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March 9, 2021

The Morrigan in Irish Mythology

The Mórrígan (also Morrigan, Morrígu, Mór-Ríoghain) is a striking figure from Irish mythology: known variously as an Irish Goddess, native Pagan deity in Ireland, or supernatural figure if we’re looking academically at Medieval Irish literature.

The Mórrígan is most commonly associated with war and destruction; but she is actually a guardian Goddess of prophecy, magic, fate, territory and sovereignty, as well as foretelling doom, death or victory in battle.

We can see this quite clearly once we look properly at the Irish mythology that we have available to examine.

She sometimes appears as one of Na Mórrígna (plural term), some of whom are also called the Daughters of Ernmas; a group of Irish Goddesses including Macha, the Badb (Badhbh), Nemain, Anand, or Fea.

These may be aspects or sisters, however, the Morrigan also appears alone and independently, frequently throughout Irish Mythology.

Primary Sources for the Morrigan in Irish Mythology

Where possible, the titles below are also links to the primary source materials, and include appearances by various of Na Mórrígna.

Reading (or listening to) the original lore as we have it today is essential for getting an accurate view from a native perspective.

To this end, I have personally collated and made accessible (in written or audio formats) as much of the original materials as possible.

This work is ongoing, so please make sure you are subscribed to the Irish Pagan School mailing list (Click Here to Join), for updates and new resources as they happen.

This is not a complete list of the primary source material in which the Mórrígan or her sisters appear, but it will give you an excellent start so you can begin to get to know them better, without having to look at them through a modern author’s lense.

Secondary Sources for the Morrigan in Irish Mythology

While familiarity with the primary sources is essential for understanding the Mórrígan in the proper context of her Irish Mythology, there are times when a little scholarly interpretation can also be useful.

Here are some of my favourite secondary sources for a look at how some of the experts in the mythology and literature of Ireland view Na Mórrígna.

  • Borsje, Jacqueline, “The ‘terror of the night’ and the Morrígain: shifting faces of the supernatural”, in: Ó Flaithearta, Mícheál [ed.], Proceedings of the Seventh Symposium of Societas Celtologica Nordica, Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis, Studia Celtica Upsaliensia 6, Uppsala: University of Uppsala, 2007. 71–98. (Link Here)
  • Epstein, Angelique Gulermovich, “The Morrígan and the Valkyries”, in: Greppin, John, and Edgar C. Polomé (eds), Studies in honor of Jaan Puhvel, 2 vols, vol. 2: Mythology and religion, JIES Monograph 21, Washington, DC: Institute for the Study of Man, 1997. 119–150. Also called: War Goddess: The Morrígan and Her Germano-Celtic Counterparts. (Link Here)
  • Clark, Rosalind, “The Great Queens: Irish goddesses from the Morrígan to Cathleen ní Houlihan”, Irish Literary Studies 34, Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe, 1991. (Link Here)
  • Carey, John, “Notes on the Irish War-Goddess”, Éigse 19:2 (1983): 263–275.
  • Herbert, Maire, “Transmutations of an Irish Goddess.” In: The Concept of the Goddess, edited by Sandra Billington and Miranda Green, 141–51. London: Routledge. (Link Here)
  • Olmsted, Garrett, “Morrigan’s Warning to Donn Cuailnge.” Études Celtiques 19: 165–71, 1982. (Link Here)
  • Carmody, Isolde, “Poems of the Morrigan.” Story Archaeology Podcast, 2013.

Again, this is not a complete list of the secondary source material which examines the Mórrígan and her sisters, but it is a great start.

Studying the links above will give you a grounding in the materials we have available when we wish to get to know the Mórrígan as she appeared in the authentic Irish mythology.

I give it to you here to hopefully fight some of the shite that is perpetuated about this Irish Goddess, by folk who clearly haven’t done their homework!

If you’d like to learn more, Click Here for my collected works on the Morrigan.

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About the Author

Irish Author, Educator, and Guide to Ireland. Co-Founder of the Irish Pagan School, Eel & Otter Press, and Pagan Life Rites (Ireland).

Lora O'Brien

Join our Tuath (community, tribe) to get Course and Scholarship info, and regular (free) Irish resources on topics such as Mythology, History, Society, Spirituality, Storytelling and Travel directly from Lora O'Brien and the team at the Irish Pagan School.

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