The Morrigan at Samhain
At Samhain, when the summer is well and truly over and the last harvest has been gathered, a liminal magic casts it’s spell over the land. The winds howl as autumn leaves are blown from the trees, the nights draw in as we huddle up to the fire and welcome the darker part of the year. It is a time of the ancestors, a time of faerie, when the veils between the worlds are thinner and nothing is quite as it seems. As the old Celtic/Gaelic year dies and a new year is born we are called deeper into the core of our being to witness that even on the coldest nights, the cauldron of transformation bubbles over.
It is the time of the Dark Goddess, a time to face the shadow realm within and without. It is little wonder we think of the Morrigan at this time, with her associations to death and sorcery. Her name even means ‘Phantom Queen’ or ‘Great Queen’. A preliminary bit of internet research will shed a little diffused light onto Her aspects as Goddess of Death, Strife, Sex and Battle, (sounds like a ‘normal weekend’?) and if that doesn’t have you running to the hills then the journey deeper will reveal so much more about Her multitude of aspects. A Goddess of the Tuatha de Dannan and in my opinion an ancient Goddess of the Land; She presides over battles, helping Her chosen side win by conjuring phantoms to send terror into the hearts of the opposition. She is a Goddess of Life, Death and Rebirth, a Goddess of the regenerative powers of Sex, She shapeshifts and taunts, protects and prophesises, and She was not adverse to a dash of friendly cattle raiding.
There is a book’s worth of information about the Morrigan and Her many guises; in short, some tales depict Anu , Macha and Badb as the three Goddesses which make up the Morrigan, some bring in Nemain, however this article is designed to allow us to look at Her as one Goddess at this time of Samhain.
Samhain falls in the astrological time of Scorpio, a sign of deep transformative powers. The words most commonly used to describe a Scorpio, ‘sex and death’, are similar to those used to describe the Morrigan. We can cheapen these words as is often done, or we can take them back to their sacred roots, honouring death and sex and knowing them as intense and vital aspects of the life cycle. There’s not much more transformative than sex or death. The act of making love (hopefully) ends in orgasm; la petite mort - the little death, and through this little death, new life is born. Which brings me to the story of the Morrigan and the Dagda (the ‘Good God’ of the Tuatha de Dannan) at Samhain, this story illustrates many powers of the Goddess and of the season.
The Dagda finds the Morrigan bathing herself in the river Unius on the eve of Samhain, just before the Second Battle of Moytura against the Formorians. He sees the Goddess of Death and the Land as beautiful and dangerous, with nine red tresses loosened in Her hair. This meeting is rich in symbolism, the number nine being sacred to the Morrigan and also an exceptionally magical number; the ninth wave in Celtic mythology marks the boundaries of this world and the otherworld. Her red hair represents life, passion and death. She is found bathing and washing away the old year in a river which represent many states of life including, transitions and the unconscious. After talking for a while the pair make love over the river. The God of Life joined with the Goddess of Death to forge the New Year, losing them selves in the ecstasy of the transition. This union with the Goddess also shows the Morrigan in one of her main roles as Goddess of Sovereignty, choosing the worthy and renewing the fertility of the land. After sex She prophesied victory to the Tuatha de Dannans in the battle, so she was obviously pleased with the Dagda’s riverside performance.
Far from what we might expect of the Morrigan at Samhain, we find Her as a passionate force of nature, bestowing Her love and favour on those She feels are worthy. There is no doubt She is a Goddess of Death, and there is no doubt that She can be capable of being very scary, but this is only one side of the coin. There can be no new life without death, no new beginnings without clearing the dead wood.
At this time of Samhain we can walk with the Morrigan and ask Her to assist us see where powerful changes can be made in our own lives. What needs to be transformed? What can we leave behind in the old year? How are we using/abusing/repressing our own power? What are we hiding from? As we walk through the shadow worlds and face our deepest selves can we surrender wholly to the waters of life, of love and to the divine?
As a simple spell, create your sacred space, call upon the Morrigan to aid you, and write down what it is you would like to leave behind in the old year and burn it on a Samhain fire (or a candle if a fire isn’t possible). Feel the ties and burdens of these issues being released into the ether, see the energy you are freeing yourself from being transformed upon the flames. Then turn a new page in your journal and start writing, drawing, creating what new energies, goals, desires and dreams you would now like to invoke now that the space has been made.
Be aware that if you wish to work with the Morrigan in anyway, She will expect you to do the work; there will be transformation upon transformation, but as I hope this short article has shown, Her blessings are many, She brings life, sovereignty, fertility and passion in this dark season of death and rebirth.
Laura Daligan 2014