Monday, November 2, 2009

Goddess of the Week

Apparently we are on Southern Hemisphere time this week, since this week's Goddess is Gwenhwyfar, Who I've depicted here as the quintessential May Queen (and yes I've spelled it wrong on the card). But it is a little odd to be looking at Her up here in New England, since we are now in the starting days of grey miserable yucky November (can you tell it is my least favorite month?) and are still in the season of Samhain, of death, decay, and the thinning veil.

However Samhain and Beltaine have more in common than one might think. The veil is thin at both times, though Samhain favors ghosts and the dead while at Beltaine it's more likely to be the faeries coming through. Not too surprising, really, when you consider that even though from one location the holidays are at opposite ends of the year, from the Earth's point of view they happen at the same time.

Gwenhwyfar last came up both the first and second weeks of May, at what would seem a far more appropriate time, given Her connection with the idea of the sacred marriage. Called Guinevere in the Arthurian legends, she is the wife of the great King Arthur, and famous for having an illicit affair with the best of his knights, Lancelot du Lac. ("Du Lac", incidentally, meaning "of the Lake" because he was brought up by the otherworldy Lady of the Lake, Vivian.) Her origins have mostly been forgotten but may well lie in an old sovereignty Goddess Who embodied the land; and there are hints of a Divine origin for Gwenhwyfar, here and there.

And I know all this, and you do too if you've clicked on the links above; but I was still having an impossible time figuring out why She might show up now when Samhain is just so strong up here, aside from the lesson to remember that opposites contain the other (Samhain/Beltaine), or that the northern hemisphere isn't the only one the globe possesses.

Then I remembered Her name.

Gwenhwyfar means "White Phantom."

And I think of those other Celtic sovereignty Goddesses, like Epona, and Rhiannon, and even Blodeuwedd, Who embody the land; and each of Them has Their winter, Their dark, chthonic side: Epona is held to be a psychopomp, a Soul Guide Who brings the newly dead to the Otherworld; Rhiannon's first husband, Pwyll, was the King of that land for a time; and Blodeuwedd, though made from spring flowers, has as Her emblem the owl, that lonely haunter of the night.

And what is under there, then? It is hard to tell. Gwenhwyfar's, Guinevere's, story as we know it now has been so thoroughly interwoven with a later set of rules it is hard to know which threads to pick; I had never understood, for example, why, once Arthur was killed, Guinevere never married Lancelot, and instead chose to become a nun; I had thought that it was some kind of strange strict Christian morality play (which it may well be), but now I see that given the underlying logic of things she cannot marry Lancelot. For if she does, he becomes King. And the story, being that of greatness and glory irretrievably lost, is such that it must end.

Perhaps that is the thread. When Arthur first meets Guinevere, Merlin warns him against the marriage; and indeed the Queen is often indirectly (or directly) blamed for the fall of Camelot because of her affair with Lancelot.

I can see her flickering at the corner of my vision, now, stopped in a doorway to glance at me, before She is gone. She is all in white. This time is a threshold, is it not?

So I ask the Goddess as always, What do You have to say?

White am I, like hawthorn, like snow. I am white, white as ever I am, as white as apple blossom as white as bone, both, as I always am and always have been. As I am ever I, all of me, the White Lady, the Great Queen, the bone-white Mother, the white shadow of the land. I am all these things, these are all myself, one I, the horse carved in the chalk, winter's water overrunning summer's settlement, the white at the heart of the dark, the white you cannot see, the bone hidden within the flesh and the body that does not see the light of day whilst one lives. Except in bared teeth, that is, and that is a clue to my nature; it is the white smile of a gentle lady, and the knowing grin of the skull. This is nothing new; I am surprised you have not learnt it by now.

Remember both. Like Samhain and Beltaine happen at once, I am at once both, and so thoroughly both it is only one thing. My left hand and my right hand, identical and perfect and mirrored. If you look now you will see them both.

1 comment:

Eva said...

Gwenhwyfar is the Goddess which has claimed me and that is really who she is. both the Flower Maiden, Sovereignty, a green spirits that makes you do wild nd weird things under teh white blossoms in the May nights, the owl that flies between the worlds and the white Owl, sign of death.
I am so buying the t-shirt when I get paid next week.