The Order of the White Moon Goddess Gallery Presents
The Guises of Morrigan
A Level II Final Project for The Sacred Three Goddess School by Adept Morrigan
(©2017. All original material in this work is under copyright protection and is the intellectual property of the author.)
Peace to the sky
Sky to the earth
Earth beneath sky
Strength in each
Guises and Roles
There are numerous manifestations of the Morrigan in the world and I cannot mention them all here in depth. I have chosen a few who might be less well known and keep a special focus on the German/Austrian Perchtha that I found intriguing in this context.
Lamia - Roman
In the book “The Guises of Morrigan”, by David Rankine and Sorita D’Este, the authors see a connection of the Morrigan with the Lamia. There is a carving of three Lamiae at the Roman fort of Benwell in Northern Britain. The Lamiae were beautiful phantom women who seduced men, and killed them for their flesh and blood. That the Lamiae are in triple form and at a military fort suggests a connection to the Morrigan.
Cathobodua – Roman-Gallic
In Haut Savoie in Gaul, a Romano-Celtic inscription to a goddess called Cathobodua has been found. This name may be another name for Badbh in her form as Catha Badbh – the battle crow.
They also found Gallic coins, depicting a horse with a crow or raven perched on the back. Since both (mare and crow) are totemic animals of the Morrigan, this is clearly suggesting that her worship was also conducted in Gaul (France).
Mania - Etruscan
When I studied the Etruscan Gods and Goddesses (during my translation of “Etruscan Roman Remains” by Charles Godfrey Leland) I came to the conviction that Mania could be an Etruscan appearance of Morrigan. The Mania was worshipped as a goddess of the lower realms. She was a truly Etruscan divinity.
The Mania was the mother of the Lares, who were generally understood as family or domestic spirits, ‘ghosts’ of the Ancestors.
The Mania still lives in Tuscany and is called Mania della Notte (Mania of the Night) but regarded simply as the Nightmare, and Succuba, and as a mysterious nocturnal spirit inspiring wanton dreams. Mania was a most fearful spirit to the old Italians. Her frightful image used to be hung over the doors, like a scarecrow, to frighten away evil. Though Mania was once remembered by many she has passed away and is now, quoting Leland, “Of the gods who had their turn and whose fires no longer burn.”
Black Annis – English
Black Annis was the female Bogeyman, having a taste for children. The legends say she stole them from their beds, ate them and hung their skin to dry in the branches of the trees.
She is also known as Black Agnes or Cat Anna. Black Annis was a blue-faced hag who lived in a cave in Dane Hills, in Leicestershire. She seems to be a survival of a guise of the Morrigan - as the hag of winter.
Black Annis was regarded as a very real threat and affected the Leicestershire area greatly. The common people did not have window-glass in those days, and tied anti-witch-herbs above the apertures in order to stop Black Annis reaching inside with her very long arms and grabbing their babies.
There was a local ritual in early spring to celebrate the end of winter. Since the cat was one of the forms Black Annis was represented, a dead cat would be dragged before a pack of hounds in front of her bower.
Another, more positive ritual was celebrated every year on Easter Monday (known as Black Monday in this instance in honor of Black Annis). The local custom was to hold a mock-hare hunt from her cave to the Mayor of Leicester’s house.
Perchtha or Frau Percht - German/Austrian
A profound tracing back and evidence for a correlation to the ancient mother goddess was not possible for me – all lost in between the fault lines of the pre-Christian and Christian time.
But - Looking at the remains it seems nearly obvious to me that the Percht is a survival of the great goddess Morrigan – as Goddess of Sovereignty and Land, defending her people, speaking justice.
The Percht has very different, even opposite appearances. Either a fair, beautiful or dark and nasty being, either blessing and procreative or destructive and harming. Numerous tales describe her as a dark, ugly old woman with a big nose and shaggy hair – simply as a bugbear. Furthermore there are different descriptions of the Percht as a beautiful high, white lady, radiating, shining from within.
In other places she appears as both figures, depending of the date or if the children behaved themselves or not… or just depending on whether the coming year would be a good or a bad one. Some say that the Percht comprises both – the light and the dark, the day and the night side of life. (Therefore, when depicted in masks, she has a beautiful face showing to the front and a “schiach” a nasty face showing to the back.)
Sometimes the Percht is not only shown as single figure, but also as a pair – a black and a white - , or as ‘Trinity’ – black, white and red, here comparable with the three Nornes, the three Matrones (or like Morrigan: Nemain, Badbh, Macha).
She is also often depicted with animal attributes, either completely as a mare or at least with a horse tail and horse foot. Also a common depiction is a feathered creature with a hard long beak and claws – just like a huge raven.
The Percht often appears with ‘attendants’.
She is surrounded by the “Heimchen” who are wearing nothing but an airy shirt and are protected by the Perchtha’s beautiful blue cloak. Perchthas Heimchen are children who died before they had been baptized. These children belonged to the Percht and had to accompany her as her attendants. Further companions were a black cat or dog. (It is striking, that there are always a certain number of children with her; often 7 or 12, where the checksum is the sacred 3.)
Remains - Customs:
Certain times of the year belongs to the Percht – the time she reigns, she rules:
The 12 (Rauhnaechte) – these are the twelve days between the 24th of December (Bachltag) and Epiphany.
On “Bachltag” – the 24th of December, people are anxious that the wool be all spun; house and yard is meticulously cleaned up, and that the cattle are cared for very early. The stables are cleaned up and straw is put at the sills, because otherwise there might be round spots of blank skin on the goats and sheep and this shaved hair will return as hail in summer and ruin the harvest. Some days in advance people collect yew-branches to place them in the house near mirrors, at corners – for protection or to worship the Percht. They have a special Name for this time – the Berchtelboschen.
There is also a certain food that is sacred to Percht. Even nowadays in parts of Austria at Bachltag evening it is the custom that every farmer with his family and his menials eat together the “Bachlkoch”. This is a flour pastry with honey on top. Every occupant cares eagerly not to miss this meal, anxious the Percht might be annoyed.
Some of the Bachlkoch is left for the Perchtha. The farmer’s wife takes the rest of the Bachlkoch to the garden, places it under the fruit trees and says “Bam eßt’s!” and it is assumed that the harvest of the coming year will be rich. Meanwhile the farmer, accompanied by his oldest menial smokes out the whole house and the stable and the youth with their guns and pistols fire in the air to keep all evil away.
In other parts of Austria and in Bavaria, on Perchtentag, which is the 5th of January, people leave ‘Kuachln’ (little cakes) on the table for the Percht to eat at night. It is considered as a sign/omen for a prosperous year when the Kuachln are eaten up in the morning.
But the Percht does not like to be watched. It is said that once a young boy did not believe in her and stayed up all night to watch her. He was hiding behind the oven and when the Percht finally came, she did not eat the cake, but took instead the faithless boy with her.
There is another saying that the Percht takes away maidens that try to watch her and stay up all night hiding outside the house to see her coming. Once she detects them, the Percht takes them away for 3 years to serve her.
In the end it depends on how the maiden behaves. The Percht punishes any laziness, so only the helpful and diligent Maiden will be rewarded after this time. Frau Holle (Brothers Grimm) tells such a story. Frau Holle is the equivalent of the Bavarian Perchtha in Northern Germany.
Here in Bavaria and even more common in Austria we a have special dance, the Perchtentanz or Perchtenlauf.
A group of (mostly men!) goes to the villages and dances, making a lot of noise with their huge bells, chains and drums.
their wooden, handcrafted masks and furs they are looking very scary.
They come to bring luck and blessings and new growth to the people.
They come to conjure and renew the fertile cohabiting of humankind and nature.
But first, they come to jolt and shake up with their noise and fierce air as if they are calling:
Remind the elemental forces!
Don't shut your eyes before what scares you!
Don't shut your spirit before what awaits you, threatens you.
Watch the dance of these guises ...
Don't hide from the darkness - because the light will be reborn...
to know that there are numerous clubs, associations that keep this tradition
All ‘dancers’ are volunteers, their masks and costumes are all handcrafted by their own members.
These clubs are booked every year around the twelve Rauhnächte by schools, other official institutions, and private persons.
Lamia from the old Bestiary http://www.sacred-texts.com/lcr/fsca/img/22000.jpg
locations of Morrigan
after the Macha as recorded in the Dindshenchas (studies
in Gaelic prose and verse of the etymology and history of place-names in
“…And after this she died and her tomb was raised on Ard Macha …Whence Ard Machae, Macha’s Height.”
Bed of the Dagdha
The ford where the Dagda and the Morrigan were said to have united, also became known as the “Bed of the couple”, and is located at the Dindgai in Broga.
Dá chich na Morrigna
The “Paps of the Morrigan” is located near Newgrange in Co. Meath
The Morrigan was supposed to have thrown a white stone from Slieve Gullion to the Dorsey Ramparts several kilometers away. The tradition of keeping the stone whitewashed is still observed annually.
Gort na Morrigna
Gort na Morrigna (the Morrigan’s Field) in Co. Louth is another of her sites, and recalls the meanings of the name Macha.
Austrian Percht masks – 2 schiach (ugly) 1 schön (beautiful)
Celtic Raven Lore
One for bad news, Two for mirth.
Three is a wedding, Four is a birth.
Five is for riches, Six is a thief.
Seven, a journey, Eight is for grief.
Nine is a secret, Ten is for sorrow.
Eleven is for love, Twelve – joy for tomorrow.
“Peace to the sky, sky to the earth,
earth to the sky, strength in each;
a cup very full, full of honey,
honour enough, summer in winter;
spear supported by shield,
shields supported by forts,
forts fierce eager for battle,
fleece from sheep, woods full of stags,
forever destructions have departed,
mast of trees, a branch drooping down,
drooping from growth
wealth for a son, a son very learned
neck of bull in yoke, a bull from a song
knots in woods, wood for a fire
fire as wanted
palisades new and bright
salmon their victory, the Boyne their hostel
hostel with an excellence of size
new growth after spring
in autumn horses increase
the land held secure
land recounted with excellence of word
Be might to the eternal much excellent woods
peace to sky be this nine times eternal.”
“I shall not see a world that will be dear to me.
Summer without flowers, cows without milk,
Women without modesty, men not brave,
Conquests without a king.
Woods without mast, fishless seas,
Bad judgments by old men,
False precedents of the lawgivers.
Every man a betrayer, each son a robber,
The son will enter his father’s bed
The father also in the bed of the son,
A brother becomes his own brother-in-law!
None will look for a woman outside his own house.
O evil time, deception, deception.
“Who is stronger than hope? Death.
Who is stronger than the will? Death.
Stronger than love? Death.
Stronger than life? Death.
But who is stronger than death? Me, evidently.
The Morrigan uses Magic to shape-shift herself either into human or animal forms – like changing from an old hag into a beautiful maiden, or an eel, a she-wolf and a red heifer (in the battle fighting the Fomhoire leader Cuchulainn).
She also does this to others, like a woman called Odras – she turns her into a pool of water feeding into the Shannon River.
She curses and weakens (Macha cursing the Ulster Men who refused to help her not race with the kings horses, pregnant with twins)
Author’s Original Art
Painting “Darkness” By Morrigan
Oil on Canvas
I made this painting over more than one year and a half.
The first idea for this project came to me in the middle of the night.
I just started mixing my colors and had some kind of an “Art Flush”.
I ‘woke up’ in underwear, spots of oil color on my legs and face and hands, my couch, and of course, on the canvas!
The colors I had mixed myself with poppy seed oil and various “pigments “
I covered the canvas completely with red ochre, then ‘carved’ the rune ALGIZ all over the canvas
You can see its structure still under the color.
The idea came to me in winter – when I saw the ‘footprints’ of the crows in the park.
Actually; what I saw was the rune ALGIZ in the snow – then I realized the crows…
I always knew that the goddess protects me – and the crows were the medium I gave my offerings to her, but…
This visual experience made this ‘knowledge’ scream at me (Morrigan is protecting you)
I felt so strongly connected to the goddess Morrigan during the time of working on this painting.
It is not possible for me……to put that in words – but in colours…
Incense for Morrigan
I was asking the goddess for an incense and all I got was oak bark.
I researched what plants, bushes, trees are growing in Ireland that I could mix and I found a few
But I agree – the Oak Bark really is wonderful to connect with her.
The Oak Bark is best be self-collected, after a storm or heavy wind, when the branches are on the ground. Dry them and then remove the bark.