The Seasonal Gods and Goddesses of Red Oak Grove
By Bard Dafydd, Pen Offeriad
Red Oak Grove works with a set of four seasonal Deities, rotating in predominance on a yearly cycle. They are Brigedd, Lleu, Rhiannon and Math.
Each Deity has a specific influence upon us: Brigedd causes new things to begin. Lleu creates rapid growth or achievement, Rhiannon causes things to ripen and die, Cernunnos forces the spirit to wait and rest before re-entering the cycle of life. These fundamental influences wax and wane throughout the year and also in our lives, with their maximum general influence occurring at the moment of one of the Solstices or Equinoxes. The Welsh call all of these Solar events: 'Alban'.
I believe that it is significant that they use the same word to describe the Solstice and the Equinox. I believe it means that these four events were seen to be equally important in some way. Could it be because at some point there were similar observances held on each of these dates? There is absolutely no mention of any of these events in the Celtic literature which has come down to us but then, there is almost no mention of any Druidic ritual practices. The Druids seemed to be against the recording of their practices, as a matter of principle. Isn't it possible, therefore, that the Welsh Druids actually did observe the Solstices and Equinoxes, and held special Rituals to honor them, which they called 'Alban'?
I don't know about them, but I know that at Red Oak Grove we do.
Our 8 Holidays
Exactly halfway between each Alban is a Holiday that we know the Celts celebrated publicly. These were sometimes known as the four 'Fire Festivals' and were so popular that three of them are still celebrated in America today as Ground Hogs Day, May Day and Halloween. The Irish called them Imbolc (In the belly), Beltane (Fires of Bel), Lughnasadh (Feast of Lugh) and Samhain (End of Summer). The Welsh called them Canol Gaef (Middle of Winter), Calen Mai (Beginning of Summer), Calan Awst (First of August) and Calen Gaeaf (Beginning of Winter).
According to the practices of our Grove, at these points the presently reigning Deity's influence has waned enough that it begins to be overshadowed by the influence of the next Deity in the cycle. For one moment their power is equal and balanced, then the new Deity's power becomes gradually more dominant.
Therefore, each Deity is honored as the 'Deity of the Occasion' at three Holidays in a row. At the first one they are just becoming more influential than their predecessor. At the second they are at the peak of power and influence. At the third they are just barely more powerful until they are subtly eclipsed by their successor.
To a lesser extent, the annual cycle can be seen in the cycle of the day. To maximize the effect of these cycles, when we honor the Deities by themselves, we hold the Ritual at the appropriate time of day. For example, we hold our Spring Equinox Ritual at Dawn and our Summer Solstice Ritual at High Noon. Our Fall Equinox Ritual is held at Dusk and our Winter Solstice Rite is always at Midnight.
Each of these Deities is seen to have three aspects, or to age and grow through 3 distinct phases during the time they are having their strongest influence on the Earth. To make a stronger emotional connection with ourselves, we picture them growing through typical phases of human development. Most of the critical transitions in a person's life are represented. This gives us a model to look up to, as we make these transitions ourselves.
AttributesDeity Major Influences Agriculture Lifetime Brigedd Inspiration, Healing, Smithcraft Germination Conception - Childhood Lleu Skill, Joy, Passion Growth Adulthood Rhiannon Nurturing, Protection, Harvest Decline and death Math Magic, Justice, Learning Fallow Time between lifetimes
AssociationsDeity Season Hour Direction Color Tool Gate Element Brigedd Spring Dawn East Blue Chalice Well Water Lleu Summer Noon South Yellow Sword Fire Fire Rhiannon Autumn Dusk West Red Sickle Tree Earth Math Winter Midnight North Black Wand Mind Air
(Cernunnos): © Copyright 2006 Heather Hartnett
Cernunnos is the Master Sage. He lives 'In-Between' all sets of opposites and all extremes. He is the Gate Keeper Between the Worlds. He teaches us to look within to find all the answers we seek. We already have all the tools and skills we need.
(Brigedd): © Copyright 2006 Heather Hartnett
Brigedd is our Goddess of Healing, Inspiration, new beginnings, wells and hearth fires so She is honored at Dawn and in the Spring. She is first honored at Canol Gaeaf (Imbolc) when she is seen as a young girl, perhaps nine years old. At Alban Eilier (Spring Equinox) she is pictured as an adolescent, facing puberty with trepidation. At Calan Mai (Beltane) she is imagined to be a young woman, becoming sexually active. (Note: There is no satisfying Goddess in the Welsh tales that corresponds with Briget, so we study the Irish stories of Briget and spell Her name like the Welsh word 'brigedd', which is an archaic Welsh word meaning 'excellence' or 'height'. The pronunciation is almost identical, but with a hard 'g' like 'get'.)
(Lleu): © Copyright 2006 Heather Hartnett
Lleu is our God of skills, passion, aggression and playfulness so He is especially honored at Noon and in the Summer. At Calan Mai he is a young lover. At Alban Hefin (Summer Solstice) he is a fierce warrior. At Calan Awst (Lughnasadh) he is a wise and aging King but longing to return to his own days of games and adventure. (Note: We believe Lleu to be the same Deity as Lugh so we study the Irish stories of Lugh as well as the Welsh stories of Lleu.)
(Rhiannon): © Copyright 2006 Heather Hartnett
Rhiannon is our Goddess of fertility, nurturing and the harvest so She is honored most at Dusk and in the Autumn. At Calan Awst she is a young woman, heavy with child. At Alban Elfed (Autumn Equinox) she is a strong mother, defending her children. At Calan Gaeaf (Samhain) she is a crone, concerned with the act of Death. She is associated with horses and birds
(Math): © Copyright 2005 Heather Hartnett
Math is our God of justice, and also the God of meditation, magic and transformation so we concentrate on Him especially at Midnight and in the Winter. At Calan Gaeaf he is a powerful king. At Alban Arthan (Yule) he great magician, able even to create humans out of flowers. At Imbolc, he is dying, waiting to pass on his kingdom.
To teach people about these Gods and make them come alive, I decided to write a series of eight short stories. Each story takes place on the day of one of the Holidays. In each one, the Deity faces some difficult aspect of transition -- either alone, or with another one of our Deities. (Note: I wrote these stories when Cernunnos was our 'Winter' Deity. Later on we changed things a bit, but I haven't re-written the stories.)
The idea is to tell the story at the appropriate Holiday, as a way to guide the people into a better understanding of our Gods and get them in the mood of the season. I've told some of these stories for two or three years in a row now, and the people who have heard them before have looked forward to hearing them again.
The stories could also be told when a Grove member was facing a particular life crisis, no matter what time of year it happened to be. For example, a young girl troubled by the onset of Puberty could be told the story 'Turning Point' to help her through the transition, or a dying Grove member could be told the story 'First Light'.
You can find these stories here.