Thursday, May 29, 2008

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.
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. 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 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 soon after Arthur's death, David died in 544 aged 82 and that 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 .

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