In an effort to touch on my pagan path I'll share a bit about my experience with my Patron Goddess to whom many seem to cringe upon hearing Her name - The Morrígan.
She has many functions, but they all tend to revolve around the act of war and as such She is most definitely considered a Goddess of war. For those who may not be familiar with Her, An Morrígan is a Goddess of the Tuatha Dé Danann whose exploits with An Dadga around Samhain (leading to the bloody end of the Tuatha Dé's enemy the Fomorians) and with the Ulster hero Cú Chulain (leading to his eventual death on the battlefield despite his victory) has definitely landed Her, rightfully, in the position of a deity one should not approach lightly. In this case, this is my story of how She (much to my honor) approached me.
This starts back when I first found paganism in 1999 and had just began studying Wicca (which was only the first 6 or so months of my journey), but within the first few months of my practicing She finally revealed Herself to me - long flowing black hair, clad with a sword in scabbard wearing all black clothing with black feathers (not unlike a mix of the two linked Jessica Galbreth pictures). She didn't speak, but She got me researching.
My favorite holiday growing up was Halloween and I have been a "warrior" ever since I was a little kid. I have loved to wrestle and always considered myself strong and ready to fight when needed. I always played hard and reveled in my bruises and cuts as if they were trophies of my physical accomplishments. I never let anyone, particularly men, tell me what I could and couldn't do (and even to this day tend to "wear the pants" in my relationships). I wanted to work in law enforcement all of my life and in high school I was very active in my JROTC unit being one of the first females and youngest (Air) Rifle Team Commanders, eventually working my way up to Commanding Officer of the unit. I was the protector of my friends and the girl you didn't "fuck with." It didn't really surprise me when I found out She was a warrior Goddess (that was capable of taking any man to his knees), but did find it interesting that She was associated with October 31st.
Many years later, after I had already determined that I would not have a need for a magical name, She disagreed. For 3 days straight back in 2002 there were blackbirds of all kinds that seemed to follow me. Not only that but songs would come on the radio or I'd notice songs on my CDs with the word blackbird somewhere in them. There would be tv shows or movies that would make reference to blackbirds and the final slap in the face was falling asleep to one movie on HBO and waking up to the part in I Am Sam where Sarah McLachlan's version of Blackbird plays (I had heard the Beatles version on the radio the day before as one of my encounters in that 3 days). I finally got the clue and SM's version has basically become my theme song. I have been Blackbird (or Lon dubh in Gaeilge) ever since.
Another affirmation of Her calling had to do with my birth name. While I won't reveal it here, my first name is sometimes equated with Cailleach which in Ireland is a term for witch and in American books my first name is associated with warriors, as in the Morrigan connection. My family's surname is also connected with Co Kerry in Munster which, according to Celtic Heritage by Rees/Rees observation of Irish legends, is the land of the dead/Otherworld (for those who aren't aware, the Morrigan is also associated with death, particularly in war, as well as one her of sisters, Badb, is responsible for bringing the souls of the dead warriors to the Otherworld). As if to bring this home Cailleach Bheara is associated with Munster, but particularly Co Kerry and there are times when Her associations and the Morrigan's have been confused for each other. The Cailleach's foster children are said to form the tribes associated with Kerry.
The Morrígan has continually reiterated Her presence in my life through my journey and I have dedicated myself to Her service and ritually re-dedicate myself to Her every Samhain.
Updated (3/14/12) - My family's crest has a stag on it and it's been pointed out to me that the stag in Celtic legend has connections to the Otherworld as well. Whether intentional or not in it's creation, it seems a bit too coincidental if you pile on everything else. There She continues with that "reiteration" I was talking about.
12/19/13 - "Cuchulain threw a spring at her chariot, and he saw not the horse, nor the woman, nor the chariot, nor the man, nor the cow. Then he saw that she had become a black bird upon a branch near to him." - The Cattle-Raid of Regamna
For your listening pleasure: Julie Fowlis - Blackbird.