Annis, Ani or Anu is an ancient Pict/Celt Goddess, the protector of wizards and Goddess of rivers, water, wells, magick and wisdom. And like so many of the Auld Gods, suffered through the advent of Christianity, first being turned into a hideous child-eating Goddess of wells, then when the invaders could not fully banish her, they began to 'civilise' her holy wells - destroying and rededicating them to the thinly guised "St. Anne" mother of the virgin Mary, much in the same manner they did with Brid's temple at Kildare, Ireland. (Brid is likely the maiden face of Annis, with Anu or Danu - the mother Goddess of the Tuatha de Danann - the female in full power face of the Goddess). Holy wells, sacred lakes and clootie wells and shrines are a lingering reminder of this once powerful Goddess. Each time you toss a coin into a wishing well you are carrying out the Rites of Annis. For a token she would grant you your wish - though the new religion maintained it would only be granted through the offering of a small child which she would devour. Even today you will find clootie wells or shrines throughout Britain. Not far from where I live, there is a stream that is a clootie site. People come from miles around bringing socks, scarves or pieces of clothes from loved ones ailing. They dip the material into the water and then tie it on a near by bush or tree in the hopes of curing their illness.
In lower Scotland and Northern English, there was Black Annis, a supernatural being that is thought to be the crone face of the Goddess Danu/Anu. Often she is associated with Cailleach, the crone face of the Goddesses Elphame/Epona. Annis was a Moon Goddess which is reflected by the markings on the stones of the Circle of Calanais and again in Maes Howe.
It is quite possibly it is she who provided to roots for the stories of the Lady in the Lake of the Arthurian Legends. She is best remembered by the arm holding the famous sword, Excalibur, by which means Arthur is chosen to be king. The Lady of the Lake is said to reside in a Faery Realm under Dosmary Pool - (note the 'Mary' in the name - as in being mother of Mary as St. Anne is said to have been.) This may be reinforced by the fact the Lady of the Lake was a mother Goddess of a triad similar in function as Epona or Danu. Excalibur is returned to the Lady of the Lake upon Arthur's death, thus she gave 'birth' to a king by granting the magickal sword and in the cycle of life, death and rebirth, receives the sword once again. One of the earliest tales of the Lady of the Lake is by the German poet Ulrich von Zatzikhoven, he speaks of Lancelot's parents fleeing and Lancelot's father being killed. (King/God sacrifice theme). The faery of the Lake in the form a cloud carries the child away (again, reference to the child given unto Annis) and he abides upon an isle. Thus as her adopted son, Lancelot de Luc (of the Lake) becomes the young princeling which challenges the ageing king/god/sacrifice Arthur for the hand of the goddess/incarnate - the perfect woman, the maiden. At Arthur's death he is returned to the Isle of Avalon, Isle of Apples, in care of the three women Guenevere, Morgan Le Fey and the Lady of the Lake - the maid, the mother and the crone. This reinforces that the Lady of the Lake is indeed an altered form of Annis.
The King receiving his power from the goddess is a reflection of the matriarchal base of the Picts in the pre-Christian society. Having obtained this power, he must return his sword/authority to the goddess in the end to be reborn again. The symbolism is played out in the Picts' rite of 'Sword and Ring'. The female is given a choice between the sword and the ring from the male seeking bonding. He offers her the sword - representing his power, his putting his life in her hands. If she takes this then he becomes the willing king/god/sacrifice and he dies. If she accepts the ring, a symbol of the wheel, of life everlasting, she takes him as her mate. These themes obviously are the basis for the stories of Arthur, Lancelot and the Lady of the Lake and are a renamed Annis.
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