7 Interesting Facts About Scathach: The Legendary Warrior Woman Of Irish Mythology

The name Scathach is not one to be forgotten in a hurry as it has transcended from one generation to the next. She is a fearsome warrior woman of Irish mythology, famed for being the teacher of warriors, as well as the goddess of the dead. Despite having such a legendary status in our world today, the story of Scathach could be traced back to around 1300 A.D. when the Irish writers started keeping a record of her myths. But, before then, her story has always been passed on from one generation to another, following a series of her heroic tales – tales that live on even to date. Below are interesting facts you need to know about Scathach, the legendary warrior of Irish mythology.

Who Was Scathach?

1. She is said to Come From Scotland

As we aforementioned, Scathach is a legendary warrior woman and a martial arts teacher. Her origin could be traced to Alpeach (now, Scotland) and she is associated with the Isle of Skye where her fortress is located. There are no records of when and how she was born, however, it is known that she is the daughter of Ard-Greimne of Letra. Notably, she is the figure found in the Ulster Cycle of Irish mythology.

2. Scathach has a Sister Who is also a Warrior

Scathach has a sister with whom she was raised, her name is Aoife. Just like her, Aoife is also a character in Irish mythology and a powerful warrior woman. In the story of Tochmarc Emire, Aoife lives east of the land called Alpi (Alba, Scotland) and she is Scathach’s biggest rival. When the battle line was drawn between the two sisters, Cu Chulainn, Scathach’s greatest student, fought on her behalf, defeating Aoife in the process.

3. She Created a Warrior Called Cu Chulainn

While talking about Scathach, the story can never be complete without mentioning Cu Chulainn; the warrior she created. And as seen in great mythological warriors, the fighting skills of Chulainn are forged by the love of a woman. According to the stories of Tochmarc Emire, men were terrified that Chulainn would steal their wives and daughters because of his beauty. As a result, Chulainn must take a wife, for the peace of mind of his fellow men.

However, it was only Emer, the daughter of Forgall Monarch that caught his fancy but her father was totally against it. For being the younger daughter, he opposed of Emer getting married before her elder sister. In a bid to scare him away and also ascertain his dedication, Forgall demanded that Chulainn would train under the warrior woman of Alba, Scathach. If he survives the training, then Emer would be his wife. Chulainn went on to survive the training, hence he later became one of the greatest warriors in the Irish mythology and the center of the Ulster Cycle stories.

4. Her Castle was Guarded by Her Daughter

Along with her numerous other trainees, including Conchobor and Lóegaire, Scathach lived in a well-fortified castle guarded by her own daughter. She also had other children; daughters named Lasair, Latiaran, and Ingean Bhuidhe, as well as two sons named Cuar and Cet. As a sign of his loyalty to her, Cu Chulainn would later save her two sons.

It was in her fortress, that the goddess of the dead trained warriors in pole vaulting, underwater combat, and how to battle with a weapon of her own creation: a barbed harpoon called gáe bolg. This weapon is said to be capable of penetrating shields and destroying people, even if it was thrown from a long distance.

5. Where is Scathach’s Fortress Located?

Dunscaith Castle
Ruins of Dunscaith Castle: image source

Although Scathach was said to have lived and trained most of her warriors in Alba, her home is said to be located on the Isle of Skye. Today, the Isle of Skye is Scotland’s largest and perhaps most magnificent island of the Inner Hebrides archipelago. It is located on the West Coast, about 4 hours drive from Glasgow. Now, known as the Dunscaith Castle, the fortress is also called Tokavaig or the Fortress of Shadows. According to the stories in the Ulster Cycle, it was notoriously difficult to cross the sea to reach the castle and even entering Scathach’s domain was a perilous task of its own.

6. Her Ascension to Immortality

In Irish mythology, Scathach’s place goes beyond just training men to fight to her becoming the goddess of the dead. While the debates of poets and bards left her bored, Scathach is best suited for action and she learned best by doing; hence expecting her students to keep up with the same pace. According to the stories, if a warrior was worthy enough to get past her in mortal combat, he could enter the Land of Eternal as a reward.

7. Scathach’s Impact on Irish Mythology

While Scathach doesn’t seem to play as much of an active role in Tochmarc Emire, her impact on the Irish myth cannot be overemphasized. A greater part of her impact could be linked to Cu Chulainn, whom she transformed into the champion of Ireland. More so, her fiercely independent and strong nature earned her great reverence by the warrior society. Throughout her time, she remained famed for her unparalleled skills and magic.


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