Following my recent posts on Macha and the site of Emain Macha, it occurred to me that I have referenced, but never really elaborated, on the concept or function of the sovereignty goddess in Irish myth.
To be honest, she’s quite a hard character to pin down. She is thought to represent the land, and sovereignty over the land. A would-be king was expected to unite with her in order to legitimise his right to the kingship. Feasting would be involved, and sex. Another important feature was the offering of an alcoholic drink by the goddess to the king.
According to Muireann ní Bhrolcháin, the sovereignty could manifest in three ways, and an element of transformation was always involved;
- She appears to the king as an ugly old hag, who becomes young and beautiful when he completes the challenge she sets him, usually sex or a full-on kiss, at least.
- She appears as a woman who loses her mind and then regains it.
- She appears as a woman who loses her status, but regains it.