Arawn

May. 2nd, 2012 02:25 am
blessedbran: (Default)
Arawn of Annwn

PART I

When surfing for information on this figure one may run into a version of Arawn that is a horned god of death, who comes from the underworld of Annwn to conduct the “Wild Hunt” and take the souls of men.

What such a surfer may not know, is that this depiction is far removed from the original depiction of Arawn. He first appears in the White Book of Rhydderch, the source from which we the four branches of the Welsh Mabinogi. In this source, Arawn is marked as an otherworld being by his shock white, red eared hounds, and his dappled horse. He also has the ability to change the appearance of himself, and others.

So where did this change occur? One possible source is another figure called Gwyn Ap Nudd, a figure some take to be another or later the Lord of Annwn. The first appearance of this figure is on the Welsh Arthurian tale of Culwhch and Olwen. There is no explicit statement of him being the Lord of Annwn in this tale however. One possible source of of confusion is that this tale states that Gwyn is given charge over the “Demons of Annwn, lest this world be destroyed.” This may be the reason he is concluded to be the Lord of Annwn as Annwn later becomes a land of the dead and the “demons of Annwn” would be the souls of the dead. However, it is not entirely explicit that Annwn is a land of the dead either.

If, however, it is accepted that Annwn is a land of the dead and if Gwyn became seen as having charge of the souls of the dead, it is only a small leap to connect this figure to the Wyld Hunt that originated within Nordic and Germanic tales concerning Woden/Odin.

PART II

I have re-read the tale of Culwhch and Olwen. I still have not ascertained the source of the idea that Gwyn ap Nudd was a king of Annwn.

He is mentioned a few times 4 or 5 If I recall. The first is in a long list of warriors that Culwhch (I think it’s him speaking, can be hard to tell) swears by. The second is a brief mention that he and another guy fight over this lady once a year. The third is the part that mentions him having the “demons of Annwn” so that they don’t destroy the world. In this part it is being said that Gwyn will be needed for a successful hunt (perhaps this is a huntsman reference). The fourth or fifth (I may be missing one) simply has him talking to another dude with no mention of his title at all.

There is a poem called “cad Goddeu” (battle of the trees) that allegedly tells of a battle between Gwydion and Arawn over some stolen animals. In this, it is alleged that Arawn brings to the battle very strange creatures that possibly could be construed as “demonic.” However, in the long form of the poem, Arawn’s name is not ever mentioned

http://www.ancienttexts.org/library/celtic/ctexts/t08.html

I’ve re-read this a lot, but perhaps I still missed the reference……I doubt it though given the commentary on the bottom. In said commentary, it states that a LATER short version names Arawn and Bran on one side with Gwydion and Amaethon on the other. Amaethon wins by guessing Bran’s name.

However, I cannot find a source for this shorter version at all. I don’t think they are lying, I just can’t find it.

The point? If it can be construed that Arawn led possibly “demonic” creatures to the Battle of the Trees. Then it can be construed that he has charge of the “demons of Annwn” which Culwch and Olwen state that Gwyn ap Nudd has. That would make Gwyn and Arawn one in the same.

This has problems though. the reference to Gwn and the demons of Annwn has GOD placing them lest they destroy the world. Why then would the be allowed loose over some battle and who would be able to lose them if God did the placing?? Obviously, the reference to God is a later christianization of the myth, so it’s actually not a good reference, IMO.

There still seems to be no connection between Gwyn and Arawn, and that Arawn is the only ever king of Annwn in these tales. This is attested by another account in the 14th century book of Talisien where Arthur and seven companions raid Annwn to try to get Arawn’s cauldron.

HOWEVER, cauldron tales are so pervasive in celtic myth that it could just be an adapted, retelling added to arthurian tales.

In the end, my conclusion can only be that Arawn was never a Lord of Death hunting the souls of men. To me he appears a “simple” sidhe king who enlisted the aid of a human, Pwyl of Dyfed, in overcoming his nemesis, Hagvan (to which he seems to have had a geasa).

Gwyn Ap Nudd, by my estimation, is a different character that really can’t be solidly concluded to be the Lord of Annwn. Even if it could be proven that Annwn is indeed a land of the dead, which is a sketchy notion, a figure that simply has charge of the “demons” of Annwn can’t be concluded so easily to be the Lord of the Realm.

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