Mor is an ancient Celtic Goddess of the Sea and the Sun, bringing to mind the shining days of summer and the abundance of the harvest. Yet in a typical Celtic paradox in which opposites exist as one whole she is also a Dark Goddess of Death and Rebirth.
She is depicted sitting on a throne, revealing her association as a sovereignty goddess. But no ancient stories of courtship and marriage are associated with Mor, no making of a king through marriage to Her. So She must have been a sovereignty goddess in the most ancient sense – as a protector and guardian of the land, as the spirit of Earth itself.
Unlike Aine, Gráinne, or Sulis who are Solar Goddesses associated with summer and the days of abundance, Mor is connected to the setting sun, the transition time into night and the dark womb of rebirth. She sits on Her throne as the sun sets, reigning over the transition/ transformation of our bright moments into the dark, inner world. It is here that our souls are fueled with riches of insight and inspiration – preparing us to return, refreshed and nourished into the light.
She was Queen of one of the ever shifting Island Otherworlds of Celtic mythology. The Otherworld found in Celtic Mythology was always characterized as a place of eternal youth, abundance, with apple trees with golden fruit and filled with beautiful, powerful and magical women. The location of the Otherworld shifts with the sands of time and the stories told. In some cases it is located underground entered into through caves or hills. These spots are the Sidhes inhabited by the Sidhe-folk of the Tautha De Danann. But often the Celtic Otherworld is found in the Western Ocean. It was from these island Otherworlds that many Goddesses/faery women came and charmed mortal men into falling in love and returning to the Otherworld with them.
As the years moved on Mor became a human queen, Mór Muman (meaning Mór of Munster). This story, dating from the 10th century and found in the Book of Leinster, tells the tale of an enchantment placed on Mor, daughter of Áed Bennán, King of Munster. This enchantment caused her to lose her mind. She then wandered around the country, lost and confused. After two years she came to the kingdom of Cashel where she met and was eventually wooed by King Fíngen. After the first night the couple spent together, her memory returned. King Fingen, cast his current wife out and married Mor instead, as she was of “better blood”. Here we see a humanized version of Mor fulfilling the traditional role of Sovereignty Goddess
As so little information survives about the ancient Mor, I have woven together a possible story about her from the small tidbits of knowledge that are available to us today.
Mor, known to some as Queen of the Island of Women, was as tied to her land as a queen bee is tied to her hive. The island, associated with Corco Duibne of County Munster, is somewhere in the sea, hidden in mist. It is a place of endless joy and feasting, a place of beauty, a place of eternal youth.
The women of the Island of Women, imbued with the power of the goddess, were all glowing beauties. Mor, their queen was the most beautiful of all. The women of the island would often cross to the human world to seduce the man of their choice and enjoy the delights of the Earthly realm.
But Mor was the queen. Her presence on the land was necessary for its wellbeing. By holding the energy of peace and joy in her otherworld land, the peace and joy of the human world was also increased. And like the queen bee, she had but her one maiden flight to the human world to enjoy that world of earthly delights.
Mor knew herself well. She both accepted and was gladdened by Her role as provider and protector of the land. But she did like to remember her exploration of the human realm as she fulfilled her responsibilities of Queen. She positioned her throne close to the boundary between the physical world of human beings and the misty world of the Island of Women. Thus is came to be that as the sun set in the western sky her people on the human side of her realm could see her sitting on her throne. She, Sun Goddess and Guardian of the Otherworld, was a Goddess who helped her children in their journey back to her.
Call on Mor as we begin our descent into the yearly time of darkness. Call on Mor to shine her bright light into your journey through the night, into the dark crevices of your soul.
Sources used for this article: wikipedia, Sacred Texts, Celtic Goddess Names
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Judith Shaw, a graduate of the San Francisco Art Institute, has been interested in myth, culture and mystical studies all her life. Not long after graduating from SFAI, while living in Greece, Judith began exploring the Goddess in her artwork. She continues to be inspired by the Divine Feminine in all of Her manifestations. Originally from New Orleans, Judith now makes her home in New Mexico where she paints and teaches part-time. She is currently hard at work on a deck of Goddess cards. Purchase Judith’s prints and paintings, priced from $25 – $3000.
22 thoughts on “Mor, Celtic Goddess of Sun and Sea by Judith Shaw”
Love that you have started to retell the stories, so these Goddesses don’t get bogged down with kings!
The Goddess who can be seen as the sun sets, what a lovely idea. At midsummer from Vafios the islands of Agios Efstratios and Limnos and also Mount Athos can be seen as shadows against the setting sun–not all at the same time, but on different days as the sun transverses. They cannot be seen with the naked eye in daylight. Just like Mor.
Oh yeah, I remember seeing one of those islands that evening with had dinner in Vafios.
It’s funny about retelling the stories – I think I felt that I didn’t have the right to change what was written. How silly is that since what is written was changed from the oral stories. Though it is easier to change up the ones that don’t have as much of a story surviving than the ones that are really set.
Thanks for telling Mor’s story. I know the Greco-Roman stories pretty well, but the Celtic stories are more or less new to me, so I’m glad to read them.
Barbara, the Celtic goddesses are new to me also. It’s really been great learning about them as I create the paintings and retell their stories.
And some say that The Morrigan is a later version – her name coming from Mor (Goddess of the Sea and Sun) – Righ (meaning soverign, royal or Queen) and Anu (Goddess of the Land).
I also meant to say thank you – this is lovely!
Thanks Deanne, I did read about Mor’s connection to Morrigan though I was unsure as to their chronology. She’s also known as Mór Muman, showing her connection with the land of Munster. So many of the Celtic Goddesses are associated with specific areas of land or springs or rivers.
Perhaps, as her story suggests, Mor herself stepped into that sunset transition time to enter the darkness and become The Morrigan. Maybe it was in response to the growing patriarchal society where killing and war were held in high regard as The Morrigan is a goddess of war as well as death. Just some thoughts to chew on.
I am so enjoying your Celtic Goddess series, Judith!
treetalker52, that’s a very interesting take on it all – it puts a whole new twist on The Morrigan, though she herself didn’t really kill, she more foretold and witnessed the ravages of war. I really love the image of Mor herself stepping into the sunset transition and entering the darkness.
I just love it Judith … reweaving Her XX And this: “This enchantment caused her to lose her mind. She then wandered around the country, lost and confused.” oh yes have been there! but it was no “King Fingen” that saved me, only deeper knowledge of Her – your version is so good.
oh and that Island has been in my dreams ( a couple of decades ago)
That dream of the island must have been very powerful for you to still remember it 20 years later
Your comment on that part made me reflect on her experience with King Fingen a little more. Could it be that she was able to reconnect herself to the physical world, the land, through the act of lovemaking and thus regain her mind and her sovereignty?
Mór of Munster and the tragic fate
of Cuanu son of Cailchin
by Thomas P. O’Nolan
tryskelly, Thanks for that link – looks interesting.
I love your retellling, Judith. Knowledgeable un-patriachrializations (neologism?) are very powerful for us, I think.
Nancy Vedder-Shults, I like that – de-patriarchalization. I new take on de-constructionism.
I was told , in the gaelic speaking area of Co. Waterford, that Mór was the principal queen of the Mór Righana (great queens) who were a trinity . ( spelled in the Welsh way as morrigan )When Christianity came Mór became Mary. The morning greeting in the area was “Dia is Mór agaibh (God and Mary be with you ). Incidentally Munster is a province in the south of Ireland not a county.
Maureen is a corruption of the name the een or ín is an endearment meening young or little.
I love the picture and Story .Thank you.
Mòirín, That’s interesting. I didn’t uncover a connection between Mor and The Morrigan in my research but the words of folks in an area should not be discounted. The Celtic Goddesses are a very elusive bunch. Thanks for the clarification on Munster. I obviously do not understand how Ireland is broken up into its political units. Is a province part of a county or how does it work?
Further thoughts – I was re-reading some comments and saw this one from Deanne Quarrie –
“And some say that The Morrigan is a later version – her name coming from Mor (Goddess of the Sea and Sun) – Righ (meaning sovereign, royal or Queen) and Anu (Goddess of the Land).”
Apparently from my response I did uncover that fact but felt unsure about the chronology and didn’t not include it.
Perhaps some day I’ll have the energy to re-write the guidebook to my oracle deck as my knowledge continues to deepen and grow.