I first came across the word “Sovereignty” during a Celtic Shamanism internship in the mid 90’s. The reference was to the Goddess by the same name in the Mabinogion, the first written collection of Welsh-Celtic-Gaelic Mythos.
In Celtic mythology there are many references to powerful and mysterious woman, many as queens, both mortal and divine like Cerridwen, Brigid, Tethys, The White Lady and Branwen (who has been hovering around me lately.) From the Arthurian stories we have the Lady of the Lake, Igraine, Morgan Le Fay and of course Dame Ragnelle, who teaches Sir Gawain the meaning of Sovereignty. Just in case you are not familiar with that take, here one of the versions I’ve heard, condensed:
While the young King Arthur is hunting a great deer in the forest an armed knight appears and tells the king that he will spare his life if he finds the answer to the following question, “What is it that women most desire?” If King Arthur fails to provide the correct answer then the knight will cut off his head. King Arthur returns to his castle where he is met by his nephew Sir Gawain who suggests they both go out riding into the country looking for the answer. King Arthur returns to the forest where he is met by a crone who tells him that she will give him the answer if Sir Gawain is to marry her. The distraught king returns to the castle where Sir Gawain agrees to the marriage. Arthur returns to the forest, meets the hag, and once she hears that Sir Gawain has accepted her terms, she reveals that what women desire most is sovereignty, the ability to choose for themselves.
Read the entire story here and find out what happens to Sir Gawain and Dame Ragnelle.
“To the Celts, sovereignty was not about the right to rule over a clan or country; sovereignty was a divine power granted by the goddess of the land. The goddess and the land were one and the same. By union with the goddess, the king became connected to the land and the people. The fate of the land became intertwined with his. Any blemish or unworthy deed of his would be felt by the land and any mistreatment of the land would cause him to lose his kingdom. The gift of sovereignty was NOT shared; instead it was bestowed upon the king by the goddess, and he acted as her representative.
The right to choose, as we saw in the The Marriage of Sir Gawain and Dame Ragnelle, is reflected in all of the Great Queen mythos. The goddess maintains the right to choose her lovers and confer sovereignty on a mate she deems most worthy. She acts in the best interest of the land.
In ancient Celtic times, the rulers were mostly men, which ensured the fertility of the land as the land was personified by the feminine. Any king who ruled out of alignment with the good of the land or kingdom lost the support of the Sovereign Goddess. Only when a kingdom was so out of balance did the Great Queen herself battle to reign the land. What is interesting is that female monarchs were considered to have the ability to directly embody the Lady of the Land, Sovereignty HERself, where male monarchs ruled as her consort or champion and never wielded power directly.”1
We celebrate the fourth of July here in the USA today with Lady Liberty standing on her island in the
New York Harbour as fireworks burst around her in celebration of freedom. This magnificent statue, gifted to us by the french perfectly embodies the Goddess Sovereignty. Did you know that when work the statue was begun in the 1870’s by Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi many conservatives viewed her as a “Pagan Goddess with no right to be in a Christian country.” Bartholdi designed her after the Roman goddess Liberty. Libertas, Liberty and liberal come from the root ‘liber’, meaning to be ‘free, unrestricted, unimpeded; unbridled, unchecked, licentious’— all of which belong in the domain of the Goddess.2
I wrote this while looking out at Santa Fe’s colorful landscape. Sovereignty’s image in theses parts is usually depicted in the form of the Virgin of Guadalupe. Greg senses her in the sky where as I sense that she is coiled and slumbering under the earth, waiting for her earthy sister to wake her for the return of the Great Queen.
Fountainhead @GregSpalenka, find a print here
Statue of Liberty: Photographer Fernique, Albert. 1883, public domain
Santa Fe photo ©RoxanaVilla