The Morrigan is one of the prime examples of a triple goddess. The name Morrigan comes from the Irish Mór-Ríoghain, meaning “great queen” or “nightmare queen.” This goddess is typically depicted as three individuals though any one of them may also appear by themselves.
Most often associated with war, fate, and death, the Morrigan has a powerful reputation as a deity of battle.
About The Morrigan
The Morrigan’s name has a somewhat disputed origin. “Mor” may stem from the Old English maere, from which we also get the word “nightmare.” Later writings show the name with a síneadh fada (a lengthening diacritic mark) over the o, which ties it to the Old Irish word mór, which means “great.”
No matter whether the Morrigan is a Great Queen or a Queen of Nightmares, her legends are often bloody ones.
This triple goddess is made up of Badb, Macha, and either Nemain, Anand, or Fea. All three are sisters, and their depiction as a sovereignty figure may come from the Irish Mythological Cycle.
In it, Ernmas, the granddaughter of Nuada, has three elder daughters named Banba, Fódla, and Ériu (all epithets for Ireland).
Ernams also had three other daughters, Badb, Macha, and the Morrigan. Banba, Fódla, and Ériu were all married to Irish kings, symbolizing a ruler’s marriage to the country and people.
While Banba, Fódla, and Ériu are the primary sovereignty figures here some of this idea appears to extend to the Morrigan as well.
This goddess also appears as the washer-in-the-ford, a figure of an old woman washing bloody clothes in a river. If the viewer recognizes the clothes as their own, it foretells their coming doom.
In one version of Cú Chulainn’s death, he sees her cleaning his own bloody armor before he goes into battle. In fact, the Morrigan crosses paths with Cú Chulainn multiple times — in some stories he injures her, in others, he disrespects her. He is warned of his coming death in battle in each case.
Many of her legends are similar and involve foretelling of death or loss in battle. She is said to sometimes choose to influence the outcome of a war by instilling courage in the hearts of fighters, or even joining in the fighting herself.
She’s so strongly associated with battle that the piles of the severed heads of the losing warriors were even called “Macha’s acorn-crop.”
Interestingly, she is also a fertility figure. While she is most often depicted with crows or ravens as a battle-goddess, she is also a shape shifter strongly associated with cattle.
Her role is not only to engage in bloodshed and influence the outcome of battles, but to embody the protection and prosperity of the land through both fertility and warfare.
Though the two are sometimes conflated, she has no relationship to the Morgan le Fay of Arthurian legend.
Symbols & Associations
The Morrigan is associated with death, rebirth, sovereignty, fertility, and prophecy. As such, she’s often represented with symbols of death.
Skulls, carrion birds (especially ravens and crows), weapons, and blood all appear alongside her. She’s also associated with cattle, as when she turned into a cow in The Cattle Raid of Cooley.
As a triple goddess, she is also symbolized by triple figures like the triskele.
The Morrigan’s powers are many and varied. Though she is most often conceptualized as a goddess of war, only a few have to do with turning the tide of battle.
- Change shape.
- Use weather magic, as when she summoned a fog to hide Ireland from enemies.
- Foretell deaths.
- Instill fear or bravery.
- Physically fight.
- Create bodies of water, as she’s sometimes said to have created the River Unius and one of the springs that feeds the River Shannon.
- Journey to the Underworld.
Traditionally, the Morrigan might receive the dead slain in battle. Since this is probably in short supply (and not legal), there are several better things you can offer instead. These include:
- Red and black candles.
- Crow or raven feathers. (Check the legality of obtaining these in your area.)
- Red wine.
Signs The Morrigan is Calling You
The Morrigan’s call is anything but subtle. Granted, you might not see an old woman washing blood out of your clothes in a river, but there are still plenty of signs that she is trying to contact you.
You might dream of battle, crows, or blood, for example. You may even hear the call of crows or ravens outside of your window or find that they seem to follow you whenever you step outside.
Her call may come from within you as well. You might feel the sudden urge to learn a martial art or even to take part in a fight for something that you believe in.
Crystals Associated with The Morrigan
There are a few stones associated with the Morrigan. These are primarily red and black ones, and include:
- Obsidian. This volcanic glass is also sometimes used to make knives or weapons, which further connects it to the Morrigan as a goddess of battle.
- Garnet, specifically red garnets.
- Jet. This fossilized wood was used during the Victorian era for creating mourning jewelry.
- Bloodstone. This green stone appears to be spattered with red blood.
- Hematite. Some old references to “bloodstone” actually refer to hematite. This ore of iron has a long history of use for courage in battle, and even to help stop wounds from bleeding.
Herbs Associated with The Morrigan
As a goddess of blood, war, and fertility, as well as a powerful queen, the Morrigan is associated with many herbs and flowers. Chief among these are:
Some modern sources include spicy herbs like cloves, red pepper, peppercorns, cinnamon, and nutmeg. A few also add dragon’s blood resin to the list since it resembles dried blood and is frequently employed as a “power” herb.”
Working with The Morrigan
The Morrigan is a deity who isn’t afraid to get her hands dirty (or bloody, as the case may be). That means that there are a lot of different ways that you can work with her.
You may wish to take up a martial art or dedicate yourself to a cause that helps protect and uplift less fortunate people in your community. As a goddess of battle and prosperity, the Morrigan wants us to be physically capable and courageous in the fact of wrongdoing.
You can also create an altar space for her in your home or yard. Indoors, choose a table in an area that you can’t easily ignore — you definitely don’t want to let dust and cobwebs pile up here!
Cover it with a red or black cloth, and set it with an offering bowl, an incense burner, images of crows, ravens, cows, skulls, or other symbols that resonate with the Morrigan, and a devotional candle.
When you want to pay homage to her, feel yourself in need of courage, or want her help to win a personal battle, light the candle and incense and ask her sincerely. Thank her with a food or herbal offering.
Since crows are one of her animals, you may also want to offer them food, water, and a safe place to nest. They are often misunderstood animals and considered agricultural pests, but they’re also known for rewarding those who are kind to them.
Try sex magic. One of the legends about the Morrigan involves her standing over a river and washing herself as she waits to have sacred sex with her consort, the Dagda. As a deity associated with death, rebirth, and the fertility of the land, she is also associated with copulation.
The Morrigan is a goddess of fertility, but not a maternal figure. She is a warrior, a decider of fate, and the determiner of sovereignty.
She is also a trickster and shapeshifter, a powerful ally, and a terrifying enemy. When she calls to you, heed her. She can help you turn the tide of battle in your life.