Scathach: The Mythical Female Teacher Of The Greatest Celtic Warriors

Neist Point Lighthouse, Isle of Skye. (Juan Maria Coy Vergara/Getty Images)

According to Celtic legends, Scathach was a great warrior, but where she excelled most was teaching. She was best known as the teacher of some of the greatest Celtic warriors.

Scathach's Backstory

Historians today doubt that Scathach was a real person, evidenced by her name, which means "the shadowy one" in ancient Gaelic. She was said to be the daughter of Ard-Greimne of Lethra and live on an island with an impenetrable castle that had a tall gate guarded by her own daughter, Uathach, on what many Scots today believe was the Isle of Skye. Only a select few were allowed inside, for that is where Scathach did her important work: training warriors.

According to legend, she was a restless woman who grew easily bored and refused to participate in the accepted feminine traditions of her day, such as poetry, instead desiring action on the battlefield. She may or may not have seen it, but at some point, she retreated to her island fortress and started her school for warrior training. As a teacher, Scathach believed that her students learned best by doing, so she engaged them in hand-to-hand combat. She also taught them how to pole vault, a useful trick to scale walls and gates or reach a tall fortress window, and even fight underwater.