If you linger here, transfixed by the beauty of what you see,
then you will be a captive forever.
But, if you have the strength to turn and walk out of the Spiral Castle,
then the hidden secret of House Arianrhod will be revealed to you.
—Lyn Webster Wilde, “Becoming the Enchanter”
I spent years seeking Arianrhod. Came up empty-handed more often than not. She’s an elusive goddess—a fleeting shadow in the corner of my eye, sensed rather than seen.
She dawned on me slowly, the way the first stars appear when you’re not looking. Before you know it, you’ve got a sky full of them.
She’s an enchanter, an illusionist. She hides in plain sight. A riddler, a trickster. She diverts our attention from her sleight of hand. Her bright Silver Wheel “mirrors us back to ourselves and flashes tricksy images into our mind’s eye that can easily confuse … what is real and what is not? And what is reality anyway?” says shaman and author Elen Sentier.
Arianrhod demands we master the enchanter’s art of clear sight. She tests our grasp on reality. In myth, she grants the gift of prophetic sight. In practice she drives us hone our gaze—to see through illusion and spot the hidden.
Most often when I meet her, she takes me by surprise. But I’ve gradually learned where to look for her.
Arianrhod stands in the center of All That Is, at the point of transition where What Was becomes What Will Be. She inhabits the moment when potential becomes manifest. As the goddess of initiation, all in-betweens are her domain.
I meet her most often at liminal times and places. Usually at sunset. She seems to descend to earth on the rays of the sinking sun, sparkling across reflective surfaces. Then, in the first moments of twilight, she flees to her celestial fortress just as the stars begin to emerge. She also dwells at the various meeting points between land, sea and sky. Try to catch her at the convergence of all three, if you can.
For me, the place where land meets sea is the most powerful threshold of all. The sea is, after all, the location of her earthly caer as well as a mirror of her celestial domain. In Celtic myth, water serves as passageway to the Otherworld, and a visit to Caer Arianrhod in Y Mabinogi also requires a voyage by sea.
I see Arianrhod everywhere at the shore. Watch the wet sand in late afternoon, when the sun casts diamonds on the surface of the water, for the trail of stars glittering on a receding wave. Watch the waves for the moment they’ve attained their full height, just as the tip starts to curl over and plunge downward into the bubbling churn. Try to catch the moment when she vanishes from the waves and reappears in the first sprinkling of stars in the evening sky.
Reflections on water
Still water can also serve as a gateway to Arianrhod, especially when it reflects the sky. I imagine the inside of her spiral castle as a hall of mirrors reflecting each other to infinity, so you can’t tell above from below. For me, the reflection of the sky on water produces a similar effect.
Look for her her in a starry night mirrored on a lake. Or watch the moon reflected on still water, suggests blogger Rhyd Wildermuth. “Go find some still water. Stare at the moon in it, while also looking at the moon above you. See what arises between them,” he says. “This is part of her mystery.”
Arianrhod is the void of space and all the stars within it. I can always find her among the stars. Here, she feels vast and remote to me, filling up the night sky with her presence. Her celestial abode hints at the mysteries of the far reaches of space.
Lie on your back and watch the zodiac wheel above you. See if you can pick out the constellation Corona Borealis, her caer among the stars. Pinpoint the North Star, the world axis around which her castle revolves. According to Wildermuth, there’s also a mystery to be found by gazing at the stars through the needles of a pine, linking Arianrhod to Dionysus. “Stare from the base of a pine tree at the light of the stars as they filter through the branches and needles,” he says. “Then, think about Desire.”
Walking the labyrinth
Arinarhod’s revolving castle is sometimes described as labyrinthine, and any spiraling motion can serve as a gateway to her fortress. Smoke spiraling upward reminds me of the ascension of souls to her realm for rest and rebirth. Spiral patterns found in nature, such as a snail shell or the curl of a fern bud, bear her signature.
One of my favorite ways to find her is to walk the labyrinth. She’s a goddess-in-motion, so connecting with her on a kinesthetic level feels right to me. Spiraling inward and then back outward mirrors the soul’s journey of death and rebirth, which Arianrhod oversees from her Otherworldly caer.
Finding Arianrhod hasn’t been an easy journey. She’s been a goddess in hiding for a long time. But I believe she’s begun to re-emerge. And the more I get to know her, the more I see her everywhere.
Featured image via Wikimedia Commons