The Morrígan is a multiplicitous deity of Celtic lore. A goddess of death, war, prophecy, and fate, the Morrígan was the deity who would ultimately decide whether or not a warrior would survive the battlefield.
Her appearance is often heralded by a murder of cawing crows. At times, it is in the wake of death, her crows pecking away at the bodies of the fallen. Understandably so, the Morrígan is one of the most feared, yet misunderstood goddesses in Celtic mythology.
Her Irish name is Mór-Ríoghai, which can be translated to Phantom Queen. If that’s not the most badass-sounding epithet for a goddess you’ve ever heard, then I want to know what pantheons you’re researching that I’ve been missing out on.
The Morrígan In History & Myth:
Worship of the Morrígan can be traced as far back as the Copper Age, when the first stone slabs depicting her were discovered.
Oftentimes, the Morrígan was depicted as a sovereignty goddess, meaning that a large part of an acting goddess’ role involved laying with or marrying the king-to-be in order to demonstrate his legitimacy as ruler of the kingdom.
This is seen in her association with cattle in myth, as one of the many forms that the Morrígan is capable of shape-shifting into is that of a heifer. There are so many signs of the Morrígan because she is able to shapeshift into countless forms.
Because of the mysterious and sometimes paradoxical nature of this deity, personal gnosis and viewpoints of the Morrígan may differ from one practitioner to another. There is no “one” way that the Morrígan appears and there are many different tales about her, some of which contradict each other.
While commonly accepted as a triform entity, others may view the Morrígan as a single goddess or even as a sort of umbrella term to describe several similar deities. The persona of the Morrígan definitely evolved over time.
If you want to work with the Morrígan then you’ll have to experiment and see which aspects of this goddess feel most true for you.
Aspects Of The Morrígan:
As a multiplicitous goddess, there are several archetypes of the Morrígan which represent her various physical forms.
Originally, Na Morrigna (the pluralized form of this entity) was made up of several goddesses. Later, the Morrígan would start to be depicted in triplicate. This could be credited to the significance of the number three in Irish folklore, or even due to Na Morrigna being adopted as the triple goddess of modern Wiccan and neopagan worship.
These three sisters, Badb, Macha, and Nemain, are thought to embody the Maiden, Mother, and Crone archetypes, respectively. All three sisters are a part of the Morrígan. However, some people think that the Morrígan represents Nemain (the most deadly of the sisters) and stands next to the other two sisters.
That being said, the Morrígan is a goddess who goes by many names, depending on the source of the story and the archetype it refers to, so you may know these forms by other names in your personal practice.
Here are some details about each of the three sisters, though you should keep in mind that the Morrígan isn’t limited to these architypes. These are just more ancient pieces of the Morrígan.
Also known as the Crow Goddess, Badb is one of the Morrígan’s most fearsome archetypes.
Appropriated as the Crone aspect of the triple goddess, Badb was a powerful force of destruction on the battlefield. This terrifying entity of death, battle, and victory would take the form of either a wolf to ravage enemies in battle or a crow to take up the remains.
At the battle’s end, Badb escorts the souls of the fallen to the underworld.
Macha, the motherly Sun goddess, is a deity of fertility, sex, and war. Macha – the Mother archetype – is hailed as a bringer of life in spite of her ties to the battleground.
In her most famous tale, Macha is required to run a race while pregnant to prove that she is as fast as her husband boasts.
Nemain is a goddess of poison and frenzy who is understandably feared both on and off the battlefield.
If you happen to find her along your path cleaning bloodstained armor, then it’s surely an omen of your impending demise. Nothing good happens when you encounter Nemain.
The Morrígan’s Mythology: The Ulster Cycle
The Morrígan’s mythology is complex because there are so many conflicting tales that involve her. However, the Ulster Cycle is one of the more popular stories, so I think it’s a good place to start.
This story begins deep within the bloody battle of Ulster, between the homeland of the legendary hero, Cú Chulainn, and the army of Queen Maeve.
When the Morrígan saw Cú Chulainn’s long golden locks, she fell for him quickly and tried to seduce him before the battle. Cú Chulainn, however, resisted the charms of the mighty Morrigan, which incensed her greatly.
To exact her revenge, the Morrígan took the form of an eel, to trip Cú Chulainn at the fjord. When this failed, she transformed into a wolf, scaring a herd of cattle and driving them in the direction of Cú Chulainn to slow his progress.
Annoyed, Cú Chulainn drew back in his crafty slingshot and struck the Morrígan in the eye and blinding her. The Morrígan then shifted into the shape of a cattle, inspiring the rest of the herd to stampede at the hero. When this didn’t work, Cú Chulainn aimed his slingshot one last time and struck the Morrígan with a large stone, breaking her leg and putting a stop to the Morrígan goddess.
Further along his travels, Cú Chulainn encountered an old crippled woman with a cow. Although offering Cú Chulainn a glass of fresh milk, it managed to slip past him that the crone was blind in one eye. After finishing the glass, Cú Chulainn blessed the woman to thank her for her kindness. In doing so, all of her wounds were healed.
Unbeknownst to Cú Chulainn, it was the spurned goddess that he had healed instead, who would later return to accompany him in his final moments. In the end, Cú Chulainn dies in battle, and it is the Morrígan Herself that carries his soul to the Otherworld.
Might we assume that the Morrígan knew of Cú Chulainn’s fate due to her omnipotence of all who would meet their deaths on the battlefield? Or did she approach him, knowing well that his fate was tied to end that day, but not expecting that it would be her own undoing?
The Morrígan’s Appearance:
To some, the Morrígan appears as a simple crow or a raven. As a keen shapeshifter and a goddess of many forms, Na Morrigna may appear very different depending on which aspect of her you’re encountering.
She is known to appear as an eel, cattle, or even a wolf. However, I find that most of the time the Morrígan appears as a beautiful but deadly woman, wreaking of war and havoc. She is often accompanied by symbols that represent her power, such as the crow.
The Morrígan’s Powers:
The Morrígan is a powerful, omnipotent being with prophetic knowledge of all that will occur in the strife of war.
Seeing the Morrígan while on the battlefield would either send a warrior to their death or cause them to fly into a rage that would bring them to a glorious victory. Basically, the Morrígan would either help you win the war or cause your quick death. She’s a very black-and-white figure and always shows up in absolutes.
It’s easy to see then that her abilities are not only in prophecizing the outcome of the war but pulling the very strings of fate to her liking. Her very energy is incredibly strong.
Outside of battle, the powers of the Morrígan can be seen in her ability to heal the wounded and protect from harm those that have earned her favor.
As a shapeshifter, the Morrígan is fond of taking the form of a crow but has also known to appear as an eel, wolf, cattle, or a human of an entirely different guise. In fact, she’s a really skilled shapeshifter and is known to help her pupils work on their shapeshifting abilities.
The Morrígan is the goddess of death, so she tends to have a lot of power over the idea of death. She is able to accompany souls to the afterlife but she also has the power to bring about change (a metaphorical death) through the completion of a cycle. She usually shows up when a big cycle is finishing.
How Do You Know If The Morrígan Is Calling To You?
Although you can theoretically call upon a deity with extensive amounts of worship, deities often reach out to us when they want to work with us.
The goddess Morrígan tends to reach out in very subtle ways. It can be difficult to determine if she is the goddess reaching out to you, but there are a few specific tells.
You’ll want to make sure that you’ve had a few interactions or signs from the Morrígan before you decide that she’s definitely calling to you. She’s not an easy deity to work with, so do you research and be sure before you start communicating with the Morrígan.
Some of the indicators that The Morrígan is reaching out to you include:
1. You are uncannily visited by crows. While many may encounter crows upon their daily commute, it’s worth taking note if they seem to go out of their way to watch you or bring you gifts.
2. The Morrígan visits your dreams or sends you visions. For some, it’s not uncommon to encounter the Morrígan in dreams. These dreams may have a frightening nature due to her intimidating presence.
3. You feel like you’re being watched. Some followers of the Morrígan have noted that her powerful presence may feel similar to a haunting in nature. You may feel like you’re not alone, or notice something lurking in the shadows wherever you go…
4. Supernatural events happen around you. This is sort of tacked on to the last point, but with an additional note to be wary of trickster spirits that may try to contact you in similar ways. Always practice safety when contacting or interacting with an entity that is newly introducing itself to you.
5. You are followed by consistent, undeniable signs of The Morrígan. If it’s true, the call will become too strong to ignore and each day you encounter jarring new realizations that she is present in your life. Symbols of the Morrígan and events that relate to her presence will appear randomly, over and over, until you can no longer deny that the Morrígan is trying to contact you.
Try to look for patterns in her signs and the different ways that she addresses you, as she can be very cryptic in her messages and it is up to you to correctly interpret them.
The Morrígan is a deity that knows what she wants. She won’t wait around for someone that isn’t going to be devoted to her. Rather, she will call out to you when she is ready to work with you and she will not be subtle about it. When this happens, she may even demand to be your only patron. It is up to you to decide whether or not to heed her call.
How To Work With The Morrígan:
If you want to do deity work, it is important you understand the basics. This includes warding and cleansing rituals as well as banishing exercises for when things get out of hand or trickster spirits appear in your area.
Both are common occurrences among beginners who don’t have these skills yet! In fact, it can take quite a while to actually make contact with any specific deity.
In working with The Morrígan, it can be difficult to tell if the heavy presence you are encountering is a malignant trickster or our extremely powerful goddess. If you want to actively work with her and form a relationship, then you should definitely learn some defensive magic in case other entities breakthrough.
Make sure that you’re very careful about discerning signs of the Morrígan so that you aren’t tricked. She has a really strong, intense energy: this is one of the most important signs of the Morrígan. If you’re not feeling that energy, you’re probably not working with her.
What You’ll Learn Working With The Morrígan:
The Morrígan is a goddess that commands respect. Her looming presence is not one that can be easily ignored. If this goddess knocks for you, then you better answer. Not heeding her desires has historically been a bad idea.
The Morrígan is often very specific about what she would like you to work on. Ultimately, she will choose people that she believes will adequately serve her and her end goal. While this may seem cold to some, to others, it is a respectable working relationship that can prove to be mutually beneficial.
The Morrígan may push you to do things you don’t want to do, either for the sake of your betterment or just for her own purposes. Working with the Morrígan is definitely a two-way street that will test you and ask that you put as much into your relationship with her as you expect to receive, so make sure you’re dedicated before diving in.
I find that the Morrígan is the goddess of death, yet it is only through death that we can be reborn, so she will usually teach about reinventing the wheel.
Think of the Morrígan as the Celtic archetype of the “Death” Tarot card. Old things must die in order to make room for the new.
The Morrígan will teach you to let go of past versions of yourself, even if it’s painful or sudden (a metaphorical battle), and she will also help you move on to embrace the new. She represents all cycles, both beginnings and endings, and shows us that all good things must come to an end.
Because the Morrígan is the goddess of prophecy, she can teach you how to see (negative) events before they happen. This may be something you learn slowly, through practiced divination, but it could also be something that starts to come naturally through dreams or gut feelings.
She can also teach you how to shapeshift through glamour in everyday life or on the astral plane.
I will say that the Morrígan is not an easy deity to work with. She’s not exactly unkind, but she has little patience for human sadness and grief. She seems to think that when something is over it should be over immediately, so I don’t recommend reaching out unless you’re ready for your life to change pretty dramatically.
The Morrígan is ruthless, strategic, and doesn’t care much about trivial human problems. She has less “empathy” than many deities you may be used to.
However, she’s also intensely loyal to those who work with her and will throw her force behind you if you show yourself to be worthy. She’s a seriously intense ally to have on your side.
Devotional Acts To The Morrígan:
There are many different kinds of devotional acts for the Morrígan. Some are as simple as incorporating the Morrígan’s symbol(s) into your life, while others are more complicated and have to do with the deeper parts of your soul.
Dedicate altar space to The Morrígan. You may include depictions of her, a red or black candle in honor of her, representations of crows, or Celtic symbolism on your altar.
Practice sex magick. The Morrígan was a powerful deity who was keen on the ways of using her body for manifestation. With devoted study, you too can learn to harness this ancient form of potent magick.
Show kindness to the corvids in your area. While some areas may not be home to crows or ravens, you can show respect to the Morrígan by honoring other birds in their family, such as bluejays or magpies.
Practice shadow work. The Morrígan helps us work through our traumas by accepting the parts of ourselves that are oftentimes difficult to even acknowledge. These pieces make up the “shadow self”, and accepting it is an important part of loving ourselves and moving forward on the path to becoming our best selves.
Study the lore of The Morrígan. If you plan on working with The Morrígan, then show her respect by researching her and learning all that you can.
Offerings For The Morrígan:
Offerings for the goddess Morrígan should be left as regularly as possible; she is very particular and not one who likes to be kept waiting.
Keep in mind that you can leave offerings relating to any of the symbols of the Morrígan. These are just some ideas to get you started.
- Red wine
- Red meat
- Poetry, artwork, and sculptures in her likeness
- Raven or crow sculptures/pictures
- Sharp items (knives, swords, blades, etc.)
- Crow or raven feathers
- Storm water
Anything “aggressive” works as offerings for the Morrígan. She seems to like offerings that indicate strength but also is quite feminine, so you can focus on things that are strong and womanly at the same time.
My Experience Working With The Morrígan:
While the Morrígan brings about destruction in her wake, she also represents the new life that rises from the ashes. Through working with her, we can be reborn in the fire that immolates the world we once knew. Expect a total lifestyle change when she calls out your name through symbols of the Morrígan.
If you plan on working with the Morrígan, then it’s a good time to get used to the idea of doing shadow work. The goddess, in her many forms, will test you by calling out all of your flaws and darkest secrets and making you address that which scares you the most about yourself.
Stern yet supportive, she will help you to assert boundaries and stand up for yourself in the modern battleground that is everyday life. In my opinion, she’s one of the best goddesses to help you learn how to set boundaries.
You must be fearless, curious, and self-critical. Expect the Morrígan to take you on an uncomfortable journey, teaching you lessons about life whether you’re ready to learn them or not. She doesn’t do anything halfway.
As unpleasant and – let’s face it – downright scary as some of these aspects may seem, it is because the Morrígan is not an entity to be trifled with. She may demand much of you as her servant, but know that in turn for your honor and dedication that she would storm into the throes of battle for you.
Overall, the Morrígan is a really life-changing deity. She’s taught me how to enhance my psychism and shapeshift astrally, but more importantly, she’s taught me the important of cycles and of letting go of past hurts in order to move forward.