Caer Australis

The Grove

  For Creiddylad merch Lludd Llaw Ereint,
   The most majestic woman ever in Britain,
    Every first of May, two ever do battle:
  Gwynn ap Nudd and Gwythyr ap Greidawl.

             - Culhwch and Olwen, 9th century

three acorns

Welcome to Goddesses
in the Grove -

Celtic art and literature celebrates the Celtic tripartite Goddess in superlatives.

Presented here are moments in myths and literature where an insight into the her nature is gained. By one name or by many, alone or in three, her divinity is celebrated, and her presence, both past and today, acknowledged.

She has the six gifts, She is the most beautiful woman of all, and She is mother and She is nature. Her life-giving sustenance reflects in her role as Mother of Mabon and title of Great Queen.

Enlightening and inspirational are these songs amongst the oaks of the Grove!


Brigit was 'the goddess whom poets worshipped, for very great and very noble was her superintendence, therefore call they her goddess of poets by this name, whose sisters were Brigit, woman of smith-work, and Brigit, woman of healing, namely goddesses - from whose names Brigit was with all Irishmen called a goddess'. Thus is described the daughter of the Dagda in Cormac's Glossary, and the Three Brigits represent the Celtic Tripartite Goddess. Cormac's Glossary derives her name from breo-shaighit, 'fiery arrow', with the meaning of poetic inspiration being like fiery arrows. Brigit's nurturing aspects continued in Christian tradition, celebrated through St Brigid of Kildare.

Brigid and her cloak,
Mary and her Son,
between us and every evil.

More concerning Brigit is presented on Caer Australis in: Oimelc / Brigid - Flame of Springtime
The Bodensee, the natural reservoir source of the Rhine river in the Celtic homelands of Europe was in Gallo-Roman times entitled Lacus Brigantinus, reflecting the ancient, nuturing aspect of the goddess.
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Isis Queen of Heaven

I am the mother of all things,
Mistresse of all the Elements,
Queene of heaven,,
Principall of the Gods celestiall,
The light of the goddesses.
My divinity is adored throughout the world;
By proper ceremonies call mee 'Queene Isis'.

Written c.AD155, 'The Golden Ass' by Lucius Apuleius holds in it one of the greatest manifestations of the religious syncretism of the ancient world, whereby the many deities began to be seen as the localised persona of but a few, perhaps even one. In the eleventh book, Isis appears to Lucius, and reveals to him that She is in truth all goddesses, the excerpt of which follows:

By and by appeared unto me a divine and venerable face, worshipped even of the Gods themselves. Then by little and little I seemed to see the whole figure of her body, mounting out of the sea and standing before mee, wherefore I purpose to describe her divine semblance, if the poverty of my humane speech will suffer me, or her divine power give me eloquence thereto.

First shee had a great abundance of haire, dispersed and scattered about her neck, on the crowne of her head she bare many garlands enterlaced with floures, in the middle of her forehead was a compasse in fashion of a glasse, or resembling the light of the Moone, in one of her hands she bare serpents, in the other, blades of corne, her vestiment was of fine silke yeelding divers colours, sometime yellow, sometime rosie, sometime flamy, and sometime (which troubled my spirit sore) darke and obscure, covered with a blacke robe in manner of a shield, and pleated in most subtill fashion at the skirts of her garments, the welts appeared comely, whereas here and there the starres glimpsed, and in the middle of them was placed the Moone, which shone like a flame of fire, round about the robe was a coronet or garland made with flowers and fruits.

In her right hand shee had a timbrell of brasse, which gave a pleasant sound, in her left hand shee bare a cup of gold, out of the mouth whereof the serpent Aspis lifted up his head, with a swelling throat, her odoriferous feete were covered with shoes interlaced and wrought with victorious palme. Thus the divine shape breathing out the pleasant spice of fertill Arabia, disdained not with her divine voyce to utter these words unto me:

"Behold Lucius I am come, thy weeping and prayers hath mooved mee to succour thee. I am she that is the naturall mother of all things, mistresse and governesse of all the Elements, the initiall progeny of worlds, chiefe of powers divine, Queene of heaven, the principall of the Gods celestiall, the light of the goddesses: at my will the planets of the ayre, the wholesome winds of the Seas, and the silences of hell be disposed; my name, my divinity is adored throughout all the world in divers manners, in variable customes and in many names:

For the Phrygians call me the mother of the Gods: the Athenians, Minerva: the Cyprians, Venus: the Candians, Diana: the Sicilians Proserpina: the Eleusians, Ceres: some Juno, other Bellona, other Hecate: and principally the Ethiopians which dwell in the Orient, and the Egyptians which are excellent in all kind of ancient doctrine, and by their proper ceremonies accustome to worship mee, doe call mee Queene Isis.

Behold I am come to take pitty of thy fortune and tribulation, behold I am present to favour and ayd thee, leave off thy weeping and lamentation, put away thy sorrow, for behold the healthfull day which is ordained by my providence, therefore be ready to attend to my commandement".

The full text of Adlington's 1566 translation may be viewed at:
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Minerva of the Gauls

Two hundred years before Lucius, in 53BC, Julius Caesar described the Celtic divinities in his war commentary 'De bello gallico' (Gallic Wars). In Book 6, he describes the Celtic Goddess in a manner akin to the description provided ten centuries later in Cormac's glossary, for he says she 'imparts the invention of manufactures', which is the same as Brigit's superintendence of poetic inspiration, smith-craft and the arts of healing. Caesar names the Celtic deities by Roman titles, displaying early syncretism but also as a means for his audience to comprehend his statements. Caesar records,

[6.17]They worship as their divinity, Mercury in particular, and have many images of him, and regard him as the inventor of all arts, they consider him the guide of their journeys and marches, and believe him to have great influence over the acquisition of gain and mercantile transactions. Next to him they worship Apollo, and Mars, and Jupiter, and Minerva; respecting these deities they have for the most part the same belief as other nations: that Apollo averts diseases, that Minerva imparts the invention of manufactures, that Jupiter possesses the sovereignty of the heavenly powers; that Mars presides over wars.

The full text of W. A. McDevitte and W. S. Bohn's 1869 translation of De bello gallico may be found from:
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Modron mother of Mabon

The great Celtic story of Mabon ap Modron focusses upon the nativity of Mabon at Beltaine. The story of the hero Mabon follows his disappearance at birth, his discovery and rescue, his courtship of the fair maiden and winning her hand. It is a story followed in the myths of Mabon, Gwri, Lleu, Setanta, Mac Óc, Culhwch and many other young heros who triumph, sometimes obtaining manhood names such as Pryderi and Cu Chulaind and Angus. They are the Divine Mother and her Son, since 'Mabon' simply means 'Son', found in Gaulish as Maponos, Welsh as Mabon and Irish as Mac Óc; and Modron means 'Mother', the Celtic tripartite Matronae.

Plaque of the Matronas from Cirencester, source: shrines, such as shown from Cirencester, sacred to the triple Mother Goddesses are found at many springs and rivers in Britain, Gaul and the Rhineland from times of Roman rule. They carry symbols of fertility such as baskets of fruit and often have Mabon at their breasts. Celtic myth reveals the triple goddesses of Ireland, such as those of Morrigan, those of Brigit and those of Eriu.

Modron's fertility is strongly associated with rivers, and across the Celtic realms she is the river, and known by her names Danu, Sequana, Marne, Rhine and Rhone, Lake Brigantia, Tamesis, Sulis, Coventina, Bile Medb, Siann, Boand and countless others. Her life-giving sustenance reflects in her role as Mother of Mabon and title of Great Queen, Rigan, found in Rhiannon and Morrigan.

The image source is from the informative , and further reading on Caer Australis may be found on The Gorsedd - Mabon ap Modron, The Fair Maiden and The River and the Well.
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Mary mother of Christ
The pure pentangel and the heven-quene
from Sir Gawain and the Green Knight:

Then thay schewed him the schelde,
With the pentangel depaynte of pure gold hewes;
a syngne that Salamon set in bytokenyng of trauthe
For hit is a figure that holdes fyve poyntes,
hit is endeles: the endeles knot.

To this knight for faythful in fyve,
Gawayn was for good knowen, with vertues ennourned;
Forthy the pentangel newe,
He bere in schelde and cote,
And gentylest knight of lote.

And as the crede telles -
The fyve woundes that Cryst caght on the cros:
His thoght was in that thurgh all other thinges.
fautles in his fyve wyttes;
fayled never his fyve fyngeres;

At the fyve joyes that she
That heven-quene had of hir childe -
At this cause the knight comly had
In the inore half of his schelde:
Hir image depaynted.

The fyve Gawayn used; these pure fyve:
Fraunchyse and felawschip forbe all thing,
Clannes and cortaysye, and pity, that passes all poyntes -
Upon fyve poyntes that fayled never, withouten ende,
Therfore on his schelde schapen was the knot.

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, an Arthurian Christmas story that delves deeply into virtue as personified in Gawain; lines 619-664 tell of the holy pentangle, whose endlessness and its five sides and five cardinal points epitomise Christ's pain on the cross and Mary's joy for her child. The virtuous Gawain held the pentangle on the outer side of his shield, and a depiction of Mary on its inner side.
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Pisces' Babies

"Some call her Strange lady from the mountains,
and others say she's not really real"
- Stevie Nicks, Lady of the Mountain.

The conquerer of Gaul in the first century BC described the Celtic deities in terms of his own Roman gods, who were closely allied to those of the Greeks, and the many goddesses known throughout the Mediterranean came under the title Queen Isis in and following the first century AD, Modron, especially Brigit, came to be associated with Mary mother of Christ; Overall, the many goddesses came eventually under one divine title, and they then lost their godhood. In an age as we have it, in which no goddess is worshipped in the formal religions of the West, alternate means are required to acknowledge her. To represent this, a song devoted to Nature, to whom feminine divine attributes are provided, has been selected. It comes from 1975, a time of tumult in the West, as indeed ever it is; a particular time of an active re-evaluation of virtues and when explorations of older religions of European tradition were becoming manifest. The song Pisces' Babies addresses us - we who live today. It implores us to remember the true order of the world.

Pisces' babies come and sail the river,
Let your hair fly in the sunshine!
Pisces babies see what made you:
Sister Nature is still your teacher.

Green river glistening in the morning haze,
Watching me watching her flow;
People around Jacob's Square don't know you exist,
They've only seen you on their video.

Pisces' babies get a forest visa,
Let your feet fly in the rainfall;
Pisces' babies see what made you:
Sister Nature is still God's creature.

Spiritual leader computerized -
Your guiding light is losing power:
All your teachers and healers and leaders with soul-less eyes
Soon will fade like Venice flowers.

Pisces' babies come and sail the river,
Let your hair fly in the sunshine!
Pisces' babies see what made you:
Sister Nature is still your teacher.

Get aboard the time machine, get aboard!
Sail away the Anne Boleyn, get away!

Pisces' babies get a forest visa,
Let your feet fly in the rainfall;
Pisces' babies see what made you:
Sister Nature is still God's creature!

Pisces' Babies come and sail the River,
Let your hair fly in the sunshine;
Pisces' Babies see what made you:
Sister Nature is still your Teacher.

Noosha Fox Pisces' Babies (1975) by Kenny Young, performed by 'Fox' is available to listen to at:

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     "Grows an oak upon a steep,
       The sanctuary of a fair lord;
       If I speak not falsely,
       Lleu will come into my lap"

              - Gwydion, Mabinogi of Math ap Mathonwy

     Goddesses in the Grove
     Featuring the works:
     Danu Mother of the Gods
     Isis Queen of Heaven
     Badb's song
     Minerva of the Gauls
     The six gifts possessed by Emer
     Modron mother of Mabon
     Mary mother of Christ
     Olwen - White Track
     The fair woman, Bé Find
     The great Queen, Rhiannon
     Pisces' Babies

     Other places in the Grove:
     Welcome to the Grove
     Summer in the Grove
     Winter in the Grove
     Saints in the Grove
     Rowan Berries in the Grove

     For articles on Celtic History and Myth, see the Gorsedd

Danu Mother of the Gods

It was on the first day of Beltaine, that the Tuatha de Danaan came,
and Nuada was king of the Tuatha de Danaan at that time;
From the north they came, with four treasures:
the Stone of Destiny from Falias, that was called the Lia Fail,
a Sword from Gorias; and from Finias a Spear of Victory;
and from Murias the Cauldron that none went away unsatisfied.

The arrival of the Tuatha de Danaan:

And the greatest among their women were Badb, a battle goddess; and Macha, whose mast-feeding was the heads of men killed in battle; and the Morrigu, the Crow of Battle; and Eire and Podia and Banba, daughters of the Dagda, that all three gave their names to Ireland afterwards; and Eadon, the nurse of poets; and Brigit, that was a woman of poetry, healing and smith's work. And among the other women there were many shadow-forms and great queens;

But Dana, called Mother of the Gods, was beyond them all.

And the three things they put above all others were the plough and the sun and the hazel-tree, so that it was said in the time to come that Ireland was divided between those three, Coil the hazel, and Cecht the plough, and Grian the sun.

And they had a well below the sea where the nine hazels of wisdom were growing; that is, the hazels of inspiration and of the knowledge of poetry. And their leaves and their blossoms would break out in the same hour, and would fall on the well in a shower that raised a purple wave. And then the five salmon that were waiting there would eat the nuts, and their colour would come out in the red spots of their skin, and any person that would eat one of those salmon would know all wisdom and all poetry. And there were seven streams of wisdom that sprang from that well and turned back to it again; and the people of many arts have all drank from that well.

From: Gods and Fighting Men, by Lady Gregory [1904], at Part I Book I: Fight with the Firbolgs published at The Welsh genealogies: Bonedd yr Arwyr (Peniarth MS 127) the Children of Dôn are named as Gwydion, Gofannon, Amaethon, Hunawg, Idwal, Eunydd, Elestron, Digant, Gilfaethwy, Cynan, Hedd, Aidden, Elawg and Arianrhod - for a commentary see:
In the Celtic homelands of Europe, the great mother river of the Celts was the Danube, named Danuvius in her honour.
On the planet Venus, Danu has been honoured in the naming of Danu Montes.
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Badb's song

At the second battle of Moytura, Mag Tuireadh na b-Fomorach
The Tuatha de Danaan defeated the Fomors
Bress bargained with Lugh; The Dagda regained his harp
With the black-maned heifer they retrieved their cattle
The Morrígú and Badb and Mider and Angus pursued the despoilers
Then the Morrígú and Badb proclaimed victory from atop the mountains
And Badb sang a song: 'Have you any news?'

'Nach scel laut?'

Sîth co nem  Peace up to heaven
Nem co doman  Heaven down to earth
Doman fo nim  Earth under heaven
Nert hi câch  Strength in everyone

Án for lann  A cup at a well,
Sam hi ngam  Summer in winter
Uích a mbuaib  Salmon for cattle
Boinn a mbru  The Boyne their womb

Áss-glas i n-aer  Green growth into the air
Errach foghamar  spring [to] autumn
For-âsit etha  Grow the grain-crops
Íall do tir  Birth pang for the land

Tir co trachd  Land as far as the shore
Siraib rith-már[aib]  Extensive and afar
Sîth co nemh,  Peace up to heaven
Bid-sîr naeb sí  Everlasting divine peace

From: "The Second Battle of Moytura" transl. Whitley Stokes. ©CELT: Corpus of Electronic Texts: a project of University College, College Road, Cork, Ireland (2004) The full poem is given on the Grove introduction page.
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Daughter of Dôn, mother of the gods
Silver Wheel like the Moon up above.
The rape of Goewin, her brothers exiled:
Hyddwn 'Deer', Hwchdwyn 'Pig' and Bleiddwn 'Wolf' born
Math brother of Dôn asked "Girl, are you a virgin?"
And she replied "I do not know but that I am"

from the mabinogi of Mâth:

Mâth took his wand and bent it, saying "Step over that, and if you are a virgin I will know." Arianrhod stepped over the wand, and with that she dropped a sturdy boy with thick yellow hair. Angry, she declared, "He shall have no name until he obtains one from me!", "He shall not bear arms, unless he obtains them from me!" and "He shall have no wife of the race that is on the earth at this time!"

Gwydion declared, "Being a woman now you are angry, because you are no longer a virgin - never again will you be called a virgin!" He set about, and she named him and armed him, but Lleu had no woman for a wife: Mâth and Gwydion made her by magic from the flowers of oak and broom and meadowsweet, the most beautiful girl anyone had seen, and named her Blodeuwedd, 'Flowers'.

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The six gifts possessed by Emer

Conchobor sent out nine men into Erinn to seek a wife for Cuchulaind,
And all returned that day a year gone, and had not found a maiden.
Thus Cuchulaind and his charioteer Loeg went forth in his chariot
To woo Emer, the daughter of Forgall the Wily

from Tochmarc Emer:

Then Cuchulaind found the maiden on her playing field, with her foster-sisters around her. These were daughters of the lords of land that lived around the dun of Forgall. They were learning needle-work and fine handiwork from Emer. She was the one maiden whom he deigned to address and woo of the maidens of Erinn.

For she had the six gifts: the gift of beauty, the gift of voice, the gift of sweet speech, the gift of needle-work, the gift of wisdom, the gift of chastity.

Cuchulaind said that no maiden should go with him but she who was his equal in age and shape and race, and skill and deftness, who was the best handworker of the maidens of Erinn, and that none was a fitting wife for him unless such were she.

And as she was the one maiden that fulfilled all those conditions, and Cuchulaind went to woo her above all.'

From: The Wooing Of Emer: Author: Kuno Meyer (translation) published at Tochmarc Emer dates to Lebor na h-Uidre, compiled about AD1050 and a complete version survives in the Stowe MS. 992, compiled in AD1300.
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Olwen - White Track

Kilydd son of the king of Kelyddon and Goleuddydd, 'Bright Day', his wife,
For they country went to pray and a son was born in a pig run
Culhwch was a well-born lad the cousin to Arthur,
And the boon he asked, the hand of Olwen daughter of Ysbaddaden.

from Culhwch and Olwen:

For the mere mention of Olwen's made Culhwch feel love enter into every limb. Olwen was dressed in a flame red silk robe with a torque of red gold around her neck studded with precious pearls and rubies. Her hair was yellower than broom, her skin whiter than sea foam, her palms and fingers whiter than shoots of marsh trefoil against the sand of a welling spring. Neither the eye of a mewed hawk nor the eye of a thrice mewed falcon was fairer than hers, her breasts whiter than the breast of a white swan, her cheeks redder than the reddest foxgloves, and anyone who saw her would fall deeply in love. Wherever she went four white trefoils appeared behind her, and for that reason she was called Olwen, 'White Track'

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The fair woman, Bé Find

Bathing in the river, Étaíne and her maidens saw Mider approach.
He was mounted on a broad brown steed,
Around him a green mantle and a red-embroidered tunic with a golden brooch, a gold rimmed silvern shield, a gold banded five pronged spear.
Bright yellow hair to his forehead, a fillet of gold revealed his full face.
He halted a while on the bank gazing at the maiden, Étaíne. Her hands were as white as the snow of a single night, and her eyes as blue as any blue flower, and her lips as red as the berries of the rowan-tree, and her body as white as the foam of a wave.
And he uttered this lay:

from Tochmarc Étaíne:

This is Étaíne here to-day
at Sid Ban Find west of Ailbe,
among little boys is she
on the brink of Inber Cichmaine.

She it is who healed the King's eye
from the well of Loch Da Lig:
she it is that was swallowed in a drink
from a beaker by Etar's wife.

Because of her the King shall chase
the birds from Tethba,
and drown his two steeds
in the pool of Loch Da Airbrech.

Full many a war shall be
on Eochaid of Meath because of thee:
there shall be destruction of sidhmounds,
and battle against many thousands.

'Tis she that was sung of in the land;
'tis she that strives to win the King;
'tis she the fair maiden Bé Find,
She is our Étaíne afterwards.

And Echu Airem was king and Étaíne his betrothed and Ailill loved her
and Aillil fell ill for his love yet Étaíne would heal him;
She bade him meet her upon the hill above the court,
And three nights he slept yet three nights she trysted;
No dishonour to Aillil for Mider appeared in his form:
It was Mider with whom she trysted -
Yet Ailill was cured, and Mider had saved him his life and his honour
And Mider asked, "Come to my land with me if Eochaid bids thee"
And Étaíne replied to Mider, "Willingly!"

From: The Wooing Of Étaíne: Yellow Book of Lecan, written by 1391 to by 1401. Translated by Osborn Bergin and Richard Irvine Best, Volume 12, Dublin, Hodges Figgis (1938), published in the original at Tochmarc Étaíne, at CELT: The Corpus of Electronic Texts.
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The great Queen, Rhiannon

For a year Arawn king of Annwyn had placed his likeness upon Pwyll.
A year in splendid Annwyn with the fair Queen, he was without dishonour, and defeating Havgan at the ford, peace in Annwyn attained;
The prince of Dyfed, now chief of Annwyn, held at Arberth a feast;
And after the feasting and singing, to gorsedd Arberth he climbed;
Three nights upon the hill above the court, and there he beheld a wonder!

of the mabinogi of Pwyll:

Daughter of Summer, Heveydd Hên,
Maiden of beauty supreme,
On pure white horse, in garments of gold
Pywll saw and met his Great Queen.

Like red Aldebaran in ancient May morn
Who followed the daughters of great Atlas born,
Pwyll mounted his steed and made with great speed
O maiden! For love would you stay?

Gladly, said she, for your love I do meet,
Meet me a year from this day,
Your honour uphold, your son to behold,
On the fifth of our years from this day!

original composition inspired by: The mabanogi of Pwyll Prince of Dyfed, the first of the Four Branches.
Stevie Nicks 'Rhiannon' (1975) by Stevie Nicks, and developed ever since, has inspired many exploring the meaning of Rhiannon's story. A 1976 Fleetwood Mac performance of the song is at:

The White Book of Rhydderch (1325) and the Red Book of Hergest (1400) were compiled from redactions and the stories themselves are much older, and the themes and customs ancient (see, for example: Mabon ap Modron. Translations are available by Jones, G. & Jones, T. (1949) 'The Mabinogion' Everyman, London; and Gantz, J. (1976) 'The Mabinogion' Penguin. London.
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Original work and design © Caer Australis 2011: From Coogee in Sydney's eastern beaches NSW Australia