The river Severn is the longest river in the UK. At 220 miles long, it travels from the Welsh mountains into England, and is home to a wealth of wildlife. In Welsh, the river is called Afon Hafren, and Hafren is the Welsh name of the Goddess who governs this important landmark. In Latin, her name translates to Sabrina.
Not much is known about the Goddess Sabrina, but there are a couple of stories involving her that we can draw upon to give us more of an insight into this Goddess.
The most well-known tale involving Sabrina is actually more centred around her father and his relationships. We know of it from Geoffrey of Monmouth's influential 'History of the Kings of Britain', written around 1136.
Her Grandfather was Brutus, the leader of a band of Trojan exiles from Italy. They had settled in England with Brutus as heir King, and when he passed after 24 years of rule, his lands were divided between his sons. His youngest son (Albanact) took what is now Scotland, his middle son (Camber) took what is now Wales, and his oldest son (Locrinis) took what is now England. He later became known as King Locrine of Loegria, and is Sabrina's father.
King Locrine was engaged to Guendolen, daughter of Corineus, the King of Cornwell in what is seen as a marriage of diplomacy. However, King Locrine fell in love with another, and it was this love that would prove to be his, and Sabrina's, downfall.
During Locrine's reign, Britain was invaded by the Huns, led by their Chief Humber. Locrine led the fight against the Huns and beat Humber who was drowned in the river which is now named after him (the river Humber), and his Humber's daughter was taken prisoner. It was love at first sight between Locrine and Humbers daughter, Estrildis, but Locrine had made his oath to Guendolen and her father. Corineus threatened Locrine with a battleaxe and Locrine knew he had to keep his word and marry Guendolen. But his love for Estrildis never faded, and he kept her near the palace, continuing his affair with her even through his marriage to Guendolen.
Locrine had two children; a son named Madan with Guendolen, and a daughter named Sabre (or Sabrina) by Estrildis. Eventually, Guendolen's father died, and Locrine saw his chance; he divorced Guendolen and instead lived with Estrildis and his daughter Sabrina.
Filled with fury, Guendolen raised a Cornish army against Locrine, and the King was eventually slain in battle. Guendolen then took the throne of England for herself, and for their son Madan. She decreed that Estrildis and Sabrina be thrown into the river, and the river named after Sabrina so that Locrine's infidelity would be remembered and bring shame to his name forever.
There is another tale from Welsh mythology which involves Sabrina. Three sisters met to discuss the best way to get to the sea as they greatly desired to meet the waters; these sisters were Severn (Sabrina), Wye, and Rheidol. Rheidol took the shortest and most direct route and reached the sea near Aberystwyth. The second daughter Wye became so distracted with the beauty of the countryside that she wandered for miles before eventually reaching the sea. Sabrina however flew through the Welsh mountains and glided through the valleys before surging into the sea. Out of all of the sisters she became beautiful and peaceful, and yet was often feared for being too powerful.
The poet Milton writes of Sabrina in 'Comus', in which Sabrina rescues a lady because she is 'pure of heart':
"There is a gentle Nymph not farr from hence,
That with moist curb sways the smooth Severn stream,
Sabrina is her name, a Virgin pure
Whilom she was the daughter of Locrine,
That had the Scepter from his Father Brute.
The guiltless damsell flying the mad pursuit
Of her enraged stepdam Guendolen,
Commended her innocence to the flood
That stay'd her flight with his cross-flowing course,
The water Nymphs that in the bottom plaid,
Held up their pearled wrists and took her in,
And underwent a quick immortal change
Made Goddess of the River; she still retains
Her maid'n gentlenes, and oft at Eeve
Visits the herds along twilight meadows
The clasping charm, and thaw the numming spell,
If she be right invok't in warbled Song.
For maid'nhood she loves, and will be swift
To aid a Virgin, such as was her self
In hard besetting need, this will I try
And adde the power of som adjuring verse."
I have found that Sabrina is a great deity to work with when you need to practice compassion, forgiveness, and unconditional love, no matter what you're going through. 'Sweet Sabrina' is a name which suits this Goddess, so call on her when you need to ground, balance, and to help appreciate and celebrate everything you have in your life and walk your path with love and compassion in your heart for all, even those who may have wronged you.
The Weekly Witch:
Once I week I talk about something 'witchcraft' related I have done with my week. How we incorporate witchcraft into our every day lives is always a topic that has interested me, so I wanted to start this blog to explore it further!