From Academic Kids

Annwn or Annwfn, ( "under-world" or "un-world", sometimes inaccurately written Annwyn, Annwyfn or Annwfyn) was the Otherworld, the land of souls that had departed this world in Welsh mythology.

Ruled by Arawn, or much later by Gwynn ap Nudd, it was essentially a world of delights and eternal youth where disease is absent and food is ever-abundant. Annwn was said to lie so far to the west that not even Manawydan ap Llyr had found it, for you could only reach Annwn by dying yourself. It was also said, though, that Annwn could be entered by those still living if they could find the door.


Etymology of the Name

Entries in the University of Wales' reconstructed Proto-Celtic lexicon ( ) suggest that the name is likely derived from the Proto-Celtic *An-dubnion, a phrase with the Proto-Celtic semantic connotations of ‘the Extremely Deep Level.’

The door

The door was said to be at the mouth of the Severn near Lundy Island or on Glastonbury Tor. (The temple of Nudd archaeologically discovered near Lydney, and Brythonic stories such as the tale of Seithenyn, suggest that the Severn Bore held symbolic importance in Druid esoteric spiritual teachings. Glastonbury appears widely as a sacred isle of the dead and as the place where saints and kings are buried.)

Pwyll, Prince of Dyfed

In the First Branch of the Mabinogi, entitled Pwyll, Prince of Dyfed, the eponymous prince offends Arawn, ruler of Annwn, by baiting his hunting hounds on a stag that Arawn's dogs had brought down. In recompense he exchanged places with Arawn for a year and defeated Arawn's enemy Hafgan. Meanwhile, Arawn ruled Dyfed. Neither king slept with his counterpart's wife. On his return, Pwyll became known by the title Penn Annwn, "head of Annwn".

Culhwch and Olwen

In Culhwch and Olwen, God gave Gwynn control over the demons lest "this world be destroyed." He led the Wild Hunt. A Christian story tells of St. Collen, a Welsh saint, entering Gwynn's palace to banish him with holy water.

Book of Taliesin

In the Book of Taliesin, an esoteric poem called Preiddeu Annwfn (conventionally translated The Spoils of Annwn) on its face tells a tale of Arthur and his knights traveling through Annwn, searching for a magical cauldron possessed by nine women. Only seven come back from the journey. It may be a precursor of later Holy Grail stories involving King Arthur and his knights. The nine maidens related to actual groups of nine priestesses in ancient Celtic society. Geoffrey of Monmouth told stories of Morgan le Fay and eight other priestesses in his poem, Vita Merlini, who lived on the Isle of Apples or Avalon. Avalon, as an otherworld island, is often identified with Annwn.

Scholars say the spelling in the text of the poem is 10th century. But Welsh poetry was for centuries transmitted orally by bards and it is possible that the poem in its original form dates back to the 6th century, when Taliesin is supposed to have lived.

See also


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