The Intoxicating Warrior Queen
it was a legendary battle fought long ago in Ancient Celtic history, the
land still echoes with its memory. On a brisk overcast day in the
wilderness of Western Ireland, you may hear the ghostly clash of swords
and battle axes, the angry shouts of men as they fought, killed, and
died. From the corners of your eyes, you may momentarily glimpse
apparitions of rolex replica watches swordsmen locked in combat. And deep within yourself you
may feel the frenzy of warfare, the passion in the hearts of warriors,
and the intoxicating power of their Warrior Queen. It was a war that
laid waste to most of the Western Irish countryside. Thousands of
soldiers lost their lives. And it was a battle that began...in bed!
Women of the ancient Celts were held in superior regard compared to their counterparts throughout the rest of rolex replica uk the Known World. In the Celtic nations, women's rights equaled those of men. They owned property and occupied powerful positions within the society. Whomever brought more wealth and property into a marriage was considered the ruler of the household, be it man or woman. In the Irish kingdom of Connaught, sovereignty of the land passed to a woman, Queen Maeve. Her consort, King Ailill, received his royal status only by marrying the queen.
Celtic women were also not bound by the confines of monogamy even within marriage. Queen Maeve was infamous for her beauty and her sexual prowess. She had an array of lovers, most of whom were officers in her army...which thereby ensured the loyalty of her troops. Her bravest warriors were granted sexual favors, so the men fought hard and courageously on the battlefield for a chance to enjoy Maeve's "willing thighs."
Though he had lovers of his own, Ailill continuously felt threatened by his wife's sexual activities, both out of fear of losing his power to another man and by being made a fool. One morning after he and Maeve lay in bed basking in the afterglow of lovemaking, he began taunting her, claiming that she was more fortunate now for marrying him because of the power and wealth he brought into their partnership. Maeve laughed and retorted by saying she possessed great wealth and power without him and that he was nothing but a "kept" man. The quarrel escalated as they began comparing their wealth, assets, and influence...matching one another portion by swiss replica watches portion, until Maeve discovered that Ailill had a bull of superior breeding the likes of which she did not own...thus making Ailill, technically, the ruler of their household.
As this was unacceptable to the proud warrior Queen, she quickly investigated where she could acquire a bull of similar quality. There was only one other like it in Ireland and it was owned by the King and Queen of Ulster. When they refused to sell it, Queen Maeve rallied her army and invaded their land with the intent of stealing the prized beast. Her troops were met by the infamous red knights of Ulster and their great hero, Cuchulainn, ready to defend the honor of their land, and thus the infamous battle ensued. Several conclusions have been lent to this story, making the real outcome unclear. One ending states that both armies suffered great losses, but Maeve eventually attained the bull of Ulster, and when it and Ailill's bull were penned together, the two beasts killed each other. And so after all the death and decimation, Queen Maeve and King Ailill finally had equal wealth...but not equal power. Ailill eventually chose to leave Connaught rather than live in the shadow of its infamous Queen.
Is this story fact or myth? The Celts loved embellishing their tales with drama and magic. In versions of this legend, supernatural powers were attributed to Maeve. She could outrun the swiftest of horses and she rode at the head of her battalion, her presence and power making her army seemingly invincible. Enemy soldiers would fall to the ground in fits of desire at just the sight of this great Queen. Was Maeve (whose name is also spelt Medb, meaning "intoxication") a mortal woman who was exalted to the status of goddess, or was she a Goddess whose story was watered down over the years, making her a mere mortal? Could it be both? Perhaps Queen Maeve was given the namesake of an older Irish love and war goddess whose powers also became associated with the mighty Queen. Unfortunately, since the Celts did not keep written records of their history and legends, we'll never know for certain.
What does the legend of Maeve mean for us? Numerous old world love goddesses were also equally associated with war. Maeve, the goddess, is the intoxicating power of passion...the passion we feel in love, desire, sex, as well as in anger and battle. Perhaps there really is a thin line between love and hate, sex and violence. If we lose control of that passion and are not mindful of our intent, honorable in our actions, and are we motivated by greed, power, control...we can easily cross that line.
Keep your heart open to desire, but handle passion always with wisdom.
article first appeared in
Faces of the Goddess
magazine, Summer 2000
© 2000 Sharon Niman