Etude archétypale (eng)

Wisdom of the Black Wing

The Dark Goddess or Dark Mother, embodies the energy we need to become whole, to proceed towards consciousness. Her darkness, much as the earth beneath our feet, the hollowed cave or hallowed mound, speaks of her powers of dissolution, transformation and regeneration. Depending on the circumstance, she appears as a fearsome old crone or a youthful, radiant beauty. As an old crone she is primordial wisdom, ancient beyond conceptuality. She appears in this form when we have been deluding ourselves, thinking that we really understand, when in fact we have been building a illusory castle of intellectuality. Only when we have reached self-knowledge, through commitment and relationship to something or someone beyond ourselves and the gratification of our personal needs, does she reveal her radiant face. This grace filled aspect of the Dark Goddess embodies regenerated spirit freed from illusion and self-limitation.
Through encounters with the Dark Goddess, ordinary ego perceptions are shattered; cracks occur in our well-crafted persona. Through these cracks emerges the possibility of something new. A new self grounded in « being » rather than « doing », an identity based not on the ego but on the soul. This is not an easy thing for the ego consciousness to pursue, because all change presupposes the death of the old. We have a dread of death and a fear of dissolution. We resist change and transformation, even with the knowledge that change is essential to our life and that the fulfillment of that life depends on it.
In the Irish pantheon, recognized forms of this type of Goddess are the Cailleach Bhearra, Aine, and the Morrigú. In this exploration of the Dark Goddess we’ll focus on the Morrigú.

For centuries the Morrigú has been described as a Battle Goddess. It is my belief that this is a grievous over-simplification of a paradoxical and challenging figure. This misrepresentation has two main roots. First, from approaching the myth in a purely intellectual way, ignoring the spiritual and psychological dynamics of what are in essence teaching stories. And secondly, the centuries old reluctance of common era Western cultures to value powerful and less than « nice » female figures.

There is some disagreement among academics as to the true translation of « Morrigú. » Some say it means Great Queen, others say Phantom Queen or in some cases Sea Queen. In legend she is often associated with battle, hence her designation of Battle Goddess/Queen. When exploring the early legends and tales in which we find battle, we must look beneath the more visceral aspects of war to see that these early conflicts were often a matter of Sovereignty and self-determination. If we then consider the terms ‘Great’ and ‘Phantom’ without getting into a linguistic debate, we find that both apply depending on the circumstances.
What does Great Queen mean? Notice that she isn’t considered « a » great queen, she is « The » Great Queen, or in other words, Lady Sovereignty, Goddess of the Land, an earth goddess. As The Great Queen she guards and sustains her chosen people. Currently most earth Goddesses are thought of as being something akin to a « Mother Earth » type figure, rich, fertile, and benevolent. This has not always been the case, nor should it be now. Part of our problem when dealing with figures like the Morrigú is our culturally limited view of the role of the mother. Many of us still yearn for and expect June Cleaver. Even if we know intellectually that this is not reality, this image is still very much the « ideal » in modern society (expect that now she also works full-time and looks like a supermodel). As a powerful influence in our cultural baggage, it is an image we can’t help but project onto our deities. We need to develop a broader understanding of « mother, » one which encompasses both gentle and severe aspects. A good mother not only nurtures and feeds her children, she also instill a strong sense of personal responsibility and accountability. She can’t do this if she only coddles, praises and is endlessly forthcoming.
The Phantom Queen is the Lady of the UnderWorld, a goddess of death and dissolution. As the Old Woman of Knowledge, she champions our search for wholeness, challenging our conceptions of our selves and our environment.

The Morrigú guides and prods us towards personal Sovereignty. The vocation of Sovereign requires awareness, self-control and a strong sense of personal responsibility. In an age when most of us do not bear the responsibility of the welfare of our tribe, its territory and herds of cattle, Sovereignty takes on a more personal meaning. On a personal level it necessitates a strong center, an awareness of our strengths and weaknesses, not for ego-inflation or neurotic obsession but in the wisdom of self-knowledge. Self-knowledge is a tricky thing, from birth we are told repeatedly who and what we are. Add to this the inevitable baggage we gather along the way and the question « Who am I? » takes on stunning complexity. Fortunately much of our self and the reasons for our behavior lies within in our unconscious mind. Enter the realm of the Phantom Queen. The Morrigús’ symbol is not a Cauldron, it is a Cooking Spit. On it we find a piece of raw meat, a piece of cooked meat and a lump of butter. A cooking spit is a sharp piercing rod. We could say that her nature is much the same, she pierces our illusions, transforming us from raw matter into tempered matter which inevitable leads to the remembrance of our inherent spiritual essence.

In many stories these aspects intermingle and shift back and forth. In almost all instances she appears at crucial moments in the protagonist life. These encounters have a quality of sharp incisive challenge to fixated conceptions. They have a grounding, insightful quality that recalcitrant individuals interpret as sharp and wrathful. She is a repository of raw primordial energy, the ego has to have surrendered some of its defenses before confronting such energy. Most often this task is not approached willingly.
In Irish myth, the Morrigú figures prominently in the Ulster cycle and most frequently in the stories of Cuchulain, said to be one of Ireland great « heroes. » His stories take place during the reign of Conchobhar mac Nessa, a mythical King of Ulster from about the first century of the common era. Cuchulain may be many things, a true hero is not one of them. Though fictional or at the very least fictionalized, yet his tales illustrate quite clearly the consequences of choosing an ego driven existence rather than one of embodied spirituality.
Cuchulain, to put it bluntly, was an idiot. This sounds harsh, yet when reading the stories, and there are quite a few of them, we begin to see that he was an egocentric control freak who had little or no respect for anyone save himself. Cuchulain’s foremost priority was personal glory and far reaching fame. The fact that attaining it meant an early, violent death was of little consequence. He would go out in a blaze of glory and be remembered for all time as the greatest warrior/hero that Ulster, if not all of Ireland had ever seen.
Like most people in fiction and in life, he was presented with opportunities to grow beyond his ambitions. Throughout his short life, Cuchulain encounters the Morrigú in various guises. In each instance she attempted to turn him away from self-destruction in pursuit of glory, in each instance he rebuffed her, refused her aid. He could have made his descent, formed a sacred alliance with the Old Woman of Knowledge and attained understanding, wisdom, a deepening of his spirit and a more integrated life. But no, he wanted fame, he craved glory. He wanted to be bigger than life. He did achieve his petty goal, at a terrible cost. In the process he killed countless people, including his best friend, he betrayed his marriage vows, and in an act of utter egotism, knowingly murdered his only son, his only child.
On a heartening note he eventually realized and admitted that the Lady was right, but it was too late for this life’s work, it had gone too far and death approached to claim him. Perhaps on his next turn of the wheel he will welcome the Lady’s counsel and make the necessary sacrifices to become a true hero, dedicated to serving his people not his personal interests.

Such is the guardianship of the Morrigú, she would lead us to self-knowledge. The road is often bumpy, more so if we resist and are dragged kicking and screaming along its course, for we have no choice in the matter, this is the one path we must all travel. We may have all the insights but if we do not incarnate them, they are all in vain. We can, unlike Cuchulain, willingly suffer the loss of those things that stand in our way to freedom.
The Morrigú is fierce because she demands truth, sacrifice and transformation. She is neither subtle, gentle, or all sweetness and light, but she is absolutely fair. Descending into her territory demands the death of a rigidly controlled life, dancing with her means finding a new discipline that allows new life to sprout and grow. As we bring to light treasures from our depths, as we disengage the patterns of our most onerous behaviors, the Morrigú stands besides the Well of Life, handing us, if we dare take it, the Cup of Truth, the Truth of Ourselves.

by Willow Ragan
http://www.danann.org/library/myth/blackwing.html

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~ par Valiel Elentári sur septembre 13, 2010.

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