By Jhenah Telyndru
The Goddesses of Avalon are the heart and soul of the Sacred Landscape, each weaving a transformational energy into the matrix of the archetypal realm. Once we have successfully made contact with the landscape areas and established a good working relationship which each of these places of power, we can use them to connect with the Ladies of Avalon. These five Divine Ancestresses will further our quest for positive change, personal Sovereignty and the wisdom that comes from drinking deep from the cauldron of our souls.
The Avalonian Tradition draws its inspiration from the culture, language, and early literature of Wales – the descendants of the Brythonic Celts. Early Welsh writings and vernacular tales contain the first references to King Arthur, and through him, to Ynys Afallon – the Island of Avalon. To discover the Goddess as She has revealed Herself to the Britons we must turn to the mythology of Wales. We therefore seek the Goddesses of Avalon in Y Mabinogi and its associated legends as these collections of stories likely have their roots in Celtic Pagan tradition, eventually being set down in writing during the medieval period after spending centuries in orality.
It is imperative to honor these Goddesses by studying their myths, seeking out their symbolism, and coming to understand the lessons they bring to us. When reading Y Mabinogi and the poems from Llyfr Taliesin, it is especially important to identify the elements that are a reflection of the medieval Christian world in which the stories were set down in writing, keeping in mind that they existed in oral tradition for approximately 800 years after the Britons converted to Christianity; as such, the stories evolved over time as a reflection of cultural changes.
Reading the stories of the figures we believe to have once been Goddesses of the British Celts, underscoring the filters of medieval mores and Christian philosophy, a very different portrait of them emerges. The betraying harlot becomes the giver of Sovereignty, free to choose her mate as she wills and granting kingship to whom she deems best. The abandoning mother becomes the Great Teacher, and the devouring witch is revealed as the Initiatrix into the Mysteries.
The Five Goddesses of Avalon
Blodeuwedd is the Lady of Initiation. She calls us to cast off the garments of expectation and to peer into the darkness of the self to find, and ultimately live, our inner truth. She teaches us to fly where others would see us grounded.
Mythological Source for Blodeuwedd: The Mabinogi – “Math, Son of Mathonwy”
Rhiannon is the Lady of Manifestation. She calls us to stand strong regardless of the challenges to our truth. She teaches us to ask for what we need, and grants abundant and loving support to carry us through our dark times.
Mythological Sources for Rhiannon: The Mabinogi– “Pwyll, Prince of Dyfed” and “Manawydan, Son of Llyr”
Ceridwen is the Lady of Transformation. She calls us to enter into our darkness to seek out the seeds of our wholeness. She teaches us that the only path to wisdom is through trial and experience. In Her Cauldron, the mysteries of death and rebirth are revealed, and we emerge to initiate the process once more. We ride the Wheel with our newfound insight and understanding, so that we may illume the next phase of our journey with what we have learned.
Mythological Sources for Ceridwen: “The Tale of Gwion Bach”; “Ystoria Taliesin”
Arianrhod is the Great Teacher, holding the energy of the active principle. She is the embodiment of the Wheel, yet not Herself subject to it. She is the force of Bound and Rebound, the Karmic Lesson Bringer that brings the Universe into Balance. All cycles and time are within Her realm of influence. Arianrhod is the Source of Awen, the Divine Spark of Inspiration, although it is through Ceridwen that Awen is bestowed.
Mythological Source for Arianrhod: The Mabinogi – “Math, Son of Mathonwy”
Branwen is the embodiment of Sovereignty and is the Guardian of Avalon, holding the energy of the passive principle. She is the Whole, the Center, the Axis Mundi. The primal Feminine energy, all things emanate from Branwen. She is the Goddess of the Land Manifest, as well as the Spirit of the Land. On Avalon, Branwen was primarily consulted in matters dealing with Her Realm – that is, concerning the full tapestry of Avalon, rather than the individual stitches. She is the Goddess of the grand scheme of things, the broader perspective that allows the greater patterns to be revealed.
Mythological Source for Branwen: The Mabinogi – “Branwen, Daughter of Llyr”