Math ap Mathonwy

A great wizard, and brother to Dôn, he is named as the king of Gwynedd in the Mabinogi, and both mentor and punisher of his nephew Gwydion.

Y Mabinogi: Math is the king of Gwynedd, served by his footholder Goewin, and his nephews Gwydion, Gilfaethwy, and Euyd. Gilfaethwy and Gwydion contrive to start a war with the southern kingdom of Dyfed so that Gilfaethwy can rape Goewin, and fool Math into leaving the kingdom to lead the army. While gone, Gilfaethwy has his way, and Gwydion steals the pigs of Pryderi. Math, upon learning of the deceptions, punishes the two brothers by using his magic wand to turn them into a series of animals and forcing them to mate with each other. He then takes their offspring to raise them himself. He also seeks for a new footholder, and Gwydion suggests his sister Aranrhod; Math tests her virginity by having her step over his magic wand, and which point she gives birth to Lleu and Dylan. Math then works with Gwydion to counteract Aranrhod's curse laid upon Lleu by creating a wife for the boy out of flowers. Math then drops out of the story, but Lleu becomes the new king of Gwynedd; as Lleu is the son of Gwydion's sister, and Gwydion is the son of Math's sister, and Gwydion is an unsuitable king of Gwynedd, it is logical that Lleu is then made king of Gwynedd.

Taliesin's poetry:

Llyfr Coch Hergest, col. 1054, l.35-36

gan uath
hen gan gouannon.gan euuyd gan elestron.

With Math the old and Gofannon,
With Eufydd and Elestron

Llyfr Taliesin, col.

Am swynwys i vath.
Kyn bum diaeret.
Arthawon eil math

I was enchanted by Math,
Before I became immortal,
Teachers, children of Math.


Hutlath vathonwy.
Ygkoet pan tyfwy.

The magic wand of Mathonwy,
In the wood when it grows.

"Marwnad Aeddon":

Math ac eunyd. hutwyt geluyd ryd eluinor.

Math and Eunyd, skilful with the magic wand, freed the elements.

Bonedd yr Arwyr
The genealogical tract "Bonedd yr Arwyr" was apparently familiar with some version of the Fourth Branch of the Mabinogi; entry 25 is "The Family of Don of Arvon", which lists Gwydion, Govannon, Amaethon, Ienuydd [Eufydd], Elestron, and the other brothers, as well as Arianrhod, while entry 26 is listed as "The Family of Math son of Mathonwy", listing Llew Llaw Gyffes, Dylan eil ton, and Blodeuwed, with their mother named as Arianrhod daughter of Dôn. Why they are listed as the family of Math and not part of the entry above isn't entirely clear, but certainly the case can be made that Math is not only the creator of Blodeuwedd, but it was Arianrhod stepping over his wand that caused her to give birth to the twins Lleu and Dylan.

Related Figures
In Irish literature, there are several figures with names like Math, Mathu, and Mathgen:

It isn't difficult to see these four figures as deriving from the same base, namely a druid-god whose name was something like Math, and that this druid of the Tuatha Dé Danann is very similar to the druid-king of Plant Dôn, the Welsh equivalent to the Tuatha Dé Danann.

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Mary Jones © 2010