So had started this in March and, well, somehow never got back to finish. This was the post COVID-19 ate.
Wow, it has been a long time. The last “state of Teh Project post was now over a years and a half ago (ETA: now almost two years exactly). And….not a lot progressed on that front.
In fact, regressed. My computer crashed and I lost a lot of my writing, the most recent stuff but then it turned out what I had backed up ….was screwed up. Of course, a lot can be rehashed from the already published material, which was safely in my email. Techphobe me didn’t use cloud back up for other stuff. I’ve learned too late on that.
There is some hope we can find someone to retrieve the files ….we just need enough money to pay them. That the animals aren’t eating.
But the animals have been centering themselves in my life more than the work has. Although they, especially the dogs, are always part of the work on this path, of course. We adopted another Greyhound in October 2018, Ruadhan (the Little Red One in the photo). We wanted another hound as Gleann‘s (the black ball of fuzz lying down) age caught up with him, neurologically, and he developed Canine Cognitive Disorder and physical neurological problems we knew he wasn’t going to be with us too much longer at that point. We wanted him to have a female hound around, as he always bonded with the girls more, and we wanted Cairbre (the big blond dude with the white face) to have another packmate so he’d not be alone when we lost Gleann. Which happened one year and nine days later. The photo here is of the pack at his last ritual in August. He was tired, he lied down for much of it, he wanted to go out to the border offering but I had to carry him (fortunately my shoulder has healed). I still can’t grok that he’s really gone from this body.
Our goat Elína developed an infection in her joints during the summer, which we thought we were getting under control with antibiotics but it went to her lungs and she died of pneumonia. Unfortunately, I think the extreme humidity that we now have here was just too much. I keep feeling we could have done something better than we did and save her.
(that’s where I got to….yeah, needed a pause after writing about death and then….pandemic hit…..)
I spent a lot of time last year just being with Gleann. And also obsessing over the upcoming Terminator: Dark Fate and most of my writing was blogging and creating new pages for The Sarah Connor Charm School. My plans to get my business started again were on hold, but I had decided to study for the American College of Sports Medicine personal trainer certification as the organization I am certified with got bought out by another organization and has abandoned the CPTs. It took me a few years to finally call it quits as I had been with them since 1992.
Ironically, I had decided during the winter that I would focus on online training, for various reasons I just don’t want to train much around here. Of course, I didn’t get this started and I’m still not ready to, while the pandemic has had many trainers turning to online training. I could have been ahead of the game. Now I’m behind. It doesn’t help that I’m debating with myself about bothering with the ACSM certification, I am considering not getting back into the field. There are various reasons for this, which I won’t go into here, at least right now. One, of course, being hating to spend the money when I am in debate about it, which is sort of a circular thing. They do now have a proctored online test, which would require a somewhat more reliable computer than I have now. And some work to have a room that will meet their requirement….this place is like a series of open concepts parts, I basically will need to do it in a bedroom or bathroom to have closed doors and all. 😩
In most ways the COVID-19 pandemic has made things more the same than they might have been, rather than actually change things. That is, I had intended to make an effort to get down off our mountain at least once a week just before it hit. And that isn’t happening. Nor will it for awhile. The only people I have seen in months are my husband, Aaron, and a few drivers who have insisted on stopping to tell me my dogs are beautiful or that there’s a bear where I’m not even heading (as if I haven’t met up with a bear twice this summer, that I know of …as they usually try not to be seen, much closer to home). I really do wish people would stop stopping to try to talk to me when I’m out running or walking the hounds. Therefore we’re working on cleaning up our trails enough for the delicate-skinned beasts as well as make new trails. I’d much rather just have Aaron the only person I deal with in person right now.
I’m not sure how much this helps me stay safe as a person with multiple risk factors, as Aaron currently works at a store. This might even, at least right now, be more dangerous than when he was an EMT, as he’s more likely to come in contact with tourists who don’t know they have symptoms. He’s doing all the “clean up” he can when home, avoiding people especially if they don’t wear masks (and many do not) at work unless he’s at the cash behind the plastic shield. And, while this is a relatively safe place as far as recorded infection rates go, we don’t really know how many non-residents have been here because it’s recorded where people live. Folk up here are not taking this seriously, which I know is true for most of the country, and we have neighbors who have been traveling, including some who are as I write this on their way back from the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, It’s unlikely we’ll be as “safe” as we have been, we’ve never been as safe as many here think.
Aaron did take one, very careful (limited stops and avoiding contact with anyone, including at the kennel), trip to Dover to pick up our newest Greyhound. We had planned to adopt this summer, the pandemic meant that the planned closing of Florida tracks was early so that dogs expected this summer landed there in March, but at the same time getting dogs vetted was sparsed out longer. So after seeing posts about him on the Greyhound Placement Service, NH FB group for weeks, we technically adopted Trúghadh (the brindle on the left) the first week of May but brought him home the end of June, two weeks after his first birthday. He is a spooky boy, very shy of strangers, who needed a home with other Greyhounds. He’s doing great! Still working things out. He has gotten bold enough to be in the “asshole” stage of settling in, where he’s testing boundaries and establishing himself in the pack. This is a good thing, btw, it’s part of the process. He’s a sweet, lovable boy. The youngest hound we’ve ever adopted.
Aside from hanging out with the dogs, horses and cats, I’ve been very focused on exercise. Okay, I guess while hanging out with the dogs (when running) and cats (they hang out in our home gym almost a the time I’m in there) and the horses create a lot of additional physical activity even when I’m not hanging out with them (although, now that I think about it, they all seem to like to keep getting in the way while we clean up after them).
My strength recovery from my shoulder surgery got slowed down when I developed a very painful case of De Quervan’s tenosynovitis in the same wrist last summer, just as I started to catch up my strength again. PT helped a lot, although not really until I decided to take a couple of months off from lifting, because it just hurt too much. While it’s going to be a sort of constant battle the wrist is functional and relatively pain free. I still keep up my PT exercises, now doing both writs as I have noticed symptoms in my left one as well. But then, I am also noticing issues with my left shoulder that are similar to what started in my right back in the winter of 2009/2010 that go misdiagnosed. However, at this point my strength has improved greatly. It might help that for the past five months I haven’t had a single cold or stomach bug or anything that might take me out for a few days. The COVID-19 protocols are at least helping with that. I just hope it will be enough to help prevent us getting this virus.
So, Teh Project. Lost files are still not recovered and I’m not sure if we can ever find someone. Especially as they’d have to be close enough to hand the bricked hard-drive off ourselves as we don’t want to physically lose it, too! And we were paranoid about any shipping long before Trump’s full-blown attack on the USPS. And currently not likely to travel very far or want to be close enough to someone to hand it to. So I am poking away at the previously published stuff, to try to expand it for the manuscript, still hoping to retrieve and work in what I had already for that that wasn’t published. We’ll see.
I’ve also played a little with video, although I really need a new computer if not a camcoder instead of using the webcam if I want to put together my seriously delayed workshops together that way. Given that any chance of live presentations is going to likely mean delay is just so much worse…. So that’s kind of a “watch this space.”
Oh, speaking of which, I do have half a mind to move this blog to the website, possibly because there is so much fixing needed (at least in my experience with the SCCS blog) when exporting a blog from Blogger to WP that it would be a huge way to keep me from writing. 😐 So….it might not be the space to watch? *ETA: Obviously, if you are reading this, you know I did go through with this threat. Well, threat only to me, exporting/importing a blog from Blogspot to WP was rather time consuming. And some links and picture might still not work and there are some posts which formatting got funny and I can’t seem to straighten it out)
And then Maya promptly bought me a copy of The Gaelic Finn Tradition edited by Sharon J. Arbuthnot and Geraldine Parsons, which I felt was likely vital even before reading Maya’s review in AnA. I have only read a few of the essays, starting with McCone’s and Nagy’s, naturally, but feel it is, indeed very useful. It does make me wonder what happened to the proposed updating of Nagy’s Wisdom of the Outlaw and McCone’s upcoming book that he refers to, The Romulus Syndrome. John M.E. Machate of Trials of a Féinnid was kind enough to make a donation as well, which enabled me to finally get a copy of Phillip Bernhardt-House’s Werewolves, Magical Hounds and Dog-Headed Men in Celtic Literature: A Typological Study of Shape-Shifting which I felt was mandatory for Teh Project and wish I had had for “Going in Wolf-Shape” in the first AnA. It should allow me to punch up a future AnA piece, however. For personal reason around this, I used the rest to make a small donation to a horse rescue. Domi O’Brien of Grove of the Golden Leaves, DANA, who already keeps me well stocked in fiction which I will be passing on or donating for fundraising, gifted me in triplicate, which is in keeping. She gave me a Kindle (hence it’s not in the photo…and no, I haven’ succumbed to buying a device but instead have it on my PC) of An Introduction to Early Irish Literature by Muireann Ní Bhrolcháin which I wanted to check out as a possible background reference and because I’m wanting to update my general reading list a bit, having realized that much of it dates back to my college days 20+ years ago and some was old then. Again, Maya’s review a couple of years ago made me interested. So, no not everything I might list will be specific to the topic of Teh Project. I am finding it quite well puttogether, even if she considered Nemain one of the Morrígna, which simply is not borne out by the literature…related, yes, one of, no…one of the Badba, kind of…because it’s all tricky like that. She makes up for this in her section on the Fenian matter, by referencing the work Nagy and McCone have done relating these stories to canines and actual warbands, which is still rare to find.
Domi also gave me enough money to renew on of my URLs which I had been debating whether I would or not (but many still link to it….I might not renew it next year so if you use cyberpict.net to link to my website, it’s now dunsgathan.net and the older one resolves into it) as well as buy Anne Dooley and Harry Roe’s Tales of the Elders of Ireland: A New Translation of Acallam na Senórach as the AnS is rather vital to my work and this is considered an excellent translation. I have yet to delve in, however.
So, thank you, Maya, John and Domi! I hope you are going to appreciate the work you have helped move on. ~:) And, yes, I am working on it all.
I should also note that there have been many people who have helped me get articles that I could not otherwise get. I have not had a chance, however, to make sure they were all okay with me mentioning their names here…I will, however, at some point thank those who do agree publicly.
Many…..MANY…years ago I put together ideas for a training program for a warrior group within a larger organization which shall remain unnamed. I knew a lot of my ideas wouldn’t work out, discussions of them didn’t go well. I later took the ideas, put things back in I hadn’t bothered with for a group I helped start after leaving the large organization. Nothing really came of it, no one there really wanted to bother with it either..other than me (this was stuff I was doing or wanted to do, after all). I later took the ideas and replaced some of the cultural stuff with general liberal arts stuff and used to to develop a theoretical Sarah Connor Charm School program. At least it was theoretical until someone actually decided to do it and is going strong with it.
Bolstered by her enthusiasm, I pulled the outline out again and reworked it back for what I wanted to do for a Gaelic Pagan warrior path and added things that have come up since then and so forth. And I have now put it up on a warrior training page on the website. It will likely be tweaked on occasion as I realize I left Outlaw warriors on the older page.
things out, should have left things out, want to word things differently, add links and what not. I did take some of the material from the bottom of the warrior path page to the beginning of the new page and also reworked some of the historical material on the
Meanwhile, I’ve done some poking at Teh Project along with some other writing. The second issue of Air nAithesc is scheduled for next month with my article “Muimme naFiann: Foster-mother of the heroes” among other yummy stuff from others. And I am continuing to get my own ass in gear training wise and need to get ready to head out for a run, in fact.
Someday I may finish the next Cú Chulainn post, but it’s set aside for the moment. Likewise, plans to post an outline and maybe some details regarding a theoretical training program is not likely to be posted for a bit. I’ve got a deadline looming for an article that I should be working on instead. But, you know, here I am posting here…but this is going to be quick, really!
The late, great Cù, posted just because I miss him
My article “The Hero(es) Betwixt and Between” has been published in Keltria Journal #43. Yay! I have just submitted another article to an anthology and am waiting to hear on the fate some others tht are out there. I see all of these as part of the over all “Hooded Crow” project. However, I am intending to spend the dark half of the year concentrating largely on getting the whole thing pulled together. Lots of wolfy, warrior Outlaw thoughts coming together. And, yeah, those other thing will eventually get up…as they are all a part of the whole as well.
We’re still prepping for winter and will be celebrating Samhuinn around the full moon. I’ll be putting a lot of intent toward a productive winter of writing.
In a previous post I noted the idea of finding inspiration in the stories of ancient Gaelic ban-fhénnid and indeed you can find many tales online and in books retelling and extrapolating these stories to be more positive than they may have been. One issue, of course, is that not all of these retellings are labeled as such, this is especially true, it seems, within the NeoPagan community but a second source tends to be tourist literature. There are many out there who think they know more about Scáthach or Medb than is really in the texts, which if given the label Unsubstantiated Personal Gnosis is fine, but at least in the non-Pagan sources UPG certainly isn’t a factor. There is, btw, quite a great deal on Medb in the text that is not so widely shared, while Scáthach actually has far less material on her. (Diana Veronica Dominguez, Historical Residues in the Old Irish Legends of Queen Medb: An Expanded Interpretation of the Ulster Cycle, Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen Press, 2010 is an excellent study of Medb using tales often not bothered with, making her far more human and far less a joke than what is usually focused on)
I believe one of the keys to using these stories wisely, is to be very clear about the fact we are making changes to them. Again looking at Medb, especially as examined by Dominquez, we can retell her story through what we as women can imagine are her eyes, rather than of the male eye which may use the tale to mock a woman making war. We can also emphasize things that some scholars choose to ignore in retelling her story. In order to point out that her quest for the bull in the Táin BóCúalnge is the folly of a haughty woman, it’s often left out that she, in fact, also had a reasonable quest for revenge against her former husband Conchobar, who had raped her and killed her son . Medb’s story really has a lot to offer in retelling without actually changing much or adding anything. Yet in retelling it we must be clear that it’s a different perspective from the way the Ulster Tales came down to us, possibly a different perspective than it was viewed by anyone before.
Scáthach, and most of the other warrior women in the texts, we really don’t have much on. It’s in this that we see that while there may be many female warrior names banted about, their stories are very much peripheral to the stories of male warriors, saints or they died horribly in place-name tales. If we tell more of her story than what is in the texts, we likewise need to be clear. For many of us these tellings might be UPG,even SPG (Shared Personal Gnosis), but to those who don’t believe, or simply don’t believe your UPG, stories from such sources are merely modern fictions. I believe it’s okay to have them, we just must be clear that these are not from the source.
Even Macha Mong Ruadh, whose story as a warrior queen is short but quite detailed and positive for her, I believe (although, you know, everyone dies at some point in every tale), offer’s caution. When we tell the tale we might be clear that when she lures the brothers one-by-one into the forest she overtakes them by her own hand. But it’s not actually told what happens in those woods. Someone who does not see women as capable of overpowering men, oh what sheltered lives they must lead, might be thinking she used magic, the only power many think women can ever have, especially those who don’t believe in magic, or had warriors waiting even if this version notes that she bound them.
So, yes, we can retell, we can extrapolate, but we must be clear that’s what we’re doing. And I think we also must take care not to go too far. After all, if a story is of a woman who is clearly not a fighter, why make her so when there are those who are? If we’re going to totally create a new character, should we give her a name of one that is the opposite of what she is. And while we might do this in fiction, non-fiction commentary on literature and history should be way out.
The most stunning example of completely changing the story of a woman in the texts, and not revealing that it is a modern fiction and not what is in the texts, is not actualy from either NeoPagan or a tourism agency, it’s from academic and novelist Peter Berresford Ellis.
I think he was even stretching it to describe Erni (aka Erne for whom Lough Erne was named) as Medb’s warrior his “Peter Tremayne” novel Badger’s Moon (Sister Fidelma #13, NY: St. Martin’s Press, 2005), however, he lists her as such also in Celtic Women: Women in Celtic Society and Literature (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm.B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1996 pg. 73). This is now happily repeated by countless NeoPagan websites and by Jessica Amanda Salmonson in The Encyclopedia of Amazons: Women Warriors from Antiquity to the Modern Era (University of Michigan, Pagagon Press, 1991). Admittedly, her work is full of poorly substantiated entries, with fiction and historical women noted as equally valid, but in this case she might be forgiven, for scholar Ellis says Erni is a mighty warrior, so we should admire her great deeds. Mighty is Erni!
Before recounting, with citation, Erni’s great deeds, I’m going to be perfectly honest, Ellis obviously has better resources than I do, so maybe there’s some lost tale about Erne (yeah, I keep changing the last letter, “e” seems more common, he uses “i” and we’re discussing his work so, I’m trying to use “i” when referring to his work) that indicates this, that is totally opposite the versions I could find. If so, I shall happily stand corrected and rejoice in the finding of another warrior woman. The problem is, Ellis doesn’t cite his sources (bad academic, no biscuit!).
Here are her deeds, the bold emphasis is mine, the italics are not but rather indicate a mistranslation noted on the website source, see note next to it:
13. The chaste Erne, who knew no art of wounding,
50] the daughter of loud-shouting Borg Bán
(the warrior was an overmatch for a powerful third)
the white-skinned son of Mainchin son of Mochu.
14. The noble Erne, devoid of martial spirit, (footnote here notes correct translation is ‘free from venom’) was chief among the maidens
in Rath Cruachan, home of lightsome sports:
women not a few obeyed her will.
15. To her belonged, to judge of them,
the trinkets of Medb, famed for combats,
her comb, her casket unsurpassed,
60] with her fillet of red gold.
16. There came to thick-wooded Cruachu Olcai
with grim and dreadful fame,
and he shook his beard at the host,
the sullen and fiery savage.
17. 65] The young women and maidens
scattered throughout Cruach Cera
at the apparition of his grisly shape
and the roughness of his brawling voice.
That the more accurate translation is “free from venom” is actually interesting, given this would say that she’s not only not a warrior, but also harmless “even for a woman.” Poison being commonly considered a “woman’s weapon” by those who have throughout history seen us incapable of actual confrontational violence.
For comparison, the The Edinburgh Dinnshenchas tells the same tale and includes:
None of these show much warrior tendency, is there a version that does? If so, I’d love to see it and also know what period it is from. Are these the changes from an earlier warrior tale? Sadly, I’m very doubtful that any such tale exists.
Understand, that I see no shame in a woman who is not a warrior to run from a potential rapist. In fact, in most cases, I recommend running to non-professional warrior women, usually after disabling the guy in some way to increase your odds and make him easier for the authorities to catch. However, such mannerisms do not speak of a mighty warrior, a professional warrior according to Ellis, a warrior to a warrior queen. I do not understand why he’d claim she was. So maybe there’s a tale I can’t find?
I think as we tell ourselves stories from the past in ways that are more empowering to us than may have been intended by the original tellers, that we avoid going this far. And avoid making out that a woman in the story is something quite opposite of what she is. I don’t really understand what motivation Ellis might have had in calling Erne a warrior, I’m sure he’s seen all versions of this (and maybe another). But while we might want to find more warriors in the ancient stories, we need to look harder and not change the tales completely.
Once upon a time, I believed that the past was filled with women warriors and there was a great deal of evidence for it especially among the Celtic cultures. Oh, a minority for sure, but there was so much evidence. Such as Boudicca, whose story is told in this video (from the BBC shorts Horrible Histories), Scáthach, Aoife, Medb….the list goes on especially from Ireland, as well as the Cáin Adamnáin. After all, warriors wouldn’t follow a woman if they didn’t have faith in women as warriors, there wouldn’t be all these stories if there were no women warriors, there would be no need to outlaw women warriors if there were no women warriors…..
Now I no longer believe that. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I believe there were Celtic women warriors. What I stopped believing was that there is any good evidence.
It took me a long time to get here and even when I was I was at first a bit reticent about it. After all, I AM writing a book on the Gaelic warrior path for women. The slowness was in part due to the fact that many renown Celticists have supported the that this is evidence, usually just in passing and often citing such evidence as noted above. For example Nora Chadwick stated following noting the Cáin as well that, “Taking what we’re told of Gaulish women warriors by classical writers, together with Boudicca, Cartimandua and Maeve, and with these stories, we cannot but wonder whether there was not some such institution among the most ancient of Celtic people.” (The Celts pg. 136, see below) She is hardly alone in such statements.
As I started up Teh Project again, however, I couldn’t let things go “just in passing.” I actually had to face the evidence issue, because it is something that we must confront and be truthful about. That there is no good evidence, yet I whole heartedly do still believe there were some women warriors in the early Gaelic cultures.
My belief is based simply on the simple fact that no matter how misogynist and repressive a culture is, there are always some women who are of a warrior nature. They may not be accepted as part of mainstream armies or able to openly show themselves to be both women and warriors. They may have been forced adopt the guise of men. They may have been pirates, highwaywomen, outlaws of some kind. And Outlaw in the Gaelic form is something we’ll discuss in a moment.
This puts me in lonely place in the on going debate within both Celtic studies and the Pagan Community about women warriors. Because one side continues to use this evidence, while the other refutes it as evidence or even claims that because because these women warriors typically have supernatural powers it means that there never could have been any women warriors (one would think they never heard of Fionn Mac Cumhail and Cú Chulainn or seem to think that their skills are common among men?). Those who take this view, and there are too many to cite here (go on nearly any “Celtic” email list and dare to write the words “women warriors” and you’ll find them), often also include a deep seated belief that women are inherently unable to be warriors, for example Michael Enright’s unsubstantiated (in a book otherwise filled with obsessive citations) long ranty footnote about how women are constructed in such a way as to not have any ability to fight at all. (Lady With a Mead Cup, pg. 211) It should be noted his evidence for women as Seers, and only Seers, in the warbands mostly consists of exploring stories with some mix of history, when it comes to the Irish tales he only considers to Feidelm, not, for example, Scáthach who was both warrior and Seer).
So here’s the problem with the “evidence” in a nutshell (yeah, I’m going to make you wait to see if I finish Teh Project for more details nah nah nah nah nah):
A lot of women have led armies who have no experience with warfare in history, for instance Joan D’Arc; others have been rulers who sent armies into war, pretty much any ruling queen. (Fraser, The Warrior Queens) Boudicca may have been a trained warrior or she may have been a symbol of hope through horror who male warriors fought for but had never fought herself, we actually do not know. Those who tell us of her, Tacitus and Cassius Dio had only others’ tales to repeat. There is good propaganda, which we’ll also consider in a moment, for a patriarchal culture to have an enemy who supposedly said “”We Britons are used to women commanders in war; I am the daughter of mighty men.” (see also The Agricola and The Germania)
Nor do they tell us anything about whether other women fought under Boudicca or not. The idea is pervasive, but we don’t have evidence. All we have is a bit of logic and the knowledge that during times of crisis, during uprisings and civil wars, women often did take up arms even if it was not the norm. Often they were the push aside and their stories seldom told. (Goldstein, War and Gender)
Other Roman’s such as Ammianus Marcellinus and Diodorus Siculus tell us of Celtic women as big as the Celtic men and as or more courageous and formidable in a fight. The problem with these accounts, however, is that it’s a common tactic for for patriarchal cultures to paint the enemy males as effeminate by claiming their women are masculine and not in proper control, therefore, fighting. (see Goldstein, War and Gender). Again, it may or may not be true, but you can’t use the source as actual proof.
But I’m not writing about Gauls or Britons, I’m writing about Gaelic women warriors, there are tons of them, right? Indeed. In the Irish literature. In fact, along with the well known Medb, Scáthach and Aoife, as well as the Warrior Goddesses, Badb, Macha and Morrígan, who is Anann, there are others. The problem is, they are all stories, some not very flattering to the women warriors. It’s as simple as that.
And people do write, and even fear, things that aren’t real, (think Aliens, for example) so while the fact they’re fiction does not prove women warriors didn’t exist, although I’ve seen such claims actually made on “Celtic” mailing lists, on the basis that the women tend to have supernatural capabilities yet no one claims that stories of the amazing abilities of Cú Chulainn and Fionn Mac Cumhail prove there were no male warriors, it also doesn’t really prove they did. It’s inspirational, it’s hopeful, it’s not proof. And while some may call them myths and proclaim they are a “window” to the Pre-Christian ways, that has been refuted by current scholars. (see, Mallory, ed. Aspects of…, McCone, Pagan Past.., Nagy, Conversing with…)
But certainly no one would make a law forbidding something that wasn’t taking place and theCáin Adamnáin outlaws women warriors. Well, the citation thing here is getting dense for a blog post, so I’ll let you go looking for silly laws, some are just silly things to have laws about but others just aren’t going to be an issue. But the problem here is that that’s not what the original law Adamnán, or someone, issued. The Lex Innocentium or “Law of the Innocents,” was a much shorter proclamation that clerics, women and children were not to be harmed during warfare, as non-combatants and the punishments if one did. The prologue where the Saint and his mother see butchered women and she forces her son to protect them, actually claims that in Pagan times all Irish women were slaves, the best of them forced by their husbands to fight against each other, not glorious, autonomous warriors. It becomes a problem to claim this shows there were women warriors unless you want to claim those women warriors were slaves. (Kelly, …EarlyIrish Law andBitel, Land of Women, pg. 85, 103-110, 211, 223)
What about archaeological evidence? As far as I’ve been able to find, after much looking, and I’m still trying to get more resources on this, there hasn’t been any. And it’s always a problematic evidence where it is found. Burial practices vary a lot, sometimes cremation was used, sometimes there are artifacts and sometimes not and we don’t really know when there are if they were used in life or indicated something else.
Female burials with weapons are often credited with being warrior women (Davis-Kimball and Behan, Warrior Women), but in some cases this may not be correct. As Deborah J. Shepherd points out in “The Elusive Warrior Maiden Tradition: Bearing Weapons in Anglo-Saxon Society” (in Carman and Harding, eds. Ancient Warfare pg. 222-224) in Anglo-Saxon culture it was known that sonless men would name their daughter as a surrogate son and she’d carry weapons as a symbol of that position, but seemingly never would be trained with them. It’s been pointed out that we need osteoarchaeological study of remains to determine if someone buried with them used them in life; perhaps we need to do so in order to see if those not buried with weapons might have trained as well. (see Hanks, “Reconsidering Warfare, Status, and Gender,” iLinduff and Rubinson, eds. Are All Warriors Male? pg. 15-34, see the rest of this book for various views on various cultures)
So what the hells am I doing here, championing the concept of a modern Gaelic warrior path for women, I believe there is no evidence, if I in fact refute the evidence so many believe in? Well, sometimes I wonder. ~;p But really, it’s simple, as I already noted, I still believe there were women warriors, based only on circumstantial evidence as it were. Including the very personal knowledge that no matter what, some women just are called to this path, no matter what their culture might dictate. It may be a small number, but we exist and it’s unlikely there weren’t a few in any culture. “Few” never means “none.” It might make them hard to find, however.
Goldstein estimates the number of women warriors as 1%…that is both 1% of warriors are women and 1% of women are warriors…on average through the world and time. At the moment he estimates it’s about 3% although he’s noting only within the military, not LEO or others who may be described as warriors. (Goldstein, War and Gender, pg 10-11) And he notes not all of these women are in combat positions (although, of course, many non-combat personnel see combat these days…something that’s been true a lot throughout history). Given this, it’s not always hard to hide that 1-3% and can be very difficult to find.
So, I don’t believe there were a LOT of women warriors, but there were some. I also believe that they may not have been part of the culture, that is, I in the regular tribal groups there may only have been male warriors. I think the place female warriors might have existed is Outside, in the Outlaw warrior bands. While we can’t take it, obviously, as actual proof, it’s interesting that the words for “woman warrior” are, from what I’ve found, either a form of ban-fhénnid or bangaisgedh, which tend to indicate an Outlaw Warrior.
While clerics were happily writing tales of tribal matters, the stories of the Fianna, which when mentioned in saints tales were interchangeable with díberga, weren’t recorded until later (McCone, “Werewolves, …”). While we know that young males, prior to attaining their adult rights, would be in these bands, which is also shown in the tales of Fionn, McCone finds it likely that there were men who were never given inheritance who remained. In the tales Fionn is an example. He doesn’t speculate about women in the bands, but Nagy notes those associated with Fionn himself, especially his fosterers. (The Wisdom of the Outlaw) In most of the tales we have of women involved, with the exception of Fionn’s fosterers and Aoife, who is so named (Scáthach isn’t, but is clearly a woman warrior who is Outside the culture in question), the women likewise are only ban-fhénnid for the time they must be for revenge. (Nessa and Creidne, for example) If women remained in the wilderness throughout their lives, how would we even know about it?
Another hint might be that although the early Christian Irish laws tended to see women as incapable of harming any but children and other women, there was concern over female werewolves. (confail conrecta, “a woman who likes to stray in wolf-shape, from Bitel, pg. 219-220, Carey, “Werewolves” pg. 64-68) McCone has made the connection between werewolves and the Outlaw Warriors, of course. (“Werewolves, Cyclopes,….”). It is a connection which intrigues me greatly.
Unfortunately, this is purely speculative and based on the stories. I hope we do get the archaeological evidence someday, but until then, my theory is that we should look to the stories for their inspiration. Many are uninspiring, with the women not shown in good light. I think it’s reasonable to retell these to ourselves in more positive ways, with the constant caveat that it’s not the way the stories went. We find inspiration in modern stories.
Stories, ancient or modern, inspire us, stories let us build our own stories, stories become true for us if we make them so. That’s why I am doing this.
Lisa Bitel, Land of Women: Tales of Sex and Gender from Early Ireland, Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1996
John Carey, “Werewolves in Medieval Ireland,” Cambrian Medieval Celtic Studies 44 (Winter 2002)
John Carman and Anthony Harding, eds. Ancient Warfare: Archaeological Perspectives, Gloustershire: Sutton Publishing, 2004
Okay, one big issue with posting here is how to I follow up the last post? I mean *swoons*
The other is, I’m supposed to be writing something for hard copy, so I’ve backed off some of my online writing. But I’m sort of stuck on Teh Project and maybe some venting and “thinking out loud” or “in sight” or whatever, will help? Maybe, maybe not.
But likely I’ll be doing some speculating, because some of this needs some feedback. I mean, if I’m writing something no one is going to read other than a few friends, then I might back off and focus on other things, sharing with those friends in a more informal manner.
So the major question coming up: are you interested in a book about how women can aspire on the Gaelic warrior path that doesn’t give any of the fantasy that the ancient Gaelic world was filled with wall to wall women warriors? One that uses story as inspiration, but remembers that they are stories? That looks for what clues to real women warriors there might have been but admits the evidence is sparse to non-existent no matter what even some Celtic scholars have wanted to believe?
Or, how about this: Do you want such a book that also says you have to be able to fight and that “warrior” doesn’t just refer to being emotionally empowered? A book that includes discussion of fitness, martial arts, self-defense and weapons…including firearms? Okay, if you’ve been here awhile I’m thinking that maybe you do want that, but that brings us back to “a few friends.” ~;p
In relation to the last questions, I’m also getting my AFAA Personal Trainer certification reinstated. This will likely affect some of my blogging activity, as well as some of the content of Teh Project, whether it affects my income or not is another matter, given my location and the general economic atmosphere. I guess another question is: If Teh Project gets published, are you interested in a companion fitness workbook? ~;p I mean, I gotta do SOMETHING with this thing. Or maybe I’ll dump this and do that instead.
So I’ve never managed to get into the swing of regular blogging since taking up Teh Project again. I’m still training, but I’ve not done a lot that is worth writing about in that respect. We’re hoping to get back to actual shooting classes come fall and winter, so look for reviews of those in the coming months. But writing offline has taken up a lot of my writing energy and while I do have something I plan to put on the web, it’s gotten a bit cumbersome for a blog post so I’ll be doing an actual old-fashion webpage for it…then blogging a bit about it here. That will be soon.
In the meantime, I’m preparing to meet a couple of my idols, my current biggest one, Linda Hamilton, and my teen years biggest one who I still adore, Lindsay Wagner. Yeah, Jaime Sommmers of the Bionic Woman may seem a bit pacifistic compared to my current stance, but she was an inspiration for strength and as I knew no one would make me bionic even if the technology was developed like that, the idea that being strong was something that could mean you didn’t have to fight actually inspired me to first pick up weights and start running. Um, okay, those “weights” seem pretty silly now, but it was a start.
What will likely get reviewed here, especially as I wish to put more of my interest in Celtic cultures and ancient women warriors into this blog as well as the contemporary and pop culture material that makes up much of it, will be Neil Marshall’s new movie Centurion that he’ll be screening and doing a public interview and question and answer session on (sadly the screening comes after, you get tickets at the Q&A as there might be more questions after the screening). Marshall is the man who gave us Rhona Mitra kicking ass in Doomsday so that this film includes “Pictish” women warriors may not end up badly. But I find anything that does go into Things Celtic tends to go real bad. And “Pictish” even more so…such as King Arthur featuring the “Woads.”
I am a bit picky about this stuff, as can be noted by two articles I have had up (and which could use some updating I’m sure) for awhile now. One on The Picts and the other on The Problem of the Woad itself. Oh, you might have also caught on about this interest when you saw the tattoos, huh?
When it comes to the on going debate about women warriors among the Picts or other Celtic (and as the article notes, I’m persuaded to refer to them as a Celtic speaking people) I’ve got the Outsider view; I’m neither on the side of those who say they were a common fixture of the cultures nor the side of those who say they were purely fiction. What we can prove is another matter. And so far I’ve found this exploration filling an introduction (mostly on the non-Celtic evidence) and two chapters.
So I expect this will be an all around interesting four days for me and that it will give me a lot of food for thought. And, of course, a way to combine the subjects here…which, of course, they always sort of do come together for me. As, should I ever finish this book I refer to as Teh Project and get it published, you’ll see someday. Or you’ll just have to see what future posts here offer.
Sadly, no one else from the Sarah Connor Charm School is going. I am hoping to meet more women so inspired though. I hope I’m not the only one who is preparing for this con by upping her weight training.