Dark Land, Dark Skies

Martin Griffiths
Publication Date: 
Monday, December 13, 2021
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‘I must confess to being completely star-struck by this seminal work​’ – The Bay

In Dark Land, Dark Skies, astronomer Martin Griffiths subverts conventional astronomical thought by eschewing the classical naming of constellations and investigating Welsh and Celtic naming. Ancient peoples around the world placed their own myths and legends in the heavens, though these have tended to become lost behind the dominant use of classical cultural stories to name stars. In many cases it is a result of a literary culture displacing an oral culture.

Griffiths has researched past use of Welsh heroes from the Mabinogion in the naming of constellations and his new book is an interesting and provocative combination of a new perspective on Welsh mythology and an astronomy guidebook.

Modeled on the principles of Star-Names and Their Meanings by Richard Hinckley Allen (1899) Dark Land, Dark Skies is an informative guide to star-gazing which will be welcomed by the amateur and professional astronomer alike. The book includes fifty-two star charts covering the entire celestial year to aid identification of the changing constellations and 80 photographs of astronomically interesting objects, and Griffiths’ practical commentary is accompanied by his alternative, Welsh-orientated interpretation of the night sky.


Review by Sarla Langdon, The Bay Magazine

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Martin Griffiths is well known nationally and internationally as a distinguished astronomer involved with the Dark Sky initiative especially as Director of the Brecon Beacons Observatory. His credentials, and his publications are prodigious; this new book especially endears him to Welsh hearts.

Land, Dark Skies is subtitled The Mabinogion in the Night Sky. For both the amateur and the professional astronomer it is an intriguing guidebook to the changing night skies over Wales in each season. But of interest to all is his impressive research into the naming of familiar constellations after heroes of Welsh myth from the Mabinogion.

We have always known the stars in our skies  by the names traditionally given to them from Greek mythology: Martin Griffiths reveals the equally traditional names they have long held from the annals of Welsh lore, names like Blodeuweddand Rhiannon for the Andromeda constellation, Ceffyl-Dwr and the Mount of Rhiannon for the Pegasus constellation, Sarn Gwydion for the Milky Way galaxy — and also from the fourth branch of the MabinogionLlew Llaw Gyffes represents Perseus, and Arianrhod is the Welsh name for the constellation Coronae Borealis.

I must confess to being completely star-struck by this seminal work; join me in looking to the heavens with new knowledge and a proprietorial interest. Griffiths has shown us that these are our very own skies with our very own names.

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