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At the shore of Caer Arianrhod

By Margo Wolfe

Under the water Her icy castle sleeps. The legendary ruins of Caer Arianrhod are quietly hiding under the waves. Looking out over the strong hillfort, I imagine all that happened here long ago. It seems so quiet now, serene. What was once very active in this space is only passive energy now.

Underground.

Underwater.

Deep within.

Sitting on the side of the hill I close my eyes and try to feel the energy of the ancient Celts course through me. I sense the castle slowly rise from its depths and meet me in the middle upon the earth.

Deep, dark, spiraling;

Slowly turning, somewhat changing heavy snake-like swirls.

I push through the ground as Her castle crests through the water. The change is not drastic, but over time the landscape molds into something else.

We cannot change choices we have made, but deal with the change that has come from our choices. No dress rehearsal, no do-over, no way to make amends, but to push slowly, steadily through the soft, sweet earth.

She is that initial spark that I need to make change. The growth that breaks through the old and tired layers seems violent and bloody, but so does birth.

A pushing through in order for a fresh look to emerge. Her lessons can seem harsh, but She brings us balance when we allow it to happen. This I learned at her shore.

***

Arianrhod’s story is not high on the list of reading material, probably because it is hard to discern why her story should be told. After years of layering by translations and revisionists, Arianrhod is not a sympathetic Goddess. She is not a good mother. Why should we look to her to teach us anything?

Here is a quick synopsis of her story found in the Mabinogi. Math was looking for a new virgin to be his footholder and confidant. Arianrhod revealed that she was a virgin, but did not want to oblige as her uncle’s servant. Math tested her word with magic and a child fell from her womb. The child grew instantly and ran to the sea. A second boy was born and Arianrhod’s brother Gwydion  scooped him up and ran away with him to raise as his own.

As the boy grew, Arianrhod refused to give him three necessary things that were traditional gifts from a Celtic mother: a name, arms, and a wife.  Therefore, Gwydion and the boy tricked Arianrhod into giving the boy a name (Llew) and duped her into arming him for battle. They were not successful in getting a wife for the boy. Math and Gwydion then cooked up a plan to create a wife out of flowers. This now blends into the story of Blodeuwedd, which I will not recount here. In very brief summary, Llew had to endure a painful transformation in order to seek renewal and salvation.

What a horrible mother, you might be saying. On the surface, that seems true, but remember we are seeing layers of cultural implications and misinterpretations. There is another way to see Arianrhod’s story.

Most characters, be they Gods, Goddesses, heroes, or heroines in Celtic lore have to go through tests or transformations in order to learn or become fully realized. Arianrhod, the Goddess of the divine spark of life, the energy that drives every one of us, was pushing her young son to succeed through many tests.  Through cunning and creative thought, he gained those items necessary to become who he was. He also learned that you cannot fashion a woman for yourself, but allow a mate to come to you, if one chooses to do so.

Arianrhod is an aspect of the mother who pushes her children to try for themselves and to even fail, if that that is something they need to endure. She was always there to catch Llew; he did not die from the wounds like he thought, but instead shed misconceptions that he held in order to become whole again. These were his trials and a good mother would allow him to get hurt just enough that he would learn from those trials.

Maybe not the most nurturing mother, but I know I can use a more forceful push every once in a while.