BLODEUWEDD

Nine powers of nine flowers,

Nine powers in me combine:

Nine buds of plant and tree.

Long and white are my fingers

As the ninth wave of the sea.

Hanes Blodeuwedd

 Blodeuwedd appears in the Welsh Mabinogion tale of Llew Llaw Gyffes. When his mother Arianrhod refused him permission to marry any mortal woman, his magician uncles Gwydion and Math fashioned a bride for him out of nine types of flowers [broom, meadowsweet, oak blossom, primrose, cockle, bean, nettle, chestnut and hawthorn], and produced the loveliest woman ever seen, the maiden Blodeuwedd ['Flower Face']. The two married an lived quite contentedly, until one day when Llew left his wife alone while he went to visit Math.

It chanced that a stag hunt passed by the castle and Blodeuwedd sent a messenger offering the party hospitality for the night. But as soon as she beheld its leader Gronw Pebyr she fell in love with him. It wasn't long before they declared their desire to be together and decided that the only way was to murder Llew. The problem was that he could be killed neither by day nor by night, indoors or out of doors, clothed or naked, riding or walking, nor by any lawfully made weapon. Blodeuwedd tricked Llew into revealing to her that he could only be killed at twilight when on the bank of a river with one foot on the back of a he-goat and the other on the rim of a bath, under a canopy. The spear needed to kill him would take a year to make, working only on Sundays. Armed with this information, Gronw set about making preparations.

When all was ready, Blodeuwedd asked Llew to show her how he could balance on a goat and bath at the same time. Llew was more than ready to indulge his young wifes curiosity and took up his position with one foot on the rim of a bath, the other on the he-goat. As he teetered there Gronw emerged from the trees and hurled the magical javelin at him, wounding him in the thigh.[1] However, instead of dying, Llew turned into an eagle and flew away. When Gwydion ap Dn learned what had happened he set off to find his poor nephew. Using his magical powers he transformed Llew back into human shape and took him home to nurse him back to health.

When news of Llews recovery reached Blodeuwedd and Gronw they realised that all was up and took flight. With her servants, Blodeuwedd tried to cross the river, but her maids were in such a panic they all drowned in the swift flowing waters. Left alone, the Flower Maiden was soon discovered by Gwydion, who revenged his nephew by changing her into an owl, the most hated of all birds. Some say that Gwydion pursued the faithless Blodeuwedd through the night sky, and a path of white flowers springs up in the wake of her passing, which we today know as the Milky Way.

Llew demanded that Gronw meet him in combat. Gronw pleaded with Llew that since he had come to this pass through the wiles of a woman, Llew should allow him the boon of placing a stone between himself and the blow. This Llew granted, but when the hurled his spear it pierced through the stone and through Gronw too, breaking his back.

At first this story seems to be merely the tale of an unfaithful wife, or to take a more enlightened view, a woman rebelling against a role decided for her by the men who created her. However, it is an ancient tale of the changing roles of the gods and goddesses of the seasons. Blodeuwedd is the blossoming earth goddess of the summer- her name means 'flower face'. She is the sovereign goddess of the land, whom the Sacred King must marry in order to rule. Her two lovers are seasonal gods or annual Sacred Kings, rivals for her hand. She is betrothed at Beltane, married at midsummer and buried at Lughnasa. The battle of Llew and Gronw takes place that the equinoxes, hence the balancing on cauldron and goat, which represent the summer and winter solstices in Cancer and Capricorn.

 Blodeuwedd is the youthful maiden goddess of summer. She indicates growth and flowering, expansion and blossoming. She is the goddess of becoming, of self-realisation that cannot come through another but only through the paradox of realising that you are separate and unique, but part of the greater whole. Though she was created by two men to become the bride of Llew, she rebelled against the role chosen for her. Far from being a toy created to serve Llew, Blodeuwedd is in fact the source of his power, the earth goddess. Blodeuwedd's two lovers represent summer and winter who must battle for her hand at the equinoxes.

NB: This short article is not from my more comprehensive Goddess Encyclopaedia

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[1] 'Thigh' is probably the myth recorder's polite rendering of 'groin', since sacrificed gods are often described as being castrated.