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Other names: Rigatona

Location:  Wales

Notes from Hrana

Goddesses & Heroines text

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Hrana's Notes

I painted Rhiannon in 1990 for Llewellyn's 1992 Goddess Calendar. She is included in The Goddess Oracle.

from Goddesses and Heroines
  Exerpt from Goddess & Heroines by Patricia Monaghan
[Used by permission. This text is NOT included in the Goddess Oracle]
The beautiful Welsh underworld goddess traveled through earth on an impossibly speedy horse, accompanied always by magical birds that made the dead waken and the living fall into a blissful seven-year sleep.

Originally named Rigatona ("Great Queen"), she shrank in later legend into Rhiannon, a fairylike figure who appeared to Prince Pwyll of Dyfed near the gate of the underworld. He pursued her on his fastest horses, but hers--cantering steadily and without tiring--exhausted any mount of Pwyll's. Finally, the queen decided to stay with Pwyll; she bore him a son soon afterward.

What can one expect of a goddess of death? Her son disappeared, and the queen was found with blood on her mouth and cheeks. Accused of murder, she was sentenced to serve as Pwyll's gatekeeper, bearing visitors to the door on her back; thus she was symbolically transformed into a horse. All ended happily when her son was found; Rhiannon had been falsely accused by maids who, terrified at finding the babe absent, had smeared puppy blood on the queen's face.

Behind this legend is doubtless another, more primitive one in which the death queen actually was guilty of infanticide. This beautiful queen of the night would then, it seems, be identical to the Germanic Mora, the nightmare, the horse-shaped goddess of terror. But night brings good dreams as well as bad, so Rhiannon was said to be the beautiful goddess of joy and oblivion, a goddess of Elysium as well as the queen of hell.


Back to TOP Text from Patricia Monaghan's The New Book of Goddesses and Heroines
Published by Llewellyn, copyright 1997.   Used by permission of the author.

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