• Jo-Anne Blanco

Origins of Morgan le Fay: Morgan and Modron

A Roman Matron, John William Godward (1905)

Modron was an ancient Celtic goddess; the Welsh form of Dea Matrona, the Divine Mother Goddess of Gaul. Modron literally means ‘Mother.’ Sadly, very little is known about her: we only know of her through references in Welsh texts, and she is now regarded as an early, perhaps even pre-Celtic, deity whose name survived but whose myths are lost to us. What we do know is that Modron was the daughter of Avallach, a Celtic god of obscure origin connected to the Isle of Avalon. Her son was Mabon (‘son of the Mother’), the young Celtic Apollo-esque god of liberation, harmony and music, who is also a hero of Welsh literature and a member of Arthur’s band of warriors. In the 11th century romance Culhwch and Olwen, Mabon is stolen from Modron when he is a baby and is rescued years later by Arthur and his men. The Welsh Triads make Modron the wife of King Urien of Rheged, and mother of his children Owain and Morfudd.

It is generally believed that Modron is an early prototype of Morgan le Fay and there is evidence which attests to this. There is of course the connection to the Isle of Avalon, with which Morgan is associated more than any other figure in literature, and of which she is Queen. In later Arthurian legends, Morgan, like Modron, is made the wife of King Urien of Rheged (in some versions King Urien of Gore) and, like Modron, she is the mother of Owain, a historical figure who was incorporated into Arthurian literature across Europe as Sir Yvain, Knight of the Round Table.

Morgan le Fay, John Roddam Spencer Stanhope (1880)

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(C) Jo-Anne Blanco 2020

Illustrations (C) Miriam Soriano

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