Math and Gwydion
The role of myths and legends is to relive old memories, restore old traditions and to allow the past to become a tangible reality. Through the stories one can gain wisdom. Even when things go wrong we can learn from the experience.
Trees of all types played their role in the Cad Goddeu, the Battle of the Trees. The battle received the title "Cad Goddeu" because Gwydion, as an adolescent wizard, applied spells that meant "The Battle of the Trees," which made the groves come to life.
Gwydion was the nephew and the heir to Math, the Ancient, and a Great Wizard. Math offered Gwydion all he had; shelter, food, money, recreational pleasures, and all the knowledge he had gathered throughout his years on the topic of true magic. Math was a powerful ruler who was known to be a fearsome leader. He had the understanding of miracles and phenomena of nature. Math ruled with his feet on the lap of the maiden named Arianrhod, Gwydion's sister, except when the Great Wizard was at war. Arianrod was to serve Math while she remained a virgin. Gwydion's counterpart, Gilfaethwy, desired Arianrhod. He admired her beauty from afar. His heart became sad. Days passed into weeks, then months, and all Gilfaethwy would or could do was stare dreamily at the young maiden. Gwydion conjured up a war that would send Math away from Arianrhod's side.
Gwydion and Gilfaethwy, along with a company of warriors disguised as Bards, tricked Pryderi into war. Gwydion new Pryderi was young and could be easily fooled. The group traveled to the South of Wales to the Land of Dyfed. Pryderi welcomed the Bards as guests when the group arrived. There was a feast served and stories told. Upon Pryderi's request, the Bards entertained with their version of songs, dances and tales about the lands they had traveled. Pryderi's and his court drank, ate and relaxed for they truly enjoyed the company.
Gwydion, at the time he felt was right, requested a price to be paid for his men's service.Gwydion asked for Pryderi's herd of magical swine given from Arawn, the King of the Other World, as payment.
Pryderi refused to pay such compensation for he could neither sell nor give away the swine. Gwydion, quick of thought and versed in proper speech, convinced Pryderi that no harm would come if he bartered for something of equal value. Gwydion offered twelve strong black stallions. Each saddle would be laced in gold, twelve jet black greyhounds with pure white stripes on their chest that were faster than any other. He promised each dog would wear studded gold collars. The last on the list of proposals were twelve shields adorned with precious stones. Pryderi hastily agreed.
That night Gwydion entered the woods beneath the light of the full moon. He concentrated and with power of magical chant, he urged the fungus to alter their form to his liking.
When Gwydion's offer turned back into fungi, Pryderi was furious at being tricked. He commanded his troops to prepare for war. Gwydion summoned the dense forest to come alive and attack. The first to arrive was the mighty oak, then the heartless elm, followed by the hawthorn, willow and rowan. They rushed and forced their way through Pryderi's army.
Men, women and children died over a petty cause. Math left Arianrhod alone while he defended his lands.
Personal want can create harmful actions when the thought for others is not applied. While Math gone, Gilfaethwy had his way with Arianrhod in the most wicked of manners.
Math's power was great. It took no time at all for him to destroy the Land of Dyfed's army and his enemy's people and property. It was Gwydion himself who slayed Pryderi during a one-on-one battle.
Math was a seer of all. When the dust settled he realized the evil that had been done. He summoned Gwydion and Gilfaethwy to his fortress. There he punished the pair for the death of Pryderi and the destruction of the Land of Dyfed, as well as the shame brought to Arianrhod.
Their punishment would be Gwydion and Gilfaethwy would be changed into a different pair of beast, a hind and stag, boar and sow, wolf and she-wolf.
Math had decided the two would take turns experiencing being the male or female. Math would restore them back to their human shape only when there were three new, healthy animals. The first year Gilfaethwy, shaped as a hind, and Gwydion, a stag, returned to the castle with a fawn. Gilfaethwy was then turned into a sow, and Gwydion, a boar. Another year passed before the two returned with a piglet. The third year of their punishment, Gilfaethwy, was changed into a she-wolf, and Gwydion, a wolf. When the year passed they returned with a cub. Math kept his word and released the two back into human forms.
Gwydion learned that what affects one affects many; affects self or the all. As an adult gwydion was known as a Great Wizard who had respect for all life. He was a saver, restorer, and giver of new beginnings.
© 2008 Angie Skelhorn