For today’s post I would like to look at the connection between Morgan Le Fay and Rhiannon! I have already done a post looking at Rhiannon’s connection to Guinevere, and this can be seen as almost a companion post to that one. Many may question how one goddess can be connected to both Morgana and Guinevere, but Rhiannon is a great goddess with many layers. There is also more commonality between Morgana and Guinevere than many would think of at first glance. Both Arthurian ladies originated as goddesses themselves, and are connected to the Faery realm, and can be seen as faerie queens, for instance!
Now let’s look at the connection between Morgana and Rhiannon piece by piece. Both are figures who started out as goddesses and were subsequently demoted to faerie queens. In the case of Morgana, she eventually got demoted so far that she became an evil enchantress and antagonist bent on destroying Camelot and causing the downfall of the Round Table!
Rhiannon and Morgana both have the origins of not only being deities, but of being faeries. Morgana and Rhiannon are both connected to intellect and study of the magical arts. As far as being goddesses they are both seen as connected to magic and witchcraft! Both also have symbols of sovereignty within their tales. Rhiannon is a goddess whose one major symbol is a horse (a literal symbol of sovereignty), and Morgana is the leader of the nine sisters of Avalon in many legends! Even with this power, they were both forced into marriages they did not want. Morgana had no choice but to follow through on hers, while Rhiannon was able to manipulate the situation to marry a human man she loved instead of a divine man she loathed!
Rhiannon is often seen as having become the famous Lady of the Lake in the Arthurian legends. She would have been the first Lady of the Lake, under the name of Vivienne (or even Nimue). Morgan Le Fay would become a Lady of the Lake in her own right towards the latter end of the legends! It is said that it was Morgana who was on the ship that brought Arthur to Avalon after the final battle of Camlann. So we can see that both Rhiannon and Morgan were connected to the story of Avalon and the Lady of the Lake. I have written a whole post on how Rhiannon could have possibly become the Lady of the Lake, and also a post on the type of faerie the Lady of the Lake is. I firmly believe the Lady of the Lake, in her many names and forms, was most likely a Gwragedd Annwn, a Lake Maiden, also known as a “wife of the Underworld.”
The species of faerie the Lady of the Lake is more firmly connects her to both Rhiannon and Morgana, as both are seen as goddesses (or enchantresses) associated with death and the Underworld! Rhiannon is a great goddess who was associated with many different things, and can be seen as a triple goddess. She had a full story and can be seen as a maiden in the beginning, a mother in the middle, and a a crone by the end! It is in this way we can see both Rhiannon and Morgana as associated with the full cycle of life, death, and rebirth.
A final point of connection I would like to make is that both Rhiannon and Morgana had sons. Rhiannon bore a son to her first husband, Pwyll, who was named Pryderi. Morgana had a son named Owain with her husband (in most legends), and I would also be amiss to not mention that there are many versions of the tales that have Morgana as the mother of Mordred! In this version it is Morgana, instead of Morgause, that had an incestuous union with Arthur to give him an illegitimate son. It must be acknowledged that the incest storyline, whether it was Morgause or Morgana as mother, is a later addition to the tales. Mordred could have had claim to kingship after Arthur due to being the son of Arthur’s sister, as the Celts had a tradition of matrilineal inheritance of titles! Rhiannon had her son taken from her and returned in an epic tale, and she would choose to marry a man her son had suggested when he was an adult king.
Both Rhiannon and Morgan Le Fay are powerful female figures from the Welsh Celtic world. I hope you have enjoyed my comparison of the similarities in their tales. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!
Note on Image: The image at the top of the post is Morgana. I found the image on badwitch.es.
- The Mabinogion translated by Sioned Davies
- Prince of Annwn by Evangeline Walton
- Le Morte D’Arthur by Sir Thomas Malory
- Arthurian Magic by John & Caitlin Matthews with Virginia Chandler
- The Age of Chivalry by Thomas Bulfinch