Goodby Welsh Mythology . . .

the white deer logo black

. . . hello White Deer.

I’m changing course, heading in a new direction.

I’ll still be running the Welsh mythology courses, The Four Branches and Deer Stalking, but for some time now I’ve been searching for a different path through the woods.

This new direction is different enough for me to see a need to change the whole identity of this project, so from now on this is the White Deer website. The url will still work but I’m making my main domain from now on.

Why White Deer? Well, those of you familiar with myths and folk tales from around the world will recognise the importance of special animals. For those of you not so familiar, here’s a quick outline:

In Celtic tradition, there are numerous examples of special animals, many of them white. We need only look at the Four Branches to find the shining white dogs of Arawn, red-eared and hungry for the hunt. The white boar in the third branch leads Manawydan and Pryderi to the otherworldly fortress. The Stag of Rhedynfre is one of the oldest animals in Culhwch ac Olwen, and in Irish and Scottish stories, white deer are often associated with the otherworld.

Deer as a symbol of the supernatural was also adopted by Christian tradition. Several early Welsh saints were accompanied by special stags, St Derfel and St Illtud perhaps being the most famous. Elsewhere in Europe the story of St Eustace is another example of a stag embodying the divine.

But special white animals aren’t just a European phenomena, we find them all over the world. One of the central figures of Lakota mythology is White Buffalo Calf Woman, who gifted the sacred pipe to native people. In some African traditions White Lions accompany strange events.

For me, the White Deer is a very suitable symbol for myths themselves. If we follow them carefully, they can show us the way into the deep woods, where we often encounter that strange and mysterious beast sometimes known as the Self.

More on this new direction in the coming months.

5 thoughts on “Goodby Welsh Mythology . . .

    • There is a time frame yes, last enrolment for this term of The Four Branches course is April 6th, 2018, the next term starts in September 2018. It’s a rolling programme essentially. Although as you’ve done the Magic of Meaning course, unless you want to go a bit deeper with the Four Branches agin, you may want to wait a bit for the next instalment of White Deer! (trumpets and drum rolls!).

  1. Hi Gwilym, I hope this is the new correct place to contact you. I sent a brief email a while ago and didn’t hear back, so I’m not sure.

    Anyway, I am wondering if I could prevail upon you, once again, for a few thoughts. My publisher has asked me to verify some of the terminology I am using in my next book. I am hoping that you might be able to advise… The story is set in AD 48-50, and narrates the final battle of Caratacus (Caradog) in Wales. I situate this battle at Dinas Emrys in Snowdonia, and yes I know this is contested, but no one knows for sure, so that’s my spot!

    My queries are:

    1. The isle of Anglesea—I call it ‘Mon’ in my book, ie; the Britons call it Mon. Do you reckon that is acceptable, or do you think they would have called it by a different name?

    2. I have developed a way of referencing the tribal areas of the period which basically turns the tribal name into a name of the territory, ie, I call the area inhabited by the Silures, Siluria, and the area inhabited by the Durotriges, Durotiga, etc.. including, frequently, Brigantia.

    As a scholar of the period (well, kinda), do you see any problems with this way of talking about place names in ancient Britain?

    3. I talk about the festival of Samhain in this book (set in Wales). I know Samhain is an Irish term, but the Welsh term is kinda complicated! Does this kind of ad hoc plucking of ancient linguistic fruit from inconsistent trees piss people off? What would you do?

    And finally…

    4. I have used fragments of Cad Godeau in the book, slightly re-worked to suit narrative purposes. As if this wasn’t bad enough, my editor has now red-penned it and it is even less true to its original. I plan, of course, to reference this poem in my sources, framing it as ‘containing re-worked fragments of…’ or some such thing. Yikes, it sounds terrible. But it fits so beautifully with my narrative, and contains such a wonderful spirit of what I’m trying to explore.

    Anyway, probably a bit abstract without seeing the text in front of you, but any thoughts would be gratefully received.

    I am keen to start your next course, as soon as I hand in this next edit. Would the week after next be a good time to start for you?

    Also, are you back in Wales? Glad to be home? How is Spain in terms of costs of living for a family…? We’re still toying with a trip for my soccer mad son to be in Europe for the World Cup. Love Gareth Bale.

    Ilka x

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