Within the Arthurian Legends there is the faerie woman known as the Lady of the Lake. She is keeper of Excalibur, and the protectress of Avalon. In some tales Lady of the Lake is the title given to the head of the nine sisters who practice magic on the Isle of Avalon. In the beginning of the legends she is named either Nimue or Vivian (spelled various ways depending on the author). By the end of the Arthurian cycle it is sometimes given that the mantle of Lady of the Lake has in fact passed to Arthur’s half sister, Morgan Le Fay!
The original Lady of the Lake is taken to have been a lover of the great mage Merlin. Merlin fell in love with her and taught her all that he knew of magic. In the end she betrayed him by using the magic he taught her to imprison him. Sometime after this is when it is said that the mantle may have passed unto Morgan. In modern Avalonian witchcraft, priestesses are in fact referred to as Morgens. The nine sisters that practice magic on Avalon are often simply referred to as the nine Morgans, of which Morgan Le Fay is the most prominent and powerful.
In most tellings of the Arthur story it is the Lady of the Lake that gifted Arthur with his sword Excalibur. The sword he pulled from the stone is sometimes a totally different one. If it is the same sword, the Lady of the Lake appeared to Arthur to explain it was she who put the sword in the stone for him to pull out. Upon Arthur’s death after the battle with Mordred at Camlann, he told one of his last surviving knights to throw the sword back into the water. This is a way to return the sword to the Lady of the Lake for protecting until Arthur is resurrected to fight for Britain once more!
The story of the Lady of the Lake is rooted in much older Celtic tradition. In ancient Wales the Gwargedd Annwn is a water sprite that is usually female, beautiful, and are often seen to be irresistible to men. The Lady of the Lake is one such Gwargedd Annwn. The Gwargedd Annwn are said to have had great herbal wisdom that could be passed onto those that are worthy. These faerie women are some of the most powerful and intriguing figures within the Celtic beliefs and Arthurian legends!
Most recently the Lady of the Lake appeared in the season three premiere of the CW television show Legacies. This show is the most recent installment of The Vampire Diaries and The Originals universe of shows. It focuses on the life of Hope Mikaelson, daughter of original hybrid Klaus. In the universe of Legacies they take on monsters that have been erased by a pit known as Malivore, and in the season three premiere the Lady of the Lake is the monster who rose from Malivore! She and the Green Knight factor into the episode in this way! As a lover of Arthurian legends, I was really happy to see this twist!!!
I hope that this post has made you interested in finding out more about the legend of the Lady of the Lake!
Below are a list of books and television shows to learn more about these watery beauties!
- The Arthurian Romances by Chretien de Troyes
- Le Morte D’Arthur by Sir Thomas Malory
- The Age of Chivalry by Thomas Bulfinch
- Celtic Mythology: The Nature and Influence of Celtic Myth- From Druidism to Arthurian Legend by Ward Rutherford
- King of the Celts: Arthurian Legends and Celtic Traditions by Jean Markale
- The Fairy Bible by Teresa Moorey
- Legacies (The CW show, at least for Season 3 Episode 1)