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KORE PERSEPHONE (PROSERPINE)

KORE PERSEPHONE (PROSERPINA)

Hellenic goddess of the Underworld, vegetation and changing of the seasons, guardian of the souls of the dead, daughter of Demeter and Zeus, wife of Hades. The myth of her abduction was an explanation of seasons changing and the base for Eleusinian Mysteries. Her first name, Kore, means ‘a young girl, a maiden’, her second name probably originates from a foreign language which was unknown to the Hellens, one of the possible etymology is perein phonon meaning  ‘bringing death, causing death’.

ABOUT GODDESS

The myth of Kore’s abduction has already been told in the post about Demeter so let me simply quote it

Kore was a young girl when she was playing on the meadow with fellow nymphs on a sunny day. Her mother allowed her to weave wreaths from all the flowers but a narcissus dedicated to the gods of the Underworld. Unfortunately, Kore forgot her mother’s warning and picked this flower. It brought the darkness over the meadow, the ground cracked and a chariot led by black horses  emerged from the abyss. It was Hades, the lord of the Underworld, he captured Kore and abducted her to his realm below the surface of the earth. It was all so sudden that nobody was able to react or even realise that Demeter’s daughter disappeared. Only Cyane (Kyane), a water nymph and Kore’s companion, heard her friend’s cry and hurried to save her. However, it was too late and one of the horses kicked her in the shoulder so she could only massage the sore spot and cry after Kore. Terrified Demeter kept searching for her daughter everywhere but she did not realise that Zeus had promised his daughter as a wife without her mother’s knowledge and consent.

When Demeter found out about the conspiracy (either from all-seeing Helios the sun god or Hekate, goddess of the night and witchcraft), she became so furious  that she cursed the earth and told her not to raise crops until her daughter comes back to her. This interrupted the order of the seasons so plants began to wither and people started to complain they would not be able to gather them and they would suffer from hunger.  Zeus had no option but to return Kore to her mother. However, the girl was lured to eat a couple of grains of pomegranate in the Underworld and this made her belong there forever. In the end the gods and goddesses entered into a compromise: Kore was to spend one third of the year with her husband as Persephone the Queen of the Underworld but for the remaining two thirds she could return on the surface and enjoy the time with her mother. This is how the Hellens understood the seasons change: in winter the earth was saddened by the absence of Kore Persephone together with Demeter and in spring and summer when she was coming back, the earth was showing joy by letting leaves and blossoming the flowers.

Kore's abduction

It is the first and the most significant appearance of Kore Persephone in the Hellenic mythology but not the last one. She is present as the wife of Hades in many stories telling about the hero’s descent to the Underworld. She is so moved by Orpheus’ song that she convinces her husband to return his wife Eurydice to him. She helps Heracles fulfil his twelfth labour of tying Cerberus, the guardian dog of the Underworld. She is sometimes involved in a story whether she wants it or not, such as in the case of Pirithous, a hero and a friend of Theseus, decided to take Kore Persephone away from Hades as a revenge for the death of his own beloved wife Hippodamia. The plan failed and both heroes were sentenced to be imprisoned in Hades and enchained to the rock. Theseus was freed from the ordeal by Heracles,  Pirithous, however, had to remain enchained in Hades forever.

Kore Persephone has also participated in the dispute with Aphrodite concerning Adonis. According to myths Adonis was an illegitimate child of Princess Myrrha who made Aphrodite angry, and the goddess punished Myrrha by making her fall in love with her own father. Princess managed to deceive him and spend a couple of nights with him but when the affair came to the light, furious king seized the knife and started to run after her. Escaping his rage, Myrrha begged gods for rescue and they turned her into a tree which was later named after her. After nine months tree bark cracked and a boy came out of the trunk. Aphrodite put the baby into the chest and entrusted to Kore Persephone. However, the goddess of the Underworld fell in love with young Adonis herself and decided to keep him in Hades forever. This made Aphrodite furious. The disagreement must have been eventually resolved by Zeus who decided that Adonis was to spend one third of the year with Aphrodite, one third with Kore Persephone and the remaining part of the year wherever he wants to. According to another version of this myth young man died pierced by the tusks of boar, the animal was in fact jealous Ares in disguise. Aphrodite’s grief was so big that Zeus let her lover return to the goddess during spring and summer, Adonis, however, must have come back to Hades for autumn and winter.

According to most of the myths, the marriage of Kore Persephone and Hades remained childless* but some versions claim that she was the mother of  Zagreus/Iakchos/Dionizos (with Zeus).

Deity descending into the Underworld was a popular explanation of seasons changing in the ancient times. A similar motif in present in the mythologies of the Middle – East, be it Attis (see the post about Cybele) or Osisris (post about Isis) and the theme of a young woman abducted to the Underworld is also present in the story of Ereshkigal (see the myth of Ishtar). Basing on the mythology and archaeological remains, it can be assumed that an agrarian cult of Demeter and Kore Persephone was one of the oldest in the Hellas, older than the cults of Olympian deities. It is possible that it came to Hellas from other countries (the Hellens were writing the name ‘Persephone’ in many ways, it may suggest that they were unable to pronounce it themselves so it either originated from a pre-Hellenic language or was a borrowing from a foreign language). The beginnings can be dated up to 1400 – 1200 before Christ based on the inscriptions on the tablets found in Pylos, her name is written as Preswa and this may be its oldest form. There is also enough evidence to assume that Persephone was venerated in the Minoan Crete. Similarly to Egypt, the eldest deities were strictly associated with nature and often depicted as half – humans and half – animals (a Cretan figure of Minotaur, centaurs, satyrs, tritones, mermaids, sirens etc seem to be the remaining of this cult in mythology). An image of two women was discovered in the temple of Despoina in Mycene, it is assumed that these were either Demeter and Kore Persephone themselves or their priestesses wearing animal masks, this proves how early their cult was. Cretan agrarian cults have not used images of any deities  (similarly to the oldest forms of the Great Mother Cybele’s cult), they were mostly performed by females and the rites themselves included dancing, shaking trees and worshipping stones (most probably  meteorites). There are also reasons to believe that Kore Persephone was identified with yet older goddesses such as Despoina or Ariadna. Excavations on the temple sites suggest that places of worship were situated near springs and fire was burning in them all the time.

women wearing clothes from the Minoean age and dancing around (most probably) Kore Persephone, the Isopata ring

Demeter’s daughter was the goddess of both Underworld (as Persephone) and vegetation (as Kore). She was depicted on sarcophagi as a symbol of revival and eternity. Apart from the Eleusinian Mysteries, Kore Persephone was also venerated separately in the temples located in Corinth, Megara and Sparta. She was worshipped as Despoina (Mistress of the House) in Arcadia, furthermore she was known under other nicknames, the most popular were those presenting her in the most favourable way to gain her benevolence: Hagne („Pure”, it was primarily the name of a spring nymph), Melindia or Melinoia („Of Honey”), Melivia, Melitodes, Aristi Tchonia („The Best of Chtonic”). In her aspect of the vegetation goddess she was called Kore Soteira („The Saviour Maiden”), Neotera („The Younger One”), etc., she also often appears together with her mother as Two Goddesses (Demeter being The Older and Kore The Younger) in Eleusis, The Great Goddesses and The Mistresses in Arcadia, Karpophoroi („The Bringers of Fruit”) in Tegea and Thesmophoroi („The Legislators”) during the Thesmophoria festival.

The cult of Demeter and Kore Persephone had many local versions but the most important festival was of course the Eleusinian Mysteries celebrated in the autumn. Celebrations were aimed at the immortality of life and were filling the initiated with hope for the good fate (it was most probably believed that they were sent to the best part of Hades called The Elysian Fields after death). Mysteries were divided into the Lesser ones (celebrated every year) and Greater ones (celebrated every five years, on the fifteenth day of boedromion month ie. at the turn of August and September/September and October, they lasted ten days). A prerequisite for participation was only freedom form “blood guilt”, the festival was open for women and slaves. This was the time of  initiation and involved a couple of degrees of initiation. The Eleusinian Mysteries required keeping the secret so only a few people with the highest degree of initiation knew what was hidden in kiste, a sacred chest and kalathos, a lidded basket. It is speculated that the Demeter’s sacred objects were golden serpent, an egg, a phallus and seeds.

It remains unknown what were the mysteries like because revealing the secret was punished by death, however the descriptions of public celebrations were written down. The Greater Mysteries in Athens began on the fourteenth of boedromion when the sacred objects were brought to Eleusinion, a temple situated at the base of the Acropolis Hill.  The next day was the time of Agyrmos (“the gathering”) when the priests announced the beginning of holiday and offered sacrifice. On the sixteenth day of the month, the rituals of purification in the sea were taking place near the port of Phaleron and on the seventeenth it was the time for Epidauria (so called “festival within festival”), celebrations for Asclepios, god of healing, when he was invited symbolically to the city with his daughter Hygieia goddess of hygiene and led in procession to Eleusion. On the nineteenth day procession was moving from the Kerameikos cementary to Eleusis along Hierá Hodós (“Sacred Way”), participants were swinging the branches called bacchoi. At a certain point they started to shout obscenities to commemorate (Iambe), an elderly woman who was trying to make Demeter laugh while she was grieving the loss of daughter by pulling the skirt up and saying naughty jokes, people were also shouting “Íakch’, O Íakche!” to celebrate Iacchus. When the procession reached Eleusis, it was the time for one day fasting to commemorate Demeter’s hunger while she was searching for her daughter, the only thing allowed to drink was kykeon made of barley and pennyroyal. On the 20th and 21st it was time for the proper celebrations when the crowd was gathering in Telestrion, a great hall („Initiation Hall”) where those waiting to be initiated gathered, in the centre there was Anaktoron („Palace”) where only the priests were allowed to come because sacred objects were stored here. Before entering Telestrion adepts had to say, I have fasted, I have drunk the kykeon, I have taken from the kiste (“box”) and after working it have put it back in the kalathos (“open basket”).  At first two special vessels were filled, then one was emptied in the direction of west and the other towards east and the worshippers were looking at the sky and earth whispering the rain fertilising the ground. The story of Kore Persephone’s abduction was told in three acts, first descent, then search and finally ascend and reconnection with mother. A ‘divine child’ was placed on hearth (check the story of Triptolemus in the post about Demeter) and those initiated to the highest degrees were to cut in silence a sheaf symbolising revival of life after death. The festival was completed with Pannychis, an all-night feast with dancing and rejoicing accompanied by the sacrifice from the bull and remembrance of the dead by libation the next day.

This is how Cicero wrote about these celebrations, For among the many excellent and indeed divine institutions which your Athens has brought forth and contributed to human life, none, in my opinion, is better than those mysteries. For by their means we have been brought out of our barbarous and savage mode of life and educated and refined to a state of civilization; and as the rites are called “initiations,” so in very truth we have learned from them the beginnings of life, and have gained the power not only to live happily, but also to die with a better hope.. (Laws II, XIV, 36)

Another holiday for Demeter and Kore Persephone was the festival of Thesmophoria celebrated all over Hellas from the 11th to 13th of the Pyanepsion month (October) when married women were free to come out of the houses** and participated in the women exclusive rites. Not much is known about this festival for a very simple reason: only married women participated in them and they were not the ones who wrote chronicles or memories. What we do know is that there were processions on the first day, the second one was the time of mourning, extinguishing the fire and eating pomegranates and the third was sacrificed to the rather unknown in mythology Kalligenea, goddess of beautiful birth. There were also records saying that at night swine were sacrificed in the trenches and caves and the remains of the animals sacrificed in previous year were retrieved and placed on the altar, mixed with seeds and planted. There was also Anthesphoria, the festival of flowers and cereals, celebrated in the Hellenic colonies in Italy (so called Magna Grecia) and in the Peloponnesus.

Ancient Romans took the cult of Kore Persephone over from Hellenic colonies established on the south of Italy and Sicily. She was called Proserpine in the local local dialect and this version of her name was adopted in the Apennine Peninsula. It is interesting to notice that she was venerated as the patroness of marriages in one of these cities called Epizephyrian Locris (present day Locri), this usually was the domain of Juno (Hera). Children were entrusted to Persephone and brides were bringing her their garments before weddings as votive offerings. A very popular image of Kore Persephone and Hades surrounded by plants and animals attributed to them comes precisely from Epizephyrian Locris.

Kore Persephone and Hades

In the 5th century before Christ Empedocles, a poet, philosopher and healer, has created the concept of four elements. He connected Kore Persephone named here Nestis with the element (or to be more precise with the root, it was not until Plato when the word ‘element’ was used) of water: Now hear the fourfold roots of everything: enlivening Hera, Hades, shining Zeus. And Nestis, moistening mortal springs with tears. Empedocles uses the nickname of Nestis and does not pronounce her real name which was considered to be a taboo since the earliest times. It was not advised to call the Queen of the Dead even in a simple conversation nor to speak her name aloud so Nestis was used as her cult title (Homer in his hymns refers to her as the Queen of the Shades).

IMAGES, SYMBOLS AND ANIMALS

The type of the oldest Hellenic sculpture is called kore, some hypotheses assume the figures represent Demeter’s daughter.

 KoreKore

Moreover, Kore Persephone is also presented sitting on the throne as majestic Queen of the Underworld with a sceptre, fruit, sheaves of grain and a liknon basket used to separate seeds from chaff.

Kore Persephone

DIVINATION MEANING

Person

A young girl, a teenager. A person who experienced a sudden or tough events. A person who is emotionally immature. Someone who was charged with too much responsibility too early. Somebody who became bitter due to bad experiences, childhood traumas or seriously betrayed trust. In negative a person with a victim pattern and not enough self – esteem and maturity to face the problems on their own.

Advice

What you need is patience. This card shows maturing in a hard way and learning to compromise. You cannot accelerate anything. Let things run their course. Give time some time. What you reap is what you sow. At first you will have to work hard and make a lot of effort to put your plans into action and you will be rewarded later. Everything changes sooner or later.

I personally associate strongly the card of Kore Persephone with the rune Jera.

Patience. Maturing. Harvest, crops, abundance, wealth, plenty. Revival. Beginning or end of the cycle. Bad timing, hurrying too much, poor plans, acting blindfold. An insufficient harvest, loss, scarcity.Intervention in the natural cycle. Possible trip but not for pleasure, rather forced by circumstances. Trauma. Abandonment. Compromise. Inevitability. A strong influence of mother. Secret knowledge, esoterics.

 Love

 If you are in the relationship: lack of maturity to a stable and adult relationship. Compromises and patience are required. Hiding from problems. Early marriage, possibly enforced somehow. Being childless. A strong influence of the mother. A cold, emotionally detached or manipulative partner.

If you are single: lack of maturity to a stable and adult relationship. A strong influence of the mother. Patience is suggested. It is also advised not to get into a relationship just to avoid being alone.

Finances

Trip forced by circumstances.  Beginning or ending a certain stage of career. Business involving volatility of revenues depending on time or season. Suspension of business activity. Time of harvesting profits.

 Health

Women: fertility and regular cycle, pregnancy and successful, natural delivery. Therapy limited to taking medicine. Vegetarian, macrobiotic or vegetable, fruit and cereal based diet. Regenerative skills. Checking your health regularly. Negative: laziness, wrong diet, insufficiency, problem with high cholesterol and obesity. Woman’s cycle disorder. Neglecting regular health tests. Eating in a hurry. Endangered parts of the body: the digestive system (particularly stomach, colon, small intestine and the large intestine).

CARDS

Kore Persephone  in Goddesses of the New Light by Pamela Matthews

Kore Persephone in Goddesses of the New Light by Pamela Matthews 

Kore Persephone with Demeter in The Goddess Wisdom Cards by Jill Fairchild, Regina Schaare & Sandra M. Stanton

Kore Persephone with Demeter in The Goddess Wisdom Cards by Jill Fairchild, Regina Schaare & Sandra M. Stanton

Kore Persephone (together with Hades and Cerberus) in Ancient Feminine Wisdom by Kay Stevenson&Brian Clark

 Kore Persephone in Ancient Feminine Wisdom by Kay Stevenson&Brian Clark

Kore Persephone in The Goddess Oracle Deck by Thalia Took

 Kore Persephone in The Goddess Oracle Deck by Thalia Took

Kore Persephone in Goddess Card Pack by Juni Parkhurst

 Kore Persephone in Goddess Card Pack by Juni Parkhurst

Kore Persephone in Goddess Inspiration Oracle by Kris Waldherr

Kore Persephone in Goddess Inspiration Oracle by Kris Waldherr 

Kore Persephone in The Goddesses Knowledge Cards by Susan Seddon Boulet&Michael Babcock

Kore Persephone in The Goddesses Knowledge Cards by Susan Seddon Boulet&Michael Babcock

Kore Persephone in Mythic Oracle by Carisa Mellado&Michele-lee Phelan

 Kore Persephone in Mythic Oracle by Carisa Mellado&Michele-lee Phelan

Kore Persephone in Mythic Oracle by Carisa Mellado&Michele-lee Phelan

Kore Persephone in Goddesses&Sirens by Stacey Demarco&Jimmy Manton

 Kore Persephone in Goddesses&Sirens by Stacey Demarco&Jimmy Manton

Kore Persephone as Eight of Swords in Universal Goddess Tarot by Maria Caratti&Antonella Platano

Kore Persephone as Eight of Swords in Universal Goddess Tarot by Maria Caratti&Antonella Platano

Based on Mity Greków i Rzymian by Wanda Markowska, Dictionnaire de la mythologie grecque et romaine by Pierre Grimal, The Greek Myths by Robert Graves, Wikipedia and http://www.webwinds.com/myth/elemental.htm

* It seems logical that the deities associated with death could not have children themselves. In Egypt Seth, god of desert and death, was infertile and his wife Nephthys craving for a child, got pregnant with their brother Osiris (that could be the reason for Seth’s hatred towards Osiris).

 *** In Hellas women did not participate in public life.

RHIANNON

RHIANNON (RIGATONA)

Celtic goddess of horses and the Underworld. A Welsh epic of Mabinogion describes her as Pryderi’s mother and the wife of first Pwyll and then Manawyddan. Her name Rhi Annon (Ri Ana) means ‘the Great Queen’.

ABOUT GODDESS

Rhiannon was a Celtic goddess of horses also known as Rigatona and identified with her continental counterpart Epona, the only Celtic goddess worshipped by the Romans. However, the Welsh mostly know her as the heroin of the First and the Third Branch of Mabinogion saga.

Not much is known about how her cult looked like because no written descriptions remained (the Celts have not written  their history not myths down so they only circulated in an oral tradition). The only items associated with Rhiannon which survived to this day are figures and reliefs of a woman sitting on a horse. Mabinogion is a cycle of Welsh legends which nevertheless were not recorded in writing until the Christian era. Christian scribes in monasteries were removing elements incompatible with the new religion therefore Rhiannon is not referred to as a goddess in the saga*. The first translation of Mabinogion from Welsh into English was not made until half  of the 19th century; the translator was Lady Charlotte Guest, an outstanding personality and the promoter of Welsh culture and literature.

Rhiannon first appears in the First Branch of Mabinogion when Pwyll the prince of Dyfed noticed her while hunting. She was sitting on a pure white horse of large size, with a garment of shining gold around her and when the prince asked his companions whether they knew her, they said they did not. Pwyll told them to ask the lady who she was but she fled on a horse back so quickly that Pwyll’s servants could not catch her. It happened again and again and finally Pwyll became so intrigued that he got on the horse himself and chased the mysterious lady but even having the swiftest horse in the kingdom, he was unable to reach her. At last he was so tired of the pursuit that he called, Lady, please do stop! She did and replied, I will gladly stop and it would have been better for your horse if you had done it much earlier. When she took off the part of a headdress which was covering her face, Pwyll realised she was the most beautiful woman he had ever met. The girl introduced herself as Rhiannon, the daughter of Heveydd Hên who wanted to marry her to a man against her will. She then added, But no husband would I have, and that because of my love for thee, neither will I yet have one unless thou reject me. Of course, Pwyll was not intending to reject her, moreover he added that if he could choose from all the women in the world, he would choose nobody but her. They arranged to meet in her father’s castle in exactly one year time and then parted.

Asked about the mysterious lady Pwyll changed the subject. However, when an arranged time came, he gathered one hundred horsemen and went to Heveydd Hên’s palace where he was welcomed cordially and a feast was arranged in his honour. Pwyll was seated between Heveydd Hên and Rhiannon but the good atmosphere was destroyed at the end of the feast when a richly dressed young man entered the chamber. His name was Gwawl the son of Clud and he was Rhiannon’s wealthy suitor. Gwawl started to talk with Pwyll and manoeuvred the unaware prince to agree on his marriage with Rhiannon. To prevent it, Rhiannon gave a bag to her beloved and ordered him to come back with his horsemen in one year time during her feast before the wedding. She ordered him to wear rags and ask for as much food as the bag could contain and she would use her magical powers to make it bottomless so the guests would wonder what to do to make it fill. Say thou then that it never will, until a man of noble birth and of great wealth arise and press the food in the bag with both his feet, saying, ‘Enough has been put therein’, said Rhiannon. I will cause him to go and tread down the food in the bag, and when he does so, turn thou the bag, so that he shall be up over his head in it, and then slip a knot upon the thongs of the bag. Let there be also a good bugle horn about thy neck, and as soon as thou hast bound him in the bag, wind thy horn, and let it be a signal between thee and thy knights.

This was exactly what happened one year later; hearing the signal Pwyll’s knights entered the chamber, disarmed Gwawl’s companions and cast them into the dungeons. Gwawl himself was still immobilised in the bag until he swore to Pwyll that he would resign from the marriage with Rhiannon, respect Pwyll’s relationship with her and would not take vengeance.  He was released with his people and left immediately. Pwyll and Rhiannon were able to get married. Pwyll gave a lot of gifts to his wife’s kinsmen and then he took  Rhiannon to his castle in Dyfed where in turn she gave gifts to her husband’s subjects.

The marriage was happy but still childless after two years. In the third year the noblemen came to Pwyll to express their sadness that he still did not have an heir. They suggested leaving Rhiannon and marrying another woman who would bear him a son. Pwyll answered that they were married for a relatively short time so they could still have children. Grant me a year from this time, and for the space of a year we will abide together, and after that I will do according to your wishes, he said. A year later Rhiannon gave birth to a healthy son. Tired after childbirth she fell asleep and the baby was entrusted to six women to watch over it at night. However, they fell asleep and when they woke up, the royal heir was gone. Terrified that they would pay for it with their own lives, they devised a plan: There is here a stag-hound bitch, and she has a litter of whelps. Let us kill some of the cubs, and rub the blood on the face and hands of Rhiannon, and lay the bones before her, and assert that she herself hath devoured her son, and she alone will not be able to gainsay us six.

When princess woke up and asked for her son, wicked women started  to persuade her that although they were trying to protect him, Rhiannon ate her own child. Of a truth we never saw any woman so violent as thou, they added. Rhiannon did not get caught by the accusations and assured women that she would defend them if they lied out of fear. They, however, kept lying. Soon the news spread all over the country and people demanded Rhiannon to be put to death for the crime. Pwyll did not agree but felt responsible as a ruler to draw consequences towards his wife. To expiate the act attributed to her, the princess was to sit in the gate to the castle for seven years, tell her story to anyone who did not know it yet and offer that she would carry the traveller on her back into the palace. Luckily, not many demanded that. Although innocent, Rhiannon was enduring her ordeal with dignity and humility.

Meanwhile at the night when Rhiannon’s son was born some other strange events took place. Teirnyon Twryv Vliant, Lord of Gwent Is Coed had an incredibly beautiful mare which regularly foaled on May, 1st but a colt kept vanishing mysteriously. Eventually angry Twryv decided to bring the mare into the house for the time of delivery and to watch over her fully armed. The mare indeed gave birth to a large and beautiful colt but right after that, he heard a great tumult and saw an enormous claw entering through the window and taking the colt. He threw himself at the big hand with his sword and cut it off in an elbow so only the hand with the colt remained. Outside tumult enhanced so Teirnyon ran away to check what happened but it was so dark that he could see nothing. When he came back home, he noticed a baby boy wrapped in a satine mantle lying on the door behold. He brought the baby to his wife and they both decided to adopt him and call Gwri Wallt Euryn for the sake of his blond hair. Boy was growing up rapidly, much faster other children; being just one year old he was bigger than a three year old child, while he was two, he seemed to be six and when he was four, he bribed the grooms to allow him to take the horses to water. Seeing how quickly he was growing, Teirnyon’s wife convinced husband to give boy the colt which was born on the same night as he.

Eventually the news of what happened with Rhiannon reached their castle. Teirnyon felt sorry for her and he started to ask what exactly happened and observed the boy whom he was raising. He noticed his great resemblance to Pwyll and realised he would have to give him back to his real parents. His wife agreed and the same day Teirnyon went to Dyfed with the boy. They met Rhiannon in the gate and in accordance to her penance, she offered to carry them on her back to the palace as a punishment for devouring her own child but Teirnyon refused. They got to the palace where Pwyll welcomed them cordially and invited for a meal. While they were eating Teirnyon told the prince of what had happened in the night when the boy and the colt were born. And behold here is thy son, lady– he said to Rhiannon. – And whosoever told that lie concerning thee, has done wrong. Everyone confirmed boy’s great resemblance to Pwyll and it finished Rhiannon’s ordeal. She called the boy Pryderi meaning ‘Loss’ and Teirnyon was offered great treasures, however being a modest man he did not accept them. Still he was in the great favour of both Rhiannon and Pwyll until his death. Pryderi grew up to be a talented and wise young man and he inherited the throne after his father’s death; he was greatly loved by his people. And thus ends this portion of the Mabinogion.

After Pwyll’s death Pryderi married Kicva and became ruler. He managed to enlarge his lands and went for a war with Ireland together with Bendigeid Vran (Bran) son of King Llyr** who attacked the lands of his brother-in-law in revenge for the treatment of his wife Branwen, Bendigeid’s sister. Pryderi was one of the seven men who survived the bloody battle between the Welsh and the Irish. He came back home accompanied by Manawyddan, Llyr’s other son whom he befriended so much that he decided to marry him to his widowed mother. He arranged a welcome feast to honour his guest and seated him next to Rhiannon. His plan succeeded, Manawyddan and Rhiannon took a fancy to each other and got married soon. For some time Pryderi, his wife, mother and stepfather lived peacefully but one day while they were outside, a storm raged and a strange mist descended on the country. When it disappeared, it turned out that they found neither buildings nor people nor cattles; it seemed as if in the whole Dyfed there was no single person except of the four of them. They remained all alone in their lands for two years but eventually they got bored of having no companionship.

So they set off to England where Manawyddan and Pryderi became so good craftsmen that local guilds turned against them because their products were much more popular  than the local ones. The Welsh decided to leave the town and move to another one but the same history repeated there. They moved to yet another town and again they were better than local craftsmen irrespective of whether they were producing saddles, shields or shoes. Their work made buyers delighted but it also aroused the anger of local craftsmen so eventually they decided that it was useless to stay there and came back to Dyfed. After a month  Manawyddan and Pryderi went hunting. They came across a great boar of pure white which led them straight to a newly built castle which they saw for the first time. The boar ran straight into the castle and Pryderi’s hunting dogs went after him. Since they were not coming back for a long time, he decided to go inside and take them even though Manawyddan suggested staying.

There was not a trace of a boar and hunting dogs inside neither any signs of people living there. There was, however, a murmur fountain in the centre with a golden bowl hanging over it. Pryderi was so amazed by the the quality of craft that he came to the bowl and placed his hands on it. He did not realise it was enchanted and when he wanted to take his hands back, it turned out to be impossible; he could not utter a word neither. Manawyddan was waiting for him to come back until the evening but eventually he returned to the palace and told Rhiannon about what had happen. She reproached him for not accompanying Pryderi and went searching for her son herself. When she entered the castle and saw him, she touched the bowl and fell under the spell too. Thunderstorm came again and mist enshrouded the castle making it vanish.

Kicva, Pryderi’s wife, fell into despair thinking she could lose him, however Manawyddan promised her that she would certainly have him back. Since they had neither hunting dogs nor food, they emigrated to England again where Manawyddan worked as a shoemaker once more. His products were of the highest quality as always so the local craftsmen turned against him and after a year Rhiannon’s husband had to flee from the town. Luckily, Manawyddan and Kicva took a burden of wheat with them to Dyfed so they sow the seeds which grew up profusely. Additionally, Manawyddan went fishing and deer hunting so they did not starve. Unfortunately, when the time of harvest came, it turned out that some mysterious creatures cut all the ears leaving stalks only. Manawyddan decided to watch over crops to save what had remained; it turned out that around midnight a big host of mice appeared on the field and carried the ears away. Manawyddan managed to catch one of them to the glove.

He was going to execute it but then suddenly a man appeared and came closer; he seemed to be a scholar which surprised Manawyddan because he saw no unknown person in this land for last seven years. When they started to converse and a stranger found out what Rhiannon’s husband was intending to do, he was trying to convince him to sell him the mouse. Manawyddan, however, did not agree so the scholar went away. Soon a priest rode with the same offer and  even higher price. Still Manawyddan did not want to sell the mouse so a priest left but Rhiannon’s husband could already see a bishop with his attendants approaching. He offered money again but Manawyddan kept refusing even though the price was getting higher and higher. Eventually bishop offered to release Pryderi and his mother. Manawyddan understood that the mouse is more valuable than it seemed so he additionally demanded the spell to be taken off Dyfed.

Bishop had no choice but to agree. He admitted that in fact he was a mage named Llwyd son of Kilcoed and his pregnant wife was disguised in the body of a mouse. He also revealed that he cast the spell on Dyfed to revenge the insult which Rhiannon and Pwyll made to his friend Gwawl son of Clud. He transformed into mice with his household members and went to Manawyddan’s fields, however because of her condition his wife could not run as fast as the others and was caught. He asked Rhiannon’s husband to release her and assured he would give up his revenge and take spell off Dyfed and he would never do it again. When Llwyd brought Rhiannon and Pryderi back, he returned his wife to him. Life came back to Dyfed and there were people, villages and cattles again. And thus ends this portion of the Mabinogi.

IMAGES, SYMBOLS AND ANIMALS

The animal mostly associated with Rhiannon/Rigatona is a horse. Roman images of a woman riding a horse remained to this day; they probably depict either Rigatona or Epona.

Rigatona

Rhiannon is also connected with the Underworld through her birds. Mabinogion mentions her miraculous birds which sang so sweetly that warriors listening to them fell under their charm for eighty years. Three birds had magical skills to wake the deads up and put the living to sleep. In an old Welsh legend about Culhwch and Olwen, one of Culhwch’s tasks is to get Adar Rhiannon – The Birds of Rhiannon  (he wants to marry Olwen but her father does not accept it and demands from suitors things impossible to get). Birds also appear during the feast in the Second Branch of Mabinogion:  the singing of the birds of Rhiannon (…) and there came three birds, and began singing unto them a certain song, and all the songs they had ever heard were unpleasant compared thereto; and the birds seemed to them to be at a great distance from them over the sea, yet they appeared as distinct as if they were close by, and at this repast they continued seven years.

Other animals associated with Rhiannon are a boar, dogs and a badger (Welsh game ‘a badger in a bag’ was traditionally initiated when Gwawl, Rhiannon’s suitor, was closed in a bag and teased).

Rhiannon is also associated with the symbol of cauldron (magical bowl in a castle), typical for Celtic goddesses (Welsh Cerridwen, Irish Brigid and triple Morrigan), which makes her the goddess of magic. Some researchers claim that similarly to Irish Medb (Maeve) and Welsh Gwenhwyfer (Guinevere) she is the goddess of sovereignty and grants the throne to the man who marries her. Like a Hellenic goddess Demeter she is linked with horses and perceived as the goddess of abundance and fertility.

DIVINATION MEANING

Person

Someone with a great need of moving or a person of a swift mind. Someone who is experienced in life, wise, bright and ingenious. A person of great patience and dignity.

ADVICE

It is you who is right in the situation you are inquiring. Do not let people around you make you believe you are not. Have no doubt of who you are, what you do and where you are heading. You are good enough in whatever you are planning so do not allow fears to destroy your potential.

A gaslightning *** method may being used to belittle you, do not stop believing in your own feelings, impressions and emotions. You are right.

Time to change and move forward. A trip is a good idea.

Reflect deeply on what you are intending to do because you will not be able to turn back the time.

Movement. Velocity. Change. Power. Dignity. Mobility. Internet. Happy ending of a difficult situation.

Love

If you are in the relationship: time of testing or ordeal. Speak honestly about what you want, sometimes it is enough to simply ask for it. False accusations. Re – marrying. Being deprived of/granted the custody over the child.

If you are single: this card suggests meeting somebody during a journey.

Finances

Loss, typically not caused by wastefulness but by decision of an office or a bank. It is possible to compound or to bend the rules in order to change this situation. Departure, most probably abroad.

Health

Beware of falling down and injuries. Endangered parts of the body: musculoskeletal system (bones, muscles, tendons, ligaments).

CARDS

Rhiannon hurrying with horses and birds in The Goddess Oracle by Hrana Janto&Amy Sophia Marashinsky

Rhiannon in The Goddess Oracle by Hrana Janto&Amy Sophia Marashinsky

Rhiannon in The Oracle of the Goddess by Gayan Sylvie Winter&Jo Dosé

Rhiannon in The Oracle of the Goddess by Gayan Sylvie Winter&Jo Dosé

Rhiannon in Goddess Inspiration Oracle by Kris Waldherr

Rhiannon in Goddess Inspiration Oracle by Kris Waldherr

Rhiannon as The Chariot in The Goddess Tarot by Kris Waldherr

Rhiannon as The Chariot in The Goddess Tarot by Kris Waldherr

Rhiannon in The Goddess Oracle Deck by Thalia Took

Rhiannon in The Goddess Oracle Deck by Thalia Took

Rhiannon in Goddesses Knowledge Cards by Susan Seddon Boulet&Michael Babcock

Rhiannon in Goddesses Knowledge Cards by Susan Seddon Boulet&Michael Babcock

Rhiannon in Goddess: A New Guide to Feminine Wisdom by River Huston&Patricia Languedoc

Rhiannon in Goddess: A New Guide to Feminine Wisdom by River Huston&Patricia Languedoc

An interesting representation of Rhiannon in The Goddess Power Pack by Cordelia Brabbs

Rhiannon in The Goddess Power Pack by Cordelia Brabbs

Rhiannon in Goddess Guidance Oracle Cards by Doreen Virtue (I think I have expressed my views about this ‘work of art’ clearly enough in the review of Doreen Virtue’s deck so I will not say a word more)

Rhiannon in Goddesses Guidance Oracle Cards by Doreen Virtue

Rhiannon as Knight of Swords in Universal Goddess Tarot by Maria Caratti&Antonella Platano

Rhiannon in Universal Goddess Tarot deck by Maria Caratti&Antonella Platano

* It also affected other Welsh legends about King Arthur, most probably both Morgaine – Morgan Le Fey and Gwenhwyfer – Guinevere were at first goddesses. Legends about King Arthur have been formed in their ultimate shape around 15th century under the French influence while original Welsh myths are as old as at least 6th century. To be honest these versions often differ like fire and water. Both Rhiannon’s husbands are also considered to be originally gods; Pwyll was the lord of the Underworld while Manawyddan seems to be a Welsh counterpart of Irish god of the sea called Manannán.

** Prototype of Shakespear’s King Lear.

*** “Gaslighting is a form of psychological abuse used by narcissists in order to instill in their victim’s an extreme sense of anxiety and confusion to the point where they no longer trust their own memory, perception or judgment. The techniques used in “Gaslighting” by the narcissist are similar to those used in brainwashing, interrogation, and torture that have been used in psychological warfare by intelligence operative, law enforcement and other forces for decades.

The intention is to, in a systematic way, target the victim’s mental equilibrium, self confidence, and self esteem so that they are no longer able to function in an independent way. Gaslighting involves the abuser to frequently and systematically withhold factual information from the victim, and replacing it with false information. Because of it’s subtly, this cunning Machiavellian behaviour is a deeply insidious set of manipulations that is difficult for anybody to work out, and with time it finally undermines the mental stability of the victim. That is why it is such a dangerous form of abuse. The emotional damage of Gaslighting is huge on the narcissistic victim. When they are exposed to it for long enough, they begin to lose their sense of their own self. Unable to trust their own judgments, they start to question the reality of everything in their life. They begin to find themselves second-guessing themselves, and this makes them become very insecure around their decision making, even around the smallest of choices. The victim becomes depressed and withdrawn, they become totally dependent on the abuser for their sense of reality. In effect the gaslighting turns the victim’s reality on its head.” (from Narcology)

Based on original issue of Mabinogion available online (much to my joy) here: http://www.sacred-texts.com/neu/celt/mab/mab20.htm and http://www.sacred-texts.com/neu/celt/mab/mab24.htm

as well as English Wikipedia, http://wintergrovecoven.tripod.com/deities.html , http://www.thaliatook.com/AMGG/rhiannon.html , http://www.joellessacredgrove.com/Celtic/deitiesr-s.html, http://www.joellessacredgrove.com/Celtic/deitiesn-o-p.html .

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BRIGID (BRIGIT, BRIDE)

BRIGID (BRIGIT, BRIDE)

ABOUT GODDESS

Celtic goddess of fire, poetry, blacksmithing, house and hearth. She was the daughter of Dagda, the High King of Tuatha Dé Danann and an unknown poet, the wife of Bres of the Fomorians and the mother of his son Ruadán. Her name means The Exalted One (Breo-saighit – ‘A Fiery Arrow’).

Brigid was involved in the war between her native tribe and the Fomorians, the tribe which had lived in Ireland before their arrival (according to the Irish legends Tuatha Dé Danann was the fifth tribe to arrive in the island). Traditionally the Fomorians are considered to represent chaos and wild forces of nature while Tuatha Dé Danann were the ones who built the civilization. Brigit’s son died in the war between the two tribes and this tragedy made her invent keening, a kind of mourning song.

Brigid is connected with the sun and everything which is considered high both literally (high-raising flames, highlands and upland areas) and metaphorically (wisdom, perfection, intelligence, creativity, eloquence, poetry, warcraft, healing, divination, druidic knowledge and crafts especially blacksmithing). Similarly to the Hellenic goddess Athena, Brigid was inventing various helpful objects such as a whistle used during night journeys and ogham, the Celtic alphabet. According to some beliefs she was also the goddess of fertility and the women during their labour. Wells have been dedicated to Brigid and in fact the custom of decorating healing wells with clooties is still present in many places in the British Isles.

Trees decorated with clooties

and

Trees decorated with clooties

It is interesting that the pagan Celtic goddess is often identified with her Christian saint namesake who was the abbess in Kildare. Kildare was the area of Ireland where the cult of the goddess was very strong in pagan times and according to the legends the custom of maintaining Brigid’s sacred flame remained there even in the Christian era. The hearth was surrounded by the hedge which no man had right to cross and those who tried to do it against the prohibition were said to die, go insane or have their penises withered. Each of the nineteen priestesses (and then nuns) was watching over the flame for one hour and it is said that for the twentieth hour the goddess herself was protecting the hearth. It was not until 1220 when Henry Bishop of Dublin ordered to extinguish the flame (however I found the note here that in 1993 the Brigidine sisters of Ireland rekindled her flame at Kildare). Pay attention to the fact that the protection of hearth just by female members of the house is the custom which makes Brigid similar to the Hellenic goddess Hestia and Roman Vesta.

I suppose that Christianity was helpless against strong pagan beliefs. The pope Gregory I himself stated in the letter to St. Augustine of Hippo that the cult of goddess should be incorporated to Christian faith rather than fought with. I suppose that it resulted in the legend of Brigid being the midwife of St.Mary when she was giving birth to Jesus. St. Brigid’s Day is celebrated in the Christian churches on Feb, 1st probably as one of the remains of the Celtic holiday Imbolc (Oimelc). It was the holiday dedicated to Brigid and people were celebrating the spring coming up, days getting longer and longer and the time of birthing and freshening of sheep  (animals attributed to her). The Christians changed the name of the holiday into Candlemas but kept the ritual of blessing the sheep. Brigid was worshipped in the whole Celtic world and many cities and towns took their names after her e.g. Braga and Bragança (Portugal), Bregenz (Austria), Brigindo (Switzerland) etc. She was considered to be the Triple Goddess* thanks to her three aspects: the first one was inspiration and creation, the second one was blacksmithing and the third one  – the art of healing and medicine. Legend says that in 722 she appeared to the Irish army hovering in the sky before they routed the forces of Tara similarly to the cross which had appeared to the Roman Emperor Constantine in 312.

IMAGES, SYMBOLS AND ANIMALS

The most important symbol associated with her is Brigid’s cross made of rush, one of the symbols of the Republic of Ireland which among others was used as the logo of the public television.

Brigid’s number is nineteen because according to druid’s knowledge the new moon needed 19 years to appear in exactly the same time as winter solstice.

The animals attributed to her were an ox (she had two: Fe and Men which graze on a plain named Femen after them), a boar, a sheep and a swan (an animal which unites the forms of a bird and a serpent).

Cauldron was attributed to Brigid as the patron of craft and both spear and arrow were her symbols as the mentor of the warcraft.

Brigid was often presented wearing a green coat although it has to be said that not many images of her survived the introduction of Christianity.

DIVINATION MEANING

Because Brigid is a very versatile goddess, her oracle card also carries a lot of meanings. Most of all because of her clear connection to the element of fire, her cards presents all the features traditionally attributed to it.

Positive: energy, activity, courage, being go-getting, ambition, creativity, eagerness, initiative, dynamics, passion, enthusiasm, leading skills, success, extrovertism, optimism

Negative: anger, lack of control, risk, imprudence, carelessness, acting without thinking, inability to finish what was started, impatience, obsession, narcissism, tendency to exaggerate, distress, capriciousness

PERSON

Woman shown by this card is versatile, intelligent and passionate, she often has manual and creative skills and is good at making strategies. She definitely is strong, ambitious, talented and creative but she also takes great care of her family and she fulfils herself in many areas of life. In negative it presents the woman who tries to kill too  many birds with one stone or is torn apart between fulfilling the needs of others and her own.

This cars also represents artists, artisans, doctors, officers, firefighters, teachers, philosophers, midwives, farmers and fortune tellers.

ADVICE

Be assertive and do not back down even if you are under pressure. Express yourself clearly and do not think that showing your strength will scare people away from you. If you are unclear about your intentions, you lessen your own force and it will not help you to achieve your goal. You cannot satisfy everyone so it is better not to ponder what others may think. It is time to act, not to hesitate.

Try to express yourself in writing, reciting, singing, designing, creating in metal, clay etc and all the kinds of craft.

Think deeply of the problem which drenches you. The solution is already in your mind, you only have to bring it up on the surface like water is taken upwards from a well.

LOVE

If you are in a relationship: This is the time of attraction and passion, a good moment to show your partner love. In negative meaning it can signify anger and quarrels which in the end should not last long anyway. If surrounded by other card(s) presenting the goddess of house and family, it suggests marriage or strengthening the already existing relationship.

If you are single: Do not sit and wait until Prince Charming comes to save you. Start searching for him yourself but do not concentrate on finding Mr Perfect. Instead surround yourself with people with whom you are connected by work, hobby or volunteering, the more people you meet, the bigger chance of finding someone who will suit you. If you have already crush on someone, this card suggests making the first step.

FINANCES

Positive: possible promotion or pay rise, negative: more work or duties. Often signifies your boss or someone who has power over you. It is a good moment to think about a new project or starting your own firm, Brigid says, ‘Think carefully about the plan and consider all the possible options and when you are ready, act immediately and do not hesitate’.

HEALTH

A visit to doctor or a hospital is necessary. You need to take better care of your health, if you delay consulting a specialist, the problem will be growing. Possible fever or inflammation of one of the body’s organs. Injuries caused by speed or sport may happen to you. Also problems with overactivity may affect your mind (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, bipolar disorder etc) and that is the right time to diagnose them. If accompanied by the goddesses of earth, this cards may suggest a visit to spa&health centre. If it appears at the end of spread in questions concerning health problems, it usually suggests recovery especially if it is accompanied by the goddess of wealth, well-being or fertility.

CARDS

Brigid in The Goddess Oracle by Hrana Janto&Amy Sophia Marashinsky

This beautiful and very Art Nouveau image of Brigid comes from Goddesses of the New Light by Pamela Matthews.

Brigid in the deck of Pamela Matthews

Brigid in Oracle of the Goddess by Anna Franklin&Paul Mason

Brigid in Oracle of the Goddess by Anna Franklin&Paul Mason

Brigid in The Oracle of the Goddess by Gayan Sylvie Winter&Jo Dosé

Brigid in Goddess Inspiration Oracle by Kris Waldherr

Brigid in The Goddess Oracle Deck by Thalia Took

Brigid in The Goddess Wisdom Cards by Jill Fairchild, Regina Schaare & Sandra M. Stanton

Brigid in The Goddess Wisdom Cards by Jill Fairchild, Regina Schaare & Sandra M. Stanton

Brigid in Goddess: A New Guide to Feminine Wisdom by River Huston&Patricia Languedoc

Brigid in Goddess: A New Guide to Feminine Wisdom by River Huston&Patricia Languedoc

The card from the deck of Doreen Virtue brings the message which is consitent with the element of Fire, Don’t back down. Stand up for what you believe is right. Speak your truth. Stick to your opinions.

Brigid in the deck of Doreen Virtue

Brigid in Goddess Card Pack by Juni Parkhurst (or is it Archangel Michael? )

Brigid in Goddesses&Sirens by Stacey Demarco&Jimmy Manton

Brigid in The Goddess Power deck by Cordelia Brabbs

And this is a very adequate assignment of Brigid as King of Staves from the Universal Goddess Tarot by Maria Caratti&Antonella Platano  (Staves=Fire, King=the most progressed and advanced in development of the court figures). As you can see there is the sign of triquerta over the goddess’ head which may be some kind of overinterpretation but it definitely pays attention to Brigid’s triple nature.

Brigid as King of Staves in the Universal Goddess Tarot deck

Based on English Wikipedia and the following pages:  http://www.realmagick.com/6807/brigid-the-goddess-of-imbolc-and-celtic-europe/, http://www.inanna.virtualave.net/brigit.html and http://www.andrewcollins.com/page/articles/thecygnusmystery_swan.htm.

* I will publish a separate post explaining the notion of Triple Goddess because it is definitely worth to study it deeper.

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