In Irish mythology, the Badb (/baðβ/ "crow" in Old Irish; modern Irish Badhbh /bəiv/ means "vulture") was a goddess of war who took the form of a crow, and was thus sometimes known as Badb Catha (battle crow). She often caused confusion among soldiers to move the tide of battle to her favored side. Boa Island is named for this goddess.

Battlefields were called the land of the Badb, and were often said to include the Badb taking part as a crow or as a wolf. The Badb is associated with the beansidhe, and is said to have been crucial in the battle against the Fomorians.

Badbs were also sacrificial victims. In The Destruction of Da Derga's Hostel, among the hostel's rooms and their inhabitants spied out by Lomna Druth son of Donn Desa, who reports to Fer rogain, after the rooms of Conaire Mor's equerries and judges and conjurors and lampoon-singers, came the Room of the Badbs:

"'I beheld a trio, naked, on the roof-tree of the house: their jets of blood coming through them, and the ropes of their slaughter on their necks.'

'Those I know,' saith he, 'three . . . of awful boding. Those are the three that are slaughtered at every time.' "

In the mythological account of the second battle of Mag Tuired, wherein the Tuatha De Danann defeated the Fomorians in battle, Badb is said to have recited the following prophecy of the end of the world:

Summer without flowers,
kine without milk,
women without modesty,
men without valour;
captives without a king,
woods without mast,
sea without produce
— (Ó Cuív 37)

With her sisters, Macha and the Morrígan, she was part of a trio of war goddesses who were the daughters of the mother goddess, Ernmas. According to Seathrún Céitinn Badb was worshipped by Ériu, with whom she may be seen as equivalent. She is sometimes the wife of Neit, and may be equivalent with Nemain, Neit's more usual wife. However, Nemain and Badb are said to have had different fathers which is an argument for their separateness as personages: Badb is described as one of the three daughters of Delbaeth son of Neid whereas Nemain is said to have been the daughter of Elcmar of the Brugh (Newgrange, near the Boyne), who was the son of Delbaeth, son of Ogma, son of Elatan .

Likely, she is related to the Gaulish deity Catubodua, known from an inscription in Haute Savoie in eastern France.

The Badb is not to be confused with Bodb, a male deity.


Pointing to variants such as Irish badhbh ‘hoodie crow, a fairy, a scold,’ Early Irish badb, ‘crow, demon,’ Badba, Welsh bod, ‘kite,’ the Gaulish name Bodv-, in Bodvo-gnatus and the Welsh name Bodnod, Macbain (1982) suggests *bodwā- as the Proto-Celtic ancestral form. However, Julius Pokorny (1959:203) suggests *badwā- on the basis of similar data. Both MacBain (1982) and Julius Pokorny (1959:203) correlate the element with Norse böð, genitive boðvar, ‘war,’ and Anglo-Saxon beadu, genitive beadwe, ‘battle,’ suggesting that the word originally denoted ‘battle’ or ‘strife.’ Julius Pokorny (1959:203) presents the element as an extended form of the Proto-Indo-European root *bhedh- ‘pierce, dig.’ To this root Pokorny also links the Sanskrit bádhate, ‘oppress,’ and the Lithuanian bádas, ‘famine,’

What the Badb embodies

W. M. Hennessy argues that the word bodb or badb originally meant rage, fury, or violence, and came to mean a witch, fairy, or goddess, represented in folklore by the scald-crow, or royston-crow. Peter O'Connell's 1819 Irish Dictionary defines the Badb as a "bean-sidhe, a female fairy, phantom, or spectre, supposed to be attached to certain families, and to appear sometimes in the form of squall-crows, or royston-crows" and badb-catha as "Fionog, a royston-crow, a squall crow". Other entries relate to her triple nature: "Macha, i. e. a royston-crow; Morrighain, i. e. the great fairy; Neamhan, i. e. Badb catha nó feannóg; a badb catha, or royston-crow.

In popular culture

Badb, along with Nemain, and Macha, appear as the Morrigan in Christopher Moore's book "A Dirty Job"

The Badb, along with Nemain and the Morrígan, is mentioned in Nebelhexë's song "Celtic Crows", where she is misspelt as "Babh Catha".

In 2004, Canadian black metal band Wold unleashed their highly conceptual "Badb" as a limited cassette release through Regimental Records out of New Jersey.

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