Celtic Goddess of War: 9 Ways to Work With The Morrigan
The Phantom Queen on the battlefield. The crow that soars above the wreckage and ruin. The seeress, the warrior, the protector. Yet also the goddess of Summer, Love, and Fertility of the land. The Celtic Goddess of War, The Morrigan, has become a popular pagan deity in modern times. And with good reason. She is both light and dark. Life and death. War and love. A Divine Paradox. Here you’ll find 8 unique ways to work with The Morrigan.
Who is The Morrigan?
The Morrigan is the Celtic Goddess of war, shapeshifting, death, crows, motherhood, sex, birth, shadows, destruction and love. How can the goddess of war also be a goddess of motherhood and love? Celtic women often fought alongside their husbands in battle and were considered fierce protectors of their land and family. Henceforth, it’s no surprise a war goddess is also a goddess of mothers and love. Sacred polarity plays into this Goddess’ unique characteristics.
The Morrigan in Irish Myth
The Morrigan is featured in one of Ireland’s oldest mythic tales: The Ulster Cycle. She has an interesting relationship with the hero of the story Cu Chulainn. The hero Cu Chulainn denies her advances then suffers her attacks. But in the end, he learns a lesson from her attacks and dies in dignity with The Morrigan escorting him to the other side. She appears in other tales, a crow that flies above the battlefields, waiting for the carnage. She’s an omen of impending death and is also seen as one of Ireland’s Washers at the Ford (see our article on the Bean-sidhe or banshee).
The Morrigan’s Characteristics
The Morrigan may be a triple goddess or may be three goddesses noted together. The names associated with The Morrigan are Anu, Badb, Macha and Nemain. In Modern Wicca, she’s sometimes depicted as The Triple Goddess in Maiden, Mother and Crone form. But that is more of a modern invention. Her true form, and the fact that she might be a combination of goddesses or many different goddesses, is much more complex. The Celtic Goddess of War is mysterious and dangerous, and chooses who she aids carefully. With shapeshifting and prophetic abilities, The Morrigan is a modern beloved goddess of magic and witchcraft. And just like any powerful seeress, she has a mischievous and sometimes dangerous nature.
Anu, Danu, The Great Queen
Anu is one of the oldest names we find associated to The Morrigan in the Irish Celtic mythos. In fact, some scholars believe Anu is the same goddess as Danu, the Mother of the Tuatha de Danann. From the 9th Century Sans Cormaic, Anu is also spelled Ana and she’s referred to as the “mother of the gods”. The name Danu came at a much later time and could actually be a misspelling.
But what does this have to do with The Morrigan? Well, The Morrigan’s name in and of itself means either “Phantom Queen” or possibly and more likely “Great Queen”. This could point to the fact that Badb, Nemain, Macha, and Anu are all one in the same goddess. Just multiple guises the goddess takes on depending on the situation and the period of time. Similar to how Odin, the Norse Allfather, has hundreds of names…but it’s still him.
Badb: Crow Goddess
When The Morrigan manifests as Badb, the Crow Goddess, one will hear her large beating wings swiftly moving the air. Many of The Morrigan’s devotees find her aspect as Badb to be the fiercest. Sometimes in this form, she is downright terrifying. In this aspect, The Morrigan attends the battlefield and is known to cause chaos. She is a spirit of frenzy and destruction ruling over conflict and death. Badb is the Crone aspect of The Morrigan when in Triple Goddess divinity because, of the three, Badb manifests mostly as an old woman. In addition to being the death-bringer, Badb also prophesied.
Macha: Sun Goddess
While Macha is another war goddess associated with The Morrigan (and likely part of the The Morrigan’s many faces), she is the one with a softer side (but don’t be mistaken and take her for granted). Macha is a solar goddess and associated with summer, fertility, and love. These are domains of The Morrigan many tend to forget in light of her darker qualities. But The Morrigan isn’t just all about death and destruction – she is a paradox. She is also a life-bringer and goddess of sovereignty. Granting her prosperity to the land through her union with The Dagda. When I think of the union between The Dagda and The Morrigan, I tend to see Macha as the Motherly type.
Nemain: “A Dose of Poison” And One of The Morrigan
Nemain is the third aspect of The Morrigan. And another to respect and revere. Interestingly, Badb is named as her sister in the mythology and Nemain causes frenzy and confusion on the battlefield just like her sister. Her name, Nemain, translates to “a dose of poison” in Proto-Celtic language. Some even relate her to Nemesis, the Greek goddess of retribution. While The Morrigan has many sides to her personality, I think it’s safe to say, she’s not one to be messed with.
9 Ways to Work With The Morrigan, Celtic Goddess of War
If The Morrigan is calling to you, you should be prepared for a long, harrowing journey. One that will break down your old ways of life but then lift you up as high as the heavens. The Morrigan brings destruction, but from the ruin comes creation – a new life. Here are 9 ways to work with The Morrigan.
1. Study The Morrigan
The first thing I always recommend to get to know a deity is to study them. Research all of the stories The Morrigan is a character in and read them. Pay particular attention to the Ulster Cycle of Irish Mythology: The Cattle Raid of Regamain, The Cattle Raid of Cooley, as well as The Book of the Taking of Ireland. Study her characteristics and lessons in each of her 3 aspects. Keep pages in your grimoire dedicated specifically to the Celtic Goddess of War. Take notes on your thoughts and experiences. I also recommend reading about banshees – The Morrigan manifests in banshee form in Irish mythos.
2. Altar Space for the Phantom Queen
Set up an altar space for The Morrigan. Include items that reflect her Irish Celtic heritage. A statue or drawing of The Morrigan as a representation of her. Red and black candles and altar cloth. Decorative crows and deer. Crow feathers and claws. A cup or bowl of water. Etc.
3. Shapeshifting Rituals
If you’ve never attempted a shapeshifting ritual, now is the time. Shifting is one of The Morrigan’s many abilities, one which she does often for various reasons. To honor her and deeply connect with her, try a few shapeshifting meditations or shamanic drumming rituals. Some people are naturally gifted at shifting, while others need practice. Enjoy the journey.
4. Crow Magic
The Morrigan is intricately linked to the Crow. It is one of her sacred animals. She shifts into the crow and is almost always depicted with crow familiars around her. Make friends with the crows in your local area. Feed them if you’d like. Invite them to your yard or garden. Study their behaviors and call on the crow spirit in magic and ritual.
5. Shadow Work
If there’s one thing I’ve learned about goddesses who embody sacred polarity, it’s this: through destruction comes new life. Shadow work, in which one dives deep into emotional wounds and trauma, etc., is more powerful with the help of The Celtic Goddess of War. She will guide you into the deepest, darkest chasms of yourself, then lift you up on her wings. Shadow work is scary and painful, but it’s necessary for healing and soul retrieval. All things The Morrigan knows well.
6. Sex Magic
I recently had a person comment and say The Morrigan does not have domain over sex. I beg to differ. People forget to see the multiple facets and complexities present in EVERY deity. Even the goddesses like The Morrigan who people claim are purely “dark” have a light side. And when they are particularly associated with war and death, they are almost ALWAYS associated with sovereignty, life, birth, and fertility. And therefore, sex. The Morrigan is indeed a goddess of sacred sex. She stands over a river on Samhain Eve, in giantess form, and engages in the sacred rite: ritual sex with the All-Father, The Dagda. If you so choose, try sex magic in honor of The Morrigan and her sacrifice for rebirth and creation.
7. Sacred Offerings for the Celtic Goddess of War
On The Morrigan’s altar, leave offerings for her on a regular basis. Offerings to deities show appreciation and also feed them with energy they may need to aid you in your intentions. The Morrigan’s offerings could include: mead, red wine, storm water, crow feathers, bird feed, a knife or boline, red foods, traditional Irish foods, milk, honey, artwork and poetry.
8. Invoke Her
Call on The Morrigan during ritual. You’ll feel her presence. If you develop a relationship with The Morrigan, she will be there for you when you need her. Call on her in times of need, when you need her to go to battle for you. Call on her when you need healing, protection, and love. She is a protector of women, children, and animals.
9. Reclaim Your Power
The Morrigan is a sovereignty goddess, as well as a goddess of war. This is a typical concept we see repeat itself in many Celtic and Norse goddesses. Women, in general, also have a loving, nurturing side AND a fierce, dangerous side. The dangerous side tends to come out when they are defending their home and family. But also when their independence has been threatened, or freedoms taken away. If you feel you need divine support to reclaim your power, call on The Morrigan.
10. Honor Her at Samhain
Because the myths tell stories of The Morrigan coupling with the Dagda on Samhain, she is linked to this sacred sabbat. Therefore, when you go to celebrate Samhain this year, consider honoring The Morrigan in your practices: set a place at the table for her, provide her with Samhain offerings, invoke her in ritual, etc.