Goddesses in literature and legend
'Throw me some eras and locations,' said Quintin.
'Norse Mythology,' said Miranda.
'Idun kept the apples that prevented the gods from getting old,' said Quintin. 'The goddess Freja is very prominent in their myths.'
'Aranrhod,' replied Quintin. 'Rhiannon. Cerridwen. There are lots of goddesses in Welsh mythology, just as there are in Roman mythology.'
'And Irish mythology?'
'Well of course. The same. The people who live in the Otherworld are referred to as the Tuatha de Danaan. The 'people of the goddess Dana'. Another of their goddesses was known as the Morrigan. And of course in Ancient Greek mythology as well. Athena and Aphrodite, Hera and Artemis.'
'And earlier still? In Minoan times?'
'Very much so. Possibly a matriarchal society, in fact, given the artwork that survives from that period. The Ancient Greek Eleusinian Mysteries are reckoned to date originally from this age of Minoan and Mycenaean Greece, and the emphasis was on the goddess Demeter and her daughter Persephone.'
'So what about Arthurian legend?' asked Miranda.
'All the supernatural elements seem to derive from female sources. The Lady of the Lake. The Loathly Lady. Morgan le Fay.'
'Morgan le Fay! That name rather gives it away, doesn't it,' observed Miranda, enthusiastically. 'Morgan, the creature of the Otherworld.'
'She was in the boat that came to take King Arthur to Avalon to be healed of his wound,' agreed Quintin. 'Along with the Lady of the Lake. And it was King Arthur's dead mother and Sir Gawain's own dead mother whom Gawain found ruling in an Otherworldly castle that he had to be ferried to, by a ferryman who usually transported defeated knights, as though across the River Styx, in Chrétien de Troyes twelfth century romance about Perceval and the graal.'
'And what about the medieval Breton lais?'
'The same sort of feel. It is a lady who heals the knight Guigemar of his seemingly fatal wound when he arrives at her castle in a magic boat with no crew, a candelabra of lighted candles at the bow and only a bed on board. And a lady of the Otherworld comes to take the knight Lanval back to Avalon with her.'
'And what do English poets make of it?'
'Edmund Spenser sends Prince Arthur off to search for the Faerie Qveene in an Otherworld of magic lakes and strange castles. William Blake waits for the goddess Enitharmon to awake from her eighteen-hundred-year slumber, in order to usher in a New Jerusalem, in his great poems Milton and Jerusaem: The Emanation of The Giant Albion.'
'He dreams of a goddess with her feet on the Earth and her head in the heavens. And for one of his own two tales on the road to Canterbury, he tells a story about an Elf Queen. And another of his Canterbury tales is about the Loathly Lady, who turns from being an old hag into a beautiful woman after one of King Arthur's knights sees her dancing with a circle of maidens in the forest.'