Here, I am going to discuss a prominent figure from the Irish mythology – the Goddess Morrigan. She is also known as Morgane or Morrigu or Mor-Rioghain, in different legends, which means 'phantom queen' or 'the great queen'.
In this article, you will know: Who is the Goddess Morrigan? 10 Facts that You Might Not Know!
Who is Goddess Morrigan?
According to Celtic mythology, Morrigan is described as the goddess of war and battle. It was in her power to determine if a warrior is going to be successful in the battlefield or not. Archeological findings tell us that she belonged to the Copper Age. Morrigan appears in the form of a raven or a crow or is accompanied by a group of them (ravens). On the other hand, in stories of the Red Branch Cycle, she is demonstrated in the form of a wolf and a cow as well. This shows that she has also been connected with land and fertility – in the past.
In several legends, Morrigan has been described as a triple goddess. Though, there are several inconsistencies present, related to this description. While Neopagan tradition, portray her as a destroyer, it symbolizes the Crone aspect of the Crone cycle. But this portrayal of her has been rejected by several historians instead of her original Irish history, which is much more relatable. It has been noted that she was a sister to Macha and Badb.
Scholars even argue that war was not a primary characteristic of Morrigan, as she also had a connection with the cattle and that describes her as a goddess of authority. The main theory about her influence is that she was a deity responsible for the protection of a king.
10 Facts about Goddess Morrigan
Aren’t the ancient mythologies fascinating? Morrigan certainly had some powerful archetypes. Now, let’s have a look at the 10 interesting facts about Goddess Morrigan.
1. She is a Shapeshifter
It has been known that she possessed the power to modify her physical appearance according to the situation. Not only her physical appearance was altered totally, but her behavior also blended with that specific character. To appeal to people, Morrigan kept on constantly reinventing her self – pretty much what the politicians do before elections. Okay, that was on a lighter side. She was a bird Goddess and kept on shifting her role from a washerwoman to a hooded crow.
2. She has a Stark Appearance
According to her artistic representation, carried forward by different scholars and historians, Morrigan was a beautiful figure. She had long dark hair and normally appeared young. Her clothes were mostly dark black and somewhat revealing too. Under certain conditions, she hid her face not to reveal her identity. As she was a shapeshifter, Morrigan was mostly shown in the form of a raven or a crow.
3. She can appear as a crone
Basically, according to fairytales and folklores, a crone describes an elderly wise woman. This character is known for her compassion, healing powers and transformation abilities. The Goddess Morrigan was placed at the status of a respected wise woman, who finds it interesting; sharing her life experiences with others and helping them out.
4. She feeds on the dead opponents
As Morrigan was the Goddess of battle also hence, she visited the battlefield transformed as a crow. With a spirit to win the war at ever cost and neglect any ethical values to prove supremacy. Her side represents sheer power and the capability to fight and protect the rights of all those who were involved. It has also been found that she used to return to the battlefield, once the fight was over, and used to feed on the dead opponents.
5. She could predict death
She was also popular as the Washer at the Ford, where she frequently appeared before a battle, washing the clothes of those warriors who were ordained to die. This unique aspect of her archetype made her one of the bloodiest warriors. Her involvement in the war was not only associated with the battlefield warriors, as she was also linked with the darkness, horror and the miseries of a war field. Morrigan possessed the power to choose warriors that would die and that is the reason that Celts described her as the real image of war – savage and bloodthirsty.
6. She left her marks everywhere
There is not one but several sites, in Northern Ireland, associated with the Goddess Morrigan. One is Armagh, a county town linked with Morrigan; it means ‘Machas’s high place’. There are two hills, present in the same town, known as Da Chich Na Morringa which translates as ‘two breasts of Morrigan’. In Louth, a field is famous by the name Gort Na Morrighan, which translates as ‘Morrigan’s field’. It is said that this area was gifted to her by Dagda – her supposed husband. Also, several inscriptions have been found in France that tell us about Raven.
7. She has a big clan
Various external sources claim that Morrigan was married to Dagda belonging to Tuatha De Danaan and the name of their only child was Adair. She met Dagda for the first time on a riverside. The Irish stories tell us that Morrigan had three sons named: Coscar, Gaim, and Glon. Her father’s name was Ernmas. Morrigan had several siblings and their names were Eriu, Fohla, Banba, Macha, and Badb. Sadly there is not much information available related to her family because records of Celtic mythology were lost over the generations or destroyed.
8. She has a mound dedicated to her
In county Tipperary, there is a burnt mound called Fulacht Na Mor Rioghna, which means ‘cooking pit of Morrigan’. Apart from this, there are several other fulachtai locations found in the wilderness and are associated with the Fianna. It is a possibility that this specific location (Fulacht Na Mor Rioghna) is the spot where three hags made a dish of dog flesh that lead to the doom of hero Cuchulainn.
9. She is known for her unique prowess
As you must have known till now that Morrigan had extreme powers. But it is important to mention here that she had control over her opponents. She could easily instill fear in their hearts and minds and that was one of her vindictive aspects. At any point, if she felt humiliation or disrespect, she would kill the subject right away. Morrigan is linked with the festival of Samhain where she is represented in the form of a raven, crow and even horse.
10. She has been wrongly interpreted
Source: commons wikimedia / André Koehne
The Goddess Morrigan had a connection with the territory of fairies. That is the reason that she is described as a healer too. One account tells us that she was a priestess of Avalon, belonging to the Isle of Apples. But according to different versions of the Arthurian legends, Morrigan has been linked with evil as she belonged to the genre of witches. It is said that it is a misinterpretation done during the times when medieval times when people's beliefs are different. Differences related to the afterlife, women and life and death resulted in the misinterpretation.
Morrigan According To Different Accounts
Mary Jones, who has impressive information related to Celtic culture, has defined Morrigan in the following manner."Morrigan is one of the most complex figures in Irish mythology, not the least due to her genealogy. In the earliest copies of the , there are listed three sisters, named Badb, Macha, and Anann. In the Book of Leinster version, Anann is identified with Morrigu, while in the Book of Fermoy version; Macha is identified with Morrigan. What is most evident is that from the texts, "Morrigan" or "Morrigu" is a title applied to different women who for the most part seem to be sisters or related in some manner, or sometimes it is the same woman with slightly different names in different manuscripts and redactions.
We see that Morrigan is identified with Badb Macha, Anann, and Danann. The first is usually identified with the raven and battle, the second usually identified with the archetypical Celtic horse goddess, the third with the land goddess, and the fourth with a mother goddess."
John Beckett has described Morrigan’s invocation as:
"She wasn’t threatening but she was very clear in command – I think She knew the respect we have for Her and that She didn't have to convince anybody who She is. She seemed pleased that we were honoring Her and attempting to answer Her call. I want to encourage Pagans to listen for the call of Morrigan. She's a complex goddess. She can be blunt, rough, and violent. She is the Battle Raven and is not to be trifled with. But she has a message I believe is critical for our future as Pagans, as humans, and as creatures of the Earth. A storm is coming. Gather your tribe. Reclaim your sovereignty."
I can state that Morrigan was a complex Goddess, as she used to play different roles at the same time. Her name is present in the history and books of today too. Her several forms can be found in the modern artwork and ancient stories. She appears in the folklore and myth stories, which describe in detail her adventures, power, and influence. Read whatever you can and in the end, you will label Morrigan as the ‘fearless Goddess of War’.