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Annwn or Annwfn, ( "under-world" or "un-world", sometimes inaccurately written Annwyn, Annwyfn or Annwfyn) was the Otherworld, the [[Underworld|land of souls that had departed this world in Celtic mythology.


Ruled by Arawn, or much later by Gwynn ap Nudd, Annwn was essentially a world of delights and eternal youth where disease is absent and food is ever-abundant.

In medieval Welsh legend Annwn is also spoken of as being divided into different planes, or kingdoms.


Entries in the University of Wales' reconstructed Proto-Celtic lexicon [1] suggest that the name is likely derived from the Proto-Celtic An-dubnion, a phrase with the Proto-Celtic semantic connotations of "extremely deep.". The Modern Welsh spelling 'Annwn' is pronounced an'oon.

The name Annwn also seems to mean the Not-world; it was known to the Welsh Britons as Anghar, or the Loveless Place, Difant, the Unrimmed Place, Affwys, The Abyss, and Affan, The Invisible Land.

The most popular belief regards Annwn as the supernatural, or the invisible, world and later perhaps even as Fairyland.


Annwn is associated with the Irish and Welsh goddess of pleasure Bebhinn, though it is unknown whether the giantess inhabits Irish underworld Mag Mell or Annwn in the original myth.

Main Belief

Annwn was said to lie so far to the west that not even Manawydan ap Llyr had found it, for you could only reach Annwn by dying yourself. It was also said, though, that Annwn could be entered by those still living if they could find its door.

The door

The door was said to be at the mouth of the Severn near Lundy Island or on Glastonbury Tor. (The temple of Nudd archaeologically discovered near Lydney, and Brythonic stories such as the tale of Seithenyn, suggest that the Severn Bore held symbolic importance in Druid esoteric spiritual teachings. Glastonbury appears widely as a sacred isle of the dead and as the place where saints and kings are buried.)

Pwyll, Prince of Dyfed

In the First Branch of the Mabinogi, entitled Pwyll, Prince of Dyfed, the eponymous prince offends Arawn, ruler of Annwn, by baiting his hunting hounds on a stag that Arawn's dogs had brought down. As a recompense he exchanges places with Arawn for a year, defeating Arawn's enemy Hafgan. Meanwhile, Arawn rules Dyfed. During this year, Pwyll does not sleep with Arawn's wife, earning himself gratitude from Arawn. On his return, Pwyll becomes known by the title Penn Annwn, "King of Annwn."

Culhwch and Olwen

In Culhwch and Olwen, an Arthurian romance associated with the Mabinogion, it is said God gave Gwyn ap Nudd control over the demons lest "this world be destroyed." He led the Wild Hunt. A Christian story tells of the Welsh Saint Collen entering Gwynn's palace to banish him with holy water.

Book of Taliesin

In the Book of Taliesin (Taliesin is the name of the sixth-century bard, sometimes associated to Merlin), an esoteric poem called Preiddeu Annwfn (conventionally translated The Spoils of Annwn) on its face tells a tale of Arthur and his knights traveling through Annwn, searching for a magical cauldron possessed by nine women. Only seven came back from the journey. It may be a precursor of later Holy Grail stories involving King Arthur and his knights, though they were looking for a cauldron, not the famous cup. The nine maidens related to actual groups of nine priestesses in ancient Celtic society. Scholars John and Caitlin Matthews considered the nine lake women as a secret sisterhood. Each maiden was said to embody different characteristics of the Sacred Feminine that lies at the heart of Arthurian legends.

Vita Merlini

Geoffrey of Monmouth told stories of Morgan le Fay and eight other priestesses in his poem, Vita Merlini, who lived on the Isle of Apples or Avalon. Avalon, as an otherworld island, is often identified with Annwn.

Fairy Queens

The Ladies of The Lake were sometimes called “the nine Fairy Queens”; they travelled with King Arthur on his funeral barge with Arthur’s mother Igraine and his fay wife Guinevere (Gwenhwyvar).

The women were not close, as Morgan le Fay and Guinevere hated each other. They were linked by King Arthur and the role that each of them had in his life and death.

Modern Belief

Scholars date the spelling of the poem’s text to the 10th century.

As for centuries Welsh poetry was only orally transmitted by bards, it is possible that its original form dates back to the 6th century, when Taliesin is supposed to have lived.


See also

External Links

Part of this article consists of modified text from Wikipedia, and the article is therefore licensed under GFDL.