Sometimes, no matter how hard you try to avoid it, one of the Kindred will insist that you pay attention to them. Lately, that’s Arianrhod for me. I’ve finally given in.
The reason that I’ve been avoiding Her is that she is the mother of Lleu Llaw Gyffes, a god that I work with, and the myth that I know about them doesn’t put Her in the best light.
If you’re not familiar with the myth, here’s a quick summary. Arianrhod’s uncle, Math, must keep his feet in the lap of a virgin unless he’s at war. Through contrived circumstances, the woman who was serving as his virgin becomes not-a-virgin, and Math needs to find another virgin. Arianrhod volunteers and Math has her jump a magical broom to prove her virginity. As she jumps over the broom, she gives birth to two sons, Dylan and Lleu. In some versions of the myth, Lleu is birthed as an embryo and Arianrhod isn’t aware of his birth until she is presented with an infant son. Arianrhod is humiliated and puts a geas on Lleu that he should never get a name unless she gives it to him. With his uncle Gwydion’s help, a disguised Lleu shows his fighting prowess to Arianrhod and Arianrhod gives him his name – Lleu Llaw Gyffes or the fair haired one with the skillful hand. Arianrhod is furious and places a new geas on Lleu – that he shall never take up a weapon until she gives them to him. Again Lleu and Gwydion trick Arianrhod into providing Lleu with weapons. Frustrated once more, Arianrhod places a third geas on Lleu – that he shall never have a wife from any of the races upon the earth. To get around this geas, Gwydion creates a wife of flowers for Lleu – the Lady Blodeuwedd.
* Note: what follows is all my personal gnosis. This may or may not ring true for you. *
On first read, Arianrhod can seem to be a frustrated, vindictive woman. However, this isn’t the whole story.
Upon further contemplation of the story, we can see Arianrhod’s aspect of transformation and initiation coming out. Each of the geas that she places on Lleu challenges the very essence of masculinity – his name, his ability to defend his home and family, and the ability to have a new family. Lleu does grow up to be a good King of Gwynedd. It is possible that the geas were really challenges for Lleu, to help him transform into the man he needed to become.
I find that this approach seems to ring true for me. Rather like myself and my own Mother. She did what she thought was best for me, but it was significantly challenging while I was going through it, and I didn’t understand what she was doing. Now that I’m older, I realize that she was doing what she thought she needed to do; she just didn’t explain it well. Arianrhod seems to have this similar flavor to me now. I’m not sure that I’d ever look on her as a Mother, but she is One from whom I can learn, and maybe this is the time to listen.
I’m just getting started on the ADF Initiate program … somehow, having a Goddess of Transformation and Initiation come knocking seems … appropriate.