Saturday, November 22, 2014

Three Fairies that Appear at the Birth of a Child

Three Fairies that Appear at the Birth of a Child


Popular superstition has preserved the memory of these goddesses in the three bonnes damesdames blanches, and White Women, met by wayfarers in forests, or in the three fairies or wise women of folk-tales, who appear at the birth of children. But sometimes they have become hateful hags. The Matres and other goddesses probably survived in the beneficent fairies of rocks and streams, in the fairy Abonde who brought riches to houses, or Esterelle of Provence who made women fruitful, or Aril who watched over meadows, or in beings like Melusine, Viviane, and others. In Gallo-Roman Britain the cult of the Matres is found, but how far it was indigenous there is uncertain. A Welsh name for fairies,  Y Mamau, "the Mothers," and the phrase, "the blessing of the Mothers" used of a fairy benediction, may be a reminiscence of such goddesses. The presence of similar goddesses in Ireland will be considered later. Images of the Matres bearing a child have sometimes been taken for those of the Virgin, when found accidentally, and as they are of wood blackened with age, they are known as Vierges Noires, and occupy an honoured place in Christian sanctuaries. Many churches of Nôtre Dame have been built on sites where an image of the Virgin is said to have been miraculously found—the image probably being that of a pagan Mother. Similarly, an altar to the Matres at Vaison is now dedicated to the Virgin as the "good Mother."
In inscriptions from Eastern and Cisalpine Gaul, and from the Rhine and Danube region, the Matronæ are mentioned, and this name is probably indicative of goddesses like the Matres. It is akin to that of many rivers, e.g. the Marne or Meyrone, and shows that the Mothers were associated with rivers. The Mother river fertilised a large district, and 
exhibited the characteristic of the whole group of goddesses.
Akin also to the Matres are the Suleviæ, guardian goddesses called Matres in a few inscriptions; the Comedovæ, whose name perhaps denotes guardianship or power; the Dominæ, who watched over the home, perhaps the Dames of mediæval folk-lore; and the Virgines, perhaps an appellative of the Matres, and significant when we find that virgin priestesses existed in Gaul and Ireland. The Proxumæ were worshipped in Southern Gaul, and the Quadriviæ, goddesses of cross-roads, at Cherbourg