Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Saint Beuno and Clynnog Church

St.Beuno's church is said to stand on top of a stone circle, whether this is true or not I do not know but there is a stone in the nave floor and stones in the foundations.
But this is only one of its many interesting facets, reading The Book of Welsh Saints by T.D.Breverton, I came across the fact that cattle were taken to the church to be blessed by St.Beuno and one was given to the church as a form of 'sacrifice, one half being given to god the other to the church, and this followed the tradition of the Northern Celtic religion which honoured the primal cow 'Audhumula',. Somehow it did not add up, but there's a somewhat tenuous connection that links the pagan northern rites and the christian church.
First, I had read that the Welsh being rather poor would pay in cattle, its still done today of course where cattle are seen as wealth in Africa, the second thing is that we always tend to think that taxation took the form of tithings in the medieval agricultural landscape, so what we are seeing here is a form of tithes being paid to the church. So where had the Danish story come in?

There was of course a short period in British history when the Danes took over the country and at the time a form of tax was introduced called 'Danegeld', it was paid in a way similar to a ransom, it was protection money paid out by the people or church to stop the Viking raids that happened all round the coast line. So perhaps what we are seeing here is an old remnant of a past memory. The church was raided and burnt down in the middle of the 10th century by Vikings, maybe what we have at Clynnog church is the past memory of Danegeld being paid out in the form of cattle to protect the church.

Stories and folklore travel down through time, mostly they follow the same motifs, giants throwing rocks over rivers to explain prehistoric cromlechs, or decapitated female saints (and males) who miraculously restore the head to the body, or snakes that are banished. In Wales the stories follow the traditional Irish celtic stories, but to find a northern celtic story may seem strange but given the history of the Viking raids not impossible.

Beuno Stones; Breverton mentions other stones named after Beuno, Clynnog itself has an interesting cromlech (Bachwen Clynnog Dolmen) with a 110 cup-shaped hollows in its capstone, and nearby a standing stone known as Maen Dylan. Also Penarth dolmen stands in a field named Caer Goetan. At Berriew, Maen Beuno is a leaning standing stone on the Severn's bank. Llanycil in Merioneth, is dedicated to Beuno and has three standing stones, but none seem to have survived.

There are a couple of lovely stories about Beuno (born in the 7th Century), one is that as he was walking by a river he heard a Saxon calling to his hounds on the other side. Infuriated Beuno marched back and summoned his followers to move eleswhere 'let us leave this place for the nation of this man I heard setting on his hounds has a strange language which is abominable'

Another tells of Beuno losing a book of sermons as he crossed the straits of Anglesey but when he got back to his cell there was a curlew in the cell sitting by the selfsame book. Beuno prayed to god for the protection of the curlew, and that is why today you can never find a curlew's egg today.

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