A few weeks ago I published an article on the story of Gwyn, Gwythyr and Creiddylad, which highlighted its significance as an ancient British seasonal myth originating in the Old North. This showed Creiddylad’s importance as a Brythonic goddess connected with the sovereignty of the land, outlined a depiction of her viewpoint and described her nature as a spring maiden and queen of Annwn.
It was my intuition Gwyn’s pride in being Creiddylad’s lover and references to his invocation in her name suggested she was an important fertility goddess in her own right. More recently I found this idea backed up by analogy with Ann Suter’s reading of The Hymn to Demeter. Like Persephone with Hades, Creiddylad is a free agent in a sacred marriage with Gwyn. As king and queen of Annwn they form a divine couple equal in power and independence.
To win Creiddylad’s favour on Calan Mai, Gwythyr, a human ruler, must descend to Annwn and battle against Gwyn. His willingness and skill are conditions of Creiddylad’s becoming his May Queen. Thus she returns to this-world to bring fertility to the land and makes him her king for the summer. Gwythyr’s reign is only temporary. On Nos Galan Gaeaf Gwyn takes her back to Annwn where in turn she presides over the processes of life and death.
One of the important lessons of this story is that all life comes from and returns to Annwn. The fertility of this-world is dependent on the underworld and its deities. This is reflected in the simple necessity of planting a seed underground and in offerings our ancient ancestors made in ritual shafts and pits. All trees and plants come from and decay back into the soil. This is ultimately the fate of our flesh and bones.
The beauty of the flowers of May is dependent on the deaths of many others. This applies to human ancestry. Our fruitful modern existence is founded on the death and toil of countless people. As is our creativity. Thus the Awen can only be won by making Gwythyr’s descent down through the ancestral heritage of our soil, establishing our own relationships with the underworld deities. Personal sacrifices must be made and their bounty shared.
Only then will our hawthorns blossom and the favour of Creiddylad, May Queen and Queen of Annwn be won.
*With thanks to Brian Taylor for pointing me toward Sarah Pike’s review of Ann Suter’s The Narcissus and the Pomegranate.