Matrona, Morgana and Welsh Mermaids
R S Loomis, the author of numerous scholarly works on the Arthurian legends, refers to the fragmentation of identities of the river goddess Matrona. The River Marne in France is named after her and she has a more widespread identity as, for instance, Modron in Britain, mother of the god Mabon (<Maponus).
Loomis identifies the Arthurian character Morgan La Fée as the literary manifestation of a number of folklore ‘morgans’ descended from Matrona who often appear as mermaids or other water spirits, particularly in West Wales:
“She has acquired not only the attributes and activities of Macha, the Morrigan and Matrona, but also the mythic heritage of other Celtic deities. She is a female pantheon in miniature.
She was a sort of naiad or nereid, haunting springs, rivers, fords, lakes, and seas, or dwelling beneath their surfaces; she was a foster-mother of heroes, who took them in their infancy, trained them for high adventure, and watched over them in peril; she showered wealth on her favourites; she sometimes appeared in a group of three fays; she foretold the future; she was both a beneficent and a sinister power; she lay in wait for mortals, offering them her love; she possessed a very swift and powerful horse.” Wales and the Arthurian Legend (Cardiff, 1956) pp.127-128
Continuing the discussion, Loomis cites a number of other links between this multiple goddess and the ‘Matres’, the ‘Parcae’ and the ‘Lamiae’, the latter characterised by an anonymous Elizabethan writer as “ladies of the fayry, whyche dooe allure yong men to company carnally with theym”. Loomis concludes that “The divergent lines of Goidelic and Brythonic mythology seem to have converged to produce the composite legend of Morgain la Déesse.”