Mar 15 2013

Gofannon: Celtic God of Smithcraft and Brewery

091003blacksmith.84193139_stdThe Blacksmith  Pic: Charles Grant Beauregard
A Cymric, Brythonic and Irish God, also known as Goibniu, Gobanos, Gobannus, Cobannus: Great Smith  Gofannon (Goibniu, Gobanos, Gobannus, Cobannus) is a Cymric, Brythonic and Irish god known from the Mabinogi of Math fab Mathonwy and the tale of Culhwch ac Olwen where he forms part of a triad of ‘elder gods’. In Gaul this smith god is known ad Gobanos he is also known from the north of Britain. In Irish mythos he appears as the figure of Goibniu..

Gofannon fab Dôn is known from both the Mabinogi of Math fab Mathonwy and the tale of Culhwch ac Olwen. In Math mab Matholwch he receives little more than a passing mention for his role in the dath of his nephew. Dylan:

Thus was the boy baptized and as they performed the ceremony he sought-out the sea. And in that place when he plunged into the waters he assumed the nature of the nature of the sea and swam as well as the best fish that lived therein. For this reason was he called Dylan Eil Ton. Beneath him no wave ever broke and the blow that brought him death was struck by his uncle, Gofannon. And this was the third unfortunate blow. The tale is fragmentary and how the accident came about is unknown.

In Culhwch ac Olwen one of the tasks that Ysbaddaden Pencawr sets Culhwch the task of ploughing, clearing, seeding and harvesting a hill all in one day.

‘Note, dost thou see that hill yonder?’ Ysbaddaden enquired of Culhwch. ‘I see it,’ Culhwch responded.

‘I require that it be rooted up and that the stumps be burned on the face of the land for manure. It should be ploughed in the morning and must ripen before the dew has left the land. From the harvested grain will I make food and lquor fit for thy wedding with my daughter. And all this should be accomplished within a day.’

‘All this will be easy to accomplish, thou thou may think it is not,’ responded Culhwch.

‘Though this might be easy for thee, there is that which will not be so easy,’ countered Yspydadden. ‘For no husbandman can till or prepare this land, so wild is it, save Amaethon mab Dôn, and he will not come with thee of his own will nor can he be compelled to come.’

‘All this will be easy to accomplish, thou thou may think it is not,’ responded Culhwch once more.

‘Though this might be easy for thee, there is that which will not be so easy. For Gofannon mab Dôn will need to come to the hill to eliminate the iron. He will not work for of his own good will except for a lawful king and you will not be able to compel him.’

This task is accomplished, but the action occurs off-stage as the main tale moves to the far more exciting pursuit for the Twrch Trwyth. There may be a lost fragment of the tale relating to how the hill was ploughed and seeded and this may have to do with Amaethon’s power over the seasons.

Gofannon is part of the triad of elder gods, all the primary sons of Dôn who are Amaethon (Great Farmer), Gwydion (Great of Knowledge) and Gofannon whose name literally means ‘Great Smith’. Though the goddess Dô had other children these were the primary thriad; the triad that denotes her as the mother goddess which is why her offspring are always denoted by the matronymic ‘son/daughter of Dôn.

As the ‘people of iron’ it is only natural that the Celts would have a smith-god as one of their primary deities. Thus we have Gofannon for the insular Brythonic Celts, Goibniu for the Goidelic Celts, and Gobanos (who is known from an inscription found at Berne, Switzerland) for the continental Brythonic Celts. Indeed, the Smith-God was a particularly important member of the Celtic pantheon, as the smith was in Celtic society. For to be able to create strong shining metal from rough ore was seen as an almost magical ability.

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