On Sunday 29th September I will be celebrating Gwyn’s Feast – a festival honouring Gwyn ap Nudd, who is a Brythonic warrior-hunter god and ruler of Annwn (the Otherworld). There is some information on its background HERE. For me this celebration has the following themes:
*Harvesting – In Cornwall, September is known as Gwynngala ‘White Fields’. I associate Gwyn not only with the harvesting of the souls of the dead but the harvesting of the meadows at this time of year. The greens of the apples and the black-red of the blackberries feel like his tastes and colours and this is the time we harvest them from our garden.
*Feasting – In The Life of St Collen, Gwyn presides over a fairy feast with ‘the most luxurious of every dainty and delicacy that the mind could desire’ and ‘every drink and liquor’ one’s ‘heart could wish’. As Pen Annwn he keeps a cauldron that only boils meat for the brave. What kind of meat is this? Well, lines in Culhwch and Olwen suggest he is the original leader of the hunt for Twrch Trwyth, a human chieftain who takes the shape of a boar. We’re looking at pork that is at the same time human flesh and an ancient rite of transubstantiation that involves ingesting ancestral wisdom.
*Honouring Gwyn and the Spirits of Annwn – The primary focus of this festival is honouring Gwyn as a warrior-hunter god who presides over Annwn and its spirits and guides the dead back to his realm. The spirits of Annwn/fairies are the beings who ride on his hunt and dress in red and blue at his feast. They include humans who have died suddenly or violently, particularly in battle, and otherworldly entities who occupy a liminal position between human and animal, mortal and immortal.
*Poetry – Gwyn has a special kinship with ‘the dead, the mad, and the poets’. He plays a role in the initiations of Cyledyr and Myrddin Wyllt (gwyllt means ‘mad’ or ‘wild’). After becoming wyllt Cyledyr becomes a rider on the hunt for Twrch Trwyth and Myrddin becomes a poet and prophet. As the guardian of the cauldron Gwyn is associated with awen, the divine inspiration of the awenyddion.
The apples have been gathered and the blackberries picked. On the evening a meal of pork and apple will be cooked and served with mead. The ritual will begin with prayers to Gwyn and the spirits of Annwn before they are invited to join the feast. A plate and glass will be offered to Gwyn and together we will feast on the flesh of Twrch Trwyth. This will be followed by readings of poetry honouring Gwyn – my own and that of other devotees.
I see this as a gathering of the living and dead in which we come together in spirit to share food and drink and poetry in honour of Gwyn as our Brythonic King of the Otherworld.
An increasing number of polytheists have been celebrating this festival over the past few years and we welcome you to join us in whatever way you can, whether by holding a feast, raising a glass, reading a poem, or simply speaking Gwyn’s name.