The Lady of the Lake
Nimue, Vivien, Vivienne, Niniane
The Lady of the Lake was known by many names. She was most often Nimue (pronounced Nim-oo-ay). Nimue was often confused and misrepresented in Arthurian Legend as an enchantress wanting nothing more than to steal Merlin's magick. This is considered by most, a literary fabrication created by the misogynist, religious state of that time.
Literarily, Nimue was the daughter of Diones and the lover of both Pelles and Merlin. In reference to Nimue as the Lady of the Lake, it was she who gave the sword Excalibur to Arthur and regained it when he died. She also accompanied three additional faerie queens to Avalon with the body of the slain king. It is also said that she stole the child Lancelot and cured his madness. This was done so Lancelot could become guard to Nimue's weak son Mabuz who was tormented by Iweret.
Alfred, Lord Tennyson paints one of the lovliest literary pictures of the Lady of the Lake in his great work, Idylls of the King. This first reference describes the Lady of the Lake presenting Excalibur to the King. The second reference is the return of the sword after the death of Arthur.
"And near him stood the Lady of the Lake
Who knows a subtler magic than his own-
Clothed in white samite, mystic, wonderful.
She gave the King his huge cross-hilted sword,
Whereby to drive the heathen out. A mist
Of incense curl'd about her, and her face
Well nigh was hidden in the minster gloom;
But there was heard among the hold hymns
A voice as of the waters, for she dwell
Down in the deep-calm, whatsoever storms
May shake the world- and when the surface rolls,
Hath power to walk the waters like our Lord."
Spoken by Sir Bedivere who was charged with casting Excalibur to the Lady...
"Then with both hands I flung him
[Excalibur], wheeling him;
But when I look'd again, behold an arm;
Clothed in white samite, mystical, wonderful,
That caught him by the hilt, and brandish'd him
Three times, and drew him under the mere."
Mythologically, the Celtic Lady of the Lake was known as a Gwragedd Nnnwn (or Lake Faerie). These fae were often married to mortal men. They were lovely, blonde women who enjoyed female company and aiding mortal women and children. The Lady of the Lake was also considered the Queen of the Isle of Maidens.
Nimue, mythologically, was a lessor Celtic Moon Goddess; cognate with the Greek Nemesis and Diana of the Grove. Her name meant "fate" and "she who lives" and was said to reside in the Fairy wood of Broceliande. She was also connected to the Goddess Morgan.
Archetypically, Nimue and the Lady of the Lake represented the primal initiation into the Otherworld. She reigned over knowledge, was the foster mother, and the mistress of wisdom.