A. Sutherland - AncientPages.com - In Celtic (Irish) mythology, Aoife is a female warrior who appears in the story of Cuchulainn (Cu Chulainn), who was believed to be the main hero of the Ulster Cycle, rich in tales and legends about the Irish heroes.
Aoife's name varies much; she is called Eefa, Aife, Aeife and even Eva. However, the latter name is considered unrelated to the Biblical name Eva, but due to the similarity in sound, Aoife has often been anglicized as Eva or Eve.
Aoife by John Duncan. Source
One version of the story of Aoife says she is a twin sister or/and opponent of Scathach, a legendary martial arts teacher. In each of these versions, Aoife becomes the lover of Cuchulainn with whom she has a son, Connla.
In Irish mythology, Airdgeimm, an Irish hero of the Ulster Cycle, is the father of Scathach and Aoife, two great warrior women and twin sisters/rivals on the Isle of Skye. Both Scathach and her twin sister Aoife look almost identical with beautiful red hair, pale skin, and green eyes. While Scathach teaches the Ulster hero Cuchulainn the arts of war, Aoife will meet him in combat.
Aoife’s Combat With Cuchulainn
When it’s time to go to war, Scathach is very reluctant to take Cuchulainn with her to battle. She knows Aoife will not hesitate to kill him if necessary.
Aoife's reputation as a fighter is not any secret and Cuchulainn knows about it. He challenges her to a single fight. However, before the two meet, he wants to know a little more about her, so he asks Scathach what is most precious to Aoife. She tells him that most of all, her sister and rival appraises her chariot.
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At first, the combat goes well and in Aoife's favor, but suddenly, at a critical moment of the combat, Cuchulainn distracts Aoife’s attention, saying that her chariot horse is in trouble.
Now, Aoife is not capable to win this duel and is defeated easily. After this incident, she is taken captive by Cuchulainn and becomes his lover and soon also mother to a boy, Connla.
From this moment, the story is rather very sad because Connla’s fate is to be killed by his own father.
Cuchulainn Kills His Only Son
Before leaving, Cuchulainn gave Aoífe a little golden ring as a token, a symbolic reminder of their future child. He also laid down an unfortunate taboo that was to prove the death of his son. According to the taboo, Connla should not reveal his name to any man, nor refuse combat to any man.
"Cú Chulainn Riding His Chariot into Battle", illustration by J. C. Leyendecker in T. W. Rolleston's Myths & Legends of the Celtic Race, 1911
Aoífe raised Connla and trained him in martial arts and combat. When the boy had grown and wished to seek his father, his mother Aoífe gave him the ring and told him never to turn his back on a fight. With this advice, Connla was sent to Ireland. He followed his mother’s advice, although it led to his death at the hands of his own father.
Challenged to give his right to enter the court of Ulster, Connla refused to reveal his identity. He met his father, Cuchulainn who unfortunately did not know the boy’s true origin. The boy’s warrior skills were excellent and the two fought. In single combat, Cuchulainn killed Connla, being unaware that the boy was his son.
He did not recognize the gold ring that Connla wore until it was too late. Connla was the only son of Cuchulainn.
Written by – A. Sutherland - AncientPages.com Senior Staff Writer
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Expand for references
Whittock, M. A Brief Guide to Celtic Myths and Legends