Patrick: Welsh Noble, Slave, Irish Saint

Saint Patrick Window

Patron Saint of Ireland and Cymro

On the eve of St. Patrick’s Day,  paying homage to a revered and venerated saint of the Early Celtic Christian Church is appropriate, especially for me, since Patrick (Succat Morgannwg as he was once known in his native Cymru (Wales) is a Welshman. Besides all the parades to be marched and pint glasses of heady brews to be lifted to celebrate the day on which St. Patrick died, there will be another ceremony.

This commemorative event takes place in the village where St. Patrick was born, in Banwen, near Castell Nedd (Neath), in the Dulais Valley, near Abertawe (Swansea). He was the son of a prosperous merchant in a part of Wales renown for its contribution to the Industrial Revolution.

At about 16 years of age, Patrick and his sister were captured and enslaved by Irish marauders. He spent many years in Ireland as a shepherd. He escaped to his home in Cymru (Wales) and studied in Llydaw (Brittany) before being ordained and travelling to Rome. After his ordination as a bishop, he returned to Ireland to carry on his personal mission of sheltering the homeless and feeding the hungry.

Location of St. Patrick’s Commemorative Stone In Banwen

A standing stone at the side of the Roman road, Sarn Helen, in Banwen commemorates the courage and bravery of this famous Cymro (Welshman), whose dedication and humility are celebrated throughout the world. A service at the site of the stone will be attended by villagers and eminent compatriots.

For more information about St. Patrick, Black Lab Books (New York) are publishing Thomas John Clark’s The Chronicles of St. Patrick in chapter-length editions. For a fictionalized story, Stephen Lawhead’s Patrick is intense and comprehensive. Below is a description of Lawhead’s book from its page on Amazon:

“Slave, soldier, lover, hero, saint,—his life mirrored the cataclysmic world into which he was born. His memory will outlast the ages.

Patrick Lawhead“Born of a noble Welsh family, he is violently torn from his home by Irish raiders at age sixteen and sold as a slave to a brutal wilderness king. Rescued by the king’s druids from almost certain death, he learns the arts of healing and song, and the mystical ways of a secretive order whose teachings tantalize with hints at a deeper wisdom. Yet young Succat Morgannwg cannot rest until he sheds the strangling yoke of slavery and returns to his homeland across the sea. He pursues his dream of freedom through horrific war and shattering tragedy—through great love and greater loss—from a dying, decimated Wales to the bloody battlefields of Gaul to the fading majesty of Rome. And in the twilight of a once-supreme empire, he is transformed yet again by divine hand and a passionate vision of ‘truth against the world,’ accepting the name that will one day become legend . . . Patricius!”

And what happened to Succat’s sister?

Gwyl Padraig Hapus i bawb a llongyfarchiadau Tîm Rygbi Cymru am ennill yn erbyn Iwerddon … eto!

Posted in Hanes Cymru/Welsh History, Y Cymry/Welsh People | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Wicked Women, How We Love Them!

What is a story without a wicked woman? Any villain adds depth and conflict to a tale but those evil women knock us for six. We love them. And those of us who create them, have so much fun doing so.

Three of my wicked girls are among my favorite characters. We all know the behaviors that are considered evil. Exploring the motivations for wickedness requires a bit of soul-searching and an admission that, as writers, we must delve into the dark within our own conscientiousness to create these monsters.

Disney is renown for his wicked women, Maleficent is the most enduring as well as the one who has courted the most recent attention. Though she is also the wicked stepmother as was Cinderella’s nemesis, Maleficent captures our deepest longings for approval and everlasting beauty at the cost of perpetual wretched jealousy. Until recently, this wicked creature was my desktop wallpaper and I give full credit to the artists at Disney Studios (decades before Pixar) for creating such a compelling, iconic image of female malevolence.

How can we resist such power and determination?

Salvation: Book Cover

Morgan Cwmdu comes to the fore at full strength to win Maides’s loyalty.

Of all my characters, Morgan Cwmdu, of Pendyffryn: The Conquerors, comes closest to epitomizing the depths and heights of what wickedness can be achieved given full reign.

She is a villainous vixen whose obsession with destroying Caryl Gernant, as well as the lives of everyone close to her, costs Morgan the one goal she strives to achieve. Caryl is both the obstacle to that goal and Morgan’s determination to rid the world of her is the cause of Morgan’s failure to gain her cherished prize. So enthralling is Morgan Cwmdu’s efforts, she appears in some form in all five of the books of The Conquerors and returns to do her worst in the forthcoming The Inheritors series.

Another of my wicked girls is Alys Talgarth, Heledd Banawg’s nemesis in Traitor’s Daughter. Alys has self-esteem crises. Her jealousy of her cousin plays well with her own father’s fear that Heledd will discover the truth about her father’s death. These combine to encourage Alys’s petulant and cunning tricks meant to destroy her cousin. Alys will appear again in Vengeance’s Son, as determined as ever to ruin any chance of happiness that Heledd has grasped since their last meeting.

Book Cover Image: Traitor's Daughter by Gwiboz

Heledd has two malevolent females to battle.

The third is Llinos Cenfyn, also a character in Traitor’s Daughter. Where Alys departs, Llinos enters. She fears that her brother, Huw Brodawel, has plans to disinherit her sons in favor of Garmon, the commander of Huw’s war band. Tormenting Garmon is her favorite pastime but encouraging her sons to pester Heledd adds considerable enjoyment to her annual sojourn to the well-ordered and peaceful enclave between the Taf and the Tawel rivers, beyond the Tywi. Llinos is an expert at “innocent” comment, sharp and snide beneath the thin veneer of civility.

Creating wicked women, as I wrote at the outset, requires an intimate knowledge of such women and a personal understanding of their motivations. I confess I am as guilty as any writer in finding wickedness both engaging and delightful to explore. Creeping into the depths of evil to discover a method to destroy it is a worthy effort. Although we are pretending to slay the worst among us, the discoveries along the path to that end often help conquer the realities that overwhelm us in the real world.

This is the reason we gravitate toward scary movies and horror stories. We can confront the demons we know are real from a safe distance. And there is liberation in expressing our darkest thoughts and desires through fiction and make-believe.

Writers can explore depravity and devilish conduct, delve into our own psyches, acknowledge that we are capable of great harm, take secret revenge on our own nemeses, face our foes and construct happy solutions—with words.

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Ar ôl Gêm Rygbi 02/06/2015

Posted in Cymreig/Welsh, Cymru/Wales | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Mari Lwyd & the Old New Year

At this time of year, several traditions collide in Cymru (Wales), including our own version of ‘trick or treat,’ to confuse and entertain.

On January 1st, known throughout the world as New Year’s Day, the Cymry (Welsh MariLwyd1people) encourage children and youths to employ their many poetic and musical skills to both entertain and increase their wealth.

The tradition for children is called “Hel Calennig” (The New Year Hunt). This has nothing to do with The Hunt although that is also a tradition of the first few days of the New Year in rural areas. Children are given small envelopes containing coins, provided they have done their part of the exchange by singing a folk tune of good wishes for y Flwyddyn Newydd (the New Year) to their relatives (usually grandparents). The words of the tune are:

“Blwyddyn newydd dda i chi (A good new year to you)

Ac i bawb sydd yn y ty; (and to all in the house)

Dyna yw ‘nymuniad I (that is my wish)

Blwyddyn newydd dda i chi.” (A good new year to you)

MariLwyd2For youths, Hel Calennig begins at dawn and ends at noon. Y Fari Lwyd (the Grey Mare), a horse’s skull decorated with flowers and ribbons, is carried from house to house by a group of young people who entertain the inhabitants with song and dance, as well as challenging verses from englynion (four line poems). If the inhabitants of the house cannot meet the challenge of the verses, the group was admitted to the house to enjoy cakes and ale.

This tradition has been revived in recent years by many folk dance groups throughout Cymru.

In Cwm Gwaun (Gwaun Valley), above Abergwaun (Fishguard), the community celebrates Yr Hen Galan (the Old New Year) on the 13th of January, keeping to the calendar prior to 1752. On this day, the annual game of Cnapan is played between the communities of Llawenog and Llandysul, using the gates of the two churches of the parishes as goals. Cnapan is a mixture of rugby, hockey and football (soccer). The playing field is six miles long!

MariLwyd3Some of the sayings to start the new year are:

“Eira Ionawr — bara.” (January snow = bread.)

“Tir dan ddwr — prinder.” (Land under water = starvation.)

“Tir dan eira —  bara.”(Land under snow = plenty.)

All of the images in this post are from the Amgueddfa Cymru website.

Posted in Cymreig/Welsh, Cymru/Wales, Hanes Cymru/Welsh History | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Celtic Festival Celebrating Winter: Calan Gaeaf

Ceridwen, the Witch

Ceridwen, the Witch, illustration by Ioan Einion, Y Lolfa, © Alys Einion

On October 31, All Hallows’ Eve has been celebrated across the Christian World since the formation of a structured church. Calan Gaeaf (Kal-ahn GEYE-ahv), as it is known in Wales, celebrates the start of winter and has been a festival since earliest pagan Celtic times. In Ireland, the festival is known as Samhain (SOW-en), celebrating the decay of life and is derived from an ancient cult of the dead.

Like all the seasonal pagan festivals, Calan Gaeaf is an attempt to appease the forces of nature of which our distant ancestors had no true understanding. In other words, a superstition. All of the Celtic countries have folk traditions that commemorate the turns of the seasons. In Cymru, horns frightened away evil spirits.

The coelcerth (bonfire) was the focal point of the night’s festivities. The celebrants ran back and forth in the smoke, daring to go as close as possible. The closer the runners went, the more fortunate their prospects for the coming year. Villagers threw stones into the fire and searched for them the following morning. A stone that was not found was a portend of bad news to come, perhaps even death. As the last embers faded, all of the onlookers ran screaming from the site to escape Yr Hwch Ddu Gwta (the black tailless sow). They took handfuls of ash home to spread good luck.

Gwydion, the Wizard

Gwydion, the Wizard, illustration by Ioan Einion, Y Lolfa, © Alys Einion

The Cymry believed that their wishes expressed on this night, if made in good faith, would come true. Storytelling was the favored entertainment of the night. Ghosts might be seen at the camfa (stile) and prevent travellers from crossing. Since the dead were at play and roaming free on Calan Gaeaf, young children were kept indoors. Bwyd cennad y meirw (food to speak to the dead) was set outside and the hearth was readied before the household went to bed.

On this night, those who had died by drowning rose to the surface of the sea and rode the waves as white horses (ceffylau gwyn) on the white waves (tonnau gwyn). Gwrachod (witches) did not harm anyone on Calan Gaeaf while the church bells rang. Sabbats were once held near Penmaenmawr, Gwynedd at the Druid’s Circle but this activity ceased when the standing stones spoke aloud to object and two of the attending witches went mad.

Other stones in Morgannwg grant wishes on this night and wishes expresses near a tomb in Dyffryn, De Morgannwg are said to come true. The Derby Stone was disgusted by foul language and leaned to hit anyone who cursed nearby.

Source: The Celtic Calendar, Brian Day, Saffron Walden, 2003

Posted in Cymru/Wales, Hanes Cymru/Welsh History | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment