Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Gwyn ap Nudd, the Dead and the Koryos

This is a tough review to write; the book in question which I briefly mentioned before, is a fat, academic text which covers a metric shit-load of information in a particularly dense manner. There are years of work in here, so to pull it all out and present it is way beyond what I can do in this blog. Particularly as my work is with science texts, which tend to be a bit less dense and shorter than this when in the primary literature, working on humanities monographs like this is a big jump for me.

Everything below is either lifted directly from the text or is paraphrased by myself directly from the text. It captures the core of the thesis put forward; though I need to point out that all the points are well fleshed out with textual evidence and are better supported than my flat out statements here.


Among the Indo-Europeans had a prevailing attitude; their dead are honoured ancestors, but they are more; they are the Immortals, in whom the life-force, the divine spark, is far more potent and efficacious as they are no longer mortal.

At some point before puberty, young boys were taken away from the village and training in fighting skills and the lore of their people and initiated into the world of men. They would be the scouts, the guerilla fighters; highly mobile bands of ecstatic warriors who would fling themselves first into the fray. These bands are the Koryos.  In joining the koryos, he would have been initiated and undergone a ritual death, he would then belong to the dead ancestors, to the Immortals.

At certain festivals associated with the dead, these bands would become the dead; ecstatic or possessed, masked or painted with ash or gypsum. As the dead they care about their descendants and make visitations to guard the order which they themselves established. In every land where the koryos appears; they are responsible for social and civic order. The dead require devotion; they must be fed and offered drink and so when the Koryos come to town they must be propitiated. The ancestors also bring blessings, fertility and as such are welcomed even though their arrival also brings chaos.
There is a strong association of dogs and wolves (indistinguishable in IE cultures and therefore interchangeable) with dead, the dead and with warriors. We find this association in later myths regarding the Wild Hunt. There is also archaeological evidence of midwinter sacrifices of dogs from the IE heartlands; possibly indicating the sacrifice formed part of the initiation rituals of the young men into the Koryos.

In several of the IE daughter peoples we have evidence of ecstatic armed dancers. The origins of these weapon dancers certainly lie in the training-in-arms of the youthful warrior band. Since these were cultic warriors; everything they did was religious.
The Koryos (the youth outsider) is everything the teuta (the man in society) is not; he has no land, no cattle, no wife, no weapon (figuratively speaking), he has no clan; he is a true outsider and lives in the woods, hunting and living off the land in total opposition to those people living as part of the social order in the village. This opposition between wood and village is a very IE thing. The boundary between the two is invested with social and religious significance. Forest, hunting, cattle herding (and rustling) and young men go together all over Indo-Europa.

Ancestor-cult and the cult of the dead are often closely bound up with youth-consecration, and with this, as well, all the magical practices that are supposed to promote rain, sunshine, and growth. The close coherence between worship of the dead and vegetation rites are universally known. The consecrated members of the koryos and immortal and are one with the spirits of the dead.
The connection with wolves and dogs is integral and deeply interwoven with the koryos; this gets stated again and again.


I firmly believe that Gwyn ap Nudd is the god who has taken the mantle of the Koryonos; the god of the Koryos.

Originally the Wild Hunt was an actual religo-magical practice; of the Koryos coming amongst the people of the village from the woods to bring the various blessings and to integrate the forest and town for a time as a single extended family. Over time, this practice was lost and became mythical with the leader remaining, the association with hounds, huntsmen and horses being retained. In Gwyn we also find echoes of his role of ruling or guarding over the dead with the andedion and the later stories of the ‘faeries’.

Because it is such an important condensate of the text, here is the previous blogasm quote again:

When we look for the god of the *koryos we will do well to keep in mind these words of Gernet: "in general, in ancient cults, it is not the personality of the god which is the point of departure, is from the cult itself that the god derives his being." (Gernet 192) In our case, we will be looking for associations with war, death, the wolf and the dog, with ecstatic states, with initiations and the winter solstice, and, where these do not coincide, with the changing year. We will expect him to share the ambiguity of the *koryos itself and to appear sometimes good, sometimes evil, and always at least potentially dangerous.


1 comment:

Lorna Smithers said...

Have you read this? http://www.imbas.org/articles/samhain.html

Here the Anaon 'hosts of the dead' and cennad y meirw 'embassy of the dead' seem to fit with the ancestor cult / cult of the dead / koryos as well as the Andedion.