For thousands of years Gods weren’t in human form. Then they seem to have been combined with animals, and then finally became completely human. I think it is our way of trying to understand both them, and our place in the world.
Our more recent myths are very human, with the Gods in actual human form, even though they retain some very Otherworldly attributes. But these are held within myth, and to me the myth is the conduit for a hidden message, not a tale to be taken literally.
So Rhiannon in her story is a woman from Annwn, who rides a strange horse, marries Pwyll, her son is taken, and she is blamed, she is sentenced to carry people on her back, then the child is returned on the night of Beltane when a great monster keeps stealing young horses, and the story continues. The story is entertaining, it is enthralling, and memorable, and tells of a great Goddess, but I don’t think she really married Pwyll, or did any of those things as a human, but the story does tell of the nature of the Horse, of the Spirit of that animal, of the Spirit called Rhiannon.
Gwydion is a git in the myths, but without him nothing would change, the tale and message would stop, so in the myth Gwydion represents Chaos, the causer of change, which is difficult, often unwanted, but also often the bringer of new thoughts, ideas, direction.
Great forces, great powers with their own intelligence, given human form in an effort to understand them. IMO that is.
Couldn’t agree more Damh! Great post!
So do you think Rhiannon was the same goddess before and after she assumed her humanised form? How would people have been aware of her prior to this?
this is interesting~today i was messaging a frind on a pagan forum~she is new to paganism and confused over gods~i said much the same thing you have here.
I love the insight into the Rhiannaon story. I do think that some humans have the ability to merge with animal spirits. Not literally as in the werewolf under the full moon sense, but through the fetch. I also agree with what you wrote here. The Gods are multi -faceted.
We humans, we like to thnk we’re so smart. But can we really, actually, fully grasp the abstract concepts of the Gods? The mind whirls and swirls just to consider them in their complexity! Of course they have to take human form- how else can we ever hope to be able to relate?
Just one example:
Beli Mawr, divine consort of Dôn, “father” of Arianrhod and host of other gods… Referred to as The Great Bull (actually, an Aurochs), finally “morphed” into a more human shape, in the hopes that we can even begin to comprehend him. Strength, primal, pure, raw energy- the quintessential “force”, if you will. Naturally, together with Dôn, the Flow, all things come into being, their “children”, if you will. Energy in Motion, primal force given direction.
But how can we, in our limited human understanding, ever hope to have an actual, personal relationship with something so abstract and archetypal in nature? Ah, the joyous gift of personification- to our mutual benefit, I would say. Gods assume human (or animal, or something “tangible”), to enable us to be able to better get to know them, to understand them. To enter into a relationship with them. Isn’t that what it’s all about, after all?
And of course, the art of personification is a useful Bardic device- but I surely don’t need to tell you that. Humans even give their pets human-like “attributes”, to better relate to them! (I prefer talking to my plants moreso than with the fish in the aquarium, but to each their own).
All these things to better help us relate to, and interact with, the plethora of electrical signals firing off in our grey matter, resulting from the stimuli we are continually bombarded with.
Thanks for letting me ramble a bit!
-Tim (aka Changer)
in Vienna, Austria
p.s.: in addition to my own website, the Gals have put one together for our group over at http://www.awenyddiad.org – we’d love to see you stop by!