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Who is Lady of the Lake?

Many women in the stories have held the title of "Lady of the Lake." She is the head of the nine Morgen priestesses of the mystical Isle of Avalon. She is the voice and the manifested personality of the great Goddess. To some she is a faery woman, to others she is a potent deity of the forces of Nature: life, death, and regeneration. She is simultaneously nurturing and ferocious. In relation to Merlin, she is our divine motherly guide. She holds the keys to the more subtle feminine magical powers.

Geoffrey of Monmouth writes:

"The island of apples which men call 'The Fortunate Isle' gets its name from the fact that it produces all things of itself; the fields there have no need of the ploughs of the farmers and all cultivation is lacking except what nature provides. Of its own accord it produces grain and grapes, and apple trees grow in its woods from the close-clipped grass. The ground of its own accord produces everything instead of merely grass, and people live there a hundred years or more. There nine sisters rule by a pleasing set of laws those who come to them from our country. She who is first of them is more skilled in the healing art, and excels her sisters in the beauty of her person. Morgen is her name, and she has learned what useful properties all the herbs contain, so that she can cure

Merlin Lady of the Lake by Gary A Lippincott

sick bodies. She also knows an art by which to change her shape, and to cleave the air on new wings like Daedalus; when she wishes she is at Brest, Chartres, or Pavia, and when she will she slips down from the air onto your shores. And men say that she has taught mathematics to her sisters."

According to legend, she is the possessor of the sword Excalibur, the magical blade given to King Arthur. It is this act of taking the offered sword which grants Arthur the right to rule, and it is she who claims the blade again when his role as sacrificial king must be fulfilled. Other versions of the legend tells us that Excalibur was presented to Arthur in a floating stone. When he pulled it out, it was an act of reversal of the Great Rite, separating the female and male concepts of creation which were not to be united again until Arthur's death. The Lady of the Lake is also said to have been the foster mother of Sir Lancelot, one of Arthur's knights.

Tennyson writes,
‘And near [Merlin] stood the Lady of the Lake, who knows a subtler magic than his own— Clothed in white samite, mystic, wonderful. She gave the King his huge cross-hilted sword, Whereby to drive the heathen out: a mist of incense curled about her, and her face Wellnigh was hidden in the minster gloom."

Her story exaggerates aspects within the psyche of all women; nurturer, seductress, lover, hater, manipulator, giver, vulnerable, cunning. These emotions are often closely entwined when passions are aroused. Lady of the Lake represents the sensuous nature of water; the feminine: The fluid and manipulative power of seduction over male dominance.

The stories of the Lady of the Lake sometimes put her into unnecessarily dark roles and I believe this to be the result of masculine writers slandering and skewing the stories of powerful women in history. In the Magical Awakening lineage, The Lady of the Lake is the main feminine guide of the healing system and is a powerful ally and teacher for intensive spiritual healing. The Lady of the Lake represents the source of creative power and of renewal. She is consciousness and revelation. She is the guide to the immense realms of emotion. She is often pictured as sitting on a throne of reeds in the center of the lake's depths. Among her many magical credits is that of a healer. She is associated with the crane, water lilies and marble. She rules over purification, healing, the Great Rite, any other magical acts associated with the feminine elements.

Beth Clare Johnson has written a beautiful "Call of the Lady of the Lake"

Nimue, Nineve, Niniane, Vivienne
Morgan, Morgaine, High Priestesses;
Ladies of the Lake, Avalon's Own.

Taliesin, Lancelot, Merlin the Great
Arthur and the Great Sword Excalibur;
Famous men who called upon your help.

Apples and water weave in your tapestry,
Knights and castles in the background
Laughter, tourneys, and ladies' bright gowns.

Fairie Queen, Enchantress of great power,
You rule still in the Mists of the Otherworld
With the Sidhe and your magickal sisters.

I hear faint splashes from the lake,
See white swans majestically floating;
And there you are rising up amid the waters!

Wearing your crown, with swirling wet hair...
You beckon, and point to a small boat
For me to climb in, and journey to Avalon.

IMAGE GALLERY

To view a collection of images of the Lady of the Lake as she has been represented through the ages, click here.

RESOURCES

There aren't many books dedicated to the topic of the Lady of the Lake but one good one is "Ladies of the Lake" by Caitlin and John Matthews. In this collection, nine of the most powerful female figures in the Arthurian legends are explored individually. Some of these characters, such as Morgan and Nimue, are some of the figures we know of as holders of the title Lady of the Lake.

Kathy Jones has a number of good books on the subject of Avalon, Lady of the Lake, and Ancient British Goddesses. You can find all of her books here, and she also has a short book that you can read for free online called The Goddess in Glastonbury.

Another anthology of articles about women in the Arthurian stories is "Arthurian Women: A Casebook." In these explorations of the feminine aspect of the legends we find some interesting new ideas about the Lady of the Lake women.

Being a more subtle character in the Arthurian stories, a bit of research must be done to find the stories of the Lady of the Lake. In the French "Vulgate Cycle" we find the story of Viviane, one of the Ladies of the Lake, and we learn the ways in which she learns her magic from Merlin and then seduces him. In Malory's "La Morte D'arthur", we read about Nymue. In "Idylls of the King" we are presented with another version of the Viviane story that has been combined with other Lady of the Lake stories.

Perhaps the most important books on the subject of the Lady of the Lake is Marion Zimmer Bradey's "Mist of Avalon." In this fictional series, Bradley goes deep into the lives of the women that hold the ruling title of the Island of Avalon. The book is a great read and gives voice to the unspoken and misinterpreted aspects of the Arthurian stories and particularly the story behind Avalon and the Lady of the Lake. I believe she was truly inspired by the energy of the Lady of the Lake to give us a more accurate portrayal of the magical feminine side of the Arthurian mysteries. A true act of channeled writing!

There are a few great online resources that have compiled much information about the various stories and names of the Lady of the Lake. Here are a few to explore:

Arthurian Women
Britannia: The Lady of the Lake
Arthurian Adventure: Lady of the Lake
Mythology Wiki
Nine Morgens of Avalon
Morgan Le Fey

 
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