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The Lady of the Lake



The Lady of the Lake

Welsh: Nimue; Latin: Coventina;

English: Vivienne



The Lady of the Lake was the foster mother to Sir Lancelot and raised him beneath the waters of her Lake. She is better known for her presentation of the magical sword Excalibur to King Arthur. This came about through the intervention of the magician, Merlin (Myrddin) who was constantly worried that his Arthur would be killed in battle.


There has always been some confusion over the name of the sword in Arthurian Legend. The name Excalibur is said to have beenoriginally derived from the Latin phrase Ex calce liberatus, "liberated from the stone” and is really said to be the sword that Arthur drew from the stone to prove his lineage. Malory records both versions of the legend in his Le Morte d'Arthur, and confusingly calls both swords Excalibur.


There is also the name Caliburn (Caledfwlch in Welsh and mentioned in the Mabinogion). This is the Welsh name for a magical sword associated with Arthur and the rightful sovereignty of Britain


Merlin had met the Lady of the Lake at the Fountain of Barenton (Brittany) and fallen so deeply in love with her that he agreed to teach her all his mystical powers. The lady became Merlin's scribe, who recorded his prophecies, as well as his lover.


Over the years the Lady became overtook Merlin. She became so powerful that her magical skills outshone even her teacher and she imprisoned him in Glass Tower. To some extent she stepped into Merlin's role at King Arthur's side, but the old man's removal contributed considerably to the great leader’s downfall.


The Lady of the Lake was eventually obliged to reclaim her sword when Arthur was fatally wounded at the Battle of Camlann and Excalibur was hurled back to misty waters. She was later one of the three Queens who escorted the King to Avalon.


The Lady of the Lake is usually referred to by various spellings of the names Nimue or Vivienne. Nimue is thought to be related to Mneme, the shortened form of Mnemosyne, one of the nine water-nymph Muses of Roman and Greek Mythology who gave weapons, not unlike Arthur's sword Excalibur, to the heroic Perseus. Vivienne betrays the Lady's Celtic form, for Vi-Vianna probably derives from Co-Vianna, a variant of the widespread Celtic water-goddess, Coventina. Remembering Latin pronunciation, this name probably relates to Merlin's original partner in early poetry, his wife Gwendoloena. Thus Gw-end(-ol)-oena = Cov-ent-ina.


Water deities were extremely popular with Celtic Society for they controlled the essential essence of life itself. The spontaneous movement of springs, rivers and lakes clearly showed the supernatural powers of the goddesses who lived within; and offerings at such aquatic features were commonplace, especially of weapons and other valuables.


This is the origin of the modern wishing wells and the Lady of the Lake is remembered as "Lady Luck"!


Her names clearly reveal this Lady to have been the Celtic Water-Goddess Coventina (presumably identified by the Romans with their Mnemosyne). This lady was worshipped throughout the Western Roman Empire, in Britain, the Narbonne area of Gaul and North-Western Iberia too.


She is most celebrated for her shrine at Brocolitia (Carrawburgh) on Hadrian's Wall. Here a quadrangular temple surrounded a central pool fed by a sacred spring. Coin, jewellery and small bronze figurine offerings have been excavated as well as numerous altars dedicated by the local soldiers.


Since the Lady of the Lake's place as Merlin's student and lover was largely overtaken by Morgan Le Fay, a lady whose very name in Breton indicates a water-nymph, it seems that the two were aspects of the same character. Indeed, as both appear among the three queens who escort Arthur to Avalon, she no doubt had a third aspect making up the well-known theme of a Celtic Triple-Goddess.



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Merlin the Magician

Born circa 400 CE ; Welsh: Myrddin;

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