Friday, August 12, 2011

Divine Friday


Pronounced “Ahr-ee-ahn-hrod”, the Goddess Arianrhod is the daughter of Don, a Welsh mother goddess and counterpart to Danu, and the God Beli. She also had two brothers, Gilfaethwy and Gwydion, who plays a large role in her story. Her realm is called Caer Sidi, which likely means “revolving castle” and is depicted as a great turning island surrounded by sea and located in the north. She also lived in Caer Arianrhod, the star cluster known as the Corona Borealis. She is a goddess of fertility, rebirth and the weaving of cosmic time and fate. December 2 is sacred to her as it is the Festival of Arianrhod,  a Welsh holy day.
                As reflected in the Maginogion, the Welsh book of mythology, Arianrhod follows her mother’s example as she lives by herself without a husband, but takes mates as she wishes. However when Gwydion calls her to the court of their uncle, Math ap Mathonwy (Don’s brother) he claims she is a virgin. It was said that Math would die if his feet were not placed in the lap of a virgin while he was not at war. Arianrhod’s other brother, Gilfaethwy, lusts after Math’s current foot holder, Goewin. Together the two brothers start a war with King Pryderi forcing Math to leave his court. While gone, Gilfaethwy rapes Goewin and is punished by Math upon his return. To alleviate her shame, Math marries Goewin but now must find a new foot holder.
                It is here that Gwydion suggests Arianrhod. To test her virginity, Math tells her to step over his bent magic wand. As she does, she immediately gives birth to two boys; Dylan, who immediately crawls to the sea and is not heard of again, and a second boy that Gwydion scoops up before anyone else sees. Years later, Gwydion returns to Caer Arianrhod and tells Arianrhod who the boy is. Still angry at her humiliation at Math’s court, she places a curse on him that he will never have a name unless she gives it to him. The next day, Gwydion tricks her into doing so by disguising himself and the boy as shoe crafters. While Arianrhod is being fitted, she sees the boy killing a wren with a single stone and remarks that the fair-haired one ("lleu") has a skillful hand ("llaw gyffes"). Gwydion reveals the disguise, and says she has just given her son a name – Lleu Llaw Gyffes. She then places a second curse upon him that he will never bear arms unless she herself gives them to him. A few years later Gwydion and Lleu return to Caer Arianrhod, this time disguised as bards. Gwydion is an accomplished storyteller and entertains her court. That night, while everyone sleeps, he conjures a fleet of warships. Arianrhod gives them weapons and armor to help her fight, thereby removing her second curse. When Gwydion reveals the trickery, Arianrhod places a final curse on Lleu: he would never have a wife from any race that is on this earth now. This curse is broken by Gwydion and Math who create a wife for Lleu out of flowers; the Goddess Blodeuwedd.
                Though her curses never materialized for long, Arianrhod’s struggle to have supreme control over her son and herself shows her strength and desire to be her own wman in control of her own destiny. Throughout time, women have struggled to find their own separate identities from besides those of “wife” and “mother”. Arianrhod calls to us, reminding us that just because we are women and have the ability to give birth, we are not defined by this act. She is a goddess who understands that other life goals may take precedence over the ability to conceive and give birth. Women who struggle with infertility, miscarriage or abortion will find comfort and understanding in the arms of Arianrhod, the goddess who chose her own life. She is a mother not defined by motherhood, and a daughter and sister not defined by family obligation. She is a woman unto herself.

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