Morgan Le Fay can be seen as an Arthurian take on the Irish Celtic goddess the Morrigan. The Morrigan is a death goddess and a war goddess. She was often associated with battlefields and warriors. The Morrigan was a crow goddess who was deeply connected to this bird, which makes sense given the crows reputation as a scavenger. A group of crows is even called a murder!
Morgan Le Fay has a name obviously derived from this Irish war goddess. She is herself associated with death as we see her as a leader of the Isle of Avalon, and she was on the barge that ferried Arthur there after his death. Morgan Le Fay as an Avalonion faerie woman and sorceress would have much knowledge of healing, and possibly of necromancy. If she and her sisters knew of necromancy, they may have been able to raise Arthur from the dead. There are some scholars that have posited that Avalon was itself a place in the Celtic Otherworld, and that could be why Arthur went there when he died!
The Morrigan is often seen as the first banshee. Banshees are faerie women who scream to signal the death of people in the family which they protect. In Ireland there was a belief that each family had their own banshee, who would wail when one of their own was about to perish. Some see the Morrigan and banshees as figures of evil with murderous intent. The Morrigan is sometimes seen as a dark goddess to fear. In truth both she and banshees are not to be feared as banshees warn you of impending doom, and the Morrigan is a war goddess. As a war goddess she is not a murderous one, just one that reigns over battles.
Much in the same vein Morgan Le Fay is often given a less than favorable depiction in the Arthurian legends. Morgan can be seen as just a sorceress with evil intent. She is the half sister of Arthur in many tellings. In the ones in which she is conflated with Morgause she is the one to birth Mordred. It is often said that Morgan seduced her brother with the intent of giving birth to a son! This case of incest is seen as totally disturbing to modern readers. Incest was not as taboo in the time when the legends were written, of course. In the middle ages marrying your cousin was common, as it was though the nineteenth century. The issue would have been that they were brother and sister, and most importantly married to other people. As strange as it seems at that point in time adultery was more scandalous than incest, even though neither was acceptable! Morgan would often be associated with these less savory topics due to her pagan origins. As the legends were Christianized the more pagan elements were more likely to be shown as something evil!
I hope that you have learned a little bit about the connection between Morgan Le Fay and the Morrigan. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!
Note on Image: The image at the top of the post is the cover of Morgan Daimler’s book on the Morrigan. I found the image on amazon.com.
- Le Morte D’Arthur by Thomas Malory
- The Morrigan: Meeting the Great Queens by Morgan Daimler
- The Fairy Bible by Teresa Mooney