"Rhiannon" –Stevie Nick, Fleetwood Mac-
Rhiannon rings like a bell through the night
and wouldn't you love to love her?
Takes to the sky like a bird in flight
and who will be her lover?
All your life you've never seen
woman, taken by the wind
Would you stay if she promised you heaven?
Will you ever win?
She is like a cat in the dark
and then she is the darkness
she rules her life like a fine skylark
and when the sky is starless
All your life you've never seen
woman taken by the wind
Would you stay if she promised you heaven?........Dreams unwind
Love's a state of mind
Rhiannon- A cautionary tale for women to not hide their magical nature as it may be the very thing that saves their lives.
So, let’s discuss that I am a little obsessed with Stevie Nicks of Fleetwood Mac-with her witchy ways, incredible talent and air of being free. And this is where I first learned of the myth of Rhiannon. It is a complicated tale with twists and turns and it’s messy and sad and very much about survival. It’s about survival and what comes after you experience trauma. It is a tale of how to be a Goddess. What makes you so?
Rhiannon is the Celtic Goddess of the Moon. She is of Welsh origin and her name means “Divine Queen”- of the Fairies. She was of royal blood and was promised in marriage to a much older man. Rhiannon was disgusted by this idea and chose instead to marry outside of her own kind after she fell madly in love with a mortal Welsh prince named Pwyll. She enchanted him with her glamour and beauty, all the while riding a magnificent, glowing, white horse and wearing a golden gown. She also had three magical birds that flew about her head as she rode. The marriage took place in the Fairy Kingdom, complete with a wedding celebration brawl caused by her rejected suitor. Rhiannon used magic to change him into a badger which she then caught in a burlap sack and threw into the river, with the intention of drowning him. Tensions were running high at the wedding due to the intermarrying of Fairy and mortal. Afterwards she returned to Whales with Prince Pwyll to be his Princess. She would never be able to return to her magical Fairy kingdom, but because of love she accepted this fate and went forward with hope in her heart.
Rhiannon was welcomed by the Welsh people and admired for her singing talents and great beauty, but after two years went by and she had not produced any offspring rumors started to brew. Fortunately, before hostility grew too intense, she gave birth at last to a healthy son. Six hand maidens were tasked with looking after mother and child during the recovery period, as was the Welsh custom. They were supposed to work in shifts but on this particular night, they all fell asleep on the job. When they awoke the baby had disappeared. Fearing harsh punishment they conspired and concocted a lie to blame Rhiannon for the death of her own child. They slaughtered a puppy and smeared the blood all over Rhiannon as she slept, exhausted from childbirth. Afterwards, they sounded an alarm for the Prince’s guard to come quickly and then accused Rhiannon of eating her own child. Rhiannon vehemently swore her innocence but Prince Pwyll was silent and did not come to her defense. He said he would not divorce from her and that her life would be spared, however, her punishment would be long and harsh. She was to sit at the gate of the castle wearing a heavy horse collar and she was to offer to carry each visitor on her back. She was also required to state her crime aloud. This punishment was to be inflicted upon her for seven years. Rhiannon accepted the punishment in silent and stoic resignation. She carried this burden and indignity for a crime she did not commit for four years when one day, three strangers appeared at the castle gate: a nobleman, his wife and a young boy. Rhiannon was about to state her crime and offer to carry them on her back when the nobleman handed her a piece of an infant’s dressing gown. The cloth had her embroidery pattern on it. The little boy smiled at her and she saw he had the same eyes as her husband and knew this was her son!
It seems four years earlier the nobleman found the baby, abandoned in a field near his house, and decided to raise the child as his own. After news of her plight had reached his town, he realized what had happened and came to the castle to return her son.
The suitor that Rhiannon had tried to drown in the river after turning him into a badger had escaped death and returned to exact revenge by stealing her baby. Rhiannon was restored to her royal status and Prince Pwyll and the Welsh people asked for her forgiveness. Rhiannon granted their forgiveness because she saw they were sorry and ashamed.
So here we have a tale of a woman who marries for love, leaves her kin behind forever, is betrayed by women and men and loses her child and then is accused of the most heinous crime you can think of, killing her own child. She endures, suffers in silence and in the end, is vindicated. I think what makes her a Goddess, is her ability to stay strong under extreme hardship, all the while continuing to believe her own truth. She knew she was a Goddess even when she was being treated horribly. She kept her dignity intact, she remained regal in spirit. Some part of her remembered her Goddess nature. But the defining moment that makes Rhiannon the Princess become Rhiannon the Goddess is her ability to forgive. She is a reminder to all women to conduct themselves with a regal spirit regardless of the challenges they are faced with. Channel your inner Queen. Bring her to the farm table or the banquet table. And when the dust settles, be prepared to forgive, as it is the only way to truly move forward in a life lived like a Goddess. The song “Rhiannon” says will you ever win? The answer is -forgiveness is the only way to win.
Rhiannon is also considered a Moon Goddess- representing the subconscious mind and intuitive and sometimes secret knowledge. Like many Goddess and Princess tales we see an underlying cautionary plot emerge that warns women to hide their magic (intuition) because it is frightening to others. In this case Rhiannon parts with her magical nature to pursue love. She puts the music of her magical nature on mute, when in the end it is the very song she will need to save herself. Pwyll is not a bad man in this story, rather he represents how perspective can make or break a situation. Pwyll shifts his perspective with the return of his son and Rhiannon shifts her perspective when she understands the dark currents of her own self-betrayal through not honoring her magical nature. The return of her son is a metaphor for returning to her true magical nature. In the end she picks up her crown and dusts it off. She puts it back on and it is no less precious, despite the wear and tear.
they call you the white witch as the air flees the room
everyone grows silent-what will you say or do?
what deep primal stew boils in your pot?
You drink with abandon-Rhiannon
we fear the wild unknown-
you offer the forest your deep understanding
You live with abandon-Rhiannon
we think we are as we are
you know we are as we shape shift-
deer, hawk, wolf and to rest -mighty tree
You change with abandon-Rhiannon
wind and woodland cover you
forest inhabits your soul
you walk the carpeted floor of leaves
the great earth receives each step-like a gift
you step with abandon-Rhiannon