For todays post I would like to discuss the Ninefold Sisterhood of Avalon. This sisterhood was first described by Geoffrey of Monmouth in his poem Vita Merlini. He gives us the first literary description of the Isle of Avalon. In this poem Avalon is not mentioned by name, but as the Fortunate Isle. It is a place where everything grows without needing cultivation, and the Ninefold Sisterhood can heal all sorts of ills. It is a place where humans can live over a hundred years easily, and there are apple orchards (giving us the first literary mention of apples being the fruit of Avalon). Merlin takes Arthur there so that his wounds can be tended by Morgen, the leader of the Sisterhood. It is said she is the most talented, and most beautiful of the nine. She is also able to shape shift, and “fly on strange wings, like Dedalus.” In this very evocative excerpt we get a clear picture of this Sisterhood, and of Morgen le Fey especially!
In this version Morgen is not the sister of Arthur, but instead a powerful Goddess and Faery Queen, who can heal Arthur. This can also be said to be linked to other early versions of the legends where Morgen becomes Arthur’s consort in Avalon while he awaits being called again at Albion’s greatest time of peril. Guinevere is no longer there, and this gives Arthur and Morgen the chance to be lovers and partners, in a non-incestous way. This Morgen is also a powerful leader, witch, wise woman, and scholar in her own right before Arthur comes into her story. Later on she will slowly get demoted to his sister. Yet even as she gets demoted, and character assassinated, she never loses her knowledge or her power. It is simply that as time goes on the clerics writing these tales fear magical and powerful women more and more. Christianity has taken hold, and any reference to Paganism needs to be made to seem dark or evil. This is why Morgen goes from benevolent healer to plotting Sorceress and vixen!
The names of the Ninefold Sisterhood are Thitis, Cliton, Thetis, Gliten, Glitonea, Moronoe, Mazoe, Tyronoe, and of course Morgen le Fay. Kathy Jones, in Priestess of Avalon Priestess of the Goddess, compares them to the Greek muses. Specifically due to their training in several liberal arts. These arts include astronomy or astrology, mathematics, physic, music, dance, healing, herblore, prophecy, and shapeshifting. Jones also goes on to relate each of the nine to aspects of weather, and ages of a woman’s life.
Mazoe rules over the time we celebrate Samhain. Tyronoe rules over the time we celebrate the Winter Solstice. Thitis rules over the time we celebrate Imbolc. Cliton rules over the time we celebrate the Vernal Equinox. Thetis rules over the time we celebrate Beltane. Gliten rules over the time we celebrate the Summer Solstice. Glitonea rules over the time we celebrate Lammas. Moronoe rules over the time we celebrate the Autumnal Equinox. Each of these eight are elemental Faery Queens who can help in celebration of these natural holidays. Morgen le Fay is the Goddess in the center, and the Lady of Avalon. She rules over all of these days as the supreme leader of the sisterhood!
This is why I went into greater detail with her than any of the others. Where they are all Faery Queens, only Morgen is also a Goddess! I hope that you have enjoyed this look at the Ninefold Sisterhood of the Morgens of Avalon. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!
Note on Image: The image at the top of the post is one of the Morgens. I found the image on http://thegoddesshouse.blogspot.com/2012/03/nine-morgens-of-avalon.html.
- Vita Merlini by Geoffrey of Monmouth
- Priestess of Avalon Priestess of the Goddess by Kathy Jones