The Cold Moon is cold indeed in Central Europe and the British Isles. It is almost never snowy but it is bone-chilling and often bleak. The sun shrinks down to the southern horizon, so that even at noon it shines crosswise across the land, throwing huge stark shadows, if it is visible at all. Mostly it isn't though and the sky and land are gray in the fallow time.
It is at this moon that Celtic myths tell of imprisonment, ordeals, fierce storms and transformation. And yet it is also the time of rekindled hope, the sun almost disappearing and then returning, miraculously at last.
I have chosen to celebrate the Celtic goddesses for this moon. They are sometimes harsh in aspect but also embody the promise of solace and hope that the winter solstice brings. The Maiden for this moon is Aine, both a sun and moon goddess often recognized near the solstices; the Mother is Rhiannon of strength and steadfast courage in the face of unjust punishment; and the Dark Goddess is Cerridwen with her cauldron of change for the turning of the new calendar year.
The Waxing Moon
Aine is an Irish goddess of the land connected to both sun and moon. Her connection to the land means that she has the power to make a man king.
While she has many consorts, such a relationship must be on her terms. Several times in myth, she is forced to be with a man who desires power—raped by a king and captured by another man while sitting on the shores of a lake. But she escapes and takes her revenge, denying sovereignty to those who abuse her or the land.
Aine is bright and fertile, a high lady of healers and a protector of women, particularly women who have been abused. Today many rituals call on Aine to comfort and aid the victims of abuse or to bring justice to their abusers. (Burdette 2014) We can connect with Aine for rituals of healing (including healing for specific parts of the land), protection and calling on the sun for light and the powers of creativity. Her symbols are geese, the sun, the moon and apples. Use fir or apple scents.
Rhiannon was falsely accused of a terrible crime. She endured with dignity both the grief of a lost child and the great hardship of unjust punishment and humiliation. In times of injustice, hardship, misfortune or illness and when the sorrow of infertility spreads its shadow, we need Rhiannon’s courage and steadfastness along with the hope of eventual justice.
Still, there is no promise that we will be given all of our desires. Rhiannon suffered and was not actually granted a reward in compensation. Instead the hardship itself gifted her with even greater inner strength than she had possessed before. Her sorrow ended at last when her child was returned to her. She didn’t get revenge. Instead she continued to be a mother to the people. She was the one who was stronger and thus the one who could endure. Her symbols are horses and three magical birds who can both raise the dead and put the living to sleep. (Skye 2007)
You can connect to Rhiannon by doing horse-related crafts or putting up horse decorations. Put this quote of a Druid triad on your altar: “There are three spiritual instructors: worldly misfortune, bodily illness, and unmerited hatred.” Add a picture of Rhiannon and three bird figures or three candles (if possible decorated with birds or shaped like birds).
Also, do a Tarot reading or allow children to choose a Tarot card that they like and discuss the meanings and lessons of the cards. Tell the story of Rhiannon. Put out bird seed or homemade bird feeders for the birds who accompany Rhiannon. In today’s world unmerited hatred often comes in the form of racism, sexism, homophobia or ablism. Listen to the music of inclusion and anti-prejudice movements. Use the wood of oak and the greenery of holly at this time.
The Waning Moon
Cerridwen is the keeper of the cauldron of spiritual transformation. She is considered a dark goddess primarily because transformation of this magnitude usually hurts. She also governs death, rebirth, prophesy, magic and divine inspiration. She gives moral counsel and magical potions of deep wisdom. (Auset 2009)
The moment of standing in a free natural place in starlight is hers—that yearning after mystery which is always just beyond our grasp. Her symbols are a cauldron, a white sow or an old woman in starlight. You can connect to her through rituals of transformation, divination and magic. Burn rosemary and cedar incense. Greenery of ivy or pine is appropriate.
Auset, B. (2009). The Goddess Guide: Exploring the Attributes and Correspondences of the Divine Feminine. Woodbury, MN: Llewellyn Publications.
Burdette, A. (2014). Aine. In Greenfield, T. (Ed.), Naming the Goddess (pp. 90-92). Washington, DC: Moon Books.
Caputi, J. (2004). Goddesses and Monsters. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press.
Hunt, L. (2001). An Illustrated Meditation Guide: Celestial Goddesses. St. Paul, MN: Llewellyn Publications.
Jordan, M. (2004). Dictionary of Gods and Goddesses. New York, NY: Facts On File, Inc.
Koch, J. T., Ed. (2006). Celtic Culture: A Historical Encyclopedia. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, Inc.
Leeming, D. and Page, J. (1994). Goddess: Myths of the Female Divine. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
Littleton, C. S. Ed, (2005). Gods, Goddesses and Mythology, Volume 4. Tarrytown, NY: Marshall Cavendish Corporation.
Loar, J. (2008). Goddesses for Every Day. Navato, CA: New World Library.
Lurker, M. (1987). A Dictionary of Gods, Goddesses, Devils and Demons. New York, NY: Routledge and Kegan Paul Ltd.
McLeod, S. P. (1960). The Devine Feminine in Ancient Europe. Jefferson, NC: McFarland and Company, Inc. Publishers.
Monagham, P. (1997). The New Book of Goddesses and Heroines. Woodbury, MN: Llewellyn Publications.
Monagham, P. (1999). The Goddess Companion. Woodbury, MN. Llewellyn Publications.
Monagham, P. (2014). Encyclopedia of Goddesses and Heroines. Novato, CA: New World Library.
Motz, L. (1997). The Faces of the Goddess. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
Reid-Bowen, P. (2007). Goddess As Nature. Burlington, VT: Ashgate Publishing Company.
Skye, M. (2007). Goddess Alive! Woodbury, MN, Llewellyn Publications.
Slocum, S. K. Ed. (1992). Popular Arthurian Traditions. Bowling Green, OH: Bowling Green State University Popular Press.
Sykes, E. (2002). Who’s Who in Non-Classical Mythology. New York, NY: Routledge.
Woodfield, S. (2014) Drawing Down the Sun: Rekindle the Magick of the Solar Goddesses. Woodbury, MN. Llewellyn Publications.