John Koch, in The Historical Encyclopaedia of Celtic Culture, discusses the name Rhiannon deriving from Rigantona and also refers to the name Modron deriving from Matrona and suggests links with Epona and Rosmerta considering correspondences that suggest various goddesses with overlapping attributes or one goddess with several names or epithets which become names.
Scholarly speculations apart, my own sense of Rigantona, Epona, and Rosmerta as aspects of one goddess, but with distinct identities in each case, is reflected in my devotional practice.
Following my Imbolc resolution I filled the re-sealed lower half of the water feature – the ‘Vat’ into which water flows from the upper ‘Fountain’ where the Cup of Rosmerta is in Mererid’s keeping. I filled it with an invocation to ‘Brighid and the silver streams running deep in the earth’. The water sat there, clear and still, awaiting the pump which I would add at Spring Equinox when the Sun was strong enough to power the solar panel and the risk of ice had passed. All seemed fine.
The next day when I visited the Shrine I was initially dismayed to find that the Vat was not water-tight at all. I had removed the waterproof lining because it was sagging and ‘sealed’ the wood with yacht varnish instead. But overnight the water has slowly leaked through the joins in the barrel so the Vat was empty. The water had seeped back into Brighid’s silver streams in the earth. This was not her shrine, though I sought her blessing in filling it with fresh water at Imbolc. The water initially held there for the blessing, but would not remain there.
So I had to find another way of containing the water that flows into the lower Vat. Looking in the garden centre for something to put there I thought something ceramic would be best, but these all had drainage holes in them, nor could I find anything the right shape: wide enough to catch the falling water pouring from the spout of the smaller upper barrel, deep enough to make a substantial pool and to submerge the pump which returns water to the top. Then I saw just what was needed : a planter in the form of a cauldron! It looked just about the right size too and I took it home hoping it would be a good fit. It is; sitting perfectly in the space beneath the half-shelf supporting the upper barrel and nicely filling the space too with its top rim just below the top of the lower barrel.
At this part of the Shrine Mererid keeps Rosmerta’s cup. In her ancient iconography, Rosmerta pours from her cup into a Vat or Bucket and the water feature was chosen to replicate this imagery. Now it has a Cauldron too from which water poured into it is re-born, rising to the upper barrel to fall back into the lower barrel, the Vat, and so also now the Cauldron again. Miranda Aldhouse Green thinks Rosmerta’s bucket can be seen as a cauldron of re-birth. One of the most resonant images of Epona for me is the one where she leads the way to the paths of the dead in a transformative journey of changing forms.
So a cauldron in my water feature seems not just a fortuitous addition and solution to my original problem, but also a revelation and one which raises – even clarifies – a question I have often pondered as to the relation between the different parts of the Shrine. It has always seemed right to me to have Rosmerta’s cup in the water feature and to put this in the keeping of Mererid whose role in this respect I have discussed elsewhere ~>. Just as it has seemed right to assign to Mererid the Guardianship of the whole Shrine which was created for Rhiannon. I have never been able to fully rationalise this and though I still can’t, and the addition of the Cauldron seems to add a further degree of complexity – as if Ceridwen is also present; nevertheless it does seem to draw the different parts of the Shrine together.
So if John Koch is right to see Rigantona, Epona, Matrona, Rosmerta as different names, aspects, or personalities of one Goddess, and if these nevertheless remain separate in devotional practice, this does give a sense of unity to the way the Shrine is organised. They may intersect across the whole Shrine, but each is unique when addressed and represented on the Shrine. If another goddess like Brighid is addressed and is present for a while, it is nevertheless not her shrine.
This Devotional Diary is not quite an open blog, but nor is it a private Book of Shadows. For anyone who may come across it, these are not arguments designed to convince or define a form a worship beyond my own devotional practice. But they are put here as public witness to that practice which is informed by historical research, shared insights and such revelations as are provided for me. If you have found your way here perhaps it might be a revelation for you too?