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The Morrigan

I love to explore the Divine Feminine and write about Goddesses. For a list of those, click on the link: Goddesses. In order to become more balanced within ourselves and, through that, to bring greater balance and harmony to the world around us, we must find greater balance between the masculine and feminine energies within ourselves that each one of us possesses, regardless of physical gender or any other ways of self-identification.

Goddess of War & Death

The Morrigan, also called Morrigu, is a Goddess that appears in Irish-Celtic mythology. She often approaches in the form of a raven or a crow. Thus, the connection between the animals appearing and the Goddess is often made and said to be an omen. She is associated with inciting war and stirring up the frenzy in battle, as well as finally bringing death. The myth of her coupling with another major warrior-god, the Dagda, was celebrated each year on Samhain which was the beginning of the new year to the Celts.

 

Her name means great queen or phantom queen, but as is often the case amongst scholars of the past, there is some disagreement in that, as no one can be a hundred percent sure whether mor or mara is derived from root words meaning great or nightmare. Both variants make sense, however.

 

There is also a theory that the Morrigan developed from the ancient territorial Goddess of Southern Ireland, Mor Muman who was associated with the sun and kingship. The Morrigan is also known as the queen of nightmares or of demons because of her demonic nature and rousing the frenzy in battle.

 

Badb (Goddess of faith) and Macha or, alternatively, Nemain (Goddess of havoc), are two other Goddesses whom the Morrigan is closely associated with. Together, as three separate goddesses or as triple aspects of one, they are called the Morrigna. In Celtic religion, a triple aspect was common to emphasise the power of the deity, so this theory has its merits. However, we can never be certain as surviving historical sources do not make it clear, some suggesting different Goddesses, others the triple aspect.

 

In any case, the mother of all three is Ernmas, the great mother deity, and, in some tales, their father is the sorcerer god Cailitin. The Morrigan is also told to have an evil son, Mechi, whose paternity is unknown. He possesses three hearts, each inhabited by a serpent.

 

The myths of the Morrigan usually revolve around death, war, destruction and sex. She foretells the fate of people in battle, weather they are victorious, die or are maimed. And when the Goddess is upset with a warrior, she can even bring about his death. Having her on your side can give you courage and vigour in your fight. She will strike terror among your enemies, and if you are to die, the Morrigan will appear as a woman, washing the bloodstained clothes as an omen of how the battle will turn out for you. In any case, sources seem to agree that the Morrigan is a nightmare or monster in female form. One of the earliest written Latin sources also refers to her as Lilith.

 

The Morrigan in Mythology

Cuchulainn is a hero in a story in a medieval collection, called the Ulster cycle. In this tale, he meets the Morrigan while she steals a heifer away from his land. Cuchulainn doesn’t recognise her, however. Enraged, he insults her, and she flies away as a black bird to a nearby tree. That’s when our hero realises who she is and tries to make amends. When she tells him, that his actions would have brought him bad luck, his pride is roused, and he insists that she cannot harm him.

 

Obviously, a Goddess is the greater power and the Morrigan tells him about a battle in which he will die. They argue, she tells him what she will do to him, and he retaliates with threats of how he will defend himself and overcome her if she doesn’t let him be. The entire exchange is quite gory, full of lethal violence.

 

The Morrigan is mysterious and seductive. She commands ruin, prosperity, death and fate. A mighty protectress, she nurtures the land, its stock, military security and guides its people. She is also a shapeshifter, and when needed by her people, she appears in one of her many forms of disguise to come to their aid and intervene in human affairs.

 

In a later story, during a battle about some cattle, Cuchulainn meets the Morrigan again while defending his land from Queen Maeve who had a long-standing competition with her husband about who had the most wealth. One thing the queen didn’t have which her husband did was a prized bull. Thus, she was eager to acquire one by forceful means after offering to buy it from Cuchulainn. He refused three times, so the queen decided to use her military might to steal it from him.

 

Usually, the military of Ulster would rally to defend their homeland against an invading army. But because their leader, Cuchulainn had disrespected the queen, she had cursed him. This resulted in the soldiers being afflicted with an eleven-day illness that rendered them unable to raise to arms. The only one unaffected was Cuchulainn because he was the son of a god. With his best friend and charioteer, he met the invading army at a bridge they wanted to cross into Ulster and challenged them to single combat to stall their advance. This also sidelined his friend who was, therefore, unable to aid him in his endeavours. The queen was impressed by his bold move and offered the hand of her only daughter to the soldier who would best Cuchulainn in combat, as she had to accept the challenge, as honour demanded.

 

Cuchulainn defeated one man after another for weeks and months, thus giving Ulster time to prepare for invasion. His efforts got notice by none other than the Morrigan, for nothing was as beautiful to the Morrigan as courage and skill in combat, making it simply irresistible to her when those skills were used in the defence of her own realm. She fell deeply in love with the undefeated warrior. She took on the form of a beautiful princess and offered herself to the hero, but as he was busy fighting the enemy, he turned her down.

 

However, this rejection enraged the Morrigan. She wanted revenge for the slight. So she turned into an eel and tried to trip him as he crossed a river. But Cuchulainn struck the eel and broke its ribs instead. Next, she turned into a wolf, driving a herd of cows towards the hero to have him stampeded to death. But Cuchulainn used his sling to take out one eye of the wolf to stop him. Then the Morrigan turned into a mighty cow at the head of the stampede. But Cuchulainn evaded her and broke her leg with a shot of his sling.

 

The Morrigan was forced to retreat and reconsider her tactics because she wasn’t dealing with an ordinary human. Then she appeared to him in a vision in his sleep, taking the form of an old woman washing his bloody armour in a river. Upon waking, Cuchulainn made his way back to the battlefield. On his way, he met three old women, again, the Morrigan in disguise, who offered him breakfast. But the meat was cursed. One of the old women foretold him that the first three spears he threw would kill three kings on this day. But, due to the curse, as he ate, his strength was ebbing away.

 

Remembering the prophecy, he threw his spear at his first enemy which killed him instantly. But another soldier ripped the spear from his fallen comrade’s body and threw it at Cuchulainn. However, the Morrigan felt he hadn’t suffered enough and redirected the spear’s path of flight over his shoulder and right into his best friend Leag’s heart. Thus, a king of the charioteers died, and the first part of the prophecy was fulfilled.

 

Enraged, Cuchulainn threw his second spear and again, he struck an enemy soldier. Again, another threw the spear back at him. Again, the Morrigan redirected its flight and ensured that it struck the hero’s horse. Thus, a king amongst horses had died, fulfilling the second part of the prophecy. Being too distraught over the death of his beloved horse to think clearly and learn his lesson, Cuchulainn threw his third spear, missing completely. Again, an enemy soldier threw it back at him which finally hit its target. A king amongst men, Cuchulainn died, the prophecy was fulfilled and the Morrigan had her revenge.

 

Not being able to bear dying on the ground, Cuchulainn tied himself upright to a rock and as he was close to death, the Morrigan, in form of a crow, landed on his shoulder. Finally, he realised that the beautiful princess, the animals and the three old women had all been the goddess, he died with a bitter laugh on his lips while the black crow cawed, celebrating her victory and warning all of ill fate who dared cross her.

There are many more stories inspired by the Morrigan that have been recorded or passed on orally over the ages. The moral of all the stories, however, is the same. When you see a black raven or crow, you had better show some respect. And when you come across other people, you might want to consider your behaviour towards them. You never know when fate turns around to bite you in the behind.

 

As you can see from this tale, the Morrigan not only has an aspect of death, war and destruction, but additionally of sexual attractiveness, which also associates her with fertility. Her talents are many. Prophecy, spellcasting, shapeshifting to name but a few. She may also be the origin of the banshee or bean sidhe, a fairy that appears later in Irish and Scottish mythology. She appears as an old woman with long white hair, although she is hardly ever seen, and foretells death to a family by a long wailing cry that is heard clearly, but usually, she is never seen.

 

The washer woman, sometimes a young, sometimes an old woman, is another of her manifestations. The person whose blood-stained clothes she washes, or clothes in a river of the colour of blood, is thought to be in immediate danger.

 

A Vision of the Goddess

The Morrigan came to me one day around Christmas of the year 2023, when I was stressed out and terribly busy with family matters. I tried to be as respectful as I could and vowed to return to her as soon as I was able to. Goddesses appear to me when it is the right time for me to write about them. So it’s never just about reading up, familiarising myself with archaeological finds, mythology, etc, but having a personal interaction with them as well. Because of this, I can never put them on a schedule as I had originally planned a few years ago when I decided to write about Goddesses on my website. Goddesses have their own timing, as does the human psyche and its ability to “deal” with the appearance of a Goddess and share her wisdom and teachings.

 

The Morrigan kept pestering me for a few days and I tried, I really did, but I didn’t manage to go further than to find a few online sources to read up on. While away from the computer, it rebooted and I hadn’t yet saved the links, so that told me, I wasn’t ready yet. When I finally found the time a week or two later, the Morrigan informed me that it wasn’t the right time for her now. So in the evening of the leap day, the 29th of February, a day so rare in and of itself, the Goddess returned.

 

“Now!” she said, and I started straight away, leaving everything else be, feeling that if I missed this slot, she might leave again for a longer time. Also, I was eager to work with her myself. So that evening, I started to read and write a couple of paragraphs until I was too tired to keep my eyes open. The day after, I had written up all the information I gathered and ordered a couple of books on Celtic mythology as well.

 

“There will be more. For now, pay attention to your nightmares and honour your fears as you honour me,” she said.

 

Of course, I want more right now, as I tend to be a rather impatient person. But she tells me, I am not ready for that yet. There is more to come. So I will have to wait, again. However, we’ve established a closer, deeper connection. And I am glad for it. I feel grateful.

 

“Your worst nightmares are over. You have done so much work on yourself already. But we will find a way together to go deeper and to address the topics that the world needs to know about from me through you,” The Morrigan explains. “You have already lost your fear of death and you’ve never been a particularly arrogant person, either. – Although you do have your moments.”

She smirks. Yes, I know that I have been guilty of that on occasion. And it’s not arrogance that lets me know in my heart, that there isn’t going to be any more great calamities in my life now. Maybe also because I don’t see things as such anymore. After all, it is a matter of perspective.

 

“Aha! There you go! That is precisely the point. I can only incite battle frenzy in the hearts of those who are open to it. You have too much inner peace now. You were so easy to arouse when you were younger, though. You didn’t know it was me. But a peaceful heart isn’t prone to attract those kinds of bloody battles into their lives in the first place,” she says, excited about my insight.

 

I am so glad to hear it. I’ve gone through the stages of being weary from fighting, battling and drama to the point where I was forced to find ways to distance myself from that.

 

“But that is the greatest and most courageous battle you ever fought. Your own demons. No other has been as intense and as challenging. You have projected all your fears and nightmares onto the outside world, other people and events. And they kept coming and you kept fighting, until you surrendered. Yes, you had to, but you did. That takes a conscious decision and effort to make it so.”

 

Having gone through a severe burnout, I had always felt, I had been forced into this. But The Morrigan shakes her head. She is a dark figure with black hair and clothes made out of deep shadows. Her skin is blueish-grey and looks pretty dead. Her face is disfigured with scars and wounds. But I am not scared. I feel safe and curious in her presence.

 

“See, you’re not scared because you look beyond appearances,” she explains further. “And you took a decision during burnout to work on regaining your peace and setting boundaries to protect it. That was a conscious choice. You could have remained in that state and been triggered by everyone and everything, but you chose to set new, stringent boundaries and enforced them. You chose to meditate daily and looked forward to becoming better, healing more and drawing lessons from the experience, rather than perpetually remaining in a state of passive victimhood. You’re reclaiming your own power each day a little more.

 

“Living in peace doesn’t mean living completely without fear. It means handling what you feel and whom or what you allow close enough or not in your life responsibly. You have become responsible unto yourself.”

 

Divine Superpowers

I’m blown. I honestly never saw it quite this way. But thinking about it, I can see her point. She is right. The Morrigan, once again reading my mind, cackles, amused. “Well, I am a Goddess,” she states.

 

I burst out laughing. Yeah, she is right. About me and about being a Goddess and having some divine superpowers. Of course. Duh!

 

“Having an emotional distance to things that trigger your fears isn’t the same as lacking empathy,” she tells me. “You’re afraid that it is. That is why you’re still clinging to some remnants of emotional involvement where you think it’s your duty or it would mean you don’t care. But caring doesn’t mean suffering for and with someone. It means being there and holding space when needed. And sometimes, your presence may be rejected, or it doesn’t serve the purpose of the path the individual has chosen. So you have to step back. No one can fight another’s demons for them. You can only hold space and be open for the time when someone else is open to seek, accept and value your support. Even where it concerns close loved ones like dear friends, family - and even your own children.”

 

She hit the nail on the head with that one. The maternal urge to save others from themselves, not to make the same mistakes as you did, or others you know from life experience to be harmful.

 

“That Christian prayer,” she says, tearing me out of my reverie. “About walking through the valley of death and not fearing evil.”

 

I have to look it up. I’ve stopped praying in a Christian way in my teenage years. So I only know German prayers. I find many translations and versions of Psalm 23:4 on the Bible Hub. Here is one from the King James Bible:

 

“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.”

 

“Not that I’m an expert on Christianity,” The Morrigan cackles, making me grin. “But you see, you still walk through it, but you have that rod and staff to comfort you and make you feel safe. And the rod and staff are your faith in the divine that light the path, that keep you safe inwardly. It’s your own inner pillar, your backbone, your true North.”

 

She is excited now, pacing up and down in front of me. Then she stops and faces me with a look of determination and clarity on her beautifully disfigured features. Objectively, there is no beauty in her looks. But the radiance of her inner light makes it so and I see the beauty so clearly, not underneath or within, but in the actual features, scars and wounds themselves.

 

“It’s how you look. Not looking per se,” she mumbles as a side note, then she comes to the point she wants to make:

 

“When you want to take an experience away from someone, you will reap defensive reactions because, on a subconscious level, no one wants their free will disregarded and taken away from them because it goes against your nature, the natural state in which you were created. If you even try to do that, you create a battle that is turned against you. But when you hold space or distance yourself for whatever reason until such time as someone is open to hear you and consider your words, accept your support, that is when you’re truly empathetic. It also takes the battle out of you, but then, you have to be ready to live with the absence of battle in your life.”

 

I frown. Who wants constant battles and fight in their lives? The Morrigan only raises a brow at me, challenging me to admit to it. Yes, I was addicted to drama and fighting and, therefore, I created so much of it in my life. I might have said I didn’t want it, but I did.

 

“You humans all go through that, to a lesser or greater degree. It’s in your nature. Some learn from it, but by far not all. You broke a cycle. That’s big stuff.” She nods to herself to emphasise the truth of her words. “Now ask yourself, what is your greatest fear now? It’s not having battles on the outside that might drain you. It’s what’s inside. Because you have come to understand those are the only real battles you still have to fight. The only drama that can truly affect you. So what’s your drama right now? And it’s not children, parents, friends or institutions. You know that.”

 

Yes, I know that. I nod gravely. I know exactly what it is.

 

“Ah, there you go. Now look at me. Look at my face, my dead flesh, my scars, my open wounds. That’s the parts of you inside that are hurt and maimed and that is why you see me the way you do. But you’re not scared, and you see beauty in them. And when you keep doing the inner work, you’ll see me in beauty completely one day. The wounds will be closed, the scars healed, my flesh will be alive.”

 

And as she says this, the colour of her skin changes to something more alive already. Open gashing wounds close, scars fade until they are nothing but faint lines, creating a map of life’s past experiences. “That’s how you do it,” she whispers and then bursts out laughing aloud, throwing her head back. “What people don’t understand is that I am not their ally or enemy. I am their mirror!”

 

Punishment & Healing

She doesn’t talk anymore. The vision of her slowly fades. But as it does, she changes into a living young woman, aglow with life. And that beautiful woman looks a lot like myself. The message is clear. Through death, transformation and rebirth is made possible. Through facing our fears, we can make a conscious choice of whether we want the fear to rule us or use it as a clue, a guiding light on our path, on which steps to take next in our self-healing. Fear, used as a tool, is healthy. Fear crippling and paralysing us, bringing out our demonic side and unleashing it, is not. Which one will you choose at any given time? We have to make that choice over and over again each time, we are confronted with it.

 

I feel a warm hug inside me. It is her, giving me renewed strength and courage. And I feel a tinkling of anxiety at the same time. The fear of the unknown, the unfamiliar.

 

You don’t have to constantly deplete your own resources. Energy is all around you. It’s literally infinite. Why do you think you have to do it all alone? The car doesn’t think that. We don’t think that of a car. You simply go and fill up the tank. You don’t feel guilty about it, either, even though oil is a limited resource. Maybe that’s not the best example. But you know what it means. You’re not taking anything away from anyone else when you fill yourself up, when you tap into the universal life energy. You have to believe, you’re worthy of it. All of you. No exceptions. There is no moral judgement attached to it. So stop creating your own reasons why you can’t, mustn’t, or haven’t deserved it. Don’t punish yourself, heal yourself.”

 

Those words are the words of the transformed young Goddess. A loving whisper. And yet, so very powerful. They are powerful because I choose to hear them and be open to accept and cherish them. I have free will, even in that. Not only about which actions I choose to take. It all starts with the thoughts in my head, the way I look at things and what I am willing to hear and take on board. Right? And as I feel this warm, glowing smile inside me spread wider and larger at these thoughts, I smile outwardly as well. In our smile, the Goddess and I are one.

 

Working with The Morrigan

If you’d like to work with The Morrigan and you are able and willing to step outside to do so, choose a mystical place or place of power for your ritual.

The Morrigan helps with matters such as grief/loss, end of phase in life, a project you’ve worked on, gaining a deeper understanding of death, overcoming fear of change and death; gaining inner strength, personal empowerment and courage; fertility, birth and rebirth; transformation; starting new things like relationships, hobbies, projects, gaining new skills, exercising, travel abroad, meeting new people, change your appearance, break routines and behavioural patterns that keep you stagnant.

 

You can use the following associations to work with The Morrigan:

  • Animals: Raven, Crow; but also Wolf, Cow and Horse

  • Plants: nightshades, such as Belladonna and other poisonous plants; also ginger, vervain, mullein, red clover, thyme, blackthorn, juniper berries, dragon’s blood, mugwort, and yew

  • Scents: moss (earth), musk (death), and milk (rebirth)

  • Colours: Red (blood), black, white, purple, and dark blue

  • Candles: Dark red, black (warrior/battle)

  • Scripts & Offerings: Written intentions, sigils, feathers and other natural offerings (that do not harm the environment, i.e. salt), feed crows and ravens and other birds.

  • Moon phase: Dark Moon.

  • Characteristics to cultivate in your life to honour the Goddess: inner strength, resilience, and courage.

 

Tarot Card

Crystals

 

Bloodstone, Garnet, Ruby, Amethyst, Black Obsidian, Jet, and Clear Quartz

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