For today’s post, I have decided to discuss the evolution of one of my favorite topics. The Great Goddess Morgen le Fay is a unique figure within the Arthurian legends and Celtic lore. She was not always known by the name Morgen and is likely the most modern evolution of this particular Great Celtic Goddess! I personally believe that she was known by many different names for thousands of years in different areas around the world, particularly in Celtic lands!
For the purpose of this post, I will be focusing on two different Goddesses that have been connected to Morgen, one Welsh and one Irish. Modron is a Welsh mother Goddess figure whom it is believed was turned into or renamed Morgen in the Arthurian legends. The Morrighan is the Irish triple Goddess of War. With the names sounding vastly similar, it is commonly stated that Morgen and the Morrighan are one and the same.
Modron is not a very well-known Goddess in the modern world. She is a Faery Queen and Otherworld Goddess who is married to King Uriens. This is where the most obvious connection to Morgana is first keyed in on. As in later Arthuriana, we see that Morgen herself is married to King Uriens. In the same vein, Morgen is the mother of Yvaine or Owain, whose earlier mother was Modron! This is the most direct Goddess whom we know became Morgen in more modern times! The most famous myth to feature Modron is the story of Mabon, who was another of her sons. He was taken as a child and hidden away, eventually being found and returning as an adult. This sort of hero being taken and fostered in secret is very common in Celtic lore. Modron is also sometimes said to be the wife of the God of Death and the Otherworld, Arawn. This is the story as used by Evangeline Walton in her famous Mabinogion Tetralogy.
The Morrighan is the Irish Goddess of War and Queen of the Banshees. While her name and Morgana’s sound similar they have different meanings given that one is Irish and one is Welsh. The Morrighan’s name means “Phantom Queen” or “Great Queen.” In contrast, Morgen’s name is Welsh for “Sea-Born.” The shadowy aspects of Morgan fully seem to align with the Morrighan. Both of these Faery Queens are known to challenge warriors, even punishing them when they are rebuffed. We see this in how the Morrighan punished Cu Chulainn for not wanting to sleep with her. She was angered and made sure that the great Irish hero’s last battle would end with not only him losing, but also in the death of Cu Chulainn himself! Likewise, we see Morgen punishing Lancelot for his denial of her lust for him by imprisoning him in her castle, which would lead to Arthur discovering the affair between Lancelot and Guinevere (leading to the downfall of Camelot). Another way that Morgen and the Morrighan are similar is in their status of sexy and lustful Faery Women. The Morrighan is a Goddess that has one of her most iconic tales being that of her having sex with the Dagda above a river in order to bless his upcoming battle! Similarly, Morgen had famous affairs with Knights of the Roundtable, including Giomar and Accolon.
Finally, I want to mention that Morgen as herself also appeared in French Romances outside of the French Arthurian tales. To me, this proves her link to ancient French (or Gaulish) Celtic Goddesses as well! The fact that she is an Avalonian Goddess and Arthurian figure that was adopted into the legends of Charlemagne shows that her energy was worshipped across the whole of the Celtic world!
I hope that you have enjoyed learning a bit about the evolution of the Great Goddess Morgen le Fay. Did you know about her misty origins before this post? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!
Note on Image: The image at the top of the post is a painting of Morgana. I found the image on https://theconversation.com/morgan-le-fay-how-arthurian-legend-turned-a-powerful-woman-from-healer-to-villain-109928.
- Le Morte D’Arthur by Sir Thomas Malory
- Celtic Lore and Spellcraft of the Dark Goddess: Invoking the Morrigan by Stephanie Woodfield
- Arthurian Magic by John and Caitlin Matthews
- The Morrigan by Courtney Weber
- Encountering the Dark Goddess by Francis Billinghurst
- Arthurian Romances by Chretien de Troyes
- The Mabinogion translated by Sioned Davies
- The Mabinogion Tetralogy by Evangeline Walton