Saturday, September 24, 2005


UI's Celtic Mythology - Rhiannon

Rhiannon, in Welsh mythology, was the daughter of Hereydd, and the long-suffering wife of Pwyll, a chieftain of Dyfed. All of Rhiannon's troubles stemmed from her rejection of Gwawl, the man to whom she had been promised, and as a result his enraged father had laid a spell on Pwyll's household. Because of this curse, Rhiannon suffered years of barrenness and, after the birth of a son, she was unjustly accused of eating the baby. Even after the boy, whom she named Pryderi, which meant "Care", had been restored and grown up, the spell continued to dog Rhiannon. At one stage she and Pryderi were changed into donkeys. Rhiannon herself had her own magical aspect, however, for the singing of her birds was said to be able to wake the dead and send the living to sleep.
Rhiannon is a singular figure in Welsh mythology. She bore her suffering and injustic with a patience that still seems remarkable. But her real nature was in all likelihood originally connected with horses. When Pwyll first set eyes on her, Rhiannon was riding "a big fine pale white horse, covered with a garment of shining gold brocaded silk". Also, Rhiannon's stolen son was found in a stable and her punishment for losing him was to act as a beast of burden to visitors who came to her husband's palace. It is tempting to link her with the horse goddess Epona, one of the few Celtic gods or goddesses to be worshipped by the Romans.

I think it's fair to say Rhiannon is one of the most unfortunate characters in Celtic mythology.


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