Wednesday, 22 April 2015

The 'Death' of Lleu Llaw Gyffes

The 'Death' of Lleu Llaw Gyffes

Following the third tynged of Aranrhod, that Llew shall not have a wife who is from this earth, Math and Gwydion took  'the flowers of the oak, and the flowers of the broom, and the flowers of the meadowsweet, and from those they conjured up the fairest and most beautiful maiden anyone had ever seen. And they baptized her in the way that they did at that time, and named her Blodeuedd'. She and Llew were married and lived at Mur Castell above the Cynfael Valley in Ardudwy. One day, whilst Llew was away visiting Math, the Lord of Penllyn, Gronw Pebyr, went by Mur Castell whilst chasing down a stag. He is spotted by Blodeuedd who sends an invitation of hospitality to him, which he accepts, but not before he catches the stag on the bank of the river Cynfael. The pair fall in love and sleep together for three nights. Then they hatch a plan to kill Llew Llaw Gyffes. Will Parker translates:

The next day, he got ready to go, and she did not hinder him.
'Aye,' he said 'remember what I said to you, and talk earnestly with him, and do that under the guise of affectionate nagging. And find out from him by what means death might be brought about.'
That night he came home. They passed the day in conversation, song and carousal. That night they went to sleep together. He spoke some words to her, [once] and a second time. But no [reply] did he get then.
'What's happened to you?' he asked 'are you well?
'I've been thinking,' she said 'something you wouldn't think about me, its just' she continued 'that I've been worried about your death, if you go before me.'
'Aye,' said he 'God repay your care. But unless God kills me, however, it is not easy to kill me.'
'Will you, for God's sake and mine, tell me by what means you might be killed? Since my memory is a better safeguard than yours.'
'I'll tell you gladly,' he said 'It is not easy,' he continued 'to kill me by a blow . It would be necessary to spend a year making the spear to strike me with - and without making any of it [at any other time] except when one was at mass on Sundays.'
'And is that certain?' she asked.
'It's certain, God knows,' he replied 'I cannot be killed inside a house, nor outside,' he continued 'I cannot be killed on horseback or on foot.'
'Aye,' said she '[so] in what way can you be killed?'
'I'll tell you,' he replied. 'By making a bath for me by the side of a river, making a curved, slatted roof over the tub, and thatching that well and without [leaving] any gaps. And bringing a buck (the word translated here is 'bwch' meaning billy goat or he-goat),' he continued 'and putting it next to the tub, and me putting one of my feet on the buck's back, and the other one on the side of the tub. Whoever would strike me [while I am] like that would bring about my death.'
'Aye,' said she 'I thank God for that. That can be easily avoided.'

So here is the 'death stance' of Lleu: He has one foot on the rim of the well and one foot on the back of the goat. He takes this position beside the river Cynfael. On the opposite bank are the goats brought by Blodeuedd. Above him is the well-thatched roof. Gruffydd surmised that in an earlier version of the tale a prophecy, geas or tynged, perhaps imposed by God, must have preceded this peculiar position which Llew must take in order that he may be slain. The very absurdity, obscurity and unguessable answer to the riddle, which Llew reveals to Blodeuedd, guarantees him immortality, unless, of course, he reveals the answer to someone like, well, Blodeuedd. But that's beside the point, the point is that this image meant to be unique, unknowable, unrepeatable. 

Now, here is a description of the constellation Perseus: He has one foot on the uppermost rim of the Zodiacal belt, the area immediately below this part of the Zodiac was anciently known as 'the waters of the well' due to the predominance of constellations with watery themes. His other foot (almost) rests on the back of the goat Capella in Auriga, he takes this position on the South bank of The Milky Way, on the opposite bank is the asterism known as The Kids usually depicted as two goat kids. Above him is the entire firmament, centred on Polaris.

As regards the 'well thatched roof', it is worth quoting W J Gruffydd's note to this in full: "The word used is cromglwyd, that is literally, a round hurdle,- like an open umbrella. The word is still used in Wales in the form of cronglwyd in the phrase, dan gronglwyd rhywun "under someone's roof," i.e., in his house. What is meant here is a round pointed thatched roof without sides, similar to those found in an African kraal". My idea that this 'roof' is meant to correspond to the dome of heaven, and that the pole which holds it up corresponds to the Axis Mundi is confirmed in an old Irish poem ascribed to the legendary tree dweller Suibhne Geillt:

My little hut in Tuaim Inbhir,
a mansion would not be more ingenious,
with its stars to my wish,
with its sun, with its moon.

It was Gobban that made it
-that the tale may be told you-
my darling, God of heaven'
was the thatcher that roofed it.

A house in which rain does not fall,
a place in which spears are not feared,
as open as if in a garden
and it without a wall round it.

In his book 'The Quest for Merlin', Nikolai Tolstoy noted Professor O'Rahilly's comment concerning ‘this thatched roof without sides...The house that Gobban built appears to be the firmament of heaven'. And there cannot be any doubt that this is the same thatched roof described in Math vab Mathonwy. It is, surely, significant that Gobban is cognate with Gofannon the Smith who delivers Dylan, Lleu's brother, the Unfortunate Blow. It is also worth mentioning that the line 'A house in which rain does not fall' finds strong echoes in the second englyn which Gwydion (shortly after his wanderings in search of Lleu in the Milky Way) sings to Lleu as he calls him down from the oak tree, an acknowledged symbol of the Axis Mundi: 

'An oak grows on a high plain,
Rain does not wet it, heat no longer melts it;
It sustained one who possesses nine-score attributes.
In its top is Lleu Llaw Gyffes' 

The description of the 'little hut' as 'a place in which spears are not feared' clinches it. The spear which the Strong Man Gronw Pebyr prepared took a year of Sundays in the making, and yet it still could not kill Lleu Llaw Gyffes.

There is another tradition which insists that Llew must be wrapped or caught in a 'fishing net' and I have read (somewhere) that this net is meant to be a circular casting or throw net,   


        This image of a radiated circle is a persistent image in Math The circular thatched roof and the circular casting net immediately remind one of Gwydion's golden shields made from mushrooms from the earlier swine swindling episode. They are all intended to invoke the celestial co-ordination grid. Recall also that St Lawrence, the Christian inheritor of the Lugus tradition also died on a grid.                                                                                                             

Here is the text of the attempted murder of Llew Llaw Gyffes as translated by Lady Guest from the Red Book of Hergest:

Lord,” said Blodeuwedd unto Llew, “I have been thinking how it is possible that what thou didst tell me formerly can be true; wilt thou show me in what manner thou couldst stand at once upon the edge of a cauldron and upon a buck, if I prepare the bath for thee?” “I will show thee,” said he.
Then she sent unto Gronw, and bade him be in ambush on the hill which is now called Bryn Kyvergyr, on the bank of the river Cynvael. She caused also to be collected all the goats that were in the Cantrev, and had them brought to the other side of the river, opposite Bryn Kyvergyr.
And the next day she spoke thus. “Lord,” said she, “I have caused the roof and the bath to be prepared, and lo! they are ready.” “Well,” said Llew, “we will go gladly to look at them.”
The day after they came and looked at the bath. “Wilt thou go into the bath, lord?” said she. “Willingly will I go in,” he answered. So into the bath he went, and he anointed himself. “Lord,” said she, “behold the animals which thou didst speak of as being called bucks.” “Well,” said he, “cause one of them to be caught and brought here.” And the buck was brought. Then Llew rose out of the bath, and put on his trowsers, and he placed one foot on the edge of the bath and the other on the buck’s back.
Thereupon Gronw rose up from the hill which is called Bryn Kyvergyr, and he rested on one knee, and flung the poisoned dart and struck him on the side, so that the shaft started out, but the head of the dart remained in. Then he flew up in the form of an eagle and gave a fearful scream. And thenceforth was he no more seen.

Gronw Pebyr translates as 'The Strong Man' which is an ancient title for the constellation Hercules whom, in his third labour chases down the Cerynian Hind. Apollodorus thus:  
Hercules set out on this adventure, and he hunted the deer for a whole year. At last, when the deer had become weary with the chase, she looked for a place to rest on a mountain called Artemisius, and then made her way to the river Ladon. Realizing that the deer was about to get away, Hercules shot her just as she was about to cross the stream.
The correspondences with Gronw's deer hunt are striking:
 She heard the blast of a horn, and in the wake of the horn-blast there was an exhausted stag passing by...For his part, [Gronw] went after the stag. At the River Cynfael, he caught up with the stag and killed it. 
Any decent popular amateur Astronomy application, enables one to watch The Strong Man or Hercules, 'rising on one knee', (recall that Claudius Ptolemy calls Hercules 'Engonasin' - 'The Kneeler') 'above the Hill of Cyfergyr', as The Hero or Perseus (Lleu) sets, (dies?) on the Northern horizon, while Aquila the Eagle, with the dart or arrow of the constellation Sagitta sticking out of his wing, rises in the East and then travels 180 degrees ('nine score hardships' or 'attributes' as Sioned Davies translates. Maybe 'degrees' would be better) across the sky to set in the West, with Perseus (Lleu), also having travelled nine score attributes, now in the topmost branches of the (world) tree, i.e. at Zenith .

He had one foot on the rim of a well. 

The paler blue stripe at the bottom of this chart represents the upper rim of the zodiacal belt, beneath which are the 'Waters of the Well'. Clearly, the thatched circular gazebo represents the northern celestial hemisphere and the 'Well' represents the southern celestial hemisphere. The largest star represented on the chart is Capella, The Goat.

He had one foot on the back of a goat. 

I mentioned in a previous post that Theony Condos noted of the she-goat Capella, known here as Amalthea the following “According to Hyginus, while Cronos was searching for Zeus, Amalthea placed the infant in a cradle which she hung from the branch of a tree, so that Zeus was not to be found either in the sky or on land or in the sea.” Zeus placed the figure of a goat among the stars, so that she would be remembered, this goat is marked by the bright star Capella '. Curious here, how one is forcefully reminded of the Llew Llaw Gyffes episodes in Math

Every single aspect of the 'unique' circumstances of the 'death' of Lleu Llaw Gyffes is contained in this image. It is simply inconcievable that this is a coincidence, Mabinogi scholars need to either challenge or accept these findings. There are more to come.

The Northern Hemisphere superimposed over the Cynfael valley below the Hill of Cyfergyr. The Milky Way has become the river Cynfael, in a rather precise way. The Hero Perseus /Lleu stands on the South bank with one foot on the rim of the well, one foot on the back of a goat, above him is a well-thatched dome or cronglwyd (with it's stars). The Strong Man Hercules/Gronw Pebyr rises on one knee (Engonasin) above the Hill of Cyfergyr. With Perseus in the setting position, Aquilla The Eagle, with the Arrow Sagitta sticking out of his wing, will rise in the East visible along the Cynfael Valley. When the Eagle travels nine score degrees, the Hero will be in the topmost branches of the World Tree.
I made this copy. You can see my other work at

1 comment:

  1. Wonderful, I've been looking for something on this! I came to a similar idea that it must be Perseus reading an analysis that suggests it's the Capricorn/Aquarius region which didn't add up, and looking for the only other goats in the sky found Perseus fitting the picture, thinking the zenith could be the roof in the story. The part I'm still not sure about how to tie in to the story is the fact that he changes places with his enemy... this to me sounds like a way of describing the equinox time only when light and dark battle and in effect change places. Any idea on how this might be understood within the Perseus region?
    I'm now looking forward to reading the rest of your blog!