Linking your favorite traveling artists across the globe
These Celtic earth goddesses were not sweet earth mothers by any means. While they represented the fertility of the land and the nurture of its people, they were often portrayed as harsh or even cruel, much like nature itself. A number of goddesses were associated with the sovereignty of the land, and most of these were also goddesses of war and death. They embodied the earth itself in both its positive and negative aspects.
The most famous of the goddesses of sovereignty was the Morrigan, whose name means “great queen” or “phantom queen.” The Morrigan was of fearsome aspect, often appearing in the form of a carrion crow. She was primarily a goddess of war, ruler of the battlefield and the taker of fallen warriors. Despite the seeming contradiction, the Morrigan was also the goddess of fertility, cattle, and crops.
While it may seem a contradiction that a goddess of life and fertility would also be a goddess of war and death, it is actually an insight into the worldview of the Celts, who correctly observed that death was necessary for the generation of life. The Celts were most aware of natural cycles, and they ascribed mystical importance to the necessity of blood and decay as the sustenance of new life.
The rulership of kings was only by proxy, by authority of the goddess. Kings were symbolically wed to the goddess, and their mandate to rule depended on the whim of the earth — if the fertility of the land failed, or natural disasters struck, this could be seen as the goddess herself expressing displeasure with her earthly husband.
There is some debate over whether or not the Morrigan was one goddess with several aspects, or whether the name was a title applied to many goddesses. In any case, she is generally regarded as a triple goddess, most commonly as a trinity with Badb Catha, (“Battle Crow”) and Macha (“Fury,” also sometimes called Nemain, “Frenzied”).
The Morrigan's earliest written appearance is in the stories of the Ulster Cycle. She first appears to the hero Cuchulainn, who catches her attempting to steal one of his cows. The hero does not recognize her, and in his attempt to prevent her taking the cow, he incites her to anger. She makes a prophecy of his death in battle, which comes to pass.
In the Tain bo Cuilainge, or Cattle Raid of Cooley, she first appears in the form of a crow to warn away the brown bull. Later, the Morrigan appears to Cuchulainn as a beautiful girl and attempts to seduce him, but he rejects her advances. This time, it is the scorned goddess herself who attempts to kill him, by first transforming into an eel, then a wolf, then a red heifer.
She is wounded each time by the hero, and finally she reappears in the form of a wounded elderly woman. Cuchulainn shows sudden compassion, and offers milk to the old woman, which heals her wounds. In gratitude, she makes a prophecy of the coming battle. In all versions of the story, the goddess appears as women in different stages of life, from maiden to old woman.
The Morrigan's guises of age appear connected with her various functions. As maiden, she appears as sovereignty, the ruling principle, and Cuchulainn's rejection can be seen as a rejection of sovereignty itself — his refusal to couple with the goddess may be directly responsible for his death in battle. As the crone, she is a seer, and a harbinger of death.
In direct contrast to Cuchulainn's encounter with sovereignty is Dagda's similar meeting. On the eve of the battle of Mag Tuireadh, the god encounters the goddess as a beautiful maiden washing in the river. He mates with her, and she predicts he will triumph over the Fomorians. The goddess even aids in that victory, appearing in the battlefield with an incantation that rallies the troops to victory: “Kings, arise to the battle!”
It is to Andraste, another form of the war-goddess, that the Celtic warrior queen Boudicca sacrificed hundreds of captive Roman women after her defeat of Roman troops.
In another telling, as Cuchulainn makes his way to the battlefield, he passes the Morrigan, who in the guise of an old woman is washing bloody garments in the river. When he asks what she is doing, she replies that she is washing the funeral clothes of the hero. In this guise, the Morrigan was called the “washer at the ford,” and her appearance presaged death.
The Morrigan and her related goddesses are heavily associated with crows, birds of death and decay. In most versions of the death of Cuchulainn, his death on the battlefield is only recognized when a crow lands upon the hero's upright body. The Morrigan was ruler over the battlefield, and the heads of the slain were euphemistically referred to as “Morrigan's acorn crop,” a likely reference to the ravens' habit of pecking out the eyes of the dead.
Morgan le Fay
A most curious figure in Arthurian legends is Morgan le Fay, or “Morgan of the Fairies,” portrayed in the stories as the often evil half-sister of King Arthur. While the names of the two women do not appear to be linguistically related, their similarities are remarkable. Like the goddess, Morgan is filled with contradictions — she is Arthur's healer and protector, yet tries to kill him on a number of occasions. Both Morgan and the Morrigan are associated with crows, and Morgan takes on many of the initiatory aspects of the Morrigan.
Morgan has another connection to the Great Goddess through the Welsh Modron, “Mother.” Modron was also married to a Urien and, like Morgan, had a son named Owain. Curiously, a tale of Modron repeats an old legend about the washer at the stream, wherein the lady is said to be under a curse until she bears a Christian son.
In her appearances in the Arthurian cycles, in a parallel of the older myth tales, Morgan assumes the role of sovereignty and mates with the young Arthur. It is Morgan who heals a wounded Arthur and gives him the magical protective scabbard that enables him to succeed in battle, and when scorned, she rescinds the gift, allowing him to become fatally wounded. In the end, Morgan receives the dying King and ferries him to Avalon.
Real Name: Morrighan (original spelling)
Occupation: Queen of the Celtic Gods, goddess of war, death and procreation
Legal Status: Citizen of Avalon
Identity: The general populace of Earth is unaware of the existence of Morrigan except as a mythological character.
Other Aliases: Morrigu (alternate spelling), Morríghan ("Phantom Queen"), Mor-Ríoghain, Mor Righ Anu, The Morrigna ("Great Queens"), the Badhbh Chatha, ("Raven of the Battle"), "Washer at the Ford," "The Red," Great Queen, Phantom Queen, Mórrígan ("great queen"), Queen of Daemons, Great Queen, Phantom Queen, Black Raven of Death, Old Veiled One, "The Mare-Queen," Badhb/Bav ("raven"), Nemain ("frenzy"), Breng ("lie"), Meng ("guile"), Meabel ("disgrace") (avatars), Uar-gaeth-sceo Luachair-sceo, Faebor-beg-Beoil Cuimdiuir folt, Scenbgairit sceo Uath,
Place of Birth: Unknown, possibly somewhere in ancient Connacht in modern Ireland
Marital Status: Married
Known Relatives: Labraidh (possible father), Condatis (possible mother), The Dagda (husband), Mider, Bodb, Oghma (sons), Oenghus (step-son), Badb, Brigid, Epona (daughters), Llyr, Gwydion, Amaethon (brothers-in-law),Arianrhod, Penardun (deceased) (sisters-in-law), Manannan (son-in-law),
Group Affiliations: The Celtic Gods, The Morrighan, member of an unnamed cabal of underworld-gods
Base of Operations: Avalon and the Unius River in South West Ireland
First Appearance: (unidentified) Thor I #301, (actual) Doctor Strange III Annual 3,
History: Morrigan is a member of the Tuatha de Danaan, an extra-dimensional race of beings who were worshipped as gods by the ancient Celtis and Gaels. The Danaans were eternal enemies of the Fomore, the primeval spirits of Ancient Eire. Not much is known about her origins which are often speculatory and contradictory. In one account, she was the mortal daughter of Ernmas, an ancient Irish king, the grandson of King Nuadhu, the son of the Dagda. Ernmas had three mortal daughters named Macha, Badb and Nemain who were known as the Morrighan, but it is uncertain if one of these figures is Morrighan or if they took her name from her. Due to her original status as a water-goddess, it is possible Morrigan is the daughter of the primeval Celtic water-gods Labraidh and Condatis, but this is uncertain. In several myths, she was worshipped as a triad of goddesses known as Meng, Meabel and Nemain, but these could be the original names of the daughters of Ernmas or aspects for one goddess or actually a triad of goddesses. It is known that Morrigan is one of the most powerful gods of the Ancient Celts, and was often worshipped as both a mother-goddess and the goddess of war and death.
According to myths, Morrigan was approached as a mate by the Dagda, a chieftain of the Tuatha de Danaan, and seduced on the night of Samhain (November 1). Likely sought as an ally against the Fomore, Morrigan sired him gods who would help the Danaans rise up and overthrow the Fomore from Eire. She is said to have cast the spells which allowed the Danaans to slay King Indech of the Fomore.
After the Fomore were driven from Eire, Morrigan and the Tuatha de Danaan replaced the Fomore as Gods of Ireland. Morrigan is reported to have lured away the bull of a mortal woman named Odras. Odras then followed Morrígan back to Otherworld, the realm of the Celtic Gods, through a extra-dimensional link between worlds in the Cave of Cruachan. When Odras eventually fell asleep, Morrígan transformed her into a pool of water that dispensed prophecies to those who could find it.
In ancient times, Morrigan often appeared as a giantess on Earth, straddling the river Unius as she washed the armor of soldiers she predicted would die in war. She had a number of guises in her role as the triple-goddess. As Badhb, she surveyed the spoils of war in the form of a raven, but as Nemain, she was the terrifying incarnation of the bloodthirsty side of war. She glorified the defeat of the Fomore, and in the First Millennium BC, she appeared as a would-be mate to the demigod warrior Cu Chulainn, appearing to him from behind a number of aliases trying to get him to guess her true identity, but when he refused her, she cursed him to die very shortly after meeting her.
Worship of the Celtic Gods departed from Western Europe in the Fifth Century AD with the introduction of Christianity, and Morrigan departed from earth for the other-dimensional realm of Avalon. During the Third Host of the Celestial, the Dagda met with the god-kings of the Earth's other pantheons of gods to discuss the threat of the Celestials who demanded that the gods stop trafficking with mortals. The Celestials also revealed that they would return in a thousand years to judge over mankind's worthiness to survive. While this was occurring, Morrigan met with the wives of the god-kings, such as Frigga, wife of Odin, and Hera, wife of Zeus, to locate genetically pure examples of humanity to represent the potential of human beings. In Twelfth Century Ireland, Morrigan finally located a young girl named Bridget O'Hare and placed her in suspended animation watched over by several other goddesses until the Fourth Host of the Celestial occurred. As the Sea Witch, Bridget became a member of the Young Gods, and when the time came, Gaea, the divine ancestor of the gods of earth, presented the Young Gods to the Celestial as examples of the potential of human beings. Voting in favor of mankind, the Celestials departed earth with the Young Gods in company.
Morrigan and the Dagda later consented with Cernunnos, the stag-god, to grant the mortal Kyllian the power to serve as a representative of the Celtic God's power on Earth after they had been exiled from trafficking with mortals. Unable to truly understand what was happening to him, Kyllian sought help from Sorcerer Supreme Dr. Strange to understand what was happening to him. With a spell, Strange forced Morrigan, Cernunnos and the Dagda in the role as Taranis the Thunderer to appear on earth to explain their roles in persecuting Kyllian. (In ancient myths, Taranis was actually the name the Celts had for Zeus, the god of the invading Romans. It is believed the Dagda used this name to appear in a role familiar to Kyllian.) Cernunnos explained that they had linked with Kyllian to preserve their link to earth and Ireland in particular so that Kyllian could continue their will on Earth. However, since then, Kyllian has fallen sway under the thrall of Mordred the Mystic, a druidic mystic. How this bodes for the rest of the Celtic gods is unrevealed.
In keeping with her more bloodthirsty attributes as a goddess of war and death, Morrigan later allowed herself to ally with certain underworld gods such as Baal, Izanami and Ahriman in order to tempt Superman into serving as their vessel of power on earth. In doing so, they bestowed godhood upon his wife, Lois Lane-Kent, in the form of a goddess of truth and integrity. With her godly powers, Lois saw through their lies and guises and unexpectedly revealed their true forms. Morrigan was once more forced to retreat from earth. Her current activities and whereabouts are unknown.
Height: Various, usually around 6' 5"Weight: UnknownEyes: BrownHair: Black
Strength Level: Morrigan possesses superhuman strength enabling her to lift (press) at least 85 tons under optimal conditions.
Known Superhuman Powers: Morrigan possesses the conventional physical attributes of the Celtic gods. Like all Danaans, she is extremely long-lived. She is not immortal like the Olympian gods, but she uses mystical means to retain the look and appearance of a young woman. She cannot die by any conventional means; she is immune to all Earthly diseases and is resistant to conventional injury. If she were somehow wounded, her godly life force would enable her to recover with superhuman speed. It would take an injury of such magnitude that it dispersed a major portion of her bodily molecules to cause her a physical death. Even then, it might be possible for a god of significant power, such as the Dagda, Llyr or for a number of Celtic gods of equal power working together to revive her.
Morrigan also possesses superhuman strength and her Danaan metabolism provides her with far greater than human endurance in all physical activities. (Danaan flesh and bone is about three times as dense as similar human tissue, contributing to the superhuman strength and weight of the Celtic gods.)
Morrigan possibly has more mystical powers than any other Celtic goddess, with the possible exception of the Dagda. She is possible equal in power to other gods such as Odin and Zeus. Her prophetic and clairvoyant senses allow her to perceive and predict the deaths of warriors about to go into war. She can also sense the glow of death around a person about to die. She can appear as a giantess on earth, anywhere between fifty to a hundred feet in height and command the forces of storm. She can create clouds of solid particles to stand upon in the Earth's atmosphere. She can also take on an immaterial form composed of clouds and astral matter to project her image on earth and create hand and arm-shaped matter to impose her will. She can summon and create ravens of various size at will. She can also cast spells and hexes, erect and propel blasts of energy and concussive force.
As the triple-goddess, Morrigan has a host of other forms and guises, each of which with its own powers and attributes. As Badhb, she can fly through the air with two massive black feathered wings from her back and project a loud shrill cry capable of stirring fear in her opponents. As Nemain, she is in her most bloodthirsty form and virtually unstoppable. In this form, she is virtually inexhaustible and her godly attributes render her immune to all forms of injury. One of her major forms is as a caillech (an old woman) wrapped in a cape of black raven feathers. Another role of the Morrigan is associated with the hunting falcon, which is a rare and special role for her. Instead of a raven who guides the soul at birth or death, she becomes that falcon that guides the healer or mage in initiation. She can also take on a variety of animal forms, each representing an attribute of her worship, such as a crow, an eel, a wolf or a cow.
It has also been suggested that Morrigan sometimes feasts on the astral energies ("souls") of persons slain in combat. It is unknown if she requires these energies to survive or whether she uses them in the precision of her spells. As a true god, she would not be as powerful in the modern age as she was in the past while she had active worshippers.
Pets: Morrigan is often surrounded by a flurry of ravens.
Comments: This bio includes Morrigan as she has appeared in the Marvel and DC Universes.
In "Hercules: the Legendary Journeys," Morrigan was played by Tamara Gorski, but this character was more of a demigoddess rather than an all-powerful triple goddess.
Clarifications: Morrigan is not to be confused with:
Macha I, daughter of Partholón, the leader of the first settlement of Ireland after the flood, c. 2680
Macha II, wife of Nemedh, the eponym of the Nemedian tribes, buried in Armagh, c. 2550 BC
Macha III, daughter of Aed Ernmas, Queen of Connacht, c. 1870
Macha (Medb) IV, Queen of Ulster, daughter of Aed Ruad (Red Hugh), r. 672-660 BC
Macha V, daughter of Sainrith mac Imbaith, wife of Cruinniuc, contemporary of Cu Chulainn, c. First Century BC
Maev, aka Titania, Queen of the Faeries, daughter of Mider, @ "A Mid-Summer Night's Dream" by William Shakespeare
Morgan Le Fay, Queen of Gorre, eternal nemesis of Queen Arthur, @ Spider-Woman I #1
Morgen, druidic-goddess, Chooser of the Slain, daughter of Arawn, c. 5th Century AD
Morrigan, alleged mortal daughter of Cernunnos, @ Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, Episode: "Render Into Caesar"
Everything Under the Moon
The Morrigan by Mustafovich
The Morrigan is a goddess of battle, strife, and fertility. Her name translates as either "Great Queen" or "Phantom Queen," and both epithets are entirely appropriate for her. The Morrigan appears as both a single goddess and a trio of goddesses. The other deities who form the trio are Badb ("Crow"), and either Macha (also connotes "Crow") or Nemain ("Frenzy"). The Morrigan frequently appears in the ornithological guise of a hooded crow. (Wikipedia)