The Legend of Gwydion

T he story of Gwydion is recorded in the Fourth Branch of the Welsh mythological cycle called the Mabinogion. Gwydion was the son of Don and the nephew and heir of Math, king of Gwynedd. Math was a wise and powerful king, and he was preparing Gwydion to reign after him.

As a young man Gwydion was impetuous and mischievous. One of his early exploits was to trick Pryderi, king of Dyfed, into giving him his swine (magical animals unknown outside of Dyfed). He accomplished this by using sorcery to transform some fungus into twelve stallions with golden harnesses, and twelve magnificent hunting dogs. These he traded with Pryderi for the pigs. When the animals reverted back to original mycopial form at sundown, Pryderi was furious, but Gywdion was already gone.

Gwydion desired an heir to follow him, but he had none because his sister Aranrhod refused to have children. Using his sorcery, Gwydion conceived sons on her, and then persuaded her to apply for the position of footholder to the king. Now Math required his footholder to be a virgin, and to test Aranrhod, he made her step over his magic staff. When she did so, she gave birth to Dylan and another son, then fled in shame and fear of Math.

When Math went to the sea to baptize Dylan, the baby wiggled out of his arms, fell into the sea, and swam away. But Gwydion hid the other son and raised him as his own.

When Gwydion took the boy to Aranrhod, who had not forgotten her shame before Math, she cursed the boy by saying, "He shall not have a name until he gets it from me."

By disguising the boy and himself as shoemakers, Gwydion tricked Aranrhod into naming the boy Lleu Llaw Gyffes, "the fair one with the skillful hand." She then cursed him again, saying, "He shall never take arms until I arm him."

Gwydion then disguised Lleu and himself as bards to gain entrance to Caer Aranrhod. While they were inside he created the illusion of a mighty army advancing upon the caer. In order to defend her home Aranrhod armed each man in the house, including Lleu. When she realized that she had been tricked again, she cursed Lleu with a third curse, "He will never get a wife from any race that's on this earth now."

At this, Math took pity on Lleu, and he and Gwydion made a wife for Lleu from the blossoms of flowers. Math gave Lleu the cantref of Dinoding, and he went on to become a wise and beloved ruler.

G wydion is a powerful sorceror and master of illusion. He delights in trickery and is thought to have originated April Fools' Day when he conjured the armies to trick Aranrhod into arming Lleu. He is a lover of poetry and the art of the bards, and is the druid of the gods. He is persistent in his ventures and learns from experience. He is both subtle and devious, yet open and honest in his dealings with others. He takes responsibility in his actions and in the actions of his people.

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