Rosmerta, a Celtic-Roman Goddess – depicted above at her wooden churn, transforming milk into butter – was once a powerful Lady. Today, with the abundance of dairy at the grocery story, it is difficult for us to realize the tremendous importance of milk and butter among the Old Europeans, let alone the way in which it influenced custom and legend.
Grazing cattle, found both on Earth and in the Otherworld, were powerful symbols of prosperity and independence. In fact, the very survival of a family could hinge on its milk cow, and the making of butter and cream.
Svale Solheim, in Folketradisjonen som historisk kjelde, compiled an exhaustive collection of rituals, spells, prayers, and luck practices to obtain milk and butter. Many of which relating to both Seiðr and Varðlokkur. It seems that women in Norway, Sweden and England have been using “ward songs; guardian songs” for, perhaps, thousands of years; many of which are commonly surmised by scholars to be traditional folk songs with supernatural meaning.
The Lady of Llyn y Fan Fach, a true Lady of the Lake, brought her cattle herd to shore, and eventually taught her human husband and semi-divine children healing Varðlokkur, establishing an origin tale for bovine veterinarians. One example of a Vardlokkur, from the High Tide on the Coast:
From the clovers lift your head;
Come uppe Whitefoot, come uppe Lightfoot,
Come uppe Jetty, rise and follow Jetty, to the milking shed.
Likewise, several other Old European Ladies possessed cattle and oxen (used for ploughing). Brigid of the Celtics had two cows that warned her of cattle theft – anywhere in Ireland; and the Danish Goddess Gefjon used oxen to plough a tract of land in Sweden which became the island of Zealand (ref: Ynglingasaga 5, Gylfaginning 1). But significantly, from Old Norse Lore, Auðumbla – the Primal Cow – nourished the newly formed Earth’s rivers with her udders of ever-flowing milk. In fact, it was Auðumbla who existed long before the Gods, even before the Jötunn Aurgelmir/Ymir, whom she nourished. Audhumla is She who licked the primeval ice-blocks until Buri emerged, a great giant who birthed the Tivar/Gods – making her Mother of the All Worlds. Certainly, this story indicates the great and holy significance of the cow to the Old Europeans. Frankly, it is sad to think that this wisdom is virtually lost through robotic milking machines, commercialization of dairy farming, and the tendency to regard the cow as nothing more than a dumb animal that yields milk, condemned to a short and horrendous life in a factory farm.