Gwyn ap Nudd: There Will Be Mercy

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BULL of conflict was he, active in dispersing an arrayed army,
The ruler of hosts, Indisposed to anger,
Blameless and pure his conduct in protecting life.

Against a hero stout was his advance,
The ruler of hosts, disposer of wrath.
There will be protection for thee since thou askest it.

For thou hast given me protection;
How warmly wert thou welcomed!
The hero of hosts, from what region thou comest?

I come from battle and conflict
With a shield in my hand;
Broken is the helmet by the pushing of spears.

From The Dialogue of Gwyddno Garanhir and Gwyn ap Nudd

There will be protection for thee since thou askest it.

As I set out in my last post, Gwyn ap Nudd is in the process of destroying the human race. To do this, he is driving us mad.

Whom the gods would destroy they first make mad

Look around at our world. We fill the oceans with plastic, for “convenience”. We allow plant and animal genes to be copyrighted and become “intellectual property”, and we spray our fields with poison. We destroy our forests. We exist in a mental world of virtual realities and media constructions and we argue over them violently while ecosystems collapse unmourned. Our political and media classes confect “narratives”, reducing entire nations and peoples to rubble and suffering, and we wash our hands of the consequences.

Humanity has wiped out 60% of mammals, birds, fish and reptiles since 1970, leading the world’s foremost experts to warn that the annihilation of wildlife is now an emergency that threatens civilisation.
The Guardian

This is insanity, and it will bring destruction upon our heads.

Gwyn ap Nudd is not destroying us because he is evil. He is not evil. He is destroying us because he is just, and we have brought this upon ourselves by our actions. We have upset the balance between humans, and the people of the Otherworld, and the forests, and he has the duty to protect them, and to restore the balance.

BULL of conflict was he, active in dispersing an arrayed army,
The ruler of hosts, Indisposed to anger,
Blameless and pure his conduct in protecting life.

The lives he is protecting are not human lives; they are the lives that humans threaten to destroy with our greed and selfishness and short-sightedness.

There will be protection for thee since thou askest it.

Gwyn will destroy humankind if necessary, as his father Lludd of the Silver Hand destroyed the Coraniaid when that was necessary. There is a way out, though. We can ask Gwyn for his protection, and it will be given.

At a price.

An imperfect analogy is that of the Mongol Empire.

If you lived in a city anywhere from the Pearl Delta to Baghdad to Vienna during the Middle Ages, there was a chance that you would wake up one day to find Mongols at the gates. It might be only a handful of them. It might be a vast army. Either way, the message would be the same.

Surrender. Or die.

If your city decided to fight, the entire Mongol horde would descend upon you, and your city would be destroyed. You and every living creature within the walls would be executed; vast pyramids of skulls would proclaim the folly of resisting the Great Khan.

Surrendering would be difficult. You and your peers would have to change your way of life significantly. You might find yourself a lot poorer, at least at first. The Mongols would demand the payment of tribute, and that might not be easy to achieve.

But many people found that surrendering to the mercy of the Mongols wasn’t so bad.  They didn’t care about your religion, and didn’t interfere with your prayers. If your local lords had abandoned their loyalty to their own rulers, you might find that it was still the same people running things locally as it always had been, and the community around you would probably not be very different. And the Mongols enforced law and order very vigorously within their domain:

The couriers of the Khan galloped over fifty degrees of longitude, and it was said that a virgin carrying a sack of gold could ride unharmed from one border of the nomad empire to the other.
— Harold Lamb, Genghis Khan[1]: The Emperor of All Men, p. 112
Source

If you surrendered to the Mongols, life might be hard. But, and let’s be honest about this, for ordinary people, life in the Middle Ages often wasn’t great even if you weren’t under Mongol rule. It was just different. Sometimes the Mongols were actually an improvement.

The people who really found life hard were the privileged, the ones who had been rich and powerful before. Things would usually change in a really big way for them. They would be poorer. They might actually still be in charge, but now they had to answer to an alien and unforgiving ruler.

That’s what it means, to ask for Gwyn’s mercy. It will be given; but nothing will be the same again.

To receive Gwyn’s mercy means to commit to a life in balance.

It means to accept the rights and equality of those numinous realms where Gwyn holds sway: the wakeful forests, and the Shining People who we can’t usually see unless we calm and clear our minds.

We have to abandon, completely, the values and way of life that placed humanity at the centre of things, with the world as ours to rule and exploit.

We have to commit to living in a way that allows the restoration of the forests and the creatures that lived in balance with them.

Gwyn doesn’t need us to worship him. He doesn’t care about our beliefs. He only cares about our actions.

And if we change the way we live, if we join his host as it is said many peasants willingly joined the Mongol forces, if we join the battle against materialism and pollution and having more stuff, if we live a grounded life, a thoughtful life, and reject the prepared narratives of the political and media classes, if we surrender,  then there will be mercy.

It might even be an improvement on what went before.


 When I started this blog, I had no plans to write about Gwyn ap Nudd. I had a list of topics I wanted to write about, but the Tylwyth Teg, and Gwyn ap Nudd, were very low down on that.

Gwyn, though, the Bull of Battle, shouldered his way to the front of the queue, and demanded that I write about him. He dumped into my mind the material he wanted to communicate and gave me no rest until I had written it. Over the past couple of months, I have thought of little else, I have neglected pressing obligations, I have had no rest: I have been charged with delivering Gwyn’s message and I have had no choice.

I hope that he is content with my delivery of his message; it has been a difficult experience for me, but it is now complete.

Image credits: Paul Cézanne. Pyramid of Skulls. Public domain.

14 comments

  1. I beg to differ on this. I see Gwyn as the deity who holds back the fury of the spirits of Annwn to prevent their destruction of the world. A task he might not succeed at, a task he increasingly struggles with. I admit that he partakes in their furious nature too but this also balanced with kindness and compassion. As he shows to Gwyddno.

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      • Lorna, I apologise for the brusqueness of that reply: I saw your comment late at night when I was tired – I should have waited before responding. What I was trying to say was that this is not a nice, genteel, or ‘safe’ god. The Welsh gods differ widely in their personalities and characters, but Gwyn has never been safe. From the Mabinogion, where he cuts out Nwython’s heart and feeds it to Cyledr, to the mediaeval prayers to Gwyn for safety in the forest in Creiddylad’s name, to Dafydd ap Gwilym’s poetry reflecting Gwyn’s habit of leading travellers to their doom, to the terror of Gwyn and his hunt: everything indicates that Gwyn is truly to be feared, and is widely understood to be a threat to the lives of those who trespass in his domains. To treat this as ‘psychological’ or ‘symbolic’, is to try to sanitise an entire cultural tradition.

        It’s equally clear that when Gwyn kills, he often uses madness and confusion as his tools; that’s also what the traditions say. Looking around the world today, I would say that the degree of madness and confusion causing rage, death, and destruction is unmistakable – and that convinces me that humanity has awakened Gwyn’s wrath.

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      • No, not safe, certainly a hunter and a killer, and one who confuses, dissembles, breaks down boundaries, undoes the mind, initiates madness. But he’s also the god who can help us navigate this territory too. I think a lot of the wrath is within us as much as it is within him. Because he contains it he can help us to deal with it. He’s helped me to deal with it. Just my two cents anyhow!

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      • That’s a very interesting aspect; not one that I looked at, because in my view there’s a much greater issue to be dealt with. The aspect that you raise would very much be needed by, and relevant to, the aspect of “surrender”, of asking for Gwyn’s protection, which I outline in this post. I would be interested in reading anything you care to write about this part of the relationship with Gwyn.

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    • I just wonder, though, whether the destruction of the “world” and the destruction of the human race should be interpreted as the same thing at all. I have no experience of Gwyn, but some of the deities I work for would be fine with the destruction/major suppression of humanity, I’d say. That isn’t to say that they would want to see the destruction of the “world” in the sense of our ecosystem.

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      • I would agree with that. That’s what I’m saying here: the need to protect the ecosystem from humans is what’s in play. Gwyn will kill us until we stop what we’re doing and change course to live in a more balanced way, in harmony with the greater community of life – seen, and unseen.

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      • Tough one. A ‘world’ as opposed to ‘the earth’ is a very human concept. I don’t think any deity would want to destroy the earth, yet sometimes worlds need to be brought to an end. All I know is that destruction done here has effects on and in Annwn and that too has to be dealt with. I don’t think Gwyn hates humanity and is trying to drive us mad although I certainly think he has something to teach us in regard to how we navigate our destructive drives. I don’t feel he’s completely attached to our survival either though.

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      • “I don’t think Gwyn hates humanity”

        Neither do I. Actually, I went out of my way to explain that this isn’t about anger, or hatred, or any particular animus towards humanity. He *is* trying to drive us mad, but it’s not personal, or emotionally driven. We’ve become a threat to the forests, and to the Tylwyth Teg; we’ve crossed the boundaries that defined the relationships and so he’s going to put us back in our place. Without passion, without judgement: just doing the job. I should have been clearer, as well, in saying that I don’t think he necessarily intends to exterminate humans entirely – only to reduce us in numbers to the point where we once again live in balance with the world and the Otherworld.

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  2. I saw the link to this series on John Beckett’s blog, and I appreciate you writing it. I’m new to polytheism and I wasn’t aware of Gwyn until now. I very much appreciate your insight. My question, however, is what can one person do? Most of the problems started with small acts of selfishness but have now blown into corporate- and government-controlled rapes of Mother Earth. As always, I feel so helpless reading about it.

    So that’s my question to Gwyn: What should we (witches, druids, etc.) do? What’s going to set things right? Make a difference?

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    • Thanks for commenting! I confess that I don’t know. I guess each of us has to look at our own lives, and our own interactions with other people, and decide what will work in our own context. Our own lives, and our own decisions, are all that we have control over, so let’s start there. If you don’t already read it, I would recommend that you follow John Michael Greer’s blog at ecosophia.net where he and a well-informed commentariat discuss many related topics; over the years, those conversations have had a hugely positive impact on my own life.

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