Category: Finn Mac Cumhail
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]
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[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 dam” Fianaigecht, 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
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.
Excerpt from “Chase to Nowhere: Thoughts on Fénnidecht Rites of Passage”
As I had mentioned, I thought I’d actually post this excerpt with the issue freshly released. This is from the newest issue of Air n-Aithesc vol. II issue 1, which can be purchased in either hard copy or digital here.
Chase to Nowhere: Thoughts on Fénnidecht Rites of Passage
warriors.” That in other texts as well as legal tracts such warriors were also known as “
war bands, it is clear such warriors also existed.
As I discussed in “Going into Wolf-Shape,” such adolescent bands were found throughout Indo-European cultures and, likely, far earlier. [iv] “Everyone is a fénnid until he takes up husbandry,” Cormac Mac Airt noted to his son, although it is clear that “everyone” really meant males, mostly noble, like themselves.[v] Boys would go from fosterage to wilderness at 14, then those who received their inheritances would rejoin society about the age of 20.[vi] It might be noted that this is the age period that modern neurobiology has recently shown is a time of extreme erratic risk taking, especially for boys. [vii]As one might expect when sending high impulse risk takers off to fight one another in the wilderness, not all of them survived, but there may well not have been sufficient inheritance for all. Some may have had to or even chosen to remain in the wilderness, just as we see Finn and others do in the literature. McCone has noted that early on some continental bands would move on from their overpopulated homelands to found new settlements.[viii] Where and when this wasn’t possible, it seems some remained in the wilderness until they were likely killed in fighting or managed to die of old age.[ix]
We can only speculate whether any may have chosen to remain in what seems a Pagan lifestyle well into the Christian era, [x] out of preference. While I hope some of what I share may help develop training and path work for teenagers, my own interest is with the more chronic Outlaws, which are clearly the “norm” in heroes of the Fenian literature and likely also existed in reality.[xi] I believe that these Outlaw bands have much to offer for those of us who realize we cannot replicate early society itself; or who may realize that we fit better in the wilderness than we ever would have in early Christian or even pre-Christian, what little we know of it, society.
The question becomes how we move into this liminal state.
You can read the rest by purchasing Air n-Aithesc vol. II issue 1
[i] Such a conversation took place in a Facebook group I run, Clann na Morrígna, but I have heard or read it in many conversations over the past couple of decades.[ii] Richard Sharpe, “Hiberno-Latin Laicus, Irish Láech and the Devil’s Men,” Ériu 30, 1979; Kim McCone, “Werewolves, Cyclopes, Díberga and Fíanna: Juvenile Delinquency in Early Ireland” Cambridge Medieval Celtic Studies, issue 12, 1986; one example is Whitley Stokes, ed. and trans., “The Destructionof Da Derga’s Hostel” (Togail Bruidne Da Derga), Revue Celtique. volume 22, (1901) pg. 7, 29-30; legal tracts are also noted in D. A. Binchy, “Bretha Crólige,” Ériu 12, 1938, pg. 41, Fergus Kelly. A Guide to Early Irish Law, Dublin: Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies (School of Celtic Studies), 2001, pg. 10, 60[iii] Dónall P. Ò Baoill, ed., Foclóir Póca , Dublin: An Gúm, 1992, pg 338; My thanks to C. Lee Vermeers for noting this in the review of this essay for Air n-Aithesc.[iv] Saigh Kym Lambert “Going into Wolf-Shape,” Air n-Aithesc Volume 1 Issue 1 Imbolc 2014, pg. 29-50[v] “fénnid cách co trebad” Kuno Meyer, The Instructions of Cormac mac Airt, RIA Todd Lecture 15, Dublin 1909, pg 46, 31-10, C. Lee Vermeers, Teagasca: The Instructions of Cormac Mac Airt, Faoladh Books, 2014, including footnote 346, pg. 77-78[vi] McCone, “Werewolves, Cyclopes…,” pg. 11-19; the specific age is noted by McCone, “The Celtic and Indo-European origins of the fían,” Sharon J. Arbuthnot and Geraldine Parsons, eds., The Gaelic Finn Tradition, Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2012, pg. 17-18; Joseph Falaky Nagy. The Wisdom of the Outlaw: The Boyhood Deeds of Finn in Gaelic Narrative Tradition,Berkeley: University of California Press, 1985, pg 20-21[vii] B.J. Casey, B.E Kosofsky, PG. Bhide, eds., Teenage Brains: Think Different?, Switzerland: Kargar Publishers, 2014 (I admit to only reading portions and that it is quite over my head, but for those who are working with teens, I believe it may be a very important study)[viii] McCone, “The Celtic and Indo-European origins of the fían,” pg. 23-27[ix] McCone, “Werewolves, Cyclopes…,” pg. 11; McCone, “The Celtic and Indo-European origins of the fían,” pg. 17-18[x]McCone, “Werewolves,….” pg. 2-3; Sharpe , “Hiberno-Latin Laicus, Irish Láech and the Devil’s Men,” pg.83-92, Katharine Sims, “Gaelic Warfare in the Middle Ages,” in Thomas Bartlett and Keith Jeffery eds., A Military History of Ireland, New York: Cambridge University Press, 1996, pg. 100-101
Copyright © 2015 Saigh Kym Lambert
Biannual Publication Announcement – Air n-Aithesc vol. II issue 1
The Imbolc/ Bealtaine 2015 issue of Air n-Aithesc is out now and you can order at the link!
The table of contents is below so see what all is offered. More poetry and prose from PSVL, two articles by Morgan Daimler, an article from Finchuill and book reviews and An Seomra Staidéir from Maya St.Clair.
My article this issue is “Chase to Nowhere: Thoughts on Fénnidecht Rites of Passage” which discusses ideas gleaned from the literature and other sources about the very non-linear rites which might have been associated with the Irish warbands and some ideas about modern incorporation.
Excerpt from “Going into Wolf-Shape”
This is my last of the excerpts from past issues of Air n-Aithesc that I have to share. I have previously posted excerpts from “Muimme naFiann: Foster-mother of heroes” and ‘“By Force in the Battlefield”: Finding the Irish Female Hero’. The rest of this one can be found in the first issue, Vol 1, Issue 1.
The next issue should be out at Imbolc, in just a few weeks. I will try to post excerpts in a more timely manner at that point. ~;) Or maybe I’ll even blog something else. ~:p
Going into Wolf-Shape
Humans have lived with dogs for possibly somewhere between 18,800 and 32,100 years, earlier than previously believed.[i]Given highly social nature of both humans and canines and our mutual ability to hunt in groups requiring good communication skills, it seems natural that the relationship would have started when we were hunter-gatherers. Early Neolithic dog burials in Siberia suggest that during this period dogs held an high status not far below humans, beyond their “utilitarian” usefulness.[ii] How natural the relationship is between humans and canines is something most who live with dogs would readily argue, our ability to relate is a given for us. Science has been proving this point, communication and emotional response are strong and similar.[iii]It would be more amazing if humans and wolves—for dogs are wolves who choose to adapt to live in human packs—had not bonded.
There is a great deal of lore and history regarding the importance of dogs among the Gaelic and other Indo-European cultures. Recent genetic testing has revealed that the rose-eared sighthound originated among the Celtic people.[iv] This ancient hound was the ancestor of the modern Greyhound, the Scottish Deerhound, as well as the Galgo Español, which is probably very similar to the ancient hounds. The warrior and the canine are repeatedly linked in Irish lore. One Irish term for wolf, “mac tire” (literally “son of the land”), seems to have first meant a “vagabond warrior” came to primarily mean “wolf.”[v] Many warriors and kings bore “hound” or “wolf” in their names.[vi] The most recognized is Cú Chulainn, who, as a child, took the very role he became named for, “Culainn’s hound,” after killing the smith’s original guard dog in self-defense.[vii] The Fíanna were renowned for their hunting hounds.[viii]
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[i] Elizabeth Pennisi, “Old Dogs Teach a New Lesson About Canine Origins” Science Magazine Vol. 342 no. 6160, November, 15 2013 http://www.sciencemag.org/content/342/6160/785.full
[ii] Robert J. Losey, et al “Burying Dogs in Ancient Cis-Baikal, Siberia: Temporal Trends and Relationships with Human Diet and Subsistence Practices,” PLoS ONE 8(5) 2013 http://www.plosone.org/article/info:doi/10.1371/journal.pone.0063740?
[iii] Gregory Berns, How Dogs Love Us: A Neuroscientist and His Adopted Dog Decode the Canine Brain, New Harvest, 2013
[iv] Heidi G. Parker, Lisa V. Kim, Nathan B. Sutter et al, Genetic Structure of the Purebred Domestic Dog Science, 21 May, 2004: Vol. 304 no. 5674, pg. 1160-1164 https://www.princeton.edu/genomics/kruglyak/publication/PDF/2004_Parker_Genetic.pdf
[v] Kim McCone, “Varia II.” Ériu 36, 1985 pg. pg. 173
[vi] Joseph Falaky Nagy, The Wisdom of the Outlaw: The Boyhood Deeds of Finn in Gaelic Narrative Tradition, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1985, pg. 44, although far more is in this pages notes 19-22 found on 243-245; McCone, “Aided Cheltchair Maic Uthechair pg. 1-30, especially noted on pg. 12-14
[vii]Cecile O’Rahilly, trans., Táin Bó Cúalngefrom Book of Leinster Dublin: Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies, 1967 English http://www.ucc.ie/celt/published/T301035/index.html Irish http://www.ucc.ie/celt/published/G301035/index.html pg. 23-25, 160-163; O’Rahilly, trans. Táin Bó Cúalnge, Recession 1 Dublin: Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies, 1976 English http://www.ucc.ie/celt/published/T301012/index.html Irish http://www.ucc.ie/celt/published/G301012/index.html pg. 17-19,140-142
[viii] J. R. Reinhard and V. E. Hull, “Bran and Sceolang,” Speculum 11, 1936, pg. 42-58, Nagy, The Wisdom of the Outlaw, pg. 44, 95-97
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 hoped 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