St Dwynwen's Day

Illustration: Margaret Jones
Illustration: Margaret Jones

St Dwynwen's day is celebrated in Wales on 25 January and commemorates the patron saint of friendship and love.

Dwynwen lived during the 5th century and was, by all accounts, one of the prettiest of Brychan Brycheiniog's 24 daughters. The story goes that Dwynwen fell in love with one Maelon Dafodrill, but unfortunately her father had already arranged that she should wed another. Maelon was so outraged that he raped Dwynwen and left her.

In her grief Dwynwen fled to the woods, where she begged God to make her forget Maelon. 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. First she wished that Maelon be thawed, 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.

Remains of Dwynwen's church can be seen today on the island of Llanddwyn, off the coast of Anglesey. During the 14th century, upon visiting the island, the poet Dafydd ap Gwilym witnessed a golden image of Dwynwen inside the church, and was bold enough to request her help as a messenger between himself and Morfudd, the girl he hoped to win; and this despite the fact that Morfudd was already married!

Also situated on the island is Dwynwen's well. Allegedly, it contains a sacred fish whose movements predict the future fortunes and relationships of various couples. Visitors to the well believe that if the water boils while they are present, then love and good luck will surely follow.

The popularity and celebration of St Dwynwen's day has increased considerably in recent years, with special events such as concerts and parties often held, and greetings cards distributed. Although still not as popular as Valentine's Day in February, St Dwynwen is certainly becoming better known.

Article Date: 6 May 2007

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