From plucked flower to living goddess

From plucked flower to living goddess

So they took the blossoms of the oak, and the blossoms of the broom, and the blossoms of the meadow-sweet, and produced from them a maiden, the fairest and most graceful that man ever saw.

—The Mabinogi


I never cared much for flowers.

They’re too showy. Too perfumy. Too easily bruised.

I prefer the solidity of a tree trunk planted in the earth, or the no-nonsense prickliness of a pine branch. I savor the aroma of fresh sage or mint or lemongrass—not the latest blooms. Where other women might gather bouquets of wildflowers, I come home with my pockets full of rocks.

So when I first read the Fourth Branch of Y Mabinogi, a collection of Welsh tales, I wasn’t much interested in the pretty little maiden named Flower Face, fashioned out of blossoms and magicked to life to serve as the compliant bride of a would-be king.

I had eyes only for Arianrhod. The remote brilliance of the potent Star Goddess who reels at the heart of all creation beckoned me like a flare in the night. Her labyrinthine fortress held me captive as I sought to untangle the threads of her enigmatic nature. Blodeuwedd, her flower-faced daughter-in-law, was to me just a footnote in Arianrhod’s tale of enchantment.

But that was just because I hadn’t met her yet.

I first encountered Flower Face in earnest at PantheaCon 2016. She came to me in the form of Jhenah Telyndru, a keen-eyed and otherworldly scholar of Celtic mythology who instantly became my role model. In a lecture on the nature of Blodeuwedd, she briskly dismantled my misconceptions about this blushing maiden and laid bare her true nature as a powerful goddess of sovereignty. I hung on her every word. Never had I seen an Y Mabinogi tale so thoroughly unpacked and decoded.

By the time she was done, she had conjured into the room Blodeuwedd—willful and proud, determined to guide her own destiny, refusing to compromise her authenticity for anyone. She follows her heart, choosing the man she loves over the men who created, claimed, and wedded her. And when she’s transformed into an owl in retribution, she turns her punishment into a superpower, embracing the freedom of her newly granted wings.

White owl, Welsh ghost,
Pale wraith, a whole host
Hears your sharp shriek,
Thin fledgeling: hooked beak

A Shriek of Blodeuwedd, Dafydd ap Gwilym

By the end of the lecture, I felt a dawning appreciation for the flower-faced goddess and a deep affinity for her lesson of female empowerment.

I know I’m not the only one. And the reason I know is I’ve read Flower Face: A Devotional Anthology in Honor of Blodeuwedd. Within its pages, women from all walks of life sing the praises of Flower Face and share the wisdom they’ve gained from working with her.

Filled with loving poetry, thought-provoking essays, and practical ideas for connecting with this often-overlooked goddess, it’s just the sort of volume my library needed to help me see between the cryptic lines of an ancient tale to the living, breathing truth behind it. It’s a vibrant example of a goddess resurrected from the coffin of myth to once again guide and inspire spiritual seekers on their path to transformation.

From the few scraps of lore that have survived the ravages of time and translation, we can’t know how these goddesses were worshiped by the ancients—or even if they were. All we can do is compost the scraps into something new, alive, and relevant to our time and place. And that’s exactly what the women who contributed to this devotional have done.

Blodeuwedd still isn’t my number-one goddess. Arianrhod occupies that role, and I suspect she will for a long time. But reading the latest additions to Blodeuwedd’s body of lore has reminded me that these myths aren’t frozen in time, the sole property of ancient peoples from a bygone era. They’re ours—and they’re still evolving, growing, and creating themselves anew. We are the catalysts of their transformation, just as they offer to become the catalysts of ours.

I doubt I’ll go outside and fill my hands with flowers anytime soon. But I might stop and inhale them once in a while.

Featured image: Großes Stillleben mit Alpenblumen by Josef Lauer, PD-US

Comments are closed.