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Annwfn, Annwn

[Celtic Mythology]
[ahn-nuh-vehn / an-nvun]
[from Welsh an ("in") + dwfn ("the world")]

The Welsh name for the Otherworld, corresponding roughly to the sídh and the Tech Duinn [Ir., House of Donn] of Irish tradition.
Details about its location and description vary; Annwfn might be on the surface or under the earth or the sea. It may be a great revolving castle, in Welsh Caer Siddi, surrounded by the sea or by a series of fortified islands, where sickness and old age are unknown and there are both enchanting music and a fountain flowing with a liquid sweeter than wine.
Conceived as Caer Feddwid [W, Court of Intoxication or Carousal], it offers denizens a sample of sparkling wine. It may also be identical with Caer Wydyr [W, Fortress of Glass] and Gwales.
In most of the Mabinogi Annwfin is next to Pwyll, but in Culhwch ac Olwen it was beyond Scotland.
Generally it is a place of delight with a magic cauldron and a well of sweet water.
  • There are two kings in Annwfn, mortal enemies: Arawn (who appears more often and makes alliances with mortals), and Hafgan.
  • Arawn (King of Annwn) fights agains the two sons of Don, Gwydion and Amathaon, in the Cad Goddeu ('Battle of the Trees').
  • Gwyn ap Nudd was placed over a brood of devils here so they would not destroy the human race.
  • In Christian times Annwfn became confused with concepts of Hell [W uffern].
    Cf. the Breton term Anaon; see also CWN ANNWFN [The Hounds of Annwfn].
  • The Preiddiau Annwfn [Spoils of Annwfn] is the cauldron of Arawn. Three shiploads of Arthur's men seek it in vain; only seven of them return.
  • In the cosmogony of Llywelyn Siôn (1540--c.I6I5), Annwfn is the abode of Cythrawl.

    See Patrick Sims-Williams, Celtic Langtlage, Celtic Culture, ed. A. Matonis and D. Melia (Van Nuys, Calif., 1990), 57-81

Dictionary of Celtic Mythology by James MacKillop