Gwydion ap Dôn

Synopsis:

An investigation into Gwydion ap Dôn is being shared here with the Druidic Dawn Community.

Gwydion ap Dôn is introduced to the reader through the story within Mabinogion, concerning Arainrhod, LLeu and Math. One may be left with the impression his role is one of a magician conjuring up mirages and creating people from spring flowers such as Blodeuwedd. Along with the ability to shape shift Llue in an Eagle form back to a human being. However there is another side of Gwydion, when assisting his brother Gilfaerthwy when besotted over Math foot holder Goewin. Once again an illusion is used against Math ap Mathonowy the ruler of Afon (Gwynedd) is made to believe the region is under attack by Pryderi from Dyfed (Pembrokeshire). Thus it enables Gwydion to assists his brother with his desire for Goewin during Math absent from court. Yet once Math and Pryderi has seen through Gwydion ploy, it seems that he does not have the ability, or magic to protect himself, or his brother from the punishment imposed by Math ap Mathonowy. This is when Math transforms then both into various animal forms, inclusive of swapping their gender so that each bears an offspring.

There too is the story where Gwydion procures the otherworldly hogs or pigs from Pryderi ap Pwyll in Dyfed. The adventure of there procument once again illusion of magic is utilised after which the pigs are driven to Arvon. The resulting raid with Pryderi and his warriors in hot pursuit culminates in a conflict between the two regions. This comes to a head in the battle at Mynford where according to the story Pryderi forces are beaten back inclusive of Pryderi being slain on the battlefield. [1] Additionally the route undertaken by Gwydion and each resting place is celebrated in the landscape with the name of Moch (pig) being within its place name. [2]

From these various abbreviated stories Gwydion appears to be a magician of some calibre; but his powers appears not to match those of Math ap Mathonowy. Indeed it is Gwydion and Math joint magical powers that create the flower maiden Blodeuwedd. It would appear this might be the only attribute’s, which can be learnt about Gwydion through the literature. However scholars have combined all three stories which flow together where the acquisition of the hogs, and then the ploy used by Gwydion to assist his brother craving; followed by the suggestion of Arianrhod becoming the footholder afterwards. [3] Where as the Mabinogion treats some of these as separate stories in there own right. However our attention should be drawn to the school of thought where myth can only be understood through associated mythical stories of these legendary figures. [4]

Turning to the Triads, which have relevance to Gwydion, it supports the magician attributes. But these would appear to have been learnt from Math, suggesting he was his teacher in these arts. In turn this might explain why he was unable to counteract the spell Math placed on him and his brother, for violating Goewin.

Apart from the magician element of Gwydion, the triad informs he was also an astronomer. Lady Charlotte Guest and Rev J William ap Ithel and the Rev Evan Evans associates Gwydion with the stars. [5] This tradition appears to be current during the renaissance period, which affected Wales from the 16th century, such influences gained more momentum later on. It is here, the beginning of the antiquarian movement which affected Wales along with the bardic tradition revival; while some might also refer to this, as the celtic revival period. During this time there was a thrust for recording and rediscovering the past, which was in line with the renaissance classical thinking on which its based. Even later in the 18th and 19th century a fabrication of that past was endorsed in some circles. It is within these periods the astronomer attributes can be found recorded within the triads.

However it’s might not be in the present definition of Astronomy which one understand it refers too today. Two stories concerning Gwydion and the stars appear, from John Jones of Gelli Lyvdy (1585-1657/8), where it concentrates on the travels of Gwydion in search for his missing son Huan ap Gwydion. [6] Gwydion had learnt his wife was plotting to kill him. Gwydion in his search eventually arrives at Caer Wydion on the Milky Way it’s here he learns the whereabouts of Huan soul. The travels in which he makes to find Huan may conjure up images of other world travel, where he transcended amongst the stars in hot pursuit. Subsequently on his return, and seeking out Huan young wife, he transforms her into a bird as she flew away from him. The bird became known as Twylluan the “deceiving owl." The other reference is reproduced by the antiquarian Lewis Morris (1701-79) from texts produced David Jones (1573-87). [7] Here the recorded tradition appears in Morris writing, indicating that Gwydion movement across the sky his trail became marked with the stars, highlighting the path he followed thus creating the Milky Way; [8] subsequently later in the work of Rev Williams ap Ithel we find stella associations with Caer Wydion or Gwydion. Another interesting point is Lewis Morris has Gwydion looking for his own wife and not that of his son Huan ap Gwydion. Where as, it is previously refers to the wife of Gwydion son Huan. [9] This could be problematic, but interestingly Huan appears to be an archaic word for the female Sun; [10] this often gets confused with Haul the name of the masculine Sun, the same as Sul or Sol. [11]

The story concerning the plot againt Gwydion son Huan, suggests its likely to be a fragment, which shows similarities wth the story of Llue Lawgyffes. Whether this is a more archaic version of the same story is a probability but unfortunately remains in complete. An additional point about Gwydion, which is worthy of note, is the gwely. The gwely is basically an area or territory of land which has becomes named after the founding member of a family group. A tact of land is still known by this name which streches from Dina Dinlle right along to behind Maen Dylan. However the problum here is although the gwely has been extensively researched and identified as a family unit holding of land, speciffically dating from the 1400's in the Conwy area. It is uncertain whether this particular area relating to Gwydion can be traced back further at present, with its associated gwely namesake within the historical records.

Nonetheless the oral folklore concerning the Maen Llwyd was partly incorrect in respects to Gwydion resting place in the 19th century. So where is Gwydion grave? According to the 'Stanzas of the Graves,' recorded in Peniath Ms 98B which is in the hand of Wiliam Salesbury records its location. There doesn't appear to be any record in either the Black book of Carmarthen or the Red Book of Hegest, which I can see. However according to this Mss, Gwydion is buried under the stones of Defeillion at Morfa Dinlleu. While others such as R. Fenton in his Tour of Wales, indicates that Gwydion is buried in the marsh that once surrounded the hillfort at Dinas Dinlle. Whatever is the actual location, in all probability, its been lost in time and space, although it would appear that its nearby the gwely.

© Astrocelt 2004

Last updated April 20, 2005

Bibliography

Prime sources

National Library of Wales, R.V Mss 2026B

NWL MS1619

NWL 13103B

Secondary Sources

Anwly Sir Edward (ed), Spurrell's English-Welsh Dictionary, Caermarthen 1916 7th edition

Bartrum P, Welsh Classical Dictionary, Nation Library of Wales, 1993

Fenton R., Tour of Wales. London 1917 (ed. John Fisher)

Griffiths, B., and Jones, D. G. (eds) Geriadur yr academi- Acadenic Dictionary (Welsh), University of Wales Press 1995

Griffiths, W.J., Math vab Mathonowy, University of Wales Press 1928

Guest, C., Lady, Mabinogion Llandovey, 1849 vol. III

Jones, T 'The Black Book of Carmathern Stanzas of the Graves, in Proceedings of the British Academy, 1967, Oxford University Press

Lewis Morris, Celtic Remains, Cymmrodorian Society (supplementary Issue), 1878

Seebohm, F., The Tribal System of Wales, Longmans, Green and co, London 1904 (2nd edition)

Williams, J., (ap Ithel), Braddas, Barnard Quaritch, London 1862, 1874 vol. II

Notes

[1] R.V Mss 2026B p. 43

[2] W.J Griffiths considers that the place names have no relationship to the legend of acquiring the swine. However the place names originate due to their connection with the animal see p. 342

[3] Bartrum P, 1993 Welsh Classical Dictionary, NLW

[4] Levi-Straus takes the view that both Science and Myth act as educational tools in different processes of thought. Myth can only be explained by other myths, thus they remove themselves from any historical framework when analysed. Therefore individual myths form a total structure of meaning derived from the mystic system. Myths exist through there relationship to other myths while forming their own unique cultural patterns.

[5] NWL MS 13103B, Braddas, and Mabinogion 1849 p.225

[6] NWL MS1619

[7] See Bartrum P., 1993, p. 369

[8] Lewis Morris, 1878, p. 231 for alternative description from David Jones.

[9] R.V Mss 2026B p. 44

[10] See Anwly E., Sir 1916 p. 198 and 203, and Bartrum P 1993, p. 369

[11] See Bruce Griffiths & Dafydd Glyn Jones (eds) 1995, p. 1405 and 1406


Tags:
Celtic, Druidry, Gods and Goddesses, Gwydion ap Dôn, Wales,
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Oak King's picture

Gwydion ap Don

Wonderful stuff, thanks AC for your articles on our Welsh 'heroes'. I personally can't get enough of them and hope this will trigger off a lively and fruitful discussion. Did I miss something or did you omit to mention that Gwydion was also 'the best teller of tales in the world', not only entertaining Pryderi's court but then also making for Caer Arianrhod in the guise of a bard? Will be studying the articles more deeply over the next couple of weeks and hopefully be able to add one or two comments to the debate.

Blessings,

Holger