The Wicked, The Divine and The Mythology — Part 2: The Morrigan and Baphomet
This series intends to briefly point towards the original mythological material, compare it to the Gillen and McKelvie comic adaptation of it, The Wicked and The Divine, and speculate meanings and foreshadows only available with a bit of background knowledge.
Issue #2 ended with a huge cliffhanger: a new god (it is possible indeed, Laura!). Plus the supposed murder of The Morrigan, to which I almost responded with internet anger towards Kieron Gillen. But, as my logical side took hold, I realized that it was not possible for any single being in the universe to want The Morrigan out of his comics about myths and gods. Besides, no one kills The Morrigan. “So let’s wait for issue #3”, I said to myself.
And it was worth it.
The Morrigan is a celt goddess of battle, strife and death. Her name probably means “Phantom Queen”. In The Wicked + The Divine #3, she appears in three different forms, each with its own personality.
The origin of this trinity of goddesses goes back to proto-celtic cultures and their megalithic cult of the Mothers.
“The Mothers (Matrones, Idises, Disir, etc.) usually appeared as triple goddesses and their cult was expressed through both battle ecstasy and regenerative ecstasy.” (Danielle Dee, Encyclopedia Mythica)
“Influence in the sphere of warfare, but by means of magic and incantation rather than through physical strength, is common to these beings.” (Anne Ross, Pagan Celtic Britain, 1967)
While The Morrigan is One, she can also appear as a Trinity of sisters. Those sisters are sometimes said to be Badb, Macha and Nemain; other times Badb, Macha and Anann — Anann being also an alternate name for The Morrigan. There are even more versions of the Trinity, as the texts contradict one another.
The plural for Morrígan is Morrígna, referring to the Trinity. I understand that, in WicDiv, when they say “The Morrigan”, they mean the whole Morrígna.
So which goddesses compose the Trinity in this comic version? There is space for ambiguity, certainly.
Baphomet calls her “the bad one”, and it can be inferred that she is the fiercest one, more violent and irrational. She “turns” to this state because she is annoyed with Baphomet, but after Laura calms her down, she counts to four and turns back to the black haired version. Badb comes from the Old Irish word for “crow”.
The cops come, and Baphomet does the finger thing and burns one of them. While everyone is like “omg, he is dead”, there comes another figure… Shaved head but for a strange little piece of hair, gothic clothing and a lot of raven symbolism, she says: “Don’t be stupid… he’s just sleeping. Let Gentle Annie have a better look.” Then she snaps her fingers and ta-da, the cop is awake again.
Gentle Annie is how some commoners used to refer to the goddess Anann. But, well… it says less of Anann’s gentleness and more of her fearfulness. It was a way to avoid giving offense to the goddess. A similar tactic was used with the faerie people (Aos Sí, Sidhe), who were not a threat as long as they were respected. They were called “The Good People”, to keep them satisfied and away.
Our Annie, though, is quite gentle in issue #3. She avoids a huge conflict and saves a life.
The black haired one:
She hasn’t been specifically named. It’s possible she is just called “Morrigan”, as she is the “default” version. It would make more sense, though, if her name is Macha, the oldest sister. If so, she would be the wisest of the Morrígna and that would not contradict the old texts of the Ulster cycle, that cite Badb, Anann and Macha as the three crow sisters. That’s a bit irrelevant to the comic, though, so we will probably never know.
The raven is the Morrigan’s main symbol, and I am glad they did not save the raven referrences in the comics. Raven tattoos, raven necklaces, raven feathers, and even a crazy ton of ravens coming in and out of Badb. Yeah. I like ravens.
In the battlefield, the Morrigan would often assume the form of a raven to give courage to her favorites and scare the enemies. At the end of the battle, similar to the germanic Valkyries, she was responsible for collecting the dead men’s souls. She also would appear as an omen to notable people who were to die in battle, either in single form or in the triad form, and either in animal or in human form. It is told that she appeared as a washerwoman washing bloody battle clothes, but whoever saw this scene never survived the battle.
In the comic, the myth is updated to the modern age, but it is equally ingeniously evil. Some people say that, if you take a photograph of The Morrigan, what actually appears is a picture of your loved one… at the moment of their death. I already have a fanfic of goth teenagers challenging each other to try it out in my mind.
Baphomet’s story is one of discrimination.
During the Crusades, the Moor culture present in the nowadays Portugal and Spain territories mixed up with the christian culture of their invaders. War is a funny thing — even being enemies, the coexistence influenced one another. And so some moorish culture was incorporated in christian culture and vice-versa.
Among the knights who fought in the Crusades was the order of the Knights Templar. They had their disagreements with the Christian Church and King Philip IV of France (which is another story…) and so the Church incriminated them. Some of their accusations were true, some were made up, and most were in between. The Church realized that some of the Templar’s symbols and religious customs were similar to Moorish ones, and soon that turned into their main accusation. Due to prejudice, it generated a giant buzz in society.
And that’s when Baphomet comes in. Baphomet is probably an Old French adaptation of Muhammad, the Islam prophet.
BAPHOMET = MAHOMET = MUHAMMAD
So the talk of the town became that those ugly Knights Templar were worshipping this Baphomet, about whom they did not care enough to pronounce his name correctly, nor to learn that he was a prophet, not a god. But still — what a blasphemy! The gossip that he was super evil, and had horns and fire powers, did not take long to come along.
In the Modern Age, some people, looking back at records of this terrible god and not knowing his true origin story, named him a devil and connected him with Satan. Even later, he was reframed as a symbol of Satanism, witchcraft and paganism, and even adopted by some groups.
I am pretty sure Luci would call him a poser.
Well, well. If he’s not an actual god, what is he doing in this comic? I believe this origin ties in with WicDiv’s plot, because Baphomet is a fake god. Although he is not directly described in that way in the comic, he was not in the original pantheon. Instead, he occupied one of the blank spaces. He is not like the other ones.
The process of becoming a god is foggy, but apparently Baphomet did so by gaining the Morrigan’s favour. It’s very similar, then, to what Laura intends to do with her own mentor Luci. There are two blank spaces left… our favorite fangirl should hurry up.
Let’s take a look at the updated mandala:
At 3 o’clock, Baphomet’s symbol — crossed swords behind a goat skull — takes what was before a blank space. The swords are moorish, indicating that Gillen and McKelvie are well aware of their references and are using them in the smallest details. Baphomet had a goat head in the modern “Sabbatic Goat” version, and skulls mean death.
The Morrigan’s symbol is at the lowest spot because she is super goth. It puts her in opposition to Amaterasu. That makes sense if you consider that Amaterasu is thought to be “the nicest person ever”. It of course includes a raven, and a human skull that stands for death too.
Check back next month for Part 3: Baal and … [Anank? Sakhmet? Inanna? Who do you want to talk about?].
 Morrigan as written in The Wicked and The Divine is an English version of Morrígan, also sometimes written as Morrígu. According to Rosalind Clark in “The Great Queens: Irish Goddesses from the Morrígan to Cathleen Ní Houlihan” (1990), the translation as “The Phantom Queen” is generally favoured in current scholarship. Mor might connote terror, monstrousness -- which still survives in English in the word nightmare -- and rígan translates as queen. Other etymologies are sometimes cited. I recommend consulting the Dictionary of Irish Languages for those. There you can find etymologies, meanings and spellings of the name thorought time, and the references to the original texts where those were found. (here is the column where “Morrígan” can be found)