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The Religion of the Ancient Celts

Page: 51

But since Llew is not slain, but changes to eagle form, this unusual ending may mean that he was once a bird divinity, the eagle later becoming his symbol. Some myth must have told of his death, or he was afterwards regarded as a mortal who died, for a poem mentions his tomb, and adds, "he was a man who never gave justice to any one." Dr. Skene suggests that truth, not justice, is here meant, and finds in this a reference to Llew's disguises.383 Professor Rh[^y]s, for reasons not held convincing by M. Loth, holds that Llew, "lion," was a misapprehension for his true name Lleu, interpreted by him "light."384 This meaning he also gives to Lug, equating Lug and Llew, and regarding both as sun-gods. He also equates Llaw Gyffes, "steady or strong hand," with Lug's epithet Lám fada, "long hand," suggesting that gyffes may have meant "long," although it was Llew's steadiness of hand in shooting which earned him the title.385 Again, Llew's rapid growth need not make him the sun, for this was a privilege of many heroes who had no connection with the sun. Llew's unfortunate matrimonial affairs are also regarded as a sun myth. Blodeuwedd is a dawn goddess dividing her love between the sun-god and the prince of darkness. Llew as the sun is overcome by the latter, but is restored by the culture-hero Gwydion, who slays the dark rival. The transformation of Blodeuwedd into an owl means that the Dawn has become the Dusk. As we have seen, all this is a Märchen formula with no mythical significance. Evidence of the precariousness of such an interpretation is furnished from {109} the similar interpretation of the story of Curoi's wife, Blathnat, whose lover Cúchulainn slew Curoi. Here a supposed sun-god is the treacherous villain who kills a dark divinity, husband of a dawn goddess.

If Llew is a sun-god, the equivalent of Lug, it is curious that he is never connected with the August festival in Wales which corresponds to Lugnasad in Ireland. There may be some support to the theory which makes him a sun-god in a Triad where he is one of the three ruddroawc who cause a year's sterility wherever they set their feet, though in this Arthur excels them, for he causes seven years' sterility! Does this point to the scorching of vegetation by the summer sun? The mythologists have not made use of this incident. On the whole the evidence for Llew as a sun-god is not convincing. The strongest reason for identifying him with Lug rests on the fact that both have uncles who are smiths and have similar names—Govannon and Gavida (Goibniu). Like Amæthon, Govannon, the artificer or smith (gôf, "smith"), is mentioned in Kulhwych as one whose help must be gained to wait at the end of the furrows to cleanse the iron of the plough.389 Here he is brought into connection with the plough, but the myth to which the words refer is lost. A Taliesin poem associates him with Math—"I have been with artificers, with the old Math and with Govannon," and refers to his Caer or castle.390

Arianrhod, "silver wheel," has a twofold character. She pretends to be a virgin, and disclaims all knowledge of her son Llew, yet she is mistress of Gwydion. In the


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