The Morrígan Calls Warriors 2: But I’m Not Cut Out To Be a Warrior

Yeah, me either, kid

When it comes to the perceptions of the warrior path and what it means to be on it, there are quite a few misconceptions due to modern uses of the word “warrior.” Some have come up, again, since my last post. One is that if we define “warrior” as someone who fights, including physically, it must require being a fully able-bodied, superior even, “soldier” type.

This sometimes leads people to think that I match such a description…something much easier to do via the internet than it is in person, although I have apparently confused a few in real life, too. So I have often heard things along the lines of, “I’m not cut out to be a warrior, like you are.” Usually some rumor is tagged onto this about my past. I’ve had people think I am ex-military. Had one woman spend a druid gathering telling everyone I had been convicted of a violent felony. I’ve certainly been accused of being athletic. And I’m really not. Which makes this all hard to write and is’ really pushing my imposter syndrome buttons. Even if I know that it shouldn’t, because it is a very modern and imperialistic concept of “warrior” that this idea is about. (again, I have page on the warrior path which also discusses such things, but a bit less personal).

The truth is that, while I was a outdoorsy “tomboy” growing up, I was actually a scrawny, clumsy, weak and sickly one. I loved running around in the woods and fields and riding horseback, but wasn’t good at any of it. Although that likely didn’t occur to me when I was little, I was just having fun. However, as I grew up I was made well aware of it.

From the beginning of school, gym class was a constant gauntlet of humiliation. I’m pretty sure the only purpose of the class was to give means for the “teacher,” who at that time was the head coach of all the junior high and high school teams, a way to sort out those who he wanted to prepare for those future teams. The rest of us were to be humiliated and abused, and to be honest, I was always at the bottom…I don’t think there was ever a time when I wasn’t the last picked for sides, unless another loser was also injured or something.  I had no coordination. I was weak. I ran slow and was easily out of breath (turns out my lungs are not fully developed, discovered that in my 40s!). I loved riding our horses, but it took a long time to really develop my “seat” and human instruction was no help…I just eventually learned from the horses and ponies (some of which were determined to make it a challenge). I was the last of my peers to learn to ride a bike. I could only really enjoy movement on my own or in the company of animals, around peers or adults it was always a humiliation.

I am sure I did dream of being strong and heroic as a kid, but figured out I’d need to gain superpowers from somewhere to do it. Obviously, a lot of time I wasn’t in the woods I was reading. Including comics. So, yes, perhaps there was a seed of a desire to be a warrior back then…just not a belief in the possibility. I mean, it might be part of the draw of witchcraft in the beginning, as I couldn’t gain physical power…but there were also “weird things” happening that drew me into that and into discovering, via Sybil Leek, that it had apparently had to do with Goddesses, or at least a Goddess, and I had been worshipping Goddess since I was 8 or 9, mostly Artemis as Greek myths were the ones I had access to and I did dwell mostly in the woods.

And I actually was an angry child. Of course I was, I felt constantly vulnerable to… everyone. That I was seen as violent meant that I was also taught that it was something to suppress, never, ever channel. It was viewed as if I had the tools for violence I would be an aggressor, rather than seeing that my tendency towards aggression was a response to feeling utterly helpless when everyone around me was stronger than I was… and that some made sure I knew it. It was the ’60s and while my parents were hardly hippie (being “Greatest Generation” and totally dedicated to being mainstream) the trends of pacifism and non-violence that grew out of the anti-war movement held some sway over the times in general. And I took to the whole hippie aesthetic and peacenik ways as a kid and held onto to them. Growing up different (autism and ADHD weren’t diagnosed in girls at all when I was a child, my learning disabilities were not obvious enough to be diagnosed as anything, which probably would have led less to getting help and more to being labeled and shunted aside, anyway) in a very conservative small town it was a way to define my difference in a way I saw as positive.

Anyway, our high school didn’t have gym class, so we losers were now free of that torturous requirement. Perhaps it was a desire to at least try to get stronger and build endurance, seeing no magical or scientific intervention was at hand, I did get into the ’70s fitness craze despite my gym-trauma. I had actually started yoga, sort of pushed a bit as a way of managing anger, through books, in junior high. But now I found that running (or “jogging” as it was called) was still fun, as long as I was alone with my dog. I tried aerobics, but found it boring. Weight lifting for women was sort of a joke at that point I got a set of 3.3 lb “Princess Smartbells?!” and, obviously, it did so little of anything that I kept losing interest.

My relationship with fitness remained an on-again/off-again thing. I did get a little instruction on weight training from a boyfriend and moved to 10 lb. dumbbells! Eventually I added a pair of 15 lb. But I never stuck with it, often found other things to do instead. I was a bit more consistent through the years with running and cycling, although sometime I just walked. Every so often, I’d try Yoga again. I took dance lessons for awhile, but my class got cancelled and I never found another teacher and just …drifted off.

I was a photographer, photojournalist, pretty much my focus since I was 15 or 16. It put me in an observer category in all things, but I think I thought I’d change the world with my pictures. I was working in the darkroom and stringing for a paper, but burned out suddenly at about 22 or 23 (what I now know was likely an autistic burn out….but I didn’t know I was autistic so…..). For years I couldn’t stand the idea of taking another photo. I became involved in political groups, something I couldn’t do as a photojournalist. Paganism/Witchcraft was a constant.

Oh, still totally into the hippie/Boho thing. While it wasn’t exactly popular, it was at least common in the political groups I was involved in, which did have some “appropriate age” hippies as well as we young wannabees. There were also others who were interested in Witchcraft and Goddess worship, a lot had problem with the word “Pagan” though. And few were overly serious. I was looking for Wiccan training at the time, but the super conservative Wiccans I was meeting…that wasn’t a fit. Drove around in my 1975 VW Bus, listening to music mostly from the ’70s, with my dog, Gabe, and various friends and lovers…for as long as the damn bus ran (with one engine replacement). yeah…I had a fucking Bus, even… seriously, living the best ’70s witchy life in the ‘mid-80s. ;p

Eventually, a friend who I met at the open house of a hokey “Witch school,” and was also not impressed by it, offered to introduce me to the coven he had since joined. Another friend of ours, met at the same event, likewise unimpressed, and fellow hippie wannabe, took me aside and warned me that the group was reputedly “dark” and “violent”… apparently, mostly because the HPS ran a “warrior” political group, as well. But I was seeking training and, actually, the coven was a British Traditional Wiccan off-shoot, the political group was hardly what I’d call “warrior” now and really in line with groups I was in already except being run by BTW Wiccans.

I joined both groups. And, well, this could get long so let’s just say things were going along, but not without the dramas that come with any group I suppose, and then the High Priestess died about 6 months after I joined. Both groups ended up in total chaos and…yeah…I tried staying with both…the political group had a major and hostile breakup and I was among those who left. The coven, now a grove with no 3rd degree woman to run it, went through several attempts to rebuild. I was supposed to be part of that….but….

Um, yeah, I was initiated about a year after her death, so six months later than originally planned, through our HPS’s HPS via our HPS’s HP consort, who was also my partner. I started training with this HPS for second degree. But I was grabbed by the hair by the Morrígan and told I was supposed to be one of Her warriors. (Okay, maybe Wildflower was on to something with her warning…ooops LOL)

This is post is already way too long and probably boring the shit out of you already. So I’m going to get into the spiritual training issues that came up sometime later…I’ll stick to the physical side for right now

So, yeah, it was clear She meant something very different from just political action. Or some “inner battle” stuff. Or “shadow work.” Or that She was there to protect me. Or any of that. It was fucking clear. Whether I liked it or not.

I think I was running at the time, maybe lifting a bit. My partner had an on-again/off-again relationship with exercise, as well. Honestly, I can’t say if I was on or off at the time. I do know that we were taking a Tai Chi class, the only sort of martial art I had ever done at that point, but I was also returning to college and moving back north (I was off-campus, but needed to save money) so that was even just ended or ending for me. So I was totally, “whoa! wrong woman here, I am not cut out for that.”

But She was insistent.  So…

This is when I got real serious about working out, no more on-again/off-again…except when physically I’d be forced off. I started to read what I could find about weight training, trying to sort out the bullshit fed to women to not train like men. Most of what I found was bodybuilding focused and I tended to follow training “designed for men”…. because so much “fitness” shit was about training women to be smaller and weaker. Okay, so much still is, but at least there is more that is refuting that. I got a barbell/dumbbell set, a bench. I ran. A lot. After moving back home, I found a dojo about an hour away. I trained. I trained hard. When I could. (just an aside as I mention it as a “obviously this shows I’m not a warrior” in regards to how I used to dress, I will note my aesthetic changed after this, especially as most of my favorite clothing got stolen from my car when I returned from a trip either just before or just after my initiation….but, really, you don’t need to change your look for the path, even if you dress like a hippie ;p )

This is also when I found what I think I had always been looking for in movement, but was too caught up in the “normal” (and often completely bogus and harmful) messages of what fitness was about. Oh, yeah, not so much an aside…fitness shouldn’t be about changing how you look, either! But that is the primary thing that fitness is packaged as, even though it usually doesn’t work and people become frustrated and are then are themselves blamed (by instructors, trainers, doctors, books, videos, family, friends, themselves) for not living up to the false promise they are sold. Even before I realized this, well, fraud, even when I still wanted to look like a bodybuilder (and then Linda Hamilton’s Sarah Connor…who I eventually decided I wanted to to want to be like, in some ways, instead) I realized that the key thing in fitness isn’t any goal, not even of becoming stronger, but of the joy of actually doing it. That’s what I knew as a kid, but was too caught up in society’s messages and, yeah, the trauma of from gym class to remember. Even though I started looking as a teenager.

In movement I found the connection I had instead been seeking through meditation, because all spiritual training I got was “sit and meditate,” “sit and journey,” ….sit. Now certainly some folks can both find a connection in movement and in sitting meditations, but I’m not really one. I can do some deep trance work lying down (never sitting) and still, but it only works if I am able to exercise at the time. If I’ve not moved recently, I can not be still. But the movement itself also became the meditation for me and also allowed me to find my, well, wolf self again. In running I find my canine nature again, which I eventually (something that is actually very evident but missed by many) was the very nature of the ancient warriors. In lifting I could feel my body forging strength to serve Her. In fight training, I danced the Morrígan’s dance. And even before I realized it, I think this is also why when I graduated I became a personal trainer, to share the joy not the awful messages that sometimes drove me out of the industry. Whether a fully realized spiritual path or just because it feels good.

Still, I’d love to say I got super strong, my lungs were fixed and I’m now all some seem to think I am despite starting in my late 20s. Uh, yeah. No. I mean, I am a hella lot stronger. My lungs are still limited but I take up oxygen really well considering. But it’s all compared to where I was, not something that would stand out as particularly athletic or strong. Certainly not fast. I will never be a really fast runner.

But fitness improvement is individual. That’s what the mainstream fitness industry doesn’t want you to know, because it thrives on you “failing” to meet a false promise it sells and then making you pay to try again. And it’s not always consistent, because it can’t be. Not for anyone, because things happen (a lot of people have learned this this year, especially as we learn more about the effects of Long-COVID).

I got strong, but then got sick again and had a long lay off. I got strong again then developed a shoulder injury, was misdiagnosed, tried to get strong but wasn’t getting there, initial issue caused two more secondary injuries, finally got diagnosed/operated on/PT, started getting strong again, got wrist issue on same arm and got set back….now finally starting to get strong (broken ankle at least did not set back this issue…and I’m me goofing off in my gym: I’m a gray (some purple and blue tones) haired middle-aged woman with tattoos wearing a “Training to Serve The Morrígan” tank toppretty much recovered from that now, too). I’m also questioning some things going on with the other shoulder, which I hope to get looked at before it gets as bad as the other…insurance companies don’t like that though, so we’ll see. I mean, I got sick a few times during the eight years it took to get my shoulder fixed, as well.

The facts are that I have chronic physical disabilities, some of which are getting worse as I age…some getting better due to getting treatment. I have extreme anxiety, currently overwhelming social anxiety, and severe bouts of situational depression. Much of this, including many of my physical issues, are due to autism. Although, many, of the mental disabilities, like the social anxiety, are probably far more related to how society treats autistic people, especially undiagnosed women, because we do communicate and respond differently… or, as we’re told our entire lives, “wrong.” Being fit doesn’t change that, sometimes this keeps me from being as fit as I might be. I do know that when I can workout I feel better when I do….and that sometimes the fact I can’t due to something “flaring” makes the issue worse. There are simply times when I just ….can’t…… And…right now I just can’t with talking about this more.

So, and I feel I am repeating myself here but I also feel like it just isn’t getting said enough. Yes, at the heart of the warrior path is the physical. Because harm is often caused physically in one way or another, harm must often be battled physically. By those who can. Sometime with the aid of those who can fight in other ways.

And fighting harm to others who can’t fight back is what a warrior does. This is ultimately a path of service. That’s why “inner battles,” “shadow work” and so forth are never enough if you are claiming the warrior path. They may be things that help you help others, but if they are only for your “personal spiritual development” then they are not about being a warrior. And, I’ve never known the Morrígan much concerned with helping me in such things. Our inner battles are our own, in my experience they are not what She is concerned with.

So physical training is not something I consider one can just choose to not do. That doesn’t mean everyone needs to “go all out” …for some the physical part might be limited, might be interspersed with periods of no physical training due to health reasons.  However, there are certainly people that cannot physically train at all, because their bodies just do not allow for it. That’s 100% legit. And that doesn’t mean that they are not on the path if their focus is on building a warrior community, on learning the mind set and the parts that they can do.

Because that’s what we need to build (oh, we can get into how my extreme introvert anti-social nature is not geared to community building, but not even sure I’ll do an upcoming post on that). Not a modern, imperial-style military, but a warband, which was a sub-culture community. This is why the Fíanna do serve well as an example. There is the idea of developing our strengths and overcoming each other‘s weaknesses.

The idea that Cú Chulainn was a big muscular man, rather than a small and rather femininely pretty boy is base on our modern perception of a strong hero, not how he was described (aside from his ríastrad) in the texts. Likewise, images of all the members of Fionn Mac Cumhaill’s fían looking like Conan the Barbarian (whether you are looking at the pulp novels or Arnold Schwarzenegger’s or Jason Momoa’s movies). While Cú Chulainn’s looks simply belied his actual exceptional strength and skills, the warbands consisted of people who excelled at varying skills (although Fionn often is noted as having all these and besting his best).

So CN: some ableist language ahead in noting critique of storytelling and “overcoming disability as a superpower” thing:
The following passage indicates that perhaps disabled warriors were part of Fionn’s Fíanna, but like storytelling tends to still to this day do,  it was spun to show that disabled  warriors were “wonders” who are the best at the things they are disabled as. This is often referred to by disabled commentators as “supercrip.” (I also want to note that not all of this is about disability, but includes what might be an attempted description of gender fluidity, which is also offering a related “wonder”).

[Finn is speaking: One of the wonders is] a deaf warrior (óclach)
who is in the fían-the poem or song has not been composed
that he has not learned well and committed to memory completely.
Another wonder that is in the fían: a man with a
wooden leg who surpasses all of the fían in running -dog,
horse, and man. Another wonder that is in it: a blind man
who never throws a missing cast day or night. Another wonder
that is in it: my own paramour, who is dead by night and
alive by day; no other paramour that I have ever had, has been
dearer to me. Another wonder that is in it: a warrior (óclach)
who is a woman one year and a man the next; he bears
children when he is a woman, and he sires children when he
is a man. Another wonder of the fían is my spear, the spear
of Fiacha mac Croinghind: if it is thrown with the butt end in
front, it wreaks hurt, injury, and destruction upon the person
or animal against which it is. thrown; when it is cast with the
point first, it does not damage or do destruction to the man
or animal against whom it is thrown. And so these are the
greatest wonders in my fían.
(Maud Joynt ed., Feis Tighe Chonain: Mediaeval and modern Irish series, v. 7,  Dublin: The Stationary Office, 1936, lines 449-469, pg. 14; trans. by Joseph Falaky Nagy, The Wisdom of the Outlaw: The Boyhood Deeds of Finn in Gaelic Narrative Tradition, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1985, pg. 51)

While this is, as noted, problematic, it should be considered as a possible hint that disability (and gender fluidity!) did exist in the bands, just that those who wrote the tales, and those who told them in the first place, spun it to be wonderous because making the tales wonderous was kind of the point of the stories. This is still a huge part of story telling, common in comic books and science fiction, with this same spin. On the flip side, both early Irish and modern pop culture stories often use disability as a shortcut to say someone as evil. We can create better stories….and I mean that as we live our own stories as well as in story telling.

As I was starting to get to his point of his post, this article come across my feed and I think it’s a good analysis of way disabled warriors are featured in The Bad Batch (and somewhat in the Star Wars franchise, in general) which includes the idea that disability does disable us from some activities rather than make us “wonders,” but working together creates the over all strength. It truly explains, using this franchise as a model, what I am getting at here. That we don’t have to be “perfect soldiers” in order for us to have strong contributions that enhance what others contribute. Again, CN for ableist terminology, discussions of eugenics, gene manipulation, behavioral analysis, torture….and spoilers for the first season of The Bad Batch: Supercrips, Solidarity, and Crip Families in The Bad Batch Dr. Johnathan Flowers 

And that really fits what I’m trying to say here. That this path is built on a wide spectrum of needs and abilities. While the physical fighting part is going to be a thing, because violence is around us and that’s probably going to get worse, it is just a part of it. But the other parts are more than just “inner battles” and personal spiritual work. It has to be about coming together to fight. With various skills. Even when we have various weaknesses. Fighting on various fronts. And I don’t feel we’ve done this, which is the source of my frustration that. And of guilt, because perhaps I should have been doing more.

If we believe the Morrígan is calling us to do something why more people not training to do it? Why are we so not prepared? Because She’s not calling warriors because something is coming in some vaguely distant future…that something is already here!

 

(Part one of what looks like a series is The Morrígan Calls Warriors, Too….)

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The Morrígan Calls Warriors, Too….

….at least I think She does

I mean, there don’t seem to be many, not seriously focused, at least. So it has been a long running annoyance for me that I keep seeing so many “The Morrígan calls more than warriors” blogs and so many people stating “unlike most of Her followers I’m not a warrior.” Because, seriously, where are all of these “most followers” who are warriors that you speak of? Because they seem rather scarce to me. Oh, I know a few seriously walking a warrior pat, but very few. Some, of course, may  not be heavy social media users, but that still means there are very few if the ratio is the same for all. So, I hate to break it to you non-warriors, but you appear to be the actual majority not the exception. And I am not saying you have to be, but please stop talking about how many warriors there are because it’s making me feel extra lonely when I know otherwise. ;p

Of course, some fledgling warriors may have gotten lost on another path because everyone jumped up to tell them they didn’t have to be a warrior? Because it seems that that that response is common. That the first time anyone tells others they feel called, the first thing everyone says is “you don’t have to be a warrior.” Never, “well, let’s explore the options” and then include warrior as one. Even if someone asks what warrior might mean in Her service, they get a lot of “but you don’t have to be a warrior!” (DISCLAIMER: I Just some geese to break up the wall of textknow I have to stop here as someone is probably getting upset and note that I am not saying you have to be….I’m trying to remind folks it is an option. AND that if you are going to talk about the warrior path, maybe do learn something about the warrior path because otherwise you sound like a damn willfully ignorant fool, and, yes, go off and get steamed about that if you don’t want to maybe rethink anything, but I’m not going to spend time arguing about it)

Or they are told that they can only be a warrior by joining the military or becoming a cop, as if these modern imperial institutions remotely resemble the warrior bands who served Her in the past at any time. Some try to define “warrior” as only those who fight for what ever they consider a “good cause” when, well, there’d be nothing to fight for if that were the case and that is again a completely modern Western concept to begin with. Meanwhile others will immediately say that “there are different ways to be a warrior, it doesn’t mean fighting, it can mean anything you want it to”… which amounts to it having no meaning at all. Which then makes it mean nothing. So either the word “warrior” means one modern concept or another or it means nothing at all. But none of these responses is accurate… but I feel I covered that quite a lot on this page, so if you’ve not read it, please do (it’s sort of the crux of this whole project, along with this page) I might rehash some here in the future but probably not in this post.

I will have to say that the frequent phrasing of “She calls more than just warriors” or “She is more than just a Warrior Goddess” is especially insulting. Oh, I know, you’re going to say that you don’t mean it “that way,” you mean there are “more options of paths, that warrior isn’t the only one” or something like that. Except often the phrasing is often very precisely saying that warriors are “just” warriors and others paths are “more.” This is also usually marked with things like, “She not just a Warrior Goddesss She’s also a Goddess of prophecy, cattle, sovereignty, victory, protection, strategy….” Now those last two should really make anyone laugh, because who does not get that things like “victory,” “protection” and “strategy” are fucking part of warriorship?  Well, I can think of at least three or four people and, apparently, all their readers. I get “sovereignty” because they seem to think it’s about modern “personal sovereignty” rather than “kingship” which, btw, is questionable anyway. But I have, after all, already written an entire rather lengthy essay noting how everything “else” The Morrígan and Her Sisters are comes right back to them being War Goddesses. (that would be “Musings on the Irish War Goddesses” in  By Blood, Bone and  Blade: A Tribute to the Morrígan btw) There is more to being a warrior than fighting.

This relates to another phrase I find problematic, when someone notes that “as a warrior I make a good ____.”  But, because they are shunning the path, they are not making a great ____ as a warrior. They are maybe making a great _____ in and of itself, I couldn’t tell you, but they are not making a great warrior _____. They are useless to warriors, because they are not warriors, they do not understand or want to understand the path. They are  often demonstrating this by their lack of understanding what warriorship is (with their modern, narrow minded definitions) or understanding warrior stories by interpreting them without considering what warriorship meant or understanding.

So, I will say, as a warrior, I make a good researcher and, hopefully, at least an okay writer. I’m kind of a crappy personal trainer by industry standards, but that’s because I hate the industry standards and I want to be a trainer for those who also hate them. But my understanding of what I am researching and writing about has grown only because I have pursued a warrior path. The way I train myself, and others who are on this path, physically is also because of learning what it takes on this path (I do train others, but I need them to help me understand what they need). To say “as a warrior” here really has to mean you are a warrior and that that other thing is a part of being a warrior. Because it is. Especially when it comes to rebuilding the sort of warrior cultus that was part of Early Irish culture and, essentially, not part of the culture but a subculture in itself. If you’ve seen my outline for a training program, then you actually already knew there were many ways to be a warrior. No one is going to be great at all these things, no one is going to spend a lot of time on every one of them (although a taste of each is recommended). But warriors are a lot of things, it’s required to create a fían (I prefer to use cúanairt “pack” for a modern group, as it was less frequently used and has fewer alternate later definitions…and I like anything that brings us back to the wolfishness) that members would have different strengths and weaknesses. It’s not an army, it’s a pack.

Again, this isn’t saying anyone has to be a warrior. This is about trying to 1) address is the lack of warrior voices when it comes to modern service to the Morrígan. And 2) to try to counter the very negative, even if the negativity is unintentional, voices that may actually hamper someone feeling called to this path. And to try to correct the fact I’ve been rather silent myself for too long. I’ve enjoyed the quiet, but it always eventually leads to me being beaten about the head because quiet is not what I signed up with the Morrígan for.

So, yes, She may be calling more non-warriors than She is warriors, great do your thing. I just know that when I was called this was very specifically what I was to do. But, you know, nearly 35 years ago now, I certainly had no place to truly turn to find out what the fuck the warrior path was. I have stumbled a lot. I have gone down wrong paths (like many female and female-presenting undiagnosed autistic kids, I was raised to be a people pleaser, so I would often get into group situations where I felt expected to wear many hats, so many that the “warrior”… for that matter the “me” one…. often got buried, but I am getting better about that).  It’s taken me a long ass time to really get what this is about, really only through the past 10 or 15 years. But it’s funny, at nearly 60 I still feel like a fledgling and it’s hard to see me in the teacher role. But my onw issues with that role should not mean that those being called to be warriors no available guidance. I hope there will be more voices, though.

There is so much more I could put here. But I am hoping instead to use this as a jumping off point for future posts. I hope to “see” you soon.

 

See also: The Morrígan Calls Warriors 2: But I’m Not Cut Out To Be a Warrior

 

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Excerpt from “The War Goddess’s Bitch”

This is from my article in Air n-Aithesc Vol III, Issue 1 currently available in hard-copy or e-copy from this link.  Unlike previous excerpts, this in not the beginning of it, as I began with a dream sequence that would be too long for a lead in and I don’t want to post only part of.  The article is a continuation of my exploration of the fénnidecht wolf-warrior path, specifically how I follow it as a devotion to the Morrígan and some material on female werewolves, weredogs and dog-heads.

The War Goddess’s Bitch

Wolf-warrior cults are usually attributed to male Gods. The Vedic Indra and Rudra, the Germanic Odin and the Greek Apollo Lykeios have all been associated with wolfish warrior bands.[i] Kershaw states that there are no known Celtic Gods associated with warbands, other than seeing a similarity between Finn and the Fíanna and Rudhra and the Maruts.[ii]Kershaw also mentions McCone’s pairing of Ódinn/Týr and Lug/Núada as teuta/koryos(civilization/warband or wild) God pairings.[iii]  Lug is certainly a candidate for such a warrior cults: His relationship to both Cú Chulainn and Finn, adds to this possibility.[iv]While I would not argue against Lug, Finn (as a God, although I tend to focus on his nature as a semi-divine hero) or other Gods as having had such cults, I believe that it is as likely that the Goddesses who fall under the title the Morrígan were also likely to have been the Divine leaders of such cults.
The Morrígan’s interest in Cú Chulainn, the Hound of the Smith, is evident throughout the TBC and related Ulster tales. Some see their relationship as confrontational, often confusing. Epstein has speculated that She may indeed be his patron Deity.[v]  Epstein noted that the seemingly adversarial nature of Her relationship with Cú Chulainn can be seen as an effort to strengthen his glory, as I have also explored.[vi] Epstein specifically brought up the similarities between his canine nature, which goes far deeper than just a name, and the Norse ulfheðnar (“wolf coats”) and berserkr (“bear coats”) who followed Odin. She speculated that this might hint at an ecstatic cult dedicated to an Morrígan.[vii]
This ecstatic, shape-shifting nature suggests such a cult as well as the obvious canine connection.  Cú Chulainn’s name connects him with canines: he is the Hound, actually acting as Culainn’s guard dog as a boy, to replace the dog he killed.[viii] Yet his form of shape-shifting, his ríastrad (warp spasm), is not decidedly canine. By killing the guard dog and then assuming the dog’s role, Cú Chulainn was transformed completely into a hound not only for his time of service to the Smith but for the rest of his life.[ix]He was always a hound. He was just wilder, more dangerous, rabid, when he transformed and he described himself as having canine fury in Tochmarc Emire.[x]His identity as the Hound was so significant that when St. Patrick conjured Cù Chulainn’s specter in order to convert Lóegaire, the king of Ireland, the specter’s canine nature convinced the king that the specter was truly Cú Chulainn.[xi] 
Cú Chulainn’s story gives no indication of him as part of a warband. This lack is likely related to animosity between the church and such warriors they called díberga (marauders, brigands).[xii]  It is notable that the ecstatic transformation and the connection to a Deity were revealed at all.  When the stories of warbands were finally set down, the Fíanna seem quite divorced from the earlier, negative, accounts of the díberga, that displayed little association with either shape-shifting or Deity.[xiii] The association with hounds is strong in the stories around Finn Mac Cumhail. There are many members of the Fíanna with canine names. However, the fénnidi’s own canine nature is only hinted at vaguely.  Finn did have the hood of Crothrainne, which allowed him to turn to hound or stag, yet there is little evidence of him using it.[xiv]In one alternative tale of the birth of Bran, Finn was his father by a woman enchanted into the form of a bitch.  One might choose to speculate that he used the hood at that time.[xv] 

Read more by purchasing AnA here

 


[i] Kris Kershaw, The One-eyed God: Odin and the (Indo-) Germanic Männerbünde, Journal of Indo-European Studies, Monograph No. 36., Washington D.C.: Institute for the Study of Man Inc., 2000, such Gods and Their cults are the subject of the entire study, however particular interest might rest in ch. 9 “Odin Analogues” pg. 182-200; Dorcas Brown and David Anthony, “Midwinter Dog Sacrifices at LBA Krasnosamarskoe, Russia And Traces of Initiations for Männerbünde” Paper presented, Conference: Tracing the Indo-European: Origin and migrations. Roots of Europe Research Center, University of Copenhagen, Denmark Dec 11–13, 2012.
[ii] Kershaw, The One-eyed God, pg. 186.
[iii] Kershaw, The One-eyed God, pg. 195.
[iv] C. Lee Vermeers discussed his relationship with Lú Ardáinmór as a lycanthropic God in a blog post http://faoladh.blogspot.com/2013/05/what-i-domy-own-gods-part-one-my-upg-so.html and has also talked about Apollo as a Wind-Wolf God, http://faoladh.blogspot.com/2011/05/gods-and-goddesses-of-werewolves-wind.html
[v]Epstein, “War Goddesses,” Ch. 2.
[vi]Epstein, “War Goddesses,” Ch. 2; Lambert, “Musings on the Irish War Goddesses;” also further explored in my blog post “The Morrígan and Cú Chulainn part 1: On Saying ‘No.’”
[vii]Epstein, “War Goddesses…,” Ch. 3.
[viii]TBC Rec 1 pg.  17-19,140-142; TBC:BOL pg. 23-25, 160-163.
[ix] McCone, “Aided Cheltchair Maic Uthechair: Hounds, Heroes and Hospitallers in Early Irish Myth and Story.” Ériu 35, 1984 pg. 8-11, I discuss this act as being linked to wolf-warrior initiations in “Going Into Wolf-shape.”
[x]Bernhardt-House, Werewolves, Magical Hounds, and Dog-headed Men, pg. 174, 343.
[xi]Joseph Falaky Nagy, Conversing with Angels and Ancient: Literary Myths of Medieval Ireland, Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1997, pg. 274.
[xii] Kim McCone, “Werewolves, Cyclopes, Díberga and Fíanna: Juvenile Delinquency in Early Ireland” Cambridge Medieval Celtic Studies, issue 12, 1986, pg. 3-4; Sharpe, “Hiberno-Latin Laicus, Irish Láech and the Devil’s Men,” Ériu  30, 1979, pg. 80-87.
[xiii]Kim McCone, “Werewolves, Cyclopes, …”, pg. 3-4; I discuss other links between the díberga and the Fíanna and canine nature further in “Going Into Wolf-shape” as well.
[xiv]Kuno Meyer, ed. and trans., “The Finn episode from Gilla in Chomded húa Cormaic’s poem “A Rí richid, réidig damFianaigecht, 1910, Hodges, Figgis & Co., Dublin, Ireland, pg. 51. http://archive.org/details/fianaigechtbeing00meye
[xv]As we’ll discuss shortly, Bran and Sceolang are more commonly said to be the children of Finn’s aunt, however, this tale is noted by Bernhardt-House, Werewolves, Magical Hounds, and Dog-headed Men, pg. 196.

Copyright © 2016 Saigh Kym Lambert
Wolf Copyright © 2002 Aaron Miller, based on Newbigging Leslie stone

A Gun for the Morrígan: Offerings and Devotion

 When I first saw this topic, when I saw a link to Asa West’s Giving Bullets to the Morrigan, I thought, “Cool! Someone else doing it!”  “It” being a long held plan, which hasn’t happened yet for, uh, reasons, to create a “sacred shooting range.”  As soon as the guy and I decide on a location and get fill to the spot and create a berm we are going to have a shooting range on our property and there will be a shrine to the Morrígan over looking it.   I already dedicate my training to her, but this would be a formal spot to do so, much like my gym is a temple for that part of the training (and sometimes for trigger control practice with a laser “bullet” when I can’t get out for live fire….which I could more if I had a place on the property).

I’m sure there are other pics of me at this training,
I need to try to access them sometime.

But that’s not what it’s about but rather about giving bullets as offerings. So my first thought on that was, “huh, that would be a rather pathetic offering.”  You know, just a random bullet.  There’s not a lot that stands out between two bullets of the same make. Sure, I can see if I were to use my gun in defense of myself or another without firing a shot that the bullet in my chamber at the time might be a worthy offering.  But I wouldn’t give just any old bullet.

Of course, what this actually became about, the reason it was brought up, was whether it was okay for other people to do this. And it brought with it a lot of the standard anti- vs. pro-gun arguments, with some Pagan twists. The sort of things that make most leftist gun-owners, like myself, look at both sides and double face-palm as you watch each side feed the other.  This time with the added oddity of some claim that guns are just made for killing people but swords are not….except that that really is all swords were ever made for.  They do things like this and also this. But it is not uncommon to romanticize the violence of the past while vilifying the violence of the present, I am sure that as the Bronze Age gave way to the Iron Age there were those who spoke of the nobility of the bronze blade over the evils of the steel.  Even the guns of the past get this romantic treatment, as people wax nostalgic for the six-shooter of the Old West while expressing horror at a semi-automatic pistol.

 I could get into the whole primary focus on why anti-gun Pagans seem to be upset over bullets as offerings, which is a pet peeve of mine. That is “the Morrígan should not be reduced to a War Goddess, She is more than that” claim which always translates to “I want the Morrígan to not be a War Goddess at all, because I want Her to be what I want Her to be.”  Here’s the thing, to say that it reduces Her to be called, as she was in the text, a Goddess of Battle (bandee in catæ..in the Tochmarc Emire), is a bias based on you not understanding all that there was to such a Goddess in the context of early Irish culture. This is also true if you insist that her link with “battle” is about “internal conflict” or “fighting inner demons,” which may be your UPG (Unsubstantiated Personal Gnosis), and that’s fine, but does not define Her as She was known in the early Irish culture (or for many of us who certainly do not share that UPG). In fact, my own findings and UPG is far more about waking up those “inner demons” and letting them take over and shift you (this is exactly what my work is all about…see especially Wolf-shapes and Chase). ( Or to claim that Her link to sovereignty, which West brings up, is about the modern concept of individual autonomy, rather than actual about kingship (open only to one who had proven themselves a warrior) of a territory (likely won and kept by war). Again, it may well be valid UPG, but don’t claim it’s anything else. But I already wrote a whole article detailing how all those “other things” come back to Her being a War Goddess, because they all relate to warfare as the culture knew it.

Okay, back to bullets as offerings. It never, ever occurred to me to give bullets in the way that apparently is being discussed here.  In part is the sheer, well, regularity and number of them with which to choose if you were just doing a random “bullet offering.” Certainly they are not cheap these days, however there’s a volume of them one might go through which creates the expense. One, individual bullet is simply not that individual. Again, I could see offering one that stands out….the one in the chamber you didn’t have to fire to save yourself or another, perhaps one left over from a big win if you’re a competitive shooter or one left over because your first shot was the clean kill you had hoped for when hunting for food. There may be many reasons a particular bullet does warrant it for the person involved. Maybe once we start reloading, I’ll start thinking of them as more individual than I do now and it will be something I feel drawn to do.  But, of course, ymmv and I’m not going to say it’s wrong if someone else does feel that a random bullet from a brick is a worthy offering.  I would be more likely to offer a really nicely clustered paper target. ~;p  (I need to invest in some paper targets when I finally have a range….)

Of course, there is my personal semantics around offerings. For me an offering is only something broken or totally destroyed and hidden from this world, so that it is taken into the Otherworld. At least in the end. Some offerings sit on my shrine for a period of time, but in the end they are destroyed in some way in this world. Usually by fire….please, tell me I do not need to explain not to do this with live rounds.

An item that sits on my shrine (or altar if you prefer) is not an offering, unless it is to be so destroyed eventually. Instead I would call them dedicated or devotional objects. A slight difference between the two although in a way both are things that you might say I share possession of with the Being the shrine is for.

Devotional objects are those which are, indeed, only to stay on the shrine as symbolic of devotion, such as statues and, well, I actually have a lot of things that I felt drawn to maintain on the shrines.  Some are used in ritual at times, such as candle holders or a stone “well” which might hold water. Some targets might end up being both, now that I am thinking of it…some sent and destroyed, some hung by a shrine (and one or two maybe by the door way).  Images and symbols are among these things, which includes a Sarah Connor figure…holding a gun with the other slung across her back….to represent the modern female warrior or, even, a modern image of the War Goddess). These things are mostly Theirs, but I do get to look at them unlike full offerings.

Dedicated objects are items which I might use personally, even “mundanely” but which I associate with my worship and which are blessed.  I keep some of my jewelry on my personal shrine to the Morrígan when I am not wearing it, but I wear it anytime I might go out. These things are more mine.

I could see, should the Revenant Cataclysm hit, putting bricks of bullets on the shrines to ask for blessings on a regular basis…whether they are for killing revenants or hunting for food or both.  So, on the shrine, but not an offering exactly (heads, meat, depending would be more appropriate).

Some things, including weapons may be seen as somewhat in between these items. I may not use my swords on a regular basis (practice, when I do it, is with single-sticks…I fear this has been a neglected art of late).  My guns, however, do not reside on my shrines, although they are formally blessed and if I have my gun when I go into the gym and remove it (usually when stretching after a run it sits between the figure of the Morrígan and the Sarah Connor figure, because it is dedicated to them (and it’s a safe location while I’m there).  Even my weights and and other fitness equipment, as all my training is a dedicated act and I see my gym as a temple of worship.might be seen as dedicated devotional objects, although not formally blessed (hmmmm).

Which brings me back to my first thought on this subject.  If training is a dedicated act, then that does include my firearms training so, I suppose it can be seen as giving bullets to Her. This is true where ever I might practice, however, I do want a range here on our property and a shrine overlooking it. Where it will go is still being negotiated and we need to budget in the fill for the berm which we need no matter where, due the layout of our land, which also requires it being somewhere we can get a truck to.  Perhaps this summer it will happen.

Training is always the basis of my offering, for to be the best I can be is my service to Her. It is also a gift, for being able to train is often a struggle for me due to health issues.  So reciprocation, She helps me to be able to train, I train to thank Her for that. Whether this is staying fit or being able to hit a target and respond properly to danger.

I may never really feel drawn to giving a bullet. It just doesn’t sit right unless something does happen to make a particular one that important to me. But since this has been brought up, it has occurred to me that I do need to make a weapons offering in the way done since the Bronze Age.

Someday, I shall properly offer a gun to the Morrígan. It will be a fine gun, expensive, far more than would even be possible for me to acquire now. It will be utterly “killed” in this world to send it to the Otherworld and sunk deeply in a marsh. This here is my promise to Her for this, in hopes that She also might help me be able to be in a position to do so…for if I am, it will be right that I reciprocate.

(Re) (Self) Publication Announcements

 Summer has been busy, mostly not with writing.  Mostly with horses.  (although both photos are old…guess not much photography is happening this summer either).  Also with allergies…. ~:p   And some editing has been happening.

Actually my article in the next Air n-Aithesc is an edited piece, some chunks very rewritten, actually.  I’ll be posting when the issue is out very soon!

Meanwhile, as it’s been over a year since “By Blood, Bone and  Blade: A Tribute to the Morrígan (Nicole Bonivusto, ed, Asheville, NC: Bibliotheca Alexandrina, 2014) came out, I decided it was now time for my essay in it, “Musings on the Irish War Goddesses” to “come home.”

I started “Musings” as a short piece for the web.  But, of course, “short” wasn’t possible. So it was going to be a long piece for the web, possibly as a PDF.  Then as I was finishing it up, the call for submissions for BBB&B showed up….and I figured I should submit it. Which I did…..and eventually the anthology came  out.

I have now replaced the actual shorter piece I later made for the page (which I had started to house this essay) with an intro to link the PDF of

Musings on the Irish War Goddesses

There are a few minor changes, mostly endnotes….um, mostly shamelessly noting other articles I have further explored some things I mention in it….and the CC related posts I have made here.
 I have also put up some reworkings of my Sarah Connor Charm School fitness pots on the site as well…they are only linked through the training page at this point and I hope to rework them further soon.  But you can find them here if you are interested.

Excerpt from “Muimme naFiann: Foster-mother of heroes”

 I’ve not blogged for awhile and am not sure when I will again. My writing focus was on getting a new submission for the next Air n-Aithesc and since submitting it we’re trying to catch up on winterizing here, the flu had floored me during the time I had AnA issue 2 coverhoped to be doing most of this.  As I have my submission for the summer issue done (for the most part, current reading may make for a few alterations), I am hoping to focus on cobbling some of this stuff I’ve been putting into articles back into Teh Project which, you know, it was all stolen from to begin with. ~;p (ETA: also need to get in some CEUs and will probably rewrite some fitness stuff specifically focused on the training program) So….I figured I’d copy fellow AnA writer Morgan Daimler and post an excerpt from my article “Muimme naFiann: Foster-mother of heroes” in the current issue. That would be Air n-Aithesc Volume I Issue II Lughnasadh/Samhain which you can order right at that link should you wish to read the rest…

 

 

Muimme naFiann: Foster-mother of heroes

When the subject of women warriors come up, Scáthach, Cú Chulainn’s teacher, is one of the first noted, along with Medb.  Yet even more so than Medb, Scáthach’s story is not her own but a very brief part of Cú Chulainn’s.  Much of what is “known” about her today is embellishment. The idea that she is the eponymous Goddess of the Isle of Skye, [i] is a Goddess of War, the dead and even blacksmiths is found repeated within Pagan sources.[ii] However, while some of these concepts, like the association with Skye, did come about late within Gaelic culture, the others appear to have developed even later outside of the culture, primarily within the Pagan community.[iii]
What we do know about her is that she taught warriors, most notably Cú Chulainn, and had a gift of prophecy. And in this she is not alone, for Finn Mac Cumhail’s lesser-known foster-mother(s), especially Bodbmall, shared similar traits. Nagy stated, “…it would seem that Bodbmall, Búanann, and Scáthach are all multiforms of a supernatural martial foster-mother figure who appears in various contexts.”[iv]We have no stories for Búanann.  Scáthach is called Scáthaig Buanand in one version of the Táin Bó Cúalnge, which O’Rahilly translates as “Scáthach the victorious.”[v] The name, however, appears in the Sanas Cormaic (“Cormac’s Glossary”) described as “muimme nafiann”(“foster-mother of heroes”) and related to the role of Anann as mother of the Gods.[vi]Anann is one of the Daughters of Ernmais, the one usually identified as the Morrígan.[vii]
Many scholars do read these foster-mothers as supernatural beings, although seldom as actual Goddesses. [viii] Certainly, Scáthach’s distant and hard to reach land and Finn’s fosterers’ wilderness hide-outs as well as their powers both as a warriors, often seen as unnatural for women, and as seers indeed mark them as Otherwordly.[ix]  Scáthach’s title of “Búanann,” and the name’s connection with the Goddess Anann, may make Scáthach seem to be the Goddess.  Likewise, a possible etymological relationship between the names Bodbmall and Badb raises the question as to whether she is supposed to be this War Goddess.[x]

Read the rest (now on the website)


[i] There are a multitude of examples. Caitlin Matthews directly uses these words to describe her in several books, for example The Elements of the Celtic Tradition, Element Books, 1989, pg. 76.
[ii] I will not pick out one source for much of this, as where any of it came from originally is impossible to say. A quick online search brings up thousands of websites, often directly repeating each other with no further sourcing.
[iii] Isle of Skye part has shown up even in somewhat academic sources. (James MacKillop. Dictionary of Celtic Mythology, New York: Oxford University Press, 1998, pg. 410 for example)  How old a connection this was and when Scáthach became connected to the MacDonald fort Dun Scaith is difficult to determine. The earliest reference I found to that she was on Skye was in Macpherson’s “Ossian” inventions of the mid-18th century where he places her at the site and gives Cú Chulainn the Dun in another tale.(James Macpherson, The poems of Ossian, tr. by J. Macpherson. To which are prefixed dissertations on the era and poems of Ossian, Oxford University Press, 1805, pg. 149; Macpherson, Hugh MacCallum, John MacCallum, “Conlaoch,” An original collection of the poems of Ossian, Orann, Ulin, and other Bards, who flourished in the same age, Watt, 1816, pg. 153-158;  John Gregorson Campbell also includes this location in recounting Macpherson’s version of “Conlaoch” in The Fians: or Stories, Poems & Traditions of Fionn and His Warrior Band, Elibron Classics, 2005 (org. pub. Date 1891), pg. 6) Stokes determined that the similarity between the Gaelic term for the Isle of Skye (An t-Eilean Sgitheanach) and Scythia (Scithia) was all that caused this connection, which he notes as popular at the time. (Whitley Stokes, “The Training of Cúchulainn,” Revue Celtique 29, 1908, pg. 109 https://archive.org/details/revueceltiqu29pari).
[iv] Joseph Falaky Nagy, The Wisdom of the Outlaw: The Boyhood Deeds of Finn in Gaelic Narrative Tradition,Berkeley: University of California Press, 1985, pg. 264, footnote 13 following from pg. 102.
[v] Cecile O’Rahilly, trans. Táin Bó Cúalnge from Book of Leinster Dublin: Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies, 1967, pg. 95, 231 Irish http://www.ucc.ie/celt/published/G301035/index.html English http://www.ucc.ie/celt/published/T301035/index.html
[vi] John O’Donovan, ed. and trans. (with notes and translations from Whitley Stokes) Sanas Cormaic Calcutta: O. T. Cutter for the Irish Archeological and Celtic Society, 1868, http://books.google.com/books?id=rX8NAAAAQAAJ&source=gbs_navlinks_s  pg. 17;
Whitley Stokes, ed., ‘Cormac’s Glossary’ in Three Irish Glossaries, London: Williams and Norgate, 1862 http://www.ucd.ie/tlh/text/ws.tig.001.text.html  pg. 6; see also Nagy Wisdom of the Outlaw, pg. 102;  Angelique Gulermovich Epstein, “War Goddess: The Morrígan and her Germano-Celtic Counterparts” dissertation, University of California in Los Angeles, 1998  ch. 2.
[vii] Epstein, “War Goddess,” ch.1; Kim Heijda, “War-goddesses, furies and scald crows: The use of the word badb in early Irish literature” thesis, University of Utrecht, Feb. 27, 2007 http://igitur-archive.library.uu.nl/student-theses/2007-0620-200703/UUindex.html pg. 34; Robert A. Stewart MacAlister, ed. and trans., Lebor Gabála Érenn: The Book of the Taking of Ireland, Vol IV. Dublin: Irish Text Society, 1941 http://www.archive.org/details/leborgablare04macauoft pg. 103, 130-131, 160-161, 188-189, I also discuss Anann as the Morrígan in “Musings on the Irish War Goddesses,” Nicole Bonivusto, ed. By Blood, Bone and Blade: A Tribute to the Morrigan Asheville, North Carolina: Bibliotheca Alexandrina, 2014, pg. 103.
[viii] Proinsias Mac Cana mentions Scáthach briefly under the heading of “Goddesses of War” on page 86 of Celtic Mythology, NY: Peter Bedrick Books, 1987,  yet refers to her as “supernatural” on page 102; Rosalind Clark. The Great Queens: Irish Goddesses from The Morrigan to Cathleen ni Houlihan, Savage, MD: Barnes and Nobel Books, 1991 pg. 28.
[ix] Miranda Green, Celtic Goddesses: Warriors, Virgins and Mothers, New York: George Braziller, 1996, pg. 149; Nagy, The Wisdom of the Outlaw,  pg.109-111.
[x] Epstein, “War Goddess,” ch 2.

 

Copyright © 2014 Saigh Kym Lambert

Re-publication re-announcement: By Blood, Bone and Blade: A Tribute to the Morrígan second edition

After some mistakes were discovered  By Blood, Bone and Blade: A Tribute to the Morrígan was pulled from publication while they were fixed.  It is now back out and available again!  Those who want to read my essay “Musings on the Irish Goddesses of War” this is where you find it!

Cover of By Blood, Bone and Blade

 

The Morrígan and Cú Chulainn pt. 3: Of death and dog meat

When I did the first two sections of this “series” “On Saying ‘No’” and “Insult and Praise as Incitement” I only touched briefly on Cú Chulainn’s actual death, just to note that the two encounters discussed in those posts are not reason that the Morrígan killed him…as many claim She did.  I had noted in the first part that She was not the Badb who brought about Cú Chulainn’s demise and in the second that he did not die during the Táin Bó Cúalnge and that Her “predictions” of such a death was actually to incite him. I had intended to discuss it further here, yet never finished, perhaps partially due to the loss of my own Cu, a Greyhound, shortly before starting this series and then the illness and loss of my other Greyhound. But as I again was asked about “if what you wrote was true, why did She kill him?” and, of course, “how can you worship a Goddess who would serve dog meat!?!?!?!?” I guess this is overdue.

I did note briefly in “Musings on the Irish War Goddesses,” that there is a confusion between the Morrígan and one or three Daughters of Cailitín, who CC had killed, and possibly even a third being, who might be the Morrígan or Badb or…not. (Lambert, pg. 119). PSV Lupus went into this issue a bit more in one of es essays in the same anthology (Lupus, pg. 36-38) as had both Angelique Gulermovich Epstein and Kim Heijda in their academic work (Gulermovich Epstein, Ch.2; Heijda, Ch. 4.2). However, as the alternative that it was the Morrígan/Badb who killed him is frequently repeated, I feel this needs to be as well. Especially as I do have a canine focus in my form of worship and service to the War Goddesses which makes the dog meat thing particularly negative if that were Her.

Which, of course, it wasn’t! Statue of Cu Chulainn by Oliver Sheppard

The problem seems to arise from the reasonable, as it happens several times in the texts (and as I discuss in “Musings,” pg. 103-105), conflation of the Morrígan and Badb combined with the not so realistic idea that “Badb” always means the Goddess who is one of the Daughters of Ernmas. The name, or title, might actually be held by many beings, sometimes in the plural, and might be intepreted as meaning something like “witch.” (Lambert, pg. 101; you could say Heijda’s entire thesis is about exploring the variations of this title).  This notably includes one or three of the daughters of Calatín.

Calatín Dána and his 27 sons and a grandson fought and were killed by Cú Chulainn during the Táin Bó Cúalnge (TBC, pg.69-71, 209-211), his wife then gives birth two three sons and three daughters who in the end act to bring about CC’s death. (Hull, pg.235-263).  It is his three daughters, one or all three called “Badb,” who offer Cú Chulainn the shoulder of a hound to eat, causing him to have to break either this geis against refusing food if he went near a cooking-hearth or the one against eating dog meat. Taking it causes the hand he ate from and the leg which he put the rest under to wither, making him vulnerable and weak.(Hull, pg. 254-255)  It was, therefore, not the Morrígan at all who caused his death and certainly not She who gave him dog meat.

In fact, an Morrígan‘s actions in regards to Cú Chulainn’s coming death was quite the opposite. The night before he goes out to his last battle, the Morrígan damages his chariot, as She did not want him to go to battle for She knew he would not come back.(Hull, pg. 254) This is not the act of someone trying to destroy the hero, but instead trying to save him. Because She did not hate him, as this never dying modern belief attests, but loved him so.  He was Her Hound!

In this story is also the Washer at the Ford, ingin Baidbi (Badb’s Daughter) who mourns his coming death.(Hull, pg. 247) Both Epstein and Heijda believe She is the Morrígan or Badb, as does Lupus. (Gulermovich Epstein, Ch.2; Heijda, Ch. 4.2; Lupus, pg. 37)  I’m personally intrigued by the possibility that She is another family member, Badb’s actual daughter.  However, this is largely a UPG thing to explore, with no way to truly know. Whether they are one and the same or relatives, it is clear that both the Morrígan and Badb’s Daughter did not wish Cú Chulainn dead, but at one point tried to stop it and in another lamented.

The crow that lands on Cú Chulainn’s shoulder is also not noted in the text to be the Morrígan; the clearest actual purpose in the tale is that a carrion bird landing indicates the hero is, indeed, dead. That it was the Goddess claimed by Hennessey, while Hull made a note that in one version it was Calatín’s daughter making sure CC was dead). (Hennessey, pg. 51-52; Hull pg. 160) Yet the term is ennach, not badb (Heijda, Ch. 5, Gulermovich Epstein, Ch.2). Lupus argues that there is no reason to interpret the crow as the Morrígan, while   Epstein notes it’s a valid interpretation given their relationship and notes that in Rec. 3 of the TBC the Morrígan is said to take the form of an ennach. (Lupus, pg. 36-37; Gulermovich Epstein, Ch.2).  Heijda’s take is that it is clearly not the Goddess Badb, probably not the Morrígan (she is a bit more convinced of Them being different than most), is may be Catalín’s daughter as Hull notes, as the daughter had appeared as a bird previously. (Heijda, Ch 5)

Myself, I still tend to agree with Gulermovich Epstein on it being the Morrígan. While to some extent this is from Gulermovich Epstein’s arguments, I admit it is also a bit UPG. It makes sense that the Goddess, as his patron as I feel the evidence indicates She is, would be with him at the end.  Not to celebrate or gloat as some claim, or as the daughter of Catalín would, but to mourn, to perhaps protect him. This would mean, of course, that perhaps one thing She said in the Táin Bó Regamna truthful, but meant differently than it might seem in the context of that tale, “I am guarding your death, and will continue.”

See also: The Morrígan and Cú Chulainn: On Saying “No” 

The Morrígan and Cú Chulainn pt. 2: Insult and Praise as Incitement

Bibliography


Angelique Gulermovich Epstein, “War Goddess: The Morrígan and her Germano-Celtic Counterparts” dissertation, University of California in Los Angeles, 1998
 

 

Kim Heijda, “War-goddesses, furies and scald crows: The useof the word badb in early Irish literature” thesis, University of Utrecht, Feb. 27, 2007
WM Hennessey. “The Ancient Irish Goddess of War Revue Celtique vol 1. 1870
Eleanor Hull, “The Tragical Death of Cochulainn” (from Whitley Stokes’s translation),  “The Great Defeat on the Plain of Muirthemne before Cuchullin’s Death” (from Hayes O’Grady’s translation), The Cuchullin Saga in Irish Literature: being a collection of stories relating to the Hero Cuchullin, London: David Nutt on the Strand, 1898

Saigh Kym Lambert, “Musings on the Irish War Goddesses,” By Blood, Bone and  Blade: A Tribute to the Morrígan Nicole Bonivusto, ed,  Ashville, NC: Bibliotheca Alexandrina, 2014

A. H. Leahy, ed. and trans, “Táin Bó Regamna,” Heroic Romances of Ireland, Volume II London: David Nutt, 1906 Irish English

P. Sufenas Virius Lupus, “The Morrígan and Cú Chulainn: A More Nuanced View of Their Relationship,”  By Blood, Bone and  Blade: A Tribute to the Morrígan Nicole Bonivusto, ed,  Ashville, NC: Bibliotheca Alexandrina, 2014

Cecile O’Rahilly, trans., Táin Bó Cúalnge from Book of Leinster Dublin: Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies, 1967 Irish  English

Copyright © 2014 Saigh Kym Lambert

Website Updates

The past couple of weeks I have been working to fix things up around here. By here I mean the website this blog is a part of….you know this blog is for a website now right? Or rather part of my website, a section, but part of what I have been doing is working to make the Shadow of the Hooded Crow section a bit more prominent in the way it is presented on the index. There are still other sections for Gaelic Heathenry in general, where our old group section was, but I have now moved the warrior stuff I had there onto Hooded Crow.  And, of course, we still have our horse and dog sections. Homesteading has it’s own blog, but right now we’re not doing anything exciting enough there to post much. Right now I’m pretty focused on this
subject, really.

So, I had already moved info about workshops I am looking to give, which I may be doing privately soon, onto Hooded Crow, but now have moved my page about the warrior path, and expanded it a bit for some information on the Outlaw war bands. I might even split that up and do more on them, not sure yet.

I also finally put up a page about the War Goddesses the site is dedicated to.  Imagine that!  Of course, that’s sort of what I was doing when I ended up writing “Musings on the Irish War Goddesses”…you know, the one in By Blood, Bone and Blade (which is temporarily out of production, but should be available in a second edition soon). Being concise is not easy when talking about Them, but I tried.

I put one link to the main site here, but you can also go to the individual pages through the menu up top. I’m done sitting on my butt for awhile I have horses to see and dogs who want to go for a run. ~;) 

Publication Announcement: By Blood, Bone and Blade: A Tribute to the Morrígan

The much awaited for anthology for an Morrígan, By Blood, Bone and Blade: A Tribute to the Morrígan edited by Nicole Bonvisuto, has just been released by Bibliotheca Alexandrina.I have an essay in this, “Musings on the Irish War Goddesses.” I have yet to get my copy, but I am anxious to see some of what else is in there, especially P. Sufenas Virius Lupus’s offerings…of course, I’m most intrigued to see his take on Her relationship with Cú Chulainn. ~;)

Cover of By Blood, Bone and Blade

This comes while I’m trying to finish another article for Air n-Aithesc which is not unrelated…because everything I write pretty much is related these days. I can’t even begin to write anything not related. This is bringing up all the “OMGs, I would do that so differently, I know so much more now (it’s nearly 2 years since I finished that essay), what was I even thinking?….” This is not helping me feel qualified to finish what I’m writing now, either.  ~:p

And that has been a big part of why I haven’t gotten much out. There is always so much more to learn! I’ve been doing this half my life, over a quarter of a century, I still am so far from feeling I know enough to write about it.  I know this is a very common dilemma.  I just hope that I can kick myself past it so I can finish what I’m working on and move on.

I hope what I have written and am writing is still useful to others, even as I continue to learn.