Morgan le Fay was the sister of King Arthur. In his stories, Thomas Mallory made her the wife of Urien and the mother of Yvain. She was a rather tempestuous, malefic woman who tried to murder both her husband and King Arthur, and who had a number of lovers. She learned the magical arts from Merlin and used this knowledge to trick Arthur into sleeping with her. From this union she bore Mordred, the son who brought discord to Camelot and died inflicting a fatal wound on his father.
But these tales are of a late date. Earlier tradition makes her the ruler of the island of Avalon. Some associate Avalon with modern-day Glastonbury in England. Its name is derived from the Welsh afall, meaning ‘apple”, since the island is covered in apple orchards. It is also sometimes called the Fortunate Isle and may be compared with the Irish Tir Nan Og.
Avalon is inhabited by nine sisters, of which Morgan is the most beautiful and most powerful. As king Arthur lay dying after the battle of Camlann, Morgan appeared with a ship of women and carried Arthur to the island of Avalon. There he still lies with his knights under a fairy hill until Britain shall need him again. The island exited in legend long before the familiar Arthurian tales. In early Celtic legend, it could only be reached on a boat guided by the sea god Barinthus, and was a place fit only for the bravest and best.
Morgan was a goddess of the druids, perhaps related to Modron or Matrona, the Welsh divine mother goddess. She has aspects of maiden, mother, and crone. She is certainly related to the Lady of the Lake and to the fairy rulers of enchanted islands. Her name may be derived from the Welsh môr, “sea”, and gân, “a birth,” i.e., “born of the sea.” Again, the name may arise from the Welsh Mor Gwyn, meaning “white lady.”