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!