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Category: Wales (Page 1 of 3)

Brigid’s Blessings on the Celtic Fire Festival of Imbolc

On Imbolc Eve Irish and Scottish women would clean and prepare their household for Brigid’s blessings during the night. Brigid was said to visit virtuous households and bring Imbolc blessings to the inhabitants. In some places in Ireland and Scotland it was a tradition to open all the doors and windows in the home and for the women of the house to stand at the threshold in order to recieve Brigid’s blessings. After being invited into the house a bed would often be made for her, and a wand or stick laid on the bed or close by.

Imbolc is dedicated to Saint Brigid; a major figure in the early Irish Church who predates the Saint to a pan-celtic pagan goddess of the same name. The festival which celebrates winter’s end, the onset of spring, and the start of the agricutural year is thought to be linked with Brigid in her role as a fertility goddess.

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Welsh Traditions and Folklore

Welsh Costume - Welsh Traditions

Welsh Traditional Costume

Wales is a country steeped in tradition. Even the Methodist revival in the 18th century, whose stern Puritanism banished the ancient Celtic traditions, was unable to stamp out all remains of their traditions.

Today the old tales are kept alive by the Welsh speakers. There are an estimated 600,000 of them and the numbers are increasing. Traditional Welsh culture has been kept alive by the popularity of the Royal National Eisteddfod, a ceremonial gathering of musicians, poets and craftsmen.

In the late 19th century children were not encouraged to speak Welsh in school. If they did so, they were punished by having a piece of wood called a ‘Welsh Not’ hung around their neck.

Love Spoons – historic Welsh Tradition

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Where is the largest collection of Arthurian books in the UK?

In 2015, Bangor University received a large donation of rare and valuable Arthurian books from Flintshire County Council. The University reported:

Bangor University can now boast the largest collection of Arthurian books in Wales and the north of England, following an agreement with Flintshire County Council, who have donated a rare and valuable Arthurian Collection to the University’s Library and Archives.
The newly arrived collection is well suited to its new home. Bangor University has a 50 year history of significant contribution to the study of Arthurian literature. Dr Radulescu, who currently leads the Arthurian literature courses at Bangor University, is internationally renowned for her activity in shaping the field of Arthurian studies through her editorship of the Journal of the International Arthurian Society (JIAS) and the Annual Bibliography of the International Arthurian Society (BIAS); she contributes regularly to radio and TV programmes on medieval studies and the Arthurian legend and was recently interviewed on the Australian ABC national radio on this topic.

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Salt and Bread

The Sin-Eater: Saviour Of The Dammed

Sin Eater - The Sin-Eater: Saviour Of The Dammed

Sin-Eater

The Tradition Of The Sin-Eater

In 18th, 19th and 20th Century Scotland, England, and some Welsh communities, families placed a piece of bread on the breasts of their recently passed loved ones.

That’s not the strange part — the families then hired someone to eat the bread, believing that the practice would somehow absolve the sins of the deceased.

Where did this strange ritual come from? 

Eating food at a funeral (or shortly thereafter) is not uncommon — large family dinners often follow the death of a loved one, while drinking has been a cornerstone of wakes for centuries.

Wake - The Sin-Eater: Saviour Of The Dammed

 Funeral Wake

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Cantre'r Gwaelod - the Sunken Land or Lowland Hundred

4,000 year-old Deer antlers found off Welsh coast

A dear friend of ours pointed us to a discovery made during the Spring this year of a set of 4,000 year-old Red Deer antlers on a beach in Borth, Ceredigion in Wales. Recent storms have revealed a whole new section of the Sunken Lands in Cardigan Bay. From 5,000 year-old trees whose stumps have been preserved by the peat, to parts of a wattle walkway made of branches, sticks or logs that must have enabled people to cross the wet ground easily. Now a huge set of antlers, identified as belonging to a Red Deer, have been found found under 1 metre of water.

There’s an ancient folk tale about Cantre’r Gwaelod, or the Sunken Hundred, which was once a fertile land and township before it was lost beneath waves. It is believed that the land extended nearly 20 miles west of Cardigan Bay, but Cantre’r Gwaelod was lost to floods when, apparently, Mererid, the priestess of a fairy well had neglected her duties, resulting in the well overflowing.

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The Mythology of the Green Man and the Green Knight

The Significance of Green

Green has been known for untold ages as the colour of the fairy. Green was so universally recognised, as the colour of the fairy that many in Scotland refused to wear it as to do so would be to invite the anger of the fairy folk. “Greenies” and “greencoaties” were common euphemisms used in Britain for the fairy.

Green was a colour shunned by many as being associated with evil fairies and witches. But why green? Green is also associated with nature, with ripening life, with fertility and that is the reason.

Green was a colour shunned by many as being associated with evil fairies and witches. But why green? Green is also associated with nature, with ripening life, with fertility and that is the reason.

During the formation of Christianity nature was seen to exist for the pleasure and consumption of man. That nature should exist as an entity unto herself, with powers beyond man’s, was a thought that put fear into many.

Later, nature was viewed as evil and anything associated with nature was seen in a similar way. That green represented the power and fertile life of nature slowly came to be associated with evil, and thus Pagan, forms bent on the torment of mankind.

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Witch Bottle

The Welsh Witch of Medieval History

The History books tell us that the Welsh Witch was misunderstood and misrepresented commonly in the middle ages.

“The term witch has meant many things to many people over the years,” says Dr Kathleen Olsen of the University of Wales, Bangor.

“But for most of the Middle Ages the word really meant the local healer, someone who made poultices and medicines and perhaps had charms or spells for healing cattle and other farm animals.”

Be that as it may, the powers of darkness certainly had an appeal to some people.

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The Mystical Druid’s Egg: The Glain Neidr


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Druid's Egg

Druid’s Egg

Snakes, and especially the Adder, were very significant to the Druids. They represented the renovation of mankind – a symbolism that probably related to the apparent re-birth of snakes every time they shed their skins.

They were also kept by them and made important divinations and decisions based on their movements. One particular association is the Glain Neidr, which translates variously as ‘glass of the serpents’, snake-stone, adder’s stone or Druid’s egg – it was also known as Maen Magl. This was an amulet sacred to Druids in Wales, worn by them on a chain around the neck, that was supposed to possess many virtues.

It had many healing powers, and especially for ailments of the eye; it could ensure that the owner was victorious over his enemies; it allowed seeing of future events; it could be a powerful poison; in some circumstances it also gave diverse powers such as finding hidden treasure or making the wearer invisible.

Finding a Druid’s Egg

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Green Fairy Islands of Wales


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Green faeries Islands from the Green Fairy Islands of Wales article

Faerie Island

A form of Welsh popular belief as to the whereabouts of fairy-land corresponds with the Avalon of the Arthurian legends. The green meadows of the sea, called in the triads Gwerddonau Lion, are the Green fairy islands of Wales.

Many extraordinary superstitions survive with regard to these islands. They were supposed to be the abode of the souls of certain Druids, who, not holy enough to enter the heaven of the Christians, were still not wicked enough to be condemned to the tortures of Annwn, and so were accorded a place in this romantic sort of purgatorial paradise. In the fifth century a voyage was made, by the British king Gavran, in search of these enchanted islands; with his family he sailed away into the unknown waters, and was never heard of more.

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"Dark Angel" from the Ravens in Celtic Mythology article

Ravens in Celtic Mythology


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Ravens figure heavily in Celtic mythology and legend. They were linked to darkness and death – especially the death of warriors in battle. Celtic war goddesses often took the form of a raven. In “The Dream of Rhonabwy”, the knight Owein battles King Arthur in a dream world assisted by ravens. Some tales suggest that the great King Arthur himself was turned in to a raven upon his death.

Rhonabwy is the most literary of the medieval Welsh prose tales. It may have also been the last written. A colophon at the end declares that no one is able to recite the work in full without a book, the level of detail being too much for the memory to handle. The comment suggests it was not popular with storytellers, though this was more likely due to its position as a literary tale rather than a traditional one.

The frame story tells that Madog sends Rhonabwy and two companions to find the prince’s rebellious brother Iorwerth. One night during the pursuit they seek shelter with Heilyn the Red, but find his house filthy and his beds full of fleas. Lying down on a yellow ox-skin, Rhonabwy experiences a vision of Arthur and his time.

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