Like so many other Pagans, Wiccans, witches, and polytheists, when I came first to Paganism I very quickly became fascinated with the Morrígan. She has followed me for ten years. Although I am moved by the symbolism of Gaia as a representation of Cosmos, if I make any sort of personal contact with a goddess I will pretty much always see her as or associate her with the Morrígan.
The witch archetype
To me, Morrígan is the witch archetype. Whether the historical connection is there or not (and some scholars think it is), whenever a witch or cailleach is mentioned in Irish folklore, I think of the Morrígan. This is particularly true with the vast amount of folkore that explains the development of the landscape through the actions of a witch. This is something I grew up with, as I spent a lot of time in West Kerry when I was a young child.
You could say, then, that the Morrígan has in fact been a part of my life since I was born – prematurely on Halloween, and accidentally in Kerry.
My Halloween birthday has always been integral to my identity. From a very early age, I started to create small flying witches, which I hung around our conservatory walls every year. These paper witches, coloured with pencils and markers, gradually developed into a proliferation of ghoulish creatures, which I both stuck to the wall and hung from the ceiling – vampires, Frankenstein monsters, spiders and ghosts. But the witches were always central to the display.
My childhood reading was always filled with the figure of the witch – from The Worst Witch books to the Harry Potter series. There was no other figure that excited me more.
So when I discovered the Morrígan, I was really just tapping into a lifelong fascination.
Combindation of destruction and creation
The Morrígan, and the figure of the witch in general, is at her core a paradoxical combination of the destructive and the creative.
As sorceress, the Morrígan has within Irish mythology unrivalled powers of manifestation. She is frequently depicting having sexual intercourse with various Irish gods, and this combined with her strong connection to the land emphasises her connections with fertility and creation.
But with her creative sorcery comes her awful destruction; with her connection to sexuality and fertility comes her connection to death. She straddles the divide, behaving as a goddess of the crossroads in her liminality.
Perhaps it was my affinity with the Morrígan that inspired the prominent creation/destruction binary within my spirituality. Or perhaps she is just an archetypal manifestation of a basic core of my understanding of the universe.
Personal freedom and sovereignty
When I picture the witch as a young child, I most often saw her soaring through the sky on her broomstick. I also loved the image of her stirring her cauldron, but strangely, my interest in her spell crafting and manifestation of will was peripheral to that wonderful image of her flying through the night sky.
The witch to me has always been a figure with immense personal freedom – a creature with the power to create, and to go wherever their heart chooses. They have complete control over their own lives and environments. And because they are dark (and I’m talking here about the witch archetype, not modern witches) and somewhat sinister, they are fearless and powerful. They are perfect in their own sovereignty.
The Morrígan is all of these things. She is a goddess with just enough darkness to be truly frightening, but with enough power of creation and connection to the land to be nourishing and empowering.
The Morrígan’s pervasiveness in my psyche
Sometimes I think I have in fact just applied the name of the Morrígan to my own shadow self. I have certainly identified with her over the years in a way I cannot imagine doing with any other deity. I think a lot of people are drawn to her because they see their shadow selves within her. She is particularly attractive because she wholeheartedly embraces the darkness – and likewise, we may yearn to better integrate our darker aspects into ourselves.
Whatever role she has to play within my psyche, she pretty much dominates the role of the Other – whether that be an aspect of myself, or an archetypal deity. I recently had an experience with a deity who I did not think was the Morrígan. She asked me to do something for a month, which I did. When I meditated on her again after the month in an attempt to discern who this deity was, I just met the Morrígan.
This may be because I believe that these deities are purely a product of the collective unconscious I have inherited. The Morrígan has come to represent so many things, among which are mystery and the underworld – so when I attempt to “free-style” and connect with a deity without deciding beforehand who I am talking to, I default to the Morrígan. Her shapeshifting characteristic makes this all the more plausible for me – I can see pretty much any form, only to have it later tell me that it’s been her all along.
Embracing her darkness
In recent months, the Morrígan has been challenging to me face fears, to take action, and to be bold. I am contemplating doing some serious shadow work over the next few months, and she will be central to this process. She has acted as my muse – a strange, dark sort of muse, but a powerful one.
It is probably my high level of identification with her that prevents me from calling her Cosmos. She is cosmic in her magnitude, but she feels much more like a metaphor for my psyche than a metaphor for the macrocosm that the psyche is a part of.
So although I continue to address Cosmos as Gaia, the Morrígan is an underlying thread to my spirituality, inextricably linked to it.