Rhiannon moves in and out of my life, but is always ever present in my feeling for Her. I experience Her as very dynamic, very clever, very vibrant. She has always been patient but for me is still quite a mystery. I find the role She often plays for me with the benefit of hindsight, is one of a guide. Liminality springs to mind.
Briganti is also a central figure in my practise and I visit a specific spot on the river to make offerings to Her, usually white in colour. Briganti I find is a comforter. I honour Her in the fairly usual ways. I light a candle for Briganti while I cook, offering Her thanks and asking for Her blessings on family and home. I associate Briganti with robins and geese (not completely sure as to the whys of this). Each night I ask Rhiannon and Briganti both to watch over my children.
Maponus is very important to me but I'm still finding my way with how to properly honour Him. Maponus is to me virile, sexual, uber male. But also witty, teasing, often laughing at me I think. I feel closest to Him in the woodland and have a feeling that He may also be something of an initiator? My impression of Him is that He is very protective and loves as much as He is loved. In relation to my personal practise Maponus is often about beginnings but I will also seek His aid with divination as well. I feel that if I wanted a guide to other realms then it would be Maponus I would turn to.
Lugus is less central to my practise at the moment but I have an inkling that this will grow over time. I make offerings to Lugus after completing one of my carvings by burning the wood shavings the carving has produced, so it's Lugus as the craftsman that I connect to though I'm aware it's just a very small part of Him. I find Lugus confusing but am in absolute awe of Him. It is with Lugus that I've had the most overt experience of a God or Goddess.
These are the only gods that I have direct experience of at this point. I also feel quite a strong pull to an old site nearby which is not much to look at but I sense the presence very strongly. My relationship to this spirit is much less formal or organised. Usually it is just an acknowledgement of 'I see you' and a tip of the hat and I will often reach out to this spirit without physically visting just as a sort of 'hi'. I don't make any sort of offerings but neither do I ask for anything. In the past my relationship with spirits of place have always taken this form. I am respectful but it is always less formal than when I approach a god.
Gods and Ungods in my personal practice by Potia
The first deity I developed a relationship with was Epona and as time has gone on I have come to realise that this is but one name for the being I have a relationship with. She is also known as Rigantona and Rhiannon and to me alone as Firehair.
Epona Rigantona is primarily a guide and guardian for me in all types of journey, from physical to spiritual, mental to emotional. She watches over me and gives me a nudge here and there to help along the best path. Every now and then she will do more than nudge but she tends to be a subtle being in my experience and often uses birds for sending messages usually crows for me. I have come to realise she also has a distinct sense of humour. I will frequently request her guidance and guardianship if I am undertaking any longer or more strenuous journey. I often turn to her when I am stressed or upset too and I often feel she hears and helps me regain my balance and find the strength I need. I honour her particularly at the full moon when I sing for her and make a libation.
The second being I developed a relationship with is the one I know as the Cailleach. She is a being I feel is tied particularly to Scotland but can be felt elsewhere as well. She’s not that keen on people as a whole in my experience although she seems to be taking more of an interest in a wider range of people over the last couple of years. She is a harsh teacher but not necessarily unkind. She doesn’t like fools and if not treated with due respect she will let you know her displeasure. Her lessons for me seem to be connected to the darker experiences of life such as death, grief, pain and stress. It is not that she manipulates events to give you more of these things necessarily but that she will use them to teach you. If you can embrace her in spite of her dark and sometimes ugly side you are rewarded but the lessons can be painful. I honour her on the day after the full moon with song and libation.
The third major goddess I have a relationship with is Brigantia. To me she is both healer and protector. She is to me the guardian of hearth and home and as such capable of violence if pushed. It is her I turn to when there is illness among family or friends for healing and support. It is her I ask to protect and defend my home and family. I don’t really know her as well as the other two as yet but I am getting to know her as a loving and compassionate advisor. I honour her particularly on the day before the full moon with song, libation and the lighting of three candles.
Relationships with primarily male deities have come later and more slowly to me. At present I am getting to know Maponus and Lugus. I feel that Maponus is one I have known most of my life in one guise or another but it is only recently that I have begun to recognise him. To me he is both loving friend and bringer of passion. He is Lord of Dreams and Song to me; he can also bring healing and has ties to the sun too. I find him to be connected to pools of water, swans and roe deer. I used to honour him on a weekly basis with a cold shower but for various reasons that has stopped and as yet I haven’t replaced it with any other regular practice. Lugus is one I have only just begun to get to know and again I’m not sure what will develop where he is concerned.
On a frequent although irregular basis I also honour the spirits of my home with offerings of warm milk and rose scented tea lights following a shamanic style journey where I met with them and talked about what they might like. I feel these spirits help to keep my home environment feeling balanced and safe for both myself and my children and at times of stress I think that can be hard work for them.
Rhiannon by Heron
When I first publicly identified myself as pagan in my late teens it was very much in the wiccan tradition with ‘The Goddess’ and ‘The God’ having different names and aspects but with no particular names prevailing except the ones the group I was part of had developed for our rituals. But Rhiannon, almost without me realising it, began to feel close and to be the culturally identifiable expression of ‘The Goddess’ in my experience of her. Although it was not part of a conscious intention at the time to promote her above others, I found myself writing a story about her which was published as long ago as 1975. It was as much as if she had found me as I had found her. The character of Rhiannon in those stories was increasingly the character of The Goddess in my evolving sense of the mythos.
All this was compounded when I had one of the few vivid visionary experiences that have happened to me which involved a white horse galloping across the road in front of me. I am unsure to this day whether or not I was ‘seeing things’, whether or not it was an actual horse escaped from a field or a vision in the pre-dawn after I had been up all night; both seem equally probable. But I know that the horse was communicating something directly to me and that I needed to respond. This happened at a time in my life when, it seems, I was more open to such experiences. It is, anyway, a long time since I have had any experience of such intensity. But I have lived most of my life since then building on those experiences and trying to live out what they gave to me. This includes living with Rhiannon as, I suppose you could call it, a constant presence, sometimes close, sometimes not so close, but there. The literary analogy that best captures this as an ideal is that between Odysseus and Athena in The Odyssey. I’m not sure I could actually live up to that, even as an analogy. But it is something to live for. And, although this too is a story from another tradition, it is one that provides a template from the pagan past of how a human can have a relationship with a goddess. He asks her:
“Stand beside me Athena …”
“Grey eyes ablaze, the goddess urged him on: ‘Surely I’ll stand beside you, not forget you’ ” (13, 445 >)
She is as close as breath.
Brighid/Ffraid/Briganti … and there is also Brighid, or Ffraid as she is known in Wales. I first knew her as a goddess of springs and wells, but also of the hearth. She is the voice of the silver streams running deep in the earth and emerging when the ice thaws and life begins again. I most often think of her when snowdrops grace the ground.
But now that I live near a site once sacred to Ffraid, and I think more often of her as the hearth, not so much just of my home, but also of the valley and its surrounding woods. Here Briganti emerges as a local guardian of the valley but also of the ‘hearth’ of the Islands of Britain.
The Naiad or River Goddess I acknowledge is Eleri by Heron
The valley of the river Leri (as it is named on maps) or Eleri, as those who know her call her, begins on the western edge of the Cambrian Mountains where the river waters fall from a lake into the narrow gorge of Craig y Pistyll. They run for twenty miles or so to reach the sea through the salt marsh between Borth Bog (Cors Fochno) and the sand dunes of Ynys-Las. Eleri runs away from the great watersheds of Severn and Wye on the same mountains and once meandered to the sea through the remnants of a sunken forest, the semi-petrified remains of trees that can still be seen in the sand at low tide on the beach at Borth on the shores of Cardigan Bay. It is possible to trace the previous course of this mile or so of the river over the fields created by draining the bog. But now the last stretch runs in a straight line to meet the estuary of the River Dyfi and functions as a drainage channel separating the green water meadows from the brown lands of the bog. What river ever maintained its course for very long? Cwm Eleri is Eleri’s valley, the groove in the Earth the river has created, wide or narrow depending on the interaction of water, soil and stone. There are many things that might change a river’s direction; human interference has shaped most rivers for a while, but the river itself is invincible, the life-blood of the living world. So this sudden transformation from a sinuous bubbling stream to something more resembling a canal might seem an insult to Eleri in human terms. But somehow it suits the flat landscape of the bog and is symbolic of the lost land of Gwyddno Garanhir itself maintained by dykes and sluice gates one of which, left open, brought about its end. For this in legend was Cantre’r Gwaelod, a land under the sea, and it is a legend to which the sunken remains of the forest bear witness. Walking through the stumps when the tide is out it is possible to imagine the forest alive with birds in the green leaves, though the present reality is rock pools and oyster catchers foraging at the tide line. Along the estuary geese overwinter and in summer sand martens build nests in the banks. The bog broods darkly in the shade of mountains. Once it stretched north along the Dyfi nearly to Machynlleth, though most of the northern part of it has long since been drained for farm land. The small hills that rise from the flat plain all have ‘Ynys’ (‘island’) in their names, an indication that they once stood above wetlands.
Between these two ends of the river, Eleri runs through wooded valleys, only really touching any significant place of human habitation when crossed by the main road north from Aberystwyth at the village of Talybont where, joined by the waters of the Ceulan, the rushing waters once powered a woollen mill. Along the ridges of the valleys around here are a series of hill forts built to watch the approaches from the sea and now providing spectacular viewpoints to anyone with the energy to climb to them. Though I have walked from source to estuary, it is in these middle stretches that I came to know and love Eleri. There are places where it is possible to sit watching the flow for hours without seeing another person. These, to me, are sacred waters, the well of life flows through me when I sit here and I am part of the flow. And it is here, and in the woodlands along and above the valley, that I come to meditate and to commune with the spirits of the valley. The map of it I have in my mind is populated with sacred places to which I can go, on foot or in imagination, whenever world space or mind space allows. There is a place where the river swirls around a bend and runs over rocks making a music that I have sat and listened to, entranced. And I have knelt in the rushing waters and the words of a ritual for crossing to the Realms came to me from many years before: “Running Waters, Speaking Stones …”. And I have listened to the voice and responded with a blessing and a kiss, which she took, laughing, and tumbled it away.
There is a wood of oak, beech and birch above this spot, enclosed within a larger forest, where I have planted a seed of love in a mossy hollow and where the trees always welcome me when I come to sit among them to converse with the spirits of the wood and feel myself in their company. Here I have felt closest to the OtherWorld more often than anywhere else. There are times when the trees enclose me and the ground shifts beneath my feet and the wind blowing through that place is a spirit wind at once swift as an arrow and as still as a pond of clear water. Then when I emerge from the wood onto the forestry road it’s as if I have arrived there suddenly from I know not where. So I come often to these places and follow Eleri from her source in the mountains to her meeting with the sea. And if she is always running to the legendary realm of Cantre’r Gwaelod, so too am I always walking the paths to the Realms when I follow her winding way through the woods.
The horned one (or Antlered if we're being pedantic) aka Cernunnos/Cernyn, Gwyn and other names which I may not say. To me he is lord of the beasts, the wild one, he who dances the hazy zone between order and chaos. He brings good fortune, fertility and wealth. He also conducts the souls of teh dead to Annwfn
The Mother of Foals Epona/Rhiannon/Rigantona/Macha She has a powerful connection with the land and nurtures with good advice. She too brings fertility and fortune. She also guards children and travellers. She presides over Motherhood and childbirth. She also blesses relationships.
The Lady of Llyn-y-Fan-Fach, she brings healing and wisdom
Gofannon/Guibhniu/Goban He is the master of metalworking
The Sun God I see him as being reborn every 25th of December as Maponos (hunter, singer/poet, guardian of children). At beltane he matures to Lleu Llaw Gyffes/Lugh/Lugus/Llwch Lleminiawg and becomes the sun king skilled in all arts, crafts and sciences. At Samhain he becomes the old king, Math/Beli Mawr patron of wisdom. In all three forms he can be a warrior.
Nodens/Nuadha/Nudd/Lludd Another ruler, cloudmaker and bringer of rains. He is a guardian and wise leader but also a warrior at need.
Gwydion, to me, represents cleverness and cunning with a wildness which needs to be tempered with wisdom. He is a transformer and an initiator.
Andraste (also known by many other names) provides vengeance and strength in battle. You don't want to upset her.
Ogma/Ogmios/Oenghus Mac Og To me he is primarily lord of eloquence
Ceridwen (Yes I know Hutton dismisses her as a later interpolation and not a proper goddess but new deities can be introduced I suppose) represents wisdom and inspiration. Don't EVER piss her off!
Arianrhod, I see her as a lunar goddess she too is an initator and a teacher. Her lessons are seldom easy.
Nisien and Efnisien Nisien is wisdom and peace. Efnisien is anger, jealousy and violence
Arawn Rules over Annwfn. Like Osiris he presides over the judgement of the dead
Manawydan/Mannanan MacLir, Llyr/Lir and Dylan Eil Ton rule the sea Llyr presides, Manawydan manages and Dylan plays.
To these I add a full chorus of ancestors and otherworldly beings as well as genii locii and household spirits.
A Slightly different viewpoint by Red Raven
My own experiences have been through interactions experienced whilst out in the environment, not exactly unusual here, but I have never been offered a name by which to tie in with the origin of the source(s) of these interactions. For a number of years, this lack of information led me to consider the nature of these interactions, why was I not experiencing the "classical" pagan interactions? Why was I not privvy to a name by which to help me with any and all definitions? Was I barking? As I have written elsewhere, the first step was to establish whether these interactions were "real" or just imagined. And so I laid a platform down. I requested that any information should be brief. And to date, this premise as been upheld. As I have written elsewhere, I do know that this information was and is originated from more than one source, therefore logic held that the polytheistic worldview was an appropriate framework with which to view these interactions. So I self identified as polytheistic. And because the interactions were based whilst physically being in the landscape, it was clear to me that the land was integral to both the process and the origin of said interactions. Therefore, the Brythonic aspect made itself known to me at a later date. So Brythonic polytheist is and remains entirely within keeping of my self identity at this time. The Gods and Goddesses are present in my life though not formally "announced". My recent work did present me though, with a probable reason as to why that should be. I have associated my interactions most strongly with ancestors, both recent and ancient and I have wondered why this should be. The actions of the early Neolithic peoples and their deposition of human materials, namely bones, suggested a direct interaction with the landscape and recently I have realized why this has connected with me so strongly. Their worldview wasn't influenced by any formalized religions but was one of direct revelation. They experienced the hidden realms directly without the intervention of a widely held formalized structure and this is a path that I am being "encouraged" to develop for myself. So, the presence of the Gods and Goddess's is one that I acknowledge, but is not one that I have experienced on a one to one basis as most here and I am led to believe that my interactions may never be on that particular basis at all (one to one). That does not, however, stop me from playing a part in specific rituals for specific Gods at specific times. I may not have had their names specifically given to me, but that does not mean that therefore I should not acknowledge them when appropriate. If I talk to a man (or woman) in the street, do I need his / her name to qualify my talk with him / her or is it enough that he / she chooses at that time to interact and exchange information with me?
My Personal Pantheon by Lee
I am a polytheist; I believe the gods are many and am comfortable with the idea that they all exist in some form or other. Some have a place in my life, others do not as yet. I am quite happy knowing most of the gods known to man will never be known to me or be part of my practice. My view of gods is that, primarily, they arise out of the landscape and environment and are shaped by it and by our interactions with them. As such, the gods with whom I am fostering a relationship are rooted largely in the lands that form the British Isles. Names and titles may be from other lands but are addressed to that deity here and now in the absence of a surviving name with which to address them.
There are a handful of gods I have hymns for, make offerings to and make libations to:
Rigantona: she is the land, an embodiment of the landscape we live on and our relationship with it. Our place in the land is assured by her and our sovereignty comes from her. She is the great Queen, the Grey Mare on the hill.
Mokkonos: not a deity attested to in myth or inscription. He is the Wild Boar, the spirit of winter that crushes all before him, whose breath is the winter fog and whose sweat lies on the land as frost. He is the killing blow of the cold and the shadow that consumes in the depths of winter. For all of this, he turns over the land, clears back the dead and dying and paves the way for the spring and all the promise it brings.
Ambactonos: the divine ploughman, not just a god of agriculture, but one who knows the movements of the heavens. It is to him I offer hymns and libations when I am working the land. I am still in the early stages or my relationship with him.
Briganti: the Flame in my hearth, the one who tends the fires of the gods and whose flames give our words and offerings to the gods. She is the first to be addressed, the first to receive offerings and it through her contact is made with the other gods. She is the warmth in my home and the light on my altar. There are many associations with her and healing and crafts, these are sides of her I am only just beginning to explore.
Rosmerta: another god who I am beginning to get on with. She has associations with sovereignty and its relationship with people. Here are connections there between Her and Rigantona and the conferring of sovereignty. She is often portrayed with a cornucopia andi am beginning to think this has something to do with the fruits of the land that come in a proper relationship with the land itself; a triad of people – Rigantona – Rosmerta. Part of me wants to think in - crude - terms of her as interecessionary with Rigantona.
The Horned God – this is a weird one, he doesn’t have any name or title beyond this. Perhaps he is something akin to Silvanus in that to me he represents the wild energy and space of those parts of the land outside of man and his influences. If you took the spirit of the wild landscape, it’s beasts and plants; the nursing deer, the snagging thorns, the bloodlust of predators and the brutally protective mother caring for her young and rolled it into a single ungod – this would be him. That mythical Wildwood we know of from our first forays with paganisms, he is that Wildwood. He is that energy that claws back the landscape if left alone and untended. He is all this and far, far more.
I Give Voice by Lorna
I live in Penwortham which was first recorded as Peneverdant in the Domesday Book and translated by Rev. Thornber as ‘the green hill on the water.’ Its history reaches back beyond Anglo-Norman rule to the Bronze Age lake village on the marsh and the Brythonic people who used the hill as a sacred site and venerated their ancestors, spirits of place, local and tribal gods and goddesses.
Little is known about the earliest people who walked this land yet I have been drawn to Brythonic religion by its great goddesses Brigantia and Belisama and more mysteriously by my patron god, Gwyn ap Nudd, a ruler of Annwn and the dead. Gwyn has no known ties with this area but as the Brythonic King of Fairy speaks in the strangenesses of its fairylore, in the ancestral towns which lie behind its towns. He leads the way to the deepest myths of Britain.
As an awenydd ('person inspired') I serve Gwyn and the gods and spirits of my local landscape by giving voice to the stories they gift to me. To their known and unknown myths.
I give voice to the land before my eyes: wren enchanted ivy-hung woodlands, rivers of swans and shining water, culverted and underground streams and dried-up wells, wild-flower strewn industrial wastelands and decaying cotton-mills, to the ridiculousness of shopping malls and office blocks.
I give voice to the unseen spirits: knotty dryads of trees, plant spirits, outstretched dried-out boggarts, to the ancient oak-men of the damp oak forest that was here before the bogs before they were drained. To the fay and uncanny beings who haunt the in-between.
I give voice to the ancestors: to the people who lived on and shaped this land. From the Setantii tribe through the rule of Romans, Saxons, Normans, Cotton Lords and corporations I listen for hidden voices. Voices of dissonance and dissent. In the voices of outlaws, Luddites, Chartists, survivors of workhouses, suffragettes, conservers of rivers and hen harriers, poets who stood for a vision in spite of derision and impoverishment I find inspiration and strength.
I give voice to the gods: Brigantia 'High One' warrior-protector goddess of the North. Belisama 'Shining One' goddess of the beautiful dangerous trout-filled waters of the river Ribble, this valley carved by her glistening curves. To Gwyn ap Nudd 'White son of Mist' King of Annwn, my Lord of the Otherworld; the not-world, the deep, of imagining otherwise with whom I ride a hound at my side aboard a mare of mist into the mist to the great beyond.
I give voice to the myths of ancient Britain to which Gwyn leads. I learn to see to their bones before the introduction of Arthur and Christianity and the rule of Anglo-Norman Kings. I strive to heal the break in tradition that has cut us off from the Brythonic gods and their irreplaceable wisdom for over a thousand years. To make these myths new and show they can guide and inspire us through catastrophic times.
I give voice to my vocation with gratitude for the freedom to give voice. I give voice to the necessity of giving voice when across the world so many have been made and are being made voiceless.