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(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

The daughter of Dôn, Arianrhod is a Welsh goddess of the dawn. In Celtic mythology (according to the Fourth Branch, or tale, of the Mabinogi, center-piece of medieval Welsh literature) Math, the son of Mathonwy, had a compulsion to rest his feet in the lap of a young maiden. The only time he felt this was not necessary was when he had to go to war. Math's nephew, Gilfaethwy, was in love with the current foot-holder, Goewin, and through machinations of his brother Gwydion got the opportunity to sleep with her, albeit against her will. Upon learning of this, Math turned his two nephews into deer. They remained deer for a year then became wild boars and, a year later, wolves. Returning to his natural form, Gwydion suggested that his sister Arianrhod fill the now vacant post of foot-holder. Before accepting, Math insisted that the girl step across his magic wand, to test her virginity. But she failed the test: as she stepped across the wand, two babies dropped from her. One was Dylan Eil Don, and the other—originally scooped up and hidden by a quick-thinking Gwydion—became Lleu Llaw Gyffes, "the Bright One of the Skillful Hand."

Arianrhod swore that Lleu would never bear arms and would never have a human wife. She was tricked on both these counts by the magic of her scheming brother Gwydion, who fashioned a woman from the flowers of the oak, broom and meadowsweet. This became Blodeuwedd, the fairest of them all.

Arianrhod has become a goddess of some note, famed for her beauty. Her name means "silver wheel" and she is associated with the circumpolar stars. She was a fertility goddess as well as a lunar goddess, and a goddess of initiation. The willow was sacred to her.

Stewart Farrar suggests that the apparent foot fetish of Math was, in fact, an indication and recognition of the female principle of sovereignty—"the woman was the throne," the validator of the king's authority. The Court of Arianrhod, says Farrar, is the disc of stars around the polar star. The path to it is depicted in a modern Wiccan meeting dance, where the Witches follow a spiral path inward, from the outer edge of the circle to the center.

The Witch Book: The Encyclopedia of Witchcraft, Wicca, and Neo-paganism © 2002 Visible Ink Press®. All rights reserved.