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The Scots

SGATHEACH, SGAITHEACH, SCATHA, SGATHA, sometimes SCATHACH, a shade, a shadow, Cy. ysgod, Cor. scod, Br. skeud, English, shade, shadow. Uncapitalized sgatheach is sharp, edged, cutting; sgait, a prickle, a chip of wood beneath the flesh, from sgath, to lop off. Notice that there was no "c" in ancient Gaelic. Allied with Eng. scatter. Also allied with sgar, sever, separate. The root may be sker, put asunder, the Eng. shear, or seq, cut; both related to the Gaelic sgeir, a skerry, i.e an "island" cut off from the mainland, "a rock in the sea," all from the ON. goddess Skulld often represented in the giantess Skadi. She confers very closely with the Gaelic Bafinn, often being identified as the third of the Norse fates. She is perhaps remembered in the names Scatland or Scotland and Skraelingaland, the ON. name for a portion of Atlantic Canada. Skadi was a giantess (the Cailleach bheurr), the goddess of winter, whose father was the ugly frost-giant, inadvertently killed by Odin's people. She came to Asgardr expecting compensation and some say Odin married her to keep the peace. Others say she was allowed to choose from among the gods the one she wished to marry, judging their worth from their legs alone. In this unusual beauty-contest she selected Niord, a god of the sea. They lived together but were incompatible and Skadi finally teamed-up with Uller/Odin, the god of winter. After a time, she tired of him and moved her animals across to the western Atlantic islands, where she remained. This mistress of battle was also called Sgathach nUanaind, the Horrible and Sgathach Buanand, the Mercenary, and she was said to be the daughter of Ard Greimne (the High Sun). The suffix uanaind can be interpreted as "(one) having a fixed purpose," and it was often written alternately as buanna, a "mercenary," This corresponds with Búanann, an alternate form for the goddess Boann or Boyne, who is allied with the Mhorrigan and the various sea-deities of the west. She is said to have been a daughter of Árd Greimne (High Stronghold) and she dwelt in the fortress of Lethra (on the Other Side). The island of Sky was named after Sgathach, and there she conducted a military academy. Her most famous student was Cúchulainn, who she trained for a year and a day. She gave him the formidable weapon known as the gae bulg. Sgathach's daughter Uathach became Cúchulainn's mistress and bore him the son named Conla. Traditionally the Gaels said that these people were descended from Scoti, a daughter of the Egyptian pharaoh.

The text on this page is courtesy of Rod C. Mackay.


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