There are three goddesses who are the main inspiration of my trip. First of all, I’m going in search of Scathach, the woman warrior who gave her name to the Isle of Skye. From London I’ll be going to Inverness, and from there to Skye. Destination: Dun Scaith
There’s very little to be known about Scathach, her surviving claim to fame is as the teacher of Cuchullain. She apparently stood in a way in the place of Chiron to the warriors of Greek myth. Does that make a woman warrior as mythical a being as a centaur? Well, to some, I suppose it does, but most of us know better by now… I have been trying to write a song about her for years, and this castle, ruined and of dubious connection to her as it is, seems like a good place to cast about for clues.
Scathach, after all, must have had a lot more to her than simply teaching men to fight. What did she do to gain her experience? Her exploits had to be well known in her day. Is she another aspect of the Norse goddess Skadi, the hunter and skier, who also was known as the shade? Scathach’s name means “shadowed one,” and like Scathach, little is known about Skadi, though there’s more about Skadi than Scathach.
The second goddess is Brighid. I plan to visit her well and her sisterhood in Kildare. Erynn Rowan Laurie has kindly put a guide to getting there on her website. Brighid herself was long ago kind enough to give me a song, and I would like to give it to the well, and the Sisters, if they’ll have it.
The last goddess is Macha, whom I’ve written of before. The first song I wrote that I consider to be worth anything was my final project for a Celtic literature course. I was more than a little annoyed with a certain group of Ulstermen, who didn’t want me carrying a sword, and I was quite taken with another Irish tale related to the Tain, which explained why the men of Ulster were afflicted with birth pangs whenever their province was attacked. The short version is, Macha, the goddess of sovereignty in Ireland, a horse goddess who shares much with the Welsh Rhiannon and the Gaulish Epona, married an Ulsterman and got pregnant. Her husband got drunk at the races, basically, and started bragging that his wife could run faster than the king’s horses. She was forced to prove it. She won the race, had her kids on the finish line, and cursed the Ulstermen before dying or leaving, depending on the version of the story you read. The race was run at Emain Macha, so I’m going there as well.
There are plenty of other songs that I would like to sing in other places on this trip, but those three are the essential ones, and the core of the next album. Amusing, I guess, that the other two deities were more than happy to have me tell their stories, but The Shadowed One requires a wild goose chase way the hell up to Scotland to a place that may or may not be her home which might or might not result in a song. I don’t mind, I love adventures. If I end up cold and wet walking my way across Sleat in the middle of the night, at least I’ll have an interesting story to tell. It won’t be the first time I’ve done something of the sort, after all.