Women in Celtic mythology are often portrayed as warrior-queens and powerful individuals weilding intellectual and martial ability equal or greater then their male counterparts. They use every tactic at their disposal to gain victory and in the case of Queen Maev in the Táin bó Chuailgné she offers her "friendly thighs" as payment to fight for her.

Often these powerful women are brushed off as 'evil sorceresses' and painted in such a way that they are not given a second look. They fade into the scenery as mere props, never to be examined for who they are in the pantheon of Celtic mythology.

The heroine Scathach (pronounced 'skah-ax') is an example of one such character, she is mentioned within the story of Cu-Chulainns training at arms. Cu-Chulainn is the son of the god Lugh, his mother 'Dechtire' is mortal. Even as a youth Cu-Chulainn fights and wins battles against other warriors, he shows strength and prowess above mortal means. He is sent to the Isle of Scathach for training, Scathach's pupils are so few because merely approaching her fortress "dun Scath" ('dun' means 'fortress') is frought with dangers and obstacles too great for most to overcome.

"It was hard to reach Scathach's Isle, and still harder to return from it..."
-Celtic Myth and Legend, Charles Squire pg.163.

As with many legends there is another meaning within this particular tale, Scathach can be translated into English as 'shadowy one' and symbolicly she can be seen as our shadow self. Deadly to approach she is the ultimate combatant and trainer of the warrior, for it is ourselves that can be our worst adversary.

Cu-Chulainn did not travel alone to the Isle of Scathach he travelled with two companions, but they lost heart and turned back (they gave in to their own resistance). Among the obstacles to be overcome when approaching the isle is:

The plain of ill-luck, on this plain mens feet were stuck fast (entropy and avoidance).

Beyond this plain blades of grass sprung up and cut trespassers (fear of pain - loss).

After that a perilous glen full of devouring beasts had to be traversed, (facing the unknown and fear of losing one's identity).

Then, finally the great bridge of the cliff had to be crossed. Three times Cu-Chulainn tried to cross it and twice he was thrown back until finally on the third try he succeeded and made a great ('Salmon') leap into the dun of Scathach. (He does not give up and literally leaps into the unknown.)

The first woman warrior that Cu-Chulainn fights and defeats is Uathach, sister of Scathach. Next, he over-powers Scathach and demands she train him at arms. Once inside the dun the story shifts away from Cu-Chulainns training and focuses on him helping Scathach to fight her adversaries. It is as if he has become her equal by meeting and overcoming her. Cu-Chulainn later defeats many warriors and over-powers Aoife another female warrior that is Scathach's prime enemy. Aoife willingly sleeps with Cu-Chulainn and bears him a son. To read more of this tale visit Táin bó Chuailgné

In ACS, Scathach was seen as the great initiater. She came to represent those aspects of ourselves that we often suppress or neglect and avoid because of shame, guilt, fear, anger, etc. Those parts of ourselves that we would rather not face and admit and dare not ever identify with. Through integration of these 'shadow' aspects of ourselves we find our greatest strength and a wholeness of our being.

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