Creiddylad (pronounced cree-THIL-ahd) is the Welsh goddess of love and flowers. She is mainly celebrated on May Day (Beltane) as the eternal May Queen, fought over by the Oak King and Holly King.
As the May Queen, Creiddylad is revered as a fertility goddess. Each spring, her love spreads throughout the land as she emerges from the cold, dark winter. Flowers of all colors are in bloom, while trees, plants, and grass grow greener by the day. She bestows upon the world her abundance, and for it, we honor her with our Beltane fires and May Pole dances.
She symbolizes love for others, for creatures, and for ourselves. She teaches us that self-love is the most important love of all. Creiddylad also symbolizes abundance, stability, trust, and the ability to accept gifts. The goddess helps us to move out of the land of fear and darkness and brings us into a world of light, beauty, and the power of love.
A Goddess In King Arthurs Court
Creiddylad is also a part of Arthurian Legend, having lived with her father, Lludd Silver Hand, in King Arthurs Court. She was considered the most beautiful maiden in all the land and had many suitors fighting for her favor. In the ancient Welsh tale of Culhwch and Olwen, Creiddylad is described as the most majestic maiden there ever was in the Three Islands of Britain and her Adjacent Three Islands.
Two of those suitors were Gwythyr and Gwyn. Gwythyr was a knight of King Arthurs Court, while Gwyn is believed to have been the ruler of Annwn, the underworld. Many different tales of what happened between Gwythyr, Gwyn, and Creiddylad exist. One such tale says that she was kidnapped by Gwythyr, and was then kidnapped from Gwythyr by Gwyn.
However, the most prominent tale, told in Culhwch and Olwen is that Creiddylad, in love with Gwythyr, went away with him willingly. Before they could marry, however, Gwyn kidnaps her and brings her to Annwn. This might give you some Persephone and Hades vibes, and youd be right. The vibes dont end there either.
Though it is never explicitly stated, the tale of Culhwch and Olwen leads readers to believe that eventually, whether by consent or by force, Gwyn captures Creiddylads maidenhood, and she eventually becomes Queen of Annwn.
Gwythyr gathers forces and rides to the underworld to rescue Creiddylad, where he and his men are captured and some are tortured and killed. Eventually, King Arthur shows up in the underworld and forces Gwyn to release Gwythyr and his men. He also takes Creiddylad home with him and commands that she will reside there with her father (Hermes leading Persephone from the underworld and returning her to Demeter). Arthur also decrees that each year on May Day, Gwyn and Gwythyr will duel for Creiddylads hand, but that neither shall win her love until Judgement Day. And until that day, she will remain in the home of her father, Lludd Silver Hand.
The Battle of the Oak King and Holly King for the May Queen
Gwythyr and Gwyn are typical archetypes of the Oak King and Holly King myth.
Gwythyr, being the chivalrous knight of King Arthurs Court, is personified in the Oak King, the symbol of summer, warmth, growth, fertility, and strength.
Gwyn, the ruler of Annwn, is the Holly King, the symbol of the cold, dark winters, where the only greenery that survives are those that represent the Holly King himself, the evergreens.
Creiddylad, the beautiful maiden, the goddess of love and flowers, is personified in the May Queen.
Each year, on May Day, the liminal day between winter and summer, the two kings battle it out for the love of their May Queen, who emerges from the darkness of the cold, long, winter, to shed her warmth upon the land, and wake up the flora and fauna that had slept through the cold months.
The interweaving of the ribbons during Maypole dances represents this intertwining of the masculine forces of the kings with the feminine force of the May Queen, the Goddess Creiddylad.