The Myths Of The British Celts

THE surviving myths of the British Celts (Brythons), as distinguished from the Irish Celts (Goidels), exist in the form of romantic tales in the Mabinogion and similar Welsh stories and in the Arthurian and Taliesin literature, or are referred to in the Triads and Welsh poems. Have the divinities who there figure as kings and queens, heroes and heroines, magicians and fairies, retained any of their original traits and functions? The question is less easily answered than in the case of Irish divinities subjected to the same romantic and euhemerizing processes. With religious and social changes it was forgotten that the gods were gods, and they became more or less human, for the mediaeval story-teller was "pillaging an antiquity of which he does not fully possess the secret." The composition of the stories of the Mabinogion, like those of the great Irish manuscripts, dates from the tenth and eleventh centuries, yet in both cases materials and personages are of far older date, the supernatural element is strong, and there is a mythical substratum surviving all changes. Further, the Welsh tales belong to a systematized method of treating ancient traditions, and were the literary stock-in-trade of the Mabinog, or aspirant to the position of a qualified bard. This process was still further carried out in Ireland, where myths were recast into a chronological as well as a romantic mould, the file, or man of letters, being estimated according to the number of his stories and his power of harmonizing and synchronizing them. In Welsh literature the euhemerizing, historical process is seen at work less in the legends than in the historians Nennius and Geoffrey of Monmouth, with whom some gods became kings having a definite date, as in the Irish annals.

Certain personages and incidents of Welsh story resemble those of Irish tradition. Was there, then, once a common mythology among the ancestors of Goidel and Brython, to which new local myths later accrued? Or did Irish and Welsh myths mingle because Goidels existed either as a primitive population in Wales, conquered by Brythons, or as a later Irish immigration? Probably we are right in assuming that the Mabinogion literature contains the débris of Brythonic myths, influenced more or less from Goidelic sources, as the occasional presence of Irish names and episodes suggests. The Arthurian and Taliesin cycles are purely Brythonic. What is certain is that the dim divinities of the Mabinogion are local' in character and belong to specific districts in Wales, gods ofN tribes settled there. Celtic divinities were apt to be local, though some had a wider repute. Few of the many British divinities mentioned in inscriptions are known to Welsh story. Nodons is Nudd or Lludd; Maponos is Mabon; the Belenos and Taranos of Continental inscriptions may be respectively Beli or Belinus and Taran of Welsh story, while the latter suggests the British idol called Heithiurun in the Dindsenchas.1

The Mabinogi of Pwyll, Prince of Dyfed,2 begins by telling why he was called Pen Annwfn, or "Head of Annwfn" (Elysium). One day he observed a strange pack following a deer, but when he drove them off and urged on his own hounds, a horesman appeared, rebuking him for interfering with his sport. Pwyll apologized, and presently he and the stranger, Arawn, King of Annwfn, agreed to exchange their forms and kingdoms for a year: Pwyll would have Arawn's beautiful wife and would fight Arawn's rival, Havgan, giving him but one blow, which would slay him, for a second would resuscitate him. All this happened satisfactorily; never had Pwyll's kingdom been so well ruled, and complete friendship was effected between the monarchs. As in Irish myth, this is the theme of a mortal helping a deity in the Other-World. Yet Pwyll was once himself a god, as his title Pen Anntvfn denotes, and was later euhemerized into a king, or confused with an actual monarch called Pwyll, while Annwfn here becomes a mere kingdom on earth.

One day Pwyll sat on a mound which had the property of causing him who was seated on it to receive a blow or see a prodigy. A beautiful woman rode toward him and his men, who pursued, but could not take her. This happened again on the morrow, but on the third day, when Pwyll himself pursued, she stood still at his bidding. She was Rhiannon, daughter of Heveidd Hen, and wished to marry him instead of Gwawl, whom she detested; and in a year he must come to her father's court for her. When Pwyll arrived, a stranger, who in reality was Gwawl, appeared demanding a boon of him, and on his promising it, asked for Rhiannon. She solved the difficulty by agreeing to be Gwawl's wife in a year, but bade Pwyll appear then as a beggar, carrying a certain magic bag, which, in the sequel, could not be filled with food. Gwawl was enraged, but was told by the beggar that unless a man of lands and riches stamped down the contents, it never could be filled. Gwawl did so and was immediately imprisoned in the bag, which was kicked about the hall by Pwyll's followers until, to escape death, he renounced his claim to Rhiannon.

The magic mound is here the equivalent of the sid, and such hills are favourite places for the appearance of immortals or fairies in Celtic story. Rhiannon, who suddenly appeared on the hill, was a goddess, like Fand or Connla's lover, and the theme is that of the Fairy Bride.

The story now tells how Rhiannon, whose child disappeared at birth, was accused of slaying it and was forced to sit at the horse-block of the palace, to tell her story to each new comer, and to offer to carry him inside. Meanwhile Teyrnon, Lord of Gwent-is-coed, had a mare whose foals disappeared on May-


Incised Stones from Scotland

1. Incised stone, locally known as "the Picardy Stone," with double disc and Z-rod symbol, serpent and Z-symbol, and mirror with double-disc handle. From Insch, Aberdeenshire.

2. Incised stone with double disc and serpent and Z-rod symbols. From Newton, Aberdeenshire. Cf. Plate XVII.

Celtic Mythology Temple

Eve, and this May-Eve he saw a huge claw clutching the newborn colt. He severed it with his sword, and the intruder vanished; but at the door-way was a new-born infant, which Teyrnon nurtured. Like Cuchulainn and other heroes, it had a rapid growth and was called Gwri Golden-Hair. Noticing Gwri's likeness to Pwyll, Teyrnon carried the boy to him, and Rhiannon was reinstated, exclaiming that her anguish (pryderi) was past; whence Gwri was called Pryderi and succeeded Pwyll as King.

Folk-tale formulae abound in this section — that of the Abandoned Wife, found also in the Mabinogi of Branwen; and that of an animal born the same night as the hero; while the claw incident occurs in tales of Fionn. The importance of the story is in Pryderi's birth. The fact that Teyrnon's foal disappeared on the same night as Pryderi, who was found at Teyrnon's door, and the meanings of the names Teyrnon = Tigernonos ("Great King") or Tigernos ("Chief"), and Rhiannon = Rigantona ("Great Queen"), may point to a myth in which they were Pryderi's parents.3 Manawyddan, who becomes Rhiannon's husband and rescues both her and Pryderi from the vengeance of Gwawl, may have been his father in another myth, for a poem associates him with Pryderi in Caer Sidi, a part of Annwfn. In the story, however, Pwyll, an original lord of Elysium, is Pryderi's parent. Does this point to a number of goddesses, bearing the name Rigantona, consorts of different gods, and later fused into one as Rhiannon? In another Mabinogi, Pryderi is despoiled of swine sent him by Arawn, or of which, according to a Triad, he was swineherd, Pwyll having brought them from Annwfn and given them to Pryderi's foster-father. Pwyll and Pryderi are thus associated with Elysium and with animals brought thence. A Taliesin poem tells of the magic cauldron of Pen Annwfn, viz. Pwyll. Round it was a ridge of pearls; it would not boil a coward's food; voices issued from it; it was warmed by the breath of nine maidens; and it formed part of the

"Spoils of Annwfn" which Arthur and others made a long journey overseas to obtain. Gweir was imprisoned in Caer Sidi through the spite (or messenger?) of Pwyll and Pryderi, associated as lords and defenders of Annwfn.4 Arawn, Lord of Annwfn, was defeated by Amsethon, son of Don, at the mythic battle of Cath Godeu.5

The Mabinogi of Math, son of Mathonwy,6 tells of Gil-vsethwy's love for Goewin, Math's "foot-holder." To help him his brother Gwydion resolved to cause war and told Math that swine, unknown before, had been sent to Pryderi in Dyfed by Arawn. He and Gilvaethwy, disguised as bards, set off to the court of Pryderi, who praised Gwydion for his songs, whereupon the latter asked for the swine, but was told that they must breed double their number ere they left the country. Gwydion now obtained them in exchange for twelve stallions and twelve greyhounds magically formed by him from fungus; but these soon turned again to their original shape, and Pryderi invaded Math's territory, only to be defeated and slain in single combat by Gwydion's enchantments. Gilvaethwy outraged Goewin during the battle, and when Math discovered this, he transformed the brothers first into a couple of deer, then into swine, and finally into wolves. In these forms they had animal progeny, afterward changed to human shape by Math. Math now found a new "foot-holder" in Arianrhod, Gwydion's sister, but she proved no virgin, and when Math caused her to pass under his magic rod, she bore twins, one of whom was taken by Math and called Dylan. When Gwydion brought the other, who had grown rapidly, to Arianrhod's castle, she refused to give him a name. Disguised as a shoemaker, Gwydion then arrived with the boy and made shoes for Arianrhod which did not fit. She went on board Gwydion's ship, produced by magic, and saw the boy shoot a bird. Not recognizing him, she cried, "With a sure hand (llaw gyffes) lieu shoots the bird," whereupon Gwydion revealed himself and said that she had named the boy, Lieu Llaw

Gyffes. Now she refused to arm him, but once more disguised, Gwydion with Lieu caused an enchanted fleet to appear; and she armed both, only to be taunted with the stratagem. Again she said that Lieu would never have a wife of the people of this earth, but Math and Gwydion made him a bride out of flowers and called her Blodeuwedd. She was unfaithful to Lieu, however, and advised by her lover, Gronw Pebyr, she discovered that a javelin wrought for a year during Mass on Sundays would kill him when standing with one foot on a buck and the other on a bath curiously prepared by the bank of a river. Gronw made the javelin, and when Lieu, prevailed on by Blodeuwedd, showed her the fatal position, he was struck by Gronw and flew off as an eagle. Soon after, Gwydion found a pig eating worms which fell from a wasted eagle on a tree; and as he sang three verses, at each the eagle came nearer. When he struck it with a magic rod, it became Lieu, who now turned Blodeuwedd into an owl; while Gronw had to submit to a blow from a javelin which penetrated the flat stone placed by him against his body and killed him. Lieu now recovered his lands and ruled them happily.

These personages are associated with a dim figure called Don, who is probably not male, but female, and is mother of Gwydion, Gilvsethwy, Govannon, Amsethon, and Arianrhod, who was herself mother of Dylan and Lieu. Math is Don's brother. Superficially this group is equivalent to the Tuatha De Danann, and Don is parallel to Danu, while Govannon (gof, "smith") is the equivalent of Goibniu, the Irish smith-god. Lieu, the reading of whose name as Llew ("Lion") may be abandoned, has been equated with Lug, and both names are said to mean "light." "Light," however, has no sense in the name-giving incident, and possibly, as Loth suggests,7 there is a connexion with Irish lu, "little." The other names of the group have no parallels among the Tuatha De Danann. Mythological traits are the magic powers of Math and Gwydion, their shape-shifting, and the introduction of the swine.

Math Hen, or "the Ancient," is an old Welsh "high god," remembered for magic, which he taught to Gwydion; for the fact that the winds brought to him the least whisper of a conversation, wherever it might be held; and for his pre-eminent goodness to the suffering and his justice without vengeance upon the wrongdoer. The last trait shows a high ideal of divinity, and the second a conception of omniscience.

As a magician Gwydion is also prominent, and by magic he governed Gwynedd. He was the cleverest of men and possessed terrible strength, while his prophetic powers are emphasized in a Triad, and he had supreme gifts as story-teller and bard. His successful raid on Pryderi's pigs which came from Annwfn suggests that, like Cuchulainn, he is the culture hero bringing domestic animals from the god's land to earth, and perhaps for this reason a Triad calls him one of the three cowherds of Britain, guarding thousands of kine. Irish myth also frequently speaks of cattle brought from the sid. Gwyd-ion's name reflects his character as an inspired bard, if it is from a root vet, giving words meaning "saying" or "poetry," cognate terms being Irish faith, "prophet" or "poet," and Latin vates.8 Gwydion would thus be equivalent to Ogma and Ogmios, gods of eloquence and letters, and a late manuscript says he first taught reading and knowledge of books to the Gaels of Anglesey and Ireland. He is not straightforward, however, when he pretends that his sister Arianrhod is a virgin, for she is his mistress and mother of his sons, an incest incident with parallels in Irish story.

Arianrhod consented to the fraud and as a further pretence to chastity disowned Lieu; yet a Triad calls her one of the three blessed or white ladies of Britain. Was she worshipped as a virgin goddess, while myth gave her a different character? Celtic goddesses, like the Matres, were connected with fertility, and goddesses of fertility or earth are apt to possess a double character, like the great Phrygian Mother, who was also regarded as a virgin.9 Arianrhod, like Aphrodite, was lovely;

"beauty-famed beyond summer's dawn," sang a poet.10 Her name means "silver wheel."

Much that is said of Lieu is insignificant for mythology, though Rhys has built a large structure of sun, dawn, and darkness upon it. The greater part of it is a well-known folktale formula attached to his name — that of the Unfaithful Wife. It is doubtful whether Lieu really equals Lug merely because their uncles are respectively Govannon and Gavida (Goibniu), both meaning "smith"; for while Gavida nurtured Lug, and Lug slew Balor, Lieu was not brought up by Govannon, and the latter incident has no equivalent in his story. Moreover, Lug is prominent in connexion with the great Celtic festival, Lugnasad (celebrated on the first of August), but Lieu is not. Thus his mythological significance is lost to us.

Math caused Dylan to be baptized, and then this precocious baby made for the sea, where he swam like a fish; no billow broke under him, and he was called "son of the wave." The blow which caused his death came from Govannon — one of the three nefarious blows of Britain — but is otherwise unexplained. The waves lamented his death, and ever, as they press toward the land, they seek to avenge it.11 Perhaps Dylan was once a sea-god, regarded as identical with the waves, like Manannan. Tradition speaks of the noise of the waters pouring into the Conway as his dying groans, and, again like Manannan, son of Ler (the sea), he is called Dylan Ei) Ton or Mor ("Son of the Wave" or "Sea").12 "As soon as he entered the sea, he took its nature."

Govannon's functions as a smith-god are illustrated from a reference in Kulhwch and Olwen, where his help must be gained by Kulhwch to attend at the end of the furrows to cleanse the iron,13 though the meaning of this is obscure. In a Taliesin poem he and Math are associated as artificers.14 Amsethon's name suggests that his functions were connected with agricul-» ture (amaeth, "ploughman" or "labourer"), and this is illus-

trated by the fact that no husbandmen can till or dress a certain field for Kulhwch, "so wild is it, save Amsethon, son of Don; he will not follow thee of his own free will, and thou canst not force him."15 He also brought animals from the gods' land — a roebuck, whelp, and lapwing belonging to Arawn — and this led to the battle of Godeu, in which, aided by Gwydion, he fought Arawn. Gwydion changed trees and sedges into combatants, as he had transformed fungus into hounds and horses. On either side fought personages who could not be vanquished until their names were discovered, but Gwydion affected the course of the battle by finding the name of Arawn's mysterious helper, Bran — a mythic instance of the power of the hidden name, once it becomes known to another.16 Whether as a survival from myth or from later folk-belief, the stars are associated with some of these divinities. The constellation of Cassiopeia is called "Don's Court"; Arianrhod is connected with the constellation Corona Borealis; and the Milky Way is termed "Gwydion's Castle," because he followed it in chasing Blodeuwedd across the sky — an obviously primitive myth.17

The Mabinogion of Branwen and of Manawyddan are connected and concern the families of Pwyll and Llyr.18 The Llyr group consists of his sons, Bran and Manawyddan; their sister, Branwen; and their half-brother, Nissyen and Evnissyen. As Bran sat on a rock at Harlech, vessels arrived bearing Matholwych, King of Ireland, as a suitor for Branwen. He was accepted, and a feast was made for him in tents, for no house could hold Bran. But Evnissyen the mischief-maker mutilated Matholwych's steeds, and the king indignantly left, returning only when Bran gave him gifts, including a cauldron which restored life to the dead, though they remained dumb. This cauldron was obtained from two mysterious beings who came out of a lake in Ireland, the man bearing the cauldron, and the woman about to give birth to an armed warrior; but they and their descendants were so troublesome that they were imprisoned in a white-hot iron house, whence the pair escaped to Britain with their cauldron — an incident probably borrowed from the Ulster tale of the Mesca Ulad. Matholwych returned to Ireland with Branwen, and there, after two years, in retaliation for Evnissyen's conduct, she was placed in the kitchen, where the butcher struck her every morning. She accordingly sent a starling to Bran with a message, whereupon he waded over to Ireland, his men following in ships and crossing the Shannon on his body. The Irish came to terms and built Bran a vast house, in which they concealed warriors in sacks; but Evnissyen discovered this and crushed them one by one. Peace was now concluded, but Evnissyen again caused trouble by throwing Branwen's child into the fire. In the fight which followed the Irish were winning because they restored their dead in the cauldron; but Evnissyen smashed it, though he died in the effort. Bran was slain, and seven only of his people escaped, including Pryderi, Manawyddan, and Taliesin. Bran bade them cut off his head and bury it at London, looking toward France; and they reached Anglesey with Branwen, who died there of a broken heart. Meanwhile Caswallawn, son of Beli, had usurped the kingdom, Bran's son also dying of sorrow. As Bran had advised, his head-bearers remained at Harlech for seven years, feasting and listening to the birds of Rhiannon singing far overhead; and at Gwales for eighty years, the head entertaining them in a house with a forbidden door. The years passed as a day, until one of the men opened the door, when their evils were remembered, and they went to London to bury the head.

Manawyddan having lamented that he was landless, Pryderi gave him land in Dyfed and his mother Rhiannon as wife. All three, with Kicva, Pryderi's wife, were seated on a knoll when a thunder-clap was heard; and as the cloud which accompanied it cleared away, they found the country desolate, without creature or habitation. Lack of food impelled them to seek a living as saddlers, shield-makers, and shoe-makers successively, but they were always expelled by the regular craftsmen. One day they pursued a boar to a strange castle, and Pryderi entered, but trying to lift a golden cup, his hands stuck fast to it, nor could he move his feet. Manawyddan told Rhiannon of Pryderi's disappearance, and when she sought him, she met the same fate, until at another clap of thunder the castle disappeared. Manawyddan and Kicva, as shoe-makers, were again foiled by envious cobblers, and he now sowed three fields, but an army of mice ate the grain. One of these he caught and was about to hang, in spite of the entreaties of Kicva, of a clerk, and of a priest, when a bishop appeared, and Manawyddan bargained to give up the mouse if the bishop released Pryderi and Rhiannon, removed the enchantment from Dyved, and told him who and what the mouse was. The bishop was Llwyd, a friend of Gwawl, whom Pryderi's father, Pwyll, had insulted. All had happened in revenge for that: the mouse was Llwyd's wife, the other mice the ladies of the court. Everything was now restored; Pryderi and Rhiannon reappeared; and Llwyd agreed to seek no further revenge.

While the framework of Branwen is connected with Scandinavian and German sagas, whether borrowed by Welshmen from their Norse allies in the ninth and tenth centuries, as Nutt supposed,19 or by Norsemen from Wales, its personages are Celtic, and it contains many native elements. Llyr Half-Speech and Manawyddan are the equivalents of the Irish sea-gods Ler and Manannan, the latter of whom is also associated with Elysium. It is uncertain whether these two were common to Goidels and Brythons, or were borrowed by the latter; but at all events they have a definite position in Welsh tradition, which knows of two other Llyrs — Llyr Marini and Llyr, father of Cordelia in Geoffrey's History — Shakespeare's Lear.20 These are probably varying presentments of a sea-god. Llyr is sometimes confused with Lludd

Llaw Ereint, or "Silver-Hand." A Triad represents Gweir, Mabon, and Llyr as three notable prisoners of Britain; but in Kulhwch these are Greit, Mabon, and Lludd, father of Cordelia.21 Are Llyr and Lludd identical, and is an Irish Alloit, sometimes called father of Manannan, the equivalent of Lludd? All this is uncertain. Rhys and Loth are tempted to correct Lludd into Nudd, an earlier Nodens Lamargentios ("Nudd Silver-Hand") having been changed to Lodens (Lludd) Lamargentios by alliteration, and to equate him with the Irish Nuada Argetlam ("Silver-Hand"); but the possibility of such an alliterative change has been denied. Nuada is identified with the British god Nodons; but though Llyr was a sea-god, there is no proof that Nuada or Nodons was such, though some symbols in the remains of the temple of Nodons on the Severn have been thought to suggest this.22 These, however, are not decisive, and ij: is equally possible that the god was equated with Mars rather than with Neptune.

Manawyddan, whose name is derived from Welsh Manaw, the Isle of Man, is much more humanized in Welsh story than the divine Manannan of the Voyage of Bran; yet he has magic powers and great superiority as a craftsman. He is associated with Arthur in a poem and is praised for his wise counsels, while Pryderi was instructed by him in various crafts and aided by him, just as the Irish Diarmaid was nurtured and taught by Manannan. Rhiannon may have been introduced accidentally into the story—"a mere invention of the narrator in order to give sequence to the narrative";23 but possibly she is Manawyddan's real consort, not one given him by her son. If so, Pryderi would be Manawyddan's son, not Pwyll's, and his deliverance of Rhiannon and Pryderi from his magician foe would be significant.24 Rhiannon appears magically, like Irish goddesses of Elysium, and she may thus have been associated with Manawyddan in Elysium, who with Pryderi is Lord of Annwfn in a Taliesin poem —

" Complete is my chair in Caer Sidi; Plague and age hurt not him who is in it, They know Manawyddan and Pryderi; Three organs round a fire sing before it, And about its points are ocean's streams. And the abundant well above it — Sweeter than white wine the drink of it." 25

Rhiannon's magic birds, whose song brought joy and oblivion for seven years, like that of Ler's bird-children,26 and awoke the dead and made the living sleep,27 have an Elysian note and confirm the supposition that she is an Elysian goddess. Beyond that we need not go, and there is nothing to connect her with the dawn or the moon.

Branwen or Bronwen ("White Bosom") has no definite traits. Her marriage to Matholwych and her subsequent sufferings recall the stories of Gudrun, Kriemhild, and Signy; but whether she ever was connected as a goddess of fertility with her brother's cauldron of regeneration must remain an ingenious conjecture, not supported by the Mabinogi. As a sea-god's daughter, she may be "the Venus of the northern sea," as Elton supposed,28 while the Black Book *of Caermar-then calls the sea "the fountain of Venus," 29 though this is, perhaps, nothing more than a Classical recollection. Later romance knew her as Brangwaine, the confidante of Tristram and Yseult, giving the knight the love-potion which bound him in illicit amour with Yseult.

Bran is a more obviously mythological figure, and his gigantic size is an earlier or later method of indicating his divinity. His buried head protected the land from invasion — a mythical expression of actual custom — for bodies and heads of warriors had apotropaic virtues and were sometimes exhibited or buried in the direction whence danger was expected.30 Hence the image of a divine head might have greater powers, and this may explain the existence of Celtic images of a god's head, often in triple form. These figures, found in Gaul, were believed by Rh^s to be images of Cernunnos, a god of the Celtic underworld, which he regarded as a dark region, contrary to all that we can gather of it, while Bran was the Brythonic equivalent of Cernunnos and was slain by a sun-hero, his wading to Ireland representing his crossing the waters to Hades, like Yama, there to reign as lord of the dead.31 The heads, however, can be explained only conjecturally as heads of Cernunnos. The exigencies of the story demanded that Ireland should be brought in, and as Bran had to reach it somehow, it was easiest to make the gigantic god wade there; if the parallel with Yama were true, Bran should have died before crossing the water of death. Yama's realm was not "dark," but a heavenly region of light, like the Celtic other-world, even if the latter, unlike the former, was subterranean. Far from being "dark," Bran is bright and cheerful and has Elysian traits. Eighty years are as a day, and men think only of feasting and happiness in the presence of his head, which is as agreeable to them as he himself was in life; it produces an Elysium on earth, which is lost through opening a door, exactly as others lose it and become decrepit through contact with earth. Thus if Bran, sitting on the rock at Harlech or existing as a talking head afterward solemnly buried, like Orpheus's singing head interred in a sacred place, is the equivalent of the squatting Gaulish god Cernunnos, perhaps also represented as a single or triple head, this can only be because both were lords of a bright other-world, whether the region of the dead or a divine land. Bran is certainly not a dark god of blight, but rather the reverse, since his cauldron resuscitates the dead. In crossing to Ireland he carried his musicians on his back, and this may point to his being a divinity of musicians and bards. If so, he, as the Urdawl Ben ("Noble Head"), may be compared to the Uthr Ben ("Wonderful Head") of a Taliesin poem, which boasted of being a bard, harper, and piper, and equal to seven score professionals.32 Arthur disinterred Bran's head, not wishing to owe the defence of Britain to it.

Bran was euhemerized into a British king who was confused with Brennus, leader of the Gauis in the sack of Rome, 390 b. c., and was transformed into a conqueror of Gaul and Rome.33 He also figures as a saint, Bran the Blessed, if that was not already a pagan epithet; and remaining at Rome seven years as hostage with his son Caradawc, he brought Christianity thence to the Cymry. Caradawc is here the historic Caratacus, who was carried prisoner to Rome, but there is confusion with a Caradawc ("Great Arms," or "Prince of Combat"), son of Llyr Marini, about whom a saga may have existed. In any case Bran was regarded as head of one of the three saintly families of Britain.34

In the Mabinogi of Branwen, Caswallawn, clothed in a mantle of invisibility, destroyed the heroes of Britain and usurped the kingdom, leaving Manawyddan landless; and though his sister was married to Llyr, he was hostile to Llyr's descendants. Caswallawn, Lludd, Llevelys, and Nynnyaw were sons of Beli, although Geoffrey makes his Lear long precede Beli or Heli as king, while he also introduces a Belinus and confuses Caswallawn with Cassivellaunus, Caesar's foe.35 Beli and Belinus may represent the god Belenos, who was equated with Apollo; and Beli is victorious champion of the land and the preserver of its qualities in a Taliesin poem, in which the singer implores him 36 — perhaps a reminiscence of earlier divine traits. A Triad calls Beli father of Arianrhod, and Rhys, assuming that this is Arianrhod, the daughter of Don, makes Don consort of Beli, equates Don with Danu, and, without the slightest evidence, assigns to Danu as consort the shadowy figure Bile, father of Mile, invented by Irish annalists. Beli and Bile are then equated with the Celtic Dispater, the divine ancestor of the Celtic race, whom he assumes to have been a "dark" god, ruling a "dark" underworld.37 All this is modern mythologizing.

Caswallawn is confused in the Triads with Cassivellaunus, a warrior who may have been named after him; and he is called "war-king," an epithet which may recall his divine functions,

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  • curzio
    What beast did Apollo slay at age mythology4?
    7 years ago

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