Posts Tagged With: Morrigan

Deity of the Day for June 28th is The Morrighan

Deity of the Day

The Morrighan

 

Areas of Influence: The Goddess Morrigan represented the circle of life, she was associated with both birth and death.

Her name means great queen or phantom queen. It is spelt in several different ways including Morrigu, Morgane, Morrighan and Morgan le Fay in the Arthurian legends.

She is one of the triple Goddesses, her different aspects are represented by Anu (the fertility maiden), Badh (the boiling mother cauldron) and either Macha (the death crone) or Nemain.

As the battle Goddess she appeared on the battlefield in the form of a crow and returned later to feed on the dead.

Morrigan is also a water Goddess, ruling over rivers and lakes. In one myth she appears as an old washer woman at the ford and offering her love to Cu Chulainne. He failed to recognize Morrigan on this occasion and on several others. Enraged she threated to hinder him in battle, when he is killed as a result of this she appears on his shoulder as a crow.

This Goddess also grants monarchs the power of sovereignty.

Origins and Genealogy: I can find no mention of her parentage but in some myths she was said to be the consort of Dadga

Morrigan was also one of the Tuatha de Danann (The tribe of the Goddess Danu). She protected her people by blowing a fog over the land, the lack of visibility discouraged invading armies.

Strengths: Fearsome and strong.

Weaknesses: She is vindictive, killing the person she loves when he fails to recognize her.

Morrigan’s Symbolism

As a symbol of death the Goddess Morrigan is linked with the festival of Samhain.

Sacred Bird: Crows and ravens.

Sacred Plants: Mugwort, yew and willow.

 

Morrigan’s Archetype

The Shape-Shifter:

The Shape Shifter has the ability to change her physical appearance. They are also able to adapt easily to different environments by altering there behavior.

Shadow Shape shifter is fickle, lacking conviction and constantly reinventing themselves, like politicians trying to appeal to more people.

Morrigan is a bird Goddess who shape-shifts into the form of a hooded crow and a washer woman at the ford.

 

Source:
The Goddess-Guide.com

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Morrigan, Raven Queen

morrighan

Morrigan, Morrigan, three times three,

Hear the words I ask of thee.

Grant me vision, Grant me power,

Cheer me in my darkest hour.

As the night overtakes the day,

Morrigan, Morrigan, light my way.

Morrigan,Morrigan, Raven Queen,

Round & round the Hawthorn green.

Queen of beauty, Queen of Art,

Yours my body, Yours my heart.

All my trust I place in thee,

Morrigan, Morrigan, Be with me.

~ Luna’s Grimoire ~

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Great Mother Goddesses

Great Mother Goddesses

Gods/Goddesses- Bel, the Dagda, Don, the Dagda, Bel, Cronus, Uranus, Zeus, Jupiter, Saturn, Amen, Osiris, Ra, Pachacamac, Cerridwen, Danu, Macha, Morrigu, Brigit, Anu, Badb, Rhianon, Demeter, Hera, Rhea, Hecate, Aphrodite, Gaea, Juno, Venus, Ceres, Ops, Bona Dea, Cybele, Isis, Mut, Nut, Coatlicue, Kuan Yin, Ishtar, Astarte, Inanna, Cerridwen, Danu, Morrigu, Anu, Margawse, Growth, Demeter, Gaea, Boreas, Eurus, Ceres
Color- Indigo, Black
Incense/Oil- Holly, Juniper, Yew, Myrrh, Cypress
Animals- Goat
Spirits- Dragon
Stones- Onyx, Jet
Metal- Lead
Plants- Reeds, Solomon’s Seal, Oak, Yew, Beech, Comfrey, Elm, Holly, Ivy, Horsetail, Juniper, Mullien
Wood- Oak
Planet- Saturn
Tarot Cards- Four Queens, Four Threes
Magickal Tools- Sword, Wand
Direction- West
Rituals- Stabilization of Thought and Life, Help with Groups, Comfort, Goddess Power, Developing Power of Faith

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The Morrigan, Phantom Queen

The Morrigan

The Phantom Queen

The Morrígan (“phantom queen”) or Mórrígan (“great queen”), also written as Morrígu or in the plural as Morrígna, and spelt Morríghan or Mór-ríoghain in Modern Irish, is a figure from Irish mythology who appears to have been considered a goddess, although she is not explicitly referred to as such in the texts.

The Morrígan is a goddess of battle, strife, and sovereignty. She sometimes appears in the form of a crow, flying above the warriors, and in the Ulster cycle she also takes the form of an eel, a wolf and a cow. She is generally considered a war deity comparable with the Germanic Valkyries, although her association with a cow may also suggest a role connected with wealth and the land.

She is often depicted as a trio of goddesses, all sisters, although membership of the triad varies; the most common combinations are Badb, Macha and Nemain, or Badb, Macha and Anand; Anand is also given as an alternate name for Morrigu.

There is some disagreement over the meaning of the Morrígan’s name. Mor may derive from an Indo-European root connoting terror or monstrousness, cognate with the Old English maere (which survives in the modern English word “nightmare”) and the Scandinavian mara and the Old Russian “mara” (“nightmare”); while rígan translates as ‘queen’. This can be reconstructed in Proto-Celtic as *Moro-rīganī-s. Accordingly, Morrígan is often translated as “Phantom Queen”. This is the derivation generally favoured in current scholarship.

In the Middle Irish period the name is often spelled Mórrígan with a lengthening diacritic over the ‘o’, seemingly intended to mean “Great Queen” (Old Irish mór, ‘great'; this would derive from a hypothetical Proto-Celtic *Māra Rīganī-s). Whitley Stokes believed this latter spelling was a due to a false etymology popular at the time. There have also been attempts by modern writers to link the Morrígan with the Welsh literary figure Morgan le Fay from Arthurian romance, in whose name ‘mor’ may derive from a Welsh word for ‘sea’, but the names are derived from different cultures and branches of the Celtic linguistic tree.

Invocation of Morrigan

Morrigan Morrigan Three times Three,

Hear the words I ask of Thee.

Grant me vision, Grant me power,

Cheer me in my darkest hour.

As the night overtakes the day,

Morrigan Morrigan Light my way.

Morrigan Morrigan Raven Queen

Round and round the Hawthorn Green.

Queen of beauty, Queen of Art,

Yours my body, Yours my heart.

All my trust I place in thee,

Morrigan Morrigan Be with me…

Morrigan As The Triple Goddesss

The Morrígan is often considered a triple goddess, but this triple nature is ambiguous and inconsistent. Sometimes she appears as one of three sisters, the daughters of Ernmas: Morrígan, Badb and Macha. Sometimes the trinity consists of Badb, Macha and Anann, collectively known as the Morrígna. Occasionally Nemain or Fea appear in the various combinations. However, the Morrígan can also appear alone, and her name is sometimes used interchangeably with Badb.

The Morrígan is usually interpreted as a “war goddess”; W. M. Hennessey’s “The Ancient Irish Goddess of War”, written in 1870, was influential in establishing this interpretation. Her role often involves premonitions of a particular warrior’s violent death, suggesting a link with the Banshee of later folklore. This connection is further noted by Patricia Lysaght: “In certain areas of Ireland this supernatural being is, in addition to the name banshee, also called the badhb“. Her role was to not only be a symbol of imminent death, but to also influence the outcome of war. Most often she did this by appearing as a crow flying overhead and would either inspire fear or courage in the hearts of the warriors. There are also a few rare accounts where she would join in the battle itself as a warrior and show her favoritism in a more direct manner.

It has also been suggested that she was closely tied to Irish männerbund groups (described as “bands of youthful warrior-hunters, living on the borders of civilized society and indulging in lawless activities for a time before inheriting property and taking their places as members of settled, landed communities”) and that these groups may have been in some way dedicated to her. If true, her worship may have resembled that of Perchta groups in Germanic areas.

However, Máire Herbert has argued that “war per se is not a primary aspect of the role of the goddess”, and that her association with cattle suggests her role was connected to the earth, fertility and sovereignty; she suggests that her association with war is a result of a confusion between her and the Badb, who she argues was originally a separate figure. She can be interpreted as providing political or military aid, or protection to the king—acting as a goddess of sovereignty, not necessarily a war goddess.

There is a burnt mound site in County Tipperary known as Fulacht na Mór Ríoghna (‘cooking pit of the Mórrígan’). The fulachtaí sites are found in wild areas, and usually associated with outsiders such as the Fianna and the above-mentioned männerbund groups, as well as with the hunting of deer. The cooking connection also suggests to some a connection with the three mythical hags who cook the meal of dogflesh that brings the hero Cúchulainn to his doom. The Dá Chich na Morrigna (‘two breasts of the Mórrígan’), a pair of hills in County Meath, suggest to some a role as a tutelary goddess, comparable to Anu, who has her own hills, Dá Chích Anann (‘the breasts of Anu’) in County Kerry. Other goddesses known to have similar hills are Áine and Grian of County Limerick who, in addition to a tutelary function, also have solar attributes.

Morrigan Poem

by Anne-Christine Johnson 

 When the crows shriek thier frightening warnings,       

When autumn ends, and Winter falls,  

You will see a Lady a wondering,

weeping through the saddened fields.       

She is turning the Silver Wheel of the seasons.


When the crows heed their endless calling,  

Look to the Moon to see a Lady, dancing in the blackened clouds,

And when at night you see her coming, fall in wonder of what  

beauty she possesses, and shed your tears.  

The Great Queen is walking her footsteps once again.    

Morrighan, Morrighan, you’ll call her by name.


When the old earth opens from beneath your feet,   

crows will catch you before you fall and place you in

Her cauldron,  where rebirth waits and death awakens,   

your prophecy you will find. What you see is Her,

walking the shadows and howling to the Universe,  

forewarning Her arrival.


Black hair falling to Her feet, fill the ocean and become the waves,

Her legs become the forest; Her breasts become the mountains.     

Her womb becomes your ancient home.

Morrigan

by Danielle Dee
The Morrigan is a goddess of battle, strife, and fertility. Her name translates as either “Great Queen” or “Phantom Queen,” and both epithets are entirely appropriate for her. The Morrigan appears as both a single goddess and a trio of goddesses. The other deities who form the trio are Badb (“Crow”), and either Macha (also connotes “Crow”) or Nemain (“Frenzy”). The Morrigan frequently appears in the ornithological guise of a hooded crow. She is one of the Tuatha Dé Danann (“Tribe of the goddess Danu”) and she helped defeat the Firbolg at the First Battle of Mag Tuireadh and the Fomorians at the Second Battle of Mag Tuireadh.

Origin

The origins of the Morrigan seem to reach directly back to the megalithic cult of the Mothers. The Mothers (Matrones, Idises, Disir, etc.) usually appeared as triple goddesses and their cult was expressed through both battle ecstasy and regenerative ecstasy. It’s also interesting to note that later Celtic goddesses of sovereignty, such as the trio of Eriu, Banba, and Fotla, also appear as a trio of female deities who use magic in warfare. “Influence in the sphere of warfare, but by means of magic and incantation rather than through physical strength, is common to these beings.” (Ross 205)

Eriu, a goddess connected to the land in a fashion reminiscent of the Mothers, could appear as a beautiful woman or as a crow, as could the Morrigan. The Disir appeared in similar guises. In addition to being battle goddesses, they are significantly associated with fate as well as birth in many cases, along with appearing before a death or to escort the deceased.

There is certainly evidence that the concept of a raven goddess of battle was not limited to the Irish Celts. An inscription found in France which reads Cathubodva, ‘Battle Raven’, shows that a similar concept was at work among the Gaulish Celts.

Valkyries in Norse cosmology. Both use magic to cast fetters on warriors and choose who will die.

During the Second Battle, the Morrigan “said she would go and destroy Indech son of De Domnann and ‘deprive him of the blood of his heart and the kidneys of his valor’, and she gave two handfuls of that blood to the hosts. When Indech later appeared in the battle, he was already doomed.” (Rees 36)

Compare this to the Washer at the Ford, another guise of the Morrigan. The Washer is usually to be found washing the clothes of men about to die in battle. In effect, she is choosing who will die.

An early German spell found in Merseburg mentions the Indisi, who decided the fortunes of war and the fates of warriors. The Scandinavian “Song of the Spear”, quoted in “Njals Saga”, gives a detailed description of Valkyries as women weaving on a grisly loom, with severed heads for weights, arrows for shuttles, and entrails for the warp. As they worked, they exulted at the loss of life that would take place. “All is sinister now to see, a cloud of blood moves over the sky, the air is red with the blood of men, and the battle women chant their song.” (Davidson 94)

An Old English poem, “Exodus”, refers to ravens as choosers of the slain. In all these sources, ravens, choosing of the slain, casting fetters, and female beings are linked.

“As the Norse and English sources show them to us, the walkurjas are figures of awe an even terror, who delight in the deaths of men. As battlefield scavengers, they are very close to the ravens, who are described as waelceasega, “picking over the dead”…” (Our Troth)

“The function of the goddess [the Morrigan] here, it may be noted, is not to attack the hero [Cu Chulainn] with weapons but to render him helpless at a crucial point in the battle, like the valkyries who cast ‘fetters’ upon warriors … thus both in Irish and Scandinavian literature we have a conception of female beings associated with battle, both fierce and erotic.” (Davidson 97, 100)

The Morrigan and Cu Chulainn She appeared to the hero Cu Chulainn(son of the god Lugh) and offered her love to him. When he failed to recognize her and rejected her, she told him that she would hinder him when he was in battle. When Cu Chulainn was eventually killed, she settled on his shoulder in the form of a crow. Cu’s misfortune was that he never recognized the feminine power of sovereignty that she offered to him.

She appeared to him on at least four occasions and each time he failed to recognize her.

  1. When she appeared to him and declared her love for him.
  2. After he had wounded her, she appeared to him as an old hag and he offered his blessings to her, which caused her to be healed.
  3. On his way to his final battle, he saw the Washer at the Ford, who declared that she was washing the clothes and arms of Cu Chulainn, who would soon be dead.
  4. When he was forced by three hags (the Morrigan in her triple aspect) to break a taboo of eating dogflesh.

Encyclopedia Mythica

The Morrigu

 by J. Laskey 

She haunts you in your dreams

When you wake you can’t even scream

You hear the wind in the midnight sky

Upon which the Morrigu shall fly

She is justice and everything right

Look out for more than dreams tonight…

Between both worlds the crow awaits

This perfect twist of fate Life or death, living or dead

You can’t escape the places you’ve tread

Mark my words, make no mistake

It’s only everything she will take…

Morrigan’s Image Representation

“The Mare-Queen” is often shown as a black raven or hooded crow, who feeds on the killed warriors after battle. She appears also as a caillech, one-eyed old woman. As a shape shifter, she would often appear as a raven or red cow. But sometimes when she is hot and looking for love she is also an attractive young lady.

Morrigan’s Role

The origins of the Morrígan seem to reach directly back to the megalithic cult of the Mothers. The Mothers (Matrones, Idises, Dísir, etc.) usually appeared as triple goddesses and their cult was expressed through both battle ecstasy and regenerative ecstasy.

The Morrigu is prophetess of all misfortune in battle and has knowledge of the fate of humanity. She is also the messenger of death as the dark lady/washer at the ford : Morrigan is seen washing bloody laundry prior to battle by those destined to die.

Her personality is associated with the sometimes frightening aspects of female energy.

As a protectress she empowers an individual to confront challenges with great personal strength, even against seemingly overwhelming odds. Roman chroniclers reported that Celts went into battle naked, exposing tattoos to summon their magical forces.

Morrigan’s Signs & Symbols

Sacred animal: Cow and Mare, Raven and Crow

Ford of a river

The Colors RED and BLACK.

Weapons like spears,swords and shields.

Blood

Blackthorn

Additional Information on Morrigan

Attributes: archetypal Goddess of war, death and passionate love.

Representation: as a black raven or crow, who feeds on the killed warriors after battle.

Relations: Wife or Lover of Dagda, Daughter of

Offerings: Blood sacrifice

“Shrine of the Forgotten Goddesses”

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Deity of the Day for April 5 – Morrigan

Deity of the Day for April 5th

Morrigan

by Danielle Dee
 
The Morrigan is a goddess of battle, strife, and fertility. Her name translates as either “Great Queen” or “Phantom Queen,” and both epithets are entirely appropriate for her. The Morrigan appears as both a single goddess and a trio of goddesses. The other deities who form the trio are Badb(“Crow”), and either Macha (also connotes “Crow”) or Nemain (“Frenzy”). The Morrigan frequently appears in the ornithological guise of a hooded crow. She is one of the Tuatha Dé Danann (“Tribe of the goddess Danu”) and she helped defeat the Firbolg at the First Battle of Mag Tuireadh and the Fomorians at the Second Battle of Mag Tuireadh. 

Origin
The origins of the Morrigan seem to reach directly back to the megalithic cult of the Mothers. The Mothers (Matrones, Idises, Disir, etc.) usually appeared as triple goddesses and their cult was expressed through both battle ecstasy and regenerative ecstasy. It’s also interesting to note that later Celtic goddesses of sovereignty, such as the trio of Eriu, Banba, and Fotla, also appear as a trio of female deities who use magic in warfare. “Influence in the sphere of warfare, but by means of magic and incantation rather than through physical strength, is common to these beings.” (Ross 205)

Eriu, a goddess connected to the land in a fashion reminiscent of the Mothers, could appear as a beautiful woman or as a crow, as could the Morrigan. The Disir appeared in similar guises. In addition to being battle goddesses, they are significantly associated with fate as well as birth in many cases, along with appearing before a death or to escort the deceased.

There is certainly evidence that the concept of a raven goddess of battle was not limited to the Irish Celts. An inscription found in France which reads Cathubodva, ‘Battle Raven’, shows that a similar concept was at work among the Gaulish Celts.

Valkyries in Norse cosmology. Both use magic to cast fetters on warriors and choose who will die.

During the Second Battle, the Morrigan “said she would go and destroy Indech son of De Domnann and ‘deprive him of the blood of his heart and the kidneys of his valor’, and she gave two handfuls of that blood to the hosts. When Indech later appeared in the battle, he was already doomed.” (Rees 36)

Compare this to the Washer at the Ford, another guise of the Morrigan. The Washer is usually to be found washing the clothes of men about to die in battle. In effect, she is choosing who will die.

An early German spell found in Merseburg mentions the Indisi, who decided the fortunes of war and the fates of warriors. The Scandinavian “Song of the Spear”, quoted in “Njals Saga”, gives a detailed description of Valkyries as women weaving on a grisly loom, with severed heads for weights, arrows for shuttles, and entrails for the warp. As they worked, they exulted at the loss of life that would take place. “All is sinister now to see, a cloud of blood moves over the sky, the air is red with the blood of men, and the battle women chant their song.” (Davidson 94)

An Old English poem, “Exodus”, refers to ravens as choosers of the slain. In all these sources, ravens, choosing of the slain, casting fetters, and female beings are linked.

“As the Norse and English sources show them to us, the walkurjas are figures of awe an even terror, who delight in the deaths of men. As battlefield scavengers, they are very close to the ravens, who are described as waelceasega, “picking over the dead”…” (Our Troth)

“The function of the goddess [the Morrigan] here, it may be noted, is not to attack the hero [Cu Chulainn] with weapons but to render him helpless at a crucial point in the battle, like the valkyries who cast ‘fetters’ upon warriors … thus both in Irish and Scandinavian literature we have a conception of female beings associated with battle, both fierce and erotic.” (Davidson 97, 100)

The Morrigan and Cu Chulainn
She appeared to the hero Cu Chulainn(son of the god Lugh) and offered her love to him. When he failed to recognize her and rejected her, she told him that she would hinder him when he was in battle. When Cu Chulainn was eventually killed, she settled on his shoulder in the form of a crow. Cu’s misfortune was that he never recognized the feminine power of sovereignty that she offered to him.

She appeared to him on at least four occasions and each time he failed to recognize her.

  1. When she appeared to him and declared her love for him.
  2. After he had wounded her, she appeared to him as an old hag and he offered his blessings to her, which caused her to be healed.
  3. On his way to his final battle, he saw the Washer at the Ford, who declared that she was washing the clothes and arms of Cu Chulainn, who would soon be dead.
  4. When he was forced by three hags (the Morrigan in her triple aspect) to break a taboo of eating dogflesh.
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Today We Honor The Goddess Morrigan

The Goddess Morrigan

The Morrígan (“phantom queen”) or Mórrígan (“great queen”), also written as Morrígu or in the plural as Morrígna, and spelt Morríghan or Mór-ríoghain in Modern Irish, is a figure from Irish mythology who appears to have once been a goddess, although she is not explicitly referred to as such in the texts.

The Morrigan is a goddess of battle, strife, and fertility. She sometimes appears in the form of a crow, flying above the warriors, and in the Ulster cycle she also takes the form of an eel, a wolf and a cow. She is generally considered a war deity comparable with the Germanic Valkyries, although her association with cattle also suggests a role connected with fertility, wealth, and the land.

She is often depicted as a triple goddess,although membership of the triad varies; the most common combination is the Badb, Macha and Nemain, but other accounts name Fea, Anann, and others.

The Morrígan is often considered a triple goddess, but her supposed triple nature is ambiguous and inconsistent. Sometimes she appears as one of three sisters, the daughters of Ernmas: the Morrígan, the Badb and Macha. Sometimes the trinity consists of the Badb, Macha and Nemain, collectively known as the Morrígan, or in the plural as the Morrígna. Occasionally Fea or Anu also appear in various combinations. However the Morrígan also frequently appears alone, and her name is sometimes used interchangeably with the Badb, with no third “aspect” mentioned.

The Morrígan is usually interpreted as a “war goddess”: W. M. Hennessey’s “The Ancient Irish Goddess of War”, written in 1870, was influential in establishing this interpretation. Her role often involves premonitions of a particular warrior’s violent death, suggesting a link with the Banshee of later folklore. This connection is further noted by Patricia Lysaght: “In certain areas of Ireland this supernatural being is, in addition to the name banshee, also called the badhb“. Her role was to not only be a symbol of imminent death, but to also influence the outcome of war. She did this by most often appearing as a crow flying overhead and would either inspire fear or courage in the hearts of the warriors. There are also a few rare accounts where she would join in the battle itself as a warrior and show her favortism in a more direct manner.

It has also been suggested that she was closely tied to Irish männerbund groups (described as “bands of youthful warrior-hunters, living on the borders of civilized society and indulging in lawless activities for a time before inheriting property and taking their places as members of settled, landed communities”) and that these groups may have been in some way dedicated to her. If true, her worship may have resembled that of Perchta groups in Germanic areas.

However, Máire Herbert has argued that “war per se is not a primary aspect of the role of the goddess”, and that her association with cattle suggests her role was connected to the earth, fertility and sovereignty; she suggests that her association with war is a result of a confusion between her and the Badb, who she argues was originally a separate figure. She can be interpreted as providing political or military aid, or protection to the king—acting as a goddess of sovereignty, not necessarily a war goddess.

There is a burnt mound site in County Tipperary known as Fulacht na Mór Ríoghna (“cooking pit of the Mórrígan”). The fulachta sites are found in wild areas, and usually associated with outsiders such as the Fianna and the above-mentioned männerbund groups, as well as with the hunting of deer. The cooking connection also suggests to some a connection with the three mythical hags who cook the meal of dogflesh that brings the hero Cúchulainn to his doom. The Dá Chich na Morrigna (“two breasts of the Mórrígan”), a pair of hills in County Meath, suggest to some a role as a tutelary goddess, comparable to Danu or Anu, who has her own hills in County Kerry. Other goddesses known to have similar hills are Áine and Grian of County Limerick who, in addition to a tutelary function, also have solar attributes.

Wikipedia

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The Goddess Morrigan

The Morrigan

Goddess Of Battle, Strife, and Fertility

The Morrígan (“phantom queen”) or Mórrígan (“great queen”), also written as Morrígu or in the plural as Morrígna, and spelt Morríghan or Mór-Ríoghain in Modern Irish, is a figure from Irish mythology who appears to have once been a goddess, although she is not explicitly referred to as such in the texts.

The Morrigan is a goddess of battle, strife, and fertility. She sometimes appears in the form of a crow, flying above the warriors, and in the Ulster cycle she also takes the form of an eel, a wolf and a cow. She is generally considered a war deity comparable with the Germanic Valkyries, although her association with cattle also suggests a role connected with fertility, wealth, and the land.

She is often depicted as a triple goddess, although membership of the triad varies; the most common combination is the Badb, Macha and Nemain, but other accounts name Fea, Anann, and others.

Etymology

There is some disagreement over the meaning of the Morrígan’s name. Mor may derive from an Indo-European root connoting terror or monstrousness, cognate with the Old English maere (which survives in the modern English word “nightmare”) and the Scandinavian mara; while rígan translates as ‘queen’. This can be reconstructed in Proto-Celtic as *Moro-rīganī-s. Accordingly, Morrígan is often translated as “Phantom Queen”. This is the derivation generally favoured in current scholarship.

In the Middle Irish period the name is often spelt Mórrígan with a lengthening diacritic over the ‘o’, seemingly intended to mean “Great Queen” (Old Irish mór, ‘great'; this would derive from a hypothetical Proto-Celtic *Māra Rīganī-s.). Whitley Stokes believed this latter spelling was a due to a false etymology popular at the time. There have also been attempts to link the Morrígan with the fairy Morgan from Arthurian romance, in whose name ‘mor’ may derive from ‘sea’ or ‘water’.

The name is also sometimes spelt Morrígu and given in plural as Morrígna in Old Irish.

Glosses and glossaries

The earliest sources for the Morrígan are glosses in Latin manuscripts, and glossaries (collections of glosses). In a 9th century manuscript containing the Latin Vulgate translation of the Book of Isaiah, the word Lamia is used to translate the Hebrew Lilith. A gloss explains this as “a monster in female form, that is, a morrígan“. Cormac’s Glossary (also 9th century), and a gloss in the later manuscript H.3.18, both explain the plural word gudemain (“spectres”) with the plural form morrígna. The 8th century O’Mulconry’s Glossary says that Macha is one of the three morrígna. It therefore appears that at this time the name Morrígan was seen as referring to a class of beings rather than an individual.

Ulster Cycle

The Morrígan’s earliest narrative appearances, in which she is depicted as an individual, are in stories of the Ulster Cycle, where she has an ambiguous relationship with the hero Cú Chulainn. In Táin Bó Regamna (The Cattle Raid of Regamain), Cúchulainn encounters the Morrígan, but does not recognize her, as she drives a heifer from his territory. In response to his challenge, she insults him, but before he can attack she becomes a black bird on a nearby branch. Cúchulainn now knows who she, and tells her that had he known before, they would not have parted in enmity. She notes that whatever he had done would have brought him ill luck. To his response that she cannot harm him, she makes a series of threats, foretelling a coming battle in which he will be killed. She tells him, enigmatically, “I guard your death”.

In the Táin Bó Cuailnge queen Medb of Connacht launches an invasion of Ulster to steal the bull Donn Cuailnge; the Morrígan, like Alecto of the Greek Furies, appears to the bull in the form of a crow and warns him to flee. Cúchulainn defends Ulster by fighting a series of single combats at fords against Medb’s champions. In between combats the Morrígan appears to him as a young woman and offers him her love, and her aid in the battle, but he spurns her. In response she intervenes in his next combat, first in the form of an eel who trips him, then as a wolf who stampedes cattle across the ford, and finally as a red heifer leading the stampede, just as she had threatened in their previous encounter. However Cúchulainn wounds her in each form and defeats his opponent despite her interference. Later she appears to him as an old woman bearing the same three wounds that her animal forms sustained, milking a cow. She gives Cúchulainn three drinks of milk. He blesses her with each drink, and her wounds are healed. As the armies gather for the final battle, she prophesies the bloodshed to come.

In one version of Cúchulainn’s death-tale, as the hero rides to meet his enemies, he encounters the Morrígan as a hag washing his bloody armour in a ford, an omen of his death. Later in the story, mortally wounded, Cúchulainn ties himself to a standing stone with his own entrails so he can die upright, and it is only when a crow lands on his shoulder that his enemies believe he is dead.

Mythological Cycle

The Morrígan also appears in texts of the Mythological Cycle. In the 12th century pseudohistorical compilation Lebor Gabála Érenn she is listed among the Tuatha Dé Danann as one of the daughters of Ernmas, granddaughter of Nuada.

The first three daughters of Ernmas are given as Ériu, Banba, and Fódla. Their names are synonyms for Ireland, and they were married to Mac Cuill, Mac Cécht, and Mac Gréine, the last three Tuatha Dé Danann kings of Ireland. Associated with the land and kingship, they probably represent a triple goddess of sovereignty. Next come Ernmas’s other three daughters: the Badb, Macha, and the Morrígan. A quatrain describes the three as wealthy, “springs of craftiness” and “sources of bitter fighting”. The Morrígan’s name is said to be Anann, and she had three sons, Glon, Gaim, and Coscar. According to Geoffrey Keating’s 17th century History of Ireland, Ériu, Banba, and Fódla worshipped the Badb, Macha, and the Morrígan respectively, suggesting that the two triads of goddesses may be seen as equivalent.

The Morrígan also appears in Cath Maige Tuireadh (The Battle of Mag Tuired). On Samhain she keeps a tryst with the Dagda before the battle against the Fomorians. When he meets her she is washing herself, standing with one foot on either side of the river Unius. In some sources she is believed to have created the river. After they have sex, the Morrígan promises to summon the magicians of Ireland to cast spells on behalf of the Tuatha Dé, and to destroy Indech, the Fomorian king, taking from him “the blood of his heart and the kidneys of his valour”. Later, we are told, she would bring two handfuls of his blood and deposit them in the same river (however, we are also told later in the text that Indech was killed by Ogma).

As battle is about to be joined, the Tuatha Dé leader, Lug, asks each what power they bring to the battle. The Morrígan’s reply is difficult to interpret, but involves pursuing, destroying and subduing. When she comes to the battlefield she chants a poem, and immediately the battle breaks and the Fomorians are driven into the sea. After the battle she chants another poem celebrating the victory and prophesying the end of the world.

In another story she lures away the bull of a woman called Odras, who follows her to the otherworld via the cave of Cruachan. When she falls asleep, the Morrígan turns her into a pool of water.

Nature and functions

The Morrígan is often considered a triple goddess, but her supposed triple nature is ambiguous and inconsistent. Sometimes she appears as one of three sisters, the daughters of Ernmas: the Morrígan, the Badb and Macha. Sometimes the trinity consists of the Badb, Macha and Nemain, collectively known as the Morrígan, or in the plural as the Morrígna. Occasionally Fea or Anu also appear in various combinations. However the Morrígan also frequently appears alone, and her name is sometimes used interchangeably with the Badb, with no third “aspect” mentioned.

The Morrígan is usually interpreted as a “war goddess”: W. M. Hennessey’s “The Ancient Irish Goddess of War,” written in 1870, was influential in establishing this interpretation. Her role often involves premonitions of a particular warrior’s violent death, suggesting a link with the Banshee of later folklore. This connection is further noted by Patricia Lysaght: “In certain areas of Ireland this supernatural being is, in addition to the name banshee, also called the badhb“.

It has also been suggested that she was closely tied to Irish männerbund groups (described as “bands of youthful warrior-hunters, living on the borders of civilized society and indulging in lawless activities for a time before inheriting property and taking their places as members of settled, landed communities”) and that these groups may have been in some way dedicated to her. If true, her worship may have resembled that of Perchta groups in Germanic areas.

However, Máire Herbert has argued that “war per se is not a primary aspect of the role of the goddess”, and that her association with cattle suggests her role was connected to the earth, fertility and sovereignty; she suggests that her association with war is a result of a confusion between her and the Badb, who she argues was originally a separate figure. She can be interpreted as providing political or military aid, or protection to the king — acting as a goddess of sovereignty, not necessarily a war goddess.

There is a burnt mound site in County Tipperary known as Fulacht na Mór Ríoghna (“cooking pit of the Mórrígan”). The fulachta sites are found in wild areas, and usually associated with outsiders such as the Fianna and the above-mentioned männerbund groups, as well as with the hunting of deer. The cooking connection also suggests to some a connection with the three mythical hags who cook the meal of dogflesh that brings the hero Cúchulainn to his doom. The Dá Chich na Morrigna (“two breasts of the Mórrígan”), a pair of hills in County Meath, suggest to some a role as a tutelary goddess, comparable to Danu or Anu, who has her own hills in County Kerry. Other goddesses known to have similar hills are Áine and Grian of County Limerick who, in addition to a tutelary function, also have solar attributes.

Arthurian legend

There have been attempts by some modern authors of fiction to link the Arthurian character Morgan le Fay with the Morrígan. Morgan first appears in Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Vita Merlini (The Life of Merlin) in the 12th century. However, while the creators of the literary character of Morgan may have been somewhat inspired by the much older tales of the goddess, the relationship ends there. Scholars such as Rosalind Clark hold that the names are unrelated, the Welsh “Morgan” (Wales being the source of Arthurian legend being derived from root words associated with the sea, while the Irish “Morrígan” has its roots either in a word for “terror” or a word for “greatness”.

Origins of The Morrigan

The origins of the Morrigan seem to reach directly back to the megalithic cult of the Mothers. The Mothers (Matrones, Idises, Disir, etc.) usually appeared as triple goddesses and their cult was expressed through both battle ecstasy and regenerative ecstasy. It’s also interesting to note that later Celtic goddesses of sovereignty, such as the trio of Eriu, Banba, and Fotla, also appear as a trio of female deities who use magic in warfare. “Influence in the sphere of warfare, but by means of magic and incantation rather than through physical strength, is common to these beings.” (Ross 205)

Eriu, a goddess connected to the land in a fashion reminiscent of the Mothers, could appear as a beautiful woman or as a crow, as could the Morrigan. The Disir appeared in similar guises. In addition to being battle goddesses, they are significantly associated with fate as well as birth in many cases, along with appearing before a death or to escort the deceased.

There is certainly evidence that the concept of a raven goddess of battle was not limited to the Irish Celts. An inscription found in France which reads Cathubodva, ‘Battle Raven’, shows that a similar concept was at work among the Gaulish Celts.

Valkyries in Norse cosmology. Both use magic to cast fetters on warriors and choose who will die.

During the Second Battle, the Morrigan “said she would go and destroy Indech son of De Domnann and ‘deprive him of the blood of his heart and the kidneys of his valor’, and she gave two handfuls of that blood to the hosts. When Indech later appeared in the battle, he was already doomed.” (Rees 36)

Compare this to the Washer at the Ford, another guise of the Morrigan. The Washer is usually to be found washing the clothes of men about to die in battle. In effect, she is choosing who will die.

An early German spell found in Merseburg mentions the Indisi, who decided the fortunes of war and the fates of warriors. The Scandinavian “Song of the Spear”, quoted in “Njals Saga”, gives a detailed description of Valkyries as women weaving on a grisly loom, with severed heads for weights, arrows for shuttles, and entrails for the warp. As they worked, they exulted at the loss of life that would take place. “All is sinister now to see, a cloud of blood moves over the sky, the air is red with the blood of men, and the battle women chant their song.” (Davidson 94)

An Old English poem, “Exodus”, refers to ravens as choosers of the slain. In all these sources, ravens, choosing of the slain, casting fetters, and female beings are linked.

“As the Norse and English sources show them to us, the walkurjas are figures of awe an even terror, who delight in the deaths of men. As battlefield scavengers, they are very close to the ravens, who are described as waelceasega, “picking over the dead”…” (Our Troth)

“The function of the goddess [the Morrigan] here, it may be noted, is not to attack the hero [Cu Chulainn] with weapons but to render him helpless at a crucial point in the battle, like the valkyries who cast ‘fetters’ upon warriors … thus both in Irish and Scandinavian literature we have a conception of female beings associated with battle, both fierce and erotic.” (Davidson 97, 100)

The Morrigan and Cu Chulainn

She appeared to the hero Cu Chulainn(son of the god Lugh) and offered her love to him. When he failed to recognize her and rejected her, she told him that she would hinder him when he was in battle. When Cu Chulainn was eventually killed, she settled on his shoulder in the form of a crow. Cu’s misfortune was that he never recognized the feminine power of sovereignty that she offered to him.

She appeared to him on at least four occasions and each time he failed to recognize her.

  1. When she appeared to him and declared her love for him.
  2. After he had wounded her, she appeared to him as an old hag and he offered his blessings to her, which caused her to be healed.
  3. On his way to his final battle, he saw the Washer at the Ford, who declared that she was washing the clothes and arms of Cu Chulainn, who would soon be dead.
  4. When he was forced by three hags (the Morrigan in her triple aspect) to break a taboo of eating dogflesh.

THE GREAT GODDESS MORRIGAN

Created By Calesta

The information on Morrigan is vast, and at times contradictory. It would take many, many webpages to tell all of her stories and it was very difficult to narrow this down! From maiden to mother to crone, from the destruction of war and death, to the beauty of the river of rebirth, Morrigan shows us the full circle of life. As with many Divine Feminine images, time can distort, and different cultures take on different attributes. What I have found that is close to the truth in my experience with her follows.

Morrigan is an Irish and Celtic Goddess. She can shapeshift into a crow or raven. It is said that she would take this form and fly over battlefields “calling upon the spirits of slain warriors.” (p. 252, McCoy) She is a triple goddess, with the aspects of the “virgin Ana, flowering fertility- goddess; the mother Babd, “Boiling” the cauldron perpetually producing life; and the crone Macha, “great Queen of the Phantoms” or Mother Death.” (p. 675, Walker). I believe she was also originally connected to the Great Irish Mother Goddess, Anu (later called Danu). In her aspect of Macha she was so powerful her name was the ancient capital of Ireland (p. 186, Kimball).

In the tales of the first people of Ireland, the Tuatha De Danann (literally the people of the Goddess Danu, pg. 189 Kimball), Morrigan was said to have blown a protective fog over all of the land, so that they would not be invaded. This shows the strength of Morrigan, and the protection the people received from her. Morrigan is also connected with death and destruction and battles. One story tells that Macha was forced to race while pregnant with twins, and when she (easily) won she gave birth to the twins. She was so angry at her tormentors for giving birth in public that way, she cursed them with the pain of childbirth before enemies were closing in. For nine generations when Ulster came under attack the men would experience the pains of childbirth (p. 192 Kimball).

Morrigan is a “Goddess of rivers, lakes and freshwaters”, and she was seen by Cu Chulain before his death, washing the clothes and arms. It is said that if one sees Morrigan by the river washing their clothes or body, is is a prediction of death before going into battle. Looking at this story, one can see the river or water as a place of rebirth, that Morrigan as the Goddess washing, anointing the body before being reborn.

Calling upon the strength of a woman that can fight off armies, and wash the dead is very powerful. Darkness, death, is a natural part of life, and brewing in the cauldron of rebirth is new life. But what I have found is to recognize that over time most Goddesses have been demonized… made to be solely focused on sex or death. Taking out pieces of the cycle, and turning them into something evil. Just as the wise crone was turned to hag.

 

Hymn to the Morrigan by Isaac Bonewits

 

O Morrigan, we call your name Across the dusty years.
You speak to us, of blood and lust. You show us all our fears.
You are a goddess, old and wise. Of holy power you have no dearth.
Beneath your wings : Black, Red and White, We learn of death and birth.

 

You walk about, this ancient land, Your hungers raw and clear.
You make the crops, grow rich and strong, As well your geese and deer.
A flirting maid, a lusty hag, A mother of great girth :
Without the touch of your black wings, We cannot heal the earth.

 

You float upon, a blood red wave, Of swords and spears and knives.
Your voice inspires, fear and dread, That you’ll cut short our lives.
You try the warriors’, courage sore, Our inner souls unearth.
Without the touch of your red wings, We cannot know our worth.

 

You fly above the silver clouds, To Manannan’s shining Gate.
You lead the dead along that path, To meet our final fate.
The joke’s on us, we find within, A land of laughter and of mirth.
Without the touch of your white wings, We cannot have rebirth.

 

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Understanding the Warrior Goddess

Understanding the Warrior Goddess

Author: Stephanie Woodfield
When I tell most people my patron Goddess in the Morrigan usually their first questions is “Why would you want to worship a Goddess of war?” Those who have worked with the Great Queen will already know the Morrigan has many faces and aspects, war and battle only being one of them. But it is this attribute, one she shares with many other Dark Goddesses, which sadly makes some people question working with her.

Why is it that we fear the warrior Goddess? She appears to us in many forms, and across several cultures. In Egypt, she was Sekhmet, the lioness Goddess who drank the blood of her enemies. In Greek she was Athena, goddess of wisdom and war. As Durga, she was called upon by the Gods to battle demons, as only she had the power and strength to defeat them. She is Kali, Oya, Andraste, Freya, Bellona, and many others. In so many cultures the warrior Goddess was revered and held sacred. She defended clan and country, her fierceness filled enemies with despair. Those she favored were blessed with courage, battle frenzy and victory. Yet now she has become to many a deity to be avoided. What has changed? Have we suddenly recognized these Goddesses as representing something dangerous or have our attitudes towards her mysteries changed?

I think part of why we are afraid of the warrior Goddess is because our concept of war has drastically changed. We live in a world where we don’t have to worry about our food being stolen by people in the neighboring town. The battlefields our armed forces fight and die on are often far away, leaving us with the illusion that the violence of war is something distant, only to be viewed from afar on TV. Modern warfare more often than not is motivated by political agendas, but to our ancestors war was often an aspect of everyday life and most importantly survival.

In the Morrigan’s case, we must remember that warriors were held in high esteem in the Celtic mind and that the warrior caste was one of the highest in their society. Why? Because they kept everyone safe. Take a moment to bring some of our modern day warriors to mind: our military personnel, our police officers and firefighter. Soldiers and police officers sometimes need to use force and violence to protect us. It’s part of their job. They aren’t evil people because they use force. We hold them in esteem for doing a difficult and dangerous job, one that protects the rest of us and maintains peace (most of the time) in the world. In many ways, this is how the warrior archetype, divine and otherwise, was seen by ancient Pagans. When we consider this the warrior Goddess isn’t so unapproachable. Her nature is sometimes fierce, she is a Dark Goddess, her lessons difficult, but she is not by any means evil, nor is there any reason why modern practitioners should avoid working with her.

Generally war Gods or Goddesses reflect the type of warfare their culture participated in, embodying their ideals of honor and glory on the battlefield. War itself varies from culture to culture. The highly organized warfare of the Roman legions bears little resemblance to the somewhat haphazard style of warfare the Celts participated in or for that matter to our modern day high tech approach to war. Irish warfare in particular revolved around cattle raids. Cattle where seen as the ultimate source of wealth, were used as currency to pay debts and as bride prices. Cattle raids against other clans were a way not only to add to the wealth of the clan through heads of cattle and conquered land, but also to establish a leader’s prowess on the battlefield.

The fact that Celtic warfare revolved around cattle, (and ultimately sovereignty over the land and its wealth) is reflected in their Goddess of war, as the Morrigan is usually occupied in stealing cattle, herding them or making it difficult for others to obtain them; all functions that reflect the Celtic cosmology of warfare.

Oddly enough the Morrigan’s male counterparts Dagda, Lugh and Bran who participated in battle do not retain a stigma for being “bloodthirsty” or “evil”. The fact that the Morrigan is female and connected to battle makes her dangerous. Although women have gained equality with men in many ways we are still afraid of women who are dominate. War in the modern mind is still very much thought of as belonging to the realm of men. Women who participate in it become unfeminine and unnatural. Women today who aggressively pursue their dreams and desires, (whether that be a career or other goals in life) and who stand up for themselves are often accused of acting like men. This is especially true in the business world. Unfortunately the message our culture is sending women is that strength and power belong to the realm of men and it is unnatural for women to display these traits. Yet they can be found in warrior goddesses in cultures all around the globe.

Ultimately our concept of war and that of the Celts (or any ancient culture for that matter) is vastly different. We can neither divorce Morrigan from war, nor can we call her evil for being a Goddess of battle. Like the warriors the Celts revered, she protects her people, inspires those who take a stand, and guards her children. She reflects the Celtic concept of battle and war, not our modern ones. That is not to say she cannot be called upon in this guise today, just that to understand her role as a Goddess of war we must keep in mind the culture she came from.

But where does that leave the modern worshiper? Can the warrior Goddess still have a role in our lives today? Absolutely. Her role in our lives may have changed compared to that of our ancestors, but that does not mean we should abandon her mysteries. The warrior Goddess, in all her many guises, is concerned with all forms of conflict and its resolution, and her knack for bringing victory to those who invoke her make her a powerful ally when dealing with life’s problems.

Embracing the warrior Goddess has nothing to do with brandishing a sword or joining the military. You can be a pacifist and still work with a warrior deity. Modern warriors can be found in the most mundane places. The single mom working two jobs to provide for her family, firefighters, police officers, teachers, social workers and environmental activists, these are all warriors and draw on the power of the warrior Goddess. People, who draw on an inner strength to help themselves and others, all embody the warrior spirit.

The warrior Goddess challenges us to stand up and be counted, to draw on our inner strength and champion life’s battles. She knows the most important wars are not the physical ones. Whether it is overcoming an obstacle in life or fighting our inner demons the warrior Goddess is there to champion our cause. Maybe the warrior Goddess will challenge you to fight a “war” against poverty by working to help low income families. Maybe your “war” will be against animal cruelty and you will feel drawn to donate time at an animal shelter. Maybe you wish to draw on her strength to settle a conflict, to end an abusive relationship, to confront sexual harassment in the work place, or negotiating a raise from your boss. Whatever you do, whatever your battle, when life has you down say a prayer to the warrior Goddess.

She is always there, waiting for us to embrace her, ready to offer us victory.

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