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Samhain Essay: Paying Respects - page 16 / 22





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To say that quiet and contentment ruled afterwards would be wishful thinking, but things are definitely more peaceful, and far less confrontational.

Was this juxtaposition of ancient lore and modern action actual cause and affect?

As I stated earlier, perhaps the call to the Morrigan gave me and my partner and, as a result, others, courage to finally act; we were not the only people who called out the law, or stood up to the belligerent crowd in the months that followed.

Literature concerning the Morrigan warns of residual violence, and disquiet and physical threat continued to plague the woman who lives in the house. She did not really want everyone to go away, nor did her son, both of them giving lip service to the idea while allowing some of the people hauled out of their house by force to return. As of today, the arrogance and overbearing invasive nature of the visitors has by and large ended, as if the events of the summer caused them to understand that they did not have free rein on the street. Whatever they may say, their behavior has changed. The most threatening and troublesome individuals are gone, some for good. Nonetheless, it is clear to us that she profits by the activity in her home, and has used the hands-off attitude of our neighborhood to quietly continue other ugly goings-on, for which there will no doubt be another kind of reckoning, only not just now.

The Morrigan is too powerful and unpredictable a force to call upon for anything less than full battle. Don't ask for their help unless you mean it, or, in a more familiar phrase, be careful what you wish for; you may get it. Also, as the matter began to finally wind down over the weeks, I had the very strong feeling that it was best to look for help elsewhere in the pantheon of Celtic deities, should there be a need. It was and is time for gentler influences.

In psychological, and maybe karmic, terms, it might be said that my neighbors and I got ourselves charged up to take on the problem, and had to deal with the fallout. We fielded it the best we could for the time, and, because of our own unacknowledged fears and hidden intent, we got what we asked for.

Or the Morrigan did what I asked of them, and left the pieces to fall as they might.

Comments on the nature of the Morrigan and some of their symbols:

The Morrigan, also Morrigu, is a triune deity, composed of the three goddesses, Badb, Macha, and Nemain. Together they are so powerful that it is considered wiser to invoke them separately, as their collective energy can turn violent.

"Morrigan" is translated by two separate sources as "great queen", and "phantom queen".


Among the animals associated with the Morrigan are the carrion crow and the raven.

Carrion crows do not inhabit the West, and I thought that they might be a European bird. To my surprise, they are well known in the south and middle parts of the United States, but by other names: turkey buzzard, or vulture. The California species is slightly different in appearance, but they were indeed the birds that lew over the grove.

These big, black birds have an unsavory reputation because of their eating habits, but they are wonderful flyers. Vultures most likely evolved from eagles and hawks, and the former, at least, are not beyond dining on carrion themselves. It is also good to recall that the carrion eaters keep things clean for the rest of the world.

Locally, there is a large flock that roosts in the tall trees around and about San Leandro. I have seen them circling high in the air directly above St. Leander's Catholic Church, and once I saw them perched, broad-shouldered and ominous, atop the eucalyptus trees situated directly next to San Leandro city hall. From all appearances, they stay there regularly. The raven is one of my favorite birds. Intelligent, clever, resourceful, and playful, it is a figure in the folklore of many cultures.

Many ravens roost in the trees around my house and along the streets in this community. Right now, as it is nearly winter, they are not as plentiful as in the summer and early fall, when the pickings are better. They are huge birds, which we often do not realize, because from a distance, it is easy to mistake them for crows, which are much smaller, and have a more raucous cry. The raven makes a low croak, and there is language in it.

One such is the double word "croak-croak" which means "here I am". I have heard a raven give such a call when it has made a kill, or has got hold of some other food, perhaps calling its mate to share the meal. As I was leaving my door for work one day, a raven took flight from my front yard. Its wingspan was nearly as wide as the span of my arms, and it had a body as large as that of a big hawk. I have also seen them close at hand, begging for food with great birdly charm, in the Grand Canyon. They stand as tall as my knee, and have beaks three inches long. The head boatman on one of my Grand Canyon river trips pointed out an aerial squabble between a gathering of ravens and a raptor, which was getting the worst of the fight. He claimed to have seen ravens harass hawks and eagles for the sheer fun of it.

My favorite raven prank happened during one breakfast on that same trip. The cook had set up the food on long tables, as usual, including a platter of English muffins. One of our winged camp followers was hopping about on the rocks behind the tables, ignored by every one. As we sat about the camp eating, we saw the bird launch itself into the air, swooping in a wide arc overhead, the pale round circle of an English muffin dangling from its talons.

Plants associated with the Morrigan are henbane and nightshade. Nightshade is common in this area, and, if the berry is ripe, it is quite edible and very tasty, sweet, with an intense tomato flavor. I would not recommend trying it unless you are very sure.


The Druids, Peter Berresford Ellis Celtic Myth and Magick, Edain McCoy National Audubon Society Web site, www.audubon.org

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