Ancient Celtic Women
“A whole troop of foreigners would not be able to withstand a single Celt if he called his wife to his assistance!” ~ Amicus Marcelling
The women in Ancient Celtic society enjoyed rights that women in Greek and Roman societies did not have. A woman could own property, get a divorce, be a priest, a judge, a doctor, a poet, fight in battle and even own her own fighting school.
As Moyra Caldicott says in ‘Women in Celtic Myth’ . . .”one of the things I find so refreshing in the Celtic myths is that the women are honoured as much for their minds as for their bodies. The dumb blond would not stand much of a chance in ancient Celtic society.”
There was a specific class of warrior in Celtic society called a BAN-GAISGEDAIG. “BAN” meaning woman and “GAS” young warrior. These women would teach boys the arts of fighting and love. Some of the more famous warrior women were on Celtic Coins.
Here are a few prominent Celtic Women.
These are certainly not all the Celtic Goddesses. These are just a few that I found interesting.
(Shapeshifter/Goddess of Death)
I have no doubt that the shape shifting witch in Dragon Age was based off this Goddess. And yes, her name is usually mentioned with a “The.” Her mythic body is that of a bird or a woman. In the form of a falcon she will lead a hunter to his goal. Her cosmic body is that of a cloud with pathways leading from it. People are pulled down these passage ways by their desires and sins. She is also a teacher who gives one wisdom, by making them suffer through pain. You must sit in her black cauldron before you gain the wisdom you seek. Such are the trials of life. The best lessons are sometimes the hardest to learn. I would not want to end up on her bad side.
(Healing Goddess of Fire, Healing, Inspiration, Creativity, The Hearth and Metalworking)
You’ll notice that on her left there is a spear and on the right there are leaves (I’m assuming to be made into some healing balm). The Celts had no problem with someone being a Goddess of healing and destruction. She was a Goddess who presided over warfare and also used miracles to heal people. Death and life were two intertwining forces that existed together for the Celts, you cannot have one without the other. Brigid was such a loved Goddess by the Celtic people that the Christian Church could not get rid of her. Eventually they just adopted her as a saint and called it a day.
(Gallo-Roman Goddess of Horses)
She was a Goddess adopted by the Romans from the Gauls, who were an Indo European Celtic culture. The Romans were usually tolerant of another culture’s Gods, provided that said culture was willing to worship Roman Gods in addition to their own. The Roman empire itself had much syncretism, since they absorbed the beliefs of the people they conquered into their own repertoire. However, while the Romans worshiped Goddesses, they were not tolerant of the power that Celtic women had in their own societies. Eventually when the Romans took over Celtic territories, they subverted the prominent role that many women once had.
A More Complete List of Celtic Gods and Goddesses
Boudicca was the Celtic Queen of the Iceni tribe. Since she was a woman, the Romans (living in a very male dominant society) did not take her very seriously. The Romans originally had friendly relations with her husband, the king of the Iceni tribe. Yet when he died, half of his land was given to the Romans as a token of goodwill and the other half was passed to his wife to rule over. The Romans decided that it was ludicrous that a mere woman could rule over anything and decided that it would be a cake walk to march in and take over her half of the land.
When the Romans succeeded in their conquest, they flogged the queen herself in public, raped her daughters and stole her land. The Romans underestimated the respect women had in Celtic culture – let alone the power of a queen. The Iceni people were furious at the humiliation of their leader. In vengeance Boudicca gathered an army of 100,000 against the Romans. She ended up burning 3 Roman towns to the ground and killed 70,000 people. What’s that phrase? Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned? Her rebellion was eventually squashed by a Roman General. Yet for a Celtic leader living under Roman occupation, I think she still managed to kick copious amounts of butt. Not to mention that she at least had the courage to try.
More information about Boudicca
Watch a Documentary About Boudicca Here
More information about Queen Cartimandua
Cartimandua was also a respected queen with much power among her people. But that is where the similarities to Boudicca end. While Boudicca was a rebel, Cartimandua was a loyalist to Roman interests.
She was the ruler of the Brigantes people in the 1st century from (43-69 AD) in what is now Northern England. She came to power during the time when much of Britain was under Roman rule. She formed a tribal conglomeration that was largely friendly to Roman interests. After concluding a treaty with the Roman emperor Claudius, she was faced with a series of Anti-Roman revolts by not only her subjects – but also from her ex husband Venutius. Talk about difficult exes! From 52-57 he tried to overthrow her twice by rousing anti-roman sentiment. Both times she managed to get enough Roman support to hold him at bay. Yet the third time was the charm when he managed to overthrow her in 69, taking advantage of Roman instability in the year of the “four emperors.”
THE BANDROAI (FEMALE DRUIDS)
Who were the druids? The druids were the religious leaders of the Celtic People in ancient times. They were a member of a type of priestly class. Julius Caesar wrote that the druids were responsible for organizing worship and sacrifices, divination, the judicial process and that they were exempt from military service. They were the philosophers, scientists, theologians and holders of sacred knowledge in their culture. Extensive training was required to become a druid and the training period took 19 years!
There is a misconception that druids were only male. Most of the Romans and Greeks who wrote about Celtic society may not have taken note of women in power, since the Romans and Greeks had a Patriarchal culture. This misconception continued into the 17th and 18th century when the Druid Reformation took place. The founders of this movement had a Romantic view of the druids and not very much historical evidence to work with. The Druid orders that were founded during these years were for men and men only.
Yet in the Celtic myth itself, there are mentions of females being involved in druidry, as well as other magical and religious functions.
The information below details female druids in myth and was taken from “The Female Druid” on Druidcircle.org:
- In the story of Fingin Mac Luchta of Munster, Fingin visits a Druidess every Samhain who would fortell the events of the coming year.
- The Second Battle of Moytura mentions two Druidesses who promise to enchant the rocks and trees “so they become a host and rout” their enemies.
- Prior to the famous Cattle Raid of Cooley, Mebd the Queen of Connacht, consults a Druidess named Fidelma who predicts the outcome of the coming battle with the Ulstermen. “How seest thou our host?” asked Medb. “I see the host all becrimsoned…” replied Fidelma.
- Dio Cassius mentions a Druidess named Ganna who went on an embassy to Rome and was received by Domitian, youngerson of the Emperor Vespasian.
- Pomponius Mela in De Chorographica speaks concerning nine virgin “priestesses” who lived on the island of Sena, in Brittany, who “knew the future.”
- The Historia Agusta which was written in about 400 A.D. by Aelius Lampridius mentions a Druidess foretelling the defeat of Alexander Severus. “Go forth but hope not for victory, nor put your trust in your warriors.”
- Then of course, there are the keepers of the eternal flame at Kildare, which was for a long time a pagan temple dedicated to the Goddess Brighid. The flame was tended by Druidesses and later by Christian nuns, in honor of Saint Bride.
In the modern practice of druidry today, there are a good number of women involved and while I don’t have a scientific figure, I would say that the druid community has a good representation of both men and women in their ranks.
For more information on Female Druids, read the following article “Female Druids” at the Magical Buffet.
Still Curious About Ancient Celtic Women?
Hi… are you able to tell me where the picture of Brighid comes from?I would love a picture for my healing room. Thanks
May 20, 2012 at 10:04 am
Can’t remember the exact page. Just did a google search. You have a healing room? That’s awesome.
May 21, 2012 at 3:19 pm
Don’t forget about Cartimandua, Queen of the Brigantes tribes of Northern Britain… until the rebellion of her ex-husband Venutius anyhow….
November 30, 2012 at 4:00 pm
Thank you. I’ll have to add her into this article. I can’t do that immediately, but I will find time to do it.
November 30, 2012 at 5:38 pm
Alright, I added the information about Cartimandua. Thank you for the suggestion.
December 10, 2012 at 6:50 pm
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February 11, 2013 at 3:21 pm
Thanks for this link! The loss of female spirituality over the last 2,000 years has been one of the gravest losses in the history of humanity. It’s no wonder that we’ve seen so much slavery, crusades, slaughter, industrialization and the loss of life without mercy in this time. We need to restore the rightful spiritual balance between men and women. For that is the natural way.
February 11, 2013 at 3:25 pm
The focus has been almost purely male for almost the last 2,000 years. Religious nuts connected to Christianity, Islam, Judaism, etc.. faiths have pushed all male dominant cultures. The Goddess is coming back into power now, more and more people are realizing that our whole world is imbalanced. More people are starting to wake up and understand that you can not hold the sacred feminine back. Too long has the sacred feminine been held back, suppressed, oppressed, used and abused; now she has had it, along with every other woman who has had to deal with un-equal rights, un-equal pay, lowered respect in the military, etc… Women and the Sacred Feminine (Goddess) has had it. Sacred feminine, the Goddess and women in general want equality and will fight for it, if necessary. I personally feel a closeness to The Morrigan & the Goddess Brigid and I get the feeling from both that they are no longer going to be put aside, the will expect equality.
February 28, 2013 at 3:58 pm
It’s fascinating how Celtic society was organized. Our society would rather consider buildings, materials, constructions… To decide about a culture’s value. Fascinating article!
February 26, 2013 at 1:31 am
Culture value is according to some, and I concur, exclusively based on morality.
February 6, 2015 at 6:28 am
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I should say, they expect equality, now!
February 28, 2013 at 4:05 pm
Thanks William! Yes, I expect the Goddess is going to come back with a vengeance and kick the collective asses of all these self righteous choir boys who tried to close down her temples. That’s what I enjoy about the Ancient Pagan religion, it is attuned to the balance between men and women. Even in patriarchal Rome and Greece, women had spiritual outlets and feminine cults they could join (much of these were very secretive and men would get in big trouble if they tried to ease drop). There are many hilarious Roman anecdotes about the escapades of men cross dressing so they could spy on these cults. Yet in the totalitarian Christian take over, women did not even have this small freedom anymore. I think a true man is comfortable with his woman having freedom and power, that’s why the Celts and Vikings had the most freedoms for their women – because they were manly men comfortable with themselves and their sexuality. It takes a small and cowardly man to try to oppress a woman in every aspect of her life.
February 28, 2013 at 4:32 pm
February 28, 2013 at 4:46 pm
Well said, we should form together and create our own modern temple! I love this post and you replied on my birthday…Thanks for this information, it helps in learning and connecting with my ancestry.
March 7, 2016 at 3:27 am
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awesome article. Thanks
November 19, 2013 at 2:49 am
No prob, it was my pleasure to write this.
November 19, 2013 at 10:33 am
November 19, 2013 at 5:00 pm
Thank you, blessings to you too Jason.
November 19, 2013 at 5:01 pm
If roman men were choir boys? Or let me guess bath house gays? DID they Conquer the celtic region in the gallic wars for silver so easily? so many lands and raped outbred the weaker inferior celtic men? Sounds like rome was the “DOMINANT FORCE” and womanizers.. Brown haired Europeans are the dominant species.. Much stronger men the romans were.. Also had better nutrition and loads of testosterone.. “THE WOMAN WORSHIPPERS “SUBMISSIVES” CELTIC MEN DIDNT HAVE.”…Take into account the level of intelligence these societies had.. Rome had operating aqueducts, welding, things the mystical “FAIRIES AND PIXIES” celts just didn’t have. As a matter of fact the druids traveled to Egypt and wrote the kolbrinian bible with “Egyptians” proving they’re disloyalty to the European region?! Did they lose because they put military faith into a woman? I would have to say so.. Celts were not fertile by any means without a little good “ZUES” blood thrown in there “Mediterranean genes” these nations would have fallen to invading arabic armies during the “DARK AGES” Romanized Europeans became the dominant force in Europe.. Quit trying to act like you are a pure celt its not the truth we all possess roman blood.. I’m a Romanized Scotsman 1st generation american.. Proud of my graceful,natural,dreamy ancient celtic genes and also of my roman organized society, true philosopher qualities… I don’t think I would have the great work ethic and self control I possess if I was a pure celtic heathen…They were drunkards,addicts and pagans..Many babies corpses found at Stonehenge used in sacrifice…. I always date celtic redheads and irish women. Best in bed! I definitely control the whole relationship and to tell you the truth they are a better women after my assistance! Cook better, More self respect, ambition, seeking knowledge about the way the world “REALLY WORKS”..I’m sure this happened back in ancient times as well? When the romans colonized the gallic tribes.. Celtic women can be compulsive,controlling,cheaters,very self righteous with sexuality? as if it is a tool for control like they did in the ancient tribal order.. When they used to make men kill each other in order to “earn” the sexual intercourse? Makes me wonder did these women treat men like a black widow does? and discard them when they were either tired of them? or they were to old to produce etc? Anyone who agrees with this type of woman power ideology, Is definitely a single, self empowering multiple boyfriend having, multiracial dating, sex for financial gain.. “WHITCH”….. Just my opinion… Long live charles the hammer.. “Romanized” german who saved the whole European continent against Arabic invasions at the battle of tours! A true warrior! beheaded 4500 pagan saxon witches in England and introduced the real god jesus Christ….. Proving once again the roman genes are dominant in nature and fight for the right reasons…. Only the “STRONG” survive…
February 12, 2014 at 11:08 pm
Oh forgot to mention the level of bipolar disorder ant forget that!
February 12, 2014 at 11:35 pm
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Channel for interesting information
October 11, 2014 at 6:06 pm
I see you’ve posted a lot of interesting information Anders, thank you.
October 14, 2014 at 9:59 am
I know this is picky but the picture at the top of the page, of the woman in the white dress with long coppery hair, isn’t depicting anything Celtic. She’s Ealdgyð, the wife of Harold Godwinesson, and the battle in the background is Hastings 1066. You can even see the famous ridge in the background that the English defended all day. The art was commissioned for the original book cover of ‘Wind From Hastings’ (1978).
November 20, 2014 at 7:56 pm
Thanks for pointing that out. I guess I’m not on top of my art history. I suppose I’ll have to find a suitable replacement picture.
November 20, 2014 at 9:01 pm
John Lash declares what he Think is needed to bring change to society:
January 11, 2015 at 8:24 am
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Reblogged this on Wolf and Raven.
March 21, 2015 at 7:07 pm
I am simply in awe and in love with this page and all of its contents!!!!!
August 9, 2015 at 3:25 am
Thank you so much! That means a lot to me. I’m sorry I don’t update more, I’ve become very busy of late, but I should kick my own buttootie and get back to uploading more content.
August 10, 2015 at 2:04 pm
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Great post MG, It is surprising that more people do not understand the equality of the Women in Pre-Christian West Europe, As an additional the Berber and Basque Women also have this kind of regard afforded to the Native “Celtic” women, but then research shows that we may be related to each other on the Mother’s side.
May 26, 2016 at 9:31 pm
Haklısın, şimdi Batı Avrupa’da yaşayan Basklar ve geçmişte Britanya adalarında yaşayan Keltler genetik verilere göre Türk asıllı çıkıyorlar. Bu genetik verilere göre, İrlandalıar % 63, İngilizler % 45, Basklar ise % 93 oranında (R1b) liler. Yani Türk asıllılar. Zaten Kelt kadınlarının savaşçılığı ve sahip oldukları haklar dikkate alındığında, bu duruma sadece Türk toplumlarında rastlanır. Kadın ve erkek eşitliği yaklaşık on bin yıldır Türk toplumlarında geçerlidir. Anadolu’daki Kibele kültü bunun kanıtıdır. Ayrıca yine Anadolu’daki savaşçı Amazon kadınlar da aynı gen grubunun içindedir. Bu çalışmayı yapan Metalgaia arkadaşı kutluyorum. Başarılar diliyorum. Köklerimiz aynıdır.
February 7, 2017 at 6:06 pm
I had to translate this with google, as I do not speak Turkish. I’ll go ahead and provide the English translation here:
“The Basklar, now living in Western Europe, and the Celts, who lived in the British Isles in the past, are genuinely Turkish-minded, according to genetic evidence. According to this genetic data, 63% of the Irish, 45% of the British, and 93% of the Baskets (R1b) I mean Turkish descendants. Already when the Celtic women are taken into account the rights of their battles and their possessions, this situation is only encountered in Turkish society. Equality between women and men is valid in Turkish society for almost ten thousand years. Kibele cactus in Anatolia is evidence of this. In addition, warrior Amazon women in Anatolia are also in the same gene group. I congratulate Metalgaia friend who made this work. I wish you success. Our roots are the same.”
February 8, 2017 at 12:18 am
That’s an interesting insight. I took a DNA test before on Ancestry.com, and even though most of my genetics are Irish (like some 60 something percent), I do have like 2% either Turkish or Iranian DNA. I wouldn’t be surprised if our people shared DNA because there were a lot o different migration periods into Europe. I know the Celtic people can actually trace their roots to central Asia (most people think Iran), because there was vast migration out of central Asia and across Western Europe in the Bronze Ages (as well as from Central Asia into India). Then there was further mixing because of the boundaries of the Roman Empire and then movements during the crusades and then the Mongol invasion.
I’m glad you liked this article.
February 8, 2017 at 12:25 am
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