some months ago, i read “The Guises of the Morrigan” by David Rankin and Sorita D’Este. A compilation of materials and myths concerning the fierce Goddess — it seemed appealing.
i’ve been rather sorely disappointed. i’m well-versed enough in mythology to know when they make errors (such as saying the Three Gods of Skill are her sons rather than Brighid’s), but i swallow that and plow onward with as much of an open mind as possible.
what gets me is the assumption that all Celtic goddesses are inherently the Morrigan. the only one the authors seem to exempt is Brighid, and frankly i’m surprised. with the type of logic they’ve been assuming throughout the work, i expected something along these lines: Well, the Cailleach is obviously the Morrigan. And since she turns into the maiden Bride during spring, then Bride is the Morrigan, too! Brighid, however, has a larger lobbying network than Danu or the Cailleach, so perhaps that’s why she wasn’t assimilated into the Borg cube.
Danu/Anu, Aine, Boann — all part of the Morrigan. any Goddess associated with faerie, cows, ravens, sex, rivers or the land — all the Morrigan. any warrior woman in myth, not a real woman but the Morrigan. any Goddess that appears in triplicate, changes shape, gets pissed off, or is called “Queen”…. well, you get the picture.
why must all Goddesses be part of a single super-Goddess entity? (in my caustic moments, i call this figure the Great Marshmallow Mother.) Are Lugh, Nuada, the Dagda and Aonghus Og all the same deity, following similar logic?
authors rarely make that last argument, though. it’s as if the the Divine Female(s) are inherently general and communal, and the Divine Male(s) are specific, individual. and i feel … slighted, as an individual woman and polytheist.
i tend to think that individual Goddesses were amalgamated by later writers (Christian, since Pagan Celts wouldn’t write about sacred things) into the Morrigan figure. personally, i believe Macha to be a different Goddess, more similar to Epona and Rhiannon. but deities are often elided into single figures or attributes change during the long reaches of time; a good example would be Artemis assuming roles previously attributed to Selene and Hecate, and Apollo assuming the sun-god mantle of Helios.
i think of the Morrigan more as Badb and Nemhain, the crow goddess of battle, the bringer of death and arbiter of fate (along with a good dose of sex for its own sake). she is the iron law that governs us all, the reality and inevitability of death, the lines of fate that lead to it. i do see certain philosophical similarities with Kali: the reminder of temporality, the role as destroyer — of illusions, of false truths. their type of destruction isn’t inherently evil or negative; it is a necessary part of the process, the order of the cosmos.
just as the crow is a part — the eater of carrion, scavenger of the dead, who returns elements to their raw usefulness and form. the lady of compost, in effect.
but such a figure isn’t appealing to mass worship, perhaps. we’ve lost the understanding and appreciation of darkness and rot in the West, being too enamoured of light.