The Origins of Arianrhod

As most of y’all know I’ve been exploring Proto-Indo-European religion via the ADF. It’s been quite the ride so far, but perhaps nothing has been as meaningful for me as my new and deeper understanding of my Lady, Arianrhod of the Silver Wheel.

Arianrhod shows a different face to me than others seem to see. I’ve never known why, exactly, but finding people who see Her the way I do is one of the reasons I started blogging in the first place. It’s been a lonely road.

My PIE studies may have led me to some answers, although those answers kick off a whole other range of questions.

The Quest

I’ve been pretty open about my Lady and how the way I honor Her is different – sometimes wildly – from the standard stuff associated with Her. Stars yes, moon no. Fire is Her primary elemental association with me, and lore-wise She’s rarely associated with fire at all. Her being the vehicle of manifestation from potential isn’t referenced anywhere except a VERY loose read of the Welsh Triads, and I give that primary emphasis while most folks working with Her seem to ignore it completely. Ritual and petitionary prayer yes, magick not really. Rites of Passage yes, mystic moon mommy (or any other life stage) no. Her representation on my altar has been an armillary sphere, representing atomic/cosmic/universal order, and I haven’t seen that anywhere in relation to Her. And on and on it goes.

As a result my work with Her is different from pretty much everyone else’s. The difference is so stark that I’m often uncomfortable in public rituals involving Her. It usually feels like calling for my mom and having someone entirely different show up.

So, of course, as I started walking a more Proto-Indo-European path I started looking at Arianrhod through a PIE lens too. Could that lens maybe help explain why She’s so different with me than with others?

Following Breadcrumbs

PIE practices are, at core, based on linguistic reconstruction. It’s an academic approach encoded in the very language we speak.

So I started searching for the origins of Arianrhod’s name.

The first breadcrumb I found linked Arianrhod to a reconstructed PIE goddess named Arta. Arta is apparently the goddess of universal order and is specifically linked to cycles and time, as well as rites of passage.

That started clanging bells hard, so I started chasing more threads to see if they could add any information or clarity.

The PIE root of Arianrhod’s name is also linked to the Vedic idea of Ŗta (an obvious link to the name “Arta”), which refers to that which upholds and maintains the Wheel of Dharma (another wheel, and here meaning righteous law) and the order of the universe. That just plays right in with everything else.

The root of Arianrhod’s name in Proto-Indo-European is also shared by Varuna, a Vedic god associated with sky,  water, justice, and truth.

Varuna’s connections to sky and water brought to mind Arianrhod’s homes – according to which sources we credit, Her home is either in the Corona Borealis (sky) or in the sea off the coast of Wales (water). Or both.

Varuna’s streak of demonic violent tendencies, according to myth, led to His demotion and Indra taking away most of His powers. That reminded me of the gist of Arianrhod’s story, where responses to Her behavior led to Her losing Her place. It also reminded me of the “test of truth” in Her story (stepping over Math’s staff) and the justice or perceived lack thereof in the challenges She set Her son.

Varuna is called upon to this day to still the waters of the mind, bringing calmness and peace. This is strongly reminiscent of Arianrhod’s focus (with me) on centering and balance, although it’s not part of Her general lore. Up until very recently I also based my entire Wheel of the Year on the image of a stone dropping into a still pond and the ripples resulting from that, which brings that water connection to the fore. The rings made when a stone is dropped in a pool also reminds me of the rings in an armillary sphere, which pulls all of those associations back around again.

All of that led me to the Zoroastrian concept of asha, which shares the same PIE root as Arta and thus Arianrhod. Asha is linked to fire, truth, manifestation, cosmic order, and right action/right working.

All those things I honor with Arianrhod that didn’t make sense? That seemingly came out of left field and didn’t gel with anything about Her in common practice? They’re connected to Her linguistically. THIS is the goddess I’ve been working with! It even explains why the first goddess She had me work with that wasn’t Her was Hestia! Hestia’s damn near a direct continuation of the Proto-Indo-European goddess Wéstyā, who was the heart of PIE worship, so it makes sense that Arianrhod/Arta would guide me there.

Where to now? 

I am no linguist, and I’m certainly not an expert in this field. I also have no idea what to do with this information in a broader sense, or how to answer all the questions raised by it. The primary book I have on reconstructed PIE practice doesn’t even mention Arta. And yet here we are, here am, and and here is all this information that gels with what I’ve been shown even if I could never explain why. It’s at least a start at verifying my UPG.

Are Arta and Arianrhod the same deity? Am I working with a long forgotten face of Arianrhod, or a newer face of Arta? Have I been working with Arta this whole time under Arianrhod’s name (maybe because Arianrhod was more accessible)? Is Arianrhod simply Arta viewed through a Welsh filter? Does any of this relate to why I’m so solidly Hers, yet She’s the only Celtic deity I’ve ever been called to honor?

I have more questions than I have answers, but I have what may be a direction to follow, and hope that I will eventually find more information that relates. That’s more than I’ve ever had before. I’m excited to see what else I can learn!

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Fourth Branch Spread: Approaching Dilemmas and Analyzing Situations

I’ve been working long and hard on a series of posts exploring the women of the Fourth Branch of the Mabinogi: Goewin, Arianrhod, and Blodeuwedd. Me being me, together They inspired a Tarot spread! Consider it a teaser for what’s ahead.

The Fourth Branch Spread uses only four cards to offer us a ton of insight. It’s designed to help us sort out situations that may be too complex for us to easily navigate. Each card represents the perspective of one of the ladies in the Mabinogi’s Fourth Branch, giving us a series of viewpoints we can then use to figure out the best approach moving forward.

The Fourth Branch Spread.

The Fourth Branch Spread.

Goewin’s Take: We spend our childhoods learning a series of ethical guidelines, often based on social standards or philosophical principals. We put these concepts into practice as adults, and they’re usually the first gauges we use to examine a difficult situation. Goewin helps us explore what facets of duty or honor are at play in a given set of circumstances. Pronounced “GOH-win”.

Arianrhod’s Take: It can be comforting or even validating to follow the standards set for us by other people, but we’re not helpless pawns in our lives. We have our own sources of power, and our own ability to affect change in a given situation. Arianrhod helps us figure out what leverage we might have to shift our circumstances, or what resources we might be able to use to sway things in our favor. Pronounced “ahr-ee-AHN-hrod”.

Blodeuwedd’s Take: It’s easy to lose sight of ourselves and our needs when caught up in complicated situations, or to put ourselves last when making decisions. That might work in the short term, but if we do that too often or for too long it leads to nothing but resentment and regret. Bodeuwedd encourages us to look for that which supports and nurtures our most authentic selves. Pronounced ” bluh-DIE-weth”.

The Fourth Branch: When we put all the above perspectives together with our own instincts and preferences, which path offers us the best potential for success moving forward? What’s our takeaway from the reading as a whole?

I’m eager to hear how this spread works out for you. Feel free to let me know in the comments!

For those intrigued by my inspiration and wanting to learn more, stay tuned – Goewin’s Tale will be posted in the next few days!

Seeing the Wheels

A close-up of the armillary sphere on my altar. It is on top of a black wooden box, and flanking it on either side at the bottom are two burning jar candles.

I recently felt a deep, overwhelming need to change up my altar. Specifically, I needed a statue to represent my Lady, Arianrhod.

Thing is, I couldn’t find anything that fit Her. The most common statue of Her simply doesn’t work for me. Nothing wrong with it – it’s beautiful work – but I can’t get over my quibbles with it enough to put it on my altar.

Maxine Miller's Arianrhod statue, in bronze, on a black background.

Maxine Miller’s Arianrhod statue.

Then I had a completely different kind of thought. One of the first concepts my Lady shared with me is that of the Center. It’s been fundamental to my worldview since I figured out what it is, and I always associate it with Her. She is the Lady of the Silver Wheel, after all!

Which is why an armillary sphere to represent Her on my altar is perfect.

A close-up of the armillary sphere on my altar. It is on top of a black wooden box, and flanking it on either side at the bottom are two burning jar candles.

The armillary sphere on my altar. Isn’t it awesome?

Once I got everything on my altar sorted and rearranged I lit some candles and settled in to spend some time with Her.

And then I had a vision. I Saw the Wheels, my Lady’s Wheels, and touched a Mystery.

After recovering a bit, I realized that this vision can be shared. You can have it too!

So here it is. I invite you to See the Wheels with me. If you don’t have an armillary sphere of your very own Google some images (or simply use the picture above as a reference) to see a manmade model of what I’m talking about. It’s worth the time.

The Vision

I open my eyes and gasp. I’m floating in space, surrounded on all sides by velvety black skies spangled with gleaming stars. They’re silver, yes, but also icy blue and blazing red and warming gold. Celestial fires burning, beacons in the dark.

A picture of a field of stars taken by the Hubble Telescope. These are from the Sagittarius sector.

Like this, all around me.

I wonder if I can reach out and cup one of those fires in the palm of my hand. They look so close I think maybe it’s possible. As I reach out I hear a voice like bells say “Not today!”, and lower my hands back to my sides. Maybe tomorrow?

I feel gentle winds caressing my skin and fluttering my hair. I’m confused for a second – since when did space have wind? – but I’m soon distracted by a glow at my feet. First I see a dot of light, growing ever larger, until it forms an arc. It suddenly clicks that I’m seeing part of a ring spinning around me. It contains all the colors I think I’ve ever seen, and it rotates clockwise as it rises to meet me. 

This is the first circle of the armillary sphere, the Wheel of the Day. In this Wheel is contained every moment of a day in my life. I even see a section of the Wheel that looks like my current vision! Sunrise and sunset, work and home and worship and sleep and play, all the seconds that make up my day, spin around me in a dance of light and shadow. 

Beyond the borders of the Wheel of the Day I see another glowing ring of light. It too rotates clockwise, although much slower, and it’s angled differently. This Wheel encompasses both the Wheel of the Day and me, still floating in the Center. It’s the Wheel of the Year! I see, in glorious procession, the flowers of Spring melting into the verdant fields of Summer, which meld into the golden fields of Autumn and then the barren snows of Winter. Along the ring are eight shining gems of light, and in them I see the colors of the surrounding seasons magnified and clarified. And I understand sabbat celebrations in a way I didn’t before. 

In a different part of the star-strewn velvet in which I float I see another arc rising, another Wheel spinning. It’s further out, and that ring encompasses me and the other two Wheels too. It too spins clockwise, but it’s offset from the others and rises on its own plane. Peering at it more closely I see it’s the Wheel of my Life. All the years I live, all together, with my memories in gleaming color and my future in shadows that are broken with seemingly random flashes of intense light. I realize that even here I can’t see my future clearly, because it’s not set. Those flares in the shadows show me that events are coming that cannot be changed, only managed, even if I can’t figure out what they are yet. My Lady’s presence surrounds me and I relax, knowing She is preparing me for them even now and will be with me when their time comes.

In yet another part of the sky I see another Wheel rising, on yet another plane. It too spins clockwise, but more slowly still. It gleams red like blood and flows like water, with an infinite number of glittering flecks swirling through it. This is the Wheel of the Ancestors. Every person who has ever lived is represented here, and the glittering flecks that glow most brightly are the people who have directly contributed to my line. They’re family! I see some flecks growing equally brightly, but in different hues, and know that these are family members of the heart instead of blood. It’s humbling to see all the people who have died so that I might live, and I promise to lift them high by living with honor and purpose. 

Beyond that Wheel I see another, also spinning and rising. This one is green and gold, copper and bronze, the dark brown of rich soil and the glowing red of molten lava. It glimmers with hidden gems and shines with metallics as it spins with aching slowness. This is the Wheel of the Land, and since Land moves in a timescale that’s hard to comprehend it’s only here that I can see it moving at all. It makes sense that this Wheel surrounds the Ancestors too, because without the Land the Ancestors would have no place to stand. I see the colors getting paler and dustier as this Wheel spins, like they’re losing saturation as it turns, and realize with a sinking sensation that I’m seeing the effects of humanity on the Earth. I see shrinking habitats and strip mines, pollution and disease and death, and acknowledge my contributions to the fading while vowing to do my very best to ease them.

At the very edges of everything I see another arc rising, another Wheel encompassing the whole. This one is crystalline and iridescent, and so bright that the only reason I can bear to gaze upon it is because I’m being allowed to See. This is the Wheel of the Gods, where all the divinities who have ever been dwell. I see Olympus, and Valhalla, and the Otherworld. I see nations rise and fall as the Gods play chess on a board, except I know both chess and boards and this is too incomprehensible to be either. The more I try to understand the brighter the light, until I have to blink to get the spots out of my eyes. 

Far beyond the edges of the crystalline Wheel of the Gods I see the shadows of other Wheels spinning, other cycles of which I am vaguely aware but are too distant for me to grasp. I feel blessed to have seen them at all.

I turn my attention back to myself, at the Center of all the spinning Wheels. With a bit of a jolt I realize that I too am a Wheel! I spread out my legs and arms like a starfish, like DaVinci’s Vitruvian Man, like a pentacle, and feel myself spinning within the Center of all the other Wheels. I peer into myself and see an endless number of Wheels spinning inside me too, each smaller than the last, and feel myself falling. Or am I flying? It’s hard to tell, and I start to get dizzy, so I pull my attention elsewhere.

I look at all of the Wheels together, for the smallest to the largest, and suddenly know that each and every Wheel’s spin is necessary to the spin of all of them. They’re interconnected and interdependent. Epiphany strikes. They’re not distinct Wheels at all! They’re all part of one big spiral! I hear my Lady’s laugh as Her hands continue smoothing and spinning the spiral, feel Her determination that it continues to spin, and know that I have a part to play in all of this too. But what?

I feel my Lady’s regard as She patiently waits for me to work through what I’m being shown. I gently spin for what feels like hours while I search for what She wants me to know, until suddenly it becomes obvious. By Centering myself, by opening myself to change while smoothing the spirals over which I have influence, I make Her job easier. In my own small way I contribute to the spinning of ALL the Wheels, even those I can’t clearly see, because I am one. I’m part of the whole. 

I hear her voice, full of pride, whisper “well done” as the Wheels flicker and vanish.

I open my eyes and gaze once more at the armillary sphere on my altar, serene and still as it represents this great Mystery.

 

Arianrhod is a Bit of a Compulsive Goddess

I enjoy reading Galina Krasskova’s blog. We don’t agree on everything, of course, but I felt a lot of resonance with her latest post about how Odin is a very utilitarian God. That post ended with the following:

Now, readers, tell me about your Gods, and Their quirks, and the parts of Their nature that you have personally found to challenge others the most. Forgive the rhyme, but let us learn together to venerate better.

*nods* OK then. Let’s do this.

I follow Arianrhod, the Lady of the Wheel, the Welsh goddess of Fate. She is as complex and multifaceted as any goddess out there, and She’s got a lot of different irons in the fire, but in Her heart of hearts She is driven by one Purpose that overshadows everything else: All potential must be realized. That’s the key to everything with Her.

In Her eyes we are nothing but potential. Her job – Her joy, Her fetish, Her very reason for interacting with us at all – is to nurture and develop that potential to its fullest extent. The thing to really understand here is that She could not care less about what the potential is for. She’s not encouraging people to develop their potential in any particular way, isn’t working towards any Machiavellian agenda of Her own. She simply cannot stand to see any potential wasted.

*fretting* All that potential, right down the drain. If only it had been channeled somehow…

Honestly I often think She’s OCD on the topic. It’s more of a bone-deep compulsion than anything else, and because of that compulsive nature Her approach is … energy-intensive. To avoid wasting potential we must first be aware that waste is happening, then decide what we’re going to do about it (because obviously we’re going to do something about it – right?), and then we actually have to implement whatever plan we’ve devised. So that’s what She thinks we should be doing. Constantly. She expects nothing less than our 24/7 involvement and engagement on the awareness/assessment/implementation front. After all, She’s putting in the time!

She’s not totally unreasonable, and in fact this focus can lead to amazing things. She just sometimes forgets that we’re only human. She fully understands that actually breaking people is counter-productive, and as long as She’s reminded occasionally She’s really very good at avoiding it. I’ve even been able to request breaks when I’m completely overwhelmed, and as long as I’m not slacking She’s been open to that. She’ll dance you right along that edge of what you can handle – pushing limits is par for the course, and “safe” is in no way equal to “comfortable” (a distinction anyone working with Her learns damn quick!) – but She’s got an expert’s eye of exactly where the edge is and is always open to honest feedback. That open quality alone is worth its weight in gold, and goes a long way to explaining how She has engaged my loyalty on such a deep level.

We walk the rope. We might fall all on our own – failure is learning, after all – but She makes sure the wind and rain don’t knock us off while we try. And if our legs start spasming from the strain we’ll be allowed to rest a bit.

I think it’s that expert eye for the edge coupled with that openness to new perspectives that gives Her the practical streak that is Her hallmark. She can cut through excuses and obfuscations and self-justification with a truly divine eye for bullshit. Self-delusion and people-pleasing behavior simply aren’t tolerated. They’re barriers between us and whoever we’re becoming, blocking or artificially shaping how our potential develops. But reasons? Legitimate reasons? That She can (often gleefully) help with.

See, She wants us to notice and take care of issues all by ourselves, because that’s part of personal growth. But sometimes we’ve tried everything and need a little boost. When that happens, and we request it, She’ll help just enough to get past the hurdle – often teaching Valuable Character Lessons along the way – and then step back so we can do our thing again. I’ve never had a cheerleader as unfailingly encouraging as my Lady.

There’s a whole other side of Her, though, if we slack off, if we refuse to see the problem, or if we refuse to do the work. That’s when the gloves come off. She has no compunctions about doing whatever necessary to make us sort our shit. And Her toolbox for that kind of thing is pretty extensive.

how-to-organize-tools-1

Let’s see, we can try “coaxing”, “screaming”, “sink or swim”, “patient education”… I know! We’ll go with “bruises teach best”! *pulls out a paddle*

It is simultaneously the most accepting and most demanding perspective I’ve ever encountered in my life. You can be anything you want to be, anything at all, so long as you do it full throttle and full speed ahead. This one concept dominates every single interaction with Her, and once it’s understood to a large extent so is She.

She sees every person (and every Power, too, as far as I can tell) as a work-in-progress. As far as She’s concerned our only job is completing that work. To do that requires us to constantly be moving, growing, changing. It’s a 24/7 task, and She won’t let us shirk it. Ever. As soon as I settle somewhere in any facet of my life and start relaxing a bit She’s there to prod me onwards to a destination not even She can see. Sometimes the prods lead to external changes, sometimes to internal shifts, but there’s always some kind of change happening.

Willing to stay where you are indefinitely? That’s simply not acceptable. If you don’t move of your own accord in some way or fashion She’ll make you. You have been warned.

After all of this time with Her I’ve learned to see the world through this lens of potentiality, and in many ways it governs my life. I am potential. No matter where I am now, or where I want to go, there is always the potential to change things. It’s an incredibly empowering concept, and it applies to everyone. That’s huge. The whole idea has affected the way I plan for things, how I interact with others, how I enforce my personal boundaries, how I choose where to live and work, etc.

My Lady is many things – a poet, a leader, a librarian, a guide, a weaver, a visionary, a Mistress, a nurturer, a coach, a ball-buster. But above all else, My Lady’s obsession with realizing potential is often the hardest for other people to really understand and work with, simply because it is such a difficult concept for most to internalize.

Has anybody else reading this worked with Her in a similar fashion?