I have always felt that Morgana and Rhiannon were connected. Recently, I have deepened into the opinion that Morgana and Rhiannon can be seen as Sister Goddesses. They have a lot of the same powers and abilities, and seem to be two sides of the same coin in many ways! It is this subject matter that I would like to focus on with this post.
Rhiannon had her story first written down in the Welsh medieval text The Mabinogion, and Morgen was first mentioned in the Vita Merlini by Geoffrey of Monmouth. This is the first obvious link between the two great Faery Queen Goddesses. They were both brought into the literary world, and the consciousness in the medieval period.
Morgana and Rhiannon both have connections to birds. Rhiannon has a trio of magical birds who can “raise the dead, and lull the living to sleep.” Morgana had the ability to transform into a crow at will! This power of Morgen le Fay is shown from Geoffrey of Monmouth onward. Monmouth mentioned that Morgen could “fly like Dedalus on strange wings.” I know this is a bit off topic, but this also relates them in some way to my favorite Queen of all time, as Anne Boleyn had a falcon badge as one of her emblems! In any case Morgana and Rhiannon can be seen as sisters for their shared link to birds.
Both of these Goddesses have a connection to the sovereignty of the land. Part of Rhiannon’s story shows her as a faerie Queen marrying a human and in doing so granting him the rule of the land! Morgan le Fay presents challenges to knights in Arthur’s court, and this is a prime facet of sovereignty Goddesses, as it is testing the knight to prove his worthiness. Most notably she does this in the medieval tale of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, and is even referred to in the text as “Morgan the Goddess.”
Both Morgana and Rhiannon have sons that effect their stories. Rhiannon’s son, beginning with his birth and later with his return, impacts her story greatly. Rhiannon’s son also goes on to choose a man for his mother to marry in her widowhood. Morgana’s son Yvain (or Owain) prevents her from killing her husband. In other versions, where she is also the mother of Mordred, she has a son that attempts to usurp the throne from his father! In this case both have sons that try to become kings, further linking their stories.
In the case of both of these powerful Goddesses, we find powerful women who are unwilling to give up in the face of adversity. Rhiannon teaches us to keep your dignity in the face of betrayal, and Morgana teaches us to not let others make your decisions for you! Rhiannon is often associated with the light, however, she is also a Goddess of death in having her birds being able to control the dead. Morgana is often associated with the darkness, however, she is also a healer (which is light magic). They are both complex Great Goddesses who are sisters and different sides of the same coin!
I hope you have enjoyed this analysis of Morgan and Rhiannon. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!
Note on Image: The image at the top of the post is Morgen. I found the image on https://www.artstation.com/artwork/aYgwV2.
- Sir Gawain and the Green Knight by the Pearl Poet
- The Mabinogion translated by Sioned Davies
- Le Morte d’Arthur by Sir Thomas Malory
- Vita Merlini by Geoffrey of Monmouth