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Posts tagged “Myths

Welsh Myths and Legends, The bleeding Yew tree, Nevern, Pembrokeshire

St Brynachs church Nevern Pembrokeshire, Wales
Nigel Borrington

Often one sees sap coming out of an old tree, usually where it is healing up, but usually these “bleeding” areas heal up quite quickly. Recently I came across a most remarkable yew tree when I visited the ancient village of Nevern in Pembrokeshire. It has a 6th century church (St Brynach’s Church) and in the churchyard there are a number of ancient yew trees (Taxus baccata). One of these yews near to the gate is called the “Bleeding Yew” which is about 700 years old and here are some photos I took of it. It has a blood-red sap running out of it which has the consistency of blood – though it dries pink rather than brown. I dipped my finger in it and there wasn’t any distinctive smell or stain, but as people say that most parts of the yew tree are poisonous, I didn’t taste it.

There are many myths about why the Nevern yew tree bleeds: some say that as Jesus was crucified on a cross it is bleeding in sympathy and thoers say that it is reflective of the tree of Life in the Garden of Eden. But that wouldn’t explain why this yew tree in particular is bleeding. One myth says that a monk was hanged on this tree for a crime of which he was innocent and the tree is protesting his innocence. Some say, more politically, that it won’t stop bleeding until there is a Welsh Prince installed at Nevern or even that it will bleed until world peace is achieved.

The church at Nevern is well worth a visit for the bleeding yew, but also because the church has some stone carvings which are over a thousand years old, such as the “Braided Cross Stone” (pictured here) which, like the bleeding yew, has been ascribed many meanings with two cords apparently being woven together to make the cross. There is an even older carving, the Maglocunus stone, which throws light on the version of ancient Celtic once used in these parts of Wales, called Ogham. This stone wasn’t preserved for itself standing vertically but was incorporated horizontally into the church as a windowsill.


Castell Dinas Bran and the story of Myfanwy.

Castell Dinas Bran 3
Castell Dinas Bran, Llangollen in Denbighshire, Wales
Landscape Photography : Nigel Borrington

The welsh castle of Dinas Bran is located about the wonderful welsh town of Llangollen in Denbighshire, Wales.

This Castle is a magical place to visit , its the location of a hill fort and remains of a later castle. The walk out of Llangollen to the top of the hill is sort but very steep yet well worth the effort. The views of the horse shoe pass and the surrounding hills is just wonderful.

Whilst the historical record for Dinas Brân is sparse, there are many myths and legends associated with the ancient site.

The popular Welsh song ‘Myfanwy’ was composed by Joseph Parry and first published in 1875. Parry wrote the music to lyrics written by Richard Davies (‘Mynyddog’; 1833–77). The lyrics were probably inspired by the fourteenth-century love-story of Myfanwy Fychan of Castell Dinas Brân, and the poet Hywel ab Einion. That story was also the subject of the popular poem, ‘Myfanwy Fychan’ (1858), by John Ceiriog Hughes (1832–87).

The castle first literary appearance is in a 12th century historical document entitled “Fouke le Fitz Waryn,” or “The Romance of Fulk Fitzwarine.” In this tale the castle, named “Chastiel Bran,” is referred to as a ruin during the early years of the Norman Conquest. The tale continues to tell of an arrogant Norman knight, Payn Peveril, who hears that no one has had courage enough to stay overnight inside the castle ruins, for fear of evil spirits. Payn and 15 ‘knightly followers’ determine to stay the night. A storm blows up and an evil, mace-wielding giant called Gogmagog, appears. Payn defends his men against the attacks of the giant with his shield and cross, then stabs Gogmagog with his sword. As the giant is dying he tells of the earlier bravery of King Bran who had built the castle to try to defeat the giant. Despite King Bran’s attempts against Gogmagog the King had been forced to flee and since then the giant had terrorised all the land around for many years. The giant also tells of a great treasury of idols buried at Dinas Bran which includes swans, peacocks, horses and a huge golden ox but dies without revealing its location.(Oman 1926, 1989)

Castell Dinas Bran 3

The Story of Myfanwy

The brooding site is the backdrop for the sad love story of Myfanwy. She is a princess and renowned for her beauty throughout Powys in Wales. Myfanwy is proud of her looks and wants her many suitors to proclaim her beauty in song and verse. Many come to court her but are not able to compose songs that truly reflect her looks. She rejects them all.

However, in the valley beneath the castle lives a poor bard Hywel ap Einion. Taking his courage in his hands the young bard goes to the castle and sings and plays for Myfanwy. Whilst he performs his song to her she is captivated and will look at no other. Hywel ap Einion believes his love for her to be reciprocated because of this.

His hopes and dreams are thwarted when a rich, handsome and more articulate man comes to seek her affection. The dejected Hywel then wanders the forests and lands of Difrdwy and recites this sad poem to his unrequited love:

“Oh fairer thou, and colder too,
Than new fallen snow on Arran’s brow
Oh lovely flower of Trevor race,
Let not a cruel heart disgrace
The beauties of thy heavenly face!
Thou art my daily thought each night
Presents Myfanwy to my sight.”

Image Gallery

Castell Dinas Bran 1

Castell Dinas Bran 9

Castell Dinas Bran 2

Castell Dinas Bran 7

Castell Dinas Bran 3

Castell Dinas Bran 4

Castell Dinas Bran 8

Castell Dinas Bran 5

Castell Dinas Bran 6


The Children of Lir

THE CHILDREN OF LIR

The Children of Lir Irish story – Long ago there lived a king called Lir. He lived with his wife and four children: Fionnuala, Aodh, Fiachra and Conn. They lived in a castle in the middle of a forest. When Lir’s wife died they were all very sad. After a few years Lir got married again. He married a jealous wife called Aoife.

Aoife thought that Lir loved his children more than he loved her. Aoife hated the children. Soon she thought of a plan to get rid of the children.

One summer’s day Aoife took the children to swim in a lake near the castle. The children were really happy to be playing in the water. Suddenly Aoife took out a magic wand. There was a flash of light and the children were nowhere to be seen. All there was to be seen was four beautiful swans, with their feathers as white as snow.

Aoife said, “I have put you under a spell. You will be swans for nine hundred years,” she cackled. “You will spend three hundred years in Lough Derravaragh, three hundred years in the Sea of Moyle and three hundred years in the waters of Inish Glora,” Aoife said. She also said, “You will remain swans for nine hundred years until you hear the ring of a Christian bell.”

She went back to the castle and told Lir that his children had drowned. Lir was so sad he started crying. He rushed down to the lake and saw no children. He saw only four beautiful swans.

One of them spoke to him. It was Fionnuala who spoke to him. She told him what Aoife had done to them. Lir got very angry and turned Aoife into an ugly moth. When Lir died the children were very sad. When the time came they moved to the Sea of Moyle.

Soon the time came for their final journey. When they reached Inish Glora they were very tired. Early one morning they heard the sound of a Christian bell. They were so happy that they were human again. The monk (some even say it was St. Patrick himself) sprinkled holy water on them and then Fionnuala put her arms around her brothers and then the four of them fell on the ground. The monk buried them in one grave. That night he dreamed he saw four swans flying up through the clouds. He knew the children of Lir were with their mother and father.


Door to the underworld

Grange Crag Walk 5

Look I found a door to the underworld

    The Pagan Underworld

    “Caves have been regarded as entryways to the Underworld and as linkages to the sacred for thousands of years. It is by no accident that the world’s most beautiful rock art is located in deep caves or that tombs mimic the reality of the cave. Caves are traditionally the homes of the famous Little People—the Menehune of Hawaii, the Faery of Britain and Europe, the Rock Babies of America, all having the same descriptions, characteristics, powers and attitudes. One small cave in Yorkshire, known as the Hob Hole, is said to have been the home of a brownie (i.e. “Hob”) that could cure whooping cough. Local residents used to take their children to the cave seeking the Hob’s help with the following plea: ”

    More…

    I’m not telling anyone, I will need it for myself one day….