Celtic Goddess Badb: Fearsome Enemy, Powerful Ally

Badb: harbinger of doom, goddess of death, Battle Crow, bringer of fear and confusion, foreshadower of destruction and carnage. These are just a few of this Celtic deity’s epithets. But there’s more to this Celtic goddess than meets the eye.

As a triple goddess, Badb is often depicted with her sisters, Machu and Anu, who are also sometimes referred to as The Three Morrigan. The Morrigan, one of the most powerful Celtic deities, is widely viewed as an amalgamation of these three sisters.

Although occasionally taking the form of the Maiden, Badb is most frequently depicted as the Crone. In this incarnation, she’s closely connected with wisdom, winter, and change. She may have predominantly been the goddess of death, but Badb was also the goddess of sovereignty. Further, some myths tell that her mother was the goddess of agriculture. Let’s take a journey to find out more about this elusive Celtic deity. We’ll discuss how to approach her and the benefits she can bring to your daily life, too.

Badb: The Myth

Photo Credit: tribu.pagana

Badb features in several Irish myths, most notably The First and Second Battle of Magh Turied. In these stories, she, along with her sisters, caused confusion and inspired terror in the enemy. She has also been depicted as tending a magical cauldron in the Otherworld: Badb translates as ‘the one who boils.’ Ancient Celts believed that a warrior who had died on the battlefield would encounter Badb upon arriving in the Otherworld. They would perceive her in the guise of a kind old woman stirring a cauldron.

According to legend, Badb would ask the warrior if they wanted to remain in the Otherworld or be reborn. If they chose the latter, they would be required to climb into the cauldron. Once they did so, the goddess would look into the waters to see the form the warrior would take upon rebirth. She may see a human baby being born or an animal with cubs.

The Prophetess

One of the most well-known myths concerning Badb tells the story of King Cormac. Needing a place to rest between battles, Cormac and his men found a hostel in which to stay. The place was owned by a man called Da Choca. The men, during their time at the hostel, saw a crone washing bloodied clothes in the river. In reply to their questions about what she was doing, the old woman said that she was cleaning the garments of a king who was soon to die.

The woman appeared again to the men, inside the hostel, white-haired and wearing red, striking terror into their hearts. The warriors’ enemy, the Connachta, entered the hostel that very night, killing King Cormac and therefore fulfilling the prophecy.

The Banshee

In Irish folklore, the banshee was a much-feared spirit whose wailing heralded the death of a family member. The Old Irish word bean sidhe literally means fairy woman. The legend is, therefore, directly connected to the goddess Badb who was said to have eventually left behind the battlefield to become a faery. In this guise, she watched over families of her choosing and keened to let them know death was imminent.

The Washer at the Ford

Badb was also known for appearing in the guise of the Washer at the Ford. In this incarnation, she would be seen at the ford of a river, washing bloodied clothing belonging to the onlooker. Thus signaling their imminent demise.

In modern spiritual practice, however, the Washer has taken on another role, albeit one that’s closely tied to her original. Now, she may be viewed as a goddess who is able to help an individual ‘wash’ away habits, events, or trauma from the past that may be holding that person back. The process may be a difficult one. However, like the blood from the garments she washes, these things can be transmuted in the waters of the rivers. 

Symbols of the Goddess

Badb was said to have been able to transform into a crow at will, and this bird is frequently associated with the goddess. But she’s also connected to wolves, which symbolize guidance and transformation.

Badb symbol
Commonists, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Although she’s primarily associated with war and death, Badb is strongly linked to prophecy, protection, and strategy. Subsequently, she acts as a bridge between two worlds. The goddess is connected to both the ending of one stage and the bright new beginning of another.

Approaching the Goddess

You may feel drawn to working with Badb, and wish to invite her into your life. If so, simply find a quiet, reflective space and call on her. Develop a relationship with the goddess, and she will work with you to give you strength as you face your fears or make changes in your life. She can offer you protection, and help you listen to your instincts and intuition to avoid pitfalls, too.

Summoning Strength

You may intuit Badb’s presence when you’re in need of an ally. Perhaps you’re struggling with releasing something from the past. Or of letting go of habits or thought patterns that no longer serve you. Maybe you’re experiencing conflict within your family, or there are tensions at work. You might hear Badb’s approach if there’s a particular person you feel is an enemy, and you’re not sure what to do.

This goddess is known as the Battle Crow for good reason. Call on Badb for strength in difficult times, particularly times of conflict. She can help you discern the best path to take. Crows are known for their superior intelligence, and the goddess may assist you in rising above the fray to see the bigger picture, so you can formulate an effective strategy.

Seeking Protection

Badb is a goddess representing healing, rebirth, and release: work with her to replenish your energy and rebuild your strength. The goddess can also be asked to provide us with protection. Plus, she’s a great ally to have beside us as we work through a difficult time or negotiate our way through painful change.

Guiding Divination

With her powers of prophecy, Badb is also known as the Fate Weaver. If we listen carefully and heed her warnings, we could avoid becoming entangled in an unpleasant situation or unnecessary suffering. If you are interested in working with the tarot, runes, or another form of divination, then consider asking the goddess to help guide you as you begin the new practice.

The Celtic deity Brigid is also a goddess of prophecy, as well as being linked to healing, agriculture, fire, and poetry. As a ‘gentler’ facet of the divine feminine, you may wish to consider working with both Brigid and Badb as you begin a divination journey. Use your instinct and intuition to determine the right approach.

Dedicating a Space to Badb

If you would like to bring Badb into your life – or feel she is already knocking at the door for entry – then dedicating a space in your home to her is a beautiful way to do so. This goddess can help you release habits or ways of thinking that no longer serve you. She can also assist you in stepping away from the past and into a future brimming with potential. Badb may be called on for protection and to promote deep inner healing.

Incorporate candles, totems, or fabrics in white, red, or dark blue into this special space. If you have access to them, juniper and holly are the herbs commonly associated with Badb, so adding a sprig or two of these plants would be a beautiful addition. The crystals onyx and jet can be used to connect more closely with Badb’s energy. Arranging these stones around the space will work well, too. 

As the Crone, the new and waning moons are the best times to channel this goddess’s energy. Apples and red wine are good offerings for this goddess. Badb is connected to the mythical realm of Avalon, which literally translates as ‘Isle of Apples.’

Ways to Work with the Goddess

If you’d like some inspiration to get started with approaching Badb and working with her, the activities below may be a good jumping-off point.

Connecting with Crows

The crow is most commonly associated with Badb. Simply pay attention to these birds if they appear in your garden or if you spot them whilst walking in the park. Take a moment to appreciate their movements, intelligence, and the way the wind catches their wings on its currents.

Try sketching a crow, writing a poem with a crow as the subject, or photographing the birds, to help you come closer to the birds’ spirit. You may wish to leave these as offerings in the space you’ve dedicated to the goddess.

Meditate on a Tarot Card

Tarot Badb

Take inspiration from Badb’s association with prophecy and try choosing a tarot card to meditate on. Select the card either randomly, or pick one that you feel particularly drawn to – whatever feels right. Clear your mind, focus on your breathing, and enter a meditative state.

Allow the card’s image to stay at the forefront of your mind, and let any associations or connections that come up as a result simply flow through your consciousness. You may want to keep this card close to you for the rest of the day to continue contemplating its meaning.

Try a Simple Water Ritual

Water rituals have been used for centuries. In her incarnation as both the Washer and the Keeper of the Cauldron, Badb can be seen as being closely associated with this element. Why not try a simple water ritual as part of a daily practice of bringing the goddess into your life?

A water ritual can be as simple as taking the time to express gratitude to the water you’re about to drink. Visualize the water cleansing and nourishing your body and leaving a little of its energy behind.  You could also place a small bowl of water on your altar or in the special space you’ve dedicated to Badb. Before offering this water, charge it with intention, too.

Heeding the Approach of Badb

As a goddess who has been traditionally connected with death, battle, and confusing the enemy, Badb may, at first glance, appear to be one of the least approachable goddesses. Her fearsome nature and fierce aspect could make appealing to her seem difficult.

However, there’s a lot more to Badb than bloodshed and fury. Yes, she is brave, a powerful deliverer of justice, and unlikely to suffer fools gladly. However, these elements are also part of her status as a mother, wise woman, and formidable ally.

If there’s a situation that calls for strength, tenacity, resolve, and the use of strategy, then there may be no better goddess to have in your corner. If you’re going through a difficult patch, are worn down with an ongoing conflict, or have found yourself caught up in a tangled, acrimonious situation, then Badb is waiting in the wings, ready to offer assistance.

Featured Image Credit: Sharon Aur by Pinterest

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Melanie Smith

Melanie Smith is a freelance content and creative writer from Gloucestershire. She lives in a funny little cottage with her daughter and cat, The Magical Mr. Bobo. Her blog posts and articles on the subjects of tarot, crystal healing, holistic wellness, and parenting feature regularly in magazines and websites around the world.