Gwydion

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Gwydion fab Dôn is a magician, hero and trickster of Welsh mythology, appearing most prominently in the Fourth Branch of the Mabinogi, which focuses largely on his relationship with his young nephew, Lleu Llaw Gyffes. He also appears prominently in the Welsh Triads, the Book of Taliesin and the Stanzas of the Graves.

The name Gwydion (which should more properly be spelled Gwyddien in Modern Welsh, as can be adduced from its Old Welsh form Guidgen; cognate with Old Irish Fidgen) may be interpreted as "Born of Trees".[1]

Contents

Mythological exploits

War with the South

Gilfaethwy, nephew to the Venedotian king, Math fab Mathonwy, falls in love with his uncle's virgin foot-holder, Goewin. His brother Gwydion conspires to start a war between the north and the south, so as give the brothers the opportunity to rape Goewin while Math is distracted. To this end, Gwydion employs his magic powers to steal a number of otherworldy pigs from the Demetian king, Pryderi, who retaliates by marching on Gwynedd. Meanwhile, Gwydion and Gilfaethwy attack and rape Goewin.

Pryderi and his men march north and fight a battle between Maenor Bennardd and Maenor Coed Alun, but are forced to retreat. He is pursued to Nant Call, where more of his men are slaughtered, and then to Dol Benmaen, where he suffers a third defeat. To avoid further bloodshed, it is agreed that the outcome of the battle should be decided by single combat between Gwydion and Pryderi. The two contenders meet at a place called Y Velen Rhyd in Ardudwy, and "because of strength and valour and magic and enchantment", Gwydion triumphs and Pryderi is killed. The men of Dyfed retreat back to their own land, lamenting over the death of their lord.

Birth of Lleu

When Math hears of the assault on Goewin, he turns his nephews into a series of mated pairs of animals: Gwydion becomes a stag for a year, then a sow and finally a wolf. Gilfaethwy becomes a hind deer, a boar and a she-wolf. Each year they produce an offspring which is sent to Math: Hyddwn, Hychddwn and Bleiddwn. After three years, Math releases his nephews from their punishment and begins the search for a new foot-holder. Gwydion suggests his sister Arianrhod, who is magically tested for virginity by Math. During the test, she gives birth to a "sturdy boy with thick yellow hair" whom Math names Dylan and who takes on the nature of the seas until his death at his uncle Gofannon's hands.

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