Arianrhod, Celtic Star Goddess
Arianrhod, Celtic Welsh Star Goddess of Reincarnation, is known as “Silver Wheel”, “Silver Circle”, “High Fruitful Mother”, “Star Goddess”, and Sky Goddess. She is considered by many to be a Moon Goddess. She is a primal figure of feminine power, a Celestial Mother Goddess who through her role as Goddess of Reincarnation, rules fertility and childbirth.
Arianrhod, the most powerful child of the great Mother Goddess, Don, was very beautiful, with extremely pale skin. She was a virgin goddess in the ancient meaning of the word virgin – a woman who is complete unto herself; a woman who needs no protection from a man. She enjoyed herself sexually, with a distinct preference for mermen.
Arianrhod also rules arts, magic, and manifestation. As the Goddess of the Silver Wheel she is associated with spinning and weaving. With Her wheel she magically weaves the tapestry of life.
She was Gwydion’s sister, and mother of the twins, Llew, a Sun God, and Dylan, a God of the Sea. But their birth was a consequence of magic and trickery.
Her palace was found in the far north on the magical, rotating island of Caer Sidi, which probably means “Revolving Castle”. She lived there with her female attendants. The ancients believed that her domain and her castle, Caer Arianrhod, were in the Corona Borealis, the constellation of stars moving around the apparently motionless North Star. Legend tells us that poets and astrologers learned the wisdom of the stars at Caer Sidi. .
Caer Sidi is also known as Annwn, the Otherworld, land of the dead. People were brought there when they died. As “Silver Wheel”, Arianrhod was responsible for the souls of warriors who fell in battle. She gathered them aboard her ship, the Oar Wheel. and transported them to Emania, also know as Moonland. In the Northern sky, whirling around the enduring stability of the north star, Arianrhod presided over the fates of departed souls, nurturing their journeys between lives.
Things sacred to Arianrhod are the owl, wolf and the birch tree. The owl has long been associated with death whereas the birch tree is the tree of new beginnings. To the Celts, the wolf was associated with the power of the moon.
She has also been known as the “Silver Wheel that Descends into the Sea, which together with Her preference for mermen and her son, Dylan, supports Her strong association with the sea.
How many human years fit within one year of a Goddess? I can only imagine eons upon eons. So Arianrhod lived in the hearts of Her people for countless ages. She, enduring like the stars, forever nourished the souls of Her people.
The story of how Arianrhod was deceived is recounted in the fourth branch of the Welsh collection of stories, known as The Mabinogion, dating back in their oral form to the 4th century BC. The Mabinogion was not set in written form until the early medieval period. It is the story of the ancient, tribal gods and goddesses who through time morphed into mortal queens and kings. This story gives a clear picture of the disempowerment of the Goddess (and thus women) as patriarchal society replaced the ancient Goddess worshipping societies.
The ages had turned; new fashions entered the realm and the idea of chaste virginity entered human consciousness. Arianrhod became enamored of the glamour of this fashion, yet with no intention or desire of practicing said idea.
Arianrhod’s uncle, the magician King Math, was under a strange taboo which required him to keep his feet in the lap of a virgin whenever he was not actively engaged in battle. Gwydion, with intent of his own, suggested Arianrhod for this role. Thus Gwydion, who was Math’s successor and student in the magical arts, set out for Caer Sidi to present the offer to Arianrhod.
During his stay with Arianrhod, Gwydion had a different suggestion for her; he proposed marriage. The true heir to the house of Don could only come through the female line and Gwydion wanted his seed to father that heir. But Arianrhod valued her position as an independent woman without need to be tied to a man. Perhaps she longed for the excitement of court; perhaps she wished to obtain some of Math’s magical powers herself.
Arianrhod journeyed with Gwydion to the castle of King Math. The king demanded proof of Her virginity. She had to step across a magical rod, which caused Her to birth twin boys. The first, who Math named Dylan, fled to the sea and swam away. Remember Arianrhod’s preference for mermen.
The second boy or perhaps the afterbirth, unnoticed by all present, was scooped up by Gwydion, birthed by magic and raised in a magic forest.
Gwydion, as Math’s apprentice, must have known of the powers of this rod and thus through guile and trickery forced Arianrhod to conceive his child.
When Arianrhod learned of this betrayal, she laid three curses on the boy. She denied the child a name or the right to bear arms – the right of Welsh mothers, which gives a clear indication of the ancient power of women. But Gwydion tricked Arianrhod into granting them. The third curse – “the boy shall have no wife of the race that is now on the earth,” Gwydion broke by creating a woman of flowers, Blodeuwedd, to be his son’s wife.
Humiliated, defeated, and betrayed, Arianrhod spent the rest of her days at Caer Arianrhod. When the sea reclaimed the land, Arianrhod and her realm drowned and an epoch ended.
When Arianrhod speaks to you delve into your own soul; seek the knowledge of past lives; release the past; allow rebirth and renewal to occur. Be aware of the moon and the magic of her flowing changes. Open your heart to the infinite possibilities of the stars. Be in the open mind of the initiate who seeks truth of self and of others.
Judith Shaw, a graduate of the San Francisco Art Institute, has been interested in myth, culture and mystical studies all her life. From a college paper on Beauty and the Beast to a much later series of paintings on Beauty and the Beast…From a student painting of circles to her current fascination with the interlocking circles of sacred geometry…From reading When God Was A Woman in the early 70′s to her ongoing visual exploration of the role of the Goddess in our modern world…From her very first oil painting of a tree to her most current painting, The Mother Tree— her early influences of Jackson Pollack’s abandon, and Van Gogh’s emotionality are evident. Originally from New Orleans, she has traveled in Mexico, Central America, China, Europe and Greece and lived in Mexico and Greece. The passion and bright colors of many of these places have affected her palette and style. Judith makes art, dances with abandon and experiences the world through travel and study. Her work, which expresses her belief in the interconnectedness of all life, can be seen on her website at http://judithshawart.com