Sunday, 28 June 2015

Woden as Gwydion, the Belgic God of the Ash

As I have discussed before on these blogs there is not only evidence for an Indo-European presence detectable thousands of years before the Common Era in the British Isles but a Germanic settlement too. Linked to this early Germanic colonisation are questions concerning the antiquity of the Cult of Woden in these islands. The accepted view is that the Cult of Woden was introduced alongside the Anglo-Saxon colonisation of the mid 5th century CE. However some of us have come to the conclusion that this is a faulty and over-cautious assumption. Some interesting information can be gleaned from what may be a surprising source to some of my readers: The White Goddess by Robert Greaves (1948).

Greaves refers to the connection that some scholars have made between the British God Gwydion and Woden. As Wulf Ingessunu points out in his work the 'G' in Gwydion is silent and its pronunciation would not be dissimilar to 'Woden'. The question then arises, why would a Celtic people follow a God who is ostensibly Germanic? The answer to this question is to be found right there in Grave's book:
"Professor Sir John Rhys takes Gwydion for a mixed Teuton-Celt deity and equates him with Woden...." (page 51)
 "That the Belgae invaded Britain in 400 BC, and that their god was the [Celto-Teutonic] Gwydion [alias Woden, or Odin] and that the ash [Ygdrasill] was sacred to him." (Appendix A Two Letters to the Press)
Charles Squire before him also makes a similar observation:
"It was a belief common to the Aryan races that wisdom as well as wealth came originally from the underworld; and we find Math represented in the Mabinogi bearing his name as handing on his magical lore to his nephew and pupil Gwydion, who there is good reason to believe was the same divine personage whom the Teutonic tribes worshipped as 'Woden' and 'Odin'. Thus equipped Gwydion son of Don became the druid of the gods, the 'master of illusion and phantasy', and not only that but the teacher of all that is useful and good, the friend and helper of mankind, and the perpetual fighter against niggardly underworld powers for the good gifts which they refused to allow out of their keeping." (The Mythology of the British Islands)
Indeed before Squire Jacob Grimm states in his Teutonic Mythology Volume 1:
"In the Old British mythology there appears a Gwydion ab Don, G. son of Don, whom Davies (Celtic Researches pp. 168, 174. Brit.myth.p 118,204,263-4,353,429.504,541) identifies with Hermes; he invented writing, practised magic, and built the rainbow; the milky way was named caer Gwydion, G.'s castle (Owen, sub v.). The British antiquaries say nothing of Woden, yet Gwydion seems near of kin to the above Gwodan=Wodan. So the Irish name for dies Mercurii, dia Geden, whether modelled on the Engl. Wednesday or not, leads us to the form Goden, Gwoden (see Suppl.)"

It is also a fact that often 'w' was substituted for 'g' in the ancient Germanic world. Paul the Deacon refers to Wodan under the alternative name of Godan or Guodan amongst the East Germanic tribes. Graves puts forward the tantalising theory that the Welsh poetic cycle the Cad Goddeu (The Battle of the Trees) concerned the struggle for dominance between the Cult of Woden, the God of the Ash and Bran, the God of the Alder. This struggle will form the basis of a future article on this blog.

"Sure-hoofed is my steed in the day of battle. The high sprigs of ash are in thy hand-Woden thou art, by the branch thou bearest."
 "The Battle of the Trees thus ended in a victory of the Ash-god and his ally  over the Alder-god and his ally." (Graves)       

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