Maev (Maeve, Medb, Meadhbh) (she who intoxicates) The most vibrant female personality in all of Celtic mythology. She is queen of Connaught, an evil war goddess in the cycle of myths around the hero Cuchulain, who is killed by her sorcery. She is often depicted with a bird and a squirrel on her shoulders wearing a red cloak and carrying a spear that is flaming. She appears in numerous tales and legends as a licentious queen. Her appearance deprived soldiers of their strength; she was therefore the goddess who drained men of sexual powers. In later English folklore, Maev became Queen Mab, queen of the fairies, later replaced by Titania


Encyclopedia of World Mythology and Legend, Third Edition – Written by Anthony S. Mercatante & James R. Dow
Copyright © 2009 by Anthony S. Mercatante


She Who Intoxicates; The Inebriating One; The One Who Is Like Mead


Medb; Mab



Maeve, Goddess-Queen, a powerful, wild warrior deity, sponsored and destroyed heroes. No king can rule Ireland unless he has engaged in the Sacred Rite with Maeve and satisfied her. Maeve takes mortal kings as her consorts, contracting them in sacred marriage, giving them their right to rule, and bestowing prosperity on the land, but only as long as she perceives them fit to rule. (Or until she finds someone more fit.)

Maeve makes kings and breaks them, too. She can deprive men of their strength merely by being in their presence. Maeve rides around the battlefield in her chariot: her potent presence “unmans” the warriors. She really has no need for that chariot. What do they say about Superman? Faster than a speeding bullet? That’s Maeve: she runs with the speed of a superhero, swifter than champion racehorses. No one can catch her unless she wishes to be caught.

Maeve is a goddess of sex, fertility, death, and war. She is the essence of the power, promise and abundance of Earth. Her name derives from the same root word as mead. She is a heady, intoxicating presence, a goddess of ecstasy.

Irish myth describes how Maeve manifested to Niall of the Nine Hostages as an old crone guarding a well. She gave him water, and he agreed to have sex with her. In his arms, she transformed into a young, gorgeous woman and granted him kingship of Ireland. Fergus is her first husband. She abandoned the second, Conchobar, once she perceived him unworthy to be king. She has several criteria for choosing her third: his courage, fearlessness, and generosity must match hers, and he must not be jealous—this is crucial as she must engage in sacred marriages. Of course, when he’s unfaithful, she kills him.

Irish myths were transmitted orally. The first to write them down were Christian monks who sought to preserve them but clearly disapproved of Maeve’s rampant sexuality. (Maeve stars in the Ulster Cycle.) They did not represent her as a grand Pagan goddess but as a lustful, violent, warrior woman, the archetypal Fairytale evil queen.

Maeve was not forgotten or relegated to storybooks. Too powerful to suppress, post-Christianity, she emerged as a Fairy queen. In Ireland, she remained full-size, but in England and Wales, fierce warrior goddess Maeve, under the name Queen Mab, is reduced to a flower Fairy, a tiny miniature spirit who rides a chariot pulled by insects.

Even when tiny, Maeve/Mab continues to exert her allure, emerging as the favourite Fairy queen of authors, playwrights, and poets:

• In Mercutio’s famous Queen Mab speech in Romeo and Juliet, William Shakespeare describes her as the “Fairies’ midwife… no bigger than an agate stone” in an alderman’s ring. “Her chariot is an empty hazel-nut” he writes, evoking ancient Ireland’s hazelnuts of wisdom.

• She stars in poems by Ben Jonson, William Butler Yeats, and Percy Bysshe Shelley.

• She is a fierce force in Mike Carey and John Bolton’s 2007 graphic novel, God Save the Queen.


She frequently manifests with birds on her shoulders, or a bird on one and a squirrel on her other. Some scholars think this indicates her primeval origins as a tree goddess. Maeve is an extraordinary shape-shifter, appearing as a female of any age or appearance: from gorgeous goddess to frightening hag.



Creatures: Squirrels, birds, cattle, swine, wolves


• Cruachan, capital of ancient Connacht and center of her spiritual rites.

• The Hill of Tara, ancient seat of the High Kings of Ireland.

• Maeve’s Cairn on Knocknarea Mountain, County Sligo, believed to be a Neolithic passage grave, dated approximately 3000 BCE

• Maeve’s sacred pool on Clothrann Island in Lough Ree, now called Quaker’s Island.


  • Fairy;
  • Fairy, Flower;
  • Fairy Queens;
  • Fergus;
  • Macha;
  • Nechtan


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.