Book Review: The Morrigan: Meeting the Great Queens
Morgan Daimler’s book about the Morrigan, that multifarious and fascinating Irish goddess, may be small but it has done great things for me. It’s one of the Pagan Portals series, short-but-deep introductions to a variety of Pagan subjects including deities. And it really has changed my relationship with this goddess – for the better, of course.
First let me tell you about the book, titled The Morrigan: Meeting the Great Queens. It’s full of all sorts of fascinating information about the Morrigan from historical sources, the kind of stuff that would normally put me off as I scrambled through footnotes and unpronounceable terminology, desperately trying to ‘do reconstruction’ right. But somehow Ms. Daimler manages to make this daunting material not just approachable but actually interesting.
She begins by examining the Morrigan’s name and its meaning, then looks at the other names she is called by. The rest of the book unfolds from there, its chapters organized by the goddess’ different names. It’s easy to follow the flow of the information, and each chapter feels like a look not only at a vital aspect of the Morrigan herself but also at the ancient Irish culture from which she sprang. Though I had studied the Great Queen before, I discovered an awful lot that I didn’t know.
In addition to the Morrigan’s names and attributes, the author delves into the dramatic tales that weave her into the fabric of Irish mythology as well as the animals that are so strongly associated with her. Again, I felt that I was not only viewing aspects of the goddess – sovereignty, battle, and so on – but also the values of ancient Irish society. It’s those values that helped me understand who the Morrigan is, where she came from, and how I can relate to her in the modern world. In fact, Ms. Daimler devotes an entire chapter to ‘Finding the Morrigan in the Modern World,’ which for me was an excellent way to tie all the information together and make it relevant outside the walls of the history classroom.
Why did I say this book has changed my relationship with this goddess? Because it has. I actually began talking with the Morrigan when I was a young child. (Yes, I was the weird kid sitting on the swingset, chatting with pagan gods.) At the time I had no idea who she was but I accepted her, along with three other deities, into my cadre of ‘invisible friends.’ She told me her name but I couldn’t pronounce it; Ms. Daimler’s book informs me that the goddess was telling me her modern Irish name, which isn’t easy to say. Instead, the goddess had me call her Red Mary, and I kept up with her for a few years, until a new house and teenagehood changed my priorities.
When I discovered the Pagan community as a young adult, I realized who I had actually been talking with as a child and I practically wet my pants. The Morrigan is not a sweet-and-cuddly goddess at all, though she was never nasty to me, just very matter-of-fact. So I simply acknowledged her, thanked her for the time we had spent together, and moved on because honestly, she scared the crap out of me.
The information in this book has allowed me to move back into relationship with her. I understand where she’s coming from, how she was trying to help me when I was little, and what meaning she has for me now. To me, she is a goddess of sovereignty and strength, the warrior who knows how to pick her battles, the one who stands up and does what needs to be done. No, she’s still not sweet and cuddly, but if I can stand before her without trembling (that was her challenge to me) then I can do damn near anything.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go re-read the book.