A. Catherine Noon here, wishing you a very happy St. Patrick’s Day week. I’m fourth generation Irish American and when I was a kid, I voraciously devoured anything I could get my hands on that talked about the history of the country of my ancestors. Nowadays, we have images like the upcoming Wonder Woman movie, and there are television shows featuring strong warrior women like Jessica Jones, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, etc. When I was in college, I remember how big a deal it was that the networks aired Zena, Warrior Princess – yeah, it was cheeseball, and yeah, there were lots of lesbian comments about the relationship between Zena and Gabrielle. But I still remember how I was sitting in a friend’s kitchen, her three-year-old daughter romping around our legs, when she said, “I really wish there were more shows with strong women.” “What do you mean?” I asked. After all, when I was little, it was Charlie’s Angels – and they were strong women, right? She cocked her head and looked at me. “I’m talking about warriors. Strong. Not cute little ladies with makeup and manicures.”
As “being woke” goes, it wasn’t my best moment, but it did make me aware that I was missing an entire segment of femininity: one that was powerful, vengeful, and fully as capable of meting out justice as any man. We don’t take that as much for a question, now, thanks to visionaries like Joss Whedon breaking ground with Buffy. But the fact remains, when we look at history, there aren’t that many strong women figures that we can point to unless we really dig, and dig hard.
Unfortunately, Queen Maeve wasn’t a nice woman, according to legend. For one thing, she had a habit of killing off her husbands. For another, she didn’t respect other peoples’ property and thus, the famous story of her invading Ulster all to get hold of a powerful bull, one that could best her rival’s for size and stamina. You can still travel to her tomb, where she is said to be buried standing up in full battle regalia (eep!). Kenneth C. Flint, who was a novelist and who liked to translate Irish and other Celtic myths into modern-style novels, wrote A Storm Upon Ulster, which is about the battle to save Ulster from the Queen.
One of the origins of her name that I like connects it to the drink mead, and one of the meanings of her name is “one who intoxicates.” It’s also tough to pinpoint the “correct” spelling of the name, since it’s old Gaelic and there are many versions. While I wish she could have been kinder-hearted, (she killed her own pregnant sister out of jealousy), I find it fascinating that such a powerful warrior woman left an enduring legacy on the land of my ancestors.
What about you, Dear Reader? Who in mythology fascinates you?
*Image used under Creative Commons license. Accessed 03/12/2017 from the following URL.
– E.E. Cummings
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