Badb

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In Irish mythology, the Badb (Old Irish, pronounced [ˈbaðβ]) or Badhbh (Modern Irish, pronounced [ˈbəiv])—meaning "crow" or "vulture"—was a war goddess who took the form of a crow, and was thus sometimes known as Badb Catha ("battle crow"). She often caused fear and confusion among soldiers in order to move the tide of battle to her favored side. Badb would also appear prior to a battle to foreshadow the extent of the carnage to come or to predict the death of a notable person. She would sometimes do this through wailing cries, leading to comparisons with the bean-sídhe.

With her sisters, Macha and the Morrígan, Badb was part of a trio of war goddesses known as the Morrígna.

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Representations in legends

In Irish legends, Badb was associated with war and death, appearing either to foreshadow imminent bloodshed or to participate in battles, where she created confusion among the soldiers and fed on the discord of the conflict. As a harbinger of doom, she appears in a number of different guises. In Togail Bruidne Dá Derga, she takes the form of an ugly hag who prophesies Conaire Mór's downfall.[1] 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 "washer at the ford"—a woman washing Cormac's chariot and harness in a ford in what was considered an omen of death.[1][2] 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".[3] In this role she has much in common with the bean-sídhe.[4]

She was also regularly depicted as an active participant in warfare; indeed, the battlefield was sometimes referred to as "the garden of the Badb".[5] During the First Battle of Mag Tuired, Badb—along with her sisters, Macha and Morrígan—fights on the side of the Tuatha Dé 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".[6] Badb plays a similar role in the Táin Bó Cúailnge, terrorising and disorienting the forces of Queen Medb and causing many to fall on their own weapons.[3] She would often take the form of a screaming raven or crow, striking fear into those who heard her,[7] and could also be heard as a voice among the corpses on a battlefield.[1]

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