Signposts to Annwn: Lore

Book.of.Taliesin.facsimile

This posts shares some of the lore associated with Annwn. Awen, the divine breath of inspiration, is seen to originate from Annwn. Also included are passages about initiation, death and rebirth, and the soul.

Awen

‘Let’s approach God who is
– according to the utterance of Talhaearn –
the true judge of the worth of the world,
the One who adjudged the qualities
of passionate song.
He with his miracle bestowed
immeasurable inspiration:
there are 140 ‘ogrfen’
in inspiration;
eight score
in each one.
In Annwfn he ranged the (divisions of inspiration),
in Annwfn he made them,
in Annwfn below the earth,
in the air above the earth.
There is one who knows
what sadness
is better than joy.
I know the set gradations
of inspiration when it flows;
(I know) about payments to a poet,
about propitious days,
about a joyful life,
about the aeons of the fortress,
about the ones like kings,
how long their dwelling places (shall last)…

I sing inspiration,
I bring it forth from the depth.
The connected river which flows (around the world):
I know its might,
I know how it ebbs,
I know how it flows,
I know how it courses,
I know how it retreats.
I know how many creatures
are under the sea;
I know the nature
of each one in its shoal;
how many divisions in a day,
how many days in a year…’
– The Hostile Confederacy, The Book of Taliesin, (Haycock transl.)

‘I entreat my Lord
that (I may) consider inspiration:
what brought forth (that) necessity
before Ceridfen
at the beginning, in the world
which was in need?’
– The Childhood Achievements of Taliesin, The Book of Taliesin, (Haycock transl.)

‘Where does inspiration flow to,
at midnight (and) mid-day?’
– I am the vitality, The Book of Taliesin, (Haycock transl.)

‘He (Urien) defended my song (emanating) from Ceridfen’s cauldron;
unrestrained is my tongue, a repository of inspiration.
That inspiration of poetry – my God created it
at the same time as fresh as fresh milk and dew and acorns…

I have three songs of consistent harmony
and they will be perpetuated by poets until Judgement.’
– The Chair of Taliesin, The Book of Taliesin, (Haycock transl.)

‘Here is the declamation of a brilliant poem
of immeasurable inspiration…

splendid (was it) when there emanated from the Sovereign/cauldron
the ‘ogyrwen’ of triune inspiration.’
– The Chair of Teyrnon, The Book of Taliesin, (Haycock transl.)

‘When the ‘Cadeiriau’ come to be judged
my own will be the best of them:
my song, and my cauldron, and my rules,
and my careful declamation, worthy of a chair in harmonious song.
I’m called a knowledgeable one in Don’s court,
I, and Euronwy, and Euron.’
– The Chair of Ceridwen, The Book of Taliesin, (Haycock transl.)

Initiation

Sixty Years of Solitude

‘For sixty years
I endured solitude
in the water gathered in a band (around the earth),
(and) in the lands of the world.
I had a hundred servants,
(and) a hundred dominions after that.’
– The Hostile Confederacy, The Book of Taliesin, (Haycock transl.)

Death and Rebirth

‘A hen got hold of me –
a red-clawed one, a crested enemy;
I spent nine nights
residing in her womb.
I was matured,
I was drink set before a ruler,
I was dead, I was alive,
a stick went into me;
I was on the lees,
separated from it, I was whole;
and the drinking vessel stiffened resolve,
(for) the red-clawed one imbued me with passion.’
– The Hostile Confederacy, The Book of Taliesin, (Haycock transl.)

The Soul

‘Do you know what you are
when you are asleep:
a body or a soul
or a pale mysterious thing?…

The lamented soul –
who saw it, who recognises it?
I am amazed in books
that they do not know for certain
what the soul’s dwelling is,
(and) what its limbs look like;
from which region flow
the great wind and the great stream
in dire combat
endangering the sinner.’
– The Childhood Achievements of Taliesin, The Book of Taliesin, (Haycock transl.)

‘I praise my Father,
My God, my sustainer,
who added, through my head,
a soul into my design.’
– Song of the Great World, The Book of Taliesin, (Haycock transl.)

Signpost to Annwn: Inhabitants

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This post begins to list the inhabitants of Annwn: deities, guardians, otherworldly animals who move between the worlds, and denizens regarded as monstrous. It’s notable that many of these Annuvian figures are opponents of Arthur and his warband who are hunted down and/or slaughtered.

Deities

The Head of Annwn

‘The cauldron of the Head of Annwn, what is its disposition
(with its) a dark trim, and pearls?’
– The Spoils of Annwn, The Book of Taliesin, (Haycock transl.)

Arawn

‘He (Pwyll) could see a rider coming after the pack on a large dapple-grey horse, with a hunting horn round his neck, and wearing hunting clothes of a light grey material…

“Lord,” said Pwll, “good day to you. And which land do you come from?”

“From Annwfn,” he replied. “I am Arawn, king of Annwfn.’’

“Lord,” said Pwyll, “how shall I win your friendship?”

“This is how,” he replied. “A man whose territory is next to mine is forever fighting me. He is Hafgan, a king from Annwfn. By ridding me of that oppression – and you can do that easily – you will win my friendship.”

“I will do that gladly,” said Pwyll. “Tell me how I can do it.”

“I will,” he replied. “This is how: I will make a firm alliance with you. What I shall do is put you in my place in Annwfn, and give you the most beautiful woman you have ever seen to sleep with you every night, and give you my face and form so that no chamberlain nor office nor any other person who has ever served me shall know that you are not me. All this,” he said, “from tomorrow until the end of the year, and then we shall meet again in this place”…

After defeating Hafgan and resisting the temptation to sleep with Arawn’s wife, Pwyll wins Arawn’s friendship. They exchange horses, hunting-dogs, hawks, and treasures. Pwyll becomes known as ‘Pwyll Pen Annwfn’.
– The First Branch, The Mabinogion, (Davies transl)

Gwyn ap Nudd

‘Twrch Trwyth will not be hunted until Gwyn son of Nudd is found – God has put the spirits of the demons of Annwfn in him, lest the world be destroyed. He will not be spared from there…

No steed will be of any use to Gwyn in hunting Twrch Trwyth, except Du, the steed of Moro Oerfeddog…

‘Creiddylad daughter of Llud Llaw Eraint went off with Gwythyr son of Greidol, but before he could sleep with her Gwyn son of Nudd came and took her by force. Gwythyr son of Greidol gathered a host, and came to fight against Gwyn son of Nudd, and Gwyn triumphed, and captured Graid son of Erai, and Glinneu son of Taran, and Gwrgwst Ledlwm and Dyfnarth his son. And he captured Pen son of Nethog, and Nwython, and Cyledyr Wyllt his son, and he killed Nwython and cut out his heart, and forced Cyledyr to eat his father’s heart, and because of that Cyledyr went mad. Arthur heard of this and came to the North, and summoned Gwyn son of Nudd to him, and released his noblemen from prison, and made peace between Gwyn son of Nudd and Gwythyr son of Greidol. This is the agreement that was made: the maiden was to be left in her father’s house, untouched by either party and there was to be battle between Gwyn and Gwythyr every May day forever from that day forth until Judgement Day, and the one that triumphed on Judgement Day would take the maiden.’
– Culhwch and Olwen, The Mabinogion, (Davies transl.)

‘Where is the land from which you come?

I come from many battles, many deaths
With shields held aloft,
Many heads pierced by spears…

My horse is Carngrwn from battle throng
So I am called Gwyn ap Nudd
The lover of Creiddylad, daughter of Lludd.’
– The Conversation of Gwyn ap Nudd and Gwyddno Garanhir, The Black Book of Carmarthen, (Hill transl.)

Edern ap Nudd

‘Suddenly they heard a noise. They looked in the direction of the noise, and they could see a dwarf… a woman… close to her a knight on a great, muddy charger, with heavy, shining armour on him and his horse. And they were sure that they had never seen a man and horse and armour whose size impressed them more, and all riding close together…

Then the Knight of the Sparrowhawk was making the proclamation and asking the lady to take the sparrowhawk.

“Do not take it,” said Geraint. “There is here a maiden who is fairer and more beautiful and more noble than you, and has a better claim to it.”

Geraint spurred his horse and charged him, warning him and striking him a blow severe and keen, bloody and bold in the strongest part of his shield so that his shield splits and the armour breaks in the direction of the attack and the girths break so that he and his saddle are thrown over the horse’s crupper to the ground…

(Geraint) struck the knight on the top of his head so that all the armour on his head shatters and all the flesh splits, and the skin, and it pierces the bone and the knight falls to his knees. He throws his sword away and asks Geraint for mercy…’
– Geraint son of Erbin, The Mabinogion, (Davies transl.)

Rhiannon

‘As they were sitting, they could see a woman wearing a shining golden garment of brocaded silk on a big, tall, pale-white horse coming along the highway that ran past the mound. Anyone who saw it would think that the horse had a slow, steady pace, and it was drawing level with the mound…

He (a member of Pwyll’s court) took the horse, and off he went. He came to the open, level plain, and set spurs to the horse. And the more he spurred the horse, the further she drew away from him. She was going at the same pace as when she had started. His horse became tired; and when he realised that his horse’s pace was failing, he returned to where Pwyll was…

“Groom,” said Pwyll, “I see the rider. Give me my horse.” Pwyll mounted his horse, and no sooner had he mounted his horse than she rode past him. He turned after her, and let his spirited, prancing horse go at its own pace. And he thought that at the second leap or the third he would catch up with her. But he was no closer to her than before. He urged his horse to go as fast as possible. But he saw it was useless for him to pursue her.

Then Pwyll said, “Maiden,” he said, “for the sake of the man you love most, wait for me.”

“I will wait gladly,” she said, “and it would have been better for the horse if you had asked that a while ago!”’
– The First Branch, The Mabinogion, (Davies transl.)

Modron

‘In Denbighshire there is a parish which is called Llanferes, and there is there Rhyd y Gyfarthfa (the Ford of Barking). In the old days the hounds of the countryside used to come together to the side of that the ford to bark, and nobody dared go to find out what was there until Urien Rheged came. And when he came to the side of the ford he saw nothing except a woman washing. And when the hounds ceased barking, and Urien sized the woman and he had his will of her; and then she said “God’s blessing on the feet which brought thee here.” “Why?” said he. “Because I have been fated to wash here until I should conceive a son by a Christian. And I am daughter to the King of Annwfn, and come thou here at the end of the year and then thou shalt recieve that boy.” And so he came and he received there a boy and a girl: that is, Owein son of Urien and Morfudd daughter of Urien.’
Peniarth MS 147, (Bromwich transl.)

Mabon

‘There is no huntsman in the world who can hunt with that dog (Drudwyn – a hound of Annwn), except Mabon son of Modron, who was taken when three nights old from his mother. No one knows where he is, nor what state he’s in, whether dead or alive…

“With every flood tide I travel up the river until I come to the bend in the wall of Caerloyw; never before in my life have I found as much wickedness as I found there. And so that you will believe me, let one of you come here on my two shoulders.”

The ones who went on the Salmon’s shoulders were Cai and Gwrhyr Ieithoedd. And they travelled until they came to the other side of the wall from the prisoner, and they could hear lamenting on the other side of the wall from them.

Gwrhyr said, “Who is lamenting in this house of stone?”

“Alas, sir, he who is here has reason to lament. It is Mabon son of Modron who is imprisoned here, and no-one has been so painfully incarcerated in a prison as I, neither the prison of Lludd Llaw Eraint nor the prison of Graid son of Eri”…

Arthur summoned the warriors of this Island and went to Caerloyw where Mabon was in prison. Cai and Bedwyr went on the shoulders of the fish. While Arthur’s warriors were attacking the fort, Cai tore through the wall and took the prisoner on his back, and fought the men as before. Arthur came home and Mabon with him, a free man.’
– Culhwch and Olwen, The Mabinogion, (Davies transl.)

Sovereigns

The Fisher King

‘And on the shore of the lake there was a grey-haired man sitting on a cushion of brocaded silk, and young lads fishing in a small boat on the lake. As the grey-haired man saw Peredur approaching, he got up and made for the court, and the man was lame…

“I am your uncle, your mother’s brother.” Peredur sat down next to his uncle and they talked.

Suddenly he could see two lads entering the hall, and from the hall they proceeded to a chamber, carrying a spear of huge proportions, with three streams of blood running from its socket to the floor. When everyone saw the lads coming in this way, they all began weeping and wailing sot that it was not easy for anyone to endure it. Yet the man did not interrupt his conversation with Peredur. The man did not explain to Peredur what that was, nor did Peredur ask him about it. After a short silence, suddenly two maidens entered with a large salver between them, and a man’s head on the salver, and much blood around the head…

“Lord,” said the lad,” I came in the guise of the black-haired maiden… the black-haired man… And I brought the head on the salver, all covered in blood, and the spear with the blood streaming along it from its tip to its hilt. And the head was your cousin’s, and it was the witches of Caerlowy who killed him, and they made your uncle lame. And I am your cousin, and it is foretold that you will avenge that.’
– Peredur son of Efrog, The Mabinogion, (Davies transl.)

The Lady of the Well

‘And following that crowd he could see a lady, her yellow hair let down over her shoulders and covered with the blood of many wounds, and she was wearing a dress of yellow brocaded silk, which was torn, and boots of speckled leather on her feet. And it was surprising that the tips of her fingers were not worn away, so violently did she wring her hands together. Owain was certain that he had never seen such a beautiful woman, if she had been in her usual form. And her cries were louder than those of all the men and trumpets in the crowd. And when he saw the woman he was inflamed with love for her until it filled every part of him.

Owain asked the maiden who the lady was.

“God knows,” said the maiden, “a woman you could say is the most beautiful of women, and the most chaste, and the most generous, and wisest and noblest. She is my mistress, known as the Lady of the Well, the wife of the man you killed yesterday.’
– The Lady of the Well, The Mabinogion, (Davies transl.)

Guardians

The Keeper of the Forest

‘“You will see on top of the mound an enormous black-haired man no smaller than two men of this world. And he has one foot, and he has one eye in the middle of his forehead; and he has an iron club which I assure you would take two men of this world to lift. He is not a violent man, but he is ugly. You will see a thousand wild animals grazing around him. Ask him the way out of the clearing. He will be rude to you, and yet he will tell you the way so that you will find what you want.”…

And when I got there the wild animals I saw were three times more remarkable than the man described. And the black-haired man was there, sitting on top of the mound. The man had told me he was big, but he was far bigger than that. And the iron club which the man had said would take two men to lift, I was sure, Cai, that it would take four warriors. Yet he held it in one hand!

And I greeted the black-haired man, but he replied discourteously. I asked him what power he had over those animals. “I will show you, little man,” he said. And he took the club in his hand, and with it he struck a deer a great blow so that it gave a great bellow. And at his bellow wild animals came up until they were as numerous as the stars in the sky, so that was scarcely room for me to stand in the clearing with them, what with all the serpents and lions and vipers and other kinds of animals. He looked at them, and ordered them to go and graze. And they bowed their heads and did homage to him as obedient men do to their lord. And he said to me, “Do you see, little man, the power I have over these animals?”

And then I asked him the way. And he was rude to me, but nevertheless he asked me where I wanted to go. And I told him who I was and what I was looking for. And he showed me.’
– The Lady of the Well, The Mabinogion, (Davies transl.)

The Black Knight

“And with that you will see a knight on a pure black horse dressed in brocaded silk of pure black, with a banner of pure black linen on his spear.”…

And the birds’ song was most pleasing to Owain, he could see a knight coming along the valley. And Owain went to meet him and fought with him fiercely, and they broke both their lances, andf they drew their swords and began to fight. And with that Owain struck the knight a blow through his helmet and mail cap and hood of Burgundian cloth, and through the skin, flesh, and bone, until it wounded the brain. And then the Black Knight knew that he had received a mortal blow, and turned his horse’s head and fled.

And Owain pursued him, but he did not succeed in striking him with his sword though he was not far behind him. And then Owain could see a large, shining castle; they came to the castle gate and the Black Knight was let in, but a portcullis was let down on Owain. And it struck him below the hind-bow of the saddle so that the horse was cut in half, and it went through the rowels of the spurs on Owain’s heels; and the portcullis dropped to the ground, with the rowels and rest of the horse between the two gates. And the inner gate was closed so that Owain could not escape.’
– The Lady of the Well, The Mabinogion, (Davies transl.)

Defender of the Hedge of Mist

‘“Down there,” he said, “is a hedge of mist, and within it there are enchanted games. And no man who has gone there has ever come back”…

There was no-one inside the pavilion except for a single maiden, sitting in a golden chair, and an empty chair facing her. Geraint sat in the empty chair…

Suddenly they could hear a great commotion near the pavillion… a knight outside on a charger, wide-nostrilled, high-spirited, impatient, big-boned, and a mantle in two halves covering him and his horse, and plenty of armour under that.

“Tell me, lord,” he said to Geraint, “who asked you to sit there?”…

they began to fight… Geraint struck him in the strongest part of his shield so that it splits, and the head of the spear is in his armour, and all the saddle-girths break, and he himself is thrown over his horse’s crupper the length of Geraint’s spear and the length of his arm head-first to the ground. And quickly Geraint draws his sword, intending to cut off his head.

“Oh lord,” he said, “your mercy, and you shall have whatever you want.”

“I want only that this game is gone from here for ever,” he replied, “together with the hedge of mist, and the magic and enchantment which have existed.”
– Geraint son of Erbin, The Mabinogion, (Davies transl.)

Gatekeepers

‘You’re asked:
what is the name of the porter?’
– The First Address of Taliesin, The Book of Taliesin, (Haycock transl.)

‘What man is the porter?
Glewlwyd Gavaelvawr.
Who is the man that asks it?
Arthur and the fair Cai.’
– Arthur and the Porter, The Black Book of Carmarthen, (Skene transl.)

‘They made for the gate. Gwrhyr Gwalstawd Iethoedd said, “Is there a gatekeeper?”

“Yes. And as for you, may you lose your head for asking…

Knife has gone into food and drink into horns, and a thronging in the hall of Wrnach. Except for a craftsman who brings his craft, it will not be opened again tonight.”’
– Culhwch and Olwen, The Mabinogion, (Davies transl.)

Judges

‘When everyone’s separated out
I’ll come with a song
of a profound one who became flesh:
there has come a conqueror,
one of three judges in readiness.’
– The Hostile Confederacy, The Book of Taliesin, (Haycock transl.)

Witches of Annwn

Orddu and Orwen

‘Arthur said, “Are there any of the wonders we have still not obtained?”

One of the men said, “Yes, the blood of the Very Black Witch, daughter of the Very White Witch from Pennant Gofid in the uplands of hell.”

Arthur set out for the North, and came to where the hag’s cave was. And Gwyn son of Nudd and Gwythyr son of Greidol advised that Cacamwri and Hygwydd his brother should be sent to fight the hag. As they came into the cave the hag attacked them, and grabbed Hygwydd by his hair and threw him to the ground beneath her. Cacamwri grabbed her by the hair and pulled her off Hygwydd to the ground, and she turned on Cacamwri and thrashed both of them and disarmed them, and sent them out shrieking and shouting… Hir Amren and Hir Eiddil… if the first two had difficulties, the fate these two was far worse, so that God knows how any of the four could have left the place, had it not been for the way they were all put on Llamrei, Arthur’s mare. And then Arthur rushed to the entrance of the cave, and from the entrance he aimed at the hag with Carwennan, his knife, and struck her in the middle so she was like two vats. And Caw of Prydyn took the witch’s blood and kept it with him.’
– Culhwch and Olwen, The Mabinogion, (Davies transl.)

Ointment of the Witches of Annwn

‘Unsightly fog wherein the dogs are barking,
ointment of the witches of Annwfn.’
– ‘The Mist’, Dafydd ap Gwilym, (Bromwich transl)

The Witches of Caerloyw

‘“There are nine witches here, friend,” she said. “together with their father and mother. They are the witches of Caerloyw. And by day-break we shall be no nearer to making our escape than to being killed. And they have taken over and laid waste the land, except for this one house…

And at dawn Peredur heard a scream… a witch was grabbing hold of the watchman, and he was screaming. Peredur attacked the witch and struck her on the head with a sword until her helmet and mail cap spread out like a dish on her head.

“Your mercy, fair Peredur son of Efrog, and the mercy of God.”

“How did you know, witch, that I am Peredur?”

“It was fated and foretold that I would suffer grief at your hands, and that you would receive a horse and weapons from me. And you will stay with me for a while as I teach you how to ride your horse and handle weapons.”’…

Peredur and Gwalchmai decided to send for Arthur and his retinue, to ask him to set upon the witches. And they began to fight the witches, and one of the witches killed one of Arthur’s men in front of Peredur, and Peredur told her to stop. A second time the witch killed man in front of Peredur, and a second time Peredur told her to stop. A third time the witch killed a man in front of Peredur, and Peredur drew his sword and struck the witch on the top of her helmet, so that the helmet and all the armour and the head were split in two. She gave a scream and told the other witches to flee, and said it that it was Peredur, the man who had been learning horsemanship with them and who was fated to kill them. Then Arthur and his retinue attacked the witches, and all the witches of Caerloyw were killed.’
– Peredur son of Efrog, The Mabinogion, (Davies transl.)

Hounds

Hounds of Annwn

‘And as he (Pwll) was listening for the cry of his pack, he heard the cry of another pack, but these had a different cry, and they were coming towards his own pack. And he could see a clearing in the forest, a level field; and as his own pack was reaching the edge of the clearing, he saw a stag in front of the other pack. And towards the middle of the clearing, the pack that was chasing caught up with the stag and brought it to the ground.

Then Pwll looked at the colour of the pack, without bothering to look at the stag. And of all the hounds he had seen in the world, he had never seen dogs of this colour – they were a gleaming shining white, and their ears were red. And as the whiteness of the dogs shone so did the redness of their ears. Then he came to the dogs, and drove away the pack that had killed the stag, and fed his own pack on it.’
– The First Branch, The Mabinogion, (Davies transl.)

Dormach

My hound is sleek and fair,
The best of hounds;
Dormach he is, who was with Maelgwn.

Dormach rednose – why stare you so?
Because I cannot comprehend
Your wanderings in the firmament.
– The Conversation of Gwyn ap Nudd and Gwyddno Garanhir, The Black Book of Carmarthen, (Hill transl.)

‘Of the hound Dormarch we have a pictorial representation at the foot of page 97. Cerberus was a bodiless three-headed monster, with a serpent’s tail. Dormarch differs in having two front legs, and but one head. His body, however, is attenuated into a sort of forked tail, terminating in fan-like ends. An animal of this description was not adapted to run along the ground, and our text informs is that he moved ar wybir, ie. rode on the cloud that haunts the mountain-tops.’
– J. Gwenogbryn Evans, introduction to The Black Book of Carmarthen

Drudwyn

Drudwyn means ‘Fierce White’. It is likely he is a hound of Annwn.

‘You cannot hunt Twrch Trwyth until you get Drudwyn, the whelp of Graid son of Eri…

There is no leash in the world that can hold him, except the leash of Cors Cant Ewin…

The chain of Cilydd Canhastyr to hold the collar along with the leash.’
– Culhwch and Olwen, The Mabinogion, (Davies transl.)

Rhymhi and her Whelps

‘the two whelps of the bitch Rhymhi, Gwyddrud and Gwydden Astrus…

“She is,” said one, “at Aber Daugleddyf.”

Arthur came to the house of Tringad in Aber Cleddyf and asked him, “Have you heard about her here? In what form is she?”

“In the form of a she-wolf,” he said, “and she goes around with her two whelps. She has killed my livestock many times, and she is down below in Aber Cleddyf in a cave.”

What Arthur did was to set off by sea in Prydwen, his ship, and others by land, to hunt the bitch, and in this way they surrounded her and her two whelps. And God changed them back into their own shape for Arthur.’
– Culhwch and Olwen, The Mabinogion, (Davies transl.)

‘There were two old men from the Land of Enchantment,
Gwydre the abstruse and Odrud.’
– Cywydd to Dewi Sant, Iolo Goch

Aned and Aethelm

‘Twrch Trwyth will never be hunted until you get Aned and Aethlem. They are as swift as a gust of wind; they have never been unleashed on a beast they did not kill.’
Culhwch and Olwen, The Mabinogion, (Davies transl.)

Glas, Glessic and Gleisad

‘Bwlch and Cyflwch and Syfwlch…
Glas, Glesig, Gleisiad their three hounds…

These three men blow their horns, and all the others come to shriek until no one could care whether the sky fell on the earth.’
Culhwch and Olwen, The Mabinogion, (Davies transl.)

Glas means ‘to bark’.

Cynvyn (Dog-Heads)

In Mynyd Eiddyn,
He contended with Cynvyn;
By the hundred there they fell,
There they fell by the hundred,
Before the accomplished Bedwyr.
– Arthur and the Porter, The Black Book of Carmarthen, (Skene transl.)

Gwrgi Garwlwyd

On the strands of Trywruid,
Contending with Garwlwyd,
Brave was his disposition,
With sword and shield;
Vanity were the foremost men
Compared with Cai in the battle.
– Arthur and the Porter, The Black Book of Carmarthen, (Skene transl.)

‘And Diffydell son of Dysgfdawd who slew Gwrgi Garwlwyd (‘Rough Grey’). That Gwrgi used to make a corpse of one of the Cymry every day, and two on each Saturday so as not to (slay) one on the Sunday.’
– Triad 32, The Triads of Ancient Britain, (Bromwich transl.)

Swine

Swine of Annwn

‘Pryderi son of Pwyll, Lord of Annwfn, with the swine of Penndaran Dyfed his foster-father. These swine were the seven animals which Pwyll Lord of Annwfn brought, and gave them to Penndaran Dyfed his foster-father. And a place he used to keep them was in Glyn Cuch in Emlyn. And this is why he was called a Powerful Swineherd: because no-one was able to either to deceive or force him.’
– Triad 26, The Triads of Ancient Britain, (Bromwich transl.)

‘“Lord,” said Gwydion, “I hear that some kind of creatures that have never been in this island before have arrived from the South.”

“What are they called?” asked Math.

“Hobeu, lord.”

“What sort of animals are they?”

“Small animals whose flesh is better than beef. They are small, and their name varies. They are called moch now.”

“Who owns them?”

“Pryderi son of Pwyll – they were sent to him from Annwfn by Arawn, king of Annwfn.” (And to this day that name survives in the term for a side of pork: half a hob.)

“Well,” said Math, “How can we get them from him?”…
– The Fourth Branch, The Mabinogion, (Davies transl.)

White Boar

‘They approached the thicket. As they approached, a gleaming wild white boar rose from it. Encouraged by the men, the dogs charged at him. The boar then left the thicket and retreated a little way from the men. And until the men closed in on him, he would keep the dogs at bay without retreating; but when the men closed in he would retreat and break away. They (Pryderi and Manawydan) followed the boar until they saw a huge, towering, newly built, in a place where they had never been before seen any building at all. The boar was heading quickly for the fort, with the dogs after him. When the boar and the dogs had gone into the fort, then men marvelled at seeing the fort in a place where they had never before seen any building at all…

In spite of the advice he received from Manawaydan, Pryderi approached the fort. When he entered, neither man nor beast, neither boar nor dogs, neither house nor dwelling place could be seen.’
– The Fourth Branch, The Mabinogion, (Davies transl.)

Ysgithrwyn

‘I want the tusk of Ysgithrwyn Pen Baedd to shave with. It will be of no use to unless it is pulled from his head while he’s alive…

And then Arthur went to the North… and he went after Ysgithrwyn Pen Baedd. And Mabon son of Mellt went holding the two dogs of Glythfyr Ledewig, and Drudwyn, the whelp of Graid son of Eri. And Arthur himself went on the chase, holding Cafall, Arthur’s dog. And Caw of Prydyn mounted Llamrei, Arthur’s mare, and held the boar at bay. And then Caw of Prydyn armed himself with a small axe, and with fierce vigour set upon the boar, and split his head in two. And Caw took the tusk. It was not the dogs that Ysbaddaden had demanded of Culhwch that killed the boar but Cafall, Arthur’s own dog.’
– Culhwch and Olwen, The Mabinogion, (Davies transl.)

Twrch Trwyth

‘There is no comb and shears in the world that can dress my beard, because of its stiffness, except the comb and shears that lie between the ears of Twrch Trwyth son of Taredd Wledig. He will not give them willingly, nor can you force him…

Twrch Trwyth was, with his seven little pigs…

He was a king, and for his sins God changed him into a swine…

And Arthur fell upon Twrch Trwyth, together with the warriors of Prydain… And they grabbed him first by his feet and soused him in the Hafren until it flooded over him. Mabon son of Modron spurred his horse on the one side and grabbed the razor from him, and on the other side Cyledyr Wyllt rushed into the Hafren on another horse and snatched the shears from him…

Whatever trouble he had caused them before was mere play compared to what they then suffered in seeking the comb. But after one difficulty after another, the comb was taken from him. And then he was chased out of Cornwall and driven straight into the sea.’
Culhwch and Olwen, The Mabinogion, (Davies transl.)

Henwen

‘And the third, Coll son of C(o)llfrewy with the swine of Dallwyr Dalben in Glyn Dallwyr in Cornwall. And one of the swine was pregnant, Henwen was her name. And it was prophesied that the Island of Britain would be the worse for the womb-burden. Then Arthur assembled the army of the Island of Britain, and set out to seek and destroy her. And then the sow went about to farrow, and at Penrhyn Awstin in Cornwall she went into the sea, and the Powerful Swineherd followed her. And in the Wheat Field in Gwent she brought forth a grain of wheat and a bee. And therefore from that day to this the Wheat Field in Gwent is the best place for wheat and bees. And at Llonion in Pembroke she brought forth a grain of barley and a grain of wheat. Therefore, the barley of Llonion is proverbial. At the Hill of Cyferthwch in Arfon she brought forth a (wolf-cub) and a young eagle. The wolf was given to (B?)ergaed and the eagle to Breat, a prince of the North: and they were both the worse for them. And at Llanfair in Arfon under the Black Rock she brought forth a kitten, and the Powerful Swineherd threw it from the Rock into the sea. And the sons of Palug fostered it in Môn, to their own harm: and that was Palug’s Cat, and it was one of the Three Great Oppressions of Môn, nurtured therein. The second was Daronwy, and the third was Edwin, King of Lloegr.’
– Triad 26, The Triads of Ancient Britain, (Bromwich transl.)

Stags

Arawn’s Stag

‘And he (Pwyll) could see a clearing in the forest, a level field; and as his own pack was reaching the edge of the clearing, he saw a stag in front of the other pack. And towards the middle of the clearing, the pack that was chasing caught up with the stag and brought it to the ground…

Then he came to the dogs, and drove away the pack that had killed the stag, and fed his own pack on it…

“I have seen no greater discourtesy in a man,” he (Arawn) said, “than to drive away the pack that had killed the stag, and feed your own pack on it; that,” he said, “was discourtesy: and although I will not take revenge upon you, between me and God,” he said, “I will bring shame upon you to the value of a hundred stags.”
– The First Branch, The Mabinogion, (Davies transl.)

White Stag

‘“A stag have I seen in the forest (of Dean), and I have never in my life seen anything like it…

It is pure white, lord, and it does not walk with any other animal out of arrogance and pride because it is so majestic”…

“I shall do the appropriate thing,” said Arthur, “and go and hunt it tomorrow at dawn”…

“Then Gwalchmai said to Arthur, “Lord,” he said, “would it not be appropriate for you to allow the one who catches the stag while hunting to cut off its head and give it to anyone he wishes, either to his own lover or the lover of a friend of his, whether it is a mounted man or a man on foot?”
– Geraint son of Erbin, The Mabinogion, (Davies transl.)

Oxen

The Brindled Ox

‘those who nothing of the Brindled Ox, with his stout collar,
(and) seven score links in its chain.
And when we went with Arthur, sad journey,
save seven none returned from Man(d)wy Fort.’
– The Spoils of Annwn, The Book of Taliesin, (Haycock trans.)

Nyniaw and Peibiaw

‘Two horned oxen, one from the far side of Mynydd Banog and the other from this side, and brought together under one plough. They are Nyniaw and Peibiaw, whom God transformed into oxen for their sins.’
– Culhwch and Olwen, The Mabinogion, (Davies transl.)

Cats

Cath Palug

‘And at Llanfair in Arfon under the Black Rock she (Henwen) brought forth a kitten, and the Powerful Swineherd threw it from the Rock into the sea. And the sons of Palug fostered it in Môn, to their own harm: and that was Palug’s Cat, and it was one of the Three Great Oppressions of Môn, nurtured therein. The second was Daronwy, and the third was Edwin, King of Lloegr.’
– Triad 26, The Triads of Ancient Britain, (Bromwich transl.)

Against Cath Palug
When the people welcomed him.
Who pierced the Cath Palug?
Nine score before dawn
Would fall for its food.
Nine score chieftains…
– Arthur and the Porter, The Black Book of Carmarthen, (Skene transl.)

Mice

The Retinue of Llwyd

‘towards midnight, he heard the loudest noise in the world. He looked. There was a huge army of mice – they could not be counted or measured. The next thing he knew, the mice were making for the field, and each one was climbing up along a stalk and bending it down, and breaking the ear and making off with the ears, and leaving the stalks behind. And as far as he knews there was not a single stalk without a mouse to it. And they ran away carrying the ears with them. Then, enraged and angered, he charged in among the mice. He could no more keep his eye on them than on  the gnats or birds in the air. But he could see that one was very fat, and unlikely to be able to move quickly. He went after that one and caught it, and put it in his glove, and tied the mouth of the glove with string, and kept hold of it and made for the court…

“I intend to hang it tomorrow. And by my confession to God, had I caught them all, I would hang them”…

Then he came to Gorsedd Arberth, taking the mouse with him, and he pushed two forks into the highest point of the mound…

As he was hoisting it up, he could see a bishop’s entourage and his baggage and his retinue, and the bishop himself approaching…

“I am Llwyd son of Cil Coed, and it is I who placed the enchantment on the seven cantrefs of Dyfed, and I did so to avenge Gwawl son of Clud… And having heard that you were living in the land, my retinue came to me and asked me to turn them into mice so they could destroy your corn. The first night they came alone. And they came the second night too, and destroyed two fields. But the third night my wife and the ladies of the court came to me and asked me to transform them too, and I did that. My wife was pregnant. And if she hadn’t been pregnant you would not have caught her. But since she was, and you did, I will give you Pryderi and Rhiannon, and I will remove the magic and enchantment from Dyfed. I have told you who she is, now let her go.”

Monsters

The Silver-Headed Beast

‘what animal it is they guard, with his silver head.
When we went with Arthur, sad conflict,
save seven none came back from the Angular Fort.’
– The Spoils of Annwn, The Book of Taliesin, (Haycock transl.)

Great-Scaled Beast

‘I pierced a great-scaled beast:
there were a hundred heads on him,
and a fierce battalion
beneath the roof of his tongue;
and another battalion is
in (each of) his napes.’
– The Battle of the Trees, The Book of Taliesin, (Haycock transl.)

Black Forked Toad

‘A black forked toad:
a hundred claws on him.’
– The Battle of the Trees, The Book of Taliesin, (Haycock transl.)

A Speckled Crested Snake

‘A speckled crested snake:
a hundred souls, on account of (their) sin,
are tortured in its flesh.’
– The Battle of the Trees, The Book of Taliesin, (Haycock transl.)

Beast with an Enormous Claw

‘Teyrnon gets up to examine the sturdiness of the foal. As he doing this he hears a loud noise, and after the noise an enormous claw comes through the window, and grabs the foal by its mane. Teyrnon draws his sword and cuts off the arm at the elbow so that part of the arm, and the foal with it, are inside. Then he hears a noise and a scream at the same time. He opens the door and rushes off after the noise. He cannot see the cause of the noise because the night is so dark; but he rushes after it and follows it. Then he remembers that he has left the door open and returns. And by the door there is a small boy in swaddling-clothes with a mantle of brocaded silk wrapped around him.’
– The First Branch, The Mabinogion, (Davies transl.)

Monster in a Cave

‘They replied that there was a monster in a cave who killed them every day…

“You are going to fight the monster, but it will kill you. And not because it is brave but because it is cunning. It lives in a cave, and there is a stone pillar at the mouth of the cave, and it can see everyone who enters but no one can see it. And with a poisonous spear from the shadow of the pillar it kills everyone. And if you promise to love me more than all women, I will give you a stone so that you will see the monster when you enter, but it will not see you”…

Peredur came to the cave, and took the stone in his left hand and the spear in his right hand. And as he entered he saw the monster and thrust the spear through him and cut off his head.’
– Peredur son of Efrog, The Mabinogion, (Davies transl.)

The Black Serpent of the Cairn

‘There is a mound called the Mound of Mourning and in the mound there is a cairn, and in the cairn there is a serpent, and in the serpent’s tail there is a stone. And these are the attributes of the stone: whoever holds it in one hand will have as much gold as he wishes in the other hand.’
– Peredur son of Efrog, The Mabinogion, (Davies transl.)

Signposts to Annwn: Places

Signpost

Sharing this post marks the beginning of my attempt to document the references to Annwn, the Brythonic Otherworld, in the core texts of medieval Welsh literature. Its aim is to build a picture of what is known about Annwn; its places, inhabitants, and the bardic lore that surrounds its mysteries. I believe this is important because Annwn is not only a magical place immanent within the British landscape, but the land of the dead. Growing to know Annwn in life could aid our passage into death.

The existing sources provide signposts by which to begin our own explorations. I have included both references that speak of Annwn explicitly and those that do so implicitly. The latter can be identified by markers such as the appearance of guiding animals, spatio-temporal distortion, extremes of beauty or ugliness and feelings of intense joy or terror. It’s worth noting that many places in Thisworld have Otherworld realities and the divisions are not absolute. This project will be ongoing and my developing research will be accessible via my ‘Porth Annwn’ page.

Fortresses

The most common destinations in Annwn are fortresses. Many are associated with the gods and spirits of Annwn who are later known as fairies.

A Hundred Islands A Hundred Citadels

‘I slept on a hundred islands;
I sojourned in a hundred citadels.’
– The Battle of the Trees, The Book of Taliesin, (Haycock transl.)

Caer Siddi (The Fairy Fort)

‘Harmonious is my song in Caer Siddi;
sickness and age do not afflict those who are there,
as Manawyd and Pryderi know.
Three instruments/organs around a fire play in front of it
and around its turrets are the wellsprings of the sea;
and (as for) the fruitful fountain which is above it –
its drink is sweeter than the white wine.’
– The Chair of Taliesin, The Book of Taliesin, (Haycock transl.)

‘Maintained was Gwair’s prison in Caer Siddi
throughout Pwll and Pryderi’s story.
No-one went there before he did –
into the heavy chain guarding the loyal lad.
And before the spoils/herds of Annwfn he was singing sadly,
and until Doom shall our poetic prayer continue.
Three loads of Prydwen went into it:
save seven, none came back from Caer Siddi.’
– The Spoils of Annwn, The Book of Taliesin, (Haycock transl.)

Caer Vedwit (The Mead-Feast Fort)

‘I’m splendid of fame – song was heard
in the four quarters of the fort, revolving (to face) the four directions.
My first utterance was spoken concerning the cauldron
kindled by the breath of nine maidens.
The cauldron of the Head of Annwn, what is its disposition
(with its) a dark trim, and pearls?
It does not boil a coward’s food, it has not been destined to do so;
Lleog’s flashing sword was thrust into it,
and it was left in Lleminog’s hand.
And in front of the door of Hell’s gate lamps were burned
and when we went in with Arthur, famed in tribulation,
save seven, none returned from the Mead-Feast Fort.’
– The Spoils of Annwn, The Book of Taliesin, (Haycock transl.)

Caer Pedryvan (The Four-Cornered Fort)

‘I’m splendid of fame: songs are heard
in the four quarters of the fort, stout defence of the island.’
– – The Spoils of Annwn, The Book of Taliesin, (Haycock transl.)

Caer Rigor (The Petrifaction Fort)

‘Fresh water and jet are mixed together:
sparkling wine is their drink, set in front of their battalion.
Three loads of Prydwen went by sea:
save seven, none came back from the Petrifaction Fort.’
– The Spoils of Annwn, The Book of Taliesin, (Haycock transl.)

Caer Wydyr (The Glass Fort)

‘I don’t rate the pathetic men involved with religious writings,
those who hadn’t seen Arthur’s feat beyond the Glass Fort:
six thousand men were standing on its wall;
it was hard to communicate with their watchman.’
– The Spoils of Annwn, The Book of Taliesin, (Haycock transl.)

Caer Golud (The Fort of Impediment)

‘Three loads of Prydwen went with Arthur:
save seven, none came back from the Fort of Impediment.’
– The Spoils of Annwn, The Book of Taliesin, (Haycock transl.)

Caer Vandwy (The Fort of God’s Peak)

‘I don’t deserve to be stuck with pathetic men with their trailing shields,
who don’t know who’s created on what day,
when at mid-day was God born,
(nor) who made the one who didn’t go to the Meadows of Defwy;
those who nothing of the Brindled Ox, with his stout collar,
(and) seven score links in its chain.
And when we went with Arthur, sad journey,
save seven none returned from Man(d)wy Fort.’
– The Spoils of Annwn, The Book of Taliesin, (Haycock transl.)

‘And to my sorrow
I saw battle at Caer Fanddwy.

At Caer Fanddwy I saw a host
Shields shattered, spears broken,
Violence inflicted by the honoured and fair.’
– The Conversation of Gwyn ap Nudd and Gwyddno Garanhir, The Black Book of Carmarthen, (Hill transl.)

Caer Ochren (The Angular Fort)

‘I don’t deserve to be stuck with pathetic men, with no go in them,
(those) who don’t know on what day the Lord is created,
(nor) when, at noon, the Ruler was born,
(nor) what animal it is they guard, with his silver head.
When we went with Arthur, sad conflict,
save seven none came back from the Angular Fort.’
– The Spoils of Annwn, The Book of Taliesin, (Haycock transl.)

Caer Arianrhod

‘Arianrhod, famed for her appearance surpassing the radiance of fair weather,
her terrifying was the greatest shame (to come) from the region of the Britons;
a raging river rushes around her court,
a river with its savage wrath beating against the land:
destructive its snare as it goes round the world.’
– The Chair of Ceridwen, The Book of Taliesin, (Haycock transl.)

Caer Gofannon

‘I’ve been with skilful men,
with Math Hen, with Gofannon…
For a year I’ve been in Caer Gofannon,
I’m old, I’m new, I’m Gwion;’
– The First Address of Taliesin, The Book of Taliesin, (Haycock transl.)

Caer Arawn

‘He (Pwyll) made his way to the court. He saw sleeping quarters there and halls and rooms and the most beautifully adorned buildings that anyone had seen… The hall was got ready. With that he could see a war-band and retinues coming in, and fairest and best-equipped men that anyone had ever seen, and the queen with them, the most beautiful woman that anyone had seen, wearing a golden garment of brocaded silk… They spent the time eating and drinking, singing and carousing. Of all the courts he had seen on earth, that was the court with the most food and drink and golden vessels and royal jewels.’
– The First Branch, The Mabinogion, (Davies transl.)

Caer Gwyn

‘And when he (Collen) came there, he saw the fairest castle he had ever beheld, and around it the best appointed troops, and numbers of minstrels, and every kind of music of voice and string, and steeds with youths upon them the comeliest in the world, and maidens of elegant aspect, sprightly, light of foot, of graceful apparel, and in the bloom of youth and every magnificence becoming the court of a puissant sovereign. And he beheld a courteous man on the top of the castle, who bade him enter, saying that the king was waiting for him to come to meat. And Collen went into the castle, and when he came there, the king was sitting in a golden chair. And he welcomed Collen honourably and desired him to eat, assuring him that, besides what he saw, he should have the most luxurious of every dainty and delicacy that the mind could desire, and should be supplied with every drink and liquor that his heart could wish; and that there should be in readiness for him every luxury of courtesy and service, of banquet and of honourable entertainment, of rank and of presents: and every respect and welcome due to a man of his wisdom…

‘Didst thou ever see men of better equipment than those in red and blue?’ asked the king.
– St Collen and Gwyn ap Nudd, The Mabinogion, (Guest transl.)

Caer Llwyd

‘They (Pryderi and Manawydan) followed the boar until they saw a huge, towering, newly built, in a place where they had never been before seen any building at all. The boar was heading quickly for the fort, with the dogs after him…

In spite of the advice he received from Manawaydan, Pryderi approached the fort. When he entered, neither man nor beast, neither boar nor dogs, neither house nor dwelling place could be seen in the fort. But he could see in the middle of the floor, as it were, a well with marble-work around it. At the edge of the well there was a golden bowl fastened to four chains, over a marble slab, and the chains reached up to the sky, and he could see no end to them. He was enraptured by the beauty of the gold and the fine workmanship of the bowl. And he went to the bowl and grabbed it. But as soon as he grabs the bowl, his hands stick to it and his feet stick to the slab on which he is standing, and the power of speech is taken from him so that he could not utter a single word. And there he stood…

She (Rhiannon) found the gate of the fort open – it was ajar – and in she came. As soon as she entered she discovered Pryderi gripping the bowl, and she went up to him.

“My lord,” she said, “what are you doing here?” Then she too grabbed the bowl. As soon as she grabs it, her hands too stick to the bowl and her feet to the slab, so that she too could not utter a single word. Then, as soon as it was night, where was a tumultuous noise above them, and a blanket of mist, and then the fort disappeared and so did they…’
– The Third Branch, The Mabinogion, (Davies transl.)

Caer Hyfaidd Hen

Hyfaidd Hen is the father of Rhiannon and presumably a ruler of Annwn.

‘He (Pwyll) set off for the court of Hyfaidd Hen, and he came to the court and they welcomed him, and there was a gathering and rejoicing and great preparations waiting for him, and all the the wealth of the court was placed at his disposal. The hall was prepared, and they went to the tables. This is how they sat: Hyfaidd Hen on one side of Pwyll, and Rhiannon on the other; after that each according to his rank. They ate and caroused and conversed.’
– The First Branch, The Mabinogion, (Davies transl.)

Caer Nefenhir

This is a real location in Western Galloway, but had its Otherworld reality.

‘I was in the Fort of Nefenhyr:
herbage and trees were attacking.’
– The Battle of the Trees, The Book of Taliesin, (Haycock transl.)

The Fortress of Wonders

‘Suddenly he could see two lads entering the hall, and from the hall they proceeded to a chamber, carrying a spear of huge proportions, with three streams of blood running from its socket to the floor. When everyone saw the lads coming in this way, they all began weeping and wailing sot that it was not easy for anyone to endure it. Yet the man did not interrupt his conversation with Peredur. The man did not explain to Peredur what that was, nor did Peredur ask him about it. After a short silence, suddenly two maidens entered with a large salver between them, and a man’s head on the salver, and much blood around the head. And then they all shrieked and wailed so that it was not easy for anyone to stay in the same building. At last they stopped, and remained sitting as long as it pleased them, and drank.’
– Peredur son of Efrog, The Mabinogion, (Davies transl.)

Rivers and Streams

The Defwy

Defwy is likely to refer to a Brythonic river of the dead. According to Hancock the name derives drom def-/dyf– ‘black’ ‘as in Dyfi’ (Dovey).

‘who made the one who didn’t go to the Meadows of Defwy;’
– The Spoils of Annwn, The Book of Taliesin, (Hancock tranl.)

‘Fine it is on the banks of the Dyfwy
when the waters flow’
– The Spoils of Taliesin, The Book of Taliesin, (Pennar transl.)

The River which Flows around the World

This likely refers to the ocean which, like Oceanus in Greek mythology, separated Thisworld and Annwn.

‘the connected river which flows (around the world)
I know its might,
I know how it ebbs,
I know how it flows,
I know how it courses,
I know how it retreats.
I know how many creatures
are under the sea’
– The Hostile Confederacy, The Book of Taliesin, (Haycock transl.)

The Other Tawe

The Tawe is a river in Wales but, like the Dovey/Defwy has its Otherworld reality too.

‘The white horse calls this talk to an end
His bridle leads us away
Hurrying to battles in Tawe and Nedd.

Not the Tawe here in this land
But the one far away in a distant land
Where the tide ebbs fiercely on the shore.’
– The Conversation of Gwyn ap Nudd and Gwyddno Garanhir, The Black Book of Carmarthen, (Hill. transl.)

The Streams of Annwn

‘My two keen spears:
from Heaven did they come.
In the streams of Annwfn
they come ready for battle.’
– The Battle of the Trees, The Book of Taliesin, (Haycock transl.)

Wells

The Lady’s Well

‘you will see a great tree, its branches greener than the greenest fir trees. And under that tree is a well, and near that tree is a marble slab, and on that slab is a silver bowl fastened to a silver chain so they cannot be separated. Take the bowl and throw a bowlful of water over the slab. And then you will hear a tumultuous noise, and think that heaven and earth are trembling with the noise. And after the noise there will be a very cold shower – a shower of hailstones – and it will be difficult for you to survive it. And after the shower there will be fine weather. And there will not be one leaf on the tree that the shower will not have carried away. And then a flock of birds will alight on the tree, and you have never heard in your own country such singing as theirs. And when you are enjoying the song most, you will hear a great groaning and moaning coming towards you along the valley. And with that you will see a knight on a pure black horse dressed in brocaded silk of pure black, with a banner of pure black linen on his spear. And he will attack you as quickly as he can. If you flee, he will catch up with you; if you wait for him on horseback he will leave you on foot. And if you do not find trouble there, you will not need to look for it as long as you live.’
– The Lady of the Well, The Mabinogion, (Davies transl.)

Meadows

The Meadows of Defwy

‘I don’t deserve to be stuck with pathetic men with their trailing shields,
who don’t know who’s created on what day,
when at mid-day was God born,
(nor) who made the one who didn’t go to the Meadows of Defwy;’
– The Spoils of Annwn, The Book of Taliesin, (Haycock tranl.)

Rocks

A Rock Beyond the Wave

‘There is a Rock beyond the wave, according to (God’s) great plan –
(while) the refuge of the enemy is a forlorn place of terror –
the Rock of the foremost Ruler, the supreme judge,
where the intoxication provided by the ruler will pleasure us.’
– The Fold of the Bards, The Book of Taliesin, (Haycock transl.)

Trees and Hedges

The Tree of Leaf and Flame

‘He could see a tall tree in the riverbank, and one half of it was burning from its roots to its tip, but the other half had fresh leaves on it.’
– Peredur son of Efrog, The Mabinogion, (Davies transl.)

The Hedge of Mist

‘“Down there,” he said, “is a hedge of mist, and within it there are enchanted games. And no man who has gone there has ever come back…

And no lower was the top of the hedge they could see than the highest point they could see in the sky. And on every stake they could see in the hedge there was a man’s head, except for two stakes. And there were a great many stakes within the hedge and through it…

there was an apple-tree facing the entrance to the pavilion, and on a branch of the apple-tree was a large hunting horn… There was no-one inside the pavilion except for a single maiden, sitting in a golden chair, and an empty chair facing her. Geraint sat in the empty chair.’
– Geraint son of Erbin, The Mabinogion, (Davies transl.)

Uffern

The term Uffern, ‘Inferno’, is used synonymously with ‘Annwn’ and is translated as ‘Hell’. It seems to refer to infernal and frightening places that are the destinations of souls..

‘What is the measure of Hell,
how thick is it veil,
how wide its its mouth,
how big are its baths?… (‘presumably the pits or rivers in which souls are tormented’ – Hancock)

The tops of the bare trees –
what forces them to be so bent over,
how many evils
are there (lurking) in their trunks?’
– The First Address of Taliesin, The Book of Taliesin, (Haycock transl.)

‘Madawg…
Was taken by fierce Erof…
Among the hideous fiends
Even to the bottom of Hell.’
– The Death Song of Madawg, The Book of Taliesin, (Skene transl.)

Pennant Gofid

‘Arthur said, “Are there any of the wonders we have still not obtained?”

One of the men said, “Yes, the blood of the Very Black Witch, daughter of the Very White Witch from Pennant Gofid in the uplands of hell.”

Arthur set out for the North, and came to where the hag’s cave was.’
– Culhwch and Olwen, The Mabinogion, (Davies transl.)

Liminal Places

Glyn Cuch

‘The part of his realm he (Pwll) wanted to hunt was Glyn Cuch… He set out that night from Arberth, and came as far as Pen Llywn Diarwya, and stayed there that night. And early the next day he got up, and came to Glyn Cuch to unleash his dogs in the forest. And he blew his horn and began to muster the hunt, and went off after the dogs, and became separated from his companions. And as he was listening for the cry of his pack, he heard the cry of another pack… a stag in front of the other pack… a gleaming shining white and their ears were red… he could see a rider coming after the pack on a large dapple-grey horse, with a hunting horn round his neck, and wearing hunting clothes of a light grey material… Arawn, King of Annwfn.’
– The First Branch, The Mabinogion, (Davies transl.)

Gorsedd Arberth

‘After the first sitting Pwyll got up to take a walk, and he made for the top of a mound that was above the court, called Gorsedd Arberth.

“Lord”, said one of the court, “the strange thing about the mound is that whatever nobleman sits on it will not leave there without one of two things happening: either he will be wounded or injured, or else he will see something wonderful.”

“I am not afraid to be wounded or injured among such a large company as this. As for something wonderful, I would be glad to see that. I will go and sit on the mound,” he said.

He sat on the mound. And as they were sitting, they could see a woman wearing a shining golden garment of brocaded silk on a big, tall, pale-white horse coming along the highway that ran past the mound. Anyone who saw it would think that the horse had a slow, steady pace, and it was drawing level with the mound.’
– The First Branch, The Mabinogion, (Davies transl.)

Glyn Ystun

‘From there he (Twrch Trwyth, ‘King of Boars’) went to Glyn Ystun, and then the men and hounds lost him.

Arthur summoned Gwyn son of Nudd to him, and asked him if he knew anything about Twrch Trwyth. He said that he did not.’
– Culhwch and Olwen, The Mabinogion, (Davies transl.)

Harlech

‘Then they (the seven survivors with Bendigeidfran’s head) went to Harlech, and sat down and were regaled with food and drink. As soon as they began to eat and drink, three birds came and began to sing them a song, and all the songs they had heard were harsh compared to that one. They had to gaze far out over the sea to catch sight of the birds, yet their song was as clear as if the birds were with them. And they feasted for seven years.’
– The Second Branch, The Mabinogion, (Davies transl.)

Gwales

‘There was a pleasant royal dwelling for them there (the seven survivors with Bendigeidfran’s head), above the sea, and there was a large hall, and they went to the hall. They could see two doors open; the third door was closed, the one facing Cornwall.

‘See over there,’ said Manawydan, ‘the door we must not open.’

That night they stayed there contented and lacking nothing. And of all the sorrow they had themselves seen and suffered, they remembered none of it nor of any grief in the world. And there they spent eighty years so that they were not aware of ever having spent a more pleasurable or delightful time. It was no more unpleasant than when they first arrived, nor could anyone tell by looking at the other that he had aged in that time. Having the head there was no more unpleasant than when Bendigeidfran had been alive with them. Because of those eighty years, this was called The Assembly of the Noble Head.’
– The Second Branch, The Mabinogion, (Davies transl.)

Oxford

‘Lludd had the length and breadth of the Island measured, and the central point was found to be in Oxford. He had the ground dug up there, and into that hole he put a vat full of the best mead that could be made, and a sheet of brocaded silk on top of it, and he himself kept watch that night. And as he was watching he saw the dragons fighting. When they had grown tired and weary, they landed on top of the sheet and pulled it down with them into the vat. And when they had drunk the mead, they fell asleep.’
– Lludd and Llyfelys, The Mabinogion, (Davies transl.)

Dinas Emrys

‘in the safest place he could find in Eryi he hid them (the dragons) in a stone chest. After that the place was was called Dinas Emrys.’
– Lludd and Llyfelys, The Mabinogion, (Davies transl.)

‘”I will now unfold to you the meaning of this mystery. The pool is the emblem of this world, and the tent that of your kingdom: the two serpents are two dragons; the red serpent is your dragon, but the white serpent is the dragon of the people who occupy several provinces and districts of Britain, even almost from sea to sea: at length, however, our people shall rise and drive away the Saxon race from beyond the sea, whence they originally came; but do you depart from this place, where you are not permitted to erect a citadel; I, to whom fate has allotted this mansion, shall remain here; whilst to you it is incumbent to seek other provinces, where you may build a fortress.” “What is your name?” asked the king: “I am called Ambrose.”’
Historia Britonnum, (transl. J. A. Giles)

Caer Loyw

This is the home of the Witches of Caerloyw and the place of Mabon’s prison.

‘With every flood tide I travel up the river until I come to the bend in the wall of Caerloyw; never before in my life have I found as much wickedness as I found there.’
– Culhwch and Olwen, The Mabinogion, (Davies transl.)