A Goddess Dedication

By: Luna Esque
Initiate, Sisters in the Goddess Tree

Banba (pronounced BAHN-va) is the Celtic Goddess of the spirit of Ireland. Banba’s name, which means “unplowed land,” is also seen as Banbha, Bandha, Bánbhé, or Bánubh. She is one of the Tuatha de Danaan, the people of the Goddess Danu. When the Milesians arrived in Ireland and conquered them, Banba and her two sisters, Ériu and Fodla, all asked that the island be named for them. Ériu won the request, but Banba’s name continued to be used on occasion. Ériu won the contest because she made the most generous offering to the Milesians. Ériu’s name then became Eire, which is known as Ireland. The three sisters represent the spirit of Ireland.

In Irish mythology, Ériu; modern Irish Éire), also called Eri,[1] daughter of Ernmas of the Tuatha Dé Danann, was the eponymous matron goddess of Ireland. The green island at the far western periphery of Europe bears the name of its earth goddess, Ériu. That we do not call Ireland Fódla or Banba is explained by the myth that, when the final wave of invaders, the Milesians, arrived on Ireland’s shores, they encountered the three sisters, all goddesses of the land, each of whom asked that the island be called after her. The sorceress Banba made her demand from the top of her favorite mountain, so did Fódla, when the invaders arrived at her mountain. Each stalled the Milesians in their attempt to reach the center of Ireland, and to each the same promise was given. But at the center the invaders found the resplendent Ériu, who made the same demand as the others.  Because Ériu promised greater prosperity than did her sisters, the chief Bard of the Milesians, Amairgin, decided to call the island after Ériu (Erinn being the genitive of her name, meaning “of Ériu). The names of  Fódla and Banba are still sometimes used as poetic names for ireland.
From the Encyclopedia of Celtic Mythology and Folklore, by Patricia Monaghan.

These three sisters, Banba, Ériu, and Fodla are a trinity of sisters, which may be another system of the Goddess trinity.  Not much is written about these three sisters, but in 365 Goddess, by Patricia Telesco, Banba is celebrated by the Scots. They burn a pole attached to a barrel of tar (a Clavie) and taken around town to banish evil influences, especially magickal ones. The Clavie’s remaining ashes are gathered by the people as an anticurse amulet. Telesco advises that in keeping with this tradition on January 11, a person should burn a small piece of wood reciting the following incantation: “Banba, burn away negativity, burn away malintent. Let the energy return from where it was sent.” And then the person keeps the ashes as a talisman against all negativity of magickal persuasion.

Banba and her sisters are the daughters of Ernmas, a mother Goddess, who is also the mother of another triad of Goddesses—Badb, Macha, and Anu, also known as the Morrigan. The first triad represents the sovereignty of Ireland, while the second triad were Goddesses of war, and therefore represent the protection of Ireland. Banba’s husband MacCuill was one of the last kings of the Tuatha de Danaan, along with his brothers MacCecht and MacGreine.

Banba also, according to Telesco, is a Celtic war Goddess who extends safety to those who follow her, wielding magick in their support. In Irish tradition, where she hails from, she protects the land from invaders. As a reward for her sorcery’s assistance, Banba’s name is linked with ancient poetic designation for parts of Ireland. There are also cafe’s and pubs that bear the name of Banba.  The following is one poem to Banba, by James Clarence Mangan.

by James Clarence Mangan

O My land! O my love!
What a woe, and how deep,
Is thy death to my long mourning soul!
God alone, God above,
Can awake thee from sleep,
Can release thee from bondage and dole!
Alas, alas, and alas!
For the once proud people of Banba!

As a tree in its prime,
Which the axe layeth low,
Didst thou fall, O unfortunate land!
Not by time, nor thy crime,
Came the shock and the blow.
They were given by a false felon hand!
Alas, alas, and alas!
For the once proud people of Banba!

O, my grief of all griefs
Is to see how thy throne
Is usurped, whilst thyself art in thrall!
Other lands have their chiefs,
Have their kings, thou alone
Art a wife, yet a widow withal!
Alas, alas, and alas!
For the once proud people of Banba!

The high house of O’Neill
Is gone down to the dust,
The O’Brien is clanless and banned;
And the steel, the red steel
May no more be the trust
Of the Faithful and Brave in the land!
Alas, alas, and alas!
For the once proud people of Banba!

True, alas! Wrong and Wrath
Were of old all too rife.
Deeds were done which no good man admires
And perchance Heaven hath
Chastened us for the strife
And the blood-shedding ways of our sires!
Alas, alas, and alas!
For the once proud people of Banba!

But, no more! This our doom,
While our hearts yet are warm,
Let us not over weakly deplore!
For the hour soon may loom
When the Lord’s mighty hand
Shall be raised for our rescue once more!
And all our grief shall be turned into joy
For the still proud people of Banba!

The poet Thomas Boyd wrote the following poem in honor of Banba,
and is the first poem entry in his book ‘Inis Fail’ which features many other poems by him.

by Thomas Boyd

I have seen thee, O Banba!
There was a storm upon Breathy height,
The scream of the storm in the night,
And a hallowed silence fell
On the winds and the foaming hell
Of the seas when I saw thee arise
With the lure of God in thine eyes:
Not dark, as the hearts we bear,
But ensnared everlastingly fair,
On the darkness, O Banba!

Thou are lovely, O Banba!
Alone by the Western rocks!
And the burning gold of thy locks,
Down-streaming, a magickal tide,
Over shoulder and radiant side,
In waves in whose shadows were lost
The lives of thy sacrificed host,
And in gleaming of curling crests,
Still lift, as of old, our breasts
With thy rapture, O Banba!

And we love thee, O Banba!
Though the spoiler by in thy hall,
And thou art bereft of all,
Save only that Spirit for friend
Who shapes all things in the end:
Through thine eyes are a sword that has slain
Thy lovers on many a plain,
When glad to the conflict they pressed
Drunk with the light of thy breast
to die for thee, Banba!

Thou art might, O Banba!
More rich in thyself alone
Than that harlot upon a throne,
Whose lure is on every flood
And whose robes are the price of blood.
She will pass with the shades that have passed:
Thou wilt last with the Powers that last:
Thou has eaten of Bread Divine,
Thou has drunken Eternal Wine;
Thou art mighty, O Banba!

So, if you go roaming Ireland some day,
you will know what is meant by the name ‘Banba’,
she is one of the three sisters that form the triumvirate in Ireland
of Banba, Ériu, and Fodla,
who represent the sovereignty of Ireland.
Patricia Telesco’s ’365 Goddess’
Poems by Thomas Boyd and James Clarence Mangan, easily found on Google.

This page is the creative property of Luna Esque

Initiate, Sisters in The Goddess Tree

  March 2015