Aoife: Beautiful Female Warrior, Lover Of Cuchulainn And Mother Of His Only Son In Irish Beliefs

A. Sutherland - - 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 by John DuncanAoife by John Duncan. Source

Aoife's name varies; she is called Eefa, Aife, Aeife, and even Eva. However, the latter is considered unrelated to the Biblical name Eva. Due to the similarity in sound, Aoife has often been anglicized as Eva or Eve.

One version of the story of Aoife says she is a twin sister or/an 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. 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

Scathach is reluctant to take Cuchulainn with her to battle when it's time to go to war. She knows Aoife will not hesitate to kill him if necessary.

Cuchulainn: Irish Mythical Hero And His Cruel Magical Spear Gae Bolg

"Cú Chulainn Riding His Chariot into Battle", illustration by J. C. Leyendecker in T. W. Rolleston's Myths & Legends of the Celtic Race, 1911

Aoife's reputation as a fighter is no 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 appraise her chariot.

At first, the combat goes well and in Aoife's favor. Still, suddenly, at a critical moment of the fight, Cuchulainn distracts Aoife's attention, saying that her chariot horse is in trouble.

Now, Aoife cannot 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 sad because Connla's fate is to be killed by his 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 to prove his son's death. According to the taboo, Connla should not reveal his name to any man nor refuse combat to any man.

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 a ring and told him never to turn his back on a fight. He followed his mother's advice, although it led to his death at the hands of his father. With this advice, Connla was sent to Ireland.

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 origin. The boy's warrior skills were excellent, and the two fought. In single combat, Cuchulainn killed Connla, 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  - Senior Staff Writer

Updated on December 12, 2022

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Expand for references


Whittock, M. A Brief Guide to Celtic Myths and Legends