This post is also available in: French
Today author Linnea Tanner is visiting to talk about mythology and her Curse of Clansmen and Kings series. Welcome, Linnea. I have known her for several years and watched her accumulate literary nominations and awards for her historical fantasy writing. Want to learn more about the Celtic goddess and how she is still relevant today? Then keep reading!
The female protagonist, Catrin, in the Curse of Clansmen and Kings series is a Celtic warrior princess with mystical druidic powers in ancient Britannia.
Her characterization is based on the complex archetypes of ancient Celtic goddesses whose functions embrace the entire religious spectrum from healing to warfare, from creation to destruction, and from nourishment to the Otherworld of the dead. Her Roman lover, Marcellus, is the great-grandson of Marc Antony. Interestingly, the Romans blended Celtic beliefs into their religion throughout the Romano-Celtic region.
In the Curse of Clansmen and Kings series, Catrin’s mythological odyssey will take her back and forth between first century Britannia and Rome. She derives powers from her dual nature of absolute love and loyalty countered by destruction and vengeance. She embodies the complex archetypes of Celtic goddesses who are described below.
Goddesses of War
In Irish mythology, war goddesses were also associated with fertility and sovereignty. Many of the Irish goddesses were destructive and promiscuous, and personified warlike strength to defend their land so it could flourish.
Medb is an example of a divine female chronicled in the Ulster Cycle. Both a ruler-goddess and a battle-queen, she fought on the battlefield and controlled her own army to establish supremacy of her realm. Sexually promiscuous, she didn’t allow any man to rule at her royal court unless she first mated with him.
Another war goddess, Morrigan, is also associated with fertility and sovereignty. She is the goddess of victory for whichever army she chooses to support and can decide who dies in battle.
She is a shapeshifter associated with the raven, a carrion bird often observed on the battlefield. On the death of the great Irish hero, Cú Chulainn, Morrigan perched on his shoulder in the raven-form to signify to his enemies that he had indeed died in battle that she had predicted.
There is also historical evidence that Celtic women fought in battles and took on military leadership. The Roman historian, Ammianus Marcellinus, described Celtic women in Gaul (modern day France) as “…usually strong and with blue eyes; especially when, swelling her neck, gnashing her teeth, and brandishing her sallow arms of enormous size, she begins to strike blows mingled with kicks, as if they were so many missiles sent from the string of the catapult.”
Boudica was a warrior queen who united the Celtic tribes in Britain and almost expelled their Roman conquerors in 61 AD. The Roman historian, Tacticus, writes the British were accustomed to women commanders in war.
Water-Goddesses, Healers and Mothers
Water associates with the life-force of goddesses and represents the interface between the earthly and spirit worlds. Many of the spring-sanctuaries in the Celtic provinces of the Roman Empire had goddesses as their patrons. One such site is located beside the river Avon at Bath, England.
Long before Roman occupation, the site was considered sacred because of the hot, healing water associated with the goddess Sulis, equated with the Roman goddess, Minerva.
Sulis was both a solar goddess as well as a healer. There is a strong link between the sun and healing as illustrated by the many curative shrines to the Celtic Apollo in Gaul.
The healing attributes of Sulis counter-balances with her role as the avenger of wrong-doers. Visitors to the public bath could invoke her aid to punish evil-doers who did them wrong.
Healer-goddesses often had male partners. Sirona was the divine healing partner of the native Celtic version of Apollo, sometimes called Apollo Grannus or Belenus. During the second century A.D., a temple was constructed to Apollo and Sirona around a natural spring in Hochscheid.
Pilgrims offered gifts of coins, figurines, and other votive gifts to the healing water-spirits. Apollo depicts with a gryphon and lyre while Sirona has a snake and bowl of eggs, symbolizing renewal, fertility, and healing.
The Mother Goddess was perhaps the most important of the supernatural powers as reflected by their images on friezes and statues. They symbolized the generative power of the female and associated with symbols of the cornucopias, animals, and children.
Love, Marriage, and Partnership
In early Irish and Welsh law, women owned their own property and marriage could not happen without their consent. The Irish myths contain numerous examples of divine love in which marriage between a mortal king and goddess to assure the well-being of the lands.
Often images of male and female deities represent as being the same size, with each of them having many functions. The female generally associates with domestic prosperity, fertility, and abundance.
The potency of the divine couple lay in their marriage to assure provision of health, fertility, and protection. In the Romano-Celtic areas, the goddess interestingly often appears as a local Celtic native while her partner is demonstrably of Roman origin. It seems to express a hidden message of the idea of ‘marriage’ between Celt and Roman, the conquered and the conqueror.
One of the themes I explore in the Curse of Clansmen and Kings is the power of love within the confines of laws, rules, and religious morality. In Celtic mythology, absolute love is a positive force that leads people beyond their own condition toward an expansion of themselves.
Conclusions on the Celtic Goddess and More
Divine and semi-divine females abound in Welsh and Irish myths. They often associate with themes of virginity and marriage, which generated special power in the female. The Celtic goddesses were not tied to procreation and domesticity. They were powerful entities, invoked equally by women and men.
Their functions embraced the entire religious spectrum. Battle goddesses were invoked in times in war. They could change into the raven-form as harbingers of death. The concept of partnership is a prominent concept of Celtic religion and myth, in which the female is sometimes the dominant partner.
Modern-day women can learn from ancient Celtic traditions and mythology to understand how they can embrace their complex but equal roles in society and marriage as a positive force.
- Miranda Green, Celtic Goddesses: Warriors, Virgins, and Mothers; British Museum Press, London, 1995.
- Jean Markale, Women of the Celts; Inner Traditions International, Ltd, Rochester, Vermont, 1986.
About Linnea Tanner
Since childhood, award-winning author, Linnea Tanner, has passionately read about ancient civilizations and mythology that held women in higher esteem, particularly the enigmatic Celts reputed to be warriors and druids. She has extensively researched and traveled to sites described in the Curse of Clansmen and King series.
A native of Colorado, Linnea attended the University of Colorado and earned both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in chemistry. She lives in Windsor with her husband and has two children and six grandchildren. Connect with Linnea Tanner at her self-titled website, Amazon Author Central, and Twitter.
Books by Linnea Tanner
Book 1: Apollo’s Raven
A Celtic warrior princess is torn between her forbidden love for the enemy and duty to her people.
Book 2: Dagger’s Destiny
A Celtic warrior princess accused of treason for aiding her enemy lover must win back her father’s love and trust.
This post is also available in: French