Goddess and Gods: Blodeuwedd

The myths of Wales, like those of Ireland, are a mixed blessing. On the one hand, they have been far better preserved than those of their continental Celtic cousins. On the other, they were preserved by people who had a vested interest in stripping them of any religious content and focusing on their literary and (sometimes) folkloric aspects. Christian monks were not great promoters of Pagan gods.

In many cases, existing Celtic myths don’t identify deities as deities at all, and it can be hard to know the original fact of the matter. 

So, Blodeuwedd. Known primarily as the bride of the hero Lleu Llaw Gyffes, her name means “flower-face” and she was in fact created from flowers and herbs. Lleu, you see, was under a curse–he was prohibited from taking any human woman as wife. For this reason, his magician uncle Gwydion and his magician great-uncle Math took oak and broom and meadowsweet and made from them the beautiful Blodeuwedd–who, not being human, was not subject to Lleu’s curse. Their marriage, however, was not a happy one and Blodeuwedd took a lover, with whom she plotted to kill Lleu. The plot fails and, as punishment for her faithlessness, Gwydion turns her into an owl. Seems pretty straightforward, right?

But I have a lot of sympathy for Blodeuwedd, honestly. She only existed in order to become the wife of Lleu. That is why she was made. She had no choice in the matter. She had no allies, no family, no friend, no one to take her side. She came into existence, fully grown. No one had ever thought of her as anything but a means to an end, cared for her for her own sake, or given any consideration to what she might want from her life. And then someone came along who might perhaps have thought of her as a person, an individual with her own identity and autonomy–things no one had ever thought her worthy of, or capable of.

It’s understandable. It’s relatable.

To me, that’s the bigger message behind the story of Blodeuwedd. The importance of knowing one’s own value, the importance of having one’s own will.

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