For this week’s Femme Fatale Friday, I have decided to discuss the Welsh Celtic Goddess Blodeuwedd. In particular, I will be focusing on her aspect as an Owl Goddess and how this may relate to this dark and Wintery time of year. Her dual nature of Flower Goddess and Owl Goddess can be easily seen to represent the two halves of the year, as in Celtic lore the year was cut into halves rather than just having a focus on four separate seasons. The Flower Goddess is obviously related to the Springtime and therefore the Light half of the Year. In contrast, her Owl Goddess aspect is obviously related to the Dark half of the year.
Blodeuwedd is a figure who falls into the category of Flower Bride within Celtic lore. In the case of Blodeuwedd, she literally is made from flowers and brought to life by the two magicians Math and Gwydion. She was created with the purpose of being the bride of Llew Llaw Gyffes, who was the son of the Goddess Arianrhod. Arianrhod had placed a tynged, a Welsh form of the Irish geis (both are a type of Celtic restriction, or even sometimes referred to as a curse) upon Llew that would prevent him from marrying any human woman. Gwydion chose to create a wife out of flowers to circumvent this tynged, as he could not trick Arianrhod into undoing this tynged, as he had with her previous ones (like tricking her into naming her son, as she had refused to do).
Blodeuwedd had no choice in her marriage or in any aspect of her life. The first time she was ever able to make a choice was when she had begun to grow tired of her life and felt abandoned by her husband. When he had left their court, yet again leaving her alone, a noble of a neighboring land had crossed over unto their land while hunting. His name was Gronw Pebr and he would prove to be a man whom Blodeuwedd would truly fall in love with. She invited him into the court, as a show of hospitality, which was a central tenet of Celtic social protocol (also linked to Celtic, Norse, and Greek spirituality). After becoming enamored of him during the feast, Blodeuwedd would invite him into her bed for three nights in a row. These three nights spent in the bed of a woman during the Welsh Celtic period, into the medieval Welsh period, were as good as a marriage contract between two parties. Since women in Welsh Celtic society had to as least approve of their marriages, this shows a flaw in the marriage of Blodeuwedd and Llew, as she was literally made to be his bride, she never had the autonomy of choice before. Which could lead to invalidating the marriage.
Blodeuwedd, in her tale, made the decision to conspire with Gronw to kill her husband. This task was something that would take a year to achieve, as it took a full year to create a weapon that was capable of killing Llew, as he was a solar deity who was nearly impossible to kill. Blodeuwedd and Gronw do make an attempt on the life of Llew, in some versions killing him and in other versions only nearly killing him. But in both versions, Gwydion and Math were able to resurrect, or heal, Llew. This leads to the punishment of Blodeuwedd, turning her into an Owl. In the case of Gronw, his life is lost in revenge for his attempt on the life of Llew.
Blodeuwedd as a Flower Bride also falls into the pattern of the Flower Bride as a Sovereignty Goddess who chooses the leader of the land, which alternates between a Lord of Summer and a Lord of Winter. Her marriage to Llew is the marriage to the Lord of Summer, as he is a solar deity. Her love and prospective marriage to Gronw is the choice of the Lord of Winter. In this way, she is truly a Goddess of Seasonal Sovereignty, which adds to my point that she is a dual-aspected Goddess. During the Winter she is the Owl, the hunting bird of prey who was cursed to turn from the flower-formed Goddess heart into the Owl. This curse was a direct result of her choice of loving Gronw and attempting to make him the true King in place of Llew.
The Owl Goddess is a Dark Goddess as she is the going within to the deepest parts of ourselves. This is the shadow work that is so important and natural to be doing at this time of year. The owl is a nighttime bird who is associated with wisdom and knowledge. In the case of Blodeuwedd in her Wintery aspect, we see the owl as also tied to the dark and cold of the year, just like the night is the dark and cold of the day. Finally, the owl can be used as the lunar association of this Great Goddess of both Springtime and Winter, of life and of death! She is the moon to Llew’s sun and the owl to Gronw’s Winter Lord!
I hope that you have enjoyed this slightly rambling look as Blodeuwedd in her darker aspect. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!
Note on Image: The image at the top of the post is a beautiful image of Blodeuwedd and her owl form. I found the image on https://pandagossips.com/posts/6385.
- The Mabinogion translated by Sioned Davies
- Flower Face: A Devotional to Blodeuwedd complied by Jhenah Telyndru
- Blodeuwedd: Welsh Goddess of Seasonal Sovereignty by Jhenah Telyndru