Arianrhod (pronounced ahr-ee-AHN-hrod) is the Welsh Goddess of the moon and keeper of the wheel of time. Her name means “silverwheel.” She is the daughter of the Goddess Don (often identified with the Irish Danu), and sister of Gwydion and Gilfaethwy. Her uncle Math was a king who was under a peculiar curse—unless he was at war, he had to rest his feet in the lap of a virgin. When his footholder is raped by Gilfaethwy, Arianrhod offers to take her place. To be sure that she was a virgin, Arianrhod had to step over the wand of Math’s magician. As she did so, she gave birth to two children: a boy named Dylan and another boy who was not fully formed. Dylan, whose name means “son of the wave,” went immediately to the sea and swam away. The other boy was taken by Gwydion and hidden away. Arianrhod had fled in shame back to her castle.
The unformed boy grew quickly and Gwydion took him to see his mother. Arianrhod was still ashamed of what had happened, and she placed three curses on the boy: that he would have no name unless she gave him one; that he would have no weapons unless she gave them to him; and that he would have no human woman as a wife. Gwydion took him away and continued to raise him, while trying to figure out a way around the curses.
When the boy was a bit older, Gwydion disguised himself as a shoemaker and went back to see Arianrhod. While he was fitting her for shoes, the boy threw a stone and killed a bird. Arianrhod noticed, and said that the fair-haired boy had a skillful hand. Gwydion threw off his disguise and pronounced that Arianrhod had named her son–Lleu Llaw Gyffes (shining skillful hand). Thus was one of the curses broken.
A few years later, Gwydion and Lleu returned to Arianrhod’s castle, disguised as bards. Gwydion created an illusion of an armada of ships coming to attack the castle. Arianrhod rushed to arm all within the castle against the invaders, and Lleu was one of those that she armed. Thus was the second of the curses broken.
The last curse, that Lleu would have no human wife, was broken when Gwydion and King Math worked together to form a woman out of flowers. They named her Blodeuwedd (face of flowers), and she became Lleu’s wife.
Arianrhod’s cruelty to her son and Gwydion’s efforts to stop her are not without reason. Gwydion had raped his sister, and he was the father of Dylan and Lleu. Arianrhod never forgave him, and her curses on Lleu were meant as punishment for Gwydion. Despite her unwanted motherhood, the most enduring image of Arianrhod is from a statue which has been dated to 100 C.E., in which she is nursing her sons.