Index A-Z

Use the Search box below this introduction on the right, to find entries about a person, place, object or topic in the Mabinogi. There are other indexes beside this one, see side menu top left.
To display entries in A-Z order, click NAME on the top row, plus the arrow up/ down. Click BRANCH to see all items for each Branch.
If a name or word is a link, it has a longer article to explain it in the Library.

Aber Menei2Port from which Matholwch set sail with his 13 ships to return to Ireland.
Aberffraw2Chief court of Gwynedd from the 6th to the 13th centuries.
Adar Rhiannon2Birds of Rhiannon, three in number, who can soothe the living or wake the dead. See Seven Survivors of the Irish War; also Culhwch; and Owein.
Adultery4Two triangles: Pwyll, Arawn and the Queen of Annwfn builds alliance due to Pwyll's chastity. Lleu, Blodeuedd, Gronaw, leads to murder and vengeance.
Alcohol, carousing1Feasts follow a set order: first eating, then carousing (drinking), then entertainment.
Alliance1, 2, 3, 4Central theme of the Mabinogi: via nobles' friendship, marriage and feud. (Bollard)
Annwfn1, 3, 4A land, or a dimension, of power. Etym. 'dwfn' deep, so Underworld fits, but not Hell. Otherworld is also used.
Annwfn Dyfed alliance1, 4Through Pwyll's year sojourn in Annwfn, in shapeshifted state, he wins this alliance. Many gifts are exchanged; one, the pigs, lead to Pwyll's son Pryderi's death.
Anonymous1, 2, 3, 4The prose tales compilers and storytellers were anonymous in contrast to the poets who could hold famous names. Poets' job was to promote the reputation of a named noble with a new piece of work. Storytellers' job was to transmit an existing tradition.
Arawn1King of Annwfn, meets Pwyll on hunt, Pwyll insults him. Shapechanges with Pwyll, so Pwyll can duel his enemy king Hafgan. The result is a major alliance Annwfn - Dyfed. See Annwfn, Queen of Annwfn, Friendship, Alliance.
Arberth1, 3A chief court of Dyfed, where the royal entourage would stay on its circuit around the land. See also Gorsedd Arberth. Birthplace of Pryderi.
Arglwyd, High Lord1Title used for a higher level of noble, a king, such as Arawn. The more general title between nobles is 'unben' - lord, or chieftain. See esp. dialogue Pwyll - Arawn.
Arianrhod's naming4Like Rhiannon, Arianrhod's first words to her son are the source of her child's name, a traditional custom. In both cases the name is confirmed by male authority. Unlike Rhiannon, Arianrhod is tricked into speaking to him by Gwydion.
Arms, armourArms mentioned are generic mediaeval: armour and weapons, sword, shield, staff. See Shield, Sword.
Baby1, 2, 43 Mabinogi babies, all royal heirs, all male, no female babies. Pryderi/ Gwri and Lleu strong parallels, complex heroic sagas, major birth stories, fostered, and more. Gwern is a political pawn, horribly murdered.
Badger in the Bag1A dangerously rough game: a losing opponent is trapped in a bag, to be beaten with staves, and kicked. Said to be old custom begun at Rhiannon's wedding, played on Gwawl. The game could cause death.
Bag, crane skin2The Irish betray Branwen's peace treaty. They hang bags containing 2 warriors to the 100 pillars of Bran's guest house. Efnisien foils the plot. cf Badger in the Bag.
Bag, flour2The Irish betray Branwen's peace treaty. Bran's giant guest house is hung with hidden warriors in bags. Efnisien challenges them. They say the treacherous bags are full of flour. Efnisien crushed their heads in his hands, then sang an englyn.
Bag, magical bag1Rhiannon's magical bag given to Pwyll to trick Gwawl. Its smallness deceptively expands to contain infinite food. Its magic can only be controlled by a noble landowner who steps in it. It is closed with strings.
Baptism1Pryder was baptised in the old form used 'in those days.' Implies pre-Christian rite. He was named Gwri Gwallt Euryn, Gwri Golden Hair.
Bare bottomed Irishmen2These two men thrust Efnisien hiding among the dead into the Cauldron.
Barren1A barren queen, or lady failed her marital duty to provide an heir, cf the Lady of Gwent, Rhiannon.
Beauty, beautiful1, 3Beauty is much admired especially in Annwfn. Buildings, clothing, utensils, horses, horse harness, hounds, jewellery are noted, with gold silk brocade a fascination. The Queen of Annwfn, Rhiannon, her son Pryderi, her rejected suitor Gwawl, and Blodeuedd are all profiled as beautiful.
Beggar1Pwyll dresses in rags as a beggar to deceive Gwawl at the second wedding feast, cf. Gwydion appearing to Pryderi as a storyteller.
Beli2Dynastic father to Penarddun, whose twin sons Efnisien and Nisien are half bros. to Bran, Branwen and Manawyddan. Beli's father was Mynogan.
Bendigeidfran2'The Blessed Bran, the Blessed Raven.' See Bran.
Bird, Hawk1A hunting trained bird, listed as one of the gifts of friendship / alliance between Annwfn and Dyfed.
Bird, Raven, Crow2Bran, Bendigeidfran is 'Blessed Raven.' Branwen is'White Raven.'
Bird, Starling2Branwen trains starling to take her appeal for help to bro. King Bran.
Birds of Rhiannon2See Adar Rhiannon
Birth1, 2, 4Birth and barrennes are strong themes in the First Branch. Pryderi's birth especially is dramatic, and linked to the birth of a foal.
Blodeuedd4Artificial woman made of flowers as bride for Lleu, aubstitute for human women. Lover of Goronwy, conspires to murder Lleu. Gwydion shapechanges her to an owl. Name means 'Flowers.'
Blow, blows1A single blow is magical in the Pwyll- Hafgan duel. Pwyll later accepts the Gorsedd Arberth challenge which risks receiving blows. But the consequences are that Gwawl receives the blows.
Bran's compensation2Bran replaces Matholwch's horses, gives a tall silver rod, a gold plate. Bran later adds the Cauldron which had come from Ireland.
Bran, Bendigeidfran2Bendigeidfran, Bran the Blessed, King of Britain, giant, bro, Manawyddan & Branwen. Bridges river with his body. Attempts to build peace alliance with gifts, but obstructed by half-bro. Efnisien's violent pride. War leader of Britain in Irish war. See Death of Bran.
Branch 1 'Pwyll'1Pwyll Pendeuic Dyfed, Pwyll Prince of Dyed, offends Arawn, king of Annwfn. To compensate, Pwyll shapechanges into Arawn to fight his enemy, king Hafgan. Pwyll then wins the great lady Rhiannon to wife. Their baby son Pryderi is abducted. Rhiannon is accused, but Teyrnon rescues the child in Gwent, and returns him to Dyfed.
Branch 2 'Branwen'2Bran marries his sister to Matholwch of Ireland. Half bro. Efnisien is insulted, attacks Matholwch's horses. Matholwch abuses Branwen, Bran and army arrive in Ireland to rescue her. In the great Irish War all die except 12. The Seven Survivors sojourn in enchantment then take Bran's head to London to bury it.
Branch 3 'Manawyddan'3Pryderi marries Cigfa, gives his friend Manawyddan land to rule in Dyfed, and his mother Rhiannon to marry. All four sit Arberth, Dyfed is devastated. They try living in England. Pryderi and Rhiannon trapped in magic tower, but Manawyddan cleverly rescues them.
Branch 4 'Math'4Gwydion of Gwynned tricks Pryderi to start war, killing Pryderi in a duel. He and his bro. Gilfaethway rape the maid Goewin. Arianrhod has a shameful child she rejects, so her bro. Gwydion fosters Lleu, making him a bride of flowers. She betrays Lleu with Goronwy. Gwydion rescues Lleu and avenges him.
Branwen2Sis. Bran, and Manawyddan. Wife Matholwch.Mother of Gwern. Innocent cause of Irish War. Peacemaker, sees her child killed by bro. Efnisien. Tragically dies of grief.
Branwen's compensation2Matholwch offers Bran he will publicly atone for his abuse, giving sovereignty to Branwen's baby son Gwern.
Branwen's counsel2She counsels the Irish to build Bran an enormous house, for he has never had one big enough, and to offer homage.
Branwen's punishment2The queen is cast out of the royal rooms, forced to bake food, and suffer daily blows from the butcher with bl
Branwen, 2nd Branch2Bran marries his sister to Matholwch of Ireland. Half bro. Efnisien is insulted, attacks Matholwch's horses. Matholwch abuses Branwen, Bran and army arrive in Ireland to rescue her. In the great Irish War all die except 12. The Seven Survivors sojourn in enchantment then take Bran's head to London to bury it.
Bridge2To cross the River Llinon, the giant King Bran becomes a human bridge for his warband, making a proverb
Brother1, 2, 42nd Branch- Manawyddan as loyal full brother to his king, Bran. Efnisien is the jealous half brother, Nisien ineffectual; these are twins. 4th Branch- shows the ugliness of blind brother loyalty by Gwydion to Gilfaethwy, leading to war and rape. 1st- a brotherly friendship Pwyll, Arawn.
Caer Seint in Arfon2Branwen's starling found her bro. Bran here and he took her letter from its wing, telling how she was abused.
Calends of May1May Eve, a powerful traditional festival in Celtic lands. Pryderi is rescued by Teyrnon on this night.
Calumniated Wife1Rhiannon falsely accused of infanticide has been placed in the folklore motif of Calumniated Wife, although she is, strictly, a calumniated mother.
Cantref1A measure of territory based on 100. Possibly a levy of 100 armed fighters. Dyfed originally had 7 cantrefs.
Cauldron2Rejuvenates the dead, but voiceless. Used as compensation gift by Bran. Broken by Efnisien to end the Irish War.
Ceredigion2North of Dyfed. 4 cantrefs of territory conquered and annexed by Pryderi for Dyfed. See also Ystrad Twyi.
Chamber1Private room at a court.
Chastity1, 3Pwyll stays strictly chaste with the Queen of Annwfn. Manawyddan is chaste with Cigfa.
Cigfa3Cigfa ferch Gwyn Glohoyw, of Gloucester, marries Pryderi.
Claw1The monster which Teyrnon catches trying to steal his newborn pedigree foal, is only glimpsed as a 'monstrous claw.'
Colour1Red and white are the colours of magical animals e.g. Hounds of Annwfn. Grey, or pale horses are prestige mounts cf. Arawn, Rhiannon. Gold is the elite colour for (silk) clothing: see Silk.
Compensation1, 2The law codes and customs rely much more on compensation than mutilation or prison. When Pwyll offends Arawn, and Efnisien insults Matholwch, the recourse is negotiation, and gifts set at agreed levels. Pwyll and Rhiannon both do service to expiate their offences.
Conversation1, 3Skill in conversation is noted especially for ladies ref. the Queen of Annwfn, Rhiannon.
Council1, 2Rulers had advice from their nobles, but were not bound to follow it cf Pwyll, Bran, and Matholwch. The Dyfed nobles actually summon Pwyll to council.
Court1, 2, 3, 4See Lys.
Courtesy, discourtesy1Great emphasis is placed on courtesy, from the correct title (unben, lord; arglwyd, king) to correct clothing and washing for a feast, to the skills of conversation (Queen of Annwfn, Rhiannon). Discourtesy could be deadly, but could normally be settled by compensation payment or service. Gwawl is markedly courteous even when abused.
Crupper1Hafgan was thrown a spear-and-arms length over the crupper of his horse and onto the ground. Striking image of a power blow. A storytelling formula.
Cymidei Kymeinwoll2Wife of Llasar Llaes Gyfewid. They escaped the Iron House in Ireland and went to Gwynedd. She births after 6 weeks pregnancy, an adult fighter. A troublemaker, keeper of the Cauldron.
Death of Bran2Bendigeidfran is poisoned in the foot by a spear thrust. He survives as a decapitated Head.
Death of Efnisien2Deliberately hidden among the dead in the Cauldron, Efnisien (the giant) stretches till it breaks in 4, and so does his heart.
Death of Gwern2Efnisien deliberately wrecks the peace treaty by thrusting baby Gwern, the agreed sovereign, into the fire, in front of his mother Branwen.
Death of Hafgan1Pwyll duels Hafgan rival of Arawn, in Annwfn. Hafgan declares he is mortally wounded. Pwyll refuses a second killing blow, obeying Arawn his mentor. Hafgan is carried away but we do not see him die.
Death of Pwyll1Pwyll's death s described undramatically, without detail, as happening due to one year following the next. This suggests he dies of old age.
Death, mortality1, 2, 4Few named individuals die. Hafgan seems to. Pwyll dies naturally of age. His son dies betrayed magic in a duel. Lleu sort of dies, revived by Gwydion. None survive the Irish War but Seven Survivors and five Irish women. Branwen dies of grief.
Devastation of Dyfed3Magical disappearance of all people and stock, by Llwyd. Originates from Arberth.
Divorce1The Dyfed nobles petition Pwyll twice to set aside his wife Rhiannon, for barrenness and infanticide.
Doublets1, 2, 3, 4So many parallels can be traced in the structure of the stories, mirroring each other across tales, too may to list here. An example is Pwyll and his son Pryderi fight duels at a ford. Both events have magical aspects. Pwyll's duel opens the Dyfed saga, Pryderi's ends it. Pwyll acts correctly keeping his word to Annwfn so he wins. Pryderi breaks his word to Annwfn, and he loses. Good examples see Gantz 1978.
Dyfed1, 3, 4Modern Pembs. one of the major realms of old Wales.
Efnisien2Half-bro. Branwen, Bran, Manawyddan. Insulted by exclusion from his half-sister Branwen's marriage plans, he mutilates her husband's horses, destroys peace treaty. The Irish War which follows ends in genocide. He ends the war by hiding among the dead in the Cauldron, and breaking it. Name means 'hostile.'
Eisted, sitting1, 3The magic of Gorsedd Arberth is set off by a noble deliberately sitting on it; thus Rhiannon appears to Pwyll, and the Devastation of Dyfed is caused. cf the modern National Eisteddfod, and a 'sitting' of Parliament.
Epona1, 3Romano-Celtic Horse Goddess, linked to Rhiannon. Epona's cult spread across the Empire with cavalry auxiliaries. Of two iconic images one sits calmly sidesaddle with bag/ basket of food, similar to Rhiannon's calm pacing on horse, her bag of endless food capacity. The other is with young horses cf the foal in Gwent. S. Wales known for mediaeval horse breeding.
Eurosydd2 Father of twins, Efnisien and Nisien, husband of Penarddun, daughter of Beli.
Father1, 2, 3, 4Very different fathers. Pwyll a steady, protective authority. Matholwch, weak, destructive. Manawyddan the good provider, fails, then rescues his stepson. Gwydion is incestuous, male mother, ambitious, rescuing, avenging.
Feast1, 23 stages: food, carousing (see Alcohol), entertainment. Status controlled display by strict seating hierarchy. Witnessing marriage, community bonds. Lengthy preparations up to a year. Rhiannon says her wedding feasts under her authority. Pwyll refers to a feast lasting several days. As roleplaying beggar he explicitly refers to starvation.
FeudFeud based on revenge is a major theme of the Mabinogi. It shows how revenge leads to catastrophe, both the genocide of the Irish war, and the Devastation of Dyfed. Lleu's feud with Goronwy is not so large scale. Horses are key gifts of alliance and feud both: Efnisien mutilates them to spark feud.
Ford1, 4A river often formed a boundary between territories. A ford was a traditional neutral or liminal place for meetings between opponents. Both Pwyll and his son Pryderi fight duels at a ford.
Formula1, 2, 3, 4A form of words used as familiar set piece description to aid storyteller memory, and audience comprehension. Key tool of oral tradition.
FriendshipFriendship is a major theme of the Mabinogi. But friendship between rulers is a political contract, not just a personal relationship: 'alliance' is helpful. Friendship in the Mabinogi is often a male-male relationship mediated through respect for a woman (Queen of Annwfn, Cigfa) or broken by abuse of one (Branwen).
Gift1, 2Gifts are given as due payment e.g. to minstrels after feasts. More valuable gifts seal alliances or make compensation for offence e.g. horses, hounds, silver and gold, jewellery, the Cauldron. The duty of a ruler was to redistribute wealth as gifts as rewards.
Gifaethwy4Bro. of the magician Gwydion. Gilfaethwy is infatuated with the maiden Goewin, his uncle the king's footholder. Gwydion machinates war so Goewin can be raped by both bros. The men are punished by shapeshifting into animals to mate each other. The king marries Goewin.
Glyn Cuch1A large, deep, lengthy river valley running north-south in Dyfed (modern Pembrokeshire). Pwyll fatefully decided to hunt there, opening the events of the First Branch.
God1, 2Calls on God are quite frequent, but generic. There is virtually no Christian aspects, no Father, Mary, or saints. Distinctive oath: 'Between myself and God.'
Goddess1, 2, 4Some characters are often interpreted as goddesses, but this is not explicit in e.g. prayer, temples, moral codes. Rhiannon, Branwen, Arianrhod and Blodeuedd are all possible divinities, but not like Greek/ Roman ones.
Gods1, 2, 3, 4Some characters can be interpreted as gods but this is not explicit in e.g. prayer, temples, moral codes. Pwyll, Arawn, Hafgan, Pryderi, Bran, Manwayddan, Math, Gwydion, Lleu are possible divinities. If so, it is a distinctive style of divinity.
Goewin4Maiden footholder (normally a male bodyservant) to Math of Gwynedd. She is raped by Gilfaethwy and Gwydion. She appeals to the king who punishes the rapists, by shapeshifting them to animals who mate each other. Math marries Goewin as compensation.
Gold1Gold as now was high status metal for decoration incl. jewellery. Silk clothing is frequently mentioned as being gold in colour. See Silk.
Gorsedd Arberth1, 3The Mound of Arberth, or Gathering-place of Arberth is the pivot of magical marvels. Pwyll sets out to hunt from Arberth court nearby. He accepts the challenge of the Gorsedd by sitting there, and meets Rhiannon. The Devastation of Dyfed is caused by another sitting by Pryderi, Cigfa, Rhiannon and Manawyddan. See Eisted.
Greeting1The manner of greeting is crucial to sta.tus. The lesser person greets the higher first, offering .due title of respect.See esp. dialogue Pwyll - Arawn; and titles Arglwyd; Unben.
Gwales2Modern Grassholm island. Sojourn II of Seven Survivors.
Gwawl1Gwawl fab Clud. Original betrothed of Rhiannon, rejected. Prob. northerner. Youthful, tall, red haired, wealthy landowner, courteous even under stress. Attempts to regain Rhiannon via custom of formal petition. At 2nd feast he has both women and men with him. Abused by Badger in the Bag game. Agrees legal contract to relinquish all rights. Friend Llwyd seeks revenge for him.
Gwent, Gwent-Ys-Coed1White land below the wood. SE Wales, the name survives today as Went wood.
Gwern2Baby son of Branwen, Matholwch. Killed by his uncle Efnisien who throws him in the fire.
Gwri1Childhood name of Pryderi, Gwri Wallt Euryn (Gwri Golden Hair) He received the name by baptism, in the archaic style 'in those days' implying a pre-Christian rite.
Gwydion4Magician bro. Math and Arianrhod, Foster father of Llew, creator of Blodeuedd.
Gwynn Gohoyw1Father of Cigfa, Pryderi's wife. Of Glouceste, so Pryderi extends his influence eastwards. Genealogy: Gwynn Gohoyw, mab Gloyw Wallt, mab Casnar Wledic.
Hafgan1King of Annwfm, rival to Arawn. Duels Pwyll, in Arwan's place. Can only be vanquished by a single blow.
Harlech2A chief court and port of Britain, in Gwynedd, where the Second Branch begins with 13 ships arriving from S. Ireland. Sojourn I of Seven Survivors, soothed by Adar Rhiannon, Birds of Rhiannon..
Hefeydd Hen1Father of Rhiannon, Hefeydd the Old. Location of realm unknown. Aka Hefaidd hen.
Heir1, 2, 4Anxiety about producing an heir for land holdings. A Mabinogi heir is male: Pryderi, Gwern, Lleu, though mediaeval codes did stretch to female heirs. A male heir was trained as a fighting defender. A barren wife was an unhappy and serious problem: Rhiannon, Lady of Gwent.
Horn1As hunters, Pwyll and Pryderi carry a hunting horn to command a pack of hounds, and to gather scattered companions. Pwyll uses his to summon fighting men at Rhiannon's second wedding feast.
Horse1The horse was the visible sign of the dominant class of noble landowners. It was a key tool of their dominance, giving superior height, weight, and speed over the lower classes. One of the rich gifts given to seal an alliance. Rhiannon has an aspect as horse goddess. Ref. Epona. See Mare.
Horse's pace1The first three times Rhiannon appears she and her horse move slowly but cannot be approached by the fastest riders.
Horseman1Mabinogi society is dominated by a horse riding elite class of nobles cf. Arawn's first appearance. The three main uses of fine horses were war, hunting, and riding for pleasure. These costly animals displayed status, and were used as gifts to establish alliances. Lesser breeds were used for haulage.
HorsewomanThe female word 'marchoges' in Middle Welsh means simply a noble woman riding a horse. It has the same meanings of status as 'horseman.' cf. the first appearance of Rhiannon.
Hound bitch1Her newborn pup is killed and blood smeared on Rhiannon.
Hound, dog1, 3Hunting is a primary activity of the Dyfed royals. They are closely involved with hunting hounds, also named as stag hounds, and greyhounds. Hounds are used in packs cf. Pwyll, Pryderi, and make valuable gifts of alliance.
Hounds of Annwfn1Pack of hounds of Arawn, appear to Pwyll. White, with red ears and eyes,
Hunting clothes1Arawn who appears first on a hunt, wears dun/ grey/ brownish gear (the Middle Welsh word could mean any of these) appropriate for hunting. When Pwyll visits Annwfn the land of perfection, courtesy requires he change out of such sports gear to attend the feast.
Incest4Some scholars see hints of incest between Arianrhod and her brother Gwydion, making Gwydion the true father of Lleu, not just his foster father.
Ireland, Irish2Wales and Ireland influenced each others' traditions, via proximity. Distinctive: cf. Roman Wales; Wales' strong virginity but weak sovereignty goddess cult. Exiled claimant princes, traveling minstrels, migration, sea trade, all enable mutual culture flows. Some names transfer but without the same characteristics e.g. Manawyddan is unlike Manannan.
Ireland, South2At the start of the Second Branch, 13 ships arrive from South Ireland led by Matholwch, to petition marriage with Branwen. The marriage is tragic, and leads into the Irish War.
Irish War2, 3A huge war between Britain and Ireland, ending in genocide with only 12 survivors. Led by Matholwch of Ireland and Bran of Britain. The envy of Efnisien is central but so is Matholwch as a weak ruler. Branwen and horses are violently abused as symbols. Manawyddan is usurped. Pryderi is important only in the aftermath.
Island of the Mighty2See Ynys Y Kedeirn.
Jewellery1Cited as valuable gift in securing alliance, and a ruler's redistribution of wealth to lesser ranks. Rhiannon gives brooches, rings or stones, on arrival in Arberth.
Lady of Gwent1Foster mother of Pryderi, married to Teyrnon. Strategic, ambitious woman who checks the foundling's status via its silk wrappings before adopting it. Teyrnon respects her advice on returning the child to Rhiannon and Pwyll, that this will bring them social advantages.
Law1, 2In the First and Second Branches law codes from mediaeval Wales are often applied in Dyfed and Britain. See Compensation, and surety. Gwynedd in the Fourth Branch seems to be governed by Math's dictate, and by duels of vengeance.
Lleu Llaw Gyffes4Lleu Llaw Gyffes. Son (unacknowledged) of Arianrhod. Fostered by Gwydion his uncle. Marries Blodeuedd.
Llundain, London2The capital city of Britain, Second Branch, according to mythical history when Britain was a unified realm under Brythonic rule.
Llwyd Cilcoed3Magician who avenges Gwawl, causes Devastation of Dyfed.
Lllyr2Father of Bran / Bendigeidfran, his sister Branwen, and bro. Manawyddan. He was also father, by another wife Penarddun, of twin sons Efnisien and Nisien. The Second Branch tells of the conflict between Efnisien and the rest which caused the Irish War.
London2, 3See Llundain.
Lordship, ruling1When Pwyll returned to Dyfed after his sojourn in Annwfn, his council of nobles cited three qualities of good rule: knowledge (judgement); amiable disposition, and generosity with giving goods.
Love, romance1, 3, 4The main love stories are Rhiannon and Pwyll, perhaps Rhiannon and Manawyddan, Blodeuedd and Goroonwy. Rhiannon models passion within marriage, with loyalty and trust. Blodeuedd shows passion outside marriage, becoming murderous treachery. All marriages are formally arranged by kinsmen, with Branwen a model of the system at its worst.
Lys, court1, 2, 3, 4A court was usually a mobile company of the lord's family, officers, courtiers, fighters, minstrels, and servants. It moved to different halls, also called courts, such as Arberth or Aberffraw. Gwynedd, Fourth Branch was exceptional as Math was immobilised so his nephews did the royal circuit for him.
Mab1, 2, 3, 4Root of the titles Mabinogi and Mabinogion, exact meaning unclear. 'Mab' in Welsh means a boy or youth. Theories: children's stories; training text for apprentice bards; young hero saga about Pryderi and Lleu.
Mabinogi, The1, 2, 3, 4Four units of stories, Pedair Cainc, the Four Branches. 1. Pwyll. 2. Branwen. 3. Manawyddan. 4. Math. They are part of the Mabinogion collection. The Four Branches are a closely interrelated whole, both mythology and fine literature.
Mabinogion, The1, 2, 3, 4Earliest prose literature of Britain. Collection of 11 tales, from 2 similar mediaeval manuscripts Llyfr Gwyn, Llyfr Coch. Written Middle Welsh, 14th /15thC, compiled c. 1100 from much earlier oral traditions. The name is a mistake, but established convenience.
Maids1, 4Rhiannon's 6 maids treacherously frame her for infanticide. The Queen of Gwent's women help her pretend the foundling Pryderi/ Gwri is her own child. Blodeuedd's maids flee with her, but drown in a lake. Unclear on social status; prob. high born.
Makwyf, new young fighter1The makwyf was a newly trained fighter, part of the teulu/ warband, servicing his seniors. Pwyll sends one after Rhiannon to enquire her business. Teyrnon poss. makwyf to Pwyll's teulu when younger.
Manawydan3Bro. Bran, usurped. Friend and stepfather to Pryderi, 2nd husband of Rhiannon. Survivor of Irish war.
Manawyddan, 3rd Branch3Pryderi marries Cigfa, gives his friend Manawyddan land to rule in Dyfed, and his mother Rhiannon to marry. All four sit Arberth, Dyfed is devastated. They try living in England. Pryderi and Rhiannon trapped in magic tower, but Manawyddan cleverly rescues them.
Mare1Teyrnon's pedigree mare births a fine foal every May Eve which always disappears. He brings it in the house to guard it. Links to Rhiannon, as this tale parallels Rhiannon's childbed, and disappearance of her baby son Pryderi/ Gwri.
MarriageMarriage is a major theme of the Mabinogi, as a political contract between rulers, not just a personal relationship, so the term 'alliance' is helpful. Marriage is established not by a religious ceremony but by a semi-public feast so it is witnessed. Models are given of good and bad marriages.
Marriage, arranged1, 2, 3, 4All marriages are formally arranged by men. Rhiannon shows how a strong woman could assert her wishes, but she has to accept the public role of male management. Arianrhod remains unmarried, independent, but shamed. Blodeuedd shows the destructiveness of rebellion by adultery. Branwen the tragedy of abuse.
Math ap Mathonwy4Math fab Mathonwy. Magician King of Gwynedd, uncle to Gwydion and Arianrhod.
Math, 4th Branch4Gwydion of Gwynned tricks Pryderi to start war, killing Pryderi in a duel. He and his bro. Gilfaethway rape the maid Goewin. Arianrhod has a shameful child she rejects, so her bro. Gwydion fosters Lleu, making him a bride of flowers. She betrays Lleu with Goronwy. Gwydion rescues Lleu and avenges him.
Matholwch2King of Ireland, marries Branwen, abuses her. Leads to Irish War.
Mice, mouse3Shapeshifted courtiers who serve Llwyd the Magician.
Minstrel1, 4Musical entertainers at feasts, especially after the drinking stage. Paid the following day (Rhiannon). Gwawl forced to pay them as punishment.
Monster1Monstrous claw attempts to steal newborn foal, dumps baby Pryderi in Gwent.
Mother1, 2, 3, 4Powerful, contrasting mothers. Rhiannon, suffering deep anxiety and loss, but triumphant. Lady of Gwent, foster mother, strategic. Branwen tragic, powerless, witnessing her baby son murdered by her half brother. Arianrhod independent but shamed and angry. See Barren.
Mounting block1Rhiannon's penance requires herfor 7 years to sit at the gate of Arberth court by the mounting block, all day. She must tell her story of infanticide to travelers, and if desired, carry them inside on her back. Horse connection.
Nisien2Half-bro. Branwen, Bran, Manawyddan. Twin of Efnisien. Nisien is opposite to his twin, a peaceful, but minor, ineffective character.
Noise, commotion1, 3Magical events heralded by huge noise, commotion. The monstrous claw trying to abduct Teyrnon's foal, and the Devastation of Dyfed. Rhiannon's magic is quietly calm.
Oral tradition1, 2, 3, 4Presenting information or created material, stories, poems, via mouth to ear/s. Tends to repetition, formula, and participation in performance. Can be accurate over several generations. The Mabinogi were not written until the 11thC.
Orchard1On Rhiannon's instructions Pwyll hides 100 fighters in the orchard to back up his negotiations with Gwawl and his men.
Pen Llwyn Diarwya1Pwyll set off to hunt in Glyn Cuch late in the day. He stayed overnight in Pen Llwyn Diarwya, then began actual hunting with his company early the next morning.
Penarddun2Mother of twins, Efnisien and Nisien, wife of Euroswydd, daughter of Beli. Her two sons are opposites, aggressive and peaceful respectively. She herself has no story.
Pendaran Dyfed1High status noble of Dyfed. He assists Pwyll to confirm Rhiannon's naming of her son Pryderi, and becomes foster father. Unclear identity/ 'Pen' head, chief. 'Daran' thunder.
Petition, boon1, 2Gwawl and Pwyll exchange roles as petitioner and patron: the patron or ruler must show generosity or be shamed. Gwawl shows a cautious style. Matholwch petitions to marry Branwen.
Pregnant mouse3Shapeshifted wife of Llwyd the Magician, used by Manawyddan to bargain.
Preseli, Preseli mountains1The nobles of Dyfed summon Pwyll to a formal meeting in the Preselis, the origin of the ancient bluestones. The same name is used today.
Prif Rieni, High Matriarchs2Title accorded to Branwen, also in the Trioedd, Triads.
Pryderi1, 2, 3, 4Only char, in all 4 Branches. Son of Rhiannon & Pwyll. Born Arberth, abducted, rescued by Teyrnon in Gwent who fosters him as 'Gwern.' Hero childhood, horse affinity. Restored to parents, named Pryderi for Rhiannon's 'anxiety.' Irish War. Friend to Manawyddan. Prince of Dyfed marries Cigfa. Sojourn in otherworld, rescued by Manawyddan. Annwfn gift of pigs causes envy. Breaks his word to Annwfn. Dies in duel with Gwydion. Strong hunting ID, horses, hounds.
Pryderi's grave4At .Maen Tyriawg above Y Felenrhyd
Punishment1, 4Compensation is the main mode to deal with wrongdoing. Pwyll does service for Arawn. Rhiannon negotiates a 7 year penalty. Math marries Goewin and forces her rapists to undergo animal shapeshifts . But Rhiannon's maids express fear of burning or death, which is unusual.
Puppy, pups1Killed, used to smear Rhiannon with blood to frame her with infanticide.
PWYLL1Pwyll Prince of Dyfed/ Pwyll Pendeuic Dyfed; aka Pen Annwfn, Head of Annwfn. Has a year's sojourn in Annwfn, achieving alliance with Arawn its king. Marries Rhiannon after a complex courtship and remains loyal to her through crises. Father of Pryderi. Lead character of the First Branch.
Pwyll, 1st Branch1Pwyll Pendeuic Dyfed, Pwyll Prince of Dyed, offends Arawn, king of Annwfn. To compensate, Pwyll shapechanges into Arawn to fight his enemy, king Hafgan. Pwyll then wins the great lady Rhiannon to wife. Their baby son Pryderi is abducted. Rhiannon is accused, but Teyrnon rescues the child in Gwent, and returns him to Dyfed.
Queen of Annwfn1Welcomes Pwyll to her domain. Married to Arawn.
Rank, hierarchy1Crucially important. cf. Pwyll, Arawn fraught dialogue negotiation. Seating at feasts is precisely ranked, cf.Pwyll in Annwfn, Rhiannon's 2 wedding feasts. Only a noble can control Rhiannon's bag. Efnisien's villainy is status jealousy. Pryderi and wife Cigfa both disapprove Manawyddan's status transgression.
Rebuke1, 3Rhiannon gives 3 rebukes. To Pwyll on first encounter, because of his horse. To Pwyll for carelessly losing her to Gwawl. To Manawyddan for failing to try to help his close friend Pryderi, her son.
Red1The colour of the ears and eyes of the Hounds of Annwfn, emphasised as dazziling in sharp contrast to the equally dazzling white of their coats. Pwyll sees this colouring on the Hounds when on his fateful hunt.
Rhiannon1, 3Mainly 1st Branch heroine, 'Divine Queen.' Appears at Gorsedd Arberth. Rejects Gwawl for Pwyll causing long term feud. Mother of Pryderi/ Gwri. Falsely accused of infanticide, negotiates 7 year horsey penance, then reunited, names her son. 3rd Branch marries Manawyddan. 3 rebukes. Strong horse affinity, possibly archaic Horse Goddess cf Epona. Very strong, political, elite character. Magical nature: Arberth marvel; pacing of horse; small bag; Adar Rhiannon/ Birds of Rhiannon.
Rhiannon's 3 rebukes1She rebukes Pwyll for not treating his horse better: horse affinity. She rebukes him for his open promise to Gwawl which gifts her to him. She rebukes Manawyddan for failing his good friend, her son Pryderi. 3 rebukes.
Rhiannon's 3 rides1She and her great pale noble horse have a magical pace. It is calm and slow yet the best rider on the fastest horse cannot reach them. Ambiguous whether this power is hers, the horse's, or a synergy. She rides 3 times.
Rhiannon's magic1She is the predicted Gorsedd Arberth marvel, ryvedawt. She makes 3 rides, with time warp, though calm and slow the fastest rider cannot reach her. Her small bag can hold infinite food.
Rhiannon's naming1Like Arianrhod, Rhiannon's first words to her son are the source of her child's name, a traditional custom. In both cases the name is confirmed by male authority.
Rhiannon's penance1Rhiannon decides to undergo penance to sit by the mounting block at the gate for 7 years, to tell travelers her crime, offering to bear them into the court on her back. Horse affinity, as beast of burden. The telling spreads the news which reaches Teyrnon. Her status as queen stays intact for she sits by Pwyll in the hall.
Rhiannon's pun1On reuniting with her lost son her first words to him refer to being delivered, escor, of her anxiety 'pryder.' As in English 'to be delivered' means freed from restriction, and to give birth.
Rhiannon's small bag1Given to Pwyll to trick Gwawl. Described explicitly as 'small' as wry emphasis: deceptive, it expands to contain infinite food. Poss. link to archaic Romano-Celtic goddess Epona images with bag/ basket of plentiful foods.
Saddle makers3One of three crafts adopted by Manawyddan, Rhiannon, Pryderi and Cigfa after the Devastation of Dyfed.
Sages, wise men1Rhiannon summons her sages, or wise men to take counsel in her crisis. The custom of a noble taking counsel is standard: Pwyll, Bran, though they are not bound to accept advice.
Secular1, 2, 3, 4The Mabinogi are extremely secular. God is invoked but as an emphasis, without religious content. Traces of older myths can be seen. But there are no prayers, no religious gatherings. Third Branch Llwyd's disguise as 'priest' and 'bishop' is uninformative.
Seisyllwch17 cantrefs territory, conquered by Pryderi, prince of Dyfed.
Servants1Unnamed servants provide food, washing facilities, fresh clothes, carry out orders eg. messengers, and entertain (minstrels). Ladies (Rhiannon, Lady of Gwent, Blodeuedd) have maids, possibly higher status. Other servitors are officers and stewards of the court.
Seven Survivors2Pryderi, Manawyddan and five others survive the Irish War. They sojourn in Harlech, then Gwales, then accompany Bran's decapitated head to London to bury it.
Sex1, 2, 3, 4Sex is described openly as an important pleasure central to marriage (Queen of Annwfn, Rhiannon, Branwen, Bldeuedd) courteously mediated by affection and talk (Arawn and his Queen; Rhiannon and Pwyll). Rape is severely punished (Gwydion and Gilfaethwy). Adultery is a cause for male revenge i.e. Blodeuedd and Goronwy, note how their passion is explicitly described as overwhelming.
Shapeshift1, 3, 4Shapeshifting is distinctive Celtic magic, powerful but not nasty. Arawn's mutual .swap with Pwyll is unique. Other magicians, Llwyd, Gwydion shift their own appearance. Math and Gwydion shift flowers into woman, and humans into animals.
Shield2, 3Matholwch's ships display shields point upmost as a sign of peace on arrival at Harlech. Shield making was one of three crafts adopted by Manawyddan, Rhiannon, Pryderi and Cigfa after the Devastation of Dyfed.
Shield makers3One of three crafts adopted by Manawyddan, Rhiannon, Pryderi and Cigfa after the Devastation of Dyfed.
Shoe makers3, 4One of three crafts adopted by Manawyddan, Rhiannon, Pryderi and Cigfa after the Devastation of Dyfed. Used as a trick by Gwydion to make Arianrhod speak to her son, and so name (recognise) him.
Silk1, 2, 4Exotic, costly sign of status, traded from far Constantinople or Venice. Soft, warm or cool at need, strong, and beautiful. Worn by Pwyll in Annwfn, the Queen of Annwfn, Rhiannon, Rhiannon's baby, and Lleu as a baby. Also Irish ship pennants. Lady of Gwent checks status of foundling baby via silk wrappings before accepting him to foster.
Silk brocade1, 4The same notes as for silk apply. Brocaded silk had a pattern e.g. flowers, birds, an abstract design, woven in the fabric, not embroidered on it. It would appear exotic and magical.
SisterNoneThere are NO sisters in the Mabinogi. Together with the lack of female friendship, female mentoring, female patronage, is striking even though formal connections were male. The only female-female relations are servants (maids) and Rhiannon's are treacherous.
Stable boys1Pryderi/ Gwri as a boy persuades the stable boys to let him lead the horses to water, horse affinity like his mother.
Stag1The First Branch opens with the killing of a stag in a forest clearing. Two royal men, Pwyll and Arawn, then dispute claim to it. The antlered stag was a symbol of royalty in mediaeval symbolism.
Stag hound1The blood of a newborn stag hound puppy is used to smear Rhiannon's face to frame her as an infanticide.
Surety, guarantee1Legal system where a man of status provided security against the word/ commitment of another cf Gwawl, Hyfaidd Hen.
Sword1Teyrnon uses a sword to attack the monster (claw) which attempts to take his newborn pedigree foal. He cuts off the monster's arm.
Teyrnon Twryf Lliant1Foster father of Pryderi, Pwyll's man, horse breeder. Rescues baby from monster, fosters him as Gweri. Honorably restores him to Rhiannon and Pwyll. name means Divine Ruler cf Rhiannon.
Time distortion1, 2Rhiannon's ride on first 3 appearances: she and her horse move slowly yet no one can reach them. Her son Pryderi/ Gwri grows 3 times faster than normal child. Pryderi sojourns 7 plus 80 years in enchantment after Irish War yet no one has aged on his return.
Unben, Lord.1Title used between nobles of any rank, as courtesy. Also trans. 'chieftain.' The higher title is arglwyd, perhaps High Lord, for a king such as Arawn. See esp. dialogue Pwyll - Arawn.
Vassal1Teyrnon had been a vassal to Pwyll so recognised his foster son resembled his former lord. Vassalage in the earlier mediaeval period not lifelong. See 'makwyf.'
Washing1Washing before going in to a feast is a formal courtesy of court life. Gwawl also refers to needing a bath after being trapped in the bag with food.
Wealth, money1, 3Wealthy display is a key aspect of nobility: fine horses, hounds, silk clothing, jewellery. Land ownership is the source of noble wealth. Gwawl is noted as rich. Manawyddan is poor because usurped, so becomes Pryderi's pensioner: he is disapproved for adopting craft and business.
White1The colour of the coats of the Hounds of Annwfn, emphasised as dazziling in sharp contrast to the equally dazzling red of their ears and eyes. Pwyll sees this colouring on the Hounds when on his fateful hunt.
Witness1Marriages are established by feasts which ensure plenty of witnesses, Rhiannon, Branwen. The contract Pwyll, Gwawl is similarly witnessed. The six maids say their collective witness outweighs Rhiannon's account.
Ynys Y Kedeirn2 Island of the Mighty. Britain as a unified realm under Brythonic rule, in mythical history. Its capital is Llundain, London.
Ystrad Twyi 13 cantrefs territory, conquered by Pryderi, prince of Dyfed.
Number1,2,3,4A single blow, many doublets, Triads, Four Branches, five pregnant women, six guilty maids, Seven Survivors, and many more.

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