Blodeuwedd – Oak, Broom and Meadowsweet


Welcome the May-queen
Sing for her now
For as the year turns to Samhain
She’ll return as an Owl
(Damh the Bard) 

Blodeuwedd. Watercolour on Bockingford paper, 21 x 21 cm.

This is a piece I’ve wanted to draw for years, even started it twice and scrapped it all.”Blodeuwedd” (Blo-die-weth) is Welsh for “owl”. Literally, it means “flower face”. In the Mabinogion, the connection is explained like this:

Lleu Llaw Gyffes, the later king of Gwynedd, was cursed by his mother never to take a human woman. Lleu’s uncle, the magician Gwydion, then formed a woman out of oak flowers, broom, and meadowsweet, which he enchanted to come alive. He named her Blodeuwedd, and she went on to marry Lleu.

But she fell in love in another man, the hunter Gronw. Together, the lovers plotted to kill Lleu (which, because this is a Welsh legend, is incredibly complicated and involves a cauldron, a fishing net, a spear forged for a year during times when everyone is at mass, and a goat). They succeeded, but Lleu was transformed into an eagle and flew away, badly wounded. Gwydion found him and nursed him back to health, but not before hunting down Blodeuwedd and turning her into an owl, so that she must shun the light of day and be hated by all creatures.

Today, in Pagan tradition, Blodeuwedd is seen as a sympathetic figure rather than a mean one. Formed of healing herbs and oak flowers, she represents Lleu’s marriage to the land, and the governing and healing powers of a prince. It is through her treachery, his death and subsequent healing, that he attains kingship and transformation.

Prints can be bought through the costum print option in my Etsy shop.