October 25th, 2007 by sabrina
“The Mists of Avalon” has always been one of my favorite books, and Morgaine my favorite character.
Morrigan is the Celtic Goddess of war and death. She is seen as both a single Goddess and as a triple Goddess. As a single Goddess, her name was originally Anu, but was gradually transformed to Morrigan, derived from Mor Righ Anu “high queen Anu”. Along with her sisters Badb and Macha, she forms the triple Goddess often referred to as “The Morrigan”. All three could take the form of crows or ravens, and would fly over battlefields, choosing who would die and who would live. They would then take the souls of the deceased in their black wings, flying them off to the Otherworld.
Morrigan and her sisters do not directly attack those who will die in battle. Instead, they use their magic to render warriors helpless at a critical moment during the battle. Morrigan is sometimes seen by those doomed to die before their battle as the “Washer at the Ford”. She is seen washing bloody clothing or armor in a stream, and when asked by the soon-to-be victim whose clothes they are, she replies that they are his. One hero who saw her this way was Cuchulainn. In his first encounter with Morrigan, he does not realize who she is and challenges her. She tells him that he will be in a battle, and that it is she who will decide if he lives or dies. Cuchulainn is soon involved in a series of fights, and Morrigan appears to him as a young woman, offering her love and her aid in battle. He rejects her, and she tells him that she will hinder him in an upcoming battle. On his way to this final battle, he sees her washing bloody armor, which she says is his, and that he would soon be dead. Cuchulainn is indeed killed in the battle, and Morrigan comes in the form of a crow to land on his shoulder.
Morrigan is the basis for the character of Morgan Le Fay, half-sister of King Arthur, downgraded from Goddess to Witch. Even so, she maintained the power to curse a man in battle, and it was she who accompanied Arthur’s body to Avalon, where he could be reborn. Variations on Morrigan’s name include Morrigu, Fata Morgana, Morgan, Morgaine, Morrighan, and Mor-Rioghain.
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