Sunday, 17 February 2013

Modron

Photo source http://www.celebratemabon.co.uk Carving of the
Goddess Dea Matrona with child. 
Modron (Mode-ron) is at heart a Mother Goddess. Variations of her name can be found across Europe and will be recognised by many as meaning Mother at a most primal level. Matron, Madron, Matronae, Matrona, Marne.

Modron can be found within the Mabinogion in Welsh literature. She is the Mother of Mabon, Mabon ap Modron, who was taken from her when he was 3 nights old. This is not the story of Modron so much as it is the story of Mabon, to be found within the story of Kilhwch and Olwen or the Twtch Trwyth.

The Mabinogion is a cycle of Welsh legends collected in the Red Book of Hergest, a manuscript which is in the library of Oxford University. From roughly the late eleventh centuary. Mabinogion means 'tales of youth'; although this appellation only applies to a few of the stories, and The Mabinogion is now used as the name of the entire collection. The stories are based on historical characters and incidents from the dark ages in Wales and environs, embellished with supernatural and folklore elements. Throughout there are echoes of primordial Celtic mythology and folklore, including the ancient gods and goddesses.

In Welsh literature, Modron is the daughter of Afallach, king of Avalon/ King of the Fair Folk (Tylwyth Teg). As such, she can also be connected with Welsh Goddess Rhiannon. Like Rhiannon as well, Modron had her son stolen from her when he was but a few days old.

Modron (Matrona) is a Cymric (Welsh), Gaulish and Brythonic goddess known from inscriptions and images in Gaul as well as the Welsh Triads, where she is the mother of the Divine Son, Mabon (Maponos). 
 
Photo Source Unknown
Modron is known from an invocation at Belsme, Haute-Marne, France. This being in the territory of the Belgae. Indeed, the name of the river Marne itself is derived from the name Matrona. Matrona is an aspect of the Celtic mother goddesses, the Matres which are known from literally hundreds of votive altars scattered throughout the entirety of northen Europe such as the Aufunie. Though it should be noted that the Matres are always tripple goddesses and Modron is invariably represented singularly. Statues of the Matres have been found in such diverse lands as Italy, Germany, and Gaul.

Except for the matronymic little of the goddess' own attributes and tales have survived. One of the few of these is Triad 70 from the Trioedd Ynys Prydain which names Modron as the mother wife of Urien of Rheged and the mother of the twins Owein and his sister Morfudd. All except for an episode recorded in the manuscript known as Peniarth 147 which relates specifically to the Triad 70 poem. Here, a tale of the 'Washer at the Frod' type is told. The washer is Modron and the man who encounters her is Urien of Rheged. Like many of the old tales, the story has been re-located from Urien's origins in the old north to Llanferres in Clwyd at a place known as Rhyd y Cyfarthfa (The Ford of Barking) where every evening the local dogs gather to bark at some unknown fear. No man dares go near the place, save Urien himself who ventures out to seek the cause of the dogs' barking. But when he got there he saw nothing but a woman washing at the ford. Urien seized her and had his will of her. However, instead of berating him she blesses his arrival, saying that she had been cursed to wash at the ford until she conceived a child by a christian man. She names herself as the daughter of Afallach and tells Urien to return upon the year's end where she will present him with a son. This he did and received a boy, Owein and a girl, Morfudd.

From this is seems that Modron was known as a Faery Woman and what would be more natural than for such a supernatural being to be the daughter of the King of the Fair folk, Afallach himself.

Today there still exists a well in Cornwall, at Penzance, called St Madron’s Well. The well is located inside the ruins of a small chapel which was built over the well during the early Christian era. St. Madron’s has been called "one of the earliest sites of the Age of the Saints". During the English Civil War the chapel was destroyed by Puritan fanatics, however the well is still well preserved. The legends surrounding it link it back to either being dedicated to Maternus or to a priest from Brittany commemorated as Paternus – a suspicious change of “Mother” to “Father.” St Madron’s Well is famous for its healing, and many a modern pilgrim has left an offering in thanks or hope of health to come. As part of the healing ritual, pilgrims would leave a strip of cloth or ribbon on a nearby tree or bush so that the spirit of the well would perform a healing act upon it. 

Photo Source http://www.authorsden.com
First, let us clarify that there was not a "St. Madron". Modron, is the goddess also referred to as The Mother of Fates, the Spinner of the Threads of Life, the Provider, the Creatrix. She is part of a triad of the Triple Goddess with sculptures of her in the Triple Goddess form found all over Britain, most always near wells. 

Although Modron’s name translates as “divine mother,” she is not the typical interpretation of the Mother. She is the dark Mother, the Earth Mother, associated with the underworld and death. She gives birth to the virgin or maiden. She is the dark, and Her child is the light. Together, they represent the dynamic, ever-changing balance. She teaches that all things whether joyful or sorrowful, are transitory and will pass.

Dea Matrona is mentioned by the Romans in their texts on the Celts living in Gaul though they frequently refer to her as Deae Matronae, triple Goddess figures seen carrying baskets of fruit, cornucopias, and babies. As such She is a Goddess of fertility, both animal and agricultural, and the "Great Mother". The Romans mention many sanctuaries at the source of Gallic rivers. One honouring Matrona is found at the source of the river Marne. She is probably depicted as the double-goddess on a stone carving from the Roman fort at Ribchester in Lancashire.

She is usually a triple-aspect goddess, referred to, by the Romans, as Deae Matres or the Matronae, and depicted as three seated ladies often holding their associated attributes. In Britain, these tend to be babies, fruit and loaves emphasising her role as a Goddess of Fertility in both the human and agricultural world. There was a cult centre in the Cotswolds, at Cirencester, and another somewhere in the Hadrian's Wall region of the North.

Photo source http://en.wikipedia.org Terracotta relief of the Matres, from Bibracte, city of the Aedui in Gaul.
The goddess of peace and children, like other celtic goddesses, she is also a river goddess and is sometimes described as having a triple aspect like the Greek Fates.

Modron is a powerful goddess who lives inside us all. Whether we are male or female, mother through blood or mother through spirit, caretaker or healer, Modron resides in each one of us and in all aspects of nature. She is a deep well of knowledge, the hidden core or wisdom. She is the pervasive presence in our lives, on this earth, that needs no name. She is immanent, all encompassing, and without her, there would be nothing. We worship her every time we care for a sick member of the family, using healing, respecting nature and striving to preserve its beauty for future generations. Her healing mothering presence can be felt in every child's smile and heard in every babbling brook. Her character is mystifying and her story has long been lost. Her power remains as it pulses through each human being who walks on earth.

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