Warrior Goddesses

Welcome to Tursan Tuesdays, where I take you on a journey through the Celtic world.

Recently, someone asked if The Mórrígan, from Celtic mythology, was in any way similar to Pandora, from Greek mythology. I answered that The Mórrígan was a Celtic warrior goddess, and according to Greek mythology, Pandora was the First Woman; created by each one of the Gods. I went on to say that while these deities are not similar, there are many similarities between other Gods and Goddesses in our different cultures.

This got me thinking…wouldn’t it be fun to compare and contrast Celtic deities to those from different mythologies?

Let’s do it ;)

I thought it only fitting we begin with The Mórrígan herself.

The Mórrígan, or Great Queen, is the Irish warrior goddess of battle, strife and fertility. She is known for being one of the most beautiful and sexual of all Goddesses, as well as being quite deadly. She has no problem using her sexuality to get what she wants, and can be ruthless in her pursuits. She can determine the outcome of wars, as well as predict when heroes will meet their end.

There is some debate over whether The Mórrígan is part of a triple deity or the sum of three separate deities. Many believe that she, along with her sisters Macha and Anu make up the Great Goddess, or The Goddess, the Great Mother of all the land. Still others say The Mórrígan is a triple goddess made by the aspects Badb, Macha, and Nemain.

The Mórrígan is a shapeshifter; she can take the forms of raven, eel, cow, or wolf. The raven, or Carrion Crow, is a harbinger of death. It can frequently be seen flying above the battlefield, circling and casting spells to determine the victor. She will use the other animal forms in whatever way best benefits her agenda. The Mórrígan can also take different human forms. She can appear as a Crone, bringing news of death and destruction, or warnings of such. She can appear as a young maiden to cast praise and love upon her chosen hero. This young maiden aspect of The Mórrígan is less well-known. Turns out she does indeed have a softer side.

Be warned however, cross The Mórrígan at your own peril…

Sekhmet, or Powerful One, is the Egyptian warrior goddess of vengeance, war and retribution. She is also known as a goddess of healing. It is said she is fiercely beautiful with the light of the sun shining through her. She leads the pharaohs in battle, and will protect them by shooting arrows of fire at their enemies. Like The Mórrígan, Sekhmet is quite deadly; only death and destruction will sooth her warrior’s heart and her breath is the hot desert wind that rips through the sand dunes.

A solar deity, Sekhmet is also sometimes referred to as the daughter of the sun-god Ra. She is frequently spoken of in connection with the goddesses Hathor and Bast. She bears the solar disk and the Uraeus, which associates her with Wadjet and royalty. This links her to the goddess of justice and order, Ma’at. In this aspect, Sekhmet is a divine arbiter in the Judgment Hall of Osiris, which also associates her with the Eye of Ra, and Tefnut.

Unlike The Mórrígan, Sekhmet is not known to shape shift. Often she is depicted as a lioness, the fiercest of all hunters, wearing a red gown the color of freshly spilled blood. In some depictions, Sekhmet’s dress has a rosette pattern over each nipple which is an ancient leonine motif and can be traced to the observation of the shoulder knot hairs on lions. Occasionally she is shown in her statuettes or engravings as being naked or with minimal clothing. Tame lions were kept in temples dedicated to Sekhmet at Leontopolis.

Over the centuries, Sekhmet’s power has gained her several titles, including Lady of Flame, Before Whom Evil Trembles, Mistress of Dread, and Lady of Slaughter. In order to placate Sekhmet’s wrath, her priestesses performed a special ritual before a different statue of her at different times of the year.

This warrior goddess isn’t all bad, however. Remember, she is also a goddess of healing. While she can bring pestilence and illness upon any whom she chooses, she can also bring cures for these ailments. At one time, her name became synonymous with “physician,” and her priestesses are considered to be at the same level as physicians.

Like The Mórrígan, however, I would treat Sekhmet with all due respect and deference.

When one thinks of the term, “goddess” one usually thinks of the wise and powerful Greek Goddess, Athena.

Athena is a warrior goddess, but according to Greek mythology, she is also goddess of wisdom, courage, inspiration, civilization, strength, strategy, female arts, crafts, justice and skill. A very well-rounded goddess. While she is a goddess of warfare, Athena isn’t quite as bloodthirsty as The Mórrígan or Sekhmet, though she is no less fearsome or ruthless when provoked.

Like The Mórrígan, there is some debate over Athena’s origins. Some say she is the daughter of Zeus, born from his forehead fully grown and dressed for battle with a war cry upon her lips. Others say that Triton, the son and herald of Poseidon, is her father (or foster-father!). Still others say that Pallas is Athena’s true father. Who can be sure?

Quite unlike The Mórrígan, Athena is a virgin goddess, and in fact she enforces the rules of sexual modesty. Athena has never taken a lover or a consort, and the Parthenon, her most famous temple, takes its name from her title, Athena Parthenos, or “Virgin Athena.”

Athena is known to guide heroes on their quests and in their battles, to protect her cities, and to weave magnificent and shining tapestries. She is often depicted with an owl, which is a symbol of knowledge and wisdom. In her warrior aspect, the goddess is more of a disciplined strategist rather than a violent slaughterer.

No, she leaves those particular qualities to her brother, Ares

So talk to me! What do you think of these magnificent ladies? There is much, much more to them than I have shared here, as I’m sure you can imagine. Do you know of other myths or legends surrounding them? Have you learned of different aspects to their natures? What other warrior goddesses do you know? Please share, I love learning more about mythologies of all traditions!

24 comments on “Warrior Goddesses

  1. Loved this post on the goddesses, Kate. Mórrígan is an important character in a Highlander series I’m writing. Every detail about her is valuable. Thank you so much, Ashley

  2. Wow, Kate. I’m just soaking it all up! I love learning about myths characters of different cultures. As they say, every myth has seeds of truth within! Thank you for this!

  3. I’m a mythology buff, and I’ve also noticed similarities between the gods and goddesses. The Morrigan, since she can have three aspects, has also been compared to the Greek Goddess of Fate, who also has three faces, young, middle aged and an old crone. And of course, in Norse mythology, we have the godesses of battle, the Valkyries. Interesting how many deities of battle are female! As an author, I’m always fascinated by how the same stories pop up in different incarnations. I write time travel historical, and love research!

    • Hi Melissa! I knew about the Valkyries, which have been compared to The Morrigan, but was not aware of the Greek Goddess of Fate. That is so interesting…they seem to be quite similar, indeed. I considered going into more detail about the different facets of The Morrigan, but wanted to do the comparison and keep it all within reason as far as length…I’ll definitely be doing more posts on her in the future though – I find her fascinating!

      Time travel is one of my favorite historicals to read. You have to direct me to your booklist!

  4. I find her fascinating too–also the Moirae, which is I think is considered another aspect of her. I love the fact the you went into Egyptian myths. Greek and Celtic tend to be more popular. My book is Past Her Time, available on Amazon, BN, etc. Working on the sequel, which has a tiny bit of Egyptian mythos.

    • I haven’t come across the Moirae yet…I’m going to have to jump into that right away. I love Egyptian mythology, not as much as Celtic of course :p “Past Her Time” I’m going to check that out today…thanks!

  5. Wonderful, informative post. I strongly believe there’s a bit of warrior goddess in us all – and heaven help the poor unsuspecting soul who crosses us or threatens anyone we hold dear!

    ;-)

  6. Hartford says:

    It’s like being taken to another world. I love it. Fantastic post.

  7. Piper Bayard says:

    Great post, Kate. Fascinating how many holy trinities there are out there in various belief systems.

    • Thanks Piper! From what I’ve been able to research thus far, turns out that the holy trinities themselves came from pagan beliefs, such as the Celtic belief before it became Christianized. Many, if not most, of the gods and goddesses within the Celtic belief (and others) have three aspects to them – it seems as though the Christians adopted this practice with the “the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit/Ghost.” Interesting, no?

  8. Texanne says:

    Very interesting and beautifully illustrated post, Kate. Reviewing all I know about the different mythologies (which is an unimpressive body of knowledge, for sure) I think that these mythologies are early-model psychology, and that each of us embodies, to a greater or lesser degree, each of these characters. It’s also fun to see how the landscape/climate of the regions seem to influence the models of these characters.

    Nice place you have here!

    • Thank you, Texanne! That is an extremely interesting take on this and I think you may be on to something there. Those thoughts have crossed my mind as well. Thanks for stopping by, and I hope to see you again in the future :)

  9. I have always been drawn to the myths, but have been enjoying learning more about the Celtic ones. These are new to me. I think there is some kind of connection between the Celtic people and these goddesses and gods. I hear it all the time on our loop when people talk about their stories and beliefs. I know when I went to Scotland the first and only time (sob, sob – it’s been four years) I started crying while we were on a boat on Loch Ness. I can’t explain it, but I know I had a connection with someone or something that told me I was home. My Mom’s family came from Scotland so maybe it was them or maybe the mythical figures.

    Love your blog!!

    • Hi Paisley! Ok, first, I’m totally jealous! I’ve NEVER been to the homeland…but I plan to go at the first opportunity ;) I get exactly what you mean about the crying thing. I get choked up just looking at pictures or reading stories…I can’t imagine what it’ll be like to actually be there and walk on the ground, smell the air. I can’t wait!

      Thanks so much for stopping by, I hope to see you again soon!

  10. […] Wood talks about Warrior Goddesses – The Morrigan, Sekhmet, and Athena. Some nice […]

  11. […] Last week kicked off my series on comparisons of the Celtic Gods & Goddesses to those of other traditions. We began with The Mórrígan, and it was a lot of fun. You can check it out here. […]

  12. It’s taken me forever to get here, but I’m so glad I finally made it. I’m fascinated with all things Celtic and loved learning more about the Morrigan. That painting of her is amazing.

    Thanks for sharing your passion with us. I hope you get to Scotland soon so you can visit these places you write about.

  13. […] earlier posts we’ve chatted about the triple aspects of The Great Mother, The Green Man, The Mórrígan, and Macha. Thus far, we’ve gotten a glimpse of how significant the triple aspect is in the […]

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