Fair Shape



Conn of the Hundred Battles, King of Ireland, was mourning the death of his beloved wife. Walking by a lonely, desolate shore, he saw a luxuriously dressed, beautiful woman emerge from a tiny boat. When he identified himself, she announced that she wished to marry his son, Art. Conn convinced her to marry him instead. When asked her name, she identified herself as Delvcaem, although later she is discovered to be Becuma, who was banished from the realms of spirits (all of them) for sexual infidelity.

The two are happily wed, but disaster befalls Ireland. Crops fail; people starve; illness stalks the land. Becuma is blamed. The kings of Ireland base their right to rule on their relationship with the goddess of sovereignty. Something is wrong with the relationship between Becuma and Conn. The story is mysterious. It was committed to print by later Christian commentators: there is an emphasis on virginity and sexual fidelity, which may not have existed in the most ancient versions.

Becuma has a contentious relationship with Conn’s son, Art, who despises her. She sends him on a quest to retrieve someone named Delvcaem.

• Does she expect him to die?

• Is she requesting that he return with her alter ego and in the process save Ireland?

It’s unclear. Those who first wrote down the story adamantly considered Becuma the villain of the piece, yet it’s she who ultimately points Art in the right direction to restore life, abundance, and fertility. Delvcaem and Becuma may be alter egos; one may be a goddess of life, the other the spirit of blight. It is also unclear whether Becuma is really named Delvcaem or whether she was trying to steal the other’s identity.

Art’s fairy tale quest to locate and win Delvcaem includes riding out to sea in the same sort of little boat associated with Becuma. Delvcaem lives on an island ruled by her father, King Morgan, and her mother, Dog Head, daughter of the King of the Dog Heads. An oracle has foretold that when her daughters are wooed, she will die, and so Dog Head attempts to brutally block all suitors from approaching the island. Art eventually prevails, returning to Ireland’s royal seat, Tara, with Delvcaem, with whom he has fallen in love.

Delvcaem is described as an amazingly powerful sorceress: when she arrives, Becuma is immediately forced to leave as if the two cannot be in the same place at the same time. Delvcaem weds Art just as Becuma, in the guise of Delvcaem, had wished. Delvcaem is the spirit who presides over taking one’s rightful place. She is a great magician and may be invoked for advice and lessons. Delvcaem is a spirit of fertility, abundance, and true love.


She is described as beautiful. Her name means “Fair Shape.” She may or may not look just like Becuma.


A chalice filled with wine (she has a sister who bears a chalice of poison)


  • Becuma;
  • Maeve


Encyclopedia of Spirits: The Ultimate Guide to the Magic of Fairies, Genies, Demons, Ghosts, Gods & Goddesses– Written by Judika Illes Copyright © 2009 by Judika Illes.