Does the Goddess Mórrígan have any children, and who are they, exactly?
My partner, An Scéalaí Beag, believes that Brighid is not only the daughter of his boss, the Dagda, but also of my boss, the Mórrígan.
(There is no evidence for either position, it must be noted.)
Brighid is pretty definitively a daughter of the Dagda, but there’s nothing to say or indicate that her mother is the Mórrígan, besides the relationship between that pair, that I am aware of.
But he has plenty of kids with other people, so… it is purely a matter of speculation and opinion.
I have my reasons for what I believe, and he has his, so we’ve respectfully agreed to disagree.
No really. There was none of this…
More recently, I decided to finish my draft post on ‘The Mórrígan’s Children’, due to the question from community member Nora, as part of my November Q&A for the Mórrígan series…
“I’ve been watching your series on the Morrigan, and a question has been coming up for me—does the Morrigan herself have any children? I’ve read that Brigid is a daughter of the Dagda, but haven’t found any information on who Brigid’s mother is. And I also read on Samhain about the consummation of the Dagda and the Morrigan. I presume Brigid is not daughter of the Morrigan—at least I don’t get that sense. But still it raised the question for me as to whether or not there is a lineage descended from the Morrigan.”
It seemed to warrant a more involved citation-rich answer than I can really give on YouTube (you can find the rest of the Q&A videos on my Mórrígan Playlist Here though).
The short answer is, Yes.
But it’s not quite that simple.
First, let’s give a brief mention to the daughter of the Badb (Badbh) – who in turn is referred to as the ‘daughter of Cailitín’ (a dead Druid).
This reference to the Badb having a daughter is a complicated meandering tale presented in a later version of the Oidheadh Con Culainn – ‘The death of Cú Chulainn’, and to my mind the daughter of Badb here seems to be a mortal witch/priest of the Badb, OR possible a Sidhe of the ‘Washer at the Ford’ type.
“Do you see, Little Hound,” asked Cathbad, “Badb’s daughter yonder, washing your spoils and armour? Mournfully, ever-sorrowfully she executes and tells of your fall, when she signifies your defeat before Medb’s great host and the sorcery of the children of Cailitín.”[Van Hamel, 1933]
This is not to be mixed up with the Badb in her role AS ‘The Washer at the Ford’ – as seen here.
The whole confusion between the roles/function of the Mórrígan and the Sisters, and the actual people – or Sidhe entities – who embody those roles in Irish tradition and folklore, is definitely a story for another day.
We’ll also put aside, for now, the stories of Macha – who most definitely has children (twins, at least)… but is not the Mórrígan.
This is the most commonly known example of the Mórrígan having children, so we’ll start here.
Berba (Poem 13)
The Barrow, enduring its silence,
that flows through the folk of old Ailbe;
a labour it is to learn the cause whence is called
Barrow, flower of all famous names.
No motion in it made
the ashes of Mechi the strongly smitten:
the stream made sodden and silent past recovery
the fell filth of the old serpent.
Three turns the serpent made;
it sought out the soldier to consume him;
it would have wasted by its nature all the kine
of the indolent hosts of ancient Erin.
Therefore Diancecht slew it:
there was rude reason for clean destroying it,
for preventing it for ever from wasting
above every resort, from consuming utterly.
Known to me is its grave where he cast it,
a tomb without walls or roof-tree;
its evil ashes,–no ornament to the region
found silent burial in noble Barrow.
(The Metrical Dindshenchas)
No mention of the Mórrígan there, or of Meche (Mechi) being one of her children.
She is specifically mentioned in the Bodleian Dindshenchas version though:
“Berba — into it the three snakes which were in the heart of Méche, son of the Mórrígan, were cast, after he was killed by Mac Cecht in Mag Méchi.”[ Stokes, 1892]
The origin story of the River Barrow (Berba) mentions Méche also in the Rennes Dindshenchas, and in Acallam na Senórach – ‘The Dialogue of the Ancients’.
Nowhere (that has survived) does it tell a story of Méche’s conception, or birth, or father, or any other relationship or interaction with the Mórrígan.
Ah, the oul incest addition. Sure it wouldn’t be a proper ancient tale without it, now would it?
In Lebor Gabála Érenn, we see the Mórrígan as a Daughter of Ernmas (her Mother, by the way, not Father as most folk first presume).
Her father is Delbaeth, who is also the father of some sons; including 3 boys named Brian, Iucharba, Iuchair.
This manuscript has many different versions though, called Redactions or Recensions, with different versions of who – exactly – the Daughters of Ernmas are.
And it’s not until Redaction 3 (Recension C) that we see those 3 boys as the Mórrígan’s children, by her own father.
“The Mórrígan, daughter of Delbaeth, was the mother of the other sons of Delbaeth, that is, Brian, Iucharba, and Iuchair…”.Macalister, R. A. S., Lebor gabála Érenn: The book of the taking of Ireland, 5 vols, Irish Texts Society 34, 35, 39, 41, 44, Dublin: Irish Texts Society, 1932–1942.
Also in Lebor Gabála Érenn, the Mórrígan’s name is given as Anand – though she is also named as one of the Sisters – and Anand is given as the mother to 3 other sons: Glon, Gaim, and Coscar.
We’ve mentioned the text Acallam na Senórach, and in it we see a lad who’s hosting Fionn in an Otherworldly mound talk about how his household defends themselves each year, from those of the Tuatha Dé Danann who come to dig up their Sidhe (referring to the mound itself, in this case).
Included in the host who came against them were:
“The children of the Mórrígan daughter of Ernmas, with her twenty-six female warriors and her twenty-six male warriors.”[Stokes, 1900]
The Irish text says ‘Clann na Morrigna’ though, and while this is most often translated as ‘The Morrigan’s Children’, it technically means her family, but this phrasing was also used to indicate a warband.
(Huge thanks, as ever, to Morgan Daimler for helping me track down the source of this – go support their excellent work on Patreon!)
You’ll see multiple places online mentioning a daughter of the Dagda and the Mórrígan – Adair – as if they know what they’re on about… but I couldn’t for the life of me track down the source for this.
Until I went to the one person I’d seen mention it who definitely knows what they’re on about – Daimler.
They helpfully pointed me to the “index to persons” of the Cath Maige Tuired and provided a picture (thumb is Morgan’s own):
The reference reads: “The Morrigans daughter Adair (by the Dagda) is said to have been the wife of Eber in the glosses to the forty questions of Eochaid Úa Cérín, edited and translated by Thurneysen, ZCP 13 (1919), 133.”
Now, if anyone has access to a translated copy of the forty questions of Eochaid Úa Cérín, including the glosses… please comment below?!
So, imagine me, and every other Mórrígan scholar I know, sort of shrugging at this point – if you want a definitive answer.
Yes, the lore says she has multiple children.
Are they children or descendants in the usual sense? No, not really.
Is it possible that she is metaphorically, or symbolically, their ‘mother’? Yes, that’s likely.
‘The Mórrígan’ in the lore is often used as a title, role, or attribute to indicate anything bad, demonic (to the minds of the writers), or scary.
None of these references may actually refer to direct line descendants of the Mórrígan at all, but rather to people or entities who are aligned with what the Mórrígan represented – either in the society at the time of the stories, or in the minds of the authors who later wrote them down.
Hopefully that clears things up… somewhat, at least?!
(If you have any questions, please join the mailing list below for your best chance of a direct response on the blog or on my YouTube… my Q&A list is HUGE now. Comments below are also welcome!)