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Celtic Women

By: Celtic Bard Jeff

Many of the most powerful deities of the Celtic pantheons were female, ranging from powerful, nurturing earth mothers to fierce goddesses of war. The women of Celtic mythology are likewise portrayed as brave, resourceful, even crafty heroines. Unlike the wilting heroines and distressed damsels of the Greeks, these heroines did what they wanted, when they wanted, even when it meant disaster — and when matched with these larger-than-life women, the heroes of many Celtic tales are most often done in, whether by beauty, cleverness, or enchantment. While customs varied according to region and circumstance, when compared to neighboring cultures like Rome or Greece, women enjoyed a very high status in Celtic society. Female aristocrats were afforded the same lavish burials as their male counterparts, with the same rich grave goods as the men. Women were often afforded positions of authority, often serving as leaders, chieftains, diplomats, and even warriors. Celtic women also served in religious life as seers, healers, poets, and even as druids. Married women had unparalleled rights of property and divorce. A married woman with greater wealth than her husband would control all of their combined property, unlike the Roman women, who left their fathers' homes only to become the property of their husbands. Divorce was available to both men and women, and women who divorced retained their property. Celtic wives often accompanied their husbands to battle and were not always content to keep to the sidelines; there are numerous accounts of Celtic warrior women and their achievements in battle. Some of these warrior women were so notable in their achievements that they became teachers of the art of war, owners of their own martial academies. Many became legendary. The Greek historian Marcellinus, writing of Celtic warriors, marveled, “in a fight, any one of them can resist several strangers at once, with no other help than his wife, who is even more formidable”.

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