Monday, May 4, 2009

Goddess of the Week

This week's Goddess is Gwenhwyfar (and yes, I spelled it incorrectly on the card; I shall have to fix that!) the Welsh forerunner of Queen Guinevere, and like her the Queen to Arthur's King; given that I have depicted Her here as the May Queen I am not particularly surprised I picked Her just a few days after Beltaine (though I really did think I was going to pick Her last week. Instead we got Blodeuwedd, another Welsh Goddess associated with flowers).

I have called Gwenhwyfar a Goddess, here, though in the legends She is considered a mortal Queen; but there is evidence of Divinity in Her past, though, it is, as these matters tend to be, a bit on the hazy side.

She most likely has Her origins in a Goddess of Sovereignty, of the right to rule; and I suppose on its most basic level that makes Her a variety of Earth Goddess. In the later legends Guinevere is always being abducted by some upstart or other, the idea behind it being that if said upstart is wed to the Queen (even if by force), then he must be King. Her body, then, is literally being equated with the land.

Further evidence of Gwenhwyfar's Divine past is found in the so-called Welsh Triads, which are a form of verse grouping traditional wisdom in threes, which number is an especial favorite in the Celtic cultures. In the Llyfr Coch Hergest (the "Red Book of Hergest," which is also incidentally one of the principle sources for The Mabinogion), dating to the late 14th century, there is this triad:

Three Great Queens of Arthur:

Gwenhwyfar daughter of Cywryd Gwent, and Gwenhwyfar daughter of Gwythyr son of Greidiawl, and Gwenhwyfar daughter of Gogfran the Giant.

Celtic Goddesses were commonly depicted in triple form; one example of this is the Deae Matronae (Latin for "Mother Goddesses"), Who were worshiped in the Celtic lands during Roman times. They were typically shown on sculpture as three seated Goddesses holding symbols of fertility and abundance such as fruit or bread. (Note, also, that one of the Gwenhwyfars is the daughter of a Giant, an Otherworldly or fantastic being.)

So what, then, is this card saying for this week? It is the week of Beltaine, certainly, up here in the North, anyway; and it is a liminal time, when, like Samhain, the veil between the worlds is thin; though I tend to think that this time of the year it's the faeries poking through a bit rather than the ghosts. All the land is blossoming and mating and making merry; and though Guinevere's liaison with Lancelot is depicted in the (Christian) legends as shameful and bringing the downfall of Camelot it has always struck me as, well, right, as the true relationship. Not human marriage but the joining of Goddess and God. I've always felt that Arthur was the one in the wrong; theirs was an arranged marriage for political ends, and had little to do with love.

I guess the question is, then, how are you wedded to Divinity? How do you love God? And make no mistake, not platonically, but as a lover. This is the season of passion, after all.

What does She have to say?

May, that is key, I am gone a-maying. Lancelot and I are the Beltaine lovers, the true love. Arthur is the political, the patriarchal, laid over the old legend. How am I to love that? It is not the true story. Lancelot is the fosterling of a Faery Queen, is he not? And what is Arthur? Merely human.

But I am old; it is right in my name, White Ghost. I am ancestress, the old spirit of the land, the White Queen; and I span both past and future. How many Jennifers do you know, after all? It is my time now, this time of may. May the month, may the hawthorn.

My depiction of Her as May Queen owes a lot to the paintings Queen Guinevere's Maying, by John Collier, as well as Millais's The Bridesmaid.


Thalia said...

These never make any goddamned sense to me when I write them. I think I need to pick the card, mull on the Goddess for a good week, then write the entry.

On the other hand, when I go back to them a month or two later, they make perfect, uncanny, insightful sense to me, and the parts where I thought I was reaching or grasping at straws make the most sense. Oy.

Unknown said...

How am I wedded to Divinity?

Wow... that is a hell of a question, mainly after this past weekend, in which the contact with the Gods was so intense.

I think of the relation between my Aphrodite and Ares... or my being with the Gods and how to honor them... Maybe this is the thing of week: honor what is bigger... holier...

Unknown said...

Speaking as a Jennifer, I had to snicker at this one a bit.

ked'a said...

I know one very profoundly extremely utterly provocative Jennifer right now. She is my White Ghost leading me through my cinders' spring of horror right now.

The idea is to be wedded to our own Divinity, isn't it? Our own perfect Selves? If the Divine is in us and all around us, then the holy union would be the same.

Darn. I'll try to make some sense. The only 'person' who is going to 'save' us, love us perfectly, never leave us, and be our perfect lover is that which we already are. Divinity. I’m not talking about the Christian idea denial of the body, but rather the joy of spirit and flesh combined. What else are we here for, but to celebrate?

Right. Like I'm making so much sense *now*. Grrr. Argh.

Thalia said...

Well you're making perfect sense to me, but then *I* make perfect sense to me. Mostly.

ked'a said...

Making sense and making (May-King) love are all relative, hmmm?

Well, my heart, mind and soul loves you. Even if I didn't make sense to youses.