Rosmerta

Re-blogged from DUNBRYTHON

Rosmerta, from a relief in Gloucester

You bring to us

The Cup of Plenty
For the Harvest

The Vat , the Dish
The Mixing Bowl

The Vessel from the Well Shaft
Drawing sweet water from the Earth

Bringing for us the Waters of Life
Bringing before us the Mirror Pool of Vision

So you are named
ROSMERTA

The Great Provider
The Far Seer

Whose Shining Cup annoints
Shaping the Ways of the World

Bestowing Plenty, the Wealth we hold
In common, Sovereignty claimed

But gained only with your Blessing:
Bless us who would hold the Earth for you

Bless us when we challenge those
Who seek to hold it without Love.



Notes and
Resonances

We need a modern version of Sovereignty and how we relate to a Goddess of Sovereignty in our times when power is held without such validation.

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Michael Enright traces the office of Cup-Bearer in early Germanic and Celtic societies back to Rosmerta with her Cup, Ladle and Bucket. See: Lady With a Mead Cup (Four Courts Press,1996). He also links the role of Cup-Bearer with that of Prophetess and in particular with the Seer Veleda, referred to by Tacitus in Germania. 

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John Carey  examines the role of  Sovereignty as a young woman  and Cup-Bearer  associated with Lug in the early Irish tale Baile in Scáil  in Ireland and the Grail (Celtic Studies Publications, 2007) and also identifies possible links with Rosmerta, as does Proinsias MacCana in Celtic Mythology (Hamlyn, 1968).

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In a discussion by Rachel Bromwich of the drowning of the lands of Gwyddno Garanhir at Cantre’r Gwaelod as described in a poem in The Black Book of Carmarthen, and the role of Mererid as ‘Maiden’ and ‘Fountain Cup-Bearer’ , the context of the office of ‘Machteith’ (‘Maiden’) in Welsh courts is identified.  See The Early Cultures of North-WestEurope ed.  C Fox & B Dickens ( Cambridge, 1950). Mererid, as represented in this poem, appears to be of a type with the well maidens whose violation causes flooding from the well and is a source of several legends in Ireland and Wales explaining the origins of lakes .

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There is an echo of this maiden role in the fourth of the four Mabinogi tales where Math fab Mathonwy has a ‘maiden foot-holder’ called Goewin who later becomes his wife after being raped by his nephew.  In a recent post I suggested that it might be useful to regard both Gwydion and Lleu in that tale as aspects of Lugus. Similarly we may regard Goewin and Aranrhod from the same tale as aspects of Rosmerta : the maiden function as expressed in later offices of Cup-Bearer and the fecundity function in Aranrhod‘s bearing of two children when she, herself, is asked to replace Goewin in this role. But there seem to be a reverse logic operating here. Lleu‘s sovereignty is not affirmed and rather than taking the Sovereignty Goddess for a wife, one is created for him out of flowers when Aranrhod refuses to recognise him. What is going on here?

First we should note that when gods appear in stories their relationships often get mixed up so that partners might appear as husband and wife, parent and child or other relation. Secondly that gods can give rise to a range of human figures when they appear in stories or later lore. Examining the appearances of the god Lugus in Irish stories Mark Williams comments in Ireland’s Immortals (Princeton, 2017) that there might have been “multiple Luguses” including the many heroes, ancestors and legendary kings who seem to be mortals ruling as his representative or alter ego. So Lleu can in this way be both subject to the Sovereignty Goddess as well as being (as Gwydion?) her associate. Is the refusal to recognise him here a continuing consequence of the rape of Goewin in the first part of the tale?

If violating her maiden role can be linked to an attempted subversion of Sovereignty by force, the shape-shifting of Lleu can be seen as a continuation of the shape-shifting imposed on Gwydion and Gilfaethwy as punishment for the rape. Lleu‘s battle with Gronw for the right to rule is the agency of his shift into the form of an eagle. But when he returns to kill Gronw it is Blodeuedd who is transformed into an owl.

John Carey, in an interesting article on this tale, regards it as a British Myth of Origins (Historyof Religions, Vol 31, 1991). He sees the virgin status of Goewin, and the fact that Math is unmarried, as indicating a timeless ‘Golden Age’ before mortality when the King simply put his feet in the lap of Sovereignty or stood on the Virgin Earth. With the coming of mortality – and therefore sex – the same female figure then becomes his wife. I’m not sure I go along with this as a myth of origins but I do agree that the transformation of Goewin’s maiden status is a crucial element in the thematic development of this story. The shift in her status from maiden to wife seems to me to be about a shift in the protocols for the right to rule. The one time when Math does not have to have his feet in Goewin’s lap is when he is defending his territory. When Lleu is absent from Blodeuedd his rule is challenged.  The banishment of Blodeuedd when Lleu‘s rule is restored could be seen as an appropriation of power from the Sovereignty Goddess whose role seems to be distributed across the three female figures in this story.

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In Gaul, and later in Britain, the Romans paired Rosmerta with their own Mercury rather than Lugus. This seems to have been a process of assimilation following appropriation. There are many ways that sovereignty can be claimed, exercised or subverted. Understanding this may allow us to develop our own sense of how it is exercised, refused or acknowleged in our own time.

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In my own practice at my Water Shrine I acknowledge Mererid as Shrine Guardian and Holder of the Cup of Rosmerta.

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MAPONOS

 

{Re-blogged from DUN BRYTHON:}

Gogyfarch Vabon o arall vro
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Call upon Mabon from the Other Realm

(Book of Taliesin : 38)

Matrona Gaul goddess alt
Matrona with Child

Divine Son of Divine Mother, taken at three nights old into the Otherworld but brought back out of the darkness into the light of this world. Playing the Harp of Time ~>  he brings the music of the world out of silence into the sights and sounds of Summer. His is the bright step into the eternal present of Now, the act of Being, the vitality of youth grown to manhood. He may come as a hunter decked in leaves with a sheaf of arrows to inspire a bard, as the Welsh poet Henry Vaughan relates (~>).

In the tale of Culhwch and Olwen he is Mabon, released from the dungeon of Caer Loyw to join Arthur and his men to hunt Twrch Trwyth. He is simultaneously the Divine Youth, the ever-young, and one whom only the most ancient of the ancient creatures of the world can remember. In the Mabinogi tales he is Pryderi, taken from his mother Rhiannon as a baby and brought back by Teyrnon, then taken again as an adult and brought back by Manawydan. These stories enact on the plane of human narrative the mythology of Maponos moving between Time and Not-Time, between Light and Darkness, between Music and Silence, between Thisworld and Annwn.

Iron Age coin from Sussex showing a horse and a lyre

He is the Son of the Horse Goddess who plucks the strings the harp or the lyre as he twangs the string of his bow to bring inspiration or show the way for a seeker after the mysteries. As Mabon he takes the razor from between the ears of the boar Twrch Trwyth for the giant Ysbadadden to be shaved so Culhwch can wed Olwen. As Pryderi he hunts a shining white boar which leads him into an otherworld caer. Manawydan – ‘wise of counsel’ – does not follow but finds a way to bring him back. These then reflect the rites of departure and beckoning as we welcome him once more onto the path of discovery, of life, and all its mysteries which are his to reveal.

So he may walk the plains of Summer in our world, bringing it alive with each vibration of the strings of his harp, or he may be sought for through a seer, an awenydd or one who walks the paths between the worlds. An inscription in Gaulish found in a sacred spring at Chamelières calls upon him thus:

Maponos of the Deep, Great God
I come to you with this plea:
Bring the powers of the Otherworld
To inspire those who are before thee.

Chameliere
Lead tablet with Gaulish inscription to MAPONOS from Chamelières

He may come, once again, into the world to inspire us, to touch the strings of his harp riding the particles of silence behind him as they touch the waves of sound that rush through the world like the song of the Birds of Rhiannon over the waves of the sea and on every zephyr that touches the trees of the world. So we shape these words to call upon him:

Maponos : we sense your call
From the silence of the Deeps beyond our world

Maponos : Matrona remembers her child
Whom we bring to her with this wish for your coming

Maponos : You are the seed of Summer
Dwelling in darkness and springing into light

Maponos : we hear your harp-song
As the Sun rides high in the Midsummer sky.


The Gaulish text of the Chamelières Tablet is given in The Celtic Heroic Age ed. John Koch & John Carey (Aberysywyth, 2003) where a word by word interpretation is also given. The four-line verse above is based on that.
Other References:
Culhwch ac Olwen : Rachel Bromwich a Simon Evans (Cardiff, 1997)
Pedeir Keinc y Mabinogi : Ifor Williams (Cardiff, 1978)

DEVOTIONS

MERERID

Water seeps up through Earth,
Pools into a well or
Streams away from the source.

Here is the Chalice of Rosmerta
Never empty as you cup the flow
With generous hands.

It is sweet water
It is fragrant mead
It is all the world’s treasure

For us to taste
But not to hoard
For only in your cup is it held.

~*~

RIGANTONA

A horse glides like cloud
across the land, no sound
but an intake of breath

Held in suspense
of your coming, expectant
for the gift of Summer

Promised on each blossoming bough
of blackthorn  …  apple  …  hawthorn:
the scents of your coming, gathering

Strength each week, each day
of the springing year until
the splendid opening of the Rose.