The Horned One And The Morrigan Picture
Many believed she was but one of three sisters all sharing similar names. Others believed she was a single goddess who had three different sides (or faces) to her. That would certainly account for the many references in mythology to her being a triple goddess of Morrigan, Macha, and Morrigu.
Just like she has no singular definitive name, neither is there agreement about what her name means. Some claim it translates to mean "mare queen" while others believe it means "phantom queen." A few translate it to "queen of terror," while still others refer to her as the "great queen" or "great queen mother."
The Irish considered Morrigan to be the goddess of battle and believed that she and she alone determined who was chosen to live or to die upon the battlefield of glory. Other Celtic cultures believed her to be the goddess of prophecy and/or death. Still others believed her to have dominion over the earth and everything within it. Some called her the goddess of sovereignty. Still others called her the mother to all gods.
Perhaps it was her association with war, prophecy, and death that earned her such a terrifying look. She was often pictured in the form of a crow, looming over innocent children or animals. In other instances she was pictured as a stern, evil-looking female-like creature. Other times, she was pictured as a beast-like creature with three heads.
Mythology does agree on one thing - - that the goddess possessed the ability to change into any form, including that of animals. However, in the majority of myths surrounding her, she is still most often depicted in some human form.
Legend claims that Morrigan had the peculiar ability to appear to young warriors just prior to their time of death. This would lend credence to the thought that the goddess had some power over life and death on the battlefield.
According to some myths, the great Celtic hero Cuchulainn came upon the goddess just prior to a pivotal battle. Awed by the youth's beauty and strength, Morrigan sought to mate with him. To that end, she appeared to him as a beautiful female warrior with long, red hair. Approaching him in her chariot, same say that she immediately professed her undying love. But Cuchulainn spurned her advances.
Angered that a mortal would dare to reject her, Morrigan tried to take her revenge on the battlefield, appearing again to the warrior, this time in the guise of three different animals. However, she managed to do little to discourage his progress. In fact it is said that he repeatedly wounded her while still successfully winning the battle.
The two managed to meet many more times; each one increasingly intriguing. Eventually, however, Morrigan prophesized the warrior's death on the battlefield; citing for him the exact time and method by which he would perish.
Armed with the information, it was believed that Cuchulainn planned his death on his own terms. Legend says that he had himself lashed upright to standing stones so that he could die on his feet rather than his back. Images of Cuchulainn often picture that particular scene, which also includes a crow - - Morrigan's symbol - - resting upon his soldier.
Morrigan also appeared to another Celtic hero - - The Dagda. They too were believed to be lovers and many claim that the goddess was at least indirectly responsible for some of his triumphs in battle. Others claim that she also prophesized his destruction; one sight that she supposedly begged not to foresee because of her love for him.
In a few obscure places, Morrigan is also connected to the Arthurian legend as the character of Morgan le Fay. Although the two are linked with the gift of prophecy and magical powers, little else suggests that the two were otherwise connected. Realistically, references to the goddess are much older than the time period generally associated with the Arthurian legend.