The energy of the Goddess runs strongly through Samhain’s celebrations. This is the final harvest of the year and a time when death and decay abound. The darker months of shorter days is crowding in and our thoughts turn to home, comfort and healing before the rigors of the next season of growing.
The Goddess as Crone weighs heavy in imagery and Her wisdom is sought out to correct what has gone awry. As the Celtic New Year, the Great Mother’s hand is what we hope will guide our journey as we emerge at the Winter Solstice into the Light of a newly birthed solar power. The Goddess becomes the place of “forming” our intentions that are seeded and quickened by the directive of the God and the union of polarities that organically flows through the Cosmos. These are but a few of the Dark Goddesses that may be called upon as the Veils part…
Hec(k)ate – Greek
Hecate is a triune Goddess, meaning that she holds within her power the gifts of the Maiden, the Mother and the Crone. She is of the Greek pantheon and ancient in her power and energetic signature. This synthesis of her energies plays out in all of the ways in which she is called upon, the Crone being the more dominant of the three at Samhain.
In myth, Hecate is the only child of the Titanes Perses and Asteria ad was given power over heaven, earth and the waters. It is also said that she assisted the Goddess Demeter in her search for her daughter, Persephone and led her through the darkness of night with flaming torches, thus reuniting mother and daughter in the underworld of Hades.
She is often depicted as the dark figure that stands at the Crossroads and associated with the arts of necromancy, witchcraft, herbal lore of the poisonous plants, and all things of magick. Just as the Gates of Hades were guarded by Cerberus, as a Goddess that stands at a quartered threshold between life and death, her companions are the Hounds of Hecate and they assist in prodding to action and ultimately change those seekers who find Her. Because of her command over many of the arts of the Craft, Hecate is often considered the Queen of the Witch’s. In future posts we will experience Hecate’s gifts.
Cerridwen is a Welsh Crone Goddess of magick, wisdom and rebirth. The brew in her cauldron, named Awen (“inspiration”) bestows the transformative energies of brilliant wisdom. In myth, this brew was prepared for Cerridwen’s homely and ungainly son, Morfran. The brew was prepared very carefully and required a year and a day for it to be completed and the drinker to receive its full effects. The next occurrences are ones of undoing for the intended recipient of the potion as the stirrer of the brew accidentally splashes some of the scalding liquid on his thumb; sucks on it to relieve the pain and ingests the potion. The boy, Gwion suddenly becoems very wise and flees the scene realizing the wrath he will incur from Cerridwen. Using teh magick of shapeshifting on the part of Cerridwen and being “one step ahead” by the now wise Gwion the cat and mouse game goes on. Eventually Gwion unwisely becomes an ear of corn and is consumed by Cerridwen as punishment.
In the style of many of these myths, with the ingesting of Gwion, Cerridwen becomes pregnant and upon seeing the beauty of the reborn Gwion cannot end his life. So, she swaddles him in cloth and throws him into the sea where he is rescued and grows to become the bard Taliesin. These themes play out in Samhain’s mysteries of the otherworld and the potential for those who have passed beyond to be reborn anew in grace and wisdom. At a practical level, we all strive for what we perceive that we do not have, and as life often will, opportunity presents itself sometimes accidentally. We fear the repercussions of what we have gained and flee shapeshifting into whatever we feel we “should” be to stay ahead of the game and hope that no one is the wiser to what we have been gifted. Samhain is a time to claim those gifts as our own ad with the help of Cerridwen’s cauldron of inspiration and new life, we may find that we are indeed the intended recipient of such great gifts.
The Crone – Triune Dark
A more generic attribution of the Goddess at Samhain is that simply of her triune nature; the Crone the face presented at Samhaintide. The Crone is considered the Dark aspect of the Goddess, her other two archetypes that of the Maiden and the Mother. She holds within the Wisdom of the ages having experienced the beginnings of life and youth and the fullness of motherhood. She is also the one who is nearest in the cycle of death and rebirth and into her care and keeping of those, benefitting from her wisdom across the veils and into the afterlife. She is the face that is also considered the ‘hag’ in many cultures.
The Crone was the wise woman of the village. Knowledge of herblore, communication with those of the Greater Earth and the magick of midwifery and putting out of its misery what was not viable. Often the Goddess as the Crone will be invoked and sought out at Samhain, serving many pantheons of expression and using the archetypal versus a specific Deity that may not normally fall within your personal work.
The Morrighan – Celtic
The Morrighan is a Celtic Goddess of War and Fate. She holds the gift of prophecy and command especially over the battlefields, determining who will live and who will die of the fallen. She is a shapeshifter and portends of her arrival are the gather in the crows/ravens. As the dominant goddess of Europe she was known as the Great Goddess and tales recount her abilities to move the soul through the cycles of life and death. The Morrighan was also called upon as protectress of the home and in early (Copper Age artifacts) there are depictions of her that bring more light on the extent of her gifts. In the book by John King, The Celtic Druid’s Years, Samhain is considered the mating time between the Dagda (the Great God) and the Morrighan.
She is seen as a bird goddess as well as an earth goddess whose breasts both nourish and sustain life and regenerate those in death. In Irish mythology the Morrighan’s breast were thought to form the hills in County Kerry. In early Celtic artifacts she is identified with images of the number three and the triparte nature of her magick and presence give her the power as a shapeshifter. Most view the Morrighan as a frightening goddess;more so because she is not death, itself, rather the keeper of death. In this way, the Morrighan is also the Wayfarer of light that commands strength and commitment to the path you have chosen, both in this life and the next.
There are many other Goddesses that are honored and called into working during the season of Samhain. Each have a hand in the parting of the veils and allowing for greater communication and interaction with out dear beloveds. Regardless of who you choose to offer your devotion to at this sacred time of the year, you will emerged transformed!
Read more about the cycle of the Goddess:
The Mystery of the Goddess
The Cycles of the God and Goddess Through the Wheel
Stay tuned for three special Samhain posts honoring Hecate…