In ancient Celtic mythology, Scathach was a mysterious warrior woman who made her home in Scotland and who was famous for training the greatest fighters of her time. She trained the superhuman Irish hero Cu Chulainn in the art of combat and gave him his signature weapon, a deadly spear called the Gae Bolg. The two also briefly became lovers. In the old legends it was strongly implied that Scathach was ageless and immortal, so she has come to be regarded as a goddess of battle. In her comic book appearances, she is best known for being the patron goddess of the Hyrkanian warrior woman Red Sonja.
Scathath's first known comic book appearance was in 1975, in the third and final issue of Kull and the Barbarians published by Curtis Magazines. The story was written by Roy Thomas and Doug Moench and drawn by artist Howard Chaykin and was the first telling of Red Sonja's origin, in which Scathach figures prominently.
Since Celtic mythology helped inspire the fictional Hyborian Age of Conan, Scathach was chosen to be the key goddess in Red Sonja's origin story. Belief in her was made strongest the land of Hyrkania, where she was known as the Red Goddess. In Red Sonja's latest ongoing series published by Dynamite Entertainment, Scathach has evolved from an enigmatic deity into an actual character with personality and she has made substantial appearances in several story arcs. Though the Scathach of Celtic mythology was a fierce fighter and a master of arms, the comic book goddess usually has the look and persona of a beautiful enchantress and her combat ability has not been shown.
Major Story Arcs
Choosing a Champion
After a young Hyrkanian girl named Sonja was raped and her family massacred by a gang of cruel mercenaries, she cried out to the Red Goddess for revenge. Scathach was moved by the girl's anguished pleas and appeared to her in spirit form. She offered to make Sonja her chosen champion and a fighter without equal, on the condition that she would never lay with a man unless he defeated her in fair combat. Sonja gladly accepted the offer and became known as Red Sonja, the She-Devil of Hyrkania. Scathach has since watched over Red Sonja's renowned exploits in many guises, including as an old woman and as an owl.
Scathach's divine power has waxed and waned in accordance with human belief in her divinity. In Red Sonja's latest confrontation with her arch-nemesis, the powerful wizard Kulan-Gath, belief in Scathach had been suppressed by the wizard, rendering Scathach very weak. Kulan-Gath further exploited this by using his magic to actually take the goddess captive. For a time, Scathach was helpless to intervene as Kulan-Gath plotted to use her as a means of destroying Red Sonja, and eventually he succeeded. Red Sonja was slain by Gath's machinations, but was then reincarnated and gradually regained her supreme fighting skill. Later, Sonja met an enigmatic old woman in a tavern and had a conversation with her, and the old woman revealed herself as the goddess Scathach. Apparently fully divine again just as Red Sonja's powers had returned, the Red Goddess confirmed that Red Sonja was still her chosen champion.
In the 1985 Red Sonja movie, the goddess Scathach made an appearance near the beginning of the film, after Sonja's family was murdered by Queen Gedren (the film's primary antagonist) and Sonja raped and left for dead by the queen's soldiers. The goddess revived Sonja and granted her the power to seek revenge on those who wronged her. Scathach was depicted as a glowing female spirit and her name was not mentioned in the film.