The Literary Morgan Le Fay
Morgan Le Fay (the Faerie) is said to have been King Arthur's half sister. She is the daughter of Igraine and Gorlois, Duke of Cornwall. She was sent to a nunnery early in life where she learned the "black arts". According to Sir Thomas Malory, Morgan was accused of doing many different things. She was accused of stealing Excalibur and giving it to her lover, Accolon to use against Arthur in battle. When that plan failed, she then stole the scabbard of Excalibur (known to protect Arthur) and threw it in the lake.
Morgan was said to have married Urien of Gore and, according to Torquato Tasso, mother of three daughters Morganetta, Nivetta, and Carvilia (and also the son Ywain). Morgan is given many lovers in each different tale. She is the wife of Uriens, the lover of Lancelot, Lot, Accolon, and her brother Arthur, among others. From these unions, she has quite a list of children. She is the mother of Modred (or Medraut) with her brother Arthur. She is the mother of Gwalchmai, Medraut, Agravaine with Lot.
There are many theories as to who Morgan Le Fay really was. Some say her original name of "Modron" (which is a type of water faerie). It is from this definition that some say Morgan was The Lady of the Lake. It is also said the Morgan was one of the Faeries (or Goddesses) that bore the body of King Arthur to the Isle of Apples (or Avalon) after the Battle of Camlann.
These words Spoken by Morgan Le Fay (according to Marion Zimmer Bradley)
And now, when the world has changed and Arthur- my brother, my lover, king who was and king who shall be- lies dead (the common folk say sleeping) in the Holy Isle of Avalon, the take should be told as it was before the priests of the White Christ come to cover it all with thier saints and legends...And so Arthur lay at last, with his head in my lap, seeing in me neither sister, nor lover nor foe, but only wise woman, priestess, Lady of the Lake,' and so reasted upon the breast of the Great Mother from whom he came to birth and to whom at last, as all men, he must go....
According to Vita Merlini, Morgan was the chief among her sisters- Moronoe, Mazoe, Gliten, Glitonea, Cliton, Tyronoe, and Thitis, and Morgause. Morgan was said to have the ability to change shape at will and to fly with wings (hence -Le Fay- or Faerie).
The modern depiction of Morgan Le Fay (from the movie Excalibur) although enchanting, is very inaccurate. In this film, the character of Morganna is really a mixture of a two women in the Arthurian Legend. It was Nimue who was Merlin's Lover. She enticed him to teach her his knowledge and then betrayed him by imprisoning him in a cave.
And again, the portrayal of Morgan in NBC's Merlin is interesting but even less correct than Excalibur. There has never been any indication literarily that Morgan Le Fay was a homely child or adult; transformed by magick. There is also no literarily substantiated evidence that Morgan Le Fay ever took company with a Gnome named Frick. These artistic modifications, whereas make a good story, are extremely innacurate.
Morgan La Fey as depicted
in John Boorman's Excalibur
Portrayed by Helen Mirren.
Morgan La Fey as portrayed
by Helena Bonham Carter in
The Goddess Morgan Le Fay
Morgan Le Fay, Morgan La Fay, Morganna, Morgaine, Modron, Fata Morgana
Morgan La Fey is indeed one of the most popular Goddesses in Britain, Ireland, and Wales. She is known by many forms and by many names. Most importantly, she represents the Triple Mother.
She is known as Macha (the crone aspect of the Triple Goddess), Margawse (the Mother Aspect) and related to Elaine (the Maiden aspect). She is known as "Great Queen", "Queen of the Fairies", "Supreme War Goddess", and "Queen of Specters".
Morgan represents a great many things on her darker side. She is Goddess of War, Fate (Fata Morgana), and of death. Her familiar is said to be the Raven (traditionally the animal that represents death). However, death is not regarded as an evil or "bad" occurance to the early Pagans. Death was merely a bridge to another life. A change. It was not something to be feared; as was Morgan not to be feared as well.
Morgan also has a lighter side where She is the Patroness of Priestesses and of Witches. She is associated with the Storm Moon of March. The word "Glamour" is said to have been dervived from Morgan. Her sacred space was the Glamorgan Territory; from whence the word is derived.
Morgan was a Priestess of the Old Ways (and some say a fae) and was said to have been one of three to bore the body of the slain King Arthur to Avalon where she lived. Some connected her to the Lady of the Lake because on meaning of her name was "water faerie".
Back to Ladies of Avalon Index Page
Morganna Image copyrighted by Orion Pictures, 1981.
Morgan La Fey Image copyrighted by NBC.
Morgan La Fey background artist Frederick Sandys
Sources include: The Women's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets by Barbara Walker
Celtic Magick and Moon Magick by D. J. Conway.
Actual article is copyrighted by Rowan Sterling 1998 (do not reproduce without permission.)
This is an educational essay. No copyright infringements intended or implied.