Kerry Manley

The Curse of Macha: A Creative Mythological Inquiry into Rage, Vengeance, and Sovereignty After Violation of Freedom

How do we navigate difficult, even violent, emotions when we have experienced violations of freedom in our bodies, psyches, communities, and the earth? This work looks to the images of Irish mythology, explored via artistic and somatic processes, for guidance. By investigating emotion through myth and arts-based/somatic methodologies, previously discarded and belittled ways of knowing are championed and celebrated as legitimate contributors to a transdisciplinary academic future (Rowland, 2020). Through these imaginative modalities of discovery, otherwise hidden aspects of our experiences with and relationship to challenging emotions can be explored and made conscious.

This research specifically considers a story of the goddess Macha, one of the Irish goddesses known as the Mórrígan (associated with sovereignty, battle, regeneration, prophesy, and deposing corrupt rulers), who is in one tale betrayed by her human husband who brags of her divine nature. She is subsequently forced to race against a prideful king’s best horses while she is pregnant. Macha dies at the finish line, giving birth to twins, and with her birthing/dying screams curses the men of the king’s land to experience the pain of birthing contractions during their greatest hours of need for nine generations (CELT, 2010, Kinsella, 1969).

In alignment with the 2023 conference theme of Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Emotions and their Impact, this work reaches out to the imaginal world made tangible in mythology, art, and somatic experience for wisdom regarding psychological experiences of violation and the emotions that follow. Honoring the wholeness of the human psyche requires learning about and integrating the more difficult experiences and emotions, like rage and desire for vengeance. Macha’s story, explored through embodied creative practice, is ripe with potential to teach us about violation and sovereignty as applicable to our current contextual moment in time and place.


Kerry Manley is a PhD candidate specializing in Jungian and Archetypal Psychology at Pacifica Graduate Institute. Her dissertation research is an arts-based exploration of the the Mórrígan, a goddess found in Irish mythology, and women’s sexual sovereignty. Dance, multimedia visual arts, and photography are Kerry’s primary creative mediums.


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