Celtic Goddess

Badb

Badb, the “Battle Crow,” was a Celtic war goddess and a member of the fabled Morrigan. A fearsome crone, she sowed fear and confusion on the battlefield in service of the victor.

By Gregory WrightLast updated on Nov. 18th, 2021
  • Was Badb part of the Morrígan?

    Badb was one of the three sisters who made up the Morrígan, the Celtic triple goddess of death, battle, and prophecy.

  • Was Badb the eldest of the sister goddesses?

    While the Morrígan could take many forms, Badb most often appeared as a crow or an old woman, and only occasionally as a youth.

  • What was Badb’s most famous prophecy?

    Badb foretold the defeat of the Fomorians, the Tuatha dé Danann’s most formidable enemies, once they were driven into the sea.

Badb was the death-bringer, a Celtic goddess of war and death, and creator of confusion in Irish mythology. She was a member of the fearsome Morrígan, the triple goddess of death and prophecy. Often, Badb took the form of an old woman.

Etymology

Badb was the Old Irish embodiment of her name, which in Modern Gaelic means “Crow.” Alternately she was known as Badb Catha, meaning “battle crow.” This can be derived from the Proto-Celtic *bodwā-, however some scholars have even connected it to an older word root from the Germanic languages. For example, the Old Norse boðvar means “war.” Perhaps Badb’s name was derived from the crows that feast on the battlefield.

Attributes

Babd was presented as an old woman more consistently than her sisters, which has lead many scholars to believe that she was the crone form of the Morrígan, although she occasionally took the image of a young woman.

A fearsome presence on the battlefield, she caused mass confusion through prophecy and madness. Despite this, she was not entirely evil. From time to time, she gave a positive forecast.

Like her sisters, Babd was connected to ravens and crows. She was associated with the modern banshee, or bean sidhe, meaning fairy woman. The cries of the banshee signified an important death, much in the way that Badb’s appearance on a battlefield inspired terror and chaos.

Family

Badb’s most important family members were her sisters who joined her as members of the Morrígan, a list that variously included MachaNemain, and Anand. Alternately, her sisters were listed as Ériu, Banba, and Fódla, matron goddesses of sovereignty in Ireland. Her mother was Ernmas, a goddess of agriculture, and some accounts list her father as the druid, Cailitin, whose wife was mortal.

Her husband was Neit, god of war, whom she shared with her sister, Nemain. Sometimes, she was listed as the wife of the Fomorian king, Tethra. With her sisters, she was also married to the Dagda.

Family Tree

  • Parents
    father
    mother
    • Cailitin
    • Ernmas
  • Siblings
    sisters
    • Macha
    • Nemain
    • Anand
  • Consorts
    husband

Mythology

Badb appeared often with her sisters, but was featured primarily in Cath Maige Tuired. She surfaced elsewhere in the tale of Togail Bruidne Dá Derga as an old woman, washing the hero Cormac Condloinges’s chariot and harness, an omen of his impending death.

Cath Maige Tuired

Peace up to heaven.
Heaven down to earth.
Earth beneath heaven,
Strength in each,
A cup very full,
Full of honey;
Mead in abundance.
Summer in winter…
-Elizabeth A. Gray, Cath Maige Tuired

In prehistoric Ireland, the fearsome Fomorian and invading Tuatha dé Danann fought for control of the Emerald Isle. Throughout this struggle, there was a smaller conflict between the Children of Danu and the earlier inhabitants, the Fir Bolg, which was resolved at the First Battle of Moytura. Badb and her sisters appeared there, causing a mist to rise. They spread terror among the Fir Bolg, resulting in the Tuatha dé Danann’s victory.

Before the second battle against the Fomorians, the Dagda sought out the Morrígan on Samhain and received from them a prophecy foretelling the Tuatha dé Danann’s victory. The battle lines at the Second Battle of Moytura were drawn, and once again the Morrígan took the field on their side, causing mass confusion by screaming terrifying prophecies at the Fomorians and driving them into the sea. At the battle’s conclusion, Badb prophesied once more, predicting the success of the Tuatha dé Danann, future of Ireland, and the end of the world.

Other Mythology

Some researchers have connected Badb to the Cailleach, an older crone figure who was a trickster, but also a sovereignty goddess related to winter. Badb’s myth was, most likely, a version of the Gaelic Catubodua, a crow goddess of battle whose traits mirrored her own.

Pop Culture

Badb appears with her sisters by name in several pieces of pop culture, including:

  • Badb, along with her sisters, appeared in Charles Moore’s A Dirty Job;

  • In one of the works in the Conan the Barbarian stories by Robert E. Howard, The Phoenix on the Sword, Badb was mentioned;

  • In the Secrets of the Immortal Nicolas Flamel by Michael Scott, she was part of the Crow Goddess with her sisters, a single body inhabited by three minds.

  • In the comic series The Wicked + The Divine, Badb was the angry, violent form of the Morrigan, of the three faces of the goddess, she dislikes wearing this face the most.



More in Celtic Gods
Dagda, Celtic Chief of the Tuatha de Danann (3:2)
Celtic God

Dagda

The “good god,” Celtic deity and chief of the Tuatha dé Danann.

By Gregory Wright
Cu Chulainn, Celtic Warrior Hero (3:2)
Celtic Hero

Cu Chulainn

Legendary hero of the Ulster Cycle of tales, best known for his unstoppable rage and inhuman strength

By Anne Williams
Morrigan, Celtic Phantom Queen (3:2)
Celtic Goddess

Morrigan

The fearsome Irish goddess of war, death, and prophecy

By Anne Williams
Cernunnos, Celtic God of the Wild (3:2)
Celtic God

Cernunnos

Mysterious Celtic horned god, master of beasts and wild places

By Gregory Wright
Ceridwen, Celtic Sorceress (3:2)
Celtic Witch

Ceridwen

Powerful Celtic sorceress whose potions brought beauty and wisdom.

By Gregory Wright
Lugh, Celtic God of Nobility (3:2)
Celtic God

Lugh

Lugh “of the Long Arm,” Celtic god of kings, justice, and leadership.

By Gregory Wright
Gwydion, Celtic Hero and Trickster (3:2)
Celtic Hero

Gwydion

Celtic trickster and skilled magician both benevolent and villainous.

By Gregory Wright
Brigid, Celtic Goddess of Fertility (3:2)
Celtic Goddess

Brigid

The “Exalted One,” revered Celtic goddess of fertility, fire, and passion.

By Gregory Wright