The Three Faces of the Goddess:

Elphame
by
DeborahAnne MacGillivray

When one people is conquered by another, a curious phenomenon
occurs.  As the sway of the conquered race shrinks into the background,
they 'take' their beliefs and their Gods with them.  Instead of being
all-powerful and awe-inspiring, the deities'  legends and lore are
relegated into minor importance, such as the Faeries of Scotland
and Ireland, till they become the 'Wee Ones' or 'Little People'.  
No more clearly is this demonstrated than with Elphame
She is now the Queen of Scotland's faeries, her role of a stronger
importance as the bride face of the Goddess, the Goddess of
Horses and War, all but forgotten.

Elphame or Elphane, like so many of the Auld Goddesses and
Gods, suffered greatly through interpretation at the hands of
coming Christianity.  She became the Goddess of Disease and
the Goddess of Witches.  In Robert Grave's classic tale
THE WHITE GODDESS,
he tells of several 16th century Scotswomen on trial for
offence of witchcraft, branded with 'dealings with the
Queen of the Witches, Elphame'.  This resulted in
their being put to death.

Elphame was originally associated with the May Day
festival of Beltaine (literally Bel's fires) and was the Queen of
May.  The old, old American TV show 'Queen for a Day' was a
distant take-off on this rite of selecting a mortal female to
represent Elphame for the day.  Elphame is the 'maiden' for
the female cycle of maid, mother and crone, with Epona the
mother or woman in full power, and The Cailleach the 'old' women
(though that is an incorrect image as she never grew old
but was eternally beautiful).

Thomas Leamouth of Ercildoune, known as 'Thomas the Rhymer'
or 'True Thomas', the seer who predicted the death of
Alexander III and the rising of William Wallace and
Robert Bruce, always maintained she appeared to him on
May Day Eve dressed in green silks and riding a snow white
palfrey, with fifty-nine bells tied in its mane.  (The bells
make her a Pictish Goddess predating the arrival of
the Gaels of Dal Riada, for 'twas their beliefs faeries
shunned the ringing of bells).  It was below Eildon Hill
North, a site of the of the largest Dun (fortress) in Scotland's
History, where she came to him.  So overcome by her beauty, he
ran to Elphame and asked her to lie with him.  She did as he bade,
but then compelled him to join her in Faeryland.  Thomas lived there
for what seemed like seven days, but later discovered to be seven
years!  Before Elphame returned him to Middle Earth, she
bestowed the gifts of truth, poetry and prophecies, then left him
where they met under the Eildon Tree.  The Eildon Stone today
marks the site of the original tree.  If you listen carefully to
this story, you see where the BALLAD of TAM LIN got
is foundations.  Tam is the Scots name for Tom.

The Moon, apple blossoms, silver, cuckoos, hares, robins,
primrose, silverweed and cowlips are associated with her, as
well as the numbers three and five. 
 

Continue on to Epona


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©Copyright 2000
DeborahAnne MacGillivray
All Rights Reserved


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