This week Jason asked Patheos Pagan bloggers to write on “Finding a Higher Power.” That’s a pretty vague topic, but remember we aren’t all polytheists. I am, though – my writing is on finding a God.
As with last week I’ve written on this topic before.
Cernunnos tells how the Lord of the Animals had his eye on me from a very early age, and describes some of my experiences of him.
Danu tells what little we know of her, and how I came to know her.
Hearing the Call explores the question “how do you know when a God is calling you?”
Pursuing the Gods is perhaps my most relevant post on this topic. Sometimes a God calls you, but other times you have to pursue them.
Origin stories are popular. We like hearing how other people started, either to compare their stories to ours, or to provide some guidance for how we can get started. But just as important as how to get started is what to do once we’ve been going for a while. What happens after you find a God?
Sometimes we’re called to priesthood. But not everyone is cut out to be a priest, and not every deity who calls you wants you as their priest. Sometimes they want you to perform a specific task for them, and sometimes they just want your devotion. It is always good to honor the Gods.
And sometimes, the relationship is a constantly-changing journey. This is the story of my relationship with the Morrigan, Battle Goddess and Lady of Sovereignty.
Devotion and Intercession
My introduction to the Morrigan began at Lughnasadh 2004. Denton CUUPS was only four years old and we were still mostly Wiccanish in our approach. We wanted a Goddess to go with our God of the Occasion – I found an ADF ritual that in addition to Lugh also honored Morrigan in her role as Lady of Sovereignty. We borrowed heavily from it, then re-used that liturgy for several years.
I learned a bit about the Morrigan during those years, mostly from general conversations in the Pagan community. I learned enough to know that if I needed a warrior deity, she was who I wanted on my side.
In 2010 I found myself in a difficult situation. A friend in another state was in physical danger. I felt the need to do something, but I wasn’t capable of doing anything directly. So I poured an offering to the Morrigan and prayed “please help my friend.” My friend was OK. A few weeks later another friend in another state was in a similar situation. I made offerings and prayed again – again my friend was OK. About a week later the scenario played out a third time – for the third time my friend was safe and sound.
But this time, I heard a Voice not inside my head but just behind my head. “I have done this for you. Now I want you to do something for me.”
The first thing the Morrigan wanted from me was pain. Not in a sadistic sense, or even in the sense of an ordeal. Rather, she wanted the pain that comes from dedicated and sacrificial training toward becoming stronger. I used to run – I understand that kind of pain.
I assumed she was talking about physical training and physical pain. If only it had been that simple.
Mid-2009 through the end of 2010 was an extremely stressful time with my paying job. I went back through my personal journals as I wrote this post – here’s an entry from 2010 that pretty much sums it up: “I can’t deal with spiritual issues when I’m this stressed. This is too big to compartmentalize and too unpleasant to integrate.”
I often tell people “it’s hard to meditate when your roof is leaking.” If you’ve got a major mundane problem, give it your full attention and then go back to your spiritual work when it’s clear.
The Morrigan wanted more from me. I gave it to her. I added her to my nightly prayers, a practice I continue to this day. I kept up my daily spiritual practice, I kept up my Pagan leadership responsibilities, and I kept up my writing. Some days that hurt more than my legs the morning after a 15 mile run, but I did it.
The Call of the Morrigan
My work situation improved greatly in 2011 and I began to make real progress toward my long-term spiritual goals. After the Spring Equinox that year, I didn’t hear much from her for a while. Then things got busy again.
I started finding other Pagans and polytheists who were being called by the Morrigan, and they were all hearing the same thing: “get ready – a storm is coming.” I began to write on sovereignty – I even led a UU Sunday service on Reclaiming Your Sovereignty.
About the same time, I helped facilitate an initiation for a Priestess of the Morrigan. I’ve led initiations numerous times, but this was the first time one was also a dedication into a priesthood. That required special preparations, not the least of which was more direct communion with Herself.
In July 2012 I wrote The Call of the Morrigan. Over 8,000 people have read it – it’s one of the most searched-for posts on this blog. If you haven’t read it before, go read it now. Here are the closing paragraphs:
I hope and pray I’m right and Morrigan is calling priestesses and priests to serve a new and growing Community of the Earth.
Because if I’m wrong, then she’s preparing an army of Ravens to clean up the mess we’re going to make in clinging to a myth and a lifestyle that can’t be supported very much longer.
Five years later, I’m seeing a lot of Ravens.
Not Her Priest
At that point I thought I would become a priest of the Morrigan. I had done all this work for her, and much of it was work usually done by priests. I wanted very much to be her priest. But the call never came.
Eventually I got an answer. I gave the Morrigan her gift of pain, and I demonstrated my dedication, endurance, and perseverance. But to become her priest, she wanted me to become a warrior.
I’m a bard, a seer, a counselor, and a magician, but I am no warrior. I can fight when I have no choice, but it’s not something I do well. I’m a Druid: I’m best at supporting warriors like the Druids of old.
She made an offer: become a warrior and I would become her priest. I wanted to say yes. I really wanted to say yes. But saying yes would mean trying to become something I’m not… and that never goes well.
I told the Morrigan no.
Some friends suggested this offer was a test, and I passed it by being true to myself. I do not believe that’s the case. I believe the Morrigan offered me something she knew I wanted and she was willing to give, but only on her terms. It wasn’t a test to pass or fail. It was an offer, and I rejected it.
At that point, the Morrigan became less present in my life.
Druid on Retainer
But not for long. After a few quiet months, I began to hear from her again. Write this, do that, give this message to that person.
I began to joke that I was her Druid on retainer. After a while, it was less of a joke and more a statement of fact. I wasn’t her priest, but I was her Druid, at least when she wanted something done. It felt right.
In June 2014 Morpheus Ravenna began a crowdfunding campaign for The Book of the Great Queen. I backed the book, promoted the project, and was thrilled when my endorsement quote was used on the back cover. It is the most complete book on the Morrigan in existence, and I’m honored to have had a small part in its production.
In 2015 I experienced the Morrigan in ecstatic communion for the first time. From my personal journal: “it was like being inside a fire hose.” During that experience, she made it clear I needed to quit making excuses and get my own book written. I did.
A Call to a Deeper Relationship
The first Many Gods West conference in 2015 was the beginning of a call to a deeper, more formal relationship with the Morrigan. The Coru Cathubodua Morrigan Priesthood led a Devotion to Cathubodua ritual. One of the lines in that ritual was “I hold your death.” It wasn’t just words spoken by ritual leaders – it was a very timely message from a Battle Goddess directed at me (and a bunch of other people too).
In November of that year she told me she wanted weekly offerings. She didn’t say why, she just said to do it. So I did, and I’ve continued the practice ever since – including some weeks where it wasn’t exactly convenient.
At Pantheacon 2016 the Coru asked me to help staff their Temple of the Morrigan. I was honored to say yes, and it was an amazing experience.
As my weekly offerings continued, so did the frequency and depth of my communion with her. More messages, more errands, more directions… but nothing resembling a battle plan. The Morrigan has many virtues – transparency is not one of them.
Early this year she asked me for an oath that would make the my relationship with her permanent.
On the first night of this year’s ADF Texas Imbolc Retreat I was summoned into the woods. The Fair Folk of the area told me to come to a certain spot but to go no further. Cernunnos told me what he wanted in this year’s Beltane circle. And the Morrigan told me what she wanted in my oath.
The preamble of the oath ended with this paragraph:
Great Queen, sometimes you are harsh, many times you are unreadable, and always you are mysterious. But you have never broken your word. You have never caused me needless pain. You have never asked me to do anything dishonorable, or anything that did not need to be done. In your service I have found purpose and meaning, honor and growth. So I trust that this oath is necessary, and that it will be beneficial for me as well as for you.
The exact wording of the oath is sacred and not for publication. Essentially I promised that what I’ve been doing, I will keep doing. I am no longer a Druid on retainer.
I am her Druid.
Hail Morrigan: Battle Goddess, Lady of Sovereignty, Chooser of the Slain!