Posted by: BART Station Bard | September 24, 2012

The Isle of Skye

Yes, I know it’s not in Ireland. But it’s on the list of places to see. Scathach, like Macha, is one of those people from myth that doesn’t get much ink. If it weren’t for her, Cuchullain would never have become the warrior he did. In fact, there are only two sources that I’ve ever found that mention her at all, and the story of Cuchullain’s training is the one with the most info. I think she deserves a song. I would love to write it. I’ve been trying to for years, but there just isn’t enough material. The story of Cuchullain’s training tells us about him, and the day to day running of Scathach’s school, but next to nothing about her. She might have sprung up from the island she teaches on for all we are told.

There are possibly related stories. The Norse Skadi shares a lot of the same spirit. And the Scythians are another possible Indo-European connection. But I don’t want to be a Roman, calling every similar deity “The Gaulish Jupiter,” or “The German Hermes” or some such.

What does Scathach have to say? What song might she and I make together, if I go and ask her? I plan to start here: Dun Scaith.  It’s a pretty forbidding place. I gave Google Earth quite a workout last night. And a friend of mine tells me that she was told that the Isle of Skye is a place you visit in the summer, the wind is so strong trees don’t stand up to it.

Maybe that’s the point of this particular adventure. It doesn’t feel welcoming to me, it feels like I’ll be coming back empty-handed. But wasn’t that what Cuchullain faced? Scathach is not an easy teacher. The ruins of a castle that might have been built on the site of her fortress is a pretty nebulous place to cross half the world to see. A shadowy connection to begin looking for The Shadowed One. But when I look at Dun Scaith, I see that bridge that Cuchullain leaped. I see a story so changed by time that the original warrior woman whom it belonged to is all but gone from it.

Does she even care if we know it? Or is she happy to have it lost in the shadows? I don’t know. But I know there’s only one way to find out.

Busking total: $6.40. $4891.00 to go!




  1. I hope you have found out more from Scathach herself. That said, I did come across Scathach on the Aisle of Sky in a book series by Steven R. Lawhead. It’s called “The Song of Albion.” Scathach is portrayed as a warrior queen who the main character trains with before becoming a warrior in his own right and eventually the king. She has three beautiful daughters, all of whom experience tragedy. The book is loosely based on the history of myth, but goes beyond it filling in some of the possible gaps in the stories we have left. You might find it very worth reading.


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