October 26th, 2009 by sabrina
Macha (pronounced MOCK-uh) is the Irish goddess of war. Along with her sisters Badb and Anu, she forms the triple Goddess known as the Morrigan. All three could take the form of crows or ravens, and would fly over battlefields, choosing who would die and who would live. They would then take the souls of the deceased in their black wings, flying them off to the Otherworld.
Macha, Badb, and Anu are the daughters of Ernmas, an Irish mother Goddess, and Delbaeth, High King of Ireland. They are also the sisters of another triplicity of Goddesses: Banba, Eriu, and Fodla, Goddesses of Irish sovereignty. Where the latter three Goddesses embodied the sovereignty of Ireland, the former three protected it, through war but also through life. There are actually three Irish mythological figures named Macha, and only one is warlike: Macha Mong Ruadh (Macha of the red hair), who fought to become queen after her father the king had died. Another Macha, the wife of Nemed, who led the Nemedians into Ireland, died shortly after their arrival, but not before prophesying the arrival of the third Macha. This third Macha appeared one day at the home of a widowed farmer and became his wife, and he soon became very prosperous. When he wanted to attend the Assembly of Ulster, Macha did not want him to go, but relented on the condition that he not mention her name. Unfortunately, the farmer boasted to the King of Ulster that his wife was faster than the king’s horses, and she was dragged to Ulster to race against the horses. Macha was heavily pregnant with twins at the time, but she still managed to beat the horses. After crossing the finish line, she went into labor, delivered the twins, and then died. As her dying words, she cursed the men of Ulster, saying that in the time of their greatest difficulty, they too would suffer the pains of labor and childbirth.
Macha’s name, which means “plain” (as in flat land), resounds throughout Irish mythology and history. The first Macha, wife of Nemed, was buried at Ard Macha (hill of Macha), now known as Armagh. The place where the third Macha gave birth became the capital of Ulster, Emain Macha (Macha’s twins). The hero Cuchulainn is given a horse by Anu named Liath Macha (gray of Macha).
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