Faerie queens! Once nameless, but now known through time by many names.
Titania. Mab. Gloriana. Tanaquill. Oona. Elphame. Maeve. Rhiannon. Fand. The list seems endless.
Are they good or bad, big or small, fair or dark? And why do they enchant us? Faerie Queens have appeared in folklore throughout the English-speaking world, as far back as the mid-1500s. Although faeries themselves are said to be found worldwide.
I’ve long been fascinated by faeries and my love affair them, began with Queen Mab in the 1998 tele-miniseries Merlin. I liked the way she refused to be forgotten and the way her story wove into the lives of Arthur’s and Morgan’s. It made me want to delve deeper. It was the beginning of my discovery of a whole other path. It opened my eyes to Paganism as well as kindled my desire to learn more about my own Welsh ancestry. It gave me a sense of belonging and influenced my writing.
In Welsh and Irish myth we find various Queens of the Otherworld-Fand, Rhiannon, and Medb. It’s often speculated that the Irish Queen Medb (or Maeve), Queen of Connaught, may be the origin of Queen Mab.
Medb’s daughter, Findabair was stubborn, wishing to marry Froach who her father disapproved of, she married him anyway. Proving that she was much like her mother Queen Maeve (Mab) in character.
The Arthurian connection as I said is quite strong. Morgan le Fay (of the faeries) in some sources is said to be a Queen of Avalon (another name for the Faerie realm and where King Arthur is said to have been taken to recover from his wounds.) Gwenhwyfar or Guinevere, Arthur’s Queen may have Faerie origins as she is thought to be the female Gwyn Ap Nudd a King of the Otherworld and God of the Hunt. She is also a May Queen.
Titania, the Queen of Fairies was created by Shakespeare, who in turn took the name from Ovid’s Metamorphosis. Her name is most used when it comes to naming Faerie Queens.
Elphame or Queen of Elphame has been mentioned throughout Lowland Scotland and Northern England folklore and during the Scottish Witch Trails. Dealing with her is said to be a death sentence. Also referred to as the Elfin Queen and in popular Scottish tradition as Nicneven, who is said to be the Scottish Witch (Crone) Goddess of a Samhain.
Fand, is a Sea Goddess, married to Sea God Manannan Mac Lir. Fand fell in love with and enchanted a human. Manannan knew that a relationship between human and fey would not continue without it destroying the faeries. So he erased the memories of one from the other by drawing his magic mantle between them.
Rhiannon is said by some sources to be a British Sun Goddess and a Faerie Princess (her parents where the King and Queen of Gwent, a Welsh Kingdom) and ruler of the sun itself. But I know her more keenly as a Goddess of the Moon and of Horses (akin to Epona) Her story is told best in the Mabinogion (or Mabinogi) so I won’t rehash it here. It is a collective description of a group of four medieval Welsh tales that are also called the “four branches.”
Whatever name you choose, one thing is for sure, faerie queens are not only beautiful and seductive, they are also dangerous. Not all faeries are benevolent some can be quite malevolent. I’ve often thought I’ve seen something otherworldly out of the corner of my eye and wondered if it couldn’t be a Faerie? What about you?