Hi there again David.
Re your first points, of course, everyone will have his or her own reaction and perhaps revelation, and with regard to nomenclature, a rose by any other name would still be a rose, would it not? However, this is so subjective and down to the individual that it is difficult to quantify or qualify in ways that may be meaningful for another. I hope you understand, and I have sought to point out in my answers, that there are the hard, historical and academic answers in terms of what we know in a concrete way and then our own interpretations and revelations. I don’t think there’s an issue as long as we clearly distinguish them. Having said that, if we are going to re-connect with the beliefs, traditions and lore of our ancestors, spiritual ancestors or the the Celtic cultures of the past, surely we owe it to them to be as faithful as we can to what can reasonably be presumed to have been their beliefs and their worldview. It’s a tricky one, I do admit, and in this thread we’re asking questions and seeking answers on a number of different levels.
Focusing more specifically on Gwyn ap Nudd, he is indeed a difficult figure. Coming to us through the Welsh legends, in some cases we have, dare I say, quite a malevolent or dangerous figure – as is the one described to us in Culhwch and Olwen – punished by Arthur for eternity to fight with Gwythyr ap Greidiol for the hand of Creiddylad ferch Lludd; the trickster figure being punished by the great king, yet we also find him at Arthur’s court in the same legend. In other legends, he appears as the King of Annwn, the leader of the Cŵn Annwn “Hounds of Annwn” and of the Tylwyth Teg “Fairies” – entities who you shouldn’t mess with in Welsh and Cornish folklore! More confusion arises if we consider that Gwyn could be another name for Arawn, perhans linked to the Continental Celtic deity recorded as Arubianus, and who enters into conflict with Gwydion fab Dôn – our strong candidate for a Woden figure.
Could we identify Gwynn ap Nudd with Cernunnos? I don’t know for sure. We certainly have a lord of the hunt, a psychopomp and a chthonic figure. The name ap Nudd, son of Nudd, suggests a connection with the deity Nodens, whom the Romans identified with Neptune, Mars and Silvanus. If we connect Nodens to the Irish Nuada, we also have, albeit tentatively, a similarity with the Norse deity Týr – in that they are deities that lose a hand and, one way or the other, lose their kingship; in Welsh tradition, we also find Nudd Llaw Ereint, later Ludd Llaw Ereint, with a silver hand. Nodens seems to have been connected with hunting and fishing and there may be further similarities to be found with Njörðr, the Vanir god of fishing in Norse tradition, and later on a faint memory in the Arthurian Fisher King.
Considering the traditional materials, and acknowledging how confusing and tangled it can be, I would say that with Gwyn ap Nudd, we seem to be moving away from Cernunnos, not towards him, at least in terms of the mythological corpus we have. There was a British and Gaulish God Nodens, we know that for a fact, we have strong reason to believe that Irish Nuada and Welsh Nudd are the same, we also have a Gaulish deity Cernunnos. It might seem facetious, I admit, but if we assume Nodens and Cernunnos to be “contemporaries” and discrete entities, then why isn’t Gywn, Gwyn ap Cernunnos?