Outer court member of the Correllian Tradition; public-spirited witch on the path towards becoming a Pagan Priestess.
Anu: Earth Goddess and Mother of the Divine
The magic of the Morrigan can only be understood when one understands each aspect that makes up this multifaceted goddess. The Morrigan is more than three sisters. Each sister—Macha, Badb, and Anu (pronounced AN-new)—possesses a vast expanse of skills and powers, and each of their myths teaches us different lessons. Due to the limitation of length, I will focus on the Earth Mother, the Goddess of Land, and Mother of Gods—alluring Anu.
Connecting to Anu can be as simple as going outside and sitting in the grass. If you don’t have a yard, or if it’s wintertime, bring nature inside. You could get a potted plant, or if you’re anything like me (who managed to kill a cactus), then you could pick up fake flowers at any dollar store. Understanding Anu is understanding that the earth begat us, sustains us, and is where we will go when our souls leave our bodies. Our bodies, if buried, will break down and become the soil, enriching it with nutrients and sustaining new life. She is also a mother. Many of us have mother issues, either because we had a troubled childhood or feel as though we ourselves are not the mothers we wanted to be. Call upon Anu, and she will help you release your traumas, your fears. She will help you to posit them into the earth to be broken down and recycled into nourishing energy.
A medieval text referred to Ireland as the Land of Anu, implying she was the Mother Goddess. W.M. Hennessey wrote that the Paps of Anu were named as such because Anu nursed the gods with them. “Paps” roughly translates to nipples, as the two hills look like breasts. There were actually ancient structures found atop these two hills that looked like nipples on breasts from afar. Anu is also a Land Goddess, therefore meaning she is the land—ancient Celts revered the land and considered it to be the goddess herself.
Unfortunately, the myths of Anu were lost to history, but it has been deduced that Anu is a Land Goddess based on two things: her name and her mother. Anu’s name means plenty of wealth. This connects her to the fertility of the land and to livestock, primarily cattle. In Ancient Celtic society, one’s wealth was measured by the number of cattle owned. The more land, the more room for cows and horses to graze. The Celts believed that the children of a deity inherited, or were extensions of, their powers. Anu’s mother was Ernmas, the she-farmer. This meant Ernmas was Goddess of Land and Agriculture, and by extension, of abundance and wealth. Ernmas had two sets of female triplets, one of which was the Morrigan, and five sons. If having eleven children doesn’t make you an epitome of fertility, I don’t know what does!
The Morrigan is a dynamic deity, and naturally there is bound to be misinformation published about her. This is especially the case for Anu, whose myths have been lost to time. The most prominent misinformation about Anu is leaving her out completely and naming other goddesses as the third sister. Nemain is the goddess I’ve found most often listed in favor of Anu, and the goddess Áine has been said to be the Morrigan as well. By looking at these goddesses, we are gaining a stronger understanding of Anu, seeing who she is and who she isn’t. The Morrigan often appears in the guise of an animal, either the raven or the crow, or as cattle. By understanding how the Celts saw these animals, we will shine more light on the Dark Goddess.
The Many Faces of Anu
Anu’s role as a mother goddess, one that typically is assigned to Danu, has led scholars to believe that the two goddesses were connected in some way. Nineteenth-century writers argued that Danu’s name was derived from Anu’s and that they were, in fact, the same goddess. None of Danu’s myths have survived, so it cannot be proved definitively. They are both connected to fertility, but Danu is a river goddess—nurturing the land with water, and Anu is a land goddess, her soil being the source of nutrition. Woodfield pointed out that Cormac, the author naming Anu the Mother Goddess, was from Munster—where the worship of Anu was centered. It would make sense that Cormac would list an earth goddess with whom he was most familiar as the Mother Goddess in favor of Danu, a goddess with which he most likely had little experience with. Over time the belief that Anu was the Mother grew, and eventually evolved to become merged with the goddess Danu.
Áine (pronounced AWN-yah) is the Irish goddess of love, fertility, cattle, and the sun. Her worship was also primarily centered in Munster. As her worship died out, and Christianity took over, she was demoted—like so many goddesses were—from goddess to Fairy Queen. She was the daughter of Eoghanach, according to The Book of Leinster, but other sources claimed she was the wife or daughter of the sea god Manannán mac Lir (hopefully not both!). Lady Gregory, an Irish folklorist, wrote that Áine was the Morrigu, really adding to the confusion surrounding this graceful goddess.
Gregory said that were Áine the Morrigu, then she would be a later version of Anu. They have similar names, they both originated in the province of Munster, and both are connected to the fertility of the land. Cnoc Áine is a mound that is sacred to Áine, and it’s only a stones’ throw from the Paps of Anu. To further support Gregory’s theory, Áine was said to have a sister called Grainne (Grawn-yah), and according to the “Dindshenchas”, Grainne was another name for the goddess Macha, who is Anu’s sister. Whereas Anu was said to have been the mother of gods and to have nursed them at the Paps of Anu, Áine was considered a goddess of healing that ruled over the “life-spark that flowed through all living things.” 1
While the Morrigan is infamous for her sexual encounters as the Goddess of Sovereignty, Áine was called the Goddess of Love because she had an insatiable sexual appetite. Ancient Celts did not frown upon sex. It’s a natural part of life—as long as you’re safe about it, it really shouldn’t be a big deal. Áine had countless partners, human, and gods alike.
Through Áine we can strengthen our connection to Anu. I tend to think of Áine as Anu in her maiden form—exuberant, young, energetic, with a passion for life, land, and mankind. To connect to Áine I use symbols of the sun, as I do with Macha, another sun goddess. I call to Áine when I am feeling old, or weary, or like I haven’t simply enjoyed myself lately.
In several modern references about the Morrigan, the third sister is listed as being Nemain. The Morrigan may appear in the guise of Nemain, but she was not an original sister. In W.M. Hennesy’s 19th century text, he quotes the Lebor Gabála Érenn:
“Badb ocus Macha ocus Anand, diatat cichi Anand il- Luachair, tri ingena Ernbais, na ban tuathige; “Badb, and Macha, and Anand from whom the “paps of Anann” in Luachair are [called], the three daughters of Ernmais, the ban-tuathaig””2
That leaves no question as to who the third sister is. Cormac’s Glossary listed Nemain and Badb as the two wives of the war god Neit. The most likely source of confusion is from the Táin Bó Cúalnge, where the two names were used interchangeably, saying “Nemain, which is Badb”3. Badb was used as both a title for a battle fury and a name for the goddess, which understandably can make things confusing.
Nemain and Badb are both associated with the Irish mythological creature the banshee, because of their renowned shrieks during battle. There is a difference between the two, however. Nemain, whose name manes ‘venomous’, would kill people instantly with her shrill call, whereas Badb’s call was a prophecy for their death.
If you have read the previous The Magic of the Morrigan articles I published, you will know that the Morrigan is a shapeshifter. By understanding what these animals symbolize we are expanding our understanding of Anu, and by extension, the Morrigan. Anu, or the Morrigan in general, has been associated with the Crow and Cattle, and Aine has been associated with the Horse. While Áine is not an original triplet, I am including the meaning of her animal for those, like myself, who accept Áine to be the Maiden aspect of Anu. Nemain has been associated with the Raven and Crow, so I will include the Raven for those who still accept Nemain as the third manifestation of the Morrigan.
- Work animals that also provided meat, milk and hide
- Number of cattle possessed by a person in ancient Celtic society was directly indicative of how wealthy they were (one milk cow was one sed, the early Irish unit of exchange)
- The Morrigan often appears either with or as cattle (when attacking Cuchulain, she transformed into a heifer...she was caught stealing a cow through Ulster which started a war) which directly connects her to fertility and wealth
- Death omen/connected to death...often seen on battlefields feeding on the dead & believed by Celts that they were collecting the spirits of the fallen warriors to bring to Underworld
- Spiritual messengers
- Associated with prophecy by several cultures
- Highly intelligent (been known to use breadcrumbs to entice fish to come to the water surface, and drop nuts in streets so cars will run them over and open them)
- Symbol of wealth and fertility to ancient Celts
- Connected to magic, prophecy, and the Underworld
- Highly intelligent
- Possesses the tendency to be mischievous
- Considered to be the messengers of the gods
Devotional Practice: Forging a Relationship With Anu
One thing that is important to understand that books introducing witchcraft fail to explain is that the gods are not spiritual vending machines. Gaining their assistance with spells is not as easy as calling their name because s/he was listed as a correspondence with a particular subject that your potential spell falls under. If you are having trouble with your creative writing class, can you just call up J.K Rowling to ask her to give you story ideas? No. While the gods are not human, they also don’t exist just to answer to humanity’s every beck and call. They have their own stuff going on, and if you really want their help, really want them to influence your life, you have to build a relationship with them. This is done through devotional practice, which consists of prayer, meditation, and offerings. Morgan Daimler broke it down wonderfully: prayer is talking to the gods, meditation is listening to the gods, and offerings are ways of showing your appreciation. I have included a drawing depicting how she appears when I do journey work with her (at the beginning of the article). I know it isn’t the best illustration, but I tried. I think journeying is very helpful because it gives you personal experience with the goddess, and that matters more than anything.
The first step of your devotional practice should be building an altar—it can be as simple or complex as you wish. Pray often! If you’re at a stoplight, grocery shopping, having a hard day at work. I firmly believe that if you direct your thoughts to Anu, or any deity, they can and will hear you. You should give offerings often as well. The thing about offerings though is they require forethought. What matters most is the manner in which you provide it, first of all, and secondly, the offering should be significant to you in some way. Lastly, you should feel that the goddess accepts your offering. For example, when I performed a ritual to reconnect to the Earth Mother, the offering suggested was apples, but it didn't feel right to me—I didn't think offering apples was in any way significant of how I felt. I offered her milk instead—milk is how a mother nourishes her child, either through her breast or through a bottle, so offering milk was my way of telling her that I appreciate how she has nourished me since I have been ‘reborn’ so to speak. If you wish to show your appreciation in another way, by painting a picture, or getting a tattoo, (extreme I know but it’s something I just did so it’s on my mind), then pray and meditate and if you feel it’s right, then go for it! I will repeat, it is not what you do but how you do it.
Anu can fill your life to the brim with love and abundance. Every time you notice a dandelion growing through cracks in a sidewalk, or the way the sunlight reflects off the dew-soaked leaves in the morning, think of Anu.
Anu Ritual Cider
When celebrating a Sabbat or Esbat, you can use this cider in any ritual invoking Anu. This recipe can be found along with instructions for various rituals and spells for Anu in Stephanie Woodfields' Celtic Lore & Spellcraft of the Dark Goddess: Invoking the Morrigan.
Anu Ritual Cider Ingredients
- 1 Gallon Apple Cider
- 1/2 tablespoon nutmeg
- 3 cinnamon sticks
- 6 cloves
- 2 apples
- 1 orange
- 1 1/2 cup dark rum
Instructions for Anu Ritual Cider
- Pour the apple cider into a large pot and bring to a simmer.
- Add the nutmeg, cinnamon sticks, and cloves.
- Cut the apples and orange in half. Using a knife, carve Anu's name into the flesh of the apple pieces. (Woodfield suggests using Ogham or another magickal alphabet to do this).
- Put apple and orange halves into the pot. Simmer covered for one hour.
- Remove apples, orange, and cinnamon sticks and strain, then add the dark rum.
Endnotes and References
- Woodfield, 2011, p. 107
- Woodfield, 2011, p. 101
Anu. (n.d.). Retrieved 5 26, 2018, from Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anu_(Irish_goddess)
Conway, D. (2016). Celtic Magic. Woodbury, Minnesota: Llewellyn Publications.
Daimler, M. (2004). The Morrigan, Meeting the Great Queen. Moon Books.
Hennessey, W. M. (n.d.). The Ancient Irish Goddess of War. Retrieved 5 26, 2018, from Sacred-Texts.com: http://www.sacred-texts.com/neu/celt/aigw/aigw01.htm
Woodfield, S. (2011). Celtic Lore & Spellcraft of the Dark Goddess: Invoking the Morrigan. Woodbury, MN: Llewellyn Publications.
© 2018 Amanda Wilson