The Morrigan wears many faces and fills many roles. When I first began my journey with her, my focus was on personal battles and breaking down things I needed to let go of. Now, over twenty years later, much of my path with the Morrigan revolves around connecting to her as a goddess of prophecy.
Wherever the Morrigan appears in her stories there are prophecies and omens. Her most well-known prophecy is spoken on the battlefield at the end of The Second Battle of Moytura, where she predicts both a time of good things and ill times to come. In one of Macha's many incarnations, she sees a vision of the death and destruction that will be caused many years later when the events of The Cattle Raid of Cooley occur. As a phantom, Badb appears to Queen Maeve in a dream warning of her son's death. She appears as the Washer at the Ford, as an omen of coming death to those who are near their end. Her connection to prophetic speech and vision is undeniable, and an aspect of her being that I think deserves more attention.
So, how can we connect to the Morrigan is this guise? There are several ways one could call upon the Morrigan for aid in trance and divination. The technique I'd like to focus on is one that we know was historically used in Ireland: Imbas Forosnai, or, "manifesting knowledge."
Ironically, the reason we know anything about this divinatory technique is because it was banned, because it called upon Pagan gods—although we aren't told which ones. A detailed account of the banned practice is given in Cormac's Glossaries. While the language is a bit archaic for a modern reader, if we look closely, the steps of a prophetic practice are clear.
"Thus, then is that done. The poet chews a piece of the red flesh of a pig, or a dog, or a cat, and puts it then on a flagstone behind the door-valve, and chants an incantation over it, and offers it to idol gods, and calls them to him, and leaves them not on the morrow, and then chants over his two palms, and calls again idol gods to him, that his sleep may not be disturbed. Then he puts his two palms on his two cheeks and sleeps. And men are watching him that he may not turn over and that no one may disturb him. And then it is revealed to him that for which he was till the end of a nómad (three days and nights), or two or three for the long or the short time that he may judge himself to be at the offering. And therefore, it is called Imm-bas, to wit, a palm (bas) on this side and a palm on that around his head. Patrick banished that…and declared that no one who shall do that shall belong to heaven or earth, for it is a denial of baptism." 1
Let's look at each of these steps. First an offering is made of meat, some of which is consumed by the person seeking the prophetic knowledge, while the rest is left as an offering. The seeker calls to the gods while leaving the meat offering. The seeker then begins to chant and covers their eyes with the palm of their hands, engaging in a kind of sensory deprivation, and goes into a trance, or sleep-like state. There are people who watch over the person, presumably to make sure they are not disturbed and that they are safe while their spirit may be traveling outside the body. Finally, we are told the process of revealing the information sought could take up to three days, a sacred number. So, now let's rework these steps from a modern perspective, and one in which we can call upon the Morrigan.
A Modern Technique for Imbas Forosnai
Step 1: The Offering & The Call
First, make sure you are in a quiet place and will not be disturbed. The kind of offering you give is up to you. If you want to keep your practice closer to the historial model you can use a small piece of meat, or jerky. The important part is that you consume a small portion of the offering, while giving the rest as an offering to the Morrigan. There is another deity that I honor whom it is appropriate to taste a small portion of the food or drink offered, because in one of their stories they were poisoned, and tasting it is meant to show that the offering is good and not tainted. So, I approach this very much the same way. By tasting it, you are verifying the offering is fit for the Morrigan. You may find another meaning behind this, but this is what makes the most sense for myself. I have also offered mead or whiskey, with the same results. As long as you consume some and offer the rest to the Morrigan, it doesn't matter if you use a solid food or a libation.
While you are making your offerings, say:
An Morrigan Lady of Prophecy,
I seek knowledge, I seek Imbas,
I seek your clear sight and council,
Raven woman, Lady of Prophecy
May you accept this offering!
Step 2: Chanting
I have gone about this a few different ways:
You can use a single chant, or cycle through several chants. Here is an example of one you might use. It is meant to be a kind of dirge, with the Morrigan's name drawn out (More-eee-gun) to set the tempo.
Queen of Phantoms, Queen of Crows!
Great Queen, Mighty Queen!
Step 3: Sensory Deprivation
You can choose to use the historical model and cover your eyes with the palm of your hands while you lay down. It is important to have a comfortable place to lay down. Have pillows or blankets in the space that you are working. You could also cover your body and face with a cloak, scarf, veil, or other covering of your choice. When working in a group I have laid down and covered my eyes with the palms of my hands, while other priestesses cover me with a cloak as they chant. Conversely, while doing this practice by myself I have used an eye mask. You can make it as simple or ritually intense and you like.
The next step is to go into a trance state. How you choose to do so if up to you, and there are many books available about the practice of trance. You may choose to see the Morrigan before you, and in that state approach her and ask your question.
Step 4: Closing Offering
Once you have received the information needed from your trance state, it is time to give a final offering to end the process. Although this is not in the historic version, I find it brings a sense of closure to the process. It is also never a bad idea to give thanks and offerings to the Morrigan for her aid. Before doing so, make sure you have completely come out of the trance state, spend a few minutes grounding and centering. When you are ready to make your closing offering say:
An Morrigan Lady of Prophecy,
I have sought knowledge, I have sought Imbas,
I am grateful for your council,
For your wisdom,
Raven woman, Lady of Prophecy,
May you accept this offering!
This is just one of many ways you can connect to the Morrigan as a goddess of prophecy. You can finds a more in depth look at the Morrigan's connection to prophecy, as well as other ritual practices that call upon her, in my book Priestess of the Morrigan: Prayers, Rituals & Devotional Work to the Great Queen.
1 John O'Donovan, trans., Sanas Chormaic: Cormac's Glossary, ed. Whitley Stokes (Calcutta: O. T. Cutter, 1868), 94–95. Parentheses are O'Donovan's.