Morrigan Macha

The Morrigan Macha (three female beings in the one person), is a shapeshifting supernatural woman or Goddess from Celtic mythology associated with birth, death, fate and war and a legend of the great births in Ireland. The Morrigan was a member of the tribe of the Tuatha de Danann (people of the Goddess Danu) who invaded Ireland. The Morrigan was one of the main warriors and leaders of the Tuatha de Adnan army when they fought against and defeated the army of the Firbolgs ‘at the First Battle of Magh Tuireadh and the Fomorians at the Second Battle of Mag Tured’[1] – all part of the various invasions of Ireland.

Morrigan is a tripartite Goddess, she is three beings in one. In some legends, the three beings are Morrigan, Macha or Badbh (Vulture) while another version is Morrigan, Badbh and Nemain (fury).

There are many different interpretations of who and what the Morrigan is and can be. She is a shape shifter who can appear as a young woman or an old woman or in different animal forms, she is a warrior fighter and can teach warriors the art of war. She can start battles and often appears as an old hag, crow or raven when doing so. Her screams of rage and fury can cause men to panic in battle. As the Queen of Demons, she fliers shrieking over the battlefield in the form of a raven or crow and can foretell the outcome of the battle or gloat over those who have died. Her shrieks. are said to summon the souls of the soldiers that have died on the battlefield ‘to a macabre spectral’ feast and when the battle is over, the warriors who have survived will leave the battlefield until dawn so that the Morrigan ‘could claim the trophies of heads, euphemistically known as ‘the Morrigan’s acorn crop.’[2]

She can be known as the Washerwoman washing bloody garments in the ford of a river, to wash away the blood of battle. Or sometimes she would the clothes of some men before battle predicting their deaths because she had chosen their clothes to wash. So she is the chooser of the slain.

She landed in the form of a raven on the body of Cú Chulainn, an Irish warrior, after he died, as he had refused her favours and she vowed revenge on him. On the battlefield, she turned into an eel, wound herself around his leg and tripped him up in battle where he was killed.

Eamhain Macha (now called Navan Fort) near Armagh, was named for Macha who, according to legend, was forced while pregnant to race against the king’s horses to save her husband from shame and dishonour. She won the race, gave birth to twins immediately and because of the pain she cursed men of Ulster to suffer the pains of childbirth at times of greatest difficulty. She can entice mortals to the Otherworld and to the Land of Women.

Some say The Morrigan ‘presided over rivers, lakes and fresh water, in addition to being the patroness of revenge, night, magic, prophecy, priestesses and witches.’[3] Objects associated with the Morrigan are ‘bowls of brine and blood, the feather of a crow or raven, or even a piece of red cloth to symbolise the Washer at the Ford.[4]