One of the chief deities that we acknowledge here at the Irish Pagan School is the Irish Goddess, the Morrigan. Some folk describe her as ‘dark’ and ‘dangerous’ whilst others try to view her as a ‘sex goddess’ or a ‘mother Goddess’ So in this post we will try to touch on some tales that might help explore some aspects of this Irish Goddess.
A lot of the information that we have comes from the stories attributed to Ireland mythical era, but though the Morrigan is present at the second Battle of Moytura she also appears in the much later Ulster cycle of tales showing her longevity as a great queen of the Otherworld.
Going by the earliest stories though we know that there was among the Tuatha De Danann a woman farmer by the name of Ernmas. She came into Ireland with the arrival of that tribe. Ernams was said to have fallen during the first war at Moytura against the Fir Bolg, but her bloodline continued in her sons and more notably her daughters. Here is where we find our first reference to the Morrigu.
“… Fotla was wife of Mac Cecht, Banba of Mac Cuill, Eriu of Mac Greine. Those were the three daughters of Fiachna son of Delbaeth. Ernmas daughter of Etarlam s. Nuada Airgetlam was mother of those three women, and mother of Fiachna and Ollom.
Ernmas had other three daughters, Badb and Macha and Morrigu, whose name was Anand. Her three sons were Glon and Gaim and Coscar.”
SOURCE Lebor Gabála Érenn: Book of the Taking of Ireland. vol. 4. ed. and tr. by R. A. S. Macalister. Dublin: Irish Texts Society, 1941.
Whether these daughters came out of the four great cities of the Tuatha Dé Danann or were instead born in Ireland we cannot confirm for sure, but we can say that the Morrigan is an Irish Goddess.
Battle, Prophecy, and Poetry
When we explore the Morrigan lore we find that there is a lot which can, and really should be said about this Goddess. Yet though there are tales of her having sex with her coupled partner the Dagda, or giving birth to Méche of the monstrous heart, it is in areas of conflict, prophecy and poetry that we really see the morrigan take action.
When the Fomorians come in the second battle at Moytura, it is the Morrigan’s power of prophecy which predicts where they will land. When the conflict comes she fulfils her promised contribution and arrives with two fists full of blood having ‘taken the valor from their [the Fomorian’s] kidney’s’, and when the days of battling are done it is in the Morrigan’s poetry that the deeds are recalled, the names of the fallen listed, and the hope for the future decreed.
The Power of Change All in One Person
The Morrigan appears in many forms throughout the tales of Ireland’s past most famously in the battles against the Ulster Champion CúChullainn, for as she says to him ‘it is I who is standing over your doom’.
She comes against the warrior in the ford of his doom in three forms, an eel, a she wolf, and a red eared heifer. In this way he is put upon by her yet he also does her three wounds. Later in the tale when CúChulainn comes across an old crippled crone, she serves him milk and he blesses her for each drink and in doing so the wounds are healed.
Through all of the tales of the Ulster cycle there is a very real and powerful presence of the Otherworld in almost every significant moment, for even the title ‘Champion of Ulster’ is only given to CúChulainn once he has faced Medb’s trial against a stone headed cat. A monsterous beast taken from the Otherworld through the Cave of the Cats, said to be the Morrigan’s ‘fit abode’.
A Goddess for Any Challenge
There are many deities in the pantheon, or more accurately the tribe of Irish Gods. All of these Gods are capable of many varied feats in support of their people. Yet it is predominantly in the Morrigan, and the aspects of her sisters, that we see the greatest power for change, and what challenge can ever really stand up to that power.
Our approach to battle in the modern world is radically different to that of our ancient ancestors. Of course people were hurt and killed, yet it would seem that the more modern aspects of industrialised warfare have shifted ‘battle’ into a much more horrific state. Battle in the times of the ancient Irish was rarely one of genocidal annihilation. It was a place of conflict sure, but it was also a means of resolution. A people’s approach to a Goddess of battle may have been less about fear, and more about fate.
There are times when people feel fear when communicating or connecting to the Morrigan and though it is important to acknowledge our feelings, I would suggest that for many, the fear is less about some ‘dark and dangerous’ deity and more about the fear of confronting the power of change in one of its purest and most direct forms.
Where To Now?
In the Irish Pagan School we have many classes about the Morrigan and even run an annual Intensive program for people to deepen their connection to this amazing and powerful deity. Yet when we are asked ‘ where do I start?’ With exploring the Morrigan there is really only one answer and that is the lore itself. To that effect we have launched a ‘5 Day Challenge’ focusing on the Morrigan lore and encouraging a practice of daily connection to this amazing Goddess.
If you’d like know more about the Morrigan (and developing a practice), I have a free 5 Day Challenge that will support you through some learning of her lore, along with daily prayers and reflections.