The night sky is alive with myths and legends. In all cultures the enduring patterns of stars have been the words on the pages of story books and you will find tales of monsters, mysteries and magic in the sky.
Recognising the constellations is a great skill connecting you to the wonders of the universe. Although the Greek myths may dominate both the language of science and the stories of the sky, other tales from different cultures also persist including those from Wales. These stories and myths were woven into the everyday lives of ancient populations, giving them a sense of purpose and binding them closer to the natural world around them as well as providing morals, wisdom and justice. By knowing the stories behind the stars you will not only be enthralled and connected to humankind’s enduring fascination with the heavens, but will no doubt recognise some of the ancient myths and stories repeating their lessons in modern life!
Welsh mythology views the constellation of Gemini not as twins but as two brothers, Gwyn and Gwyrthyr, battling over the love of the most beautiful Creiddylad - who is often depicted wearing red. Unlike more modern times where passionate ladies in red have been seen by some as those of dubious repute, red in the Celtic world was worn by the bride on her wedding day as a sign of her virginity and virtue. Gwyrthyr was madly in love and engaged to marry the lovely Creiddylad. However out of the shadows came Gwyn, Gwyrthyr’s jealous and mean-hearted brother. Creiddylad was stolen away by the spiteful Gwyn leaving Gwyrthyr heartbroken. Gwyrthyr did not give up on his love lightly and he summoned an army to go and get her back. There was the most almighty and bloody battle. Gwyn defeated his rival, was reunited with his love and took a hoard of Gwyrthyr's chieftains prisoner as revenge. Up in the heavens it is said that every Calan Mai ( May Day) the two bitter brothers still fight for the hand of the Lady in Red until the final battle on Judgement Day in which the victor will keep her forever. Their rivalry has been taken to represent the contest between summer and winter - the dark and the light. Themes of love, loss and the fight between good and evil are still strong in stories and tales of modern time.
When in Wales it’s time to seek out the Dragon! The Dragon, the symbol of Wales, a beast of universal strength and majesty, is also found in mythology across the world. Each night it rages in the starry sky, and in October it boasts its own meteor shower ‘the Draconids’. One of the Greek stories tells of Athena, the goddess of courage who when attacked by a dragon, bravely stood her ground, grabbed its thrashing tail and flung the angry beast high up into the heavens where it remains today breathing its fiery fury into the night sky.
Read more Welsh Mabinogion stories.