- Pronunciation: MOR-eh-gehn
- Origin: Celtic
- Role: Goddess
- Symbol: Crow
- Husband: Dadga, possibly
- Children: Possibly Adair
- Other Names: Morrigu, Morgane, Morrighan
Who Is The Morrigan?
The Morrigan is the term given to Goddess Morrigan, one of the triple Goddesses in Celtic mythology. She represented the circle of life and was associated with both birth and death. Her name translates to “great queen” or “phantom queen”. She was a shape-shifter and looked over the rivers, fresh water and lakes. She is also described as being the patroness of revenge, magic, priestesses, night, prophecy and witches.
She is often depicted as a triple goddess but this varies by source. In Celtic mythology, the number three has incredible significance. At times, Morrigan is featured as one of three sisters while other times she is a singular figure.
It is difficult to find the exact origin of Morrigan in existing texts. Some say that she was the wife of Dadga. Many say that she was part of the Tuatha de Dananna, or the tribe of the Goddess Danu. The tribe was a mythical race living in Ireland and were descendants of the goddess Danu. Her son, Dadga, was a powerful leader. Morrigan often helped to protect the people from invading armies by blowing a layer of fog over the land and decreasing visibility.
Legends and Stories
The myths surrounding Morrigan all involve part of the life cycle. Her stories are found in multiple texts, including the Book of Isaiah.
The Myth of Cu Chulainn
Cu Chulainn was a warrior and Morrigan fell deeply in love with him. She tried to seduce the warrior but he rejected her. Unable to deal with the rejection, she set out to seek revenge.
She tried to use her magic to increase his inner strength but needed him to be still and near her in order to do so. Because she was a shape-shifter, she appeared to him for the first time as a bull. She told him to run but he refused and kept on his path.
The next time, she appeared to the warrior as an eel. She tried to trip him in an effort to use more magic on him but she was unable to. She tried again, this time changing into a wolf, and attempted to scare cattle so that they would run and stop his journey but again, this didn’t work.
On her final attempt, she took the shape of an elderly woman. She was milking a cow and when Cu Chulainn saw her, he finally recognized her. Morrigan gave the warrior three drinks of milk, which immediately made him stronger.
Cu Chulainn was riding his horse one day when he noticed Morrigan by the river. This would be the moment in which she would seek her revenge on the warrior for rejecting her love. She was washing his armor, which was considered to be a death omen. The next time he was in battle, he was critically wounded. He knew that he would die and he tied himself to a large stone and propped himself up so that he would die in an upright position. A crow landed on his shoulder and it was at this moment that everyone knew he had passed.
Morrigan met Dagda, the King of the Tuatha de Dananna, at Samhein. The Dagda had a home in the north and he was told to meet a woman there before the battle. He found the woman washing herself in the river Unis of Connacht, which flowed just to the south of his home. She had nine loosened tresses on her head and captivated the king instantly. The Dagda spoke with her and they slept together. Morrigan then told Dagda that he should summon Erin’s men to meet her and that the Fomorians would land at Mag Scetne. She aided the Tuatha de Dananna in their battle and once they had won, she proclaimed the victory to the royal heights of Ireland.
The story of Morrigan’s family is a bit hazy. Some sources say that her and Dagda married and had a child while others say that they only encountered each other at the river once. If they did have a child, the name was Adair.
Morrigan was the daughter of Ernmas. She had several siblings, including Badb, Macha, Banba, Fohla and Eriu. Unfortunately, there is very little detail surrounding Morrigan other than her main descriptions because much of Celtic mythology has either been destroyed or lost over the generations.
Morrigan is represented similarly in almost every artistic representation of her. She is young, with long, flowing dark hair. Her clothing is black and sometimes very revealing. Other times, she is cloaked so as not to show her face. Because she was a shape-shifter, she is often shown with one of the more common forms she would take on-the crow or raven. She is strikingly beautiful yet intimidating.
Morrigan is known for her strengths, which include her ability to instill fear in those who crossed her. She is also known for her weaknesses and was described as vindictive. She wasn’t afraid to kill if she felt disrespected. She is forever linked to the festival of Samhain and is usually symbolically represented by a crow or raven. She is also sometimes associated with horse symbolism and has been linked to Epona, the equine Goddess.
The story of Morrigan has made its way into several written works. The Wicked + The Divine, a comic series, features The Morrigan as one of the gods. A Dirty Job, a macabre comic novel, features Morrigan in her triple form.
There are also several songs that mention the goddess. Black Aria by Glenn Danzig features a song on the classical album titled The Morrigu”. A Celtic Metal band by the name of Primordial has a song titled “Sons of the Morrigan”.
The goddess has also found her way into video games, including a series by the name of Darkstalkers which features a character by the same name. The video game Mabinogi also features a similar goddess.