In Welsh mythology, Math fab Mathonwy, also known as Math ap Mathonwy (Math, son of Mathonwy), ruled as a king of Gwynedd. He is said to be the son of Mathonwy, though it is not entirely clear from the text whether we are to understand this as his father’s name or his mother’s, and the brother of Dôn. He was married in later life to Goewin, originally his foot-holder.

The Children of Math

The Four Branches of the Mabinogi tell the tale of the creation of the children of Math. This is supported by the Bonedd yr Arwyr, where it lists the Plant Math ap Mathonwy:

25. Plant Math ap Mathonwy
Llew Llaw Gyffes, Dylan eil ton, a Blodeuwed ue chawer o Arianrhod verch Don eu mam.

Bonedd yr Arwyr

Lleu Llaw Gyffes and Dylan ail Don are the children of Arianrhod, who were conceived after jumping over the Wand of Math. Blodeuwedd was created by the wizards Math and Gwydion from the flowers of oak, broom, and meadowsweet, brought to life to be the wife of Lleu Llaw Gyffes. After reclaiming his lands, Lleu Llaw Gyffes succeeded Math as king of Gwynedd.

Legendary tales about Math fab Mathonwy

Many of our tales about Math come from the fourth tale within the Four Branches of the Mabinogi.

Feet in the lap of a virgin

According to legend, he required his feet to be placed in the lap of a virgin unless he was engaged in warfare, failing which he would face death. Originally this was Goewin, who later became his wife.

The Wand of Math

Math is also endowed with magical abilities and possesses a wand of enchantment, which he occasionally employs to administer justice. For instance, in the Mabinogi narrative, he employs his magic to transform Gwydion and Gilfaethwy into various animals. Furthermore, later in the tale, Math utilizes his wand to craft a wife, Blodeuwedd, from flowers for Lleu Llaw Gyffes.

Etymology of Math

Etymology The name Math likely derives from the Proto-Celtic *matu-, meaning “good” or “fortunate,” and may also be a euphemism for a bear.