“The Divine Son” and “The Son of Light”; God of sex, love, magic, prophecy, and power. The sun god Mabon is also known as the Welsh and Gaulish god Maponos. His name means “great son.” His mother was Modron and his father was Urien, a deity of the underworld. The Book of Taliesen refers to him as the “chief of the glittering west.” Some myths pair Mabon with a brother who represented darkness just as Mabon represented light. And the Black Book of Caermarthen XIX purports to state the location of the grave of Mabon.
As with many Celtic deities, Mabon is thought to have been an actual person. While still in infancy, three nights after his birth, he was taken from his mother to be held captive for eons within the walls of Gloucester. The story of his kidnapping, imprisonment and eventual rescue is recalled in the tale of “Kulwch and Olwen” from the Mabinogion. Upon his release and while a ruler of Wales, he is said to have ridden with Arthur in the Battle of Badon.
The myths surrounding Mabon also state that he was to have been a hunter of great renown, revered not only by the Celts but also by Roman soldiers who patrolled Hadrian’s wall. Even today, traces of this god can still be found. The village of Lochenmaben and the standing stone Clochmabenstane in Dumfriesshire county were named after him.
Is the Mabon Sabbat named for this particular god? No one knows for certain. However it would be appropriate. Mabon is a time for recognition of the eventual sacrifice of the god – to die and be reborn. It is a time for final hunting in preparation for the dark months ahead. In some traditions, it is a time of initiations. Mabon, the god, represents the light of youth, the strength and skills of adulthood, and finally the suffering and sacrifice of the imprisoned, dying and forgotten.
He may have been imprisoned when only 3 days old, and it may have been in Gloucester. He may have had a pet hound called Culhwch, and he may have taken a razor from between the ears of a wild boar, although what a razor was doing there in the first place is not al all clear. Finally, he may have been something to do with King Arthur.
Mabon is apparently derived from Maponos, who by analogy we may suggest was the son of the mother-goddess Dea Matrona. The Irish god Aengus, also known as the Mac Óg (“young son”), is probably related to Maponos, as are the Arthurian characters Mabuz and Mabonagrain.
In Gaulish, mapos means a young boy or (more rarely) a son. The suffix -on is augmentative. Besides the theonym Maponos, the root mapos is found in personal names such as Mapodia, Mapillus, and Maponius; mapo is also found in the Carjac inscription (RIG L-86). The root is Proto-Indo-European *makʷos. (Delamarre 2003 pp.216-217).
In Insular Celtic languages, the same root is found in Welsh, Cornish and Breton mab meaning son (Delamarre 2003 pp.216-217), derived from Common Brythonic *mapos (identical to Gaulish). In Old Irish, macc also means son; it is found in Ogham inscriptions as the genitive maqui, maqqi, maqui (Sims-Williams 2003 pp.430-431) with a geminative expressive doubling *makʷkʷos. (This is the source of Scottish and Irish names starting Mac or Mc).
He therefore personified youthfulness, which would explain the syncretism with the Graeco-Roman god Apollo.
Modron’s name is alluded to in the Arthurian Tale of Culhwch & Olwen, where she appears as the mother of the Celtic God of Youth, Mabon. She is probably depicted with him as the double-goddess on a stone carving from the Roman fort at Ribchester in Lancashire. Confusion with later mortal characters indicates that her father was probably Afallach, God of the Underworld. Little else is known of her directly, but her name, meaning ‘Divine Mother,’ shows she is almost certainly the ubiquitous Mother-Goddess to be found throughout the Celtic World.
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 a Goddess of Fertility in both the human and agricultural world. There was a cult centre in the Cotswolds, probably at Cirencester, and another somewhere in the Hadrian’s Wall region of the North.
In later times, sites associated with Modron may have been transferred to other semi-historical figures of similar name. For example, Carn Fadrun on the Lleyn Peninsula, which is said to have been the sometime home of Queen Madrun of Gwent; or Madron around Penzance, supposedly settled by Madern, a male saint reverred on 17th May. Most famous, however, is her link with Morgan Le Fay of Arthurian romance. In these chivalric tales, this lady is described as a healer who lived on the mystical Isle of Avalon with her nine sisters, like the Greek Muses. She had a triple aspect with the Queens of Northgalis (North Wales) and the Wastelands. Her epithet clearly shows her immortal origins, though she later had dark overtones attached to her through deliberate confusion with the Irish War-Goddess, the Morrigan.
Modron was the Welsh goddess of fertility or the mother goddess. Modron was the daughter of the god, Avallach. Modron was the mother of Mabon, according to the tale of Culhwch and Olwen.
There was in Rhyd y Gyfarthfa or the “Ford of Barking”, where hounds to come to this place to bark, and people were frightened to go there to investigate why. One day, Urien Rheged came to this ford and found a woman washing clothing. Urien found this washing woman very attractive, and she was very pleased that he had come here, breaking some sort of curse or spell that was placed upon her. Apparently, she was fated to wash in this ford until she had a son by a Christian. It was at this point that the sounds of barking have stopped, when he slept with her. She told Urien that she was a daughter of the king of Annwfn.
Modron was not only the mother of Owain (Yvain); she also had a daughter named Morvudd. The Welsh Triads, often mentioned Owain being her son. Morvudd’s name was also mentioned in the tale of Culwch and Olwen.
The fairy queen and sister of King Arthur, Morgan le Fay, was most likely derived from Modron, because they both had the same husband and the same son (Owain).
Modron appearance of washing clothes at the ford, was a form of banshee, known as the Washer at the Ford. In Scottish Gaelic folklore, they were known as bean nighte, where they were said to wash the bloodstained clothes of the one who were about to die. There was no sign of Modron doing this. In the Irish myth, Morrigan had also washed clothes in the river on the night she sleep with Dagda. Modron was sometimes identified with this Morrigan as well as with Morgan le Fay.
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