Into the Cave of the Morrigan

Into the Cave of the Morrigan November 1, 2017

This year’s Denton CUUPS Samhain ritual was titled “Into the Cave of the Morrigan.” It was a devotional ritual to honor the Great Queen and to allow all the participants to experience Her for themselves. And experience Her they did…

I don’t do many ritual recap posts any more. If you weren’t there, you can’t really grasp what it meant… and the stronger the ritual, the harder it is to communicate what it was like to be there. I’m making an exception this time, in part to relay what we did that worked well so others can do it themselves, and in part because said Battle Goddess is in my head saying “write about the ritual!”

As with so much dealing with the Morrigan, I’ve learned to accept that I’m never going to fully understand “why” and just go with it.

Here’s what we did. I’ve included a few pictures, but we did not take pictures during the main working. Some things are too sacred for photography, and sometimes the presence of a camera can be inhibiting to participants. As much as I like to create a visual record of our workings, that’s secondary to helping people have their own first-hand religious experiences.

the main altar
the main altar

A week of preparation

We began on Sunday. Each morning we sent out a link to a reading or a video about the Morrigan. We started with Who Is The Morrigan? by the Coru Cathubodua Priesthood. Other days included some of my blog posts on the Morrigan, and songs by Damn the Bard and by Omnia. The final meditation was the Prophecy of the Morrigan as translated by Morgan Daimler.

In the evenings, everyone was asked to go outside, read an invocation, make an offering, and then listen for Her presence. I can’t speak for others, but the feedback I got was loud and clear: keep doing the work – it is necessary and it is making a difference, even if you can’t see it yet.

If you have a major ritual coming up – devotional or otherwise – I strongly recommend a week of preparatory prayers, offerings, and meditations.

Ritual day setup

As with most Denton CUUPS circles, gathering started at 7:00 and the ritual began promptly at 7:30. We arrived at 4:00 to begin setup and rehearsal. We had to set up the Denton UU fellowship hall for gathering, set up the main ritual area outside, and clear the sanctuary and turn it into the Cave of the Morrigan. This is space we’re in all the time – it’s familiar. We had to make it not-familiar. We moved the chairs, set up altar tables, covered the windows, and set up candles. It wasn’t exactly a cave, but the changes transformed the space from UU meetinghouse to Pagan temple.

Then we walked through the entire ritual. The speaking parts were not unfamiliar – we use a fairly standard liturgy for about two-thirds of our rituals. But the movements were different. Instead of having the whole ritual in one spot, we moved from gathering to circle, from circle to cave, from cave to circle, and from circle to gathering.

We made a few small tweaks as we rehearsed. Most of our ritual leaders are pretty good at visualizing how a ritual will play out, but until we do it, there’s always something we overlook. Rehearsing helps us make it as good as it can be.

Samhain 2017 curtains

The Priestesses of the Morrigan

Once setup was complete, our three Priestesses of the Morrigan sequestered themselves in the cave. Wren, Morgan, and Brea finished the setup details, then began a series of prayers to make themselves ready to present the Morrigan to the participants.

I can’t tell you any more than that, because I wasn’t there. I was in the gathering area, greeting guests and making sure we were ready to start on time.

I can tell you that what they did worked. Oh, did it ever work…

The opening ritual

The ritual followed the basic Pagan ritual outline we’ve been using for years. This post from 2012 describes what we do and why. We didn’t cast a circle – there was too much movement, and it wasn’t necessary for what we were doing.

Cynthia and I made the prayers and offerings of invocation. After that, we didn’t wait around. There were three short paragraphs on the historical context of our ritual, and then we processed out of the main ritual area and to the front doors of the sanctuary, which served as the entrance to the Cave of the Morrigan.

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Into the Cave of the Morrigan

Sometimes the sanctuary feels huge, particularly when we clear out the chairs and chancel furniture, as we do for most of our CUUPS rituals. Saturday night it felt positively cramped… rather like a cave. The large turnout and dim lighting certainly contributed to that feeling, but so did the spiritual preparations.

I know these priestesses. I know their voices. This wasn’t them. Or at least, it wasn’t only them. Afterwards, all three talked about how close She was.

Beyond that I can’t speak for their experiences. I felt Her presence strongly, moving through the cave, speaking through the priestesses  and speaking directly to anyone else who would listen. I heard and felt Her as strongly as I have in months.

I really, really wanted to let go and revel in Her presence. But I was working. My job was to make sure everyone got out of the cave when we were done, and to deliver a call to action at the beginning of the closing ritual. I had to maintain composure.

There will be other times for Her ecstasy.

I feel the need to be explicitly clear on one thing. We did not bring the Morrigan to Denton. The Morrigan came to Denton because She chose to do so. We made ourselves and our guests more ready to hear Her and to experience Her presence.

The aftermath

I talked to numerous people after the ritual. I heard words like “powerful” and “strong” and “sacred.” I heard people who have been sitting on the sidelines (some for very good reasons) start thinking about how they can become more active. Some spoke of taking new risks, while others talked about self-care to make sure they can keep doing the important work they’ve been doing.

Multiple people committed to deeper spiritual work, some to support their this-world action and others to fulfill a calling to deeper practice for its own sake.

Rituals like this one aren’t over when the final bell is rung. They persist for days and weeks and months. It will be interesting to see what comes of this ritual.

The Morrigan is one of the most active Goddesses moving in our world. We have honored and experienced Her on numerous occasions, and in the process introduced Her to many others.

Perhaps you’re called to do something similar, perhaps on a smaller scale, but perhaps on a larger one instead. If you do, I can’t promise what will happen. I can only tell you this is what we did, and the results were awesome… as in “full of awe.”

Hail the Morrigan!

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