Are you familiar with The Morrígan, a complex and perhaps misunderstood goddess from Irish lore?
I love the image above, “Song of a Stone Heart” by bubug on Deviant Art (link in comments). It may not by named for The Morrígan but it certainly embodies her energies!
But who is The Morrígan? The Great Queen? The Nightmare Queen? The Phantom Queen? The Queen of the Slain? Witch Queen? Queen of the Faerie? Sea Queen? Many of these appellations stem from various translations of the root components of her name: “rígan” meaning queen, and “mor” with several different translations.
In our new online Bean Gealach Circle, which opens April 1, 2002, and with a live gathering later in the month, our April theme is The Morrígan, and the Dark Mothers archetype in the Women’s Wheel of Life. We will be talking more about her, shapeshifting with her, and creating a Burlá Ghui to honour her associations with birth, death and rebirth. And, of course, how she might be an ally in our own journeys and soul work.
I’d love to see followers of this blog join us online, as Founding Members of the Bean Gealach Circle (Bean Gealach means “Moon Woman” in Irish), for only $20 USD per month (GST included for Canadians). This special offer is available only until April 30th, 2002. On May 1st, the price will increase to $30 USD per month (GST included for Canadians).
The Lore of The Morrígan
The lore has changed over the years, which should not be a surprise. The tales can and do change over time, reflecting the beliefs of the one telling the tale. Even if we look back to the Victorian era folklorists and storytellers (and historians, archaeologists and anthropologists), we can see how often they imbued their publications with whimsy and Romance, as well as the classist (and oft times racist!) views of other cultures, some of which are still held to this day.
I’ve been reading a fascinating book by David Rankine & Lorita d’Este — The Guises of the Morrígan: The Celtic Irish Goddess of Battle & Sovereignty, Her Myths Power and Mysteries — where I learned that the first recorded mention of The Morrígan in Irish literature was in 876 / 7 CE.
It was in a glossary to the “Books of the Old Testament, referring to Isaiah 34:14. The word lamia is described as ‘monstrum in femine figura i.e. morigain’ “(meaning “monster in female form, that is a Morrígan”). And apparently successive glossaries (no doubt written by the Catholic monks!) associated her with what they saw as horrible things… lying wolves, false demons, demons of the air, hooded crows, and women from “the sid”.
Ireland’s bards and storytellers observed an oral tradition, passing the lore to others. Some of these have been captured in texts, where she is at times described as three sisters and sometimes four. She is seen as a shapeshifter . . . into a young woman, a hag (and even An Cailleach), and to a cow, crow, eel or wolf. In some texts she is a tutelary or protective spirit, in others assists in the battles.
But more recently scholars such as Professor Ronald Hutton have suggested she is not just a goddess of death, fate, battlefields and war, but may have been akin to a “Celtic Venus”.
Many of the goddesses from Greek, Roman and Mesopotamian lore were also goddesses associated with both love and war, such as Venus, Astarte, Inanna, Aphrodite, and Freya. They are the goddesses of the morning and evening stars (the planet Venus) and of the bodily fluids… blood, sweat, semen, and the lubricants of the body (my source for the “Celtic Venus” possibility was Professor Ronald Hutton in a recent online lecture for the Last Tuesday Society).
I look forward to exploring more about this complex and riveting goddess!