Often times we struggle to justify our devotion to a God or a Goddess. Especially, when we have a hard time finding evidence of our practice, like with the worship of ancient Egyptians gods or Greek/Roman traditions. The Celts (with their reliance on oral tradition) are known for their reluctance to write down spiritual information and thus the few recorded bits we have were written by non Celtic people or written late into the Christian period.
Rhiannon addresses this struggle with skill. Most of the book is a scholarly review of Rhiannon myths, with both linguistic evidence and comparative study of others goddesses/cultures. It begins with a retelling of the Rhiannon myth from The Mabinogion and then provides context on when it was written, by whom, and where.
What follows is etymology, where we learn of Rhiannon’s connection to the Morrigan and Epona. For example, I learned that the suffix ‘ona’ means “great” or “divine,” and that coupled with other attributes, like the color white, or physical prowess, it can indicate a divine origin.
There is also the dyad of Modron and Mabon, that is, the divine mother and the divine son, a motif that is found across Celtic culture. This dyad is quite obvious in the Rhiannon myth (the second part of the first branch of The Mabinogion) when her son disappears unexpectedly on the eve of May. This disappearing act echoes itself, in the last story, when the community itself dissapears while all of Dyfed is under enchantment.
By the end of the book, we can be confident that Rhiannon is of divine origin and that the connection we make with the otherworldly being is of mutual benefit. The last part is a precious gift of oracular work. Jhenah lets Rhiannon speak to us directly via automatic writing. After the previous interesting, but heavily academic, work it is a welcome gift to allow us to glimpse the emotion behind the academia.
Those of you who have read and appreciate the Bloddeuwed anthology, Flower Face, will find Rhiannon a very different book; it feeds the mind more than the heart. I recommend it, if you are looking for the reasons Rhiannon is worshipped as a Goddess even, when no shrines were found in her honor. If you feel called to her, but are unsure how to present your path against more documented pantheons this book will give you all the reassurance and argument you might need.
[Reviewed by Caroline Morin.]