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lowed in the estimation of the neighbouring rustics, by being frequented by the Tylwyth Têg, whose nocturnal gambols have been witnessed by more than one individual, and were formerly believed to have been far more common than they
There is, certainly, something exceedingly impressive in this rude and desolate inclosure, situated, as it is, on the lofty summit of this magnificent mountain ; and it has a virtue attached to it, the efficacy of which, we have ere now tried, although we cannot say with what success. It is said, and well believed, that whoever reposes within its hallowed circle, will awake either bereft of his reason, or gifted with all the sublimities of poesy ;-aut insanit homo, aut versus facit.
“ And some, who staid the night out on the hill,
Have said they heard,-unless it was their dream,
Just as the morn-star shot its first slant beam,
A sound of music, such as they might deem
Close to their ear, a deep, delicious stream;
We have, in vain, endeavoured to discover the origin of this strange credulity; a credulity, by the way, which exists in a similar way, with regard to Snowdon: but such is the fact; and there are few natives who have not tried the charm, to the manifest refutation, however, of the alleged efficacy of the virtue; for we will take upon ourselves to say, that the only madman in the neighbourhood of Cader Idris has never made a trial of the spell ; and, as to its alternative, there is but one poet within fifty miles, and his effusions, beautiful as they are, have been entirely confined to his native language. So much for a question, which we have heard argued with all the violence of political controversy, and which remains to this day undecided.
With regard to the rites of the fairies,-particularly that of dancing round a tree, as well as their character for truth, probity, and above all, virtue,—they may be referred to a Druidic origin; and as the Druidical was one of the most ancient religions, so it must have been one of the first that was persecuted; and we can readily conceive how necessary it must have been for its disciples to ensure their safety, by adopting a secure, as well as an extraordinary, mode of concealment. These suggestions, which we have borrowed, in
great measure, from the Popular Antiquities of Wales, we submit to the consideration of our readers, being perfectly satisfied ourselves with their probability. All speculative deductions must be necessarily imperfect; but as far as analogical reasoning can go, the origin of fairies in Britain can be fairly deduced from the subversion of that religion, which preserved such a mingled character of barbarous bigotry on the one hand, and of elevated morality on the other.
Nearly allied to the fairies, is another species of aërial beings, called KNOCKERS. These, the Welsh miners solemnly affirm, are heard under ground, in or near mines ; and, by their knocking, generally point out to the workmen, a rich vein of ore. In the third volume of Selections from the Gentleman's Magazine, there are two letters on the subject of knockers, written by Mr. Lewis Morris, a gentleman esteemed no less for his learning and benevolence, than for his good sense and integrity. People,” he says, “who know very little of arts or sciences, or the powers of nature, will laugh at us Cardiganshire miners, who maintain the existence of knockers, in mines; a kind of good-natured impalpable people, not to be seen but heard, and who seem to us to work in the mines; that is to say, they are the types, or forerunners, of working in mines, as dreams are of some accidents which happen to us. Before the discovery of Esgair y Mwyn mine, these little people worked hard there, day and night; and there are abundance of honest, sober people, who have heard them : but after the discovery of the great mine, they were heard no
When I began to work at Llwyn Llwyd, they worked so fresh there for a considerable time, that they frightened away some young workmen. This was when we were driving levels, and before we had got any ore; but when we came to the ore, they then gave over, and I heard no more of them. These are odd assertions, but they are certainly facts, although we cannot, and do not, pretend to account for them. We have now (October, 1754) very good ore at Llwyn Llwyd, where the knockers were heard to work ; but they have now yielded up the place, and are heard no more. Let who will laugh; we have the greatest reason to rejoice, and thank the knockers, or rather God, who sends us these notices."
The most remarkable, but not the most peculiar, superstition, which we have next to notice, is that concerning what were called holy wells. Of these, Wales could boast several ; four of which, namely, St Winefred's, St. Tegla’s, St. Elian's, and St. Dwynwen’s, had attained a decided pre-eminence over the others; and of these four, that of St. Winefred's, at Holywell, in Flintshire, was by far the most estimable.
VOL, II. PART I.
Winefreda, a devout and beautiful virgin, of noble descent, was beloved by a profligate prince, named Caradoc; who, finding her inexorable to the more gentle pleadings of a lover, added force to his entreaties. But the fair Winefreda fled from him towards a neighbouring church, whither the other members of her family had retired to pray. Before she reached the sanctuary, Caradoc overtook her, and struck off her head. This, like an elastic ball, bounced into the church,* and proceeded up one of the aisles, to the altar, where her wondering friends were assembled at their devotions. St. Bouno, who was fortunately in the church, and who was, as the legend expresses it, an especial favourite of the Almighty, snatched up the head, and joining it to the body, it became, to the utmost surprise and delight of all present, instantly 're-united, the place of its separation being only marked by a milk white line encircling the virgin's neck. Caradoc dropped down lifeless on the spot where he had perpetrated the atrocious deed; and, says the legend, it was not rightly known, whether the earth opened to receive his impious carcase; or whether his master, the devil, carried it off. Away, however, it went, and was seen no more. Winefreda survived her decapitation about fifteen years; and having, towards the latter end of that time, received the veil from St. Elerius, at Gwytherin, in Denbighshire, she died abbess of that monastery, bequeathing to posterity a well, which sprang up on the very spot where her head fell, and which still exhibits, through the beautiful transparency, of its pellucid waters, the pure blood of the sinless virgin, in dark spots, on the stony floor of the fountain.t
After the death of Winefred, the waters of the well became celebrated for their miraculous virtues : they were almost
A bell, belonging to this church, was christened, with the usual formality, in honour of Winefreda. “I cannot learn the name of the good gossips," says Mr. Pennant," who, as usual, were doubtless rich persons. On the ceremony, they all laid hold of the rope --bestowed a name on the bell,--and the priests, sprinkling it with holy water, baptized it in the name of the Father, &c. &c. He then clothed it with a fine garment; after which, the gossips gave a grand feast, and made great presents, which the priest received, in behalf of the bell. Thus blessed, it was endowed with great powers ;-allayed (on being rung) all storms, diverted the thunder-bolt, and drove away the devil !"
+ The following monkish memorial of this event has been preserved by Gale:
Ad Basingwerk fons oritur
as sanative as those of the pool of Bethesda, and extended their salutary influence to both man and beast. languores,” observes an old writer, “tam in hominibus quam in pecoribus (ut legendæ verba habent) sanare." Drayton affirms, that no dog could be drowned in it; and the votive crutches, barrows, and other uncouth offerings, which are still to be seen pendent about the well, remain as incontrovertible proofs of the cures which the waters have performed. Pope Martin the Fifth, in the reign of Henry the Fifth, furnished the neighbouring abbey of Basingwerk with pardons and indulgencies, to be sold to the devotees. renewed again in the reign of Queen Mary, by the interest of Thomas Goldwell, bishop of St. Asaph, who fled into Italy, on the accession of Elizabeth. Multitudes of offerings flowed in ; and the monks received tangible marks of gratitude from such as had received benefit, by their intercession with the Virgin.
The resort of pilgrims, of late years, to these fountains has considerably decreased, observes Mr. Pennant. The greatest number is now from Lancashire. In the summer, a few are seen, up to their chins in water, deep
in devotion, or performing a variety of evolutions round. This excess of piety has cost many persons their lives; and people of rank have, long since, ceased to honour the fountain with their presence.
Et tantis bullis scaturit
Gale's Scriptor. Vol. ii. p. 190.
In the last age, however, a crowned head dignified the place with a visit. The poor infatuated prince, who lost three kingdoms for a mass, paid his respects to St. Winefred on the 29th of August, 1686, and received, as the reward of his piety,
chemise in which his great grand-mother, Mary Stewart, lost her head. He gave, in his progress through the country, as marks of favour and esteem, golden rings,with his hair plaited beneath a crystal. The majority of devotees, at the present day, consist of the fair sex, who are attracted thither to commemorate the threatened martyrdom of St. Wi. nefreda, as those of the East did the death of the Cyprian favourite,
Whose annual wound, in Lebanon, allured
Of Thammuz yearly wounded. We know of no medicinal virtues which can be attributed to the waters of St. Winefred's well beyond those appertaining to any other cold bath ; and now that sense and reason are becoming daily more extensively diffused throughout the king.dom, all the silly credulity engendered by a greedy and bigoted priesthood will skulk and disappear under their benign influence: and the minds and actions of the vulgar will be no longer swayed by the fantastical and illusive fables of former ages.
The other wells, in addition to the customary virtues of such places, possess others more exclusively peculiar to them. Thus, that of St. Tegla is famed for the cure of epilepsy, by the performance of the following ceremony; Patients in epilepsy, washed in the wells, and having made an offering of a few pence, are to walk thrice round the well, and thrice repeat the Lord's prayer. The ceremony never begins till after sunset. If the patient be a male, he offers a cock; if a female, a hen. This fowl is to be carried in a basket, first round the well, and then into the church-yard, where the ceremony of saying the Lord's prayer is to be repeated. The patient must then enter the church, and get under the communion table, where, putting a bible under his head, and being covered with a carpet or a cloak, he is to rest till break of day; and then, having made a further offering of sixpence, and leaving the fowl in the church, he may depart. If the fowl dies, the disorder is supposed to be transferred to the bird, and the cure effected.
But as this well is celebrated for producing a salutary effect,