ladies of legend

women in celtic mythology

Of all ancient cultures, the Celts had one of the most well-rounded and interesting approaches to examining the feminine aspect of life. The mythology of Ireland is ripe with many fascinating women, be they ban sidhe ("women of the faery mounds") or human. Their stories are incredible and their characterization, simply extraordinary, each of them displaying their individual power and agency in her own unique way and none of them accepting passive roles in their lives. This blog is dedicated to paying respects to the legendary ladies of Celtic mythology, many of whom acted as driving forces in their own tales––and the tales of the men around them.

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Rosario Dawson & Shannyn Sossamon as Liban & Fann, daughters of Aed Abrat

"Thou shalt be whole, and all that thou hast lost of thy strength shall be in-creased to thee… In Mag Mell, the Plain of Delight, and now I desire to go to that other land. Thou wouldst never go hence, wert thou not under a woman’s protection.” 
                                       ─ Liban, "The Sick-Bed of Cu Chulainn"

As a pair, Liban and Fann are arguably the driving force behind the events of “The Sick-bed of Cu Chulainn.” They appear to him first in his dreams, laughing and whipping him, presumably as punishment for his pride and aggression. Liban appears to him in wakefulness later with a proposition: if he agrees to help her husband, Labraid, win an important battle against Senach Siaborthe, Eochaid Iuil, and Eogan Inber on the Otherworldly isle of Mag Mell, they will heal him and he will be given Fann, who has expressed interest in him, as consort. Liban brings Cúchulainn’s man Loeg to the isle first, then Cúchulainn comes to fight for them. After the battle, Fann has a brief affair with him, initiated and pursued by her because her husband, Manannan Mac Lir, has been absent from Mag Mell for too long. The relationship is short-lived, ending when Fann discovers Cúchulainn has a wife, Emer, and the two women realize Cúchulainn is truly at fault for his dishonesty. They part ways when Manannan Mac Lir returns to reconcile with Fann; he then gives Emer and Cúchulainn a potion of forgetfulness and passes his cloak between Fann and Cúchulainn to ensure the two will never meet again.

Rosario Dawson & Shannyn Sossamon
as Liban & Fann, daughters of Aed Abrat

"Thou shalt be whole, and all that thou hast lost of thy strength shall be in-creased to thee… In Mag Mell, the Plain of Delight, and now I desire to go to that other land. Thou wouldst never go hence, wert thou not under a woman’s protection. 

                                        Liban, "The Sick-Bed of Cu Chulainn"

As a pair, Liban and Fann are arguably the driving force behind the events of “The Sick-bed of Cu Chulainn.” They appear to him first in his dreams, laughing and whipping him, presumably as punishment for his pride and aggression. Liban appears to him in wakefulness later with a proposition: if he agrees to help her husband, Labraid, win an important battle against Senach Siaborthe, Eochaid Iuil, and Eogan Inber on the Otherworldly isle of Mag Mell, they will heal him and he will be given Fann, who has expressed interest in him, as consort. Liban brings Cúchulainn’s man Loeg to the isle first, then Cúchulainn comes to fight for them. After the battle, Fann has a brief affair with him, initiated and pursued by her because her husband, Manannan Mac Lir, has been absent from Mag Mell for too long. The relationship is short-lived, ending when Fann discovers Cúchulainn has a wife, Emer, and the two women realize Cúchulainn is truly at fault for his dishonesty. They part ways when Manannan Mac Lir returns to reconcile with Fann; he then gives Emer and Cúchulainn a potion of forgetfulness and passes his cloak between Fann and Cúchulainn to ensure the two will never meet again.