Annwn - The Otherworld
In Welsh mythology, Yr Annwn, is variously described as being 'The Fortunate Isles' (in the
western sea), actually underground, or just being with us but invisible, as if in another dimension. Gods and
mortals could go there if they were shown how, invited, or tricked into going there. Often this was done by a
woman with an Apple or a ball of string that was unwound and followed.
Islands feature heavily in all Celtic mythology, both in Britain and on the continent. Anglesey was the home of
the druids in Ancient Britain until they were massacred by the Romans. Other British isles like the Sillies and the
Hebrides had mythical reputations attached to them as well. Sometimes the hero would be taken to the Otherworld to
perform a task or a quest, but when he returned home he found that hundreds of years had past and everyone he knew
It is interesting to note that the Otherworld was not where you went when you died in original Celtic mythology,
it was somewhere that co-existed with this world in parallel. The Christians put the spin on it that it was the
Afterlife, to make it more compatible with their own beliefs. Annwn was just a place of permanent happiness and
Annwn was ruled by the kings Arawn and Glyn ap Nudd, the master of Cwn Annwn, The Hounds of Annwn. They were
said to hunt mostly on Cadair Idris. Apparently their barking was loudest when it was far away, and became quieter
as they neared. Sight of the hounds was a portent of immanent death. Christian missionaries dubbed them 'The Hounds
of Hell' and Arawn as Satan to make the story fit in. However, The Wild Hunt of the Cwn Annwn was for wrong-doers
that they may be punished.
References variously situate Annwn on islands west of Harlech and Dyfed, that is in both the north and in the
south. The poem Cad Goddeu describes a mythical battle between the kingdom of Gwynedd (in the north) and Annwn.
Welsh mythology is linked to all the mythologies that are Celtic in origin, which essentially means parts of
north-western Europe and all of Britain and Ireland, but the closest similarities are with those parts of the
modern UK that were least affected by invaders of land and ideas.
So, we find the biggest similarities with the fairest outlying areas, the least accessible points like Wales.
Scotland, Cornwall and Ireland, but also with Brittany, which it is said by legend to have been given to the
British Celts for helping return a Roman emperor to his thrown.
If you have enjoyed reading this article, I beseech you to do your own further research. There is a lot of
material out there but a lot of it is also contradictory, which makes it up to you what you think is right to go by
really, because no-one else knows either thanks to the oral tradition of recording history by the early Celts and
the deliberate vandalism of the early Christians.
by +Owen Jones