|Similar creatures||Gabriel Hounds, Yell Hounds, Ratchets|
|Other name(s)||Hounds of Annwn, Cwn Annwfn|
In Welsh mythology and folklore, Cŵn Annwn (Welsh pronunciation: [kuːn ˈanʊn], "hounds of Annwn") were the spectral hounds of Annwn, the otherworld of Welsh myth. They were associated with a form of the Wild Hunt, presided over by either Arawn, king of Annwn in the First Branch of the Mabinogi and alluded to in the Fourth, or by Gwyn ap Nudd as the underworld king and king of the fair(y) folk is named in later medieval lore.
According to Welsh folklore, their growling is loudest when they are at a distance, and as they draw nearer, it grows softer and softer. Their coming is generally seen as a death portent.
Arawn, king of Ännwn, is believed to set the Cŵn Annwn loose to hunt mundane creatures. When Pwyll saw the Cŵn Annwn take down a stag, he set his own pack of dogs to scare them away. Arawn then came to him and said that as repentance for driving away the Cŵn Annwn, Pwyll would have to defeat Hafgan.
Christians came to dub these mythical creatures as "The Hounds of Hell" or "Dogs of Hell" and theorised they were therefore owned by Satan. However, the Annwn of medieval Welsh tradition is an otherworldly paradise and not a hell or abode of dead souls.
The hounds are sometimes accompanied by a fearsome hag called Mallt-y-Nos, "Matilda of the Night". An alternative name in Welsh folklore is Cŵn Mamau ("Hounds of the Mothers").
The Wild Hunt
The Cŵn Annwn are associated with the Wild Hunt. They are supposed to hunt on specific nights (the eves of St. John, St. Martin, Saint Michael the Archangel, All Saints, Christmas, New Year, Saint Agnes, Saint David, and Good Friday), or just in the autumn and winter. Some say Arawn only hunts from Christmas to Twelfth Night. The Cŵn Annwn also came to be regarded as the escorts of souls on their journey to the Otherworld.
A Cŵn Annwn's goal in the Wild Hunt is to hunt wrongdoers into the ground until they can run no longer, just as the criminals did to their victims.
Colouring and meaning
The Cŵn Annwn is associated with death, as it has red ears. The Celts associated the colour red with death. White is associated with the supernatural, and white animals are commonly owned by gods or other inhabitants of the Otherworld. Therefore, the Cŵn Annwn is associated with death and the supernatural.
In other traditions similar spectral hounds are found, e.g. Gabriel Hounds (England), Ratchets (England), Yell Hounds (Isle of Man), related to Herne the Hunter's hounds, which form part of the Wild Hunt. Similar hounds occur in Devon - particularly on Dartmoor and Cornwall but it is not clear whether they stem from Brythonic or Saxon origins.
- Welsh mythology in popular culture
- Black dog (ghost)
- Dip (Catalan myth)
- Black Shuck
- Wild Hunt
- Hound of the Baskervilles
Notes & references
- Ross, Anne (1986). Druids, Gods, & Heroes from Celtic Mythology. London, England: Eurobook. pp. 65–69. ISBN 978-0856540493.
- Pugh, Jane (1990). Welsh Ghostly Encounters. Gwasg Carreg Gwalch. pp. 135 Pages. ISBN 0-86381-791-2.
- Celtic Mythology. Geddes and Grosset. 1999. pp. 480 Pages. ISBN 1-85534-299-5.
- Fleming, Fergus; Husain, Shahrukh; Littleton, C. Scott; Malcor, Linda A. (1996). Celtic Myth: Heroes of the Dawn. Duncan Baird Publishers. p. 29. ISBN 0-7054-2171-6.
- Matthews, John; Matthews, Caitlín (2005). The Element Encyclopedia of Magical Creatures. HarperElement. p. 119. ISBN 978-1-4351-1086-1.
- BBC - Devon - Features - The story behind the Hound
- The Hound of the Baskervilles: Hunting the Dartmoor Legend, P Weller,Halsgrove, 2008,ISBN SWDHTDL