This book is about the Morrigan, who is the Irish goddess of war and prophecy, at least in the singular manifestation. There is also a triplicity also called the Morrigan which involves two additional war goddesses Badb and Macha.
The first half of the book was a little disconcerting, since it talked more about the names of the other gods like Nemain, Grian, and Danu than the Morrigan herself. Of course, it is explained that they have connections with the Morrigan.
I already introduced who Daimler was in the previous review about the Dagda, so I will do it again here. Daimler has taught Irish myths and was a polytheist since the ’90s. They are a blogger and have written about Irish neopaganism. They use they/them pronouns.
The Morrigan is described as being a part of a triplicity. In other words, she is one of three sisters. Along with Badb and Macha, these three goddesses preside over warriors fighting and determining which one lived or died. There is, of course, the issue of whether they are sisters or aspects of the same goddess. While they started with individual lives, they lost their identities later in the Irish mythology timeline.
The lack of reliable linguistic or cultural records in ancient Ireland makes it difficult to determine who the Morrigan actually is. All that Daimler could do is to make connections, regardless of whether they are contradictory. Ultimately, they leave the interpretation up to the individual pagan practitioner of who the Morrigan, Babd, and Macha are.
Although there is a motherly aspect to the Morrigan, Daimler speculates that this is because the Morrigan is often associated with Danu or Anu. One of the Morrigans, Macha, was also associated with Grian, who is supposed to be a solar god.
Geography also plays a role the Morrigan mythology, since there are plenty of natural sites in Ireland named after the Morrigan–at least the incarnations such as Anu.
War in ancient Ireland was not Homeric in scale with two large armies clashing against each other, rather it was confined to skirmishes and cattle raids. Cows were incredibly important in ancient Irish society, since they signified the value of the owner. They were used to pay off debts or used for milk. As such, ancient Irish culture was heavily reliant on dairy foods.
Animals play a role in the representation of the Morrigan. Although they vary, the main animal that is associated with the Morrigan is the crow or the raven. This is because crows tended to be associated with death in ancient Irish society, since they eat corpses. This is not just a feature in Irish mythology, but also Norse mythology, and Daimler has reason to believe that the Norse somehow played a role in the singular representation of the crow during their colonization of the British isles.
Daimler also noted the juxtaposition between the Morrigan and the other war deities of other mythologies, such as Greek, Roman, and Hindu mythology. They noted how war deities are typically intimidating to communicate with, though they can offer protection within the mind, as Daimler themself noted, since they worship the Morrigan along the Morrigan triplicity.
I previously reviewed Daimler’s work in Irish paganism on this site, specifically with her book about the Dagda. There is clear intertextuality between these texts, because the Morrigan and the Dagda were lovers and did beget children who would become warriors.
The usage of inference in the face of lack of records is similar to how the research into the ancient Egyptian architect Imhotep was made. Since he was known to have been a vizier, then all of his routines and protocols would have a lot to do with what was typically relevant for a vizier at the time.
David Rankine and Sorita d’Este include a detailed entry of the Morrigan in their book. They would add to Daimler’s point about the Morrigan being used to describe demons, since the Romans compared the Morrigan to the Lamiae, who were phantom women who seduced and killed men. They are pretty neutral about the Morrigan in comparison to the Morrigan triplicity.
Connecting To The Previous Book
As far as this relates to the introduction of Jainism, I can say that it is possible, in spite of the clear differences. One notably clear difference is the fact that this book by Morgan Daimler is about a goddess of war, whereas Jainism preaches non-violence as its main precepts. However, there is an exception in Jainism, since it only allows violence in self-defense or in defense of one’s own family or nation. It is also important to note that “warfare” in ancient Ireland, as mentioned before, involved small skirmishes and cattle raids. So, there should not be an onus put on full-fledged warfare unless it is the completely last resort and there are no other options available.
Another point to make is that Jainism and Celtic Paganism both derive from the same Indo-European cultural, religious, and linguistic roots. So, it is best that commonalities should be found. I should have added this paragraph to the Intertextuality section, however, I think that this flows within this section. David W. Anthony has noted how even the mythologies of all Indo-European groups can be traced back to the proto-Indo-European tribes of the Pontic-Caspian steppes. The cow does make an appearance in Proto-Indo-European mythology–ergo it makes an appearance typically within Indo-European mythologies. The Morrigan does have animals represent her, such as the wolf, the cow, and the crow. Just as much as the Morrigan represents conflict and the spoil that comes with it, the cow represents the bride-price that the two brothers must seek out.
Daimler uses the word “complicated” or “complex” to describe the Morrigan, which is the best way to do so, since the Morrigan has multiple personalities, attributes, and forms. She is good lover to the Dagda, but also a foreboding force to mortals like Cu Chullain. Even her own name has complicated origins, since it could mean “great queen,” “phantom queen,” or “queen of the slain.”
Daimler gets into detail about the etymologies with the names of the deities associated with the Morrigan, including herself. These were used to explain whether the names reflected off the deities themselves, or if they were manifestations of the Morrigan.
Daimler also mentioned how the fada used in a name makes a lot of difference in meaning. The fada is used in Irish Gaelic to denote a particular tone in order to convey a particular meaning. The name Morrigan has its fada at the very beginning vowel “o,” which means that mor in this case means “great.”
Daimler noted how praying to the Morrigan involves an urge to confront the problems in ones own life, since not everyone is embarking on a war or a cattle raid. They have suggest that practitioners, including Celtic Polytheistic Reconstructionists, refrain from animal sacrifice when offering to the Morrigan.
I do think this is important to make, since polytheistic religions tend to be more flexible and tolerable than monotheistic religions. An example being the Romans adopting Greek and Egyptian gods into their pantheons. So, there is no reason why pagans cannot adapt Celtic paganism to modern sensibilities. It is entirely possible to abstain from animal sacrifice–and even be vegan–and still remain devoted to the Morrigan or any other pagan deity.
Inspiration To Myself
As far as I can see with the motherly aspect, the Morrigan could have motherly love, but that love might be conditional. If she could protect Daimler, then there is no reason why she cannot protect anyone else; however Daimler also mentioned that appealing to a war deity comes with a heavy price.
I have yet to read the original Irish Mythological texts, so I have to have an informed opinion on the Morrigan. I will say that I tend to hold the belief that the Morrigan may have had two sisters, but later assume both of their roles along with her own. Along with being the Fateweaver, she would also be the Crow and the Protector.
It is OK as a source. However, you should keep in mind that there are many sources for researching the Morrigan. Although I give this an OK rating, I still think that many people would benefit from starting off with this book. At the same time, you will encounter too much of a focus on the triplicity controversy, which would have been an important part of the book had it been up to 200-300 pages.
Recommend This To…
- Any pagan just getting interested in the Morrigan and is looking for a beginning source. As Daimler mentioned, the Morrigan is complicated, and it is best to start off with a simple book like this.
- Anthony, David W. The Horse, The Wheel, and Language: How Bronze-Age Riders from the Eurasian Steppes shaped the Modern World. Princeton University Press. 2007.
- Daimler, Morgan. “Pagan Portals – The Dagda: Meeting the Good God of Ireland.” Moon Books. 2018.
- Daimler, Morgan. “Pagan Portals – The Morrigan: Meeting the Great Queens.” Moon Books. 2014.
- Jain, Praveen. “An Introduction To Jain Philosophy.” DK Printworld. 2019.
- “Morgan Daimler – Moon Books.” John Hunt Publishing.
- Rankine, David and Sorita D’Este. The Isle of the Many Gods. Avalonia. 2007.