Celtic Heroines: Last Stand of Boudica


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I thank thee, Andraste, and call upon thee as woman speaking to woman. I pray thee for victory, preservation of life, and liberty against men insolent, unjust, insatiable, and impious.”– Boudica’s prayer for victory to the goddess of war

Introduction

In 60-61 AD, one of the greatest Celtic heroines, Boudica, reportedly led between 130,000 to 230,000 men and women warriors in the last major revolt against the Romans in Britain. Her ability to unite her people in this rebellion was remarkable considering the destabilizing Celtic penchant for individual glory that was evidenced in the fall of Celtic Europe to Roman expansion.

Previous posts describe Boudica’s initial victories in which the cities of Camulodunum (Colchester), Londonium (London), and Verulamium (St. Albans) were razed to the ground on her orders. Boudica’s outrages were precipitated by the Romans’ brutal treatment of native Britons and the destruction of the druidic stronghold at Mona (now Anglesey) in present-day Wales under the command of Governor Caius Seutonius Paulinus.

Celtic Sword

Celtic Sword and Scabbard

Destruction of Druidic Priesthood

The ultimate ambition of the newly appointed governor, Paulinus, was to be elevated in the eyes of Emperor Nero for subduing the mutinous Britons. He resolved to destroy the druidic priesthood who exerted their power from Mona over the tribes occupying Wales. The druids may have been the most important political factor for unifying the Britons, for they held the secrets of the gods and the power of magic.

In order to approach Mona’s shore, Governor Paulinus ordered a number of flat-bottomed boats to carry his infantry while his mounted cavalry waded over the shallows. The practice of bearing arms was common among British women and they were present in the final battle against Paulinus. These women and fanatic druids used psychological tactics such as screeching, dancing wildly, and pulling at their faces, frightening the Romans enough to hold them off for a time. Nonetheless, the Romans eventually slaughtered the Britons and leveled their religious groves and shrines to the ground.

As Paulinus arranged for the security the island, he received intelligence that Britain had revolted.

Suetonius Paulinus Statue

Suetonius Paulinus Statue

Boudica’s Last Stand

When Paulinus reached Londonium, he determined it would be hopeless to defend the inhabitants and thus abandoned the city. The Roman historian Tacitus said: “All those left behind were butchered. The Britons took no prisoners, nor did they consider the money they could get for selling slaves; it was the sword, gibbet, fire and cross (caedes, patibula, ignes, cruces).”

Boudica then sacked Verulamium, a town occupied by Catuvellauni who were loyal to Rome. A black ash layer at St. Albans which was discovered by archaeologists confirms the Roman written record.

Verulamium City Wall Remains

Verulamium Excavations Ancient Roman City Wall

According to Cassius Dio, a 2nd Century Roman historian, Boudica subjected captives “to atrocities which were done to the accompaniment of sacrifices, banquets, and wanton behavior, not only in all their other sacred places, but particularly in the grove of Andante. This was their name for Victory, and they regarded her with most exceptional reverence.”

With less than 10,000 men, Paulinus only had time to find a suitable place to fight the final battle on his terms. For this purpose, he chose a location encircled with woods, narrow at the entrance, and sheltered in the rear by a thick forest. Boudica’s massive army had to approach the Romans at the front of an open plain. The location is conjectured to be the present-day Mancetter about 100 miles northwest of London.

In the account by Tacitus, Boudica, in a chariot with her daughters, drove among the ranks to embolden her people with the following words: “This is not the first time the Britons have been led to battle by a woman. On this spot we must either conquer, or die with glory. There is no alternative. Though a woman, my resolution is fixed: the men, if they please, may survive with infamy, or live in bondage.”

Boudica Statue

Statue of Boudica

When the battle began, the Roman’s narrow line stood fast as the Britons rushed toward them, hurling their weapons. The legionnaires then moved together as one unit and hurled 6,000 – 7,000 javelins, followed by a second round. When Boudica’s front line fell, her remaining warriors had to climb over dead bodies or carry the stricken forward for the final assault. The Romans formed a wedge and pushed their shields forward, crushing Celtic warriors together so they could not use their long swords. The cavalry cut down any Briton who broke and ran.

After suffering heavy casualties in the long engagement, the remaining Britons took flight, but wagons which carried their families obstructed the escape. What followed was a horrible slaughter. No Briton was spared regardless of age or sex. Tacitus reported that 80,000 Britons were put to the sword while the Romans lost about 400 men—a number most likely exaggerated.

After her defeat, Boudica either died of illness or poisoned herself.

Dying Gladiator

Statue Dying Celt

Aftermath of Revolt

Reinforcements from northern Europe had to be sent to bolster Paulinus in Britain, which gives some indication that the Roman losses were substantial. The wrath and fury of Paulinus against the Britons were said to be sanctified by Mars Ultor, the Roman god of vengeance. Romans troops seized and destroyed storehouses and standing crops belonging to various tribes, leading to widespread famine.

Celtic Storehouse for Grains

Celtic Storehouse for Grains

Government officials in Britain became disgruntled with Paulinus for his handling of the crisis that created so much havoc. There had rarely been such a revolt of such magnitude and ferocity recorded in the Roman annals. Thus, the Roman government reversed its policy towards Britain and replaced Paulinus with another governor. Military action was replaced with tact and diplomacy to calm the Celtic rulers.

One of the greatest ironies of this revolt is the Brigantes Celtic queen, Cartimandua, flourished with more wealth and power as rewards for her loyalty to Rome. If she had joined forces with Boudica, it is unlikely Paulinus would have survived the war on two fronts.

In future posts, the Celtic druidic priesthood and the Celtic religious beliefs will be further discussed.

References:

Graham Webster, Boudica: The British Revolt Against Rome AD AD 60; Reprinted 2004 by Routledge Taylor & Francis Group, London and New York.

Cassius Dio: The Neronian Revolt of the Iceni under Suetonius Paullinus; Book LXII, Chapters 1-12 (AD 61)

Description by Tacitus of the Rebellion of Boudica (AD 60-61) [from the Annual by Tacitus (AD110-120, Box XIV]; Athena Review Vol. 1, No. 1.

Celtic Heroines: Boudica Revolt Against Romans


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“Behold the proud display of warlike spirits, and consider the motives for which we draw the avenging sword. On this spot we must either conquer, or die with glory. There is no alternative. Though a woman, my resolution is fixed; the men, if they please, may survive with infamy, and live in bondage.”–Boudica’s speech to her army; recorded by Tacitus

Introduction

In 60-61 AD, the Romans faced their most fierce vengeance in a revolt led by Boudica, the best known Celtic warrior queen in Britain. A formidable woman of high intelligence, Boudica assembled some 120,000 men and women warriors for her rebellion. Her initial battles with the Romans almost succeeded in driving them out of Britain. The best-known accounts of this revolt were documented by the Roman historians Tacitus in 1st century and Cassius Dio in the 2nd century.

Dio Cassius described the Iceni queen as “very tall in stature, in appearance most terrifying, in the glance of an eye most fierce. Around her neck was a large golden torc. She wore a tunic of diverse colors which a thick mantle was fastened with a brooch. She grasped a spear to terrify all beholders.”

Boudica Statue

Statue of Boudica

Events Leading to Revolt

Boudica’s husband, Prasutugus, had during his long reign amassed considerable wealth as the king of the Iceni. Like the Brigantes who were ruled by another warrior queen, Cartimandua, the Iceni had formed an alliance with the Romans that allowed them prosperity and a good measure of independence. Before his death in 60 AD, King Prasutugus bequeathed half of his estate to Rome hoping the gesture would prove his fealty and appease Emperor Nero. The other half was willed to Boudica and their daughters.

Celtic Roundhouse of Chieftain (Interior)

Ancient Celtic Roundhouse of Chieftain (Interior)

However, Nero would not settle for just half when he could have it all—especially if such riches belonged to a mere woman. His subordinates seized the king’s estate and annexed the Iceni territory, reducing its inhabitants to slavery. When Boudica vehemently protested the injustice, Roman soldiers flogged her and raped her two daughters. These proud royal women were deprived of their positions which had been transmitted to them by their ancestors.

Enraged, Boudica took command of her Iceni warriors and joined forces with the Trinovantes, a neighboring state that refused crouching to Roman bondage. In secret councils, the Celtic leaders vowed to stand against the Roman Empire in the cause of liberty. Tacitus quoted Boudica as saying, “I am not fighting for my kingdom and wealth. I am fighting as an ordinary person for my lost freedom, bruised body, and my outraged daughters.”

Celtic Shield British Museum

Celtic Shield La Tène Style

What ignited the Trinovantes to ally with Boudica was the vile conduct of Roman veterans who had no compunction for driving the natives from their homes and treating them with cruelty and oppression. At Camulodunum (Colchester) a temple was built to honor Claudius—a symbol of eternal slavery to the Britons.

In an account by Cassius Dio, Boudica told her followers to accept some of the blame for allowing themselves to be manipulated by the Romans prior to their invasion in 43 AD. “But to speak the plain truth, it is we who have made ourselves responsible for all these evils, in that we allowed them to set foot on the island in the first place instead of expelling them an once as we did their famous Julius Caesar, – yes, and in that we did not deal with them while they were still far away under Augustus and with Gaius Caligula.”

Claudius Bronze Head

Claudius Bonze Head

Destruction of Camulodunum

Tacitus wrote of several omens that foretold the destruction of the Roman capital of Camulodunum. One omen was the statue of the goddess of Victory in the city fell off its base and landed face-down. After this event, women in ecstasy rushed among the people and screamed the Romans would soon meet their doom. Another omen was the image of the colony in ruins seen in the transparent water near the mouth of the Thames. These omens set the stage for inciting the Britons to revolt.

Further, the Roman provincial governor, Seutonius Paulinus, was preoccupied with destroying the druidic power at Mona (Anglesey).

Suetonius Paulinus Statue

Suetonius Paulinus Statue

Fearing the crisis at Camulodunum could erupt into a rebellion, Roman veterans requested reinforcements from Catus Decianus, the procurator of the province, to defend their city. The procurator only spared two hundred men to quash the uprising. The Romans had hoped to make their stand at the fortified temple of Claudius. However, Boudica’s army demolished the unguarded city, besieging the last defenders in the temple for two days before it fell. Archaeologists have shown that the city was methodically laid to waste with fire and sword.

The ninth Roman legion was sent to relieve the city. Before battling these military forces, Boudica offered a hare to the war goddess, Andastre. Then the Britons rushed into battle and annihilated the Roman army.

Counterattack by Seutonius

Suetonius marched back through Britain as far as Londonium (London), the center for trade and commerce. He had counted on Boudica attacking this settlement, but she instead moved twenty miles north to Verulamium (St. Albans) which her army sacked.

Verulamium City Wall Remains

Verulamium Excavations Ancient Roman City Wall

Meanwhile, Seutonius fortified his forces with the fourteenth legion and auxiliaries from adjacent stations, and drafted men of fighting age. He left Londonium undefended despite the inhabitants’ pleas to stay so he could confront Boudica. However, she attacked the defenseless Londonium, determined to exact her revenge on the Romanized citizens.

Tacitus wrote, “They [Boudica and her warriors] wasted no time in getting down to the bloody business of hanging, burning, and crucifying.”

To be Continued

The warrior queen then turned her attention to Seutonius, tracking him down north of London. The next post will detail the final battle between Boudica and Seutonius.

References:

Jeannine Davis-Kimball, Ph.D., Warrior Women: An Archaeologist’s Search for History Hidden Heroines; 2002; Warner Books, Inc., New York.

Cassius Dio: The Neronian Revolt of the Iceni under Suetonius Paullinus; Book LXII, Chapters 1-12 (AD 61)

Description by Tacitus of the Rebellion of Boudica (AD 60-61) [from the Annual by Tacitus (AD 110-120), Book XIV]; Athena Review Vol. 1, No. 1.

Celtic Heroines: Backdrop for Boudica’s Revolt


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“You have learned by actual experience how different freedom is from slavery…how much better is poverty with no master than wealth with slavery.”–Boudica’s Speech to Followers, as recorded by Cassius Dio


Introduction

Although the highest political authority for the Celtic Society was often vested in males, women occasionally became ruling queens and military leaders. The practice of bearing arms was relatively common among women. Tacticus, the first-century Roman historian, wrote the Britons, “are used to women commanders in war.”

Boudica was the best known warrior queen in Britain. A Briton of royal family and high intelligence, she assembled some 120,000 men and women warriors for her revolt. She was one of the most formidable opponents the Romans faced in their history. Dio Cassius, more than a century later, described the Iceni queen as “very tall in stature, in appearance most terrifying, in the glance of an eye most fierce, harsh in voice…and with a mass of bright red hair falling to her hips.”

Boudica Statue

Statue of Boudica

To better understand the reasons for the ferocity of her vengeance, below is a backdrop of Roman atrocities that set the stage for Boudica’s revolt, beginning in Gaul and spilling into Britain.

Caesar’s Decimation of Gaul

In first-century BC, the heartland of the great Celtic culture was Gaul (modern day France). The Roman conquest and downfall of Gaul is detailed in accounts of Julius Caesar. By any standards, the campaign in Gaul was an appalling holocaust of the Celtic people. In 60 BC, Gaul probably had some six million inhabitants. Ten years later, 1 million had been killed and another 1 million sold into slavery, a scale of oppression comparable to Hitler in the Second World War.

Julius Caesar Statue

Statue of Julius Caesar

The primary motivation for Caesar’s attacking Gaul was to enhance his own position in the Roman Republic and to amass slaves whom he could sell to clear his heavy debts. One tactic he often used was to ally with the Celtic kings under the guise of helping them defend their homelands from invading Germanians or other Celtic tribes. Needless to say, his ultimate goal was to steal their lands so he could embellish his reputation and enrich himself in advance of taking ultimate power in Rome.

Caesar took pleasure in chronicling the ferocity of his conquest, including:

  • Hundreds of thousands of deaths among the Helvetii
  • Massacre of all elders of the Veniti
  • Virtual destruction of the Nervii
  • Sale of 53,000 Atuatuci as slaves in a single auction
Dying Gladiator

Statue Dying Gaul

Many of these Gallic people escaped to southeast Britain, but the remainder were eventually acculturated and assimilated into the Roman Empire. It is likely Latin supplanted Gaulish as the dominant language in the core areas of Gaul within a century of the conquest.

However, the Britons would not go down as easily.

Ancient Roman Ship Frieze

Roman Ship Image on Frieze


Roman Conquest of Britain

The initial Roman invasion of Britain in 43 AD under Emperor Claudius met little resistance, in part, due to alliances Rome had made with powerful Celtic rulers. The situation quickly changed in 48-54 AD when the Romans fought Caratacus, a leader who used guerrilla tactics in the western frontier.

Richborough Roman Fort Ruins in Britain

Richborough Fort, Site of Roman Landing in Invasion of Britain in 43 AD

For the Britons, the initial conquest was traumatic. Those who had initially resisted the first invasion were dead, enslaved, or silently seething in anguish. Many of those who had first welcomed Rome now faced the realities of brutal power and corrupt monetary system. The few British nobles who had initially benefited lost their wealth to avaricious traders and touts who swarmed into the country.

In essence, the Britons were not going to accept the Roman way of life.They bitterly resented the Roman bureaucrats who collected taxes in onerous ways. Lands were given to former Roman soldiers who had been brutalized by the harsh army discipline.They treated the natives with total contempt, particularly at Camulodunum (modern day Colchester). Everything in Britain was there for Roman pickings.

Ancient Roman Light House Dover Cliffs

Roman Light House Dover Cliffs

The courage of the rebellious Caratacus encouraged the downtrodden from the various tribes to unite with a new sense of purpose. The powerful druids, Celtic priests, now began to exert their powers to ferment and organize a resistance movement over the whole of Britain.

Advance into Wales

Emperor Claudius and his advisers probably had second thoughts about staying in Britain, as the ease of the initial phase of the conquest dramatically reversed by a wave of savage reaction in the western frontier, with heavy Roman loses. Claudius became woefully indecisive on whether to stay in Britain toward the end of his reign.

Celtic Shield British Museum

Celtic Shield La Tène Style

The Roman indecision about what to do with Britain changed when Nero, at the age of seventeen, became the emperor in 54 AD. In 57 AD, he and his advisers decided to conquer and hold the western frontier of Britain now known as Wales. This decision may have been due to the discovery of gold in central Wales, silver in northern Wales, and copper on the Island of Anglesey.

Ancient Celtic Roundhouse

Ancient Celtic Roundhouse for Popular Assembly in Wales

In 59 AD, Gaius Suetonius Paullinus, a hard uncompromising general, totally lacking the skills needed for a diplomat, was assigned as governor of Britain. His mission was to destroy the druidic power at Anglesey and to conquer Wales. The decision ignited a firestorm that brought ruin upon the Romans. The fact that the leader of the revolt was a woman caused the Romans the greatest shame, as they almost lost the isle of Britain.

To be Continued

The next series posts will detail major events leading up to and during the Boudica’s revolt.

References:

Jeannine Davis-Kimball, Ph.D., Warrior Women: An Archaeologist’s Search for History Hidden Heroines; 2002; Warner Books, Inc., New York.

Cassius Dio: The Neronian Revolt of the Iceni under Suetonius Paullinus; Book LXII, Chapters 1-12 (AD 61)

John Davies, The Celts: Prehistory to Present Day; 2005; United States: Sterling Publishing Co., New York.

Julius Caesar, translated by F. P. Long, 2005. The Conquest of Gaul; United States: Barnes & Noble, Inc.

Celtic Heroines: Golden Age of Warriors and Queens

“We have not even to risk the adventure alone, for the heroes of all time have gone before us. The labyrinth is thoroughly know. We have only to follow the thread of the hero path…And where we had thought to be alone, we will be with all of the world.”—Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth

Introduction

The epic historical fantasy, APOLLO’S RAVEN, is the first novel in the Spirit Warrior Chronicles set in 1st Century Britain and Rome. The primary character is Catrin, a Canatiaci warrior princess in southeast Britain. Not only is she trained as a warrior, but she uses raven mystical powers to help her parents defend their kingdom against a rival tribal king and her half-brother. She meets the great-grandson of Marc Antony, Marcellus, when he accompanies his father, a Roman senator, to arbitrate a settlement between the rival tribal kingdoms. Catrin and Marcellus bridge their cultural differences and form an unlikely friendship that develops into a deeper relationship which could threaten the political powers in Britain and Rome.

Celtic Spiritual Warrior

Catrin, Celtic Spirit Warrior

This unpublished novel is inspired by historical accounts and mythology of Celtic heroines who had significant roles as warriors, rulers, and spiritual advisers in the Celtic society. Celtic women were distinctly different from their Greek and Roman counterparts, as they had more liberty, legal rights, and status. This may be due, in part, because females often fended for themselves at home while their menfolk plundered, invaded, or served as mercenaries in foreign lands. Ancient classical historians also provided accounts that women incited, participated, and led battles.

Celtic Heroine Warriors 

Classical writers described Celtic females as not only strong and courageous warriors, but they were beautiful with comely bodies. Classical writer Diodorus wrote Celtic women were “nearly as tall as the men, whom they rivaled in courage.”

Roman historian Marcus Borealis further elaborated: “The women of the Celtic tribes are bigger and stronger than our Roman women. This is most likely due to their natures as well as their peculiar fondness for all things martial and robust. The flaxen haired maidens of the north are trained in sports and war while our gentle ladies are content to do their womanly duties and thus are less powerful than most young girls from Gaul and the hinterlands.”

Celtic Woman Warrior Prepares for Battle

Celtic Woman Warrior Prepares for Battle

Ammianus Marcellinus wrote a lively description of Celtic woman in battle as follows: “…a whole band of foreigners will be unable to cope with one [Celt] in a fight if he calls on his wife, stronger than he by far and with flashing eyes; least of all when she swells her neck and gnashes her teeth, and poising her huge white arms, begins to rain blows mingled with kicks like shots discharged by the twisted cords of a catapult.”

Celtic Spiritual Warrior

Celtic woman warrior in sword fight

Though men usually held the highest political authority, it was not uncommon for women to rule as queens and military commanders. The 1st-century Roman historian Tacitus wrote the Britons “are used to women commanders in war,” and offered detailed reports on the exploits of two warrior queens—Cartimandua and Boudicca.

Celtic Heroine Queens

The Sleek Pony

Cartimandua, known as the sleek pony, was queen of the Brigantes, a vast tribal confederation in north-central Britain. Although Cartimandua ruled with her husband, Venutius, she held the real power to the kingdom. When the Romans invaded in 43 AD, both Cartimandua and Venutius realized the political advantages of siding with the aggressors and thus their kingdom because a thriving Roman client state around 50 AD.

However, Cartimandua lost popularity among her subjects when she betrayed the famous rebel leader Caratacus, turning him over to the Romans after he had sought asylum in her court. Her power eroded when she divorced Venutius and then married his armor bearer who she made the new king. Her actions prompted a civil war with her former husband, the Romans entering the fray and helping her to defeat Venutius in 71 AD. Though she may not have been viewed favorably in history, she still nonetheless was a powerful leader.

Celtic Woman Warrior with Sword

Celtic Woman Warrior with Sword

Boudica

Boudica was a charismatic warrior queen who united several British tribes to drive the Romans out of Britain in 61 AD. A bronze statue of Boudica driving her chariot is prominently displayed on the bank of the Thames (London) in honor of her valiant attempt to overcome her oppressors. Roman historian Dio Cassius described her as “very tall in stature, in appearance most terrifying, in the glance of her eye most fierce, harsh in voice…and with a great mass of bright red hair falling to her hips.”

Boudica Statue

Statue of Boudica

Like the Brigantes, the Iceni had formed an alliance with the Romans that at first gave them prosperity and independence. That changed when her husband, King Prasutagus, died in 60 AD and she became the leader of the Iceni. He willed half of his personal estate to Rome in the hope the gesture would demonstrate his fealty and appease the Roman Nero. The other half was bequeathed to Boudica.

But Nero would not settle for half the fortune—particularly to a mere woman. He ordered his subordinates to seize Boudica’s estate and annex the Iceni territory. When Boudica protested, the Roman soldiers flogged the queen and raped her two teenage daughters.

But the Romans would soon face her fury. The details of this rebellion will be provided in the next post.

References

Jeannine Davis-Kimball, Ph.D., Warrior Women: An Archaeologist’s Search for History Hidden Heroines; 2002; Warner Books, Inc., New York.

Cassius Dio: The Neronian Revolt of the Iceni under Suetonius Paullinus; Book LXII, Chapters 1-12 (AD 61)

Ammianus Marcellinus: The Roman History of Ammianus Marcellinus, published in Vol. I of the Loeb Classical Library edition, 1935; Book XV, 12 The Manners and Customs of the Gauls.

Quest for Catrin: Photographic Adventure—Celtic Spiritual Warrior (Part 7)

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Furthermore, we have not even risked the adventure alone, for the heroes of all time have gone before us. The labyrinth is thoroughly known. We have only to follow the thread of the hero path, and where we had thought to find an abomination, we shall find a god. And where we had thought to slay another, we shall slay ourselves. Where we had thought to travel outward, we will come to the center of our own existence. And where we had thought to be alone, we will be with all the world. Joseph Campbell

Quest for Catrin: Photographic Adventure — Celtic Spiritual Warrior (Part 7)

Impressions of a Heroine

Before completing the series of the photographic adventure of Catrin, the heroine in my unpublished historical fantasy, APOLLO’S RAVEN, I wanted to post some comments from my eleven-year-old granddaughter, Maylin, about her experience posing as a Celtic warrior princess. Needless to say, it is not everyday a crazy grandmother asks her granddaughter to dress up as a warrior and re-enact sword fights and summoning a raven. In addition, I asked Maylin about her favorite mythological characters and young adult novels she enjoyed reading.

My granddaughter was quite the trooper during the photo shoot and interview. But Maylin finally admitted that at first she wondered if she had been thrown under the bus when her mother graciously volunteered her to do the photo shoot.

Thank you, Maylin, for sharing this wonderful adventure with me.

Interview with Maylin

Question 1. What were your first thoughts when your mother volunteered you to pose as a young Celtic woman warrior?

Answer: At first I wasn’t  happy. I asked my mother, “Why would you want to throw me under the bus?” I did not want to go through the fuss of make-up and dressing up like a warrior. The only reason I did it was because I loved my mother and grandmother. (Note: Always the perfect answer for a grandmother.)

Question 2. What type of characteristics would you like to see in a heroine?

Answer: Heroines should be fighters and stand up for what they believe in. Yet they should protect people who they love. I liked Katniss Everdeen in the Hunger Games because she traded places with her sister to protect her. Heroines should have a soft side, too.

Question 3. What is your favorite mythological character?

Answer: Poseidon is my favorite because he is a god associated with the sea and water. I liked the character Percy Jackson because he was the son of Poseidon, a demigod, in the series of novels written by Rick Riordan. I like to swim on my school team. My favorite monster is the serpent-like hydra that has many heads. For each head cut off, it grew two more heads back in place of one.

Question 4. If you were given the opportunity to have supernatural powers, what powers would you like?

Answer: I would like to have the power of telekinesis. Specifically, I would like to read the minds of other people and levitate objects. I would like to read my friends’ thoughts to know if there is anything wrong. Possibly I could help them.

Question 5. What comes to mind when you think of a raven? What types of powers would you envision a raven to have?

Answer: A raven is a bird. Nothing comes to mind as to what raven powers would be.

Question 6. How did you feel as you were being transformed into a Celtic warrior princess for the photographic shoot?

Answer: I was pretty amazed at what could be done with make-up, particularly the raven tattoo. The whole process of dressing up and re-enacting Catrin in an ancient time was pretty amazing. I have to admit I was pleasantly surprised.

Celtic Spiritual Warrior

Celtic Woman Warrior Sword Fight

Question 7. What were the favorite aspects of the photo shoot for you?

Answer: I like the photographic shoot of the sword fight in the forest. Not until I saw my facial expressions in the photographs did I realize how much I really got into role-playing the part of a warrior. I particularly liked the scenes where I had to sword fight with Shevek, an assistant off-camera.

Celtic Spiritual Warrior in Battle

Celtic Woman Warrior in Battle

Question 8. What are your favorite books and authors?

Answer: My favorite series of novels were the mythological adventures of Percy Jackson written by Rick Riordan. What I liked best is Rick Riordan actually went into some of the original Greek myths in his book. I also liked the Harry Potter series and the world created by J. K. Rowling. Finally, I liked Hunger Games written by Suzanne Collins.

Reference: Joseph Cambell, The Power of Myth with Bill Moyers; Published by Doubleday; New York, July 1991.

Quest for Catrin: Photographic Adventure—Celtic Spiritual Warrior (Part 6)


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 The images of myth are reflections of the spiritual  potentialities of every one of us. Through contemplating these, we evoke these powers in our lives — Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth

Quest for Catrin: Photographic Adventure—Celtic Spiritual Warrior (Part 6)

Photographic Journey

On June 13, 2012 the photographic adventure was completed with my eleven-year-old granddaughter, Maylin. She posed as the heroine in my unpublished novel, APOLLO’s RAVEN, a historical fantasy about Catrin—a Celtic spiritual warrior from Ancient Britain.  Below is a continuation of the photographs  and excerpts from APOLLO’S RAVEN which best captured my vision.

Excerpts APOLLO’S RAVEN

Catrin took the red-jeweled sword from Mor and pointed the blade toward a raven flying over the chalky cliffs.

Soaring Raven

Raven Over White Cliffs Britain

The brilliance of the sun escaping the cover of the horizon momentarily blinded her.

Celtic Warrior Princess

Catrin, Celtic Spiritual Warrior Summons Raven

A biting wind carrying the smell of salt roared across the water as she beseeched the raven’s spirit. “Let me see my enemies.”

Celtic Woman Warrior Summons Raven Spirit

Catrin Summons Raven

Her spirit shot like an arrow into the soaring bird. A light flashed in her mind and she became one with its spirit. Sparks burned through her legs and into her spine and arms; her muscles contracted in synchrony with the bird’s wings. Now she could see the world through raven eyes.

Celtic Spiritual Warrior

Catrin Spiritual Warrior Joins Raven

 

(To be continued—Quest for Catrin: Photographic Adventure; Photographs and Excerpts)

 

Quest for Catrin: Photographic Adventure—Celtic Spiritual Warrior (Part 4)


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Quest for Catrin: Photographic Adventure—Celtic Spiritual Warrior (Part 4)

On his first expedition to Britain in 55 BC, Julius Caesar wrote in Conquest of Gaul the following description of the coastal white cliffs: “…on his approach the whole line of hills crowned with the armed forces of the enemy. There was so little space between the sea and the rising wall of rock, that the shore was easily commanded by any spear thrown from above.”

 

White Cliffs Overview Britain

Coastal White Cliffs Britain

The final challenge in the photographic shoot for transforming my eleven-year-old granddaughter into Catrin, the Celtic spiritual warrior in the historical epic fantasy, APOLLO’S RAVEN, was to provide a realistic backdrop of the hillsides leading up to the white cliffs along the British Channel. The adventure is set in 24 AD Ancient Britain where the army of Catrin’s father battles with Roman who have allied with his Celtic rivals in their plan to overtake his kingdom.

Hillside White Cliffs Britain

White Cliffs Hillside Britain

Rome’s Influence on Ancient Britain

Although Caesar mounted two expeditions to Britain in 55-54 BC, Rome did not invade and occupy this island until 43 AD. Even so, coins minted after Caesar’s expeditions suggest Rome heavily influenced the process of establishing dynasties in the two most powerful tribes in southeast Britain. Establishing loyal client-kingdoms outside the areas under Rome’s direct control was standard foreign policy. Celtic client kings may have spent their youth growing up in aristocratic Roman circles to learn the Roman culture and even to gain experience in the Roman army. In addition, there is archaeological evidence of extensive trading between Britain and the Continent as early as 100 BC.

Although the narrowest point between the Strait of Dover is only 21 miles between Britain and France (Roman Gaul), the logistics of moving soldiers, cavalry, and supplies proved to be a formidable task. Invasion of Britain was a high priority for Augustus, but other crises in the Empire may have influenced his decision not to invade. The Roman historian, Tacitus, records that in 16 AD some Roman soldiers were cast ashore in Britain and promptly returned to Rome by a local ruler.

Wildflower Hillside White Cliffs Britain

White Cliffs Hillside Britain

The above historical assumptions of Rome’s influence on the political climate in Ancient Britain set the backdrop to APOLLOS’ RAVEN.

Photographic Challenge – Setting

The photographer, Rebekah West [Rebekah West Photography and Creative International; Website: http://rebekahwest.com] had to find a suitable location in Boulder that looked similar to the grassy and forested landscape of the white cliffs’ hillsides. The British coastline is known for encroaching fog while in Colorado most days are arid and sunny. Further complicating the shoot, Colorado had a severe drought. Throughout Colorado, several forest fires raged, creating a smoky haze along the front range.

Celtic Spiritual Warrior

Celtic woman warrior in sword fight

The final location of the shoot was Fairview High School situated next to open space in Boulder. The school building served as the backdrop for a stone fortress while the open space provided a grassy hillside and groves of trees.

Celtic Spiritual Warrior on White Cliffs

Celtic Spiritual Warrior

 

On the evening of the photographic shoot, the air cleared and the approaching sunset provided fabulous lighting for the photographs.

Celtic Woman Warrior in Battle

Celtic Woman Warrior in Battle

(To be continued—Quest for Catrin: Photographic Adventure)

References:

“The Conquest of Gaul,” Julius Caesar; translated by F. P. Long; The Barnes and Noble Library of Essential Reading, 2005, pg. 94.

“AD 43 The Roman Invasion of Britain,” John Manley; Tempus Publishing, Inc., 2002.

Quest for Catrin: Photographic Adventure—Celtic Spiritual Warrior (Part 3)


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I have fled in the shape of a raven of prophetic speech —Taliesin’s Song of his Origins, 6th century

Raven Tattoo

One of the challenges in the photo shoot was to transform my eleven-year-old granddaughter, Maylin, into the adolescent Celtic warrior princess, Catrin—the heroine in APOLLO’S RAVEN. Isabelle Kai, a makeup artist from Boulder, worked with Rebekah West (Rebekah West Photography), and myself to design a raven tattoo for placement on Maylin’s forehead. The raven is the protector animal that guides Catrin and helps her prophesy.

Isabelle created a unique stencil template that was used to spray paint the raven on Maylin’s head. The British Celts were known for tattooing their bodies by using the leaves of the Woad plant to create a viscous blue dye. The indigo paste was tapped into the skin with needles to force the stain under the skin layers. In addition, feathers were pasted on Maylin’s face to highlight the strength she garners from her raven spirit.

Celtic Spiritual Warrior

Catrin, Celtic Spiritual Warrior

Mythological Raven

The mythology of ravens is widespread throughout the world, including North America, Europe, and Asia. Ravens have been associated with prophesy and wisdom, but they also conjure dark images of bad luck and death (discussed below).

Raven Animal Protector

A spiritual warrior society, the Celts revered animals as protectors and teachers. They believed the physical world is one level of existence. Overlaying this mortal world is the Otherworld, the world of spirits and forces which can guide and help us. Ravens, in particular, were revered for their ability to bridge these two worlds. They served as messengers from the Otherworld and acted as guardians and protectors.

Celtic Warrior Princess

Catrin, Celtic Spiritual Warrior Summons Raven

Raven Light Symbolism

In Greek and Roman mythology, the raven was associated with both Athena (Roman: Minerva) and Apollo—deities closely affiliated with the sun and the light of wisdom. Apollo was an oracular god, and thus, the association between the conversational raven and the god of divination made sense.

Mythological Raven

Apollo’s Raven

In Norse mythology, the god, Odin, was pictured with two ravens on his shoulders: Hugin representing the power of thought and active search for information; Mugin, representing wisdom and its ability to understand by intuition. Odin would send these two ravens out each day to spy upon the lands. They would return to tell him what they learned on their journeys.

Raven Dark Symbolism

Ravens are associated with predators, particularly wolves, which kill prey for ravens to scavenge. As human civilization became more war-like, fostering conflict and the spread of disease, ravens often picked at the bloody remains of fallen warriors in battle. People interpreted this predictable biological response as a supernatural sign and came to view ravens as omens of bad luck and harbingers of death. The sight of elongated beaks pecking into corpses reinforced the nightmarish images of ravens.

The Morrigan was the shape-shifting Celtic Goddess of war, fate, and death. She soared over battlefields in the form of a raven and frequently foretold or influenced the outcome of the conflict.

Soaring Raven

Raven Over Battlefield

The Norse god, Odin, was also known as the Raven God. His daughters, Valkyries, would transform into ravens and whisper to the souls of fallen Norse warriors to follow them to Valhalla in the sky.

My next series of posts will continue to unfold how Rebekah West prepared for the photo shoot that transformed Maylin into a Celtic warrior princess based on historical accounts in Ancient Britain.

(To be continued—Quest for Catrin: Photographic Adventure)

 

Quest for Catrin: Photographic Adventure—Celtic Woman Warrior (Part 2)


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Quest for Catrin: Photographic Adventure—Celtic Woman Warrior (Part 2)

 “…a whole band of foreigners will be unable to cope with one [Celtic Gaul] in a fight if he calls in his wife, stronger than he by far and with flashing eyes; least of all when she swells her neck and gnashes her teeth, and poising her huge white arms, begins to rain blows mingled with kicks like shots discharged by the twisted cords of a catapult.”

–Ammianus Marcellinus


Historical Background

The Celtic heroine, Catrin, in Apollo’s Raven is based on reliable evidence of first-century warrior queens of powerful tribes in Ancient Britain (Ancient Roman Britannia). These real-life  female rulers and military commanders were recorded in historical accounts by the Romans who invaded Britain in 43 AD.

Celtic Spiritual Warrior in Battle

Celtic Woman Warrior in Battle

Tacitus, a first-century historian, wrote in his Anals: “it is not the first time that Britons have been led to battle by a woman.” He wrote extensively on two Ancient Britain warrior queens:

  • Cartimandua (Sleek Pony): Queen of the Brigantes, a north-central British tribe; Roman client queen in 50 AD.
  • Boudicca (Victoress): Queen of the Iceni, a Northeastern British tribe; military leader of both female and male warriors in major revolt against Roman occupation in 60 AD.

The rights and position of Celtic women far exceed those in Rome, where the male head of the family (paterfamilias) had complete control over his wife and family. Further, there was historical evidence for the existence of female druids—spiritual leaders—in the Celtic society. Boudicca may have been a priestess of the goddess ‘Adrasta’, the goddess of victory.

Celtic Woman Warrior Battle Dress

One of the challenges for Rebekah West [Rebekah West Photography and Creative International; Website: http://rebekahwest.com%5D was to locate authentic costumes and weapons in preparation for the photo shoot on 13 June 2012 when my granddaughter, Maylin, posed as Catrin, an adolescent Celtic warrior princess. Rebekah’s son, Shevek, who had a background in theater arts, provided Celtic swords used in the various settings. Just prior to the photographic adventure, he practiced with Maylin in the proper handling of the sword.

The more difficult obstacle was to locate authentic wardrobe for a Celtic woman warrior. My original vision was based on documented battle gear of Celtic male warriors: multi-colored tunics, mail-shirt or leather chest armor. In advance of the photo shoot, I provided key measurements to Rebekah for outfitting  Maylin. After an extensive search, Rebekah finally located a woman’s leather chest and wrist protectors based on actual replicas from archaeological digs. And just in case—a local artist was ready to weave a mail-shirt as back-up wardrobe.

Below is a photograph of Maylin posing as Catrin in battle dress (leather chest and wrist protectors and earth-brown tunic) and armed with sword.

Celtic Spiritual Warrior on White Cliffs

Celtic Spiritual Warrior

 

(To be continued—Quest for Catrin: Photographic Adventure)

Reference:

The Roman History of Amminus Marcellinus, published in Vol. I of the Loeb Classical Library edition, 1935; Book XV, 12 The Manners and Customs of the Gauls, p. 197.

Women Warriors: Myth; Historical and Archaeological Evidence

“The images of myth are reflection of the spiritual potentialities in every one of us. Through contemplating these, we evoke their powers in our own lives.”

—Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth

Introduction

The credibility of women warriors described in myths and legends is supported by not only historical accounts, but also by recent archaeological excavations which provide evidence of the status, power, and position of women in ancient warlike societies, many of which had been considered patriarchal. These ancient women played dynamic roles as advisors, priestesses, wives, mothers, and warriors—partners with men striving to hold the foundation of their societies together.

Below will be the first of a series of myths, historical accounts, and archaeological evidence of ancient women warriors—beginning with the Amazons.

Greek Mythology

Ancient Greek literature and mythology abound with tales of fierce women warriors. In the Iliad, the epic poem about the legendary siege of Troy by the Greeks in the twelfth century BC, Homer called them Amazons, “the equal of men.” Fighting on the side of the Trojans, these female warriors were led by the courageous and beautiful queen Penthesilea. In a battle, Achilles impaled the queen by his spear. But as she lay dying, he removed her helmet and was smitten by her beauty.

Various accounts of Amazons describe these women as “virgins fearless in battle,” and “the daughters of Ares armed with iron.”

Classical Greek History

The Greek historian, Herodotus, recounted tales of warrior women riding the steppes of modern Southern Russia. While the Greeks called these women Amazons, the Scythians, another nomadic tribe, referred to them as Oirpoata, “killers of men.”

In one tale, the Greeks defeated the Amazons in a battle at Thermodon (now Terme, Turkey) and set sail with three ships of female captives. The cunning women seized control of the vessels and tossed their Greek captors into the Black Sea. Unfortunately, the ship wrecked on the north Black Sea coast and the women had to battle with Scythian warriors. When the Scythians examined the corpses of the fallen enemy, they realized they were women. In awe of their female adversaries, the Scythians reasoned these fierce women could bear formidable children. Eventually, the two groups intermarried, but the Amazons refused to be assimilated into the Scythian population. The eventual progeny of these intermarriages became known as Sauromatae to the Greeks.

Herodotus concluded the  Sauromatian women, “ride a-hunting with their men or without them; they go to war, and wear the same dress as the men. In regard to marriage, it is the custom that no virgin weds till she has slain a man of the enemy.”

Archaeological Evidence

For centuries, Herodotus’ account was considered nothing more than legend without any credibility. However, in the 1950s, Russian archaeologists began excavating sixth-century BC kurgans (burial mounds) and discovered women’s graves containing weapons, armor and riding gear. In 1980, the German archaeologist Renate Rolle (1989) took a closer look at women’s status among the ancient nomads and reported that approximately 20% of Scythian graves excavated in the lower Volga region belonged to women—with bows and arrows the most prevalent weapons.

Jeannine Davis-Kimball, Ph.D. (2002) reported evidence from the Pokrovka excavations that women from the Sauromatian and early Sarmatian tribes were warriors. One burial site was that of a female warrior, thirteen to fourteen years old, who was in high standing with her tribespeople—she may have been a young priestess as well as a warrior. The skeleton suggests this young female warrior died from battle-inflicted wounds. Pigments of charcoal and colored ores discovered at these sites suggest these nomadic tribes either body painted or tattooed their bodies—these designs held special powers.

Conclusions

Only when egalitarian power shifted to patriarchal empires, kingships, and priesthoods were women purged from position of influence and relegated to subservient roles. The heritage of influential ancient women deserves to be more openly discussed. The images of these women in myths and legends are a reflection of the power that we can evoke in our modern lives.

Bibliography

Davis-Kimball, Jeannine, 2002. Warrior women: An archaeologist’s search for history’s hidden heroines. New York: Warner Books, 2002

Rolle, Renate, 1989. The world of the Skythians. Trans. F.G. Walls, Berkeley: University of California Press. Originally published in German in 1980.

Websites:

http://www.csen.org/WomenWarriors/Statuses_Women_Warriors.html

http://www.csen.org/Pubs_Sales_Reviews/WW_Book_Announcement/WarriorWomenBookDesc.html