We are all fighting our own separate battles, says the Morrigan, but they are all part of the same great war. Then She cautions me, Don’t run from your battlefield in search of a fight you think is more important. How can you aid someone else in their battle if you haven’t even triumphed over your own yet? She’s right, I know She’s right, but I chafe at the waiting. For years now the Morrigan has been calling up Her warriors to wage war against the global evils of colonialism, capitalism, and fascism, and ever since I heard Her call over two years ago I’ve yearned to learn my role in Her army. It seems, though, that my assignment is still to wage the battles awaiting me on my homefront, to get my house in order before I truly become part of the Phantom Queen’s force. I’m not disappointed because I envision myself a warrior on the front lines, fighting for glory and a hero’s renown – I will happily serve in whatever capacity the Morrigan deems best for me, even if it’s on the sidelines. I’m just eager to help at all, and doing shadow work meant to reclaim my personal sovereignty just doesn’t feel like much immediate help to others. Whoever goes into battle without a clear head goes to their grave, my goddess chastises me as I brood, and I know my time in the Morrigan’s bootcamp is far from over.
I’m woken abruptly in my dream by music blasting from a phone somewhere. I don’t recognize the song, though the band sounds like Wardruna and among the Norwegian I catch the singer saying “Loki Laufeyson” in the chorus. Stumbling through an unfamiliar house, I finally find the smartphone from which the song is erupting and shut it off. I’m so dizzy, though! Dizzy and tired like I can’t shake the sleep I was torn from so quickly. For a moment I sway where I stand, fighting to clear my head in the silence and force open heavy eyelids, then my legs give out and I fall to the floor.
“Here,” instructs a harsh voice, “eat this.” A woman stands over me, holding out a stone on which herbs have been crushed into a paste. I recognize dandelion petals, maybe the bright yellow of turmeric. That voice isn’t one to disobey lightly so I lick the paste off without question. The drowsiness lifts a bit, allowing me to sit up and look at the speaker. Though She has never shown Herself to me in full, I recognize the Morrigan immediately – I would know that tall, thin form, those high cheekbones and proud hooked nose, anywhere. Her dark eyes bore into mine as if peering through clothing, flesh, and bone to lay bare my soul within.
I try not to squirm under the goddess’s sharp gaze. She thrusts another stone at me, this one naturally curved like a shallow bowl. Water and the remains of the crushed herbs fill its small depression. “Save this,” she instructs. “Even if it tastes terrible, you need to finish it later.” Her tone is clipped with what seems like impatience so I jump up and hurry to find something in which to store the water. I only manage a small glass bowl, more ashtray-shaped than anything else and dusty with disuse, which I can tell when I bring it back is not deemed nice enough. The Morrigan scowls but allows it for now.
“You need to cut back,” She scolds instead, changing the subject. “What you consume clouds your mind, making it impossible for you to hear our messages or to channel your creativity.” She shows me a mental image of something small and triangular, like a pill. Does she mean medication is clouding my mind? Or does this symbolize something else, perhaps a detrimental habit or belief, or some player in my life whose bad influence I haven’t noticed? I think I ask the goddess if the unfamiliar force I’ve been feeling in my life lately could be a new god making themselves known to me and She says yes, perhaps. She also tells me to watch a god’s face when they speak to you, that even gods betray their emotions in their expressions and in this way you can tell if one is lying. Frustrated, I start to ask, “But what if I can’t see them?” because this new force has yet to show itself to me, but I don’t get the chance. Nor do I get the chance to ask Her who or what it was, though I’m sure She knows. The dream changes before I can say anything else and I do not see the Morrigan again.
“Incitement of the Morrigan”
Warriors, why do you let your weapons fall?
A battle lost is not yet a battle done!
Does the outnumbered wolf bare her throat
to await the killing bite? Never!
She fights until her very last breath
no matter how much blood she’s lost
or how her vision darkens!
Her snapping jaws are ever at the ready
to take one final foe down with her.
Pick up your blades, warriors;
fight with every heartbeat left!
You will survive this
the Morrigan pronounces
staring into my dull eyes
bone shards and congealing blood
you took everything)
but the words are no kindness
only Her battlefield prophecy
impassive and immutable
Oh na Morrigna, help me!
Teach me to fight an enemy no sword can pierce
To fell an enemy that neither bleeds nor breathes!
On what battlefield can we make our last stand
When our enemy is everywhere and nowhere?
Oh na Morrigna, guide me!
I long for the simplicity of steel on steel
The clean finality of victory or death!
Yet how can we ever achieve a lasting peace
When the evil we fight is so systemic?
Oh na Morrigna, free me!
Tear off my chains of fear and hopelessness
And transform my impotent rage into energy!
How can I squander my privilege with inaction
When so many less fortunate fight to their last breath?
Oh na Morrigna, lead me to battle!
One thing I didn’t expect when I began working with the Morrigan is how many forms Her messengers can take. I have always loved Her dark-winged children, of course, and their presence brings me great comfort and strength. Crows have been a constant in my life since I was a babe; my first word was even “caw!”. Yet I’ve learned over time that they aren’t Her only children. The Morrigan also utilizes other local birds as messengers and omens. Early in my devotion to Her I began finding feathers, but not just crow feathers. I found soft little striped owl feathers, long pink-hued northern flicker feathers, and sleek seagull feathers the color of ocean storms. I came across fragile robin eggshells and abandoned nests. Even more startling, I began spotting birds I had never seen in my part of the state before. At work I sometimes glimpse a California scrub jay who lives in some tree nearby. Driving home I was once accompanied for a time by a huge raven who glided low over my car and disappeared into the forest behind my neighborhood. And while I often spot red tailed hawks hanging out alongside the highway (courtesy of the Netjeru) or bald eagles soaring high in the summer sky (courtesy of my father), I also recently spotted a huge osprey on the hunt for a snack. Each feather, each glimpse of a wing or sharp beak, is an honor and a reminder of the Morrigan’s presence and power. You start to recognize which birds are Her messengers for you and which aren’t, but it’s important to keep an open mind. All the winged creatures of the sky can be Hers.
The Morrigan is change in all its forms. She is change swift as lightning and disorienting as thunder. She is change that draws blood and sweat and tears. She is the sweeping scythe of change that severs the wheat from its stalk and yet She is also the slow, steady millstone of change which grinds that wheat into flour. The Morrigan’s change is not always the cataclysmic storm; sometimes it is the gently falling rain which, over time, will weather what even the tempest could not touch.
I think I misunderstood the Morrigan’s lesson for me. She revealed to me the tower of my subjugation, that mighty thing built of sorrow and fear, but She would not use Her power to bring it down. I thought this meant I must tear it down myself brick by brick, that Her lesson for me was that only through violent destruction of my cage could I earn my freedom. Yet one day as I clawed at the mortar with weary, bloody fingers a raven passed overhead, a black silhouette against the bright sky, and I suddenly wondered, What if I don’t tear the tower down at all? What if I just… walk away?
Sometimes the Morrigan’s change is a wrecking ball. Sometimes Her change is slow, hard labor. And sometimes Her change is choosing to leave something behind. Time will wear this tower down all on its own. Rain will soften its stones; lichen will grow in the mortar’s cracks. Flowers and grasses will take root and, seeking the sun, will break apart what is no longer strong. If I return, all that will remain is a ruin slowly crumbling back into the earth, and ruins hold no power over the present.
Bast’s love comforts
Hathor’s love energizes
Inanna’s love ignites
The Morrigan’s love challenges
A heavy gold coin
Hangs low on the horizon
The Morrigan’s moon
She walks out of the waves and I see her clearly for the first time in all these years. Hers is the ferocity of the Morrigan. Hers is the hunger of Charybdis. Hers is the raw magic of Morgan le Fay. Hers is the proud independence of Lilith. She is nameless and yet of countless names from countless ages, most of them long lost to time. She is goddess and monster and witch; warrior and queen and oracle. Pale and sharp as the crescent moon, adorned by shadows sleek as wings, she is beautiful in the way of all deadly things.
Suddenly I am running across the wet sand and throwing myself against her, pressing my face into her breast as I cling to her. She smells of blood and brine. She wraps her arms around me, her hands sharp as a predator’s claws. Her smile shows gleaming fangs as she kisses the crown of my head. Beneath my damp cheek her ribs are a metal cage in which her heart beats a warsong.
I close my eyes and think, Drag me down into your dark, chill waters. Remake me; rebirth me. Teach me everything you know. Set me free. Her answer is to hold me tighter until it seems our hearts beat as one above the sound of crashing waves.
I will dismantle my tower stone by stone
and with those stones I may build anew
or leave them scattered in the field for the grass to grow over
and the rain to soften
they say “fake it ‘til you make it”
so here I am, a child playing dress-up
wearing my mother Bast’s smile and poise
Inanna’s confidence and Hathor’s positivity
and the Morrigan’s steel spine underneath it all
if I walk like them, talk like them
will I be strong like them?
will I be brave like them?
will I be good like them?
Hetheru, be my armor!
Morrigan, be my blade!
Inanna, be my strength!
Bast, be my courage!
Dua Bast, Lady of the East, Lady of Flame, Lady of Truth
Vengeful Eye of Ra, Protective Mother Cat!
Dua Het-heru, Lady of the West, Sweet Sycamore
Bearer of Joy and Bringer of Prosperity!
Dua Wepwawet, Opener of the Way
Shepherd of the Path, Unique and Adorned One!
Hail Inanna, Queen of Heaven, O Radiant Star
She Who Descended and Arose Again!
Hail to the Morrigan, Phantom Queen and Prophetess
Sovereign of the Battlefield, Carrion Crowned!
Hail to the Sun and Moon, Lords of Darkness and Decay
Lords of Light and Love, of Sacrifice and the Solstice!
Hail and thanks to all!
The Morrigan watches with crossed arms as I scrape and scrabble at the stones of my tower. I have dislodged a few, loosened a couple more, but there are so many I am afraid to count them for fear I’ll give up this foolish quest. My fingers bleed; sweat drips down my face; I am exhausted and aching and angry. Good, the Morrigan says. You should be angry. Look at this prison! Think of how long it has trapped you; think how long it will take to tear down. Embrace your anger so you never let anyone, especially yourself, place one new stone on its foundation. I want to tell Her I’m too tired to continue – but then a little light shines through the gaps now, a cool breeze flutters in, and the hunger for freedom renews my strength. I know I can do this. Slowly but surely I will dismantle this tower so it can never entomb me again.
The gods appear to us in the forms they choose for a reason.
Bast appears to me close at hand as if I’m a small child and She’s holding me in Her arms. She is an older woman with a face graced always by a gentle, loving smile. Freckles are scattered across her cheeks like stars and perpetual laugh lines gather at the corners of her golden eyes. She is muscled yet soft, in the way a woman who has given birth to many children is simultaneously rounded and strengthened. Her dress is of white linen, Her jewelry of gold, amethyst, and lapis lazuli. Her dark hair is woven through with beads and charms which jingle softly when She moves. She is the quintessential mother goddess with a soft breast to cry on and strong shoulders to lean on. I can feel in Her embrace the latent energy of the war goddess, and know She could change in a heartbeat if any danger came my way, yet to me She always appears in this maternal form.
Inanna appears to me veiled in red silk and firelight so I may only see Her soft belly and pendulous breasts and that sacred place between Her hips for which songs were sung. Sometimes I catch a glimpse of red hair, full lips, a proud hawk nose, but otherwise Her specific features remain uncertain. She is almost close enough to touch but always just out of reach, the way a dancer moves away from your embrace with the fluidity of water. Her face is hidden in shadow and because of this She might be any of the wild, unbound goddesses men have tried to shame for eons: Inanna, Ishtar, Lilith, Babylon the Great. She takes this form so I must face Her innate physicality; if I want to work with Her, I cannot avoid Her divine flesh.
The Morrigan appears to me only from afar as a shadowed figure backlit by heavy red skies. I cannot make out Her face but I can feel the weight of Her gaze, the immensity of Her presence. She is tall and thin as a finely honed blade, and like a blade there is a patient tension in Her form, a promise of deadly grace. She has long, dark hair, I think, and pale skin. She is not young; if I could get closer I would see lines on that gaunt face, especially at the corners of Her mouth and between Her eyebrows. Neither, though, is She frail; beneath Her dark cloak is a body spare yet strong as steel. This is all the Morrigan will let me see just now: the sovereign of the battlefield, the goddess of war and bone.
The gods appear to us in the forms they choose for a reason. What these forms show us – and do not show us – always hints at what we have to learn from them. Bastet is my mother; Inanna is my mentor; the Morrigan is my guide down a dark road.
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
and in doing so to dismantle the prison tower of my own creation
and to build in its place a watchtower to stand against the darkness.
I offer my determination if You offer your strength.
I offer my sincerity if you offer Your guidance.
I offer my faith if you offer Your goodwill.
And by this oath for a year and a day are we bound.
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?
These crises are a dime a dozen, child. You have ocean trenches of depth within you, jagged mountain peaks of height, you could fall forever inside yourself – but would you not rather fly? In your dreams you fight against gravity, longing for the sky, for the freedom your soul knows is your birthright. You have wings, crow-daughter, use them! The chains which bind you to the earth are self-imposed, forged in your mind and anchored in your heart. There is no key, no spell, no magic phrase which can open those locks; you must break them yourself with your own rage and hunger to be free. You have the strength necessary for such a feat if only you will harness it, and now is the time. Demolish your gilded cage, become a wild thing of black feathers and witchblood!
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, 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!Great queen, I ask for Your help in this time of struggle:
show me how to win the battle and outlast the war;
teach me how to survive and thrive on death like Your black-winged children;
make of me a witch and warrior worthy of fighting in Your name,
that I may neither falter nor give ground
but to my very last breath protect what is mine.
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!
The mother comes to me first, bearing open arms and unconditional love. In her embrace I learn to be vulnerable with myself so that I may to listen to and follow my intuition. She sets me upon the path which leads to the others yet remains always at my side as I walk it. She is a goddess of war and she teaches me to fight for what I know is right.
The maiden comes to me second, walking naked out of the underworld with head held high. She shows me the beauty of curves, the haughtiness of folds, the rebellion and freedom inherent in self-love. In the mirror I see her staring back at me, daring me to find flaw in this sacred form. She is a goddess of war and she teaches me to fight for myself above all else.
The crone comes to me last, dragging war in her wake. Under her fierce gaze I learn how to live when all the earth’s become a battlefield, how to survive and thrive on death like her black-winged children. She kindles the witchblood in my veins so I may face the darkness without flinching or giving ground. She is a goddess of war and she teaches me to fight, to fight, to fight.
Me two years ago: Should I worship Sekhmet too, since I already worship Bast?* …no, the war/death goddesses are scary. Gonna stick with Mamma Cat.
Me a week ago: At least Inanna is the only war/death goddess I worship, She’s more than enough to handle on Her own.
So yeah, last week I dreamed I oathbound myself to The Morrigan. I have never worked with Her or anyone from Her pantheon, nor had I even been pondering the possibility. When I woke from the dream, though, I knew it was one I couldn’t ignore. As I sifted through information about The Morrigan, what struck me hardest was how many of the things I’ve come to associate with Inanna fit The Morrigan as well. This, combined with the fact that I’ve struggled since day one to figure out what Inanna wants from me, lead me down a confusing path of wondering, Was it always The Morrigan and never Inanna at all? Or are they both here? Could they be one in the same – and if not, will I offend them if I work with them both? Where’s the line??
To best analyze this new connection as it develops, I’m keeping track of the similarities between the Inanna I know and The Morrigan I’m coming to know, as well as of the things in my past which could also connect with this Celtic goddess. These include (in no particular order):
– I have recently felt extremely drawn to iron nails, knives, and jewelry; a few weeks ago I bought two poison-tempered iron necklaces, one with a skull stamped on it and one with a triskelle and the triple moon (I actually hesitated on buying that one because those symbols are associated with pantheons I don’t work with, but the calling was too strong to resist)
– I have always associated The Morrigan most with my character Mage, and have sometimes even felt like something bigger or older was “wearing” Mage like a mask
– Inanna has always appeared to me as a pale red-haired woman, which never made sense considering She should look Middle Eastern
– I associate ravens, skulls, bones, and bullets with Inanna, all of which also fit The Morrigan
– Since She came into my life, I’ve felt that Inanna wanted me to focus on the story of Her descent into the underworld – to the point that I see Her as a death goddess, though that was not traditionally Her role
– I’ve always been obsessed with crows and ravens; my first word was “caw” and my parents often called me a crow because of my habit for finding things
– I was raised on Irish and Celtic music and have always felt a connection with that land because of my father, who incidentally I dreamed about the same night
– My current DnD character is a champion of the Raven Queen, a goddess obviously modeled after The Morrigan; this was our DM’s choice and a total surprise to me
– My wife recently gave me her old set of runes and as soon as I held them I felt drawn to them despite not having any interest in runes before
– I recently started seriously studying witchcraft and identifying as a witch, and The Morrigan is apparently associated with witches; I’ve also been drawn to poisonous plants, though I don’t know if those are associated with Her too
– Since the dream I’ve seen crows everywhere, along with triskelles and other things associated with Ireland, and either the name Morrigan or names associated with that pantheon
Trying to clear things up, I did a reading with Bast about the situation and a deity reading with The Morrigan and made some additional interesting connextions:
– When I asked about Her omens, signs, and manifestations I drew the King of Cups; this confused me because the card is ocean-themed (seahorses, turtles, etc), which didn’t seem to make sense… until I realized the card reminds me of my father and the same night I dreamed about The Morrigan I dreamed about my father saving a turtle from a plastic bag
– I drew the 6 of Wands for the deity Herself, a card I once pulled when asking Bast how She felt about Inanna and one I pulled in the reading with Bast about this situation
– For The Morrigan’s personality I drew Strength, the card which Inanna first used to identify Herself
– In both readings I drew the 6 of Swords as something I’m not seeing clearly or not paying attention to; this card features storm crows
Many of these things could be pure coincidence or signs from Inanna Herself, considering She does have a war aspect and connections with the underworld, but I sense there’s more to this. I assumed Inanna was the one behind my sudden push into witchcraft, including the poisoned iron and my recent pull toward the darker aspect of the craft, but that assumption never fit quite right. When I imagine The Morrigan as being behind it I feel a sense of rightness.
What I suspect at this early point is that Inanna is in my life to help me master my body issues and self-love and that The Morrigan is the one who desires to help me become a stronger witch. I’m too much of a hard polytheist to treat them like they’re two sides of the same coin – and there’s no way I’m risking pissing either of them off! I always thought I’d stay away from the goddesses of war and death because I get such immensely powerful, scary vibes from them… but I guess that choice wasn’t in the cards for me.
(*Yes, I know Bast is a war goddess as well – but She’s my mamma, that doesn’t count.)