Badb is a goddess of war who takes the form of a crow. Along with her sisters, Macha and Morrígan, Babd was part of the Morrígna, a trio of war goddesses. (There is a conflict regarding her name, whereas she may have also gone by Neman and was the daughter of either Cailitin or Ernmas – either of which makes Badb one of the Tuatha de Danann.)
An active figure in warfare, Badb caused confusion on the battlefield to as
sist her side in victory. One such example was during the First Battle of Mag Tuired. The Morrígna used magic to summon mist and rain fire. As a result, the Fir Bolg army couldn’t rest for three nights. In another instance, Badb disoriented her enemy with her wail (which sounded like a banshee or screaming crow) causing them to fall upon their own weapons. Because of her reputation, battlefields were referred to as “the garden of the Badb.”
In other legends, the Morrígna is one deity (rather than three) and goes by Morrígan. Associated with a harbinger of doom, she appears to the hero of the tale in different disguises. In the legend, she hears of the bravery or Cúchulainn and falls in love with him. Appearing before him she declares her affection and offers to protect him during battle, but Cúchulainn disregards her as a silly woman. Angered, Morrígan declares him an enemy, turns into a crow and foretells his death. Realizing Cúchulainn rejected Morrígan he apologizes, but it’s too late. During his next battle Morrígan first appears as an eel who trips him, then as a wolf who chases cattle across the battlefield, and finally as a heifer who leads a stampede. In each scenario Cúchulainn wounds the animal Babd becomes. When Cúchulainn is near death on the battlefield, Morrígan appears before him as a cow and offers him three drinks of milk. With each offering, Cúchulainn blesses her and heals her wounds one at a time. When Cúchulainn finally dies, Morrígan takes the form of a crow and perches on his shoulder just as she foretold.
However, not all her predictions start out evil. Following the victory for the Tuatha de Danann in the Second Battle of Mag Tuired, Badb sang a prophecy of peace. But, it was short lived. As a harbinger of doom, Badb promptly followed her song by the foretelling of the end of the world;
“I shall not see a world that will be dear to me.
Summer without flowers,
Kine will be without milk,
Women without modesty,
Men without valour,
Captures without a king.
Woods without mast,
Sea without produce,
Wrong judgments of old men,
False precedents of brehons,
Every man a betrayer,
Every boy a reaver.
Son will enter his father’s bed,
Father will enter his son’s bed,
Everyone will be his brother’s brother-in-law.
An evil time!
Son will deceive his father,
Daughter will deceive her mother.”
Legend states when this time comes, her cauldron will boil over – flooding the world.