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March 4: feast of Rhiannon, Welsh Goddess

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Originally written on March 4, 2020 – updated 2023

In Ireland and Wales, the annual Feast of Rhiannon is celebrated by some still today in honor of the Celtic/Welsh Mother Goddess Rhiannon. Rhiannon was originally known as Rigatona (or the Great Queen) and was identified with continental Celtic horse-goddess Epona, a protector of horses, ponies, donkeys, and mules, but particularly a goddess of fertility.
In ancient Greece the annual rite called the Anthesteria was held to honor the Keres (souls of the dead), a ritual lasted for three days.

Rhiannon is a Welsh underworld Goddess. Her origin is very ancient and she might have been the original Mother Goddess of the Celtic people.
She brings sleep, dreams, and sometimes nightmares.
Through history Rhiannon has survived and influenced many cultures and legends. Her name translates as “divine” or “Great Queen”, and she may have been sun Goddess.
But she is also Goddess of change, movement, and magic. She comforts in times of crisis, loss, and illness, she gives us gifts of tears, forgetfulness (to promote healing), and humor to ease our sufferings in this life to guide us to the next.
She is also accompanied by golden birds whose singing can call the dead or grant peaceful sleep to the living.

In the later Christianized version of the tale, Rhiannon’s first husband was Pwyll, (“Never was there a man who made feebler use of his wits”, in Rhiannon’s own words) who had once done a stint as King of the Underworld.
Their son, Pryderi, vanished the night of his birth while her mother and the women sent to guard them slept. In fear of the consequences for slacking off on their duty, the serving-women smeared Rhiannon with the blood of a puppy and accused Her of murdering Her own son. Their word won over Rhiannon’s own, and as punishment, She was made to sit outside the castle on a horse-block, and offer each visitor a ride on Her back for seven years. Pryderi was eventually restored to Her by his foster-father Teyrnon, who recognized the boy’s resemblance to Pwyll.

Rhiannon is linked in particular to the figure of the horse: Pwyll himself first sees Her riding a marvelous white horse that no one can catch; The vanished child was found by Teyrnon in place of a new-born foal; and Her punishment is to act as a horse.
Not by chance, in Celtic culture the horse was the sacred animal that led from one world to another, a faithful guide to reach the afterlife.
Rhiannon is also considered the goddess of the Holy Land, as well as a messenger between the earthly and the otherworldly worlds.
She was represented as a young woman with long hair, dressed like a queen and she was said to have a strong rebellious character.

In honor of her, large equine fairs and equestrian shows were organized, which still happens today.

The connection between horses and the Moon is not only present in both Rhiannon and Epona, which are considered, among other things, lunar goddesses, but in the Hindu tradition it is Ucchaishrava to fill the Moon again with Soma. This heritage remained even in the Greek Pegasus, which created springs where he laid his clogs.
Even in Lithuanian mythology, the Moon is considered a white steed. In support of this theory, archaeologists have found numerous pendants in the shape of a lunar sickle that were hanged on horses’ bridle.

Images from web – Google Research

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