Annwn or Annwfn (Middle Welsh Annwvn, sometimes inaccurately written Annwyn, Annwyfn or Annwfyn) was the Otherworld in Welsh mythology. Ruled by Arawn, or much later by Gwyn ap Nudd, it was essentially a world of delights and eternal youth where disease is absent and food is ever-abundant. It later became Christianised and identified with the land of souls that had departed this world. In modern Brittany, "Annaon" is synonymous with paradise rather than hell and the phrase "mont da Annaon", literally "to go to Annaon", is a euphemism for "to die" (Davies 2007, Mac Cana 1983).
Name and etymology
Middle Welsh sources suggest that the term was recognised as meaning "very deep" in medieval times (Sims-Williams 1990). The appearance of a form antumnos on an ancient Gaulish curse tablet, however, suggests that the original term may have been *ande-dubnos (*andubnos in British), a common Gallo-Brittonic word that literally meant "underworld" (Lambert 2003). The pronunciation of Modern Welsh Annwn is [ˈanːʊn].
"Annwfn" maybe formed from 'an-' (Welsh 'in, inside') + dwfn (Welsh 'world'), (Davies 2007).
In both Welsh and Irish mythologies, Annwn was believed to be located either on an island or underneath the earth. In the First Branch of the Mabinogi, it is implied that Annwn is a land within Dyfed. Two other feasts that occur in the Second Branch of the Mabinogi are located in Harlech in northwest Wales and on the Island of Grassholm (Davies 2007).
In the First Branch of the Mabinogi, entitled Pwyll, Prince of Dyfed, the eponymous prince offends Arawn, ruler of Annwn, by baiting his hunting hounds on a stag that Arawn's dogs had brought down. In recompense he exchanges places with Arawn for a year and defeats Arawn's enemy Hafgan. Meanwhile, Arawn rules Dyfed. During this year, Pwyll does not sleep with Arawn's wife, earning himself gratitude from Arawn. On his return, Pwyll becomes known by the title Penn Annwn, "Head (or Ruler) of Annwn."
In Culhwch and Olwen, an early Welsh Arthurian tale, it is said God gave Gwyn ap Nudd control over the demons lest "this world be destroyed." He led the Wild Hunt. A Christian story tells of the Welsh Saint Collen entering Gwyn's palace to banish him with holy water.
Full article ▸