What would the Morrigan do?
The Morrigan is a Celtic earth goddess associated with fertility, the battlefield, war, danger, death, regeneration, fate, prophecy, shape-shifting, crows and ravens.
The Morrigan showed up in a recent card reading about a difficult personal situation where I felt threatened, confirming my vulnerability and prompting me to get to know this dark and complex mythological figure better.
The name “the Morrigan”, meaning “great queen” or “phantom queen”, may refer to one or all of a trio of Irish war goddesses. I use the name to refer to an individual goddess incorporating all aspects of the triple goddess. Other names of individual goddesses associated with the trio are Macha (the name of an Irish war goddess), Badb (meaning “crow” or “raven”) and Nemain (meaning “battle-fury” or “war-like frenzy”).
The Morrigan has a reputation as a ruthless femme fatale. As a goddess of sovereignty, rulership of the kingdom depends on her favour and should not be taken for granted. Sexual union with her assures victory in battle and prosperity of the kingdom. The Morrigan is a shape-shifter with the ability to transform herself into the form of various animals, a beautiful young girl or an ugly old woman. These disguises enable her to test the worthiness of a would-be king of Ireland.
The Morrigan is resourceful and adapts in order to maintain prosperity. The Morrigan understands that appearances can be deceiving and separates illusion from reality.
The Morrigan assumes the form of a crow or raven on the battlefield. The raven is a scavenger bird considered by many to be an omen of misfortune, battle and death, but it is also a symbol of prophecy, intelligence, shape-shifting and healing. On a psychological level, the raven represents confronting our shadow self and thus shedding light on and healing the darkness within us.
While the Morrigan does not engage in battle herself, her ominous appearance on the battlefield affects warriors psychologically and influences the outcomes of battles. She signals danger, rallies the troops of her allies and terrifies her enemies.
The Morrigan recognizes a crisis and sounds the alarm.
The Morrigan is a prophet of doom associated with an otherworldly figure known as the “washer at the ford” or “washer woman” who foretells death when she is encountered washing the bloody garments of a warrior who will soon die in battle.
The Morrigan identifies what needs to change.
The Morrigan is an earth goddess associated with both death and regeneration, stations on the eternal circle of life. In the form of a crow or raven, the Morrigan is a scavenger bird helping to clear away the dead bodies of those slain on the battlefield in order to prevent disease and stagnation and make way for something new. The battlefield can represent an ongoing, unhealthy situation in our lives that has reached a crisis point, and the Morrigan can represent an agent of change restoring order and stability.
The Morrigan is not afraid of change and does whatever is necessary to make it happen.
Caitlín Matthews chose the Morrigan to portray the Queen of Battle in The Celtic Wisdom Tarot, a Tarot deck incorporating Celtic mythology and archetypes. The Queen of Battle corresponds to the Queen of Swords (Water of Air) in a traditional Tarot deck. It is not hard to draw parallels between the two archetypes.
The Queen of Swords is astute, forthright, independent and somewhat aloof. Her realm of the active yang element of air relates to the mind, intellect, thoughts and communication and she is primarily concerned with knowledge, truth, integrity and justice. As a Queen she is also associated with the flexible and receptive yin element of water relating to relationships, emotions and intuition, however she tends to be ruled more by her head than by her heart.
In the Rider Waite Tarot, the Queen of Swords is seated on her throne with her sword held upright in her right hand. A lone bird is depicted flying high in a clear blue sky, representing to me this Queen’s independence, clarity of thought, keen perception, and ability to maintain perspective.
The Queen of Swords card in the Lo Scarabeo Tarot incorporates imagery from the Rider Waite Tarot and the Thoth Tarot, hence the severed head of a bearded man held in the Queen’s left hand. According to Lon Milo Duquette in Understanding Aleister Crowley’s Thoth Tarot, this gruesome imagery is not gratuitous and has a deeper symbolic meaning: “Using the sword of discretion and reason, the Queen has separated the higher faculties of the intellect from the influences of the lower nature… She is quite literally, Crowley points out, the ‘Liberator of the Mind’.” The imagery of the severed head could also represent discarding limiting beliefs, attitudes, and ways of thinking, facilitating growth and innovation.
I would also associate the Morrigan with The Tower Major Arcana Tarot card which represents among other things the truth or harsh reality exposed, sudden catastrophic change, shock, crisis, chaos, upheaval, collapse, revolution, usually as a result of a state of disorder that has built up over a long period of time. Sugar coating this disturbing picture could entail interpreting it as a wake-up call for necessary change, making way for something new and better.
Individual deities such as the Morrigan are representations of the Divine associated with specific qualities and purposes, i.e. they have distinct personalities that we can relate to. They can be viewed as archetypal energies that are potentially as much a part of us as they are external entities. The Morrigan is my inner warrior confronting challenges without fear and my personal bodyguard.
“Glaine ár gcroí (Purity of our hearts)
Neart ár ngéag (Strength of our limbs)
Beart de réir ár mbriathar (Deeds to match our words)”
Mottoes of the Fianna, legendary Irish warriors
Did you know that the English word “slogan” is derived from the Gaelic word sluagh-ghairm meaning “battle cry”?
This article was first published http://mywingsofdesireblog.blogspot.com/2011/11/what-would-morrigan-do.html