An Mhór Rioghain (the Phantom Queen) Jun 1, 2007 18:21:05 GMT -5
Post by Senbecc on Jun 1, 2007 18:21:05 GMT -5
"A whole troop of foreigners would not withstand a single Celt if he called his wife to his assistance. The wife is even more formidable. She is usually very strong. She begins to strike blows mingled with kicks as if they were missiles from a catapult...The voices of these women are formidable and threatening, even when they're being friendly."
A Roman observer
-Peter B. Ellis
Celtic women in History and literature
Firstly to understand a warrior woman such as an Mhór Rioghain, daughter of Delbáeth and Ernmas (Which could either make her sister to Danu, or Danu herself) one must firstly understand a woman (which is probably why there aren't many men see the Morrighan as their Patroness), then they must understand war from a Celts standpoint as opposed to what we think of as war today, then they must understand how woman warrior Celts were seen, both as warriors and as leaders.
Many women through out Celtic history have been warrior, nobility, held office, became Druids, and leaders of the people, as many modern scholars as well as the archaeological evidence have shown us. There is for example evidence of continental female rulers who were buried with torcs (a sign of Celtic nobility and/or royalty) Iron weapons, even their chariots. In 377 B.C. there was "Macha of the Red hair" who was known as the queen of the whole of Ireland. Other historical woman leaders of Celtic society (as a whole) would have included such greats as Boudicca, Tueta, Onomaris, Cartimandua, and Chiomara.
Perhaps somewhere along the line an Mhór Rioghain too was one such leader. She was certainly associated to her sister Macha according to later texts, perhaps they were more sisters in arms than actual sister of blood. OTOH I suppose it might be more likely that they might have been both. There Morrighan had several other "sisters" as well. These were the Battle goddesses of the mythological cycle known as the "Morrigna". Some examples of the "war goddesses" would have been The Morrighan, Badb, Macha, Nemain, and Danand, they were also the sorceresses of the De Danann. Even the greatest of Irish heroes were taught their skill by warrior class queens, like Scathatch and Cu Chulainn at the Isle of Sky.
It is said that An Mhór Rioghain finds her origins in direct lineage to the "Cult of Mothers", which would place her firmly into megalithic cultures of old Ireland if the information is accurate.
"The origins of the Morrígan seem to reach directly back to the megalithic cult of the Mothers. The Mothers (Matrones, Idises, Dísir, etc.) usually appeared as triple goddesses and their cult was expressed through both battle ecstasy and regenerative ecstasy. Later Celtic goddesses of sovereignty, such as the trio of Éire, Banba, and Fótla, also use magic in warfare (Ní Dhighe, 1996)."
-Danielle Ní Dhighe
It does seem to be the consensus of several reputable sources so I have included the information here as well. I think she might be more over a product of the Bronze age which still puts her origins to a pretty early era, at least as we come to understand her as a member of the Tuatha de Danann. Some of her first recorded associations are in the Lebor Gaballa Erin or the book of the taking of Ireland. It was told that An Mhór Rioghain was to sleep with the Dagdha at the Samhain of every year to ensure the fertility of the land. In this way An Mhór Rioghain's first association is to fertility and as a "Goddess" of sovereignty over the land of Eriu. She then gives her associations as a seer. She foretells to An Dagdha the time and place of which the Fomorii will land, which was at Mag Scetne at the ford of "Unius" (destruction). Further as a seer she becomes associated to the Ban-Sidhe as a fore teller of death, as a woman who washes a shroud in a ford. A particularly bad omen if you're a warrior on your way to battle. In the second battle of Moytura, an Morrighan is seen to be washing a shroud in the ford Unshin in Corann near the home of an Dagdha. It is said that it was from this legend from which other "washers of the shrouds" and that they were in many ways like the ban-sidhe in that they could foretell death. As well, after the death of her son it is said that An Morrighan gave in completely to blood lust and became a sort of "vampire":
"said she would go and destroy Indech son of Dé Domnann and 'deprive him of the blood of his heart and the kidneys of his valor', and she gave two handfuls of that blood to the hosts. When Indech later appeared in the battle, he was already doomed." (Rees 36)
The Mythological cycle sets the stage for what would become an Mhór Rioghain's second major appearance in the Irish texts, during the Táin Bó Cúalnge (Cattle raid of Cooley). We already know that the Morrighan has a very healthy sexual appetite as given by the Lebor gabala Erin, as an inhabitant of the sidhe and a lover of war, mayhem, and carnage she sets her sights on the hound of Ulster Cú Chulainn. She appears to him as a beautiful maiden, but Cú Chulainn doesn't recognize her and so and turns down her proposition of her love. Heh, "Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned:
"Thither then the Morrigan came in the shape of a white, hornless, red-eared heifer, with fifty heifers about her and a chain of silvered bronze between each two of the heifers. The women came with their strange sorcery, and constrained Cuchulain by geasa and by inviolable bonds to check the heifer for them lest she should escape from him without harm. Cuchulain made an unerring cast from his sling-stick at her, so that he shattered one of the Morrigan's eyes.
Then the Morrigan came thither in the shape of a slippery, black eel down the stream. Then she came on the linn and she coiled around the two feet of Cuchulain. While Cuchulain was busied freeing himself, Loch wounded him crosswise through the breast. [Then at this incitation Cuchulain arose, and with his left heel he smote the eel on the head, so that its ribs broke within it and he destroyed one half of its brains after smashing half of its head.]
The Morrigan next came in the form of a rough, grey-red bitch-wolf [and she bit Cuchulain in the arm and drove the cattle against him westwards, and Cuchulain made a cast of his little javelin at her, strongly, vehemently, so that it shattered one eye in her head.] During this space of time, whether long or short, while Cuchulain was engaged in freeing himself, Loch wounded him through the loins. Thereupon Cuchulain's anger arose within him and he wounded Loch with the Gae Bulga ('the Barbed-spear'), so that it passed through his heart in his breast. "
-Táin Bó Cúalnge (The Slaying of Loch Son of Mofemis)
As if all this wouldn't now be enough to associate an Mhór Rioghain with shape-shifting, the then comes to Cú Chulainn in the form of an old hag walking a milk cow with three teats:
Then it was that the Morrigan, daughter of Ernmas, came from the fairy dwellings, in the guise of an old hag, engaged in milking a tawny, three-teated milch cow. And for this reason she came in this fashion, that she might have redress from Cuchulain. For none whom Cuchulain ever wounded recovered there from without himself aided in the healing.
Cuchulain, maddened with thirst, begged her for a milking. She gave him a milking of one of the teats. "May this be a cure in time for me, old crone," quoth Cuchulain, and one of the queen's eyes became whole thereby. He begged the milking of another teat. She milked the cow's second teat and gave it to him and he said, "May she straightway be sound that gave it." [Then her head was healed so that it was whole.] He begged a third drink of the hag. She gave him the milking of the teat. "A blessing on thee of gods and of non-gods, O woman!" [And her leg was made whole thereby.] Now these were their gods, the mighty folk: and these were their non-gods, the folk of husbandry. And the queen was healed forthwith.
Táin Bó Cúalnge (The Healing Of The Morrigan)
Later an Mhór Rioghain foretold the death of Cu Chulainn as a weeping woman of the Sidhe washing his cloths soaked crimson with his blood. On his last stand she became a Raven (Crow in some translations, often times these battle goddesses are associated to birds like the Raven, Crow, Vulture, etc.). She protects Cu Chulainn's body from the men of Ireland until the life has gone from his body before she finally flies away.
The Morrighan has many aspects as given by the texts of Ireland, some of these would be battle, victory, sexuality, fertility, sovereignty, and destruction. Some would tell us that she is a war goddess, others a goddess of lust. I tell you she was a woman, a warrior, and an ancestor. Is there anyone for example who doesn't like sex? No? Would you want to be remembered only by your sexual appetites? Or your lust for battle? I think such people take from the individuality of the Gods. However She is a manifestation of extremes of both sexual desire as well as viciousness, lust on the verge of the wish to kill, and delights mayhem, panic, terror, and overwhelming fear...Maybe this was her reason for being so attracted to Cu Chulainn? He was after all the ultimate bringer of carnage on the Irish battle fields, perhaps it was a match made in heaven.
Some sources and recommended reading: