Updated: Jul 10, 2019
Next we’ll discuss another Warrior deity who is closely associated with divination: Andraste. Andraste was worshipped as a goddess of war, and especially victory, by an Iron-Age tribe of Eastern Britain. Her most famous devotee—whose name some of you will likely recognize—was none other than the Warrior Queen Boudicca, who led her people against the invading Romans and very nearly expelled them from the British Isles.
Andraste was invoked usually prior to a battle as a means of divining the battle’s outcome. The method of divination generally involved releasing a hare and seeing which way it ran, or if it ran at all, and because of this, some have determined that the hare was sacred to the goddess, although there is little actual evidence to support that assumption beyond the use of the hare in battlefield divinations. Andraste—like the Irish Goddess with whom she is frequently equated, the Morrighan—was also associated with ravens, and in some ways she fulfilled the role of “chooser of the slain” as an aspect of determining who would be victorious. Intriguingly, Andraste’s name may be derived from an old Celtic title of “she who has not fallen,” implying her invincibility in battle.
Thus, just as Svyatovit represents the foresight to choose a battle wisely, Andraste represents the resiliency required to see a battle through to the end, regardless of whether or not the odds are in your favor.
While I could go on for days discussing the various Warrior gods and goddesses, I’ll limit myself to just one more: another Celtic goddess, Macha. Macha, as an aspect of the triple-goddess Morrighan, is associated with not only war, but also horses, sovereignty, and independence. Along with her two sisters Badb and Anand, Macha forms the Morrighan: the battle-crow, whose appearance not only foretold a Warrior’s death but could influence the entire outcome of a war. However, Macha fits quite well within the Warrior Archetype in her own right, independently of her sisters.
The tales of Macha’s divine deeds vary from cycle to cycle in Irish myth, but one of my favorites is the one that highlights not only her association with horses and her physical abilities, but the soul of the Warrior. In this tale, Macha appeared to a farmer in Ulster upon the death of his first wife, taking up that role on the condition that the farmer did not mention her presence to anyone. While Macha stayed with the farmer, continuing to act in all ways as his wife, his wealth and fortune steadily increased. However, when he attended a festival, he could not help but brag that his wife Macha could outrun the king’s horses. Naturally, this boast made it back to the king.
The king immediately demanded that the farmer’s wife be put to the test. Macha—heavily pregnant at this point, after having spent many months as the farmer’s wife—could have easily refused, but her Warrior soul would not allow such a challenge to go unmet, and so she raced the king’s horses and beat them, giving birth to twins right as she crossed the finish line. However, as punishment for their impunity, she meted out a lovely bit of divine justice: she cursed the men of Ulster to experience her labor pains in their greatest hour of need…which naturally came back to bite them, but that’s a tale for another time.
Macha therefore represents the indomitable spirit, the ability to rise to the occasion to face down any obstacle—no matter what odds may be stacked against you.