The Goddess of Sovereignty
A free 7 part course to follow at your own pace.
The Goddess of Sovereignty is one of the most ancient archetypes found in the Celtic tradition. As well as embodying the abundance and prosperity of the land, she also has a strong connection to sacred wells, divine knowledge and horses. Figures such as Rhiannon and Epona both draw on this sovereignty archetype, and we find signs of her in the mythologies of other Indo-European cultures.
This free 7 part course explores the Sovereignty Goddess’ mythology as recorded in Celtic and Indo-European sources. Drawing on modern research and traditional lore, we will uncover the different strands that make up this ancient goddess’ story, one of the clearest expressions of the divine feminine in the Celtic tradition.
Each part of the course contains a video lecture of 20-30 minutes, extensive notes, illustrations and references, as well as links to further reading. Each part also includes different types of questions for you to answer, helping you to remember the key facts and developing your own understanding of this important deity in Celtic mythology.
You can follow this course at your own pace. It’s accompanied by series of emails to help you get the most out of it and give you additional information and sources.
- A Vision of the Goddess: The Sovereignty Goddess plays an obvious role in medieval Irish literature, where she is an explicit embodiment of the land. In this first lecture we take a look at the 9th century story Baile in Scáil, where Conn, the High King of Ireland, travels to the otherworld to meet the Sovereignty.
- The Goddess Transformed: In some tales the Sovereignty of Ireland transforms from the Cailleach-like hag into a beautiful maiden. This transformation appears to be a crucial part of the goddess’ myth, and in this lecture we discuss what this transformation could mean.
- Goddess of the Well: Holy wells and springs are an ancient feature of the Celtic landscape, and play a part not only in Christian pilgrimage but also in the more ancient Celtic mythology of Ireland and Wales. In this lecture we look at the myth of the sacred well and consider why the goddess cares for it.
- Rhiannon: Goddess or Mortal?: Perhaps one of the most famous examples of the Sovereignty Goddess is Rhiannon from The Four Branches of the Mabinogi. But her story isn’t simply that of a goddess; it also reveals the very mortal aspects of this ancient archetype. The lived experience of women appears to be part of this core myth.
- Ancient Celtic Queens: Cartimandua and Boudica are two of the most famous Celtic queens mentioned by classical authors. They were both strong leaders of 1st century Britain, whose spiritual power appears to have been drawn from the Sovereignty Goddess’ of their native tradition.
- Epona’s Children: Epona was one of the most popular goddess’ of Celtic Europe, and perhaps the best example of a horse goddess from the Roman period. Scholars have long seen her as a precursor to figures such as Rhiannon from Wales and Macha from Ireland; but why exactly? Why are these characters her spiritual children?
- The Ancient Horse Goddess: Before Rhiannon, Macha and even Epona, there was Madhavi from the Vedic tradition of Northern India. As one of the oldest examples of a horse goddess and sovereignty goddess from the Indo-European tradition, Madhavi can tell us great deal about the evolution of this most ancient archetype, the Goddess of Sovereignty.
To follow this course, please sign up below.
Created by Dr Gwilym Morus-Baird. He completed his studies at Bangor University School of Welsh in 2011 with a dissertation on the bardic tradition of Medieval Wales. He has worked as a research fellow at the Library of Congress, Washington DC and has taught on courses in several different establishments. In recent years he has focussed on developing his own courses and running workshops for various organisations.