Fata Morgana

A fata morgana is a type of mirage seen by sailors.    It appears like a mystical structure just above the sea, and it appears quickly.   The reason I want to talk about this particular type of mirage is the origin of its name.    It is named for Morgan Le Fay, and in fact given the Italian version of her name, as it is most often seen in waters along Italy!

The mirage is recorded as being seen by a Jesuit priest named Father Domenico Giardina.    He said that he saw a city rising from the water.    Some claim that he was either “high on life” or stole the account from another sailor.    In any case the mirage of fata morgana has both scared and fascinated sailors for centuries!   

The mirage appears by a bending of light to create the image of a structure, like an island or castle, coming out of the sea line.     The fact that light acts upon the water and temperature in this way creates the appearance of this particular type of mirage.   

Now I want to move focus from the mirage itself and onto the part of it that applies to my writing and my blog!    As I mentioned in the beginning this mirage is named for Morgan Le Fay.    It makes sense that the name chosen for a mirage that appears as a structure coming out of the water, would be named for the famed Arthurian sorceress.    Firstly, she is known to have transformed things with magic to appear glamoured (as something else) as she did in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.    The Green Knight is a glamour of Morgan’s in order to scare Guinevere to death (a tactic that failed).  This is a skill also shown by Merlin (the transformation of Uther Pendragon to seduce Igraine).    

Another reason that it makes sense that this mirage is named for Morgan, is that she was one of the sisters of Avalon.    In some tellings she even became the Lady of the Lake before the Battle of Camlann.   The Isle of Avalon itself is said to rise out of the water, just like the mirage of fata morgana does as it appears to sailors!   To me this is the ultimate explanation of where the name comes from, and just how well it fits with this type of mirage!

I hope you have enjoyed my discussion of this unique mirage.   Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

Note on Image: The image at the top of the post is an example of fata morgana.   I found the image on pinterest.com via panoramio.com

Further Reading

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