A woman born not of mortal man
Within the pages of The Mabinogion you will find the tale of Llew Llaw Gyffes, nephew of Math and Gwydion, and his bride, Blodeuwedd.
The Goddess Arianrhod , the mother of Llew Llaw Gyffes, swore that he would never have a wife who had been born of mortal man. Here is the tale of how Blodeuwydd was created by Math and Gwydion, and what happened next.This painting of Blodeuwedd is provided by kind permission of Jessica Galbreth, from The Vintage Angel.
She is a Goddess I met when I first exploring my worth as a woman and still holds a special place in my heart.
The Song of Blodeuwedd
translated by Robert Graves
Not of father nor of mother
Was my blood, was my body.
I was spellbound by Gwydion,
Prime enchanter of the Britons,
When he formed me from nine blossoms,
Nine buds of various kind;
From primrose of the mountain,
Broom, meadow-sweet and cockle,
From the bean in its shade bearing
A white spectral army
Of earth, of earthly kind,
From blossoms of the nettle,
Oak, thorn and bashful chestnut –
Nine powers of nine flowers,
Nine powers in me combined,
Nine buds of plant and tree.
Long and white are my fingers
As the ninth wave of the sea.
Created From Flowers
Oak, Broom, and Meadowsweet
Lleu Llaw Gyffes, son of Arhianrhod, obtained his name and arms from his mother through deceptive means. She had declared that he would never be given a name from her; that he would never receive arms from her; and, that he would never wed a woman born of mortal man.
With the help of his uncle, Gwydion, Arhianrhod was tricked, but providing him with a wife was not so easily accomplished. Instead, Math and Gwydion performed a great magic and created a perfect woman for Lleu Llaw Gyffes using the flowers of oak, broom, and meadowsweet. They named her Blodeuwydd, meaning flower face.
When Lleu was away on a hunting trip Blodeuwydd met Gronw Pebr, Lord of Penllyn and they fell in love. Together they plotted to kill Lleu Llaw Gyffes.
Feigning worry over Lleu being taken from her, Blodeuwydd asked Lleu upon his return under what circumstance he could be killed.
‘Will you,” asked Blodeuwydd, “for God’s sake and mine, tell me by what means you might be killed? Since my memory is a better safeguard than yours.’
‘I’ll tell you gladly,’ he said ‘It is not easy,’ he continued ‘to kill me by a blow . It would be necessary to spend a year making the spear to strike me with – and without making any of it except when one was at mass on Sundays.’
‘And is that certain?’ she asked.
‘It’s certain, God knows,’ he replied ‘I cannot be killed inside a house, nor outside,’ he continued ‘I cannot be killed on horseback or on foot.’
‘Aye,’ said she ‘in what way can you be killed?’
‘I’ll tell you,’ he replied. ‘By making a bath for me by the side of a river, making a curved, slatted roof over the tub, and thatching that well and without any gaps. And bringing a goat,’ he continued ‘and putting it next to the tub, and me putting one of my feet on the goat’s back, and the other one on the side of the tub. Whoever would strike me like that would bring about my death.’
Blodeuwydd went to Gronw and told him the means by which Lleu Llaw Gyffes might be killed. He immediately began work on making a spear.
A year passed while Gronw was making the spear, once each week while others were in Mass. At the end of the year, Blodeuwydd went once more to her husband and asked him again about the way in which he could be killed.
This time, she asked him to demonstrate the means in which he could be killed and he complied. A bath was prepared under a thatched roof by the side of a river. He stood upon the side of the bath with one foot on the side of the tub, the other on the back of a goat.
At this moment, Gronw came out from behind a rock where he had been hiding and hurled the spear at Lleu. It struck Lleu in the side. Lleu turned into an eagle and flew away.
Blodeuwydd and Gronw then lived together as husband and wife for a year. Over that year, Gwydion searched for Lleu Llaw Gyffes, finally finding him in the form on an eagle in the branches of a tree. Lleu was coaxed down and nursed back to health.
Seeking revenge, Lleu Llaw Gyffes set forth for his castle where Gronw and Blodeuwydd have been residing. Hearing of his return, Blodeuwydd flees with her maidens. She is overtaken by Gwydion, but instead of killing her he turns her into an owl. And thus she has remained to this day.
My experience with Blodeuwedd
rediscovering my femininity
Blodeuwedd came into my life for a very short time. My first indication that she was about came with a scent of flowers.
I had been discussing an upcoming ritual with the High Priestess and we both started smelling the scent of flowers, coming seemingly from nowhere. I began searching for information on who could be trying to get my attention, and who I found was Blodeuwydd.
At this time in my life, I was very much out of touch with my feminine side, having focused so much attention on the masculine. Through Her I was able to discover that there could be strength in feminity. That I could embrace and show myself as a woman without sacrificing my independence.
This story is far from being a tale of the consequences of a woman’s infidelity.
For myself, the tale of Blodeuwedd is a tale of every woman who has found herself trying to fill a role that she has been told she must fill, instead of discovering for her self who she truly is.
Blodeuwydd was created to be Lleu Llaw Gyffes perfect mate. As the maiden, she was able to fill that role unquestioningly. However, when she met Gronw, she discovered her true self and her true purpose in life. Not even the Gods could keep her from this new course she had found for herself. Even Gwydion was unable to kill her in punishment and instead transformed her from woman into owl.
Painting courtesy of Wikipedia; painted by Christopher Williams (1873-1934).