From my essay in “Walking The Worlds.”
Noted Pagan author, Morgan Daimler writes that the Irish Goddess, The Morrigan is an active force in the world today, appearing in many forms. For me, the voice of The Morrigan comes through the character of The Shadow of popular fiction. I believe that the creator of The Shadow, Walter Gibson, channeled her Voice in writing his stories. Although Gibson created this character in 1930, other writers have continued his legacy. The Shadow remains the Dark Master of Justice much like The Morrigan is the Sovereign Queen.
Often referred to as The Triple Goddess, The Morrigan has three major aspects. She is Morrigu, the Goddess of Battle, Macha, Goddess of Sovereignty, and Badb, the Goddess of Prophecy. As the Goddess of Battle, The Morrigan rouses her warriors for the fight. Shaking her spear, She calls all to war, promising victory for some, but death for many. As the Great Queen, The Morrigan is the personification of sovereignty. In this aspect, She inspires the people to defend their homes and then incites them to go to war as well. As the Goddess of Prophecy, The Morrigan appears as the Washer of the Ford. Often seen washing clothes in a river, She predicts who will die in battle by handling their bloody garments.
Walter Gibson (1897-1985) wrote his many stories in a fugue state. In interviews, he spoke of writing fifteen hours a day for days on end until his fingers bled. Frank Eisgruber, Jr. writes in “Gangland’s Doom,” that Gibson often based his stories on where he was, what the publisher wanted, and what was happening at the time. However, I think that Gibson actually channeled the Voice of The Morrigan in his stories. Furthermore, Orson Welles in his radio version, and various comic book writers, over time, had expanded that Voice in their stories of The Shadow as “the Dark Avenger.”
Who is The Shadow? He has a tripartite identity as the human Kent Allard, the stolen identity of Lamont Cranston, and the Dark Instrument of Fate. As Kent Allard, he is the Dark Eagle, an air ace of World War I. Later in Central Asia, Allard was a warlord who vied for supremacy in the opium trade. Sometime during his warlord days, he entered a monastery, and later emerged as The Shadow.
After he fakes his death in Central America, The Shadow goes to New York City. When he arrives, The Shadow steals the identity of Lamont Cranston, a wealthy socialite. He uses Cranston’s social position to gain entrance into the city’s inner circle of power. After Cranston confronts The Shadow, he is frightened into co-operating with The Shadow’s plans.
Since he has a preternatural power over people’s destinies, The Shadow refers to himself as the “Weird Avenger of Fate.” Gibson first referred to The Shadow with that title, which later became canon for other writers. The Shadow’s use of “weird” is in the sense of the “weird witches” of Shakespeare’s “Macbeth.” The Shadow knows who has to die, who to kill, who to redeem, and who to work for him, just as the various myths say that of The Morrigan.
Gibson discussed his philosophy in writing fiction: “You must treat the character as a discovery rather than your own creation. Treat him not just seriously, but profoundly.” Street and Smith, the publisher, had featured The Shadow a year earlier in another pulp fiction story. They assigned Gibson to flesh the character out for a new magazine series. Writing as rapidly as he could, Gibson came up with an uncanny and nebulous figure, who moved mysteriously in and out of people’s lives. In a physical sense, The Shadow was a black cloaked man who could fade into the darkness. Gibson always regarded The Shadow as remote and aloof, which gives credence to this character being channeled from outside of himself.
How is The Shadow the same as The Morrigan? Since he possesses a deep core of darkness and moral ambiguity within himself, The Shadow “knows what evil that lurks in the hearts of men.” Michael Uslen (noted comic book writer and executive producer of Batman/Dark Knight movies) contrasts The Shadow with other pulp fiction characters. He points out, “The Avenger seeks Justice. He tends to define it according to the law. The Shadow defines Justice the way he himself chooses, making him, judge, jury, and executioner. He finds a chasm of difference between ‘Justice’ and ‘the Law’. (Emphasis mine.) Doc Savage is trying to operate above such ideologies. He is out for the common good of mankind with little regards for countries… and whose justice or whose laws. …The Shadow kills. The Avenger does not. Doc avoids it.” Glimpsing into the character of The Shadow, The Morrigan emerges.
Because Gibson strove to treat his characters profoundly, he reached into the Mythic realm where the Gods dwell. Using his fugue state, The Morrigan shaped Gibson’s writing. By inhabiting The Shadow, The Morrigan speaks to modern people.