Morrigan is one of the great Goddesses of Ireland and is a multifaceted Goddess. She is one as Morrigan and many, a trinity as “The Morrigan or the “Morrigu”. She is a shape shifter known for being a Goddess of war and battle, the cycle of life and death, and is also associated with wisdom and prophecy, magick and the land, among other aspects.
Culture and Origins:
To truly gain a more insightful understanding of who Morrigan is, it is important to understand Celtic culture of that era. The Celts idolized warfare, and women were warriors up until 697 CE, often fighting in battle or helping the wounded. Protecting their families and their land (viewed as female) was a dominant aspect of the Celts pride and was reflected in the Morrigan.
Morrigan first appears in The Lebor Gabala Erenn (The Book of Invasions), dating back to 1150 CE, and is a pseudo-narrative of the history of Ireland that includes the arrival of the Celtic gods, the Tuatha De Danann, in Ireland and their later battle with the indigenous gods, the Fir Blogs. Interestingly, these stories were not recorded by the Irish Pagans. Celtic culture prized oral tradition and memorization, as it was an art form of storytelling. It was the Irish Christian monks, who were their descendants that preserved what they believed to be historical account.
Morrigan’s origins can be traced back to the Copper age megalithic Cult of the Mothers (Matrones, Idises, Disit, etc.) whom appeared as triple Goddesses from narrative texts written by Irish monks sometime between the eighth and twelfth centuries, after Christianity had replaced Paganism as the dominant religion in Ireland.
Morrigan’s connection to battle and why Morrigan was important to the Celts and their culture becomes evident in these texts, although that is not all she represents. Morrigan’s name in history has varying spellings and translations, but in Irish her name was originally Mor-Rioghain, meaning “great queen” or “phantom queen”. The word “Rigan”, translates to “queen” and although “Mor” has several translations, “great” is the most accredited and accurate meaning to Morrigan. This meaning connects her to sovereignty as she was very much revered.
It was common in Celtic culture for a Goddess to be conveyed in different forms or attributes to further illustrate her qualities. The Morrigan or the Morrigu was a triad of Goddesses, sometimes depicted as sisters and at times interchangeable. The Morrigan included Badb, Macha, Neiman and occasionally Anu (whom might have been the crone aspect of Badb). Furthermore, depending on the text, Badb and Macha and Nemain might have been the same entity. However, I have included some aspects of each for clarity.
Badb: A war Goddess associated with battle, destruction, and death and often appeared over battle as a hooded crow, or ran alongside warriors disguised as a grey-red wolf. Badb was connected to rebirth as a watcher of the cauldron of regeneration in the Otherworld. She was also a Witch and a sorceress, and a Prophetess who foresaw the future.
Macha: The root word “mag” translated means field, plain or pasture. This name connects and gives Macha power over the sacred land and horses, representing wealth, power and symbolizing the elite warriors. She was also connected to fertility by the land and horses, and cursed the male Red Branch warrior to suffer nine days of birth pangs when forced to run a race. As part of the trinity, she rained down fire and blood on her enemies.
Nemain: Her name translates to panic, frenzy or venomous. Also a deity of battle, death and destruction, she appeared as a carrion crow. Neiman was a prophetess and her battle cries meant death would soon follow. By shrieking furiously, she intimidated, panicked and confused soldiers on the battle field into dying of fright or mistaking their own comrades for enemies. This aspect connects to the role of Banshee.
Legend of Morrigan
There are various stories of Morrigan, some are contradictory or change depending on the source. However, The Morrigan is first seen in the Battle of Moytura between a race of Gods called the Tuatha De Dannon (who invaded Ireland) and their followers and the indigenous Fir Bolgs. Before the battle erupts, the Morrigan cries out doom and uses sorcery against the Tuatha De Dannon to rain down fire and blood so that they could not move for three days and nights.
In the Ulster Cycle, Táin Bó Regamna (The Cattle Raid of Regamain), which is a body of Irish mythology, Morrigan appears to the hero Cuchulainn (whom she has appeared to in different guises) and he finds her stealing one of his cows, yet he does not recognize her and becomes angry and insults her. Shape-shifting into a crow, he now recognizes her and acknowledges he would not have insulted her had he known, yet she prophesizes his death in battle which came to pass.
Morrigan also appears to Cuchulainn as a young woman (or hag, depending on the version) and offers him her love, and her aid in the battle, but he rejects her offer. 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 white, red-eared heifer leading the stampede, just as she had warned in their previous encounter.
In the Cath Maige Tuireadh, on Samhain Morrigan has an encounter with the Dagda (High King of the Tuatha De Dannan) before the battle against the Fomorians. When he meets her she is washing battle clothes while standing with one foot on either side of the river Unius and they mate. She then promises to summon the magicians of Ireland to cast spells on behalf of the Tuatha De Dannan and to destroy Indech, the Fomorian king.
Morrigan was clearly a Goddess who embodied a strong woman and the Celtic love of warfare. She used spells and incantations (magick and sorcery) as her main weapon, yet, she is also said to have fought alongside the battlefield. In earlier Celtic accounts, she her head was that of a crow, raven, or vulture, although she has transformed into a white cow with red ears, an eel, an old hag and a young woman. She was also known as Caileach (crone) who granted sovereignty or took it away from kings.
Goddess Associations and Lineage:
Although speculated, Morrigan may have been the daughter of Delbaeth and Ernmas whom in the earliest copies of the Lebor Gabala Erenn (The Book of Invasions) had three daughters, named Badb, Macha, and Anand. In the Book of Leinster, Anand is also known as Morrigu, while in the Book of Fermoy version, Macha is identified with Morrigan. In addition, Morrigan may had been one of Dagda’s wives and had sons.
It is said that she was one of the Tuatha de Danann (The tribe of the Goddess Danu). Her origins do seem to stem from the megalithic cult of the Mothers (Matrones, Idises, Disir) who were triple Goddesses expressed through battle and re-birth. There are no known Goddesses associated with her directly, except perhaps Morgan Le Fey, yet, apart from the name, most scholars are at odds with this assumption.
There is no actual evidence of how Morrigan was worshipped in her time. However, because she was associated with Samhain it is thought that her biggest devotions came at this time. Most of her worship may have been on the battlefields before, during, or after warfare as well.
There are several sites associated with the Goddess Morrigan in Northern Ireland. One such place is a county town known as Armagh which translates as “Macha’s height” or Machas’s high place. The Dá Chich na Morrigna ("two breasts of the Morrigan"), a pair of hills in Co. Armgh, which was considered the capital on Ulster in the chronicles of the Ulster Cycle. In the county of Louth, there is a field known as Gort na Morrighan (Morrigan’s field), which was said to be given to her by the Dagda. Boa Island, the largest island in Northern Island hbbis named after Badb. In addition, inscriptions invoking Cahaboduva (battle Raven) han mve been found in the Drome region of France.
Weapons: spears, swords, sorcery, shield, shape-shifting
Other: death, re-birth, the cycle of life, fate, battle, skulls, blood, prophecy, sovereignty, land
Animals: Scavenger birds, i.e. crows, ravens, vultures, eels, wolves, cows and horses
Colors: red and black, white, purple, and dark blue
Stones: Obsidian, Rubies, jet, Amethyst, Garnet, bloodstone, Clear Quartz
Symbols: Three interlinking lines or inverted triangle
Herbs and plants: Blackthorn, Belladonna, Juniper berries, Nightshade, Dragon’s blood, Mugwart, Yew
Moon phase: New, dark, waning
Regions: Fords, rivers, lakes
Seasons: Autumn, specifically Samhain
Foods: Mead, milk, whiskey, apple, water, red colored foods
Colors: red and black
Elements: Fire and water
Festivals: Jan 7-The Feast of Morrigan
Celtic nursery rhymes and folksongs referring to
three black birds or ravens
Lessons from the Morrigan
Although it appears that Morrigan teaches us how to fight on the battlefield, if one looks as life as a battlefield, there is much more to learn. She challenges, tests, and encourages us to take action in our lives, to become stronger, to create change, to release what no longer benefits us, to fight for what we believe in and stand up for ourselves; to point out the truth, to change our fate or accept it, and to use our own power as Goddesses. She is a woman of influence, and although we cannot physically transform ourselves into other forms, we can in numerous other ways. This is a lesson anyone can learn.
Penczak observes, “The battle to control, change and
master the self is as much a part of their magick as is the battle to
outer conditions in the world” (Feast of the Morrighan: A Grimoire for
Lady of the Emerald Isle).
Warrior Woman Ritual with the Morrigan (The Goddess Connections Workbook)
As the Goddess of Battle, The Morrigan teaches us to protect what we hold dear and fight for what we think is right. She directs us towards change, and helps us to confront our inner demons in order to overcome the battles in our lives. In this exercise you will reclaim your inner warrior woman, and ask The Morrigan to help you to fight with passion and strength.
On a piece of paper, write down what it is you need to be strong or, stand up for, protect, whatever you need to invoke The Warrior Goddess power for. This ritual should be performed on the waning moon.
One red chime candle
Black obsidian stone
Small goblet/glass of red wine
Incense of dragon blood mixed with juniper berries
Now set up your altar how you with and cleanse yourself and your space as you normally would. Take a few deep breaths in and out to center yourself. Light your candle and incense, and take your black obsidian in your hand. Make sure your paper with your wish from the Warrior Goddess is near. Now invoke The Morrigan while holding your black obsidian stone over the candle flame:
Dark Mistress of Battle and Strife
I invoke your id on this waning moon night,
Lend me your strength to end my battle within
Empower me Great Goddess help me to win
Ancient Woman, I hear your battle cry,
me to be rid of these
Now read what you wrote on your paper, and place your obsidian back on the altar. Take your anthame and make an X over the paper, burn it in the candle flame, and throw it in the fireproof dish. Watch it burn and imagine your problem dissipating like the smoke. Meditate for a few minutes. Then take your goblet of red wine, hold it up and thank The Morrigan for her help. Now take a sip and place it back on your altar. Open your circle and ground. Let your candle burn down completely. Take your wine outside and pour in onto the earth as your offering. Keep your obsidian stone in your pocket, or near you when you need strength of The Morrigan. Make sure you record everything in your journal and bury the ashes from your paper outside.
Artisson, Robin. The Flaming Circle. Sunland: Pendraig Pubishing, 2008. Web. http://books.google.com/books?id=AhE8HswvXLEC&pg=PT88&dq=morrigan&hl=en&sa=X&ei=ySmEU4rtO4qBogSxqYFA&ved=0CDUQ6AEwAjgK#v=onepage&q=morrigan&f=false
Edain McCoy. Celtic Myth and Magic: Harness the power of the Gods and Goddesses. St. Paul: Llewellyn Publications, 2008. Print
Edain McCoy. Celtic Women’s Spirituality: Accessing the Cauldron of Life. St Paul: Llewellyn Publications., 1998. Print
Myers, Brenden Cathbad. The Mystery of Druidry: Celtic Mysticism, Theory and Practice. Franklin Lake: Career Press, 2006. Web. http://books.google.com/books?id=frz_DhB4CC8C&pg=PA66&dq=morrigan&hl=en&sa=X&ei=ySmEU4rtO4qBogSxqYFA&ved=0CC8Q6AEwATgK#v=onepage&q=morrigan&f=false
Monaghan, Patricia. PhD. Encyclopedia of Goddesses and Heroines. Novato: New World Library. 2014. Print.
Penczak, Christopher. 2012). E—book. Feast of the Morrighan: A grimoire for the Dark Lady of the Emerald Isle. U.S.A.: Copper Cauldron Publishing, 2012. Kindle file.
Rankine, David, & D’Este. The Guises of the Morrigan. Irish Goddess of Sex & Battle: Her Myths, Powers & Mysteries. England: Avalonia Books Publishing, 2005. Kindle file.
Reynolds, Tara. The Morrigan: Goddess Connections Workbook. 2013. Kindle file
Rolleston, T. Chapter III: The Irish Invasion Myths. Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race. 1911. Internet sacred text archive. 2011. Web. http://www.sacred-texts.com/neu/celt/mlcr/mlcr03.htm
Woodfield, Stephanie. Celtic Lore & Spellcraft of the Dark Goddess. Invoking the Morrigan. Woodbury: Llewellyn Publications, 2011. Web. http://books.google.com/books?id=CRN4w6g2mMwC&printsec=frontcover&dq=morrigan&hl=en&sa=X&ei=BCmEU6f3N8-IogTcq4D4Bw&ved=0CD8Q6AEwAw#v=onepage&q=morrigan&f=false
Artwork: With Permission
Laura Cameron. “Morrigan” and “Raven Spirit” http://www.lauracameron.net/
Olivier Villoingt. “The Soul of War” and “Morrigan” http://vilantares.blogspot.fr/
Yoann Lossel. “La Morrigan” http://yoannlossel.blogspot.com/
Original Art: Altar dedicated to
symbols, such as fire, scavenger birds, feathers, Amethyst and clear
skulls, a cauldron, colors red and black, her images and a sculpture. I
the candle with a symbol representing Morrigan to add to my altar.
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intellectual and creative property of Avalon Raine