Today I want to look at an aspect of Rhiannon that is always there in this ephemeral, corner of the eye, sort of way. That is her role as a dream goddess! In The Mabinogion her connection to dreams is not explicitly stated. This is mostly a read between the lines thing for those who study the story of Rhiannon.
Rhiannon is a goddess that is a faerie queen, and that links her to the Faery realm. The Faery realm is a special place that is full of magic, and runs very differently from our realm. The unique nature of Rhiannon’s ancestry (even in The Mabinogion where she is demoted to faerie queen instead of goddess) gives her magic and other special abilities. Her connection to horses shows her as a sovereignty goddess. The Adar Rhiannon, her birds, have magic in and of themselves. This ability of the Adar Rhiannon to “raise the dead and lull the living to sleep” connects to a further aspect of the Faery realm, that of the Otherworld. The Celtic Otherworld is both a Faery realm, and one of the dead. It bares a greater resemblance to the Underworld of Greek myth than to the Christian concept of Heaven and Hell, although it is different from either!
The lulling of the living to sleep is both a reference to bringing peace to a troubled mind and also bringing peace to someone on their deathbed. Of course, the raising of the dead is an obvious connection to the ability to control the cycle of life, death, and rebirth! That very association with Faery, the Underworld, and sleep is what makes Rhiannon a dream goddess! She also is a dream goddess in that she is a goddess whose story, and origins, are that of sovereignty.
A goddess being connected to sovereignty does not simply mean that her marriage to a king provides him with the true rule of the land, although that is the basic meaning. To be a sovereignty goddess is to also inspire personal sovereignty to those who honor her! For anyone to find their true personal sovereignty they must follow their dreams. In my opinion, the idea of a connection between personal sovereignty and dreams serves to further exemplify Rhiannon as a dream goddess.
Since Rhiannon is also associated with magic, especially given her faerie origins, this is the final thing that proves her connection to dreams. Magic connects to dreams, in that, many individuals gifted with the power of prophecy or premonition experience their gifts during their dreaming! For those who are able to remember past lives, it is yet again during sleep that they often have flashes of remembrance. Relating magic and dreams does not only occur in Celtic culture, but also in Native American tradition, which is where we get dream catchers! Dream catchers are said to filter the nightmares from the person whose bed they hang above, and then the nightmares are burned away by the light of the sun the next day. Rhiannon can truly help bring peace to the living, especially peace of mind. Peace of mind can come in the form of calming the dreams, much like a dream catcher does!
I hope you have enjoyed learning a little bit about Rhiannon’s aspect of being a goddess of dreams. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!
Note on Image: The image at the top of the post is Rhiannon. I found the image on jackandfriends.com.
- The Mabinogion translated by Sioned Davies
- Rhiannon: Divine Queen of the Celtic Britons by Jhenah Telyndru