The Goddess Arianrhod
Goddess of the North and the element of Air on the Wheel of Andraste
Artwork by Willow Wand
The Goddess Arianrhod at Yule
As Samhain melts into Yule at the Winter Solstice, the coldest weather now begins. The land is encased in ice as stillness descends, enveloping all life in silence. Despite the cold we celebrate the returning light as the days grow longer and thin sunshine peeps through the bare branches. The land is sleeping, waiting for rebirth at this transforming time of the year.
On glorious mornings we wake to a land embroidered by frost that the Goddess has woven across the trees and hedgerows. And on special days we find the land bathed in bright, crisp, clear sunshine. The world looks shiny and new, bringing the promise of hope.
We are still in the time of the Dark Mother and at Yule we meet Arianrhod of the Silver Wheel, Goddess of transformation. She lives in the land of the Dead, in the constellation Corona Borealis, beyond the North Wind, in Her castle, Caer Sidi, which means ‘revolving castle’ and in Her realm, Caer Arianrhod, which serves as an initiatory place for poets and souls who are about to be reborn.
Her name means ‘Silver Wheel’, representing the ever turning wheel of the year. It may also refer to Her ship, The Oar Wheel, upon which She carried the dead back to Her land, where it was believed that they waited for Arianrhod and Her female attendants to decide their fate before reincarnation.
Arianrhod is fair haired and fair of face. A pale skinned Goddess of the Full Moon, and Mother aspect of the Triple Goddess. She is the Spider or Weaver Goddess, spinning Her silver thread through the Northern sky. She is Queen of the Dark, or the light of the Dark. She is the dark light who rules the endings of time.
When you are at your darkest moments, it is Arianrhod’s light that will guide you. She brings you enlightenment, clarity, decisiveness. During the winter months where life lies buried in the land, we take this time to look within ourselves, to rest, to contemplate how we can be reborn again when spring arrives.
Arianrhod does not do what people expect. She will not bend Her will to suit others, for She is an independent woman needing no man to define Her. She is a free spirit. She encourages us to be free, to be independent but to take responsibility for our lives and actions. She has a good memory and will remind you of your past, particularly if you haven’t learnt its lessons.
She is the benevolent silver sky-lady come down from her pale white chariot in the heavens to watch more closely over the tides she rules. She has special connections to mermaids, especially mermen. Her Festival is the 2nd December. Her colours are silver, silver-lilac and silver-blue.
Arianrhod is able to shape shift into a large Owl, and through Her great Owl eyes can see into the human subconscious and soul. The Owl is a symbol of death and renewal, moving with purpose and strength through the night, spreading her wings of comfort and healing, gliding silently like a Phantom.
Arianrhod is seen as the weaver of fate. Native Americans told of the Grandmother Spider who sits in the middle of the Universe, spinning her web, weaving all living life to each other.
The Wolf is associated with the power of the Moon. A powerful hunter that folklore has demonised possibly because of its reputation for digging up the bodies of the dead. There is found in Norse mythology a wolf that swallowed the Moon, called ‘Moon-Garmr’.
An elemental being of Air. Sylphs are fey folk who play around the tree tops. Creatures of Air who ride the North Wind and float on the breeze.
Pink Footed Geese
Geese are gifted navigators. They work as a team, communicating warnings and prime landing sites. The Pink Footed Geese breed in Greenland, Iceland and Svalbard, of which 86% of the world population overwinter in Norfolk. On good days they can fly up to 1500 miles and can sleep in ten second bursts whilst flying. They mate for life and if one of them dies, they mourn, and never mate again. They accompany Arianrhod as She journeys from the North, flying on in V shaped formation in front of Her sleigh.
Whilst the Pink Footed Geese are accompanying Arianrhod, Her Polar Bears are pulling Her sleigh across the snowy wastes. The Polar Bear symbolises strength and endurance. They have great courage and spiritual power.
In Inuit mythology, Polar Bears frequently shape-shift into human form and back again.
These creatures fly on the four winds, bringing joy, optimism, intelligence and renewal.
Wrens are considered a most sacred birds; symbolising wisdom and divinity. It was said that the Wren was sacred to Taliesin as well as the Druids. In Scotland it was The Lady of Heaven’s Hen. In Celtic mythology the Wren was the symbol of the old year.
Associated with Arianrhod
Arianrhod’s stars sparkle and shine, mirroring crystals. Crystals hold powerful energies that heal. They help in psychic work and meditation, helping to clear the mind. Arianrhod's crystals are the White Opal, Moonstone, Cat's Eye, and Greylace Agate.
Arianrhod creates the stars; She lights up the night sky.
The Corona Borealis
The constellation known as Corona Borealis is where Caer Arianrhod can be found.
Spinning Wheel and Weaving
As Goddess of the Silver Wheel, Arianrhod is the Weaver Goddess. Her wheel magically weaves the tapestry of life.
Eucalyptus, Sea Holly, Dusty Miller and Jasmine.
Also known as the Lady of the Woods. It is a tree of new beginnings and fertility, a protective tree, cleansing and purifying in preparation for the summer.
Broom invokes the wind on the mountain tops, invoking the Air Sprites. It is a herb of purification and protection.
A traditional plant at this time of the year. The Druids would keep Holly in their homes so that the little people and woodland spirits would be safe against the cold and the snow.
A plant of healing and protection. A symbol of fidelity. Cornish legend tells of a maiden called Iseult, who was betrothed to a handsome and brave knight called Tristan. He was killed and she was so distraught and broken-hearted that she too died. The King who was jealous of their love ordered that their graves be placed far apart. However, from each of these graves an ivy vine grew and in time they met and joined together in a love knot. This tale was immortalised in Wagner’s opera ‘Tristan and Isolde’.
Juniper is used in healing rituals. It banishes negativity. It is used in pivotal points on the Wheel of the Year; at Samhain to drive out the old year and at Yule at the time of new life and birth.
A herb of fertility, for a child to be, or for personal creativity. It is a herb of immortality and rebirth as its energy carries the soul into the future. The berries are used at the Winter Solstice in rituals to strengthen the weakened sun.
The acorn can be worn to honour Blodeuwedd and the dried bark when burnt in incense, honours the Goddess and the God. The Oak plays its part as a doorway of Midwinter with the cutting of Mistletoe and at Midsummer when it flowers, standing between the light half of the year and the dark half.
It is the battle of the Holly King, the Lord of the Waning Year, and the Oak King, the Lord of the Waxing Year, wherein the two Kings battle at each Solstice. The Holly King wins at Midsummer, the Oak King wins at Midwinter when the Spirit of the Holly King is taken to Caer Arianrhod.
Willow is sacred to the Goddesses and Gods of the Otherworld. Willow strengthens the intuition and gives inspiration. It is a plant of death and rebirth.
Arianrhod was the daughter of the Welsh Goddess Danu. Her uncle, King Math ap Mathonwy, from the royal house of Don, was compelled by a taboo to keep his feet in the lap of a virgin whenever he was not actively engaged in battle.
Arianrhod’s brother Gwydion suggested that Math chose Her to be his foot holder; Gwydion had ulterior motives, for he was Math’s successor, but the true heir could only come through the female line. He wanted to father the heir, so he proposed marriage to Arianrhod. However, She was an independent woman who did not wish to be tied to a man. He was declined.
Math asked her to step over a magic rod to prove Her virginity. As She did so, the rod caused twin boys to drop from between Her legs. Gwydion was Math’s apprentice in magic and he knew of the power of the rod, and through his trickery caused Arianrhod to conceive.
Math named the first boy Dylan of the Wave, who was a divine fish child. Gwydion fostered the second son and raised him in a magic forest.
Arianrhod was so very angry at this humiliation, she placed a curse on Her second son that he would have no name except a name She gives him; Gwydion disguised the boy as a shoemaker. Whilst he was fitting Arianrhod, She notices that the boy killed a wren with a single stone. She remarked that he was Lleu Llaw Gyffes, meaning fair-haired one with a skilful hand.
Gwydion revealed his identity to Arianrhod and claimed that She has given Her son a name. Arianrhod placed a second curse that he would not bear except the arms She gives him. A few years later Gwydion and Lleu, disguised as bards return to Her court. During the night, while all are sleeping, he conjures a fleet of warships, whereupon Arianrhod gives her guests arms and weapons to defend Her castle. Gwydion revealed his trickery and claimed that She had armed Her son.
Lastly, She placed a third curse that he shall not have a wife from the race that was on the earth. Gwydion and Math created a woman out of oak blossom, broom and meadowsweet and named Her Blodeuwedd (Flower Face) and thus broke the third curse.
Arianrhod was humiliated by Her uncle, King Math, tricked by Her son, Lleu, and was forsaken by Her brother, Gwydion. She remained in Her castle at Caer Arianrhod, where She drowned when the sea reclaimed the land.
Arianrhod, the Goddess of the Winter, is a powerful Mother Goddess. She doesn’t compromise. She never wavers. She is the strength of the north wind, and the light, where She spins Her web of stars that spiral in the night sky.
When you need strength and determination, Arianrhod will come to you. Her independent spirit will help you stand tall and proud, for the Goddess of the Silver Wheel, Arianrhod is your power and strength.
Copyright © EAGT 2022
Design by kind permission of Michael Thompson
Air spoke to me today
She whispered in my ear.
She told me of the cool stroking of my flesh that left a tingling.
She told me of the wind that blows across the East coast the freezing waters and ice.
She stopped the wind and told me of the warm air from the south that comforts my lungs.
She told me
She told me of the plants that feed her,
And the waters that she plays with causing gentle waves.
She told me how she works with the moon to bring tides gentle or storms.
She told me of the clouds that form
She told me
She told me how I bang my drum of that vibrates the air.
Sending ripples across the land
She told me
The trees of Earth bring oxygen to the air so we may thrive,
The fire that needs the air to burn,
The water that needs her for life beneath the waves
She whispered these things in my ear.
Blessed to the Air, Arianrhod, Skadi, Cailleach and a thousand other names.
©2023 Suzie Baker (Willow)