Welsh tales and legends describe Annwn as a classical Celtic otherworld paradise. It is the abode of the goddess Rhiannon with her magical birds, which have the power to wake the dead and lull the living to sleep. A medieval text calls Morgen le Fay ‘Margen, dwywes o annwfyn’ – Morgen, Goddess of Annwn, suggesting Annwn and Avalon are one and the same place. King Arthur and a host of warriors once sailed there in his ship, Prydwen, in search of a wonder-working cauldron guarded by nine maidens. They found a dream-like landscape of faery castles glimmering with beauty and danger. None but seven returned from this voyage through ‘perilous seas in faery lands forlorn.’
Much could be written about Annwn, but in this post I want to share with you a few of the magical places in the Welsh landscape which are traditional entrances to this mysterious realm.
Up on the hills above Cardigan Bay, the great cromlech of Pentre Ifan was once known as the womb of the goddess, Ceridwen. This is holy ground: framed by the pillar stones is Carn Ingli, the sacred Mount of Angels, while below, the dark and ancient woodland closes around the Druid’s Cave. An avenue of stones is thought to have once wound up to the cromlech, which back then would have been covered with earth, a rounded belly within which Druid neophytes, perhaps aided by an intoxicating brew, might have experienced initiation into the depths of Annwn.
"He approached the court and inside he could see sleeping quarters, halls and chambers and the most beautifully ornamented buildings anyone had seen…The hall was set in order and then he could see entering a warband and hosts – the most splendid and best equipped troop that anyone had ever seen; the queen was with them, the fairest woman anyone had ever seen, dressed in glittering gold brocaded garment…And they passed the time in food and drink, with songs and entertainment. Of all the courts he had seen on earth, this was the court best supplied with food and drink, gold vessels and royal treasures."
Llyn y Fan Fach
The Berwyn Mountains
Gwyn was invoked by Welsh seers when they wanted to enter the hidden realms of Annwn and consult the spirits for divination. According to a 14th century Latin manuscript against divination, these Welsh “soothsayers,” known as awenyddion would petition him with these words:
“Ad regem Eumenidium et reginam eius: Gwynn ap Nwdd qui es ultra in silvis pro amore concubine tue permitte nos venire domum.”
To the King of Spirits, and to his Queen: Gwyn ap Nudd, you who are yonder in the forest, for love of your mate, permit us to enter your dwelling.
If you would enter the Gates of Annwn, just be sure you know how to safely return!
Journey to some of the most magical places in Wales in 2012:
Visit Spirit of Wales: Land of Myth and Magic