Friday, September 05, 2014

Deity Challenge: XXIV to XXX

Arianrhod's "help" is the Great Magic Starhawk talks about in her witchcraft seminal, powerhouse publication, which name is to me an evidence it was dedicated to Arianrhod: Spiral Dance. Arianrhod's "help" is carrying you forward in Her wheel, in Herself, initiating and empowering you in the process, enriching your experience and expanding your notion of Self. A makeover, if you will, most definetely all for the best.

Talk about "help".

Arianrhod has "helped" me all along my life journey.

I never asked, She never refused.

From unwillingness and intrigue, maybe even avoidance, though more like resignation of ignorance (on my side) to revelation, enthusiasm and adoration, with the help of Hekate. While engaging a ritual to the Lady of the Key and the Torch in early August, I got to write and pronounce a request for blessings, and I focused on Wisdom, Light, and Understanding. As I rode the São Paulo metro back home that night, I started mind-mapping on my tablet a wealth of ideas and clarity, and it kept gushing down on me from the Source for over a month. I could only say yes to it all. That is how my actual realisation of the Fourth Branch of the Mabinogion happened in the first place.

Arianrhod is a marvel of Goddess spirituality, She is a powerful notion and presence in All-That-Is, and very few deities are as sublime, transformational and encompassing in their blessings as the Silver Wheel is. Wholesomeness is distinctive in Her touch. I understand and accept all that now.

By far, considering Arianrhod an aspect or temporary station of a changing thing. Whatever thing. I consider that pathetic, since Arianrhod can certainly be many things, except for a changing thing. She is dynamic, moving, universal and encompassing, but She does not go through stages Herself, nor happens in only one stage.

How to sacrifice to Her properly. I guess I will have to journey to Caer Arianrhod to ask Her in person.

UPGs are free for all, and as a queer-minded, gay man, I do filter gods and goddesses I work with in that sense--just like any other person under the Web of Stars. To me, Arianrhod is in effect non-human, despite Her guise in the Mabinogion all for the sake of good storytelling, and as a mother, lady and game-master for the Divine Twins, shapeshifters into several guises they are (Oak King and Holly King, Enchanter and Promised Child, Lover and Hero, Sacrificial Victim and Liberator, Trickster and Sage), She is a patron of (deep) Gay relationships.

Read the old stories. Read them with your heart. For all we have, despite being tainted, twisted, corrupted and distorted in incredible ways, they are the living repository of emotions, desires, processes and values of our Heroes and Gods. They were written the best way our Ancestors found, in order to teach us generations down the road. They are our heritage. Accept them, appreciate them, protect them, and above all GO BACK TO THEM. Read these stories, tell and retell them, work with them, reenact them, act them, journey into them, ask questions to the characters people in them. They are shades of Divine Light. Open the way to understanding. This is Great Work, and this is (one way) how we retrieve our identity, our magic, our knowledge and our Ways. And all of these are Arianrhod's blessings. Accept them, and help others find their way back to Her.

We are all circling in an ever-expanding spiral. Do not fight the pattern. Find and love your own Dance in it instead. And when you think you got it, go back to the beginning for another longer, deeper round.

Thursday, September 04, 2014

Deity Challenge: XIX to XIII

Arianrhod is fierce but mostly amiable with both family and foreigners, and above all independent. She did storm out of Math's castle in shame upon the wand episode, but She definetely has a sense of pride, authority and confidence throughout Her story.
Arianrhod is the opposite of a good mother in the consensus of our culture. She delivers, flees and years later She (initially) denies what any mother would have given her child in Her native, medieval, Welsh culture. But that is Her way of challenging, initiating and empowering the kid.
All idols holding a wheel or a labyrinth are Arianrhod to me. Silver rings and pentacles remind me of Her too. So does Spiral artwork, especially the ancient and simple kind.
And then there's this:
I cannot promise love eternally:
Love finds her food and drink not in our vows.
Often we find the fruit upon her boughs
Vanished away in barren chastity.
Enraptured here we let our bodies sing,
Yearning to fill with love our mutual need.
O let no cruel law nor outworn creed
Untwine the arms or part the lips that cling.
Eternal faith I cannot swear, but still
Under the shadows of the silver grove:
Nine moon-white moments, and the triple will
Is satisfied, for we have offered love.
Come, while the moon along her regal way
Enchants the grove with pale ethereal day.
("The Silver Grove", by Victor Henry Anderson)


BELOVED, gaze in thine own heart,
The holy tree is growing there;
From joy the holy branches start,
And all the trembling flowers they bear.
The changing colours of its fruit
Have dowered the stars with merry light;
The surety of its hidden root
Has planted quiet in the night;
The shaking of its leafy head
Has given the waves their melody,
And made my lips and music wed,
Murmuring a wizard song for thee.
There the Loves a circle go,
The flaming circle of our days,
Gyring, spiring to and fro
In those great ignorant leafy ways;
Remembering all that shaken hair
And how the wingèd sandals dart,
Thine eyes grow full of tender care:
Beloved, gaze in thine own heart.
Gaze no more in the bitter glass
The demons, with their subtle guile,
Lift up before us when they pass,
Or only gaze a little while;
For there a fatal image grows
That the stormy night receives,
Roots half hidden under snows,
Broken boughs and blackened leaves.
For all things turn to barrenness
In the dim glass the demons hold,
The glass of outer weariness,
Made when God slept in times of old.
There, through the broken branches, go
The ravens of unresting thought;
Flying, crying, to and fro,
Cruel claw and hungry throat,
Or else they stand and sniff the wind,
And shake their ragged wings; alas!
Thy tender eyes grow all unkind:
Gaze no more in the bitter glass.
("The Two Trees", by William Butler Yeats.)
The mind map I prepared for my brief introductory lecture on Arianrhod on World Goddess Day here in Madrid next Sunday (still unfinished though). Sorry, it is in Spanish.


Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Deity Challenge: XIII to XVIII

She is the cold initiator, so She is unaffected by injustices and imbalances, and because She knows, she knows that everything will turn out fine as soon as we here in the crucible of Her wheel eventually learn our lessons and claim our power.

That said, I remember Joseph Campbell said in "Power of the Myth" how today's youth lack the link to the past and a sense of heritage through storytelling, rites and symbolic wealth, generating violence and disconnection;  we live in a discontinued civilisation as victims of patriarchy and revisionism. So I would consider that a "sin" in light of Arianrhod's mysteries. Stripping anyone, whether a youth or a whole culture, of their identity and history is a terrible form of violence.

We do not know how Arianrhod was worshipped in the Old Days, but a lot of what is currently written, said and discussed about Her is UPG due to the fact that (if She ever had one) Her cult did not survive in stories, History or physical remains. Her symbols did, though, and they are pretty much the same.

Circle dances (especially Spiral and Labyrinth dances), agriculture (as the cycle of growing-harvesting-working the grain), storytelling as a means to retrieve and bestow (collective or individual) identity and vicarious initiation, astronomy, weaving, and everything having to do with a person's name, weapons and life partnership as ways of coming into power, initiation in society and maturity. All rites of passage are Her sacraments.

I learned once that there are two types of Mother Gods. One is the Earthly Mother, whose attributes are usually a river, the land, the crops, and education and everything that nurtures. The other is the Cosmic Mother, whose attributes are the ocean (check for Arianrhod), the Stars (check), the Universe as a whole (check) and everything that generates out of Herself (check).One is warm, the other is cold.  While the Cosmic Mother generates, the Earthly Mother cares for the offspring, much like Uncle Gwyddion did for Lleu. Arianrhod represents thus the Cosmic Mother in the Mabinogion and Welsh myth.

As the one who challenges Lleu and name the steps in his coming-into-power before he becomes the king of Gwynedd after his greatuncle Math, She also plays initiator and empowerer.

And as the powerful lady of a castle in the Western Sea, Arianrhod is one of the many Faerie queens of Celtic traditions that inspired the medieval figure of the Lady of the Lake.

As already explained in other topics (VI and VIII), I equate Arianrhod with the Greek Ariadne, the Hopi-Navajo goddess of the Whirling Rainbow, and several virgin mothers of heroes, gods and goddesses, especially if they are twins. And as the Cosmic Mother, I also relate Arianrhod to Yemaya/Iemanjá and Nyx, among others.

Because She is a mother, Arianrhod is either female or third gender, but I would not consider her male or of two genders. As a virgin, she is unpaired with any male, so she is not heterosexual. So in the scheme of human sexuality I learned to contemplate, She would be called "asexual female", but I am not sure She is completely deprived of sexuality. It could be understood that Labyrinth walking, and the dance in Her circle of so many heroes and deities are lovemaking to the Goddess. Human sexuality charts are not suitable for gods anyway.

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Deity Challenge: VII to XII

As far as I can tell, all of Arianrhod's epithets I came across throughout the years are from my contemporary neopagans, and UPG. My favourites are "
Crown of the North" by Rhyd Wildermuth, and "Web of Stars" from the Pagan chant "Powerful Song" (which in my mind is dedicated to Her).

Her only known Welsh name is Arianrhod ("silver wheel"), and it can be suggested that Her Greek name is Ariadne ("most holy").

Ariadne, as I mentioned already, and Rhyd Wildermuth presents Saint Catherine of Alexandria, also known as Saint Catherine of the Wheel (who according to legend died virgin). Besides the wheel, her other attribute is the ring. There is no historical evidence that this saint, a martyr in myth, really ever existed as a person, though.

As a Star Goddess and virgin mother of twins, Arianrhod has many sisters in other cultures (as already mentioned in VI). The Egyptian and Thelemic Nut/Nuit can be a variation of Her too, as can be the Native Brazilian goddess Ceucy, the local Star Goddess, a virgin mother who gave birth to a Hero-God under the twin trees of Good and Evil. And I do believe the Goddess of the Whirling Rainbow is a form of Arianrhod.

By far the most common mistake about Arianrhod is placing Her anywhere in a cycle pattern, whether a season of the year, a calendar day, or any stage in a process of transformation. A recurring example is placing Arianrhod as the Mother in the Triple Goddess pattern, or associating Her with the full moon. She is many things, but She is NOT anything temporary or shifting. She is the whole Circle of Life wherein Maiden, Mother and Crone stand; and She is the whole cycle of Moon phases. Although the Dancer in the Labyrinth is an attribute of Her, She Herself is not the Dancer. She is the Labyrinth, and the Dance itself.

Also, Arianrhod is only a moon goddess in the sense that She is a wheel year goddess, a life-and-death-and-rebirth goddess, and a sun goddess. Again, the whole Dance, not the Dancer.

And the owl is only indirectly related to Her myth through Blodeuwedd, Her son's wife.

No historical offerings have been found, to the best of my knowledge, since no cult of Arianrhod survived in literature or material evidence. But in my personal work I find it that She likes Jasmine and white flowers. She is also fond of water and the cold. She seems to like a Labyrinth fingerwalk at the end of rituals I dedicate to Her. Above all, She likes withdrawal. I am sure of that. In any case, She is a sober deity.

Again, the whole Wheel Year. Her (possible) synchretic sister St Catherine of the Wheel has her day on November 25th, but Arianrhod Herself is the whole year because She is the whole wheel.

In the Stars, the Northern constellation of Corona Borealis. On Earth, Caer Arianrhod was placed in the Western Sea, just off the coast of Gwynedd, in Northern Wales, as a rock formation visible at low tide. The Caer Droia (Labyrinth) is also Hers.

Monday, September 01, 2014

Deity Challenge: I to VI

Arianrhod is a British Goddess about whom not much is really known in a historical sense. Her name means "Silver Wheel", and she is related to many other deities in the Welsh/British divine team, especially the Goddess of the Land Dôn, the God of Magic Gwyddion and the Hero-God Lleu Llaw Gyffes. The main source to Her is the fourth branch of the Welsh Mabinogion where she plays an important role, but Her name also comes up in the Trioedd Ynys Prydein. She does not have a consort in history or in myth but is the (virgin) mother of twin boys, and if She ever had an actual cult, nobody left behind traces of it.

I read the Mabinogion for the first time about 17 years ago, and with the notable exception of the story of Taliesin (first story I told live both as a training and performing storyteller), much as I loved the drama in the whole thing, I did not understand crap on what those mental people in the stories were all about. So I disregarded the Welsh as uninteresting to my personal Pagan revivalism and neverminded it all, then continued my research, but the Fourth Branch specifically would never leave me alone, and everywhere I read about other myths, legends, stories, rites and symbols, whether Celtic or from other cultures, my mind drew parallels and conclusions of its own volition based on the story (more like stories, really) of Arianrhod's drama-ridden family. And as we spent more time together over the years, even though I did not plan to, I started to like Her and Her folks.

From Her name, Arianrhod is the (Silver) Wheel. In an agricultural society like the one She hails from, wheel means also the year, and all cycles, including moon phases and the stages in a person's life. It also means indirectly growth. That said, Hers is also time, and no-time. Arianrhod'd den is Caer Arianrhod, which is the Ancient Welsh name for the Northern constellation of Corona Borealis, so just like her icon is the wheel, Her quarter is North. Caer Arianrhod is thought to be at least related to Caer Sidi (Spinning Castle) and Caer Droia (the classical 7-circuit labyrinth that is found pretty much everywhere on Earth where human beings settled). I have never found anything that would discard this notion, and actually, as cycle, Arianrhod's wheel is definetely in movement, so a spinning tower is a very appropriate symbol of Her. She is indeed a very dynamic Goddess based on my personal experience. And the Labyrinth is associated with Arianrhod for many reasons: Her constellation is also mythically related to Ariadne, the Cretan lady of the Labyrinth, and the classical Labyrinth is walked sort of in spirals, in and out, deosil and widdershins, and spiral-like is also Caer Arianrhod. So, I do include the Spiral and the Labyrinth as Her symbols. And when functioning as Her priest, I wear a silver ring with triskeles on it. Other than the stars, Her castle is also said to be in the Western sea (like many Celtic Goddesses) and She is the mother of sea creature Dylan ail Don, but I am not so sure the Ocean and the West would be associated with Arianrhod too.

The Fourth Branch of the Mabinogion is all we have, and it is actually a good telling, albeit tainted and twisted by patriarchal shit. In a nutshell, and focused on Her character:

Cursed King Math of Gwynedd (Northern Wales) needed a virgin to hold his feet on her lap. His previous footholder Goewin was raped by his nephew Gilfaethwy with the help of brother and enchanter Gwydion, and Math punished them by making them repeatedly heterosexual pairs of deer, boar and wolf, and sending them off to the woods to procreate. Every year they would come back with a baby and switch genders for a new round. They both learned a lot about Motherhood, I reckon. But Math still needed a virgin footholder, and Gwydion, who was The Man and had the solution to every bind in the story, called forth his sister Arianrhod, who when challenged by Math on Her virginity said, "I do not know but that I am (a virgin)", and submitted Herself to a virginity test: stepping over Math's magical wand. When She did, two sons blurted out. Firstly Dylan ail Don who instantly became a sea creature and found his way to the ocean, and the other was a blob of flesh, snatched away by Uncle Gwydion and hid from the rest of the court. Arianrhod fled Math's castle in rage and shame to Her own.

Years went by, and surrogate mother Gwydion found the son of Arianrhod grew very fast and decided to take him to his birth mother. She was still resentful of what happened at Math's court, and stated that the boy would never have a name unless She gave him one. By a feat of Gwydion's magic, like everything else in the Fourth Branch, Arianrhod saw the boy killing a wren with a slingshot and said the fair-heared boy (Lleu) had a skillful hand (Llau Gyffes). The kid had a name now, and Arianrhod, mad, said he would never have weapons unless She gave him some Herself. Years later, Gwydion-The-Shit came back to Caer Arianrhod, cast an illusion of a threat that made Arianrhod so fearful and desperate that She armed Gwydion-The-Shit's protegee, and so the second curse of Arianrhod is dispelled. Arianrhod then stated that Lleu would never have a human wife. But of course Gwydion had got that down too: he made a flower maiden of oak, broom and meadowsweet, gave her the name Blodeuwedd (meaning flower face), and got Lleu married.

At this point Arianrhod disappears from the story, but Lleu goes on to get himself killed by a plot of his wife and her lover Gronw, then resurrected as an eagle and transformed back to human by (who else?) Gwydion and raised to the throne of Gwynedd.

I should have done this challenge about Gwydion, shouldn't I? Well.

In the Mabinogi, She is the daughter of Dôn, the Earth Mother, niece of Math ap Mathonwy, mother of Dylan ail Don and Lleu Llaw Gyffes, sister of Gwydion fab Dôn and Gilfaethwy. There is no father to Arianrhod's children. In the Trioedd Ynys Prydein, Arianrhod is given a different family tree, but that is probably somebody else also named Arianrhod.

This is interesting: just a superficial read on Arianrhod will liken Her to the Minoan Ariadne. Both are the myth behind the constellation we now call Corona Borealis. The constellation, in our own astronomical tradition, is named after the crown Ariadne wore on her wedding day with Greek god Dionysos. The name "Ariadne" means "most holy", and it is a point of contention that she might actually be several goddesses and gods mashed up into one single myth (among them Athena, a weaving Goddess, and Poseidon, the Sea King and consort of the Earth). But one thing is certain: Ariadne was the lady of the Labyrinth, initiator of Theseus, the hero who slew the Minotaur at the center of the Labyrinth and came back to rise to the throne in his native Athens, through a thread given by Ariadne that showed him the way back out.

A deeper interpretation of the myth will yield even more interesting information about both goddesses: both have "spinning" domains that are walked in spirals, so they could be associated with weaving too, and initiate and empower heroes and gods (Lleu and Theseus) in their own way. They both are related to men of desire from their own particular place (Gilfaethwy and Dionysos), and also men of the trees (Dionysos is the god of trees and the woodland, and Gwydion means "born of trees"), just like to Ocean deities (Dylan ail Don and Poseidon). They both confer sovereignity through a symbolic union with the Earth (through flower maiden Bloddeuwedd or the Minotaur). It has certainly been speculated that Ariadne's thread is a symbol of the serpent, that goes into the Earth and shapeshifts through shedding its skin. One powerful symbol of the Eternal Cycle myth in several cultures is the snake swallowing its own tail, which certain takes us back to Arianrhod's regency of endless cycles and an ever-spinning wheel.

Through Ariadne, Arianrhod can be associated with Dionysos, Athena, Poseidon, the Bull God of Minoans, the Tree God in His/Her many guises, and the emblematic Minoan Snake Goddess.

Through Her own Mabinogi myth, Arianrhod is especially related to the Mother Earth (both as Dôn and Bloddeuwedd), as well as Her whole family tree already mentioned. As the Initiator and Empowerer aspects of the Goddess, She is associated with Lleu Law Gyffes and all myths associated with Him: Lugh, Lugus, Loki, Loge and whoever else who also functions as Holly King I have never come across in my reading. And their counterparts too: Gwyddion, Odin, and all faces of the Oak King. In fact, Arianrhod being the Wheel Year patron deity, She is the Master of the game all cycle Gods and Goddesses play, including the Triple Goddess of the Moon (Maiden, Mother and Crone), the heterosexual pair of the Wiccan Wheel Year, Persephone and Dionysos Himself, the dying and resurrecting God. I call this figure The Dancer in the Labyrinth, because S/He dances to Arianrhod's music on Her ground, and as S/He shapeshifts, S/He is initiated and is empowered. To me, the Dancer in Her/His many guises is also an attribute of Arianrhod. But that's all UPG so take it or leave it.

Personally, I find a million things in common between Arianrhod and the Native American goddess of the Whirling Rainbow: both are associated with the circle/wheel, shapeshifting (into different races, or positions in society, or different powers for example), reincarnation and coming back, and as much as the Whirling Rainbow is actually a prophecy of the Navajo and the Hopi nations, it can certainly be argued that Arianrhod's curses upon Lleu were actually predictions of what would happen next in the boy's initiation process. Arianrhod is the Wheel Herself in the end, and She is the master of whole cycle. If she did not know what was coming next, who would?

Also on the Personal Gnosis field, but fruit of years and years on this Path, I equate Arianrhod (mother of Lleu and Dylan, sister of Gwyddion and Gilfaethwy) with all Divine Mothers of Divine Twins: Ceridwen (mother of Creirwy and Afagddu/Morfran), Mari (Basque mother of Mikelatz and Atarrabi/Atxular, Leto (Greek mother of Apollo and Artemis), Nerthus/Njord (Scandinavian mother/father of Freyr and Freja) and Nana Buluku (Western African mother of Lisa and Mawa), and countless others, far too many to put a comprehensive list together. Most of these are also virgin mothers, just like Arianrhod and her dual pair of Divine Brothers Lleu-Dylan (Her own sons) and Gilfaethwy-Gwydion (Her brothers, sons of Dôn whose father is unknown, most probably inexistent). If I learned anything about Deity in this life, it's that a Parthenogenetic God, mother of Divine Twins is the oldest and most profound image of Divinity.

More tomorrow.