Blodeuwedd is a faerie bride, and Celtic goddess, who appeared in the fourth branch of the Welsh Mabinogion. She was also known as “Flower Face” (the meaning of her name), “May Queen”, and “May Bride.” Since I will soon be a May bride myself, I could not resist doing a post on this faerie woman! She was one of the many examples of flower brides. These faerie women were sovereignty goddesses whose marriages to human kings made the right to rule more powerful. Young and supremely beautiful, these woman were physical representations of the power of kings.
Blodeuwedd was literally made from flowers by the magicians Math and Gwydion. They used the flowers meadowsweet, broom, and oak to create a bride for Lleu Llaw Gyffes. Lleu Llaw Gyffes was cursed by his mother Arianrhod to not be able to marry a human woman. In order to circumvent this curse Math and Gwydion created Blodeuwedd, and since she was made from flowers she was not human and could marry Lleu Llaw Gyffes. For the early days of their marriage Blodeuwedd seemed happy to be the perfect bride to her husband, whose marriage to her made him a king!
When he went away on business Blodeuwedd was very angry and lonely. It was at this time that Blodeuwedd met the man who would be the true love of her life. Gronw Pebr, the lord of Penllyn, was on a hunting trip in the lands of Lleu and Blodeuwedd. Upon meeting Gronw and Blodeuwedd were immediately attracted to one another. It was easy for them to fall in love with one another. Gronw spent the night making love to Blodeuwedd, and in the morning he had intended to leave, but Blodeuwedd convinced him to stay with her for a second night. She also convinced him to stay in her bed for a third night. This was important because in medieval Welsh law a man and a woman were considered married if he bedded her three nights in a row publicly. Blodeuwedd would have known this law, and she was making her own choice of taking a husband of her choice out of love! This was an act of rebellion on both of their parts!
Blodeuwedd sent Gronw away after the third night as her husband would be returning soon. Together they had begun to plot the death of her husband so that they would be free to be together! Blodeuwedd learned from Lleu that he was very difficult to kill, and the parameters in which he could die. It would be complex, but she passed the information to her lover. Gronw spent the year it took to create the arrow that was capable of killing his lover’s husband.
When he returned and attempted to kill Lleu, it went wrong and Gronw ended up dying instead. Blodeuwedd for her part in attempting to kill her husband was cursed. Blodeuwedd was turned into a white owl. This ending is something that modern audiences may make out to be a simple tale of a femme fatale getting her punishment. But in truth Blodeuwedd was a woman trying to assert her freedom, and she did not get to consent to her choice of husband. Women in Celtic society needed to consent to their husband, and could chose to say no. That choice was taken away from Blodeuwedd, and she was used to make her husband a king.
I personally feel that she is often very misunderstood, and I feel she was a woman trying to gain the love and respect she deserved! The end is a tragic example of love lost, and selfish men (in this case Lleu) using their wives to gain power! The character of Blodeuwedd was used by L.J. Smith in the sixth of her novels in The Vampire Diaries series. I see a connection between Blodeuwedd and Guinevere, both being queens in love with men other than their husbands and being examples of flower brides. A version of the story was also used in the 1985 film Ladyhawke, and in the second episode of season three of Charmed (1998).
I hope that you have enjoyed getting to learn about this amazing Celtic goddess. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!
Note on Image: The image at the top of the post is by Christiane Vleugens. I found the image on thewildtemple.com.
- The Mabinogion translated by Sioned Davies
- The Vampire Diaries: The Return: Shadow Souls by L.J. Smith
- Ladyhawke (1985)
- Charmed (1998-2006) season 3 episode 2 “Magic Hour”