For today’s post, I would like to look at the watery mermaid archetypes found in Celtic lore! That is why this post is titled Morgana’s Mermaid Archetypes. Water was sacred to the ancient Celts, and they viewed the world as divided based on elements. The land of the air, land of the earth, and the land of the water so to speak! So, without further ado, here is a list of five water faeries associated with Celtic lore.
Melusine: One of the most iconic Celtic mermaids is the French tale of Melusine (or Melusina as she was called in the Germanic versions). She was a water faery, often seen as a goddess and faery queen. Her story began when she met her future husband when she was working as a faery guardian of a well. Raymond fell in love with her, and she agreed to marry him with the condition that she have Saturdays to herself. For a time the two live happily together, and Melusine bore him many children. After some time Raymond grows suspicious of her alone time each week and spied on her. Now the next part of her tale goes two ways, either he immediately confronts her about her water faery nature or he keeps it to himself until one of their sons commits an atrocity. Upon this horrible event, he calls her a monster and blames her for their son’s misdeeds! Either way, Melusine leaves Raymond forever, but still comes to visit her children, and it is said in some versions she wails at the oncoming death of a family member (similarly to an Irish Banshee).
Merrows: Merrows are Irish water faeries, and in some tellings, they are only male. Although I have read versions about female merrows, who are much kinder than their male counterparts! Male merrows tend to behave similarly to the classical Greek description of sirens, only drawing in and killing women instead of men! In contrast, female merrows tend to be described as more benevolent and willing to help and even save humans.
Selkies: Selkies are Scottish water faeries who are usually described as female (although there are some males in certain tales). Selkies can appear as lovely and attractive women, but they also have enchanted seal skins that allow them to transfigure into seals! In many versions of the Selkie tales, a human man tricks a selkie into being his wife by taking her seal skin and hiding it from her. When she inevitably finds the skin she will return to her aquatic home, leaving the man who forced her into marriage. In this way, tales of female selkies mirror those found in swan maiden fairytales as well!
Gwargedd Annwn: These Welsh water faeries are the Lake Maidens who herded faerie water cows, and were often said to take mortal men as husbands! Their name literally means “wives of the Otherworld or Underworld!” The Arthurian Lady of the Lake is most likely this type of water faerie, and that links them to Morgan le Fay, in that in some versions of the legends she herself becomes the Lady of the Lake before the death of Arthur!
Morgans: Finally I will mention the Morgans or sometimes called Mari-Morgans, who are Welsh and Breton water faeries. Much like the Gwargedd Annwn, they are said to live in castles and villages under lakes! Out of the five water faeries we have discussed, they are the most connected to Morgan le Fay, as the origin of the name is directly connected to her. In Welsh Morgan means sea-born, or something similarly water-related!
~I hope you have enjoyed learning a little bit about these very Celtic watery figures. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!
Note on Image: The image at the top of the post is a Celtic-styled mermaid. I found the image on https://m.facebook.com/celticjackalope/posts/coming-to-you-later-this-year-the-celtic-mermaid-goddess-aine-she-will-be-a-wall/10154211884504351/.
- Water Witchcraft by Annwyn Avalon
- A New Dictionary of Fairies by Morgan Daimler
- Mermaid Magic by Lucy Cavendish and Serene Conneeley
- The Fairy Bible by Teresa Moorey
- Oracle of the Mermaids by Lucy Cavendish