Over his head is shrieking
a lean hag, quickly hopping
Over the points of weapons and shields.
She is the gray haired Morrigu
-Annals of Leinster
The Morrígan's Blessing
"Peace to (as high as) the sky, sky to the earth, earth beneath sky (as above so below),
strength in everyone (health)
a cup very full (plenty to eat and drink), a fullness of honey,
honour enough (stand by your own morals),
summer in winter (good weather),
spear supported by shield, shields supported by forts, forts fierce eager for battle,
sod (fleece) from sheep, woods grown with antler-tips (full of stags),
forever destructions have departed (only good things to come),
mast (nuts) on trees, a branch drooping-down, drooping from growth,
wealth for a son, a son very learned,
neck of bull (in yoke), a bull from a song (free),
knots in woods (scrap-wood), wood for a fire, fire as wanted,
palisades new and bright,
salmon their victory, the Boyne (Newgrange) their hostel, hostel with an excellence of length (size),
blue (new) growth after spring, (in) autumn horses increase, the land held secure,
land recounted with excellence of word,
Be might to the eternal much excellent woods,
peace to (as high as the) sky,
be (this) nine times eternal"
So Mote It Be!
Relatives: Labraidh (possible father), Condatis (possible mother), The Dagda (husband), Mider, Bodb, Oghma (sons), Oenghus (step-son), Badb, Brigid, Epona (daughters), Llyr, Gwydion, Amaethon (brothers-in-law), Arianrhod, Penardun (deceased) (sisters-in-law), Manannan (son-in-law),
Group Affiliations: The Celtic Gods (The Danaans), member of an unnamed cabal of underworld-gods
Morgan - (MOHR-gahn) from Welsh mor "sea" or mawr "great, big" and Can "bright" / Cant "circle" / or Geni "born."
Translation: Great Queen, Phantom Queen
Etymology: There is some disagreement over the meaning of the Morrígan's name. It can be straightforwardly interpreted as "great queen" (Old Irish mór, great; rígan, queen, deriving from a hypothetical Proto-Celtic *Māra Rīganī-s) However it often lacks the diacritic over the o in the texts.
Alternatively, mor (without diacritic) may derive from an Indo-European root connoting terror or monstrousness, cognate with the Old English maere (which survives in the modern English word "night-mare", a black horse who brought bad dreams) and the Scandinavian mara. This can be reconstructed in Proto-Celtic as *Moro-rīganī-s.
Current scholarship however, maintains that Morrígan, translated as "Phantom Queen," is the older, more accurate form.
Morrighan, Mor Righ Anu, Morrigan , Morrigu, The Morrigna (Great Queens - a triad), Modron, the Badhbh Chatha: "Raven of the Battle", "Washer at the Ford", "The Red", Great Queen, Phantom Queen, The Morrígan ("phantom queen") or Mórrígan ("great queen") Morrígu, Morríghan, Mor-Ríoghain, Queen of Daemons,Great Queen, Phantom Queen, Black Raven of Death, Breng ("lie"), Meng ("guile"), Meabel ("disgrace") , Uar-gaeth-sceo Luachair-sceo, Faebor-beg-Beoil Cuimdiuir folt, Scenbgairit sceo Uath, Old Veiled One, "The Mare-Queen",
Three interlinking lines
The worship of The Goddess Morrigan, of whom archeological evidence now tells us, dates back beyond the Copper age, and was the dominant Goddess of Europe. According to the "Lebor Gabala Erenn" Morrigu is one of the three daughters of Ernmas, which could be an old fertility-Goddess.The origins of the Morrígan seem to reach directly back to the megalithic cult of the Mothers.
The Mother Goddesses (Matrones, Idises, Disir, etc.) usually appear as triple Goddesses and their worship was expressed through both battle ecstasy and regenerative power. These Great Mother Goddesses appear as a trio of female deities who use magickal powers, spells and supernatural ability. Influencing the outcomes of warfare and battle through magick, rather than through sheer physical strength, is seen as the feminine warriors forte. In addition to being battle Goddesses, these deity are significantly associated with fate as well as birth in many cases, along with appearing before a death or to escort the deceases.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 (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 may have been seen as referring to a class of beings rather than an individual.
Stone stelae with sculpted breasts have been discovered at Castelucio de Sauri, some with only breasts and a necklace as a marker. They date back to the Copper Age c.3000BC. In Spain, France, Portugal and England statues, menhirs and stone slabs frequently also display her eyes, her beak and sometimes her vulva. Parts of her seem hidden, then appearing so as one looks at the pottery artifacts there is more and more of her to piece together. She is a bird Goddess, an earth Goddess, and her breasts not only nourish the living they also regenerate the dead. Her breasts were believed to form the hills in County Kerry called Da Chich Annan. ( the paps of Anu)
She is the Irish Morrigan, Goddess of Death and Guardian of the Dead. "The Great Queen"Morrigan was one of the greatest "dark" archetypal Mother Goddesses of the irish celtoi. She is a Goddess of war, death, prophecy and passionate love. Together with Badb and Macha she became a triad of three warlike Goddesses. She often has, in these early Celtic apparitions, a bird’s head ( often a crow , raven or vulture) and breasts, and on the vessels depicting her there is a symbol for the number three. Sometimes three lines are connected and depict a triple energy that flows from her body, as she is giver and sustainer of life. Very early she is under stood to be a triple Goddess, a shape shifter, a three part person. Her names are plentiful and sound like her original name.
In Newgarange Ireland is her grand megalithic tomb-shrine, in it three stone cells, three stone basins engravings of triple snake spirals, coils, arcs and brow ridges. Her signs appear on spindle whirls, altars, sacrificial vessels, vases, pebbles, and pendants. She is the chevron and V, the inverted triangle, the earth element. She is the triple source of power needed to regenerate cycles, to take one from life to death and from death to life.
An inscription found in France invoking Cathubodva, 'Battle Raven', shows that a similar concept was known among the Gaulish Celts.
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.
Éire, 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 Morrígan. The Dísir 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. It is interesting to note that some sources present Éire and the Morrígan as half-sisters.
The Raven Battle Goddesses: 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 magick to cast fetters on warriors and choose who will die and were also associated with carrion birds. 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.
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
An early German spell found in Merseburg mentions the Indisi, who decided the fortunes of war and the fates of warriors.
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.
The Washer at the Ford: 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. The washerwomen bring unconsciousness in which stories and memories fade from the person into trees and stones.
The Crone or Hag -The Devouring Mother Goddess: She has been called the Irish Kali, eating and being eaten. There is some similarity, she is frightening, She and her sisters can join into a horrible ring through which a warrior might disappear., one full of teeth and hair . Three phantom spirits come out of the Kreshcorran, Devilish, three unsightly mouths, ( long lips down to the knees.) Six unclosing white eyes, six twisting legs under them, Three warlike swords, three shields, three spears.
It goes together with the tooth mother, the devouring Goddess who chases Tailesin and devours him, and then gives birth to him. Being killed and devoured means entering the life cycle again, transported by woman.
Ravens have a close affinity with the supernatural world as totem birds of the dark Celtic Goddesses the Badbh and the Morrigan, who possess the ability to appear as one or three beings and to shape-shift into Raven form. They are associated with death and rebirth, and Celtic coins depict the Raven or crow perched on the back of a horse, symbolizing the war-Goddess Badb Catha, who could change shape from woman to death-crow in battle. As death is closely intertwined with life, the bright-eyed Raven is also blessed with clear vision, and is wise in the mysteries of rebirth and healing.
The Morrigan's origin was not with Manannan or even Lir, though she visits their worlds often. Nor is she one of the children of Danu. She seems to come from some dark chaos that preceded these gods, but is not a god in itself.
The 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 Cúchulainn. In Táin Bó Regamna (The Cattle Raid of Regamain), Cúchulainn encounters the Morrígan as she drives a heifer from his territory. He challenges and insults her, not realizing who she is. By this he earns her enmity. She makes a series of threats, and foretells 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, glossed as equivalent to 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.
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 function of the Goddess [the Morrigan] was not to attack the hero [Cu Chulainn] with weapons but rather to render him helpless at the crucial point of 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.
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.
She helped defeat the Firbolg at the First Battle of Mag Tuireadh and the Fomorians at the Second Battle of Mag Tuireadh.
The Morrigan and the Firbolgs:
The Morrigan was one of the Tuatha De Danaan ("People of the Goddess Danu") and she aided in the defeat of the Firbolgs at the First Battle of Magh Tuireadh and the Fomorii at the Second Battle of Mag Tured.
The 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 magickians 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.
Finnegan’s Wake by James Joyce
The Arthurian Book of Days by Caitlin and John Matthews
The Celtic Druid’s Year by John King
The Encyclopedia of Celtic Wisdom by Caitlin and John Matthews
The Language of the Goddess by Marija Gimbutas
The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley
The Once and Future Goddess by Elinor W. Gadon
The White Goddess by Robert Graves
Mythic Ireland by Michael Dames