Dahut Ahes, Breton goddess of Love and Sensuality is a Celtic Goddess whose origins are obscured by patriarchal tales which cast Her as wanton and depraved. By weaving together the tales as they are today with an understanding of the life-affirming nature of the old pagan ways Dahut emerges as more than a glittering goddess of beauty; She is revealed as an ancient goddess in a long line of goddesses who holds the rebirth of the old ways in Her loving arms.
I believe Her story is much older than the tales of Her told during the days when Christianity was gaining supremacy over the Ancient Religion. Her story begins with Her parents. Her father, Gradlon, King of Brittany, was originally Pagan but later converted to Christianity with the pressure of the times. Her mother, Malgven was believed by some to be a goddess of the Tuatha Dé Danann, the ancient deities of the Celtic world forced underground to live as faeries after the the coming of the more patriarchal world view. Others believe Malgven to have been a Druid or a Sorcerer from the land of the Picts, the original inhabitants of Scotland.
On one of Gradlon’s campaigns in the North, they met and fell in love. But Malgven was married to the old King of Siaelland (Denmark). In the tradition of the ancient ways in which the old king dies, making way for the new, Malgven and Gradlon conspired to kill the old king. Then they fled together as King and Queen of Brittany on Morvac’h, Malgven’s magical horse, who blew fire from its nostrils and could ride across the sea.
The couple remained at sea for a year and a day, during which time Malgven gave birth to Dahut. Some versions of the story recount that Malgven died in childbirth. Others say that the time had come for her to return to the faery world. Legend records that before she disappeared she asked King Gradlon what he saw in their daughter.
“I see you,” he says.
“Then she will be ever thus,” she answers.
Malgven, Herself descending from a long line of Goddesses who upon hearing the call to return home passed the baton of the earthly mantle on to their daughters, now passed that lineage on to Dahut.
King Gradlon mourned the absence of Malgven and poured all of his love into his daughter. In their honor King Gradlon built a magnificent coastal city named Ys (Kêr-Is in Breton). It was the most beautiful city in the world with a splendid palace, cathedrals and temples, gardens and beautiful homes.
As Ys was built below sea level it was protected by a massive wall with a tall floodgate. The floodgates were opened at low tide, allowing boats to enter and to leave. Gradlon wore the golden key, the only key, that controlled the floodgates around his neck at all times.
All versions of the story blame Dahut for the destruction of Ys. This is an old tale retold in many lands – the tale of how woman and her sexuality destroyed a city, a garden, a paradise, the world. But following the Way of the Goddess we can construct a different tale for Dahut.
Dahut grew to be a great beauty, just like her mother. She was sought after by many men. She loved life and all the gifts the goddess has bestowed on us. She loved her city Ys, with its beautiful rooms, towers, gardens, temples, and courtyards.
Dahut is of the Sea, She rules that deep consciousness of our desire for life; for all the pleasures that life offers.
She loved Her people and wished only the best for them. Dahut, during her incarnation as daughter of Gradlon and Molgven, felt pain at seeing the joys of life denied and demonized by the priests of Christianity. The seasons had turned many, many times and the Ancient Ways of the Goddess were being overpowered by the New Religion, which increasingly adapted more and more flesh-hating, life denying ideas and practices.
As her foremothers had done, She sought her King, she sought the balance of the female and male principles. But every man who came before Her was mired in the new ways, full of violence and hatred, greedy and power hungry, deniers of life, haters of women. So every morning She sent each suitor away and her heart sunk further into sadness at the state of the world.
More and more madly with each passing day, Dahut and her people danced and sang, drank and made love, hoping to bring back balance, to bring joy back. Until finally one day Dahut could no longer bear the depravation, the loss of beauty, the loss of pleasure, the loss of happiness. Knowing, like only a destroyer goddess can know, that death always precedes rebirth, she knew the time had come to wipe the slate clean. She stole the golden key to the floodwater gate from her father. She opened the floodgate, calling on the Goddess and the waters of the sea to drown the city of Ys.
Her father rushed to save Her with his magical horse, the gift from Her mother. But in the end he yielded to the demands of the Christian priest, Guénolé who cried out for Gradlon to let Dahut drown. And so he let her go to the sea.
Yet the sea is from where she came and to where she was destined to return. She has passed the centuries in Her sunken city of Ys with Her people. There they practice the Old Ways, honoring life, honoring the natural world and loving each other. And there they wait until the world is ready for the rebirth of the Goddess Way.
Dahut, The Once and Future Goddess, holds the sacred ways of love, of sexuality, of spirit manifest in this physical world in Her heart, Her mind and Her soul. Call on Dahut when you need to reconnect with the beauty and joy of our physical lives; when you need to remember the truth of the saying “We are spiritual beings having a physical experience.”
Sources: Celtic Gods and Goddesses, Goddess Dahut, Timeless Myths: Dahut, Gradlon, Arianrhod: Crown of the North, Three
Judith’s deck of Celtic Goddess Oracle Cards is available now. You can order your deck on Judith’s website. Experience the wisdom of the Celtic Goddesses!
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 teaches part-time. She is currently hard at work on a deck of Goddess cards. Purchase Judith’s prints and paintings, priced from $25 – $3000.
16 thoughts on “Dahut, the Once and Future Goddess by Judith Shaw”
Love your retelling.
Judith, I look for your posts so I can see another of your splendid paintings. And today was a special treat with the re-telling of Dahut. So beautiful. Thank you.
Brava! What a good story! Poul Anderson has written two or three novels about Dahut and Ys. I read one or two of them maybe 20 years ago.
Thanks Carol, herbiznow, and Barbara. Finally I found the place inside myself that allowed this retelling to happen. This journey with the Celtic Goddesses has been a wonderful one of discovery on many levels. I think I’ll have to go back and look again at some of the others to see if a new version can emerge.
Barbara, hope I can track down Anderson’s novels – would love to read them.
Here’s the first one. http://www.amazon.com/The-King-Ys-Poul-Anderson/dp/0671877291 Alas, he takes the masculine POV, but I remember them as good books.
Hi Judith, thanks for introducing me to Dahut, the Once and Future Goddess. Fascinating retelling! Also, I am moved by your saying: “We are spiritual beings having a physical experience.” That’s my understanding, too.
Sarah, Yes, I think it is that sentiment which is at the heart of my attraction to the Goddess Way and my rejection of spiritualities of transcendence
I really enjoyed your re-telling Judith. I am a pagan and a Priestess of Dahud so I really honour her ways and her teachings, and I really like some of the insights that you have shared.
I am extremely curious to find out more about the Pictish thing… I’ve always been strangely fascinated by the Picts although I am from Brittany, and I had never heard about this version of Malgven being a Pict… But I love it !
Hi Julie, Researching the Celtic Goddesses has proven to be like walking through a misty landscape of shifting sands. There is so much contradictory information that makes one’s head spin. I did not find much about Malgven’s Pictish association beyond what I shared in the re-telling. But I also love the thought. I’ve been told that my last name – Shaw – is of Pictish origins though not sure if that’s true or not. Perhaps you have Pictish roots yourself.
I know what you mean about the misty landscape ;) I think this is one of the favourite tricks of the Celtic Goddesses of the underworld! But this is what makes Dahud so fascinating to me…. She teaches us to surrender and embrace the mystery, letting go of control… And then she gives you a little clue that lets you know you’re in her tracks again :)
I am definitely pursuing the Pictish idea…. I have booked a trip up there to go and explore for a few days soon…. If you find anything I’ll be interested to hear about it :)
You are probably a descendant from the Picts if it feels right!
When was in high school I learned through a poem we were reading that my last name “Shaw” is a Scottish word for “field”. Recently I was told that the name Shaw has its origins in the Pictish. It resonates as true to me.
I am longing so much to make a trip to the Celtic lands. Hopefully that dream will come true for me soon. I’d love to hear your impression of the area. Bon Voyage!
See my post which publishes tomorrow for a visual exploration of the “misty” Otherworld if you like.
wow. After reading this it reminded me of a version I had read years ago. I love this piece of artwork as you can see she is part of the sea. There is harmony and balance with in it.
Thanks Lady Epona – it’s so great that we are in the process of reclaiming the truth of our female power, isn’t it!
It sure is. I have been awoken to the truth of balance of woman and man
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Reblogged this on the human OR-7 and commented:
I am not as active on WordPress as I should be, but I am investigating the feminine and this story, this goddess, resonates with me among others.
Ahvi, current events remind us that women and their sexuality are still being blamed as the cause of problems that face us. I’m glad my re-telling of Dahut’s story resonates with you. Thanks for re-blogging.