The Morrígan ("great queen") is a figure from Irish Mythology who appears to have once been a goddess, although she is not explicitly referred to as such in the texts. She is associated with sovereignty, prophecy, war, and death on the battlefield. She sometimes appears in the form of a crow flying above the warriors.
The Morrígan’s Song
Have you come to see me, Wanderer? Have you come to hear my story?
Tell me, Wanderer: do you ever have nightmares of dying alone? Do you ever fear that you will never find love again? Do you ever wonder if your “Love” will stop loving you when they find out your secret?
I didn’t always have that fear, but I’ve been alone so long that I’ve forgotten what love feels like. My only encounters now are fleeting nights with humans, who I meet on my walks. They always ask to see me the next day, but I can never say yes. They wouldn’t love me if they ever saw me in the daylight.
Here, I sit on a large round stone by the water and look up at the moon, letting the hem of my tattered white nightgown skim the water. You may sit, too, if you like.
I spend many nights staring at the moon; it always brings back memories. Tonight, it brings back one specific memory. I’ll tell you if you want to hear.
Two hundred years ago, I was just like you- a normal, teenage girl, though perhaps wearing a bit more cloth. I was young, only sixteen then. I was the most beautiful bachelorette in my town, with long wavy black hair that shone in the sun. All were envious that my hair didn’t frizz out like the other girls. I was thin, with pale skin and cornflower blue eyes. They called me the Flower Child, and I walked through the world wearing rose-colored glasses.
But I let me beauty go to my head. And my flirty nature brought me to my downfall.
One night- one dark, storming night, a woman and her son arrived at our house. Or at least I thought he was her son. It was raining enough to flood the fields, so we could not turn them out and, like a good family, offered them a bed for the night. We dined with them and offered them a nightcap in the den. They would continue on their way in the morning.
We should have never let them in.
I could not tell you what the woman looked like, for every time I remember her, she only becomes more evil-looking. All I remember is that she was old and dressed oddly in a deep burgundy gown that was too dark even for winter fashions. She kept with her an old lamb-skin trunk that was padlocked. The key rested on a chain around her neck. But travelers had to be weary, so my father thought nothing of it.
The man was dressed more appropriately for the season and looked positively miserable in her company. Seeing as he was the cause for all this, I know I should remember his name, or at least his face, but I cannot.
But he was young and couldn’t have been a day over twenty, at least, that’s what I figured. We took very kindly to each other. After all, he was her son, right? So what could be the harm? He couldn’t be married to that odd hag.
Over dinner, we flirted with our eyes, cheeks blushing red whenever our hands accidentally touched. He spoke in little more than a soft whisper, but each word sent tingles down my spine. For me, it was love at first sight.
And while the woman drank scotch with my father, the son and I sipped wine by the fireplace.
I found that I giggled at anything he said. The man was warm and charming.
“I hate living with her,” I remember him saying. “I wish I could just stay here with you. You have such a kind family, and you- you are so beautiful. Your eyes are the color of cornflowers in the summer. I cannot look away.”
I had been able to help myself and giggled. I had heard such compliments before, but they sounded so much more sincere coming from him. I couldn’t help but be flattered.
But I had giggled too loud and had drawn my father’s attention.
“It is indecent for a girl your age to be up this late,” my father had chastised. “Off to bed now.”
“Your father is right,” the woman had said, her voice cold. “Not to mention, lack of sleep will give you dark circles. You wouldn’t want to ruin that pretty little face of yours, would you?”
Of course, I agreed with them, but was long in my goodbye, taking all the time I could. I didn’t want to say farewell to him just yet. But I had to leave eventually, and stood. The man rose with me.
“I would like to see you again,” the son said in his soft voice, grabbing my arm gently. “She will most likely have us in the carriage as soon as the sun rises, so I will not see you in the morning.”
“I wish for more rain,” I had said.
The man smiled at me and shook his head. “I do as well, but listen, the storm has already passed. I will be gone in the morning.”
My heart had saddened at that and I agreed to see him once more after everyone had gone to bed. We would meet in the same place, in front of the fire place as soon as the last candle was extinguished.
My father and the woman stayed up ‘til just before the Witching Hour, and though sleep tugged heavily at my eyes, I kept my promise.
I met the man- who I was convinced by then was my soul mate- and we sat in front of the fireplace, whispering sweetnothings.
He told of his travels and life growing up. He has travelled all around Western Europe, though the woman always took him back to Ireland. There they would visit a lake and she would swim in the water.
“She can swim?” I remember asking, embarrassed for him. It was often said that only witches could swim, so those who knew did not often admit their ability to do so or chance being called a witch.
The man only laughed. “She is a woman of many quirks, each stranger than the last.”
“Why do you stay with her?” I asked him.
“Because I cannot leave,” he had answered. I had wondered what he meant then, but I know now. It’s not that he just couldn’t leave, he couldn’t leave.
I did not like talking about the strange woman, so I told him the story of me. I told him how I was my father’s only child, how they called me the Flower Child because of my eyes, and how I was waiting for the perfect man to ask for my hand. The last comment I had directed at him.
I remember everything we talked about, down to our discussion of how the fire made his skin glow. I remember how we got lost in each other and talked until it was almost dawn.
It was one when out candle was spend when we realized what time it was.
“No, no, no!” The man had cried, jumping up from the fur rug. “I need to get back. She can’t know I was gone.”
“But it’s too later,” another voice said in a sickening sweet voice, “she already knows.”
The woman had found us. I didn’t understand then the severity of what had happened, but I soon learned.
“Do you make a habit of seducing other women’s husbands?” She asked me almost cordially as she swooped in, her black nightgown flirting with the floor.
“Husband?” I had asked, honestly shocked at that time.
“Oh yes,” she said and moved to stand next to the man, “didn’t he tell you?”
I shook my head and apologized fervently. “I am so sorry. If I had know, I wouldn’t have-“
“But you did,” the woman said darkly. “You did.”
The man who had been nothing but stoic and composed since I met him was now in tears. “Please,” he pleaded like a man on the noose, “please, I won’t do it again. I promise.”
“I know, my love,” the woman said and clutched his chin. Slowly- the scene always plays slowly in my mind- she leaned in and placed a soft, chaste kiss on his lips. “I know you’ll never do it again.”
She stood and let go of him.
And the man began to changed, dying before my eyes. His eyes grew dull and his skill taut over his bones, losing weight like it was being sucked out of him. His life was being sucked out from the inside. His eyes went wide as he realized what had happened and her reached out to her for help, but she only took another step back so that she was out of his reach. Another moment passed and the man took his last breath and collapsed on the floor. He looked only a shadow of that man he once was, and resembled more of an influenza victim instead of the healthy twenty-year-old he was not minutes ago.
I had been confused at first, but it didn’t take me long to piece it together. Witch. She was a witch.
“Now it’s your turn,” the witch cackled.
“Don’t kill me… please, I didn’t know,” I had pleaded at her feet breathlessly. Tears filled my eyes and I had spent my last seconds ad a normal person crying. “I didn’t know.”
“Killing you wouldn’t be a punishment,” the witch hissed at me. “I will teach you a lesson you will never forget. And you will learn to keep your hands off of other’s property.” She reached into her gown and pulled out a small wreath of dying flowers.
“A crown for the Flower Child,” she had said with venom in her voice. “Accept my gift, Flower Child.”
“I… I don’t want it,” I whispered, afraid to touch anything she gave me.
“Take it or I will kill you,” she growled at me.
I had no choice, I had to take it.
“Wear it, Flower Child,” she commanded and I did so.
As soon as he crown touched my head, magic burst through me, burning through my veins like acid. But it only lasted a second and the pain was gone. I felt no different. But I soon learned that you don’t have to feel different to be different.
“By night one way, by day another,” the witch uttered as if they were the binding word to her spell. “See if anyone will love you now, Flower Child. Enjoy your life as a Morrígan.” And she swung the skirts of her nightgown dramatically as she turned to leave, but paused by a thought. She looked down at the remnants of her husband. “You can have him. A reminder of why you are what you are.” And with that she left, just before sun-up. I never heard her fetch her carriage, but she must have taken it because it was gone.
I haven’t seen her since. I know she’s still around, going from house to house with a new lover, but our paths have not cross. By fate or conscious act, I have not seen her since that day.
And therein ends my story.
I still wear the crown, as you can see. I cannot take it off. And I still keep a piece of that man with me- his skull occupies my nest while I’m away in the night. He is only bones now, but I can still remember his face- my love whose name I cannot remember. Is that love, still, if I can’t remember?
But I digress; you’ve let me talk for too long. I don’t come across too many that want to hear my story. You should be on your way. Morning’s coming. I can feel it. Night always seems to slip away when you’re not paying attention.
I can see the sun come up- there, behind you. It ignites the magic in my flower crown. You cannot see, because it only takes a moment, but my arms disappear and are replaced by tar feathered wings, my legs shrink and harden, becoming three-toed bird’s feet, and my nose and mouth merge into a beak, my eyes turn black.
When the transformation is complete, I shake out my feathers and look at my reflection in the calm surface of the water. A small, pitch-black crow stares back at me. When I open my mouth, a caw-caw comes outs.
Morning has come and I must take my leave. I must return to my nest for the day, where I will sleep and wait for night to return, when I can once again walk on two feet.
Goodbye, good Wanderer, goodbye.