A Treasured Relic
About 35 years ago, HPLHS founding member Phil Bell created one of the most remarkable props for a game of Cthulhu Lives!™ yet made: The Disc of Cad Goddeu. Recovering this disc, translating its inscription and using it in a bloody ritual was the focus of the game, and it has been sitting at headquarters, drying, splitting, and gathering a bit of dust ever since. We recently built a proper display case for it and shipped it back to Phil, who is now a respectable professor of education in Seattle. But before we consigned it to the mercy of the parcel service, we snapped a photo or two.
The plaque says: "The Disc of Cad Goddeu. Rowan wood (Sorbus acuparia) 10 in. diameter x 4 in. height. Created, according to legend, during the "Battle of the Trees" c. 200 B.C.E., described in the medieval Welsh poem Cad Goddeu, and claimed to be the oldest surviving example of an ogham inscription in wood. The top of the disc bears carving of an allegorical depiction of a druidic deity, Arawn.
"The poem describes a battle between Gwydion and Arawn, the Lord of Annwn, or the Otherworld. The poem is especially notable for its striking and enigmatic symbolism. Thomas Stephens held the poem to concern 'a Helio-Arkite superstition, the metempsychosis of a Chief Druid, and a symbolical account of the Deluge'. Gerald Massey's monumental work on African origins suggested that the poem reflected Egyptian religion.
"The poem refers to a traditional story in which the legendary enchanter Gwydion animates the trees of the forest to fight as his army. The trees that fought in the battle correspond to the ogham alphabet, in which each character is associated with a particular tree. Each tree had a meaning and significance of its own, and Gwydion won the battle by guessing the name of one of Arawn's men, Bran, because of the alder branch Bran carried. Graves argued that the original poet had concealed druidic secrets about an older matriarchal Celtic religion for fear of censure from Christian authorities.
"Arawn's memory is retained in a traditional saying found in an old Cardigan folktale: Hir yw'r dydd a hir wy'r nos, a hir yw aros Arawn 'Long is the day and long is the night, and long is the waiting of Arawn'."