Diwrnod Santes Dwynwen – Saint Dwynwen's Day. Who was Saint Dwynwen?
One Welsh tradition that is on the rise is celebrating Wales' very own Saint of Love, Saint Dwynwen. Celebrated on January 25th, Saint Dwynwen has an intriguing tale, which many think has been passed down by word of mouth, and is now a mix of folktales and Celtic myths. As Valentine's Day has become so commercialised in recent years it is becoming popular to celebrate the little known Welsh Saint instead.
Many versions exist of the tale of Saint Dwynwen. Historically it is known that she was the daughter to Brychan Brycheiniog, a 5th century Welsh King of Brecon, who is said to have had at least 24 children. Dwynwen is said to have met and fallen in love with a Northern prince called Maelon Dyfodrull. Her father disliked Maelon and refused to give his permission for them to marry. Maelon begged, as did Dwynwen, but Brychan would not relent and the prince was forced to leave.
From there the story becomes a little more fantastical. In her grief Saint Dwynwen begged God to make her forget Maelon and freeze their passion. Her prayers were answered and Maelon was turned into a block of ice. As the story goes Dwynwen was then visited by an angel who gave her three wishes.
Firstly she wished to be free of Maelon, and he vanished, home to North Wales. Her second wish was that she would never marry and thirdly she wished to devote the rest of her life helping those who suffered from the heartache of lost love. Dwynwen became a nun and settled on an island off the west coast of Anglesey, which is known today as Llanddwyn.
Dwynwen died in 640 AD. Since then, Llanddwyn Island, Dwynwen's church and well have been visited by hundreds of pilgrims every year. Lovers still visit the island annually to discover their destiny.
The water of the island's well was said to be the home for a magical and sacred fish or eel, whose behaviour and movement predicted the future for young lovers. Questions were asked of the fish and the answers were determined by the direction in which it moved. Women would test the faithfulness of their husbands by sprinkling breadcrumbs into the water and then placing a handkerchief on the surface. The husband would be deemed faithful if the fishdisturbed the surface.
With an increase amongst Welsh people celebrating St. Dwynwen's Day parties and concerts are being held on the 25th of January as well as exchanging cards and gifts such as love spoons.