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Beli Mawr (translated into English as Beli the Great) was an ancestor deity in Welsh mythology. He is the father of Caswallawn, Arianrhod, Lludd Llaw Eraint, and Llefelys. Several royal lines in medieval Wales traced their ancestry to him.

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Beli and Belenus

He is often considered to have derived from the Celtic god Belenus. A number of conflicting linguistic theories have been proposed for the origin of the name. One suggestion is that it may be derived from Bolgios, a name attested as the leader of a Gaulish attack on Macedon in the 3rd century BC. It is probably related to the element bel- in the Old Irish Beltane (modern Irish bealtaine, Gaelic bealtuinn "May-day", "month of May"), which means "bright-fire". The Gaulish god-names "Belenos" (*Bright one) and "Belisama" are also probably related. Numerous other possible cognates could be given.

Welsh tradition

However, it should be noted that in medieval Welsh tradition, Beli Mawr is often given the patronymic fab Manogan/Mynogan ("son of Manogan"). This appears to derive from a textual garbling of the name of a real historical figure, Adminius, son of Cunobelinus; after being transmitted through the Roman authors Suetonius and Orosius, this name became Bellinus filius Minocanni in the medieval Latin text from Wales Historia Brittonum.[1] Thus, although Beli became a separate personage in medieval pseudohistory from Cunobelinus (Welsh Cynfelyn, Shakespeare's Cymbeline), he was generally presented as a king reigning in the period immediately before the Roman invasion; his "son" Caswallawn is the historical Cassivellaunus.

Geoffrey's Heli

Beli also appears in Geoffrey of Monmouth's pseudo-history Historia Regum Britanniæ (1130s) as the British king Heli, son of Digueillus and father of Lud, Cassivelaunus and Nennius. He is said to have held the throne for 40 years, after which he was succeeded by his son Lud (Llud).[2] In the Middle Welsh translations of Geoffrey's work known collectively as Brut y Brenhinedd, Heli's name was restored to Beli[3] and his father re-named to Manogan.

References

  1. ^ Rachel Bromwich (ed.), Trioedd Ynys Prydein (Cardiff, 1961; revised ed. 1991), pp. 281-2.
  2. ^ Geoffrey of Monmouth, Historia Regum Britanniæ, tr. L. Thorpe. p. 106.
  3. ^ Koch, "The Celtic Lands." p. 289.
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Primary sources

Secondary sources

  • Koch, John T. "The Celtic Lands." In Medieval Arthurian Literature: A Guide to Recent Research, ed. N. Lacy. New York, 1996. 239-322.

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