Name: Morrigan / Morrighan / Morrigu / Morgan / 'Great Queen'/'Phantom Queen'
Father: Aed Ernmas
Associated Deities: Fea (Hateful), Badbh (Fury), Nemon (Venomous), Macha (Battle)
Properties: Goddess of War, Life & Death
Totem Bird: The Carrion Crow
Associated Sites: Battle-Fields
Plain of Muirthemne (near Dundalk, Co. Louth)
River Unshin near Corann (she created the river by urinating)
Realm: The North (Land of the Dead)
Crystals: Clear Quartz
The Morrigan was the Goddess of War, Life and Death, she therefore had a habit of appearing to the great heroes when their life was in danger. Cúchulainn's divine grandfather the Dagda made love to the Morrigan in a story of creation and conflict. Cúchulainn himself encountered the Morrigan in a variety of forms, she appeared as a woman with streaming long red hair, red eyebrows, wearing a long red cloak and carrying a grey spear riding in a chariot.
She could change her shape at will. Cúchulainn did not recognize her as a goddess and spurned her amorous intentions she then harassed him in battle in the form of a heifer, and then an eel, and then as a wolf. She also appeared as an old crone. Her most well recognized form was that of a black crow who was her totem bird.
She resided to the North, which was the realm of the dead, justice and the element of Earth. She often appeared to a hero on the day he was to die, thus she appeared to Cúchulainn before he went to the battle of Muirthemne as an apparition of three crones who were roasting a hound on a rowan spit. There was a geas on Cúchulainn not to eat the meat of his namesake the hound or that would be the day he died, the crones shamed him into eating the taboo food and thus he was killed in battle later that day. When he was dead a black crow the symbol of Morrigan perched on his shoulders and hence his enemies knew for certain he was dead.
She appeared to Diarmuid O'Duibne as an old crone who was trying to cross a stream, he was the only one of his company who took pity on the crone and carried her across the water on his back. At that she turned into a shining tall woman and he knew that she was of the sidhe of Tír na nÓg. She granted him a gift whereby no woman would ever refuse him or be able to resist his look. Which turned out to be a mixed blessing for Diarmuid especially when a woman named Gráinne fell in love with him, and he earned the wrath of fellow suitor Fionn mac Cumhaill.
The Morrigan was a Triple Goddess and was the Crone aspect of the Great Goddess, Macha being the Fertile Woman aspect and Anu being the Young Maiden. There were hills called the Paps of Morrigan in the North of the Country.
With the Furies - the other Goddesses of War: Fea, Nemon, Badbh (the three aspects of the Morrigan) and Macha she roused the warriors to riastradh or battle fury.
The name Morrigan comes from the Gaelic Mór Rígan which means Great Queen.
Image: Detail from The Ravens by Arthur Rackham.
Myths, Stories and Legends associated with Morrigan:
Bres Mac Elatha and the Tuatha Dé Danann
The Hostel of the Quicken Trees
The Awakening of the Men of Ulster
The Courting of Emer by Lady Gregory
The Story of the Tuatha De Danann