Search the SOL website
(Information provided by Janine)
THE MORRIGAN is a queen among the Tuatha de Danaan, the mythical tribe that is said to have dwelt once in Ireland. The Morrigan is also sometimes called Morrigna or Morrigu. The name is generally taken to mean "Great Queen," cognate to Rigantona, She is generally accepted as a Triple Goddess, but there is disagreement about how specifically this works: the most common Threesomes are Ana, Badb, and Macha, and Badb, Macha, and Nemain. Badb is the most thoroughly identified with the Morrigan, and in some sources the names are used interchangeably.
The myth of the Morrigan focuses on her obvious relationships to death and war, but there is far more to the Morrigan than this. She is no more terrible than any war deity: and in a hostile ancient world, a protector who can make you fiercer and stronger in battle is often a much-needed aspect. Like a valkyrie, the Morrigan watches over her warriors as a crow, waiting to bear them off to the world of the dead. According to some sources, the Irish Celts used to divine the approach of strangers--especially enemies--by the cries of crows: so she is also a protector who warns of danger.
Closely related to this function is her obvious connection to divination and prophesy. Most often in the tales we have, her prophesies are of impending death or disaster, but this is due in part to the nature of the tales themselves. It is also the Morrigan, after all, who declares peace. Because she appears in several tales in connection to the breaking of geas, and because her last prophesy emphasizes the decline of virtue, it may also be that the Morrigan is the keeper of sacred laws and the defender of them.
(Information gathered by Janine from http://home.earthlink.net/~estara2/Morrigan.html)
In my daily meditations I have been trying to tap into the energies of the Keepers of Avalon. This is my meditation with the Goddess Morrigan.
Morrigan Meditationby Janine Donnellan
I am walking through a dark thick forest, there is a storm brewing and the winds are whipping up the leaves which form swirling whirlpools around my feet as I walk down a very narrow path. I eventually come to an open space, surrounded by forest and ringed by tall poplar trees. In the centre of this clearing is a large oblong ornately shaped iron enclosure, the type you see in a Victorian styled cemetery. There is a gate slightly opened on one side of this enclosure. I push the gate open and proceed to move into the enclosure. The wind has suddenly dropped and there is now complete and total silence. This strange enclosure is completely covered in a mass of dead leaves, and as I move across the clearing I notice a brick pathway underneath the leaves leading to the centre of this bare space. There are no gravestones in sight but I have this underlying feeling that this is a very old graveyard.
I become aware of a flock of large crows sitting in the trees high above me just watching silently. There is a slight ruffling sound behind me and I turn around to see what it is making the noise. A woman appears directly behind me, wrapped in a cloak of black feathers. Her black hair falling in short curly wisps around her face which is extremely pale, death like, and her white pallor is further exaggerated by the dark red, almost black colour of her lips. She watches me silently; her dark eyes contain a sense of sadness, but also a sense of defiance.
As I stare at this strange woman I feel there is a familiarity about her, as if I have known her some other time in another place. My thoughts quickly lead me back to a dream I had over twelve months ago prior to my overseas trip. In this dream this same woman appeared as a banshee, crying for those souls that are close to death. I can see her so clearly in my mind, standing hidden amongst the trees, waif like, singing her high pitched and soul reaching suppurate.
So here I am once again face to face with this lady of death, this time in her persona of the Morrigan. She now spreads her arms out wide; her mouth opens to a cavern of blackness and emptiness; a dark thin mist issues forth carrying a thousand war cries which echo off the trees surrounding the clearing. In this cacophony of sound I am strangely not afraid, in fact I feel drawn to her, and I step closer and closer to her until we are face to face. She draws her arms around me and holds me close to her. We stand it seems in darkness, in the void between the spaces and I feel safe in her strength and her power, and within that strange embrace I also feel totally protected. This is the moment of the ultimate connection, soul touching soul, information exchanged by mere assimilation.
We both stand in this interlock, knowing the truth of our own empowerment. The truth that is universal, the truth of being; She releases her hold of me and gestures to the gate, I immediately turn and notice the gate swinging with the wind, the leaves once again spiral around my feet and with the sound of the flutter of wings my lady of death vanishes. I stand in silence for a moment just pondering on this experience; trying to remember every thought and every feeling of this close encounter. I then hesitantly start to retrace my steps down the brick pathway to the gate, past the crows all sitting quietly watching me. I walk through the gate pausing for a moment of reflection and then turning and making my way back again through the narrow path inside the dark thick forest.
~ Morrighan - The Morrighu ~
(Information provided by Karen)
The Dark Aspect of the Celtic Triple Goddess. Known as "Great Queen", "Spectre Queen", "Supreme War Goddess". Goddess of Life, War and Death. She was the Crone Aspect, War & Moon Goddess. The queen of fairies & witches. She is a patron of witches and priestesses. She was associated with magic, revenge, war, peace, night, prophecy & wisdom. As the War Goddess, She reigned over battlefields, helping but not joining in the battle. She is associated with the River Unshin near Corann. (She created the river by urinating.) She would appear to heroes when their lives were in danger, on the day he would die. If a warrior saw an old lady washing his bloody clothes in a river before a battle, he knew that he would die that day. She is the "Washer at the Ford". Her symbol is the raven or the carrion crow. She marries the Dagda at Samhain. Tradition says that She has 9 loosed tresses on her head, a sign of her connection with the ninefold Goddess of the Cauldron. (How much of a coincidence with Medusa?) A famous story is of her encounters with Cuchulain. She attacked the hero CuChullain, in the form of a crow, a grey wolf, and a red heifer. He fought & beat them all, but when he lay dying years later, She perched on his body in the form of a crow as his enemies approached & goaded them on to his ultimate death. She survived into medieval times as Morgan le Fey.
(Information gathered by Karen from realmagick.com/articles.)
(Information provided by Bev from "The Guises of the Morrigan" by Sorita d'Este & David Rankine)
The Morrigan is probably the most powerful of the ancient Celtic Goddesses whilst also maintaining her position as one of the most mysterious! She is most often seen as a Goddess of Sex and Battle, but this is an image which only lightly scratches at the surface of this complex and manifold Goddess. She has manifested throughout history amongst other things as the Wise Crone (Cailleach), The Queen of Battle, The Earth Goddess, The Faery Queen, a Liminal Goddess, Lady of the Beasts, Bestower of Sovereignty, The Lover, The Witch Goddess, the Washer at the Ford and the Prophetess.
From just this list it should be clear that she held sway in many realms and power over many different aspects of life, many of which are still as relevant to modern seekers as they were to those who lived through the myths, those who passed then on through storytelling and those who eventually wrote them down for the first time.
The name "Morrigan" has possibly been first found in early Irish literature and her name is also found in a glossary to the "Books of the Old Testament" in a reference to Isaiah 34:14 in which the word "lamia" is described as "monster in female form, that is a Morrigan". This is an interesting reference as it possibly connects the Morrigan to a carving of three Lamiae at the Roman Fort of Benwell (Northern Britain). The Lamiae were considered to be powerful women who seduced men, killing them for their flesh and blood. The connection here to a military fort may further suggest an association with the Morrigan in one of her many warlike manifestations.
The Morrigan often appears in a triple form, though not specifically as "Maiden Mother Crone" she does at times appear as a young woman, a Mother and as an older woman - though her manifestations are not limited to just these three forms.
"As I was walking all alaine,
The name Badb means "Crow" or "Raven" and in itself refers to a group of Goddesses, rather than a single individual deity. The Badb feed on the carrion left on the battlefield and can be considered the devouring aspect of the Morrigan, clearing away the old to make space for the new. Sometimes Badb was referred to as "Badbh Catha" which translates as "The Battle Crow" a reference to the hooded crows often seen feasting on the dead in the aftermath of a battle. In later texts her name is used interchangeably with Fuir (Fury) and Bandea (Goddess) connecting her with the Greek Fury Tesiphone. This shows how later writers connected her with the classical Greek image of the Fury, as they would later do connecting her to other Goddesses of War, such as the Roman Bellona in translations of classical texts. There are also examples of where Badb is equated with Caesar and in one medieval Irish text, a translation from Latin; Badb is placed as a character in the Trojan War as the bearer of battle news!
It is clear from this that the Badb was undoubtedly a well know figure in the mythology of the time and that her influence was vast, even though vilified at times. This is illustrated through the use of "bhaidhbh" as an insulting term meaning "thou witch" found in the Dictionary of the Irish Language (1913) and taken as being derived from her name.
"Macha, that is a crow; or it is one of the three Morigna, that is Mach and Badb and Morrigan. Whence Mesrad Machae, Macha's mast, that is the heads of men after their slaughter. As Dub Ruise said: there are rough places yonder, where men cut off Macha's mast; where they drive young calves into the fold; where the raven-women instigate battle..."
The name "Macha" can be translated as Pasture, Field or Plain, which clearly link this particular guise of the Morrigan to the land as well as giving possible associations to Horse Goddesses, such as Epona and Rhiannon. Macha is a strong woman who is an early champion for the freedom and power of the female species, clearly showing her own superiority to the male of the species when she is challenged to do so. The Celts believed that the soul of a person resided in their heads, thus they would cut the heads of men slaughtered in battle and parade them atop of long poles to show their victory over their enemies. Macha instigates war, she uses words and sounds to encourage the battle and also claims her dues, being the heads of the best warriors, when the fighting is done.
Like Badb, Macha is in herself also seen as a triple Goddess. She is described as having three different forms when she manifests in semi-divine form to mortals. She is Nemedh (The Sacred One) when she appears as the prophetess foretelling the destruction of the country, which would be wrought in the Tain conflict. Her husband named a plain after her when she died of a broken heart having foreseen the terrible devastation, which would be wrought there in future.
She is also the divine, yet mortal bride of Crunnchu, a wealth farmer. When they marry she brings him great prosperity and fertility for his crops. She does warn him to never boast about her to anyone, but of course Crunnchu disobeys this warning and boasts that his wife could easily outrun the King's horses. Upon hearing about this the King has Crunnchu locked up in prison and the only way for Macha to save her husband is to race against the King's horses at the race during the great Ulster Assembly. This she does whilst being pregnant, having first begged all concerned to let her first deliver her children with the words "a mother bore each one of you". When she is forced to run she warns them that she would curse Ulster for what they were doing to her. She wins the race, giving birth to twins as she does so, also dying in childbirth. With her dying breath she cursed the Ulstermen with the "ces noinden" making them as weak and helpless as a woman in childbirth for five days and four nights whenever their strength was needed most, a curse which would last for nine generations.
This race against horses further suggests that she might have been seen as a Horse Goddess, especially when combined with other bits of lore. For example Cu Chulainn's horse was called "The Grey of Macha".
Macha is also depicted as "Macha Mongruad" (Macha of the Red Tresses) in the founding tale of Emain Macha (The twins of Macha). In this she again shows her dominion over men who sought to deny the sovereign right of women guarding the land. Being challenged by the five sons of Dithorba, she visits them disguised as a leper whilst they were feasting following a hunt. Even though she appeared in this unbecoming guise, each of the men desired her. Macha Mongruad slept with each of the men in turn, turning them into her slaves and forcing them to build a stronghold which was named after her.
"But Fury was ill apparelled, in rags, that naked nigh she did appear with ghastly looks and dreadful drerihed (sorrowful), and from her back her garments she did tear, and from her head oft rent her snarled hair..."
Nemain can be take to mean "Frenzy", "Panic" or "Venomous" and is an indication of the battle fury of this Goddess. She was said to intimidate the side which was going to loose with her wild shrieks, whilst encouraging the side she favoured for victory. In "Cormac's Glossary" Nemain is said to be the wife of Neit, the God of Battle, further emphasising her warrior aspects. "This couple was venomous indeed" wrote Cormac, describing the destruction they were able to bring if they wished to.
An example of the power of her shrieking can be found in the story of the battle between the Connacht army and Cu Chulainn. Before the battle Nemain promised both sides that they would win, even though in reality she had decided that the Ulstermen would be victorious. She shrieked at the Connacht army in the night causing a hundred men to drop dead with fright.
There are clear associations between Nemain's deadly shriek and that of the Banshee. In Munster, Badb was sometimes referred to a "Bean Sidhe" (Faery Woman) from where we get the term "Banshee".
Though frightfully powerful and certainly worthy of a healthy dose of fear, whoever Nemain favoured in battle always saw her in a very positive light. It is said that she was seen shrieking at the Vikings when they tried invading her land in 1014 CE, allowing the High King Brian Boru to defeat the invaders.
The Morrigan, is indeed the "Great Queen" who with her many titles, many roles and many manifestations weaves a rich and colourful tapestry of myth and legend from which we can learn much about the power of woman, the importance of strength, good judgement and much more. She is a role model for women, yet a teacher to men, including powerful warriors such a Cu Chulainn. Whichever way you decide to call upon her, remember never underestimate her. And should she decide to call upon you, it is important to take note.
(Information provided by Bev from "The Guises of the Morrigan" by Sorita d'Este & David Rankine)