Sunday, May 30, 2010

Dwynwen - A Version of the Ancient Female Soothsayer

Prior post on sacred wells, etc. from Barbara Walker's "The Woman's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets" will help put things in perspective.

I came across this by accident. This saint doesn't seem so much a patron of sick animals as a patron of the love sick and a modern-day version "Dear Abby" (pardon the pun :))

St. Dwynwen (Dwyn) of Tolentino-Patron Saint of Sick Animals:

Dwyn was a 5th century Welsh maiden from a wealthy family. Her father was a Welsh Saint and king, Brychan Brycheiniog of Brechon. She had her love troubles, however. The story is that Dwyn fell madly in love with a Welsh prince named Maelon Dafodrill. A marriage was planned but it was not to be. As St. Dwyn distanced herself from Maelon, his bitterness toward her became unbearable.

Heartbroken, Dwyn accepted a heavenly potion offered to her by an Angel appearing to her in a dream to soothe her heartache. However, the angel failed to tell her the effect of the potion on Maelon, who was turned into stone (or ice according to other accounts) once administered to him. [Oops, a minor oversight on Almighty God's part, heh heh].

Appalled, Dwyn requested and was granted three wishes from the angel:

-- That Maelon be restored to life
--That all True Lovers that invoke her name either achieve their hearts desires or recover quickly from disappointment
--That she not marry or wish to

Dwyn committed her life to God and founded a convent on what is now Llanddwyn island, just off the Isle of Angeles. Within that Abbess, there is a miraculous spring (Ffynnon Dwynwen) wherein, from the movement of the fish, the adept can tell the future. One other interesting fact, the water works wonders with sick animals. Over time Dwyns name was invoked to heal sick and distressed animals, a tradition that has
survived even today.

The ruins of Llanddwyn chapel, a 16th century Tudor church, can still be seen. Moreover, her name lives on in the town of Porthddwyn and a church dedicated to her can be found in Cornwall.

I also read that she was one of 24 children of this "king" who later became a "saint".  Probably couldn't afford a dowery and determined she would be a nun - often the fate of female children that a father couldn't afford.  Well, I suppose it's better than what the Chinese do - kill the female babies at birth.  See what happens when a dude can't keep his penis in his pants.  Thank Goddess for Birth Control Pills!  Now we just need to get them for the dudes, and the problem of unwanted pregnancies will be solved. 

Photographs of the island and surroundings - it's a haunting place, with lots of megalithic placements.  It seems likely to me that the legend of the healing well predates the legend of "St. Dwyn" by a couple thousand years, at least.  The location of the well is probably an ancient "sacred place/sacred space" of power, dedicated to the Mother Goddess.  Notice the references in the various versions of the legend to the ability to tell the future when  an adept (a  woman, since this was a nunnery) "working" the "fish" in the sacred well.  I wouldn't be surprised if there are underground caves nearby. 

Some other interesting versions of the legend of "St. Dwyn:"

Wales Patron Saint of Lovers - Dwynwen

By Rauncie Kinnaird
Most of us are familiar with St. Valentine, but did you know that Wales has its own Patron Saint of Lovers?

Dwynwen was one of 24 children of the King of Wales, Brychan Brycheiniog of Brechon in the 5th Century. She fell in love with Maelon Dafodrill, but they could not be together. The reason varies between stories- her father had already promised her to another Prince, she wanted to become a nun, or her father simply refused. Maelon grew bitter, and some stories say that he raped Dwynwen. She fled to the woods and prayed that she could forget him.

While sleeping, an angel brought her a potion. After she drank it, Maelon turned to ice. Dwynwen prayed to God for three wishes: that Maelon be thawed, that God would watch over true lovers, and that she would never marry and devote her life to God. The wishes were granted. She settled on Ynvs Llanddwyn, founded a convent, and became a nun.

The site of her church became a place of pilgrimage. Visitors would often leave offerings, making it the richest area during Tudor times. Her holy well, Ffynnon Dwynwen, was said to indicate lovers' destinies. A woman would scatter breadcrumbs in the well and then lay her handkerchief on the surface. If the eels in the well disturbed the handkerchief, then her lover would be faithful. The ruins of the Llanddwyn chapel can still be seen today.

Saint Dwynwen was the Welsh Patron Saint of Lovers and Sick Animals. Saint Dwynwen's Day is celebrated on January 25th.

St. Dwynwen

St. Dwynwen is the patron saint of lovers. Her feast day is January 25, Dydd Santes Dwynwen. If you are Welsh, or the one you love is Welsh, January 25 is an opportunity to express your affection and say "Dwy'n dy garu di".

Dwynwen was a daughter of the 5th Century saint Brychan Brycheiniog. She fell in love with Maelon Dafodrill, but displeased him when she rejected his sexual advances prior to marriage. She prayed to God for deliverance from her situation, and was given a sweet drink which released her from her heartache. The same drink was given to Maelon, who was turned to ice. Again she prayed, and was given three wishes, the first that Maelon should be unfrozen, the second that she should never again desire marriage, and the third that God should answer all requests by her on the behalf of lovers.

She became a nun, and founded a convent at Llandwyn, on an island just off Anglesey. A freshwater spring there, Ffynnon Dwynwen, has become a place of pilgrimage, not only for lovers, but also for those seeking her help in healing sick and distressed animals.

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