Welsh language community organisations are calling on the nation’s children to ditch ‘Anglo-American’ Halloween traditions and put the emphasis instead on Wales’ own mythology.
As part of this year’s Halloween celebrations, the Mentrau Iaith are highlighting a leading Day of the Dead figure in Celtic folklore – Gwyn ap Nudd.
A series of videos telling the story of Gwyn ap Nudd, King of the Underworld and Welsh Halloween traditions presented by storyteller Gwilym Morus-Baird has been published on social media.
Their aim is to raise awareness of the Welsh and Celtic folklore linked with Hallows’ Eve.
“With this year’s Covid-19 restrictions affecting the usual Anglo American Halloween activities, it’s an opportunity to introduce Gwyn ap Nudd to the children and young people of Wales,” Bet Huws, Hunaniaith Officer, said.
The Mentrau Iaith are holding a national competition for children and young people to create and decorate Gwyn ap Nudd’s skull by midnight on Halloween, October 31.
Children and young people in Wales will be able to download a template to create a paper skull from the Mentrau Iaith Cymru website and decorate.
The winning skulls in the primary school age and secondary school age categories will then go through to the national round which will be judged by two of Wales’ most prominent Welsh language authors: Angharad Tomos and Bethan Gwanas.
Gwyn is intimately associated with the otherworld, Annwn, in medieval Welsh literature. He plays the role of a psychopomp, the figure who gathers the souls of the fallen and transports them to the next life.
In other tales he leads a pack of supernatural hounds known as the Cŵn Annwn, who are white with pink ears, to harvest human souls.
According to story Culhwch and Olwen, Gwyn was “placed over the brood of devils in Annwn, lest they should destroy the present race”. In this tale he rides a horse called Du y Moroedd (Blackness of the Sea).
In later mythology, he was demoted to the rather twee role of king of the Tylwyth Teg, the Welsh fairies.
The origins of origin of Halloween are believed to lie in the Irish festival of Samhain. In Welsh, the day is Calan Gaeaf, which means the first day of winter.