Mabon ap Modron

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Mabon ap Modron is a figure of Welsh mythology, the son of Modron. Both he and his mother were likely deities in origin, descending from a divine mother–son pair. His name is related to the Romano-British god Maponos, whose name means "divine son"; Modron, in turn, is likely related to the Gaulish goddess Dea Matrona.

Mabon was a common name in medieval Wales, and it is difficult to determine whether the various references to Mabons in poetry and the Triads are to the same character. The most important appearance of Mabon ap Modron is in the prose tale Culhwch and Olwen, associated with the Mabinogion and perhaps authored around 1100. King Arthur's men must recruit Mabon to fulfill the demands of Ysbaddaden the giant before he will allow his daughter Olwen marry the protagonist Culhwch. Mabon is the only one who can hunt with the dog Drudwyn, in turn the only dog who can track the great boar Twrch Trwyth. However, Mabon has been missing since he was three nights old, when unknown intruders stole him from between his mother and the wall. Arthur determines that he and his men will find and rescue Mabon. Mabon's whereabouts are unknown even to Britain's oldest and wisest animals, but finally Arthur's followers are led to the Salmon of Llyn Llyw, the oldest animal of all. The enormous salmon carries Arthur's men Cei and Bedwyr downstream to Mabon's prison in Gloucester; they hear him through the walls, singing a lamentation for his fate. The rest of Arthur's men launch an assault on the front of the prison, while Cei and Bedwyr sneak in the back and rescue Mabon. Mabon subsequently participates in the hunt for the Twrch Trwyth.

Mabon is mentioned in the 10th century poem Pa Gur yv y Porthaur in a list of Arthur's companions, and is named as a servant of Uther Pendragon's. He reappears in Breuddwyd Rhonabwy, in which he is referred to as one of Arthur's chief advisers.

Etymology

The name Mabon is derived from the Common Brythonic and Gaulish deity Maponos. Similarly, Modron is derived from Common Brythonic and Gaulish deity Matrona. The language changes creating the Middle Welsh form are:

  • dropping of masculine singular -os and feminine singular -a endings
  • p > b
  • a > o
  • t > d

These changes are discussed in Sims-Williams (2003).

The name Mabon has special connections to Hadrian's Wall where a cult of Apollo Maponos was practised by the Roman soldiers based there.

References

  • Sims-Williams, Patrick (2003) The Celtic Inscriptions of Britain: phonology and chronology, c.400-1200 Oxford: Blackwell. ISBN 1-4051-0903-3

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