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!

Author: potiapitchford

Autistic mother with autistic kids. Hearth Druid and Heathen

5 thoughts on “Herd Mothers”

  1. Oooooo! Well! Since menopause I have noticed that my vision has broadened from being a hearth mother to being a village mother. AND, lately I have been drawn to Epona/Rhiannon (largely because of my increasingly close relationship with my horse). To consider Epona/Rhiannon as a Herd Mother offers another perspective on my personal growth in this direction. Thank you for this insight!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great post! I love the idea of Herd Mothers!

    I was intrigued, and remembered that we’d talked about this at some point, and that I’d shared what seemed to me like a direct communication from one of the Herd Mothers I honour. Luckily I never throw away an email. and I found it!

    “We work together, but we are not the same, because each of us was invoked in a different place.”

    The email was dated October 1st, 2018 if that helps.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Fascinating insisght. I love the concept and its attendant reality. Your relationship/s with these deities has evolved and grown as your understanding and experiences of them has; but, that moment when it all comes together into something deeper, richer and more profound is wondrous and sacred.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Interesting post!

    I’ve always felt that deities can express different aspects of themselves and appear with different emphases in different environments and in different cultures. The environments and cultures of ancient Gaul and Britain were sufficiently similar to regard Epona and Rigantona as in some senses ‘the same’ but they were also different enough for a goddess to appear or express herself differently in each case. And so to be separate, though to a goddess that might not mean very much. I also see her in the ‘Elfin Queen’ of the Scottish border ballad of Thomas the Rhymer where she rides on her horse from the Eildon Hills to carry off Thomas to the Otherworld. The parallels with Rhiannon are even more striking in the medieval romance of ‘Thomas of Erceldoune’ on which the ballad seems to be based.

    So I join you in saying ‘Hail to the Herd Mothers’.

    Liked by 1 person

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