Badb (pronounced BIBE) is the Irish Goddess of war. Along with her sisters Macha and Anu, she forms the triple Goddess known as the Morrigan. She is often called ‘The Fury’. Associated with death, destruction and battle. She is often linked with the death portent faery, the Beansidhe (or banshee) who was seen washing the armour of soliders who would perish in upcoming battle.
Badb’s name has been translated as either “crow” or “boiling,” both of which fit her mythology. Variations of her name include Badhbh, Bave, Baobh, Badhbh Chaointe, Badb Catha (“battle crow”), and she was known in Gaul as Cathubodua, Cathubodva,Catubodua or Cauth Bodva.
All three sisters could take the form of crows or ravens, and would fly over battlefields, choosing who would die and who would live. They would then take the souls of the deceased in their wings, flying them off to the Otherworld. Badb would sometimes take part in the battles herself, usually in the form of a wolf. She had the power to cause confusion in the opposing soldiers and courage in those on her own side. The battlefield was sometimes referred to as ‘the garden of Badb’.
These three are named as daughters of the goddess Ernmas, an Irish mother Goddess and Delbaeth, High King of Ireland. She is also said to be the sister of Eriu, Banba and Fodla, the three matron goddess of Ireland. However other accounts identify the trio as daughters of the druid Cailitin and his wife.
It is also stated that Badb is one of the two wives of the war god Neit. And on occasion she has also been described as being the wife of the Formorian king Tethra.
Badb is said to have a cauldron of the Otherworld, one that can provide life to those who have died. Legend says that Badb will cause the end of the world some day when she lets the cauldron boil over and flood the world.
In Togail Bruidne Da Derga, she takes the form of an ugly hag who prophesies conaire Mor’s downfall. She appears in a similar guise in Togail Bruidne Dá Choca to foretell the slaying of Cormac Condloinges, as well as taking the form of a woman washing Cormac's chariot and harness in a ford in what was considered an omen of death. The cries of Badb may also be an ill omen: Cormac's impending death is foreshadowed with the words "The red-mouthed badbs will cry around the house, For bodies they will be solicitous" and "Pale badbs shall shriek".
During the first battle of Mag Tuired, Badb—along with her sisters, Macha and Morrígan—fights on the side of the Tuatha De Danann. Using their magic, the three sisters incite fear and confusion among the Fir Bolg army, conjuring "compact clouds of mist and a furious rain of fire" and allowing their enemies "neither rest nor stay for three days and nights". Badb plays a similar role in the Tain Bo Cuailnge, terrorising and disorienting the forces of Queen Medb and causing many to fall on their own weapons.
Following the defeat of the Formorians in the Second Battle of Mag Tuired, Badb prophesies both a blessing and the end of the world, declaring first:
Peace to the sky
sky to the earth
earth beneath sky
strength in everyone
a cup very full
a fullness of honey
summer in winter
spear supported by shield
shields supported by forts
forts fierce eager for battle
fleece from sheep
woods full of stags
forever destructions have departed
mast on trees
a branch drooping-down
drooping from growth
wealth for a son
a son very learned
neck of bull in yoke
a bull from a song
knots in woods
wood for a fire
fire as wanted
palisades new and bright
salmon their victory
the Boyne their hostel
hostel with an excellence of length
new growth after spring
in autumn horses increase
the land held secure
land recounted with excellence of word
Be might to the eternal much excellent woods
peace to the sky
be this nine times eternal
"I shall not see a world that will be dear to meSummer without flowers,
Kine will be without milk,
Women without modesty,
Men without valour,
Captures without a king.
Call on Badb to aid you with spirit contact (especially at Samhain) and to learn about past lives, she can also aid you in divination.
Correspondences – the Crow, the staff, the scythe, garnets, bloodstone, Samhain, apples.
Badb Catha – from conceptart.org
Badb image by Gustave Doré taken from Edgar Allen Poe's The Raven.