Wednesday, May 16, 2007

St.David

Saint David;- date of birth variously given between 460 and 520. He is the great grandson of an illustrious name, Cunedda, "dux Brittaniae" or "Gwledig" (over-king). Tradition says that Cunedda came from the north with 900 troop in the early 5th century and drove the Goidels (the Irish) out of North Wales. He had eleven sons, and one of his grandsons Maelgwn Gwynedd was also a "Gwedlig", and a protagonist in the battle of Camlan between Arthur of South Wales and his Cumbrian/Strathclyde relatives - all conjectural of course.
There are several sources for the site of David's birth, one that he was born on the site of St.Non's chapel within a stone circle and baptised at Porth Clais ..........
prehistoric stones can be found in the field around the chapel. Legend also says that David's father Sant was told by an angel to save some land for him 30 years befor he was born. Also at this time an angel told St.Patrick not to settle on some land at Glyn Rhosyn, as the place was reserved for an unknown boy to be born 30 years later. Here the monks are retelling an old story to echo with Jesus's life. Apparently Patrick was upset that God preferred an unborn boy to him but God took him to a cliff rock, still known as Eisteddfa Badrig to show him that God wanted him to look after all Ireland instead!
The story goes that David, or Dewi, made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem where he was made a bishop and led the councils of Brefi (in Cardigan) and Caerlon. At Brefi he was recognised as primate of all Wales and replaced Dyfrig and he moved the see from Caerlon to Menevia (St.David's); this taken from a source of 1098. (Rhygfarch's Life of St.David).
He was known traditionally as The Waterman as he and his monks were ascetic teetotallers and vegetarians. He is associated with over 50 churches in South Wales, most in the south west, Glastonbury was also claimed to have been founded by David. And another tale tells that it was Arthur who allowed Dewi to move his see and that soon after Arthur's death, David died in 544 aged 82 and he was honourably buried by Maelgyn Gwynedd.
February 28th is St.David's Eve and one of the favoured nights for the Cwn Annwn (hounds of Annwn, the Underworld) to take to the skies. They race and howl across the firmament, souls of the damned they hunt for more souls to feed the furnaces of hell. Sometimes they are seen as huge dogs with human head - a pre-christian belief that lasted in rural Wales until the 19th C.
in the Gwaun valley in Pembs.
Old St.Davids Day (March 12th) was the time when the wax candle on the table was replaced by a wooden one, signifying that supper could be eaten without candlelight - the end of the winter months.
As he did only drink what crystal Hodney yields,
And fed upon the leeks he gathered in the fields
In memory of whom, in each revolving year,
The Welshmen, on his day, that sacred herb do wear.
Another story says that it was St.Davids spirit who convinced the Welsh to wear a leek, so that they could be distinguished in the battle on Hatfield Moors in 633.
Some stones; 8 foot menhir on edge of Dowrog Common in 1912, standing by a cottage known as Drws Gobiaeth (The Door of Hope). Also a rocking stone, now destroyed, near St.David, intact in 1919.David's dedication at Abergwili in Dyfed is surrounded by standing stones such as Pentre Ynis, Pant y Glien and Merlin's Stone. The last two are both in fields called Parc y Maen Llwyd (Grey stone Park. Carreg Fyrddin (Merlin's stone) carried the prophecy that a raven would drink human blood off it.. Hubberston there is also a standing stone;
ref; The Book of Welsh Saints - T.D.BrevertonchapelThere is an interesting tale also about Clegyr Boai, the stronghold of a celtic chieftan, regarding the seduction of St.David's monks, the full story can be found here on TMA, also photos of the rocky crag itself.
http://www.themodernantiquarian.com/site/4596.
This tale must be taken with a large pinch of salt though, Baring Gould retold it from Rhygyfarch's Life of David. The 19th Reverend Baring Gould excavated sites round St.David and obviously embroidered the Boai story. Elizabeth Rees in Celtic Saints, Passionate Wanderers, gives a much simpler version, the story of the ritual sacrifice of the young female is seen as a pagan druidical act, and that the chieftain Boai was a druid, also his wife as well. She sees David as settling by the River Alun in a hidden valley and building his timber church and monks hut, Boai spying the smoke coming from the valley challenged David and his followers in different ways, but Boai was eventually killed by an Irish raider named Liski - a nearby coastal inlet is named after him (Porth Lysky).
Trevor Bloom cites the Solva church at Whitchurch(Capella Alba Monasterium) as one of St.David's, it could have been a timber church to start with, it was on the main pilgrims way.
Whitchurch; There is apparently an old cross stone here, funerals would circle round this stone.
Its interesting to note that a quarter of a mile down the road, there is probably an iron age settlement on high ground overlooking a steep valley down to the river Solva.
Site of settlement above the valley
Underneath the settlement buried in the woods is a well at the top of a steep slope,it has 18th/19th century bricks, but this would have been a source of water down through the ages.
Landscapes disappearing; The following photo shows the growth of the trees around the well. It is interesting to note that as larger farming equipment took over the fields, small sloping fields have disappeared over the last 100 years or so.

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