Lover Goddesses in Avalon
Hello Lovely People,
I hope you are all enjoying a beautiful early summer wherever you are, drinking in the beautiful, sensual energies of this season, feeling the Lover Goddess’s love all around and within you!
Here in Avalon, the temple looks beautiful in Her luscious red. It is very special to enter the sacred space, so dedicatedly and skillfully held by the Melissas (women and men who voluntarily give their time to keep the temple open seven days a week), to take in the imagery and the rich materials and breathe in the incense, which is burnt in the temple in honour of the Lady of Avalon. The stunning painting on the altar that you can see in the photo on the left was created by Jon Minshull and shows the Lady in Her sacred nature of Avalon. At the moment this piece remains on the altar through all the seasons, while the excellent temple dresser team change the colours and details of the temple decorations around it, according to the season of the year. This is a very rich image full of details. It is mesmerizing to sit in the sacred space in the temple, listen to the beautiful music the Melissas play and gaze at the painting, discovering all the hidden details and exploring what they might mean for me at this time in my life. Everytime my gaze is drawn to something else in the painting. In the shop we have cards and A3 prints Jon’s painting for sale to adorn your altar at home with. And if you want to take more of the temple’s special athmosphere home with you, I recommend the beautiful CD Lady of Avalon by Heloise Pilkington. Heloise is a gifted musician and songwriter with a voice like clear water. We often play her CDs in the shop, and the otherworldly arrangements always touch the hearts of all who come in. There is also the delicious Rhiannon incense which containes only natural ingredients. It is handblended by Priestesses here in Avalon and perfect to call in Her loving and liberating presence into your home.
We call the Lover Goddess by many names in Avalon. Rhiannon is the most common one. Others are Epona and Blodeuwedd. Rhiannon is a
powerful Goddess. She has come down to us from pre-christian times through the Mabinogi, a collection of celtic stories from Wales, which have probably been written down some time in the 11th or 12th century. Here we are being told about how she emerges from a hollow hill riding on a white mare, only stopping for the human prince Pwyll, when he asks her to do so. Although she has been promised to another, Rhiannon chooses and marries Pwyll. Three years later she gives birth to a boy and is betrayed, falsely accused to have killed her own baby. She is sentenced to speak her shame to travellers arriving at the castle’s gate, and has to offer to carry them to the door on her own back like a horse. Although innocent, Rhiannon accepts that punishment in dignity and barely anyone accepts her offer. In the fourth year, her son and his foster parents, who found him on a field as a baby, arrive at the castle’s gate, and Rhiannon recognises her boy by a cloth she had woven with her own hand. Rhiannon’s innocence is proven.
This is a very interesting story, which has been part of a vast welsh oral tradition. It was already old when it was written down in christian times. The story shows that even though Rhiannon interacts with Human beings and abides by Human law, She is in Her nature not of the Human world. Like Hecate She is a Goddess of the triviae, the triple crossroads. She rides in and out of Fairy, and she has access to the upper world, the middle world and the underworld, when She appears as the Night Mare.
A beautiful part of the lore of the Great Lover Goddess that the story reminds us of is that Rhiannon is the sovereign Queen of the Land. She chooses Her consort, which is the ancient way, and through sacred marriage with Her he becomes king. This ancient right of the woman to choose Her consort plays a big part in another story that comes to us from the Mabinogion as well: the story of Blodeuwedd. Her name means “flower-faced”, and She was created from flowers by two powerful magicians solely to be the wife of Lleu Llaw Gyffes. When She fell in love with a man of Her own choice, She conspired to kill Her husband and was transformed into an owl as punishment, never to show Her face again in daylight. Now the owl has always been a bird of wisdom and a bird of the Goddess. These two sides of Blodeuwedd, the beautiful flower queen at Beltane, and the night owl of darkness, are a beautiful bridge between the Lover and the Crone who are in opposite positions on the Wheel of Avalon at Beltane and Samhain. Blodeuwedd’s story in it’s raw power makes it very clear that this is not the disempowered and/or manipulative Goddess of Love that is sadly very often shown in mainstream pop culture, but the strong, sovereign Lover Goddess in Her full power.
The third trait that is very obvious in Rhiannon’s story is Her connection with horses, and because of this connection we celebrate Epona also as Lover Goddess in Avalon. Epona, whose name means Great Mare, was the continental Celts’ horse Goddess. There was no equivalent in the Roman pantheon. The Roman cavalry came in touch with Her cult on one of their many conquering campaigns and adopted Her worship, which they then spread in the entire Roman Empire. Of all the celtic Goddesses, Epona is said to be the only one who was worshipped in Rome itself. A beautiful bronze figurine found in the UK shows Her seated between two ponies. The 360 ft long image of a stylised horse has been cut into a hillside in Uffington, Oxfordshire, in the late Bronze Age/early Iron age, in a time before the arrival of the Romans. While there is no written documentation that this beautiful white horse is connected to Epona, there is also no historical proof that it is not. The trenches cut 3 ft deep into the hillside and are filled with crushed chalk, shining bright under the sun and in the light of the moon. This ancient horse image speaks to something very ancient within us and features in many of today’s paintings of the Lover Goddess. In Romano-Celtic times, images of and shrines to Epona were set up in horse stables and decorated with red roses – the flower of love, linking back to Rhiannon as Lover Goddess.
There some fantastic artists who have painted or sculpted the Lover Goddess, and given Her modern expression. We are delighted to be selling cards, A4 and A3 prints by visionary artists, such as Elluna Art and Caroline Lir, and figurines by Karen Mander. And of course there is the fabulous Rhiannon banner by Wendy Andrew. All these artists beautifully weave the symbols of the Lover Goddess together with their own visions and ideas of Her.
Meditating about Her myths and images can bring us insights and deepen our own understanding of the Lover Goddess. We can find Her when we honour our own bodies, when we make love consciously, when we walk the land. One thing I know is that we all have direct access to the Lover Goddess, for She is within us. It is blissful to be in Her presence and this is Her season. I wish you all joy and fulfillment beginning to explore who She is to you or deepening your connection further.
With love and blessings from Avalon,