Jennifer Lawrence (author of Washerwoman, in The Phantom Queen Awakes) writes:
When I heard there was a call for submissions for an anthology centering around the Morrigan, I did a little dance. I’m familiar with the Morrigan from a life-long love of the different mythologies of the world, which had its roots in another source. It seemed like the call for submissions was tailor-made for me, except for one little catch.
I found out about it less than a week before the deadline.
That didn’t leave me much time, if I wanted to submit a story. Generally, my writing starts with two things pretty much simultaneously, the characters and the plot. The characters were the easy part here; at least one of them had to be the Morrigan herself. The story had to be set during ancient Celtic times, so that set limits to the plot.
The Morrigan has many facets: war-goddess, death-goddess, goddess of prophecy, triple-goddess, fertility goddess, goddess of sovereignty. But who else would be sharing the story with her? I didn’t want a battlefield epic, full of blood and gore (indeed, the submission guidelines gently suggested they’d rather not have a story overflowing with the red stuff, a la the Hostel and Saw movies). I knew less about her aspects as goddess of fertility and sovereignty.
That left prophecy, didn’t it?
Those who have studied the Morrigan know that she can predict the deaths of men on the field of war, but that’s not the only way her gift of prophecy manifests. In one way, she’s almost like the bean sidhe, the ancestral ghosts of so many proud Irish families, that scream the night before a member of the family is due to die. Legend states that, if you see the Morrigan washing your clothes in a stream, your death is fated to come soon.
But if I wrote that into the story, whose death was she predicting?
In the end, it wasn’t a soldier, a nobleman, a druid, or a king. It was an old woman, not all that different from the crone that the Morrigan is sometimes portrayed as, washing her family’s clothes at the stream the morning after overhearing an ugly family conversation between her son and his wife. In the end, the story isn’t about absolutes, but about how fate and destiny can sometimes be more flexible things than you’ve been taught.
Everybody dies eventually. And sometimes you realize that being fated to die doesn’t necessarily mean immediately.