Source: images.epilogue.net by Lisa Hunt
Have you heard of Blodeuwedd, the Flower Goddess? Do you know who she is and how she came to exist? The legend says that Blodeuwedd was created by magic to be given as a wife to Llew, a man who was cursed form ever knowing love or marriage. Blodeuwedd is part of a legend conceived and told by the Celtic Tradition. Among the Celts, storytelling has been a favored occupation, they revered (the legends and their tellers), especially the long and intricate stories. The Mabinogion has been for a long time the embodiment of most ancient Welsh legends and the story of Blodeuwedd is part of it.
Before we tell you more about Blodeuwedd, we'd like to give you some background in the history of the Celts, to shed some light into all the intricacies of the story. Historically, the Celts were matrilineal (they were born to their mother's line, not their father's). What this meant was that KIngship landed upon the son of the king's sister and not upon the children of the reigning king and queen. The queens were the actual power. In order to be crowned king, a man had to marry the land in order to demonstrate his devotion to the ruling power. This marriage was symbolic and was accomplished by the Great Rite between the proposed king and a priestess of the Goddess. By committing this act, the king was ensuring his love for the land and his commitment to defend it as he would defend his wife.
The story of Blodeuwedd goes hand in hand with the story of Llew and his struggle for kinship which was made difficult by his mother the Goddess Arianrhod, who tried her best to prevent his son from being king. Here's Blodeuwedd's story.
The Legend of Blodeuwedd
Blodeuwedd, the Flower Goddess, is also known as the Ninefold Goddess of The Western Isles of Paradise. She was a Goddess like no other, mainly because of how she came to life. She had a short life, and to understand better her life, actions, and death, it's necessary to tell you first of another goddess, Arianrhod, the Celtic Sky Goddess. Arianrhod was the most powerful child of Don, the Great Mother Goddess. She was deceived by her brother, Gwydion, a powerful magician and heir to the kingship (he was the older son of Don). Gwydion wanted to convince Arianrhod to marry him to ensure that his sons would be in line for kingship, but Arianrhod wasn't interested in marriage, so Gwydion using tricks and magic forced her to conceive his child.
She gave birth to two twin boys, the one named Dylan fled to the sea and swam away. The second boy was unnoticed by all those who were present at the moment of his birth. Everyone but Gwydion who took him and raised him in a magic forest.
Blodeuwedd comes to Life
Arianrhod was furious with Gwydion, and when she learned of his betrayal she took her revenge on the kid laying three curses on the little boy. The first curse was that she denied the child a name, the second curse was that she denied him the right to bear arms (this was a right of Welsh mothers). Again, Gwydion managed to trick Arianrhod into granting the child a name (Llew), and the right to bear arms. The third curse though was a little more difficult to break because it stated that the boy "was not to have a wife of the race that is now on the earth".
In order for Llew to become a king, he had to marry a woman, an actual Goddess that was representative of the land. So Gwydion united forces with Math (both powerful magicians) and together they created a woman out of flowers to be Llew's wife. And this is how the Flower Goddess came to life. They created her from nine flowers: primrose, bean, broom, meadowsweet, burdock, nettle, oak, hawthorn, and chestnut. They named her Blodeuwedd, which means "Flower face", she was perfect for Llew because she was "the earth in full bloom", making his sovereignty legitimate. Mission accomplished...
Blodeuwedd was born a full-grown woman, she was beautiful and passive. Llew fell in love with her instantly and they became husband and wife. Everything seemed fine, at first, Blodeuwedd accepted her role without a question, as was expected, and settle into married life. But she wasn't content and she didn't know why, Llew was a good man, he was fine and skilled and she loved her. Blodeuwedd was able to feel happiness for a while but in time, this happiness faded and she started to feel restless and not satisfied with her life. She felt no inspiration and no desire. She didn't felt alive anymore.
The plot thickens... the story says the one day when Llew was away hunting, Blodeuwedd was left alone with her ladies when a handsome huntsman named Gronw came along. Once they laid eyes on each other, the attraction was off the charts and Blodeuwedd came really alive. Her heart quickened and her own desire was awakened. Gronw and Blodeuwedd fell in love at first sight and now Blodeuwedd could no longer accept her destiny, she can no longer stay married to Llew because she didn't love him. What was she to do?
Gronw and Blodeuwedd wanted to be together forever so they had to find a solution, and they came to the conclusion that the only way was to kill Llew. So they started plotting his death. But this was no easy task because Llew was given some magick in the form of the circumstances of his death. Llew's death could only be accomplished by a set of very unlikely circumstances that only the Celts could devise. He couldn't be killed indoors or out; he couldn't be killed on a horse or on foot, and to top it all, the spearhead capable of killing him had to be cast during a secret period of time.
All this was a secret, Blodeuwedd had to find a way for Llew to spill his beans. So, pretending to be worried about Llew's possible death she somehow persuaded him to reveal how it could be accomplished. Llew was in love with his wife so to put her fears to rest he showed her how it could be done. Gronw and Blodeuwedd now had all they needed and put a plan in action. They prepared a bath for Llew by the side of a river which was covered with a thatched roof, so Llew was neither indoors nor out. He then put one foot on the edge of the bath and the other on the back of the goat so he wasn't on a horse or on foot. Meanwhile, Gronw was hiding and ready to deliver the final blow. When the time was right, he threw a sacred spear they had managed to get their hands on. The spear hit Llew on the side immediately turning him into an eagle who then flew away.
Blodeuwedd's Final Destiny
Once the deed is done, Blodeuwedd and Gronw ran off together, thinking that they finally were going to be together forever ...but that was not to happen. First, Gwydion found Llew and he nursed him back to health. Then, he goes looking for the lovers and when he finds them, he kills Gronw. When it came to Blodeuwedd, he couldn't bring himself to kill his own creation so he turned her into an owl. This is how Blodeuwedd became a creature of the night. In her short life, she went form an innocent and passive wife to a passionate woman full of life, to end like a solitary predator of the night. She went from being the Flower Goddess to the Goddess of Night and Death.
Blodeuwedd, the Flower Goddess was created by men to fulfill Llew's right to rule the land, and she helped him in a way to achieve that but ultimately what she accomplished was and awakening to herself, to her own desires, and to her own fate.
Blodeuwedd came to life to give power to Llew, to be his wife, and to help him secure his kingship. She was never asked if she genuinely loved him or if she wanted to marry him. She starts to live once she finds true love and that's when she reclaims her own power and her own destiny. Even though her final destiny is not the one she envisioned for herself and her lover, at least it was of her choice.