An introduction to Govannon

Sometimes a presence comes forward and makes itself known.  Sometimes there are odd coincidences, thoughts unrelated to other things that stick in your head, lead you to search, to look for a name, to try and find out more. Recently this has been happening to me again.  I have no idea why but the name, or at least one name, came fairly easily – Govannon, Divine Smith.

Many cultures have a divine smith in their pantheons, possibly one of the more widely known ones will be Hephaestus of the Greek pantheon.  Many of these smith gods are depicted as a mature male and some are physically impaired in some way.  Many are said to be difficult personalities, loners or aggressive. And many are patrons of much more than smithcraft. For example, the Voudon and Santeria Orisha Ogun, from my limited understanding, has strong links to various forms of technology and many skills connected with the use of blades including surgery. He’s also known as both a fierce warrior and a protective father.

Part of my searching over the last week has been around smith deities of other cultures to try and gain insights into who Govannon was in the past as so little is known of him.

Govannon is a modern varient of the Divine Smith title, and from what I can tell, not a very scholarly one at that.  Older names include the Welsh Gofannon, the Old Irish Goibniu and the Gaulish Gobannos.  I think the main reason I find myself so drawn to the name Govannon over other forms is that I live fairly close to Govan and I’ve wondered in the past if there could be links between that place name and the deity.

That tantalizing possibility of a link between modern Govan and the deity Govannon has led me to do some research on the history of Govan. I found a picture of Govan as it was in 1757, and it looks like a nice village.  I discovered that before the ship building days Govan was well known for weaving and that in 1756 the Govan Weaver’s Society was formed and that the Govan Fair has a long and sometimes colourful history.  I also learnt that Govan used to be called “Meikle Govan” which translates to great or large Govan. Govan has an old parish church which now houses some even older grave stones known as the Govan Stones, these include some very impressive examples of hogback stones.  It was while I was reading some of the information about this that I noted that around 870 AD the capital of the Kingdom of Strathclyde moved from Dumbarton Rock to around Govan owing to a slight problem with Vikings.  I’ve learnt many things but nothing that gives any evidence that the place name Govan might have an ancient link to Govannon but if there is ever a place which over time could be shown to imbue the essence of a god of craft and technology I’d think Govan would be it.  It is a place with a long history of craftmanship and technology. I’ve developed a great deal of respect for Govan with this journey into its history. Oh, and the motto of Govan, still evident today in Govan High School among other places, is Nihil Sine Labore, meaning “Nothing without Work”.

So where does all this leave me?

I am being led to get to know a deity who was probably once greatly revered by those that followed crafts but one about which very little has survived.  He almost certainly would have been the patron of smiths of all kinds.  It’s possible that, like Goibnui, he had something to do with feasting and hospitality. There are some inscriptions to Gobannos that survive, the best currently being the Berne zinc tablet with an inscription that reads “Dobnoredo Gobano Brenodor Nantaror” and translates as “to Gobannus, the world-traveller, dedicated by the people of Brennoduron in the Arura valley” according to the information on Wikepedia about the tablet. So there maybe an aspect of being a traveller in his long lost mythology too.

Broken threads forming a very patchy tapestry. Faded images, partially formed pictures of something mystical and magical. An opportunity to forge a new understanding, a new relationship with this old mysterious figure.

Hail Govannon!

 

 

Working with the Perennial Druidry course – unit 5

I’ve written earlier about starting to work with the Perennial Druidry course.  In this post I am going to share my reflections on the unit I have been working with over the last moon.

I have been working on Unit 5 which is called White Lady moon by Bobcat but I don’t feel that really fits up here in Glasgow. The hawthorn is now blossoming but it’s not been out long, in fact checking my Facebook posts tells me I first saw blossoms round here on 11 May and that’s just a couple of days before the full moon. Up until that point one of the more noticeable sights locally was that the ash trees were on the cusp of coming into leaf. Now two weeks later some hawthorns here are covered in open blossom and many others are still in the process of coming into full blossom. There are now also leaves on the ash trees, the final bare trees are being dressed in green. I’ve thought about various options of names that fit more with what I see here over the past couple of weeks. Ash Wakening moon or Blossoming moon and a few other variants. Chatting with Neil about this I think he may have come up with a suitable name that combines both the hawthorn blossoming and the ash coming into leaf in a more poetic way than I came up with. This is White Ash moon. The hawthorn trees look like they have been covered in creamy white ash and the ash trees themselves are beginning to look more like living trees.

So what about the assorted headings in this unit?

The festival is Beltane. I have celebrated this in groups twice this year, once in late April and once in early May. In both cases the marker I need to feel that Beltane is really here was either not there at all or only present in a small number of early blossoms. Beltane for many is about sexuality and fertility but to me it’s slightly different.

Firstly to really feel Beltane is here I need to see the hawthorn flowering, I know I’m not alone in that but the meaning is slightly different to me that for others. The part that is probably in common with others feelings is that it marks the turning of the season into early summer. For me though is a symbol for me linking to my own modern mythological take on the journey of Rigantona to the Underworld and Her return. It is as She returns to the Land and walks on it that the hawthorn flowers begin to open, marking Her arrival. And it is now when the blossom is heading towards full strength that She takes the cup of sovereignty up once more and Her Sister/Mother rests and transforms from careworn age to youth. A dance that will be repeated each year with Rigantona passing the cup to Her Sister/Mother once more at Samhain. It is a dance of shared responsibility, of knowing when to be active and when to step back, when to grow and when to rest. That is something I am still learning about.

At the full moon when I made my offerings to the Ladies of the Land, I greeted Rigantona as returned from the Otherworld. I am not yet sure if I will do something outward to mark this time when to me She takes back Her cup of sovereignty or not. Possibly it is enough to have acknowledged it and spent this time contemplating what that means to me now.

I don’t really have any further thoughts on the season being summer waxing as Emma put it in the materials.
The element listed is fire. This is an odd one for me as I do not see fire as an element in the way that earth, waters and air can be. For me fire is something that transforms. It can be a symbol of divine energies but more so of change. I don’t really see it as a deity in itself although there is certainly a hungry energy to fire even in the smallest candle flame. It’s a dangerous energy, hungry and wild. As humans we use it for so many things thinking perhaps to tame it but that is something we can never do. There are deities that work with fire under control, the smith god Govannon and Brigantia with her links to fires of hearth, smithy and inspiration. Fire itself though is not a deity to me, perhaps because I don’t feel I can develop a relationship with it. All I can do is acknowledge its power and treat it with caution.

The perception heading in this unit is listening. I do a lot of listening. I need to listen to what is spoken and sometimes more importantly what is not spoken by my children. I don’t to it all the time of course, there are times I shut down a bit and hear but not listen or listen lightly and not as deeply as I can. I was chatting with Neil about this and he said that listening is an art, an interactive creative act. I’d never really thought about it that way before but he is right. Deep listening is interactive, it can change your thoughts on something. Listening leads you to respond in ways that can build up new understandings, creating new threads in relationships. I’ve not spent time this moon focusing on listening to anything in particular but it is something I do a great deal of anyway.

Emma asks in this section “What do we mean by the ‘song’ in Druidry?”. To me the song in Druidry is the harmonies created by each of us relation to one another and the world around us. It is a song that we can listen to with our ears to some extent but there is more to it. We also need to listen with our whole bodies and our souls to sense the song of druidry and our place within it.

I don’t have much to say on the areas of vibrance, passion, intimacy and sexuality other than to acknowledge that with Neil, I have found a new expression of the latter three in particular that has had a profound effect on my self image and a very positive one too.

The area of creativity tells us to find a muse, to be aware to who and what inspires us. At the moment I am inspired by druidry and the way in which Neil and I interact with each other and our own expressions of druidry.