Monday, 17 November 2014

Sisters of the Valkyrie? (part II) The Morrigan

There are Valkyrie-like goddesses and demi goddesses in other belief systems, who resemble the characteristics of the Northern Valkyries. It makes you wonder if they belong to the same species or come from the same root legend. I plan to make several entries about the subject, starting with individuals and then perhaps go onto research different aspects of the Valkyrie.

The first post on this new subject is about the Morrigan. Her name means "The Phantom Queen". Her name is also Morrigu and Morgan.  The name also suggests plural and that there might've been more than one Morrigan. The Morrigna.

She is a Celtic goddess in Irish mythology, associated with war and death. She visits battlefields and takes on the form of a crow, who flies over the fighting and dying warriors. She is often said to be wearing a cloak of black feathers or that her wings are made of black feathers. Her eyes are bright violet and her hair is long. It's not clear exactly what colour her hair was supposed to be as some believe that it's raven coloured, while others think that her hair was fiery red or amber. She has also been considered ash blonde.

It's been written that Morrigan rides on a black stallion to carry away souls of the dead to the afterlife. She's regarded as a chooser of the slain because she uses magic to determine who lives and who dies. A task that the Valkyrie also have.

The Morrigan is also like a shadow that makes thunder and lightning to frighten people at the very moment of death. As in the form of a crow she feeds on the corpses scattered over the battle fields.

She has two sisters named Badb and Nemain. Morrigan is the dark fearful one. She resembles a beautiful woman with dark feathers, and her transformations take the form of other animals including a crow, falcon, wolf, cow, fox, deer and hare. In the Ulster Cycle and Mythological Cycle, she's said to transform briefly into an old woman to carry out deeds. A mother firgure also linked with milk and fertility, the lunar cycle, the triad, triquestra, sensuality, wisdom and magic.

The goddess was of the Tuatha de Danann, a race of godlike people, similar to the Vanir. These people were not simply mortals, as they possessed long lifespans, immortality even, and had the ability to shapeshift and create power. Much linked to the Earth and the nature spirits, these human gods were selected to rule the prehistoric ancient world. Morrigan is not only similar to the Valkyries but she has much in common with powerful sorceresses in Arthurian legends and fairytales, from Morgan le Fay to the enchantress queen, such as the magical (step)mother of Snow White. She represents death and magic. Her reputation seemed tarnished by the church, who sought to demonise a powerful goddess, and reduce her as a figure of evil and spite.


Art by Selina Fenech

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