The Goddess Way: Ancient Stories for Modern Hearts

Judith Shaw both paints and writes about the Goddess, great symbol of life, death and the natural world. For the past few years she has focused on the Celtic Goddesses, whose stories are explored here in The Goddess Way.

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Rhiannon, Celtic Goddess of Birds and Horses

Rhiannon, Goddess of Birds and Horses, is also known as the Queen of the Fairies. A Goddess of Transformation, she uses her powers for love of others or self, shining in our hearts as an example of true love and beauty. She appears in both the first and third branches of the Mabinogion, a medieval Welsh narrative which grew out of the ancient myths of the Celtic Gods and Goddesses. She possessed deep magic and could manifest her dreams and desires both for herself and for the good of all. 

Rhiannon is associated with Epona, the Gaulish Horse Goddess. Most likely they are both derived from the ancient Celtic Goddess, Rigatona, whose name means Great Queen. Unfortunately, Rigatona's stories and meaning are lost to us today.

Things sacred to Rhiannon are the moon, horses, horseshoes, songbirds, gates, the wind, and the number seven.

Divinatory Meaning
Love, patience, endurance, forgiveness, compassion, healing, dreamtime. Seek her help when difficulties require patience, and injustices require forgiveness and compassion.  Call on Rhiannon for the love and intention needed to create the change you desire. Call on her for soul revealing dreams. 

Her Story
In the Mabinogion, Rhiannon first appeared as a Fertility Goddess, a Goddess of Love, and a Dream Goddess. She revealed herself to Pwyll (Poys), King of the new tribes of Dyved, as a beautiful dream vision, riding a glowing white horse. Her hair shining in the sun, her birds twittering in circles around her head, she seemed to be clothed by golden light. Thus began her journey to attain the man of her desires.

But no matter how fast Pywll chased her, she remained elusive, appearing not to notice him. Finally Pywll politely asked her to stop and she complied, saying Since you ask it of me, I will gladly stop. 

Rhiannon confessed her love to Pywll and that her elusiveness had been a test to see what manner of man he was. Not only was Pywll smitten but, since his legitimacy as king was in question, marrying Rhiannon would prove his sovereignty. Yet her father wanted her to marry another. Pywll followed her to the Otherworld, the Fairy World where she promised they would marry. Unfortunately he was tricked by Gwawl, Rhiannon's suitor, into giving up on their engagement and returning her to the arrangement with Gwawl.  

But Rhiannon used her powerful magic to rid herself of Gwawl and thus manifested her dreams:finally she and Pwyll were married—but she was banished from the bright world of faery forever. 

Years passed happily in the land of the Dyved until finally Rhiannon gave birth to a son. After the birth she and her ladies fell into a deep sleep during which her son was stolen. When her ladies woke to discover the baby was gone, they feared for their lives. To escape responsibility, they smeared puppy blood on Rhiannon, scattered puppy bones around her, and accused her of killing her son.  

This accusation gives voice to her ancient role as an Otherworld Goddess, a Death Goddess. As a  Death Goddess, Rhiannon and her birds sang so sweetly that the dying went gladly to their deaths. Rhiannon's birds also healed at the soul level and could wake the dead from their sleep.

As punishment for this crime that didn't happen, she was forced to become like a horse herself, sentenced to stand on a block at the castle gates for seven years. When visitors arrived she had to confess her crime and offer to carry them on her back. Few accepted her offer because of her beauty and humility.  

Ultimately, after two winters her son and her place were restored to her. When her son first returned to her she exclaimed that her Pryderi (her grief and anxiety) was finally ended. Thus he received his name from his mother as was the Welsh custom. She was returned to Pwyll's side as Queen. 

After Pwyll's death, Rhiannon married Manawyden, son of Llyr who is equivalent to the Irish Sea God, Manannan. During her years with Manawyden, she encountered many more difficult challenges to overcome. 

With grace and dignity, Rhiannon endured the years of her unjust punishment, reminding us in her aspect as Horse Goddess of the power of endurance. Rhiannon recalls us to our own divinity, our sovereign wholeness, enabling us to cast out the role of victim from our lives forever. Rhiannon assures us that the pains and injustices we suffer will be brought into alignment with the natural state of balance in the universe: truth and justice will prevail.  

When your soul is sick with despair, Rhiannons birds will sing you sweetly back to health.


View and/or purchase Judith's Celtic Goddess Oracle Deck with guidebook on her Etsy shop -












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Judith Shaw, a New Orleans native and graduate of the San Francisco Art Institute, has always been interested in myth, culture and mysticism. Her work, inspired by the goddess, nature and sacred geometry, combines whimsy and the esoteric - whimsical tree paintings which often look like women dancing are intertwined with esoteric symbols such as those found in sacred geometry. After graduation, while living in Greece, the Goddess first appeared in her artwork. The Divine Feminine, in all of Her manifestations in this world, continues to inspire Judith.    Judith has also lived in Mexico and visited France, Italy, Turkey, China, Guatemala, and Jamaica. She now lives in Albuquerque where she divides her time between painting, writing, yoga, gardening, bee keeping, and hanging out with friends and family.  She is putting the final touches on a deck of Celtic Goddess cards which will be published soon.  


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