Flidais, Celtic Earth Goddess, Lady of the Forest and Much More by Judith Shaw


gugg jude72This year the fall equinox occurs on September 22.  In the Pagan calendar it is a time for giving thanks called Mabon.  Mabon celebrates the end of the harvest season and is a time to honor our wild nature and nature spirits. It is a day of perfect balance when the hours of daylight and darkness are equal. Mabon ushers in our journey into the dark night of winter.

Flidais (pronounced flee-ish) is a complex Celtic Goddess with many differing stories and aspects.  She represents both our domestic and our wild natures and is an appropriate Goddess to call on on this day of balance.  She first appears in the ancient mythological cycles as an Earth Mother. She was the  mother of the Irish cultivator heroes, Arden, and Bé Téite and the “she-farmers” Bé Chuille and  Dinand.   From Her they gained the power to cultivate and work the earth for the community.

Flidais, Celtic Goddess painting by Judith ShawShe is considered a woodland Goddess by modern Celtic pagans. As Lady of the Forest she protects wild fauna and flora.  But in mythology she is equally connected to both wild and domestic animals.  In particular deer and cattle are Her sacred animals, both of whom she milks. She Herself called all the wild animals “her cattle.”

Through Her many children Her aspect as a Mother Earth Goddess is seen. By Her strong association  with milk and milking she can clearly be seen as a Goddess of Abundance. During the Cattle Raid of Cooley (Táin Bó Cúailnge) her magical herd of cattle supplied milk for the entire army every seven days.

In addition to her Earth Goddess aspect of nurturing and providing abundance, Flidais was said to be a shape-shifter, a Goddess of Sexuality, and a Healing Goddess.  She was part of the Tuatha Dé Danaan. (“peoples of the goddess Danu”) – believed to come from the pre-Christian deities of Ireland.  Similar to the Welsh Mabinogion, the Irish Ulster Cycles were first put into written form in the medieval period. In this Medieval cycle the “ Tuatha Dé” were morphed from ancient Goddesses and Gods into mortal queens, kings, and heroes..

She is often called Flidais Foltchaoin – Flidais the “Soft-haired” or “Fair- haired”. Some scholars believe that Her name  means “wet one” whereas Monaghan feels that her name means “doe” and that she is closely associated with Artemis, the Greek Goddess of the Hunt.   And some scholars discount Her completely, accusing Her of being only a literary creation of the 10th and 11th centuries.

Various stories exist about her loves and marriages. In the Middle Irish glossary “Fitness of Names” she is said to be the wife of the legendary High King Adamair and the mother of Nia Segamain by Adamair. She shared her power and love of animals with her son.  She gave Nia Segamain the “Faery power” and he too was able to milk the cattle (deers and cows) creating great wealth and abundance.  Yet another tale, the Metrical Dindshenchas, says she was the mother of Fand, Celtic Sea Goddess.

In the Ulster Cycle”The Driving off of Flidais’s Cattle” she appears as a main and yet mortal character.   Here we see the combination of her aspect of Goddess of Sensuality and Earth Mother/Lady of the Forest.   Flidais was married to Ailill Finn but infatuated with and strongly drawn to Fergus mac Rog. She had heard tales of Fergus mac Rog’s prowess  and let it be known that if he would take her from her husband she would put Her herd of deer and cattle at his disposal.  She proved true to Her word. During “The Driving off of Flidais’s Cattle” one of her cows was able to feed 300 men from just one milking.   In this story we also learn of Her sexual artistry. Only She could fully satisfy her lover, Fergus.  Without Her he needed seven women.

As an Earth Goddess, Flidais is associated with the colors brown and green.  The deer is her sacred animal.  There is disagreement among scholars over her position as Our Lady of the Forest, yet some believe that she rode in a chariot drawn by Her sacred deer.  Trees are also sacred to Flidais as she serves as the protector of the trees and the animals of the forest. She is seen as the protector of the poor and the outcast who called on her when they were in need of safe harbor.

Call on Flidais when you feel out of balance, as she represents the eternal cycles of growth and rebirth.  She embodies both our domestic and wild natures, helping us find that balance within ourselves.  She can  help us touch the deepest, wild parts of our own sexuality, relieving any guilt that civilization has created. Flidais also returns us to our own sense of empowerment.  She claims the right to give Her powers of nurturing, abundance, and sensuality to whomever she chooses.  Through Her role as a shape-shifter, She helps us shift the shape of our lives. She opens our eyes to a new light, releasing us into abundance and creativity.   May you feel the depth of Her love for Her “cattle” deep in your heart.

Sources:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flidais, http://celticcrossroad.proboards.com/index.cgi?board=thegods&action=display&thread=16, http://lairbhan.blogspot.com/2012/04/flidais-foltchaoin.html, http://cr-r.livejournal.com/252897.html, http://www.shee-eire.com/Magic&Mythology/Gods&Goddess/Celtic/Goddess/Flidais/Page1.htm, http://www.pagannews.com/cgi-bin/gods3.pl?Flidais

Judith Shaw, a graduate of the San Francisco Art Institute, has been interested in myth, culture and mystical studies all her life.  Not long after graduating from SFAI, while living in Greece, Judith began exploring the Goddess in her artwork.  She continues to be inspired by the Divine Feminine in all of Her manifestations. Originally from New Orleans, Judith now makes her home in New Mexico where she paints and teachs part-time.  She is currently hard at work on a deck of Goddess cards. Her work, which expresses her belief in the interconnectedness of all life, can be seen on her website at http://judithshawart.com

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Categories: Earth-based spirituality, Goddess, Goddess Spirituality, Goddess Spirituality, Pagan Holidays, Paganism

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15 replies

  1. Happy Equinox, Judith, thanks for your beautiful, enchanted painting and these welcome thoughts today!! The idea of the wild and the domestic and sexuality and balance in your post, bring together for me a powerful memory. And it is also connected to September, and the beginning of the academic year.

    I spent five glorious years in the art department of my University where I also taught for a short time. The art department was housed in a renovated old stable with an upper floor that would have kept hay for the horses. In the very first class I took in art history, the professor lectured us quite firmly, saying that nudity in art was part and parcel of the tradition, and that we would see many such figures in our studies. Any of you, he said, who starts to snicker, when those slides are shown, will flunk this course. So we went forth and nobody ever snickered. And there was in the back of my mind, as an 18 year old girl, a huge leap at that juncture, especially as regards my own body, and how it ought to be honored. It seems like the archetype expressed by the Celtic Flidais was somehow manifest in all of that!

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    • Happy Equinox to you too, Sarah. Thanks so much for sharing your memory. It does sound like a very powerful moment for you of awakening and self-realization.

      I just love the power of art – the unexpected feelings, memories, etc that it can elicit. As artists we just never know how these images which pass through us will be received by others. I love so much hearing others’ response.

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  2. mabon indeed… I love this goddess with the deer and cow in the woods… and fall is my favorite season…. I love the goddesses of the forest, and their connection to animal companions…. I think of Diana, goddess of the hunt with her hounds, and bow and arrows… I think of women hitting the targets zeroing in on the bull’s eye of freedom with no compromise. I think of the freedom of walking with these goddesses, being protected by the giant creatures, having a forest where patriarchy has no access, no knowledge, no power at all. Freedom!!!

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  3. Lots of information here, but not much evidence in your writing to prove what you are saying. Interesting but to someone who is just learning about the topic, they would have no clue what you are talking about. It feels more like an analysis of the goddess that anything else. Who was she as a person? Why is she different? What exactly shows these different characteristics about her? Reading this article, all I learned was she is an earth goddess, how to pronounce her name and that she milks deer and cattle. The stories about her in your article that show who she is, are not actually, not even in summary. Unless you have already done your research on this goddess, you wouldn’t know what she is talking about. I don’t know who she is as a person, I don’t know how to connect to this goddess or why I even would. Your last paragraph to summarize what you are saying has nothing to do with what you previously said, it is completely out of the blue.

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  4. Thanks for posting this. I am at a point where my paganism is in its infancy but at the same time have come to realize that much of what I have thought and felt for most of my life resonates with such. I have had experiences through sacred hunting where I feel I have connected with Cernnunos/Herne to some degree, but have also had brief contact with a feminine energy deep down below that. I have had one strong experience where an elk stag lifted his head to reveal the face of a goddess/huntress – the stag being more of a cloak and headdress but at the same time an entity of its own.

    As such I am wading through this murky nexus of learning about huntress/forest goddesses but I’m finding little to go on save for the abundance of stuff related to Artemis or Diana. What I’ve experienced so far doesn’t lead me to believe that that’s quite the right energy, but time will tell. Other goddesses that sometimes come up include Artio, Skadi, Meilikki, and Arduinna.

    It feels more like a female counterpart to Cernnunos… a horned goddess, if you will. Or a complementary side – sort of a yin-yang, male-female, dual energies in balance kind of thing. Many might consider the combination odd… a “stag goddess” or such… but since my sacred hunt path includes more than just hunting but also stewardship, nurturing, balance, deep nature connection, and such I don’t personally think the combination would be paradoxical. That would also make sense since most of my encounters through the sacred hunt have been with does, including several with one that I sense is almost a matriarch of the area where I hunt.

    So thanks for the writeup. So many sites that reference lesser-known deities in a pantheon just have a one-sentence summary or such. This gives me a little more food for thought in terms of researching just what or who it is I am experiencing.

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  5. Reblogged this on Contemplation of the Sinking Roots and commented:
    Fascinating! I love nature and forest deities! You learn something new every day!

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  6. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always hopes, always perseveres…

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Trackbacks

  1. Flidais – Celtic Goddess for Fall Equinox | Judith Shaw - Life on the Edge
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