Read an Excerpt
Introduction: The Call of the Morrigan
The beauty and might of this goddess lie not only in her connection to the cycle of death, but also in her ability to mold her power and gifts to the current situation, to the needs of men and women, to the requirements of the gods.
Michelle Skye, Goddess Alive
The Morrigan flies through the pages of history and myth like an uncontainable whirlwind. Upon ancient battlefields she appeared as a raven, her wild shrieks and battle cry killing men where they stood. She could be a beautiful lusty maiden one minute and a fearsome hag the next. To some she appeared as a phantom, washing the blood-stained clothes of those destined to die along lonely river banks; to others she brought unparalleled victory and protection. The Morrigan is full of mystery, magick, and contradictions. She is powerful and wise but not always benevolent, her nature not always apparent at first glance, her wisdom not easily earned. Is she a tutelary goddess, or a goddess of war? Is she a friend to the Irish hero Cúchulain, or his greatest enemy? Is she loving or spiteful? In Irish mythology, the Morrigan refuses to be boxed into just one role. Just when you think you've figured her out, she changes shape and becomes something else (as a shape-shifter, this seems only fitting). Although she is commonly labeled as a goddess of battle, this is an oversimplification of a very dynamic deity. Like many goddesses of the Celtic pantheon, the Morrigan fills multiple roles: she is a goddess of war, of fertility, of sovereignty, and of magick, all at once.
It isn't surprising that the Morrigan is perhaps one of the most popular Celtic goddesses in modern Paganism. She exudes an air of confidence, power, and magick. She survives in various incarnations within the Celtic tradition, as a goddess, faery woman, ghostly phantom, and mortal queen. Today she remains a popular protagonist in fiction, such as in Marion Zimmer Bradley's The Mists of Avalon and Pat O'Shea's The Hounds of the Morrigan.
Yet despite this, her myths and importance in the Celtic pantheon are often misunderstood. For many, her reputation as a goddess of death and war makes the Morrigan an intimidating figure to work with. Although nineteenth-century scholars interpreted her as a goddess of war, this is not precisely correct. At times she does bring about death, participate in battle, and protect warriors; but she is more accurately called a goddess of sovereignty. She is the patroness of those who wield power, whether it is the power of kingship, prowess on the battlefield, the power over life and death, or personal power.
My own experiences with the Morrigan began a few years after my initiation into Witchcraft. At the time, my life had been very chaotic and a goddess personifying victory over life's battles and inner strength was quite appealing. But even when the Morrigan began to make her presence known in my life, I hesitated to call upon her. Never one to be ignored, the Morrigan then began getting my attention in dramatic ways. Crows, one of her totem animals, began taking an unusual interest in my home, my office, and even my car. When I left for work in the morning, there was always at least one crow perched on top of my car; sometimes it seemed like an entire flock! At first I thought they were attracted to the garbage cans we kept near my usual parking spot, but after moving the cans to the other side of the house and even attempting to park my car elsewhere, my mornings continued to begin with the harsh cries of some very curious birds. At work my boss asked me if I was feeding the crows, since there was almost always one perched on the window ledge next to my desk several times a day. Several people "coincidently" (but we know there are no mere coincidences in a magickal life) lent me books that mentioned the Morrigan or Morgan le Fay, or fantasy novels featuring goddesses that bore a strong resemblance to her. I had remarkably vivid dreams where the Morrigan appeared in both human and animal form.
I had always had an affinity for Morgan le Fay as a child, and when I began to study Celtic mythology, I found it fascinating thatlike the goddess Brigid, who survived into Christian times as a saintthe Morrigan had "diminished" in importance over the years. But she had not been completely forgotten, transforming into King Arthur's sorceress sister. While I had found her history interesting, most of the books I read warned against invoking the Morrigan; some even advised against any contact with this goddess. This general discouragement of contact with the Morrigan warred with the inexplicable pull I felt toward her. Finally I decided to follow my instincts.
On the next new moon, I cast a circle and invoked the Morrigan. That first encounter with the Morrigan was one of the most exhilarating experiences I’ve ever had during ritual work. The Morrigan’s presence was so tangible, her voice so clear; it was like nothing I had ever felt before. The beauty of Paganism is that we experience our gods, and after that ritual, there could never be any question for me about the presence and reality of the Divine. The Morrigan's presence radiated power and strength, and I couldn't help but wonder why a goddess who represented personal power and overcoming injustice would ever be described as a divinity to be avoided.
After my initial experience with the Morrigan, I immediately began searching for more information about this powerful goddess, only to find very little that was useful. The more I searched, the more I began to understand the hesitation some felt toward working with her. Besides finding very little information about her history or worship, almost all the information I found was negative. When I spoke to other Pagans who had felt drawn to the Morrigan, our conversations usually revolved around whether or not it was "safe" to work with a goddess of death and war. Eventually I realized that most of what I would learn about the Morrigan would be from the Morrigan herself. For someone who had learned Witchcraft primarily from books, this was a daunting idea.
Now, after more than a decade serving as her Priestess, I can't imagine my life without the strong, reassuring presence of the Morrigan. She has been an invaluable guide, a protector, and a source of strength. The Morrigan stands ready at the edge of our perceptions to challenge our views of the world and of ourselves. She, like the Hindu Kali, is the Terrible Mother, the Dark Goddess, but no less a mother for it. She will not coddle us but will instigate and incite change in ourselves and our lives. The process of change and transformation can be painful, but it is ultimately rewarding.
As a goddess of death and war, she is a goddess of hard truths. All living things must one day die in order to sustain new life and be reborn. Sometimes war is necessary to establish peace or retain one’s freedom. The Morrigan stands fast next to her children through their battles, guiding them to victory and the peace that is the ultimate goal of any battle. Once she has taught us to battle and conquer our inner demons, she appears as the vibrant goddess of sovereignty, teaching us to embrace the abundance and joy of life.
This book is a guide to working with an ancient goddess in the modern world. It contains information about the Morrigan's myths and her role in the Celtic tradition, and also offers pathworking, exercises, spells, rituals, recipes, and magickal correspondences that you can use to invoke the Morrigan's magick and transformative power into your life. In Part One you will find information about the Morrigan's origins and mythology, along with short retellings of her myths and their hidden spiritual meaning. Parts Two and Three cover the different goddesses that form the Morrigan's triple nature and the many guises she embodies, while Part Four offers information about altars, types of offerings, seasonal and lunar rituals, and how to incorporate the Morrigan into a modern-day spiritual system. I suggest you read the background information in Part I first in order to become familiar with her myths. The other sections do not necessarily need to be read in order, so feel free to begin with whichever of the Morrigan's aspects or guises you feel drawn to work with.
The Great Goddess resides within each of us, her wisdom just as vital to the modern seeker as it was to the ancient Celts who worshipped her. The very first step to answering the call of the Morrigan is to open ourselves to her presence and wisdom. So whether you feel drawn to her as I was or you simply want to know more about this goddess, I invite you to invoke the Morrigan and draw upon the strength and wisdom of this truly powerful goddess!