Welsh Goddesses: Blodeuwedd

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One of the most well-known Welsh goddesses isn’t even listed in the Mabinogion as a goddess. She is instead listed as the wife of Llew Llaw Gyffes, a son of Arianrhod. In the story, Arianrhod essentially curses her son, saying he will have no name unless she gives it to him, he will not bear arms unless she gives them to him, and he will have no earthly wife.

Llew’s uncle is a magician who helps Llew by tricking Arianrhod into naming him and giving him armor and weapons. The wife was a whole other issue.

In the end, Llew’s uncle forms a woman’s figure out of flowers. He then uses his magic to give her life, and so Blodeuwedd is created, an unearthly woman. Her sole purpose is to be Llew’s wife.

After they had been married for a time, Llew went away for several days. During that time, hunters come through his lands. Blodeuwedd, being a good hostess, invites the hunters to spend the night at her castle, which they gratefully accept. At dinner, she sees the lord who is the head of the hunt and falls deeply in love with him, as he does with her. They spend three nights together, and decide that they must be together. Over the course of the next year, they slowly gather the information and tools necessary to kill Llew.

Now Llew is rather hard to kill. He must be standing in a place that is neither inside nor outside, and can only be killed by a spear that is forged in a year, among other bits. Blodeuwedd feigns concern for her husband and convinces him to demonstrate how these requirements must be met. When he does so, Blodeuwedd’s lover throws a spear, seriously injuring Llew. In fact, for a long while, all believe he is dead. Blodeuwedd and her lover run away, escaping to his lands. Eventually she is caught and her punishment is to be turned into an owl.

Now, when I first read this myth, I wasn’t exactly thrilled with her. I mean, she plotted her husband’s death after cheating on him with some strange man, then ran away with him to escape punishment. And yes, on the surface, this is what happens. But there is a lot more to the story if you look a little deeper.

Blodeuwedd was created for Llew. She was given life with her sole purpose pre-ordained. She didn’t love Llew at all, but she was made for him. No one asked her what she wanted, or even if she would agree to marry him. The expectation was that she would do as she was told, as it was what she had been created for. She had no choice but to go along with it.

When she meets the hunter lord, she falls in love with him. He is everything she could have hoped for, and he feels the same about her. It is an instant, love at first sight that could lead to the deaths of both of them. So while they plot together, they are risking everything for each other.

Blodeuwedd shows herself to be a very strong woman. She breaks social norms and does what she feels is best for her. For the first time in her existence, she is working for something that she wants. She is strong and resilient. She finds something that she wants and she goes after it.

I feel like this makes her much more relevant to women today than ever. Too often we are forced into roles that do not suit us, things that we accept because we have to, not because we want to. If we follow our hearts and minds and break through those expectations, we are labeled as troublesome, headstrong and a whole list of worse derogatory words. Even with the advances in feminism today, we still have to fight to be what and who we want. Blodeuwedd shows us that we can do it.

Working with her has been eye-opening for me. She has shown me that the only one who defines my purpose is me. I don’t have to do something just because someone dictates that I have to. I am free to make my own choices for my life. My life, no matter who gave it to me, is mine to live.

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