An Morrígan: War Goddess and More


My need to write this survey comes from the fact that I was trying to write a prayer to An Morrígan and found myself at a loss.  I know what she means to me, I know my thoughts about her and who she is but am I correct in my assessment?  I didn’t want to offend her so I decided to hit the books again and see what I could gather about her.  I was lucky.  I found a dissertation written by Angelique Gulermovich Epstein.  I had downloaded it from archives.org as her site, (the one she put the dissertation up on), is no longer on the Internet it seems.  She has done most of the hard work for me by listing almost all the places in the Irish myths that An Morrígan was mentioned in.

Sources Used:

Prose Glossaries:

–      Sans Cormaic (Cormac’s Glossary): It is thought to be written by Cormac mac Cuilennáin, a bishop and King of Munster who died in 908.  It appears in the Yellow Book of Lecan (14th century) and Book of Leinster (12th century).  It appears to be older than the manuscripts it is found in, it could be from the time of Cormac or a century or two after.

–      O’Mulconry’s Glossary: It appears in the Yellow Book of Lecan and it is thought to belong to at least the 13th or 14th century or even older.

–      O’Davoren’s Glossary: It appears in Egerton (18th century) and H.2.15 thought to date to the 16th century.

–      Michael O’Cleary’s Glossary: He was a member of one of the great literary families of medieval Ireland, and one of the “Four Masters”.

–      Séamus O’Bron’s Glossary: It is contained in Egerton, written in Cork in 18th century and its goal is to exhibit the vocabulary current among the Gaels of Alba.

–      Peter O’Connell’s Glossary: The author of this glossary died in 1810.

Metric Glossaries:

–      Forus Focal: It appears in 4 manuscripts, the oldest of which is the Book of Leinster.  It is attributed to John O’Duvegan but this is doubted.

–      Derbhshuir Glossary: This glossary is thought to be older than 1643.

–      Metric Glossary edited by Stokes: It was found in a fragmented copy of Egerton 90, it dated to before 1416 and it could even be older than 1300.

Myths and Lore:

–      The Lebor Gabála Érinn (The Book of the Takings of Ireland): A myth that talks about the pseudo-history of Ireland going back to before Noah’s Flood.

–      The Banshenchas: This is Lore that catalogues the important women in Irish mythology.  Funny enough they are catalogued via their husbands, brothers or fathers.

–      The Dindsenchas: This is the Lore of places.  It tells how places in Ireland got their names.

–      Cath Muige Tuired Cunga (The First Battle of Moytura): This is the story of the battle between the Tuatha De Danann and the Fir Bolg.

–      Cath Muige Tuired (The Second Battle of Moytura): This is the story of the battle between the Tuatha De Danann and the Fomoire.

–      Táin Bó Cúailnge: The center piece of the Ulster Cycle.  Revolves around a cattle raid that Medb leads into Ulster, and Cú Chulainn, who single-handedly defends the province.

–      And many of the Ulster cycle myths.

Conclusions:

From reading all the texts and the analysis provided by the author of the dissertation, I got the following:

  1. An Morrígan appears as a single being or a class of beings, with different interchangeable names like Macha, Morrígan, Badb, Nemain, Fea and Danu or Anu.
  2. She is associated with death and woe.
  3. She can be a shape-shifter, she is known in the texts to shift into a cow, crow, raven, eel and wolf.
  4. Her areas of “expertise” are prophecy, incitement to war, direct assault either physically or magically, joy in the carnage of battle, she is capable of making so much noise that the enemy either dies of freight or runs away, and she proclaims victory.  She is also considered a satirist and a sorceress.

It should be noted that because of all of these things she is designated as a WAR GODDESS, because when taken as a whole everything we know about her from the myths and the lore corresponds to what Celtic martial practices were like, but that is not all she is.  She is also a sovereignty goddess as evidenced through some of her transactions in some of the myths.  She is a mother, though her children appear to be made up of either dangerous poisonous children or warriors that help her in combat.

In essence An Morrígan is a very complex goddess just like all the other Celtic deities that don’t quite fit into one specific mold.

Advertisements

30 thoughts on “An Morrígan: War Goddess and More

  1. Saigh says:

    I don’t really get why everyone is so “She’s more than a War Goddess” these days. When it comes down to it, everything She is noted for in the literature turns BACK to WAR. But I don’t think the issue is about Her; it’s about people’s reaction to this and wanting to have some sort of relationship with Her without dedicating as warriors, apparently. I just don’t get it.

    Yes, She’s complex…but a War Deity would be.

    Don’t forget Her connection to stealing cattle. That’s one that Herbert, Clark and others seriously get screwed up…She IS connected to cows, but not their fertility as those writers try to make out, but specifically with stealing. Stealing cattle, of course, usually leads to war.

    • celticscholar says:

      Hmmm, maybe I gave the wrong impression in the title. I totally get that she is a war goddess, primarily. I also see that her prophecy, sorcery and pretty much everything she does goes back to war. Even when she was being a sovereignty goddess she was all about war. It’s mainly why I feel connected to her. I also agree about the stealing cattle. She is not about fertility of cows as using cows to start wars like she did with the Táin. BUT she is still a prophetess, whether she is prophesying war or something else it shouldn’t matter. She is a sorceress whether she uses magic as a means to fight a war or not. This is what I meant.

  2. Saigh says:

    I guess I’m forgetting where She does sorcery or prophesy that is not connected to warfare. Actually, I can’t think of any prophesy in the literature that doesn’t relate to war..whether it’s about a battle or about a warrior’s fate. The connection of female seers with warfare is actually an angle that I’m exploring right now.

    The sorcery thing is also interesting to me although it’s getting me more into language than I intended when I started this all. I know Epstein is a proponent of translating “bantúathach” and “bantúathige” like “bantúathaid” as “sorceress.” However, as “túathach” refers to a land owner, even a sort of minor lord, I tend to go with the former versions meaning a female land owner (or farmer…which sort of brings to mind someone who works the land themselves, but isn’t what the term probably meant) and the later conversion of the term into “bantúathaid” for sorceress was due, um, issues with giving such a position to a female…and that the translations of the term that actually refers to land owner rather than sorceress as sorceress shows this prejudice is still with most scholars. But not all. MacAlister does translate these terms differently (although Heijda, whose Badb thesis I believe I also gave you a link for uses his translations but replaces “land owner” with “witch” also…which shows a great flaw in her work as you don’t just randomly change a translation you’re using… Epstein translated herself, rather than using his and, while I disagree with her on translating these words as if they were the same, at least she’s not putting the blame on him). (see http://www.dil.ie/index.asp for words…make sure you put the “fuzzy” on and you have to look them up there seems to be no way to link to the actual entries properly…and for most you have to look up the male version, with out the “ban”)

    Anyway, while I have no real issue with the idea that An Morrígan, Her sisters and Her mother have magical powers (I mean, They are Goddesses after all), I do believe that the emphasis put on Them as sorceresses is one of the cases where we have actual evidence of misogynistic readings put directly into the text and then furthered by scholars lazily translating different words as the same simply because the word was changed in different texts (I’m not actually accusing Epstein and Heijda of being misogynists, although I don’t understand why they are not favorable of these Goddesses being seen as having political power in the tribe a the original term indicates).

    This also fits with Bitel’s commentary that sorcery was the one power that was attributed to women by the writers of legal texts as well as literature. Which brings me back, as always, to the fact that the interpretations of Her as “fighting with magic and not physically” is a whole lot of propaganda. While we can’t know what the pre-Christian beliefs about Her really were, the transformation of this one term indicates to me that there was a transformation of where Her (and Her mother’s, cousins, sisters) power was seen to lie right within Christian times, from political chieftainship to “properly feminine” witchcraft.

    But, again, I can’t think of any time where Her use of sorcery is not involved in at least cattle stealing if not out right warfare.

    • celticscholar says:

      I’m not disagreeing with anything you said. But somehow land owner just does make sense to me somehow. Also, why wouldn’t she fight with magic as well as physically? I don’t see it as witchcraft more like the powers of a goddess, the term sorcery could just be a convenient way of explaining it. But that is just my thoughts on this as I’m not very proficient in language matters, though it is something I’m hoping to correct.

      • Saigh says:

        I’m not saying They don’t fight magically, that’s essentially all we have of actual description, in fact (other than Macha Mongruadh…who probably was not Macha daughter of Ernmas and not a Goddess but was written quite clearly as supposed to be a human woman. There is also the fact that Macha ingen Ernmas did die in battle but I know that that get challenged by those opposing the idea They fight physically in that we don’t get the details). Although I believe that was contrived, but actual proof is non-existent. Other than the transformation of this particular term.

        But “witchcraft” is more correct as far as the meaning of the term “bantúathaid” and by that I mean the old fashion meaning of “witchcraft” as something evil. The actual meaning of the term is someone who uses negative magic. I realize I should have been clear on that.

        “Land owner,” someone with real POWER in a túath, makes a lot of sense to me in regards to the power that Ernmas and Her Daughters originally might have had. It was a position human women didn’t have in the real world that the literature was written in. Women might, under rare circumstances actually, inherit lifetime use of land (but it returned to the paternal family after her death), but the leadership position that the word “túathach” means wasn’t likely possible at all. Now, I realize, as much as I wish it was, that this is not proof that because Goddesses were, early on, termed such that this existed as a pre-Christian possibility…but it seems it was more acceptable for the earlier writers to have seen the possibility as opposed to the need to show Them as specifically negative sorceresses. Which I find, well, hopeful.

        So, yes, I believe They have magic, all the Gods do, but the use of a word that is specifically negative, and that is similar to the word used earlier which indicates another sort of power is significant in my mind. It fits within a culture where women were increasingly seen as incapable of real strength but were suspected of using negative sorcery on a regular basis. A culture where there was no secular laws to deal with a woman committing physical homicide, but were many to deal with a woman committing magical harm.

        I stink greatly at language. But I was motivated to do a lot of research and thinking on these terms. And what they signify in this case.

        • celticscholar says:

          Ah, ok, thanks for clarifying as that makes more sense to me now. I do see where you are coming from more clearly. I would totally agree with the connotations you put into the language as after all it was written by men who also happened to be Christian so a double whammy for the women in any myth. But I guess it would depend on how you “want to see” the words too. I see them as not being negative (even though I understand that they probably were meant that way), I guess the word here would be context of who sees what meaning…not sure I’m making total sense here.

          • Saigh says:

            I don’t seem them as negative, either, really. Or maybe it’s more correct to say I rejoice in the supposed negativity. ~;P Just as I get into the whole Outlaw diberga thing. I’m totally into the idea that those who viewed these things as evil were the true evil. But I’m evil that way. LOL

            I also should point out that what you’re seeing in my responses is what ate several months of my life and has not completely let me go. Even not working on this chapter this all comes up. And, um, I think I’m going to be back on that chapter again, thanks to you. ~;)

          • celticscholar says:

            I’m actually glad of your comments because they help me out too. I have these kinds of ideas swirling in my head but when they come out on paper they are not quite what I had in mind. You help me clarify things in my mind and for anyone reading my posts and then my answers to your comments. 🙂

  3. Wade MacMorrighan says:

    Personally, I don’t understand why so many Pagans are so keen to defend the Goddess whom I serve as purely and solely a war-goddess, in spite of the recent academic evidence and quantification! Yes, she appears, rather superficially, to be conflated with warfare, but one must remembers that the banner of the Virgin Mary was also lauded as a patroness during war, and she is definitely not regarded as a war deity of any sort.

    Furthermore, any notion or bellicosity must be viewed and accepted within the endemic concept of the culture in question. As numerous scholars attest, the concept of war-fare was, among the Celts (indeed, among the Indo-Europeans) was the cattle raid. The Morrighan was not principally, nor even directly (and, in fact, only indirectly, if you squint your eyes hard enough while reading the evidence) the one who incited a Tain. In fact, the one who IS principally associated with inciting a Tain is one goddess who is most often NOT regarded as a Celtic war-deity: Medb.

    Now, let us turn to Morrighan’s allegedly war-like “nature”: It has been disclosed by recent specialist-scholars that the vast majority of her more wrathful behavior is certainly a result of Clerical redaction, often in a demonstrable effort to make Cu Chulain appear to be more of a heroic figure. Much of her allegedly “savage” nature is also directly traceable to earlier Old testament texts, such as when she rained down an alternating shower of fire and mist onto the inhabitants of Ireland when the Tuatha De. land on shore which is found when Moses (through his god) does the same thing with showers of fire and ice to twist Pharaoh’s hand and free the Hebrew people. This shows us an inkling of what was in the mind of the Clerics recording these tales–that this is not more evidence for a so-called “war-goddess”, but shows that the Tuatha De were essentially on the side of the right, as it were.

    When this evidence is isolated and extracted, a new view of the Goddess emerges that has slumbered for far too long in a Classicist ideology of a war-deity. Most scholars seem to agree, now, that Morrighan is, in actuality, an earth-goddess (genius loci) and a goddess of sovereignty (period), as were all Celtic goddesses. This seems principally true when one takes into account Her pairing with Her consort, the thunder-god, An Daghda. Moreover, it is equally possible that this pairing results from a Celto-Germanic antecedent (evidence exists for the “marriage” between a winter-goddess [Morrighan is the personification of Samhain] and a thunder-god), or even a fully Indo-European impetus. Let us also not be so quick to forget that The Morrighan is merely an identity and personification of the principal Irish Mother-Goddess, Annan.

    For further evidence, here is a list of sources and citations on which I have drawn my academic conclusions:

    * “Transmutations of an Irish Goddess” by Prof. Maire Herbert in “The Concept of the Goddess” ed. by Miranda Green, et. al.
    * “Aspects of the Earth-Goddess in the Traditions of the Banshee in Ireland” by Prof. Patricial Lysaght in “The Concept of the Goddess” ed. by Miranda Green, et. al.
    * “Celtic Culture: A Historical Encyclopedia” ed. by Prof. John T. Koch
    * “The Lore of Ireland: An Encyclopaedia of Myth, Legend, and Romance”, by Prof. Daithi O’ hOgain
    * “The Encyclopaedia of Celtic Myth & Legend: A Definitive Sourcebook of Magic, Vision, and Lore”, ed. and trans. by John and Caitlin matthews
    * “War Goddess: The Morrígan and her Germano-Celtic Counterparts”, by Angelique Gulermovich Epstein
    * “The Celtic Heroic Age: Literary Sources for Ancient Celtic Europe & Early Ireland * Wales”, ed. & trans. by John T. Kock and John Carey
    * “Celtic Mythology”, by Proinsias Mac Cana
    * “The Ancient Celts”, by Barry Cunliffe
    * “The Sovereignty-Goddess as Goddess of Death?” by Maire Bhreathnach
    * “Aspects of the Theme of King and Goddess in Irish Literature”, by Proinsias Mac Cana

    Now, granted, this is ONLY what I can, personally, prove and what I believe to be true and historically accurate! This is not intended to tell anyone else that their relationship with the Goddess is questionable in any way. However, that being said, my research has only deepened my relationship with the Goddess and how I serve Her.

  4. Wade MacMorrighan says:

    Oh, and for a brilliant book on the Indo-Europeans, I would personally recommend Prof. M. L. West’s “Indo-European Poetry & Myth” (Oxford UP)!

  5. Wade MacMorrighan says:

    BTW, these are just the references I happened to have on hand at the time; I have many more in storage at the moment.

    Here is an entry I wrote about the Morrighan as a hearth-goddess in an article that was published last year. I thought you might like it:

    THE MÓRRÍGHAN A territorial land-goddess associated with the scald crow and native rites of sovereignty; it was throughout the eleventh-century CE manuscript known as the Lebor Gabála Érenn (“Taking of Ireland”) that monastic scribes identified her unequivocally as the Irish mother-goddess, Anann. She is also the personification of the Feast of Samhain (the onset of winter), which has been translated as “Summer’s End”.[1]  However, her dominion also extended towards the hearth for we note many topographical place-names regarded as the Fulacht na Mórrígna, or the “Mórríghans’ Hearth”—they were ancient cooking-sites typically demarcated by scorched earth and material remains, though when they were originally in use a source of water was always kept near at hand.[2] A tale from the Dindsenchas (“Lore of Places”) holds that a magical cooking-apparatus (perhaps a cauldron) bearing her name was said to be located at the Hill of Tara (the ritual center of Ireland)—it could be dismantled and reassembled, probably not unlike the plates of the Gundestrap Cauldron from Denmark; but the device also possessed the unique ability to cook three different kinds of meat, each at varying temperatures. It has been suggested that the cooking spit may associate her with the skills of metallurgy, or otherwise reveals her to be a goddess of plenty.[3] Although, her hearth may also have been one of the ancient tools that were required by a smith.[4]

    NOTES:

    [1] Bhreathnach, Maire (1982). “The Sovereignty Goddess as Goddess of Death?”, Zeitschrift für Celtische Philologie, 39: pp. 243-260; Cunliffe, Barry (1997). The Ancient Celts. Penguin Books: pp. 185-6; Celtic Heroic Age: pp. 259; Mac Cana, Proinsias (1955-6). “Aspects of the Theme of King and Goddess in Irish Literature”, Études Celtiques, 7: pp. 76-114, 356-413; Mac Cana, Proinsias (1958-9). “Aspects of the Theme of King and Goddess in Irish Literature”, Études Celtiques, 8: pp. 59-65; “Goddesses”. The Lore of Ireland, pp. 275-6; Victoria Simmons. “Sovereignty Myth”. Celtic Culture, vol. 4, pp. 1621-22.
    [2] Hennessy, W. M. “The Ancient Irish Goddess of War”. Revue Celtique, I (1870-1872), 54-5.
    [3] Clark, Rosalind (1991). The Great Queens: Irish Goddesses from the Morrígan to Cathleen ní Hulihan. Irish Literary Studies 34. Barnes & Noble Books: pp. 35.
    [4] Hyde, Douglas (June, 1916). “The Cooking of the Great Queen: (Fulacht Na Mórrigna)”, The Celtic Review, 10 (40): pp. 335-50.

    • celticscholar says:

      Honestly, I’m not sure we are in disagreement here. I pretty much agree with all you just said, except that I also think that she is a warrior goddess. She is associated with stealing cows as can be seen from many of the myths, but she is much more just as you said.

      Thanks for adding to my book list, I’ve got pretty much all the references mentioned except for one or two.

      • Saigh says:

        Yes, indeed, She is very much about stealing cows and Her theft of them is precisely what starts the Táin. We see this in the Táin
        BóRegamna http://www.maryjones.us/ctexts/regamna.html English http://www.ucc.ie/celt/online/G301005.html Irish, where Cú Chulainn is incited, as well as Echtrae Nerai (The Adventure of Nera) which I haven’t found in Irish online but is in English at http://www.ancienttexts.org/library/celtic/ctexts/nera.html where Medb is. In both cases due to An Morrígan having stolen cows.

        • celticscholar says:

          Thanks for the links Saigh, I’ve read them, but for people who have wondered where we are getting our info here it is guys…

          • Saigh says:

            I figured you had, but wanted to them out there for those who seem to have missed that there was a connection between Her and cattle stealing and the reason for the raid. Of course, Epstein points this all out too, as you know. But apparently it bears repeating. ~;)

          • celticscholar says:

            Indeed it does.

        • Wade MacMorrighan says:

          Saigh, her theft of cattle is not DIRECTLY responsible for inciting the Tain–that distinction goes to Medb who demanded the Raid to commence. As I have said, if you squint your eyes hard enough, it might look as though she were inciting it (but only indirectly, if even…), however, her theft of cattle primarily revolves around fertility and the birth of other cows, thus associating her with the generation of wealth, or perhaps even fertility/ abundance. This is as least the conclusion drawn by prof. Petra S. Hellmuth in his “Morrigan”-entry for Prof. John T. Koch’s academic peer-reviewed/ edited resource, “Celtic Culture: A Historical Encyclopedia”, vol. 4: pp. 1314.

          And, CelticScholar, if it’s the Celtic Culture encyclopedia ye be after, a word of warning…it’s VERY expensive–the 5 vol. set costs very nearly $500.00, and that’s not including shipping! However, ABC-Clio is one of the better scholastic publishing companies.

          Also, if you haven’t read them, i strongly suggest the work of Prof. Eva Pocs (“Between the Living and the Dead”; Prof. Emma Wilby’s “Cunning Folk and Familiar Spirits: Shamanistic Visionary Traditions in Early Modern British Witchcraft and Magic”; and Prof. Georg Luck’s “Arcana Mundi”!

          Take care,
          Wade

          • celticscholar says:

            Hi Wade, thanks for the suggestions, I’ve read them actually. Also I know that the Celtic Culture Encyclopedia is 5 volumes I ordered it back when it was 700 dollars lol and got it. It is very extensive and very good to have. I have to go back and read the myth but I know that she incited some of the raids, and people do call on her for help when going on cattle raids.

          • Saigh says:

            Sorry, Wade, I don’t see the need to squint, it’s pretty clear. In reading the tales She’s quite obviously instigating and egging on both Cú and Medb. It’s clearly a deliberate effort to get Cú to fulfill his potential as Her warrior. Of course, I do see that many who are not warriors have trouble understanding that relationship and what the so-called “antagonist” qualities really mean in context of the path. It’s a truly wonderful, and rare, depiction of a relationship between Deity and follower that we lack for the most part in the literature…even through the eyes of Christian clerics.

            FWIW, I don’t read Medb as a Goddess even if she shares the name of a Leinster Goddess there is little evidence that the Connaugt Medb was although so many have tried to weaken and excuse her by making her so. I highly recommend Diana Veronica Domiguez’s dissertation about her http://etd.lib.ttu.edu/theses/available/etd-06272008-31295019380368/unrestricted/31295019380368.pdf I think it’s a bit ridiculous when you have clear Gods and Goddesses in a story to think that others need to be disguised as humans as so many seem to think about Medb. While there may be “shadowing” of a Goddess, something I think would have to be necessary if there were titular female rulers, I think the character in the Ulster matter is clearly a human and that Diana gives a clear example of how she’s not really as vile or weak as so many try to make her out to be.

            I think one of the saddest things is that most of these stories are being read without an understanding of what it might mean to warriors, how warriors would see these things. Of course, I know several professional warriors who do work with An Morrígan, but few of them do a lot of writing on Her. There are things in these tales that just don’t seem to be understood by those who don’t deal with Her on this front. And I’m not sure if it’s possible for them to. But I’m going to be trying, or at least giving others on the warrior path something to work with from this perspective.

          • celticscholar says:

            Thanks for that link Saigh! I do understand where you are coming from and in the beginning the way She acted always confused me, but then I went through a time in my life where I had to step up to the plate so to speak and now I understand what you are saying perfectly.

  6. Fióna ni'Giollarua says:

    An Mórrighan is also associated with Didge, and Mór Muman, as well as the Cailleach Bheare. (See MacKillop) Consequently She is not only a Goddess of Sovereignty, war etc, but also a Creatrix. In mating with An Dagdha at Samhain, she, along with An Dagdha ensures the coming of spring- so, in association with An Dagdha, she governs the changing of the seasons, specifically from light to dark half ie ‘time’. This governance of time is also supported by her similarities/associations with the Cailleach- The Cailleach is a “Grandmother” figure in that she is the Grandmother of peoples and tribes, grows younger as she grows older (time, seasonal change) is associated with sovereignty, creating landforms etc
    An Mórrighan, in her aspect of Macha, is associated with the sacred white mare (which may suggest a connection to Epona)

    An Mórrighan also is reputed to have had five sons,named Maine, from who the tribe of Ui Maine descend.

    Not a very well written comment, but you get the gist.
    F

    • celticscholar says:

      Thanks for the additional information.

    • Saigh says:

      Sources? I mean other than MacKillop, who is not convincing.

      The Maines are Medb’s sons, btw.

      The idea of Her as Creatrix due to Her union with An Dagda is BELIEF, it’s not something described in the tale. It’s also not part of my belief system. The only thing that is said to come out of that mating is victory in the battle.

      The horse issue is complicated, as is the relationship between An Morrígan and Macha…They are clearly sisters, not “aspects” in the NeoPagan way.

  7. Fióna ni'Giollarua says:

    Re: Medb
    Medb most certainly is a Goddess.There are clues a-plenty in myth.
    MacKillop gives: “In stories she was reared in Tara; in fact she was probably worshipped there…The Leinster queen Medb Lethdearg…is probably identical with Medb of Connacht and may have preceded her…”

    One important thing to remember is that the ancient Irish and thier various tribes had many epithets by which they named thier deities. For instance, An Dagdha is known by something like 28 different appellations…different names indicating the same god, at different times,according to function and perhaps by different tribes.

    The same tendency may apply to other Irish deities- and then there is the confusion caused by Christian scribes writing the oral histories down beginning in the 8th-10th centuries- Who knows what changes, mistranslations and omissions may have occured- not to mention thier misunderstanding or limited understanding of the culture/s whose stories they were trying to record by looking backwards by about 400 yrs+. (Also important to note are linguistic changes as well, as language developed from proto Celtic to Celtic, to Old Irish and then to Middle Irish etc) It was quite normal for Xn scribes of the period to try to historicize prominent literary figures attempting to transpose them from deity to historical figure (which is what happened to Medb).
    F

    • Saigh says:

      The theory that Medb of Leinster and Medb of Connaught are the same is popular, but not proven. Or provable. The key thing is that in the TBC and other tales, Medb is clearly written as a human. A spectacular human, but a human. That An Morrígan is featured in the TBC as a Goddess at the same time, make the argument that Medb and not An Morrígan the War Goddess of the tales problematic. Again, for a complex look at Medb of Connaught as woman and where connections to Goddess might lie, I recommend http://etd.lib.ttu.edu/theses/available/etd-06272008-31295019380368/unrestricted/31295019380368.pdf

      The problem over all, of course, is that it ALL comes from Christian story, we have nothing that proves ANY of these Deities were Deities, aside from the few, like Lugh and Brighid, for which we have some inscriptal evidence. We actually do not KNOW that these come from any Pre-Christian source. That’s all based on belief.

  8. Fióna ni'Giollarua says:

    One last comment-
    Yes, alot of pagans get hung up on Na Mórrigna as solely a war goddess. She is far more complex as has been demonstrated in the literature and various commentaries. However, she has specific functions as a war goddess- incitement to battle, battle frenzy, terror, and more importantly, foreshadowing who is to die on the battlefield, in addition to other skills already mentioned in the posts.

    Interestingly, in transforming herself into a heifer in her confrontation with Cuchullain, she symbolizes beauty, prosperity and fertility- her calf, rebirth, regeneration, and paradoxically death for the bith of the calf foreshadows Cuchullain’s demise- suggesting an association with cattle, esp in the Taín -which is not so much about a cattle raid, as it is perhaps a remnant of a divine tale of a bull cult- in which war upon the earthly plane is parallel to the war/battle between the divine bulls Donn Cuailgne and Finnbennach.
    Also, the cow-calf foreshadowing suggests birth, death, re-birth.

    F

  9. Fióna ni'Giollarua says:

    PS
    Brighid is also associated with warriors, as a titullary goddess,(protection of tribal lands) and through her patronage of smiths (who forge weaponry ie the secret of the sword in the stone).

    There is a distinct modern tendency to view Irish deities as rather “global”, ie worshipped by all of the Irish tribes- which was certainly not the case.
    Some deities are locale specific- for example, there is evidence of Brighid in Britain, Scotland, and Leinster in Ireland- you dont find her in Connacht so much, or Ulster. There may be a connection between her and the Cailleach, but beyond that there is little evidence for her in Munster. *unless we move forward in time to the early Xn period. Likewise Lugh- who is believed to have been a relative latecomer,with, most likely Gaulish origins (O’hOgain)perhaps superceding the Dagdha in legend and myth, originally thought to have been introduced to Ireland by the Laigne (O Rahilly).

    There is also a whole corpus of myth known to have existed, but no longer extant- the tales of Munster- there is a hint of these when we see refereces to MacDaire, Daire, Cu Roi…Cu Roi being a warrior deity of Munster, but also a solar deity- in some ways, similar in function and physical description to the Dagdha.

    So deities were not global, but tribe specific- and as various tribes came into or out of power, deities altered, changed, diminished, were adopted etc Also…deities changed over time as the needs of the ppl changed and as society moved forward in time.

    It would be most interesting to ascertain which deities have thier origins in neolithic (or earlier times) and how they were altered or blended in with Celtic deities in the Iron Age. Its a question that may never be answered, although O hOgain does have some interesting comments and insights.


    F

  10. Chris Godwin says:

    I would have liked to see each examples excerpt and an in-depth explanation about the excerpts.

  11. toni says:

    hi there, i read all your comments with interest.

    i think its definitely a joy of Our Great Mother to throw a few things in the cauldron (a pile of diligent scholars and devotees online) or a magical race of people in a hemmed in battle (the Danaan and Moytura) and see what results. Conflict can be an exciting thing which encourages us to dig deep within ourselves can and yield many teachings which can increase the love in the world. It can also produce war where many people are killed.

    I believe that the Morrigan provides countless scenarios, both in myth, history and the present day for a huge amount of power to be shapeshifted either into love or to war. This mode of thinking can be further complicated by the concept of life appearing from destruction. Very easy to think of her as a War Goddess, possibly harder to think of her as a caring mother who watches as her child has her first upsetting dispute with a friend. Would we hold the mother responsible for the dispute or understand her reasons to remain slightly remote and hold the space for the children to find the solutions themselves.

    Does this earn Her the title as a War Goddess? Possibly, but more importantly, what does that title mean to those it affects?

    i once asked Her the meaning of her tripping up Cuchulain in the stream when She shifted into an eel. She advised that She was showing the warrior he had a choice between love or vainglorious death. the eel represented his subconscious reacting and tripping him after he refused to let go of his emotional baggage and made the decision to fight. in terms of meanings, this is probably only one facet of the diamond which sparkles with the light of the Goddess.

    Written tales are great and the joy of myths is that they always tell the truth if we look. It is Samhain in Australia very soon and her power is rising!

    i wonder what it will teach us.

    toni

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s