Gwyn ap Nudd – guide of souls into the afterlife

I have been where the warriors of Britain were slain,

From the east to the north:

I am the escort of the grave.

I have been where the warriors of Britain were slain,

From the east to the south:

I am the escort of the dead! *

While the faery midwife Brigit the Bright One‘s time is Imbolc in February, when the snowdrops and crocuses are just beginning to be born into the light, the season of Gwyn ap Nudd is the dark of winter, which he wins rulership over by a duel with the Lord of Summer in October at Samhain.

The two faery lords govern the whole Wheel of the year, and so Gwyn has to fight this contest again at Beltane in May and this time, he is the loser, so that his challenger can reign over the Summerlands – otherwise, we would be in permanent winter. But in ruling the lower half of the zodiac months, Gwyn is the psychopomp whose role it is to guide the initiate down into the Underworld for the Judgement as much as the Egyptian Anubis performs that role in the Papyrus Texts and the Sumerian Nabu ferries Gilgamesh along a river into the Realms of the Dead, while the Arthurian scribes of the Norman conquest personified that character as Morgan of the Fae who takes the wounded Arthur in her boat through the mists of Avalon into the Otherworlds.


The mythological psychopomp symbolises Mercury, who was known to the ancient Greeks as Hermes, the so-called ‘trickster god’ who conducts souls into the afterlife – hence why the term Hermetic Arts is often used for the practice of alchemy. The metal quicksilver, which is governed by Mercury-Hermes, can be quite tricky to work with!

Trickster gods, like Puck in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, are always representatives of Mercury, who is the catalyst of all alchemical processes, but particularly that of the Marriage of the Sun and the Moon. No matter the amount of painstaking effort put into an operation, without Mercury’s divine intervention, the Child of Philosopher will be stillborn.

So viewed through that lens, you may be now realising that the psychopomp guide is not just there for the dead, but for the living shamans too who journey through the veil into the Underworld. Gwyn is there for the quick and the dead. Once you understand that, and you also know about our earliest ancestors propensity for dreaming themselves into trance in the pitch black of caves, then it will also make sense to you why no corpses have yet been found buried within the Egyptian pyramids.

The above is an extract from my book, Stories in the Summerlands.

* From poem XXXIII in the “Black Book of Camarthen” that dates to the 13th century. It is the oldest surviving manuscript written entirely in the Welsh language and thought to include the works of bards who composed between the 9th–12th centuries.

STORIES IN THE SUMMERLANDS is here on, and here on