For today’s post, I have decided to take a look at the Celtic concept of the Lord of Winter and Lord of Summer. There is a tradition of a representative of Summer and a representative of Winter fighting over a Flower Bride. This happens throughout several Celtic tales, but for this post, I will be specifically looking at the tale of Blodeuwedd and a tale of Guinevere.
Now my overview of each of these tales will be brief, but I have written much about Blodeuwedd and Guinevere if you want more information. I would also suggest reading the Fourth Branch of The Mabinogion for Blodeuwedd’s full tale, and Lancelot, The Knight of the Cart by Chretien de Troyes for the full Guinevere tale.
Blodeuwedd was created from flowers by the magicians Math and Gwydion. She was literally created to become the wife of Llew Llaw Gyffes, and in the beginning, the marriage was a happy one, but that was because she did not know anything else. Upon meeting Gronw, who had come into Llew’s lands on a hunting trip while Llew was traveling, Blodeuwedd felt something she never had before. These feelings were true desire and love. A year after the affair began, Gronw attempts to kill Llew in a very specific way, as Blodeuwedd had informed him to. Math and Gwydion were able to resurrect Llew when he is nearly dead, and the lovers were punished. This is how the Flower Bride turned into an owl!
Guinevere was taken captive by Meleagant, who is known as the Prince of Gorre. She needs to be rescued by a Knight of the Round Table in order to be returned to her home. Lancelot is quick to jump at the chance to rescue the Queen, as a sign of his devotion to her! He goes through many trials of the Faery kind as he attempts to reach her, and then rescue her. After much confusion, and romantic intrigues Lancelot is finally about to battle Meleagant. During this battle Lancelot cuts off Meleagant’s arm, and eventually his head, saving Guinevere.
These tales show a battle being waged over a beautiful faery woman, a flower bride. In the case of Blodeuwedd, she was literally created out of flowers, and in the case of Guinevere, we can see her as the representative of the Goddess of Sovereignty whose marriage to Arthur cemented his right to rule. The marriage of a King to the land or a representative of Sovereignty is a common custom in Celtic culture and is reflected in many Celtic myths. Both Llew and Arthur were married to Flower Brides who solidified their right to rule their land.
Llew is seen as the Welsh counterpart of the Irish Lugh, and Lugh is a God of the sun, making Llew a representative of summer, or the Lord of Summer. Meleagant is likewise known as a Lord of Summer figure, as Gorre is also called the Summerlands in other variations of this tale (as many early ones have Arthur as rescuer instead of Lancelot). Both Llew and Meleagant have the women that they “possess” taken from them by another man. This other man is a representative of Winter or Lord of Winter. Both Gronw and Lancelot are lovers of married Queens, whom they feel the need to rescue in one way or another. This leads to a battle that ends with the Lord of Summer being killed. In the tale of Blodeuwedd, the Lord of Summer is resurrected, and she and her lover are punished. However, that does not change the story’s effect is an archetypal tale related to the Guinevere tale.
This archetypal tale describes seasonal sovereignty. The faery woman is a Queen, and often Goddess, that is a representative of the sovereignty of the land. Both of Winter and Summer, the Lords battle over the primary faery woman. Her choice of mate, and the change of it, represents the cyclic changes of the year from the light half to the dark half of the year, and vice versa! Celtic culture often split the year into halves like this, light half and dark half. This is why the Lords of Winter and Summer are utilized to battle over the Flower Bride. Finally, I would like to note that this can also be seen as a Persephone-like tale where the change of the seasons is explained through Goddesses associated with the Springtime and flowers who become underworld figures when partnering with the Lord of Winter!
I hope you have enjoyed learning about two tales the Lord of Winter, Lord of Summer, and the Flower Bride. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!
Note on Image: The image at the top of the post is a lovely piece of artwork featuring Blodeuwedd. I found the image on https://www.artstation.com/artwork/4E4NY.
- The Mabinogion translated by Sioned Davies
- Lancelot, The Knight of the Cart by Chretien de Troyes
- Blodeuwedd: Welsh Goddess of Seasonal Sovereignty by Jhenah Telyndru
- The Faery Gates of Avalon by Gareth Knight