The Mother Morgana

Welcome back to Morgan le Fay Week at White Rose of Avalon! For day six of Morgan le Fay Week, I have decided to discuss Morgan as the mother.   The Mother aspect of Morgana is not something that is generally one of the first things that we think of.   Yet, in most tellings of her tale, she is a mother.

Beyond being a Mother, she has maternal aspects like protecting and defending others.   In the most commonly told versions of the myths, Morgan le Fay is the wife of King Uriens of Gore and the mother of his son, Yvain (also known as Owain).   This son fathered by her husband ended up becoming a Knight of the Roundtable.   He was also a possible contender for the future throne, although Gawain is usually the one depicted as Arthur’s successor.   This is a very common occurrence for Arthur’s nephews, as ancient Wales and Britain had matrilineal descent.   Matrilineal descent means that the son of a King did not inherit the throne, instead, it was the son of the King’s sister who would inherit!

The marriage to Uriens and status as Yvain’s mother comes from her descent from the Welsh mother Goddess Modron.   In the older Celtic myths, Modron was the wife of Uriens and the mother of Yvain.    As I have explained before in previous posts, Modron is seen as the Welsh equivalent of the Morrigan, further connecting Morgana and the Morrigan!   It must also be noted that Modron was the mother of Mabon, who is a famous stolen son of myth (similar to how Rhiannon’s son Pryderi is stolen as a baby).   This connection to Mabon connects Morgana further to the role of motherhood.   

Finally, I have to note that Morgan is said in later myths to be the mother of Mordred.   This was her son by her own brother Arthur, making Modred a product of incest, as he was both Arthur’s son as well as his nephew!   I mentioned that this was only stated in later versions, that is true, as Mordred’s mother was stated in earlier texts to be Arthur’s other sister Morgause.   Morgause is often conflated with Morgan due to their similar-sounding names and the fact that they were both daughters of Igraine and her first husband!   Whether or not Morgan is the mother of Mordred, she is often seen as his conspirator in bringing down Camelot.   On a side note, due to Mordred’s parentage being incestuous, he would be edible for rule both in matrilineal descent (as he was Arthur’s nephew) and the more modern inheritance system (as he was also Arthur’s son).    

The last thing I want to mention is that although this is not stated anywhere in the legends, the 2020 Green Knight film made Gawain the son of Morgan le  Fay instead of Morgause.   Once again the two sisters are conflated, but this time she was put in that position to be able to have her act of using the Green Knight to test Gawain more than an Aunt or Goddess testing a Knight, but also a mother testing her son.   It did add an interesting layer of intrigue.

I hope you have enjoyed this brief exploration of Morgana as a Mother.   Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

Further Reading/Watching

  • Vita Merlini by Geoffrey of Monmouth
  • Arthurian Romances by Chretien de Troyes
  • Le Morte D’Arthur by Sir Thomas Malory
  • The Green Knight (2020)