Saturday, March 7, 2009

The Morrigan

I wrote this up for my upcoming Myths and Legends performance next Saturday. This is a greatly watered-down description of both The Morrigan and the Cattle Raid of Cooley. But it gives you an idea of where I'll be going in regards to my own personal performance.

The Morrigan is a goddess of battle, strife, and fertility in Celtic mythology. Her name translates as either Great Queen or Phantom Queen. She is a soothsayer and shape-shifter, and was known to fly over battlefields in the shape of a crow.

In the famous Irish tale the Cattle Raid of Cooley, the Irish hero Cúchulainn defends Ulster by fighting a series of battles. In between combats, The Morrígan appears to him and offers him her love and her help, but he spurns her. Angered, she tells him she will hinder him as he fights, saying “I guard your death.” 

True to her word, she intervenes, first in the form of an eel who trips him, then as a wolf who stampedes cattle across the stream, and finally as the cow leading the stampede. However, he defeats his opponents despite her interference. As the hero rides to meet his enemies in what will be his final battle, he encounters The Morrígan as a hag washing his bloody armor in a stream, a sure omen of his death. 

Later, mortally wounded in battle, Cúchulainn ties himself to a standing stone with his own entrails so he can die upright. It is only when The Morrigan, in the form of a crow, lands on his shoulder and he slumps over that his enemies believe he is dead. 

CuChulainn’s misfortune was that he never recognized the feminine power of sovereignty that she offered to him.

I'm sorry I don't know who painted this. If this is your's, please let me know and I'll link/credit appropriately.

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