Monday, May 3, 2010

Goddess of the Week

Vivian is the Lady of the Lake in the Arthurian legends. This is the first time She has come up as Goddess of the Week.

Her name is variously spelled as Vivian, Viviene, Niniane, Nimianae, Niviene, Nimue, &c. She was said to live at the bottom of a lake and to have been Lancelot's foster-mother, (which is why he was called 'du Lac') and to have given the magical sword Excalibur to Arthur. She was also the pupil and lover of the great magician Merlin; in time She became more powerful and learned than he, and imprisoned him in a tree or a cave, depending on the version of the story.

Now. I'm primarily concerned with Goddesses; and when I did the art for these, some dozen years ago now, well, first, I was operating with a fairly loose definition of 'Goddess', and, second, I was going more by intuition than anything else, which in this case, told me that Vivian, Nimue, &c., had Her origins in some sort of Celtic Goddess.

Which is probably true. However, tracking it down is nearly impossible. The Arthurian legends are extraordinarily dense and tangled, having both been transmitted orally back and forth between quite a few cultures, Irish, French, and Welsh to name a few, and copied and recopied in writing (frequently badly, with many misspellings and misreadings, which may account in large part for the myriad variations on Vivian's name, especially when you consider medieval styles of calligraphy, in which U, V, N, and M look very similar).

So in researching this, frankly, I'm over my head, and just about cross-eyed from trying to sort it out in a succinct manner. Still, I'll take a stab at it.

She is quite likely related to Morgan le Fay, at the very least as far as the elements to Her tale(s) goes; Morgan in turn may (or may not) have some affinity, or may derive from, the Irish Goddess Macha and/or the Mórrígan, and/or the Irish Modron ('the Mother'), famous as the mother of Mabon, Who derives (this one at least is certain, or as certain as these things get) from the Gaulish Matrona, Who gives Her name to the Marne River in France; Matrona in turn is related to the triple Matres of Gaul in the time of the Romans. That, at least, is (some of) the Morgan side of things.

She has also been linked to the Irish Bébinn, sometimes anglicized to Vivionn (though my Dictionary of Celtic Mythology by James McKillop says the Irish and French names are not related, others disagree); this name is one born by several women of Irish legend, one of Whom is an early Irish Goddess of childbirth.

None of this is clear cut, though. There are elements and influences from stories that reminded the tellers of others they had heard, and so were partly incorporated into their tales; and I'm sure the general idea of a sea, river, or lake Goddess or fairy got stuck in there somewhere.

Perhaps this doesn't matter that much, and I should just concentrate on Her role in Arthuriana; but I like origins, and digging. It is tangled, and perhaps cannot be separated. And maybe that is the message this week. At the river's mouth, who can say what part of the water originated in which stream?

I would expect this week to be rather tangled then, but rich. The search is nourishing, even if you don't get to the bottom of things. A big part of the Arthurian appeal is the longing for an older, more magical time, one that is (supposedly) long past. I do not know to what extent this is actually an illusion; but enjoy the pleasant melancholy anyway, if you can.

Though keep in mind, also, that it may be a distraction from the real heart of the matter. It is the week after Beltaine after all, and the faeries are said to be out and about; and they are tricksy types. Try to keep a clear head.

What does She say?

Of course I'm a Goddess.

Trace back and back yet there is no real source is there? All the water on this earth has been around and around the globe many many times. All waters are one water. This is the key part you must remember.

There are no clear boundaries, either, with water. It all flows into itself and a line may not be drawn. By nature it is always in-between.

Remember, also, that a good deal of your body is water. This is your nature too.

What do you think?


Dictionary of Celtic Mythology by James MacKillop.

"Morgain La Fee and the Celtic Goddesses," by Roger S. Loomis. Speculum, Vol. 20, No. 2 (Apr., 1945)


Anonymous said...

I love your Goddess art work - it's a real inspiration. I'm currently trying to motivate myself to make my own collection of Goddess oracle cards, just for myself, but the further I go into it the more there is to see... :)

I've always been enamoured of all the Arthurian ladies since I was a little girl, and as I got a bit older I always connected to them as veiled Goddesses so I'm really happy to see Nimue in there with your other Goddesses. I think the not knowing is part of her mystery and her power.

Thanks for letting us see your beautiful artwork.
Nellie x

Debra She Who Seeks said...

A beautiful card! The Lady of the Lake is often interpreted to be a Sovereignty Goddess -- i.e. She is the one who actually confers the Right to Rule on Arthur when She gives him Excalibur, hearkening back to ancient times when a ruler had to "marry" the Sovereignty Goddess in order to have authority as king.

Souris Optique said...

How on earth did I miss this card before? She's lovely. And what she says is incredibly pertinent to my spiritual journey (There's an as-yet-unidentified yet probably Celtic water Goddess in my life:))

Also, have you read the short story "Merlin Dreams in the Mondream Wood" by Charles de Lint? I suspect you may have, but if you haven't, I think you would like it.

Anonymous said...

Lovely card - peaceful. I've read that Vivienne derives from Rhiannon, in her aspect as a death goddess. Elsewhere, I've seen her equated with Coventina. We may never know, but in the end she remains a powerful symbol.

Evanescent Juliet said...

I love your artwork and the amount of information you have for the goddess art you create :) . That being said, are you still continuing with the OGOD project or not? I know it's a bit ridiculous, and perhaps a bit rude, to ask, but I love everything you've done with that so far and was just wondering.

Thalia said...

Ah fuck, Nashville. And the gulf of Mexico and the oil. Didn't even click.

Thalia said...

And thanks for the compliments, everyone.

Juliet--did you email me asking the same question about the OGOD? (I've been under the weather this week and am behind a bit.) It's really weird that you are asking because I actually picked it up the other day after it having been on the back burner for a while. Not that I can promise anything, but the short answer is that yes, I intend to continue it, though I don't necessarily know when. Soon. Ish. Probably.

Anonymous--I ran across the Rhiannon link, I think in another article by author Loomis, but I'm not sure I'm convinced. Coventina, maybe--I don't know a whole lot about Her (yet) but I have the impression She was more influential and widespread than She is generally credited with.

Souris Optique--I haven't read that Charles de Lint story (though I've read others of his); I'll keep an eye out for it.

Debra--I forgot about the sovereignty Goddess aspect. There's a lot of those popping up in the Arthurian tales, which makes sense, as they're centered on a King, you know?

Nellie--oh have fun! It's a big job, though, let me tell you. Of course, I personally tend to not know when to stop. :)

Evanescent Juliet said...

Yes. I didn't mean to nag! I'm glad you plan to continue it. Could you use any help?

libramoon said...

the May Queen

Tick Tock
Time's a'creeping
Maidens weeping
beating rags along the river's edge
Shallow floods keep the land aware
destiny is seatide

Crazy lady mending her endless tears
Throat flumed, a voice to run from
Love never tarried, though many she married
She cocks an eye, arrowing flocks of fears
Cackles and coaxes sweet mourning doves
to carry her coffin to market
Buyers beware

Don't stop
Don't answer
Don't stare
Don't be seen
Hide in the green
Hide in the hole you call home
Never admit you belong
to the caste you belong to alone
Never assent to succeed to the throne
Wait for cover of darkness
Wallow in comfort of sleep
Trade what time you're given
for a secret you can't keep
Destiny is seatide

May 2, 2010 Laurie Corzett/libramoon

freektemple said...

What impeccable timing, again... I'm re-reading "Mists of Avalon", and of course, Viviane plays a key role.
Please finish your book soon, I'd like to by a deck of your wonderful cards!
(More synchronicity - the word verification below is:MISTesce)