Category Archives: celtic

the menstrual cycle and mabon

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Outside on this bright and warm day the robin is chirping loudly in the apple tree, the grasshoppers are still singing away in the sunlit grass, and I can hear a frog croaking in the undergrowth beneath the bramble patch. The hawthorn berries are plentiful and our affectionately named ‘crone tree’ shines bright red with her burgeoning crop.

The last of the blackberries have been gathered and made into jelly for warm toast and chillier times. The path of the sun has been changing over recent days; shadows lengthening, and the point at which the sun sets is moving Southwards across the horizon. Sunsets at this time of year are spectacular with molten bronzes golds and peaches lighting up the sky, and at dusk the land goes quiet and chilly.

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Sunday 21st September was the festival of Mabon – the part of the Celtic year that signifies the exact mid-point of Autumn. It’s also known as the Autumn Equinox because the length of day and night are equal.

This year my menstrual cycle fell on Mabon almost to the day, and it got me thinking about the similarities between the significant points of the menstrual cycle, and this important point in the Celtic Year – a time where the harvests are over, the fruits have been gathered and darkness starts to descend over the Northern Hemisphere. Mabon can be likened to the part of the menstrual cycle where the ovulatory fertile phase has finished and the woman enters fully into the pre-menstruum.

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This is a powerful time for reflection; and how you relate to this season personally will influence your experience of it greatly. Fighting the change will only make it harder, whereas acceptance, letting go, allowing yourself to sink into it and celebrating the occasion can make it a lot easier. Take my friend who loves this time of year, she is positively relieved that the busy-ness of Summer has ended. She and her son can now snuggle and retreat and play and decorate the house with conkers, leaves, and beech nuts found on nature walks… That sounds gorgeous to me, but I on the other hand still really love Summer for it’s warmth and light nights, flowers and growth, sitting outside in the fresh air, swimming in the sea, eating fresh salads and juices and not having to light the fire every morning…. I find Summer so hard to let go of!

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Because Mabon falls on the equinox where there is the physical balance of night and day, druid practice encourages us to examine the metaphorical aspect of balance, and encourage us to ask questions like ‘What do I need to let go of in order to find more balance in my life?’ ‘What sacrifices do I need to make to find balance’. There is also the parallel between the harvest of the Mother Earth with her bounty of fruits nuts crops and berries, and the inner harvest, asking questions like ‘What was your own personal harvest?’ and ‘Are you happy with that?’ In the menstrual cycle we are also coming back around into a place of balance at this point, because we are entering the ‘yin’ energy of the cycle after a prolonged period of ‘yang’. A useful practice here could be to hang out in the more introspective energy and notice what comes up for you.

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Learn what you need to learn, change what you need to change, and make some decisions about what you would like to ‘harvest’ in your next cycle. Often the changes that need to be made rear their heads in the form of frustrations, annoyances, anger flare-ups, sensitivity and strong emotions. These kinds of feelings are often a good sign that something is trying to reveal itself to you. Take note of any of these emotions, and use a cycle chart to note down what comes up for you! There can be real gems hiding in dark places, and this time of year with Mabon, and the dark moon in a couple of days is a perfect time to uncover them.

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arianrhod ~ goddess of the silver wheel

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It was through two wonderfully knowledgeable women, in the dark folds of the Red Tent, that the gift of the mystical story of our local and incredibly powerful Celtic Moon Mother Goddess Arianrhod was unfolded to me for the first time.

The name Arianrhod (ah-ree-AHN-rhohd), is from arian, meaning ‘silver’ and rhod meaning ‘wheel’ or ‘disc’. She is the Welsh moon and star Goddess. The ‘Silver wheel that descends into the sea’ may represent the moon or circumpolar stars, to which souls withdraw between incarnations.  She is often identified as the Goddess of reincarnation. The silver wheel is also likened to ‘a cylinder through which deities, gods goddesses and ancestors become accessible; like a silver bridge into the void’.

She is the Daughter of the Mother Goddess Don. She is also ruler of Caer Sidi, a magical realm in the North. She was worshiped as priestess of the moon (the archetypical female symbol) coming down in her pale chariot to watch over her tides. Representing the Mother aspect of the Triple Goddess in Wales, her palace was Caer Arianrhod, or the secret center of one’s spiritual being, where at low tides, horses ‘dart and play on the surf’.

She also carried the dead on her Oar Wheel to Emania, the Moon-land or land of death; she represented the archetypal cycle of womb, death, rebirth, and creation. Ancient astrologers took their observations from the position of the moon and its progress in relation to the stars – the starry wheel of Arianrhod. Albion, the old name of Britain, meant ‘White Moon’. The Celts “know well the way of seas and stars”, and counted time not by days, but by nights, and made their calendars, not by the sun, but by the moon.

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Arianrhod is said to be able to shape-shift into a large Owl, and through the great Owl-eyes, sees even into the darkness of the human subconscious and soul. The Owl symbolises death and renewal, wisdom, moon magic, and initiations. She is said to move with strength and purpose through the night, her wings of comfort and healing spread to give solace to those who seek her.

Her Festival is on 2nd December, and she is also honoured at the Full Moon.

One of many stories of Arianrhod forms part of the Mabinogion, a collection of 11 ancient pre-Christian Welsh myths, some dating as far back as the Iron Age.

This story tells of Goddess Arianrhod, daughter of a Goddess, and niece to the Math the King of Gwynedd.

King Math, was compelled by a taboo to keep his feet in the lap of a virgin whenever he was not actively engaged in battle. After his first ‘footholder’, Goewin, was seduced by Arianrhod’s brother, Math asked Arianrhod to take her place. She is forced to step over a magician’s rod to prove her virginity. As she does so, she immediately gives birth to two sons; one called Dylan, the other who is eventually named Lleu who is taken away to live with Arianrhod’s brother and raised in a magic forest.

Arianrhod is enraged at the humiliating virginity test she endured at the court of her Uncle, and directs the anger she has for the Masculine towards her one remaining son.

She places three curses over Lleu during his life: He shall have no name except one she gives him. He shall bear no arms except ones she gives him. He shall have no wife of the race that is now on the earth. These deny him the three ancient aspects of masculinity.

Her brother cleverly manages to trick her each time, dispelling all of her curses, and eventually creating Lleu a bride, Blodeuwedd, out of Oak blossom, broom and meadowsweet. Arianrhod retreated to her castle Caer Arianrhod. Here she later drowned when the sea reclaimed the land.

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The sunken ruins of the island on which she dwelled, Caer Arianrhod is to be found off the coast near to the pre-historic mound of Dinas Dinelle, in North Wales. On a low spring tide this ancient relic can sometimes be viewed from the shore. I can see this exact spot of coastline from my bedroom window, and now the incredible view has taken on a new meaning as I inwardly reflect on, and celebrate the Goddess of the Silver Wheel.

Once, Caer Arianrhod would have been on dry land and forested, according to ancient sea level studies. There is lots archaeological evidence to suggest that humans occupied the area from as early as the Neolithic period, though to take a boat to the island it would have been more likely to be Bronze age times, when the sea levels rose slightly. There are recorded stories about women living on Anglesey who, upon looking into the waters saw a town that had been flooded by sea, and who’s walls could still be seen at low water. One local blogger reported sightings of the Island in April of this year.

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Hymn to Arianrhod

Arianrhod of the Silver Wheel

By all the names men give thee –

We, thy hidden children, humbly kneel

Thy truth to hear, thy countenance to see.

Here in the circle cast upon the Earth

Yet open to the stars – unseen, yet real –

Within our hearts give understanding birth,

Our wounds of loss and loneliness to heal.

Isis unveiled and Isis veiled, thou art;

The Earth below our feet, the Moon on high.

In thee these two shall never be apart –

The magick of the Earth and Sky.

Thanks very much to all the incredible web sites there are out there which gave me inspiration and information, especially the white goddess who wrote the prayer and passages about the Owl and Celtic astrologers.

For more information about size and shape of reef click here.

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celebrating lammas and the early phase of the pre-menstruum

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The skies are bright blue this sunny evening with only faint wispy clouds at the horizon. The golden sun will soon set over a perfectly calm and flat sea. The rise and fall of distant landscapes cast their shadows shapes and colours giving the impression of a comforting crumpled blanket.

The breeze this night brings with it a faint chill. I turn to notice that some of the foliage, once green and vibrant with fresh sap is browning, and that the garden is now lit by a different array of flowers. The cool sensation on my skin is a fleeting reminder of darker nights and crisp winds, as the earth shifts and turns on its yearly wheel.

As I slowly walk up through the rough grass to the stone circle and turn take a seat in the sun, my eyes are drawn to the sea. The lazy sounds of late Summer fill the air; the humming of bees, the rustling of tiny animals beneath the hay, birds calling on the wing and gathering together on the wires. A bright model aeroplane buzzes and swings and dives against the backdrop of blue. It is Summer still yet it is not. Something intangible has changed.

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Traditionally the time for the first harvest, and the first of three Autumn celebrations the celebration of Lammas gives thanks to Mother Earth, the giver of life, for her bounty of crops. It is also time to start the journey inwards; giving gratitude for all that has been harvested by the soul; all that has been learned during the intense activity of Summer. The days still feel long but they are getting shorter, lazier, and slower.

For women this can be likened to the phase of the menstrual cycle after ovulation, where the high and creative natural energies of the inner Summer are starting to turn; much like a tide, or when a ball is thrown in the air when it’s not going up, and not yet falling. It is a natural stasis; a point to reflect and to understand that soon we will come face to face with our own shadow side as we descend within ourselves and move towards the pre-menstruum once more. Towards the place of inward reflection and contemplation, where we can review and discern, prune and crop our metaphorical harvest. As with the seasons of the year, this is natural, just the way it is meant to be.

Even though menstruating women have monthly reminders of this feeling it does not necessarily mean it is easy for us! What comes up for us as the ‘party ends’ can be difficult, as we are so heavily influenced pressure for perpetual growth in our culture, a physical outward state where women are so accepted by society. It can feel hard to let Summer go for many, and welcome the slow transition to Winter because it involves shedding off this shiny bright exterior and becoming more like a wild woman once more.

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In spirit of focusing on the gratitude, and thanking the Earth Mother (and my body) my friends over on the Llyn Peninsula held a wonderful celebration to welcome Lammas at their land, Cae Non. The ceremonial ritual (which was beautiful) started by creating a bower made of stems of Willow representing the Feminine, Ash representing the Masculine, and Hazel representing Divine Wisdom. The bower was decorated with flowers, gifts to the Earth Mother from our garden, and items that represented our own personal harvest from this Summer. Then there was a big feast, and lots of tea, singing and laughter!

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Personally I am at this stage in both my own inner cycle and in the seasonal cycle – believe me, this year I am feeling the transition powerfully. It has been such an affirming practice to spend a moment in ritual to thank the Summer and welcome the new, even if it is difficult to embrace a ‘darker’ phase. With different phases come different gifts too, keeping life in balance and celebrating all the parts of our inner selves and our outer earth seasons.

For more supportive stories and feminine sharing head over to woman’s wheel.

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