Some days ago I was laying in bed having a mental conversation with Blodeuwedd, and my mind started wandering. You know, that “just before sleep takes you” wander that normally just turns into “zzzzzzz”. That one.
But this time, a revelation hit me. I woke my wife with it. I remembered it till the next day. I wrote a friend about it asking his opinion. And he loved it.
So now, it’s percolated through my subconscious for a while, and I’m ready to talk about my UPG with you all. But first, we have to lay some ground work.
One of the biggest cycles we as Wiccans celebrate is the Oak King/Holly King cycle each year. This postulates that there is a king for half the year who dies and whom is replaced by the other for the rest of the year. There are all kinds of myths to show this cycle, one of the largest being the Llew Llaw Gyffes and Gronwy Pebr cycle with Blodeuwedd.
This gives us a king for half the year, who is killed by his counterpart, then replaced as king, only to be killed in his own turn as the cycle comes around again. Mike Nichols wrote a wonderful article about this cycle that I think is the benchmark for every analysis of the myth that I have ever seen. The Death of Llew
So far, none of this is new information. I mean, how many other people have written about these seasonal battles? Almost every major book that discusses the holidays that Wiccans and most other pagans celebrate makes some sort of mention about the Oak King/Holly King cycle.
One thing that Druids celebrate in their ways is Sovereignty. This is shown to us by rulership of self first and foremost, then rulership of others. It is shown over and over in the Irish myths as there being a goddess of the Land who is with a king and while she is with that king, he is ruler. When she leaves him or when he leaves her, he is no longer king, even if he is still alive. This happens over and over in myths like the Household of Lugh, the myth of Diarmid and Grainne, and more.
In each myth there is a strong woman tied to the land, who is in love with a man and through her ties to the land, her holding and fertility of the land, he rules long and well. Without her, his rule might be in fact, but there is no fertility for the land, nothing can grow and more. This is shown in the myth of Pwyll and Arawn and Rhiannon. Until Pwyll marries Rhiannon, the land is barely able to support life. When he does, the land blossoms.
This sovereignty of the land is one of the reasons that Druids honor the land. They understand that the Land itself has its own wants and needs, and they respect and honor that with their rituals. They come to a balance with the land, taking what they need and giving the land what it needs in return.
Now, take that sovereignty and put it with the cycle of Llew Llaw Gyffes and Gronwy Pebr and Blodeuwedd. You can see now that Blodeuwedd is the spirit of the Land personified, and Llew is the Oak King, at his peak during the Summer, killed at the Equinox, and then Gronwy is the Holly King, at his peak at Yule and killed at the Spring Equinox.
Still nothing new. This has been part of the lore for some time, just hidden and one of the teachings that comes in the Second Degree or with further research.
What happens when Gronwy is no longer ruling in the summer? He is said to be in the Underworld taking care of that land, ruling over it. Same with Llew when he is slain and in the Winter, he is ruling the Underworld.
The revelation I had concerns this. What if instead of being in the Underworld, the land of the Dead and the ancestors, they are actually in the Southern Hemisphere?
That rock your world? It did mine. It opened up whole news vistas of thought.
One vista, there should be tales that we can trace, myths that we can look at to see if this cycle is repeated in the Southern Hemisphere, right? We should be able to look at tales told and figure out if this cycle repeats.
I found a few, and others might find more. I found the cycle of John Barleycorn or the Corn Kings, who grow during the summer, killed at the harvest, stored and the hunting king is looked to so that the people can live, and the Corn Woman is always there. She is the land again. I swear to the Gods that I read someplace that the Aztecs had a system that was very much like the one we are discussing, but I can’t find it for the life of me.
Granted I have not looked at these myths to any great depth, this is just right off the top of my head. So please take this with a grain of salt AND with knowledge that I know my own shortcomings here. This is pure speculation.
But if there is that one, then there HAS to be more.
So if the cycle is repeated on the other side of the planet, that means that while the names change, the job functions are identical. There is a king of the summer, born at the longest point of the night, growing to full growth and his height of power at the longest day, killed at the turning of the time from day to night. The reverse is true for the winter king. And meanwhile there is a spirit of the land, an entity who represents the fertility and the bounty of the local land mass, be it an island or a continent. The king’s union with that spirit allows the land to be bountiful, either in plant life or animal life, depending on the season, and there are different rulers in the year.
The next vista that this opens up; The Celts knew that the Earth was round.
If they did surmise that the Holly king went to the Underworld, aka the Southern Hemisphere (which geographically is below the Northern Hemisphere and thus UNDER where they were) then they probably understood that the world had reversed seasons down there. IF that is true (and this is why it is UNVERIFIED Personal Gnosis) then they had knowledge that was far in advance of most of the world at the time.
Oh sure, the flat Earth “knowledge” has been debunked many times. Yet somehow possibly the Greeks and Egyptians knew this, but if what History Teachers told us is true, they forgot that by the 1400’s. Now, noting that the forefathers weren’t nearly as stupid as the history books think, this still represents a HUGE idea that the Celts had this knowledge with little but Stonehenge and other standing stones. Perhaps they had a lot of contact with other cultures?
And that brings up even more. If their contacts were more extensive than we are led to believe, then it is possible that many of the deities of other cultures are actually deities of the Celts in different clothes. Loki and Lugh anyone?
However, skepticism aside, this idea makes for a pretty tight myth, one that would neatly explain a lot of the cross-cultural contamination of myths and ideas, cycles and celebrations. It truly allows for the idea that there was more to the Planet 2000 years ago than we have surmised. It may have taken decades to walk from France to South Africa, but I bet someone did it, and then came back.
And in decades you can learn an awful lot.