Herd Mothers

For a long time I have thought of Epona and Rhiannon as the same being. I have in the past preferred to use the reconstructed rhythmic title of Rigantona in stress of Rhiannon and have combined the names as “Epona Rigantona”. A bit of a linguistic mess I know as Epona is Gaulish and Rigantona reconstructed Brythonic but that’s what I have done for a few years now.

For those less familiar with these names Epona translates to “divine mare”and Rigantona means “great or divine queen”. Rigantona is a reconstructed form of the Welsh name Rhiannon so that name also means great or divine queen. It is the stories of Rhiannon in the “Tales of the Mabinogion” that link that Goddess to horses.

As an aside if you are interested in reading more about Rhiannon I can strongly recommend the Pagan Portals book “Rhiannon” by Jhenah Telyndru.

Epona has links to being a queen via some of the inscriptions left during Roman times where she is referred to as “Epona Regina”.

For a long time when I prayed to Epona or Epona Rigantona I only ever received the impression of a single being so I thought of them as one horse goddess with different titles in different lands.

Now I’m not so sure.

I’ve always known of others that saw Epona as a separate being to Rhiannon or Rigantona. I’ve tried to keep an open mind on this by recognising and respecting that my experience is not the same as the experiences of others. Lately my feelings have changed prompted by something Kris Hughes wrote and I can’t remember whether that was in a personal exchange or on one of her blog posts so I can’t quote directly here. Essentially though she said something about the horse goddesses working together as horses do.

Horses are herd animals, they don’t like being alone. Why then would a horse goddess be on her own if she could choose otherwise? Epona is often depicted in human form riding a horse BUT her name means divine MARE, not human who takes care of horses or other equines. Yes, as Epona Regina as human guise makes sense but even so she is still mare and queen.

Deities are not fixed in physical forms, this was a lesson Epona taught me years ago and I felt her laughter back then when I finally understood. I felt her amusement again when I suddenly realised that I had been thinking it was either one thing or the other and deities do not have to be one thing or another they can be both.

Just as Epona can be both mare and human in form so I have come to understand that Epona and Rhiannon can be both a single being and two separate beings. Not either/or but both/and. They can choose to act as one or split into different and independent aspects. It maybe that they do this with other horse deities too and if they choose.

For me Epona and Rhiannon or Rigantona have now taken on a collective identity as the “Herd Mothers”. The “Herd Mothers” may also include Macha from Ireland but don’t haven’t had any direct experience of this as yet.
The Herd Mothers can act as a collective or as individuals, the presence felt can be both singular and plural now that I am aware of this possibility. It’s not easy to move beyond initial ideas of deity into deeper connections and possibilities, it takes time, sometimes a lot of time and it will be different for each person. It should be different because this is a relationship and deity is only one side of that relationship. We, as individuals, are the other side of that relationship.

Hail to the Herd Mothers!

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Là na Cailliche

Today, 25th March is known as Là na Cailliche or Cailleach’s day. I haven’t done much in previous years to mark this even though I was first introduced to the Cailleach about twenty years ago. Back then I knew little and it’s taken time for the relationship I now have to develop.

I felt last week that I needed to do something more this year, something special. I thought and decided that a walk in the Campsie hills somewhere was fitting. I see the Campsies each day from my home. I look towards them often and think of the Cailleach. I don’t know of any particular folk lore that links any Cailleach stories with the Campsies but for me She is there. It’s not the only place ties to Her by any means but it is a personal one.

I’m not the fittest person. I also have family commitments that mean I can’t be out all day so I had to plan for somewhere fairly easy to get to and somewhere I could walk and return in good time for kids coming back from school. I chose a walk into the hills above the Campsie falls and if the weather was really bad my back up plan was to do some knitting and  spinning. Luckily for me the weather has been lovely. A bit of a chilly breeze but dry and some sunshine.

I  prepared a packed lunch and a flask of tea, tied a plaited cord belt and prayer beads round my waist both dedicated to the Cailleach, put my staff in the car and headed off. Walking boots and suitable layers of clothing for hill walking too of course and my hubby knew where I was going. Safety as well as spirituality!

It felt good to be up in the hills, it felt right to do something special to mark this day.  I ate my lunch on the hills by a cairn and shared my tea with the Cailleach and the spirits of the land. I sat and gazed out over the land and listened to the skylarks singing. There was a long pause, a silence that felt as if the world around me was waiting for something. I listened. I breathed the air and felt the cold, damp earth beneath me. Sound returned to the land.

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As I had walked up I heard a raven call and caught a glimpse of one flying. As I walked down again I heard the raven call twice more and saw it soaring. Three times heard, three times seen. Twice seen and heard at the same time, another time heard but not seen, then seen but not heard.

There’s a low flat stone part way up the hill and it’s clear that several people have taken advantage of its seat like nature for a rest. I did too for a short rest on the way up, a longer rest on the way down. And during that rest on the way down I prayed with my prayer beads. Beads that my mum had made. And the words I said changed.

Earth Her flesh,
Stone Her bones,
Plants Her skin, Her hair,
The waters Her blood,
The air Her breath,
The clouds Her thoughts,
Ravens Her voice,
Eagles Her eyes,
Deer and hares Her ears.

Hail to  you, Mighty Cailleach!

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Marked by Gofannon

In late January I took part in an online conference about Brighid. I will write more about that another time but during one of sessions there was a meditation that led to Brighid at a forge deep in the land. My experience during that meditation was a little different. I met two smiths in that forge and one was Gofannon. He didn’t tell me his name but then neither of them spoke to me much. He held me steady while Brighid pulled from me what was needed to be reworked. He was working at one area of the forge and She was at another but it was clear that this was a shared space for them.

The material Brighid pulled from me was reworked and then placed back inside me in three parts. One band for each of three cauldrons within me. Gofannon again held me steady while Brighid placed these bands within me.

While this forging was taking place though Gofannon placed a band round my upper right arm. It was about an inch wide and copper. I knew it was fairly simple in design but couldn’t make it out clearly. I felt it though. I felt it so very clearly and in the days since that experience I have felt it again and again. So this week I decided to try and find a physical version of this arm band.

I looked in a few places online but couldn’t find anything at the right sort of size that looked even close. Upper arm bands in copper that I found were either simple very narrow bands or elegant twists and spirals, not at all what I was seeking. The closest items were wrist bands and I needed something larger. One of the crafts people I looked at was RuneCastCopper and I’d seen their work in one of the Asatru UK Facebook group that I am a member of so I contacted them. I wanted to get something made by a fellow polytheist if I could manage it. Fortunately they are happy to make a piece for me and today, a Thursday which is the day I devote to Gofannon, I made the payment for this commission.

What was placed round my arm by Gofannon is being given a physical manifestation. Soon I will have a devotional item of jewellery for Gofannon to wear on Thursdays just as on other days I have items of jewellery dedicated to other deites.

 

 

Who is a poet? A Review of Gatherer of Souls by Lorna Smithers

Lorna is someone I’m fortunate to know so delighted to share this lovely review of her recent book.

British Druid Order Blog

Who is a poet? Not hard. A poet sees beneath the surface of things, and brings back the stories and songs of the world behind the world.

When I was given the opportunity to review Lorna Smithers’ Gatherer of Souls, I jumped at the chance. I was somewhat familiar with her work through blog posts and references here and there but, you know how it is, time and preoccupations constrain one’s attention in certain directions. So I had never actually read her books or poetry in the ‘sit down’, with the attention that a poet requires. So I was not prepared for just how extraordinary I would find this book.

I’ve read and told the tale of Culhwch and Olwen many times, yet never wept for Goleuddydd. And if that were all, it would be enough. But there was so much more.

This is a book that crystallises years of…

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Struggling on

Last August I set some intentions and a couple of months later I wrote a little about my progress in some general musings. I’m still struggling with one aspect of those intentions and that’s getting back to writing.

I finished knitting another shawl for the end of the old year, a nice snuggly one that I can wrap around me and the at the back. My first knitting project of the new year was a new hat with some very colourful yarn.

I’m now working on a pair of socks and I have a shawl to knit for a friend. I’m also planning a simple blanket to use the acrylic yarn I’ve inherited from my mum. So the knitting is progressing quite well.

I’ve found a community style choir to join that meets during a weekday afternoon. I started going to that at the end of October. It’s called Sing aLoud and I really enjoy it. I got my dad along to it as well as he enjoys singing although he’d never been in a choir before. 

I also had another tattoo done towards the end of October that links my singing to my devotions. I wanted a devotional tattoo of some kind but symbols become complicated and then I came up with this which links to all my gods.

I’ve done a few bits of writing but still not really got back into it. I’ve also been struggling a lot with low moods and tearful days during December, especially the so called holiday season. It’s now two weeks into the school term and I’m being to get back into routines which does help. I’ve now downloaded the WordPress app on my Kindle and I’m hoping that will encourage me to begin to write here more often. I’m hoping that if I get back into blogging more often I will then feel more able to return to writing the book I began at Samhain 2017. I keep thinking of ways to begin writing some of the chapters I still need to write but never actually sitting down with my laptop and starting to write.

I’ve put on some weight in the last couple of months. I comfort eat. I know I do this and why but stopping it is easier said than done especially when I’m struggling with my moods. So I’ve decided to try and do a bit more exercise in the hope that doing that will help me feel better and reduce the amount I turn to comfort eating. Hopefully the longer hours of daylight will also have a positive effect on me. I don’t get seasonal affective disorder as such but light levels may be a contributing factor. I’m aiming to start swimming again as I used to swim  regularly a few years ago and enjoyed it. I’m in the process of investigating local swimming pools to find one that’s both reasonably close and that I feel reasonably comfortable going to. Longer term I will then start watching what I eat more carefully again but I want to start exercising more and improving my overall mood first.
On the RDA front I continue to love my time there, so much so that I’ve signed up to start learning how to be a coach for the RDA. That means I’m continuing to learn new skills and gaining a real sense of achievement. Speaking of which I was stunned and delighted to be awarded the RDA Glasgow Group volunteer of the year award for 2018. I have a lovely big trophy to look after this year and a smaller one I get to keep.

Writing this has been good for me. I’ve been struggling with my moods so much recently but in writing about these things I can see there are several positive things happening too. Sometimes when we are struggling it’s really hard to remember the good things. 

My gods are calling…

First it was Epona nudging to write a blog post and I did. Since Then I’ve felt Her more strongly and been thinking about Her a lot as Eponalia (18 December) approaches.

Then it was the Divine Smith with a mention of Sucellus as a possible Smith for followed a few days later by a blog post on Sucellos that got me thinking and then this one on Sucellus and Smith gods which resonated strongly.

Around the same time there was a surge of activity online about Loki triggered by a Wild Hunt column (this one). There’s so many options I could link to for blog posts and articles that followed this original article but the Wild Hunt have published this one about the Lokean Community and this one so-called Loki and the Resistance.

I often see posts about Brigid because I’m in Facebook groups about Her and there’s not been any unusual activity there or elsewhere about Brigantia that I’ve seen but today an Cailleach made Her presence felt via an unexpected post about Her. Maponos has remained fairly quiet so far too.

It doesn’t surprise me that Loki should use technology to make His presence felt more strongly. That’s how He first pushed into my life. It doesn’t surprise me that Epona should provide judges through contacts with other people, She has always been subtle with me. The Divine Smith though, using both personal connections and technology, that did surprise me. I don’t do any form of smithcraft. My only attempt at regular craftwork is knitting. I’m not the fastest or best knitter by any means although I am confident enough to knit things for others. So I still find it a little surprising that Gofannon  has remained a presence in my life. Perhaps He wishes to remind me to keep persevering with various things in my life, perhaps He likes my respect for the craftspeople I know. g

Three of the gods I regularly make devotions to are making their presence felt more strongly. They are each calling to me, not with a specific message but to be more aware. They are challenging me to take up those tasks that I feel I struggle with and move onwards. And I believe they are each letting me know in their own ways that I am heard and that I am not alone.