Mythic Monday – Cúchulainn and the Morrigan
In Celtic myth, Cúchulainn was a classic hero. The Morrigan, however, was a goddess of battle and fertility (interesting how those two often go together). Near the end of his life, the Morrigan appeared to Cúchulainn in the guise of a young woman and offered him her help in battle. Cúchulainn, of course, refused her help and did so in such a way as to cause offense.
Admire the classic heroes as much as you like, but you have to admit that they had a fair amount of arrogance to them.
The Morrigan, upset at Cúchulainn’s attitude cursed him and left. Later, so the story goes, Cúchulainn entered into battle with another warrior and the Morrigan did her level best to bring about his defeat. Being a classic hero, of course, he prevailed and later met her again in the guise of an old woman. Again, he didn’t recognize her.
At a later point, the Morrigan appears as the Washer at the Ford (aka bean nighe, a type of bean sídhe (not this one)) and then, after he ignores this warning, as three old crones (it’s a goddess plurality thing, just go with it). The three crones trick him into eating dog flesh, which he was sworn to never do. Cúchulainn is then weakened and loses his next battle.
So, ignoring the obvious lesson here (which is, of course, don’t anger a goddess), what business-applicable lesson might we learn from this story?
I think that the important thing here is that Cúchulainn has numerous chances to treat the Morrigan with respect, and never does. He is too caught up in his own legend to recognize the power of another. The classic read on this myth is that he doesn’t recognize feminine power, but I think that business-point works well as a gender-neutral. As such, he makes an enemy for life and she eventually brings about his downfall.
In business, we often see the same people over and over again. Some of my old coworkers are now working for competitors, some are potential clients, some have started their own businesses. Odds are that the same applies to you. If you work in this industry for any length of time, you may well see the same people rise and fall. You may find yourself sitting across the negotiating table from your worst enemy or your best friend. You never know what the future may hold.
Thus, it would be wise to pay attention to all people. Treat them with respect and help them when they ask. After all, the nice, but inexperienced coworker may not be a goddess in disguise, but it’s quite likely that they may become your boss in the future.