Dissociative Identity Disorder in the Gods (The Morrígan)

Arkane Curiosities

The character of Jane exploded into public awareness with airing of DC’s Doom Patrol. Dubbed “Crazy Jane” (and played by the excellent Diane Guerrero), she is one of the alters of Kay Challis, a girl who developed dissociative identity disorder following physical and sexual abuse by her father.

Doom Patrol (both the comic and streaming series) does an excellent job of explaining and normalizing the mental disorder (formerly called multiple personality disorder or split personality disorder). Jane herself has no powers to add to the team of misfit heroes. But some of her alters do. When not fronting (or controlling the host body) Jane descends to the Underground with 63 other alters. 

Just as there are ancient gods to symbolized various elements of the natural world, so too do we see dissociative identity disorder crop up in a few prominent deities. To start, let’s look at The Morrígan.

The Morrígan

As a Celtic goddess, the Morrígan translates from old Irish as “Great Queen” or “Phantom Queen.” She is often dubbed a trinity goddess, but this is a modern pagan view of what, in reality, is quite a bit more complex. True, the Morrígan does have three aspects, but they don’t align to the Maiden, Mother and Crone. 

The triple aspect of the Morrígan are depicted as sisters and also referred to as “The Daughters of Ernmas” (an Irish mother goddess famous for having triplet children). The first two aspects of the Morrígan consistently remain Macha (a death goddess) and Badb (a war goddess). The third aspect varies with different tales, shifting between Némain, Féa, or Anu. The organization The Order of the Crows recognizes Némain as the third aspect and the Morrígan as the constituent whole.

Badb

Némain is also recognized as a war goddess, but separate from Badb. Whereas Badb stirs up panic and fear on the battlefield, Némain embodies with frenzied havoc of war. This alone shows the subtle nature of different alters within a host. Both Némain and Badb represent war, but bring different attributes to the battle. 

The Irish noted how black birds and crows shrieked and cawed around the bodies left in the aftermath of war. As scavengers, they fed upon human carnage. Badb was known as the “Battle Crow”, representing the death and carnage of battle. In Ireland, if one were to see a crow before the battle had begun, it foretold death and disaster. This was Badb preparing to feast. 

Badb is the most well known of the three aspects of the Morrígan and may very well be the core personality. 

Némain

Her sister, Némain, can unleash a cry of terror and brings panic like an infection. The site Living Liminally, quotes Windisch, “Nemain brought intoxication upon the army there, falling in their armor and on the points of their spears and sword-edges, so a hundred warriors of them die in the midst of the encampment and at the side of that place a time of terror the cry carried from on high.”

Macha

Macha, symbolized by fiery red hair, represents death. However, she is not feared in the way other harbingers of the afterlife tended to be. The Celts saw death as a natural element of life. Macha was a welcome goddess and an omen for what is to come.

One story involved Macha marrying a mortal, Cruinnic. She warns her husband not to tell a soul of her true identity, but Cruinnic is weak-willed and runs his mouth at a chariot race, bragging that his divine wife can outrun the king’s horses. 

The King of Ulster got wind of this and summoned Macha, demanding that she race the royal horses. At the time, she was pregnant and pleaded to postpone the competition until after she’d given birth. The king was adamant and the bizarre race, a pregnant woman versus the royal horses, commenced. 

Macha outpaced the horses, but as she crossed the finish line, she wailed in pain, giving  birth to a boy (True) and a girl (Modest). In her pain and anger, she cursed the men of Ulster nine times nine generations so in times of the worst peril, they should suffer the pain of childbirth. This shows that Macha can be vengeful when disrespected. 

Ancient stories rarely talk of these personalities trading off with each other. Rather, they simply list them together, calling them sisters, and listing their names together when describing the heat of battle. 

In us mortals, dissociative identity disorder is associated with trauma. No such explanation has been recorded for the Morrígan (Macha’s birth at the race not withstanding). However, it was natural for deities like the Morrígan to bee seen as multiple aspects of the same goddess, each one emerging when needed.

In the next installment, we’ll look at Dionysus and his massive swings in emotion.

Tim Kane

Do Story Trilogies Always End in War?

I just blazed through Hollow City, the sequel to Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. As I neared the end, I noticed a trend in sequels, especially ones that lead to a trilogy: War.

HOLLOW-CITY-COVER

I don’t think I’m giving away too much when I read that the peculiars in the book were gearing up for a war against the hollows. (There’re plenty of other twists in the book that will keep you guessing). Now, I don’t know if the peculiar series will be a trilogy or keep going, but I do know they’re following a trilogy pattern set forth by many previous books.

Let’s face it. Sequels need to be more than their predecessor. Bigger. Flashier. With more risk. Some story trilogies handle this by piling on the villains. (Think about the orginal Batman movies. You have Joker in the first one. Then Penguin and Catwoman int he second. By the third, the landscape is littered with villains.)

The smarter story trilogies go for the “war” arc. In the first book, it’s only the protagonist up against the ropes. He or she has to face amazing odds. By the sequel, though, the landscape of conflict broadens. Often book two (or movie two) is a prelude to war. Characters are gearing up. The final payoff comes in the final installment where all hell breaks loose.

Don’t believe me? Here are some examples.

Hunger Games: This one is almost the template for the war arc. Book one is only Katniss. By book two, she’s swept up in a conspiracy to use her as a leader for the resistance. Then book three is all about the war.

Jennifer-Lawrence-and-Josh-Hutcherson-in-THe-Hunger-Games-Catching-Fire-2013-Movie-Image

Uglies: Still my favorite book series, it too follows the war arc, although a bit more slowly. In book two (Pretties), Tally leaves the rebellion to go “undercover” in the city. Yet it completes the cycle by making her a super-weapon to help fight the war in the third book (Specials).

Lord of the Rings: True, both the second and third books have wars, but the scope expands. Two Towers has Rohan fighting for survival and the force against them seems gargantuan. Yet this battle seems teeny when compared to the epic clash for Gondor in Return of the King. Think about it. This book series started with nine companions, yet broadened to take on the whole world of Middle Earth.

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Star Wars: I’m only going to look at the original movies (Episodes IV through VI), though I imagine this war arc would apply to the prequels. True, the rebellion attacks and destroys the Death Star in Episode IV. Yet this was just Lucus going for broke. Who knew if he’d ever get funding for the remaining movies. Then compare the rebel force from New Hope to the rebels at the end of Empire Strikes Back. A complete scale up. The rebels are preparing for a massive battle that happens, surprise, in the third movie (Return of the Jedi).

Battle_of_Endor

Does this war arc hold true for any other books or films? You tell me. Comment below if you have any other stellar examples.

Tim Kane

There is No Peace Treaty with the Ant Kingdom

The ants go marching, not two by two, but hundreds by hundreds.

My house has been ant free for years. Yet this summer’s heatwave has sent them in droves. And they’re crazy. They start by running up drains and cracks. Scrambling around the bathroom sink where they’re no food. I’ve set traps, but the insects ignore them. They somehow know the difference between real peanut butter and the laced with poison type. I’m limited with the types of sprays I use. I have a young daughter and a dog.

The warriors loyal to Achilles were called Myrmidons or ants. They swarmed the beaches of Troy for ten years. Is that how long I must battle?

Brad Pitt as Achilles in Troy with his loyal ant warriors, the Myrmidons

A friend recommended I sign a peace treaty with them. Fat chance. There are only three species on the planet that practice the art of war. That is, violence not for the sake of territory, but simply to show dominance over a foe. These species are humans (obviously), chimpanzees, and ants. Ants will tear the legs off their opponents. They are beyond viscous. As Edward O. Wilson, the most famous myrmecologist in the world, said “If ants were given nuclear weapons, the world would be destroyed within a week”.

Then there’s the strange situation we have in California. I’ve heard people say that San Diego is build on one giant anthill. I thought they were exaggerating. Then I did the research. Argentine ants (Linepithema humile) have taken over California, forming a gigantic super colony. It’s known as the “California Large.” Normally ants would attack each other, but those who live in a super colony tolerate each other (much like humans living in cities). They have millions of queens, but all work together. What’s freaky is the same colony exists in California and Japan. That means if you took ants from San Diego and brought them to Japan, the two groups wouldn’t fight.

When I see ants in my kitchen or house I kill them. Not only for the sake of my sanity. I mean I’ve had to turn to preparing food on the dining room table. The ants swarm that quickly. But also, killing individual ants is tantamount to giving a dog a haircut. It does nothing to the colony as a whole. Even killing the queen won’t stop a super colony. A new queen and colony will come to take it’s place.

So it’s all out war, with no end in sight. Sometimes I feel like Kilgore in Apocalypse Now: “I love the smell of napalm in the morning.”

The horror. The horror.

Tim Kane

Iron Sky Rides the Blazing Saddles Vibe

I had the extreme pleasure of watching Iron Sky the other night. My wife surprised me by buying tickets through Tugg. The experience more than delivered on my expectations. I’d heard about Iron Sky more than a year ago. The logline is this: “Nazi’s create a moonbase in 1945. In 2018, then return to invade earth.” What I didn’t know going into the movie, was how funny it would be.

The current President of the United States is a thinly veneered Sarah Palin. Her reelection campaign concept is to send a black astronaut to the Moon (the tagline is: Black to the Moon). Little did she know that Nazis have been holing up on the dark side. You can imagine the shock when the Nazis remove James Washington’s helmet to see a brother.

Although the film plays fast and loose with race, it does take on the task of portraying both the Nazis and James Washington seriously. At one point, the Nazi’s use an Albinoizer to transform him white.

The technology the Nazis use looks astounding. A combination of 1940 tech with diesel-punk. The filmmakers actually make the idea of Nazis living on the Moon for 73 years plausible.

The amazing attack using meteorblitzkrieg

The massive Gotterdammerung spaceship (powered by an iPad)

This is a must see film. Truly a Blazing Saddles for this generation. However, unless you can Tugg it to your theater, you might have to wait for video.

Tim Kane