Rhiannon: A Welsh Celtic Goddess
My First Rendezvous With Rhiannon
When I first came to know the old religion, I picked up every book that I could find on the topic and topics branching off of the old religion, too. One of the first things that I learned from my spiritual enlightening down the old religion's path was that most followers had a Patron God and/or a Patron Goddess. I did much more research on different Goddesses spanning cultures and places all around the world - from the Native Americans to the Persians, but I didn't find a Goddess that I could truly connect with.
Then, one day, maybe by design or maybe by pure luck, I came across the Goddess Rhiannon. In fact, my mother sent me a greeting card with Rhiannon standing proud alongside a gorgeous horse. A copy of this card's cover is posted to the right, for your reference. Immediately I was drawn to this card, more specifically the beautiful and mysterious woman gracing the cover. She reminded me of something or someone deep inside of me. Someone strong, confident, and yet kind to the world. She reminded me of someone that I knew I could be and who I desired to be. I had to learn who this woman was and how I could be like her!
Rhiannon's Inspiring Story of Strength
I opened the enchanting and old-world reminiscent card that my mother had so wonderfully bestowed to me and discovered that this woman on my card was once a well-known and widely worshiped Welsh Celtic Goddess. What was this gorgeous red-headed, horse Goddess' name? Rhiannon. The same name of one of my favorite songs of all time - Rhiannon by Fleetwood Mac. My fascination and desire to know this Goddess grew so overwhelmingly strong that I became obsessed with educating myself on this Celtic Goddess' lore and supposed life.
I will not tell the tale as others have told it, as I picture it a bit differently in my mind and I once dreamed of Rhiannon's story. Maybe it is far from the original legend or maybe it is closer to the original legend than we could know. Either way, I hope I can capture and share at least a morsel of the beauty and timeless inspiration that the story and spirit of Rhiannon has shared with me.
Rhiannon's Story, Told By Kitty the Dreamer
In the land of the Fey, a beautiful princess by the name of Rhiannon had grown to be a voluptuous and curious woman. If one could call her a woman...in truth, she was a princess of the land of the fey (to modern people, the fey are known as fairies). In these times, humans referred to the royalty of the fey as deities, or to put it more simply, gods and goddesses.
In the human or mundane world, in what is now known as Wales, lived a handsome and lonely prince. While he had his mother and father, he did not have a wife and was being forced to find one in order to take his place as head of the kingdom.
One day, the prince went deep into the woods and when he emerged, he saw a glimpse of Rhiannon at the edge of the woods. She was absolutely breathtaking. Long and wild red hair, skin as brilliant as the sun, a golden dress, and she was riding a horse of great stature. They seemed to be riding so fast that the horse's hooves barely even touched the ground. Prince Pwyll fell in love with her upon first glance and decided that he must have her hand in marriage. He had to find out who this enchanting woman was.
In the meantime, in the land of the fay, Rhiannon's parents had promised her hand in marriage to another of their kind - a male fay named Gwawl. Gwawl was a boring and arrogant man and Rhiannon decided to run away in order to get out of her arranged marriage to Gwawl.
Rhiannon gave up her life with her family in the land of the fay and crossed over to be in the human world. She married the Prince Pwyll and one would think that they would have lived happily ever after but no. The jealous Gwawl, who had been promised Rhiannon's hand in marriage, stole Rhiannon and Pwyll's son and took him back to the land of the fay.
The child had handmaids who awoke to find the child missing. In order to save themselves from being punished, they decided to plant evidence on Rhiannon...to make it look as though she had eaten her own baby. They sprinkled the blood of an animal and some of the bones around Rhiannon's bed and so Rhiannon was incriminated and charged with the death of her one and only child.
In those days, the punishment for taking a child's life was death, but Pwyll could not do it to his beloved wife. Rhiannon's punishment was to stand at the gates of the city and tell people what she had done and offer them rides on her back.
Pretty harsh punishment for a lovely woman who did not actually do the crime, right? Well, Rhiannon took the punishment and did it with a smile on her face. She knew that what was wrong would be made right and had faith that her son was indeed still alive somewhere.
After years of giving rides to the townsfolk and telling her sorrowful and despicable story, her son was found from the land of the fay and Rhiannon was given back her spot as Queen. Her husband was forever indebted and sorry to her for believing that she had killed their only child. But Rhiannon was also a kind and gentle woman. She forgave him for all of it and ruled her kingdom with wisdom and grace thereafter.
Drawing from Rhiannon's Strength
What strength Rhiannon had! And the forgiveness that she gave to her husband and kingdom so willingly really shows us that we must all forgive, no matter the transgression towards us. The story of Rhiannon is more than inspiring it is forever woven into my life. Rhiannon was deified and worshiped by the Celtic people in that region for many years. She is now worshiped by followers of the old ways. Though I do not worship her per se, I draw from her strength and kindness and I do look to her as my patron Goddess.
When I think of what turmoil and torture that Rhiannon had to endure, it reminds me that I can be just as strong through life's little bumps. Nothing could be as bad as my entire family and kingdom believing that I had hurt my child and being punished for it for years thereafter. Rhiannon was a woman who held her head high and sacrificed her life for others in her life...and she did it with a smile on her face and hope in her heart. She knew that one day her sacrifice would pay off and people would come to realize the truth. She had ultimate faith. She had the heart of a lion and a lamb in one.
We could all learn some valuable lessons from the story of the Goddess Rhiannon.
Copyright © Kitty the Dreamer (May Canfield), 2012. All Rights Reserved.
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