I love to explore the Divine Feminine and write about Goddesses. For a list of those, click on the link: Goddesses. In order to become more balanced within ourselves and, through that, to bring greater balance and harmony to the world around us, we must find greater balance between the masculine and feminine energies within ourselves that each one of us possesses, regardless of physical gender or any other ways of self-identification.
Rhiannon is the Welsh counterpart of the Gaulish Horse Goddess Epona and thus, I was not going to write about her separately as I had already written an article on Epona. However, at the end of 2020, the year of Corona and a lot of hardships for many, as well as the great purging of souls, as I like to call it, giving it a more positive connotation, I thought of doing a Goddess draw for the year 2020 which had been under the influence of Ma’at, the Egyptian Goddess of Divine Law and Harmony.
Living lies was no longer an option, I foretold in my reading and considering the circumstances on the stage of world events, as well as in individual people’s lives, I can say in hindsight that it had never been more true. 2020 was the year of calling you out on your BS, to put it more bluntly. So on New Year’s Eve, I went within, asking for guidance for the Goddess of the coming year of 2021. I saw a Goddess surrounded by predominantly blue songbirds who flitted merrily through the air, circling her head and upper body.
She stood, hands lifted away from the body with palms turned upwards and smiled the most loving smile. She was wearing a blue-red dress, had blonde hair and the most loving, most blissful of smiles. And thus, my search began, at the end of which, I determined that it was, in fact, none other than the Welsh Goddess Rhiannon, Lady of Horses and Birds who stood before me in this vision with a bright yellow background that looked like a painted canvas depicting sunlight surrounding the figure, as colourful, as if it were a child’s drawing. The entire scene had a painting-like quality to it.
Scholars believe that the origin of Rhiannon is the same as the Goddess Epona’s, the Ancient Celtic Goddess Rigantona whose name translates to Great or Divine Queen. Rhiannon featured in the medieval Welsh story collection, the Mabinogi, that inspired Tolkien to write his epic fantasy books. In fact, without this work, modern fantasy may not even exist, or at least, not in this form.
The story goes that Rhiannon, a princess from the Otherworld, chooses Pwyll as her husband but the couple encounters some hurdles before they are able to wed. Although Rhiannon is said to be of eery beauty, she is by no means an airhead but renowned for her intelligence, strategic planning in politics and famed for both her wealth as well as her generosity. In this, we can see parallels to Epona, the Goddess of grain and abundance, amongst other things.
Strength in Adversity
The couple, once married, has a son but the child is abducted on the day of his birth and Rhiannon is wrongfully accused of infanticide. Pwyll decrees that she has to absolve a penance to which she agrees, knowing no one believes in her innocence. Then one day, the child is found by the Lord of Horses and returned to his parents. Because of this story, Rhiannon and her son are both strongly related to horses, another parallel they share with Epona.
Later, Rhiannon’s husband dies and she remarries, this time, Manawydan. She has further adventures involving enchantments. In Celtic folklore, she is also known as Queen of the fairies and is often depicted as mare and foal with her son.
In the beginning of her mythology, Rhiannon rides away from her future husband until he calls to her to stop and she chides him that he could have done so much sooner, rather than exerting his steed in pursuing, yet never reaching her before. However, this is also an erotic love metaphor in medieval love poetry.
On her second would-be wedding day, when she produces a small bag that cannot be filled by ordinary means, this stands for the truth that she cannot be forced into marriage and he who forces the lady into entrapment against her will and heart suffers painful consequences. The short-term gain is not worth the long-term suffering.
When Rhiannon is undertaking her penance, carrying travellers on her back, even if there are not many who agree to this, she displays the strength of a steed or a giantess while she endures an unjust punishment for a wrongful accusation. Looking at this tale, we can see how Rhiannon is the medieval archetype of what nowadays would be called a power woman. However, reducing divine mythology to only superficial human characteristics would not do the main protagonists of Gods, Goddesses, ascended masters and heroes justice. So we must look further into this most beautiful, beloved of Welsh Goddesses.
The Healing Song
Rhiannon is accompanied by three birds, the Adir Rhiannon (Birds of Rhiannon) who can wake the dead and lull the living to sleep with their beautiful song. Taking this (more or less) literally, we can see the cycles of life and death gripping into each other in an endless turning. The three birds symbolise the trinity of the Goddess, a common theme when it comes to the divine, both in masculine and female forms, across nations and cultures, polytheism and monotheism alike.
Three is the number of Creation and of the Divine. In the feminine form, it is most often maiden, mother and crone that represent the cycles of life and nature. At the highest level, 3 demonstrates Love through creative imagination. A good theme for the coming of a new cycle, as well as nurturing it, bringing it to fruition, harvesting and dying, only to be reborn.
As a princess and queen of the Otherworld, Rhiannon moves between the realms. In possession of powerful magic, she is able to bring healing as well as granting access to the shadowy parts of the psyche. She is that which eludes us, that which we have buried deep within under social norms and etiquette. Or unbridled joy (pun intended), our desires and passions. Through her, we find the pulse of life again that quickens our often rather dull and grey life once more, bringing love, bliss and sensual passion.
By working with Rhiannon’s magical energies, we can learn to allow ourselves to connect with our creative flow and the life force within us once more, thus becoming more authentic, strong, expressive and creative. As the daughter of a giant and one herself, she possesses the greatness that is innate to all of us but that we often, through fear, don’t allow to shine outwards into the world. Rather, we toil in hardship and with great effort, chasing an elusive dream we don’t allow ourselves to embrace until we own our power and call it by its name. In the myth of Rhiannon, it was Pwyll who called to her to stop and speak to him.
We speak things into being but when we don’t choose our words carefully, we can likewise create unwanted results and invite disaster as Pwyll does when promising Gwawl anything on their wedding day and Gwawl asks for Rhiannon’s hand in marriage, thus having tricked the other into giving away his power. Tor this, Rhiannon chides him again. Luckily, her strategic talents help her devise a plan and Gwawl falls victim to a ruse himself which enables Rhiannon to marry Pwyll, the man she loves, after all.
Message from the Goddess
In my meditation with the Goddess, in which her shining white horse, messenger between the worlds, its legs shrouded in foggy mist, stood a little away from the Goddess. She told me the following when I asked for a message for those who work with her.
“I am the bridge between worlds and yet, I am not fixed. I flow, swell and ebb with the very breath of life for life is not stagnant, nor does it ever remain the same. Through your imagination you create me and your own path. Sing, dance, shine and rhyme, my children of the sun, but do not be afraid of the shadows for they hold many treasures and hidden talents. A lamp, dusty and steeped in layers of rust and soot cannot shine. You only see a dim glow. But to embrace life, to heal your heart and inspire your mind, you must cast away the shackles of fear as well as carelessness.
“When I come, it is time to act with mindful intention that is not born of fear but of joy, of the creative force of life itself. I show you a way between the worlds, so you have strength in both dimensions, for one cannot exist without the other in your human world. Embrace it. Rejoice. You have come through a valley of fear and mist clouding your perception and shrouding your clear sight. Emerge from the darkness into the light by embracing the shadows that lie hidden, pregnant with treasure for you to behold.”
As I am writing down this most beautiful message, my heart sings, I am comforted and filled with ease. I have started this article on the Goddess Rhiannon before midnight in 2020 and with a break to wish my youngest daughter a happy new year and dance outside, sing and burn some sparklers we still had left at home, making lists of new year’s resolutions of what we want to invite and that which we want to let go of in 2021, I am finishing these lines in the new year with great relief.
The Goddess has spoken. I am determined to find my own way out of the challenges that the last year presented and embrace a new life with joy and trust that the universe will always have my back. I only have to allow it. And I will, in turn, pay this forward by helping to inspire others to do the same and find their inner state of bliss and joy again.