Arianrhod Take the Wheel

I recently came across the comic Everyday Gods, which chronicles the day-to-day doings of gods from several different cultures, most of whom live in the same neighborhood. While I was familiar with most of the gods involved and have written about many of them, I can’t say I was really familiar with the Welsh goddess Arianrhod. As with many Celtic deities, it doesn’t seem like anyone knows that much about her, aside from her role in the Mabinogion. Here, she’s identified as a daughter of the mother goddess Don, and brother of the hero Gwydion. Her uncle, Math ap Mathonwy, suffers from a condition where he has to rest his feet in the lap of a virgin woman when not at war. Or at least he claimed he did. If I were the woman chosen to be his foot-bearer, I’d ask for a doctor’s note. Anyway, after the first virgin to hold this job was raped, Gwydion suggested Arianrhod take the position. Math uses a magic rod to test her virginity, but as soon as she steps over it, she gives birth to two sons. Should have put a condom on that magic rod, Math. Actually, I’ve read that some sources think the actual father might have been Gwydion. Why is incest so prominent in mythology? Anyway, her first son turns into a sea creature during his baptism, and is eventually accidentally killed by his uncle. The second, described as only a blob at the time, is raised by Gwydion. She curses the child to not have a name, the ability to bear arms, or a wife; but Gwydion manages to trick her into breaking the curses.

The thing about the Mabinogion is that its stories and characters likely dated back to long before the actual text was written, and it’s been speculated that a lot of the more or less human characters were originally deities. There was likely originally more to Arianrhod than this tale of foot fetishism and lack of maternal instinct. A quick Google search reveals a whole lot of pages identifying Arianrhod as a lunar goddess or associating her with reincarnation, the latter being related to the fact that her name probably means “silver wheel.” None of these pages appear to cite any sources beyond the Mabinogion itself, though, and her Wikipedia page doesn’t mention her ever having been worshipped. Whether or not she was originally a goddess, she’s become one within modern-day paganism.


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