the mouth of which is the sprig of an apple tree on which is an apple. The tail of the serpent is wound about a globe which is partially enveloped in clouds. On one arm of the Virgin is the Child, and in the hand of the other arm she carries the sacred lotus. Her head is encircled with a halo of light similar to the rays of the sun.
One is frequently disposed to query, does the church regard these images as legitimate representations of Mary, the wife of Joseph and Mother of Christ, or are they aware of their true significance? Certainly the various accessories attached to this figure betray its ancient origin and reveal its identity with the Egyptian, Chaldean, and Phoenician Virgin of the Sphere.
The fact has already been observed that in the original representation of the "Temptation" in the cave temple of India, it is not the woman but the man who is the tempter, and a singular peculiarity observed in connection with this ancient female Deity is that it is SHE and NOT HER SEED who is trampling on the serpent, thus proving that originally woman and not man was worshipped as the Savior. Another significant feature noticed in connection with this subject is that the oldest figures which represent this Goddess are black, thus proving that she must have belonged to a dark skinned race.
This image, although black, or dark skinned, had long hair, hence not a negress. The most ancient statue of Ceres was black, and Pausanias says that at a place called Melangea in Arcadia there was a black Venus. In the Netherlands only a few years ago, was a church dedicated to a black goddess. The Virgin of the Sphere who treads on the head of the serpent represents universal womanhood. She is the Virgin of the first book of Genesis and mother of all the Earth. She represents not only creative power but Perceptive Wisdom. Although this Goddess is usually seen with the lotus in her hand, she sometimes carries ripe corn or wheat. She was Matter, within which was concealed Spirit.
In the representations of Montfaucon, the Goddess Isis appears sitting on the lotus. Her head, upon which is a globe, is surrounded by a radiant circle which evidently represents the sun. On the reverse side is Ieu, the word "which is the usual way of the ecclesiastical authors reading the Hebrew word Jehovah." Referring to this from Montfaucon, Godfrey Higgins observes: "Here Isis, whose veil no mortal shall ever draw aside, the celestial Virgin of the Sphere, is seated on the self-generating sacred lotus and is called Ieu or Jove." She has also the mystic number 608 which stands for the Deity. Her breasts show plainly that it is a female representation, although connected with the figure appears the male emblem to indicate that within her are contained both elements, or that the universe is embodied within the female." - Anacalypsis, book v., ch. iv.
Higgins thinks there is no subject on which more mistakes have been made than on that of the Goddess Isis, both by ancients and moderns. He calls attention to the inconsistency of calling her the moon when in many countries the moon is masculine. He is quite positive that if Isis is the moon, Ceres, Proserpine, Venus, and all the other female gods were the same, which in view of the facts everywhere at hand cannot be true......Higgins then calls attention to her temple at Sais in Egypt, and to the inscription which declares that - "She comprehends all that is and was and is to be," - that she is "parent of the Sun," and he justly concludes that Isis cannot be the Moon. - Anacalypsis, book vi., ch. ii.
Apuleius makes Isis say ... "I am the parent of all things, the sovereign of the elements, the primary progeny of time, the most exalted of the deities, the first of the heavenly gods and goddesses, whose single deity the whole world venerates in many forms, with various rites and various names. The Egyptians worship me with proper ceremonies and call me by my true name, Queen Isis."
Isis, we are told, is called 'Myrionymus', or Goddess with 10,000 names. She is the Persian Mithra, which is the same as Buddha, Minerva, Venus, and all the rest.
Faber admits that the female principle was formerly regarded as the Soul of the World. He says ... "Isis was the same as Neith or Minerva; hence the inscription at Sais was likewise applied to that goddess. Athenagoras informs us that Neith or the Athene of the Greeks was supposed to be Wisdom passing and diffusing itself through all things. Hence it is manifest that she was thought to be the Soul of the World; for such is precisely the character sustained by that mythological personage." - Pagan Idolatry, book i., p. 170.
The same writer says further - "Ovid gives a similar character to Venus. He represents her as moderating the whole world; as giving laws to Heaven, Earth, and Ocean, as the common parent both of gods and men, and as the productive cause both of corn and trees. She is celebrated in the same manner by Lucretius, who ascribes to her that identical attribute of universality which the Hindus give to their Goddess Isi or Devi."
According to Herodotus, the worship of Minerva was indigenous in Lybia, then travelled to Egypt and was carried to Greece. Among the remnants of Egyptian mythology, the figure of a mother and child is everywhere observed. In all the earliest representations of the Deity, the fact is observed that within the Female element is contained the Divinity adored, while the Male appears as a Child and dependent on the ministrations of the female for existence and support.
Gradually, however, as male subjective perpectives (disguised as 'objective truth') were imposed and dominated human affairs, we find the male energy in the Deity, but instead of appearing as a child in the arms of its Mother, it is represented as a man.....but he is still only of equal importance with the woman...it is only much later that he is identified with the Sun, ........and the woman, although still a necessary factor in the god-idea, is concealed or absorbed within the male.
Nowhere, perhaps, was the trend of the male in the god-idea more clearly traced than in the history of the Arabians. Among this people are still to be found certain remnants of the matriarchal age - an age in which women were the recognized heads of families and the leaders of the gentes or clans. By the time of Mohammed the female deities, such as Al-lat, were relegated to the status of 'daughters' of the supreme male God....
But a much older concept is depicted on a Nabataean inscription, and that is - 'Al-lat' is 'Mother of the Gods'. At Petra the mother-goddess and her son were worshipped together, and there are sufficient traces of the same thing elsewhere to lead us to regard this as having been the general rule when a god and goddess were worshipped in one sanctuary. (Kinship and Marriage in Early Arabia, ch. vi., p. 179).
The mother of Gotama Buddha was called 'Mai' or 'Maya, after the month of May, when the Earth is arrayed in her most beautiful attire.
Maya is the parent of universal Nature. According to Davis, the mother of Mercury - "is the universal genius of Nature which discriminated all things according to their various kinds of species," the same as was 'Muth' of Egypt. 'Mai' is said to mean "one who begins to illuminate." She was in fact the Mother of the Sun whence everything proceeds. At a much later stage in the history of religion, all emanations from the Deity become males who are represented as 'Saviors'.
That the office of the male as a creative agency is dependent on the female, is a fact so patently obvious, that for Ages the Mother principle could not be eliminated from the conception of a Deity, and due homage was paid to Athene or Minerva, even after women had become only sexual slaves and household tools, showing the extent to which the idea of Female supremacy in Nature and in the Deity prevailed..
Despite the efforts which during numberless ages were made to dethrone the Female principle in the god-idea, the Great Mother, under some one of her various appellations, continued, down to a late period in the history of the human race, and even to this day, claims the homage and adoration of a considerable portion of the inhabitants of the earth.
So difficult was it, even after the male element had declared itself supreme, to conceive of a creative force independently of the female principle, that often, (especially during the earlier ages of the attempted separation and suppression of former beliefs), considerable confusion and obscurity are observed in determining the positions of male deities.
Zeus who in later times came to be worshipped as male was formerly represented as "the great dyke, the terrible virgin who breathes out on crime, anger, and death."
Grote refers to numerous writers as authority for the statement that Dionysos, who usually appears in Greece as masculine, and who was doubtless the Jehovah of the Jews, was indigenous in Thrace, Phrygia, and Lydia as the Great Mother, Cybele. He was identical with Bacchus, who, although represented on various coins as a 'bearded venerable figure' appears with the limbs, features, and character of a beautiful young woman.
Sometimes this Deity is portrayed with sprouting horns, and again with a crown of ivy. The Phrygian 'Attis' and the Syrian 'Adonis', as depicted in monuments of ancient art, are Androgynous personifications of the same attributes.
According to the testimony of the geographer Dionysius, the worship of Bacchus was formerly carried on in the British Islands in exactly the same manner as it had been in an earlier age in Thrace and before that, on the banks of the Ganges. Concerning 'Sadi, 'Sadim', or 'Shaddai', Higgins remarks - "Parkhurst tells us 'Dea Multimammia' means 'all-bountiful-the pourer forth of blessings' - in fact the 'Diana of Ephesus', the 'Urania of Persia', the 'Jove' of Greece, called by Orpheus the 'Mother of the Gods'...... the 'Venus Aphrodite'; in short, the genial powers of Nature." For apparent reasons, in all the translations, through the pronouns and adjectives used, the more important ancient deities have all been made to appear as males.
Ancient writers often called Jupiter the 'Mother of the Gods. In reference to a certain Greek appellation, Bryant observes that it is a masculine name for a feminine deity - a name which is said to be a corruption of 'Mai', the Hindu 'Queen of Heaven'. ... In process of time, however .... as the world became more and more masculinized, so important did it become for men that the male should occupy the more exalted place in the Deity, that even the 'Great Mother' of the Gods, as we have seen, is represented as male.
In Christian countries, during the past eighteen hundred years, the greatest care has been exercised to conceal the fact that Sun Worship underlies all forms of religion, and under all 'religion', including christianity no expense has been spared in eliminating the female element from the god-idea; hence the ignorance which prevails at the present time ...