The next long overdue episode in blogging all the women on my Wild Women t-shirt. Long overdue, because >this one really tripped me up, but thank you Mandy for giving me a steer!
According to Wikipedia, she is a powerful sorceress and sometime antagonist of King Arthur and Guinevere in the Arthurian legend.
Over the years, I have failed at every level to engage in Arthurian Legend. It's one of those subjects that ought to be interesting. I have been diverted into reading about Guinevere, who was married to Arthur but had an adulterous affair with Lancelot. It reads sadly, because she was presumably in an arranged (or even forced) marriage with Arthur,and who can blame her for falling for gallant Sir Lancelot. I acknowledge that that represented a betrayal of Arthur and their marriage vows, and he could not bear the loss of face, but better to lose face than to lose a kingdom. And anyway, he can't have loved her if he had her burned at the stake. His hateful actions are a post hoc proof that she was right to go off with Lancelot.
Less of Guinevere and more of Morgane. According to Geoffrey of Monmouth, she was one of nine magical sisters who dwelt on Avalon and tended to Arthur's wounds after battle. I wonder what is the significance of nine sisters in mythology; are they more significant than Seven Sisters in the equally mythological North London?
In the 13th century, she is credited with a string of lovers, until expelled from court by Guinevere (ooh, the hypocrisy, I've gone right off Guinevere). I often think about women in history (ie prior to about the 20th century) who had strings of lovers, and wonder what they did for contraception. We know the Ancient Egyptians used crocodile dung and other spermicides containing lactic acid. Modern centuries have condemned women with multiple lovers because of the economic implications of bearing children outside marriage or with disputed parentage. It is only recently that contraception has become relatively safe and reliable and that illegitimate children, with or without an identifiable father, have become non-taboo. It is thought - wrongly - that Dr. Condom provided animal tissue sheaths to Charles II to prevent him fathering illegitimate children. And there is plenty evidence that abortion is as old as sex. There's an interesting page summarising changing societal attitudes to fertility, contraception, and abortion over the centuries. These and other sources put a lie to the claim that sexual intercourse was invented in 1963 and promiscuity in 1997.
Thomas Malory's Morte d'Arthur had Morgan hating Arthur for his purity (yeah, right...) and
plotted with her lover, Sir Accolon, to steal both Excalibur and the British throne. Arthur met Accolon in combat without his magical sword, but the Lady of the Lake helped him retrieve it and win the battle. In return, Morgan stole Excalibur's scabbard and threw it into the nearest lake. She eventually escaped Arthur's wrath by transforming her entourage into stone.
By a very circuitous route I came across mention of Devadasis, women who were 'married to the temple' by their families, a custom that over time became one of religious prostitution. In either case, it provides yet another historical example of the absolute subjugation of women.
I then came to Messalina, who I think I would put on my revised version of a Wild Women t-shirt. Most of the Roman women were a lot more exciting than the Arthurian women. I'm sorry, they just bore me. Isolde I can tolerate because of the mindblowing music, but give me an Egyptian or a Roman over an Arthurian any time.
I came a lot more stuff, too, about really wild women like Edna St Vincent Milay and Gala Dali, who are a lot more interesting., and a lot wilder than Morgane, IMO.