Badb, Goddess of Life and Death by Judith Shaw


judith shaw photoWith the ongoing occurrence of huge hurricanes, floods, mudslides, earthquakes, possible nuclear war and more in both the US and worldwide it seems that the wrath of the Goddess has been awakened. I felt the need to revisit the Celtic Triple War Goddess, The Morrigan. One of Her aspects is Badb, which translates as “Hooded Crow” and “One Who Boils.” She signifies fury, rage and violence. She brings war, death, chaos but also enlightenment, life, and wisdom. 

In The Destruction of Da Choca’s Hostel She is the “Washer at the Ford,” washing the bloodstained Badb, Dark Goddess by Judith Shawclothes of the one about to die as She prophesied the death of the hero Cormac. Here she is seen standing on one leg with one eye opened and one eye closed; with one foot in the human world and the other in the spirit world. While She is the harbinger of death of our current mortal condition She also offers the promise of new life.

Though Badb can appear as an old woman, She often appeared as a beautiful pale woman. She appeared to Medb/Maeve before the Cattle Raid of Cooley as a “White Lady, fair with brilliancy.”* Likewise She is described as pale and red-mouthed in The Destruction of Da Choca’s Hostel. Both red and white were associated with the Otherworld. White was the color associated with death up to the time of Henry VIII, as it represented the purity of the soul.

She was seen on the battlefield as a hooded crow. She flew over the battlefield shrieking and inspiring battle frenzy in Her warriors and instilling fear in their enemies. She was also seen as a wolf wandering among the dead after the battle. In Her animal forms she functioned as a scavenger, consuming the flesh of the dead. Badb, Ferrier of Souls, could in this way take in the spirit essence of the fallen and bring them to the Otherworld where they would await rebirth.

Over time She left the battlefield becoming a faery, a banshee, where she watched over certain families and foretold the death of some with mournful wails and shrieks. Her association with battle was lost but her role as prophet of death and destruction and the Ferrier of Souls to the otherworld remains prime. 

She is also associated with the boiling Cauldron of Life. Though the cauldron signifies life it is believed that if Badb’s cauldron overflows then the world will end. Life and death were forever intertwined in the mind of the ancient Celts. Badb with her boiling, overflowing cauldron destroys the world so that it can be born anew.

Badb, Cauldron Keeper, is associated with water. She is the Washer at the Ford, She tends the waters of  the cauldron of rebirth and She destroys the world when those waters boil over. Water was a mystical force to the Celts. The islands of the Otherworld were hidden within or under lakes and seas; rivers were borders between this world and the next; sacred water emerged from underground at holy wells. Badb moves between these worlds, flowing with the water and like water bringing the promise of life.

Badb, Fate Weaver, is present during times of extreme suffering. But she is not the one who causes it. She is simply a harbinger of what’s to come. If we pay attention to her warnings perhaps we can avoid some suffering. She is with us as we go through painful transitions and change, through death and destruction. And as the fair and brilliant White Lady she guides us through death to healing and rebirth. 

When Badb appears to you know that you are protected. She keens with you through your difficulties. Work with Her to learn about past lives and release negative patterns, emotions, and behaviors. Call on Her for help in communicating with the spirits of your ancestors and for divination. She is the bridge between life and death; she guides us to healing and rebirth.

Sources: The Morrighan, Dark Goddess Musings, * Celtic Lore & Spellcraft of the Dark Goddess: Invoking the Morrigan By Stephanie Woodfield

 

Judith’s deck of Celtic Goddess Oracle Cards is finally ready for publication. The stories are told, the cards are designed – the only thing missing is the money needed for  production.

To that end Judith has a crowdfunding campaign going with Indiegogo where you can pre-order the deck (out by Thanksgiving) or purchase another perk – prints and original paintings.  Click here to view the campaign – and Share, Share Share!

I want to extend my deepest gratitude to all the readers, editors and contributors to FAR who have been on this journey with me. My deadlines have kept me on task to complete this project and all your comments have contributed to my learning and growth. And it all began with being inspired by a post on Brigid by Carol Christ, who continues to inspire us all.

Judith Shaw, a graduate of the San Francisco Art Institute, has been interested in myth, culture and mystical studies all her life. Not long after graduating from SFAI, while living in Greece, Judith began exploring the Goddess in her artwork. She continues to be inspired by the Goddess in all of Her manifestations. Originally from New Orleans, Judith now makes her home in New Mexico where she paints as much as time allows and sells real estate part-time.

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Categories: Earth-based spirituality, General, Goddess Spirituality, Goddess Spirituality, Goddess Spirituality, Myth, Paganism, Spirituality

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13 replies

  1. “Badb with her boiling, overflowing cauldron destroys the world so that it can be born anew.”

    This may indeed be the big picture story, but I do not take heart because too many many people, animals trees are suffering through the dying…

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  2. And I keep wondering if the Valkyries are standing around, listening to the Troll-in-Chief and saddling up their horses. Let us all pray that our Mother Planet will survive and that She will nourish us and help us find good places to be reborn.

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  3. Powerful, timely post and beautiful images. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. With all due respect, there are many inaccuracies and misrepresentations in this article. Stephanie Woodfield is a popular writer, but her book on the Morrígan presents a perspective on the Queens that does not reflect indigenous Irish myth, lore, literature, or history. For contemporary Irish polytheist practice, I would instead strongly recommend Lora O’Brien (“Introduction to Irish Spirituaity”), Morpheus Ravenna (“The Book of the Great Queen”), and Morgan Daimler (“Pagan Portals: Meeting the Morrigan” and “Pagan Portals: Irish Reconstructionism”), plus any number of peer-reviewed articles that explore the depths of na Morrígna.

    – Badb means ‘crow.’ Badb Catha means ‘battle crow.’ It does not mean ‘she who boils.’

    – The people who spoke Celtic languages on the continent and in the isles triplified their deities to emphasize power and possibly to reflect a tripartite cosmic system, NOT to be a Triple Goddess. The Morrígan is not a Triple Goddess and Badb is not a Crone. Modern pagans may relate to them that way, and that’s personal, but that’s not Irish and not accurate to their mythology.

    – Standing on one leg with an eye closed (and an arm behind the back) is a magical posture, usually for cursing, used by casters of any gender. We also see Lugh do this, for example. It has nothing to do with spiritual balance between worlds as described here.

    – The evolution of the banshee in folklore is far more complex and interesting than what’s being presented. I recommend Dr. Lysaght’s treatise on her, “The Banshee: Irish Death Messenger,” which summarizes in great depth actual Irish lore on her.

    – “Ancient Celts” covers a range of people from Spain and the isles clear across to Turkey throughout points in history. It’s a term that’s so broad that it’s not very useful. “Celt” is not synonymous with “Irish.” Badb is specifically Irish.

    – Honestly, I have no idea where the cauldron idea is coming from. None of the myths say anything about Badb having a cauldron at all, let alone one that allows her to destroy and recreate the world.

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    • Thanks for the recommendations of books. My journey with the Celtic Goddess has been one of discovery of many different and contradictory information. I try the best I can, not being a scholar, to sift through it all and come up with what respects the past and honors the goddess today.

      I agree with you completely that the Celtic concept of triple Goddesses is a triplicity representing the mysterious nature of the cosmos. I don’t know how the concept of “Crone” got past my own editing.

      I’ll have to do some more research and adjustment to this before my deck of cards publishes. Thanks for your insights.

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      • It’s definitely a complex and sensitive issue when people are building a contemporary spiritual practice based on a tradition whose historical lineage was broken long ago and much of it was lost or recorded by unreliable narrators. Irish Studies as a discipline has a checkered past that’s still being untangled from British imperialism, armchair anthropology, Victorian romanticism, and (weirdly enough) anti-Irish sentiment.

        Some shorthand tricks: texts that discuss Irish goddesses as Triple Goddesses (or flat-out demonize the Morrigan, Badb, Macha, or Medb), discuss the eight-spoke ‘Wheel of the Year,’ use associations with the Earth/Fire/Water/Air element system, or use words like ‘shaman’ as though these concepts are historically, natively Irish should be questioned even more critically.

        I do believe that there’s value in one’s personal experiences and that academic theory alone can’t build a living spiritual tradition, and if something works in your personal relationship with a deity that doesn’t get a negative reaction from said deity, then that’s entirely between you two. But I also believe it’s important that part of finding the balance between the personal, the communal, the ancestral, and the divine is in understanding – and acknowledging – where shared gnosis ends and personal gnosis begins, especially when engaging with a culture with a long history of stereotyping and colonization.

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      • Though this journey I have discovered, to my surprise, a very present “anti-Irish sentiment”. It has been surprising to me but I guess when you look at history it shouldn’t surprise. The Romans depicted the Celts they encountered during their conquest of the British Isles in very negative terms. And then there is the problem of the traditions being oral so once the church got involved more destruction of culture together with extreme misogyny continued.

        I have often reflected on how strange it is that our academic traditions teach Greek mythology and completely ignore Celtic mythology which is after all the roots of our western world.

        I’ve found demonization of many of the Goddesses. Plus when I research how other artists depict the Goddesses I have been horrified to find so many almost pornographic images and/or infantile images.

        I really appreciate your input – it has made me realize that I need to include a short introduction in the booklet or maybe better yet on the title card that explains my journey and my intentions with these Goddesses.

        In terms of triple-ness would you say that a better term to use is – “Goddess Triplicity” where it applies?

        Liked by 1 person

  5. pls glance through indian mythology too….grt work

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