Monday, 30 May 2011
The Mixing of Mythologies
Every so often we will come across stories and theories of our deities that seem totally and utterly incompatible with everything we've known about them to that point. Sometimes, after further investigation, we can agree to disagree with these opinions. Personally, for the life of me, I cannot equate Ceridwen to being the consort of Cernunnos, even figuratively, although I realise that there are some that can.
I have been investigating another such conundrum today - that of the Goddess Ker as a British Grain Goddess, and I am stuggling to find corroborating evidence! I have learned that Ker was a Greek goddess, daughter of Nyx, and the goddess of violent death. Sounds nothing like a corn mother to me...
But I have vague memories of past stories washing around my head. Tales of the Irish Invasions and the possible origins of the peoples that came before the Tuatha. There are tales that the very ancient people of Ireland came there by ship, possibly from the regions around Greece. Perhaps, then, it was the same people who also populated ancient Britain - also the Welsh have no Invasion tales, there are remarkable simlarities between the Tuatha, headed by Danu and Bile, and the Welsh House of Gwynedd, headed by Don and Beli. These people will, of course, brought with them the names of the deities they were familiar with.
So, I find a possible source for Ker travelling to these isles, but how does she transmute from having such dark associations to that of the corn and harvest?
Another Greek goddess can perhaps provide my answer. We are all aware, I hope, of the story of Persephone, the daughter of Demeter, the Goddess of Agriculture. Persephone was abducted by Hades and taken down to his Underworld home. There she ate nothing for days, until finally she eats six pomegranite seeds. In the meantime, Demeter has been frantically searching for her daughter, and when she discovers what had happened, she pleaded with Zeus for the return of the girl. Zeus decrees that Persephone shall be released as long as she has not eaten anything at all.
Eventually, an agreement was made, that Persephone would spend six months with her mother, and six with Hades. Demeter thus spends six months with her daughter, in happiness, where the world blooms and crops grow aplenty. Then she spends six months grieving, while Persephone keeps her promise and travels back to Hades, the land becomes dormant and nothing now grows.
Another name for Persephone is Kore, the Maiden, and so we have a deity associated with the seasons, her mother, the Corn Mother, and herself a Goddess of the Dead. Another clue, to the Romans, Demeter is known as Ceres, the Cer- or Ker- meaning "to grow".
I can see the possibilities of mythologies becoming intertwined over the ages, I can see how Ker the Goddess of Violent Death becomes entangled with Kore the Queen of the Underworld, the Spring Maiden and the daughter of the Corn Mother. I can't find any historical information of the British Corn Mother, Ker - but I can't discount the possibility that she is valid. There is also the more profound link that the harvest, the corn, IS life, and a bad harvest will mean hardship and even death. Further still, the cutting of the corn in itself is seen as a death of sorts. It makes sense to me for Corn Goddesses and Death Goddesses to be linked.
I cannot see how Ker could be the consort to Cernunnos though - so I will have to agree to disagree again...so unlike me ;)
Love and hugs
Image: The Return of Perspephone, Frederic Leighton(1891).