Cool. Blessings on your path, if you wish to accept them. 🙂
…What? I’m not here to play gatekeeper. In my understanding of these things, na Morrígna are all perfectly capable of speaking for themselves. I certainly can’t read their minds.
But if you want more than that, I’ll share some thoughts from my personal experience on what I found useful for myself in trying to figure out what the ever-loving hell I’m doing.
First, a few disclaimers and caveats:
- I’m speaking from a perspective of hard polytheism and animism, not archetypalism or soft polytheism. You don’t have to agree with me, of course, but those are some of the underlying assumptions here.
- I do not consider myself an expert on the Queens and not all of their dedicants/priests/worshipers are going to agree with everything I say, so YMMV.
- If you want other resources, some of the Morrígan-devoted folks I’m confident vouching for as Reliable People include Lora O’Brien, Morgan Daimler, the Coru Cathubodua Priesthood, the Cauldron of the Celts, River Devora, and Heathen Chinese.
- I’m oathed specifically to Badb Catha, not the Morrígan in and of herself. Na Morrígna (plural) are complicated, so while I perceive them as mostly separate beings, not everyone does and that’s totally fine. This does mean that I understand my own oath and personal devotion to be with a specific Queen, however, and so my writing will be informed by that.
- I freely switch between singular and plural and some of the Queens’ names.
- This information does not apply to white supremacists or fascists, and their perspectives and presence is neither welcome nor compatible with this faith.
(Also: huge amounts of gratitude to the Coru, Heathen Chinese, and River Devora. They’ve been incredibly supportive and informative; Heathen Chinese’s divination was a turning point for my angst, and River’s skills as a clergy person have been immeasurably helpful in what I affectionately call my spiritual flailing.)
Since this post got longer than I expected, I broke it down thusly by some of the most common questions I receive from folks poking around in this particular corner of Irish (and Gaelic) polytheism:
- I’m feeling drawn to the Morrígan. What do I do?
- She scares me.
- How do I know if she’s calling me?
- I don’t think she’s calling me, but I’m still interested in having a relationship with her. Is that okay?
- I don’t fit the mold of what a Morrígan worshiper always seems to look like.
- What can I expect from a relationship with her?
- Should I take an oath?
- I want to be a priest for the Morrígan. How do I do that?
- Do I get special treatment for all this work?
- Where can I learn more about her?
- Maybe she’s not for me after all…
- Anything else to add?
I’m feeling drawn to the Morrígan. What do I do?
First, decide for yourself: what do you want? Do you want to have a relationship of some kind, any kind, with her/them in the first place?
Living squishy mortal humans are allowed to say ‘thanks, but no thanks’ to spirits, up to and especially including the gods themselves. Our consent matters, too. Of course, some entities are pushier than others and sometimes an individual’s specific circumstances may come with some degree of spiritual urgency, but generally speaking – you have some kind of say in how and when and if this goes.
If you’re not sure, or if you’re leaning towards ‘yes,’ I’d encourage you to reach out to at least a few other folks who have a relationship with the Queen(s). (If you don’t know anyone, you can try reaching out to any of the people I listed above.) Ask them if they’re willing to share some of their own experiences. I’ve found na Morrígna to be blunt and straightforward but respectful of my boundaries and limitations, to one degree or another; they’ll call me out on my shit without hesitation, but only when it’s clear that I’m not pulling myself out of my denial under my own power. They’ve been more patient and understanding than I sometimes hear other polytheists reporting from their own experiences, but at the same time they hold me accountable and push me in ways that are beneficial in the long run but don’t always feel like it in the moment.
If any of that concerns you, then you may want to seriously consider if this is the right kind of relationship, or the right timing for it, for you.
If you have trusted relationships with other spirits, ancestors, and/or gods, you may want to get their opinion on the matter. They all have to work together for your sake, so it’s good to check in with your other blessed and guiding powers and see where they are.
You may also consider why you think you’re being called. I truly believe there’s no such thing as a sign that’s “too silly” or “too shallow”: if something is capable of getting our attention then the gods will use it, whether it’s as blatant as Odin dropping two dead crows on your head, as fleeting as a Tumblr aesthetic post that just so happens to catch your eye when you’re bored enough to pull up Wikipedia and check out who this “Nyx” is, or as subtle as realizing the warm, protective presence you’ve vaguely known since childhood has been Inpw all along. You’re the only one who can determine if something’s a sign because it’s tailored to you, although a good third-party diviner can confirm or deny it if needed.
But sometimes we get caught up in the ~mystique~ of a thing, and while there’s nothing inherently wrong with that as a gateway into developing a deeper, more authentic relationship, it’s worth reflecting from the very beginning on what our underlying motivations might be, even if it isn’t flattering. Ultimately truth is more useful and practical than self-deception and denial, which will only catch up with you that much more painfully in the future anyway. For example, if you develop a devotional relationship because you want to be a powerful badass, then I could easily see one or more the Queens rolling up their sleeves and being like, “Well, if that’s what you want, then I’m going to put you in situations that force you to either rise to the occasion and actually learn how to be a badass…or die trying.”
Much better to start doing the internal work now and spread the labor and self-revelations out over time.
- Do you want a relationship with the Morrígan at all? Why or why not?
- Do you feel like you have enough information to make an informed decision, and if not, what kind of information do you still need?
- What are some of the beliefs and motivations influencing your interest in her?
- If you have relationships with other spiritual beings that include trust, what opinions do they have?
She scares me.
That is an understandable response to her and I absolutely don’t blame you for it, and I’m speaking as someone who loves na Morrígna very dearly.
It’s a hard balance to find: on the one hand, this is a group of goddesses portrayed in their own mythology as reveling in slaughter, wearing ropes of intestines, cursing the shit out of people who admittedly have it coming, and screaming over battlefields while leading hosts of terrifying supernatural horrors. Corpses on the battlefield are referred to as “the sorrow-heaps of Badb” and decapitated heads sometimes as “Macha’s nut-crop.”
On the other hand, they directly confront injustice, dethrone incapable kings, defend their people, actualize the potential in people who may not have otherwise known their own power, and shape destiny itself. Those are powerful, beautiful, glorious things.
So you have to find a balance in your understanding that not only works for you but also respects the Morrígan’s complicated, multifaceted nature. She’s not evil incarnate, but she’s not here to be romanticized (or sexualized, for that matter).
- What specific characteristics do you find terrifying? Why?
- What can you learn from those characteristics you fear?
- Knowing that these things are part of her/them, are they a dealbreaker for you? (Be as honest with yourself as you can)
How do I know if she’s calling me?
Well, what other methods of communication and discernment have worked for you in the past? You’ve got options, which include but aren’t limited to:
Divination. You can divine for yourself, if you’re comfortable doing so. I do recommend hiring the services of a third-party medium or diviner you trust at some point, however, to get a less biased opinion. If you can, take the time to ask around and get the name of a diviner or priest whose skills are vouched for and tested by others.
Wait and see. Unless there’s an urgent reason to push through for a definitive action, you have time. Do some research. Sit with the question for a while and see if you start feeling more or less comfortable with a particular choice. There’s no race to a finish line here
and nine generations to curse. See what I did there? Beannachtai, Macha, please don’t eat me.
And hey, sometimes you get a situation like mine: I felt called to the Morrígan with increasing pressure, but when I finally was like, “You scare me to death but let’s give this a try I think???” it was like…I was trying to find a party, invitation in hand, and I knew I was in the right neighborhood, but the house I kept coming back to was the wrong one and no one was home. It took hiring Heathen Chinese’s divination services to figure out that the invitation was from Badb specifically (who I’d been desperately pretending not to hear because she scared me more than the Morrígan). Right direction, wrong ending.
So ending up in a closer relationship with one of the Queens rather than with the collective (or other variations of one-and-many, none of which are wrong in this case) or the Morrígan herself is a thing that can happen.
Ask her directly. I think it’s a little weird how people often forget that, barring unusual circumstances, they can just…y’know, ask their gods and spirit for clarification. (I’m guilty of this too, honestly.) If you’re not sure how to speak directly with the Morrígan or if you haven’t received specific instructions on how to do so by a priest, diviner, or one of your other spiritual beings, then you can probably start as simply as with a candle, prayers to your ancestors/protectors/other trusted beings for their clarity and support and protection, and then offer the Queen some prayers over an offering of a shot of whiskey. How formal it is or isn’t is up to you, although you should always come from a place of respect and humility.
Whatever method you choose, remember: be as prepared for rejection as you are for acceptance. Be prepared to hear an answer you don’t like. Otherwise you’re just wasting your time and her’s.
- What methods of communication with spiritual beings do I already use and trust?
- If I ask the Morrígan a question, am I ready and willing to hear an honest answer, especially if it’s an answer I don’t like?
I don’t think she’s calling me, but I’m still interested in having a relationship with her. Is that okay?
I think the pagan and polytheist communities put too much emphasis on being “called” by a deity. You don’t have to be. The deity still has a choice on whether to accept your offer of being bros, of course, but there is zero shame in being the one to initiate contact and doesn’t make your devotion any less valuable or worthy than someone who was called first.
Let’s get rid of these inane ways of creating arbitrary and meaningless hierarchy. We’ve got better shit to worry about than who’s ~most specialer~.
I don’t fit the mold of what a Morrigan worshiper always seems to look like.
Despite popular opinion and obvious appearances, it is not actually required that you be goth or punk. You don’t need to be practicing a martial art, sexually active, of a particular gender or sexual orientation, or ‘into’ blood, horror, or the macabre. (Although there’s nothing wrong with any of these things and I’ll be honest, I fit into several of these categories myself, so hey.) You don’t need to be in the military or law enforcement.
It also doesn’t mean that you’re now obligated to walk a warrior’s path. Many choose to do so, and I’m glad we have folks who can do that kind of work. I can’t, and I don’t. Na Morrígna are all unique in their own ways while also sharing space with each other, and between them they cover a variety of subjects (e.g. fate, sorcery, justice, war and warriorship) and a variety of ways of approaching those subjects. You don’t have to be pigeonholed into a warrior’s path if that’s not right for you, and you don’t have to wear black combat boots while doing it.
(Edit: warriorship looks different to different people and doesn’t necessarily entail direct political action; if you’re interested in this kind of path, I’d recommend talking to a handful of people doing this work to see how they do it, maybe look into the lore to see how it manifests in the mythology itself, and see if any of it meets your own perception and needs.)
Basically, if you love your pastel summer dresses (I sometimes do) and fluff fanfiction (I definitely do), you keep on enjoying those things and don’t let any edgelord assholes try to convince you otherwise.
That said, however, remember that na Morrígna are goddesses who have walked violent battlefields soaked in fresh blood and eaten the flesh of human corpses. There are good reasons why her modern shrines often involve functional weapons and fur and bone and sometimes real, fresh blood. It’s not unusual that they request their devotees to participate in some kind of martial art or for devotees to do it preemptively as an act of devotion. (I don’t, for the record.)
We need to be balanced in our understanding of them. You don’t need to change your appearance or wardrobe or whatever, especially to suit stereotypes of the living human community, but you do need to understand that she will be nothing less than herself, too. (See the section, “She scares me.”)
- What are my current beliefs and stereotypes around people who worship the Morrígan?
- In what ways will my preconceived notions help or hinder how I develop my own relationship with her (and with her living human community too, if I’m interested in that)?
- If I am considering a change, is there a deeper and substantive reason, or is it only because “that’s what Morrígan devotees do”?
What can I expect from a relationship with her?
Oh boy. This is going to be such an individual thing that there’s not much I can say, so to share a few general trends that I and other devotees have observed and which may or may not be relevant to you:
- Being held accountable. Badb is pretty patient with me working through stuff as long as I’m making some kind of progress, no matter how slowly. It’s when I find excuses to stop completely that she comes down and is like, Remember that promise you made? Do it. (She doesn’t end with a threat; she doesn’t have to. It’s still a little terrifying.) However, if I go to her and explain why the thing I meant to do isn’t actually possible, she listens and we do our best to renegotiate. (Trust! Communication! Collaboration! This is the hill I will die on, damn it!)
- Hard work. I don’t think I know any devotees of the Queen(s) who haven’t been faced with pretty intensely hard work, especially the kind with come with emotional challenges. A wound can’t heal cleanly until all the dirt’s been scraped out, after all. But I’ve never known her to set someone up for failure, either; the question is whether or not you’re willing to do the unglamorous work and learn from your failures as well as your successes. And leading from that…
- Growth under pressure. One of the experiences that seems universal among her devotees is that she will challenge you; after all, one method of teaching someone how to grow into their potential is to put them in situations in which they are given the chance to either sink or swim. It’s extremely effective and almost never comfortable. Over time I’ve negotiated with Badb on a balanced approach to this that works for protecting my own sanity while fulfilling her needs, but this approach isn’t going to be useful or desired for everyone. There’s no shame in that.
- Big life changes. Some of those changes feel good…some less so. In my case, I landed a full-time job for the first time in my life – with benefits and everything! – doing something that gives me a sense of purpose…but it involves dealing with some pretty terrible parts of humanity almost every day. I ended a long-term relationship with someone I thought I had a real future with, which was horrible and heartbreaking…but he was the one choosing to cheat and lie, and leaving the relationship was the best decision I could have made for myself.
In my own experience, there’s a kind of give-and-take here. More income makes my life more comfortable, and in return I pay fair compensation to spiritual service providers and give donations to causes relevant to my work for Badb. I learn new skills, and I turn around to bring these skills into her community. She calls me out on my shit, which sucks in the short-term but in the long-term makes me healthier, more self-aware, and more effective in my work for her (and also means that I can trust her to be honest with me when I need her to be).
Ideally this reciprocity of mutual support, consent, and respect would be true for your relationships with, well, anyone, whether living humans or spiritual beings. In the same way that we get along with some personalities better than others, however, the question is whether or not the Queen’s style is one that works for you. That’s between you and her to figure out. No one else’s will follow the exact same pattern and style as mine because my path is my own, not anyone else’s, just as your path will never be exactly the same as anyone else’s.
- In an ideal world, what constitutes a healthy relationship between you and your god(s)? What kind of behaviors show qualities like respect, trust, and consent?
- What kind of boundaries do you have (or want to have) with your gods? Which ones are non-negotiable? Which ones might be more relaxed, and under what kind of circumstances?
- What kinds of personalities do you get along with best, and why? What kinds of personalities do you get along with least, and why?
I want to be a priest for the Morrígan. How do I do that?
Well, first you have to have a relationship with her and see if that’s where the both of you, you and her, decide is the correct path for you. There are many different types of priests, some of whom interface between the gods and the human community, some of whom face only the gods and don’t do public work. All are legitimate, and all require different skillsets and experiences.
As things stand right now, Irish polytheism as a tradition doesn’t have a formal process of earning the title of priest in a way that is recognized by the living community, the ancestors, and the gods. The terms of priesthood tend to be set by independent organizations and priesthoods, or they’re more individual and spirit-led, which may not meet the standards of the living community or even the other gods and spirits.
Personally, I believe someone who would serve as a priest needs, at the very least, an oath, some kind of initiation, and a deep relationship that’s maintained fairly consistently in a way determined by the individual relationship. Those things come with time, effort, negotiation, and consent and trust on both ends of the relationship, human and divine. I mean, if you want to act explicitly in her name in the world, basically as an extension of her work in one way or another, you’re going to need her blessing. Without that…you’d probably have more luck for survival as the obnoxious side character in a B horror film, is all I’m saying.
Take the time to develop your relationship and see where it goes before pinning all your hopes on priesthood, and remember: not everyone is called to priesthood, and being a priest does not make someone better, ‘more devoted,’ or in any way whatsoever superior to a lay worshiper.
- Why do I want to be a priest? (Power isn’t inherently negative, but like everything else, at least be aware of how your own motivations and biases are directing you.)
- What kind of priest do I want to be and what kind of services do I want to offer?
- What do I need to do to make sure I develop the skills and experience I need to be a good, safe, and effective priest? (Remember: priests often provide support to people who are vulnerable somehow. In the same way that being a therapist doesn’t grant you automatic Priest Class Skills, being a spiritual specialist doesn’t automatically make you a safe person for vulnerable people.)
Do I get special treatment for all this work?
Ahaha, why is this even a thing.
I added this question because of some of the bullshit I see getting thrown around sometimes, so I just want to add:
- Regardless of your own gender or sexual orientation, worshiping the Morrígan doesn’t mean you can’t also be an abusive asshat to women. (Yes, I’ve literally seen this excuse.) Worshiping a “strong female goddess” doesn’t make you immune to the consequences of your behavior to real, living women. Or to people in general.
- Worshiping the Morrígan doesn’t automatically make you edgy, scary, badass, or…look, I’m just saying, I see some weird things go down around reputation and ~doing it for the aesthetic~ both online and off and it’s like, what does this have to do with anything that’s actually useful. If you have to tell everyone how badass you are, you probably aren’t, so like, just chill.
Last note: fascists, Nazis, white supremacists, and their like-minded brethren are a blight upon this earth, a humiliation for their ancestors, and a disgrace to the gods. They have no place here with the Queens, within Irish polytheism, or anywhere that isn’t six feet under and abandoned.
Where can I learn more about her?
I’ve got a post here
which needs updating that collects a variety of academic and devotional material that you can peruse. I also recommend Morpheus Ravenna’s The Book of the Great Queen and Morgan Daimler’s The Morrigan: Meeting the Great Queens, both of which have solid research and sound practical advice for the modern worshiper. Morpheus Ravenna and Lora O’Brien (who is native Irish; Ravenna and Daimler are American but vouched for by O’Brien) also offer wonderful online courses on various subjects relating to the Queens and to Irish magic and polytheism in general; here’s a link to Morpheus’ and one to Lora’s.
Unlike the other authors mentioned, the works by Stephanie Woodfield and Christopher Penczak are coming from a very specifically neopagan/Wiccan perspective, tend to be less rigorous on the academic support, and aren’t always clear where general knowledge ends and their own UPG begins. So be aware of that.
(Obligatory reminder to support native Irish folks whenever possible when looking for resources and services concerning Irish culture!)
Maybe she’s not for me after all…
That’s entirely and completely valid. No shade or shame. It doesn’t mean you’re weak, stupid, or unworthy; it just means that the path that’s best for you is turning in another direction. 🙂
- Am I making this decision of my own choice and will (or because the Morrígan herself said ‘no’), or am I feeling pressured to make it in a way that isn’t good and right for me?
- Is this a permanent decision, or does it mean that this just isn’t the right time yet?
- If I discovered that this path isn’t for me after already starting down it, are there any last promises to fulfill or loose ends to tie up so that our ending is clean and I feel good about it?
Anything else to add?
Do your best not to be an asshole. Learn from your mistakes when you inevitably are. Have fun. Be self-reflective. Let out a good, hearty scream whenever you have the chance to do so without having emergency services called on you. I ❤ Badb and the Queens and I hope you do too.
Updated 28 August 2018.