Historical Female Fighters: Scathach
Her name translates to “the shadowy one” in Gaelic and with good reason: Scathach was a woman warrior you did not want to mess with.
The Irish legend trained soldiers and heroes at her covert school — so covert in fact, that if you wanted her to teach you, you had to search for her first.
Legends say that her fortress sat on the Isle of Skye northwest of Scotland. In order to reach her then, those seeking her training had to cross the dangerous and stormy Irish Sea. But reaching the fortress was just the beginning: Scathach’s impregnable castle had a gate that was guarded by her fearsome daughter, Uatach.
Scathach’s training regime was as difficult and deadly as the journey to her island. She imparted on her trainees how to pole vault over a castle’s walls, fight underwater, and use a special weapon of her own making called a gáe bolg, which was a barbed harpoon.
One of the most famous pupils of Scathach was Cu Chulainn, a warrior who eventually became a central figure in the origin stories of Ireland. He successfully completed her training and before going off to fight his own legendary battles, he helped Scathach conquer a neighboring foe chieftain named Aife, who also happened to be her sister.
In addition to training scores of great heroes and warriors, Scathach also became the goddess of the dead. The legends say that if a warrior was strong enough to defeat her in mortal combat, they could enter the Land of Eternal Youth as a reward for defeating one of history’s greatest women warriors.