The Magic of the Morrigan: Shedding Light on the Dark Goddess
Meet the Morrigan
As ‘newbie’ witches, we think we can light a candle, pick an altar cloth based on a correspondence list in the back of some “Intro to Witchcraft” book, say the right words, and poof! All of our major life problems are solved. Sorry, but it doesn’t work like that. Real change, such as manifesting a new car after you total yours (like in my case), takes real power. I mean a lot of power, like that of the Morrigan.
Many books that introduce Wicca or witchcraft will include a section about common Pagan pantheons, and which deities to call upon for various magical goals, i.e., call on Brigit for creativity, Aphrodite for love, Cerridwen for herb magic, you get the idea. If you treat the gods like Santa Claus, calling on them to add energy to your spells like a child sends Santa a wish list, then chances are not many of your spells have worked. You must develop a relationship with a deity before you can expect them to help you. This is particularly true for the Morrigan. And keep in mind, the gods have their own wants and needs, so be prepared to have them ask you for something in return. (FYI, if that happens, you have every right to negotiate with the god or goddess to make sure that you can carry out their request).
The Morrigan is a mighty goddess, and even though, at times, working with her can be frightening, she should not be feared. This misunderstood Celtic goddess will make incredible changes to your life—changes that you thought would never occur outside your fantasies. She does not do anything for free though! She will make you work for what you want. In order to transform, you must crawl out of the quicksand that is keeping your life stagnant. This Dark Goddess will make you look at the parts of yourself you have buried deep from shame; will teach you battle strategies then thrust you into the ring to fight your demons, she will make you face and conquer all of your fears. She does what she has to so change can manifest in your life. I know firsthand of her transformational powers.
She is not an easy Goddess to follow, I won’t lie. But it is worth the effort! This multi-faceted goddess has many faces, and there are multiple aspects to understanding her. Learning about the Morrigan is a process, but I will outline simple steps you can take to establish a relationship with her. The steps involved can help you forge a relationship with any of the gods, but I will be providing specific tips and information relevant to meeting the Morrigan.
It is important you understand the meaning and uses of her name, as there is a lot of confusion and conflicting information regarding that area. Before you begin your devotional practice you should know the history and mythology of the deity you want to bring into your life. The Morrigan appears several times throughout history, and I will summarize the best-known myths about her, which will give you a starting point for conducting your own research if you decide to meet and work with her. The last step of the process is actually the beginning of the relationship, and I will provide a few ideas on how you initiate your devotional practice.
The Title and Name of the Morrigan
The meaning of the name "Morrigan" is somewhat debated amongst scholars. The most agreed upon translations are “The Great Queen” and “The Phantom Queen.” You will often see the that the Morrigan is referred to as a Triple Goddess. In Wiccan traditions, a triple goddess is comprised of a maiden, mother, and a crone. That is not the case in this situation. The triplicity is referring to three sisters: Badb, Macha, and Anu (aka Anand). There have been references stating that the third sister is either the goddess Nemain, Fea, or Morrigu. Personally, I believe that Morrigu is another name for Anu, and the sources naming Fea and Nemain meant those goddesses were presenting as the third aspect but were not the original sister. I encourage those feeling drawn to the Morrigan to conduct research, study as many resources as you can, and then decide for yourself which goddesses you feel comprise the Morrigan triplicity.
Ancient Mythology of the Morrigan
According to lore, the Morrigan was involved in two major Irish wars. She helped the Tuatha Dé Danann defeat he Fir Bolg and the Fomorians. She won the wars by either weakening or killing the opposing king, or with magic, making it rain fire and blood onto the enemy. A 19th-century scholar classified her as a War Goddess, but that is not quite right, however. More accurately, she is the goddess of sovereignty. She was the patroness of those who wielded power, of kingship and prowess on the battlefield. She is known as the Goddess of Glory in Battle & Cleverness of the Cattle Raid. The reason behind her violent actions boils down to sovereignty—she both granted it and took it away by any means necessary. It would be an incomplete summarization to say she was just the goddess of sovereignty, however. She is the goddess of magic and fertility as well.
She used her magical powers to either instill courage or take it away. It was said that she would shapeshift into a crow and fly over the battlefield. Some men would be empowered with courage, and others would be plagued with panic and fear. The Morrigan specialized in binding magic, which means she would strip the enemy of his power. She would do that at a key moment in the battle, leaving him helpless.
The Morrigan’s confidence radiates through history, along with her strength, power, and shameless sexuality. Women today are discouraged from using their sexuality to obtain power, but the Morrigan embraced it proudly. According to lore, she laid with many men and had dozens of children from unknown fathers. In the ancient Celtic community, this was not something to be ashamed of though. Sex is a natural part of life, and it was very much a part of their culture. There are two instances in her mythology when the Morrigan based her decision on whether to help a community on whether or not the king would lay with her. When she approached Dagda, he happily obliged. There is a river ford in Ireland the locals still call “The Bed of the Couple,” referring to the union of the Morrigan and Dagda. Some references have said that Dagda was the Morrigan's consort—in other words, her husband.
The second time she approached a warrior with the promise of supporting his cause in exchange for relations was with Cu Chulainn. She appeared to him as a hag, just as she did Dagda. Disgusted by her wrinkled skin, hunched stature, and crackling voice, he rejected her advances. The Morrigan then transformed into a beautiful maiden, thus revealing to him who she was. She warned him that his death was in her hands, and his deference to her would save his life. Being a proud, macho man, he refused to bow to her. As promised, the Morrigan sided with his enemies and helped them defeat his army.
Magic of the Morrigan: How to Harness the Power of the Great Queen
Working with the Morrigan can bring about real change in your life. Before you can start making requests of her, however, you must take the time to get to know her. Forging a relationship with the Morrigan can be done in a process that would work when working with any new deity.
The first thing to do is research the myths and legends surrounding the deity. It is vital to learn about their strengths, weaknesses, and even their personality. For example, in the myth when the Morrigan presents herself to Cu Chulainn, when she reveals that she is the Great Queen, she demands that this lowly soldier takes a knee. He refuses and then suffers her wrath. I have journeyed to meet a few different aspects of the Morrigan, and she appreciates when you show reverence by bowing or kneeling before her (unlike other goddesses I've met who have all stopped me or pulled me to my feet saying it isn't necessary).
There are a few things to keep in mind when researching the Morrigan, so you don't become discouraged when you encounter one of these problems. Historical sources often portray varying or outright conflicting information. This is an issue that arises with many ancient deities, especially Celtic gods and goddesses. The Celts believed that the word was sacred, so it was forbidden to write down any of the rituals, spells or stories about the Celtic gods and goddesses. They believed that the magic of the word was lost if it was written down. Most of what we know about the Celts was written by Christian monks and Roman military leaders. The best way to approach this conundrum is to reference a variety of resources. Once you have gone through a handful of books and articles you can judge for yourself what you believe is most reliable, and what to disregard.
You may come across some sources that focus solely on the history of the Morrigan and provides little to no personal experience. Other sources will be on the other end of the spectrum, providing only personal stories and relaying anecdotes about the experience of others. You should aim to find a happy middle. While the history of the gods and goddess is important, so is the experiences that people today have had with them. It gives you a firm idea of what to expect when you journey to interact with the deity.
Once you have thoroughly researched the myths and legends associated with the Morrigan, and you feel that she will be a fitting addition to your pantheon, you will initiate your devotional practice, the key to forming a relationship with the Great Goddess. In a way, devotional practice is an art. Ponder the medium of your masterpiece—what will best express your feelings for the goddess? The last thing you want to do is treat her like a magical Santa Claus, giving her a list of wants and needs.
In , Stephanie Woodfield defines devotional practice as "the art of honoring and connecting to deity, usually through offerings, prayers, and other acts of devotion". (p.19). Woodfield goes on to explain that it is not so much what you do, but the manner in which you do it. If you are treating it as a chore then do not expect to get very much of a response from the Morrigan. She can when a devotee prays or pours libations with love in their heart and when they do it because it is what they have to do. Dark Goddess Craft: A Journey Through the Heart of Transformation
You should set up an altar for the Morrigan. It can be as simple as a black feather on your dresser, or you can have an elaborately decorated table. It is totally up to you. What matters is you have a sacred space set aside where you can go and nurture your relationship with her. I have an altar in my bedroom, but I also have a spot in my backyard where I sit, meditate, and commune with the Shining Ones. The gods and goddesses are everywhere, so you can connect and pray anywhere, anytime.
One person may spend more time on meditation and communication, while another provides offerings every day. I will use traditional offerings for Sabbats, but when I am performing a ritual designed to help or heal myself, I will communicate with the deity I am working with and ask him or her what they would like. This has gone over very well when I've worked with the Morrigan. For example, instead of wine, she asked that I pour my favorite soda as a libation. I don't like wine, and I only buy the tiny bottles (that have an ounce or so in the bottle) specifically for magic rituals. It is taking nothing away from me to pour the wine, except for the money spent purchasing it. So by offering my favorite drink, it showed I was willing to sacrifice something I enjoy and appreciate to express my gratitude for the work the Morrigan was about to conduct on my behalf. What I do may be the complete opposite of what you may feel drawn to do, and that is perfectly okay! You may pour the traditional libation called for in the ritual or spell instructions, or you can offer something wholly different. As I said before, the manner in which you carry out the act matters more than the act itself. If you feel compelled to provide a unique offering, consider this: Does it have meaning for you? Do you feel that the deity accepted the offering? If you answered yes to both, then you did it right.
What to Expect When You're Devoting...
I will leave you with one final thought. When things go wrong, and they will from time to time, don't panic. The gods and goddesses we work with are not lovey-dovey beings in a faraway place—it isn't all rainbows and butterflies. Especially not with a dark goddess like the Morrigan. I believe that the gods care about us, but the first thing I learned when I became a Pagan was the gods have every emotion a human does, except amplified, and way more intense because, well, they're gods (duh). You can piss them off, and may not even realize you have done it. You may offend a god by providing an offering of something that was harmful to them in ancient times, or you may be oblivious to a message they have been trying to get through to you. Whatever the issue, they won't turn their backs on you forever. No, you didn't read that wrong. Yes, the gods can and will turn their backs on you if you make them mad enough. The Morrigan is a teacher of hard lessons, and she does not coddle her children. If you break a promise you've made to her, or if you are continuously oblivious to something she has been trying to tell you for far too long, she will get mad and will let you know. When that happens, you can resolve the issue the same way you forged the relationship in the first place: provide offerings, communicate, and listen!
Alexander, S. (2018). Find Your Goddess: How to Manifest the Power and Wisdom of the Ancient Goddesses in Your Everyday Life. Avon, MA: Adams Media.
Daimler, M. (2004). The Morrigan, Meeting the Great Queen. Moon Books.
The Morrigan - Coru Cathubodua Priesthood. (2018). Coru Cathubodua Priesthood. Retrieved 11 May 2018, from http://www.corupriesthood.com/the-morrigan/
Woodfield, S. (2011). Celtic Lore & Spellcraft of the Dark Goddess: Invoking The Morrigan. Woodbury MN: Llewllyn Publications.
© 2018 Amanda Wilson