Arianrhod is one of the figures in the Mabinogi, a collection of stories from medieval Wales.
Though these stories cast their protagonists as humans, they may have originated as deities.
Scholars are divided over whether the heroes and heroines of the Mabinogi were originally gods and goddesses, or became syncretized with older Celtic deities over time. Today, many modern Pagans view Arianrhod as a lunar goddess in her own right.
The name Arianrhod translates to “silver wheel,” most likely through the Prot-Celtic “Arganto” and “Rota,” meaning “silver” and “wheel.”
Arianrhod’s primary role is in the Fourth Branch of the Mabinogi. There, her uncle Math fab Mathonwy was fated to die if he couldn’t keep his feet in the lap of a virgin.
One of his nephews, Gilfaethwy, lusted after Goewin, the virgin who held Math’s feet. Gilfaethwy and his brother create a diversion by engineering a war with the kingdom of Dyfed, forcing Math to leave his court and leave Goewin behind.
With Math gone, Gilfaethwy assaults Goewin. Math is infuriated and punishes the brothers by turning them into various pairs of male and female animals. To protect Goewin’s honor, he marries her. There’s just one problem — he still needs a virgin to hold his feet.
This is where Arianrhod comes in. She’s put forth as a potential footholder, and Math tests her virginity by having her step over a magician’s wand.
Upon doing this, she gives birth to a young boy. Ashamed, she turns to leave. As she does so, a small object falls from her. Math spots it and scoops it up, sealing it in a chest.
The small object eventually grows into a young boy. Math brings him to meet his mother, Arianrhod, but she’s still angry. She places a kind of taboo or curse (called a tynged) on the boy, saying that he will never have a name unless it comes from her.
Through trickery, Arianrhod inadvertently names the boy Lleu Llaw Gyffes. Angered again, Arianrhod places another tynged on the boy: He would never have weapons, unless she armed him herself.
Again, through trickery, Arianrhod is convinced to give the boy weapons. Annoyed at being fooled again, she places a third tynged on Lleu: He would never marry any woman of any Earthly race.
To circumvent this curse, Math and one of his nephews, Gwydion, create a woman out of flowers. This is Blodeuwedd.
Arianrhod’s stronghold is called Caer Arianrhod or Caer Sidi. This connects her to the celestial realm, as Caer Arianrhod is also the Welsh name for the Corona Borealis.
According to ancient legend, scholars learned the wisdom of the cosmos at Caer Sidi. Taliesin, the ancient poet, claimed to have spent three periods of time in Arianrhod’s castle.
Caer Sidi is also said to be the place where the souls of the dead await reincarnation. Arianrhod and her attendants decide where they will go for their next lives.
Arianrhod’s three punishments for Lleu aren’t chosen lightly. Each of these was considered a part of medieval Welsh masculinity — a name, a weapon, and a wife.
By placing a tynged on him at each turn, she was effectively denying him this. It can be argued, however, that she fully intended Lleu to succeed. It’s possible that these punishments were actually tests, meant to turn him into a clever and powerful person.
This may also be intended to depict Arianrhod as a goddess with the power to control the fates of humans. She’s single-handedly able to deny Lleu important things, and only she has the power to bestow them upon him.
Though Arianrhod is a mother, she is not portrayed as a motherly deity. She isn’t maternal — instead of a nurturer, she’s a teacher. She is willing to give gifts, but not freely or unwisely. You have to meet her standards if she is going to turn her favor upon you.
Symbols & Associations
Arianrhod is associated with a variety of symbols and images. The silver wheel (from which she most likely gets her name) is the most prominent.
She is also connected to owls. This is partially through the story of Blodeuwedd, the flower-faced, who was turned into an owl.
As the Queen of Caer Arianrhod, she is deeply connected to the night sky.
She is also associated with spinning, so spinning or weaving implements are sometimes used to represent her.
Depending on your interpretation of her legend, Arianrhod has varying levels of power.
On one hand, she was able to affect Lleu’s destiny by placing three tynghedau on him. This shows that she has considerable authority.
On the other hand, Lleu’s story may have been a metaphor for the fate of all human beings. Arianrhod may be a Goddess of fate, with full control over the destiny of all people.
Arianrhod is also said to hold immense wisdom. Ancient scholars and poets, like Taliesin, were said to have learned from her.
According to some interpretations, Arianrhod is also a kind of gatekeeping entity. Her keep may be analogous to a gateway to the spirit world and is sometimes said to house the souls of those waiting to be reborn.
Appropriate offerings for Arianrhod include:
- Silver coins.
- Wheat and baked goods.
- White flowers.
- Night-blooming flowers.
- Sweet oils.
- White or silver candles.
Signs Arianrhod is Calling You
Arianrhod may be calling to you if you feel particularly drawn to constellations. Her keep is said to lie in the Corona Borealis, the “crown of the north.”
The desire to study the stars or the Welsh Otherworld may be another sign from her. She is said to favor scholars, poets, and pursuers of knowledge, so an urge to learn can certainly be a subtle nudge from her.
Wanting to study shamanism or journeying techniques may also be a sign from Arianrhod. As a goddess connected to gateways, she would be one of the many entities you might encounter while journeying.
You may also encounter her in dreams. She is generally depicted as a very pale, fair-haired woman. She may be spinning or accompanied by one of her many symbols.
Crystals Associated with Arianrhod
There aren’t many crystals or other stones associated with Arianrhod. This is largely a modern practice, so most crystal and deity connections may not have a long history behind them.
Some stones that you can use to connect with Arianrhod include:
- White labradorite.
- Clear or white quartz.
- Gray agate.
Herbs Associated with Arianrhod
Arianrhod is associated with a few herbs and plants, including:
- Night-blooming flowers.
Working with Arianrhod
Arianrhod is a goddess who takes herself seriously. She doesn’t waste time or attention on those who don’t honor her.
The best way to start working with her is to read the Mabinogi and study the cultural context from which she comes. She has abundant wisdom to share, but she doesn’t give it up lightly.
You may also wish to study the Otherworld or shamanic techniques. Since Arianrhod is connected to the gateway between worlds, this is a way to encounter her energy directly.
Full moon rituals are another good way to work with this goddess. These don’t have to be elaborate — you can light a white or silver candle under the light of the moon and sit in quiet meditation, if you like, or develop a full ritual with song, poetry, and offerings.
If you have an area in your home or garden that’s exposed to the light of the moon, you can use it to set up an altar. This may be as simple or as elaborate as you wish.
A good basic setup might include a candle, incense burner, imagery of Arianrhod, silver coins or other symbols, and a bowl for offerings. Keep it tidy and visit it often for prayer and meditation.
Though Arianrhod’s story shows her as a queen and sorceress, she’s a powerful goddess.
She governs the fate of the living and the dead and holds untold wisdom for those who prove themselves worthy.