Readings & Resources

 

Sourcebooks

 

Our primary recommended sourcebooks gathering a wide range of material on the Morrígan into individual volumes:

 

Ravenna, Morpheus. The Book of The Great Queen: The Many Faces of the Morrigan from Ancient Legends to Modern Devotions

Epstein, Angelique Gulermovich. War Goddess: The Morrígan and Her Germano-Celtic Counterparts.

Daimler, Morgan. Pagan Portals – The Morrigan: Meeting the Great Queens


 

Early Irish Source Literature

 

The early Irish literature is grouped into major narrative cycles, or families of related texts. There are a great many texts in which the Morrígan makes appearances, or which reveal important lore about Her and related divinities. The following list is not comprehensive, but includes most of the important texts dealing with Her lore.

 

The Dindshenchas

 

The Dindshenchas are a large body of short tales and poems texts recording ancient folklore about the stories attached to culturally and spiritually important places in the Irish landscape. Entries that are of especial interest to our studies include the tales of Ailech Néit, Ard Macha, Berba, Brúg na Bóinne, Emain Macha, Mag mBreg, and Odras. Translated: Gwynn, Edward. Metrical Dindshenchas Volume 1, Volume 2, Volume 3, and Volume 4.

 

The Mythological Cycle

 

This group of tales contains the mythic foundation stories about the origins of the land, Gods, and peoples of Ireland.

 

Lebor Gabála Érenn  | Book of the Taking of Ireland: The coming of the Tuatha Dé Danann (the Gods of Ireland) including the bringing of the Four Treasures. Translated: Macalister, R. A. S. Lebor Gabála Érenn: The Book of the Taking of Ireland.

 

Cath Muige Tuired Cunga | The Battle of Mag Tuired of Cong; also known as the First Battle of Mag Tuired: In which the Tuatha Dé Danann battle the Fir Bolg for the sovereignty of Ireland; Nuada the High King loses his hand and becomes Nuada Silver-Hand. Translated: Fraser, J. The First Battle of Moytura.

 

Cath Maige Tuired | The Second Battle of Mag Tuired: In which the Tuatha Dé Danann defend Ireland from the Fómoire; the coming of Lugh Samildánach (Many-Skilled); the Morrígan’s prophecy. Translated: Gray, Elizabeth A. Cath Maige Tuired : The Second Battle of Mag Tuired.

 

The Ulster Cycle

 

A series of sagas centering on Cú Chulainn and other heroes and kings of the province of Ulster.

 

Echtra Nerai | The Adventures of Nera: This legend describes the Otherworldly exploits of Nera, a warrior of Connacht, and includes a brief encounter between the Morrígan and Cú Chulainn. Translated: Meyer, Kuno. The Adventures of Nera.

 

Táin Bó Regamna | The Cattle Raid of Regamna: This text details an encounter between the Morrígan and Cú Chulainn, also touched on in Echtra Nerai (above) and revisited in within the Táin Bó Cúailnge itself. Translated: Leahy, A.H. The Cattle-Raid of Regamna.

 

Táin Bó Cúalnge | Cattle Raid of Cúalnge: The central tale of the Ulster Cycle, in which the warrior Cú Chulainn and the Ulstermen defend against the armies of Medb of Connaught, who is invading to take the Brown Bull of Cúalnge.  Translated: O’Rahilly, Cecile. Táin Bó Cúalnge from the Book of Leinster.

 

Nóinden Ulad | The Debility of the Ulstermen: This story features Macha and gives the mythic background for the curse of the Ulstermen.  Translated: Henderson, George. The Debility of the Ulstermen.

 

Aided Con Culainn | The Death of Cú Chulainn: The death of Cú Chulainn at the hands of his many enemies. Translated: Tymoczko, Maria. The Death of Cu Chulainn.

 

Brislech Mór Maige Muirtheimne | The Great Defeat on Muirtheimne Plain: Based on the above Death of Cú Chulainn text, this later version elaborates and expands the tale. Translated: O’Grady, Standish Hayes. The Great Defeat on the Plain of Muirthemne before Cuchulainn’s Death.

 

Togail Bruidne Dá Derga | The Destruction of Dá Derga’s Hostel: A tale of the kingship of Conaire Mór, a high king of Ireland, and his failures of his judgment, downfall and death at the hands of a hostile sovereignty Goddess. Translated: Stokes, Whitley. The destruction of Da Derga’s Hostel.

 

Bruidean Dá Chocae | Dá Choca’s Hostel: A similar tale to Dá Derga’s Hostel above, and likely based on it, this text tells of the downfall of Cormac Connlongas.  Translated: Stokes, Whitley. The Hostel of Da Choca.

 

The Fionn Cycle

 

The stories in the Fionn Cycle center around the poet-hero Fionn mac Cumhaill, the Fianna warrior bands, and the kings and heroes of his age.

 

Reicne Fothaid Canainne | The Dirge of Fothad Canainne: A poem describing the apparition of the Morrígan in the form of Washer at the Ford as an omen of death. Translated: Meyer, Kuno. Reicne Fothaid Canainne.

 

The Cycle of Kings, and Chronicles of Ireland

 

Stories relating to the lives and reigns of mythic and historical kings of Ireland, and annals of Irish history.

 

Annála na gCeithre Máistrí | Annals of the Four Masters: A late compilation containing chronicles of Irish history, and including tales of Macha. Translated: O’Donovan, John. Annals of the Four Masters.

 

Banshenchas | The Lore of Women: A list of legendary and historical women of Ireland, in prose with accompanying verse texts, including poems describing the Morrígan and Her sisters. Translated: Dobbs, Maighréad ni C. 1930. “The Ban-Shenchus.” Revue Celtique 47, 48: 163–234.

 

 

For further study of early Irish literature, several online collections provide access to Irish texts free of charge:

 

CELT: Corpus of Electronic Texts | http://www.ucc.ie/celt/

Mary Jones Celtic Literature Collective | http://www.maryjones.us/

Tech Screpta | http://sejh.pagesperso-orange.fr/celtlink.html

 

For readers interested in accessing the original journals and collections within which the translations were published, many are also available online (such as Ériu, Revue Celtique, Irish Texts Society editions, etc.) For thorough study, this is worthwhile, since the original journals often included extensive additional scholarly notes as background to the texts. Many journals can be accessed via non-profit library sites:

 

Internet Archive | https://archive.org/

Project Gutenberg | http://www.gutenberg.org/

 


 

Analytical Works

 

This section of the resource list provides scholarly and explorative works for further study of the lore of the Morrígan and the foundations of our tradition. Since it is organized into subsections by topic, some of the sources will be found more than once in the list.

 

 

The Morrígan

 

Sources on the relationship between the many faces of the Morrígna, and on the Morrígan in particular.

Borsje, Jacqueline. 2007. “The ‘Terror of the Night’ and the Morrígain: Shifting Faces of the Supernatural.” In Proceedings of the Seventh Symposium of Societas

Carey, John. 1982. “Notes on the Irish War-Goddess.” Eigse: A Journal of Irish Studies 19: 263–75.

Clark, Rosalind. 1990. The Great Queens: Irish Goddesses from the Morrígan to Cathleen Ní Houlihan. Dublin: Colin Smythe Ltd.

Epstein, Angelique Gulermovich. 1992. “Woman’s Word: Threats and Prophecies, Lies and Revelations in Arthurian Romance and Medieval Irish Literature.” Proceedings of the Harvard Celtic Colloquium 12: 184–95.

Herbert, Maire. 1996. “Transmutations of an Irish Goddess.” In The Concept of the Goddess, edited by Sandra Billington and Miranda Green, 141–51. London: Routledge.

 

Badb

 

Sources providing scholarship and discussion related to Badb in particular:

Bhreathnach, M. 1982. “The Sovereignty Goddess as Goddess of Death?” Zeitschrift Für Celtische Philologie 39: 243–60.

Borsje, Jacqueline. 1999. “Omens, Ordeals and Oracles: On Demons and Weapons in Early Irish Texts.” Peritia: Journal of the Medieval Academy of Ireland 13: 224–48.

Donahue, Charles. 1941. “The Valkyries and the Irish War-Goddesses.” PMLA 56 (1): 12.

O’Connor, Ralph. 2013. The Destruction of Dá Derga’s Hostel: Kingship and Narrative Artistry in a Mediaeval Irish Saga. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

 

 

Macha

 

Sources providing scholarship and discussion related to Macha in particular:

Carey, John. 1982. “Notes on the Irish War-Goddess.” Eigse: A Journal of Irish Studies 19: 263–75.

Toner, Gregory. 2010. “Macha and the Invention of Myth.” Ériu 60: 81–110.

Waddell, John. 2014. Archaeology and Celtic Myth. Dublin: Four Courts Press.

 

 

Anu

 

Sources discussing Anu often assume identity with Danu and/or the Morrígan, and sometimes may add to confusion instead of being of help. The following are works we have found to provide helpful clarity:

Carey, John. 1982. “Notes on the Irish War-Goddess.” Eigse: A Journal of Irish Studies 19: 263–75.

Kondratiev, Alexei. 1998. “Danu and Bile: The Primordial Parents?” An Tríbhís Mhór: The IMBAS Journal of Celtic Reconstructionism 1 (4).

MacLeod, Sharon Paice. 1998. “Mater Deorum Hibernensium: Identity and Cross-Correlation in Early Irish Mythology.” Proceedings of the Harvard Celtic Colloquium 18/19: 340–84.

 

 

Némain

 

Very few scholarly works focus any attention on Némain as distinct from other Morrígna figures. The following works provide some context:

Carey, John. 1982. “Notes on the Irish War-Goddess.” Eigse: A Journal of Irish Studies 19: 263–75.

Sjoestedt, Marie-Louise. 1994. Gods and Heroes of the Celts. Translated by Myles Dillon. New York: Turtle Island Foundation.

Waddell, John. 2014. Archaeology and Celtic Myth. Dublin: Four Courts Press.

 

 

Related British and Continental divinities

 

Several valuable scholarly works explore the relationships between the Morrígna and cognate divinities in Britain and the Continent:

Beck, Noémie. Goddesses in Celtic Religion – Cult and Mythology: A Comparative Study of Ancient Ireland, Britain and Gaul.

Bernhardt-House, Phillip A. “Interpretatio Hibernica.”

Donahue, Charles. “The Valkyries and the Irish War-Goddesses.”

Olmsted, Garrett. The Gods of the Celts and the Indo-Europeans. [Note: This work must be read with extreme caution and critical scholarship. Olmsted provides valuable details about inscriptions and some linguistics, but often leaps to conclusions identifying different deities with one another.]

Waddell, John. 2014. Archaeology and Celtic Myth. Dublin: Four Courts Press.

 

 

Poetry of the Morrígan

 

In addition to the poems themselves as presented in the medieval Irish tales, a few sources translate and analyze some of them in more detail:

Carmody, Isolde. 2013. “Poems of the Morrigan.” Story Archaeology Podcast. http://storyarchaeology.com/poems-of-the-morrigan/.

Henry, P. L. 1995. “Táin Roscada: Discussion and Edition.” Zeitschrift Für Celtische Philologie 47 (1).

Mees, Bernard. 2009. Celtic Curses. Woodbridge: The Boydell Press.

Olmsted, Garrett. 1982. “Morrigan’s Warning to Donn Cuailnge.” Études Celtiques 19: 165–71.

Recordings of the poems of the Morrígan can be found at: http://bansheearts.com/treasury/books/poems-of-the-morrigan/.

 

 

Sacred sites and land practices

 

Many print resources exist focusing on sacred sites within Ireland and the wider Celtic world, and their histories within Celtic religious practice. Here are a few of them:

Brunaux, Jean-Louis. 1988. The Celtic Gauls: Gods, Rites and Sanctuaries. Translated by Daphne Nash. London: Seaby.

Ó hÓgáin, Dáithí. 1999. The Sacred Isle. Woodbridge: The Boydell Press.

Waddell, John. 2014. Archaeology and Celtic Myth. Dublin: Four Courts Press.

Heritage Guides publish excellent information on important sacred sites within Ireland, which can be ordered here:

Wordwell Books: Heritage Guides | http://www.wordwellbooks.com/

Folkloric and experiential lore about many of Ireland’s sacred sites, with photographs and many more links, can be found here:

Voices from the Dawn: The Folklore of Ireland’s Ancient Monuments | http://www.voicesfromthedawn.com/

 

 

Devotion and spiritual practices

 

Sources providing helpful studies on ancient devotional practice and iconography:

Beck, Noémie. 2009. Goddesses in Celtic Religion – Cult and Mythology: A Comparative Study of Ancient Ireland, Britain and Gaul. Université Lumière Lyon.

Ó hÓgáin, Dáithí. 1999. The Sacred Isle. Woodbridge: The Boydell Press.

Green, Miranda. 2011. The Gods of the Celts. Stroud: The History Press.

Laurie, Erynn Rowan. 2010. “The Cauldron of Poesy.” The Preserving Shrine. http://www.seanet.com/~inisglas/cauldronpoesy.html.

 

 

Sacrifice

 

Readings on sacrifice in the ancient world and among the Celts:

Aldhouse-Green, Miranda. 2010. Caesar’s Druids: Story of an Ancient Priesthood. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Borsje, Jacqueline. 2007b. “Human Sacrifice in Medieval Irish Literature.” In The Strange World of Human Sacrifice, edited by J.N. Bremmer, 31–54. Leuven: Peeters.

Iping-Petterson, M. Iping-Petterson, M. 2012. Human Sacrifice in Iron Age Northern Europe: The Culture of the Bog People. University of Leiden.

Lincoln, Bruce. 1988. “The Druids and Human Sacrifice.” In Languages and Cultures: Studies in Honor of Edgar C. Polome, edited by Mohammad Ali Jazayery and Werner Winter, 381–96. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.

Lincoln, Bruce. 1991. Death, War, and Sacrifice: Studies in Ideology and Practice. Chicago & London: The University of Chicago Press.

Van der Sanden, Wijnand A. B. 2013. “Bog Bodies: Underwater Burials, Sacrifices, and Executions.” In The Oxford Handbook of Wetland Archaeology, edited by Francesco Menotti and Aidan O’Sullivan, 401–16. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

 

 

Priesthood and sovereignty

 

Further reading on priesthood, druidic and poetic functions, sovereignty and sacral kingship among the ancient Celts:

Bhreathnach, M. 1982. “The Sovereignty Goddess as Goddess of Death?” Zeitschrift Für Celtische Philologie 39: 243–60.

Borsje, Jacqueline. 2009. “Supernatural Threats to Kings: Exploration of a Motif in the Ulster Cycle and in Other Medieval Irish Tales.” Ulidia 2: 173–94.

Bray, Daniel. “Sacral Elements of Irish Kingship.” 1999. “Sacral Elements of Irish Kingship.” In This Immense Panorama: Studies in Honour of Eric J. Sharpe, edited by Carole M. Cusack and Peter Oldmeadow. Sydney: School of Studies in Religion, University of Sydney.

O’Connor, Ralph. 2013. The Destruction of Dá Derga’s Hostel: Kingship and Narrative Artistry in a Mediaeval Irish Saga. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Waddell, John. 2014. Archaeology and Celtic Myth. Dublin: Four Courts Press.

 

 

Oracular and divination practices

 

Sources on historical oracular and divinatory practice and the Morrígna:

Aldhouse-Green, Miranda. 2010. Caesar’s Druids: Story of an Ancient Priesthood. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Beck, Noémie. 2009. Goddesses in Celtic Religion – Cult and Mythology: A Comparative Study of Ancient Ireland, Britain and Gaul. Université Lumière Lyon.

Borsje, Jacqueline. 1999. “Omens, Ordeals and Oracles: On Demons and Weapons in Early Irish Texts.” Peritia: Journal of the Medieval Academy of Ireland 13: 224–48.

Epstein, Angelique Gulermovich. 1992. “Woman’s Word: Threats and Prophecies, Lies and Revelations in Arthurian Romance and Medieval Irish Literature.” Proceedings of the Harvard Celtic Colloquium 12: 184–95.

Laurie, Erynn Rowan. 2007. Ogam: Weaving Word Wisdom. Megalithica. http://www.seanet.com/~inisglas/publications.html.

 

 

Sorcery and magical practices

 

Selected sources on cursing, binding, and oath-swearing:

Borsje, Jacqueline. 2003. “‘The Evil Eye’ in Early Irish Literature and Law.” Celtica 24: 1–39.

Carey, John. 2004. “The Encounter at the Ford: Warriors, Water and Women.” Eigse: A Journal of Irish Studies 34: 10–24.

Koch, John T. 1992. “Further to Tongu Do Dia Toinges Mo Thuath, &c.” Études Celtiques 29: 249–61.

Mees, Bernard. 2009. Celtic Curses. Woodbridge: The Boydell Press.

 

 

Warriorship and warrior practices

 

A selection of sources on Celtic societies in relation to warfare:

Aldhouse-Green, Miranda. 2010. Caesar’s Druids: Story of an Ancient Priesthood. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Bernhardt-House, Phillip A. 2002. “Imbolc: A New Interpretation.” Cosmos 18: 57–76.

Borsje, Jacqueline. 1999. “Omens, Ordeals and Oracles: On Demons and Weapons in Early Irish Texts.” Peritia: Journal of the Medieval Academy of Ireland 13: 224–48.

Brunaux, Jean-Louis.2001. “Gallic Blood Rites.” Archaeology 54 (2): 54. “Gallic Blood Rites.”

Henry, P. L. 1982. “Furor Heroicus.” Zeitschrift Für Celtische Philologie 39: 235–42.

Irby-Massie, Georgia L. 1999. Military Religion in Roman Britain. Leiden: Brill.

Koch, John T., and John Carey. 2003. The Celtic Heroic Age: Literary Sources for Ancient Celtic Europe and Early Ireland & Wales. Aberystwyth: Celtic Studies Publications.

Lincoln, Bruce. 1991. Death, War, and Sacrifice: Studies in Ideology and Practice. Chicago & London: The University of Chicago Press.

Sayers, William. 1983. “Martial Feats in the Old Irish Ulster Cycle.” Canadian Journal of Irish Studies 9 (1): 45–80.

Sayers, William. 1991. “Airdrech, Sirite and Other Early Irish Battlefield Spirits.” Eigse: A Journal of Irish Studies 25: 45–55.

Thompson, Christopher Scott. 2009. Highland Martial Culture: The Fighting Heritage of Scotland. Boulder: Paladin Press. http://www.paladin-press.com/product/Highland_Martial_Culture.

Thompson, Christopher Scott. 2013. The Music of His Sword: Martial Arts of the Pagan Celts. Lulu.com.

 

 

Funerary and ancestral practices

 

A selection of sources relating to funerary and ancestral traditions:

Armit, Ian. 2012. Headhunting and the Body in Iron Age Europe. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Carey, John. 1992. “The Testimony of the Dead.” Eigse: A Journal of Irish Studies 26: 1–12.

Chadwick, Nora K. 1935. “Imbas Forosnai.” Scottish Gaelic Studies 4 (2): 97–135.

Lysaght, Patricia. 1996. “Aspects of the Earth-Goddess in the Traditions of the Banshee in Ireland.” In The Concept of the Goddess, edited by Sandra Billington and Miranda Green, 152–65. London: Routledge.

Raftery, Barry. 1994. Pagan Celtic Ireland: The Enigma of the Irish Iron Age. London: Thames & Hudson.