Excerpted from a longer essay by by Jani Farrell-Roberts, a woman of Ulster:
Over the ages, our mental picture of the Goddess has evolved to meet our changing needs – and in particular the changing needs and status of womenfolk.
In the days of hunter-gathering and in the early days of agriculture, the prevalent divine image seems to have been that of the Goddess of fertility and of harvest. In Ulster this Goddess was known as Macha.
Macha was also the Sun, warming the earth, making it fertile, bringing us our food (“mast” meant the food of both humans and animals). In other places the Sun Goddess was known as Epona. In this time the Goddess shone in Her own right as the Sun, – and so too did the women stand in their own right without need for men to give them status.
The kings of Ulster, in what seem to be the oldest legends, had to honour the rights of women. They had to pledge that the harvest (mast) should be provided every year, that there should be no lack of supplies to the women cloth dyers and that no women should die in child birth. Women could also be the ruler. A legend about Macha of the Red Hair told how she defeated the king’s son to become the ruler herself.
The memory of Macha is still alive in Ulster. Armagh is named after hills dedicated to the Goddess Macha. An image of Macha is still preserved in its cathedral. Epona, who was similarly imaged, may be depicted in the images of a running white horse found cut in the turf on English chalk hills…
Women often had to fight in the wars. They needed a Goddess of the Battlefield as did the men (thus their talk of heads being “the mast of Macha) – and so grew the myth of the Morrigan, into which the kinder harvest Goddess Macha was subsumed as part of a triple Goddess with her two sisters, Badb and Morrigan. In Britain, she was probably Morgan.
The Morrigan however came to be hated by men who dreaded the female power she represented – so men tended to depict her as a hag – or as three hags (perhaps as reflected in Shakespeare’s Macbeth)…
But in the old sagas, her role is much more that of the healer of the wounded and of the taker of the spirits of the dead into the next world. For example, Macha is depicted in these myths as the Sacred Cow whose milk is an antidote to the poison of weapons. She [became] the Mother on the Battlefield...
I offer this today in honor of my teacher, tradition elder, Cherry Hill Seminary colleague, and friend, Macha Nightmare. Sending heartfelt congratulations to her for well-deserved recognition in the form of this grant from the Patrick McCollum Foundation for Interfaith Work:
April 11, 2012
The Patrick McCollum Foundation has awarded a grant to M. Macha NightMare (Aline O’Brien) in support of her work in interfaith relations.
As a National Interfaith Representative of the Covenant of the Goddess (CoG), and as an individual Pagan, Macha has been actively involved with [California] Interfaith Council, the Interfaith Center of the Presidio, and other interfaith organizations.
She participates in the Marin Interfaith Street Chaplaincy’s annual Thanksgiving program for Marin County’s homeless population, as well as its annual memorial for those who died in the streets.
Currently she is collaborating on Beyond Memorial Day: Understanding the Hidden Wounds of War, a conference focusing on the spiritual needs of returning military veterans and their families, under the overall aegis of the Interfaith Center of the Presidio.
“I take the words of Swiss Roman Catholic theologian Hans Kung seriously when he says, ‘There will be no peace among nations until there is peace among religions. And there will be no peace among religions until there is dialogue among religions.’
“My life has been enriched by my friendships with my interfaith colleagues of many different religions. I am both proud and humbled by this award,” says Macha.
The Patrick McCollum Foundation’s work “focuses on seeing the sacred within each and every human being and bringing together people of all spiritual paths, to work together toward global sustainability and world peace.”
In great gratitude, honor, and love to Macha – a woman who tirelessly walks the talk, and works on behalf of the living Goddess.