The first rose of Summer dedicated at Rhiannon’s Shrine
EPONA : Horse Mother to the Gaulish tribes
And when their riders became Roman cavalry
It was she they worshipped in paddocks and stables.
RIGANTONA : the Brythons’ sovereign goddess
Leather-clad on horseback she came to bestow
Wealth to the tribe and strength to their leader.
RHIANNON rode in silks on a pale-white steed
From Annwfn to seek her chosen mate,
No-one but he could halt her pace.
A horse-woman came riding for True Thomas
From fair Elfland; he took her for the Queen of Heaven
But she denied it and rode away with him.
A ‘Belle Dame’ came to a poet who had invoked her
Wild-eyed she took him, enthralled he remained
Long after the enchanted summer had faded.
Remember her now in each of these guises
In enchanted May as the gates of Faery open
And she rides once again across our land.
Each of these can be found elsewhere on this site
from a funeral stone , Gaul.
Metamorphoses, transformations, transpositions
Identities lost and found as shapes shift
On the paths of the dead, finding
New ways to be alive as forms fuse
One to another : human to badger,
Bee to wolf, bear to otter; from one to many.
On these paths anything goes (or goes).
What might we become along these trails?
All is fluid, molecules of liquidity like
Hydrogen and oxygen in water sliding
From one identity to another in the dark,
Tripping over each other to find again
The way to the light which beckons
Far off yet, but welcoming whenever
And wherever she will guide you.
‘Quietly going about the business of keeping the Shrine area in order in such a way that it becomes an intense devotional activity in itself’ so I wrote in my notebook after beginning the re-arrangement of the garden Shrine at Imbolc or Gwyl Ffraid.
It is the simple performance of such tasks and spoken words that seem most to make the Shrine a substantial presence, rather than any ritual acts. Having described the simple regular devotions at the Shrine in past posts there seems little point to re-iterating them, hence this occasional ‘Diary’ rather than a more formal account.
It has always been my view that others cannot be directly taught how to engage in devotional activity; though they can be shown how others do it, only by a process of discovery can one become aware of what an individual needs to do alone or together with other like-minded individuals.
Institutional religion is often more of an institution than it is a religion.
Epona on a funeral stele from Gaul
The Sun sits low in the sky and dips even lower as his year draws to an end. The pale light of day soon passes to night. The tide ebbs. Each flower, each tree, each head of grass and grain, has shrunk back to kernel: to hard seed, to nut, to reserved essence, biding the time until the light grows again and roots find a way through nurturing soil.
For now, Epona traverses the paths of the dead, riding through the dark, through earth and sea, each life that has passed moving with her, finding the way that she opens for them, losing the memories she closes behind them. The Sun will return and a new year begin, but now is the time of repose.
Epona, we are with you in the time of waiting, we pause with you now in the dark of the year.
We mark the time until the longest night when you stir the deepest well of the darkness
like a river rising from the caverns of gloom.
A candle is placed on the altar unlit, marking this time of darkness. It is a dark candle and when lit it will be scented and burn low and slowly. Another candle is placed there beside it, a large red candle for the rebirth of the Sun. This will be lit at the Solstice and burn through the longest night. Some holly and some ivy are also there.
on the ivy leaf
on the holly bough
As red fire stirs
in the kindling.
We count three days
to the longest night
Three more till the glimmer
of a longer day
Then seven to the eve
of New Year Calends
These days we count
from the Feast of Epona
of the Year’s turning.
The candle for Epona is lit.
The candle for the Sun awaits the Solstice.
birds that sang
no more sing
no song of Rhiannon’s Birds
to charm the sweetness of the day
A ghostly horse-head haunts the night
Crow-black tatters on her back
At the Shrine the White Horse
wears a grey shroud
Owls call in the dark.
‘ O fy nghalon i’
Words spoken at an altar
Loudly … evenly … softly, fading
To a whisper
Horse paths on which she rides
In the echoes of these words
Following, as I follow,
Tracks that wind
And bind …..
‘O fy nghalon i’
Whispered. … spoken … declaimed
Tracking back to stand
Before this altar.
Returning home after a few days away, the Shrine looks lonely.
Fallen leaves lie across the stones in front of Rhiannon’s horse and on the pool of Mererid’s well.
It’s good to re-connect by clearing these and resuming regular visits, the loneliness banished by my presence.
Through July there’s a change towards ripeness, the Summer deepening, soft fruit hanging on raspberry canes and gooseberry bushes around the Shrine; apples beginning to swell on the tree. Blooms in abundance adorn the rosebush I planted especially for the Shrine, while I also gather more from other parts of the garden as joyous offerings for the gift of Summer and all it brings.
If the enchantment of May and Midsummer was all about expectation, now is a time of fulfilment, not yet the plenty of coming Autumn but the promise of Summer realised as warm winds blow across the burgeoning fields and forests of our land.
Recently, when I visit the Shrine in the morning I have found it disturbed. The small vase with roses, the pouring jug and other items have been turned over and scattered. The goblet which stands in the upper part of the fountain has been knocked over and lies sideways in the water.
This must be an animal visiting in the night – a badger, fox or hedgehog? – though there is no sign of droppings of any animal or other traces of a visit. I wondered if an animal is coming to drink at the fountain and knocking over the objects on Rhiannon’s shrine to get there? But on one occasion the roses were found some distance away and the petal scattered.
I’m not sure what I could do about this as I don’t want the shrine to be trashed but I’m inclined to regard the minor effort to re-arrange and replace the objects as part of my daily devotional activity. Seen in this way the re-setting of the goblet, the placing of fresh roses and putting the other objects back in place is part of the balance between wildness and ordering which is the pulse of the human relationship with the gods.