Feminae: Medieval Women and Gender Index


  • Record Number: 12731
  • Author(s)/Creator(s): Hemming , Jessica.
  • Contributor(s):
  • Title: Sellam gestare: Saddle-Bearing Punishments and the Case of Rhiannon
  • Source: Viator 28, ( 1997): Pages 45 - 64.
  • Description:
  • Article Type: Journal Article
  • Subject (See Also): Literature- Prose Mabinogion, Welsh Collection of Tales- First Branch- Pwyll, Prince of Dyfed Punishment in Literature Rhiannon (Literary Figure) Wales Welsh Literature Women in Literature
  • Geographic Area: British Isles
  • Century: 11
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  • Abstract: In a variety of medieval sources from across Germanic Europe there are references to a bizarre and little-known penal practice in which the wrongdoer wore or carried a horse's saddle. This article gathers these examples together and suggests that the strange punishment imposed upon the character Rhiannon in the Middle Welsh tale "Pwyll Prince of Dyfed" may owe as much to attested historical practice as to her presumed identity with the British horse-goddess Rigantona. While her divine origin may have influenced the author's choice of penance, its form bears a striking resemblance to the Continental cases. Given the dates and spread of this practice, which are covered at length in this article, it seems plausible that the Welsh author could have known about it and have deliberately included it in his tale to emphasize both the depth of Rhiannon's degradation and the extent to which she was regarded as a threat to the social order. [Reproduced by permission of Brepols Publishers.]
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  • Year of Publication: 1997.
  • Language: English
  • ISSN/ISBN: 00835897
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