St. Valentines day is just around the corner, and I thought it was time that we had a look into our own patron saint of love in Wales, Saint Dwynwen. Santes Dwynwen’s day is celebrated on the 25thof January every year. The saint of the day who it surrounds, Saint Dwynwen or (Santes Dwynwen in Welsh) was a Welsh princess daughter of King Brychan Brycheiniog and is renowned as the patron saint of love and unity and lived here on Anglesey.
Dwynwen lived during the 5th century AD and was one of 24 daughters of St. Brychan, a Welsh King of Brycheiniog (Brecon). She fell in love with a young man named Maelon, but rejected his advances. This, depending on which story you read, was either because she wished to remain chaste and become a nun or because her father wished her to marry another. She prayed to be released from the unhappy love and dreamed that she was given a potion to do this. However, the potion turned Maelon to ice. She then prayed that she be granted three wishes: 1) that Maelon be revived, 2) that all true lovers find happiness, and 3) that she should never again wish to be married. She then retreated to the solitude of Llanddwyn Island to follow the life of a Saint.
St Dwynwen’s Church on Ynys Llanddwyn, (Llanddwyn island) at Newbrough on the west coast of Anglesey, is where Santes Dwynwen followed her Christian doctrine and worshiped. It then became an important shrine during the middle ages. There is a holy well on the island, and it became a site of pilgrimage. Rumour has it at that movement of fish within its waters was believed to indicate lovers’ destinies.
If you are visiting north Wales for the first time and plan to head to LLanddwyn for a walk, here a few facts below to give you a taste of the welsh tales surrounding Santes Dwynwen.
Below are 15 Facts surrounding the legend of Saint Dwynwen and the folk lore, mysticism that surrounds her living on Llanddwyn Island, here on Anglesey.
#1 A Blessed Life
Dwynwen which was reported to mean “She who portrays a blessed life”. Llanddwyn Island is where you will find the covenant of Saint Dwynwen. This island is located on the west coast of Anglesey. Even today, you will be able to spot remains of St Dwynwen’s life on this island. Thousands of visitors cone on their own pilgrimages each year, to travel to this part of Wales to witness the remaining church and
#2 A sacred fish
It is believed that the Llanddwyn Island is home to a very special fish. This fish that lived within the holy well on the island, foretold lovers destinies, and was capable of predicting if a couple would remain together as a unity or not.
#3 Wishing Well
Another fascinating part of the Lalnddwyn Island would be Crochan Llanddwyn. This is where you would find a wishing well. The wishing well is present near a rabbit warren on the island. Locals believe that the wishing well boils whenever there are visitors. And, if it does, it symbolizes luck and good fortune.
# 4 Love spoons
There are many interesting folklores in this part of Wales. The talk about folklore in this region will be incomplete without the love spoon! The Welsh love spoon, is a unique story. Originally made by young men during the long winter nights or by young men on long sea voyages, they were carved to express that young man’s intentions towards a particular girl. A love spoon would be given to a girl as an indication that he wished to court her. A girl may have received lovespoons from several suitors and these would be displayed on the wall of her home.
The tradition of carving lovespoons is thought to have been derived from the making of culinary spoons and the giving of a spoon became symbolic with the expression of the wish to “feed” or support the object of the prospective suitor’s desire. It was a short step to decorating such a spoon and to investing it with symbols of the suitor’s hopes and wishes. Such a spoon would then have had no practical use and would have been regarded as an ornamental gift albeit vested with meaning. Love spoons are synonymous with Santes Dwynwen and the offering of a gift of love.
When you are in Wales for the Saint Dwynwen Day, you must visit the Church of Dwynwen. This church is located in the West cost of Llanddwyn, a tiny island. To visit the Church, you should be well planned and prepared with the tides, as the island does get cut off. The church is located in a tidal island. The island is at the mercy of high tides most of the time.
Saint Dwynwen Day is not only for lovers! Instead, it is a day for farmers too. That is because Saint Dwynwen was adored by farmers. Farmers celebrate the day with special treats and pictures of their Saint. However, it is still a wonder if Saint Dwynwen’s magic helps farmers and gives them good luck with their crops.
#7 True Love
Saint Dwynwen Day is based on a beautiful story. It has a history that dates back to the 5thcentury. This was when Dwynwen fell in love with Maelon Dafodrill, a prince. Unfortunately, their love story didn’t go quite like a Disney storey. Dwynwen’s father had different plans for his 24 daughters and her!
#8 The wishes
It is believed that Dwynwen received three wishes from God. She was allowed to choose from marriage, sacrifice and love! All three wishes were fulfilled by God, and Dwynwen then devoted herself to God. She chose not to marry and to become a hope for true lovers.
#9 The nature filled Island
People who visit the Landdwyn Island are often astonished by its environment and beauty. It has a strong rich history, plenty of wildlife and its scenery is stunning . The Island is home to the Newborough Warren National Reserve. As you visit the place to celebrate Saint Dwynwen’s day, you will be able to view rare nesting birds like the oystercatchers and cormorants.
St Dwynwen is known throughout Wales as the patron saint of lovers, effectively a Welsh saint Valentine, and her wells and shrine have been visited constantly, even after the ruin of the church. The parish at Llanddwyn was at one time among the wealthiest in North Wales due largely to the offerings left by visitors to Dwynwen’s shrine, and from the fourteenth to the sixteenth centuries it was considered the richest prebend in the principality. Wax candles were kept constantly burning at Dwynwen’s shrine, possibly a golden image of St Dwynwen was displayed and here “A thousand broken hearts her power invoked”
#11 A princess
A lot of people are unaware of the fact that St Dwynwen is a princess. Yes, you read it right, our own true Welsh Princess. She was a princess from the 4thcentury. She was from the Brecon Beacons National Park. And, history claims that Santes Dwynwen passed away in AD465. The actual year is still unclear. However, she was born, she lived and she passed away in North Wales as a true Welsh Princess.
#12 Fancy Farmer
On the Santes Dwynwen’s Day, farmers follow an interesting tradition. This tradition dates back to 2007. On the special day, farmers feature their milk produces in a lonely heart advertisement. They attach messages and photographs to the heart ads. The message invites visitors to “Fancy a Farmer” It is still a wonder if Dwynwen’s true love can help the farmers enjoy a happy date.
#13 By foot
The only way to get to Llanddwyn Island is to walk. The stunning island is located at the end of the New Borough beach. And, you can reach its mainland regions only by foot. You cannot drive within a stones throw to the island, but the walk is a rather pleasant one, taking around 35 minutes to get from the car park to the island, 35 minutes to walk around the island and a round trip of around 1.5 hours.
#14 Cottages and crofters cottages
As mentioned previously, the Llanddwyn Island is decorated with old buildings of distant past with now an old church, well, lighthouse, remains of small holding regions fishermen’s cottages and Celtic cross monuments. Today, it features the Twr Mawr Lighthouse. And, you will also see many cottages. Most of these cottages were designed and constructed to help ships reach Menai Strait.
#15 Llanddwyn the name
Locally, the term Llanddwyn translates directly to the “Church of Saint Dwynwen”. Lan meaning church and Ddwyn meaning Dwynwen. No one knows when the island was named. It was named as Llanddwyn because Santes Dwynwen lived in this region for decades.
Saint Dwynwen’s Day is as special as is Valentine’s day. However, it is a much more fascinating story involving our Welsh ancestors, Royalty and not so distant past.
A couple of great website and resources :
Remember you are visiting a very strong tidal island and the rise and fall of the tides could be considerable when your visiting. Storm surges and westerly winds will always drive the tide higher, so pay attention to the weather before heading out there.
Walking routes on Llanddwyn Island :
The Culture, Myth and legend, in north Wales is some of the most inspiring in the UK, and infact would, rival that of anywhere in the world. Do make the most while your here and learn some more about our amazing countries culture and history, its a rich tapestry of time.
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Tan Y Tro Nesaf / Until the next time,
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