Draped over her shoulders, with its full hood pulled around her face and sweeping to the ground behind her, was a cloak made entirely of ravens’ feathers.
The crow is a personification of the three Mórrígna in Celtic mythology and especially of Badb Mórrigu, the harbinger of doom. In this form, she seems to be the divine representative of wise yet pessimistic womanhood whose role it is to warn her folk of danger, sometimes overzealously. Crows are one of the most intelligent birds and easily conform to new situations. They quickly learn that assembling armies signify that fresh carrion from corpses will soon be available and so they were often seen circling before and during the strife. Little wonder, then, that they became synonymous with fate, doom, victory, fury and bloodshed.
The Morrigan appeared to Cú Chulainn as a beautiful maiden (representing sovereignty), attempting to seduce the young warrior. He rebuked her advances. This insulted The Morrigan, who then tried to kill him three times (in the form of an eel, a wolf, and a red heifer). Finally, The Morrigan appeared to him as an old crone, giving him a prophecy, and a warning, of the battle to come and his ultimate fate.
The Morrigan appeared to Cú Chulainn on the day of his death, before the Battle of Muirthemne, in the form of three old crones.
Cú Chulainn tied himself to a standing stone to die on his feet, facing his enemies. Finally, a crow perched on his shoulder, fulfilling her prophecy. His enemies still afraid to approach the great warrior knew for certain he was now dead and cut off his head as a trophy. With the death of Cú Chulainn, the power and prosperity of Emain Macha failed as did the fortunes of the army of the Red Branch of Ulster, as predicted centuries before.
Image by Jason Juta
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