segunda-feira, 24 de junho de 2013

Galician Washerwoman

By David Outeiro

I remember the first time they told me about an encounter with her ...

It was one of the first afternoons of the autumn of 2011. I had the idea of visiting the hill fort of Pena Rubia, where an altar devoted to the goddess Návia appeared. Drove my Terrano as usually because that day, like so many others, I would have to go to an area where only four-wheel drive vehicles could reach and so I came to the vicinity of the Minho River, which in those days had little water. I used a road that went through a beautiful Oak forest, crossed to the other shore and soon I was able to clearly see the hill fort, even before seeing the sign that indicated that I was entering in it. At the entrance of the ancient Celtic city there was a granary with a Celtic cross and a rooster by its side. Near the hórreo (old granary) there was an elderly man sitting, looking at me; my intuition led me to make a stop and so I parked my car. I sat on the bench where he was and we started talking, he told me of a concern that I shared, the fact that many weeks have passed without rain, a situation that had left everything dry. We continued to talk and he told me that at the time he was the owner of the hill fort but he seemed to know nothing about the altar to Návia ... or of any stone with engraved letters, since I used those same words to ask him the question. The man told me about a mamoa (megalithic funeral monument) that I was looking for me and he signaled the top of a mountain. When the time came for me to go, it was already a bit late and I still had to climb to the top so I said goodbye telling him that I would come to see him again.
It didn’t take me long to go back there and I was so lucky that I found the man again in that same place, the slope that leads to the hill fort. I went to talk to him again, to greet him and the conversation lasted for a long time. I asked him about the legends of the area, but he said he didn´t know any. But, there was a moment when he told me: ".... but yes, there are some tales." I listened carefully and he told me of the people of Pena Rubia that had listened to the trasno (goblin); he also told me about a "curse" affecting a man that removed stones from the hill fort without "gift from the church"; he told me about those searching for treasures in the maounds of the area. I had the perception that what the man was telling me were not legends to him, it was a reality that was transmitted in order to be told in front of the fireplace ... When the conversation was drifting into different things, thanks to the increased trust; he ended up telling me of an encounter with a mysterious and powerful woman. He was telling the story of a man settled in that area that was walking through one of the paths of those hills. For once, he witnessed something strange: a woman appeared in the middle of the way sitting while sppining. The man could not pass what so he said to the woman in a sort of rude manner: "Step away or I will move you away!?” The woman refused to get out of the way, stood up and began fighting with the man. While they were fighting they started rolling down the slope to the river. The man realized that he would probably lose as he realized that this was a supernatural woman and so he began "making crosses." By making the crosses, the man managed to free himself from her. Angrily she replied that: "If you had not “made crosses”, I would have killed you." This was a woman who spun (the fate of men), a powerful warrior who led the men to the Beyond by crossing the river! ...
A pagan woman who only Christianity (crosses) could stop ... although she was still there! She was Návia Corona! Morrigan!, The warrior goddess and augur of death!. That man did not know the altar, but it seems that someone in the same place where the tomb appeared encountered the same goddess!
We will continue to complete our puzzle ...
There is a beautiful romance gathered in Cerdedo in the year 1904 by Vítor Said Armesto of an old beggar called Luzia Domingues. The romance that became a music by "Fuxan os ventos" talks about of a mythological figure, “ a Lavandeira”( the laundress)... it says:

Galician mythology, the Lavandeira is a female spirit, a supernatural woman who belongs to the other side, to the other world. This apparition manifests itself at the edge of rivers or even in washhouses. It is a fearsome-looking woman, old and wrinkled according to what some say. Emits horrible voices, laments and screams ... while washing bloody clothes. This is the clothing of those who will die soon; the Lavandeira brings augurs or omens of death, so her warning is feared. When she is found, this apparition can ask for help washing the clothes to those who find her. In case of accepting the petition the unfortunate should drain the clothes by twisting them the opposite direction to the one she chooses, if they do it in the same direction their deaths will be sure and she will eventually lead them to the  other world, the Beyond.

 On the island of Ons, on the cost of Ogrobe, stories are told of a man who dared to come close to the Lavandeira, more than one in this case, because he found three women washing their clothes one night. He got closer out of curiosity and asked them what they were doing washing their clothes at those hours. One of them stood up and picking the man by his clothes threw him effortlessly into the thorny bushes. Fear paralyzed him in such a way that he stayed there all night until the neighbors got him out of there in the morning. In Ireland there is "the Washer-Woman at the ford" (Lavandeira do vão) or the Banshee (Women of the Sidh). The Banshees like our Lavandeiras are an augur of death. They also wash their clothes full of blood producing the same laments and screams. They may appear as young, beautiful women, like a dame or as a fearsome old lady, a curious triple aspect of the goddess similar to the apparition on the Island of Ons. She can also appear in the form of a viaraz raven, stoat, hare or weasel. The banshees have the particularity of being linked to some important families. When someone from the family is about to die, the Banshee associated with the clan starts crying. The apparition of several banshees at the same time indicates the death of someone important or sacred.In Scotland is known as the Bean Nighe or Nigheadaireachd. They also appear washing clothes in rivers or lakes of those who will die. They have some curious particularity, sometimes they appear with palmed feet like aquatic birds. In Celtic beliefs, such birds are related to messengers from the Beyond. Perhaps because of the nature of birds and the fact that they live in an aquatic environment, they are in the threshold of the Beyond. If someone can breastfeed from her chest, that person will become her adopted son and can make a wish, such as knowing the name of those who will die. The writer Dorothy K. Haynes tells a story of an encounter with one of these women that happened to a girl named Mary. One day the young girl was returning to her home when she heard a noise in the river. She thought she would find her mother washing clothes but instead she found a woman with a harsh face with small palm feet like a duck. Carefully Mary tried to get closer but the woman hit her. Because of that, Mary's legs were paralyzed and she could not walk having to stand still in the path. Her mother managed to find here after an agonizing search and took her home. The story has a tragic end with the death of Mary. The Bean Nighe ... was washing the clothes of that same girl.
In Wales she is known by the name of Cyhyraeth (ghost or skeleton). It is an augur of death that emits a voice that sounds three times, a triple warning that is pronounced with less intensity each time. Here we can also find reference to the fact of having to wash the clothes in the opposite direction to the one of the person who can find her. In doing so you are granted 3 wishes.
In the Armorican Brittany she is know under the name of Tunnerez noz. Like other similar apparitions, she washes in the river the clothes of those who will die, waiting for someone to fall into the trap so that they can be taken to the Beyond.
As we can see, these apparitions have identical or very similar characteristics in the Celtic lands of Galicia, Scotland, Wales, Ireland and Brittany.
But now it is time to unveil the identity of the ancient Lavandeiras. According to the sagas of the Celtic warrior, the hero Cúchulainn, Badb presented itself to him before the last battle of the warrior as an augur of death. Cúchulainn will face his last battle, when it’s said;
"Not far away from the castro (of Emain Macha) they found a beautiful damsel, well proportioned, in front of Áth in Foraire in the chaira of Emain that was moaning and complaining at the same time while crushing and washing red remains of chunks of meat of wounds on the side of a ford. "
The druid
Cathbad interpreted this as an omen and told Cuchulain that the woman is Ingin Baidbhi, daughter Badb, and that the washing and yelling are augurs of his death:
"-Small dog-says Cathbad. Do you know what the girl is doing? She is washing your clothes. Her cries and screams while washing your clothes are her way of expressing your death when you face Medb's army. Take my advice and go back.
-Dear master ... I deeply appreciate your advice, but you know, like I know, that my end is near and I'll go down fighting. Do not to make me avoid it, because if I join this battle or not, my death fighting will be near anyway.”
There is another saga that speaks of King Cormac and where Badb also appears bringing augurs of death. The following quote is from the saga "Togail Bruidne Da Choca":
"... Cormac Connloingeas, son of Conchobar mac Nessa, king of Ulster, is on his way from Connacht to Ulster to be crowned after the death of his father and like Cúchulainn, fate forces him to break during the trip several geissa (taboos) that the druid Cathbad had told him when he was born. When he and his 300 followers arrive at the River Shannon, they find a red woman on the side of a red ford, washing her chariot of war, the seats and the harnesses. When she lowered her hand, the river water turned red. But when she lifted her hand over the top of the water, not a drop remained in the river, since all the water was raised allowing them to cross the river without getting the feet wet ".There is a story of war much more recent, which took place in Scotland. In the "Cáithréim Thoirdhealbhsigh" we can find the Battle of Dystert O'Dea that took place on May 3, 1318 where Badb appears:
"Richard de Clare, the chief of the Normans, was heading to what he believed would be an easy victory over the O'Deas Dystert. When he and his army were ready to cross the River Fergus, they saw on a ford of the river a horrible Badb washing the armors and luxurious covers that had red blood falling that dyed the waters of the river. De Clare asked an Irish interpreter to ask the woman to whom these armors and clothing belonged. She replied "they were armor, robes and other garments from Clare himself, his children and the rest of his followers, many of which would die soon." The woman identified herself as “In Dodárbrónach- the dark of the waters" . De Clare then gave order to ignore the woman, saying that she had come to benefit the Clan Turlough stopping the expedition against them. Finally the prophecy would be fulfilled and De Clare and his men were defeated and killed ... "

The "Cáithréim Thoirdhealbhsigh" also speaks of the appearance of the Badb in the battle of Corcomroe Abbey, North Clare, on August 15, 1317.
The Irish king is visited by Aoibheall, a Badb. Quoting Manuel Alberro in " Diosas celtas"(Celtic godesses):
"In a XII century description of the Battle of Clontarf (1014) that ended the war with the Vikings and their power in Ireland, Aoibheall appeared to Brian Ború, Supreme King of Ireland, the night before the battle, and predicted that he would die in this battle, and that the first of his children that he would see in the morning of the battle would be his successor and the next king.”
We said before that Badb presents itself in the form of a laundress (Lavandeira) woman but, as its name suggests, it is also a viaraz raven. In the Galician beliefs the raven is a beast of ill omen, because it’s a messenger of the Beyond that can announce death. There is also the belief in the "bird of death", which presents itself during the night, complaining, speaking with a mournful voice or singing. The owl can also give this warning .Says Taín Bo Cuailnge:
"The Morrigan assumed the form of bird on a vertical rock that was in Temair Cuailnge. And he said (the Dom Cuailnge);
(...)Ravens over the bloody bodies, plains full of dead warriors, heroic warriors slaughtered by dust, endless war, cattle trampling, battles in Cuailnge the ominous laments of Badb in the twilight of the battlefield, dead children, dead husbands, dead comrades, death! death! "
The goddess also appears to Cúchulainn on one occasion in the form of a raven, saying the warrior:-The appearance of a bird in this place is very bad omen!
We also know that the death of Cúchulainn comes (after the apparition of the Lavandeira) when a raven lies on top of him.

The goddess of death appeared before the hero over the course of his life with a positive purpose on one occasion:
"The Morrigan, at the time of Cúchulainn, was accustomed to interfere in the affairs of Ireland, instigating wars and fighting’s. She was the one that raised Cúchulainn on one occasion, when he was very young, over his bed and when he was about to give in to the magic spell used against him. "
As we can observe, Morrigan (Great Queen), Badb (viaraz raven) and Macha (A chaira) are three "grim" manifestations of the same goddess. A goddess that does not participate directly in the war but interferes with the end results with her magic in the shape of a viaraz raven. The one that brings augurs of death and usually appears in the form of a Lavandeira (laundress). A goddess closely linked with death and therefore with transformation, rebirth, and the end of a cycle. Her connection to waterways is clear, because in the Celtic world they represent a threshold, a boundary that allows us to make a transition to the Beyond.We see the obviousness of being a common divinity in Celtic religions. So, the Lavandeira also appears in Galicia, as the result of a common origin. In my opinion, this is the identity of Návia that in an altar is accompanied by the epithet Corona, ie, female leader of an army. That's why there are also rivers with her name, because that was a place of transit to the Beyond where the goddess could appear. In the next articles we will speak of many more evidences.
In Gaul she appears with the name of Cathubodva Bodua and may be the same Nantosvelta which has been represented in association with the viaraz raven.
Millenniums and centuries went by and today in Galicia, the Morrigan, the Great Queen continues to be present.

Note: There is confusion about the association of Badb with the corvids. The crow (Corvus corax) and the viaraz raven (Corvus corone) are not the same species. In my opinion, Badb is associated with Lugh and to the Corvus corone and Lugh to the Corvus corax, of larger size.

2 comentários:

Tony Phillips disse...


José Manuel Barbosa disse...

Thaks. It's very important your opinion for us.

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