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Greetings for Saint Dwynwen’s Day!

  • Posted on January 24, 2018 at 7:14 pm
Saint Dwynwen's Island

Saint Dwynwen’s Island

Tomorrow is January 25th. Already a whole month since Christmas Day! Only eleven more months until the next one. (Joke!!!) But in the meantime, there are some other lovely things for us to focus on and celebrate. One of these is the festival of Saint Dwynwen and it just happens to be her special day tomorrow.

Saint Dwynwen’s Day is the Welsh equivalent of Saint Valentine’s Day and its celebration has enjoyed growing popularity since the turn of the millennium. Events such as concerts and parties are held, as well as the more traditionally recognised methods of marking the day with greetings cards, decorations and special dinners.

Dwynwen was the daughter of Brychan Brycheiniog, a fifth century prince of Welsh and Irish parentage who inherited the kingdom of Garthmadrun in the Brecon Beacons from his mother. Brychan Brycheiniog reputedly had many children; accounts vary in number between twelve and sixty-three! In view of his religious status (Brychan had founded a religious order and sent men and women out to evangelise and convert the surrounding population, even as far as Cornwall) one wonders if these ‘children’ were in actual fact acolytes and missionaries rather than youngsters genetically connected by blood?

Whatever the explanation, Dwynwen was one of this group. She grew up to be the most beautiful among them. All went well until the lass met Maelon Dafodrill – visiting from another noble court – who she instantly fell head over heels in love with. Happily for Dwynwen, Maelon returned her feelings. Imagine the young couple’s horror when they asked Brychan’s permission to marry, only to be refused because he had already promised Dwynwen in marriage to someone else!

Distraught, Dwynwen fled from her father’s hall out into the surrounding woodland. After some time, exhausted and heartbroken, she finally sank to the ground beside a murmuring stream and dreamed of an angel who took pity on the girl and gave her a sweet magical potion designed to erase all memory of Maelon and turn him into a block of ice. (Personally, I think that this was very unfair to the love-struck youth).

The potion obviously didn’t work very well anyway, because when Dwynwen was also granted three wishes, the first thing she wished for was that Maelon be thawed again! Then Dwynwen wished that God would meet the hopes and dreams of all true lovers. Lastly, if Dwynwen couldn’t have the man she loved she wouldn’t have anybody, so she wished that she would never marry. All three wishes were granted and as a mark of her deep gratitude, Dwynwen vowed to devote the rest of her life to the service of God.

The name Dwynwen means ‘she who leads a blessed life’. She travelled many miles and put as much distance between her old life and her new self as possible. Finally she reached the sea and crossed over onto the Isle of Anglesey. Here Dwynwen  founded a church and religious house on a tiny off-shore island which has come to be known as the Island of Llandwyn, literally meaning the ‘Church of Dwynwen’. After a long and lovingly dedicated life the lady herself died at a good age in the year 465 AD. The remains of her church and convent can still be seen today and the island has long been a place of pilgrimage.

Saint Dwynwen's Island, South

Looking southwest towards The Rivals

Dwynwen’s well can also still be seen. Allegedly, a sacred fish or eel swims here, and it’s movements are reputed to be able to predict the future fortunes and relationships of visiting couples. It is also said that if the water swirls and boils when a visitor is present, that person will have good fortune. Reflecting some of the work of Dwynwen and her holy women, she is locally known as the patron saint of farm beasts and sick animals, but more notably, she is the patron saint of lovers, for what she herself was denied in her lifetime she would ever after help to nourish and facilitate for others.

Stories such as this abound throughout the Celtic world. Many of the details are suspiciously similar to other Celtic Christian saints. Key details obviously have their roots in very pre-Christian beliefs. But what does any of that matter? It is what we do with it now that counts.

The Island of Llandwyn is a beautiful place with stunning views of the North West Welsh coastline, the mountains of Snowdonia and out across the waters of Cardigan Bay. It is a place of open spaces, fresh sea breezes, sunshine and huge skies, but more importantly it is a place of peace; somewhere to find the time and space for reflection and connection to our wonderfully amazing natural world. Once steeped in such beauty and tranquillity, who would not be ready to love… not just one other person but all of creation and this madcap, fantastic whirl of a physical existence that we call ‘life’?

So that we can all celebrate Saint Valentine’s Day and Saint Dwynwen’s Day, perhaps we should differentiate between them by leaving young couples in love to Valentine and devoting a love of our partners, families and life in general to Dwynwen? Could this largely forgotten lady not come to represent love rather than just lovers?

However you choose to mark Saint Dwynwen’s Day – spending some time out in nature; spending some quality time with wildlife or your pets; restoring a neglected bit of ground by clearing it of it’s litter; doing something in the garden, gathering your friends and/or family together; showing people how much you appreciate them; telling people how much you love them – enjoy it and yourself! Spread the love and laughter and ‘en-lighten’ these dark days of late January.

With love and peace to all creatures.

Saint Dwynwen's Island; Beach

The magical sea and beaches of the Island of LLandwyn

 

Welcoming the Dark

  • Posted on December 21, 2017 at 1:15 am

This is the day of the Winter Solstice, when here in the northern hemisphere we see the least daylight and the maximum length of darkness. We are poised, tipped furthest away from the life-giving Sun and so experience our coldest, darkest time.

In days gone by, people would mark this day by lighting bonfires, lanterns, candles – anything to emulate the apparently dying light and encourage its return. For after December 21st we slip into the darkest three days of the year. Traditionally this time was known as ‘the earth stands still’. For only on the morning of December 25th is it possible to actually measure that the daylight has grown longer again. Then we celebrate the rebirth of the Sun/Son.

Later today I shall be celebrating this darkest day with friends around my hearth. We shall Continue reading Welcoming the Dark…

THE GOOD OLD ‘ROUND ROBIN’!

  • Posted on November 30, 2017 at 9:37 pm
Christmas Letter

Ready to make a start…

I have just completed my 2017 Christmas Letter, with photos, to be sent out with all my Christmas cards. Now over the years I have heard many groans, criticisms and downright rude comments about the ubiquitous annual note or letter which some people include in their Christmas cards. And after reading past letters from one or two acquaintances I can perhaps begin to understand why… but I have to add that they have been very few and far between.

I love receiving letters in my Christmas cards – even a few lines hastily written on the inside flap are gratefully appreciated. Nor do I carelessly rip open the envelopes and briefly scan the contents as they arrive through the post. As a family, we have a ‘post box’; a cardboard box covered in colourful Christmas paper which I made when my son was very little. But it has become a family tradition that whenever we receive our first cards Continue reading THE GOOD OLD ‘ROUND ROBIN’!…

A TIME TO GIVE THANKS…

  • Posted on November 23, 2017 at 11:08 am

Thanksgiving Day – a quintessentially American celebration rooted in their history and culture. Yet we don’t all need to have suffered the exigencies of those first settlers, or have been born on the North American continent to appreciate the fundamental message of this major American holiday.

A day in which everyone comes together with family and/or friends, a day in which to celebrate what is truly precious in our lives and to give thanks for it. Why aren’t we ALL celebrating a ‘thanksgiving day’ of our own? Surely we all have a great deal to be thankful for? Continue reading A TIME TO GIVE THANKS……

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