The Silver Wheel



A weird tale appears in the Welsh epic Fourth Branch of the Mabinogi: Math, Lord of Gwynedd, must rest with his feet in the lap of a virgin girl. When his last foot-holder loses her credentials, Arianrhod, daughter of Don and Beli and Gwydion’s sister, becomes a candidate for the position.

As a test of her virginity, she must step over Math’s magic wand. She does and instantly gives birth to twin boys. The first, Dylan, immediately joins the sea spirits. Arianrhod’s brother, Gwydion, takes the other boy under his protection. Arianrhod imposes three taboos on this twin, including the proviso that he will not receive a name until she feels like giving him one. Gwydion eventually tricks her into naming him Lleu Llaw Gyffes. Gwydion manages to subvert the other taboos, too, consistently subverting Arianrhod’s authority.

This is just part of a very complex saga written down by Christian commentators based on much older Celtic oral traditions. Arianrhod is presented as a strange, hostile girl, but older versions may have told of a moon goddess who birthed the sea and sun (or at least the spirits thereof).

Arianrhod’s name means “Silver Wheel” which is a Celtic metaphor for the moon. One of her sons is a sea spirit; the other is associated with the sun. Her mother, Don, may be the ancestress of the entire Welsh pantheon; her father may or may not be Belenus.

Little information survives regarding Arianrhod, but she is beloved in the modern Pagan community. Vestiges of myth indicate that she is an extremely powerful goddess. She owns two fortresses: one in the sky; one on an island in the sea. Arianrhod’s wheel may be perceived as a lunar year; she is sometimes given dominion over the Welsh zodiac and sacred astronomy.

Hidden within Arianrhod’s myth may be a powerful lunar goddess and her attempts to maintain her authority against those who venerate the sun. A full retelling and exploration of themes is found in Sharynne MacLeod NicMhacha’s 2005 book, Queen of the Night (Weiser Books).



Metal: Silver


In Welsh, the Corona Borealis (Northern Crown) is known as Caer Arianrhod, Arianrhod’s Fortress.

Sacred site:

Caer Arianrhod, Arianrhod’s Fortress, a reef off the coast of Gwynedd, Wales, is reputedly the remains of Arianrhod’s island castle, only visible during low tide.


Blodeuwedd; Lleu Llaw Gyffes


Encyclopedia of Spirits: The Ultimate Guide to the Magic of Fairies, Genies, Demons, Ghosts, Gods & Goddesses– Written by :Judika Illes Copyright © 2009 by Judika Illes.

Related Articles


Blodeuwedd ORIGIN: Wales Arianrhod, the mother of Lleu Llaw Gyffes, placed him under various taboos including one preventing his marriage. His uncle, Gwydion, got around…


Arianrod is the Welsh goddess of the dawn, famed for her beauty, whose name means “silver wheel” or “silver circle.” Arianrod is a significant figure…


Belenus The Brilliant One ORIGIN: Celtic Feast: 1 May Belenus is the Latinized name of the Celtic deity called Bel or Belen. That Bel in…