bury the dead | scorn the living
guard your sovereignty
The river calls to me and I see it sliding through the land like a black snake beneath a leaden sky. At its banks an old woman kneels. Her garb is dark and her bent back hides her face, but I sense underneath a body wrought in steel. Her callused hands grip blood-soaked clothes; I watch as she beats them on the rocks and scours them on the sand until the waters run red, red, red. I know this river, I think. I know those clothes. I know that woman. I think I know what this means. Oh Washer at the Ford, what does your river hold for me? Oh Mistress of Dark Waters, where will your river carry me? I am ready for those cold waves to close over my head, to pluck at my body as they pull me swiftly past distant banks. Wash away the stains I bear, river! Carry away my old fears, scrub off my old cares, drown and discard my old selves! I give myself up to your flow. I give myself up to the Washer at the Ford.
the Morrigan throws the Hierophant at me (why do you let yourself be bound by useless convention?) and empty fortune cookies (do you think I will just hand the answers to you?) and in my dreams I soar high on black wings while in mud puddles a thousand feet below She writes great wisdom I cannot read (shit happens), and thus is the nature of Her worship
I ask the Morrigan what side of Her I need to better understand and She shows me the Five of Pentacles. Traditionally this card portrays a ragged individual huddled in the snow outside a stone building, their gaunt features highlighted by warm light pouring from a nearby window. I realized when the Morrigan gave me this card that I make several automatic assumptions based on the image. First, that this person is a soldier, with the bandages on their arms or legs suggesting wounds earned in battle. Second, that this stone edifice they shelter beside is a church with a service currently in session. And third, that this soldier stands in the snow outside the church, begging for a coin or bite of bread, because the church refuses to succor them. Why these assumptions? I do not know, but I feel they are the core of the Morrigan’s message regardless of the card’s classical interpretation. To me, the Five of Pentacles shows how the church has turned away this old soldier and yet the Morrigan stands with him in the cold darkness. After the war ends, after the victories and defeats have faded to mere history, the Morrigan remembers all those who fought on both sides. She remembers – and She understands. She understands the ache of old wounds which refuse to heal. She understands the weight of memories too dark to share with loved ones. She understands the difficulty of returning to a society that values war yet devalues those who must wage it. The Morrigan is not only a goddess of battle; She is a goddess of war, and war does not end just because one has left the battlefield.
Everyone says the Morrigan tears your life apart in order to rebuild you from the ground up, so that’s what I expected: rapid, inescapable destruction. I worried over when the hammer would drop and what part of my life it would utterly wreck. Would I see it coming? Would I have any agency in the matter? Would I even survive the breaking? No subtle goddess, She; surely Her lightning would strike without warning and send my carefully constructed tower crumbling to the ground.
Lightning did strike, though of course not in the way I expected. It was a flash of illumination, not destruction, and it revealed my tower in all its fearful glory. I knew then that the Morrigan had no intention of tearing down that tower – she intends me to do it. Brick by brick, inch by inch, I will dig at the mortar until my nails are cracked and bleeding. I have been building this tower all my life, though my work began in earnest when my father died eleven years ago. To dismantle my tower I will need to deal with the grief I locked away inside. And that is correct and right, I know it in my heart. After all, what do you learn from someone else doing the heavy lifting?
Still, part of me longs for the quick, crushing swing of the wrecking ball.
They warn me not to put all my trust in the Morrigan. They tell me to beware Her wrath, Her fickleness, even Her passion which can so easily crush a little mortal life. Be afraid! they say. Be careful! Yet I have never been good at following directions and I have always abhorred the cage of good intentions meant to protect me. No wonder proud Lucifer appeals to me, as well as willful Inanna. Did Lucifer not crash headlong through fear and into freedom when he chose to fall? Did Inanna not cast fear off seven times to reach her own death and resurrection? How can we embrace the unknown of transformation if we cling to fear? How can we forge a true connection with our gods if we allow fear to alter our every interaction with them? I will respect and revere the Morrigan, but I will not fear Her so greatly that I bind our relationship up in clauses and legalese. I will offer Her what I can. I will accept what She offers in return. That will be enough. Her road leads to dark places and with my oath I am swearing to trust Her to lead me safely when I cannot see the path. I will not fear that She may abandon me in the darkness. I will not carry a lantern in case She leads me astray. I will trust – and if I get burned for that trust then so be it, no hard feelings. How else can we learn? How else can we change and grow?
I’ve been wondering what the Morrigan has planned for me, or more specifically what she wants from me in the long term. I dreamed I oathbound myself to her, after all, but that’s a big step to take with a goddess I just “met”. Last night I came across someone offering free divination readings and thought a reading from a totally unconnected and unbiased party might give me some interesting insight. I considered asking the person, “What does the Morrigan want from me?” but in the end decided to just have them pull a random card. Lo and behold, they drew a card which answered my unvoiced question anyway – a phoenix rising up in brilliant flames. Be reborn, the card urged. Great change is coming, burn your old self to the ground and burst forth from your ashes free of the shackles of your past! The Morrigan speaks to me in crows and woodpeckers and now the immortal phoenix. All signs point to Big Plans… but am I ready?
Hail to the Morrigan, Phantom Queen and prophetess!
Hail to the Morrigan, sovereign of the battlefield, carrion-crowned!
Hail to the Morrigan, Nightmare Queen!
Hail to the Morrigan, lady of blood and bone and belladonna!
Hail to the Morrigan!