The Morrigan is reputedly a member of the Tuatha De Danann or as they are more commonly known, the Celtic or Irish gods. It has been said that she is the daughter of Gaea (while Gaea was operating under her Celtic name Danu) and a high chieftain named Iarbonel. She was married to her brother the Dagda, the typical leader of the Tuatha. However, as the two have never appeared together, it can be reasonably assumed they are estranged. Still, their union did produce at least one offspring, the deranged inhuman god of war, Bodb Derg. Again, as with the Dagda, Morrigan has not appeared alongside her son, so the dynamics of their relationship are unknown. [Thor & Hercules: Encyclopaedia Mythologica #1]
During her encounters with mortals, Morrigan has claimed to have existed “as long as death itself.” [X-Factor (4th series) #7] While this account may be “hyperbole,” she was at least worshiped as far back as the Hyborian Age (14,000 to 9,500 BC) along with her sisters Macha and Badb in the triumvirate called the Morrigu. [Conan the Barbarian (1st series) #5] Given that this is before the tectonic plate movements that created Ireland or the British Isles, she is truly an ancient deity.
[Note: The Hyborian age is the time of Conan the Barbarian. The canonicity of these stories are changeable, given the ever changing rights of Conan the Barbarian and associated characters.]
The Morrigan began possessing female host bodies from at least 250 B.C., though it was likely much earlier, given her later comments about possessing countless hosts (as only three are presently known). Apparently, she did not need the consent of her host to possess them, although she at least seemed to prefer it. She would “jump” to her new host only when the current one was killed; seemingly she had a limited window of time to do this or she would die along with her existing host. [X-Factor (4th series) #7] This is actually very consistent with the concept that she is a member of the Tuatha De Danann, as other members of her race, such as Bran the Blessed (a minor She-Hulk foe) possessed the same handicap. [She-Hulk (2nd series) #24, 28-30] The reason for this is the Tuatha, unlike some other families of gods, are weaker while on Earth and need an anchor/host to exist outside of their home of Tir Na Nog in Otherworld, where they are conversely innately more powerful.
In Dromberg Stone Circle near Cork, Ireland in 150 B.C., one incarnation of the Morrigan met her end. This version was a pale, grey-skinned girl with a plaited, black ponytail and black eyes. A young, redheaded warrior had grievously injured her with a magical weapon called the “Spear of Lugh.” She was seeking revenge on the Morrigan for taking her father from her, though it was unclear if he was actually murdered by the Morrigan or he simply died of natural causes and she “took” him as a part of her aspect as a death goddess. The girl had traded her soul for the mythical weapon to a creature she said was more evil that the Morrigan herself. She said that she felt the sacrifice was worth it but the Morrigan disagreed and did not believe her. The Morrigan told the girl that her father would not want her soul burning in lava for eternity. The girl then became upset, realizing the consequences of her actions. Morrigan offered her own Faustian bargain to this warrior to avoid hell: kill the Morrigan's current host and become the new Morrigan. The girl accepted. Morrigan would remain in this body for approximately two thousand years. [X-Factor (1st series) #244]
Aside from this tale, very little is known about the Morrigan's early history. She did have some sort of conflict with the Greek goddess Eris (later known as Bellona) and likely other Olympians. [Doctor Strange, Sorcerer Supreme #54] The Romans were making in-roads to the territory of the Tuatha De Danann in England and attempting to force conversions, as additional worshipers empower the old gods. The Romans were specifically targeting the druids (the Tuatha's priests), who occupied a powerful role in the society of the Celts. Two druids, Moiragh and Tailesin, following the death of their son and being fatally injured themselves, offered themselves as sacrifices to Morrigan and two other gods (Cernuunos and Taranis) in exchange for vengeance on the Romans. The dying druids warned the assembled Romans that one day a warrior from their clan would be born and exact revenge on the “evils of Rome.” Morrigan and the other gods accepted this "offering" and the druids spontaneously combusted. [Doctor Strange, Sorcerer Supreme Annual #3]
[Note: The specific time that this event occurred was not stated in this issue but, given that the Roman invasion of Britain started in 43 AD, it must have been either during or after that year.]
[Note: In Black Knight (2nd series) #3-4, a character called Morrigan is one of a number of supposedly “Celtic demons” unleashed on the Black Knight, Dr. Strange and Valkyrie by the sorceress Morgan Le Fay. However, as it has been made expressly clear canonically that Morrigan is a member of the Tuatha Na Danaan and none of these unleashed “demons” appeared to be female, it can be assumed that this was another character with the same name. What calls this into doubt is that Morgan also summoned demons named Taranis and Cernuunos, with whom Morrigan was later seen.]
Many centuries later in the modern age, this predicted warrior was indeed born but in the "new world", in New York City. His name was Kyllian Kell Boddicker. A troubled youth, Kyllian was an orphan who was indoctrinated into organized crime by a man named Kranchuk. Kranchuk worked under a crime boss called Hatcher, who had killed Kyllian's parents. Kyllian worked as an enforcer for this group and his sister Kate was a prostitute. Morrigan and the other two gods started to appear in Kyllian's mind, encouraging him to start hunting evil doers. Not understanding why this was happening, Kyllian started to think he was going mad. When Kranchuk killed Kate during an argument over drugs, Kyllian lashed out with his new literal “god”-given gifts and set the building they were in on fire.
Dr. Strange had become aware of the blaze and attempted to put it out. Initially, he battled Kyllian but the youth with his neophyte powers was able to escape. On the run, Morrigan and the other gods continued to encourage Kyllian to act as their weapon, saying that the power they bestowed upon him would allow him to avenge his sister. Kyllian did attempt to kill Hatcher but this was foiled by Dr. Strange and Kyllian again tried to escape the sorcerer supreme. Morrigan and the other gods were, in his mind, directing him. Eventually, Strange bound Kyllian in his cloak of levitation and only then did the three gods appear before him. Strange attempted to extricate Morrigan and the others from Kyllian to prevent his possession but he was overwhelmed by the power of the trio.
Kyllian opted to relent to Morrigan and the others’ wishes. He would hunt down evil but they were to exert no control over his body. He also wished to know the story of the oath. Morrigan and the others agreed to these terms. Dr. Strange also offered to take on Kyllian as an apprentice to which Morrigan and the others did not object. As they left, Morrigan claimed that the gods would feast on souls of those he killed before returning them to new life. This was the first hint at the dual aspect of Morrigan's role. She was not just a goddess of death and destruction; she had a dual purpose as a goddess of life/healing. [Doctor Strange, Sorcerer Supreme Annual #3][Note: It unclear how the initial “contract” between the Druids was still valid, as the “Rome” they were referring to it had dissolved over a two millennium before.]
While widespread worship of the Morrigan was largely extinct, some scattered worshipers of the Celtic gods did still exist, such as the Avenger called Dr. Druid. Morrigan's name also continued to carry power and was invoked on occasion by spellcasters such as the Scarlet Witch. [Scarlet Witch (2nd series) #1] It was not just superheroes, however, who still knew of the power of the Morrigan. The MacCallister family in Ulster County, New York had emigrated from Ireland at some point in the past and the mother, a witch, had kept the worship of the old gods, passing it onto to her granddaughter Alana.
When her cousin Ian became engaged to a girl called Emily, Alana decided she wasn't good enough for him and so she cast a spell to curse Emily. Instead of a curse, however, the spell summoned the Morrigan, who killed Ian and her grandmother. X-Factor Investigations was alerted as there was concern that the culprit of the murders may have been their team member, Theresa Cassidy, currently going by Banshee. When Banshee and Havok met with the family, Alana confessed to Theresa what she had done. Theresa then convinced Alana to summon the goddess, whom Alana believed she could contain. She was wholly mistaken. Morrigan appeared and immediately absconded with Theresa back to a nearby lighthouse she was staying in.
[Note: The demon Mephista, under her pseudonym Jezebel, had been feeding the Morrigan information about Theresa and it was implied that Morrigan may have acted against the MacCallister family specifically to lure Theresa to her.]
Morrigan said she considered Theresa's use of the name Banshee to be an affront. Theresa attempted to fight the Morrigan but she was simply not powerful enough. Morrigan grabbed Theresa by the throat, holding her off the side of the lighthouse and threatening to let her familiar, a raven named Branwen, devour her eyes. Morrigan offered Theresa a choice, as she was not without mercy: swear to worship and fear her as her ancestors did and apologize for having taken her name in vain. Morrigan asked Theresa what did she have currently? As a Catholic, she had been forsaken by her God. As an alcoholic, she was at the mercy of the bottle. Morrigan said she offered her salvation for all of her sins. Theresa responded she could kiss her “Emerald Isle ass” and Morrigan dropped her from the lighthouse.
Jezebel, however, was flying below and caught Theresa and told her to target Morrigan's familiar, Branwen, the source of her powers. Theresa screamed and her own sonic powers shattered Branwen. Initially tearful, Morrigan cried for Theresa, claiming she had offered her a chance to fill the emptiness in her soul, but this sorrow quickly turned to rage. Before she could retaliate, Havok appeared on the scene, having tracked Theresa down. He blasted the lighthouse and the Morrigan fell, seemingly bereft of her power following the destruction of her familiar. Morrigan was buried under the debris and was appeared “killed.” [X-Factor (1st series) #238-239]
Naturally Morrigan's “death” was at least temporary, as how can an embodiment of death itself be killed? Indeed, Theresa would later summon Morrigan herself. She had been seeing her late father, who had been encouraging her to call upon Morrigan. Their earlier encounter, he told her, was a just a test by the goddess of her abilities; she had been feeling her out. Theresa's friend and teammate Lorna Dane (Polaris) had suffered a mental breakdown following the revelation that she had inadvertently killed her mother and stepfather as an infant. Theresa wanted to use the healing powers of the Morrigan to save Polaris' psyche. Her other teammate, Layla Miller, had some experience in the mystic arts and agreed to help Theresa reach the Morrigan.The spell was successful and Morrigan seemingly pulled Theresa to Dromberg Stone Circle near Cork, Ireland. Theresa claimed that she wanted to request a boon for her friend, but Morrigan disagreed and said she wanted to save herself. Morrigan told Theresa that Polaris' issues with her own father and her subsequent mental breakdown struck a chord with Theresa, who felt she could have just been lucky to not fall down a similar path. Despite her power, Morrigan claimed that she couldn't help Polaris, as Polaris didn't believe in her… but she did believe in Theresa. When Theresa stated that she didn't understand, the current host of the Morrigan briefly asserted herself and told Theresa that she simply wanted to move onto the afterlife and reconnect with her "Da”. She was tired and wanted to leave the world to new gods, that it was time for another woman to take on this role. To Morrigan's surprise, Theresa did not hesitate, fearing Polaris' powers were too dangerous for the planet to not heal her. Morrigan asked for Theresa to use her sonic scream and turn it into a spear; she wanted to die by the cry of the Banshee. Just before she died, she asked Theresa if her father would embrace her as a little girl again. Theresa assured her he would. The Morrigan died again and a new a Morrigan arose in Theresa Cassidy. [X-Factor (1st series) #244]
Good to her word, Morrigan healed Polaris, who awoke claiming she had heard the most beautiful song. Before she left, “Theresa” said goodbye to her former love Jamie Madrox, telling him that she never stopped loving him and had understood he had felt the same for her. She told Madrox that, if he ever needed her again, to pray for her. [X-Factor (1st series) #244]
She did not have long to wait. A few months later, following a conflict against literal lords of Hell [Hell on Earth War], Jamie Madrox himself was turned into a feral demon. His new wife, Layla Miller, kept him chained under his house trying to find a cure. Nevertheless, Madrox broke free at one point and attacked Layla, only pausing when she screamed that she was pregnant. The revelation allowed Jamie to reclaim some sort of sense of self again and afterward he prayed to Theresa/Morrigan. Morrigan appeared and used her healing powers to cure Jamie and reunite him with his wife. This was a cathartic moment as well for her current host, who had lost a child while in a relationship with Jamie Madrox previously. The Morrigan's promise to Theresa in this moment appeared to be true, as she did seem genuinely happy for Jamie's opportunity to start a new family. [X-Factor (1st series) #262]
Theresa Cassidy resurfaced during the Krakoan age, going by her original name of Siryn as her father had returned to using his original name of Banshee. She initially appeared to be free of the Morrigan but this proved false. Suspiciously, Siryn fell to her death on two occasions. This triggered interest from the new X-Factor Investigations, who thought something was amiss. A resurrected Siryn was summoned to X-Factor's the Boneyard, the team’s headquarters on Krakoa, to be interviewed. Defensively, she fled during the interview and was pursued by Polaris. Polaris attempted to get Theresa to come clean about the nature of her deaths but the Morrigan asserted herself and took over Theresa's body. Using Theresa's hypnosis powers, she mesmerized Polaris into obeying her, telling her to leave her alone and, if X-Factor did start investigating her again, to sabotage them aggressively. [X-Factor (4th series) #5-6]
X-Factor continued to investigate Siryn and had Daken track her. Meanwhile, Polaris, under Morrigan's influence, undermined his investigation and gave the rest of the team false information about his whereabouts. Morrigan lured Daken to a remote location, taunted him by playing on his insecurities then she impaled him, leaving him for dead unaware that he had a healing factor. The group discovered that Polaris had been mind-controlled shortly thereafter and, when the telepathic Rachel Summers went into her mind and saw her memory of the Morrigan's initial hypnosis of her, they were now aware of the threat they faced. Polaris told Northstar, the team's leader, of Daken's real location and he sped off, retrieving Daken's broken body. Later, Morrigan went to the boneyard and started to ritually murder her foes in X-Factor with only a few members escaping the slaughter. With the cat out of the bag, Morrigan took over the Boneyard fully. When the murdered X-Factor members were resurrected, they attacked her in the boneyard, reclaiming it and (following a joint physical assault by Polaris and telepathic assault by Rachel Summers) temporarily managed to get Siryn back in control of her body. In Morrigan's mind, X-Factor discovered that there was a magical contract that bound the Morrigan to Siryn. It required someone who was by nature a paradoxical improbability to fight the Morrigan to free the host. The team quickly realized that this person was Siryn's old teammate, Shatterstar.
Shatterstar engaged Morrigan on Krakoa with his swords. After he swung, he briefly separated Siryn from Morrigan and the two fought. As they were embattled with each other, Morrigan claimed she required a mass sacrifice from the mutants annually to continue to exist as a goddess as she no longer had a flock. Purposeless, she could feel the void gnawing at her. Siryn attempted to reason with the Morrigan, instead offering herself. Morrigan was willing to agree but would require thousands of sacrifices from Siryn directly in thousands of different ways. Shatterstar objected and continued to battle, eventually impaling the now-bound again Siryn/Morrigan with his sword. As he held their body in his arms, he claimed that this had been an honorable death. [X-Factor (4th series) #7-9]
Siryn was resurrected soon thereafter, apparently free again from the Morrigan's influence to live her life. [X-Factor (4th series) #10] Given Morrigan's status as a goddess of death and her continued fragments of worship globally, her return is likely inevitable.