Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)

The Celtic Goddess of war and slaughter, usually represented as the triple goddess Mórrígú (or Macha), Badb and Nemain, of which Mórrígú was the most powerful manifestation. The Mórrígan was usually represented by a hooded crow, the symbol later associated in Folklore with the banshee, both images presaging Death. The triple identity of the Mórrígan is also seen in the Three Witches in Shakespeare's Macbeth (performed 1606; 1623). In Irish legend the Mórrígan appears in the story "Táin Bo Cuailnge" in the Cúchulain Saga of the Ulster Cycle, where she tries to win the love of Cuchulain: but when he spurns her she seeks his death. This story is retold by Morgan Llywelyn in Red Branch (1989; vt On Raven's Wing 1990 UK) and by Rosemary Sutcliff in The Hound of Ulster (1963), where she appears as Maeve. This manifestation is also known as Mab or Medb, the Warrior Queen of Connacht, whose adventures are retold by James Stephens in In the Land of Youth (coll of linked stories 1924 UK). Maeve or Mab is sometimes known as the Fairy Queen, which is more akin to the benign aspect of Morgan Le Fay. Morgan is frequently referred to as the Mórrígan in recent Arthurian fiction (see Arthur). The Mórrígan, depicted as a wicked witch-like figure, is used with considerable effect by Alan Garner in The Weirdstone of Brisingamen (1960) and by Pat O'Shea in The Hounds of the Mórrígan (1985). [MA]

This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.