Mórrígan Archives - Lora O'Brien - Irish Author & Guide
Category Archives for "Mórrígan"

An Irish Pagan Altar

Some of the most common questions on Irish Pagan Beliefs I see, revolve around the Pagan Altar. What is it? How do you make one? What direction should a Pagan Altar face?!

I figure it might be useful to show you what I do, as a starting point. (Spoiler alert, there’s no pentagrams! The post image was a RUSE!) So, here’s mine, currently, and my answers to a few of those questions besides.

What’s on my Pagan Altar?

My Irish Pagan Altar - Lora O'Brien

Back, left to right:

  • Mini bottle of Mead, a sacred drink to the Irish. This one is for the symbolism, rather than the offering, and it has sentimental value too as it was a gift from my partner.
  • Dropper bottle of Men’s Sacred Water, a gift from Justin Moffat (who is an excellent Guide at Uisneach, an important Irish Sacred Site).
  • 2 red pillar candles; the colour is symbolic of both my Goddess, the Mórrígan, and the Irish Otherworld in which we walk and work.
  • Crow painting, painted and gifted to me by my first ‘Witch Daughter’ initiate, Caroline 💞
  • Square candle holder, usually containing a daily devotional white candle flame; Red and White are the 2 colours of the Irish Otherworld, so they fit here. The holder was a gift from my Mammy, and reads “Take a deep breath, relax, you’re home now”. She gave it to me when I moved down to join my family in County Waterford, after many years in County Roscommon.
  • A travel compass, so I can always find my way back to Ireland. This was a gift from the Cauldron of the Celts and Vyviane of Land Sea Sky Travel, after I guided a tour for them here in Ireland.
  • Crow skull, a treasured gift from my friend Brianna 💜
  • 2 glass vials with cork stoppers, containing clay mud from the Síd ar Cruachán (the Cave of the Cats), and water from the Ogulla Well, both sites of the Rathcroghan Complex, in County Roscommon – home of the Mórrígan and Queen Maedbh.

Front, left to right:

  • Adge’s Wand – a long ago gift of a bog oak and quartz snake carved wand, the personal tool of our own Fluid Druid, Adge, before he left us.
  • Beater for the Bodhrán (native Irish drum) you can just see in the bottom left corner. I often use these as part of my daily devotions.
  • Offering dishes (pictured with sage, which was a gift though I don’t personally use it, and there are sustainability and appropriation issues to consider if you do!)
  • Scented candle with bright copper lid, because I really, really like nice smells and shiny things!
  • Carved wooden bowl and spoon, with blended herbal incense packages – all gifts from the Caludron of the Celts, and Land Sea Sky travel.

Not pictured, see the video for… Offerings glass, painted and gifted by my Witch Sister, Rhiannon, who died a long time ago and is still missed every day, and remembered every time I see it. 💔 Also, Blackthorn branches and Crow feathers collected during my Monthly Site Visits, which are in containers up above, on either side of my Pagan Altar.

How to make your Pagan Altar

As you can see, this isn’t too difficult.

I found the chest in a second hand shop for about 20 quid, and the drawers make handy storage for candles, lighters, and other assorted shite.

Fire is vital when practicising Irish Pagansim, in my opinion, as the hearth and home fires are SO much a part of our culture (and for many other reasons which are beyond the scope of this post… ask me in the comments if you’ve any questions!). So, be sure to have some sort of live flame on there whenever possible.

Connection to place is very important too, so have something that represents the place/s that are important in your practice.

Representation of deity is good – seriously though, don’t get caught up on finding the ‘perfect’ statue or painting. It probably doesn’t exist, to be honest. The gods are essentially formless, and anything after that is us trying to visualise them so that we can build relationship. Stick to the basics as you begin, and see what develops over time.

Ritual tools are optional, depending on your tradition and practice. I have 2 really large carved walking staffs, one bog oak and one yew, that obviously don’t fit on my Pagan altar. I have an athame with a carved Blackthorn handle, that was very special to me when I was an 18 year old in a Traditional Wiccan Coven, but doesn’t have a place in my current native Irish practice.

The most important thing for any Pagan altar is to find and use items that are special to you, that make sense to you.

 

What direction should a Pagan Altar face?

I don’t even know what direction my altar is facing.

That compass is purely symbolic… I’m probably dyspraxic, and spend a lot of my magical life (and far too much of my mundane life) wandering in and out of the Otherworld. I very rarely know what direction I’m facing in this world!

Unless it’s a specific part of your tradition (in Alexandrian Trad Wicca as I was initially trained, for example, it goes in the North), it doesn’t matter what direction your Pagan Altar is facing.

Just put it wherever works for you, in your home, so you can see and connect with it every single day. I promise, that’s more important than getting it ‘right’ by anyone else’s standards or rules.

 

How to use a Pagan Altar

As I said, connect with it every day, in some way.

Some days, that will be giving it a bit of a dust or a tidy, and maybe lighting a tealight/votive candle.

Other days, you might be sitting in front of it for an hour or more, using divination or Journeying, perhaps for communicating with a God or Goddess.

And sometimes you may do rituals – like celebrating the seasonal cycles, rites of passage, or devotion to Deity – and decorate it with extra special or symbolic items for the duration.

These are all good uses of a Pagan Altar, and if you’re working alone, or just starting to figure out your Irish Pagan practice, experiement with what seems right for you.

Take notes, keep a record; watch for patterns over time and improve as you go.

Seriously though. Do something every day.

Irish Pagan Practice (or any Pagan practice, to be honest, but especially the Irish stuff) is about building relationship. To do this, you need to show up consistently, and do the Work.

It doesn’t always have to be big work, or important work, or hard work. But it’s all part of the Work.


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Is the Mórrígan Recruiting?

Mórrígan's Army

As part of our annual 6 month Intensive Programme, I answer questions from students who want to know more about the Irish Goddess Mórrígan, with whom I have had a solid working relationship for about 15 years now… and the last 13 of them as Her priest.

8 of those years were spent in daily service (and professional employment), managing Her primary sacred site at Rathcroghan, Co. Roscommon, and guiding visitors in (and safely back out) of the cave known as ‘her fit abode’; Uaimh na gCait, Oweynagat – the Cave of the Cats.

I’m going to occasionally share some of those answers through this blog. [Find them tagged with ‘Morrigan’, or ‘Class Questions’]

Iníon Preacháin asked: “Why do you feel She is showing such an interest in “recruiting” devotees (for lack of better terms) at this time?”

 

Okay, well, the short answer to that is: look around. The world needs Mórrígan devotees, or people who are doing the work for humanity and for communities.

The longer answer is, that it isn’t just at this time. She has been doing this for a long time, and she’s been preparing for a long time, and again, that’s my experience of it, but it also plays out in the lore.

Everybody talks about the Mórrígan as a battle goddess, and she absolutely is involved in battles because battles shape history and battles shape communities and wars are fought, the outcome of which is part of a much bigger picture, and it’s the bigger picture stuff that the Mórrígan is in charge of. In my experience.

And I think, though that is my experience, the lore plays that out, and her role as a prophet or goddess of prophecy is very much an integral part of that, but also her… I was gonna say ‘meddling,’ meddling is the wrong word, but her involvement in seemingly small things and small stories which end up playing a very big role in battles to come or in the outcome of certain battles or wars that are being fought, and changes.

She is a goddess of change.

At this time, we need somebody who knows what’s going on, absolutely, and she needs people on the ground doing the work that – y’know, she can lead the horse to water, but she can’t directly interfere with… I mean, she does directly interfere with people, with individuals, but she can’t shape things on a bigger scale herself. She has to do it through individuals. And I think that’s where the recruitment drive is coming from, but actually the recruitment drive has been going on for a long time. I think that it has become global, now, but this is not new.

This poem, it was one of my first calls from her. (Click to Read Poem)

It was written at Bealtaine of 2004. It’s from the Irish Witchcraft book, which was my first book, but actually she had been calling for a long time before that. I was tattooed with crows, for example, before this poem was written or that book was written. She’s been calling since, I would say, since the turn of the millennium. Since about 2000, there has been a very specific gathering of the forces in Ireland, on the ground in Ireland, around her sites, and the work that she has had me doing here has been to disseminate real information and education because that wasn’t happening back then. At all.

All through the 90s, there was a lot of shite about Irish traditions and Irish culture specifically, and very little that was real. Everybody was shit-scared of her, but really very little about her and certainly nothing of value about her was available to the general public – there wasn’t even the interest and the understanding that the source lore and the literature we have is so important to us now as modern pagans working with her. I mean, that just wasn’t there in the 90s.

Your average pagan now is, believe it or not, much better read and much more versed in the lore than your average pagan was back then. Just from the sheer availability, I think of it, with the coming of the Internet and the raised standards in publishing – and yes, they are raised, believe it or not again, you might not appreciate just how bad things used to be. There was a huge gap between academic research and the access that people could have to academia. Scholarship was very much far removed from the standard pagan community, except in small pockets and some individuals. And that was the teachers, never mind students.

So the work that she’s had me doing since she got her hooks in me is to try and bring some of that to the wider communities, and to teach people the importance of it. Now I’m not academic, I mean, I’ve studied psychology, but that was me going back as a mature student. The only other college learning I have is in art college, so that’s fuck-all useful to anybody, unless you’re artistic, which I am, or was at least, but…yes, so, I’m not an academic, but one of the things that she had me do was get my head around the literature and try and find ways to translate it. I don’t mean translate it from Old Irish – thankfully that work is being done but that is not my work, thank the gods, I’ve never had to learn Old Irish. Morgan Daimler is doing excellent work in that, poor Morgan, we’ll have her worked to death before she has the entire Ulster Cycle translated by the time I’m finished with her. And Isolde Carmody, who is one half of the Story Archaeology team, who you will hear lots and lots and lots about from me, has been doing sterling translation work too.

None of that work was being done at the time though, and the recruitment that we’re seeing now is just a step above that. It’s just where that has reached a kind of a critical mass where it’s spilling over into the wider world and really my feeling is that she was consolidating her base ground for the last decade and in the last five or so years things have kind of stepped up and moved on from that.

As ever, I’m wary of projecting my own stuff because that above has been very much my experience, but then as I started to travel away from my beloved isle and get out and about in the world, rather than everybody coming to me at the Cave and through Rathcroghan Heritage Centre – which is lovely and I much prefer, I have to say, I hate leaving Ireland, moan moan whine whine… Since I’ve started getting out and about in the world, I have noticed there is a mirroring of many people’s experience in that it’s not just my experience, it’s that now is the time.

There’s been a couple of organizations started up in recent years. The Coru Priesthood, for example, and I know some of our course members have started priesthoods in Texas and Connecticut, and eventually I will have to start one here in Ireland. I don’t want to be doing any of this work, to be honest. If I could get away with doing none of this work I would be totally getting away with that and living a much easier life, but my next project is going to be is a priesthood here in Ireland and I’m not sure what that’s going to look like, yet, but before of that I have a serious initiation I have to do, which again, I’ve been putting off because it’s scary.

A lot of that is going on here, and it is very much mirrored out in the world, and I think that the answer to it, to the question ‘why do I feel that there’s such an interest’, is because she’s so concerned with the bigger picture, and the bigger picture is fucked right now. Absolutely fucked.

Anybody in class (or reading this blog) who is not aware of just how fucked the bigger picture is on so many different levels – if you’re going to be on my Facebook, so you’ll find out very quickly if you’re not aware already… and awareness is the first key. It’s through educating ourselves that we understand the work that needs to be done on a big scale, but also on our doorstep and on ourselves.

Part of taking this course, I hope, is doing that work on yourself so that you’re ready then to do whatever work is needed of you out in the world.

 

[Author’s Note: this class was recorded pre Brexit, and pre Trump. And before Ireland had begun to step up and lead the free world with such fantastic examples of social justice and people power as the Marriage Equality Referendum, the Transgender Identity Bill, and our Referendum to Repeal the 8th Amendment. FYI.]

 


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The Mórrígan and Her Sisters

Red Haired Woman in a Crowd

As part of our annual 6 month Intensive Programme, I answer questions from students who want to know more about the Irish Goddess Mórrígan, with whom I have had a solid working relationship for about 15 years now… and the last 13 of them as Her priest.

8 of those years were spent in daily service (and professional employment), managing Her primary sacred site at Rathcroghan, Co. Roscommon, and guiding visitors in (and safely back out) of the cave known as ‘her fit abode’; Uaimh na gCait, Oweynagat – the Cave of the Cats.

I’m going to occasionally share some of those answers through this blog. [Find them tagged with ‘Morrigan’, or ‘Class Questions’]

Iníon Preacháin asked: “Of Badb, Macha, Anu/Anand, Nemain, Fea, and some list Danu as well… do you feel they are all aspects of the Morrigna?”

 

Okay, so, ‘the Morrigna’ represents the plural, so yes, they are all aspects of Na Morrigna, as in the Great Queens – that’s what Morrigna written like that means.  I always make a distinction between na Morrigna, as in the plural, or the Mórrígan, ‘an Morrighan,’ the Great Queen, so that would be my feeling on it.

Like I said — in a previous blog post, see it here — aspects is not a term that I would use specifically.  I would see them as sisters, and some more closely related than others. In my experience.

Macha is, I feel, is the closest to her, and I have an interest and kind of perspective, I suppose, in Mórrígan and Medb, that’s — Queen Medb of Connacht —, and working with both of those very, very powerful figures at Rathcroghan for so many years. They very much work together in my experience and both of them feed into the sovereignty of Connacht, of the western province, in Ireland.

Macha is the sovereignty of, or represents the sovereignty of, the Ulster province in the north of Ireland, and Connacht and Ulster have a somewhat troubled relationship in the mythology. I mean, anybody who’s read the — Tain Bó Cúailnge —, “The Cattle Raid of Cooley,” will be aware, Ulster and Connacht have been enemies for a very long time.  So there’s kind of a lot going on there, and of all of those sisters Macha, to me, has alwas been the most, kind of fully formed and distinct from the Morrígan.  

Nemain, I think, is an ancestor, and I think that all of those deities that are there… and again, we will look at this in more detail over the course, but all of those deities, in a sense they may be aspects in the literal understanding of that word. BUT, they are all beings and deities in their own right as well.  So them being aspects of the Great Queen, I think that kind of feeds together and weaves together, but I think they’re working on different levels, if that makes sense.

So you’ve got this kind of top tier of being able to interact with all of those beings individually. You go down a little bit deeper into the root system and they start to blend a little bit closer together and you don’t get those kind of distinctive, individual personalities.  You go down deeper and they’re all kind of part of that same root, and then you go deeper again and you’re still in the ‘Irish zone’ at that level… but then the level below that would be the universal archetypal level, the level of the collective unconscious common to all humanity, that kind of ‘dark goddess’ level.

All of the names which we connect to the Mórrígan, under the banner of ‘Great Queen’, are connected at a deep level so, but we can (and do) also interact with them individually in the day to day. I definitely wouldn’t be a fan of – or allowed to, I’d get my arse kicked – lump them all together or just swap out one for another.

Yeah, don’t try that one at home kids.


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Faces of the Mórrígan – a Perception of Deity

Faces of the Mórrígan

As part of our annual 6 month Intensive Programme, I answer questions from students who want to know more about the Irish Goddess Mórrígan, with whom I have had a solid working relationship for about 15 years now… and the last 13 of them as Her priest.

8 of those years were spent in daily service (and professional employment), managing Her primary sacred site at Rathcroghan, Co. Roscommon, and guiding visitors in (and safely back out) of the cave known as ‘her fit abode’; Uaimh na gCait, Oweynagat – the Cave of the Cats.

I’m going to occasionally share some of those answers through this blog. [Find them tagged with ‘Morrigan’, or ‘Class Questions’]

Marjorie asked: “We all experience our gods differently, to some degree. Some of us experience Her as Many and some of us as One with multiple faces. Do you think one is more accurate than the other or, more importantly, is either perception more respectful than the other? To what extent do you think it matters?”

That’s a really good question, and we will go into some of this in the coursework that’s to follow, but my view is that… I personally deal with the Mórrígan, and the Mórrígan for me is a very distinct entity. I mean distinct as in distinct from Macha or Nemhain or Badbh, and those beings and goddesses seem more like sisters than a part of Her. To me.

Now, I completely agree, we all do experience our gods differently, and I also feel that the gods themselves can do whatever the fuck they like and appear however they like. I think that there is a certain amount of (human relational) shaping that has gone into the Mórrígan. So there is a particular form – or rather formlessness – that she takes with that specific guise that has been interacted with by humans.

My theory on gods is that, well…okay, so to go back a bit: I studied psychology in some depth and particularly Jungian psychology as every feckin’ amateur psychologist pagan has done. The reason for that is because it makes a lot of sense and it makes a lot of sense for our spirituality and Jung had a very kind of tuned-in attitude, certainly for his time, and a lot of the stuff that he was conceptualizing has become common parlance. So we often don’t even recognize how much of a contribution Jung has made to psychology and the study of the human mind and the human spirit as well, I think.

I work a lot with archetypes, and I was called a blasphemer for dealing with archetypal god energies on a panel last year. I was very, very bothered (furious actually) by this at the time, but I really didn’t understand that the American culture that the accusation was coming from had a very different understanding of archetypes than I would’ve had.

To me, an archetype is huge, and it’s complex, and obviously I’m not going to be able to just settle it down in just a few sentences. The crux of it is that there are roots and essential sources that I feel are part of the collective unconscious, as in the unconsciousness that is common to all humanity, and those sources are the archetypes, to a certain extent. Each deity stems in some way from an archetypal form, but it’s like they’re all from the same root, maybe, but when they grow in different cultures with different food sources and different light sources and different energy that’s fed to them and different care and cultivation, they grow into very different deities.

Each of those deities are plants, to use that analogy. Each of those plants or trees or whatever grows from the roots is different from each other, but when you trace them right down to the bottom of those roots, you get to the same source. So that’s a very simplified version of how I have always understood ‘deity.’

I think a good example of this the Mórrígan. Na Mórrigna – that is, all of the Mórrígans – but when you take the Mórrígan Herself and you look at Her as a ‘dark deity’ – again, for want of a better description – and you put that in the context of, say, other ‘dark’ deities like Cerridwen or Kali or Hekate, and, y’know, all of those goddesses I would say stem from the same kind of ‘dark goddess’ root or archetype or source, but they have obviously developed very, very differently in very different cultures, and they’ve all ended up being female. Make of that what you will.

Re gender and form… My experience of the Mórrígan is that she’s kind of nominally female. Her form is formlessness, as I’ve said, and she can take any form and does take any form. I think I coined the phrase ‘gender irrelevant’ in relation to Her – she can and does appear in any of them.

The general physical form that she appears to have in modern culture has become black hair, but actually the only description of her apart from her shapeshifting, the only real description of her – showing her essence, I believe – that we have in the lore is as a warrior woman who is carrying two spears and has red hair and red eyebrows and is wearing a red cloak and has a very strange horse, and kind of a chariot that she’s standing on. (See the Táin Bó Regamna video on YouTube.) That’s her base aspect, as far as I can tell.

But generally she just appears, if she appears to me at all, she appears kind of hooded, and like I said, formless, generally human-shaped unless she’s as a crow. But anyway, sorry, I’m wandering off a little bit. We will examine this in more detail through the course and through the content (and check the — Available Classes — for individual class downloads!).

So, I experience her as one being or entity specifically, with or without a face, and I have always interacted with her as the Great Queen. I don’t feel that that’s specifically more accurate than any other interaction or relationship with her, as long as that’s based on a relationship. I feel that if somebody has put the same amount or similar amount of time and effort into building a relationship with that deity as I have, and their perception is different than my perception, then I’m not going to say that mine is right or more accurate and theirs is wrong. I think, ultimately the gods, and our perception of them is often going to be different because we’re all different, and I don’t think that they have a genuine kind of physical, corporeal form in this world anyway. We are experiencing them through the collective unconscious, through ourselves and our connection to our own subconscious and our own unconscious with the collective unconscious. I know I’m kind of throwing a lot – I’m trying to encapsulate, like, literally years’ worth of theory on my part into a couple of minutes.

“Is either perception more respectful than the other?”

I feel that it’s disrespectful to swap her out, if that makes sense. So if you’re going to be dealing with the Mórrígan, and we will through the course – when we’re talking about the Mórrígan, I’m not talking about Macha, I’m not talking about Badbh, I’m not talking about Nemhain. I’m talking about the Morrígan, the Great Queen – and like I said, YMMV on that, and that’s fine, but when I say ‘the Mórrígan,’ that’s who I mean.

What I don’t think is okay is swapping out the Mórrígan, say in the lore, or in how we’re dealing with her or how we’re working with her, and just slotting in any of them into whatever kind of floats your boat at the time. I think that if she’s dealing with you, you’ll know whether it’s the Great Queen or whether it’s Macha or Badbh or Nemhain or Fea or Anu. Nemhain is a different thing, and Badbh is a different thing again, and Macha is definitely her own thing. But again, that’s my perception.

“To what extent do you think it matters?”

I’ve probably covered that? Build your relationship and you’ll see how much it matters because if you disrespect her… [laughter]

Sorry, that’s probably not very helpful, but that has been my experience.


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The Curse of Macha

Macha pregnant-beach-sunset-mother

Sometimes a Goddess fancies a change.

Immortality can get awful boring after a time.

So it was with the Goddess Macha. She decided she wanted a home, friends of her own, a family… and that’s how she ended up on the doorstep of a wealthy merchant in the mountains of Mourne.

She knocked, asked to speak to him in person, and when he arrived down to greet her she made her proposal. She would bring wealth, prosperity, and abundance to his household (being a Goddess definitely has its perks), but in return she wanted a quiet life – to live out her days undisturbed, as a mortal. So he had to promise her privacy, and secrecy, and respect, and the love would come later, she was sure. And so he did.

She turned thrice sun-ways on his step to seal the deal, and stepped into his life as a mortal wife.

The years trundled on and his household prospered, as she had promised it would. She brought abundance and wealth to his life, as she had promised she would.

Love even bloomed, and she became pregnant, as is wont to happen at times, when a man and a woman are in love and doing the things that people in love might do.

The merchant rose in status, and he began to receive invitations for them both to attend all the feasts, and all the fairs – invitations which she always declined, but he attended. Unfortunately, his appetites grew right along with his status, and he began to feast and fair too much, eating and drinking until the wee small hours, and sometimes not even bothering to go home between events.

Macha didn’t mind too much; she kept herself busy, and was delighted when the physician told her she was carrying not one baby, but two – twins!

One month, near the end of her pregnancy, her husband was off again at one of his fairs. This was a big one: the Samhain festival at the court of the King. The merchant paid his tributes and tithes, ate his fill (and more) in the camp kitchens, and contented himself with wandering around the fair grounds, chatting to people he knew, looking through stalls and market tents, watching the competitive events, gaming for profit or loss… and of course drinking. Lots of drinking.

He sat eventually, content to watch the horse racing, and soon there was a cackling crowd, placing wagers on which would win. After a heavy loss, perhaps to salvage some part of pride perceived lost, the wine-soaked sot began to boast that as fast as those horses were, his own wife could out-run any one of them. Even the horses of the King himself, which were known to be the best of the best.

Now, it didn’t take long for this boast to reach the ears of the King himself: for his horses represented his rightful rule, and any slight on them was a slight on his very kingship. He insisted the woman be fetched, and made to race against the best horse of his stable.

Warriors went out, Macha was made travel, and told she would race the next day (as it was a three day festival). She bawled and cursed her husband – and his drunken, pounding, head – all through the night, but it was no use.

She was stood in front of king and crowd first thing in the morning, with the horse lined up next to her. She sweated and swore, for the pressure was doing strange things to her heavily pregnant body, and it looked like mother and babies were in serious distress, to anyone with eyes to see.

The king held firm, and she was made to race – but before she did, she cursed every single man of Ulster, to nine generations on, with a spell that gave each and every one of them the pains of labour and childbirth, to strike them whenever Ulster was under attack.

Macha raced that day, and indeed she won, but the exertion brought on the birth and she died there at the finish. Screaming her curse to the last breath.

This is why Ulster men were in bed each time their province needed them; but sure, they are all stories for another day.


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What Do I Put on a Mórrígan Altar?

So, as part of our 6 month Intensive Programme, I answer questions from students who want to know more about the Irish Goddess Mórrígan, with whom I have had a solid working relationship for about 15 years now… and the last 13 of them as Her priest.

8 of those years were spent in daily service (and professional employment), managing Her primary sacred site at Rathcroghan, Co. Roscommon, and guiding visitors in (and safely back out) of the cave known as ‘her fit abode’; Uaimh na gCait, Oweynagat – the Cave of the Cats.

I’m going to occasionally share some of those answers through this blog.

[Find them tagged with ‘Morrigan’, or ‘Class Questions’]

Bec Dunn asked: “I want to set up an altar whilst I do this work to connect with Her, are there things to include or definitely not put on?”

Altars are so personal. The short answer is, you can put whatever you want on there.

Me, personally, I always have a real flame on it. That’s not tied to any lore of Hers or anything, it’s just…I don’t know whether that’s a cultural thing for me, or a magical thing, but…I don’t know. It kind of feels like She gets a bit cold sometimes and I like to have a little flame for Her.

It also kind of reminds Her that we’re human and this is what humans do and it’s not necessarily Her nature to want fire or to want a flame, but it is ours. I think that’s always kind of served me well. So, there’s always candles, and when I want to definitely ‘check in with her, the candles are lit and it brings a very clear focus.

And, y’know, obviously, I pick up crow feathers everywhere I go, so there’s lot of different crow feathers from different sites. I’m big on stones and bits of dirt and all the rest of it too, so that’s all good, that’s all on my altar.

I would advise not putting sexualized, male-gaze statues of the Mórrígan on your altar, but again, that’s down to personal taste. Just in case you’re not aware, there has been a lot of backlash (and rightly so) in Facebook Mórrígan groups over deity representation and misogyny,  and particularly representations of the Morrígan for the male gaze, basically where she is holding a sword without the arm strength to do so, and she looks like she’s ready to drop it on her foot. All those kinds of things.

Personally, a lot of the statuary and artwork that’s commercially available at the moment is… well, it really doesn’t do it for me, to be honest.

Image-wise, for the altar then – I’ve always been drawn to images of crows, particularly, and that seems to me to be a good kind of catch-all, particularly if you’re starting out… you can’t really go wrong with those.

There’s some really, really gorgeous ones out there and it’s not going to piss anybody off. I don’t think it’s healthy for us to necessarily put our own interpretations of her, on her. She’s very much a shapeshifter, and her form is formless.

A crow is symbolic of her. A raven, if that’s your thing, but crows specifically are connected to her here in Ireland, rather than ravens. There is one raven reference in the lore, as far as I’m aware, but generally it’s crows. If there’s a choice between a raven and a crow, I would definitely go for the crow.

(thanks to Marjorie for the transcription service from class, much appreciated!)


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Daily Practice as a Morrigan Priestess

Person in Trees

So, as part of our 6 month Intensive Programme, I answer questions from students who want to know more about the Irish Goddess Mórrígan, with whom I have had a solid working relationship for about 15 years now… and the last 13 of them as Her priest.

8 of those years were spent in daily service (and professional employment), managing Her primary sacred site at Rathcroghan, Co. Roscommon, and guiding visitors in (and safely back out) of the cave known as ‘her fit abode’; Uaimh na gCait, Oweynagat – the Cave of the Cats.

I’m going to occasionally share some of those answers through this blog.

[Find them tagged with ‘Morrigan’, or ‘Class Questions’]

Shannon Duerden Thompson asked: “I’m wondering about what daily practices you’ve found to be the most valuable?”

Listening, to be perfectly honest.

My relationship with Herself is very much about…well, that – the relationship – and building that relationship to a point where there is, I feel, a pretty free flow of communication between us.

How that looks changes, y’know, I’m going to talk a lot about personal gnosis, and you’ll also hear me talk about imbas, which is a knowledge, basically, that I would receive directly from Her.

The daily practices that I found most valuable have been to take some time every single day to be quiet, and to listen, and to be aware of Her and Her presence in my life, and to take instruction from Her directly. Thankfully that (direct instruction) doesn’t happen every day, and when it does happen it’s usually a kick – and it’s not always through the daily practices, it’s often kind of a bolt from the blue.

Or, a kick up the hole. That happens a lot.

So the daily practice I feel keeps me in tune with Her. I do try and sit on some grass – now you may or may not have grass where you are, but you probably have some form of a tree, or something similar. I would suggest finding a spot that feels like Her to you.

There’s a simple technique that I’ve developed to Journey in the Irish Otherworld, and that’s often a part of my daily practice.

And as I’ve moved around, particular since I’ve moved away from Roscommon where I lived and worked for fifteen years, dealing with Her on a daily basis, I’ve had to find new ways and new places to connect to Her.

I have found one here that’s local to me (I’m down the south of Ireland in Munster now), but it is about exploring your local area and finding somewhere that feels like Her to you. That might change over time, and that might be different even on a daily or a weekly basis, or it might change and evolve as you get to know Her a bit better and start to hear Her more clearly.

I say ‘hear’ as in not necessarily physically hearing Her, just an awareness of Her. Making time and making space for Her to communicate… and even if she doesn’t communicate back every single day, I’m there. I show up.

A huge part of all this Irish Pagan stuff – and something that you’ll hear me say many, many times, over and over, until you’re fucking sick of the sound of it – is that you need to show up and you need to do the work.

Part of that is with the daily practice of just taking some time. And by some time I mean – it could be anything from ten minutes to an hour.  Generally it’s in the morning time, for me, before the house wakes up. I have three kids so obviously over the last twenty years of doing this (Pagan, generally) work I have had times when things are quite chaotic in the household.

Everybody is busy – shut up now with them excuses. There’s always something you can do. I’m just gonna be perfectly blunt here, and overshare with the world – there was a time when my children were small, that my daily practice was I would literally have to make sure the kids were safe and entertained, and then lock the bathroom door for five or ten minutes so nobody in the house could get in, to take some time on the toilet. That was my quiet connection time and my sanity – though it wasn’t always uninterrupted even at that!

But anyway, the point is that you can find some regular space in your day, even with mad work commitments, family responsibilities, a small baby… even with crazy stuff going on around you, you can find five minutes, ten minutes, every single day to make space for Her and to show up for Her, and to see if She does have any work that She needs you to do.

And sometimes you just showing up….I mean, obviously this can feed into daily meditation practice and all other kinds of good stuff that we know is necessary for our mental health, but usually put on the bottom of our priority list.

Are there other, more exciting and dramatic things that I do as a Priestess of the Mórrígan, as part of my daily practice? Sure there are! But if you’re looking to build a relationship with this Irish Goddess, start here, and prove yourself to Her this way first.

Taking that quiet time to connect is doing the work, it’s as simple and as complicated as that. It’s part of any warrior training, and it’s part of priesthood training as well, so sometimes that’s the first (and even the only) work that She needs you to do today.

And that’s okay.

(thanks to Marjorie for the transcription service from class, much appreciated!)


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Poem for the Morrigan

Lora Light

The Mórrígan

She Stands
Silent, hooded, darkened countenance
shifting, muted, inescapably There.

Her Face
Unknowable, terrible, hidden
She is Everything and Nothing.

Two Spears
Weapons of truth, Imperative
Thrusting knowledge and awareness

Slaying
All that we must leave behind
Forcing
All that we must discover

Darkness and Strength
Power and Insight
Fear and Finding

She Stands
Connected, terrified, thrilled
Facing the Great Queen

Back into her own,
coming home.

 

Lora O’Brien, Roscommon, Bealtaine 2004.


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Táin Bó Cuailnge – The Cattle Raid of Cooley

Leabhair na hUidre, pic from the RIA - Táin

There’s lots of stories with Táin in the title, but this article relates specifically to the best known of them – the Táin Bó Cuailnge, or ‘Cattle Raid of Cooley’.

Sources of the Táin

Early Irish manuscripts are the oldest remaining extant literary source material in Europe, opening a fascinating window to the Medieval society in which they were written down, and the older tales and oral traditions which they record for us to enjoy today.

The Táin Bó Cuailnge, the ‘Cattle Raid of Cooley’, (often just called “the Táin” – pronounced TAWn – though there are actually a number of different Táin stories as we said) lies at the heart of Ireland’s epic storytelling legacy.

This is a great battle saga tale set around the 1st Century CE, in the middle of the Iron Age – told and re-told through the ages. The story survives in a couple of different versions, called ‘recensions’; there are 3 of these remaining to us today.

  • Recension 1 – There is a partial text in Leabhair na hUidre, ‘the Book of the Dun Cow’, which is dated to the late 1000’s CE, and the rest of this version is found in the ‘Yellow Book of Lecan’, dated to the late 1300’s. Together they make a complete Táin story, copied over the centuries from book to book. Some of the prose language is thought to be as old as the 700’s CE, and the poetic verses even older.
  • Recension 2 – The second version is found in the ‘Book of Leinster’, dated to around the 1100’s CE, when a scribe tried to bring together a complete story, and updated the language and style to match his own time.
  • There’s a later third Recension too, scattered in bits and pieces through other manuscripts.

The Book of Leinster scribe may have thought the tale worth re-telling, or perhaps he was reluctant and had been ordered to just get on with it, as there are elements of the Táin that didn’t sit well with him at all. His note in the margins, written in formal Latin script, tells its own tale:

But I who have written this story, or rather this fable, give no credence to the various incidents related in it. For some things in it are the deceptions of demons, other poetic figments; some are probable, others improbable; while still others are intended for the delectation of foolish men.

For those of us who want to have a look through the text today, we don’t have to go digging through the library archives of ancient manuscripts (thankfully, those things are dusty as all hell). There’s many options available to us both (free) online, and in tree book format if you like the paper stuff.

You can find Recension 1 on UCC’s CELT resource here, with Cecile O’Rahilly’s translation of The Book of Leinster version here.

 

Review of Kinsella’s Translation ‘The Táin’

This is the most accurate translation of the epic Irish tale, the Táin Bó Cuailnge, and includes the major remscéla or pre-tales which go a long way towards putting some of the madder stuff into a bit of context.

There’s still a lot of mad stuff in there, but sure it’s all good.

Starting at Rathcroghan, in County Roscommon, the story wends its way across the country to Cooley in County Louth. Featuring CúChulainn, Lugh, the Morrigan, Ferdia, Conor MacNessa, Fergus Mac Roich, and the notorious warrior Queen of Connacht, Medb (Maeve) – you won’t be short of an interesting character to keep track of.

I really like the artwork included in this version, by Louis le Brocquy; it captures well the tenuous nature of the meanings and symbolism that are woven into the fabric of this teaching tale.

 

To Buy the Tain Book Now –

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Meeting Queen Medb (Maeve)

Medb of Connacht is an ancient Irish Initiator, Brehon and Sovereign Queen. (Two Classes)

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A Conversation with the Morrigan

Cave of the Cats

In 2013, authors Janet Farrar and Gavin Bone asked me if I would consider contributing to their forthcoming book, ‘Lifting the Veil: A Witches Guide to Trance Prophecy‘.

As they were speaking about communicating with deity throughout the book, my understanding was that they wished to provide a chapter in which deity could communicate right back. So, they approached various priests they most strongly associated as working with particular deities, and they requested that I communicate with the Morrigan.

Here below is the transcription of that communication.

 

Silence – 3 min

 

I feel the kiss of feathers.

The brush of crow’s wing – touches the sky.

I find my way to the world – through the gateway.

Dark in the depths of earth.  I find my way.

I push forth.

I am birthed in mud and blood.  I find my way.

I am in your world.  I find my way.

 

Who.  Am.  I.

I am She by brush of raven – crow in this land.

I am She.  She of the wolf.  She of the eel.  She of the heifer, the sacred cow.

I am She of red.  Of blood.  Of battle and power and prophecy and fury.

I am She of terror.

I am She who finds her way – through your heart, through your head.

I am She who speaks – who tells the world.

I am the truth.  I am the right, and the light.  I am the endless depths of night.

I. Am. She.

 

Great Queen you have called me.  I am She.

Mother you have called me.  I am She.

I am the one who births.

I am the one who bleeds.  And screams.

I am the one who protects.  And strengthens.

I. Am. She.

 

And you.  You who seek for me now, in this world.

You who are disconnected – who are free of responsibility.

 

You seek the power – without the pain.

You seek the knowledge – without the work.

You seek the gain – without the understanding.

 

You.  You who are pagan.  You who are shaman – where is your tribe?

Where are your people?

Where is your language and your spirit?

Where is your connection to this land?

This Ire-Land.  Our Land.

Do you walk?  Do you feel the Irish grass beneath your feet?

Do you speak the tongue of the ancient people?

Do you seek – the knowledge that remains to us now?

For all that is left – is bits and broken.  Is mis-remembered.

All that is left – is unclear.  Uncertain.

Do you seek – to put this together?

Do you seek the draoi?  Do you seek the ancient knowledge, the spirit that remains?

And what do ya find when you do?

Who.  Are.  You.

 

Speak your truth.

Listen.  Listen to the land.

Find the questions.  Find your path.

Be guided by what has gone before.  The truth.  The real knowledge – the real power.

Find your way.  Come home.

 

I. I am She. I who speak.

I who give you real knowledge.  Real experience.

Truth – and pain.

Power.

Community.  Responsibility.

I am She.

I am the queen and I am the servant.

I give – and I expect.

If you seek me – find your way home.

 

They say… they say –(light laugh)-  I sought love of an Ulster boy.

They say I sought to give him my power, my sacred cattle.

Mis-remembered.

I offer help.

I take – what I need – in return.

If you give – I give.

Find me in the land.

Find me under the land.

Find me in the darkness – but – beware.

I am change.  I am pain.

I am growth that pushes.  That flows on waves of blood.

I am life – and death.

I am reborn.

I am She.

 

Silence  –  1 min 

 

Lora O’Brien.  February 2014.

The Cave of the Cats, Rathcroghan, County Roscommon, Ireland.

 


 

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