But wait, Emma. The title of this article says “Faerie Research” and then followed up by the “Morrigan.” I know Celtic mythology, and the Morrigan is not a faerie. She’s a Goddess and ACTUALLY the myth of Morgan Le Fay was based off her so technically she’s linked with the Arthurian legends, which means she’s british and —
Let’s go back to the beginning. Way before King Arthur and the round table. Before the myth of Morgana Le Fay and the mists of Avalon. Before Merlin, before Britain invaded Ireland and back to the original myths of the Gaelic Clans.
The Morríghan was a “goddess” in old Irish Mythology. Now there’s a bit of a debate here among historians because the Morríghan was also one of the Tuatha de Danann, who were god-like figures but also the original Faeries.
She was an impressive (and terrifying) goddess who was associated directly with fate. In later legends, you could usually find her as a washer woman in a stream. The person who saw her would always ask who’s clothes she was washing. If she didn’t reply, you’re good to go. If she said “Yours” then it was pretty much a done deal that you would be dead by sundown.
Rewinding even further, she was known simply as a Goddess of fate who flew about battlefields in the form of a crow. She foretold who would win the battle, and was said to partake every now and then. To sum it up.
She is a badass.
But guess what? We’re going back in time EVEN FURTHER HERE to the original mythology of the Morríghan which actually splits her up into three different women. These were the original myths, the legends, and the Tuatha de Danann.
All of the best Goddesses are Triple Goddesses, I hope we can at least agree on that. The Morríghan is actually three sisters. Macha, Bahb, and the last is argued between Nemain and Anand. We’re going to stick with Nemain for the intents of this research.
The first of the sisters was Macha. There’s so many legends about this woman, it’s really hard to pin down who she actually was. Some of them have her as the wife of a mortal King who died after being forced to run a race. She curses the King’s line to feel the pain of childbirth for nine generations. Others have her as the daughter of Ernmas and sister of the triple Goddesses.
In her personification here, she was connected with horses and ravens. She was the one who would start the battle, and was so bloodthirsty that there’s actually a name for the death she called. “The Crop of Macha” refers to the heads of men who had been slaughtered.
Macha is a really important figure in Irish mythology if you look through her story. She was thought of as the mother of the hearth for many years. She gave fertility and she could take it away (faerie, remember?). Fickle thing that she was, she was never linked to battle until after the turmoil began in Ireland with conquering forces changing their actual Goddesses.
Macha took up the mantle of warrior queen after she was considered the horse mother and giver of babies. It’s a tragic story, but it was necessary during the time. Irish mythology is intensely interesting because of this. When their women were being molded into repression by other religions and established cultures, even their GODDESSES took up weapons and fought against this change. Their women were, and still are, complete badasses.
Now Bahb is a very different story, and few know anything about her. She rarely is seen as anything other than a Crow, but is probably the most terrifying of this trio.
War is referred to as the “Garden of Bahb”. She is the queen of the bean-sidhe (banshees) and is known to fly over the battlefield creating confusion amongst soldiers so there would be more bloodshed. She particularly liked to cast a spell that would make soldiers so frightened they would fall upon their own swords.
Bahb plays a huge part in the mythology of the Tuatha de Danann. When these Fae first came to Ireland, a very animalistic tribe had already settled there. The Formorians and the Tuatha de Danann battled for many years until Bahb and her sisters showed up using “compact clouds of mist and a furious rain of fire” to not allow the Fir Bolg army to sleep for 3 days and 3 nights.
She’s extremely active on battlefields, unlike her sisters who will take part but not consistently. Bahb flies through the battle as a screaming crow and frequently is considered to reanimate corpses and speak through their bodies.
So there’s a lot of back and forth on this last one. Some call her Nemain, some Anand, some Morrighan, some Danu, over and over there are different names but really the last section of this Trio remains the same over all her names.
The mysterious last sister is truly the Morrighan. She is the Witch Queen of Death, the culmination of all their powers and the foreteller of the future.
The limits of her power are unknown, her origins other than Tuatha de Danann are unknown, and where she went after the Arthurian legends twisted her into Morgana le Fay? Also unknown. She’s this giant mysterious dark Queen who could be argued to be anything.
Seelie? Unseelie? She’s definitely a Queen although Mab is traditionally considered to be the Unseelie Queen. The Morrighan has always stood off by herself even from her own kin. She is the battle cry, the death, and the guide to the afterlife once the clothes are washed in the river.
In the Cúchulainn legend, she tells the mortal man “”it is at the guarding of thy death that I am; and I shall be.”
And that would be the most recent research I’ve spent way too much time of my life gathering! As you can tell, a lot of this next book series is researching researching researching and a little more researching.
Hopefully you learned something! I love chatting with people about this kind of stuff, so if there are additional legends you want to share, please send them over to me!