Wednesday, April 22, 2015
In celebration of this 45th Earth Day, I would like to acknowledge the ancient Greek Goddess of the Earth, Gaia.
The Greeks saw her this way:
The Mother of us all
the oldest of all
splendid as rock
Whatever there is that is of
it is she
who nourishes it,
It is the Earth
that I sing.
Hesiod's Theogony is an ancient story about the creation of the world by the Greek Earth Mother, Gaia. First there was Chaos, and then appeared "broad-bosomed" Earth, who bore, first of all and as her equal, the starry Sky, Ouranos. Then She bore the great mountains, valleys, plains and the Sea, and after that She mated with Ouranos and bore many children, among whom were the Titans and Titanesses, the ancestors of the Olympian divinities, who represented the 'titanic' forces of the earth. Yet, although Ouranos came every night to mate with his wife, Gaia, from the very beginning he hated the children whom Gaia bore him. As soon as they were born, he hid them and would not let them come out into the light. He hid them in the inward hollows of the Earth, and it is said that he took pleasure in this wicked deed.
The goddess Gaia groaned under this affliction, and felt herself oppressed by her inner burden. Therefore she devised a stratagem. She brought forth gray iron and made a mighty sickle with sharp teeth. Then she took counsel with her sons and daughters, asking who would avenge her for this wicked deed. Only Kronos (Saturn) took courage and agreed to act on her behalf. So Gaia rejoiced, and hid Kronos in the place appointed for the ambush, giving him the sickle and telling him her plan. And when Ouranos came at nightfall, inflamed with love and covering all the Earth, his son thrust out his left hand and seized his father. With his right hand he took the huge sickle, quickly cutting off his father's manhood, and cast it behind his back into the sea.
Gaia received in her womb the blood shed by her spouse, and gave birth to the Erinyes - the strong ones - and to other creatures. The father's genitals fell into the sea, and it mixed with the foam and gave birth to Aphrodite. Since that time, the sky has no longer approached the earth for nightly mating.
As with any story, let this one work on your heart and your imagination. The world is recreated in each moment. That’s amazing. So it stands to reason that we too go through times when our whole world is created anew. That’s when Gaia can be our guide. This is a perfect time to understand how creation works, because with the strong astrological aspects going on for the past few years, we are ready for a new story. We are all in the process of creating a new life for ourselves.
So with Gaia’s help, let’s look at what she has to teach us about the process of creation. Just as the Earth gives birth to the whole world, our experience of the Earth and our personal relationship with nature gives birth to our own world-view. Gaia’s myth says that first there is chaos, or nothingness, and then there is Earth, or form. This implies that within chaos there are inherent forms. Each moment of chaos has shapes within it.
Admittedly, it is very hard for most of us to imagine living within the chaos, for we are troubled by any confusion in our lives. But this image also warns us that there is a need to allow some chaos, for there is always the danger that we will try to get rid of the confusion too quickly, thereby losing whatever new forms are about to emerge from it. The very nature of creativity entails chaos and times of daydreaming, as any artist will tell you. Joseph Campbell said that "Until you are willing to be confused about what you already know, what you know will never grow bigger, better, or more useful."
There are fallow periods in our lives and in our days when nothing much seems to happen. (Oh, how hard that is on our masculine, left-brain consciousness!) What do we do with the fact that the very nature of our being is chaotic? We create ourselves and our reality each moment! Those moments do contain the chaos of imminent creation, because each moment asks us to make choices out of our free will.
Ouranos, Gaia’s lover and father of her children, symbolizes the Divine Plan before manifestation, the cosmic laws that order the Universe, the urge for perfection, the ideal vision of life. It’s very hard for the Ideal to manifest in all its perfection. Therefore, like Ouranos, that first masculine consciousness who takes pleasure in the feminine but rejects the fruits of their union, we may too quickly impose a form, an agenda on our chaos; the 'shoulds' and 'oughts' of our lives are imposed too readily onto our inner and outer chaos and children. Perhaps this myth explains why our modern masculine consciousness has such a hard time giving over power to feminine consciousness: the masculine likes order and control and loses itself too readily in the chaotic processes of creation, which is the work of right-brain feminine consciousness.
There is always a tension and antagonism between the creative idea and its manifestation. Overwhelmed by the power of our ideal vision, our own creativity (which is of the Earth) rebels and might retaliate – because of time constraints, day to day pressures or just plain giving up under the pressure (Saturn/Kronos as worldly authority and time and constriction) – by cutting off the source of inspiration, our creative imagination.
There is also the new life that grows spontaneously from within our inner chaos. This is the mystery of continuous creation we need to open ourselves to. This is the mystery of Spring, of new life that comes out of seeming death. Our directed, goal-oriented, reasonable ego-consciousness hates mystery, and is afraid of the creativity of feminine consciousness because it is wild and passionate, unpredictable and chaotic, and often demands the death of old, worn-out ego ideals before it can create something new. Perhaps this is why Ouranos feared to let his children out, for then he would have had to change and adapt, and not live in absolutes. We all need to face our fears as well as our creativity and our desires. Can we let the forms and the images that are inherent within us come into the light of day? Can we allow them a place in our lives so we can be co-creators of our lives? There is so much potential within each one of us if we can only allow it to gestate in the chaos.
To begin to do this, let’s re-learn how to mother ourselves, which is essentially to give birth to ourselves. If we can accept the instinct to mother as a grounding and nurturing instinct, we need to also accept that sometimes the instinct will be to jump into the dark abyss of Chaos. If we can do this, we might discover a more fulfilling and creative way to live life.
Here is a dream of the Goddess as Mother, a dream that asks the dreamer to accept deep love and mothering from her inner dark Goddess. When she accepts this nurturing, she is restored. She is a beautiful woman and the whole universe is hers!
I am an infant, lying alone in the grass. A great Being picks me up. She is huge and black skinned. She has a beautiful face and large soft breasts. She has the kindest smile I have ever seen. She holds me and sits down on the great stone steps of an alabaster temple. She nurses me with the milk of human kindness. I grow into a woman. We are dressed in the most beautiful garments. I have on a rose madder color robe and she has on an ultramarine robe with small silver stars on it. It is the entire universe.
The Great Goddess Gaia will nurture us if we honor her every day. This is the most important thing we can do this Earth Day.
Most ancient cultures that lived close to the Earth - the Celts, the Aborigines, the Native Americans, and Western culture itself until the sixteenth century - revered Earth as the Mother. They knew they were made from the dust of this Earth, that they shared this Earth with the other animals, the trees, the rivers and seas. They knew that they were part of the Great Round of Nature, one with all the other works of the Mother. They knew that just as the animals gave up their lives to feed and nourish human beings, so too, human beings gave back their lives to the Great Mother when death took us. They understood the wisdom and necessity of the cyclic processes of Her mysteries, and they lived within that cycle of gestation, birth, death and regeneration as in the protective circle of a mother's arms. For them, the Earth was animate and divine; She set the rhythms of life for all Her children. She was the Divine Nourisher and Sustainer, giving humans beautiful children and plentiful harvests; She was also the Divine Destroyer, taking back Her own. She was, and is, the bedrock and foundation of all that draw their life from Her.
We modern people need to honor our Mother Earth. We need to consciously live in tune with her cycles and in connection with all her children. We need to come back into resonance with her pulse. And then we will be willing to listen to her wisdom.
The Native Americans treasured the wisdom of the Earth. Luther Standing Bear, a Lakota (Sioux) medicine man, wrote:
The Lakota was a true Naturist - a Lover of Nature. He loved the earth and all things of the earth, the attachment growing with age. The old people came literally to love the soil and they sat or reclined on the ground with a feeling of being close to a mothering power. It was good for the skin to touch the earth and the old people liked to remove their moccasins and walk with bare feet on the sacred earth. Their tipis were built upon the earth and their altars were made of earth. The birds that flew in the air came to rest upon the earth and it was the final abiding place of all things that lived and grew. The soil was soothing, strengthening, cleansing and healing.
That is why the old Indian still sits upon the earth instead of propping himself up and away from its life-giving forces. For him, to sit or lie upon the ground is to be able to think more deeply and to feel more keenly; he can see more clearly into the mysteries of life and come closer in kinship to other lives about him. . . .
Kinship with all creatures of the earth, sky and water was a real and active principle. For the animal and bird world there existed a brotherly feeling that kept the Lakota safe among them and so close did some of the Lakotas come to their feathered and furred friends that in true brotherhood they spoke a common tongue.
The old Lakota was wise. He knew that man's heart away from nature becomes hard; he knew that lack of respect for growing, living things soon led to lack of respect for humans too. So he kept his youth close to its softening influence.
Friday, March 13, 2015
Homeric Hymn to Artemis
I sing of bright Artemis with her golden arrows;
The sacred maiden, deer-huntress, showering arrows
I bless you, holy Virgin, great sister of Apollo
He with his golden sword.
In the mountain of shadow and peaks of wind
She delights in the chase, she arches her bow of solid gold
She lets fly arrows that moan
The peaks of lofty mountains tremble,
the forest of darkness screams
with the terrible howling of wild beasts
Fleeing in terror.
The whole earth shakes;
Even the teeming seas,
In and out she darts, her heart undaunted
Killing, killing, killing—
Animals of every kind.
Then, when her great appetite is satisfied,
Her love of the chase appeased,
She sets aside, unstrung, her mighty bow.
Now she seeks the grassy slopes of Delphi,
Her brother, dear Apollo’s splendid hall
And there calls up the Graces and the Muses:
Her bow unstrung, her arrows put aside,
She dons a lovely dress,
And now she leads a sacred dance
With songs to Leto of the fair ankles—
Leto, who bore such children
As the world has never seen!
Supreme in act, supreme in wisdom.
Eminent of gods.
Homeric Hymn to Artemis
(Jennifer and Roger Woolger, Trans)
While the Greeks have given us a picture of Artemis as a lithe young woman, master archer and hunter, ever young and virginal, leading the dance of the Muses, her origins go back to before the founding of Greece.
Artemis seems to be the embodiment of a form of the goddess from Paleolithic times, the cultural Stone Age period (the earliest chipped stone tools) stretching from 2.4 million years ago to around 15,000 to 11,500 years ago in western Asia and southern Europe.
This means she is a very ancient goddess indeed! She probably originated as a hunting goddess before there were agricultural centers in Asia Minor.
Hunting cultures are very in tune with the cycles of Nature and of the animals they follow. They have to know the animals’ habits and migration patterns. They live in Nature’s rhythms. Ancient hunters achieved a state of consciousness called participation mystique in which they had a mystical connection to nature and the animals they hunted. This connection helped them in their hunting.
Just as the hunters knew themselves to be part of the great round of nature, they believed that they also participated in the death of those they hunted. In those times, killing an animal was a disruption of the primal unity of nature and the sacred bond had to be restored so the people could continue to live in harmony with Nature and with their own being.
This helps us understand how Artemis can be Mistress of Animals and yet also take great delight in hunting and killing them. She is both life and death, and ancient hunters knew that they participated in this play of hunter and hunted, that they could also find their death on the hunt. In living so close to the natural world, they felt the unity of life and death, and were always respectful toward the animals they hunted and were sustained by.
In many stories, Artemis seeks vengeance against people who have transgressed her natural order. It reminds us that she is a deity of both light and darkness. Not to be trifled with!
Artemis as Bear Mother
Artemis is especially associated with the bear; the root of her name is ‘art’ which is the Indo-European root word for bear. In the very earliest Greek stories about Artemis, she is a she-bear with her cubs. Bears are known for their fierce protection of their cubs as well as their tenderness for them. At some point, Bear became a very ancient form of the Great Mother.
In Greece, Artemis was worshipped as the Bear Mother in her sanctuary at Brauron. Young Athenian girls below the age of 9 were dedicated to Artemis and called her bear-cubs. As children, they went to live in the wilderness, dressed in bearskins and danced in the goddess’ temple. This was probably a time when the girls were given their freedom to follow their own wild nature as well as to learn about the blood mysteries of hunting associated with death, sacrifice and renewal. By this time, hunting and gathering had given way to an agricultural society and a civilization that in many ways had lost touch with Artemis’ wildness and her wilderness.
As with any image of the Great Mother, we look first to her loving and sheltering embrace, often forgetting that this ancient Mother also embodied the dark aspects of the Divine Feminine as well. Her rules were Earth’s laws. Sacrifice and death were preludes to new life. Even though Homer and later Greeks tried to make her a passive young girl who obeyed her daddy and played with her bow, the truth is that Artemis was the most popular Greek goddess, more so than Aphrodite, Demeter or Athena. Patriarchy always puts down power harshly as we see in our politics today. But the women remembered who Artemis really was and went to re-connect with her energies.
“Artemis was the most popular goddess in Greece, but the Artemis of popular belief was quite a different person from the proud virgin of mythology, Apollo’s sister. Artemis is the goddess of wild Nature; she haunts the woods, the groves, the luscious meadows. There the ‘rushing Artemis’ hunts and dances with her attendant nymphs. She protects and fosters the young of animals and growing human children. In her cult occur orgiastic dances and the sacred bough. … A favorite subject of archaic art is the figure … called the ‘Mistress of Animals’ a woman holding in her hands four-footed animals or birds of different kinds.” (A History of Greek Religion, p. 28.)
Artemis of Ephesus
We still see remnants of this more ancient powerful Mother Goddess in the statue of Artemis at Ephesus in Turkey. There is a huge statue of her with many breasts as well as images of animals on her skirt. This was the Great Goddess of the New, Full and Waning Moons: Maiden, Mother and Crone.
So what should we make of the Greek version of Artemis? I’ve found that many myths retold from a patriarchal point of view still provide us with an understanding of the energies being invoked. So let’s take a look.
The Virgin Huntress
When patriarchal thinking broke up the many aspects of the Great Goddess into separate goddesses, the Greek Artemis became the slender, maidenly Moon goddess, with her hunting dogs and her great bow. While she no longer symbolized the entire lunar cycle, Artemis came to represent the New Moon, the beautiful crescent of light than hangs in the western sky. The other two phases of this Triple Goddess became Selene as Full Moon and Hekate as waning Moon.
One of only three ‘virginal’ goddesses (Hestia and Athena), Artemis is seen here in relationship to her twin brother, Apollo, god of Light and the Sun. So even though Artemis is still a Virgin (which really means belonging to yourself/self-aware), she is continually connected with her twin brother.
As the Moon, she gets her light from the Sun, connecting both to the monthly lunar cycle. They make a strong pair, both sure of themselves, both attuned to their own realms while still connected. Artemis’ consciousness is our wild right-brain knowing while Apollo definitely represents left-brain functioning. Two lights in the sky—two types of consciousness to process life with.
Artemis’ mother was the Titan, Leto, meaning she was an ancient goddess before the Greek pantheon took over. So Zeus was from a newer generation of gods, and he wanted Leto’s power, so he pursued her (some say raped her) and got her pregnant. Leto means "the obscure" or "concealed," meaning not a physical power but a quiescent and invisible divinity, from whom issued the visible divinity with all its’ splendor and brilliancy. ‘Leto’s whole legend seems to indicate nothing else but the issuing from darkness to light, and a return from the latter to the former.’ (www.theoi.com)
She had some power that Zeus wanted. In a general way, Leto sounds like the description of the quantum field, the field of possibilities that gives rise to form—the realm of the archetypes or natural laws of life. Which once again shows how deep-seated an archetypal presence Artemis is for humanity. She symbolizes our wild nature and our deep connection to Earth and her cycles.
As our deep connection to Nature, Artemis embodies the energies of the wild and remote, lonely places of Earth: the solitude of the forests and mountains, the tumbling stream weaving its way down a mountain, the secret meadow blooming with a thousand colors, rough bare land and rocks which harbor deep caves. She knows ecstasy and death, delight in her body and hardship, quiet and movement.
As an ancient feminine archetype, Artemis is the archetypal energy of Nature’s flowing rhythms. As the Crescent Moon, she is the energy that sets us hunting for the new impulse of life growing within us, that gives us joy in the pursuit of our goals, and who is there at the end of the hunt as we give birth to our new life, for she is also the Midwife.
As the Divine Huntress, Artemis can help us direct (her arrows) our energies to the new possibilities arising around us; she can kill off those animal instincts that won’t serve us at this stage. She protects those animals and instincts that are needed to sustain this new life.
As she protects the new life in us, she is also around when we’re ready to birth it into the world. Artemis is also the Goddess of Childbirth. The birth is never certain, and women died. But others lived and thrived.
In the ancient story of her birth, her birth is painless and then she assists her mother in delivering her brother Apollo after 9 days of hard labor. Leto, the unseen and unformed, gave shape to a new masculine energy. We know that 9 is the number of completion, of the end of a task or cycle; so this goddess’ labor brought forth not only Artemis, Nature’s perfect child but after 9 days of cooking and shaping and spelling, these two goddesses were equally responsible for the transformation of the masculine energies into a new form—Apollo, god of the Sun, of the rational, of Delphi’s oracle. The best form they could create to carry on life at that time. A more rational consciousness began to take shape in Greece over time. Perhaps birthed by these Goddesses?
Artemis is goddess of the Hunt, of childbirth, of Wild Places, of the Moon; she is the goddess who leads the dance, whether out in wild nature, where she roamed with her nymphs and danced through the forests and meadows or at her brother Apollo’s prophetic Temple of Delphi. She dances the rhythms of Nature that she learned out in the wilds. She brings another rhythm to the music of her brother. She doesn’t let women forget our wildness, our huntress, our caretaker—she holds the space for our wild knowing.
Artemis is certainly the goddess who calls us to protect our national parks and wild places. May she come to our aid as we stop the energy companies from ruining our pristine wilderness. So Mote It Be!
Here is a summery of Artemis’ story. If you like her, please spend some time with her, studying her stories and embodying her energy.
Two other children of Zeus rose to take their place among the greatest of Olympians. These were the children of Leto, the beautiful daughter of the original Titans Coeus and Phoebe. Hera was tormented with jealousy of Leto. So the Queen of the Gods sent a serpent after Leto to vex her and to prevent her from finding a place to deliver her babies.
Leto frantically went from place to place, but found no welcome anywhere, since everyone feared incurring the wrath of Hera. She finally found refuge on Ortygia, the island of her sister Asteria.
Ortygia means “quail island.” Asteria, Leto's sister and the mother of the goddess Hecate, had escaped the lecherous pursuit of Zeus by turning herself into a quail and diving into the sea. The island of Ortygia appeared on the spot. After the births of Artemis and Apollo, the island's name changed to Delos, which can mean “famous.” It was renowned as one of the holiest places in ancient Greece.
This is where she gave birth to Artemis, with no pain or trouble. Immediately after her own birth, the newborn Artemis helped her mother through nine days of hard labor before she delivered her brother Apollo. Themis, Leto's aunt, took care of the young gods and nourished them on ambrosia and nectar—the food and drink of the gods.
Artemis and Apollo cherished their mother, who had gone through such an ordeal to bring them into the world. Not long after their birth, the giant Tityus attempted to rape Leto in a sacred grove near Delphi. Leto called out the names of her children, who quickly rescued her by showering arrows upon the giant, killing him instantly. For Tityus's offense, Zeus consigned the giant (who was his own son) to eternal torment in the Underworld.
Artemis and Apollo also defended their mother's honor (and perhaps their own pride) when Niobe, the daughter of Tantalus, boasted of having more and better children than Leto. The two killed most (or all) of Niobe's children, leaving Niobe to weep eternally.
Artemis and Apollo remained close to each other forever. Both siblings would become associated with the skill of archery, and they enjoyed hunting together. In addition, both had the power to send plagues upon mortals.
Wild Queendom: Artemis
Artemis grew to become the virgin goddess of the hunt, of wild animals, and of childbirth (due to her participation in the birth of her brother). She and her brother also became the protectors of young children.
When she was just three, Artemis was asked by her father, Zeus, to name any gifts she wanted. Among many others, she named:
1. A bow and arrows (just like her brother's)
2. All the world's mountains (as her home and playground)
3. Just one city (for she preferred to live in the mountains)
4. Eternal virginity
Zeus gladly provided her with everything she wanted and more. He ordered the Cyclopes to forge a silver bow and fill a quiver with arrows for her. He promised her eternal virginity. Zeus gave her all the mountains as her domain. And he presented her with 30 cities—and named her as guardian of the world's roads and harbors.
Artemis, constantly attended by nymphs, could almost always be found in the mountains she loved. Though she was the guardian of wild animals, Artemis enjoyed nothing more than hunting. Orion, a giant hunter, joined both Artemis and her mother on many of their hunts.
Like most of the Olympians, Artemis reacted strongly whenever she did not receive the honors due her as a goddess. After Apollo had helped Admetus win Alcestis as his bride, for instance, the groom neglected to sacrifice to Artemis at his wedding. Imagine his horror that night when he found his bridal bedchamber teeming with snakes! Admetus quickly followed Apollo's advice and made the necessary sacrifices to the god's sister.
The hunter Orion greatly offended Gaia by boasting that his hunting skill was so great he could kill all of the animals on Earth. Gaia decided to protect her domain by sending a giant scorpion after the hunter. After the scorpion stung and killed Orion, Artemis and Leto prevailed upon Zeus to immortalize him as a constellation—but with the scorpion similarly honored.
King Oeneus of Calydon similarly offended Artemis by forgetting to dedicate the first fruits of the harvest to her one season. Artemis sent a monstrous boar to ravage and terrorize his kingdom. To rid the kingdom of this vicious beast, Oeneus was forced to call on some of the greatest heroes of the age to participate in the hunt.
Actaeon, the son of Autonoe and grandson of Cadmus, offended the goddess by stumbling across her once while she was bathing in the woods. Furious that a mortal had seen her naked, Artemis transformed the hunter into a stag. His own hounds then ripped Actaeon to pieces.
The biggest penalty paid for offending the goddess was that of King Agamemnon of Mycenae, who foolishly boasted that his hunting prowess outstripped even hers. On the eve of the Trojan War, Artemis stranded the Greek fleet with ill winds. To appease her, Agamemnon sacrificed his daughter Iphigenia—though, according to some accounts, the goddess showed mercy at the last minute and substituted a deer on the altar.
Having won the right to eternal virginity from her father, Artemis sometimes found it necessary to fiercely defend it. Buphagus, son of the Titan Iapetus, once tried to rape her, but she shot and killed him. The twin sons of Poseidon, Otus and Ephialtes, also met their doom trying to violate the goddess—and Hera as well. Otus chased after Artemis while Ephialtes pursued Hera. But suddenly a deer—either Artemis herself after a transformation or a real deer sent by her brother Apollo—darted between the two brothers. Distracted, the brothers quickly hurled their spears at it, but it sped away. Otus's spear pierced Ephialtes and Ephialtes' hit Otus—and both giants died instantly.
Artemis required the nymphs who attended her to remain virgins, just as she did. But her father once raped Callisto, a favorite of Artemis's. Hoping to help her escape Hera's notice, Zeus then transformed her into a bear. But Hera—not fooled at all—tricked Artemis into shooting and killing the bear.
(<Classical Mythology: Night of the Hunters: Artemis and Apollo http://www.infoplease.com/cig/mythology/night-hunters-artemis-apollo.html#ixzz3UJGJzjC0>)
Monday, January 12, 2015
Rhiannon: Welsh Goddess of Sovereignty, Divine Queen, Horse Goddess:
Walker between Worlds.
Rhiannon’s name is well known to most of us from Stevie Nick’s song: Rhiannon rings like a bell through the night and wouldn’t you love to love her? Takes to the sky like a bird in flight, and who will be her lover?
Stevie must have channeled that description of Rhiannon: she is a queen of Faerie and images of bells, birds in flight and song, the Moon, the night and lovers are all elements of her stories. Part Moon goddess, part Horse goddess, part Lady Sovereignty, Rhiannon is like the Elven princess Arwen Undómiel in Lord of the Rings, leaving behind a magical existence in the blissful land of Faerie and choosing to live in the mortal world, where troubles and woes abound with the bliss.
At one point in her immortal life, Rhiannon gives up her place in Faerie to be with her beloved human husband, Pywll, becoming Lady Sovereignty, the Goddess of the Land of Dyfed. At another point in her long life, Rhiannon marries Manannán mac Lir, the Celtic god of the oceans, and has to deal with a Faerie enchantment that she and Manannan and her son Pryderi and his wife must break. Her marriage to Manannan makes sense, since the ocean is the symbol of the Collective Unconscious and gives rise to enchantment. In her role as Lady Sovereignty for Manannan, she must help him bring his special gift back into consciousness—the gift of the imagination—instead of it being used for enchantment (as our media does) to keep mortals unconscious.
Rhiannon is not a passive goddess. She does what needs to get done. She chooses her own mate and then willingly undergoes an unjust punishment (in the form of a horse!) because of the malice of her rejected and humiliated lover. She’s willing to pay the consequences of her choices. For all her beauty and gentleness, Rhiannon is a warrior goddess who must overcome these obstacles to her desires. Her stories are stories of her journey through troubles and pain into triumph.
This Welsh Goddess is an aspect of the Great Goddess of life, death and rebirth. Her song can awaken the dead and put people to sleep. She is a Goddess of Transitions, of Doorways, of walking between worlds. The name Rhiannon derives from Rigantona, meaning Divine Queen. She is often described as riding her White horse in the flower fields of her Faerie kingdom. She is accompanied by three sweetly singing birds, who can revive the dead or put the living into a sweet sleep--times of transitions. She sings with the birds, who are her messengers and she sings to anyone who happens to walk by. For a Faerie Queen, she is friendly to mortals and wants to share her joyful gifts, perhaps because she understands the burdens and joys of our human life.
Rhiannon is associated with horses, and so is her son Pryderi. She is often considered to be related to the Gaulish horse goddess Epona. Like Epona, Rhiannon and her son have an affinity with mares and foals. She is especially associated with White horses—Spirit Horses. White horses are rarer than other colors of horses. The mythology of Horse is vast and we find it in all cultures were horses roam.
It must have been amazing to take that first ride on a horse! (Of course it still is!) Can you image walking everyplace you need to go? How much more limited your life is when you can only depend on walking. Horse brought travel and communication, power and unity to people. It gave them the power of movement and expansion. How swift and powerful horses are—how powerful they make us feel! And unlike cars, horses have their own instincts and they’ll keep us safe if we know how to stay on their backs!
Horses are often associated with the sun chariot, the power to pull the Sun across the sky! Horse is always associated with warrior-heroes, for often heroes must ride like the wind. And the Mare is known for her fertility and gentle, mothering Spirit. In Native American lore, of all the colors, a white stallion was most prized, especially by the chief and medicine man. White Stallion symbolizes the balanced medicine shield, “where true power is wisdom found in remembering your total journey. Wisdom comes from remembering pathways you have walked in another person’s moccasins. Compassion, caring, teaching, loving and sharing your gifts, talents, and abilities are the gateways of power.” (For more, see Sams & Carson, Medicine Cards. Horse, p. 178.)
Horses symbolize movement and power, both physical power and spiritual power. On the physical plane, Horse gave us freedom; when Horse entered our experience, it enabled us to move quickly over large areas of land and to have accelerated power during war. Our whole world-view changed. We talk about cars having ‘horse power’, indicating how powerful the engine is to take us swiftly over many miles. On the spiritual plane, the magical Horse enables shamans to fly through the air and reach heaven.
For the Celts, Horse calls us to journey, to move our life forward and seek our soul’s purpose. And that often includes learning how to shift dimensions. Life needs to get deeper and richer. Horse calls us to go deep within and act boldly outside. Just as Rhiannon is a goddess of journeying between realms, Horse is the vehicle we use to make that journey.
It’s so interesting that horse is a healer—autistic children blossom when they’re connected with horses. Like Dolphin, Horse bridges the gap between human and animal and brings emotional healing to whoever asks its help. Horse is playful and loyal, intelligent and wise. But most truly, gentle and strong: we know that Horse can be trusted (except of course the grouchy ones.)
Whether journeying in the outer realms or the inner, Horse brings us energy, speed and a connection to the land and to the sky. As we journey, we learn the lessons of Horse—that together, we can travel through many dimensions and over many miles of land. Together, we can heal each other. Horse teaches us to become comfortable with the Earth’s life-cycle, letting go of what needs to die so we can rebirth a new life. Journeying is Horse’s gift to us! (for more, see Philip & Stephanie Carr-Gomm, The Druid Animal Oracle. Horse, pg. 122.)
Rhiannon is both Faerie Queen and Lady Sovereignty, who, in choosing her own spouse, thereby ordained Pwyll legitimate king of the Dyfed, which she personified. She rides her White horse between worlds, opening the gates of fertility and powerful sexual energy. This image of Lady Sovereignty astride a White horse developed into a ritual wherein certain Irish kings undertook a symbolic marriage to a white mare to align their reign to the power of the Land itself. The Celtic’s honored Mother Earth and her mysteries.
Rhiannon chose to embrace the mysteries of life, and she offers her guidance to us through her stories. Rhiannon’s stories exemplify the hera’s journey to overcome obstacles to her choices, as well as showing us what happens when the magical (spirit & matter) Feminine must deal with the limited understanding and vision of unconscious humans and faeries. Feminine gifts are misunderstood and often reviled by our left-brain society. Rhiannon can help us forgive those who won’t trust our feminine knowing. She acts out of greater consciousness with humility and grace, showing mortals her true worth.
Rhiannon works with an aspect of feminine consciousness which opens us to new experiences, no matter what plane of existence it happens on. She helps us overcome the obstacles within ourselves to listening to our intuition and emotional intelligence. Rhiannon is a strategist—she needs to be free. She is independent and strong, even in the midst of adversity. And she has the gift of music, which speaks to our souls. Like Sophia and Kwan Yin, she has experienced the suffering of humanity and understands us
and has compassion for us.
She is the Goddess to turn to when you have to walk through a door and you’re not sure how it will turn out. Her goodness, her wisdom and her truth are your best guides for walking into the Unknown. As you journey, you become the Maiden once again, crossing the threshold into the next, new phase of your life.
Rhiannon and Pwyll
While hunting in Glyn Cuch, Pwyll, prince of Dyfed becomes separated from his companions and stumbles across a pack of hounds feeding on a slain stag. Pwyll drives the hounds away and sets his own hounds to feast, thereby earning the anger of Arawn, lord of Annwn, the Otherworld. In recompense, Pwyll agrees to trade places with Arawn for a year and a day, taking on the lord's appearance and taking his place at Arawn's court. At the end of the year, Pwyll engages in single combat against Hafgan, Arawn's bitter rival, and mortally wounds him with one blow to earn Arawn rulership of all Annwn.
After Hafgan's death, Pwyll and Arawn meet once again, revert to their old appearance and return to their respective courts. They become lasting friends when Arawn learns that Pwyll slept chastely with Arawn's wife for the duration of the year. As a result of Pwyll's successful ruling of Annwn, he earns the title Pwyll Pen Annwfn; "Pwyll, head of Annwn." And Arawn himself ruled Dyfed well, so that Pwyll came home to a kingdom at peace.
Sometime later, Pwyll is holding court at his chief seat of Arberth and he walks up the Mound of Arberth. He is told that any noble who sits upon the Mound cannot leave until he either suffers an injury or else sees a marvel. He decides to sit there, hoping to see a marvel. Soon a most beautiful woman appears down the road, dressed in gold silk brocade and riding a shining white horse. She rides past the Mound at a sedate pace, and Pwyll sends his best horsemen to greet her, but she remains ahead of him, though her horse never moves quicker than an amble. The more the man hastens after her, the further away she is.
The next day, Pwyll goes back to the Mound and everything happens as it did the day before. The woman rides by, Pwyll sends his fastest horse after her and she still cannot be caught. On the third day, Pwyll himself rides after her, but he has no better luck. He finally calls out to her: “Maiden, for the sake of the man you love, wait for me!” The maiden calls back: “I will wait gladly, and it had been better for the horse if you had asked it long ago.”
They talk and Pwyll asks her business there and the maiden tells him she has come to see him. She introduces herself as Rhiannon and tells him she has come seeking him because she is being forced to marry a man against her will. She would rather marry him than her fiance, Gwawl ap Clud, if he will have her. Of course Pwyll agrees.
Rhiannon tells him to come to her father’s hall in a year’s time to marry her. When he arrives, he is greeted with great joy and a big celebration. During the feast, a man comes to ask a boon of Pwyll, and without thinking, Pwyll offers to give him anything in his power. Then the petitioner says he is Rhiannon’s intended bridegroom and he wants Rhiannon back. Rhiannon is horrified by Pwyll’s stupidity but she says they have to give him his request but she will put off sleeping with him for a year.
When that year is over, Pwyll and his men come back and hide in the orchard. Rhiannon has a plan. She gives Pwyll a magical bag. During the celebration, Pwyll disguises himself as a beggar, and petitions Gwall for enough food to fill the bag. The bag can never be filled, and after putting quite a bit of the feast in the bag, Gwall says, “Will that bag never be full!” Pwyll tells him that he must come and stamp on the food in the bag for it to stop. When Gwall comes and does it, Pwyll quickly ties him up and calls his men, who proceed to beat up the bag and humiliate Gwall until he agrees to give up Rhiannon.
After being married for a few years, Pwyll and Rhiannon attempt to supply an heir to the kingdom and eventually a boy is born. However, on the night of his birth, he disappears while in the care of six of Rhiannon's ladies-in-waiting.
To avoid the king's wrath, the ladies smear dog's blood onto a sleeping Rhiannon, claiming that she had committed infanticide and cannibalism through eating and "destroying" her child. She tries to get them to tell the truth, saying she will protect them, but they will not recant their lies.
So Rhiannon is forced to do penance for her crime. Her punishment is this: for seven years to sit beside the mounting block outside the gate each day and to tell her story to all who come to Arberth. And to offer to those guests and distant travelers who would allow it to carry them on her back to court. Only rarely would someone allow her to do so. And so it went for seven years.
Meanwhile, Lord Teyrnon, a horse-lord, has a wonderful mare. Every May Eve she would foal, but the colt would always disappear. Finally, Teyrnon decides to put a stop to the theft of her foals. That night when she gives birth to a beautiful colt, a clawed arm comes through the window and grabs the colt. Teyrnon hews its arm off, freeing the colt. When he goes out to give chase to the monster, he finds a baby boy wrapped up in silk brocade.
Teyrnon and his wife always wanted a child, and even though they know the boy is noble, they decide to keep him. They call him Gwri Golden-Haired. The boy grows at an amazing rate. At one, he is walking firmly and is stronger than a three year old. At two, he is bigger and stronger than a six year old. Soon he is helping the stable boys. Finally, Teyrnon and his wife give Gwri the colt that was born on the night they found him.
Through the years, Teyrnon hears stories about Rhiannon and her punishment, and feels bad that she is in such misery. Finally looking at the boy, he realizes that Gwri looks just like Pwyll. And so he and his wife agree to take Gwri to Arberth to his parents. When Teyrnon explains what happened, Rhiannon exclaims, “If this is true, I have been delivered of my anxiety (pryder). And so her son is given the name Prydari.
Prydari grows into a man of honor and many talents, and when his father Pwyll dies, he becomes the ruler of not only Dyfed but also Seisyllwch.
As you can see, Rhiannon is a complex goddess--Faerie Queen who takes on our humanity. A compassionate, magical goddess. One who moves with us on our journey. She is Soul, the part of us that lives in-between our body and our Spirit.
May the love and blessing of the Goddess be ever in your heart. Merry meet, merry part and merry meet again.