As Samhain melts into Yule at the Winter Solstice, the shortest day and the coldest weather now begins. The land will be 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, who brings death in life, and life in death. She lives in the land of the Dead, in the constellation Corona Borealis, beyond the North Wind, in Her castle Caer Arianrhod, which serves as an initiatory place for poets and souls who are about to be reborn. In Her legend She was asked to step over the magic wand of Math ap Mathonwy to prove she was a virgin, whereupon she gave birth to twin boys, Dylan of the Wave, who was a divine fish child, and the second son was fostered by Gwydion the magician. He became Llew Llew Gyffes (the lion with a steady hand).
Arianrhod then undergoes transformation. Firstly, adopting the form of the love Goddess, Bloduewedd, who transforms into the Owl of Wisdom, then into Cerridwen the old sow who eats up Llew, but his soul takes the form of an eagle which flies up into the sky and is later restored to life. Arianrhod was daughter of Don and sister to Gwydion. Her name means Silver Circle or Silver Wheel, or Queen of the Wheel. 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. 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 with freedom comes responsibilities. Arianrhod tells us 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 who came down from her pale white chariot in the heavens to watch more closely over the tides she rules.
In our Temple we celebrate Arianrhod in Her colours white and pale green and Her animals and associations.
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 can shape shift to a large Owl, and through Her Great Owl eyes can see into the human subconscious and soul.
Arianrhod is seen as the weaver of fate. Native Americans tell of the Grandmother Spider who sits in the middle of the Universe, spinning her web, weaving all living life to each other and, as Goddess of the Silver Wheel, She magically weaves the tapestry of life; both spiders and the Spinning Wheel are Hers.
She comes with the Wolf who 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. In Norse mythology there is a wolf that swallowed the Moon called ‘Moon-Garmr’.
We associate an elemental being of Air with Arianrhod - Sylphs, who play around the treetops. Creatures of Air who ride the North Wind and float on the breeze, whilst Her Air Dragons fly on the four winds, bringing joy, optimism, intelligence and renewal.
Pink Footed Geese accompany Arianrhod as She journeys from the North, flying on in V shaped skeins in front of Her sleigh; 86% of the world’s population arrive in the wetlands of East Anglia at this time of the year. Geese are gifted navigators, they mate for life, and if one of them dies they mourn and never mate again. 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.
Arianrhod creates the stars; She lights up the night sky, they sparkle and shine mirroring crystals, so we associate both with Her, as well as the constellation known as Corona Borealis where Caer Arianrhod can be found.
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 © Christine Watts 2022