Wonder Woman Rant Redux – muscle, space and physical feminism

Six years ago I wrote the post Wonder Woman—a rant from Goddesses to costumes to Goddesses which remains my most popular post ever. *sigh* (because while I’ll always throw in pop culture material regarding physical feminism and all, that’s not the precise focus of my blog even if story is and these are our stories) And as it started getting hits again recently, likely due to people looking for things regarding the new movie, I figured I should add a review to the movie.  But  as I had not made any commentary regarding Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman when Batman v. Superman came out, have been pretty actively avoiding doing so, really, I realized I really need to get the physical feminism issues of this out of the way so I can review Wonder Woman without discussing this aspect.

But first, please let me note that I am really excited about Wonder Woman, it’s way past time to finally have a stand-alone superhero movie for a female character!   To boot, it’s also important that it is being directed by a woman!  Be nice if there were more women in the background, it sucks to “take what we get” but hopefully it’s a step. IF it succeeds. And there is evidence that it is not meant to, that it is being under promoted and it is being released at a bad time in regards to established competition.  

If we want more this movie must succeed strongly!  Pleas go see it, multiple times if you can!  Yeah, use capitalism to our advantage, by the Dr. Pepper! (don’t like Dr. Pepper…yeah, me either, but the cans are what might be worth the purchase)  Buy T-shirts!  Uh, but we have to have our limits, please, PLEASE do NOT buy the fucking diet bars!  Talk and post about the movie!

Let’s make this a huge success and at the same time demand more!  More! More female superhero stand-alone movies!  More female led superhero TV shows! More female directors of both! More female writers of both! More female producers of both! More female show runners!   Also more diversity over all…. women of color, trans-women!

And yes…..More muscle!  

Can someone point me to the original source?!  I found this tons of places via Google but have failed to find the origin.

Part of not writing about this for the past three or four years is just other things going on, but also not wanting to get into the accusations of body-shaming Gal Gadot.  So let’s get a few things clear here:

  1. I in no way wish to body-shame Gadot. This isn’t about her really, she just landed in the middle of an ongoing issue, especially as she never sought out the role. It is about the choice by Zack Snyder, and anyone else involved in casting, to actually pursue her for the role for it despite the fact it was for a character currently shown as largely muscled. This is on the casting not her. I am sorry if her feelings have been hurt, but also see #3 here.I am also sorry she got attacked for her breast size, which is in no way an issue for me. (however, in her defending that someone should inform her that the cutting off a breast thing was likely propaganda created by forcing the Iranian *ha-maz-an “one fighting together” into similar sounding Greek term which conveniently made it sound horrid to Greek women who might want to become one. Certainly, there is no way it would help women draw a bow, quite the opposite, and certainly no evidence that the Sauro-Sarmatian female warriors who probably were sometimes called this did so, especially as they were expected to marry and have children when they gained adulthood [sound familiar?  yes, Amazons were likely among the war bands I am studying, of course] 2,500 year-old Alt-Facts are no more true than modern ones) Yes, perhaps WW is often shown with outrageously large breasts but as they are irrelevant to her ability as a fighter I really do not consider it important. Muscles matter, however.
  2. Discussion of the bodies of actors playing superheroes is not focused only on women, but has
    long been going on with men. The attacks on both Michael Keaton and George Clooney when they were cast as Batman were really before the internet took off and may be forgotten by many and since overshadowed by the, not unrelated, snarking on the rubber batsuits. This is a rather extensive post exploring Batman’s physique, including the actors from Adam West up through Christian Bale from Gotham Alleys. Ben Affleck’s and Henry Cavill’s muscle mass has been up for discussion on the interwebs as well, never mind that they got more upgraded muscle suits to help them out (difficult with bare harms and shoulders of WW’s costume, of course).
  3. Despite the usual cries (from privileged people regardless of the issue) that there should be no “oppression Olympics” oppression is not equal. Some forms of oppression are worse than others. And within particular form of oppression there is definitely a difference, that’s actually the very nature of oppression.  Yes, being “skinny-shamed” or even “societal-ideal-body-shamed” might hurt the individual’s feelings and that is real for them, it is not the same as a largely muscled woman who is
    shamed for “looking like a man” and who is (as is relevant to this issue) unable to get a job in film or TV because they are too muscular, which happens, and that is, honestly, not the same as someone being fat-shamed by being denied all sorts of jobs, being forced to buy an extra seat or not be able to fly at all to not being able to get appropriate healthcare and sometimes dying from that.As thin actresses are favored and get jobs all the time, bitching that muscular actress are left out of a role essentially designed for them is not thin-shaming, it is discussing muscle-shaming. On the other hand, almost all the defensiveness about “thin-shaming”in this situation is really thinly (no pun intended) disguised fat- or muscle-shaming the latter of which is displayed here.In a nutshell, it is simply not thin-shaming to demand that other types of women’s bodies be seen in movies especially when the character is already established as having a body that does not meet the societal ideal.
  4. As a continuation of the above, there is more going on here than one woman’s body shape. It’s the whole damn message that, again, the Women’s Health piece drives home, that women are supposed to be thin and only thin. There is a very narrow (yeah, pun is intended here) range of acceptable body types in the media, especially in any sort of leading role. There is a constant message that women must take up as little space as possible.This was notable to me in watching Batman v. Superman, right down to the first encounter between Affleck’s Bruce Wayne and Gadot’s Diana Prince when he towered over her intimidatingly (while Affleck is 6’4″ and Gadot is 5’10”, canon Batman is 6’2″ and the modern canon (we’ll get to this) WW is 6’0″ which is not as notable a difference, and height is easily managed in film so this could

    have played far differently. Again, while already very muscular, both Affleck and Cavill are made almost absurdly large with their suits and in the way they are featured, while Gadot appears diminutive, even while doing “large things.”

    This size disparity is, of course, also found in the comic at times, but is, frighteningly, perhaps mostly geared towards kids as in  Justice League Action.  The message given to girls by always portraying female heroes as a always being able to be strong but thin remains a message to not take up space, to fit a societal ideal that most of us do not and which girls and women harm themselves daily to try to achieve. While also being strong? Can this message be denied here at all when there is a damn tie-in to a weight loss product?

  5. This has been one of a long line of very thin women being cast into muscular roles, a role that is now known for being muscular just as (even more so, really…far more so) Sarah Connor was, where the actress was put into a position of proving she was gaining enough muscle to do so and we are told repeatedly that she did despite all evidence that she doesn’t. Now, again, this seems to get close to thin-shaming, but again it’s about the spin that is put on the issue by the promoters and puts the actress, who surely would rather not be there, into the spotlight to try to prove a point about what women’s bodies are “supposed” to look like.I also can sympathize, I do not put on a lot of muscle even though I work out specifically to attempt to.  So if it’s a matter of not having a mesomorph-dominant  body I get it. I’m totally an endomorph/ectomorph cross.  So why not cast an actress who already does?  Because not all women have difficulty putting on muscle, just as not all men can put muscle on easily!But there is another factor. Are these women actually getting the sort of fitness training that builds muscle.  The Women’s Health piece (I’m not giving them yet another link) claims Gadot said “that she’s been doing “a thousand and one things” to gain body mass in preparation for the role, including kung fu, kickboxing, and jujutsu.”   So, you know, fighting arts is great for preparing for such a role but they do not exactly put on mass. I can only assume those thousand and one things included weight training but, of course, that also has to be done right even for someone genetically inclined to put on muscle.And, here’s the kicker, there’s a long term gas-lighting (no, really, that is what it is) technique in the fitness biz of telling women that “women do not bulk up like men but you must work out to make sure you do not bulk up like a man.” Or even the ever growing popularity of “lift like a man but don’t look like one, just starve yourself.” (no, I am not linking to any of this shit, it’s too easy to find as it is).  It’s so fucking common.  And this little game of “oh, she’s really muscular for a woman, this is is what a proper muscular woman looks like” is a growing part of that gas-lighting.

    This gas-lighting is so pervasive and has been going on so long that women truly believe they can’t bulk up and that they must also avoid bulking up as much as possible. They also believe that a “toned” look, one of the most horrific jokes in fitness, on a woman is comparable to a body-building physique on a man. This is not just cis-women who believe all this (and I do apologize for how cis-centric this all is, the subject makes it difficult to be more diverse at this point) so most people do believe that Gadot (and other actresses put through this), for a woman, has “really bulked up.”

    (Want some great reading on how how sports media plays into this gas-lighting check out Body Panic: Gender, Health and the Selling of Fitness by Shari L Dworkin and Faye Linda Wachs and Built to Win: the Female Athlete as Cultural Icon by Leslie Heywood and Dworkin)

  6. This movie is tied in with a fucking weight loss product!
  7. Sorry Women’s Health (no, not linking again), but while you can be strong and thin bigger strong people will still be stronger!  Simple physics!   “Oh, but she’s super-powered.”  Yeah, so is Superman and if there is any superhero who doesn’t need size on his side it’s Superman…yet he keeps getting bigger so….  STFU!  You’re just espousing sexist sizism that dictates women must strive to be as small as possible with this sort of shit. (I’d also be interested in whether under the circumstances of Superman’s superpowers, the yellow sun, which makes virtually nothing a real resistance for him, if such a creature would have much muscle mass at all. Anyone? ….and make it something more than an opinion because I don’t care so much to give that time, thanks).We know the Amazons trained. I expect muscle. It appears there will be in some of the Amazons, although I have yet to see boxer Anne Wolfe or MMA fighter Madeleine Vall in costume yet.
  8. A fucking weight loss product!
  9. Wonder Woman is certainly not about weight loss, she has instead, happily gained both height and weight. The Golden Age WW was, indeed, a rather tiny 122 lbs at 5’8″.   The New 52 WW is 165 lbs at 6’0″ -but honestly she often looks more muscular than that likely would.
  10.  So this movie, which should be about showing women are strong and powerful as superheroes, who can take on men, monsters and armies, is still giving us a message that this better be done while avoiding taking up too much space. Brought fully home by the fact that, they tied it into a fucking weight loss product!
  11. We have a legitimate expectation to see more varied feminine bodies on screen and that does include ones which are muscular especially when the character is already know to be and is supposed to be physically powerful!
  12. We have a legitimate expectation to see women taking up space in movies! And everywhere!  We have a legitimate right to take up space!
  13. We don’t want your fucking weight loss products!

Again, the take away is that this might annoy many of us ,but it is vital, especially if we want to see female superhero muscle to support this movie!  Which looks like it might be very good, despite this. Which is why I wanted this out of the way before I saw and reviewed it.

But also success means more female-led superhero films, more female directed superhero films, hopefully more female produces superhero films. And other such action films, maybe too!  Because right now the myth that women’s action movies do not bring in money, something which they seem to want to prove by not promoting WW as much as they already are Justice League. We have the promise of a Captain Marvel, which will be the first female-lead stand-alone Marvel offering in 2019.  Can we hope for others to follow? Only if we make this big!

In fact, this doe not need to be the last Wonder Woman of our times. Superman and Batman have had too many actors to count (well, okay, I’m too lazy) playing them since Kirk Alyn (who preceded George Reeves) and  Lewis Wilson (who preceded Robert Lowery who preceded Adam West), respectively.  Meanwhile, actually making it to screen Gadot is only the third live action actress, following the well known Linda Carter TV series run in the 1970 and the Cathy Lee Crosby pilot movie that ran the year before Carter’s series was picked up instead. There’s a lot of room there for more women playing Wonder Woman. And TV is another option.

And as Supergirl is slated early for a third season on CW, which is picking up more DC titles and which has already been established is a different Earth than the DC movies with different actors playing the Flash, I think it is now the time for them to finally do a workable Wonder Woman with a different and buff actress playing her.  And without resorting to the dreck of the previous series attempt and remember that even bits that might work for raised-since-a-young-age-as-a-“regular-girl” Supergirl is not going to work with raised-to-be-a-warrior-since-birth Amazon  Oh, she might love sharing ice cream with her bestie but not to cry over her “lost love.”  While we’re at it, let’s make sure her best friend is Etta Candy (or if they met way back, Etta’s granddaughter or something) and make sure she is fat and athletic and a fucking badass as she should be and never actually the joke she could have been (and I’m waiting to see how the movie does with her)…and never, ever have her mention wanting to lose weight because Etta does not give a fuck about your fat-shaming standard!  Oh, yeah, Diana should be bi too, because finally what was really quite obvious has been officially acknowledged. And also she must fight Nazis. I’ll discuss the taking her story back to WWI instead of WWII when I have actually seen the movie, but the original Wonder Woman came to the Man’s World during the World War II to battle the threat of Nazis. She has had to battle Nazis cropping up at various times. We have a real Nazi problem right now, we need her fighting Nazis now!

So we need to make this move HUGE and then voice our desires to see such a show come up soon.

Go to the movie, take friends, go lots of times if you can, take more friends! Post and promote, if they won’t we have to!  Buy products, but not the fucking diet bars!  Let’s remind them that women bring an audience!

ETA: I just had this go through my feed!  I guess they were just waiting to promote it (or something), so another way make this big and get more WW and more of other female superheroes is participate he shit out Wonder Woman Day

 

Wonder Woman, with muscle, punching Trump mural in Pilidelpha

Excerpt from “The War Goddess’s Bitch”

This is from my article in Air n-Aithesc Vol III, Issue 1 currently available in hard-copy or e-copy from this link.  Unlike previous excerpts, this in not the beginning of it, as I began with a dream sequence that would be too long for a lead in and I don’t want to post only part of.  The article is a continuation of my exploration of the fénnidecht wolf-warrior path, specifically how I follow it as a devotion to the Morrígan and some material on female werewolves, weredogs and dog-heads.

The War Goddess’s Bitch

Wolf-warrior cults are usually attributed to male Gods. The Vedic Indra and Rudra, the Germanic Odin and the Greek Apollo Lykeios have all been associated with wolfish warrior bands.[i] Kershaw states that there are no known Celtic Gods associated with warbands, other than seeing a similarity between Finn and the Fíanna and Rudhra and the Maruts.[ii]Kershaw also mentions McCone’s pairing of Ódinn/Týr and Lug/Núada as teuta/koryos(civilization/warband or wild) God pairings.[iii]  Lug is certainly a candidate for such a warrior cults: His relationship to both Cú Chulainn and Finn, adds to this possibility.[iv]While I would not argue against Lug, Finn (as a God, although I tend to focus on his nature as a semi-divine hero) or other Gods as having had such cults, I believe that it is as likely that the Goddesses who fall under the title the Morrígan were also likely to have been the Divine leaders of such cults.
The Morrígan’s interest in Cú Chulainn, the Hound of the Smith, is evident throughout the TBC and related Ulster tales. Some see their relationship as confrontational, often confusing. Epstein has speculated that She may indeed be his patron Deity.[v]  Epstein noted that the seemingly adversarial nature of Her relationship with Cú Chulainn can be seen as an effort to strengthen his glory, as I have also explored.[vi] Epstein specifically brought up the similarities between his canine nature, which goes far deeper than just a name, and the Norse ulfheðnar (“wolf coats”) and berserkr (“bear coats”) who followed Odin. She speculated that this might hint at an ecstatic cult dedicated to an Morrígan.[vii]
This ecstatic, shape-shifting nature suggests such a cult as well as the obvious canine connection.  Cú Chulainn’s name connects him with canines: he is the Hound, actually acting as Culainn’s guard dog as a boy, to replace the dog he killed.[viii] Yet his form of shape-shifting, his ríastrad (warp spasm), is not decidedly canine. By killing the guard dog and then assuming the dog’s role, Cú Chulainn was transformed completely into a hound not only for his time of service to the Smith but for the rest of his life.[ix]He was always a hound. He was just wilder, more dangerous, rabid, when he transformed and he described himself as having canine fury in Tochmarc Emire.[x]His identity as the Hound was so significant that when St. Patrick conjured Cù Chulainn’s specter in order to convert Lóegaire, the king of Ireland, the specter’s canine nature convinced the king that the specter was truly Cú Chulainn.[xi] 
Cú Chulainn’s story gives no indication of him as part of a warband. This lack is likely related to animosity between the church and such warriors they called díberga (marauders, brigands).[xii]  It is notable that the ecstatic transformation and the connection to a Deity were revealed at all.  When the stories of warbands were finally set down, the Fíanna seem quite divorced from the earlier, negative, accounts of the díberga, that displayed little association with either shape-shifting or Deity.[xiii] The association with hounds is strong in the stories around Finn Mac Cumhail. There are many members of the Fíanna with canine names. However, the fénnidi’s own canine nature is only hinted at vaguely.  Finn did have the hood of Crothrainne, which allowed him to turn to hound or stag, yet there is little evidence of him using it.[xiv]In one alternative tale of the birth of Bran, Finn was his father by a woman enchanted into the form of a bitch.  One might choose to speculate that he used the hood at that time.[xv] 

Read more by purchasing AnA here

 


[i] Kris Kershaw, The One-eyed God: Odin and the (Indo-) Germanic Männerbünde, Journal of Indo-European Studies, Monograph No. 36., Washington D.C.: Institute for the Study of Man Inc., 2000, such Gods and Their cults are the subject of the entire study, however particular interest might rest in ch. 9 “Odin Analogues” pg. 182-200; Dorcas Brown and David Anthony, “Midwinter Dog Sacrifices at LBA Krasnosamarskoe, Russia And Traces of Initiations for Männerbünde” Paper presented, Conference: Tracing the Indo-European: Origin and migrations. Roots of Europe Research Center, University of Copenhagen, Denmark Dec 11–13, 2012.
[ii] Kershaw, The One-eyed God, pg. 186.
[iii] Kershaw, The One-eyed God, pg. 195.
[iv] C. Lee Vermeers discussed his relationship with Lú Ardáinmór as a lycanthropic God in a blog post http://faoladh.blogspot.com/2013/05/what-i-domy-own-gods-part-one-my-upg-so.html and has also talked about Apollo as a Wind-Wolf God, http://faoladh.blogspot.com/2011/05/gods-and-goddesses-of-werewolves-wind.html
[v]Epstein, “War Goddesses,” Ch. 2.
[vi]Epstein, “War Goddesses,” Ch. 2; Lambert, “Musings on the Irish War Goddesses;” also further explored in my blog post “The Morrígan and Cú Chulainn part 1: On Saying ‘No.’”
[vii]Epstein, “War Goddesses…,” Ch. 3.
[viii]TBC Rec 1 pg.  17-19,140-142; TBC:BOL pg. 23-25, 160-163.
[ix] McCone, “Aided Cheltchair Maic Uthechair: Hounds, Heroes and Hospitallers in Early Irish Myth and Story.” Ériu 35, 1984 pg. 8-11, I discuss this act as being linked to wolf-warrior initiations in “Going Into Wolf-shape.”
[x]Bernhardt-House, Werewolves, Magical Hounds, and Dog-headed Men, pg. 174, 343.
[xi]Joseph Falaky Nagy, Conversing with Angels and Ancient: Literary Myths of Medieval Ireland, Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1997, pg. 274.
[xii] Kim McCone, “Werewolves, Cyclopes, Díberga and Fíanna: Juvenile Delinquency in Early Ireland” Cambridge Medieval Celtic Studies, issue 12, 1986, pg. 3-4; Sharpe, “Hiberno-Latin Laicus, Irish Láech and the Devil’s Men,” Ériu  30, 1979, pg. 80-87.
[xiii]Kim McCone, “Werewolves, Cyclopes, …”, pg. 3-4; I discuss other links between the díberga and the Fíanna and canine nature further in “Going Into Wolf-shape” as well.
[xiv]Kuno Meyer, ed. and trans., “The Finn episode from Gilla in Chomded húa Cormaic’s poem “A Rí richid, réidig damFianaigecht, 1910, Hodges, Figgis & Co., Dublin, Ireland, pg. 51. http://archive.org/details/fianaigechtbeing00meye
[xv]As we’ll discuss shortly, Bran and Sceolang are more commonly said to be the children of Finn’s aunt, however, this tale is noted by Bernhardt-House, Werewolves, Magical Hounds, and Dog-headed Men, pg. 196.

Copyright © 2016 Saigh Kym Lambert
Wolf Copyright © 2002 Aaron Miller, based on Newbigging Leslie stone

Moving things around and more re-self-publishing

Air n-Aithesc logo

Some, maybe, have noticed that I have moved the website to http://dunsgathan.net/feannog/  the old folder will forward you there from old links.

At the same time, I have also created a page to house links (this link goes to said page) to PDFs of articles originally published in Air n-Aithesc (this link goes to the magazines page)   

At this time the page has “‘By Force in the Battlefield’: Finding the Irish Female Hero” and “Going into Wolf-Shape” up. Will get the other two I have ownership of up in the near future.

 

(Re) (Self) Publication Announcements

 Summer has been busy, mostly not with writing.  Mostly with horses.  (although both photos are old…guess not much photography is happening this summer either).  Also with allergies…. ~:p   And some editing has been happening.

Actually my article in the next Air n-Aithesc is an edited piece, some chunks very rewritten, actually.  I’ll be posting when the issue is out very soon!

Meanwhile, as it’s been over a year since “By Blood, Bone and  Blade: A Tribute to the Morrígan (Nicole Bonivusto, ed, Asheville, NC: Bibliotheca Alexandrina, 2014) came out, I decided it was now time for my essay in it, “Musings on the Irish War Goddesses” to “come home.”

I started “Musings” as a short piece for the web.  But, of course, “short” wasn’t possible. So it was going to be a long piece for the web, possibly as a PDF.  Then as I was finishing it up, the call for submissions for BBB&B showed up….and I figured I should submit it. Which I did…..and eventually the anthology came  out.

I have now replaced the actual shorter piece I later made for the page (which I had started to house this essay) with an intro to link the PDF of

Musings on the Irish War Goddesses

There are a few minor changes, mostly endnotes….um, mostly shamelessly noting other articles I have further explored some things I mention in it….and the CC related posts I have made here.
 I have also put up some reworkings of my Sarah Connor Charm School fitness pots on the site as well…they are only linked through the training page at this point and I hope to rework them further soon.  But you can find them here if you are interested.

Women Kick Ass at the Artemis Film Festival!

If you’ve been reading awhile you know that along with exploring the Gaelic warrior path, I just love female action movies…what ones there are…. and they exist …and are unappreciated in the mainstream. So I couldn’t help but get seriously excited when I heard of the Artemis Women in Action Film Festival happening in Los Angeles April 24-26, 2015!

They have been fundraising to make this happen at WomenKickAss.com and now have the funds for a single screen so it is a go!  They are trying to raise enough for at least a second screen and maybe a third!  Please, if you can, help out, if not snag that link and share it around!  The fundraiser ends on March 19!

 ETA: And there will be a Twitter Party on March 19 from 7pm – 8pm PST!

Linda HamiltonBecause this is important!  If we’re going to get more movies with women action leads, we need to support and celebrate the effort and show that we are an audience to be reckoned with! And it’s vital that we have more of these movies out there, because it’s not that we just want them, its that we need them!  At any age and we especially need this to grow so young women and girls can see women as equal, in all ways! We need this festival to thrive!

There will be competitions for films and screenplays and women of action films will be honored!

This includes Linda Hamilton receiving the Artemis Action Icon Award! Well, who else would it be?  Because for so many of us, even after more than two decades she just really is The Icon!

Actress, stunt woman, author Angela Meryl will be receiving the Artemis Stunt Unsung Heroine Award and stunt  woman  and stunt coordinator Maja Aro will be receiving the Artemis Stunt Warrior Award.

You can see a message from festival founder, actress and stunt woman Melanie Wise in this video.  Please remember that the Women Kick Ass fundraiser has been extended to March 19 and therefore you still have three days to join in and make this event really take off!


The Women Kick Ass Project from Artemis on Vimeo.

Of course, if you can help out and actually go to it ….well, if I could I would! So do it!

(cross-posted on The Sarah Connor Charm School Blog)

Excerpt from ‘“By Force in the Battlefield”: Finding the Irish Female Hero’

AnA Issue 1

I’m still not feeling real bloggy so I thought I’d do another teaser for those who are not reading Air n-Aithesc yet. Which is where my writing lives these days…while we wait for the third issue to come out on Imbolc. This is one of two from the first issue which can be purchased here. Unfortunately, this one does start out a bit depressing, you really do have to buy the magazine to find the more positive spin. ~;p

 

 “By Force in the Battlefield”: Finding the Irish Female Hero

When an Morrígan came into my life in the late ‘80s, She tasked me with two duties that it was clear I must work on. One was to reexamine my pacifist habits and begin walking the warrior path in very concrete ways, which included physical training I never would have previously considered. The other was to learn as much as I could about Her culture, to try to find practices that were as much in keeping with it as I could. I knew both challenges would be difficult, but at least I had many heroic female warriors from Celtic history and myth to inspire me.

 

Sadly, as I got more into the cultural studies, even changing my focus at college to concentrate on women in the Celtic cultures, I learned differently about all those warrior women. Having had only shallow exposure to Celtic history and literature before, mostly through the lens of the Pagan community I was involved in, it certainly seemed that there had been a lot of material that I was about to wade more deeply into. Yet, the truth is that I already had heard retellings, often exaggerated, of most of what was there. There were a few new names and short tales, sometimes only a sentence or two long, I had yet to discover, but very few. I also realized that most of the major names I already knew really had very little information behind them, other than Medb.

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Previously I posted an excerpt from “Muimme naFiann: Foster-mother of heroes” which is in the second issue.

Copyright © 2014 Saigh Kym Lambert

Excerpt from “Muimme naFiann: Foster-mother of heroes”

 I’ve not blogged for awhile and am not sure when I will again. My writing focus was on getting a new submission for the next Air n-Aithesc and since submitting it we’re trying to catch up on winterizing here, the flu had floored me during the time I had AnA issue 2 coverhoped to be doing most of this.  As I have my submission for the summer issue done (for the most part, current reading may make for a few alterations), I am hoping to focus on cobbling some of this stuff I’ve been putting into articles back into Teh Project which, you know, it was all stolen from to begin with. ~;p (ETA: also need to get in some CEUs and will probably rewrite some fitness stuff specifically focused on the training program) So….I figured I’d copy fellow AnA writer Morgan Daimler and post an excerpt from my article “Muimme naFiann: Foster-mother of heroes” in the current issue. That would be Air n-Aithesc Volume I Issue II Lughnasadh/Samhain which you can order right at that link should you wish to read the rest…

 

 

Muimme naFiann: Foster-mother of heroes

When the subject of women warriors come up, Scáthach, Cú Chulainn’s teacher, is one of the first noted, along with Medb.  Yet even more so than Medb, Scáthach’s story is not her own but a very brief part of Cú Chulainn’s.  Much of what is “known” about her today is embellishment. The idea that she is the eponymous Goddess of the Isle of Skye, [i] is a Goddess of War, the dead and even blacksmiths is found repeated within Pagan sources.[ii] However, while some of these concepts, like the association with Skye, did come about late within Gaelic culture, the others appear to have developed even later outside of the culture, primarily within the Pagan community.[iii]
What we do know about her is that she taught warriors, most notably Cú Chulainn, and had a gift of prophecy. And in this she is not alone, for Finn Mac Cumhail’s lesser-known foster-mother(s), especially Bodbmall, shared similar traits. Nagy stated, “…it would seem that Bodbmall, Búanann, and Scáthach are all multiforms of a supernatural martial foster-mother figure who appears in various contexts.”[iv]We have no stories for Búanann.  Scáthach is called Scáthaig Buanand in one version of the Táin Bó Cúalnge, which O’Rahilly translates as “Scáthach the victorious.”[v] The name, however, appears in the Sanas Cormaic (“Cormac’s Glossary”) described as “muimme nafiann”(“foster-mother of heroes”) and related to the role of Anann as mother of the Gods.[vi]Anann is one of the Daughters of Ernmais, the one usually identified as the Morrígan.[vii]
Many scholars do read these foster-mothers as supernatural beings, although seldom as actual Goddesses. [viii] Certainly, Scáthach’s distant and hard to reach land and Finn’s fosterers’ wilderness hide-outs as well as their powers both as a warriors, often seen as unnatural for women, and as seers indeed mark them as Otherwordly.[ix]  Scáthach’s title of “Búanann,” and the name’s connection with the Goddess Anann, may make Scáthach seem to be the Goddess.  Likewise, a possible etymological relationship between the names Bodbmall and Badb raises the question as to whether she is supposed to be this War Goddess.[x]

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[i] There are a multitude of examples. Caitlin Matthews directly uses these words to describe her in several books, for example The Elements of the Celtic Tradition, Element Books, 1989, pg. 76.
[ii] I will not pick out one source for much of this, as where any of it came from originally is impossible to say. A quick online search brings up thousands of websites, often directly repeating each other with no further sourcing.
[iii] Isle of Skye part has shown up even in somewhat academic sources. (James MacKillop. Dictionary of Celtic Mythology, New York: Oxford University Press, 1998, pg. 410 for example)  How old a connection this was and when Scáthach became connected to the MacDonald fort Dun Scaith is difficult to determine. The earliest reference I found to that she was on Skye was in Macpherson’s “Ossian” inventions of the mid-18th century where he places her at the site and gives Cú Chulainn the Dun in another tale.(James Macpherson, The poems of Ossian, tr. by J. Macpherson. To which are prefixed dissertations on the era and poems of Ossian, Oxford University Press, 1805, pg. 149; Macpherson, Hugh MacCallum, John MacCallum, “Conlaoch,” An original collection of the poems of Ossian, Orann, Ulin, and other Bards, who flourished in the same age, Watt, 1816, pg. 153-158;  John Gregorson Campbell also includes this location in recounting Macpherson’s version of “Conlaoch” in The Fians: or Stories, Poems & Traditions of Fionn and His Warrior Band, Elibron Classics, 2005 (org. pub. Date 1891), pg. 6) Stokes determined that the similarity between the Gaelic term for the Isle of Skye (An t-Eilean Sgitheanach) and Scythia (Scithia) was all that caused this connection, which he notes as popular at the time. (Whitley Stokes, “The Training of Cúchulainn,” Revue Celtique 29, 1908, pg. 109 https://archive.org/details/revueceltiqu29pari).
[iv] Joseph Falaky Nagy, The Wisdom of the Outlaw: The Boyhood Deeds of Finn in Gaelic Narrative Tradition,Berkeley: University of California Press, 1985, pg. 264, footnote 13 following from pg. 102.
[v] Cecile O’Rahilly, trans. Táin Bó Cúalnge from Book of Leinster Dublin: Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies, 1967, pg. 95, 231 Irish http://www.ucc.ie/celt/published/G301035/index.html English http://www.ucc.ie/celt/published/T301035/index.html
[vi] John O’Donovan, ed. and trans. (with notes and translations from Whitley Stokes) Sanas Cormaic Calcutta: O. T. Cutter for the Irish Archeological and Celtic Society, 1868, http://books.google.com/books?id=rX8NAAAAQAAJ&source=gbs_navlinks_s  pg. 17;
Whitley Stokes, ed., ‘Cormac’s Glossary’ in Three Irish Glossaries, London: Williams and Norgate, 1862 http://www.ucd.ie/tlh/text/ws.tig.001.text.html  pg. 6; see also Nagy Wisdom of the Outlaw, pg. 102;  Angelique Gulermovich Epstein, “War Goddess: The Morrígan and her Germano-Celtic Counterparts” dissertation, University of California in Los Angeles, 1998  ch. 2.
[vii] Epstein, “War Goddess,” ch.1; Kim Heijda, “War-goddesses, furies and scald crows: The use of the word badb in early Irish literature” thesis, University of Utrecht, Feb. 27, 2007 http://igitur-archive.library.uu.nl/student-theses/2007-0620-200703/UUindex.html pg. 34; Robert A. Stewart MacAlister, ed. and trans., Lebor Gabála Érenn: The Book of the Taking of Ireland, Vol IV. Dublin: Irish Text Society, 1941 http://www.archive.org/details/leborgablare04macauoft pg. 103, 130-131, 160-161, 188-189, I also discuss Anann as the Morrígan in “Musings on the Irish War Goddesses,” Nicole Bonivusto, ed. By Blood, Bone and Blade: A Tribute to the Morrigan Asheville, North Carolina: Bibliotheca Alexandrina, 2014, pg. 103.
[viii] Proinsias Mac Cana mentions Scáthach briefly under the heading of “Goddesses of War” on page 86 of Celtic Mythology, NY: Peter Bedrick Books, 1987,  yet refers to her as “supernatural” on page 102; Rosalind Clark. The Great Queens: Irish Goddesses from The Morrigan to Cathleen ni Houlihan, Savage, MD: Barnes and Nobel Books, 1991 pg. 28.
[ix] Miranda Green, Celtic Goddesses: Warriors, Virgins and Mothers, New York: George Braziller, 1996, pg. 149; Nagy, The Wisdom of the Outlaw,  pg.109-111.
[x] Epstein, “War Goddess,” ch 2.

 

Copyright © 2014 Saigh Kym Lambert

Women Warriors and Excitement over Non-Evidence

I actually posted the following on the Facebook page, which this will then be posted to via Networkblogs, so sorry for those who have been hit multiple times. ~:p  But it was long and I figured I’d repost here where it will also stick better. I’ve also done a bit of editing on it. I’m also avoiding working on a post on contemporary issues, I’m having a lot of trouble with the post and am not sure it will ever see the light of day. So…

 

Kristanna Loken as Brunhilde
Kristanna Loken as Brunhilde in
Dark Kingdom:The Dragon King/
Ring of the Nibelungs/Die Nibelungen/
Curse of the Ring/Sword of Xanten 

because she was so much better than the movie.
In fact, she was totally awesome, as she always is.
Also because everyone is using Katheryn Winnick
as Lagertha from Vikings who I do think is pretty awesome
too but I’ve never met and, of course, the more photos
and mentions of celebs I have here the more hits I get.

You may have noticed I didn’t get into the excitement over the whole “half of Viking warriors were women” headline that has been running around Facebook so cheerily. When the study was announced awhile back in a somewhat more realistic, although only slightly, spin, I did read the actual study…which is why I largely ignored the posts…because I didn’t want to go through doing this here, Tracy V. Wilson does a better job than I could have, anyway, so now that she has I will elaborate a little on my issues with such hyperbole.

It doesn’t help in our quest to find evidence for female warriors to take findings out of context. Putting them in context is so very, very hard to begin with. This study did demonstrate well how our expectations regarding migration are often wrong, as well as show that we cannot determine sex or gender based on grave goods.

Sexing graves using bones doesn’t always us the full story either, however. There may be a number of reasons, either cultural or personal, why a sword might be in a woman’s grave other than her having been a warrior. No matter how much we might wish that was the reason. Even evidence that someone died by violence or had been wounded and healed from an earlier battle does not mean they were a warrior, civilians are killed in war every day and sometimes those who are not trained choose to fight when it comes down to the enemy being in your home. To know if someone was a warrior also requires a careful study of the bones which would determine long term physical changes which might come from training. Depending on the condition of the remains, this is not particularly easy to determine. If the person died young, as many warriors did and do, it might not have  been evident yet.

Of course, there is also the matter of gender as opposed to biological sex. Transgender is not new, what is new is that we now have hormones which can make some changes to the body which if started young enough might actually give future anthropologists some clue. So an apparently female body does not actually mean someone who lived as a woman….nor does an apparently male body mean someone who lived as a man. While cultural clues may give us some indication if it’s likely, much of our cultural information comes from biased sources so it’s, again, impossible to fully determine. It’s also difficult to determine from bones if someone was intersexed which might also cloud what gender that person identified as or was identified as in their society.

Truly, I wish the evidence could be so clear. My heart did give a little flutter at the headline even at the same time my brain said “nah, you know what this is about.” I know women fought, that we have always fought. The evidence is there. But it’s open to speculation. We cannot prove it. All we can really prove is what we can do now and in the future which, itself, is evidence that we’ve always done this.

Biannual Publication Announcement – Air n-Aithesc 2

Yup we did it! With Maya St.Clair doing the bulk of the actual work.  We got issue two of Air n-Aithesc published!

AnA issue 2 cover
We have the art of Paul Borda, we have Maya examining what CRP methodology is, we have Irish witches discussed by Morgan Daimler, we have Ceffyl taking about developing a personal relationship with Deity, we have poetry by Finnchuill and P. Sufenas Virius Lupus and we have book reviews by Maya, Finnchuill and Blackbird O’Connell.

And yes, I have an article entitled “Muimme naFiann: Foster-mother of Heroes” where I discuss the storys of Scáthach and Finn’s variously named foster-mothers…or rather where they come in in the heroes’ stories as they sadly have none of their own. This is, of course, always a part of this project I’m doing here.

You can order through the website or just go to Magcloud…you can, of course, still get our first issue if you have missed it.

Publication Announcement – Air n-Aithesc (Our Message)

AnA Issue 1

As with many things, it starts with a bit of a bitch session.  After over a decade of only writing to self-publish online, I was looking for places to submit articles to. You know magazines or anthologies. Especially after the synchronicitic experience of having finished a long ass piece on the War Goddesses and finding out about an anthology for An Morrígan calling for submissions (which I should have announcement about soon).  Keltria Journal had some warrior path themes and I submitted a couple of pieces, the two issues became one so only one ran. Such themes and anthologies don’t happen much and, well, it’s what I write….which is why this blog is probably going to always be more active than Dùn Sgàthan Homestead blog. And most Pagan journals that are out there aren’t always looking for Celtic Reconstructionist Pagan, endnote heavy, pieces…and if they are they tend to be looking for CRP 101 stuff or other material about CRP rather than topical material using Reconstructionist methodology.

So, the whole “there needs to be a CR magazine and it needs to be peer reviewed” thing came up. And Maya St.Clair responded with, “yeah, so let’s do it.” (paaraphrase) And Air n-Aithesc (Our Message) was conceived. We asked a bunch of others we knew to join us, some of them even accepted. Another will soon be added to that list. We decided to do it for Imbolg and given the time frame to get members of the review committee to write for the first issue. And some of us did. Hey, I had one article left over too, so I submitted two. Other contributors from our committee were Maya with her column offering basic information for those new to CR “An Seomra Staidéir: The Study” and  review of Early Christian Ireland by Kathleen Hughes, Finnchuill with a piece on “Brigit’s Retinue in the Tuatha Dé Miscellany,” Morgan Daimler who wrote about “Celebrating Imbolc with the Family”, Ceffyl Aedui on “Finding Epona” (we are not a Gaelic only publication…even if it might lean heavily there) and Blackbird O’Connell with a review of the book Pot O’Gold by Kathleen Krull. 

My articles are “‘By Force in the Battlefield’: Finding the Irish Female Hero” and “Going into Wolf Shape.” The first is explained by the subtitle. The second is part of an ongoing exploration of the wolf warrior cults, which I sometimes touch upon here.  I am already working on future articles, all of which will follow such themes.

The first issue came out on Tuesday and can be ordered either as digital or hard copy (with free digital) right here.

We are already looking for submissions for the second issue which will be out for Lùnasdal. We are not doing themed issues, as we feel that is too limiting, so we are open to any topic of interest to CRPs and which use CR methodology. We hope to have a wide variety of paths represented as we go along (we were going to have a list of possible paths, but realized it was on one hand getting very long and on the other we’d leave someone out and…it seemed best to skip it). We sort of have two different “options,” articles which are research focused only or articles which discuss practice and experience using research to solidify things. These latter are most welcome, as this is the essence of CR methodology and we all feel there needs to be more that shows how we bring these elements into our actual practice. It is also, of course, often the hardest thing to write about for many of us.  All submissions will be reviewed by a quorum of the review committee. We also have a lovely pool of editors, some who are review committee members although not all (and not all of us on the review committee are editors) who will then work to prepare the accepted articles for publication. You can find submission info on our website.

We are also on the lookout for artwork, both for articles and we will feature an artist each. This issue our artist was Casey Bradley. If you are interested in submitting art, you can us through our website. Seriously, we need art work for articles too….don’t make Maya grab photos of me again (honest, I may be vain enough to post them here all the time, but it was not my idea to have them there…too many “women warrior” pieces are problematic and others were well out of our non-existent budget.

No, we are not paying at this time and do not know if that is in the future. What little we take off the top of the cost will go to upgrading our website and promotional efforts (if we, say, go to a festival with a bunch of copies we have to buy those outright ourselves to do it).  Payment does mean advertising to cover it, which can create several hassles which I remember from “back in the day” ….we are hesitant to begin that, but have not closed the door either. At this point it’s free digital copies and additions to your CV (if you include Pagan publications on your CV).

I hope you check this out, read this issue and, if you are so inclined, send us material.

Oh, you can also find us on Facebook and Twitter.