• Jan Baker

Do you know who St. Dwynwen is?

St. Dwynwen’s Day is celebrated in Wales on 25th January (2 days before my birthday; this is how I remember the date!) but I'll lay money that some of you have never heard of her! Well, St. Dwynwen is the Welsh patron saint of lovers, which makes her the Welsh equivalent of St. Valentine!

It's a very sad story actually. Dwynwen lived during the 5th Century and legend has it that she was one of the prettiest of Brychan Brycheiniog’s 24 daughters. Now Brychan was a prince, son of King Anlach. He was actually born in Ireland but moved to Y Fenni-Fach. Brycheiniog was an independent kingdom in South Wales in the early Middle Ages and often acted as a buffer state between England to the East and the powerful South Welsh Kingdom of Deheubarth to the West, what we'd know today as Brecknockshire.

So it was perfectly acceptable for Dwynwen to fall in love with a prince called Maelon Dafodrill. No, not daffodil! Unfortunately for her though, her father had already arranged for her to marry someone else. Dwynwen was so upset that she could not marry Maelon that she begged God to make her forget him.

The legend goes that after falling asleep, Dwynwen was visited by an angel, who appeared carrying a sweet potion designed to erase all memory of Maelon and turn him into a block of ice. God then gave three wishes to Dwynwen.

Her first wish was that Maelon be thawed; her second that God meet the hopes and dreams of true lovers; and third, that she should never marry. All three were fulfilled, and as a mark of her thanks, Dwynwen devoted herself to God’s service for the rest of her life.

If you visit Llanddwyn, off the west coast of Anglesey, you can still see the remains of Dwynwen's church. There was a well named after her which became a place of pilgrimage after her death in 465AD. Visitors to the well believed that the sacred fish or eels that lived in the well could foretell whether or not their relationship would be happy and whether love and happiness would be theirs.

So why wait until St Valentine’s Day to make your romantic feelings known, when you can wish your loved one ‘dwi’n dy garu di ‘ (I love you) three weeks earlier?

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