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Thanks Trees!
Sway with Me
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Judy Dunlop
Ashley Hutchings
The Usual Suspects
Some Tree Lore
Roots and Branches: the links

Cad Goddeu (Welsh: The Battle of the Trees) is a sixth-century Welsh poem from the book The Romance of Taliesin. It tells the story of a battle fought between Gwydion and Bran. Gwydion won the battle by making the trees of the forest come to animated life and fight for him (hence the name).

The battle originated when Amaethon stole a dog, a lapwing, and a roebuck from Arawn, the god of the Underworld (called Annwn). Robert Graves, who speculated that Bran and Arawn were names for the same Underworld god, wrote that the battle was probably not meant as a physical one but rather a struggle of wits and scholarship. Gwydion's forces could only be defeated if the name of his companion, Lady Achren was guessed (her name meant "Trees"), and Arawn's host could only be defeated if Bran's name were guessed (which Gwydion did).

The trees who fought in the battle were also part of the Druidic alphabet known as Ogham, where each sound is represented by a pattern of notches and a particular tree. Each tree had a meaning and significance of its own, which was why Gwydion was able to win the battle: he guessed Bran's name by the Alder branch Bran was carrying--the alder being one of Bran's prime symbols.

The tops of the beech tree
Have sprouted of late,
Are changed and renewed
From their withered state.

When the beech prospers
Through spells and litanies
The oak tops entangle,
There is hope for the trees.

I have plundered the fern
Through all secrets I spy,
Old Math ap Mathonwy
Knew no more than I.

For with nine sorts of faculty
God has gifted me:
I am the fruit of fruits gathered
From nine sorts of tree.

Plum, quince, whortle, mulberry,
Raspberry, pear,
Black cherry and white
With the sorb in me share.

From my seat at Fefynedd,
A city that strong,
I watched the trees and green things
Hastening alone.

Retreating from happiness
They would fain be set
In the form of the chief letters
Of the alphabet.

Wayfarers wondered,
Warriors were dismayed
At renewal of conflicts
Such as Gwydion made;
 
Under the tongue root
A fight most dread,
And another raging
Behind in the head.

The alders in the front line
Began the affray.
Willow and rowan tree
Were tardy in array.

The holly, dark green,
Made a resolute stand;
He is armed with many spear points
Wounding the hand.

With foot beat of the swift oak
Heaven and earth rung;
'Stout Guardian of the Door'
His name on every tongue.

Great was the gorse in battle,
And the ivy at his prime;
The hazel was arbiter
At this charmed time.

Uncouth and savage was the fir,
Cruel the ash tree
Turns not aside a foot-breath,
Straight at the heart runs he.

The birch, though very noble,
Armed himself but late:
A sign not of cowardice
But of high estate.

The heath gave consolation
To the toil-spent folk,
The long-enduring poplars
In battle much broke.

Some of them were cast away
On the fields of fight
Because of holes torn in them
By the enemy's might

Very wrathful was the vine
Whose henchmen was the elms;
I exalt him mightily
To ruler of the realms.

Strong chieftains were the blackthorn
With his ill fruit,
The unbeloved whitethorn
Who wears the same suit.

The swift pursuing reed,
The broom with his brood,
The furze but ill behaved
Until he is subdued.

The dower-scattering yew
Stood glum at the fight's fringe,
With the elder slow to burn
Amid fires that singe.

And the blessed wild apple
Laughing in pride
From the Gorchan of Maeldrew
By the rock side.

In shelter linger
Privet and woodbine,
Inexperienced in warfare,
And the courtly pine.

But I, although slighted
Because I was not big,
Fought trees, in your array
On the fields of Goddeu Brig.

Sway With Me. Judy Dunlop and  Ashley Hutchings

translated by
William F. Skene (1868)
contains  Cad Goddeu
(The Battle of the Trees)
inwhich is contained
Achren's Riddle

This Way

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