October 16, 2012

Blodeuwedd: Flower Faced Goddess of Wales

Posted in Goddess Project, Goddess Things tagged , , at 10:53 pm by Babs

Blodeuwedd (blod-oo-eeth) is the Welsh flower face virgin Goddess of spring and was made of flower buds, her beauty disguising a personification of the blood-hungry soil waiting to be fortified with the lifeblood of the sacred king.  Her totemic form was an owl, the same bird of wisdom and lunar mysteries that accompanied or represented ancient Goddesses like Athena and Lilith.  Owls were almost invariably associated with witches in medieval folklore.  She was also the Nine fold Goddess of the western isles of paradise, otherwise known as Morgan, the virgin blending into the crone of death.  She said: “Nine powers in me combined, Nine buds of plant and tree.  Long and white are my fingers, as the ninth wave of the sea.” (The White Goddess, Graves., p. 41-42).

Blodeuwedd was created out of flowers by Gwydion to wed Llew Llaw Gyffes.  She betrayed Llew, either because she had no soul, being non-human, or because she resented being his chattel, or because the triplet of one woman and two men must play itself out in Welsh myth and Llew Llaw Gyffes must die.  At any rate, she fell in love with Goronwy and, wishing to be rid of Llew, she tricked out of him the clearly supernatural and ritual manner in which only he could be killed: neither by day nor night, indoors nor out-of-doors, riding nor walking, clothed nor naked, nor by any weapon lawfully made.  She asked him to explain this, and he did: he could be killed only if it were twilight, wrapped in a fish net, with one foot on a cauldron and the other on a goat, and if the weapon had been forged during sacred hours when such work was forbidden.  Blodeuwedd convinced him to demonstrate how impossible such a position was to achieve by chance, and when he was in it, her lover Goronwy leapt out and struck.  Llew was transformed into an eagle and eventually restored to human form, after which he killed Goronwy.  Blodeuwedd was transformed into an owl, to haunt the night in loneliness and sorry, shunned by all other birds.  (from Encyclopedia Mystica Online circa 2006)

The Myth of Blodeuwedd

Llew Llaw Gyffes, the son of Arianrhod, and Gwydion, the brother of Arianrhod, went unto Math the son of Mathonwy, and complained until him most bitterly of Arianrhod.  Gwydion showed him also how he had procured arms for the youth.  “Well,” said Math, “we will seek by charms and illusion, to form a wife for him out of flowers.”  So they took the blossoms of the oak, the broom, and the meadow-sweet, and produced from them a maiden, the fairest and most graceful that man ever saw.  They baptized her, and gave her the name of Blodeuwedd.  After she had become his bride, and they had feasted, said Gwydion, “It is not easy for a man to maintain himself without possessions.”  “Of a truth,” sad Math, “I will give the young man the best Cantrev to hold.”  “Lord,” said he, “what Cantrev is that?”  “The Cantrev of Dinodig,” he answered.  Now it is called as this day Elvionydd and Ardudwy.  The place in the Cantrev where he dwelt was a palace in a spot called Mur y Castell, on the confines of Ardudwy.  There dwelt he and reigned, and both he and his sway were beloved by all.

One day he went forth to Caer Dathyl, to visit Math the son of Mathonwy.  On the day that he set out for Caer Dathyl, Blodeuwedd walked in the court.  She heard the sound of a horn.  After the sound of the horn, a tired stag went by, with dogs and huntsmen following it.  After the dogs and the huntsmen there came a crowd of men on foot.  “Send a youth,” said she, “to ask who yonder the host may be.”  So a youth went, and inquired whom they were.  “Gronw Pebyr is this, the lord of Penllyn,” said they.  This the youth told her.  Gronw Pebyr pursued the stag, and by the river Cynvael he overtook the stag and killed it.  With flaying the stag and baiting his dogs, he was there until the night began to close in upon him.  As the day departed and the night drew near, he came to the gate of the Court.  “Verify,” said Blodeuwedd, “the Chieftain will speak ill of us if we let him at this hour depart to another land without inviting him in.”  “Yes, truly, lady,”  said they, “it will be most fitting to invite him.”  Then went messengers to meet him and bid him in.  He accepted her bidding gladly, and came to the Court, and Blodeuwedd went to meet hm and greeted him, and bade him welcome.  “Lady,” said he, “Heaven repay thee thy kindness.” When they had made their greetings, they went to sit down.  Blodeuwedd looked upon him, and from the moment that she looked on him she became filled with his love.  He gazed on her, and the same thought came unto him as unto her, so that he could not conceal from her that he loved her, but he declared unto her that he did so.  Thereupon she was very joyful.  All their discourse that night was concerning the affection and love that they felt one for the other, and which in no longer space than one evening had arisen.  That  evening passed they in each other’s company.  The next day he sought to depart, but she said, “I pray thee gogo not from me today.”  That night he tarried also.  That night they consulted by what means they might always be together.  “There is none other counsel,” said he, “but that thou strive to learn from Llew Llaw Gyffes in what manner he will meet his death.  This must thou do under the semblance of solicitude concerning him.”  The next day Gronw sought to depart.  “Verily,’ said she, “I will counsel thee not to go from me today.”  “At thy instance will I not go,” said he, “albeit, I must say, there is a danger that the chief who owns the palace may return home.”  “Tomorrow, ” answered she, “will I indeed permit thee to go forth.”  The next day he sought to go, and she hindered him not.  “Be mindful,” said Gronw, “of what I have said unto thee, and converse with him fully, that under the guise of the dalliance of love find out by what means he may come to his death.”  That night Llew Llaw Gyffes returned to his home.  The day they spent in discourse, and minstrelsy, and feasting.  At night they went to rest and he spoke to Blodeuwedd once, and he spoke to her a second time.  But, for all this, he could not get from her one word.  “What aileth thee,” said he, “art thou well?”  “I was thinking,” said she, “of that which thou didst never think of reward thy care for me,” said he, “but until Heaven take me I shall not easily be slain.”  “For the sake of Heaven, and for mine, show me how thou mightiest be slain.  My memory in guarding is better than thine.”  “I will tell thee gladly,” said he.  “Not easily can I be slain, except by a wound.  And the spear wherewith I am struck must be a year in the forming.  Nothing must be done towards it except during the sacrifice on Sundays.”  “Is this certain?” asked she.  “It is in truth,” he answered.  “I cannot be slain within a house, or without I cannot be slain on horseback nor on foot.”  “Verily,” said she, “in what manner then canst thou be slain?”  “I will tell thee,” said he.  “By making a bath for me by the side of a river, and by putting a roof over the cauldron, and thatching it well and tightly, and bringing a buck, and putting it beside the cauldron.  Then if I place one foot on the buck’s back, and the other on the edge of the cauldron, whosoever strikes me thus will cause my death.”  “Well,” said she,  “I thank Heaven that it will be easy to avoid this.”

No sooner had she held this discourse than she sent to Gronw Pebyr.  Gronw toiled at making the spear, and in a twelvemonth it was ready.  That very day he caused her to be informed thou didst tell me formerly can be true; wilt thous show me in what manner thou couldst stand at once upon the edge of a cauldron and upon a buck, if I prepare the bath for thee?”  “I will show thee,” said he.  Then she sent unto Gronw, and bade him be in ambush on the hill that is now called Brun Kyvergyr, on the bank of the river Cynvael.  She caused also to be collected all the goats that were in the Cantrev, and had them brought to the other side of the river, opposite Bryn Kyvergyr.  The next day she spoke thus, “Lord,” said she, “I have caused the roof and the bath to be prepared,  and lo!  They are ready.”  “Well,” said Llew, “we will go gladly to look at them.”  The day after they came and looked at the bath.  “Wilt thou go into the bath, lord?” said she.  “Willingly will I go in,” he answered.  So into the bath he went and he anointed himself.  “Lord,” said she, “behold the animals which thou didst speak of as being called bucks.”  “Well,” said he, “cause one of them to be caught and brought here.”  The buck was brought.  Then Llew rose out of the bath, and put on his trousers, and he placed one foot on the edge of the bath and the other on the buck’s back.  Thereupon Gronw rose up from the hill that is called Bryn Cyvergyr, and he rested on one knee, and flung the poisoned dart and struck him on the side, so that the shaft started out, but the head of the dart remained in.  Then he flew up in the form of an eagle and gave a fearful scream.  And thenceforth was he no more seen.

As soon as he departed Gronw and Blodeuwedd went together unto the palace that night.  The next day Gronw arose and took possession of Ardudwy.  After he had overcome the land, he ruled over it, so that Ardudwy and Penllyn were both under his sway.  These tidings reached Math, the son of Mathonwy.  Heaviness and grief came upon Math, and much more upon Gwydion than upon him.  “Lord,” said Gwydion, “I shall never rest until I have tidings of my nephew.”  “Verily,” said Math, “may Heaven be thy strength.”  Gwydion set forth and began to go forward.  He went through Gwynedd and Powys to the confines.  When he had done so, he went into Arvon, and came to the house of a vassal, in Maenawr Penardd.  He alighted at the house, and stayed there that night.  The man of the house and his household came in, and last of all came the swineherd.  Said the man of the house to the swineherd, “Well, youth, hath thy sow come in tonight?”  “She hath,” said he, “and is this instant returned to the pigs.”  “Where doth this sow go to?” said Gwydion.  “Every day, when the sty is opened, she goeth forth and none can catch sight of her, neither is it known whither she goeth more than if she sank into the earth.”  “Wilt though grant unto me,” said Gwydion, “not to open the sty, until I am beside the sty with thee.”  “This will I do, right gladly,” he answered.  That night they went to rest; and as soon as the swineherd saw the light of day, he awoke Gwydion.  Gwydion arose, dressed himself, and went with the swineherd and stood beside the sty.  Then the swineherd opened the sty.  As soon as he opened it, she leaped forth, and set off with great speed.  Gwydion followed her, and she went against the course of a river, and made for a brook, which is now called Nant y Llew.  There she halted and began feeding.  Gwydion came under the tree, and looked what it might be that the sow was feeding on.  He said that she was eating putrid flesh and vermin.  Then looked he up to the top of the tree, and as he looked he beheld on the top of the tree and eagle, and when the eagle shook itself, there fell vermin and putrid flesh from off it, and these the sow devoured.  It seemed to him that the eagle was Llew.  He sang an Englyn:

“Oak that grows between th two banks;

Darkened is the sky and hill!

Shall I not tell him by his wounds,

That this is Llew?”

Upon this the eagle came down until he reached the center of the tree.  Gwydion sang another Englyn:

“Oak that grows in upland ground,

Is it not wetted by therein?

Has it not been drenched

By nine score tempests?

It bears in its branches Llew Llaw Gyffes!”

Then the eagle came down until he was on the lowest branch of the tree, and thereupon this Englyn did Gwydion sing:

“Oak that grows beneath the steep;

Stately and majestic is its aspect!

Shall I not speak it?

That Llew will come to my lap?”

The eagle came down upon Gwydion’s knee, and Gwydion struck him with his magic wand, so that he returned to his own form.  No one ever saw a more piteous sight, for he was nothing but skin and bone.  Then he went unto Caer Dathyl, and there were brought until him good physicians that were in Gwynedd, and before the end of the year he was quite healed.  “Lord,” said he unto Math the son of Mathonwy, “it is fall time now that I have retribution of him by whom I have suffered all this woe.”  “Truly,” said Math, “he will never be able to maintain himself in the possession of that which is thy right.”  “Well,” said Llew, “the sooner I have my right, the better shall I be pleased.”

Then they called together the whole of Gwynedd, and set forth to Ardudwy.  Gwydion went on before and proceeded to Mur y Castell.  When Blodeuwedd hear that he was coming, she took her maidens with her, and fled to the mountain.  They passed through the river Cynvael, and went towards a court that there was upon the mountain.  They passed through the river Cynvael, and went with their faces looking backwards, so that unawares they fell into the lake.  They were all drowned except Blodeuwedd herself, and Gwydion overtook her.  He said unto her, “I will not slay thee, but I will do unto thee worse than that.  For I will turn thee into a bird; and because of the shame thou has done unto Llew Llaw Gyffes, thou shalt never show thy face in the light of day henceforth; and that through fear of all the other birds.  for it shall be their nature to attack thee, always called Blodeuwedd.”  Even today the word “Blodeuwedd” means owl in the Welsh language.

The Gronw Pebyr withdrew unto Penllyn, and he dispatched thence an embassy.  The messengers he sent asked Llew Llaw Gyffes if he would take land, or domain, or gold, or silver for the injury he had received.  “I will not, by my confession to Heaven,” said he.  “Behold this is the least that I will accept from him; that he come to the spot where I was when he wounded me with the dart, and that I stand where he did, and that with a dart I take my aim at him.  This is the very least that I will accept.”  This was told unto Gronw Pebyr.  “Verily,” said he, “is it needful for me to do thus? My faithful warriors, and my household, and by foster-brothers, is there not one among you who will stand the blow in my stead?”  “There is not,” answered they.  Because of their refusal to suffer one stroke for their lord, they are called the third disloyal tribe een unto this day.  “Well,” said he, “I will meet it.”  Then they tow went forth to the banks of the river Cynvael and Gronw stood in the place where Llew Llaw Gyffes was when he struck him, and Llew in the place where Gronw was.  Then said Gronw Pebyr unto Llew, “Since it was through the wiles of a woman that I did unto thee as I have done, I adjure thee by Heaven to let me place between me and the blow, the slab though seest yonder on the river’s bank.”  “Verily,” said Llew, “I will not refuse thee this,”  “Ah,” said he, “may Heaven reward thee.”  So Gronw took the slab and placed it between him and the blow.  Then Llew flung the dart at him, and it pierced the slab and went through Gronw likewise, so that it pierced through his back.  Thus was Gronw Pebyr slain.  There is still the slab on the bank of the river Cynvael, in Ardudwy, having the hole through it.  Therefore it is even now called Llech Gronw.  a second time did Llew Llaw Gyffes take possession of the land, and prosperously did he govern it.  And as the story relates, he was lord after this over Gwynedd.

Invocation to Blodeuwedd – by Kirk S. Thomas

 Come, Lady who was never born,

Come, Lady of the wild.

Come, She who is  called Flower-Face,

For nature is beguiled.

But Gwidion and Math, You know,

Lleu’s sadness would dispel.

From Broom and Oak and Meadow Sweet

They worked Their mighty spell.

Their magic swirled, the spell unfurled,

And worked just as it should.

The flowers were no longer here –

In beauty there You stood!

O come to us, sweet Blodeuwedd!

The winter’s chill abates.

‘Tis summer now, and love is nigh;

Your fair-haired God awaits!

The legend of Blodeuwedd is also the story of Llew’s struggle for his kingship which was averted and made more difficult by the Goddess Arianrhod, who tried Her best to prevent Llew, Her son, his birth-right due to the shame brought upon Her by his companions.

In short, Arianrhod stated that he would not receive a name, unless it be from Her’ he would not receive his arms, unless it be from Her, and, he could never marry a mortal woman.  Thus, he could not become king unless it be through Her auspices.  In order to assure that Llew would survive long enough to attain his kingship, some magick was given to him in the form of the circumstances of his death.

As has been typical of the Celts, his death could only be accomplished through a set of very unlikely and almost preposterous circumstances.  He could not be killed indoors or out, on horse or on foot, and the spearhead capable of killing him had to be cast during a sacred period of time.  Arianrhod was tricked into giving Llew his name and his arms but the larger problem of having a wife, which would assert his right to the land, was accomplished through the magick of his cousins, Math and Gwydion, who created Blodeuwedd from the flowers of the Oak, Broom and meadow-sweet.

Due to the nature of Her birth, Blodeuwedd – whose name means either “Flower Face” or the ancient name for the Owl and represents the Earth in full bloom. Through their marriage, Llew’s requirement of marrying the land and thus, his Sovereignty is completed.

One day, Llew goes hunting, leaving Blodeuwedd along with Her ladies in the castle.  A young huntsman, Gronw, later seeks shelter and he and Blodeuwedd experience love at first sight.  Wanting nothing more than to be together, Gronw persuades Blodeuwedd to discover the improbable circumstances surrounding Llew’s death, an act he would help to accomplish.  This plan made, Gronw departs from Blodeuwedd and they remain separate for a long period of time, during which Blodeuwedd feigns anxiety concerning Llew’s death.

Eventually, Her pleading persuades Llew to demonstrate these very circumstances in order to allay Her fears by showing Her his death could not be easily accomplished.

they prepare a bath on a riverbank, covering it with a thatched root, being neither indoors nor out.  As Llew stands with one foot upon the edge of the tub and the other upon the back of a goat, Gronw throws the specially made spear, hitting Llew in the side.  Llew immediately turns into an eagle and flies off, later discovered and nursed back to health by his cousins, Math and Gwydion.  When the two lovers are found, Gronw is killed and Blodeuwedd turned into an owl.

Due to the very circumstances of Her birth, the actions of Blodeuwedd may be seen in a more sympathetic light.  She was created from the flowers of a very powerful tree – the Oak – and from flowers of an explicitly healing nature, in order to give power to Llew and to be able to continually heal and renew him.  She is never asked whether She loves him or desires to marry him.  She was created for his purposes, solely to assure his right to rule the land.  Her own desires are impossible to achieve while Llew lives and She is often seen as the epitome of non-assertive femininity, fickleness and the faithless wife, using the passion of two men for Her to seal the doom of both.  In truth Her supposed treachery creates the very conditions to enable Llew to experience the ritual death and rebirth commonly required of the Druidic priesthood, thus ensuring his kingship.

Blodeuwedd is seen as a part of his hard and difficult destiny.  Throughout Celtic legend, otherworldly women are created and utilized to represent the Land, which is definitely feminine in nature.  Owl, the totemic representation of Blodeuwedd, signifies the complete transformation of the initiate as represented by Llew’s virtual death and subsequent healing.  She is signified by the trans-personal and universal energies into well-defined life force.  She is also the Maiden Goddess of initiation ceremonies and is known as the Nine-fold Goddess of the Western Isles of Paradise.  Flowers, the wisdom of innocence, Lunar Mysteries and initiation are Her provinces.

Correspondences:

  • Aspect: Maiden
  • Alignment: Air
  • Moon Phases: New/ Waxing
  • Moon Times: Moon after Imbolc to Beltane Moon
  • Totem: The Owl
  • Symbol: Nine Flowers used to create her: The Bean, Burdock, Meadow-sweet, Primrose, Nettle, Hawthorn, Oak and Chestnut.
  • Lunar Mysteries
  • Initiation

 Facts about Blodeuwedd

 In the Avalonian Cycle of Healing Blodeuwedd is the Guardian of the Station of Emergence.  Her lesson is reclaiming the True Self.  When working with Her Blodeuwedd asks us “Who are you?”  Through Her you will gain clarity and wisdom.  She is very accessible through meditation.  She holds the Station of Beltane, a portal time, just like dawn, which is Her time of day.  Honor her with an essence of her flowers.

Nine Blossoms of Blodeuwedd

  • Bean – a white blossom sacred to the Goddess and we must seek Her blessings in this creation.
  • Broom – a yellow blossom to purify and protect.
  • Burdock – a bright purple blossom to ward off evil spirits.
  • Meadow-sweet – Tiny yellow flowers for a gentle and loving nature.
  • Primrose – to attract love.
  • Nettle – to arouse his desire and her passion.
  • Hawthorn – to insure she is chaste and not wanton and bring happiness to him.
  • Oak – for vigor in his lovemaking and for many children.
  • Chestnut – for true and lasting love.
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