Scáthach


Scáthach

Scáthach ("Shadowy") is a figure in the Ulster Cycle of Irish mythology. She is a legendary Scottish warrior woman and martial arts teacher who trains the legendary Ulster hero Cúchulainn in the arts of combat. Texts describe her homeland as "Alpi," which commentators associate with "Alba", the Gaelic name of Scotland; she is especially associated with the Isle of Skye, where her residence "Dún Scáith" (Fort of Shadows) stands.

Scáthach's instruction of Cúchulainn appears in "Tochmarc Emire" ("The Wooing of Emer"), a foretale to the great epic "Táin Bó Cúailnge". Cúchulainn and Emer fall in love, but her father Forgall forbade the union until Cúchulainn has completed his warrior training. Cúchulainn and his friend Ferdiad travel to Dún Scáith, where Scáthach teaches them feats of arms, and gives Cúchulainn his deadly spear, the Gáe Bulg.

Cúchulainn begins an affair with Scáthach's daughter Uathach, but accidentally breaks her fingers. She screams, calling her lover Cochar Croibhe to the room. Despite Uathach's protests, he challenges Cúchulainn to a duel; Cúchulainn dispatches him easily. To make it up to Uathach and Scáthach, Cúchulainn assumes Cochar's duties, and becomes Uathach's lover. Scáthach eventually promises her daughter to him, without requiring the traditional bride price. Scáthach also grants Cúchulainn the "friendship of her thighs" when his training is almost complete. When her rival, the warrior woman Aífe, threatens her territory, Cúchulainn defeats her in battle and forces her to make peace. Aífe also sleeps with Cúchulainn, producing his son Connla, who Cúchulainn kills years later without realizing he is his son.

References

* MacKillop, James (1998). "Dictionary of Celtic Mythology". London: Oxford. ISBN 0-1986-0967-1.


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