As fruits and crops are harvested and the meadows mown we give thanks to their spirits. Leaf fall and decay are acknowledged as signs of the approaching dead season. We listen for the breath of winter
1st August: Lugus and Rosmerta Festival for Lugus the many-skilled god and Rosmerta the cup-bearer.
Autumn Equinox Festival acknowledging the balance of equal days and nights heading toward winter and seasonal changes.
29th September: Gwyn’s Feast Festival celebrating the end of harvest and honouring Gwyn, a god of hunting and a ruler of Annwn and the dead.
The Sickle and the Shining Spear
The beginning of August has many names within pagan and polytheist traditions; Lammas, Lughnasadh, Gwyl Awst. All share a common theme of harvest. Now is the time to gather in the grain harvest, the first of the lands harvests, and begin reaping the rewards of the union of land and sky. Rather than view it as a singular event, a one off, it is best to view it as the beginning of a season; a transition between the growth and abundance of summer and the slow decline into autumn. The days will still be long, hot and hazy. The landscape around us will have moved on from busting life and rampant growth, to a swell of fruiting.
We are not farmers anymore, we do not spend long sweating days in the fields gathering in the grain, and then returning to the field once more to gather the straw in. Our lives are somewhat detached from this agricultural cycle and so moving from a discrete festival of harvest thanks, to a season of harvests and marking that transition seems more appropriate. We can still gather the fruits from the hedgerow and woodlands, vegetables from our gardens and allotments, and offer a thanks for these too. Each harvest we make over the coming week is a gift; the fruit of a union of the land and of the sky (and in some cases of our own hands and efforts too) and as such each gift received should be marked with a thanks. A memorial that these thing we take to sustain us have not come from nothing, but have come from the warmth and light of the sun and the nurturing sustenance of the earth. A recognition that we are sustained by the land itself.
There is one God above all who is traditionally associated with this time of year and festival; Lugos. Though known as Lug, Lleu, Lleufelys and Lugh at later times across the Celtic cultures. The etymology of his name is thought to derive from one of several Proto-Indo-European words; *leug- “black”, *leuǵ- “to break” or *leugʰ- “to swear an oath”, with him as the God of the Oath. This also links in with Lugus as leader of the warrior warband, as a ruler and King. Segomâros has a good summary of Lugus at Polytheist.com, notably mentioning his association with the spear (nothing new here) and the raven much the same way Wodens and Odin are identified. It is with Woden that Lugus bears the greatest similarity, and this in itself is insightful when digging deeper to find our Lleu ancestor. There is a common thread of epithets for him; ‘skillful hand’, ‘of the many skills’ and there is a parallel between him being regarded as one of the great shoemakers of Britain in the Welsh Triads and an inscription to him from Spain dedicated by a guild of shoemakers. Notably, unlike most other Gods that we know of, Lugus was a pan-Celtic deity, with place names and votive inscriptions pointing to his worship all over the Celtic countries.
Our skills and crafts are what have carried us from stone tools as hunter gatherers all the way to agriculturalists, metalworkers, carpenters and all the great technologies we have brought into being. We can see Lugus as the God of Society, of Civilisation, the God who embodies and epitomises all those things that make is a community and bind us together.
Lugus is paired with Rosmerta, ‘Great Provider’, and it almost seems more fitting to be honouring her at this time of year. However , together they make a striking pair; Goddess of prophecy, dispenser of sovereignty and fruitfulness as the consort of the King-God of the Oath and the things that bind us together as a society and as a people. Rather than think of this season as being a time of thanks to the Shining Lugus the Sun God and be thankful for the bountiful land, perhaps we should see this as as a time of confirmation. When the proper relationship between people and land bears fruit, and the time where we honour that relationship through Lugus as a personification of the responsibilities we hold to each other and the land itself. In fulfilling our proper relationship, our rightful place is sustained and our sovereignty as part of the land maintained through Rosmerta. Lugus as the bond between people and land, Rosmerta as the bond between the land and people and together the triad of people, Gods and landscape is kept strong.
We may not work the land, we may not tend fields to provide food for ourselves, our families and communities, but we can still have (and in fact should have) a relationship with the land around us, and honour that relationship through Lugus and Rosmerta
Last Days of Harvest and Gwyn’s Feast
The Autumn Equinox forms a gateway between the light and dark halves of the year. Balance is always tentative and fragile. A pendulum must swing, the days process, at this time marching from light into darkness, like the summer fay will soon. Beneath the Harvest Moon sloes, damsons, blackberries and apples have ripened. Unlike the grain harvest this is one we have all had the chance to participate in, whether as makers of jams, liquors, pies and crumbles, or as folk who simply like a handy snack part way through a walk. The final fruits are now beginning to sour and fall. Most of the wildflowers have gone to seed. Willowherbs are clad in cobwebs and thistles in cotton-down. When the last pink-purple petals has fallen in the meadow in my local valley it will be time to take up the scythes. The scattering of seeds, the cutting of stems, the reaping of the meadow forms a pivotal part of the transition from light to darkness, summer to winter, life to death, thisworld to Annwn.
Around this time I start feeling the presence of Gwyn ap Nudd and the spirits of Annwn within the landscape: in the blood-red hawthorn berries, in the autumn mists, in the fall of gold-brown leaves and the scent of decay rising from damp soil.
In Cornish, September is called Gwynngala*, which is suggestive of a Gwyn link. On the 29th of September, I celebrate a feast day for Gwyn. This corresponds with Michaelmas. The Celtic scholar, John Rhys, argues that Michael ‘supplanted’ Gwyn** and it seems possible Gwyn’s supposed banishment by St Collen from Glastonbury Tor took place during Michaelmas day celebration. Although there is no hard proof Michael’s feast day replaced Gwyn’s, this feels like a good time to affirm his presence. Moreover, when I asked Gwyn whether I could hold a feast for him on September the 29th, he agreed.
I’ve tried a few different formats for Gwyn’s feast. Last year’s worked best. Drawing on his connection with the hunt for Twrch Trwyth, ‘King of Boars’, I served him a pork roast with apple sauce and also offered a piece of meat to his dog, Dormach, and apples to his horses, Carngrwn and Du. Afterward, I read a selection of poems and stories either written for him, about him, or that reminded me of him by a variety of authors living and dead. My focus was on honouring Gwyn and uniting with all those who have venerated him and walked paths of wildness and enchantment. It was a powerful experience, which was followed by a vivid dream in which, like Twrch Trwyth, I was a human transformed into a boar… *Gwynngala means ‘white or blessed straw’. For more information see Alex Langstone, ‘The Berwyn Mountains of Poetic Adventure’ HERE **In Studies in the Arthurian Legend (1841), John Rhys notes both Michael and Gwyn act as psychopomps and restrain ‘demons’. He also says the ‘old foundations’ associated with Michael’s name ‘occupy sites of sinister reputation… which were considered dangerous and to form the haunts of evil spirits.’ This is certainly the case with the ruined church of St Michael on Glastonbury Tor. Two churches dedicated to St Michael here in Lancashire, at Beetham and Whitewell, are also connected with fairy sites.
GWYN AP NUDD; KING UNDER THE HILL, STAG MASKED RUNNER IN THE WOODLAND, LORD BEYOND THE WALL; I OFFER YOU THIS MEAT AS IT IS PROPER FOR ME TO DO SO I OFFER YOU THIS DRINK AS IT IS RIGHT FOR ME TO DO SO.
Gwyn's Feast by Lorna
Gwyn ap Nudd is a god of the dead and ruler of Annwn. As the Brythonic leader of ‘the Wild Hunt’ he gathers the souls of the deceased back to his realm to be united in an otherworldly feast. This repast of the dead can, at certain times of the year, be participated in by the living.
Unfortunately this is a tradition that Christians went to great lengths to bring to an end. This article will introduce the evidence for Gwyn’s Feast, how it was abolished, and how it might be reclaimed by modern polytheists.
In ‘The Spoils of Annwn’, as Pen Annwn, ‘Head of the Underworld’, Gwyn presides over a feast in Caer Vedwit, ‘The Mead-Feast Fort’. At its centre is the cauldron of Pen Annwn, with its ‘dark trim, and pearls’, which ‘does not boil a coward’s food’: a vessel symbolic of rebirth.
Arthur raids seven Annuvian fortresses, confronting six thousand speechless dead men, inflicting violence on ‘the honoured and fair’ and stealing the Brindled Ox, kidnapping a bard called Gweir, and stealing the cauldron of Pen Annwn before slamming ‘Hell’s Gate’ shut.
I believe Arthur’s raid on Annwn replaced an earlier tradition of the soul’s return to the underworld and journey through seven fortresses (which are faces of the same fort) to Gwyn’s Feast and the Cauldron of Rebirth. Arthur’s defeat of Gwyn and his people and theft of his cauldron represent the triumph of Christianity over the pagan mysteries of death and rebirth.
This story is paralleled in Culhwch and Olwen, where Arthur raids Gwyn’s fortress to rescue Gwyn’s rival, Gwythyr, and his army (who include Graid who might be equated with Gweir), and steals a number of otherworldly treasures including the Brindled Ox and a magical cauldron.
Arthur also usurps Gwyn’s hunt for Twrch Trwyth, ‘King of Boars’, ‘a king and for his sins God changed him into a swine’. This thinly disguises that Arthur takes leadership of Gwyn’s hunt for a human soul in boar-form - ‘the Wild Hunt’ - reducing it to just a boar hunt and again obscuring pagan traditions.
Gwyn is intimately associated with Glastonbury Tor. Excavations have revealed the existence of a building with several hearths dating to the 5th - 7th century. Two north-south aligned graves (not Christian) nearby along with an empty stone cairn and helmeted bronze head with ‘a narrow face’ and ‘slit mouth’ in the ‘long’ Celtic style suggest it may have been a pagan temple.
Bones of cattle, sheep, and pigs, from joints of meat, and Mediterranean amphorae (large jugs for holding wine) suggest feasting took place at this temple on the Tor; a liminal place where thisworld and Annwn and the living and the dead meet in revels presided over by Gwyn.
Several pernicious accounts in saints’ lives record Christian attempts to abolish this tradition. In The Charter of St Patrick, Patrick and his brother Wellias climb the Tor and find ‘an ancient oratory’. There they fast for three months ‘dominating the devils and wild beasts’ and are rewarded with a vision of Jesus telling them to claim the place in his name and invoke Michael.
In The Life of St Collen, Collen, Abbot of Glastonbury, derides Gwyn and his host as ‘Devils’. When Gwyn invites him to the summit of the Tor to feast in ‘the fairest castle he had ever beheld’, Collen refuses to ‘eat the leaves of trees’, says the red of Gwyn’s people’s clothing signifies ‘burning’ and the blue ‘coldness’, then supposedly banishes them with holy water. Gwyn appears as Melwas in The Life of Gildas, where he violates Arthur’s wife, Gwenhwyfar, and carries her off to the Tor, which is well fortified by ‘thickets of reed, river, and marsh’. Gildas sides with Arthur and wins Gwenhwyfar back. The tradition of ‘Arthur’s Hunting Path’ from Cadbury to Glastonbury and his burial further illustrate his replacement of Gwyn.
In the 11th century a wooden church dedicated to St Michael was built on Glastonbury Tor. In 1243 Henry III granted permission for an annual fair to be held there for six days around the Feast of St Michael, September 29th. It seems possible St Michael’s Feast replaced Gwyn’s Feast.
The wooden church was destroyed by an earthquake in 1275. The stone church dedicated to St Michael was built in the 14th century and occupied until the Dissolution, when its last abbot, Richard Whiting, and two of his monks were hung, drawn and quartered within its precincts.
It is significant that Gwyn was supplanted by St Michael (who is not a saint but an archangel). Michael defeated Satan in a war in heaven and is frequently depicted vanquishing ‘that ancient serpent called the devil’. Gwyn’s father, Nudd/Lludd is associated with two dragons and Gwyn’s dog, Dormach, ‘Death’s Door’, has two serpent’s tails. It may be suggested Gwyn too has serpentine associations and might be capable of taking dragon-form.
Michael serves the role of the angel of death, taking souls to heaven, and weighing them. This forms an antithesis to Gwyn’s gathering of souls to Annwn where all are united without moral judgement. On the ruined tower of his church on Glastonbury Tor, Michael is depicted with scales weighted toward him, rather than his opponent, the devil-in-dragon-form.
I’ve been celebrating Gwyn’s Feast on the 29th of September since 2013. I chose this date as it seemed possible St Michael’s Feast replaced Gwyn’s, and, whether this is the case or not, like a good time to affirm his presence in the place of Michael, who has taken over so many fairy sites.
What matters most is that when I asked Gwyn if I could celebrate a feast for him on this date, he agreed. Since then I’ve been joined annually by a friend, and last year Lee and Greg of Dun Brython also celebrated Gwyn’s Feast, making four of us. Each of us has celebrated in our own way.
A format I have developed and found Gwyn is happy with  is cooking him pork with apple sauce and offering him a glass of mead, along with offerings of meat for his hounds and apples for his horses. Afterward I have read prayers, poems, and stories written for him, from myself and other people with a focus on undoing his banishment and affirming his presence in the world and his growing veneration. This year, having made my own drum dedicated to him and my other guides, there will probably be drumming and maybe a journey with him too, or perhaps divination. I’m not very formal and tend to go with what he wants me to do on the night.
So if anybody wants to join us by holding a feast for Gwyn, doing a ritual, making an offering, reading a poem, raising a glass, or simply speaking his name, please do! Let’s undo the abolition of Gwyn’s Feast and show him the veneration deserved by a god of Annwn and guide of souls.
 The identification of Gwyn and Melwas is also backed up by Welsh tradition. In ‘The Dialogue of Melwas and Gwenhwyfar’ Melwas introduces himself: ‘Black is my steed and brave beneath me / No water will make him fear / And no man will make him swerve.’ This is clearly Gwyn’s mount, the legendary water-horse Du y Moroedd, ‘the Black of the Seas’. Other lines suggesting Melwas is Gwyn, referring to his otherworld nature, include, ‘It is I that will ride and will stand, / And walk heavily on the brink of the ebb’, and ‘I would hold against a hundred of myself’.
 John Rhys notes Michael ‘was regarded as par excellence the defender of Christians against the sprites and demons with which the Celtic imagination peopled the shades of night, the gloom of the forest, and even the straggling mist on the tops of hills. Perhaps it would not be rash to suppose that most of the old foundations associated with his name occupy sites of sinister reputation, inherited from the time when paganism prevailed in the land, sites which were considered to be dangerous and to form the haunts of evil spirits.’ Here in Lancashire there is a church dedicated to St Michael in Whitewell, which is named for its white well, which many be connected with Gwyn. It is close to Fairy Holes and Fair Oak. In Beetham St Michael’s is the destination of a coffin path/fairy path which is famous for its Fairy Steps.
 One small word of advice on something he was very unhappy with... avoid eggs at all cost. In 2014 we decided to add boiled eggs to the arranged meal of ham without asking him. Three times we boiled them for the right amount of time and they were completely uncooked!
SOURCES Anon, ‘The Charter of St Patrick’ http://www.britannia.com/history/docs/chartpat.html Anon, ‘The Dialogue of Melwas and Gwenhywfar’ http://www.maryjones.us/ctexts/melwas.html Caradoc of Llancarfan, The Life of Gildas, http://www.maryjones.us/ctexts/gildas06.html Charlotte Guest (transl), ‘St Collen and Gwyn ap Nudd’ http://www.maryjones.us/ctexts/collen.html John Rhys, Studies in the Arthurian Legend, (Adamant Media Corporation, 2001) Marged Haycock, Legendary Poems from the Book of Taliesin, (CMCS, 2007) Nicolas R. Mann, The Isle of Avalon, (Green Magic, 2008) Sioned Davies (transl.), The Mabinogion, (Oxford University Press, 2007) Yuri Leitch, Gwyn: Ancient God of Glastonbury and key to the Glastonbury Zodiac, (The Temple Publications, 2007)