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Morrigan of Ireland - Strange Deities
475    Dibyendu Banerjee    17/10/2020   

According to Celtic mythology, the Morrígan, known as the Phantom Queen, was one of the three fearsome Celtic goddesses, representing the circle of life, associated with both birth and death, and looked over the water bodies. She was the Celtic goddess of war, battle, strife, and fertility and was also described as the patroness of revenge, magic, priestesses, night, prophecy, and witches.


In Irish mythology, Morrigan was the goddess of death and destiny, used to appear before the great battles as the goddess of fate, and offered prophecy. However, she often helped people and protect them from the invading armies by blowing a layer of fog over the land and decreasing visibility. She could change the shape of her physical appearance, and as the Phantom Queen, she circled the battlefield as a conspiracy of ravens to carry away the dead.

morrigan of ireland
The Tuatha dé Danann as depicted in John Duncan's Riders of the Sidhe (1911)

Although it is next to impossible to find the exact origin of Morrigan, some people consider her as the Tuatha de Danann, or the Goddess Danu of the mythical tribal race living in Ireland, the descendants of the goddess Danu. It is said that she was the daughter of Ernmas, an Irish mother goddess and was married to Dagda, portrayed in the Celtic mythology as a father-figure and the king, whom she first met on a riverside, and loosened her long hair to captivate the king instantly.


Unfortunately, further information about her family is unavailable as the records of Celtic mythology were lost over the generations or destroyed.

morrigan of ireland
Morrigan with her captivating long hair

According to her artistic representation, boosted by some scholars and historians, Morrigan was a young and beautiful woman with long dark hair, wearing somewhat revealing and mostly dark black clothes. Sometimes she hides her face to conceal her identity and appears surrounded by ravens or crows.


Most notably in Ireland, and also in other parts of Europe, especially France, Morrigan was one of the most revered deities and often depicted as the goddess or as one of the three sister goddesses, Badb, Macha, and Nemain. However, there are several inconsistencies relating to this description.

morrigan of ireland
Morrigan, the Goddess of war in revealing costume

It is maintained by many that the origins of Morrigan can be traced back all the way to the prehistoric Cult of the Mothers and may as well be the oldest form of worship and religion in Europe, dating back some 30,000 years. In the mythical tales of the Red Branch Cycle, Morrigan was depicted in the form of a wolf or a cow, which indicates that she was considered the goddess of the fertility of the land and sovereignty. It is believed by many that this was her primary aspect and not that of frenzy and death on the battlefield. However, according to the archeological findings, she belonged to the Copper Age and appears in the form of a raven or a crow, and almost always appears surrounded by those ominous birds. Nevertheless, in Neopagan tradition, Morrigan is described as a destroyer, symbolizing the Crone aspect of the Crone cycle. But this portrayal of the goddess has been rejected by several historians instead of her original Irish history, which is much more relatable.

morrigan of ireland
Morrigan in raven black clothes

Similar to the Valkyries in the Viking mythology, who shed feathers on the ones whose lives are soon to be forfeit, the Morrigan, known as the Washer at the Ford, is often portrayed as an old lady, known for her compassion and healing powers, washing the linens and the bloody armour of the ones who would be killed in the upcoming battle and like the Valkyries, carries the souls of the slain into the next world.

There are several sites in Northern Ireland associated with the Goddess Morrigan. One is Armagh, a county town linked with Morrigan, which means Machas’s high place. There are two hills in the same town, known as Da Chich Na Morringa which means, the two breasts of Morrigan. In Louth, there is a famous field by the name Gort Na Morrighan or Morrigan’s field, and it is said that the area was gifted to her by her husband, Dagda. There is also a burnt mound, located in Tipperary, a county located in the province of Munster in Ireland, called Fulacht Na Mor Rioghna, which means cooking pit of Morrigan. Apart from that, several inscriptions have been found in France, depicting about Raven.

morrigan of ireland

Morrigan appears in many folklore and mythical stories, which depict her as the Fearless Goddess of War and describe in detail her adventures, power, and influence. She is also linked with the festival of Samhain, one of four major Celtic seasonal festivals, where she is represented in the form of a raven, crow, and even a horse.

morrigan of ireland
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Author Details
Dibyendu Banerjee
Ex student of Scottish Church College. Served a Nationalised Bank for nearly 35 years. Authored novels in Bengali. Translated into Bengali novels/short stories of Leo Tolstoy, Eric Maria Remarque, D.H.Lawrence, Harold Robbins, Guy de Maupassant, Somerset Maugham and others. Also compiled collections of short stories from Africa and Third World. Interested in literature, history, music, sports and international films.
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