Introduction: The Mór-Ríoghain is a phantom Queen known to be the Irish Goddess of war often taking the shape of a crow. She features in the first and second battles of *Maige Tuired. The first between the *Fir Bolg and the *Tuatha Dé Danann and the second between the The Tuatha Dé Danann and the *Fomhóire. She also featured in the great epic tale The Tain Bó Cúailnge where she comes to *Cú Chulainn in many forms.
Yes, it is true, all that is said, and no it is not.
I am Mór-Ríoghain,
the one who dresses in blood and black and white and yellow and blue.
And yes it is true,
I have struck terror into men’s hearts,
seen them cry on the battlefield pathetic with fear.
Once, I washed the blood from a dead man on the ground
at the same time as he was sitting on his horse with a choice to make.
Life or death.
He could have lived.
He could have said, Whose side are you on?
I would have said, Life. But he didn’t ask.
He rode to his death, telling himself,
The old hag is a delusion, nothing more
and I am and I am not.
I am the crow when battle is near. I am anger when I deal in fear.
I am darkness on the side of light.
I am day, I am night.
I am hailstones of fire, a flying javelin through the liver.
I drain the blood from failing hearts.
I am war.
I am journeys, a river the salmon and the eel,
the cow and her milk,
the trees, the worm, the nut for every squirrel,
the flower for every bee, the eagle, thrush and starling,
For the fox I am everything.
For the rodent and the fly, I make waste of men’s bodies
Though I do not want to, yet I do.
I was once the elk, the bear, the wolf.
I am the elk, the bear, the wolf no more.
I am tears for them and battles lost.
For my people. I am *Danú, Ériu, Banba, Fódla,
I am *Macha, I am *Meadhbh,
I am the Mór-Ríoghain, light and dark, and dusk and fog.
I am play and joy, a child, a woman, a man.
I am unnamable
like the wind among the leaves blows each leaf its own whispering way,
the elusive celestial breath breezing life,
the river under the *Daghda.
I am straddling the river to receive him.
I am shape changer,
slashed for capital consciousness, for war and castles.
I am Rivers fat with fish.
I am empty plains for wealth and greatness
some remembered and some not.
I am betrayed.
I am the *sacred fifth that is gone to cattle and trade.
I am the love for the champion of Ulster before he knew he was ever a man.
I am the love for the mother of the son whose name was taken.
I am the women of the *Sidhe.
I am a whole army.
I am raped, rejected, my cooking pot is dry.
I am lullaby,
the ground beneath the castle,
the stable and the hay,
the mountains, the shadows on the mountains, the rain,
the wind that wrecks all dreams,
the flood that vomits filth.
I am kind, soft and gentle.
I blow seeds.
I am she who came to *Cú Chulainnn at the ford,
the eel who slimed along his leg,
the wolf whose eye he took,
the cattle he took the legs from.
I am the cow with three teats,
one for every hurt he gave me.
I am the drink I gave him,
a drop from every teat.
I am healed.
I am short and long.
I am wisdom and sorrow,
I am married to the sea
I can feel her lap against me.
I can see her world,
her rage vomiting what repulses her.
I am married to the sun.
I feel him warm my back,
he scorches me.
I dance in pain.
I dance on a craggy rock alone but for the the sea birds.
I can sing and I do
and I am.
the caw that you hear every day.
Listen, I am here.
My caw is everywhere.
Listen for me;
the black crow of death and life,
crying red tears everyday.
The retellings on this site (though true to the myths them selves) are my own work and copyrighted to me so please ask before using elsewhere.
Drawings by Kathy Tynan
- Maige Tuired: Anglicised Moytura refers to two separate places, one near Cong Co Mayo, the other by Lough Arrow, Co Sligo.
- Fir Bolg : A race of people who occupied Ireland in ancient times. It is told they were decedents of Nemed who were earlier inhabitants who had originally come from Greece. When Nemed died his people were oppressed by the Fomhóire and so they returned to Greece where they were enslaved and made to carry bags of clay to barren hills and so they were called Fir Bolg (Bag men). When they returned they divided Ireland into five provinces, Uisneach (Co Westmeath) being the centre and often known as Cúige or *sacred fifth.
- The Tuatha Dé Danann : The principal otherworld race in Irish Mythology and the main deities of the Celtic race.
- Fomhóire : A demonic race of sea pirates who haunted the coasts of Ireland. See my retelling, Once Upon an Inside Time.
- Danú, Ériu, Banba, Fódla : Appellations of the goddess
- Meadhbh : Mythical Queen of Connaght (a western province of Ireland). She who intoxicates, Goddess of sovereignty. See my retelling Pillow Talk Post War
- Macha : Goddess associated with horses. See my retelling, The Curse of Macha
- Cú Chulainn : Mythical warrior from the great epic tale, The Táin Bó Cúailnge. See to my retelling, Don’t go Asleep
- Daghda : A principal deity of the The Tuatha Dé Danann
- Sidhe : Earthern mounds, dwelling places of the Tuatha Dé Danann: The principal otherworld race in Irish Mythology