I rarely talk of myself.
This may not appear to be true on first glance. I talk and write relentlessly of the things I’ve seen, the places I’ve been, the thoughts I’ve had, the things I’ve done, the people I’ve loved and dreamed.
But not myself.
Synchronicity is the word many of us pagans use to describe a certain process where there’s something we want to do or more specifically something important we need to do and the world appears to conspire to make sure we understand. It’s different from the pathetic new-age idea that thinking positive thoughts will make the universe yield to your requests, or the christian “ask and you shall receive.” It’s worse, actually. That is, it’s more brutal.
The events which conspired to suggest I take up this writing devotional to Arianrhod were unmistakeable to my mind, as if being directed. Simultaneously, I’ve been studying the training materials for the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids, and am halfway through the section of deep-study on the element of water.
Unrelated. Not un-related.
When Arianrhod first appeared to me in an obvious way, it was after encountering Dionysus. He’s a forceful, lusty sort, and I’d already made a specific vow to Bran, Brighid, and Ceridwen which I intended to make to any god who’d accept it on the terms I was offering.
Dionysus counter-offered. Hard.
I’ve the sense that other people have experienced this. He’s a bit more all-or-nothing than many of the gods I’ve encountered, and it was with him I first started to understand the nature of Divine Trauma: that is, when a god appears to you in such an all-encompassing way that the rest of your world seems to shatter and you feel like you’re going fucking mad. And, well, Dionysus has been worshipped as The Maddener, so, well, yeah.
A friend of mine, who’s experienced so much Divine Trauma that he seems to be done for awhile, hiding into the mundane (an utterly acceptable choice when you’ve seen what he’s seen), reminded me that most gods are not utterly concerned about free-will. That is, the slavish worshipper and the stubbornly free-willed both offer something to a god.
I’d made a decision that I wanted to be the latter. The mere fact that I was encountering gods didn’t diminish my desire to live my life as I’d always intended to, stubbornly independent whenever possible, being of service to others from a place of self-sufficiency, not of slavish need.
And then Arianrhod showed up, blue, silver, the sky reflected on the sea reflecting the stars, an owl, its wings dripping like that of a phoenix, clearer behind my closed eyelids than any other dream, memory or vision.
Water is the hardest element for me. I thought it’d be earth. I flow only one way, and repress more than I release until, as if by Dahu’s doing, I drown my world in emotions. I’m best when I give counsel and sympathy, I’m my absolute worse when I need it and find it given. I parch or I drown, I drought or I storm, I burn or I wield winter. Like the King of Cups, far away from the sea of dreams, giving of his cup but forgetting to refill it. So easily toppled because he’s given everything that he no longer has anymore for himself. That’s too often me.
XVII: How Arianrhod may relate to other gods and Pantheons
Celtic: I am near convinced that Arianrhod and Ceridwen are related. Not aspects of the same goddess as the monists might suggest, but related as part of a triad including most likely Brighid whose collective title could possibly be The Morrigan. I cannot prove this. I’d never fight about it, and I’m open to being convinced otherwise.
An essay just posted gives me a little suspicion that I’m not the only one who suspects there’s some relationship between Brighid and The Morrigan. Within the essay, though, is the point of the daughter of The Morrigan being Nicnevin, a “queen of the witches.” Arianrhod has stated herself to be a Queen of the Witches to me (so I believe it, but again, I’ve got no evidence for this). As Morgan le Fay is likely also Arianrhod, this backs up her relationship to magic, and I suspect Taliesin’s mention of her sending “the stream of a rainbow…that scares away violence from the earth” seems also a magical reference. But, again–I’m no priest, merely a bard.
Greek: Alright, here it goes.
I don’t think Ariadne and Arianrhod are necessarily the same. But the placement of their constellations, the links to weaving (St. Catherine/Arianrhod/The wheel) and to labyrinths (one of the suspected names for Arianrhod’s tower, Caer Sidi, means either revolving tower or possibly labyrinthine tower) means there’s something else going on. Also…who fathered Arianrhod’s children?
I won’t say Dionysus, but I’ll also point out that Dionysus is said to have gotten around, and I believe it. Furthermore, Arianrhod’s relation to Desire and Dionysus’s relation to Desire seem almost opposite or complementary. And, finally, the fact that it was she who helped me not be overwhelmed by the advances of the god of lust, madness, the forests and liberation while still entertaining them suggests to me that, if they did not directly relate, they seem to now.
XVIII: Gender and Sexuality
Related, actually, to my experience with Arianrhod and Dionysus, and quite evident from the Mabinogion, I would posit that Arianrhod can best be described as the Queen of Swords.
For those unfamiliar with Tarot, here’s what I mean. The Queen of Swords often represents a fiercely independent woman who maintains a distance from lovers often in order to pursue herself and her own goals. A sharp, piercing mental certainty, a witch-like “maidenhood” (keeping in mind that the word for maiden used in The Mabinogion can mean both unmarried and virginal non-exclusive of each other). She lives apart in a castle-island on the sea, has children that she does not keep, and seems from the story almost to be a poor mother.
But again, as I said before, there’s something rather brilliant in her taking-of-everything from Llew. It’s akin to Ceridwen’s choice to give her hideous son Afaggdu wisdom rather than beauty.
Anyone who wishes to experience love without ownership may find her myth resonates with them; more so, anyone who has loved and then chose to remain apart from their beloved may, too. An unfortunate reality amongst the magically-inclined is that it’s awfully hard to be in love without diminishing your practice. I haven’t found the balance yet, and I sometimes wonder if the balance exists. Which leads me to the next question:
XIX: Qualities I admire, qualities I find troubling
Just as Ceridwen demands a death and Brighid demands a re-forging, Arianrhod demands three losses. In my case, the first was easy; the second much harder and the third I think I’m still attempting to comprehend. Losing a name for some is hard, and harder still to gain another one. Mine came in a dream, and I think it was only by a sort of Gwydion-esque trickery that I was there in the first place. The second and third are much more complicated, and I’m not sure I understand them fully enough to write about yet.
This isn’t quite troubling–more just intense. More troubling is the apparent coldness of the Crown of the North, the Queen of Witches, and the confusions I have over her. I’ve seen faces worn by Brighid and Ceridwen, but I have not seen Arianrhod’s face except as a host of other women. I’ve seen a circle of women several times, some of whom have become temporary guides for me. I am never certain who they are, but they teach something in the way of magic. There’s suggestions that Arianrhod had nine sisters who lived with her until the drowning of Caer Arianrhod (and the sloppy and over-eager part of me wants to say Isle of Ys)–they may be them. I don’t know.
But the same things I find troubling I find I admire. To be so secure in oneself, to need no-one, to walk away apparently unconcerned when shame and ridicule are made of one. To withdraw to the sea, or the stars–I so often wish to retreat. In fact, I’ve found precisely when I finally retreat from the world of fears and sorrow is when I learn more magic. It would be much easier, I think, if I didn’t need to retreat, merely instead to withdraw.