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Title: British Goblins - Welsh Folk-lore, Fairy Mythology, Legends and Traditions
Author: Sikes, Wirt
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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Transcriber's Note

Bold text is indicated with equals signs, =like this=.

Individual letters in curly brackets indicate superscripts, e.g. y{e}.

A y with a circumflex above is shown as [^y].

Reverse asterisms are indicated with [*.*].

Illustration captions in {curly brackets} have been added by the
transcriber for the convenience of the reader.

               BRITISH GOBLINS:



                 WIRT SIKES,



    In olde dayes of the Kyng Arthour ...
    Al was this lond fulfilled of fayrie.


           [_All rights reserved._]




             HIS ROYAL HIGHNESS,


               THIS ACCOUNT OF




In the ground it covers, while this volume deals especially with
Wales, and still more especially with South Wales--where there appear
to have been human dwellers long before North Wales was peopled--it
also includes the border counties, notably Monmouthshire, which,
though severed from Wales by Act of Parliament, is really very Welsh
in all that relates to the past. In Monmouthshire is the decayed
cathedral city of Caerleon, where, according to tradition, Arthur was
crowned king in 508, and where he set up his most dazzling court, as
told in the 'Morte d'Arthur.'

In a certain sense Wales may be spoken of as the cradle of fairy
legend. It is not now disputed that from the Welsh were borrowed many
of the first subjects of composition in the literature of all the
cultivated peoples of Europe.

The Arthur of British history and tradition stands to Welshmen in much
the same light that Alfred the Great stands to Englishmen. Around this
historic or semi-historic Arthur have gathered a throng of shining
legends of fabulous sort, with which English readers are more or less
familiar. An even grander figure is the Arthur who existed in Welsh
mythology before the birth of the warrior-king. The mythic Arthur, it
is presumed, began his shadowy life in pre-historic ages, and grew
progressively in mythologic story, absorbing at a certain period the
personality of the real Arthur, and becoming the type of romantic
chivalry. A similar state of things is indicated with regard to the
enchanter Merlin; there was a mythic Merlin before the real Merlin was
born at Carmarthen.

With the rich mass of legendary lore to which these figures belong,
the present volume is not intended to deal; nor do its pages treat,
save in the most casual and passing manner, of the lineage and
original significance of the lowly goblins which are its theme. The
questions here involved, and the task of adequately treating them,
belong to the comparative mythologist and the critical historian,
rather than to the mere literary workman.

            _August, 1879_.


    BOOK I.



    Fairy Tales and the Ancient Mythology--The Compensations
    of Science--Existing Belief in Fairies in Wales--The
    Faith of Culture--The Credulity of Ignorance--The
    Old-Time Welsh Fairyland--The Fairy King--The Legend of
    St. Collen and Gwyn ap Nudd--The Green Meadows of the
    Sea--Fairies at Market--The Land of Mystery                      1


    Classification of Welsh Fairies--General
    Designation--Habits of the Tylwyth Teg--Ellyllon, or
    Elves--Shakspeare's Use of Welsh Folk-Lore--Rowli Pugh
    and the Ellyll--Household Story Roots--The
    Ellylldan--The Pooka--Puck Valley, Breconshire--Where
    Shakspeare got his Puck--Pwca'r Trwyn--Usual Form of the
    Pooka Story--Coblynau, or Mine Fairies--The
    Knockers--Miners' Superstitions--Basilisks and Fire
    Fiends--A Fairy Coal-mine--The Dwarfs of Cae
    Caled--Counterparts of the Coblynau--The Bwbach, or
    Household Fairy--Legend of the Bwbach and the
    Preacher--Bogies and Hobgoblins--Carrying Mortals
    through the Air--Counterparts and Originals                     11


    Lake Fairies--The Gwragedd Annwn, or Dames of
    Elfin-Land--St. Patrick and the Welshmen; a Legend of
    Crumlyn Lake--The Elfin Cow of Llyn Barfog--Y Fuwch
    Laethwen Lefrith--The Legend of the Meddygon
    Myddfai--The Wife of Supernatural Race--The Three Blows;
    a Carmarthenshire Legend--Cheese and the Didactic
    Purpose in Welsh Folk-Lore--The Fairy Maiden's Papa--The
    Enchanted Isle in the Mountain Lake--Legend of the Men
    of Ardudwy--Origin of Water Fairies--Their prevalence in
    many Lands                                                      34


    Mountain Fairies--The Gwyllion--The Old Woman of the
    Mountain--The Black Mountain Gwyll--Exorcism by
    Knife--Occult Intellectual Powers of Welsh Goats--The
    Legend of Cadwaladr's Goat                                      49


    Changelings--The Plentyn-newid--The Cruel Creed of
    Ignorance regarding Changelings--Modes of Ridding the
    House of the Fairy Child--The Legend of the Frugal
    Meal--Legend of the Place of Strife--Dewi Dal and the
    Fairies--Prevention of Fairy Kidnapping--Fairies caught
    in the Act by Mothers--Piety as an Exorcism                     56


    Living with the Tylwyth Teg--The Tale of Elidurus--Shuï
    Rhys and the Fairies--St. Dogmell's Parish,
    Pembrokeshire--Dancing with the Ellyllon--The Legend of
    Rhys and Llewellyn--Death from joining in the Fairy
    Reel--Legend of the Bush of Heaven--The Forest of the
    Magic Yew--The Tale of Twm and Iago--Taffy ap Sion, a
    Legend of Pencader--The Traditions of Pant Shon
    Shenkin--Tudur of Llangollen; the Legend of Nant yr
    Ellyllon--Polly Williams and the Trefethin Elves--The
    Fairies of Frennifawr--Curiosity Tales--The Fiend
    Master--Iago ap Dewi--The Original of Rip Van Winkle            65


    Fairy Music--Birds of Enchantment--The Legend of Shon ap
    Shenkin--Harp-Music in Welsh Fairy Tales--Legend of the
    Magic Harp--Songs and Tunes of the Tylwyth Teg--The
    Legend of Iolo ap Hugh--Mystic Origin of an old Welsh
    Air                                                             91


    Fairy Rings--The Prophet Jones and his Works--The
    Mysterious Language of the Tylwyth Teg--The Horse in
    Welsh Folk-Lore--Equestrian Fairies--Fairy Cattle,
    Sheep, Swine, etc.--The Flying Fairies of Bedwellty--The
    Fairy Sheepfold at Cae'r Cefn                                  103


    Piety as a Protection from the Seductions of the Tylwyth
    Teg--Various Exorcisms--Cock-crowing--The Name of
    God--Fencing off the Fairies--Old Betty Griffith and her
    Eithin Barricade--Means of Getting Rid of the Tylwyth
    Teg--The Bwbach of the Hendrefawr Farm--The Pwca'r
    Trwyn's Flitting in a Jug of Barm                              112


    Fairy Money and Fairy Gifts in General--The Story of
    Gitto Bach, or Little Griffith--The Penalty of
    Blabbing--Legends of the Shepherds of Cwm Llan--The
    Money Value of Kindness--Ianto Llewellyn and the Tylwyth
    Teg--The Legend of Hafod Lwyddog--Lessons inculcated by
    these Superstitions                                            119


    Origins of Welsh Fairies--The Realistic Theory--Legend
    of the Baron's Gate--The Red Fairies--The Trwyn Fairy a
    Proscribed Nobleman--The Theory of hiding Druids--Colour
    in Welsh Fairy Attire--The Green Lady of
    Caerphilly--White the favourite Welsh Hue--Legend of the
    Prolific Woman--The Poetico-Religious Theory--The Creed
    of Science                                                     127

    BOOK II.



    Modern Superstition regarding Ghosts--American
    'Spiritualism'--Welsh Beliefs--Classification of Welsh
    Ghosts--Departed Mortals--Haunted Houses--Lady
    Stradling's Ghost--The Haunted Bridge--The Legend of
    Catrin Gwyn--Didactic Purpose in Cambrian
    Apparitions--An Insulted Corpse--Duty-performing
    Ghosts--Laws of the Spirit-World--Cadogan's Ghost              137


    Household Ghosts and Hidden Treasures--The Miser of St.
    Donat's--Anne Dewy's Ghost--The Ghost on
    Horseback--Hidden Objects of Small Value--Transportation
    through the Air--From Breconshire to Philadelphia, Pa.,
    in Thirty-Six Hours--Sir David Llwyd, the Magician--The
    Levitation of Walter Jones--Superstitions regarding
    Hares--The Legend of Monacella's Lambs--Aerial
    Transportation in Modern Spiritualism--Exorcising
    Household Ghosts--The Story of Haunted Margaret                151


    Spectral Animals--The Chained Spirit--The Gwyllgi, or
    Dog of Darkness--The Legend of Lisworney-Crossways--The
    Gwyllgi of the Devil's Nags--The Dog of Pant y
    Madog--Terrors of the Brute Creation at
    Phantoms--Apparitions of Natural Objects--Phantom Ships
    and Phantom Islands                                            167


    Grotesque Ghosts--The Phantom Horseman--Gigantic
    Spirits--The Black Ghost of Ffynon yr Yspryd--Black Men
    in the Mabinogion--Whirling Ghosts--Antic Spirits--The
    Tridoll Valley Ghost--Resemblance to Modern
    Spiritualistic Performances--Household Fairies                 174


    Familiar Spirits--The Famous Sprite of Trwyn Farm--Was
    it a Fairy?--The Familiar Spirits of Magicians--Sir
    David Llwyd's Demon--Familiar Spirits in Female
    Form--The Legend of the Lady of the Wood--The Devil as a
    Familiar Spirit--His Disguises in this
    Character--Summoning and Exorcising Familiars--Jenkin
    the Pembrokeshire Schoolmaster--The Terrible Tailor of
    Glanbran                                                       187


    The Evil Spirit in his customary Form--The stupid
    Medieval Devil in Wales--Sion Cent--The Devil
    outwitted--Pacts with the Fiend and their
    Avoidance--Sion Dafydd's Foul Pipe--The Devil's Bridge
    and its Legends--Similar Legends in other Lands--The
    Devil's Pulpit near Tintern--Angelic Spirits--Welsh
    Superstitions as to pronouncing the Name of the Evil
    Spirit--The Bardic Tradition of the Creation--The
    Struggle between Light and Darkness and its
    Symbolization                                                  202


    Cambrian Death-Portents--The Corpse-Bird--The
    Tan-Wedd--Listening at the Church-Door--The
    Lledrith--The Gwrach y Rhibyn--The Llandaff
    Gwrach--Ugliness of this Female Apparition--The Black
    Maiden--The Cyhyraeth, or Crying Spirit--Its Moans on
    Land and Sea--The St. Mellons Cyhyraeth--The Groaning
    Spirit of Bedwellty                                            212


    The Tolaeth Death Portent--Its various Forms--The
    Tolaeth before Death--Ewythr Jenkin's Tolaeth--A modern
    Instance--The Railway Victim's Warning--The Goblin
    Voice--The Voice from the Cloud--Legend of the Lord and
    the Beggar--The Goblin Funeral--The Horse's Skull--The
    Goblin Veil--The Wraith of Llanllwch--Dogs of Hell--The
    Tale of Pwyll--Spiritual Hunting Dogs--Origin of the Cwn
    Annwn                                                          225


    The Corpse Candle--Its Peculiarities--The Woman of
    Caerau--Grasping a Corpse Candle--The Crwys
    Candle--Lights issuing from the Mouth--Jesting with the
    Canwyll Corph--The Candle at Pontfaen--The Three Candles
    at Golden Grove--Origin of Death-Portents in
    Wales--Degree of Belief prevalent at the Present
    Day--Origin of Spirits in General--The Supernatural--The
    Question of a Future Life                                      238




    Serious Significance of seemingly Trivial Customs--Their
    Origins--Common Superstitions--The Age we Live in--Days
    and Seasons--New Year's Day--The Apple Gift--Lucky Acts
    on New Year's Morning--The First Foot--Showmen's
    Superstitions--Levy Dew Song--Happy New Year
    Carol--Twelfth Night--The Mari Lwyd--The Penglog--The
    Cutty Wren--Tooling and Sowling--St. Valentine's
    Day--St. Dewi's Day--The Wearing of the Leek--The
    Traditional St. David--St. Patrick's Day--St. Patrick a
    Welshman--Shrove Tuesday                                       250


    Sundry Lenten Customs--Mothering Sunday--Palm
    Sunday--Flowering Sunday--Walking Barefoot to
    Church--Spiritual Potency of Buns--Good Friday
    Superstitions--Making Christ's Bed--Bad Odour of
    Friday--Unlucky Days--Holy Thursday--The Eagle of
    Snowdon--New Clothing at Easter--Lifting--The Crown of
    Porcelain--Stocsio--Ball-Playing in Churchyards--The
    Tump of Lies--Dancing in Churchyards--Seeing the Sun
    Dance--Calan Ebrill, or All Fools' Day--May Day--The
    Welsh Maypole--The Daughter of Lludd Llaw
    Ereint--Carrying the Kings of Summer and Winter                266


    Midsummer Eve--The Druidic Ceremonies at Pontypridd--The
    Snake Stone--Beltane Fires--Fourth of July Fires in
    America--St. Ulric's Day--Carrying Cynog--Marketing on
    Tombstones--The First Night of Winter--The Three Nights
    for Spirits--The Tale of Thomas Williams the
    Preacher--All Hallows Eve Festivities--Running through
    Fire--Quaint Border Rhymes--The Puzzling Jug--Bobbing
    for Apples--The Fiery Features of Guy Fawkes' Day--St.
    Clement's Day--Stripping the Carpenter                         277


    Nadolig, the Welsh
    Christmas--Bell-Ringing--Carols--Dancing to the Music of
    the Waits--An Evening in Carmarthenshire--Shenkin Harry,
    the Preacher, and the Jig Tune--Welsh
    Morality--Eisteddfodau--Decorating Houses and
    Churches--The Christmas Thrift-box--The Colliers'
    Star--The Plygain--Pagan Origin of Christmas Customs           286


    Courtship and Marriage--Planting Weeds and Rue on the
    Graves of Old Bachelors--Special Significance of Flowers
    in connection with Virginity--The Welsh Venus--Bundling,
    or Courting Abed--Kissing Schools--Rhamanta--Lovers'
    Superstitions--The Maid's Trick--Dreaming on a Mutton
    Bone--Wheat and Shovel--Garters in a Lovers'
    Knot--Egg-Shell Cake--Sowing Leeks--Twca and Sheath            298


    Wedding Customs--The Bidding--Forms of Cymmhorth--The
    Gwahoddwr--Horse-Weddings--Stealing a
    Bride--Obstructions to the Bridal Party--The
    Gwyntyn--Chaining--Evergreen Arches--Strewing
    Flowers--Throwing Rice and Shoes--Rosemary in the
    Garden--Names after Marriage--The Coolstrin--The Ceffyl
    Pren                                                           306


    Death and Burial--The Gwylnos--Beer-drinking at Welsh
    Funerals--Food and Drink over the Coffin--Sponge Cakes
    at Modern Funerals--The Sin-eater--Welsh Denial that
    this Custom ever existed--The Testimony concerning
    it--Superstitions regarding Salt--Plate of Salt on
    Corpse's Breast--The Scapegoat--The St. Tegla Cock and
    Hen--Welsh Funeral Processions--Praying at
    Cross-roads--Superstition regarding Criminals'
    Graves--Hanging and Welsh Prejudice--The Grassless
    Grave--Parson's Penny, or Offrwm--Old Shoes to the
    Clerk--Arian y Rhaw, or Spade Money--Burials without
    Coffin--The Sul Coffa--Planting and Strewing Graves with
    Flowers                                                        321

    BOOK IV.



    Base of the Primeval Mythology--Bells and their
    Ghosts--The Bell that committed Murder and was damned
    for it--The Occult Powers of Bells--Their Work as
    Detectives, Doctors, etc.--Legend of the Bell of
    Rhayader--St. Illtyd's Wonderful Bell--The Golden Bell
    of Llandaff                                                    338


    Mystic Wells--Their Good and Bad Dispositions--St.
    Winifred's Well--The Legend of St.
    Winifred--Miracles--St. Tecla's Well--St.
    Dwynwen's--Curing Love-sickness--St. Cynfran's--St.
    Cynhafal's--Throwing Pins in Wells--Warts--Barry Island
    and its Legends--Ffynon Gwynwy--Propitiatory Gifts to
    Wells--The Dreadful Cursing Well of St. Elian's--Wells
    Flowing with Milk--St. Illtyd's--Taff's Well--Sanford's
    Well--Origins of Superstitions of this Class                   345


    Personal Attributes of Legendary Welsh Stones--Stone
    Worship--Canna's Stone Chair--Miraculous Removals of
    Stones--The Walking Stone of Eitheinn--The Thigh
    Stone--The Talking Stone in Pembrokeshire--The Expanding
    Stone--Magic Stones in the 'Mabinogion'--The Stone of
    Invisibility--The Stone of Remembrance--Stone
    Thief-catchers--Stones of Healing--Stones at
    Cross-roads--Memorials of King Arthur--Round Tables,
    Carns, Pots, etc.--Arthur's Quoits--The Gigantic
    Rock-tossers of Old--Mol Walbec and the Pebble in her
    Shoe--The Giant of Trichrug--Giants and the Mythology of
    the Heavens--The Legend of Rhitta Gawr                         361


    Early Inscribed Stones--The Stone Pillar of Banwan
    Bryddin, near Neath--Catastrophe accompanying its
    Removal--The Sagranus Stone and the White Lady--The
    Dancing Stones of Stackpool--Human Beings changed to
    Stones--St. Ceyna and the Serpents--The Devil's Stone at
    Llanarth--Rocking Stones and their accompanying
    Superstitions--The Suspended Altar of
    Loin-Garth--Cromlechs and their Fairy Legends--The
    Fairies' Castle at St. Nicholas, Glamorganshire--The
    Stone of the Wolf Bitch--The Welsh
    Melusina--Parc-y-Bigwrn Cromlech--Connection of these
    Stones with Ancient Druidism                                   373


    Baleful Spirits of Storm--The Shower at the Magic
    Fountain--Obstacles in the way of Treasure-Seekers--The
    Red Lady of Paviland--The Fall of Coychurch
    Tower--Thunder and Lightning evoked by Digging--The
    Treasure-Chest under Moel Arthur in the Vale of
    Clwyd--Modern Credulity--The Cavern of the Ravens--The
    Eagle-guarded Coffer of Castell Coch--Sleeping Warriors
    as Treasure-Guarders--The Dragon which St. Samson drove
    out of Wales--Dragons in the Mabinogion--Whence came the
    Red Dragon of Wales?--The Original Dragon of
    Mythology--Prototypes of the Welsh Caverns and
    Treasure-Hills--The Goblins of Electricity                     385

  [Illustration: {FAIRIES.}]




    At eve, the primrose path along,
    The milkmaid shortens with a song
          Her solitary way;
    She sees the fairies with their queen
    Trip hand-in-hand the circled green,
    And hears them raise, at times unseen,
          The ear-enchanting lay.
                    REV. JOHN LOGAN: _Ode to Spring_, 1780.


    Fairy Tales and the Ancient Mythology--The Compensations of
    Science--Existing Belief in Fairies in Wales--The Faith of
    Culture--The Credulity of Ignorance--The Old-Time Welsh
    Fairyland--The Fairy King--The Legend of St. Collen and Gwyn
    ap Nudd--The Green Meadows of the Sea--Fairies at
    Market--The Land of Mystery.


With regard to other divisions of the field of folk-lore, the views of
scholars differ, but in the realm of faerie these differences are
reconciled; it is agreed that fairy tales are relics of the ancient
mythology; and the philosophers stroll hand in hand harmoniously. This
is as it should be, in a realm about which cluster such delightful
memories of the most poetic period of life--childhood, before
scepticism has crept in as ignorance slinks out. The knowledge which
introduced scepticism is infinitely more valuable than the faith it
displaced; but, in spite of that, there be few among us who have not
felt evanescent regrets for the displacement by the _foi scientifique_
of the old faith in fairies. There was something so peculiarly
fascinating in that old belief, that 'once upon a time' the world was
less practical in its facts than now, less commonplace and humdrum,
less subject to the inexorable laws of gravitation, optics, and the
like. What dramas it has yielded! What poems, what dreams, what

But since the knowledge of our maturer years destroys all that, it is
with a degree of satisfaction we can turn to the consolations of the
fairy mythology. The beloved tales of old are 'not true'--but at least
they are not mere idle nonsense, and they have a good and sufficient
reason for being in the world; we may continue to respect them. The
wit who observed that the final cause of fairy legends is 'to afford
sport for people who ruthlessly track them to their origin,'[1]
expressed a grave truth in jocular form. Since one can no longer rest
in peace with one's ignorance, it is a comfort to the lover of fairy
legends to find that he need not sweep them into the grate as so much
rubbish; on the contrary they become even more enchanting in the
crucible of science than they were in their old character.


[1] 'Saturday Review,' October 20, 1877.


Among the vulgar in Wales, the belief in fairies is less nearly
extinct than casual observers would be likely to suppose. Even
educated people who dwell in Wales, and have dwelt there all their
lives, cannot always be classed as other than casual observers in this
field. There are some such residents who have paid special attention
to the subject, and have formed an opinion as to the extent of
prevalence of popular credulity herein; but most Welsh people of the
educated class, I find, have no opinion, beyond a vague surprise that
the question should be raised at all. So lately as the year 1858, a
learned writer in the 'Archæologia Cambrensis' declared that 'the
traveller may now pass from one end of the Principality to the other,
without his being shocked or amused, as the case may be, by any of the
fairy legends or popular tales which used to pass current from father
to son.' But in the same periodical, eighteen years later, I find Mr.
John Walter Lukis (President of the Cardiff Naturalists' Society),
asserting with regard to the cromlechs, tumuli, and ancient camps in
Glamorganshire: 'There are always fairy tales and ghost stories
connected with them; some, though _fully believed in_ by the
inhabitants of those localities, are often of the most absurd
character; in fact, the more ridiculous they are, the more they are
believed in.'[2] My own observation leads me to support the testimony
of the last-named witness. Educated Europeans generally conceive that
this sort of belief is extinct in their own land, or, at least their
own immediate section of that land. They accredit such degree of
belief as may remain, in this enlightened age, to some remote part--to
the south, if they dwell in the north; to the north, if they dwell in
the south. But especially they accredit it to a previous age: in
Wales, to last century, or the middle ages, or the days of King
Arthur. The rector of Merthyr, being an elderly man, accredits it to
his youth. 'I am old enough to remember,' he wrote me under date of
January 30th, 1877, 'that these tales were thoroughly believed in
among country folk forty or fifty years ago.' People of superior
culture have held this kind of faith concerning fairy-lore, it seems
to me, in every age, except the more remote. Chaucer held it, almost
five centuries ago, and wrote:[3]

    In olde dayes of the Kyng Arthour, ...
    Al was this lond fulfilled of fayrie; ...
    I speke of many hundrid yer ago;
    But now can no man see non elves mo.

Dryden held it, two hundred years later, and said of the fairies:

    I speak of ancient times, for now the swain
    Returning late may pass the woods in vain,
    And never hope to see the nightly train.

In all later days, other authors have written the same sort of thing;
it is not thus now, say they, but it was recently thus. The truth,
probably, is that if you will but sink down to the level of common
life, of ignorant life, especially in rural neighbourhoods, there you
will find the same old beliefs prevailing, in about the same degree to
which they have ever prevailed, within the past five hundred years. To
sink to this level successfully, one must become a living unit in that
life, as I have done in Wales and elsewhere, from time to time. Then
one will hear the truth from, or at least the true sentiments of, the
class he seeks to know. The practice of every generation in thus
relegating fairy belief to a date just previous to its own does not
apply, however, to superstitious beliefs in general; for, concerning
many such beliefs, their greater or less prevalence at certain dates
(as in the history of witchcraft) is matter of well-ascertained fact.
I confine the argument, for the present, strictly to the domain of
faerie. In this domain, the prevalent belief in Wales may be said to
rest with the ignorant, to be strongest in rural and mining
districts, to be childlike and poetic, and to relate to anywhere
except the spot where the speaker dwells--as to the next parish, to
the next county, to the distant mountains, or to the shadow-land of
Gwerddonau Llion, the green meadows of the sea.


[2] 'Archæologia Cambrensis,' 4th Se., vi., 174.

[3] 'Wyf of Bathes Tale,' 'Canterbury Tales.'


In Arthur's day and before that, the people of South Wales regarded
North Wales as pre-eminently the land of faerie. In the popular
imagination, that distant country was the chosen abode of giants,
monsters, magicians, and all the creatures of enchantment. Out of it
came the fairies, on their visits to the sunny land of the south. The
chief philosopher of that enchanted region was a giant who sat on a
mountain peak and watched the stars. It had a wizard monarch called
Gwydion, who possessed the power of changing himself into the
strangest possible forms. The peasant who dwelt on the shores of Dyfed
(Demetia) saw in the distance, beyond the blue waves of the ocean,
shadowy mountain summits piercing the clouds, and guarding this mystic
region in solemn majesty. Thence rolled down upon him the storm-clouds
from the home of the tempest; thence streamed up the winter sky the
flaming banners of the Northern lights; thence rose through the
illimitable darkness on high, the star-strewn pathway of the fairy
king. These details are current in the Mabinogion, those brilliant
stories of Welsh enchantment, so gracefully done into English by Lady
Charlotte Guest,[4] and it is believed that all the Mabinogion in
which these details were found were written in Dyfed. This was the
region on the west, now covered by Pembroke, Carmarthen, and Cardigan

More recently than the time above indicated, special traditions have
located fairyland in the Vale of Neath, in Glamorganshire. Especially
does a certain steep and rugged crag there, called Craig y Ddinas,
bear a distinctly awful reputation as a stronghold of the fairy
tribe.[5] Its caves and crevices have been their favourite haunt for
many centuries, and upon this rock was held the court of the last
fairies who have ever appeared in Wales. Needless to say there are men
still living who remember the visits of the fairies to Craig y Ddinas,
although they aver the little folk are no longer seen there. It is a
common remark that the Methodists drove them away; indeed, there are
numberless stories which show the fairies to have been animated, when
they were still numerous in Wales, by a cordial antipathy for all
dissenting preachers. In this antipathy, it may be here observed,
teetotallers were included.


[4] 'The Mabinogion, from the Welsh of the Llyfr Coch o Hergest.'
Translated, with notes, by Lady Charlotte Guest. (New Edition, London,

[5] There are two hills in Glamorganshire called by this name, and
others elsewhere in Wales.


The sovereign of the fairies, and their especial guardian and
protector, was one Gwyn ap Nudd. He was also ruler over the goblin
tribe in general. His name often occurs in ancient Welsh poetry. An
old bard of the fourteenth century, who, led away by the fairies, rode
into a turf bog on a mountain one dark night, called it the 'fish-pond
of Gwyn ap Nudd, a palace for goblins and their tribe.' The
association of this legendary character with the goblin fame of the
Vale of Neath will appear, when it is mentioned that Nudd in Welsh is
pronounced simply Neath, and not otherwise. As for the fairy queen,
she does not seem to have any existence among Cambrian goblins. It is
nevertheless thought by Cambrian etymologists, that Morgana is derived
from Mor Gwyn, the white maid; and the Welsh proper name Morgan can
hardly fail to be mentioned in this connection, though it is not
necessarily significant.

The legend of St. Collen, in which Gwyn ap Nudd figures, represents
him as king of Annwn (hell, or the shadow land) as well as of the
fairies.[6] Collen was passing a period of mortification as a hermit,
in a cell under a rock on a mountain. There he one day overheard two
men talking about Gwyn ap Nudd, and giving him this twofold kingly
character. Collen cried out to the men to go away and hold their
tongues, instead of talking about devils. For this Collen was rebuked,
as the king of fairyland had an objection to such language. The saint
was summoned to meet the king on the hill-top at noon, and after
repeated refusals, he finally went there; but he carried a flask of
holy water with him. 'And when he came there he saw the fairest castle
he had ever beheld, and around it the best appointed troops, and
numbers of minstrels and every kind of music of voice and string, and
steeds with youths upon them, the comeliest in the world, and maidens
of elegant aspect, sprightly, light of foot, of graceful apparel, and
in the bloom of youth; and every magnificence becoming the court of a
puissant sovereign. And he beheld a courteous man on the top of the
castle who bade him enter, saying that the king was waiting for him to
come to meat. And Collen went into the castle, and when he came there
the king was sitting in a golden chair. And he welcomed Collen
honourably, and desired him to eat, assuring him that besides what he
saw, he should have the most luxurious of every dainty and delicacy
that the mind could desire, and should be supplied with every drink
and liquor that the heart could wish; and that there should be in
readiness for him every luxury of courtesy and service, of banquet and
of honourable entertainment, of rank and of presents, and every
respect and welcome due to a man of his wisdom. "I will not eat the
leaves of the trees," said Collen. "Didst thou ever see men of better
equipment than these of red and blue?" asked the king. "Their
equipment is good enough," said Collen, "for such equipment as it is."
"What kind of equipment is that?" said the king. Then said Collen,
"The red on the one part signifies burning, and the blue on the other
signifies coldness." And with that Collen drew out his flask and threw
the holy water on their heads, whereupon they vanished from his sight,
so that there was neither castle nor troops, nor men, nor maidens, nor
music, nor song, nor steeds, nor youths, nor banquet, nor the
appearance of anything whatever but the green hillocks.'


[6] 'Greal' (8vo. London, 1805), p. 337.


A third form of Welsh popular belief as to the whereabouts of
fairyland corresponds with the Avalon of the Arthurian legends. The
green meadows of the sea, called in the triads Gwerddonau Llion, are

                    Green fairy islands, reposing,
    In sunlight and beauty on ocean's calm breast.[7]

Many extraordinary superstitions survive with regard to these islands.
They were supposed to be the abode of the souls of certain Druids,
who, not holy enough to enter the heaven of the Christians, were still
not wicked enough to be condemned to the tortures of annwn, and so
were accorded a place in this romantic sort of purgatorial paradise.
In the fifth century a voyage was made, by the British king Gavran, in
search of these enchanted islands; with his family he sailed away into
the unknown waters, and was never heard of more. This voyage is
commemorated in the triads as one of the Three Losses by
Disappearance, the two others being Merlin's and Madog's. Merlin
sailed away in a ship of glass; Madog sailed in search of America; and
neither returned, but both disappeared for ever. In Pembrokeshire and
southern Carmarthenshire are to be found traces of this belief. There
are sailors on that romantic coast who still talk of the green meadows
of enchantment lying in the Irish channel to the west of
Pembrokeshire. Sometimes they are visible to the eyes of mortals for a
brief space, when suddenly they vanish. There are traditions of
sailors who, in the early part of the present century, actually went
ashore on the fairy islands--not knowing that they were such, until
they returned to their boats, when they were filled with awe at seeing
the islands disappear from their sight, neither sinking in the sea,
nor floating away upon the waters, but simply vanishing suddenly. The
fairies inhabiting these islands are said to have regularly attended
the markets at Milford Haven and Laugharne. They made their purchases
without speaking, laid down their money and departed, always leaving
the exact sum required, which they seemed to know, without asking the
price of anything. Sometimes they were invisible, but they were often
seen, by sharp-eyed persons. There was always one special butcher at
Milford Haven upon whom the fairies bestowed their patronage, instead
of distributing their favours indiscriminately. The Milford Haven
folk could see the green fairy islands distinctly, lying out a short
distance from land; and the general belief was that they were densely
peopled with fairies. It was also said that the latter went to and fro
between the islands and the shore through a subterranean gallery under
the bottom of the sea.


That isolated cape which forms the county of Pembroke was looked upon
as a land of mystery by the rest of Wales long after it had been
settled by the Flemings in 1113. A secret veil was supposed to cover
this sea-girt promontory; the inhabitants talked in an unintelligible
jargon that was neither English, nor French, nor Welsh; and out of its
misty darkness came fables of wondrous sort, and accounts of miracles
marvellous beyond belief. Mythology and Christianity spoke together
from this strange country, and one could not tell at which to be most
amazed, the pagan or the priest.


[7] Parry's 'Welsh Melodies.'


    Classification of Welsh Fairies--General Designation--Habits
    of the Tylwyth Teg--Ellyllon, or Elves--Shakspeare's Use of
    Welsh Folk-Lore--Rowli Pugh and the Ellyll--Household Story
    Roots--The Ellylldan--The Pooka--Puck Valley,
    Breconshire--Where Shakspeare got his Puck--Pwca'r
    Trwyn--Usual Form of the Pooka Story--Coblynau, or Mine
    Fairies--The Knockers--Miners' Superstitions--Basilisks and
    Fire Fiends--A Fairy Coal-mine--The Dwarfs of Cae
    Caled--Counterparts of the Coblynau--The Bwbach, or
    Household Fairy--Legend of the Bwbach and the
    Preacher--Bogies and Hobgoblins--Carrying Mortals through
    the Air--Counterparts and Originals.


Fairies being creatures of the imagination, it is not possible to
classify them by fixed and immutable rules. In the exact sciences,
there are laws which never vary, or if they vary, their very
eccentricity is governed by precise rules. Even in the largest sense,
comparative mythology must demean itself modestly in order to be
tolerated in the severe company of the sciences. In presenting his
subjects, therefore, the writer in this field can only govern himself
by the purpose of orderly arrangement. To secure the maximum of
system, for the sake of the student who employs the work for reference
and comparison, with the minimum of dullness, for the sake of the
general reader, is perhaps the limit of a reasonable ambition.
Keightley[8] divides into four classes the Scandinavian elements of
popular belief as to fairies, viz.: 1. The Elves; 2. The Dwarfs, or
Trolls; 3. The Nisses; and 4. The Necks, Mermen, and Mermaids. How
entirely arbitrary this division is, the student of Scandinavian
folk-lore at once perceives. Yet it is perhaps as satisfactory as
another. The fairies of Wales may be divided into five classes, if
analogy be not too sharply insisted on. Thus we have, 1. The Ellyllon,
or elves; 2. The Coblynau, or mine fairies; 3. The Bwbachod, or
household fairies; 4. The Gwragedd Annwn, or fairies of the lakes and
streams; and 5. The Gwyllion, or mountain fairies.

The modern Welsh name for fairies is y Tylwyth Teg, the fair folk or
family. This is sometimes lengthened into y Tylwyth Teg yn y Coed, the
fair family in the wood, or Tylwyth Teg y Mwn, the fair folk of the
mine. They are seen dancing in moonlight nights on the velvety grass,
clad in airy and flowing robes of blue, green, white, or
scarlet--details as to colour not usually met, I think, in accounts of
fairies. They are spoken of as bestowing blessings on those mortals
whom they select to be thus favoured; and again are called Bendith y
Mamau, or their mother's blessing, that is to say, good little
children whom it is a pleasure to know. To name the fairies by a harsh
epithet is to invoke their anger; to speak of them in flattering
phrase is to propitiate their good offices. The student of fairy
mythology perceives in this propitiatory mode of speech a fact of wide
significance. It can be traced in numberless lands, and back to the
beginning of human history, among the cloud-hung peaks of Central
Asia. The Greeks spoke of the furies as the Eumenides, or gracious
ones; Highlanders mentioned by Sir Walter Scott uncover to the gibbet
and call it 'the kind gallows;' the Dayak will not name the small-pox,
but calls it 'the chief;' the Laplander calls the bear 'the old man
with the fur coat;' in Ammam the tiger is called 'grandfather;' and it
is thought that the maxim, 'Speak only good of the dead,' came
originally from the notion of propitiating the ghost of the
departed,[9] who, in laying off this mortal garb, had become endowed
with new powers of harming his late acquaintance.


[8] 'Fairy Mythology' (Bohn's Ed.), 78.

[9] John Fiske, 'Myths and Myth-makers,' 223.


The Ellyllon are the pigmy elves who haunt the groves and valleys, and
correspond pretty closely with the English elves. The English name was
probably derived from the Welsh _el_, a spirit, _elf_, an element;
there is a whole brood of words of this class in the Welsh language,
expressing every variety of flowing, gliding, spirituality, devilry,
angelhood, and goblinism. Ellyllon (the plural of ellyll), is also
doubtless allied with the Hebrew Elilim, having with it an identity
both of origin and meaning.[10] The poet Davydd ab Gwilym, in a
humorous account of his troubles in a mist, in the year 1340, says:

    Yr ydoedd ym mhob gobant
    Ellyllon mingeimion gant.

    There was in every hollow
    A hundred wrymouthed elves.

The hollows, or little dingles, are still the places where the
peasant, belated on his homeward way from fair or market, looks for
the ellyllon, but fails to find them. Their food is specified in Welsh
folk-lore as fairy butter and fairy victuals, ymenyn tylwyth teg and
bwyd ellyllon; the latter the toadstool, or poisonous mushroom, and
the former a butter-resembling substance found at great depths in the
crevices of limestone rocks, in sinking for lead ore. Their gloves,
menyg ellyllon, are the bells of the digitalis, or fox-glove, the
leaves of which are well known to be a strong sedative. Their
queen--for though there is no fairy-queen in the large sense that Gwyn
ap Nudd is the fairy-king, there is a queen of the elves--is none
other than the Shakspearean fairy spoken of by Mercutio, who comes

    In shape no bigger than an agate-stone
    On the forefinger of an alderman.[11]

Shakspeare's use of Welsh folk-lore, it should be noted, was extensive
and peculiarly faithful. Keightley in his 'Fairy Mythology' rates the
bard soundly for his inaccurate use of English fairy superstitions;
but the reproach will not apply as regards Wales. From his Welsh
informant Shakspeare got Mab, which is simply the Cymric for a little
child, and the root of numberless words signifying babyish, childish,
love for children (mabgar), kitten (mabgath), prattling (mabiaith),
and the like, most notable of all which in this connection is
mabinogi, the singular of Mabinogion, the romantic tales of
enchantment told to the young in by-gone ages.


[10] Pughe's 'Welsh Dictionary.' (Denbigh, 1866.)

[11] 'Romeo and Juliet,' Act II., Sc. 4.


In the Huntsman's Rest Inn at Peterstone-super-Ely, near Cardiff, sat
a group of humble folk one afternoon, when I chanced to stop there to
rest myself by the chimney-side, after a long walk through green
lanes. The men were drinking their tankards of ale and smoking their
long clay pipes; and they were talking about their dogs and horses,
the crops, the hard times, and the prospect of bettering themselves by
emigration to America. On this latter theme I was able to make myself
interesting, and acquaintance was thereupon easily established on a
friendly footing. I led the conversation into the domain of folk-lore;
and this book is richer in illustration on many a page, in
consequence. Among others, this tale was told:

On a certain farm in Glamorganshire lived Rowli Pugh, who was known
far and wide for his evil luck. Nothing prospered that he turned his
hand to; his crops proved poor, though his neighbours' might be good;
his roof leaked in spite of all his mending; his walls remained damp
when every one else's walls were dry; and above all, his wife was so
feeble she could do no work. His fortunes at last seemed so hard that
he resolved to sell out and clear out, no matter at what loss, and try
to better himself in another country--not by going to America, for
there was no America in those days. Well, and if there was, the poor
Welshman didn't know it. So as Rowli was sitting on his wall one day,
hard by his cottage, musing over his sad lot, he was accosted by a
little man who asked him what was the matter. Rowli looked around in
surprise, but before he could answer the ellyll said to him with a
grin, 'There, there, hold your tongue, I know more about you than you
ever dreamed of knowing. You're in trouble, and you're going away. But
you may stay, now I've spoken to you. Only bid your good wife leave
the candle burning when she goes to bed, and say no more about it.'
With this the ellyll kicked up his heels and disappeared. Of course
the farmer did as he was bid, and from that day he prospered. Every
night Catti Jones, his wife,[12] set the candle out, swept the hearth,
and went to bed; and every night the fairies would come and do her
baking and brewing, her washing and mending, sometimes even furnishing
their own tools and materials. The farmer was now always clean of
linen and whole of garb; he had good bread and good beer; he felt like
a new man, and worked like one. Everything prospered with him now as
nothing had before. His crops were good, his barns were tidy, his
cattle were sleek, his pigs the fattest in the parish. So things went
on for three years. One night Catti Jones took it into her head that
she must have a peep at the fair family who did her work for her; and
curiosity conquering prudence, she arose while Rowli Pugh lay snoring,
and peeped through a crack in the door. There they were, a jolly
company of ellyllon, working away like mad, and laughing and dancing
as madly as they worked. Catti was so amused that in spite of herself
she fell to laughing too; and at sound of her voice the ellyllon
scattered like mist before the wind, leaving the room empty. They
never came back any more; but the farmer was now prosperous, and his
bad luck never returned to plague him.

  [Illustration: ROWLI AND THE ELLYLL.]

The resemblance of this tale to many he has encountered will at once
be noted by the student of comparative folk-lore. He will also observe
that it trenches on the domain of another class in my own enumeration,
viz., that of the Bwbach, or household fairy. This is the stone over
which one is constantly stumbling in this field of scientific
research. Mr. Baring-Gould's idea that all household tales are
reducible to a primeval root (in the same or a similar manner that we
trace words to their roots), though most ingeniously illustrated by
him, is constantly involved in trouble of the sort mentioned. He
encounters the obstacle which lies in the path of all who walk this
way. His roots sometimes get inextricably gnarled and intertwisted
with each other. But some effort of this sort is imperative, and we
must do the best we can with our materials. Stories of the class of
Grimm's Witchelmänner (Kinder und Hausmärchen) will be recalled by the
legend of Rowli Pugh as here told. The German Hausmänner are elves of
a domestic turn, sometimes mischievous and sometimes useful, but
usually looking for some material reward for their labours. So with
the English goblin named by Milton in 'L'Allegro,' which drudges,

    To earn his cream-bowl duly set.


[12] Until recently, Welsh women retained their maiden names even
after marriage.


The Ellylldan is a species of elf exactly corresponding to the English
Will-o'-wisp, the Scandinavian Lyktgubhe, and the Breton Sand Yan y
Tad. The Welsh word dan means fire; dan also means a lure; the
compound word suggests a luring elf-fire. The Breton Sand Yan y Tad
(St. John and Father)[13] is a double ignis fatuus fairy, carrying at
its finger-ends five lights, which spin round like a wheel. The
negroes of the southern seaboard states of America invest this goblin
with an exaggeration of the horrible peculiarly their own. They call
it Jack-muh-lantern, and describe it as a hideous creature five feet
in height, with goggle-eyes and huge mouth, its body covered with long
hair, and which goes leaping and bounding through the air like a
gigantic grasshopper. This frightful apparition is stronger than any
man, and swifter than any horse, and compels its victims to follow it
into the swamp, where it leaves them to die.

Like all goblins of this class, the Ellylldan was, of course, seen
dancing about in marshy grounds, into which it led the belated
wanderer; but, as a distinguished resident in Wales has wittily said,
the poor elf 'is now starved to death, and his breath is taken from
him; his light is quenched for ever by the improving farmer, who has
drained the bog; and, instead of the rank decaying vegetation of the
autumn, where bitterns and snipes delighted to secrete themselves,
crops of corn and potatoes are grown.'[14]

A poetic account by a modern character, called Iolo the Bard, is thus
condensed: 'One night, when the moon had gone down, as I was sitting
on a hill-top, the Ellylldan passed by. I followed it into the valley.
We crossed plashes of water where the tops of bulrushes peeped above,
and where the lizards lay silently on the surface, looking at us with
an unmoved stare. The frogs sat croaking and swelling their sides, but
ceased as they raised a melancholy eye at the Ellylldan. The wild
fowl, sleeping with their heads under their wings, made a low cackle
as we went by. A bittern awoke and rose with a scream into the air. I
felt the trail of the eels and leeches peering about, as I waded
through the pools. On a slimy stone a toad sat sucking poison from the
night air. The Ellylldan glowed bravely in the slumbering vapours. It
rose airily over the bushes that drooped in the ooze. When I lingered
or stopped, it waited for me, but dwindled gradually away to a speck
barely perceptible. But as soon as I moved on again, it would shoot up
suddenly and glide before. A bat came flying round and round us,
flapping its wings heavily. Screech-owls stared silently at us with
their broad eyes. Snails and worms crawled about. The fine threads of
a spider's web gleamed in the light of the Ellylldan. Suddenly it shot
away from me, and in the distance joined a ring of its fellows, who
went dancing slowly round and round in a goblin dance, which sent me
off to sleep.'[15]


[13] Keightley, 'Fairy Mythology,' 441.

[14] Hon. W. O. Stanley, M.P., in 'Notes and Queries.'

[15] 'The Vale of Glamorgan.' (London, 1839.)


Pwca, or Pooka, is but another name for the Ellylldan, as our Puck is
another name for the Will-o'-wisp; but in both cases the shorter term
has a more poetic flavour and a wider latitude. The name Puck was
originally applied to the whole race of English fairies, and there
still be few of the realm who enjoy a wider popularity than Puck, in
spite of his mischievous attributes. Part of this popularity is due to
the poets, especially to Shakspeare. I have alluded to the bard's
accurate knowledge of Welsh folk-lore; the subject is really one of
unique interest, in view of the inaccuracy charged upon him as to the
English fairyland. There is a Welsh tradition to the effect that
Shakspeare received his knowledge of the Cambrian fairies from his
friend Richard Price, son of Sir John Price, of the priory of Brecon.
It is even claimed that Cwm Pwca, or Puck Valley, a part of the
romantic glen of the Clydach, in Breconshire, is the original scene of
the 'Midsummer Night's Dream'--a fancy as light and airy as Puck
himself.[16] Anyhow, there Cwm Pwca is, and in the sylvan days, before
Frere and Powell's ironworks were set up there, it is said to have
been as full of goblins as a Methodist's head is of piety. And there
are in Wales other places bearing like names, where Pwca's pranks are
well remembered by old inhabitants. The range given to the popular
fancy in Wales is expressed with fidelity by Shakspeare's words in the
mouth of Puck:

    I'll follow you, I'll lead you about a round,
    Through bog, through bush, through brake, through brier,
    Sometime a horse I'll be, sometime a hound,
    A hog, a headless bear, sometime a fire;
    And neigh, and bark, and grunt, and roar, and burn,
    Like horse, hound, hog, bear, fire, at every turn.[17]

The various stories I have encountered bear out these details almost
without an omission.

  [Illustration: {SKETCH OF PWCA.}]

In his own proper character, however, Pwca has a sufficiently
grotesque elfish aspect. It is stated that a Welsh peasant who was
asked to give an idea of the appearance of Pwca, drew the above figure
with a bit of coal.

A servant girl who attended to the cattle on the Trwyn farm, near
Abergwyddon, used to take food to 'Master Pwca,' as she called the
elf. A bowl of fresh milk and a slice of white bread were the
component parts of the goblin's repast, and were placed on a certain
spot where he got them. One night the girl, moved by the spirit of
mischief, drank the milk and ate most of the bread, leaving for Master
Pwca only water and crusts. Next morning she found that the fastidious
fairy had left the food untouched. Not long after, as the girl was
passing the lonely spot, where she had hitherto left Pwca his food,
she was seized under the arm pits by fleshly hands (which, however,
she could not see), and subjected to a castigation of a most
mortifying character. Simultaneously there fell upon her ear in good
set Welsh a warning not to repeat her offence on peril of still worse
treatment. This story 'is thoroughly believed in there to this

I visited the scene of the story, a farm near Abergwyddon (now called
Abercarne), and heard a great deal more of the exploits of that
particular Pwca, to which I will refer again. The most singular fact
of the matter is that although at least a century has elapsed, and
some say several centuries, since the exploits in question, you cannot
find a Welsh peasant in the parish but knows all about Pwca'r Trwyn.


[16] According to a letter written by the poet Campbell to Mrs.
Fletcher, in 1833, and published in her Autobiography, it was thought
Shakspeare went in person to see this magic valley. 'It is no later than
yesterday,' wrote Campbell, 'that I discovered a probability--almost
near a certainty--that Shakspeare visited friends in the very town
(Brecon in Wales) where Mrs. Siddons was born, and that he there found
in a neighbouring glen, called "The Valley of Fairy Puck," the principal
machinery of his "Midsummer Night's Dream."'

[17] 'Midsummer Night's Dream,' Act III., Sc. 3.

[18] 'Archæologia Cambrensis,' 4th Se., vi., 175. (1875.)


The most familiar form of the Pwca story is one which I have
encountered in several localities, varying so little in its details
that each account would be interchangeable with another by the
alteration of local names. This form presents a peasant who is
returning home from his work, or from a fair, when he sees a light
travelling before him. Looking closer he perceives that it is carried
by a dusky little figure, holding a lantern or candle at arm's length
over its head. He follows it for several miles, and suddenly finds
himself on the brink of a frightful precipice. From far down below
there rises to his ears the sound of a foaming torrent. At the same
moment the little goblin with the lantern springs across the chasm,
alighting on the opposite side; raises the light again high over its
head, utters a loud and malicious laugh, blows out its candle and
disappears up the opposite hill, leaving the awestruck peasant to get
home as best he can.

  [Illustration: PWCA.


Under the general title of Coblynau I class the fairies which haunt
the mines, quarries and underground regions of Wales, corresponding to
the cabalistic Gnomes. The word coblyn has the double meaning of
knocker or thumper and sprite or fiend; and may it not be the original
of goblin? It is applied by Welsh miners to pigmy fairies which dwell
in the mines, and point out, by a peculiar knocking or rapping, rich
veins of ore. The faith is extended, in some parts, so as to cover the
indication of subterranean treasures generally, in caves and secret
places of the mountains. The coblynau are described as being about
half a yard in height and very ugly to look upon, but extremely
good-natured, and warm friends of the miner. Their dress is a
grotesque imitation of the miner's garb, and they carry tiny hammers,
picks and lamps. They work busily, loading ore in buckets, flitting
about the shafts, turning tiny windlasses, and pounding away like
madmen, but really accomplishing nothing whatever. They have been
known to throw stones at the miners, when enraged at being lightly
spoken of; but the stones are harmless. Nevertheless, all miners of a
proper spirit refrain from provoking them, because their presence
brings good luck.


Miners are possibly no more superstitious than other men of equal
intelligence; I have heard some of their number repel indignantly the
idea that they are superstitious at all; but this would simply be to
raise them above the level of our common humanity. There is testimony
enough, besides, to support my own conclusions, which accredit a
liberal share of credulity to the mining class. The _Oswestry
Advertiser_, a short time ago, recorded the fact that, at Cefn, 'a
woman is employed as messenger at one of the collieries, and as she
commences her duty early each morning she meets great numbers of
colliers going to their work. Some of them, we are gravely assured,
consider it a bad omen to meet a woman first thing in the morning; and
not having succeeded in deterring her from her work by other means,
they waited upon the manager and declared that they should remain at
home unless the woman was dismissed.' This was in 1874. In June, 1878,
the _South Wales Daily News_ recorded a superstition of the quarrymen
at Penrhyn, where some thousands of men refused to work on Ascension
Day. 'This refusal did not arise out of any reverential feeling, but
from an old and widespread superstition, which has lingered in that
district for years, that if work is continued on Ascension Day an
accident will certainly follow. A few years ago the agents persuaded
the men to break through the superstition, and there were accidents
each year--a not unlikely occurrence, seeing the extent of works
carried on, and the dangerous nature of the occupation of the men. This
year, however, the men, one and all, refused to work.' These are
examples dealing with considerable numbers of the mining class, and are
quoted in this instance as being more significant than individual cases
would be. Of these last I have encountered many. Yet I should be sorry
if any reader were to conclude from all this that Welsh miners are not
in the main intelligent, church-going, newspaper-reading men. They are
so, I think, even beyond the common. Their superstitions, therefore,
like those of the rest of us, must be judged as 'a thing apart,' not to
be reconciled with intelligence and education, but co-existing with
them. Absolute freedom from superstition can come only with a degree of
scientific culture not yet reached by mortal man.

It can hardly be cause for wonder that the miner should be
superstitious. His life is passed in a dark and gloomy region, fathoms
below the earth's green surface, surrounded by walls on which dim
lamps shed a fitful light. It is not surprising that imagination (and
the Welsh imagination is peculiarly vivid) should conjure up the faces
and forms of gnomes and coblynau, of phantoms and fairy men. When they
hear the mysterious thumping which they know is not produced by any
human being, and when in examining the place where the noise was heard
they find there are really valuable indications of ore, the sturdiest
incredulity must sometimes be shaken. Science points out that the
noise may be produced by the action of water upon the loose stones in
fissures and pot-holes of the mountain limestone, and does actually
suggest the presence of metals.

In the days before a Priestley had caught and bottled that demon which
exists in the shape of carbonic acid gas, when the miner was smitten
dead by an invisible foe in the deep bowels of the earth it was
natural his awestruck companions should ascribe the mysterious blow to
a supernatural enemy. When the workman was assailed suddenly by what
we now call fire-damp, which hurled him and his companions right and
left upon the dark rocks, scorching, burning, and killing, those who
survived were not likely to question the existence of the mine fiend.
Hence arose the superstition--now probably quite extinct--of basilisks
in the mines, which destroyed with their terrible gaze. When the
explanation came, that the thing which killed the miner was what he
breathed, not what he saw; and when chemistry took the fire-damp from
the domain of faerie, the basilisk and the fire fiend had not a leg to
stand on. The explanation of the Knockers is more recent, and less
palpable and convincing.


The Coblynau are always given the form of dwarfs, in the popular
fancy; wherever seen or heard, they are believed to have escaped from
the mines or the secret regions of the mountains. Their homes are
hidden from mortal vision. When encountered, either in the mines or on
the mountains, they have strayed from their special abodes, which are
as spectral as themselves. There is at least one account extant of
their secret territory having been revealed to mortal eyes. I find it
in a quaint volume (of which I shall have more to say), printed at
Newport, Monmouthshire, in 1813.[19] It relates that one William
Evans, of Hafodafel, while crossing the Beacon Mountain very early in
the morning, passed a fairy coal mine, where fairies were busily at
work. Some were cutting the coal, some carrying it to fill the sacks,
some raising the loads upon the horses' backs, and so on; but all in
the completest silence. He thought this 'a wonderful extra natural
thing,' and was considerably impressed by it, for well he knew that
there really was no coal mine at that place. He was a person of
'undoubted veracity,' and what is more, 'a great man in the
world--above telling an untruth.'

That the Coblynau sometimes wandered far from home, the same
chronicler testifies; but on these occasions they were taking a
holiday. Egbert Williams, 'a pious young gentleman of Denbighshire,
then at school,' was one day playing in a field called Cae Caled, in
the parish of Bodfari, with three girls, one of whom was his sister.
Near the stile beyond Lanelwyd House they saw a company of fifteen or
sixteen coblynau engaged in dancing madly. They were in the middle of
the field, about seventy yards from the spectators, and they danced
something after the manner of Morris-dancers, but with a wildness and
swiftness in their motions. They were clothed in red like British
soldiers, and wore red handkerchiefs spotted with yellow wound round
their heads. And a strange circumstance about them was that although
they were almost as big as ordinary men, yet they had unmistakably the
appearance of dwarfs, and one could call them nothing but dwarfs.
Presently one of them left the company and ran towards the group near
the stile, who were direfully scared thereby, and scrambled in great
fright to go over the stile. Barbara Jones got over first, then her
sister, and as Egbert Williams was helping his sister over they saw
the coblyn close upon them, and barely got over when his hairy hand
was laid on the stile. He stood leaning on it, gazing after them as
they ran, with a grim copper-coloured countenance and a fierce look.
The young people ran to Lanelwyd House and called the elders out, but
though they hurried quickly to the field the dwarfs had already


[19] 'A Relation of Apparitions of Spirits in the County of Monmouth
and the Principality of Wales.' By Rev. Edmund Jones of the Tranch.
(Newport, 1813.)


The counterparts of the Coblynau are found in most mining countries.
In Germany, the Wichtlein (little Wights) are little old long-bearded
men, about three-quarters of an ell high, which haunt the mines of the
southern land. The Bohemians call the Wichtlein by the name of
Haus-schmiedlein, little House-smiths, from their sometimes making a
noise as if labouring hard at the anvil. They are not so popular as in
Wales, however, as they predict misfortune or death. They announce the
doom of a miner by knocking three times distinctly, and when any
lesser evil is about to befall him they are heard digging, pounding,
and imitating other kinds of work. In Germany also the kobolds are
rather troublesome than otherwise, to the miners, taking pleasure in
frustrating their objects, and rendering their toil unfruitful.
Sometimes they are downright malignant, especially if neglected or
insulted, but sometimes also they are indulgent to individuals whom
they take under their protection. 'When a miner therefore hit upon a
rich vein of ore, the inference commonly was not that he possessed
more skill, industry, or even luck than his fellow-workmen, but that
the spirits of the mine had directed him to the treasure.'[20]

The intimate connection between mine fairies and the whole race of
dwarfs is constantly met throughout the fairy mythology; and the
connection of the dwarfs with the mountains is equally universal.
'God,' says the preface to the Heldenbuch, 'gave the dwarfs being,
because the land and the mountains were altogether waste and
uncultivated, and there was much store of silver and gold and precious
stones and pearls still in the mountains.' From the most ancient
times, and in the oldest countries, down to our own time and the new
world of America, the traditions are the same. The old Norse belief
which made the dwarfs the current machinery of the northern Sagas is
echoed in the Catskill Mountains with the rolling of the thunder among
the crags where Hendrik Hudson's dwarfs are playing ninepins.


[20] Scott, 'Demonology and Witchcraft,' 121.


The Bwbach, or Boobach, is the good-natured goblin which does good
turns for the tidy Welsh maid who wins its favour by a certain course
of behaviour recommended by long tradition. The maid having swept the
kitchen, makes a good fire the last thing at night, and having put the
churn, filled with cream, on the whitened hearth, with a basin of
fresh cream for the Bwbach on the hob, goes to bed to await the event.
In the morning she finds (if she is in luck) that the Bwbach has
emptied the basin of cream, and plied the churn-dasher so well that
the maid has but to give a thump or two to bring the butter in a great
lump. Like the Ellyll which it so much resembles, the Bwbach does not
approve of dissenters and their ways, and especially strong is its
aversion to total abstainers.

There was a Bwbach belonging to a certain estate in Cardiganshire,
which took great umbrage at a Baptist preacher who was a guest in the
house, and who was much fonder of prayers than of good ale. Now the
Bwbach had a weakness in favour of people who sat around the hearth
with their mugs of cwrw da and their pipes, and it took to pestering
the preacher. One night it jerked the stool from under the good man's
elbows, as he knelt pouring forth prayer, so that he fell down flat on
his face. Another time it interrupted the devotions by jangling the
fire-irons on the hearth; and it was continually making the dogs fall
a-howling during prayers, or frightening the farm-boy by grinning at
him through the window, or throwing the maid into fits. At last it had
the audacity to attack the preacher as he was crossing a field. The
minister told the story in this wise: 'I was reading busily in my
hymn-book as I walked on, when a sudden fear came over me and my legs
began to tremble. A shadow crept upon me from behind, and when I
turned round--it was myself!--my person, my dress, and even my
hymn-book. I looked in its face a moment, and then fell insensible to
the ground.' And there, insensible still, they found him. This
encounter proved too much for the good man, who considered it a
warning to him to leave those parts. He accordingly mounted his horse
next day and rode away. A boy of the neighbourhood, whose veracity
was, like that of all boys, unimpeachable, afterwards said that he saw
the Bwbach jump up behind the preacher, on the horse's back. And the
horse went like lightning, with eyes like balls of fire, and the
preacher looking back over his shoulder at the Bwbach, that grinned
from ear to ear.


The same confusion in outlines which exists regarding our own Bogie
and Hobgoblin gives the Bwbach a double character, as a household
fairy and as a terrifying phantom. In both aspects it is ludicrous,
but in the latter it has dangerous practices. To get into its clutches
under certain circumstances is no trifling matter, for it has the
power of whisking people off through the air. Its services are brought
into requisition for this purpose by troubled ghosts who cannot sleep
on account of hidden treasure they want removed; and if they can
succeed in getting a mortal to help them in removing the treasure,
they employ the Bwbach to transport the mortal through the air.

This ludicrous fairy is in France represented by the gobelin. Mothers
threaten children with him. 'Le gobelin vous mangera, le gobelin vous
emportera.'[21] In the English 'hobgoblin' we have a word apparently
derived from the Welsh hob, to hop, and coblyn, a goblin, which
presents a hopping goblin to the mind, and suggests the Pwca (with
which the Bwbach is also confused in the popular fancy at times), but
should mean in English simply the goblin of the hob, or household
fairy. In its bugbear aspect, the Bwbach, like the English bogie, is
believed to be identical with the Slavonic 'bog,' and the 'baga' of
the Cuneiform Inscriptions, both of which are names for the Supreme
Being, according to Professor Fiske. 'The ancestral form of these
epithets' is found in 'the old Aryan "Bhaga," which reappears
unchanged in the Sanskrit of the Vedas, and has left a memento of
itself in the surname of the Phrygian Zeus "Bagaios." It seems
originally to have denoted either the unclouded sun, or the sky of
noonday illuminated by the solar rays.... Thus the same name which to
the Vedic poet, to the Persian of the time of Xerxes, and to the
modern Russian, suggests the supreme majesty of deity, is in English
associated with an ugly and ludicrous fiend, closely akin to that
grotesque Northern Devil of whom Southey was unable to think without


[21] Père l'Abbé, 'Etymologie,' i., 262.

[22] Fiske, 'Myths and Myth-makers,' 105.


    Lake Fairies--The Gwragedd Annwn, or Dames of
    Elfin-Land--St. Patrick and the Welshmen; a Legend of
    Crumlyn Lake--The Elfin Cow of Llyn Barfog--Y Fuwch Laethwen
    Lefrith--The Legend of the Meddygon Myddfai--The Wife of
    Supernatural Race--The Three Blows; a Carmarthenshire
    Legend--Cheese and the Didactic Purpose in Welsh
    Folk-Lore--The Fairy Maiden's Papa--The Enchanted Isle in
    the Mountain Lake--Legend of the Men of Ardudwy--Origin of
    Water Fairies--Their prevalence in many Lands.


The Gwragedd Annwn (literally, wives of the lower world, or hell) are
the elfin dames who dwell under the water. I find no resemblance in
the Welsh fairy to our familiar mermaid, beyond the watery abode, and
the sometimes winning ways. The Gwragedd Annwn are not fishy of
aspect, nor do they dwell in the sea. Their haunt is the lakes and
rivers, but especially the wild and lonely lakes upon the mountain
heights. These romantic sheets are surrounded with numberless
superstitions, which will be further treated of. In the realm of
faerie they serve as avenues of communication between this world and
the lower one of annwn, the shadowy domain presided over by Gwyn ap
Nudd, king of the fairies. This sub-aqueous realm is peopled by those
children of mystery termed Plant Annwn, and the belief is current
among the inhabitants of the Welsh mountains that the Gwragedd Annwn
still occasionally visit this upper world of ours.[23] The only
reference to Welsh mermaids I have either read or heard is contained
in Drayton's account of the Battle of Agincourt. There it is
mentioned, among the armorial ensigns of the counties of Wales:

    As Cardigan, the next to them that went,
    Came with a mermaid sitting on a rock.[24]


[23] 'Archæologia Cambrensis,' 2nd Se., iv., 253.

[24] There is in 'Cymru Fu' a mermaid story, but its mermaid feature
is apparently a modern embellishment of a real incident, and without
value here.


Crumlyn Lake, near the quaint village of Briton Ferry, is one of the
many in Wales which are a resort of the elfin dames. It is also
believed that a large town lies swallowed up there, and that the
Gwragedd Annwn have turned the submerged walls to use as the
superstructure of their fairy palaces. Some claim to have seen the
towers of beautiful castles lifting their battlements beneath the
surface of the dark waters, and fairy bells are at times heard ringing
from these towers. The way the elfin dames first came to dwell there
was this: A long, ay, a very long time ago, St. Patrick came over from
Ireland on a visit to St. David of Wales, just to say 'Sut yr y'ch
chwi?' (How d'ye do?); and as they were strolling by this lake
conversing on religious topics in a friendly manner, some Welsh people
who had ascertained that it was St. Patrick, and being angry at him
for leaving Cambria for Erin, began to abuse him in the Welsh
language, his native tongue. Of course such an insult could not go
unpunished, and St. Patrick caused his villifiers to be transformed
into fishes; but some of them being females, were converted into
fairies instead. It is also related that the sun, on account of this
insolence to so holy a man, never shed its life-giving rays upon the
dark waters of this picturesque lake, except during one week of the
year. This legend and these magical details are equally well
accredited to various other lakes, among them Llyn Barfog, near
Aberdovey, the town whose 'bells' are celebrated in immortal song.


Llyn Barfog is the scene of the famous elfin cow's descent upon earth,
from among the droves of the Gwragedd Annwn. This is the legend of the
origin of the Welsh black cattle, as related to me in Carmarthenshire:
In times of old there was a band of elfin ladies who used to haunt the
neighbourhood of Llyn Barfog, a lake among the hills just back of
Aberdovey. It was their habit to make their appearance at dusk clad
all in green, accompanied by their milk-white hounds. Besides their
hounds, the green ladies of Llyn Barfog were peculiar in the
possession of droves of beautiful milk-white kine, called Gwartheg y
Llyn, or kine of the lake. One day an old farmer, who lived near
Dyssyrnant, had the good luck to catch one of these mystic cows, which
had fallen in love with the cattle of his herd. From that day the
farmer's fortune was made. Such calves, such milk, such butter and
cheese, as came from the milk-white cow never had been seen in Wales
before, nor ever will be seen again. The fame of the Fuwch Gyfeiliorn
(which was what they called the cow) spread through the country round.
The farmer, who had been poor, became rich; the owner of vast herds,
like the patriarchs of old. But one day he took it into his silly
noddle that the elfin cow was getting old, and that he had better
fatten her for the market. His nefarious purpose thrived amazingly.
Never, since beef steaks were invented, was seen such a fat cow as
this cow grew to be. Killing day came, and the neighbours arrived from
all about to witness the taking-off of this monstrously fat beast. The
farmer had already counted up the gains from the sale of her, and the
butcher had bared his red right arm. The cow was tethered, regardless
of her mournful lowing and her pleading eyes; the butcher raised his
bludgeon and struck fair and hard between the eyes--when lo! a shriek
resounded through the air, awakening the echoes of the hills, as the
butcher's bludgeon went through the goblin head of the elfin cow, and
knocked over nine adjoining men, while the butcher himself went
frantically whirling around trying to catch hold of something
permanent. Then the astonished assemblage beheld a green lady standing
on a crag high up over the lake, and crying with a loud voice:

    Dere di felen Einion,
    Cyrn Cyfeiliorn--braith y Llyn,
    A'r foel Dodin,
    Codwch, dewch adre.

    Come yellow Anvil, stray horns,
    Speckled one of the lake,
    And of the hornless Dodin,
    Arise, come home.

Whereupon not only did the elfin cow arise and go home, but all her
progeny to the third and fourth generations went home with her,
disappearing in the air over the hill tops and returning nevermore.
Only one cow remained of all the farmer's herds, and she had turned
from milky white to raven black. Whereupon the farmer in despair
drowned himself in the lake of the green ladies, and the black cow
became the progenitor of the existing race of Welsh black cattle.

This legend appears, in a slightly different form, in the 'Iolo MSS.,'
as translated by Taliesin Williams, of Merthyr:[25] 'The milk-white
milch cow gave enough of milk to every one who desired it; and however
frequently milked, or by whatever number of persons, she was never
found deficient. All persons who drank of her milk were healed of
every illness; from fools they became wise; and from being wicked,
became happy. This cow went round the world; and wherever she
appeared, she filled with milk all the vessels that could be found,
leaving calves behind her for all the wise and happy. It was from her
that all the milch cows in the world were obtained. After traversing
through the island of Britain, for the benefit and blessing of country
and kindred, she reached the Vale of Towy; where, tempted by her fine
appearance and superior condition, the natives sought to kill and eat
her; but just as they were proceeding to effect their purpose, she
vanished from between their hands, and was never seen again. A house
still remains in the locality, called Y Fuwch Laethwen Lefrith (The
Milk-white Milch Cow.)'


[25] Llandovery, published for the Welsh MSS. Society, 1848.


The legend of the Meddygon Myddfai again introduces the elfin cattle
to our notice, but combines with them another and a very interesting
form of this superstition, namely, that of the wife of supernatural
race. A further feature gives it its name, Meddygon meaning
physicians, and the legend professing to give the origin of certain
doctors who were renowned in the thirteenth century. The legend
relates that a farmer in the parish of Myddfai, Carmarthenshire,
having bought some lambs in a neighbouring fair, led them to graze
near Llyn y Fan Fach, on the Black Mountains. Whenever he visited
these lambs three beautiful damsels appeared to him from the lake, on
whose shores they often made excursions. Sometimes he pursued and
tried to catch them, but always failed; the enchanting nymphs ran
before him and on reaching the lake taunted him in these words:

    Cras dy fara,
    Anhawdd ein dala;

which, if one must render it literally, means:

    Bake your bread,
    'Twill be hard to catch us;

but which, more poetically treated, might signify:

    Mortal, who eatest baken bread,
    Not for thee is the fairy's bed!

One day some moist bread from the lake came floating ashore. The
farmer seized it, and devoured it with avidity. The following day, to
his great delight, he was successful in his chase, and caught the
nymphs on the shore. After talking a long time with them, he mustered
up the courage to propose marriage to one of them. She consented to
accept him on condition that he would distinguish her from her sisters
the next day. This was a new and great difficulty to the young farmer,
for the damsels were so similar in form and features, that he could
scarcely see any difference between them. He noted, however, a
trifling singularity in the strapping of the chosen one's sandal, by
which he recognized her on the following day. As good as her word, the
gwraig immediately left the lake and went with him to his farm. Before
she quitted the lake she summoned therefrom to attend her, seven cows,
two oxen, and one bull. She stipulated that she should remain with the
farmer only until such time as he should strike her thrice without
cause. For some years they dwelt peaceably together, and she bore him
three sons, who were the celebrated Meddygon Myddfai. One day, when
preparing for a fair in the neighbourhood, the farmer desired her to
go to the field for his horse. She said she would, but being rather
dilatory, he said to her humorously 'Dôs, dôs, dôs,' i.e., 'Go, go,
go,' and at the same time slightly tapped her arm three times with his
glove.... The blows were slight--but they were blows. The terms of the
marriage contract were broken, and the dame departed, summoning with
her her seven cows, her two oxen, and the bull. The oxen were at that
moment ploughing in the field, but they immediately obeyed her call
and dragged the plough after them to the lake. The furrow, from the
field in which they were ploughing to the margin of the lake, is still
to be seen--in several parts of that country--at the present day.
After her departure, the gwraig annwn once met her three sons in the
valley now called Cwm Meddygon, and gave them a magic box containing
remedies of wonderful power, through whose use they became celebrated.
Their names were Cadogan, Gruffydd and Einion, and the farmer's name
was Rhiwallon. Rhiwallon and his sons, named as above, were physicians
to Rhys Gryg, Lord of Dynevor, and son of the last native prince of
Wales. They lived about 1230, and dying, left behind them a compendium
of their medical practice. 'A copy of their works is in the Welsh
School Library in Gray's Inn Lane.'[26]


[26] 'Cambro-Briton,' ii., 315.


In a more polished and elaborate form this legend omits the medical
features altogether, but substitutes a number of details so peculiarly
Welsh that I cannot refrain from presenting them. This version
relates that the enamoured farmer had heard of the lake maiden, who
rowed up and down the lake in a golden boat, with a golden oar. Her
hair was long and yellow, and her face was pale and melancholy. In his
desire to see this wondrous beauty, the farmer went on New Year's Eve
to the edge of the lake, and in silence awaited the coming of the
first hour of the new year. It came, and there in truth was the maiden
in her golden boat, rowing softly to and fro. Fascinated, he stood for
hours beholding her, until the stars faded out of the sky, the moon
sank behind the rocks, and the cold gray dawn drew nigh; and then the
lovely gwraig began to vanish from his sight. Wild with passion, and
with the thought of losing her for ever, he cried aloud to the
retreating vision, 'Stay! stay! Be my wife.' But the gwraig only
uttered a faint cry, and was gone. Night after night the young farmer
haunted the shores of the lake, but the gwraig returned no more. He
became negligent of his person; his once robust form grew thin and
wan; his face was a map of melancholy and despair. He went one day to
consult a soothsayer who dwelt on the mountain, and this grave
personage advised him to besiege the damsel's heart with gifts of
bread and cheese. This counsel commending itself strongly to his Welsh
way of thinking, the farmer set out upon an assiduous course of
casting his bread upon the waters--accompanied by cheese. He began on
Midsummer eve by going to the lake and dropping therein a large cheese
and a loaf of bread. Night after night he continued to throw in loaves
and cheeses, but nothing appeared in answer to his sacrifices. His
hopes were set, however, on the approaching New Year's eve. The
momentous night arrived at last. Clad in his best array, and armed
with seven white loaves and his biggest and handsomest cheese, he set
out once more for the lake. There he waited till midnight, and then
slowly and solemnly dropped the seven loaves into the water, and with
a sigh sent the cheese to keep them company. His persistence was at
length rewarded. The magic skiff appeared; the fair gwraig guided it
to where he stood; stepped ashore, and accepted him as her husband.
The before-mentioned stipulation was made as to the blows; and she
brought her dower of cattle. One day, after they had been four years
married, they were invited to a christening. In the midst of the
ceremony the gwraig burst into tears. Her husband gave her an angry
look, and asked her why she thus made a fool of herself. She replied,
'The poor babe is entering a world of sin and sorrow; misery lies
before it. Why should I rejoice?' He pushed her pettishly away. 'I
warn you, husband,' said the gwraig; 'you have struck me once.' After
a time they were bidden to the funeral of the child they had seen
christened. Now the gwraig laughed, sang, and danced about. The
husband's wrath again arose, and again he asked her why she thus made
a fool of herself. She answered, 'The dear babe has escaped the misery
that was before it, and gone to be good and happy for ever. Why should
I grieve?' Again he pushed her from him, and again she warned him; he
had struck her twice. Soon they were invited to a wedding; the bride
was young and fair, the groom a tottering, toothless, decrepit old
miser. In the midst of the wedding feast the gwraig annwn burst into
tears, and to her husband's question why she thus made a fool of
herself she replied, 'Truth is wedded to age for greed, and not for
love--summer and winter cannot agree--it is the diawl's compact.' The
angry husband thrust her from him for the third and last time. She
looked at him with tender love and reproach, and said, 'The three
blows are struck--husband, farewell!' He never saw her more, nor any
of the flocks and herds she had brought him for her dowry.


In its employment of the myth to preach a sermon, and in its
introduction of cheese, this version of the legend is very Welsh
indeed. The extent to which cheese figures in Cambrian folk-lore is
surprising; cheese is encountered in every sort of fairy company; you
actually meet cheese in the Mabinogion, along with the most romantic
forms of beauty known in story. And herein again is illustrated
Shakspeare's accurate knowledge of the Cambrian goblins. 'Heaven
defend me from that Welsh fairy!' says Falstaff, 'lest he transform me
to a piece of cheese!'[27] Bread is found figuring actively in the
folk-lore of every country, especially as a sacrifice to water-gods;
but cheese is, so far as I know, thus honoured only in Cambria.


[27] 'Merry Wives of Windsor,' Act V., Sc. 5.


Once more this legend appears, this time with a feature I have nowhere
else encountered in fairy land, to wit, the father of a fairy damsel.
The son of a farmer on Drws Coed farm was one foggy day looking after
his father's sheep, when crossing a marshy meadow he beheld a little
lady behind some rising ground. She had yellow hair, blue eyes and
rosy cheeks. He approached her, and asked permission to converse;
whereupon she smiled sweetly and said to him, 'Idol of my hopes, you
have come at last!' They there and then began to 'keep company,' and
met each other daily here and there along the farm meadows. His
intentions were honourable; he desired her to marry him. He was
sometimes absent for days together, no one knew where, and his friends
whispered about that he had been witched. Around the Turf Lake (Llyn
y Dywarchen) was a grove of trees, and under one of these one day the
fairy promised to be his. The consent of her father was now necessary.
One moonlight night an appointment was made to meet in this wood. The
father and daughter did not appear till the moon had disappeared
behind the hill. Then they both came. The fairy father immediately
gave his consent to the marriage, on one condition, namely, that her
future husband should never hit her with iron. 'If ever thou dost
touch her flesh with iron she shall be no more thine, but she shall
return to her own.' They were married--a good-looking pair. Large sums
of money were brought by her, the night before the wedding, to Drws
Coed. The shepherd lad became wealthy, had several handsome children,
and they were very happy. After some years, they were one day out
riding, when her horse sank in a deep mire, and by the assistance of
her husband, in her hurry to remount, she was struck on her knee by
the stirrup of the saddle. Immediately voices were heard singing on
the brow of the hill, and she disappeared, leaving all her children
behind. She and her mother devised a plan by which she could see her
beloved, but as she was not allowed to walk the earth with man, they
floated a large turf on the lake, and on this turf she stood for hours
at a time holding converse with her husband. This continued until his


[28] 'Cymru Fu,' 476.


The didactic purpose again appears in the following legend, which,
varying but little in phraseology, is current in the neighbourhood of
a dozen different mountain lakes: In other days, before the Cymry had
become reconciled to their Saxon foe, on every New Year's morning a
door was found open in a rock hard by the lake. Those mortals who had
the curiosity and the resolution to enter this door were conducted by
a secret passage to a small island in the middle of the lake. Here
they found a most enchanting garden, stored with the choicest fruits
and flowers, and inhabited by the Gwragedd Annwn, whose beauty could
be equalled only by the courtesy and affability which they exhibited
to those who pleased them. They gathered fruit and flowers for each of
their guests, entertained them with the most exquisite music,
disclosed to them many secrets of futurity, and invited them to stay
as long as they liked. 'But,' said they, 'the island is secret, and
nothing of its produce must be carried away.' The warning being
heeded, all went well. But one day there appeared among the visitors a
wicked Welshman, who, thinking to derive some magical aid therefrom,
pocketed a flower with which he had been presented, and was about to
leave the garden with his prize. But the theft boded him no good. As
soon as he had touched unhallowed ground the flower vanished, and he
lost his senses. However, of this abuse of their hospitality the
Gwragedd Annwn took no notice at the time. They dismissed their guests
with their accustomed courtesy, and the door was closed as usual. But
their resentment was bitter; for though the fairies of the lake and
their enchanted garden undoubtedly occupy the spot to this day, the
door which led to the island has never been reopened.


In all these legends the student of comparative folk-lore traces the
ancient mythology, however overlain with later details. The
water-maidens of every land doubtless originally were the floating
clouds of the sky, or the mists of the mountain. From this have come
certain fair and fanciful creations with which Indo-European folk-lore
teems, the most familiar of which are Undine, Melusina, Nausicaa, and
the classic Muse. In Wales, as in other lands, the myth has many
forms. The dispersion of dark clouds from the mountains, by the beams
of the rising sun, or the morning breezes, is localized in the legend
of the Men of Ardudwy. These men make a raid on the maidens of the
Vale of Clwyd, and are pursued and slaughtered by the latter's fathers
and brothers. The maidens thereupon cast themselves headlong into the
lake, which is thenceforth called the Maidens' Lake, or Llyn y
Morwynion. In another legend, the river mist over the Cynwal is the
spirit of a traitress who perished long ago in the lake. She had
conspired with the sea-born pirates of the North (the ocean storms) to
rob her Cambrian lord of his domains. She was defeated by the aid of a
powerful enchanter (the sun), and fled up the river to the lake,
accompanied by her maidens, who were drowned with her there.[29]


[29] 'Arch. Camb.,' 4th Se., vii., 251.


As the mermaid superstition is seemingly absent in Wales, so there are
no fairy tales of maidens who lure mortals to their doom beneath the
water, as the Dracæ did women and children, and as the Nymph of the
Lurley did marriageable young men. But it is believed that there are
several old Welsh families who are the descendants of the Gwragedd
Annwn, as in the case of the Meddygon Myddfai. The familiar Welsh name
of Morgan is sometimes thought to signify, 'Born of the Sea.'
Certainly môr in Welsh means sea, and gân a birth. It is curious,
too, that a mermaid is called in Basse Bretagne 'Mary Morgan.' But the
class of stories in which a mortal marries a water-maiden is large,
and while the local details smack of the soil, the general idea is so
like in lands far remote from each other as to indicate a common
origin in pre-historic times. In Wales, where the mountain lakes are
numerous, gloomy, lonely, and yet lovely; where many of them, too,
show traces of having been inhabited in ancient times by a race of
lake-dwellers, whose pile-supported villages vanished ages ago; and
where bread and cheese are as classic as beer and candles, these
particulars are localized in the legend. In the Faro Islands, where
the seal is a familiar yet ever-mysterious object, with its human-like
eyes, and glossy skin, the wife of supernatural race is a transformed
seal. She comes ashore every ninth night, sheds her skin, leaves it on
the shore, and dances with her fairy companions. A mortal steals her
sealskin dress, and when day breaks, and her companions return to
their abode in the sea, compels her to remain and be his wife. Some
day he offends her; she recovers her skin and plunges into the sea. In
China, the superstition appears in a Lew-chewan legend mentioned by
Dr. Dennys,[30] which relates how a fairy in the guise of a beautiful
woman is found bathing in a man's well. He persuades her to marry him,
and she remains with him for nine years, at the end of which time,
despite the affection she has for their two children, she 'glides
upwards into a cloud' and disappears.


[30] 'Folk-Lore of China,' 99.


    Mountain Fairies--The Gwyllion--The Old Woman of the
    Mountain--The Black Mountain Gwyll--Exorcism by
    Knife--Occult Intellectual Powers of Welsh Goats--The Legend
    of Cadwaladr's Goat.


The Gwyllion are female fairies of frightful characteristics, who
haunt lonely roads in the Welsh mountains, and lead night-wanderers
astray. They partake somewhat of the aspect of the Hecate of Greek
mythology, who rode on the storm, and was a hag of horrid guise. The
Welsh word gwyll is variously used to signify gloom, shade, duskiness,
a hag, a witch, a fairy, and a goblin; but its special application is
to these mountain fairies of gloomy and harmful habits, as distinct
from the Ellyllon of the forest glades and dingles, which are more
often beneficent. The Gwyllion take on a more distinct individuality
under another name--as the Ellyllon do in mischievous Puck--and the
Old Woman of the Mountain typifies all her kind. She is very carefully
described by the Prophet Jones,[31] in the guise in which she haunted
Llanhiddel Mountain in Monmouthshire. This was the semblance of a poor
old woman, with an oblong four-cornered hat, ash-coloured clothes, her
apron thrown across her shoulder, with a pot or wooden can in her
hand, such as poor people carry to fetch milk with, always going
before the spectator, and sometimes crying 'Wow up!' This is an
English form of a Welsh cry of distress, 'Wwb!' or 'Ww-bwb!'[32]
Those who saw this apparition, whether by night or on a misty day,
would be sure to lose their way, though they might be perfectly
familiar with the road. Sometimes they heard her cry, 'Wow up!' when
they did not see her. Sometimes when they went out by night, to fetch
coal, water, etc., the dwellers near that mountain would hear the cry
very close to them, and immediately after they would hear it afar off,
as if it were on the opposite mountain, in the parish of Aberystruth.
The popular tradition in that district was that the Old Woman of the
Mountain was the spirit of one Juan White, who lived time out of mind
in those parts, and was thought to be a witch; because the mountains
were not haunted in this manner until after Juan White's death.[33]
When people first lost their way, and saw her before them, they used
to hurry forward and try to catch her, supposing her to be a
flesh-and-blood woman, who could set them right; but they never could
overtake her, and she on her part never looked back; so that no man
ever saw her face. She has also been seen in the Black Mountain in
Breconshire. Robert Williams, of Langattock, Crickhowel, 'a
substantial man and of undoubted veracity,' tells this tale: As he was
travelling one night over part of the Black Mountain, he saw the Old
Woman, and at the same time found he had lost his way. Not knowing her
to be a spectre he hallooed to her to stay for him, but receiving no
answer thought she was deaf. He then hastened his steps, thinking to
overtake her, but the faster he ran the further he found himself
behind her, at which he wondered very much, not knowing the reason of
it. He presently found himself stumbling in a marsh, at which
discovery his vexation increased; and then he heard the Old Woman
laughing at him with a weird, uncanny, crackling old laugh. This set
him to thinking she might be a gwyll; and when he happened to draw out
his knife for some purpose, and the Old Woman vanished, then he was
sure of it; for Welsh ghosts and fairies are afraid of a knife.


[31] See p. 104.

[32] Pronounced Wooboob.

[33] 'Juan (Shuï) White is an old acquaintance of my boyhood,' writes
to me a friend who was born some thirty years ago in Monmouthshire. 'A
ruined cottage on the Lasgarn hill near Pontypool was understood by us
boys to have been her house, and there she appeared at 12 p.m.,
carrying her head under her arm.'


Another account relates that John ap John, of Cwm Celyn, set out one
morning before daybreak to walk to Caerleon Fair. As he ascended
Milfre Mountain he heard a shouting behind him as if it were on Bryn
Mawr, which is a part of the Black Mountain in Breconshire. Soon after
he heard the shouting on his left hand, at Bwlch y Llwyn, nearer to
him, whereupon he was seized with a great fright, and began to suspect
it was no human voice. He had already been wondering, indeed, what any
one could be doing at that hour in the morning, shouting on the
mountain side. Still going on, he came up higher on the mountain, when
he heard the shouting just before him, at Gilfach fields, to the
right--and now he was sure it was the Old Woman of the Mountain, who
purposed leading him astray. Presently he heard behind him the noise
of a coach, and with it the special cry of the Old Woman of the
Mountain, viz., 'Wow up!' Knowing very well that no coach could go
that way, and still hearing its noise approaching nearer and nearer,
he became thoroughly terrified, and running out of the road threw
himself down upon the ground and buried his face in the heath,
waiting for the phantom to pass. When it was gone out of hearing, he
arose; and hearing the birds singing as the day began to break, also
seeing some sheep before him, his fear went quite off. And this, says
the Prophet Jones, was 'no profane, immoral man,' but 'an honest,
peaceable, knowing man, and a very comely person' moreover.


The exorcism by knife appears to be a Welsh notion; though there is an
old superstition of wide prevalence in Europe that to give to or
receive from a friend a knife or a pair of scissors cuts friendship. I
have even encountered this superstition in America; once an editorial
friend at Indianapolis gave me a very handsome pocket-knife, which he
refused to part with except at the price of one cent, lawful coin of
the realm, asserting that we should become enemies without this
precaution. In China, too, special charms are associated with knives,
and a knife which has slain a fellow-being is an invaluable
possession. In Wales, according to Jones, the Gwyllion often came into
the houses of the people at Aberystruth, especially in stormy weather,
and the inmates made them welcome--not through any love they bore
them, but through fear of the hurts the Gwyllion might inflict if
offended--by providing clean water for them, and taking especial care
that no knife, or other cutting tool, should be in the corner near the
fire, where the fairies would go to sit. 'For want of which care many
were hurt by them.' While it was desirable to exorcise them when in
the open air, it was not deemed prudent to display an inhospitable
spirit towards any member of the fairy world. The cases of successful
exorcism by knife are many, and nothing in the realm of faerie is
better authenticated. There was Evan Thomas, who, travelling by night
over Bedwellty Mountain, towards the valley of Ebwy Fawr, where his
house and estate were, saw the Gwyllion on each side of him, some of
them dancing around him in fantastic fashion. He also heard the sound
of a bugle-horn winding in the air, and there seemed to be invisible
hunters riding by. He then began to be afraid, but recollected his
having heard that any person seeing Gwyllion may drive them away by
drawing out a knife. So he drew out his knife, and the fairies
vanished directly. Now Evan Thomas was 'an old gentleman of such
strict veracity that he' on one occasion 'did confess a truth against
himself,' when he was 'like to suffer loss' thereby, and
notwithstanding he 'was persuaded by some not to do it, yet he would
persist in telling the truth, to his own hurt.'

Should we find, in tracing these notions back to their source, that
they are connected with Arthur's sword Excalibur? If so, there again
we touch the primeval world.

Jones says that the Old Woman of the Mountain has, since about 1800,
(at least in South Wales,) been driven into close quarters by the
light of the Gospel--in fact, that she now haunts mines--or in the
preacher's formal words, 'the coal-pits and holes of the earth.'


Among the traditions of the origin of the Gwyllion is one which
associates them with goats. Goats are in Wales held in peculiar esteem
for their supposed occult intellectual powers. They are believed to be
on very good terms with the Tylwyth Teg, and possessed of more
knowledge than their appearance indicates. It is one of the
peculiarities of the Tylwyth Teg that every Friday night they comb
the goats' beards to make them decent for Sunday. Their association
with the Gwyllion is related in the legend of Cadwaladr's goat:
Cadwaladr owned a very handsome goat, named Jenny, of which he was
extremely fond; and which seemed equally fond of him; but one day, as
if the very diawl possessed her, she ran away into the hills, with
Cadwaladr tearing after her, half mad with anger and affright. At last
his Welsh blood got so hot, as the goat eluded him again and again,
that he flung a stone at her, which knocked her over a precipice, and
she fell bleating to her doom. Cadwaladr made his way to the foot of
the crag; the goat was dying, but not dead, and licked his hand--which
so affected the poor man that he burst into tears, and sitting on the
ground took the goat's head on his arm. The moon rose, and still he
sat there. Presently he found that the goat had become transformed to
a beautiful young woman, whose brown eyes, as her head lay on his arm,
looked into his in a very disturbing way. 'Ah, Cadwaladr,' said she,
'have I at last found you?' Now Cadwaladr had a wife at home, and was
much discomfited by this singular circumstance; but when the goat--yn
awr maiden--arose, and putting her black slipper on the end of a
moonbeam, held out her hand to him, he put his hand in hers and went
with her. As for the hand, though it looked so fair, it felt just like
a hoof. They were soon on the top of the highest mountain in Wales,
and surrounded by a vapoury company of goats with shadowy horns. These
raised a most unearthly bleating about his ears. One, which seemed to
be the king, had a voice that sounded above the din as the castle
bells of Carmarthen used to do long ago above all the other bells in
the town. This one rushed at Cadwaladr and butting him in the stomach
sent him toppling over a crag as he had sent his poor nannygoat. When
he came to himself, after his fall, the morning sun was shining on him
and the birds were singing over his head. But he saw no more of either
his goat or the fairy she had turned into, from that time to his


    Changelings--The Plentyn-newid--The Cruel Creed of Ignorance
    regarding Changelings--Modes of Ridding the House of the
    Fairy Child--The Legend of the Frugal Meal--Legend of the
    Place of Strife--Dewi Dal and the Fairies--Prevention of
    Fairy Kidnapping--Fairies caught in the Act by
    Mothers--Piety as an Exorcism.


The Tylwyth Teg have a fatal admiration for lovely children. Hence the
abundant folk-lore concerning infants who have been stolen from their
cradles, and a plentyn-newid (change-child--the equivalent of our
changeling) left in its place by the Tylwyth Teg. The plentyn-newid
has the exact appearance of the stolen infant, at first; but its
aspect speedily alters. It grows ugly of face, shrivelled of form,
ill-tempered, wailing, and generally frightful. It bites and strikes,
and becomes a terror to the poor mother. Sometimes it is idiotic; but
again it has a supernatural cunning, not only impossible in a mortal
babe, but not even appertaining to the oldest heads, on other than
fairy shoulders. The veracious Prophet Jones testifies to a case where
he himself saw the plentyn-newid--an idiot left in the stead of a son
of Edmund John William, of the Church Valley, Monmouthshire. Says
Jones: 'I saw him myself. There was something diabolical in his
aspect,' but especially in his motions. He 'made very disagreeable
screaming sounds,' which used to frighten strangers greatly, but
otherwise he was harmless. He was of a 'dark, tawny complexion.' He
lived longer than such children usually lived in Wales in that day, (a
not altogether pleasant intimation regarding the hard lot to which
such children were subjected by their unwilling parents,) reaching the
age of ten or twelve years. But the creed of ignorance everywhere as
regards changelings is a very cruel one, and reminds us of the tests
of the witchcraft trials. Under the pretence of proving whether the
objectionable baby is a changeling or not, it is held on a shovel over
the fire, or it is bathed in a solution of the fox-glove, which kills
it; a case where this test was applied is said to have actually
occurred in Carnarvonshire in 1857. That there is nothing specially
Welsh in this, needs not to be pointed out. Apart from the fact that
infanticide, like murder, is of no country, similar practices as to
changelings have prevailed in most European lands, either to test the
child's uncanny quality, or, that being admitted, to drive it away and
thus compel the fairies to restore the missing infant. In Denmark the
mother heats the oven, and places the changeling on the peel,
pretending to put it in; or whips it severely with a rod; or throws it
into the water. In Sweden they employ similar methods. In Ireland the
hot shovel is used. With regard to a changeling which Martin Luther
tells of in his 'Colloquia Mensalia,' the great reformer declared to
the Prince of Anhalt, that if he were prince of that country he would
'venture _homicidium_ thereon, and would throw it into the River
Moldaw.' He admonished the people to pray devoutly to God to take away
the devil, which 'was done accordingly; and the second year after the
changeling died.' It is hardly probable that the child was very well
fed during the two years that this pious process was going on. Its
starved ravenous appetite indeed is indicated in Luther's description:
It 'would eat as much as two threshers, would laugh and be joyful when
any evil happened in the house, but would cry and be very sad when all
went well.'


A story, told in various forms in Wales, preserves a tradition of an
exceedingly frugal meal which was employed as a means of banishing a
plentyn-newid. M. Villemarqué, when in Glamorganshire, heard this
story, which he found to be precisely the same as a Breton legend, in
which the changeling utters a rhymed triad as follows:

    Gweliz vi ken guelet iar wenn,
    Gweliz mez ken gwelet gwezen.
    Gweliz mez ha gweliz gwial,
    Gweliz derven e Koat Brezal,
    Biskoaz na weliz kemend all.

In the Glamorgan story the changeling was heard muttering to himself
in a cracked voice: 'I have seen the acorn before I saw the oak: I
have seen the egg before I saw the white hen: I have never seen the
like of this.' M. Villemarqué found it remarkable that these words
form in Welsh a rhymed triad nearly the same as in the Breton ballad,

    Gweliz mez ken gwelet derven,
    Gweliz vi ken gwelet iar wenn,
    Erioez ne wiliz evelhenn.[34]

Whence he concluded that the story and the rhyme are older than the
seventh century, the epoch of the separation of the Britons of Wales
and Armorica. And this is the story: A mother whose child had been
stolen, and a changeling left in its place, was advised by the Virgin
Mary to prepare a meal for ten farm-servants in an egg-shell, which
would make the changeling speak. This she did, and the changeling
asked what she was about. She told him. Whereupon he exclaimed, 'A
meal for ten, dear mother, in one egg-shell?' Then he uttered the
exclamation given above, ('I have seen the acorn,' etc.,) and the
mother replied, 'You have seen too many things, my son, you shall have
a beating.' With this she fell to beating him, the child fell to
bawling, and the fairy came and took him away, leaving the stolen
child sleeping sweetly in the cradle. It awoke and said, 'Ah, mother,
I have been a long time asleep!'


[34] Keightley, 'Fairy Mythology,' 437.


I have encountered this tale frequently among the Welsh, and it always
keeps in the main the likeness of M. Villemarqué's story. The
following is a nearly literal version as related in Radnorshire (an
adjoining county to Montgomeryshire), and which, like most of these
tales, is characterised by the non-primitive tendency to give names of
localities: 'In the parish of Trefeglwys, near Llanidloes, in the
county of Montgomery, there is a little shepherd's cot that is
commonly called the Place of Strife, on account of the extraordinary
strife that has been there. The inhabitants of the cottage were a man
and his wife, and they had born to them twins, whom the woman nursed
with great care and tenderness. Some months after, indispensable
business called the wife to the house of one of her nearest
neighbours, yet notwithstanding that she had not far to go, she did
not like to leave her children by themselves in their cradle, even for
a minute, as her house was solitary, and there were many tales of
goblins, or the Tylwyth Teg, haunting the neighbourhood. However, she
went and returned as soon as she could;' but on her way back she was
'not a little terrified at seeing, though it was midday, some of the
old elves of the blue petticoat.' She hastened home in great
apprehension; but all was as she had left it, so that her mind was
greatly relieved. 'But after some time had passed by, the good people
began to wonder that the twins did not grow at all, but still
continued little dwarfs. The man would have it that they were not his
children; the woman said they must be their children, and about this
arose the great strife between them that gave name to the place. One
evening when the woman was very heavy of heart, she determined to go
and consult a conjuror, feeling assured that everything was known to
him.... Now there was to be a harvest soon of the rye and oats, so the
wise man said to her, "When you are preparing dinner for the reapers,
empty the shell of a hen's egg, and boil the shell full of pottage,
and take it out through the door as if you meant it for a dinner to
the reapers, and then listen what the twins will say; if you hear the
children speaking things above the understanding of children, return
into the house, take them and throw them into the waves of Llyn Ebyr,
which is very near to you; but if you don't hear anything remarkable
do them no injury." And when the day of the reaping came, the woman
did as her adviser had recommended to her; and as she went outside the
door to listen she heard one of the children say to the other:

    Gwelais fesen cyn gweled derwen;
    Gwelais wy cyn gweled iâr;
    Erioed ni welais ferwi bwyd i fedel
    Mewn plisgyn wy iâr!

    Acorns before oak I knew;
    An egg before a hen;
    Never one hen's egg-shell stew
    Enough for harvest men!

'On this the mother returned to her house and took the two children
and threw them into the Llyn; and suddenly the goblins in their blue
trousers came to save their dwarfs, and the mother had her own
children back again; and thus the strife between her and her husband


[35] 'Cambrian Quarterly,' ii., 86.


This class of story is not always confined to the case of the
plentyn-newid, as I have said. It is applied to the household fairy,
when the latter, as in the following instance, appears to have brought
a number of extremely noisy friends and acquaintances to share his
shelter. Dewi Dal was a farmer, whose house was over-run with fairies,
so that he could not sleep of nights for the noise they made. Dewi
consulted a wise man of Taiar, who entrusted Dewi's wife to do certain
things, which she did carefully, as follows: 'It was the commencement
of oat harvest, when Cae Mawr, or the big field, which it took fifteen
men to mow in a day, was ripe for the harvesters. "I will prepare food
for the fifteen men who are going to mow Cae Mawr to-morrow," said
Eurwallt, the wife, aloud. "Yes, do," replied Dewi, also aloud, so
that the fairies might hear, "and see that the food is substantial and
sufficient for the hard work before them." Said Eurwallt, "The fifteen
men shall have no reason to complain upon that score. They shall be
fed according to our means." Then when evening was come Eurwallt
prepared food for the harvesters' sustenance upon the following day.
Having procured a sparrow, she trussed it like a fowl, and roasted it
by the kitchen fire. She then placed some salt in a nut-shell, and set
the sparrow and the salt, with a small piece of bread, upon the table,
ready for the fifteen men's support while mowing Cae Mawr. So when the
fairies beheld the scanty provision made for so many men, they said
"Let us quickly depart from this place, for alas! the means of our
hosts are exhausted. Who before this was ever so reduced in
circumstances as to serve up a sparrow for the day's food of fifteen
men?" So they departed upon that very night. And Dewi Dal and his
family lived, ever afterwards, in comfort and peace.'[36]


[36] Rev. T. R. Lloyd (Estyn), in 'The Principality.'


The Welsh fairies have several times been detected in the act of
carrying off a child; and in these cases, if the mother has been
sufficiently energetic in her objections, they have been forced to
abandon their purpose. Dazzy Walter, the wife of Abel Walter, of Ebwy
Fawr, one night in her husband's absence awoke in her bed and found
her baby was not at her side. In great fright she sought for it, and
caught it with her hand upon the boards above the bed, which was as
far as the fairies had succeeded in carrying it. And Jennet Francis,
of that same valley of Ebwy Fawr, one night in bed felt her infant son
being taken from her arms; whereupon she screamed and hung on, and, as
she phrased it, 'God and me were too hard for them.' This son
subsequently grew up and became a famous preacher of the gospel.

      HER BABY.]

There are special exorcisms and preventive measures to interfere with
the fairies in their quest of infants. The most significant of these,
throughout Cambria, is a general habit of piety. Any pious
exclamation has value as an exorcism; but it will not serve as a
preventive. To this end you must put a knife in the child's cradle
when you leave it alone, or you must lay a pair of tongs across the
cradle. But the best preventive is baptism; it is usually the
unbaptised infant that is stolen. So in Friesland, Germany, it is
considered a protection against the fairies who deal in changelings,
to lay a Bible under the child's pillow. In Thuringia it is deemed an
infallible preventive to hang the father's breeches against the wall.
Anything more trivial than this, as a matter for the consideration of
grave and scholarly men, one could hardly imagine; but it is in
precisely these trivial or seemingly trivial details that the student
of comparative folk-lore finds his most extraordinary indices. Such a
superstition in isolation would suggest nothing; but it is found again
in Scotland,[37] and other countries, including China, where 'a pair
of the trousers of the child's father are put on the frame of the
bedstead in such a way that the waist shall hang downward or be lower
than the legs. On the trousers is stuck a piece of red paper, having
four words written upon it intimating that all unfavourable influences
are to go into the trousers instead of afflicting the babe.'[38]


[37] Henderson, 'Notes on the Folk-Lore of the Northern Counties,' 6.

[38] See Doolittle's 'Social Life of the Chinese.'


    Living with the Tylwyth Teg--The Tale of Elidurus--Shuï Rhys
    and the Fairies--St. Dogmell's Parish,
    Pembrokeshire--Dancing with the Ellyllon--The Legend of Rhys
    and Llewellyn--Death from joining in the Fairy Reel--Legend
    of the Bush of Heaven--The Forest of the Magic Yew--The Tale
    of Twm and Iago--Taffy ap Sion, a Legend of Pencader--The
    Traditions of Pant Shon Shenkin--Tudur of Llangollen; the
    Legend of Nant yr Ellyllon--Polly Williams and the Trefethin
    Elves--The Fairies of Frennifawr--Curiosity Tales--The Fiend
    Master--Iago ap Dewi--The Original of Rip van Winkle.


Closely akin to the subject of changelings is that of adults or
well-grown children being led away to live with the Tylwyth Teg. In
this field the Welsh traditions are innumerable, and deal not only
with the last century or two, but distinctly with the middle ages.
Famed among British goblins are those fairies which are immortalised
in the Tale of Elidurus. This tale was written in Latin by Giraldus
Cambrensis (as he called himself, after the pedantic fashion of his
day), a Welshman, born at Pembroke Castle, and a hearty admirer of
everything Welsh, himself included. He was beyond doubt a man of
genius, and of profound learning. In 1188 he made a tour through
Wales, in the interest of the crusade then in contemplation, and
afterwards wrote his book--a fascinating picture of manners and
customs in Wales in the twelfth century.

The scene of the tale is that Vale of Neath, already named as a famous
centre of fairyland. Elidurus, when a youth of twelve years, 'in order
to avoid the severity of his preceptor,' ran away from school, 'and
concealed himself under the hollow bank of a river.' After he had
fasted in that situation for two days, 'two little men of pigmy
stature appeared to him,' and said, 'If you will go with us, we will
lead you into a country full of delights and sports.' Assenting,
Elidurus rose up and 'followed his guides through a path at first
subterraneous and dark, into a most beautiful country, but obscure and
not illuminated with the full light of the sun.' All the days in that
country 'were cloudy, and the nights extremely dark.' The boy was
brought before the king of the strange little people, and introduced
to him in the presence of his Court. Having examined Elidurus for a
long time, the king delivered him to his son, that prince being then a
boy. The men of this country, though of the smallest stature, were
very well proportioned, fair-complexioned, and wore long hair. 'They
had horses and greyhounds adapted to their size. They neither ate
flesh nor fish, but lived on milk-diet, made up into messes with
saffron. As often as they returned from our hemisphere, they
reprobated our ambition, infidelities, and inconstancies; and though
they had no form of public worship, were, it seems, strict lovers and
reverers of truth. The boy frequently returned to our hemisphere,
sometimes by the way he had gone, sometimes by others; at first in
company, and afterwards alone; and made himself known only to his
mother, to whom he described what he had seen. Being desired by her to
bring her a present of gold, with which that country abounded, he
stole, whilst at play with the king's son, a golden ball with which he
used to divert himself, and brought it in haste to his mother, but not
unpursued; for, as he entered the house of his father, he stumbled at
the threshold;' the ball fell, 'and two pigmies seizing it, departed,
showing the boy every mark of contempt and derision. Notwithstanding
every attempt for the space of a year, he never again could find the
track to the subterraneous passage.' He had made himself acquainted
with the language of his late hosts, 'which was very conformable to
the Greek idiom. When they asked for water, they said _Udor udorum_;
when they want salt, they say _Halgein udorum_.'[39]


[39] See Sir R. C. Hoare's Translation of Giraldus.


Exactly similar to this medieval legend in spirit, although differing
widely in detail, is the modern story of Shuï Rhys, told to me by a
peasant in Cardiganshire. Shuï was a beautiful girl of seventeen, tall
and fair, with a skin like ivory, hair black and curling, and eyes of
dark velvet. She was but a poor farmer's daughter, notwithstanding her
beauty, and among her duties was that of driving up the cows for the
milking. Over this work she used to loiter sadly, to pick flowers by
the way, or chase the butterflies, or amuse herself in any agreeable
manner that fortune offered. For her loitering she was often chided;
indeed, people said Shuï's mother was far too sharp with the girl, and
that it was for no good the mother had so bitter a tongue. After all
the girl meant no harm, they said. But when one night Shuï never came
home till bed-time, leaving the cows to care for themselves, dame Rhys
took the girl to task as she never had done before. 'Ysgwaetheroedd,
mami,' said Shuï, 'I couldn't help it; it was the Tylwyth Teg.' The
dame was aghast at this, but she could not answer it--for well she
knew the Tylwyth Teg were often seen in the woods of Cardigan. Shuï
was at first shy about talking of the fairies, but finally confessed
they were little men in green coats, who danced around her and made
music on their tiny harps; and they talked to her in language too
beautiful to be repeated; indeed she couldn't understand the words,
though she knew well enough what the fairies meant. Many a time after
that Shuï was late; but now nobody chided her, for fear of offending
the fairies. At last one night Shuï did not come home at all. In alarm
the woods were searched; there was no sign of her; and never was she
seen in Cardigan again. Her mother watched in the fields on the
Teir-nos Ysprydion, or three nights of the year when goblins are sure
to be abroad; but Shuï never returned. Once indeed there came back to
the neighbourhood a wild rumour that Shuï Rhys had been seen in a
great city in a foreign land--Paris, perhaps, or London, who knows?
but this tale was in no way injurious to the sad belief that the
fairies had carried her off; they might take her to those well-known
centres of idle and sinful pleasure, as well as to any other place.



An old man who died in St. Dogmell's parish, Pembrokeshire, a short
time since (viz., in 1860), nearly a hundred years old, used to say
that that whole neighbourhood was considered 'fou.' It was a common
experience for men to be led astray there all night, and after
marvellous adventures and untellable trampings, which seemed as if
they would be endless, to find when day broke that they were close to
their own homes. In one case, a man who was led astray chanced to have
with him a number of hoop-rods, and as he wandered about under the
influence of the deluding phantom, he was clever enough to drop the
rods one by one, so that next day he might trace his journeyings. When
daylight came, and the search for the hoop-rods was entered on, it was
found they were scattered over miles upon miles of country. Another
time, a St. Dogmell's fisherman was returning home from a wedding at
Moelgrove, and it being very dark, the fairies led him astray, but
after a few hours he had the good luck (which Sir John Franklin might
have envied him) to 'discover the North Pole,' and by this beacon he
was able to steer his staggering barque to the safe port of his own
threshold. It is even gravely stated that a severe and dignified
clerical person, no longer in the frisky time of life, but advanced in
years, was one night forced to join in the magic dance of St.
Dogmell's, and keep it up till nearly daybreak. Specific details in
this instance are wanting; but it was no doubt the Ellyllon who led
all these folk astray, and put a cap of oblivion on their heads, which
prevented them from ever telling their adventures clearly.


Dancing and music play a highly important part in stories of this
class. The Welsh fairies are most often dancing together when seen.
They seek to entice mortals to dance with them, and when anyone is
drawn to do so, it is more than probable he will not return to his
friends for a long time. Edmund William Rees, of Aberystruth, was thus
drawn away by the fairies, and came back at the year's end, looking
very bad. But he could not give a very clear account of what he had
been about, only said he had been dancing. This was a common thing in
these cases. Either they were not able to, or they dared not, talk
about their experiences.

Two farm servants named Rhys and Llewellyn were one evening at
twilight returning home from their work, when Rhys cried out that he
heard the fairy music. Llewellyn could hear nothing, but Rhys said it
was a tune to which he had danced a hundred times, and would again,
and at once. 'Go on,' says he, 'and I'll soon catch you up again.'
Llewellyn objected, but Rhys stopped to hear no more; he bounded away
and left Llewellyn to go home alone, which he did, believing Rhys had
merely gone off on a spree, and would come home drunk before morning.
But the morning came, and no Rhys. In vain search was made, still no
Rhys. Time passed on; days grew into months; and at last suspicion
fell on Llewellyn, that he had murdered Rhys. He was put in prison. A
farmer learned in fairy-lore, suspecting how it was, proposed that he
and a company of neighbours should go with poor Llewellyn to the spot
where he had last seen Rhys. Agreed. Arrived at the spot, 'Hush,'
cried Llewellyn, 'I hear music! I hear the sweet music of the harps!'
They all listened, but could hear nothing. 'Put your foot on mine,
David,' says Llewellyn to one of the company; his own foot was on the
outward edge of a fairy ring as he spoke. David put his foot on
Llewellyn's, and so did they all, one after another; and then they
heard the sound of many harps, and saw within a circle about twenty
feet across, great numbers of little people dancing round and round.
And there was Rhys, dancing away like a madman! As he came whirling
by, Llewellyn caught him by his smock-frock and pulled him out of the
circle. 'Where are the horses? where are the horses?' cried Rhys in an
excited manner. 'Horses, indeed!' sneered Llewellyn, in great disgust;
'wfft! go home. Horses!' But Rhys was for dancing longer, declaring he
had not been there five minutes. 'You've been there,' says Llewellyn,
'long enough to come near getting me hanged, anyhow.' They got him
home finally, but he was never the same man again, and soon after he


In the great majority of these stories the hero dies immediately after
his release from the thraldom of the fairies--in some cases with a
suddenness and a completeness of obliteration as appalling as
dramatic. The following story, well known in Carmarthenshire, presents
this detail with much force: There was a certain farmer who, while
going early one morning to fetch his horses from the pasture, heard
harps playing. Looking carefully about for the source of this music,
he presently saw a company of Tylwyth Teg footing it merrily in a
corelw. Resolving to join their dance and cultivate their
acquaintance, the farmer stepped into the fairy ring. Never had man
his resolution more thoroughly carried out, for having once begun the
reel he was not allowed to finish it till years had elapsed. Even then
he might not have been released, had it not chanced that a man one day
passed by the lonely spot, so close to the ring that he saw the farmer
dancing. 'Duw catto ni!' cried the man, 'God save us! but this is a
merry one. Hai, holo! man, what, in Heaven's name, makes you so
lively?' This question, in which the name of Heaven was uttered, broke
the spell which rested on the farmer, who spoke like one in a dream:
'O dyn!' cried he, 'what's become of the horses?' Then he stepped from
the fairy circle and instantly crumbled away and mingled his dust with
the earth.

A similar tale is told in Carnarvon, but with the fairy dance omitted
and a pious character substituted, which helps to indicate the
antiquity of this class of legend, by showing that it was one of the
monkish adoptions of an earlier story. Near Clynog, in Carnarvonshire,
there is a place called Llwyn y Nef, (the Bush of Heaven,) which thus
received its name: In Clynog lived a monk of most devout life, who
longed to be taken to heaven. One evening, whilst walking without the
monastery by the riverside, he sat down under a green tree and fell
into a deep reverie, which ended in sleep; and he slept for thousands
of years. At last he heard a voice calling unto him, 'Sleeper, awake
and be up.' He awoke. All was strange to him except the old monastery,
which still looked down upon the river. He went to the monastery, and
was made much of. He asked for a bed to rest himself on and got it.
Next morning when the brethren sought him, they found nothing in the
bed but a handful of ashes.[40]

So in the monkish tale of the five saints, who sleep in the cave of
Caio, reappears the legend of Arthur's sleeping warriors under


[40] 'Cymru Fu,' 188.



A tradition is current in Mathavarn, in the parish of Llanwrin, and
the Cantref of Cyfeillioc, concerning a certain wood called Ffridd yr
Ywen, (the Forest of the Yew,) that it is so called on account of a
magical yew-tree which grows exactly in the middle of the forest.
Under that tree there is a fairy circle called The Dancing Place of
the Goblin. There are several fairy circles in the Forest of the Yew,
but the one under the yew-tree in the middle has this legend connected
with it: Many years ago, two farm-servants, whose names were Twm and
Iago, went out one day to work in the Forest of the Yew. Early in the
afternoon the country became covered with so dense a mist that the
youths thought the sun was setting, and they prepared to go home; but
when they came to the yew-tree in the middle of the forest, suddenly
they found all light around them. They now thought it too early to go
home, and concluded to lie down under the yew-tree and have a nap.
By-and-by Twm awoke, to find his companion gone. He was much surprised
at this, but concluded Iago had gone to the village on an errand of
which they had been speaking before they fell asleep. So Twm went
home, and to all inquiries concerning Iago, he answered, 'Gone to the
cobbler's in the village.' But Iago was still absent next morning, and
now Twm was cross-questioned severely as to what had become of his
fellow-servant. Then he confessed that they had fallen asleep under
the yew where the fairy circle was, and from that moment he had seen
nothing more of Iago. They searched the whole forest over, and the
whole country round, for many days, and finally Twm went to a gwr
cyfarwydd (or conjuror), a common trade in those days, says the
legend. The conjuror gave him this advice: 'Go to the same place where
you and the lad slept. Go there exactly a year after the boy was lost.
Let it be on the same day of the year and at the same time of the day;
but take care that you do not step inside the fairy ring. Stand on the
border of the green circle you saw there, and the boy will come out
with many of the goblins to dance. When you see him so near to you
that you may take hold of him, snatch him out of the ring as quickly
as you can.' These instructions were obeyed. Iago appeared, dancing in
the ring with the Tylwyth Teg, and was promptly plucked forth. 'Duw!
Duw!' cried Tom, 'how wan and pale you look! And don't you feel hungry
too?' 'No,' said the boy, 'and if I did, have I not here in my wallet
the remains of my dinner that I had before I fell asleep?' But when he
looked in his wallet, the food was not there. 'Well, it must be time
to go home,' he said, with a sigh; for he did not know that a year had
passed by. His look was like a skeleton, and as soon as he had tasted
food, he mouldered away.


Taffy ap Sion, the shoemaker's son, living near Pencader,
Carmarthenshire, was a lad who many years ago entered the fairy circle
on the mountain hard by there, and having danced a few minutes, as he
supposed, chanced to step out. He was then astonished to find that the
scene which had been so familiar was now quite strange to him. Here
were roads and houses he had never seen, and in place of his father's
humble cottage there now stood a fine stone farm-house. About him were
lovely cultivated fields instead of the barren mountain he was
accustomed to. 'Ah,' thought he, 'this is some fairy trick to deceive
my eyes. It is not ten minutes since I stepped into that circle, and
now when I step out they have built my father a new house! Well, I only
hope it is real; anyhow, I'll go and see.' So he started off by a path
he knew instinctively, and suddenly struck against a very solid hedge.
He rubbed his eyes, felt the hedge with his fingers, scratched his
head, felt the hedge again, ran a thorn into his fingers and cried out,
'Wbwb! this is no fairy hedge anyhow, nor, from the age of the thorns,
was it grown in a few minutes' time.' So he climbed over it and walked
on. 'Here was I born,' said he, as he entered the farmyard, staring
wildly about him, 'and not a thing here do I know!' His mystification
was complete when there came bounding towards him a huge dog, barking
furiously. 'What dog is this? Get out, you ugly brute! Don't you know
I'm master here?--at least, when mother's from home, for father don't
count.' But the dog only barked the harder. 'Surely,' muttered Taffy to
himself, 'I have lost my road and am wandering through some unknown
neighbourhood; but no, yonder is the Careg Hir!' and he stood staring
at the well-known erect stone thus called, which still stands on the
mountain south of Pencader, and is supposed to have been placed there
in ancient times to commemorate a victory. As Taffy stood thus looking
at the Long Stone, he heard footsteps behind him, and turning, beheld
the occupant of the farm-house, who had come out to see why his dog was
barking. Poor Taffy was so ragged and wan that the farmer's Welsh heart
was at once stirred to sympathy. 'Who are you, poor man?' he asked. To
which Taffy answered, 'I know who I was, but I do not know who I _am
now_. I was the son of a shoemaker who lived in this place, this
morning; for that rock, though it is changed a little, I know too
well.' 'Poor fellow,' said the farmer, 'you have lost your senses. This
house was built by my great-grandfather, repaired by my grandfather;
and that part there, which seems newly built, was done about three
years ago at my expense. You must be deranged, or have missed the road;
but come in and refresh yourself with some victuals, and rest.' Taffy
was half persuaded that he had overslept himself and lost his road, but
looking back he saw the rock before mentioned, and exclaimed, 'It is
but an hour since I was on yonder rock robbing a hawk's nest.' 'Where
have you been since?' Taffy related his adventure. 'Ah,' quoth the
farmer, 'I see how it is--you have been with the fairies. Pray, who was
your father?' 'Sion Evan y Crydd o Glanrhyd,' was the answer. 'I never
heard of such a man,' said the farmer, shaking his head, 'nor of such a
place as Glanrhyd, either: but no matter, after you have taken a little
food we will step down to Catti Shon, at Pencader, who will probably be
able to tell us something.' With this he beckoned Taffy to follow him,
and walked on; but hearing behind him the sound of footsteps growing
weaker and weaker, he turned round, when to his horror he beheld the
poor fellow crumble in an instant to about a thimbleful of black ashes.
The farmer, though much terrified at this sight, preserved his calmness
sufficiently to go at once and see old Catti, the aged crone he had
referred to, who lived at Pencader, near by. He found her crouching
over a fire of faggots, trying to warm her old bones. 'And how do you
do the day, Catti Shon?' asked the farmer. 'Ah,' said old Catti, 'I'm
wonderful well, farmer, considering how old I am.' 'Yes, yes, you're
very old. Now, since you are so old, let me ask you--do you remember
anything about Sion y Crydd o Glanrhyd? Was there ever such a man, do
you know?' 'Sion Glanrhyd? O! I have some faint recollection of hearing
my grandfather, old Evan Shenkin, Penferdir, relate that Sion's son was
lost one morning, and they never heard of him afterwards, so that it
was said he was taken by the fairies. His father's cot stood somewhere
near your house.' 'Were there many fairies about at that time?' asked
the farmer. 'O yes; they were often seen on yonder hill, and I was told
they were lately seen in Pant Shon Shenkin, eating flummery out of
egg-shells, which they had stolen from a farm hard by.' 'Dir anwyl fi!'
cried the farmer; 'dear me! I recollect now--I saw them myself!'

Pant Shon[41] Shenkin, it must be here remarked, was a famous place
for the Carmarthenshire fairies. The traditions thereabout respecting
them are numerous. Among the strangest is, that a woman once actually
caught a fairy on the mountain near Pant Shon Shenkin, and that it
remained long in her custody, retaining still the same height and
size, but at last made its escape.

Another curious tradition relates that early one Easter Monday, when
the parishioners of Pencarreg and Caio were met to play at football,
they saw a numerous company of Tylwyth Teg dancing. Being so many in
number, the young men were not intimidated at all, but proceeded in a
body towards the puny tribe, who, perceiving them, removed to another
place. The young men followed, whereupon the little folks suddenly
appeared dancing at the first place. Seeing this, the men divided and
surrounded them, when they immediately became invisible, and were
never more seen there.


[41] Sion and Shon are the same word, just as are our Smith and Smyth.
Where there are so few personal names as in Wales, while I would not
myself change a single letter in order to render the actors in a tale
more distinct, it is perhaps as well to encourage any eccentricities
of spelling which we are so lucky as to find on the spot.


Ignorance of what transpired in the fairy circle is not an invariable
feature of legends like those we have been observing. In the story of
Tudur of Llangollen, preserved by several old Welsh writers, the
hero's experiences are given with much liveliness of detail. The scene
of this tale is a hollow near Llangollen, on the mountain side
half-way up to the ruins of Dinas Bran Castle, which hollow is to this
day called Nant yr Ellyllon. It obtained its name, according to
tradition, in this wise: A young man, called Tudur ap Einion Gloff,
used in old times to pasture his master's sheep in that hollow. One
summer's night, when Tudur was preparing to return to the lowlands
with his woolly charge, there suddenly appeared, perched upon a stone
near him, 'a little man in moss breeches with a fiddle under his arm.
He was the tiniest wee specimen of humanity imaginable. His coat was
made of birch leaves, and he wore upon his head a helmet which
consisted of a gorse flower, while his feet were encased in pumps made
of beetle's wings. He ran his fingers over his instrument, and the
music made Tudur's hair stand on end. "Nos da'ch', nos da'ch'," said
the little man, which means "Good-night, good-night to you," in
English. "Ac i chwithau," replied Tudur; which again, in English,
means "The same to you." Then continued the little man, "You are fond
of dancing, Tudur; and if you but tarry awhile you shall behold some
of the best dancers in Wales, and I am the musician." Quoth Tudur,
"Then where is your harp? A Welshman even cannot dance without a
harp." "Oh," said the little man, "I can discourse better dance music
upon my fiddle." "Is it a fiddle you call that stringed wooden spoon
in your hand?" asked Tudur, for he had never seen such an instrument
before. And now Tudur beheld through the dusk hundreds of pretty
little sprites converging towards the spot where they stood, from all
parts of the mountain. Some were dressed in white, and some in blue,
and some in pink, and some carried glow-worms in their hands for
torches. And so lightly did they tread that not a blade nor a flower
was crushed beneath their weight, and every one made a curtsey or a
bow to Tudur as they passed, and Tudur doffed his cap and moved to
them in return. Presently the little minstrel drew his bow across the
strings of his instrument, and the music produced was so enchanting
that Tudur stood transfixed to the spot.' At the sound of the sweet
melody, the Tylwyth Teg ranged themselves in groups, and began to
dance. Now of all the dancing Tudur had ever seen, none was to be
compared to that he saw at this moment going on. He could not help
keeping time with his hands and feet to the merry music, but he dared
not join in the dance, 'for he thought within himself that to dance on
a mountain at night in strange company, to perhaps the devil's fiddle,
might not be the most direct route to heaven.' But at last he found
there was no resisting this bewitching strain, joined to the sight of
the capering Ellyllon. '"Now for it, then," screamed Tudur, as he
pitched his cap into the air under the excitement of delight. "Play
away, old devil; brimstone and water, if you like!" No sooner were the
words uttered than everything underwent a change. The gorse-blossom
cap vanished from the minstrel's head, and a pair of goat's horns
branched out instead. His face turned as black as soot; a long tail
grew out of his leafy coat, while cloven feet replaced the beetle-wing
pumps. Tudur's heart was heavy, but his heels were light. Horror was
in his bosom, but the impetus of motion was in his feet. The fairies
changed into a variety of forms. Some became goats, and some became
dogs, some assumed the shape of foxes, and others that of cats. It was
the strangest crew that ever surrounded a human being. The dance
became at last so furious that Tudur could not distinctly make out the
forms of the dancers. They reeled around him with such rapidity that
they almost resembled a wheel of fire. Still Tudur danced on. He could
not stop, the devil's fiddle was too much for him, as the figure with
the goat's horns kept pouring it out with unceasing vigour, and Tudur
kept reeling around in spite of himself. Next day Tudur's master
ascended the mountain in search of the lost shepherd and his sheep. He
found the sheep all right at the foot of the Fron, but fancy his
astonishment when, ascending higher, he saw Tudur spinning like mad in
the middle of the basin now known as Nant yr Ellyllon.' Some pious
words of the master broke the charm, and restored Tudur to his home in
Llangollen, where he told his adventures with great gusto for many
years afterwards.[42]


[42] Rev. T. R. Lloyd (Estyn), in 'The Principality.'


Polly Williams, a good dame who was born in Trefethin parish, and
lived at the Ship Inn, at Pontypool, Monmouthshire, was wont to relate
that, when a child, she danced with the Tylwyth Teg. The first time
was one day while coming home from school. She saw the fairies
dancing in a pleasant, dry place, under a crab-tree, and, thinking
they were children like herself, went to them, when they induced her
to dance with them. She brought them into an empty barn and they
danced there together. After that, during three or four years, she
often met and danced with them, when going to or coming from school.
She never could hear the sound of their feet, and having come to know
that they were fairies, took off her ffollachau (clogs), so that she,
too, might make no noise, fearful that the clattering of her
clog-shodden feet was displeasing to them. They were all dressed in
blue and green aprons, and, though they were so small, she could see
by their mature faces that they were no children. Once when she came
home barefoot, after dancing with the fairies, she was chided for
going to school in that condition; but she held her tongue about the
fairies, for fear of trouble, and never told of them till after she
grew up. She gave over going with them to dance, however, after three
or four years, and this displeased them. They tried to coax her back
to them, and, as she would not come, hurt her by dislocating 'one of
her walking members,'[43] which, as a euphemism for legs, surpasses
anything charged against American prudery.


[43] Jones, 'Apparitions.'


Contrasting strongly with this matter-of-fact account of a modern
witness is the glowing description of fairy life contained in the
legend of the Fairies of Frennifawr. About ten miles south of Cardigan
is the Pembrokeshire mountain called Frennifawr, which is the scene of
this tale: A shepherd's lad was tending his sheep on the small
mountains called Frennifach one fine morning in June. Looking to the
top of Frennifawr to note what way the fog hung--for if the fog on
that mountain hangs on the Pembrokeshire side, there will be fair
weather, if on the Cardigan side, storm--he saw the Tylwyth Teg, in
appearance like tiny soldiers, dancing in a ring. He set out for the
scene of revelry, and soon drew near the ring where, in a gay company
of males and females, they were footing it to the music of the harp.
Never had he seen such handsome people, nor any so enchantingly
cheerful. They beckoned him with laughing faces to join them as they
leaned backward almost falling, whirling round and round with joined
hands. Those who were dancing never swerved from the perfect circle;
but some were clambering over the old cromlech, and others chasing
each other with surprising swiftness and the greatest glee. Still
others rode about on small white horses of the most beautiful form;
these riders were little ladies, and their dresses were indescribably
elegant, surpassing the sun in radiance, and varied in colour, some
being of bright whiteness, others the most vivid scarlet. The males
wore red tripled caps, and the ladies a light fantastic headdress
which waved in the wind. All this was in silence, for the shepherd
could not hear the harps, though he saw them. But now he drew nearer
to the circle, and finally ventured to put his foot in the magic ring.
The instant he did this, his ears were charmed with strains of the
most melodious music he had ever heard. Moved with the transports this
seductive harmony produced in him, he stepped fully into the ring. He
was no sooner in than he found himself in a palace glittering with
gold and pearls. Every form of beauty surrounded him, and every
variety of pleasure was offered him. He was made free to range
whither he would, and his every movement was waited on by young women
of the most matchless loveliness. And no tongue can tell the joys of
feasting that were his! Instead of the tatws-a-llaeth (potatoes and
buttermilk) to which he had hitherto been accustomed, here were birds
and meats of every choice description, served on plates of silver.
Instead of home-brewed cwrw, the only bacchic beverage he had ever
tasted in real life, here were red and yellow wines of wondrous
enjoyableness, brought in golden goblets richly inlaid with gems. The
waiters were the most beautiful virgins, and everything was in
abundance. There was but one restriction on his freedom: he must not
drink, on any consideration, from a certain well in the garden, in
which swam fishes of every colour, including the colour of gold. Each
day new joys were provided for his amusement, new scenes of beauty
were unfolded to him, new faces presented themselves, more lovely if
possible than those he had before encountered. Everything was done to
charm him; but one day all his happiness fled in an instant.
Possessing every joy that mortal could desire, he wanted the one thing
forbidden--like Eve in the garden, like Fatima in the castle;
curiosity undid him. He plunged his hand into the well: the fishes all
disappeared instantly. He put the water to his mouth: a confused
shriek ran through the garden. He drank: the palace and all vanished
from his sight, and he stood shivering in the night air, alone on the
mountain, in the very place where he had first entered the ring.[44]

  [Illustration: THE FATAL DRAUGHT.]


[44] 'Cambrian Superstitions,' 148. (This is a small collection of
Welsh stories printed at Tipton in 1831, and now rare; its author was
W. Howells, a lad of nineteen, and his work was drawn out by a small
prize offered by Archdeacon Beynon through a Carmarthen newspaper in
1830. Its English requires rehandling, but its material is of value.)


Comment on the resemblances borne by these tales to the more famous
legends of other lands, is perhaps unnecessary; they will occur to
every reader who is at all familiar with the subject of folk-lore. To
those who are not, it is sufficient to say that these resemblances
exist, and afford still further testimony to the common origin of such
tales in a remote past. The legend last given embodies the curiosity
feature which is familiar through the story of Bluebeard, but has its
root in the story of Psyche. She was forbidden to look upon her
husband Eros, the god of love; she disobeyed the injunction, and the
beautiful palace in which she had dwelt with him vanished in an
instant, leaving her alone in a desolate spot. Ages older than the
Psyche story, however, is the legend embodying the original Aryan
myth. The drop of oil which falls upon the shoulder of the sleeping
prince and wakes him, revealing Psyche's curiosity and destroying her
happiness, is paralleled among the Welsh by the magic ointment in the
legend of the Fiend Master. This legend, it may be premised, is also
familiar to both France and Germany, where its details differ but
little from those here given: A respectable young Welshwoman of the
working class, who lived with her parents, went one day to a hiring
fair. Here she 'was addressed by a very noble-looking gentleman all in
black, who asked her if she would be a nursemaid, and undertake the
management of his children. She replied that she had no objection;
when he promised her immense wages, and said he would take her home
behind him, but that she must, before they started, consent to be
blindfolded. This done, she mounted behind him on a coal-black steed,
and away they rode at a great rate. At length they dismounted, when
her new master took her by the hand and led her on, still blindfolded,
for a considerable distance. The handkerchief was then removed, when
she beheld more grandeur than she had ever seen before; a beautiful
palace lighted up by more lights than she could count, and a number of
little children as beautiful as angels; also many noble-looking ladies
and gentlemen. The children her master put under her charge, and gave
her a box containing ointment, which she was to put on their eyes. At
the same time he gave her strict orders always to wash her hands
immediately after using the ointment, and be particularly careful
never to let a bit of it touch her own eyes. These injunctions she
strictly followed, and was for some time very happy; yet she sometimes
thought it odd that they should always live by candle-light; and she
wondered, too, that grand and beautiful as the palace was, such fine
ladies and gentlemen as were there should never wish to leave it. But
so it was; no one ever went out but her master. One morning, while
putting the ointment on the eyes of the children, her own eye itched,
and forgetting the orders of her master she touched one corner of it
with her finger which was covered with ointment. Immediately, with the
vision of that corner of her eye, she saw herself surrounded by
fearful flames; the ladies and gentlemen looked like devils, and the
children appeared like the most hideous imps of hell. Though with the
other parts of her eyes she beheld all grand and beautiful as before,
she could not help feeling much frightened at all this; but having
great presence of mind she let no one see her alarm. However, she took
the first opportunity of asking her master's leave to go and see her
friends. He said he would take her, but she must again consent to be
blindfolded. Accordingly a handkerchief was put over her eyes; she was
again mounted behind her master, and was soon put down in the
neighbourhood of her own house. It will be believed that she remained
quietly there, and took good care not to return to her place; but very
many years afterwards, being at a fair, she saw a man stealing
something from a stall, and with one corner of her eye beheld her old
master pushing his elbow. Unthinkingly she said, "How are you master?
how are the children?" He said, "How did you see me?" She answered,
"With the corner of my left eye." From that moment she was blind of
her left eye, and lived many years with only her right.'[45] An older
legend preserving this mythical detail is the story of Taliesin. Gwion
Bach's eyes are opened by a drop from Caridwen's caldron falling upon
his finger, which he puts in his mouth.


[45] 'Camb. Sup.,' 349.


A Carmarthenshire tradition names among those who lived for a period
among the Tylwyth Teg no less a person than the translator into Welsh
of Bunyan's 'Pilgrim's Progress.' He was called Iago ap Dewi, and
lived in the parish of Llanllawddog, Carmarthenshire, in a cottage
situated in the wood of Llangwyly. He was absent from the
neighbourhood for a long period, and the universal belief among the
peasantry was that Iago 'got out of bed one night to gaze on the
starry sky, as he was accustomed (astrology being one of his favourite
studies), and whilst thus occupied the fairies (who were accustomed to
resort in a neighbouring wood), passing by, carried him away, and he
dwelt with them seven years. Upon his return he was questioned by many
as to where he had been, but always avoided giving them a reply.'


The wide field of interest opened up in tales of this class is a
fascinating one to the students of fairy mythology. The whole world
seems to be the scene of such tales, and collectors of folk-lore in
many lands have laid claim to the discovery of 'the original' on
which the story of Rip van Winkle is based. It is an honour to
American genius, to which I cannot forbear a passing allusion, that of
all these legends, none has achieved so wide a fame as that which
Washington Irving has given to our literature, and Joseph Jefferson to
our stage. It is more than probable that Irving drew his inspiration
from Grimm, and that the Catskills are indebted to the Hartz Mountains
of Germany for their romantic fame. But the legends are endless in
which occur this unsuspected lapse of time among supernatural beings,
and the wandering back to the old home to find all changed. In Greece,
it is Epimenides, the poet, who, while searching for a lost sheep,
wanders into a cave where he slumbers forty-seven years. The Gaelic
and Teutonic legends are well known. But our wonder at the vitality of
this myth is greatest when we find it in both China and Japan. In the
Japanese account a young man fishing in his boat on the ocean is
invited by the goddess of the sea to her home beneath the waves. After
three days he desires to see his old mother and father. On parting she
gives him a golden casket and a key, but begs him never to open it. At
the village where he lived he finds that all is changed, and he can
get no trace of his parents until an aged woman recollects having
heard of their names. He finds their graves a hundred years old.
Thinking that three days could not have made such a change, and that
he was under a spell, he opens the casket. A white vapour rises, and
under its influence the young man falls to the ground. His hair turns
grey, his form loses its youth, and in a few moments he dies of old
age. The Chinese legend relates how two friends wandering amongst the
ravines of their native mountains in search of herbs for medicinal
purposes, come to a fairy bridge where two maidens of more than
earthly beauty are on guard. They invite them to the fairy land which
lies on the other side of the bridge, and the invitation being
accepted, they become enamoured of the maidens, and pass what to them
seems a short though blissful period of existence with the fairy folk.
At length they desire to revisit their earthly homes and are allowed
to return, when they find that seven generations have lived and died
during their apparently short absence, they themselves having become
centenarians.[46] In China, as elsewhere, the legend takes divers


[46] Dennys, 'Folk-Lore of China,' 98.


    Fairy Music--Birds of Enchantment--The Legend of Shon ap
    Shenkin--Harp-Music in Welsh Fairy Tales--Legend of the
    Magic Harp--Songs and Tunes of the Tylwyth Teg--The Legend
    of Iolo ap Hugh--Mystic Origin of an old Welsh Air.


In those rare cases where it is not dancing which holds the victim of
Tylwyth Teg in its fatal fascination, the seducer is music. There is a
class of stories still common in Wales, in which is preserved a
wondrously beautiful survival of the primitive mythology. In the vast
middle ground between our own commonplace times and the pre-historic
ages we encounter more than once the lovely legend of the Birds of
Rhiannon, which sang so sweetly that the warrior knights stood
listening entranced for eighty years. This legend appears in the
Mabinogi of 'Branwen, daughter of Llyr,' and, as we read it there, is
a medieval tale; but the medieval authors of the Mabinogion as we know
them were working over old materials--telling again the old tales
which had come down through unnumbered centuries from father to son by
tradition. Cambrian poets of an earlier age often allude to the birds
of Rhiannon; they are mentioned in the Triads. In the Mabinogi, the
period the warriors listened is seven years. Seven men only had
escaped from a certain battle with the Irish, and they were bidden by
their dying chief to cut off his head and bear it to London and bury
it with the face towards France. Various were the adventures they
encountered while obeying this injunction. At Harlech they stopped to
rest, and sat down to eat and drink. 'And there came three birds, and
began singing unto them a certain song, and all the songs they had
ever heard were unpleasant compared thereto; and the birds seemed to
them to be at a great distance from them over the sea, yet they
appeared as distinct as if they were close by; and at this repast they
continued seven years.'[47] This enchanting fancy reappears in the
local story of Shon ap Shenkin, which was related to me by a farmer's
wife near the reputed scene of the legend. Pant Shon Shenkin has
already been mentioned as a famous centre for Carmarthenshire fairies.
The story of Taffy ap Sion and this of Shon ap Shenkin were probably
one and the same at some period in their career, although they are now
distinct. Shon ap Shenkin was a young man who lived hard by Pant Shon
Shenkin. As he was going afield early one fine summer's morning he
heard a little bird singing, in a most enchanting strain, on a tree
close by his path. Allured by the melody he sat down under the tree
until the music ceased, when he arose and looked about him. What was
his surprise at observing that the tree, which was green and full of
life when he sat down, was now withered and barkless! Filled with
astonishment he returned to the farm-house which he had left, as he
supposed, a few minutes before; but it also was changed, grown older,
and covered with ivy. In the doorway stood an old man whom he had
never before seen; he at once asked the old man what he wanted there.
'What do I want here?' ejaculated the old man, reddening angrily;
'that's a pretty question! Who are you that dare to insult me in my
own house?' 'In your own house? How is this? where's my father and
mother, whom I left here a few minutes since, whilst I have been
listening to the charming music under yon tree, which, when I rose,
was withered and leafless?' 'Under the tree!--music! what's your
name?' 'Shon ap Shenkin.' 'Alas, poor Shon, and is this indeed you!'
cried the old man. 'I often heard my grandfather, your father, speak
of you, and long did he bewail your absence. Fruitless inquiries were
made for you; but old Catti Maddock of Brechfa said you were under the
power of the fairies, and would not be released until the last sap of
that sycamore tree would be dried up. Embrace me, my dear uncle, for
you are my uncle--embrace your nephew.' With this the old man extended
his arms, but before the two men could embrace, poor Shon ap Shenkin
crumbled into dust on the doorstep.



[47] Lady Charlotte Guest's 'Mabinogion,' 381.


The harp is played by Welsh fairies to an extent unknown in those
parts of the world where the harp is less popular among the people.
When any instrument is distinctly heard in fairy cymmoedd it is
usually the harp. Sometimes it is a fiddle, but then on close
examination it will be discovered that it is a captured mortal who is
playing it; the Tylwyth Teg prefer the harp. They play the bugle on
specially grand occasions, and there is a case or two on record where
the drone of the bagpipes was heard; but it is not doubted that the
player was some stray fairy from Scotland or elsewhere over the
border. On the top of Craig-y-Ddinas thousands of white fairies dance
to the music of many harps. In the dingle called Cwm Pergwm, in the
Vale of Neath, the Tylwyth Teg make music behind the waterfall, and
when they go off over the mountains the sounds of their harps are
heard dying away as they recede. The story which presents the Cambrian
equivalent of the Magic Flute substitutes a harp for the (to
Welshmen) less familiar instrument. As told to me this story runs
somewhat thus: A company of fairies which frequented Cader Idris were
in the habit of going about from cottage to cottage in that part of
Wales, in pursuit of information concerning the degree of benevolence
possessed by the cottagers. Those who gave these fairies an ungracious
welcome were subject to bad luck during the rest of their lives, but
those who were good to the little folk became the recipients of their
favour. Old Morgan ap Rhys sat one night in his own chimney corner
making himself comfortable with his pipe and his pint of cwrw da. The
good ale having melted his soul a trifle, he was in a more jolly mood
than was natural to him, when there came a little rap at the door,
which reached his ear dully through the smoke of his pipe and the
noise of his own voice--for in his merriment Morgan was singing a
roystering song, though he could not sing any better than a haw--which
is Welsh for a donkey. But Morgan did not take the trouble to get up
at sound of the rap; his manners were not the most refined; he thought
it was quite enough for a man on hospitable purposes bent to bawl
forth in ringing Welsh, 'Gwaed dyn a'i gilydd! Why don't you come in
when you've got as far as the door?' The welcome was not very polite,
but it was sufficient. The door opened, and three travellers entered,
looking worn and weary. Now these were the fairies from Cader Idris,
disguised in this manner for purposes of observation, and Morgan never
suspected they were other than they appeared. 'Good sir,' said one of
the travellers, 'we are worn and weary, but all we seek is a bite of
food to put in our wallet, and then we will go on our way.' 'Waw,
lads! is that all you want? Well, there, look you, is the loaf and the
cheese, and the knife lies by them, and you may cut what you like, and
fill your bellies as well as your wallet, for never shall it be said
that Morgan ap Rhys denied bread and cheese to a fellow creature.' The
travellers proceeded to help themselves, while Morgan continued to
drink and smoke, and to sing after his fashion, which was a very rough
fashion indeed. As they were about to go, the fairy travellers turned
to Morgan and said, 'Since you have been so generous we will show that
we are grateful. It is in our power to grant you any one wish you may
have; therefore tell us what that wish may be.'

'Ho, ho!' said Morgan, 'is that the case? Ah, I see you are making
sport of me. Wela, wela, the wish of my heart is to have a harp that
will play under my fingers no matter how ill I strike it; a harp that
will play lively tunes, look you; no melancholy music for me!' He had
hardly spoken, when to his astonishment, there on the hearth before
him stood a splendid harp, and he was alone. 'Waw!' cried Morgan,
'they're gone already.' Then looking behind him he saw they had not
taken the bread and cheese they had cut off, after all. ''Twas the
fairies, perhaps,' he muttered, but sat serenely quaffing his beer,
and staring at the harp. There was a sound of footsteps behind him,
and his wife came in from out doors with some friends. Morgan feeling
very jolly, thought he would raise a little laughter among them by
displaying his want of skill upon the harp. So he commenced to
play--oh, what a mad and capering tune it was! 'Waw!' said Morgan,
'but this is a harp. Holo! what ails you all?' For as fast as he
played his neighbours danced, every man, woman, and child of them all
footing it like mad creatures. Some of them bounded up against the
roof of the cottage till their heads cracked again; others spun round
and round, knocking over the furniture; and, as Morgan went on
thoughtlessly playing, they began to pray to him to stop before they
should be jolted to pieces. But Morgan found the scene too amusing to
want to stop; besides, he was enamoured of his own suddenly developed
skill as a musician; and he twanged the strings and laughed till his
sides ached and the tears rolled down his cheeks, at the antics of his
friends. Tired out at last he stopped, and the dancers fell exhausted
on the floor, the chairs, the tables, declaring the diawl himself was
in the harp. 'I know a tune worth two of that,' quoth Morgan, picking
up the harp again; but at sight of this motion all the company rushed
from the house and escaped, leaving Morgan rolling merrily in his
chair. Whenever Morgan got a little tipsy after that, he would get the
harp and set everybody round him to dancing; and the consequence was
he got a bad name, and no one would go near him. But all their
precautions did not prevent the neighbours from being caught now and
then, when Morgan took his revenge by making them dance till their
legs were broken, or some other damage was done them. Even lame people
and invalids were compelled to dance whenever they heard the music of
this diabolical telyn. In short, Morgan so abused his fairy gift that
one night the good people came and took it away from him, and he never
saw it more. The consequence was he became morose, and drank himself
to death--a warning to all who accept from the fairies favours they do
not deserve.


The music of the Tylwyth Teg has been variously described by people
who claim to have heard it; but as a rule with much vagueness, as of a
sweet intangible harmony, recalling the experience of Caliban:

                              The isle is full of noises;
    Sounds, and sweet airs, that give delight, and hurt not.
    Sometimes a thousand twangling instruments
    Will hum about mine ears.[48]

One Morgan Gwilym, who saw the fairies by Cylepsta Waterfall, and
heard their music dying away, was only able to recall the last strain,
which he said sounded something like this:


Edmund Daniel, of the Arail, 'an honest man and a constant speaker of
truth,' told the Prophet Jones that he often saw the fairies after
sunset crossing the Cefn Bach from the Valley of the Church towards
Hafodafel, leaping and striking in the air, and making a serpentine
path through the air, in this form:

  [Illustration: {WAVY HORIZONTAL LINE.}]

The fairies were seen and heard by many persons in that neighbourhood,
and sometimes by several persons together. They appeared more often by
night than by day, and in the morning and evening more often than
about noon. Many heard their music, and said of it that it was low and
pleasant; but that it had this peculiarity: no one could ever learn
the tune. In more favoured parts of the Principality, the words of the
song were distinctly heard, and under the name of the 'Cân y Tylwyth
Teg' are preserved as follows:

    Dowch, dowch, gyfeillion mân,
    O blith marwolion byd,
            Dowch, dowch, a dowch yn lân.
    Partowch partowch eich pibau cân,
    Gan ddawnsio dowch i gyd,
            Mae yn hyfryd heno i hwn.

One is reluctant to turn into bald English this goblin song, which in
its native Welsh is almost as impressive as 'Fi Fo Fum.' Let it
suffice that the song is an invitation to the little ones among the
dead of earth to come with music and dancing to the delights of the
night revel.


[48] 'Tempest,' Act III., Sc. 2.


In the legend of Iolo ap Hugh, than which no story is more widely
known in Wales, the fairy origin of that famous tune 'Ffarwel Ned
Pugh' is shown. It is a legend which suggests the Enchanted Flute
fancy in another form, the instrument here being a fiddle, and the
victim and player one under fairy control. In its introduction of
bread and cheese and candles it smacks heartily of the soil. In North
Wales there is a famous cave which is said to reach from its entrance
on the hillside 'under the Morda, the Ceiriog, and a thousand other
streams, under many a league of mountain, marsh and moor, under the
almost unfathomable wells that, though now choked up, once supplied
Sycharth, the fortress of Glyndwrdwy, all the way to Chirk Castle.'
Tradition said that whoever went within five paces of its mouth would
be drawn into it and lost. That the peasants dwelling near it had a
thorough respect for this tradition, was proved by the fact that all
around the dangerous hole 'the grass grew as thick and as rank as in
the wilds of America or some unapproached ledge of the Alps.' Both men
and animals feared the spot: 'A fox, with a pack of hounds in full cry
at his tail,' once turned short round on approaching it, 'with his
hair all bristled and fretted like frostwork with terror,' and ran
into the middle of the pack, 'as if anything earthly--even an earthly
death--was a relief to his supernatural perturbations.' And the dogs
in pursuit of this fox all declined to seize him, on account of the
phosphoric smell and gleam of his coat. Moreover, 'Elias ap Evan, who
happened one fair night to stagger just upon the rim of the forbidden
space,' was so frightened at what he saw and heard that he arrived at
home perfectly sober, 'the only interval of sobriety, morning, noon,
or night, Elias had been afflicted with for upwards of twenty years.'
Nor ever after that experience--concerning which he was wont to shake
his head solemnly, as if he might tell wondrous tales an' he
dared--could Elias get tipsy, drink he never so faithfully to that
end. As he himself expressed it, 'His shadow walked steadily before
him, that at one time wheeled around him like a pointer over bog and
stone.' One misty Hallow E'en, Iolo ap Hugh, the fiddler, determined
to solve the mysteries of the Ogof, or Cave, provided himself with 'an
immense quantity of bread and cheese and seven pounds of candles,' and
ventured in. He never returned; but long, long afterwards, at the
twilight of another Hallow E'en, an old shepherd was passing that--as
he called it--'Land-Maelstrom of Diaboly,' when he heard a faint burst
of melody dancing up and down the rocks above the cave. As he
listened, the music gradually 'moulded itself in something like a
tune, though it was a tune the shepherd had never heard before.' And
it sounded as if it were being played by some jolting fiend, so rugged
was its rhythm, so repeated its discordant groans. Now there appeared
at the mouth of the Ogof a figure well-known to the shepherd by
remembrance. It was dimly visible; but it was Iolo ap Hugh, one could
see that at once. He was capering madly to the music of his own
fiddle, with a lantern dangling at his breast. 'Suddenly the moon
shone full on the cave's yellow mouth, and the shepherd saw poor Iolo
for a single moment--but it was distinctly and horribly. His face was
pale as marble, and his eyes stared fixedly and deathfully, whilst his
head dangled loose and unjointed on his shoulders. His arms seemed to
keep his fiddlestick in motion without the least sympathy from their
master. The shepherd saw him a moment on the verge of the cave, and
then, still capering and fiddling, vanish like a shadow from his
sight;' but the old man was heard to say he seemed as if he slipped
into the cave in a manner quite different from the step of a living
and a willing man; 'he was dragged inwards like the smoke up the
chimney, or the mist at sunrise.' Years elapsed; 'all hopes and
sorrows connected with poor Iolo had not only passed away, but were
nearly forgotten; the old shepherd had long lived in a parish at a
considerable distance amongst the hills. One cold December Sunday
evening he and his fellow-parishioners were shivering in their seats
as the clerk was beginning to light the church, when a strange burst
of music, starting suddenly from beneath the aisle, threw the whole
congregation into confusion, and then it passed faintly along to the
farther end of the church, and died gradually away till at last it was
impossible to distinguish it from the wind that was careering and
wailing through almost every pillar of the old church.' The shepherd
immediately recognised this to be the tune Iolo had played at the
mouth of the Ogof. The parson of the parish--a connoisseur in
music--took it down from the old man's whistling; and to this day, if
you go to the cave on Hallow eve and put your ear to the aperture, you
may hear the tune 'Ffarwel Ned Pugh' as distinctly as you may hear the
waves roar in a sea-shell. 'And it is said that in certain nights in
leap-year a star stands opposite the farther end of the cave, and
enables you to view all through it and to see Iolo and its other



[49] 'Camb. Quarterly,' i., 45.


    Fairy Rings--The Prophet Jones and his Works--The Mysterious
    Language of the Tylwyth Teg--The Horse in Welsh
    Folk-Lore--Equestrian Fairies--Fairy Cattle, Sheep, Swine,
    etc.--The Flying Fairies of Bedwellty--The Fairy Sheepfold
    at Cae'r Cefn.


The circles in the grass of green fields, which are commonly called
fairy rings, are numerous in Wales, and it is deemed just as well to
keep out of them, even in our day. The peasantry no longer believe
that the fairies can be seen dancing there, nor that the cap of
invisibility will fall on the head of one who enters the circle; but
they do believe that the fairies, in a time not long gone, made these
circles with the tread of their tripping feet, and that some
misfortune will probably befall any person intruding upon this
forbidden ground. An old man at Peterstone-super-Ely told me he well
remembered in his childhood being warned by his mother to keep away
from the fairy rings. The counsel thus given him made so deep an
impression on his mind, that he had never in his life entered one. He
remarked further, in answer to a question, that he had never walked
under a ladder, because it was unlucky to walk under a ladder. This
class of superstitions is a very large one, and is encountered the
world over; and the fairy rings seem to fall into this class, so far
as present-day belief in Wales is concerned.


Allusion has been made in the preceding pages to the Prophet Jones,
and as some account of this personage is imperatively called for in a
work treating of Welsh folk-lore, I will give it here, before citing
his remarks respecting fairy circles. Edmund Jones, 'of the Tranch,'
was a dissenting minister, noted in Monmouthshire in the first years
of the present century for his fervent piety and his large credulity
with regard to fairies and all other goblins. He was for many years
pastor of the congregation of Protestant Dissenters at the Ebenezer
Chapel, near Pontypool, and lived at a place called 'The Tranch,' near
there. He wrote and published two books, one an 'Account of the Parish
of Aberystruth,' printed at Trevecca; the other a 'Relation of
Apparitions of Spirits in the County of Monmouth and the Principality
of Wales,' printed at Newport; and they have been referred to by most
writers on folk-lore who have attempted any account of Welsh
superstitions during the past half-century; but the books are
extremely rare, and writers who have quoted from them have generally
been content to do so at second-hand. Keightley,[50] quoting from the
'Apparitions,' misprints the author's name 'Edward Jones of the
Tiarch,' and accredits the publication to 'the latter half of the
eighteenth century,' whereas it was published in 1813. Keightley's
quotations are taken from Croker, who himself had never seen the book,
but heard of it through a Welsh friend. It is not in the library of
the British Museum, and I know of but a few copies in Wales; the one I
saw is at Swansea. The author of these curious volumes was called the
Prophet Jones, because of his gift of prophecy--so a Welshman in
Monmouthshire told me. In my informant's words, 'He was noted in his
district for foretelling things. He would, for instance, be asked to
preach at some anniversary, or quarterly meeting, and he would answer,
"I cannot, on that day; the rain will descend in torrents, and there
will be no congregation." He would give the last mite he possessed to
the needy, and tell his wife, "God will send a messenger with food and
raiment at nine o'clock to-morrow." And so it would be.' He was a
thorough-going believer in Welsh fairies, and full of indignant scorn
toward all who dared question their reality. To him these phantoms
were part and parcel of the Christian faith, and those who disbelieved
in them were denounced as Sadducees and infidels.


[50] 'Fairy Mythology,' 412.


With regard to the fairy rings, Jones held that the Bible alludes to
them, Matt. xii. 43: 'The fairies dance in circles in dry places; and
the Scripture saith that the walk of evil spirits is in dry places.'
They favour the oak-tree, and the female oak especially, partly
because of its more wide-spreading branches and deeper shade, partly
because of the 'superstitious use made of it beyond other trees' in
the days of the Druids. Formerly, it was dangerous to cut down a
female oak in a fair dry place. 'Some were said to lose their lives by
it, by a strange aching pain which admitted of no remedy, as one of my
ancestors did; but now that men have more knowledge and faith, this
effect follows not.' William Jenkins was for a long time the
schoolmaster at Trefethin church, in Monmouthshire, and coming home
late in the evening, as he usually did, he often saw the fairies under
an oak within two or three fields from the church. He saw them more
often on Friday evenings than any other. At one time he went to
examine the ground about this oak, and there he found the reddish
circle wherein the fairies danced, 'such as have often been seen under
the female oak, called Brenhin-bren.' They appeared more often to an
uneven number of persons, as one, three, five, &c.; and oftener to men
than to women. Thomas William Edmund, of Hafodafel, 'an honest pious
man, who often saw them,' declared that they appeared with one bigger
than the rest going before them in the company. They were also heard
talking together in a noisy, jabbering way; but no one could
distinguish the words. They seemed, however, to be a very disputatious
race; insomuch, indeed, that there was a proverb in some parts of
Wales to this effect: 'Ni chytunant hwy mwy na Bendith eu Mamau,'
(They will no more agree than the fairies).


This observation respecting the mysterious language used by fairies
recalls again the medieval story of Elidurus. The example of fairy
words there given by Giraldus is thought by the learned rector of
Llanarmon[51] to be 'a mixture of Irish and Welsh. The letter U, with
which each of the words begins, is, probably, no more than the
representative of an indistinct sound like the E mute of the French,
and which those whose language and manners are vulgar often prefix to
words indifferently. If, then, they be read dor dorum, and halgein
dorum, dor and halgein are nearly dwr (or, as it is pronounced, door)
and halen, the Welsh words for water and salt respectively. Dorum
therefore is equivalent to "give me," and the Irish expression for
"give me" is thorum; the Welsh dyro i mi. The order of the words,
however, is reversed. The order should be thorum dor, and thorum halen
in Irish, and in Welsh dyro i mi ddwr, and dyro i mi halen, but was,
perhaps, reversed intentionally by the narrator, to make his tale the
more marvellous.'[52]


[51] Rev. Peter Roberts, 'Cambrian Popular Antiquities,' 195. (1815.)

[52] Supra, p. 67.


The horse plays a very active part in Welsh fairy tales. Not only does
his skeleton serve for Mary Lwyds[53] and the like, but his spirit
flits. The Welsh fairies seem very fond of going horseback. An old
woman in the Vale of Neath told Mrs. Williams, who told Thomas
Keightley, that she had seen fairies to the number of hundreds,
mounted on little white horses, not bigger than dogs, and riding four
abreast. This was about dusk, and the fairy equestrians passed quite
close to her, in fact less than a quarter of a mile away. Another old
woman asserted that her father had often seen the fairies riding in
the air on little white horses; but he never saw them come to the
ground. He heard their music sounding in the air as they galloped by.
There is a tradition among the Glamorgan peasantry of a fairy battle
fought on the mountain between Merthyr and Aberdare, in which the
pigmy combatants were on horseback. There appeared to be two armies,
one of which was mounted on milk-white steeds, and the other on horses
of jet-black. They rode at each other with the utmost fury, and their
swords could be seen flashing in the air like so many penknife blades.
The army on the white horses won the day, and drove the black-mounted
force from the field. The whole scene then disappeared in a light


[53] See Index.


In the agricultural districts of Wales, the fairies are accredited
with a very complete variety of useful animals; and Welsh folk-lore,
both modern and medieval, abounds with tales regarding cattle, sheep,
horses, poultry, goats, and other features of rural life. Such are the
marvellous mare of Teirnyon, which foaled every first of May, but
whose colt was always spirited away, no man knew whither; the Ychain
Banog, or mighty oxen, which drew the water-monster out of the
enchanted lake, and by their lowing split the rocks in twain; the
lambs of St. Melangell, which at first were hares, and ran frightened
under the fair saint's robes; the fairy cattle which belong to the
Gwraig Annwn; the fairy sheep of Cefn Rhychdir, which rose up out of
the earth and vanished into the sky; even fairy swine, which the
haymakers of Bedwellty beheld flying through the air. To some of these
traditions reference has already been made; others will be mentioned
again. Welsh mountain sheep will run like stags, and bound from crag
to crag like wild goats; and as for Welsh swine, they are more famed
in Cambrian romantic story than almost any other animal that could be
named. Therefore the tale told by Rev. Roger Rogers, of the parish of
Bedwellty, sounds much less absurd in Wales than it might elsewhere.
It relates to a very remarkable and odd sight, seen by Lewis Thomas
Jenkin's two daughters, described as virtuous and good young women,
their father a substantial freeholder; and seen not only by them but
by the man-servant and the maid-servant, and by two of the neighbours,
viz., Elizabeth David, and Edmund Roger. All these six people were on
a certain day making hay in a field called Y Weirglodd Fawr Dafolog,
when they plainly beheld a company of fairies rise up out of the earth
in the shape of a flock of sheep; the same being about a quarter of a
mile distant, over a hill, called Cefn Rhychdir; and soon the fairy
flock went out of sight, as if they vanished in the air. Later in the
day they all saw this company of fairies again, but while to two of
the haymakers the fairies appeared as sheep, to others they appeared
as greyhounds, and to others as swine, and to others as naked infants.
Whereupon the Rev. Roger remarks: 'The sons of infidelity are very
unreasonable not to believe the testimonies of so many witnesses.'[54]


[54] Jones, 'Apparitions,' 24.


The Welsh sheep, it is affirmed, are the only beasts which will eat
the grass that grows in the fairy rings; all other creatures avoid it,
but the sheep eat it greedily--hence the superiority of Welsh mutton
over any mutton in the wide world. The Prophet Jones tells of the
sheepfold of the fairies, which he himself saw--a circumstance to be
accorded due weight, the judicious reader will at once perceive,
because as a habit Mr. Jones was not specially given to seeing goblins
on his own account. He believes in them with all his heart, but it is
usually a friend or acquaintance who has seen them. In this instance,
therefore, the exception is to be noted sharply. He thus tells the
tale: 'If any think I am too credulous in these relations, and speak
of things of which I myself have had no experience, I must let them
know they are mistaken. For when a very young boy, going with my aunt,
early in the morning, but after sun-rising, from Hafodafel towards my
father's house at Pen-y-Llwyn, at the end of the upper field of Cae'r
Cefn, ... I saw the likeness of a sheepfold, with the door towards the
south, ... and within the fold a company of many people. Some sitting
down, and some going in, and coming out, bowing their heads as they
passed under the branch over the door.... I well remember the
resemblance among them of a fair woman with a high-crown hat and a red
jacket, who made a better appearance than the rest, and whom I think
they seemed to honour. I still have a pretty clear idea of her white
face and well-formed countenance. The men wore white cravats.... I
wondered at my aunt, going before me, that she did not look towards
them, and we going so near them. As for me, I was loth to speak until
I passed them some way, and then told my aunt what I had seen, at
which she wondered, and said I dreamed.... There was no fold in that
place. There is indeed the ruins of some small edifice in that place,
most likely a fold, but so old that the stones are swallowed up, and
almost wholly crusted over with earth and grass.'

This tale has long been deemed a poser by the believers in Cambrian
phantoms; but there is something to be said on the side of doubt.
Conceding that the Reverend Edmund Jones, the dissenting minister, was
an honest gentleman who meant to tell truth, it is still possible that
Master Neddy Jones, the lad, could draw a long bow like another boy;
and that having seen, possibly, some gypsy group (or possibly nothing
whatever) he embellished his tale to excite wonderment, as boys do.
Telling a fictitious tale so often that one at last comes to believe
it oneself, is a well-known mental phenomenon.


The only other instance given by the Prophet Jones as from the depths
of his own personal experience, is more vague in its particulars than
the preceding, and happened when he had presumably grown to years of
discretion. He was led astray, it appears, by the Old Woman of the
Mountain, on Llanhiddel Bryn, near Pontypool--an eminence with which
he was perfectly well acquainted, and which 'is no more than a mile
and a half long and about half a mile broad.' But as a result of his
going astray, he came to a house where he had never been before; and
being deeply moved by his uncanny experience, 'offered to go to
prayer, which they admitted.... I was then about twenty-three years of
age and had begun to preach the everlasting gospel. They seemed to
admire that a person so young should be so warmly disposed; few young
men of my age being religious in this country then. Much good came
into this house and still continues in it.... So the old hag got
nothing by leading me astray that time.'


    Piety as a Protection from the Seductions of the Tylwyth
    Teg--Various Exorcisms--Cock-crowing--The Name of
    God--Fencing off the Fairies--Old Betty Griffith and her
    Eithin Barricade--Means of Getting Rid of the Tylwyth
    Teg--The Bwbach of the Hendrefawr Farm--The Pwca'r Trwyn's
    Flitting in a Jug of Barm.


The extreme piety of his daily walk and conversation may have been
held as an explanation why the Prophet Jones saw so few goblins
himself, and consequently why most of his stories of the fairies are
related as coming from other people. The value of a general habit of
piety, as a means of being rid of fairies, has already been mentioned.
The more worldly exorcisms, such as the production of a black-handled
knife, or the turning one's coat wrongside out, are passed over by the
Prophet as trivial; but by the student of comparative folk-lore, they
are not deemed unimportant. The last-mentioned exorcism, by the way,
is current among the Southern negroes of the United States. The more
spiritual exorcisms are not less interesting than the others, however.
First among these is ranked the pronunciation of God's name; but the
crowing of a cock is respectfully mentioned, in connection with the
story of our Saviour. Jones gives many accounts which terminate in the
manner of the following: Rees John Rosser, born at Hendy, in the
parish of Llanhiddel, 'a very religious young man,' went one morning
very early to feed the oxen in a barn called Ysgubor y Llan, and
having fed them lay himself upon the hay to rest. While he lay there
he heard the sound of music approaching, and presently a large company
of fairies came into the barn. They wore striped clothes, some in
gayer colours than the others, but all very gay; and they all danced
to the music. He lay there as quiet as he could, thinking they would
not see him, but he was espied by one of them, a woman, who brought a
striped cushion with four tassels, one at each corner of it, and put
it under his head. After some time the cock crew at the house of Blaen
y Cwm, hard by, upon which they appeared as if they were surprised and
displeased; the cushion was hastily whisked from under his head, and
the fairies vanished. 'The spirits of darkness do not like the crowing
of the cock, because it gives notice of the approach of day, for they
love darkness rather than light.... And it hath been several times
observed that these fairies cannot endure to hear the name of God.' A
modern Welsh preacher (but one whose opinions contrast most decidedly
with those of Jones) observes: 'The cock is wonderfully well versed in
the circumstances of the children of Adam; his shrill voice at dawn of
day is sufficient intimation to every spirit, coblyn, wraith, elf,
bwci, and apparition to flee into their illusive country for their
lives, before the light of day will show them to be an empty
nothingness, and bring them to shame and reproach.'[55] Shakspeare
introduces this superstition in Hamlet:

    _Ber._ It was about to speak, when the cock crew.

    _Hor._ And then it started like a guilty thing
           Upon a fearful summons.[56]

But the opinion that spirits fly away at cock-crow is of extreme
antiquity. It is mentioned by the Christian poet Prudentius (fourth
century) as a tradition of common belief.[57] As for the effect of the
name of God as an exorcism, we still encounter this superstition, a
living thing in our own day, and in every land where modern
'spiritualism' finds believers. The mischief produced at 'spiritual
seances' by 'bad spirits' is well-known to those who have paid any
attention to this subject. The late Mr. FitzHugh Ludlow once related
to me, with dramatic fervour, the result of his attempts to exorcise a
bad spirit which was in possession of a female 'medium,' by trying to
make her pronounce the name of Christ. She stumbled and stammered over
this test in a most embarrassing way, and finally emerged from her
trance with the holy name unspoken; the bad spirit had fled. This was
in New York, in 1867. Like many others who assert their unbelief in
spiritualism, Mr. Ludlow was intensely impressed by this phenomenon.

Students of comparative folk-lore class all such manifestations under
a common head, whether related of fairies or spirit mediums. They
trace their origin to the same source whence come the notions of
propitiating the fairies by euphemistic names. The use of such names
as Jehovah, the Almighty, the Supreme Being, etc., for the terrible
and avenging God of the Jewish theology, being originally an endeavour
to avoid pronouncing the name of God, it is easy to see the connection
with the exorcising power of that name upon all evil spirits, such as
fairies are usually held to be. Here also, it is thought, is presented
the ultimate source of that horror of profane language which prevails
among the Puritanic peoples of England and America. The name of the
devil is similarly provided with euphemisms, some of which--such as
the Old Boy--are not of a sort to offend that personage's ears; and
until recently the word devil was deemed almost as offensive as the
word God, when profanely used.


[55] Rev. Robert Ellis, in 'Manion Hynafiaethol.' (Treherbert, 1873.)

[56] 'Hamlet,' Act I., Sc. 1.

[57] Brand, 'Popular Antiquities,' ii., 31.


A popular protection from the encroachments of fairies is the eithin,
or prickly furze, common in Wales. It is believed that the fairies
cannot penetrate a fence or hedge composed of this thorny shrub. An
account illustrating this, and otherwise curious in its details, was
given in 1871 by a prominent resident of Anglesea:[58] 'One day, some
thirty years ago, Mrs. Stanley went to one of the old houses to see an
old woman she often visited. It was a wretched hovel; so unusually
dark when she opened the door, that she called to old Betty Griffith,
but getting no answer she entered the room. A little tiny window of
one pane of glass at the further side of the room gave a feeble light.
A few cinders alight in the miserable grate also gave a glimmer of
light, which enabled her to see where the bed used to be, in a recess.
To her surprise she saw it entirely shut out by a barricade of thick
gorse, so closely packed and piled up that no bed was to be seen.
Again she called Betty Griffith; no response came. She looked round
the wretched room; the only symptom of life was a plant of the
Wandering Jew (_Saxifraga tricolor_), so called by the poor people,
and dearly loved to grace their windows. It was planted in a broken
jar or teapot on the window, trailing its long tendrils around, with
here and there a new formed plant seeming to derive sustenance from
the air alone. As she stood, struck with the miserable poverty of the
human abode, a faint sigh came from behind the gorse. She went close
and said, "Betty, where are you?" Betty instantly recognised her
voice, and ventured to turn herself round from the wall. Mrs. Stanley
then made a small opening in the gorse barricade, which sadly pricked
her fingers; she saw Betty in her bed and asked her, "Are you not
well? are you cold, that you are so closed up?" "Cold! no. It is not
cold, Mrs. Stanley; it is the Tylwyth Teg; they never will leave me
alone, there they sit making faces at me, and trying to come to me."
"Indeed! oh how I should like to see them, Betty." "Like to see them,
is it? Oh, don't say so." "Oh but Betty, they must be so pretty and
good." "Good? they are not good." By this time the old woman got
excited, and Mrs. Stanley knew she should hear more from her about the
fairies, so she said, "Well, I will go out; they never will come if I
am here." Old Betty replied sharply, "No, do not go. You must not
leave me. I will tell you all about them. Ah! they come and plague me
sadly. If I am up they will sit upon the table; they turn my milk sour
and spill my tea; then they will not leave me at peace in my bed, but
come all round me and mock at me." "But Betty, tell me what is all
this gorse for? It must have been great trouble for you to make it all
so close." "Is it not to keep them off? They cannot get through this,
it pricks them so bad, and then I get some rest." So she replaced the
gorse and left old Betty Griffith happy in her device for getting rid
of the Tylwyth Teg.'


[58] Hon. W. O. Stanley, in 'Notes and Queries.'


A common means of getting rid of the fairies is to change one's place
of residence; the fair folk will not abide in a house which passes
into new hands. A story is told of a Merionethshire farmer who, being
tormented beyond endurance by a Bwbach of a mischievous turn,
reluctantly resolved to flit. But first consulting a wise woman at
Dolgelley, he was advised to make a pretended flitting, which would
have the same effect; he need only give out that he was going to move
over the border into England, and then get together his cattle and his
household goods, and set out for a day's drive around the Arenig. The
fairy would surely quit the house when the farmer should quit it, and
especially would it quit the premises of a born Cymro who avowed his
purpose of settling in the foreign land of the Sais. So then he could
come back to his house by another route, and he would find the
obnoxious Bwbach gone. The farmer did as he was told, and set out upon
his journey, driving his cattle and sheep before him, and leading the
cart upon which his furniture was piled, while his wife and children
trudged behind. When he reached Rhyd-y-Fen, a ford so called from this
legend, they met a neighbour, who exclaimed, 'Holo, Dewi, are you
leaving us for good?' Before the farmer could answer there was a
shrill cry from inside the churn on the cart, 'Yes, yes, we are
flitting from Hendrefawr to Eingl-dud, where we've got a new home.' It
was the Bwbach that spoke. He was flitting with the household goods,
and the farmer's little plan to be rid of him was a complete failure.
The good man sighed as he turned his horses about and went back to
Hendrefawr by the same road he had come.


The famous Pwca of the Trwyn Farm, in Mynyddyslwyn parish, came there
from his first abode, at Pantygasseg, in a jug of barm. One of the
farm-servants brought the jug to Pantygasseg, and as she was being
served with the barm in the jug, the Pwca was heard to say, 'The Pwca
is going away now in this jug of barm, and he'll never come back;' and
he was never heard at Pantygasseg again. Another story tells that a
servant let fall a ball of yarn, over the ledge of the hill whose base
is washed by the two fishponds between Hafod-yr-Ynys and Pontypool,
and the Pwca said, 'I am going in this ball, and I'll go to the Trwyn,
and never come back,'--and directly the ball was seen to roll down the
hillside, and across the valley, ascending the hill on the other side,
and trundling along briskly across the mountain top to its new abode.


    Fairy Money and Fairy Gifts in General--The Story of Gitto
    Bach, or Little Griffith--The Penalty of Blabbing--Legends
    of the Shepherds of Cwm Llan--The Money Value of
    Kindness--Ianto Llewellyn and the Tylwyth Teg--The Legend of
    Hafod Lwyddog--Lessons inculcated by these Superstitions.


'This is fairy gold, boy, and 'twill prove so,' says the old shepherd
in 'Winter's Tale;' sagely adding, 'Up with it, keep it close; home,
home, the next way. We are lucky, boy, and to be so still, requires
nothing but secrecy.'[59] Here we have the traditional belief of the
Welsh peasantry in a nut-shell. Fairy money is as good as any, so long
as its source is kept a profound secret; if the finder relate the
particulars of his good fortune, it will vanish. Sometimes--especially
in cases where the money has been spent--the evil result of tattling
consists in there being no further favours of the sort. The same law
governs fairy gifts of all kinds. A Breconshire legend tells of the
generosity of the Tylwyth Teg in presenting the peasantry with loaves
of bread, which turned to toadstools next morning; it was necessary to
eat the bread in darkness and silence to avoid this transformation.
The story of Gitto Bach, a familiar one in Wales, is a picturesque
example. Gitto Bach (little Griffith), a good little farmer's boy of
Glamorganshire, used often to ramble to the top of the mountain to
look after his father's sheep. On his return he would show his
brothers and sisters pieces of remarkably white paper, like crown
pieces, with letters stamped upon them, which he said were given to
him by the little children with whom he played on the mountain. One
day he did not return. For two years nothing was heard of him.
Meantime other children occasionally got like crown-pieces of paper
from the mountains. One morning when Gitto's mother opened the door
there he sat--the truant!--dressed exactly as he was when she saw him
last, two years before. He had a little bundle under his arm. 'Where
in the world have you been all this time?' asked the mother, 'Why,
it's only yesterday I went away!' quoth Gitto. 'Look at the pretty
clothes the children gave me on the mountain, for dancing with them to
the music of their harps.' With this he opened his bundle, and showed
a handsome dress; and behold, it was only paper, like the fairy money.


[59] 'Winter's Tale,' Act III., Sc. 3.


But usually, throughout Wales, it is simply a discontinuance of fairy
favour which follows blabbing. A legend is connected with a bridge in
Anglesea, of a lad who often saw the fairies there, and profited by
their generosity. Every morning, while going to fetch his father's
cows from pasture, he saw them, and after they were gone he always
found a groat on a certain stone of Cymmunod Bridge. The boy's having
money so often about him excited his father's suspicion, and one
Sabbath day he cross-questioned the lad as to the manner in which it
was obtained. Oh, the meddlesomeness of fathers! Of course the poor
boy confessed that it was through the medium of the fairies, and of
course, though he often went after this to the field, he never found
any money on the bridge, nor saw the offended Tylwyth Teg again.
Through his divulging the secret their favour was lost.

Jones tells a similar story of a young woman named Anne William
Francis, in the parish of Bassalleg, who on going by night into a
little grove of wood near the house, heard pleasant music, and saw a
company of fairies dancing on the grass. She took a pail of water
there, thinking it would gratify them. The next time she went there
she had a shilling given her, 'and so had for several nights after,
until she had twenty-one shillings.' But her mother happening to find
the money, questioned her as to where she got it, fearing she had
stolen it. At first the girl would not tell, but when her mother 'went
very severe on her,' and threatened to beat her, she confessed she got
the money from the fairies. After that they never gave her any more.
The Prophet adds: 'I have heard of other places where people have had
money from the fairies, sometimes silver sixpences, but most commonly
copper coin. As they cannot make money, it certainly must be money
lost or concealed by persons.' The Euhemerism of this is hardly like
the wonder-loving Jones.


In the legends of the two shepherds of Cwm Llan and their experience
with the fairies, the first deals with the secrecy feature, while the
second reproduces the often-impressed lesson concerning the money
value of kindness. The first is as follows: One evening a shepherd,
who had been searching for his sheep on the side of Nant y Bettws,
after crossing Bwlch Cwm Llan, espied a number of little people
singing and dancing, and some of the prettiest damsels he ever set
eyes on preparing a feast. He went to them and partook of the meal,
and thought he had never tasted anything to equal those dishes. When
it became dusk they pitched their tents, and the shepherd had never
seen before such beautiful things as they had about them there. They
provided him with a soft feather-bed and sheets of the finest linen,
and he retired, feeling like a prince. But on the morrow, lo and
behold! his bed was but a bush of bulrushes, and his pillow a tuft of
moss. He however found in his shoes some pieces of silver, and
afterwards, for a long time, he continued to find once a week a piece
of silver placed between two stones near the spot where he had lain.
One day he divulged his secret to another, and the weekly coin was
never placed there again.

There was another shepherd near Cwm Llan, who heard some strange noise
in a crevice of a rock, and turning to see what it was, found there a
singular creature who wept bitterly. He took it out and saw it to be a
fairy child, but whilst he was looking at it compassionately, two
middle-aged men came to him and thanked him courteously for his
kindness, and on leaving him presented him with a staff as a token of
remembrance of the occasion. The following year every sheep he
possessed bore two ewe lambs. They continued to thus breed for years
to come; but one very dark and stormy night, having stayed very late
in the village, in crossing the river that comes down from Cwm Llan,
there being a great flood sweeping everything before it, he dropped
his staff into the river and saw it no more. On the morrow he found
that nearly all his sheep and lambs, like his staff, had been swept
away by the flood. His wealth had departed from him in the same way as
it came--with the staff which he had received from the guardians of
the fairy child.


A Pembrokeshire Welshman told me this story as a tradition well known
in that part of Wales. Ianto Llewellyn was a man who lived in the
parish of Llanfihangel, not more than fifty or eighty years ago, and
who had precious good reason to believe in the fairies. He used to
keep his fire of coal balls burning all night long, out of pure
kindness of heart, in case the Tylwyth Teg should be cold. That they
came into his kitchen every night he was well aware; he often heard
them. One night when they were there as usual, Ianto was lying wide
awake and heard them say, 'I wish we had some good bread and cheese
this cold night, but the poor man has only a morsel left; and though
it's true that would be a good meal for us, it is but a mouthful to
him, and he might starve if we took it.' At this Ianto cried out at
the top of his voice, 'Take anything I've got in my cupboard and
welcome to you!' Then he turned over and went to sleep. The next
morning, when he descended into the kitchen, he looked in his
cupboard, to see if by good luck there might be a bit of crust there.
He had no sooner opened the cupboard door than he cried out, 'O'r
anwyl! what's this?' for there stood the finest cheese he had ever
seen in his life, with two loaves of bread on top of it. 'Lwc dda i
ti!' cried Ianto, waving his hand toward the wood where he knew the
fairies lived; 'good luck to you! May you never be hungry or
penniless!' And he had not got the words out of his mouth when he
saw--what do you think?--a shilling on the hob! But that was the lucky
shilling. Every morning after this, when Ianto got up, there was the
shilling on the hob--another one, you mind, for he'd spent the first
for beer and tobacco to go with his bread and cheese. Well, after
that, no man in the parish was better supplied with money than Ianto
Llewellyn, though he never did a stroke of work. He had enough to keep
his wife in ease and comfort, too, and he got the name of Lucky Ianto.
And lucky he might have been to the day of his death but for the
curiosity of woman. Betsi his wife was determined to know where all
this money came from, and gave the poor man no peace. 'Wel, naw wfft!'
she cried--which means in English, 'Nine shames on you'--'to have a
bad secret from your own dear wife!' 'But you know, Betsi, if I tell
you I'll never get any more money.' 'Ah,' said she, 'then it's the
fairies!' 'Drato!' said he--and that means 'Bother it all'--'yes--the
fairies it is.' With that he thrust his hands down in his breeches
pockets in a sullen manner and left the house. He had had seven
shillings in his pockets up to that minute, and he went feeling for
them with his fingers, and found they were gone. In place of them were
some pieces of paper fit only to light his pipe. And from that day the
fairies brought him no more money.


The lesson of generosity is taught with force and simplicity in the
legend of Hafod Lwyddog, and the necessity for secrecy is quite
abandoned. Again it is a shepherd, who dwelt at Cwm Dyli, and who went
every summer to live in a cabin by the Green Lake (Llyn Glas) along
with his fold. One morning on awaking from sleep he saw a good-looking
damsel dressing an infant close by his side. She had very little in
which to wrap the babe, so he threw her an old shirt of his own, and
bade her place it about the child. She thanked him and departed. Every
night thereafter the shepherd found a piece of silver placed in an
old clog in his cabin. Years and years this good luck continued, and
Meirig the shepherd became immensely wealthy. He married a lovely
girl, and went to the Hafod Lwyddog to live. Whatever he undertook
prospered--hence the name Hafod Lwyddog, for Lwydd means prosperity.
The fairies paid nightly visits to the Hafod. No witch or evil sprite
could harm this people, as Bendith y Mamau was poured down upon the
family, and all their descendants.[60]


[60] 'Cymru Fu,' 472.


The thought will naturally occur that by fostering belief in such
tales as some of the foregoing, roguery might make the superstition
useful in silencing inquiry as to ill-gotten gains. But on the other
hand the virtues of hospitality and generosity were no doubt fostered
by the same influences. If any one was favoured by the fairies in this
manner, the immediate explanation was, that he had done a good turn to
them, generally without suspecting who they were. The virtues of
neatness, in young girls and servants, were encouraged by the like
notions; the belief that a fairy will leave money only on a clean-kept
hob, could tend to nothing more directly. It was also made a condition
of pleasing the Tylwyth Teg that the hearth should be carefully swept
and the pails left full of water. Then the fairies would come at
midnight, continue their revels till daybreak, sing the well-known
strain of 'Toriad y Dydd,' or 'The Dawn,' leave a piece of money on
the hob, and disappear. Here is seen a precaution against fire in the
clean-swept hearth and the provision of filled water-pails. That the
promised reward did not always arrive, was not evidence it would never
arrive; and so the virtue of perseverance was also fostered.

Superstitions of this class are widely prevalent among Aryan peoples.
The 'Arabian Nights' story of the old rogue whose money turned to
leaves will be recalled. In Danish folk-lore, the fairy money bestowed
on the boors turns sometimes to pebbles, and sometimes grows hot and
burns their fingers, so that they drop it, when it sinks into the

  [Music: TORIAD Y DYDD.]


    Origins of Welsh Fairies--The Realistic Theory--Legend of
    the Baron's Gate--The Red Fairies--The Trwyn Fairy a
    Proscribed Nobleman--The Theory of hiding Druids--Colour in
    Welsh Fairy Attire--The Green Lady of Caerphilly--White the
    favourite Welsh Hue--Legend of the Prolific Woman--The
    Poetico-Religious Theory--The Creed of Science.


Concerning the origin of the Tylwyth Teg, there are two popular
explanations, the one poetico-religious in its character, the other
practical and realistic. Both are equally wide of the truth, the true
origin of fairies being found in the primeval mythology; but as my
purpose is to avoid enlarging in directions generally familiar to the
student, I have only to present the local aspects of this, as of the
other features of the subject.

The realistic theory of the origin of the Tylwyth Teg must be
mentioned respectfully, because among its advocates have been men of
culture and good sense. This theory presumes that the first fairies
were men and women of mortal flesh and blood, and that the later
superstitions are a mere echo of tales which first were told of real
beings. In quasi-support of this theory, there is a well-authenticated
tradition of a race of beings who, in the middle of the sixteenth
century, inhabited the Wood of the Great Dark Wood (Coed y Dugoed
Mawr) in Merionethshire, and who were called the Red Fairies. They
lived in dens in the ground, had fiery red hair and long strong arms,
and stole sheep and cattle by night. There are cottages in Cemmaes
parish, near the Wood of the Great Dark Wood, with scythes in the
chimneys, which were put there to keep these terrible beings out. One
Christmas eve a valiant knight named Baron Owen headed a company of
warriors who assailed the Red Fairies, and found them flesh and blood.
The Baron hung a hundred of them; but spared the women, one of whom
begged hard for the life of her son. The Baron refused her prayer,
whereupon she opened her breast and shrieked, 'This breast has nursed
other sons than he, who will yet wash their hands in thy blood, Baron
Owen!' Not very long thereafter, the Baron was waylaid at a certain
spot by the sons of the 'fairy' woman, who washed their hands in his
warm and reeking blood, in fulfilment of their mother's threat. And to
this day that spot goes by the name of Llidiart y Barwn (the Baron's
Gate); any peasant of the neighbourhood will tell you the story, as
one told it to me. There is of course no better foundation for the
fairy features of it than the fancies of the ignorant mind, but the
legend itself is--very nearly in this shape--historical. The beings in
question were a band of outlaws, who might naturally find it to their
interest to foster belief in their supernatural powers.


The so-called Pwca'r Trwyn, which haunted the farm-house in the parish
of Mynyddyslwyn, is sometimes cited as another case in which a fairy
was probably a being of flesh and blood; and if this be true, it of
course proves nothing but the adoption of an ancient superstition by a
proscribed Welsh nobleman. There is a tradition that this fairy had a
name, and that this name was 'yr Arglwydd Hywel,' which is in English
'Lord Howell.' And it is argued that this Lord, in a contest with the
forces of the English king, was utterly worsted, and driven into
hiding; that his tenants at Pantygasseg and the Trwyn Farm, loving
their Lord, helped to hide him, and to disseminate the belief that he
was a household fairy, or Bwbach. It is related that he generally
spoke from his own room in this farm-house, in a gentle voice which
'came down between the boards' into the common room beneath. One day
the servants were comparing their hands, as to size and whiteness,
when the fairy was heard to say, 'The Pwca's hand is the fairest and
smallest.' The servants asked if the fairy would show its hand, and
immediately a plank overhead was moved and a hand appeared, small,
fair and beautifully formed, with a large gold ring on the little


Curiously interesting is the hypothesis concerning the realistic
origin of the Tylwyth Teg, which was put forth at the close of the
last century by several writers, among them the Rev. Peter Roberts,
author of the 'Collectanea Cambrica.' This hypothesis precisely
accounts for the fairies anciently as being the Druids, in hiding from
their enemies, or if not they, other persons who had such cause for
living concealed in subterraneous places, and venturing forth only at
night. 'Some conquered aborigines,' thought Dr. Guthrie; while Mr.
Roberts fancied that as the Irish had frequently landed hostilely in
Wales, 'it was very possible that some small bodies of that nation
left behind, or unable to return, and fearing discovery, had hid
themselves in caverns during the day, and sent their children out at
night, fantastically dressed, for food and exercise, and thus secured
themselves.' But there were objections to this presumption, and the
Druidical theory was the favourite one. Says Mr. Roberts: 'The fairy
customs appeared evidently too systematic, and too general, to be
those of an accidental party reduced to distress. They are those of a
consistent and regular policy instituted to prevent discovery, and to
inspire fear of their power, and a high opinion of their beneficence.
Accordingly tradition notes, that to attempt to discover them was to
incur certain destruction. "They are fairies," says Falstaff: "he that
looks on them shall die." They were not to be impeded in ingress or
egress; a bowl of milk was to be left for them at night on the hearth;
and, in return, they left a small present in money when they departed,
if the house was kept clean; if not, they inflicted some punishment on
the negligent, which, as it was death to look on them, they were
obliged to suffer, and no doubt but many unlucky tricks were played on
such occasions. Their general dress was green, that they might be the
better concealed; and, as their children might have betrayed their
haunts, they seem to have been suffered to go out only in the night
time, and to have been entertained by dances on moonlight nights.
These dances, like those round the Maypole, have been said to be
performed round a tree; and on an elevated spot, mostly a tumulus,
beneath which was probably their habitation, or its entrance. The
older persons, probably, mixed as much as they dared with the world;
and, if they happened to be at any time recognised, the certainty of
their vengeance was their safety. If by any chance their society was
thinned, they appear to have stolen children, and changed feeble for
strong infants. The stolen children, if beyond infancy, being brought
into their subterraneous dwellings, seem to have had a soporific given
them, and to have been carried to a distant part of the country; and,
being there allowed to go out merely by night, mistook the night for
the day, and probably were not undeceived until it could be done
securely. The regularity and generality of this system shows that
there was a body of people existing in the kingdom distinct from its
known inhabitants, and either confederated, or obliged to live or meet
mysteriously; and their rites, particularly that of dancing round a
tree, probably an oak, as Herne's, etc., as well as their character
for truth and probity, refer them to a Druidic origin. If this was the
case, it is easy to conceive, as indeed history shows, that, as the
Druids were persecuted by the Romans and Christians, they used these
means to preserve themselves and their families, and whilst the
country was thinly peopled, and thickly wooded, did so successfully;
and, perhaps, to a much later period than is imagined: till the
increase of population made it impossible. As the Druidical was one of
the most ancient religions, so it must have been one of the first
persecuted, and forced to form a regular plan of security, which their
dwelling in caves may have suggested, and necessity improved.'


It will be observed that one of the points in this curious speculation
rests on the green dress of the fairies. I do not call attention to it
with any Quixotic purpose of disputing the conclusion it assists; it
is far more interesting as one feature of the general subject of
fairies' attire. The Welsh fairies are described with details as to
colour in costume not commonly met with in fairy tales, a fact to
which I have before alluded. In the legend of the Place of Strife,
the Tylwyth Teg encountered by the women are called 'the old elves of
the blue petticoat.' A connection with the blue of the sky has here
been suggested. It has also been pointed out that the sacred Druidical
dress was blue. The blue petticoat fancy seems to be local to North
Wales. In Cardiganshire, the tradition respecting an encampment called
Moyddin, which the fairies frequented, is that they were always in
green dresses, and were never seen there but in the vernal month of
May. There is a Glamorganshire goblin called the Green Lady of
Caerphilly, the colour of whose dress is indicated by her title. She
haunts the ruin of Caerphilly Castle at night, wearing a green robe,
and has the power of turning herself into ivy and mingling with the
ivy growing on the wall. A more ingenious mode of getting rid of a
goblin was perhaps never invented. The fairies of Frennifawr, in
Pembrokeshire, were on the contrary gorgeous in scarlet, with red
caps, and feathers waving in the wind as they danced. But others were
in white, and this appears to be the favourite hue of modern Welsh
fairy costume, when the Tylwyth Teg are in holiday garb. These various
details of colour are due to the fervour of the Welsh fancy, of
course, and perhaps their variety may in part be ascribed to a keener
sense of the fitness of things among moderns than was current in
earlier times. White, to the Welsh, would naturally be the favourite
colour for a beautiful creature, dancing in the moonlight on the
velvet sward. The most popular pet name for a Welsh lass is to-day
exactly what it has been for centuries, viz., Gwenny, the diminutive
of Gwenllian (Anglicised into Gwendoline)--a name which means simply
white linen; and the white costume of the favourite fairies
undoubtedly signifies a dress of white linen. This fabric, common as
it is in our day, was in ancient times of inestimable value. In the
Mabinogion, linen is repeatedly particularised in the gorgeous
descriptions of fabled splendour in princely castles--linen, silk,
satin, velvet, gold-lace, and jewels, are the constantly-recurring
features of sumptuous attire. In his account of the royal tribes of
Wales, Yorke mentions that linen was so rare in the reign of Charles
VII. of France (i.e., in the fifteenth century) 'that her majesty the
queen could boast of only two shifts of that commodity.' The first
cause of the fairies' robes being white is evidently to be discerned
here; and in Wales the ancient sentiment as to whiteness remains. The
Welsh peasantry, coarsely and darkly clad themselves, would make white
a purely holiday colour, and devise some other hue for such commoner
fairies as the Bwbach and his sort:

    The coarse and country fairy,
    That doth haunt the hearth and dairy.[61]

So the Bwbach is usually brown, often hairy; and the Coblynau are
black or copper-coloured in face as well as dress.


[61] Jonson, Masque of 'Oberon.'


A local legend of the origin of fairies in Anglesea mingles the
practical and the spiritual in this manner: 'In our Saviour's time
there lived a woman whose fortune it was to be possessed of nearly a
score of children, ... and as she saw our blessed Lord approach her
dwelling, being ashamed of being so prolific, and that He might not
see them all, she concealed about half of them closely, and after his
departure, when she went in search of them, to her great surprise
found they were all gone. They never afterwards could be discovered,
for it was supposed that as a punishment from heaven for hiding what
God had given her, she was deprived of them; and it is said these her
offspring have generated the race called fairies.'[62]


[62] 'Camb. Sup.,' 118.


The common or popular theory, however, is in Wales the
poetico-religious one. This is, in a word, the belief that the Tylwyth
Teg are the souls of dead mortals not bad enough for hell nor good
enough for heaven. They are doomed to live on earth, to dwell in
secret places, until the resurrection day, when they will be admitted
into paradise. Meantime they must be either incessantly toiling or
incessantly playing, but their toil is fruitless and their pleasure
unsatisfying. A variation of this general belief holds these souls to
be the souls of the ancient Druids, a fancy which is specially
impressive, as indicating the duration of their penance, and reminds
us of the Wandering Jew myth. It is confined mainly to the Coblynau,
or dwellers in mines and caves. Another variation considers the
fairies bad spirits of still remoter origin--the same in fact who were
thrown over the battlements of heaven along with Satan, but did not
fall into hell--landed on the earth instead, where they are permitted
to tarry till doomsday as above. A detail of this theory is in
explanation of the rare appearance of fairies nowadays; they are
refraining from mischief in view of the near approach of the judgment,
with the hope of thus conciliating heaven.

The Prophet Jones, in explaining why the fairies have been so active
in Wales, expounds the poetico-religious theory in masterly form.
After stating that some in Monmouthshire were so ignorant as to think
the fairies happy spirits, because they had music and dancing among
them, he proceeds to assert, in the most emphatic terms, that the
Tylwyth Teg are nothing else, 'after all the talking about them,' but
the disembodied spirits of men who lived and died without the
enjoyment of the means of grace and salvation, as Pagans and others,
and whose punishment therefore is far less severe than that of those
who have enjoyed the means of salvation. 'But some persons may desire
to know why these fairies have appeared in Wales more than in some
other countries? to which I answer, that I can give no other reason
but this, that having lost the light of the true religion in the
eighth and ninth centuries of Christianity, and received Popery in its
stead, it became dark night upon them; and then these spirits of
darkness became more bold and intruding; and the people, as I said
before, in their great ignorance seeing them like a company of
children in dry clean places, dancing and having music among them,
thought them to be some happy beings, ... and made them welcome in
their houses.... The Welsh entered into familiarity with the fairies
in the time of Henry IV., and the evil then increased; the severe laws
of that prince enjoining, among other things, that they were not to
bring up their children to learning, etc., by which a total darkness
came upon them; which cruel laws were occasioned by the rebellion of
Owen Glandwr, and the Welsh which joined with him; foolishly thinking
to shake off the Saxon yoke before they had repented of their sins.'

Whatever their locally accepted causes of being may be, it is beyond
any question that in the fairy folk-lore of Wales, as of other lands,
are to be found the _débris_ of ancient mythology--scintillant
fragments of those magic constellations which glow in the darkness of
primeval time, grand and majestic as the vast Unknown out of which
they were evolved by barbaric fancy. Through the aid of modern
scientific research, 'those ages which the myths of centuries have
peopled with heroic shadows'[63] are brought nearer to us, and the
humble Welsh Tylwyth Teg may reach back and shake hands with the
Olympian gods.



[63] Marquis of Bute, address before the Royal Archæological
Institute, Cardiff meeting.



    Where the wan spectres walk eternal rounds.

    _Miranda._ What is't? a spirit?
               Lord, how it looks about! Believe me, sir,
               It carries a brave form:--But 'tis a spirit.
                    SHAKSPEARE: _Tempest_.


    Modern Superstition regarding Ghosts--American
    'Spiritualism'--Welsh Beliefs--Classification of Welsh
    Ghosts--Departed Mortals--Haunted Houses--Lady Stradling's
    Ghost--The Haunted Bridge--The Legend of Catrin
    Gwyn--Didactic Purpose in Cambrian Apparitions--An Insulted
    Corpse--Duty-performing Ghosts--Laws of the
    Spirit-World--Cadogan's Ghost.


In an age so given to mysticism as our own, it is unnecessary to urge
that the Welsh as a people are not more superstitious regarding
spirits than other peoples. Belief in the visits to earth of
disembodied spirits is common to all lands. There are no doubt
differences in the degree of this belief, as there are differences in
matters of detail. Where or how these spirits exist are questions much
more difficult to the average faith than why they exist. They exist
for the moral good of man; of this there prevails no doubt. The rest
belongs to the still unsettled science of the Unknowable. That form
of mysticism called 'spiritualism' by its disciples is dignified to
the thoughtful observer by being viewed as a remnant of the primeval
philosophy. When we encounter, in wandering among the picturesque
ghosts of the Welsh spirit-world, last-century stories displaying
details exactly similar to those of modern spiritualism, our interest
is strongly aroused. The student of folk-lore finds his materials in
stories and beliefs which appear to be of a widespread family, rather
than in stories and beliefs which are unique; and the spirit of
inquiry is constantly on the alert, in following the details of a good
old ghost story, however fascinating it may be in a poetic sense. The
phantoms of the Welsh spirit-world are always picturesque; they are
often ghastly; sometimes they are amusing to the point of risibility;
but besides, they are instructive to him whose purpose in studying is,
to know.

That this age is superstitious with regard to ghosts, is not
wonderful; all ages have been so; the wonder is that this age should
be so and yet be the possessor of a scientific record so extraordinary
as its own. An age which has brought forth the magnetic telegraph,
steamships and railway engines, sewing-machines, mowing-machines,
gas-light, and innumerable discoveries and inventions of marvellous
utility--not to allude to those of our own decade--should have no
other use for ghostology than a scientific one. But it would be a work
as idle as that of the Coblynau themselves, to point out how universal
among the most civilised nations is the superstition that spirits
walk. The 'controls' of the modern spiritualistic seance have the
world for their audience. The United States, a land generally
deemed--at least by its inhabitants--to be the most advanced in these
directions of any on God's footstool, gave birth to modern
spiritualism. Its disciples there compose a vast body of people,
respectable and worthy people in the main (as the victims of
superstition usually are), among whom are many men of high
intellectual ability. With the masses, some degree of belief in the
spirits is so nearly universal that I need hardly qualify the
adjective. In a country where there is practically no such class as
that represented in Europe by the peasantry, the rampancy of such a
belief is a phenomenon deserving close and curious study. The present
work affords no scope for this study, of course. But I may here
mention in further illustration of my immediate theme, the constant
appearance, in American communities, of ghosts of the old-fashioned
sort. Especially in the New England states, which are notable for
their enlightenment, are ghost-stories still frequent--such as that of
the haunted school-house at Newburyport, Mass., where a disembodied
spirit related its own murder; of the ghost of New Bedford, which
struck a visitor in the face, so that he yet bears the marks of the
blow; of the haunted house at Cambridge, in the classic shadow of
Harvard College. It is actually on record in the last-named case, that
the house fell to decay on account of its ghastly reputation, as no
one would live in it; that a tenant who ventured to occupy it in 1877
was disturbed by the spirit of a murdered girl who said her mortal
bones were buried in his cellar; and that a party of men actually dug
all night in that cellar in search of those bones, while the ghost
waltzed in a chamber overhead. The more common form of spirit peculiar
to our time appears constantly in various parts of the country; it is
continually turning up in the American newspapers, rapping on walls,
throwing stones, tipping over tables, etc. 'Mediums' of every grade
of shrewdness and stupidity, and widely differing degrees of education
and ignorance, flourish abundantly. Occasionally, where revelations of
murder have been made to a mortal by a spirit, the police have taken
the matter in hand. It is to be observed as a commendable practice in
such cases, that the mortal is promptly arrested by the police if
there has really been a murder; and when the fact appears, as it
sometimes does, that the mortal had need of no ghost to tell him what
he knows, he is hanged.


The Welsh dearly love to discuss questions of a spiritual and
religious nature, and there are no doubt many who look upon disbelief
herein as something approaching paganism. That one should believe in
God and a future life, and yet be utterly incredulous as to the
existence of a mundane spirit-world, seems to such minds impossible.
It is not many years since the clergy taught a creed of this sort. One
must not only believe in a spiritual existence, but must believe in
that existence here below--must believe that ghosts walked, and
meddled, and made disagreeable noises. Our friend the Prophet Jones
taught this creed with energy. In his relation of apparitions in
Monmouthshire, he says: 'Enough is said in these relations to satisfy
any reasonable sober-minded person, and to confute this ancient
heresy, now much revived and spreading, especially among the gentry,
and persons much estranged from God and spiritual things; and such as
will not be satisfied with things plainly proved and well designed;
are, in this respect, no better than fools, and to be despised as
such.... They are chiefly women and men of weak and womanish
understandings, who speak against the accounts of spirits and
apparitions. In some women this comes from a certain proud fineness,
excessive delicacy, and a superfine disposition which cannot bear to
be disturbed with what is strange and disagreeable to a vain spirit.'
Nor does the Prophet hesitate to apply the term 'Sadducees' to all
doubters of his goblins. His warrant for this is found in Wesley and
Luther. That Luther saw apparitions, or believed he did, is commonly
known. Wesley's beliefs in this direction, however, are of a nearer
century, and strike us more strangely; though it must be said that the
Prophet Jones, in our own century, believed more than either of his
eminent prototypes. 'It is true,' wrote Wesley, 'that the English in
general, and indeed most of the men in Europe, have given up all
accounts of witches and apparitions as mere old wives' fables. I am
sorry for it, and I willingly take this opportunity of entering my
solemn protest against this violent compliment which so many that
believe the Bible pay to those who do _not_ believe it.... They well
know, whether Christians know it or not, that the giving up witchcraft
is, in effect, giving up the Bible. And they know, on the other hand,
that if but one account of the intercourse of men with separate
spirits be admitted, their whole castle in the air--deism, atheism,
materialism--falls to the ground.'


The ghosts of Wales present many well-defined features. It is even
possible to classify them, after a fashion. Of course, as with all
descriptions of phantoms, the vagueness inevitable in creatures of the
imagination is here; but the ghosts of Welsh tradition are often so
old, and have been handed down so cleanly through successive
generations, that in our day they have almost acquired definite
outlines, as in the case of images arising from the perceptions.
Always bearing in mind the risk of being lost in the labyrinthine
eccentricities of popular fancy, compared to which the Arsinoë of
Herodotus was unperplexing, I venture to classify the inhabitants of
the Welsh spirit-world thus: 1. Departed Mortals; 2. Goblin Animals;
3. Spectres of Natural Objects; 4. Grotesque Ghosts; 5. Familiar
Spirits; 6. Death Omens.


The ghosts of departed mortals are usually the late personal
acquaintances of the people who see them. But sometimes they are
strangers whom nobody knows, and concerning whom everybody is curious.
Two such ghosts haunted the streets of Ebbw Vale, in Glamorganshire,
in January, 1877. One was in the shape of an old woman, the other in
that of a girl child. Timid people kept indoors after nightfall, and
there were many who believed thoroughly in the ghostly character of
the mysterious visitors. Efforts were made to catch them, but they
eluded capture. It was hinted by materialists that they were thieves;
by unbelievers in spiritualism that they had perhaps escaped from a
seance in some adjoining town. These ghosts, however, are not very
interesting. A cultivated moderner can have no satisfaction in forming
the acquaintance of a seance ghost; it is quite otherwise in the case
of a respectable old family goblin which has haunted a friend's house
in the most orthodox manner for centuries. Such ghosts are numerous in
Wales, and quite faithfully believed in by selected individuals.
Indeed one of the highest claims to a dignified antiquity that can be
put in by a Welsh family mansion, is the possession of a good
old-fashioned blood-curdling spectre--like that, for example, which
has haunted Duffryn House, a handsome stone manse near Cardiff, for
the past two hundred years and more. This is the ghost of the doughty
admiral Sir Thomas Button, famed in his day as an Arctic navigator.
Since his death he has faithfully haunted (so the local farm folk say)
the cellar and the garden of Duffryn House, where he lived, when he
did live, which was in the 17th century. He has never been known to
appear in hall or chamber of the mansion, within the memory of man,
but has been seen hovering over the beer butt or tun in the cellar,
commemorated in his name, and walking in the flower-garden of a fine
windy night.

It is noteworthy that in Wales it is by no means necessary that a
house should be tenantless, mortally speaking, merely because a ghost
haunts it. The dreary picture of desolation drawn by Hood, the
all-sufficient explanation of which was--

    ... the place is haunted!

would not recall the smug tidiness of Duffryn House, whose clean-cut
lawns and well-trimmed hedges are fit surroundings of a mansion where
luxurious comfort reigns. A ghost which confines itself to the cellar
and the garden need disturb neither the merrymaking nor the slumbers
of the guests.

St. Donat's Castle is down on the southern coast of Glamorganshire, in
a primitive region not yet profaned by railroads, nor likely to be
perhaps for many years to come. It is owned and inhabited by a worthy
gentleman whose ancestors for seven centuries sleep in the graveyard
under the old castle wall. Its favourite ghost--for to confine this
or any other ancient Welsh castle to a single ghost would be almost
disrespectful--is that of Lady Stradling, who was done away with by
some of her family in those wicked old times when families did not
always dwell in peace together. This ghost makes a practice of
appearing when any mishap is about to befall a member of the house of
Stradling--the direct line of which is, however, extinct, a fact not
very well apprehended among the neighbouring peasantry. She wears
high-heeled shoes and a long trailing gown of the finest silk. In this
guise doth she wander up and down the long majestic halls and
chambers, and, while she wanders, the castle hounds refuse to rest,
but with their howlings raise all the dogs of the village under the


Ghosts of this sort are vague and purposeless in character, beyond a
general blood-curdling office which in all ghosts doth dwell. They
haunt not only castles and family mansions, but bridges, rocks, and
roads, objectless but frightful. The ghost of Pont Cwnca Bach, near
Yscanhir, in Carmarthenshire, frightens people off the bridge into the
rivulet. Many belated peasants have had this dire experience at the
little bridge, afterwards wandering away in a dazed condition, and
finding themselves on recovering at some distance from home, often in
the middle of a bog. In crossing this bridge people were seized with
'a kind of _cold dread_,' and felt 'a peculiar sensation' which they
could not describe, but which the poorest fancy can no doubt imagine.
Another purposeless spectre exists in the legend of Catrin Gwyn, told
in Cardiganshire. The ruin of a shepherd's cottage, standing on a
mountain waste near the river Rheidol, is the haunt of this spectre.
A peasant who was asked to escort a stranger up the narrow defile of
rocks by the ruin, in horror exclaimed, 'Yn enw y daioni, peidiwch,'
(in the name of heaven, sir, don't go!) 'or you'll meet White Catti of
the Grove Cave.' 'And what's that?' 'An evil spirit, sir.' And the
superstitious peasant would neither be laughed nor reasoned out of his
fears. Catrin was the bride of a young shepherd living near
Machynlleth in 1705. One day she went to market with a party of other
peasants, who separated from her on the return way at a point two
miles from Gelli Gogo. She was never more seen alive. A violent storm
arose in the night, and next day a scrap of her red cloak was found on
the edge of a frightful bog, in which she is believed to have
disappeared in the darkness and storm. The husband went mad; their
cottage fell to decay; and to this day the shepherds declare that
Catti's ghost haunts the spot. It is most often seen, and in its most
terrific shape, during howling storms, when it rides on the gale,
shrieking as it goes.[64]


[64] 'Camb. Quarterly,' i., 452.


Few Cambrian spirits are devoid of a didactic purpose. Some teach
reverence for the dead,--a lesson in great request among the rising
generation in Wales and elsewhere. The church at Tregaron,
Cardiganshire, was being rebuilt in 1877, and certain skulls were
turned up by the diggers in making new foundations. The boys of
Tregaron amused themselves playing ball with the skulls, picking out
their teeth, banging them against the wall to see if they would break,
and the like.[65] They probably never heard the story told by Mrs.
Morgan of Newport to the Prophet Jones: of some people who were
drinking at an inn there, 'two of them officers of excise,' when one
of the men, to show his courage, declared he was afraid of no ghosts,
and dared go to the charnel house and fetch a skull from that ghastly
place. This bold and dangerous thing he did, and the men debated, over
their beer, whether it was a male or a female skull, and concluded it
was a woman's, 'though the grave nearly destroys the difference
between male and female before the bones are turned to dust, and the
difference then quite destroyed and known only to God.' After a jolly
hour over the skull, the bold one carried it back and left it where he
got it; but as he was leaving the church, suddenly a tremendous blast
like a whirlwind seized him, and so mauled and hauled him that his
teeth chattered in his head and his knees knocked together, and he
ever after swore that nothing should tempt him to such a deed again.
He was still more convinced that the ghost of the original owner of
the skull had been after him, when he got home, and his wife told him
that his cane, which hung in the room, had been beating against the
wall in a dreadful manner.


[65] 'Western Mail,' Dec. 14, 1877.


As a rule, the motive for the reappearance on earth of a spirit lately
tenanting a mortal body, is found in some neglected duty. The spirit
of a suicide is morally certain to walk: a reason why suicides are so
unpopular as tenants of graveyards. It is a brave man who will go to
the grave of a suicide and play 'Hob y deri dando' on the ysturmant
(jew's-harp), without missing a note. Many are the tales displaying
the motive, on the ghost's part, of a duty to perform--sometimes
clearly defining it, sometimes vaguely suggesting it, as in the story
of Noe. 'The evening was far gone when a traveller of the name of Noe
arrived at an inn in Pembrokeshire, and called for refreshment. After
remaining some time he remarked that he must proceed on his journey.
"Surely," said the astonished landlord, "you will not travel at night,
for it is said that a ghost haunts that road, crying out, The days are
long and the nights are cold to wait for Noe." "O, I am the man sought
for," said he, and immediately departed; but strange to say, neither
Noe nor the ghost was ever heard of afterwards.'[66]

The ghost of a weaver, which appeared to Walter John Harry, had a very
clear idea of the duty he must perform: Walter John Harry was a
Quaker, a harmless, honest man, and by trade a farrier, who lived in
the romantic valley of Ebwy Fawr. The house he lived in was haunted by
the ghost of Morgan Lewis, a weaver, who had died in that house. One
night, while lying awake in his bed, with his wife sleeping by his
side, Harry saw a light slowly ascending the stairs, and being
somewhat afraid, though he was naturally a fearless man, strove to
awake his wife by pinching her, but could not awake her. So there he
lay in great fear, and with starting eyes beheld the ghost of the
weaver come up the stairs, bearing a candle in its hand, and wearing a
white woollen cap on its head, with other garments usual to the weaver
when alive. The ghost came near the farrier's bed, who then mustered
up courage to speak to it. 'Morgan Lewis,' said Harry, 'why dost thou
walk this earth?' The ghost replied with great solemnity, that its
reason for so doing was that there were some 'bottoms of wool' hidden
in the wall of this house, and until these said bottoms were removed
from the wall it could not sleep. The ghost did not say this wool had
been stolen, but such was the inference. However, the harmless farrier
spoke severely to the ghost, saying, 'I charge thee, Morgan Lewis, in
the name of God, that thou trouble my house no more.' Whereupon the
ghost vanished, and the house ceased thereafter to be haunted.

The motives animating ghosts are much the same the world over, and
these details have no greater novelty than that of the local
colouring. European peoples are familiar with the duty-compelled
ghost; but it is odd to encounter the same spectre in China. The most
common form of Chinese ghost-story is that wherein the ghost seeks to
bring to justice the murderer who shuffled off its mortal coil. The
ghosts of suicides are also especially obnoxious there. The spectres
which are animated by a sense of duty are more frequently met than any
others: now they seek to serve virtue in distress, now they aim to
restore wrongfully-held treasure.[67]


[66] 'Camb. Sup.,' 31.

[67] Dennys, 'Folk-Lore of China,' 73.


The laws governing the Welsh spirit-world are clear and explicit. A
ghost on duty bent has no power of speech until first spoken to. Its
persistency in haunting is due to its eager desire to speak, and tell
its urgent errand, but the person haunted must take his courage in
both hands and put the question to the issue. Having done so, he is
booked for the end of the business, be it what it may. The mode of
speech adopted must not vary, in addressing a spirit; in the name of
the Father, Son, or Holy Ghost it must be addressed, and not
otherwise. Its business must be demanded; three times the question
must be repeated, unless the ghost answer earlier. When it answers, it
speaks in a low and hollow voice, stating its desire; and it must not
be interrupted while speaking, for to interrupt it is dangerous in the
extreme. At the close of its remarks, questions are in order. They
must be promptly delivered, however, or the ghost will vanish. They
must bear on the business in hand: it is offended if asked as to its
state, or other idle questions born of curiosity. Neglect to obey the
ghost's injunctions will lead to much annoyance, and eventually to
dire results. At first the spirit will appear with a discontented
visage, next with an angry one, and finally with a countenance
distorted with the most ferocious rage. Obedience is the only method
of escape from its revenge. Such is a _resumé_ of the laws. The
illustrations thereof are generally consistent in their details.

The story of Cadogan's ghost is one of many in kind. Thomas Cadogan
was the owner of a large estate in the parish of Llanvihangel
Llantarnam, and being a covetous man did wickedly remove his landmarks
in such a way as to absorb to himself part of the land of a widow his
neighbour. After his death this injustice troubled him, and as a
certain woman was going home one night, at a stile she passed over she
met Cadogan's ghost. By a strange forgetfulness, this woman for the
moment lost sight of the fact that Cadogan was now a ghost; she had
momentarily forgotten that Cadogan was dead. 'Mr. Cadogan,' said she,
with ungrammatical curiosity, 'what does you here this time o' night?'
To which the ghost answered, 'I was obliged to come.' It then
explained the matter of the landmarks, and begged the woman to request
a certain person (whom it mentioned) to remove them back to their
proper places; and then the ghost vanished. At this unexpected
termination of the interview, the woman suddenly recollected Cadogan's
death, and fell into a state of extreme terror. She however did as the
ghost had bidden her, and Cadogan walked no more.


    Household Ghosts and Hidden Treasures--The Miser of St.
    Donat's--Anne Dewy's Ghost--The Ghost on Horseback--Hidden
    Objects of Small Value--Transportation through the Air--From
    Breconshire to Philadelphia, Pa., in Thirty-Six Hours--Sir
    David Llwyd, the Magician--The Levitation of Walter
    Jones--Superstitions regarding Hares--The Legend of
    Monacella's Lambs--Aerial Transportation in Modern
    Spiritualism--Exorcising Household Ghosts--The Story of
    Haunted Margaret.


The majority of stories of this class turn on the subject of hidden
treasures. The popular belief is that if a person die while any
hoarded money--or indeed metal of any kind, were it nothing more than
old iron--is still hidden secretly, the spirit of that person cannot
rest. Its perturbation can only be relieved by finding a human hand to
take the hidden metal, and throw it down the stream of a river. To
throw it up the stream, will not do. The Ogmore is the favourite river
for this purpose in lower Glamorganshire. The spirit selects a
particular person as the subject of its attentions, and haunts that
person till asked what it wants, when it prefers its request. Some say
it is only ill-gotten treasure which creates this disturbance of the
grave's repose. A tailor's wife at Llantwit Major, who had been a
stout and jolly dame, was thus haunted until she was worn to the
semblance of a skeleton, 'for not choosing to take a hoard honestly to
the Ogmore.' But flesh and blood could not resist for ever, and
so--this is her story: 'I at last consented, for the sake of quiet,
to take the treasure to the river; and the spirit wafted me through
the air so high that I saw below me the church loft, and all the
houses, as if I leaned out of a balloon. When I took the treasure to
throw it into the river, in my flurry I flung it up stream instead of
down: and on this the spirit, with a savage look, tossed me into a
whirlwind, and however I got back to my home I know not.' The
bell-ringers found her lying insensible in the church lane, as they
were going home from church late in the evening.


There was an old curmudgeon of a money-hoarder who lived in a cottage
on the side of the cwm, or dingle, at St. Donat's, not far from the
Castle. His housekeeper was an antique dame of quaint aspect. He died,
and the dame lived there alone; but she began to grow so gaunt and
grizzly that people wondered at it, and the children ran frightened
from her. Some one finally got from her the confession that she was
haunted by the miser's ghost. To relieve her of its presence the
Methodists resolved to hold a prayer-meeting in the haunted house.
While they were there singing and praying the old woman suddenly
jumped up and screamed, 'There he is! there he is!' The people grew
silent. Then some one said, 'Ask it what it wants.' 'What do you
want?' quavered the old woman. No one heard the reply, except the
dame, who presently said: 'Where is it?' Then the old woman, nodding
and staring as if obeying an invisible mandate, groped her way to the
chimney, thrust her gaunt arm up, and drew down a bag of money. With
this she cried out, 'Let me go! let me go!' which, no one preventing
her, she did, as quickly as a flash of light. Some young men by the
door followed her, and, it being a bright moonlight night, beheld her
whisk over the stile without touching it, and so off up the road
towards the Ogmore. The people now resumed their praying and singing.
It was an hour before the old woman got back, and then she was found
to be spattered with mud and bedraggled with wet, as if she had been
having a terrific time. She had indeed, as she confessed, been to the
Ogmore, and thrown the bag of money down the stream; the ghost had
then taken off its hat, made a low bow, and vanished, to trouble her
no more.


A young man from Llywel parish, who was courting a lass who lodged at
the house of Thomas Richard, in the vale of Towy, found himself
haunted as he went to and fro by the ghost of Anne Dewy, a woman who
had hanged herself. She would not only meet him in the road, and
frighten him, but she would come to his bedside, and so scare him that
he fell ill. While he was ill his cousin came to see him, and thinking
his illness was due to his being crossed in love, rallied him, saying,
'Wfft! thou'rt sick because thy cariad has refused thee.' But being
gravely answered, and told of Anne Dewy's ghost, this cousin advised
the haunted man to speak to her. 'Speak to her,' said he, 'or thou
wilt have no quiet. I will go with thee, and see thou shalt have no
harm.' So they went out, and called at Tafarn y Garreg, an inn not far
off; but the haunted man could not drink, and often looked towards the
door. 'What ails the man?' asked the tap-room loungers. He continued
to be uneasy, and finally went out, his cousin following him, and then
he saw the ghost again. 'Oh God, here she is!' he cried out, his teeth
chattering and his eyes rolling. 'This is a sad thing,' said his
cousin: 'I know not what to think of thee; but come, I will go with
thee, go where thou wilt.' They returned to the ale-house, and after a
while the haunted man started up, saying he was called, but when
others offered to go with him he said no, he must go alone. He did go
alone, and spoke to the ghost, who said, 'Fear nothing; follow me.'
She led him to a spot behind the house where she had lived when in the
flesh, and where she had hanged herself, and bade him take from the
wall a small bag. He did so. The bag contained 'a great sum of money,'
in pieces of gold; he guessed it might be 200_l._ or more. But the
ghost, greatly to his regret, bade him go and cast it into the river.
He obeyed, against his better judgment. The next day, and for many a
day thereafter, people looked for that money where he had thrown it in
the river, but it never could be found. The Rev. Thomas Lewis, a
dissenting minister in those parts, saw the place in the wall where
the money had been hid, in the haunted house, and wondered how the
young man could reach it, it being so very high; but thought it likely
he was assisted by the ghost.


This same Rev. Thomas Lewis was well acquainted with a man who was
similarly employed by a perturbed spirit, and was at the man's bedside
when he died. This ghost was in appearance a clergyman, dressed in
black clothes, with a white wig on. As the man was looking out of an
ale-house window one night, he saw this ghost on horseback, and went
out to him. The ghost bowed and silently offered him drink; but this
was declined. Thereupon the ghost lifted his hat, crooked his elbow,
and said in a hollow tone, 'Attoch chwi, syr,' (towards you, sir).
But others who were there could see nothing and hear nothing. The
ghost then said, 'Go to Clifford Castle, in Radnorshire, take out some
money which lies hidden there, and throw it into the river. Do this, I
charge thee, or thou shalt have no rest.' Further and more explicit
directions were then given, and the unhappy man set out, against his
will, for Clifford Castle, which is the castle in which was born Fair
Rosamond, King Henry II.'s beautiful favourite. No one but himself was
allowed to enter the castle, although he was permitted to have a
friend's company to the ruined gate thereof. It was dark when they
came to the castle, but he was guided to the place where the money
was, and ran with it and flung it into the river. After that he was
haunted no more.

An old house at Ty'n-y-Twr, in Carnarvonshire, was haunted by a ghost
whose troubles were a reversal of the rule. A new tenant, who took
possession of the house a few years ago, was so bothered by this
spectre that he resolved to question it. He did so and got for answer
the information that if he would deposit a particular sum of money in
a specified place, his ghostship would cease to walk. The man actually
did this, and it acted like magic. The money disappeared with
promptitude, and the ghost came there no more.

A man at Crumlyn, Monmouthshire, was haunted by a ghost whose trouble
related to a hidden object of small value. Nevertheless the spectre
was so importunate that the man set out one night to accompany it to
the scene of perturbation. In due time they came to a huge stone,
which the ghost bade its friend lift up, who replied that he had not
sufficient strength, it being a pretty large rock he was thus
requested to move. 'But try,' said the ghost. So he tried, and lo! it
was lifted as if it had been a feather. He drew forth a pike, or
mattock; 'and the light,' the man afterwards related, 'was as great as
if the sun shone; and in the snow there was no impression of the feet
of either of us.' They went to the river, and by the ghost's command
the man threw the pike over his head into the water, standing with his
back to the flood. The ghost then conducted him home, and never
troubled him more. But for a long time after he was out of his senses.

This was an illustration, according to the popular belief, of the
wickedness of hiding anything, however trifling its value--a practice
strongly condemned by the Welsh peasantry.

There is a Glamorganshire story about a certain young man who,
returning late at night from courting his sweetheart, felt tired, and
sitting down fell asleep. He had not slept long when he was aroused by
a strange noise, and looking up recognised the ghost of his departed
grandfather. Enquiring the cause of the old gentleman's visit to this
scene of trials, he got this answer: 'Under the corner of the thatch
of your roof, look and you will find a pair of silver spurs,
surreptitiously obtained by me when in the flesh, and hidden there.
Throw them into the river Taff, and I shall be at peace.' The young
man obeyed these instructions, and found the spurs accordingly; and
although many persons were present when he climbed to the roof and
fumbled under the thatch, and saw him in the very act, not one among
them could see the spurs, which were to them invisible. They said,
however, that when the purloined spurs had been thrown into the river,
a bright flame was seen to flash along the water.


A large proportion of these stories of ghostly perturbation concerning
hidden treasure include a further feature of great interest, relating
to transportation through the air. I have mentioned that ghosts
sometimes employ the services of the fairy Boobach in thus carrying
mortals from place to place. The fairies of Wales are indeed
frequently found to be on the best of terms with the ghosts. Their
races have much in common, and so many of their practices are alike
that one is not always absolutely sure whether he is dealing with a
fairy or a spectre, until some test-point crops up. However, in
transporting a mortal through the air, ghost and fairy work together.
The Boobach being set his task, complaisantly gives the mortal the
choice of being transported above wind, amid wind, or below wind. The
value of knowing beforehand what to expect, was never better
illustrated than in this place. The mortal who, with a natural
reluctance to get into an unpleasantly swift current, avoids
travelling mid-wind, misses a pleasant journey, for mid-wind is the
only agreeable mode of being borne by a Boobach. Should you choose to
go above wind, you are transported so high that you skim the clouds
and are in danger of being frightened to death. But choosing the
below-wind course is even worse, for then you are dragged through
bush, through briar, in a way to impress upon you the advice of Apollo
to Phaeton, and teach you the value of the golden mean. _In medio
tutissimus ibis._


In the parish of Ystradgynlais, in Breconshire, Thomas Llewellyn, an
innkeeper's son, was often troubled by the spirit of a well-dressed
woman, who used to stand before him in narrow lanes, as if to bar his
passage, but he always got by her, though in great alarm. One night he
mustered up courage to speak to her, and ask her what she wanted with
him. To which she replied, 'Be not afraid; I will not hurt thee.' Then
she told him he must go to 'Philadelphia in Pennsylvania,' and take a
box from a house there, (which she described,) in which there was a
sum of 200_l._ But as he did not know how to go to that far-off place,
he said as much. 'Meet me here next Friday night,' said the phantom;
'meet me, I charge thee.' She then vanished. The young man went home
and told this story to his neighbours and friends. They held a
consultation with the curate of the parish, who promptly appointed a
prayer-meeting for that Friday night, to which the young man was
bidden, and by which it was hoped the purpose of the ghost to spirit
him off to Philadelphia might be circumvented. The meeting continued
until midnight, and when it broke up the young man's friends stayed
with him; but they had no sooner got beyond the parson's stables than
he was taken from among them. His subsequent adventures are thus
related by himself: 'The apparition carried me away to a river, and
threw me into it, chiding me for telling the people of our appointed
meeting and for not coming to meet her as she had charged me; but bade
me be not afraid, that she would not hurt me, because she had not
charged me to be silent on the subject; nevertheless I had done wrong
to go to the parson's house. Now, said she, we begin the journey. I
was then lifted up and carried away I know not how. When I came to the
place,' (in Philadelphia,) 'I was taken into a house, and conducted to
a fine room. The spirit then bade me lift up a board, which I did. I
then saw the box, and took it. Then the spirit said I must go three
miles and cast it into the black sea. We went, as I thought, to a lake
of clear water, where I was commanded to throw the box into it; which
when I did there was such a noise as if all about was going to pieces.
From thence I was taken up and carried to the place where I was first
taken up. I then asked her, Am I free now? She said I was; and then
she told me a secret, which she strictly charged me to tell no
person.' Extensive and ingenious guessing was indulged in by all
Ystradgynlais, as to what this secret might be; and one woman made
herself popular by remembering that there was a certain Elizabeth
Gething in other days who had gone from this neighbourhood to
Pennsylvania, and the conclusion was eagerly arrived at, that this was
the woman whose phantom the young man saw, and that the secret she
told him was her name when alive. They questioned him as to her
appearance, and he said she was largely made, very pale, her looks
severe, and her voice hollow, different from a human voice. This was
considered by the Ystradgynlaisians, with many nods to each other, as
a most accurate description of what Elizabeth Gething would probably
be, after having shuffled off this mortal coil. The time occupied in
this mysterious transportation and ghostly enterprise was three days
and three nights; that is, from Friday night to Monday night; and when
the voyager came home he could scarcely speak.


Sir David Llwyd, the Welsh magician, was once at Lanidloes town, in
Montgomeryshire, and as he was going home late at night, saw a boy
there from his neighbourhood. He asked the lad if he would like to
ride home behind him, and receiving an affirmative reply, took the boy
up behind on the horse's back. They rode so swiftly that they were
home in no time, and the boy lost one of his garters in the journey.
The next day, seeing something hanging in the ash-tree near the
church, he climbed up to learn what it was, and to his great surprise
found it was the garter he had lost. 'Which shows they rode home in
the air,' observes the Prophet Jones in telling the story. Mr. Jones
has a number of extraordinary narratives of this class--e.g., the
following, which I condense:

Henry Edmund, of Hafodafel, was one night visiting Charles Hugh, the
conjuror of Aberystruth, and they walked together as far as Lanhiddel,
where Hugh tried to persuade his companion to stay all night with him
at a public house. Edmund refused, and said he would go home. 'You had
_better_ stay,' said Hugh in a meaning tone. But Edmund went out into
the street, when he was seized by invisible hands and borne through
the air to Landovery, in Carmarthenshire, a distance of fully fifty
miles as the crow flies. There he was set down at a public house where
he had before been, and talked with people who knew him. He then went
out into the street, when he was seized again and borne back to
Lanhiddel, arriving there the next morning at daybreak. The first man
he met was the conjuror Charles Hugh, who said, 'Did I not tell you
you had better stay with me?'


The landlord of the inn at Langattock Crickhowel, in Breconshire, was
a man called Richard the Tailor. He was more than suspected of
resorting to the company of fairies, and of practising infernal arts.
One day a company of gentlemen were hunting in that vicinity, when the
hounds started a hare, which ran so long and so hard that everybody
was prostrated with fatigue; and this hare disappeared from view at
the cellar window of the inn kept by Richard the Tailor. The
circumstance begat a suspicion among the hunters that the hare which
had so bothered them was none other than Richard the Tailor himself,
and that his purpose in taking that form had been to lead them a dance
and bring them to the door of his inn at an hour too late for them to
return home, thus compelling them to spend their money there. They
stayed, however, being very tired. But they growled very hard at their
landlord and were perfectly free with their comments on his base
conduct. One of their party, having occasion to go out-doors during
the evening, did not come back; his name was Walter Jones, and he was
well known in that part of the country. The company became uneasy at
his absence, and began to abuse the landlord roundly, threatening to
burn the house if Walter Jones did not return. Notwithstanding their
threats, Walter Jones came not back all night. Late the next morning
he made his appearance, looking like one who had been drawn through
thorns and briars, with his hair in disorder, and his whole aspect
terribly demoralised. His story was soon told. He had no sooner got
out-doors than invisible hands had whisked him up, and whirled him
along rough ways until daybreak, when he found himself near by the
town of Newport, helping a man from Risca to raise a load of coal upon
his horse. Suddenly he became insensible, and was whisked back again
to the inn where they now saw him. The distance he traversed in going
to and fro was about forty miles. And Walter Jones, who had hitherto
been an ungodly man, mended his ways from that time forth.


There are many points in all these traditional stories which are
suggestive of interesting comparisons, and constantly remind us of the
significance of details which, at first sight, seem trivial. The
supposed adoption of the hare form by the tailor recalls a host of
mythological details. The hare has been identified with the sun-god
Michabo of the American Indians, who sleeps through the winter months,
and symbolises the sleep of nature precisely as in the fairy myth of
the Sleeping Maiden, and the Welsh legends of Sleeping Heroes. Among
the Hottentots, the hare figures as the servant of the moon. In China,
the hare is viewed as a telluric genius in one province, and
everywhere as a divine animal. In Wales, one of the most charming of
the local legends relates how a hare flying from the hounds took
refuge under a fair saint's robes, so that hares were ever after
called Monacella's Lambs in that parish. Up to a comparatively recent
time, no person in the parish would kill a hare. When a hare was
pursued by dogs, it was firmly believed that if any one cried, 'God
and St. Monacella be with thee,' it was sure to escape. The legend is
related by Pennant, in his tour through Montgomeryshire: 'At about two
miles distant from Llangynog, I turned up a small valley to the right,
to pay my devotions to the shrine of St. Monacella, or, as the Welsh
style her, Melangell.... She was the daughter of an Irish monarch, who
had determined to marry her to a nobleman of his court. The princess
had vowed celibacy. She fled from her father's dominions, and took
refuge in this place, where she lived fifteen years without seeing
the face of man. Brochwel Yscythrog, prince of Powys, being one day a
hare-hunting, pursued his game till he came to a great thicket; when
he was amazed to find a virgin of surprising beauty engaged in deep
devotion, with the hare he had been pursuing under her robe, boldly
facing the dogs, who retired to a distance, howling, notwithstanding
all the efforts of the sportsmen to make them seize their prey. When
the huntsman blew his horn, it stuck to his lips. Brochwel heard her
story, and gave to God and her a parcel of lands to be a sanctuary to
all who fled there. He desired her to found an abbey on the spot. She
did so, and died abbess of it, in a good old age. She was buried in
the neighbouring church.... Her hard bed is shown in the cleft of a
neighbouring rock. Her tomb was in a little chapel, or oratory,
adjoining to the church and now used as a vestry-room. This room is
still called cell y bedd, (cell of the grave).... The legend is
perpetuated by some rude wooden carvings of the saint, with numbers of
hares scuttling to her for protection.'


It is interesting to observe, in connection with the subject of
transportation through the air, with what vitality this superstition
lingers in modern spiritualism. The accounts of such transportation
are familiar to every reader of newspapers. That Mr. Home was seen, by
a learned English nobleman, sailing through the moonlight seventy feet
from the ground, is on record; that Mrs. Guppy was transported from
Highbury Park to Lamb's Conduit Street, in London, in a trance and a
state of partial _déshabille_, is also on record; and that a
well-known American spiritualist was borne by invisible hands from
Chicago to Milwaukee and back, between midnight and 4 A.M., I have
been assured by a number of persons in Illinois who thoroughly
believed it, or said they did. But it certainly is not too much to
demand, that people who give credence to these instances of aerial
transportation should equally believe in the good old ghost stories of
the Welsh. The same consistency calls for credulity as to the
demoniacal elevation of Simon Magus, and the broomstick riding of the
witches whose supernatural levitation was credited by Lord Bacon and
Sir Matthew Hale, not to speak of Addison and Wesley.

There is something peculiarly fascinating to the gross denizens of
earth in this notion of skimming like a bird over house-tops. No
dreams, save those of love and dalliance, are so charming to the
dreamer as visions of flying; to find oneself floating along over the
tops of trees, over the streets where less favoured mortals walk, to
look down on them as they stroll, is to feel an exquisite pleasure.
The mind of childhood and that of ignorance, alike unable to
discriminate between reality and illusion, would naturally retain the
impression of such a dream with peculiar vividness. The superstition
has no doubt been fostered by this fact, although it, like most
superstitions, began its career in pre-historic days. The same class
of belief attaches to the magical lore of widely separated lands, in
all ages. The magic carpet of the Arabian Nights finds its parallel
to-day in the enchanted mat of the Chinese conjuror, which carries him
from place to place, at a height of twenty or thirty feet in the air.
The levitation involved is in Welsh story embodied in the person of
Sgilti Yscawndroed; when he was sent on a message through the wood he
went along the tops of the trees; in his whole life, a blade of reed
grass never bent beneath his feet, so light was his tread.[68]


[68] Lady Charlotte Guest's 'Mabinogion,' 225.


It remains but to add, in connection with our household ghosts, that
the method of exorcising such goblins in Wales is explicit. The
objectionable spectre must be conjured, in the name of Heaven, to
depart, and return no more. Not always is this exorcism effective; the
ghost may have a specific purpose in hand, or it may be obstinate. The
strength of the exorcism is doubled by employing the Latin language to
deliver it; it receives its utmost power, however, through the clergy;
three clergymen, it is thought, will exorcise any ghost that walks.
The exorcism is usually for a stated period; seven years is the
favourite time; one hundred years the limit. There are many instances
where a ghost which had been laid a hundred years returned at the end
of the time to its old haunts. In all cases it is necessary the ghost
should agree to be exorcised; no power can lay it if it be possessed
of an evil demon--a spirit within a spirit, as it were--which
stubbornly refuses to listen to argument. In such cases the terrors of
Heaven must be rigorously invoked; but the result is only temporary.
Properly constituted family ghosts, however, will lend a reasonable
ear to entreaty, backed by prayer. There are even cases on record
where the ghost has been the entreater, as in the story of Haunted

Haunted Margaret, or Marget yr Yspryd, was a servant-girl who lived in
the parish of Panteg. She had been seduced by a man who promised to
marry her, and a day was set for their wedding; but when the day came,
the man was not on hand, and Margaret thereupon fell on her knees in
the church and prayed Heaven that her seducer might have no rest
either in this world or in the world to come. In due course the man
died, and immediately his ghost came to haunt Margaret Richard. People
heard her in the night saying to the ghost, 'What dost thou want?' or
'Be quiet, let me alone;' and hence it was that she came to be known
in that parish by the nickname of Marget yr Yspryd. One evening when
the haunted woman was at the house of Mrs. Hercules Jenkins, at
Trosdra, she began to be uneasy, and as it grew late said, 'I must go
now, or else I shall be sure to meet him on the way home.' Mrs.
Jenkins advised Margaret to speak to him; 'and tell him thou dost
forgive him,' said the good dame. Margaret went her way, and as she
drew near a stile at the end of a foot-bridge, she saw the ghost at
the stile waiting for her. When she came up to it the ghost said, 'Do
thou forgive me, and God will forgive thee. Forgive me and I shall be
at rest, and never trouble thee any more.' Margaret then forgave him,
and he shook hands with her in a friendly way, and vanished.


    Spectral Animals--The Chained Spirit--The Gwyllgi, or Dog of
    Darkness--The Legend of Lisworney-Crossways--The Gwyllgi of
    the Devil's Nags--The Dog of Pant y Madog--Terrors of the
    Brute Creation at Phantoms--Apparitions of Natural
    Objects--Phantom Ships and Phantom Islands.


Of spectral animals there is no great diversity in Cambria, unless one
should class under this head sundry poetic creatures which more
properly belong to the domain of magic, or to fairyland. The spirits
of favourite animals which have died return occasionally to visit
their masters. Sometimes it is a horse, which is seen on a dark night
looking in at the window, its eyes preternaturally large. More often
it is the ghost of a dog which revisits the glimpses of the moon. Men
sometimes become as fondly attached to a dog as they could to any
human being, and, where the creed of piety is not too severe, the
possibility of a dog's surviving after death in a better world is
admitted. 'It is hard to look in that dog's eyes and believe,' said a
Welshman to me, 'that he has not a bit of a soul to be saved.' The
almost human companionship of the dog for man is a familiar fact. It
is not strange, therefore, that the dog should be the animal whose
spirit, in popular belief, shares the nature of man's after death.


Sometimes the spirit in animal form is the spirit of a mortal, doomed
to wear this shape for some offence. This again trenches on the
ground of magic; but the ascription to the spirit-world is distinct in
modern instances. There was a Rev. Mr. Hughes, a clergyman of the
Church of England, in the isle and county of Anglesea, who was
esteemed the most popular preacher thereabout in the last century, and
upon this account was envied by the rest of the clergy, 'which
occasioned his becoming a field preacher for a time, though he was
received into the Church again.'[69] As he was going one night to
preach, he came upon an artificial circle in the ground, between
Amlwch village and St. Elian Church, where a spirit in the shape of a
large greyhound jumped against him and threw him from his horse. This
experience was repeated on a second night. The third night he went on
foot, and warily; and now he saw that the spirit was chained. He drew
near, but keeping beyond the reach of the chain, and questioned the
spirit: 'Why troublest thou those that pass by?' The spirit replied
that its unrest was due to a silver groat it had hidden under a stone
when in the flesh, and which belonged to the church of St. Elian. The
clergyman being told where the groat was, found it and paid it over to
the church, and the chained spirit was released.


[69] Jones, 'Apparitions.'


In the Gwyllgi, or Dog of Darkness, is seen a spirit of terrible form,
well known to students of folk-lore. This is a frightful apparition of
a mastiff, with a baleful breath and blazing red eyes which shine like
fire in the night. It is huge in size, and reminds us of the 'shaggy
mastiff larger than a steed nine winters old,' which guarded the sheep
before the castle of Yspaddaden Pencawr. 'All the dead trees and
bushes in the plain he burnt with his breath down to the very
ground.'[70] The lane leading from Mousiad to Lisworney-Crossways, is
reported to have been haunted by a Gwyllgi of the most terrible
aspect. Mr. Jenkin, a worthy farmer living near there, was one night
returning home from market on a young mare, when suddenly the animal
shied, reared, tumbled the farmer off, and bolted for home. Old
Anthony the farm-servant, found her standing trembling by the
barn-door, and well knowing the lane she had come through suspected
she had seen the Gwyllgi. He and the other servants of the farm all
went down the road, and there in the haunted lane they found the
farmer, on his back in the mud. Being questioned, the farmer protested
it was the Gwyllgi and nothing less, that had made all this trouble,
and his nerves were so shaken by the shock that he had to be supported
on either side to get him home, slipping and staggering in the mud in
truly dreadful fashion all the way. It is the usual experience of
people who meet the Gwyllgi that they are so overcome with terror by
its unearthly howl, or by the glare of its fiery eyes, that they fall
senseless. Old Anthony, however, used to say that he had met the
Gwyllgi without this result. As he was coming home from courting a
young woman of his acquaintance (name delicately withheld, as he did
not marry her) late one Sunday night--or it may have been Monday
morning--he encountered in the haunted lane two large shining eyes,
which drew nearer and nearer to him. He was dimly able to discern, in
connection with the gleaming eyes, what seemed a form of human shape
above, but with the body and limbs of a large spotted dog. He threw
his hat at the terrible eyes, and the hat went whisking right through
them, falling in the road beyond. However, the spectre disappeared,
and the brave Anthony hurried home as fast as his shaking legs would
carry him.

As Mr. David Walter, of Pembrokeshire, 'a religious man, and far from
fear and superstition,' was travelling by himself through a field
called the Cot Moor, where there are two stones set up called the
Devil's Nags, which are said to be haunted, he was suddenly seized and
thrown over a hedge. He went there another day, taking with him for
protection a strong fighting mastiff dog. When he had come near the
Devil's Nags there appeared in his path the apparition of a dog more
terrible than any he had ever seen. In vain he tried to set his
mastiff on; the huge beast crouched frightened by his master's feet
and refused to attack the spectre. Whereupon his master boldly stooped
to pick up a stone, thinking that would frighten the evil dog; but
suddenly a circle of fire surrounded it, which lighting up the gloom,
showed the white snip down the dog's nose, and his grinning teeth, and
white tail. 'He then knew it was one of the infernal dogs of

Rebecca Adams was 'a woman who appeared to be a true living
experimental Christian, beyond many,' and she lived near Laugharne
Castle, in Carmarthenshire. One evening when she was going to
Laugharne town on some business, her mother dissuaded her from going,
telling her she would be benighted, and might be terrified by some
apparition at Pant y Madog. This was a pit by the side of the lane
leading to Laugharne, which was never known to be dry, and which was
haunted, as many had both seen and heard apparitions there. But the
bold Rebecca was not to be frighted at such nonsense, and went her
way. It was rather dark when she was returning, and she had passed by
the haunted pit of Pant y Madog, and was congratulating herself on
having seen no ghost. Suddenly she saw a great dog coming towards her.
When within about four or five yards of her it stopped, squatted on
its haunches, 'and set up such a scream, so loud, so horrible, and so
strong, that she thought the earth moved under her.' Then she fell
down in a swoon. When she revived it was gone; and it was past
midnight when she got home, weak and exhausted.


[70] 'Mabinogion,' 230.

[71] Jones, 'Apparitions.'


Much stress is usually laid, in accounts of the Gwyllgi, on the terror
with which it inspires domestic animals. This confidence in the
ability of the brute creation to detect the presence of a spirit, is a
common superstition everywhere. An American journal lately gave an
account of an apparition seen in Indiana, whose ghostly character was
considered by the witnesses to be proven by the terror of horses which
saw it. They were drawing the carriage in which drove the persons to
whom the ghost appeared, and they shied from the road at sight of it,
becoming unmanageable. The spectre soon dissolved in thin air and
vanished, when the horses instantly became tractable. In Wales it is
thought that horses have peculiarly this 'gift' of seeing spectres.
Carriage horses have been known to display every sign of the utmost
terror, when the occupants of the carriage could see no cause for
fright; and in such cases a funeral is expected to pass there before
long, bearing to his grave some person not dead at the time of the
horses' fright. These phenomena are certainly extremely interesting,
and well calculated to 'bid us pause,' though not, perhaps, for the
purpose of considering whether a horse's eye can receive an image
which the human retina fails to accept. Much weight will not be given
to the fright of the lower animals, I fear, by any thoughtful person
who has witnessed the terror of a horse at sight of a flapping shirt
on a clothes-line, or that hideous monster a railway engine. Andrew
Jackson Davis has a theory that we all bear about us an atmosphere,
pleasing or repulsive, which can be detected by horses, dogs, and
spiritual 'mediums;' this _aura_, being spiritual, surrounds us
without our will or wish, goes where we go, but does not die when we
die, and is the means by which a bloodhound tracks a slave, or a fond
dog finds its master. Without denying the possibility of this theory,
I must record that in my observation a dog has been found to smell his
master most successfully when that master was most in need of a bath
and a change of linen. Also, that when the master leaves off his coat
he clearly leaves--if a dog's conduct be evidence--a part of his
_aura_ with it. More worthy of serious attention is August Comte's
suggestion that dogs and some other animals are perhaps capable of
forming fetichistic notions. That dogs accredit inanimate objects with
volition, to a certain extent, I am quite convinced. The thing which
constitutes knowledge, in dogs as in human beings--that is to say,
thought, organised by experience--corrects this tendency in animals as
they grow older, precisely as it corrects the false conclusions of
children, though never to the same extent. That a dog can think, I
suppose no well-informed person doubts in these days.


The Gwyllgi finds its counterpart in the Mauthe Doog of the Isle of
Man and the Shock of the Norfolk coast. It there comes up out of the
sea and travels about in the lanes at night. To meet it is a sign of
trouble and death. The Gwyllgi also is confined to sea-coast parishes
mainly, and although not classed among death-omens, to look on it is
deemed dangerous. The hunting dogs, Cwn Annwn, or dogs of hell, whose
habitat is the sky overhead, have also other attributes which
distinguish them clearly from the Gwyllgi. They are death-omens,
ancient of lineage and still encountered. The Gwyllgi, while
suggesting some interesting comparisons with the old mythology,
appears to have lost vogue since smuggling ceased to be profitable.


Confined to the coast, too, are those stories of phantom ships and
phantom islands which, too familiar to merit illustration here, have
their origin in the mirage. That they also touch the ancient mythology
is undoubted; but their source in the mirage is probably true of the
primeval belief as well as of the medieval, and that of our time. The
Chinese also have the mirage, but not its scientific explanation, and
hence of course their belief in its supernatural character is


    Grotesque Ghosts--The Phantom Horseman--Gigantic
    Spirits--The Black Ghost of Ffynon yr Yspryd--Black Men in
    the Mabinogion--Whirling Ghosts--Antic Spirits--The Tridoll
    Valley Ghost--Resemblance to Modern Spiritualistic
    Performances--Household Fairies.


The grotesque ghosts of Welsh folk-lore are often most diverting
acquaintances. They are ghosts on horseback, or with coloured faces,
or of huge and monstrous form; or they indulge in strange gymnastics,
in whirling, throwing stones, or whistling. A phantom horseman,
encountered by the Rev. John Jones, of Holywell, in Flintshire, as
described by himself, is worthy of Heinrich Zschokke. This Mr. Jones
was a preacher of extraordinary power, renowned and respected
throughout Wales. He was one day travelling alone on horseback from
Bala, in Merionethshire, to Machynlleth, Montgomeryshire, and as he
approached a forest which lay in his way he was dogged by a
murderous-looking man carrying a sharp sickle. The minister felt sure
this man meditated an attack on his life, from his conduct in running
crouched along behind hedges, and from his having met the man at the
village inn of Llanuwchllyn, where the minister exposed his watch and
purse. Presently he saw the man conceal himself at a place where the
hedge was thick, and where a gate crossed the road; and feeling sure
that here he should be attacked, he stopped his horse to reflect on
the situation. No house was in sight, and the road was hidden by high
hedges on either side. Should he turn back? 'In despair, rather than
in a spirit of humble trust and confidence,' says the good man, 'I
bowed my head, and offered up a silent prayer. At this juncture my
horse, growing impatient of the delay, started off. I clutched the
reins, which I had let fall on his neck, when, happening to turn my
eyes, I saw, to my utter astonishment, that I was no longer alone:
there, by my side, I beheld a horseman in a dark dress, mounted on a
white steed. In intense amazement I gazed upon him. Where could he
have come from? He appeared as suddenly as if he had sprung from the
earth; he must have been riding behind and have overtaken me, and yet
I had not heard the slightest sound. It was mysterious, inexplicable;
but joy overcame my feelings of wonder, and I began at once to address
my companion. I asked him if he had seen any one, and then described
to him what had taken place, and how relieved I felt by his sudden
appearance. He made no reply, and on looking at his face he seemed
paying but slight attention to my words, but continued intently gazing
in the direction of the gate, now about a quarter of a mile ahead. I
followed his gaze, and saw the reaper emerge from his concealment and
run across a field to our left, resheathing his sickle as he hurried
along. He had evidently seen that I was no longer alone, and had
relinquished his intended attempt.' Seeking to converse with the
mysterious horseman, the minister found the phantom was speechless. In
vain he addressed it in both Welsh and English; not a word did it
utter, save that once the minister thought it said 'Amen,' to a pious
remark. Suddenly it was gone. 'The mysterious horseman was gone; he
was not to be seen; he had disappeared as mysteriously as he had
come. What could have become of him? He could not have gone through
the gate, nor have made his horse leap the high hedges, which on both
sides shut in the road. Where was he? had I been dreaming? was it an
apparition--a spectre, which had been riding by my side for the last
ten minutes? was it but a creature of my imagination? I tried hard to
convince myself that this was the case; but why had the reaper
resheathed his murderous-looking sickle and fled? And then a feeling
of profound awe began to creep over my soul. I remembered the singular
way of his first appearance, his long silence, and the single word to
which he had given utterance after I had mentioned the name of the
Lord; the single occasion on which I had done so. What could I then
believe but that ... in the mysterious horseman I had a special
interference of Providence, by which I was delivered from a position
of extreme danger?'


Of gigantic ghosts there are many examples which are very grotesque
indeed. Such was the apparition which met Edward Frank, a young man
who lived in the parish of Llantarnam. As he was coming home one night
he heard something walking towards him, but at first could see
nothing. Suddenly his way was barred by a tall dismal object which
stood in the path before him. It was the ghost of a marvellous thin
man, whose head was so high above the observer's line of vision that
he nearly fell over backward in his efforts to gaze at it. His knees
knocked together and his heart sank. With great difficulty he gasped
forth, 'In the name of God what is here? Turn out of my way or I will
strike thee!' The giant ghost then disappeared, and the frightened
Edward, seeing a cow not far off, went towards her to lean on her,
which the cow stood still and permitted him to do. The naïveté of this
conclusion is convincing.

Equally prodigious was the spectre seen by Thomas Miles Harry, of the
parish of Aberystruth. He was coming home by night from Abergavenny,
when his horse took fright at something which it saw, but which its
master could not see. Very much terrified, the latter hastened to guide
the animal into an adjoining yard, and dismount; whereupon he saw the
apparition of a gigantic woman. She was so prodigiously tall, according
to the account of the horrified Harry, that she was fully half as high
as the tall beech trees on the other side of the road; and he hastened
to hide from his eyes the awful sight, by running into the house, where
they listened open-mouthed to his tale. Concerning this Mr. Harry we
are assured that he was of an affable disposition, innocent and
harmless, and the grandfather of that eminent and famous preacher of
the Gospel, Thomas Lewis, of Llanharan, in Glamorganshire.[72] The same
narrator relates that Anne, the daughter of Herbert Jenkins, of the
parish of Trefethin, 'a young woman well disposed to what is good,' was
going one evening to milk the cows by Rhiw-newith, when as she passed
through a wood she saw a horrible black man standing by a holly tree.
She had with her a dog, which saw it also, and ran towards it to bark
at it, upon which it stretched out a long black tongue, and the dog ran
affrighted back to the young woman, crawling and cringing about her
feet for fear. She was in great terror at all this, but had the courage
still to go on after the cows, which had strayed into another field.
She drove them back to their own field, and in passing the holly-tree
avoided looking that way for fear of seeing the black man again.
However, after she had got safely by she looked back, and saw the
monster once more, 'very big in the middle and narrow at both ends,'
and as it walked away the ground seemed to tremble under its heavy
tread. It went towards a spring in that field called Ffynon yr Yspryd,
(the Fountain of the Spirit,) where ghosts had been seen before, and
crossing over the stile into the common way, it whistled so loud and
strong that the narrow valley echoed and re-echoed with the prodigious
sound. Then it vanished, much to the young woman's relief.


[72] Jones, 'Apparitions.'


That giants should appear in the Welsh spirit-land will surprise no
one, but the apparition of black men is more unique. The Mabinogion,
however, are full of black men, usually giants, always terrible to
encounter. The black man whom Peredur slew had but one eye, having
lost the other in fighting with the black serpent of the Carn. 'There
is a mound, which is called the Mound of Mourning; and on the mound
there is a carn, and in the carn there is a serpent, and on the tail
of the serpent there is a stone, and the virtues of the stone are
such, that whosoever should hold it in one hand, in the other he will
have as much gold as he may desire. And in fighting with this serpent
was it that I lost my eye.'[73] In the 'Lady of the Fountain' mabinogi
the same character appears: 'a black man ... not smaller in size than
two of the men of this world,' and with 'one eye in the middle of his
forehead.'[74] And there are other black men in other Mabinogion,
indicating the extremely ancient lineage of the spectre seen by Anne
Jenkins at the Fountain of the Spirit. Whatever Anglo-Saxon scoffers
may say of Welsh pedigrees of mere flesh and blood, the antiquity of
its spectral hordes may not be disputed. The black giant of Sindbad
the Sailor and the monster woodward of Cynan alike descend from the
Polyphemus blinded by Odysseus.


[73] 'Mabinogion,' 106.

[74] Ibid., 6.


Another grotesque Welsh goblin goes whirling through the world. Three
examples are given by the Prophet Jones. _First:_ Lewis Thomas, the
father of the Rev. Thomas Lewis, was on his return from a journey, and
in passing through a field near Bedwellty, saw this dreadful
apparition, to wit, the spectre of a man walking or whirling along on
its hands and feet; at sight of which Lewis Thomas felt his hair to
move on his head; his heart panted and beat violently, 'his body
trembled, and he felt not his clothes about him,' _Second:_ John
Jenkins, a poor man, who lived near Abertillery, hanged himself in a
hay-loft. His sister soon after came upon his dead body there hanging,
and screamed loudly. Jeremiah James, who lived in Abertillery House,
hearing the scream, looked in that direction and saw the 'resemblance
of a man' coming from the hay-loft 'and violently turning upwards and
downwards topsy turvy' towards the river, 'which was a dreadful sight
to a serious godly man.' _Third:_ Thomas Andrew, living at a place
called The Farm, in the parish of Lanhiddel, coming home late at night
saw a whirling goblin on all fours by the side of a wall, which fell
to scraping the ground and wagging its head, 'looking aside one way
and the other,' making at the same time a horrible mowing noise; at
which Thomas Andrew 'was terribly frightened.'


The antics of these and similar inhabitants of the Cambrian
spirit-world at times outdo the most absurd capers of modern
spiritualism. At the house of a certain farmer in the parish of
Llanllechid, in Carnarvonshire, there was great disturbance by a
spirit which threw stones into the house, and from one room to
another, which hit and hurt the people who lived there. The stones
were of various sizes, the largest weighing twenty-seven pounds. Most
of them were river stones, from the stream which runs hard by. Some
clergymen came from Bangor and read prayers in the house, to drive the
spirit away, but their faith was not strong enough, and stones were
thrown at them, so that they retired from the contest. The family
finally had to abandon the house.

On the farm of Edward Roberts, in the parish of Llangunllo, in
Radnorshire, there was a spirit whose antics were somewhat remarkable.
As the servant-man was threshing, the threshel was taken out of his
hand and thrown upon the hay-loft. At first he did not mind this so
much, but when the trick had been repeated three or four times he
became concerned about it, and went into the house to tell of it. The
master of the house was away, but the wife and the maid-servant
laughed at the man, and merrily said they would go to the barn to
protect him. So they went out there and sat, the one to knit and the
other to wind yarn. They were not there long before their things were
taken from their hands and tumbled about the barn. On returning to the
house, they perceived the dishes on the shelves move to and fro, and
some were thrown on to the stone floor and broken. That night there
was a terrible clattering among the dishes, and next morning they
could scarcely tread without stepping on the wrecks of crockery which
lay about. This pleasant experience was often repeated. Neighbours
came to see. People even came from far to satisfy their
curiosity--some from so far as Knighton; and one who came from
Knighton to read prayers for the exorcising of the spirit, had the
book taken out of his hand and thrown upstairs. Stones were often cast
at the people, and once iron was projected from the chimney at them.
At last the spirit set the house on fire, and nothing could quench it;
the house was burnt down: nothing but the walls and the two chimneys
stood, long after, to greet the eyes of people who passed to and from
Knighton market.


A spirit which haunted the house of William Thomas, in Tridoll Valley,
Glamorganshire, used to hit the maid-servant on the side of her head,
as it were with a cushion, when she was coming down the stairs. 'One
time she brought a marment of water into the house,' and the water was
thrown over her person. Another time there came so great an abundance
of pilchards in the sea, that the people could scarcely devour them,
and the maid asked leave of her master to go and fetch some of them.
'No,' said he, being a very just man, 'the pilchards are sent for the
use of poor people; we do not want them.' But the maid was very fond
of pilchards, and so she went without leave, and brought some to the
house. After giving a turn about the house, she went to look for her
fish, and found them thrown out upon the dunghill. 'Well,' said her
master, 'did not I tell thee not to go?' Once a pot of meat was on
the fire, and when they took it off they found both meat and broth
gone, none knew where, and the pot as empty as their own bellies.
Sometimes the clasped Bible would be thrown whisking by their heads;
and 'so it would do with the gads of the steller, and once it struck
one of them against the screen where a person then sat, and the mark
of it still to be seen in the hard board.' Once the china dishes were
thrown off the shelf, and not one broke. 'It was a great business with
this light-hating spirit to throw an old lanthorn about the house
without breaking it.' When the maid went a-milking to the barn, the
barn-door would be suddenly shut upon her as she was milking the cow;
then when she rose up the spirit began to turn the door backwards and
forwards with an idle ringing noise. Once it tried to make trouble
between the mistress and the maid by strewing charcoal ashes on the
milk. When William Evans, a neighbour, went there to pray, as he knelt
by the bedside, it struck the bed such a bang with a trencher that it
made a report like a gun, so that both the bed and the room shook
perceptibly. On another occasion, it made a sudden loud noise, which
made the master think his house was falling down, and he was
prodigiously terrified; it never after that made so loud a noise.

The Rev. R. Tibbet, a dissenting minister from Montgomeryshire, was
one night sleeping in the house, with another person in the bed with
him; and they had a tussle with the Tridoll spirit for possession of
the bed-clothes. By praying and pulling with equal energy, the parson
beat the spirit, and kept the bed-clothes. But the spirit, apparently
angered by this failure, struck the bed with the cawnen (a vessel to
hold grain) such a blow that the bed was knocked out of its place.
Then they lit a light and the spirit left them alone. It was a
favourite diversion with this goblin to hover about William Thomas
when he was shaving, and occasionally cuff him on the side of his
head--the consequence being that the persecuted farmer shaved himself
by fits and starts, in a very unsatisfactory manner, and in a most
uncomfortable state of mind. For about two years it troubled the whole
of that family, during which period it had intervals of quiet lasting
for a fortnight or three weeks. Once it endeavoured to hinder them
from going to church, by hiding the bunch of keys, on the Lord's day,
so that for all their searching they could not find them. The good man
of the house bade them not to yield to the devil, and as they were
loth to appear in their old clothes at meeting, they were about to
break the locks; but first concluded to kneel in prayer, and so did.
After their prayers they found the keys where they used to be, but
where they could not find them before. One night the spirit divided
the books among the members of the family, after they had gone to bed.
To the man of the house it gave the Bible, to the woman of the house
'Allen's Sure Guide,' and upon the bed of the maid-servant (whom it
was specially fond of plaguing) it piled a lot of English books, which
language she did not understand. The maid was heartily afraid of the
spirit, and used to fall on her knees and go to praying with
chattering teeth, at all hours of the day or night; and prayer this
spirit could not abide. When the maid would go about in the night with
a candle, the light thereof would diminish, grow feeble as if in
dampness, and finally go out. The result was the maid was generally
excused from making journeys into cellar or garret after dark, very
much to her satisfaction.

Particularly did this frisky Tridoll spirit trouble the maid-servant
after she had gone to bed--in winter hauling the bed-clothes off her;
in summer piling more on her. Now there was a young man, a first
cousin to William Thomas, who could not be got to believe there was a
spirit at his kinsman's house, and said the family were only making
tricks with one another, 'and very strong he was, a hero of an
unbeliever, like many of his brethren in infidelity.' One night
William Thomas and his wife went to a neighbour's wake, and left the
house in charge of the doubting cousin, who searched the place all
over, and then went to bed there; and no spirit came to disturb him.
This made him stronger than ever in his unbelief. But soon after he
slept there again, when they were all there, and before going to bed
he said aloud to the maid, 'If anything comes to disturb thee, Ally,
call upon me, as I lie in the next room to you.' During the night the
maid cried out that the spirit was pulling the clothes off her bed,
and the doubting cousin awoke, jumped out of bed, and ran to catch the
person he believed to be playing tricks with the maid. But there was
no creature visible, although there rained upon his doubting head a
series of cuffs, and about his person a fusillade of kicks, which
thrust the unbelief quite out of him, so that he doubted no more. The
departure of this spirit came about thus: William Thomas being in bed
with his wife, heard a voice calling him. He awaked his wife, and
rising on his elbow said to the invisible spirit, 'In the name of God
what seekest thou in my house? Hast thou anything to say to me?' The
spirit answered, 'I have,' and desired him to remove certain things
out of a place where they had been mislaid. 'Satan,' answered William
Thomas, in a candid manner, 'I'll do nothing thou biddest me; I
command thee, in the name of God, to depart from my house.' And it


This long and circumstantial account, which I have gathered from
different sources, but mainly from the two books of the Prophet Jones,
will impress the general reader with its resemblance, in many
respects, to modern newspaper ghost stories. The throwing about of
dishes, books, keys, etc.; its raps and touches of the person; its
making of loud noises by banging down metal objects; all these antics
are the tricks of contemporaneous spiritualism. But this spectre is of
a date when our spiritualism was quite unknown. The same is true of
the spirit which threw stones, another modern spiritualistic
accomplishment.[75] The spiritualists will argue from all this that
their belief is substantiated, not by any means that it is shaken. The
doubter will conclude that there were clever tricksters in humble
Welsh communities some time before the American city of Rochester had
produced its 'mediums.'

The student of comparative folk-lore, in reading these accounts,
will be equally impressed with their resemblance to phenomena noted
in many other lands. The conclusion is irresistible that we here
encounter but another form of the fairy which goes in Wales by the
name of the Bwbach, and in England is called the Hobgoblin, in
Denmark the Nis, in Scotland the Brownie. Also, the resemblance is
strong in all stories of this class to certain of the German Kobolds.
In several of these accounts of spirits in Wales appear the leading
particulars of the Kobold Hinzelmann, as condensed by Grimm from
Feldman's long narrative.[76] There is also a close correspondence to
certain ghost stories found in China. In the story of Woo, from the
'Che-wan-luk,'[77] appear details much like those in Hinzelmann, and
equally resembling Welsh particulars, either in the stories given
above, or those which follow. But we are now drawn so near to the
division of Familiar Spirits that we may as well enter it at once.


[75] For the sake of comparison, I give the latest American case which
comes under my notice. The scene is Akron, a bustling town in the
State of Ohio; the time October, 1878. 'Mr. and Mrs. Michael Metzler,
middle-aged Germans, with their little daughter, ten years of age, and
Mrs. Knoss, Metzler's mother-in-law, recently moved to a brick house
in the suburbs known as Hell's Half Acre. The house is a good,
substantial building, situated in a somewhat open space, and
surrounded by a lonesome deserted air. A few days after they had
moved, they were disturbed by sharp rappings all over the house,
produced by small stones or pebbles thrown against the window panes.
Different members of the family were hit by these stones coming to and
going from the house. Other persons were hit by them, the stones
varying in size from a pea to a hen's egg. Mrs. Metzler said that when
she went after the cow in the evening, she could hear these stones
whistling around her head. Mr. and Mrs. Metzler, who are devout
Catholics, had Father Brown come to the house to exorcise the spirits
which were tormenting them. The reverend father, in the midst of his
exercises, was struck by a stone, and so dismayed thereby that he went
home in despair.' (Newspaper account.)

[76] 'Deutsche Sagen,' i. 103.

[77] Dennys, 'Folk-Lore of China,' 86.


    Familiar Spirits--The Famous Sprite of Trwyn Farm--Was it a
    Fairy?--The Familiar Spirits of Magicians--Sir David Llwyd's
    Demon--Familiar Spirits in Female Form--The Legend of the
    Lady of the Wood--The Devil as a Familiar Spirit--His
    Disguises in this Character--Summoning and Exorcising
    Familiars--Jenkin the Pembrokeshire Schoolmaster--The
    Terrible Tailor of Glanbran.


Innumerable are the Welsh stories of familiar spirits. Sometimes these
are spectres of the sort whose antics we have just been observing.
More often they are confessedly demons, things of evil. In numberless
cases it is no less a personage than the diawl himself who makes his
appearance in the guise of a familiar spirit. The familiar spirit
which takes up its abode in the household is, as we have seen, a
pranksome goblin. Its personal appearance--or rather its
invisibility--is the saving circumstance which prevents it from being
deemed a fairy. The familiar spirit which haunted the house of Job
John Harry, at the Trwyn Farm, in the parish of Mynyddyslwyn, was a
stone-thrower, a stroker of persons, etc., but could not be seen. It
is famous in Wales under the cognomen of Pwca'r Trwyn, and is referred
to in my account of the Ellylldan.[78] The tenants at present residing
on the Trwyn Farm are strangers who have recently invaded the home of
this ancestral spook, but I was able to glean abundant information
concerning it from people thereabout. It made a home of Mr. Harry's
house some time in the last century, for a period beginning some days
before Christmas, and ending with Easter Wednesday, on which day it
departed. During this time it spoke, and did many remarkable things,
but was always invisible. It began at first to make its presence known
by knocking at the outer door in the night; but when persons went to
open the door there was no one there. This continued for some time,
much to the perplexity of the door-openers. At last one night it spoke
to the one who opened the door, and the family were in consequence
much terrified. Some of the neighbours, hearing these tales, came to
watch with the family; and Thomas Evans foolishly brought a gun with
him, 'to shoot the spirit,' as he said. But as Job John Harry was
coming home that night from a journey, the familiar spirit met him in
the lane and said, 'There is a man come to your house to shoot me, but
thou shalt see how I will beat him.' So Job went on to the house, and
immediately stones were thrown at the unbelieving Thomas who had
brought the gun, stones from which he received severe blows. The
company tried to defend him from the stones, which did strike and hurt
him, and no other person; but their efforts were in vain. The result
was, that Thomas Evans took his gun and ran home as fast as his legs
would carry him, and never again engaged in an enterprise of that

As this familiar spirit got better acquainted with its quarters, it
became more talkative, and used often to speak from out of an oven by
the hearth's side. It also took to making music o' nights with Job's
fiddle. One night as Job was going to bed, the familiar spirit gave
him a gentle stroke on the toe. 'Thou art curious in smiting,' said
Job. 'I can smite thee where I please,' replied the spirit. As time
passed on the family became accustomed to their ghostly visitor, and
seeing it never did them any harm, but on the contrary was a source of
recreation to them, they used to boldly speak to it, and indulge in
entertaining conversation. One old man, a neighbour, more bold than
wise, hearing the spirit just by his side, but being unable to see it,
threatened to stick it with his knife. 'Thou fool,' quoth the spirit,
'how canst thou stick what thou canst not see with thine eyes?' When
questioned about its antecedents, the spirit said, 'I came from Pwll y
Gasseg' (Mare's Pit, a place in the adjacent mountain), 'and I knew ye
all before I came hither.' The wife of Morris Roberts desired one of
the family to ask the spirit who it was that killed William Reilly the
Scotchman; which being done, the spirit said, 'It was Blanch y Byd who
bade thee ask that question;' and Blanch y Byd (Worldly Blanche) was
Morris Roberts' wife ever after called. On Easter Wednesday the spirit
departed, saying, 'Dos yn iach, Job,' (fare thee well, Job,) and Job
asked the spirit, 'Where goest thou?' The reply was, 'Where God

There are other accounts of this Trwyn sprite which credit it to a
time long anterior to last century; but all are consistent in this,
that the goblin is always invisible. The sole exception to this rule
is the legend about its having once shown a white hand to some girls
in the kitchen, thrusting it through the floor of its room overhead
for that purpose. Now invisibility is a violation of fairy traditions,
while ghosts are very often invisible--these rapping and
stone-throwing ghosts, always. It might be urged that this spirit was
a Bwbach, if a fairy at all, seeing that it kept pretty closely to the
house; but on the whole I choose to class it among the inhabitants of
the spirit-world; and really, the student of folk-lore must classify
his materials distinctly in some understandable fashion, or go daft.


[78] Supra, p. 21.

[79] Let me recommend the scene of this story to tourists. It is a
most romantic spot, on the top of a mountain, a glorious tramp from
Crumlyn, returning by another road to Abercarne. Wheels cannot go
there, though a sure-footed horse might bear one safely up. The
ancient farm-house is one of the quaintest in Wales, and must be
hundreds of years old; and its front porch looks out over a ravine
hardly less grand and lonely than a Californian gulch.


The sort of familiar spirit employed by magicians in the eighteenth
and preceding centuries was distinctly a demon. The spirit of this
class which was controlled by Sir David Llwyd is celebrated in Wales.
This Sir David was a famous dealer in the black art, who lived in
Cardiganshire. He was a physician, and at one time a curate; but being
known to deal in the magic art, he was turned out of the curacy, and
obliged to live by practising physic. It was thought he learned the
magic art in Oxford. 'It was this man's great wickedness,' says the
Prophet Jones, 'to make use of a familiar spirit.... The bishop did
well in turning him out of the sacred office, though he was no
ill-tempered man, for how unfit was such a man to read the sacred
Scripture! With what conscience could he ask the sponsors in baptism
to undertake for the child to renounce the world, the flesh and the
devil, who himself was familiar with one of the spirits of
darkness?... Of this Sir David I have heard much, but chiefly depend
upon what was told to me by the Rev. Mr. Thomas Lewis, the curate of
Landdw and Tolachdy, an excellent preacher of the gospel; and not
sufficiently esteemed by his people, (which likely will bring a
judgment on them in time to come.) Mr. Lewis knew the young woman who
had been Sir David's maid servant, and the house where he lived.' His
familiar spirit he kept locked up in a book. Once while he was in
Radnorshire, in going from one house to another he accidentally left
this book behind him, and sent his boy back to fetch it. The boy,
being of an inquisitive turn of mind, opened the book--a thing his
master had expressly charged him not to do--and the familiar spirit
immediately demanded to be set at work. The boy, though very much
alarmed, had the wit to answer, 'Tafl gerrig o'r afon,' (throw stones
out of the river,) which the spirit immediately did, so that the air
was for a time full of flying stones, and the boy was fain to skip
about in a surprisingly active manner in order to dodge the same.
After a while, having thrown up a great quantity of stones out of the
river, (the Wye,) the spirit again, with the pertinacity of its kind,
asked for something to do; whereupon the boy bade it throw the stones
back again, which it did. Sir David having waited a long time for the
boy to return, began to suspect that things had gone wrong, and so
hastened back after him, and commanded the familiar spirit again into
his book.


Familiar spirits of this class are not always invisible; and they can
assume such forms as may be necessary to serve their purposes. A
favourite shape with them is that of a young and lovely woman.
Comparisons are here suggested with the water-maidens, and other like
forms of this fancy; but they need not be pursued. It is necessary for
the student of phantoms to constantly remind himself of the
omnipresent danger of being enticed too far afield, unless he keep
somewhat sternly to the path he has marked out. How ancient is the
notion of a familiar spirit in female form, may be seen from accounts
which are given by Giraldus and other old writers. Near Caerleon,
(Monmouthshire,) in the twelfth century, Giraldus tells us[80] there
lived 'a Welshman named Melerius, who by the following means acquired
the knowledge of future events and the occult sciences: Having on a
certain night met a damsel whom he loved, in a pleasant and convenient
place, while he was indulging in her embraces, instead of a beautiful
girl he found in his arms a hairy, rough and hideous creature, the
sight of which deprived him of his senses; and after remaining many
years in this condition he was restored to health in the church of St.
David's, through the merits of its saints. But having always had an
extraordinary familiarity with unclean spirits, by seeing them,
knowing them, talking with them, and calling each by his proper name,
he was enabled through their assistance to foretell future events; he
was indeed often deceived (as they are) with respect to circumstances
at a great distance; but was less mistaken in affairs which were
likely to happen soon, or within the space of a year. They appeared to
him on foot, equipped as hunters, with horns suspended from their
necks, and truly as hunters not of animals but of souls; he
particularly met them near monasteries and religious places; for where
rebellion exists there is the greatest need of armies and strength. He
knew when any one spoke falsely in his presence, for he saw the devil
as it were leaping and exulting upon the tongue of the liar; and if he
looked into a book faultily or falsely written, although wholly
illiterate he would point out the place with his finger. Being
questioned how he could gain such knowledge, he said he was directed
by the demon's finger to the place.' In the same connection Giraldus
mentions a familiar spirit which haunted Lower Gwent, 'a demon
incubus, who from his love for a certain young woman, and frequenting
the place where she lived, often conversed with men, and frequently
discovered hidden things and future events.'


[80] Sir R. C. Hoare's Trans., i. 105.


The legend of the Lady of the Wood is contained in the Iolo MSS., and
is of considerable antiquity. It is a most fascinating tale: Einion,
the son of Gwalchmai, 'was one fine summer morning walking in the
woods of Treveilir,' when 'he beheld a graceful slender lady of
elegant growth, and delicate feature, and her complexion surpassing
every white and red in the morning dawn and the mountain snow, and
every beautiful colour in the blossoms of wood, field, and hill. And
then he felt in his heart an inconceivable commotion of affection, and
he approached her in a courteous manner, and she also approached him
in the same manner; and he saluted her, and she returned his
salutation; and by these mutual salutations he perceived that his
society was not disagreeable to her. He then chanced to cast his eye
upon her foot, and he saw that she had hoofs instead of feet, and he
became exceedingly dissatisfied,' as well he might. But the lady gave
him to understand that he must pay no attention to this trifling freak
of nature. 'Thou must,' she said, 'follow me wheresoever I go, as long
as I continue in my beauty.' The son of Gwalchmai thereupon asked
permission to go and say good-bye to his wife, at least. This the lady
agreed to; 'but,' said she, 'I shall be with thee, invisible to all
but thyself.' 'So he went, and the goblin went with him; and when he
saw Angharad, his wife, he saw her a hag like one grown old, but he
retained the recollection of days past, and still felt extreme
affection for her, but he was not able to loose himself from the bond
in which he was. "It is necessary for me," said he, "to part for a
time, I know not how long, from thee, Angharad, and from thee, my son,
Einion," and they wept together, and broke a gold ring between them;
he kept one half and Angharad the other, and they took their leave of
each other, and he went with the Lady of the Wood, and knew not where;
for a powerful illusion was upon him, and he saw not any place, or
person, or object under its true and proper appearance, excepting the
half of the ring alone. And after being a long time, he knew not how
long, with the goblin, the Lady of the Wood, he looked one morning as
the sun was rising upon the half of the ring, and he bethought him to
place it in the most precious place he could, and he resolved to put
it under his eyelid; and as he was endeavouring to do so, he could see
a man in white apparel, and mounted on a snow-white horse, coming
towards him, and that person asked him what he did there; and he told
him that he was cherishing an afflicting remembrance of his wife
Angharad. "Dost thou desire to see her?" said the man in white. "I
do," said Einion, "above all things, and all happiness of the world."
"If so," said the man in white, "get upon this horse, behind me;" and
that Einion did, and looking around he could not see any appearance of
the Lady of the Wood, the goblin, excepting the track of hoofs of
marvellous and monstrous size, as if journeying towards the north.
"What delusion art thou under?" said the man in white. Then Einion
answered him and told everything how it occurred 'twixt him and the
goblin. "Take this white staff in thy hand," said the man in white,
and Einion took it. And the man in white told him to desire whatever
he wished for. The first thing he desired was to see the Lady of the
Wood, for he was not yet completely delivered from the illusion. And
then she appeared to him in size a hideous and monstrous witch, a
thousand times more repulsive of aspect than the most frightful things
seen upon earth. And Einion uttered a cry of terror; and the man in
white cast his cloak over Einion, and in less than a twinkling Einion
alighted as he wished on the hill of Treveilir, by his own house,
where he knew scarcely any one, nor did any one know him.' The goblin
meantime had gone to Einion's wife, in the disguise of a richly
apparelled knight, and made love to her, pretending that her husband
was dead. 'And the illusion fell upon her; and seeing that she should
become a noble lady, higher than any in Wales, she named a day for her
marriage with him. And there was a great preparation of every elegant
and sumptuous apparel, and of meats and drinks, and of every
honourable guest, and every excellence of song and string, and every
preparation of banquet and festive entertainment.' Now there was a
beautiful harp in Angharad's room, which the goblin knight desired
should be played on; 'and the harpers present, the best in Wales,
tried to put it in tune, and were not able.' But Einion presented
himself at the house, and offered to play on it. Angharad, being under
an illusion, 'saw him as an old, decrepit, withered, grey-haired man,
stooping with age, and dressed in rags.' Einion tuned the harp, 'and
played on it the air which Angharad loved. And she marvelled
exceedingly, and asked him who he was. And he answered in song: ...
"Einion the golden-hearted." ...

              "Where hast thou been!"
    "In Kent, in Gwent, in the wood, in Monmouth,
        In Maenol, Gorwenydd;
     And in the valley of Gwyn, the son of Nudd;
        See, the bright gold is the token."

And he gave her the ring.

    "Look not on the whitened hue of my hair,
      Where once my aspect was spirited and bold;
    Now gray, without disguise, where once it was yellow.
    Never was Angharad out of my remembrance,
      But Einion was by thee forgotten."'

But Angharad 'could not bring him to her recollection. Then said he to
the guests:

    "If I have lost her whom I loved, the fair one of polished mind,
      The daughter of Ednyved Vychan,
    I have not lost (so get you out!)
      Either my bed, or my house, or my fire."

'And upon that he placed the white staff in Angharad's hand, and
instantly the goblin which she had hitherto seen as a handsome and
honourable nobleman, appeared to her as a monster, inconceivably
hideous; and she fainted from fear, and Einion supported her until she
revived. And when she opened her eyes, she saw there neither the
goblin, nor any of the guests, nor of the minstrels, nor anything
whatever except Einion, and her son, and the harp, and the house in
its domestic arrangement, and the dinner on the table, casting its
savoury odour around. And they sat down to eat ... and exceeding great
was their enjoyment. And they saw the illusion which the demoniacal
goblin had cast over them.... And thus it ends.'[81]


[81] Iolo MSS. 587, et seq.


There is hardly a goblin in the world more widely known than this
spectre of the forest. Her story appears in the legends of very many
lands, including China. Its ancient Grecian prototype is found in the

When it is the Diawl himself who appears in the role of the familiar
spirit, his majesty is usually in some other form than that of a man,
with hoofs, horns, and tail. The orthodox form of Satan has indeed
been seen in many parts of Wales, but not when doing duty as a
familiar spirit. A Welsh poet of the thirteenth century mentions this

    And the horned devil,
    With sharp hoofs
    On his heels.[83]

He is variously called cythraul, dera, diafol, all euphemisms for
devil, equivalent to our destroyer, evil one, adversary--as well as
plain diawl, devil. In his character of a familiar spirit he assumes
the shape of a fiery ball, a donkey, a black calf, a round bowl, a
dog, a roaring flame, a bull, a goose, and numberless others,
including the imp that goes into a book. In all this he bears out the
character given him in old mythology, where he grows big or little at
pleasure, and roars in a gale as Hermes, the wind-god, howls as a dog,
enters a walnut as in the Norse Tale, or is confined in a bottle as
the genie of the 'Arabian Nights.'

To that eminent nonconformist preacher, Vavasor Powell, the devil
once appeared in shape like a house. 'Satan ... appeared several
times, and in several wayes, to me: as once like a house, stood
directly in my way, with which sight I fell on my face as dead....
Another time, being alone in my chamber ... I perceived a strong cold
wind to blow ... it made the hair of my flesh to stand up, and caused
all my bones to shake; and on the suddain, I heard one walk about me,
tramping upon the chamber floor, as if it had been some heavie big man
... but it proved in the end to be no other than ... Satan.'[84]

A black calf, which haunted a Pembrokeshire brook early in the present
century, was believed to be the devil in familiar guise. It appeared
at a certain spot near the village of Narberth--a village which has
figured actively in mythic story since the earliest ages of which
there is any record. One night two peasants caught the terrible calf
and took it home, locking it up safely in a stable with some other
cattle, but it had vanished when morning came.

Henry Llewelyn, of Ystrad Defoc parish, Glamorganshire, was beset by
the devil in the shape of a round bowl. He had been sent by his
minister (Methodist) to fetch from another parish a load of religious
books--Bibles, Testaments, Watts' 'Psalms, Hymns and Songs for
Children'--and was coming home with the same, on horseback, by night,
when he saw a living thing, round like a bowl, moving to and fro
across the lane. The bold Llewelyn having concluded it was the devil,
resolved to speak to it. 'What seekest thou, thou foul thing?' he
demanded, adding, 'In the name of the Lord Jesus go away!' And to
prove that it was the adversary, at these words it vanished into the
ground, leaving a sulphurous smell behind.

To William Jones, a sabbath-breaker, of Risca village, the devil
appeared as an enormous mastiff dog, which transformed itself into a
great fire and made a roaring noise like burning gorse. And to two men
at Merthyr Tydfil, in Glamorganshire, the fiend appeared in the shape
of a gosling. These men were one night drinking together at the Black
Lion Inn, when one dared the other to go to conjure. The challenge was
accepted, and they went, but conducted their emprise with such drunken
recklessness, that the devil put out the eyes of one of them, so that
he was blind the rest of his days.


[82] In his fascinating essay on the 'Folk-Lore of France,' in the
'Folk-Lore Record' for 1878 (published by the Folk-Lore Society) Mr.
A. Lang says: 'So widespread is this superstition, that a friend of
mine declares he has met with it among the savages of New Caledonia,
and has known a native who actually died, as he himself said he would,
after meeting one of the fairy women of the wild wood.'

[83] Gruffydd ab yr Ynad Coch.

[84] 'The Life and Death of Mr. Vavasor Powell,' p. 8. (A curious
seventeenth century book, no two existing copies of which appear to be
alike. I here cite from that in the library of the Marquis of Bute,
than which a more perfect copy is rarely met with.)


The mode of summoning and of exorcising familiar spirits--in other
words, of laying and raising the devil--varies little the world over.
Even in China, the magic circle is entered and incantations are
muttered when the fiend is summoned; and for the exorcism of devils
there are laws like our own--though since modern Christianity has been
introduced in China the most popular exorcist is the Christian
missionary.[85] In Wales, the popular belief is compounded of about
equal parts of foul magic and fair Biblical text; magic chiefly for
summoning, the Book for exorcising.

John Jenkin, a schoolmaster in Pembrokeshire, was a conjuror of renown
in that part of Wales. One of his scholars who had a curiosity to see
the devil made bold to ask the master to assist him to that
entertainment. 'May see him,' said the master, 'if thou hast the
courage for it. Still,' he added, 'I do not choose to call him till I
have employment for him.' So the boy waited; and not long after a man
came to the master saying he had lost some money, and wished to be
told who had stolen it. 'Now,' the master said to the scholar, 'I have
some business for him.' At night they went into the wood together and
drew a circle, which they entered, and the schoolmaster called one of
the spirits of evil by its name. Presently they saw a light in the
sky, which shot like lightning down to the circle, and turned round
about it. The conjuror asked it who had stolen the man's money; the
spirit did not know, and it disappeared. Then the schoolmaster called
another evil spirit by its name; and presently they saw the
resemblance of a bull flying through the air towards them, so swiftly
and fiercely as if it would go through them; and it also turned about
the circle. But the conjuror asked it in vain who had the stolen
money. 'I must call still another,' said he. The schoolboy was now
almost dead with fear, and the conjuror considerately waited till he
was somewhat revived before calling the third spirit. But when he did
call, there came out of the wood a spirit dressed in white, and went
about the circle. 'Ah,' said the schoolmaster, 'we shall now hear
something from this.' And sure enough 'this' told the conjuror (in a
language the boy could not understand) where the money was, and all
about it. Then it vanished in red fire; and that boy 'has never been
well since, the effect of the great fright still cleaving to him.'

Not far from Glanbran, in Carmarthenshire, lived a tailor, who added
to his trade as a breeches-mender the loftier, if wickeder,
employments of a worker in magic. A certain Mr. Gwynne, living at
Glanbran, took it upon himself to ridicule this terrible tailor, for
the tailor was a little man, and Mr. Gwynne was a burly six-footer,
who feared nobody. 'Thou have the courage to look upon the devil!'
sneered Gwynne; 'canst thou show him to me?' 'That I can,' said the
tailor, his eyes flashing angrily; 'but you are not able to look at
him.' 'What!' roared Gwynne, 'thou able to look at him, and not I?'
'Very well,' quoth the tailor; 'if you are able to look at him I will
show him to you.' It was in the day time, but the tailor went
immediately into a little grove of wood in a field hard by, and made a
circle in the usual manner. In a short time he returned to fetch the
incredulous Mr. Gwynne, saying, 'Come with me and you shall see him.'
The two then crossed the field until they came to the stile by the
wood, when suddenly the tailor cried, 'Look yonder! there it is!' And
looking, Mr. Gwynne saw, in the circle the tailor had drawn, 'one of
the fallen angels, now become a devil.' It was so horrible a sight
that the terrified Mr. Gwynne was never after able to describe it; but
from that time forth he had a proper respect for the tailor.


[85] Dennys, 'Folk-Lore of China,' 89.


    The Evil Spirit in his customary Form--The stupid Medieval
    Devil in Wales--Sion Cent--The Devil outwitted--Pacts with
    the Fiend and their Avoidance--Sion Dafydd's Foul Pipe--The
    Devil's Bridge and its Legends--Similar Legends in other
    Lands--The Devil's Pulpit near Tintern--Angelic
    Spirits--Welsh Superstitions as to pronouncing the Name of
    the Evil Spirit--The Bardic Tradition of the Creation--The
    Struggle between Light and Darkness and its Symbolization.


The devil has often appeared in Wales in his customary form, or with
his distinctive marks covered up by such clothing as mortals wear.
There was even a tailor in Cardiganshire who had the honour of making
a suit of clothes for his sulphuric majesty. The medieval view of this
malignant spirit--which makes the devil out as dull and stupid as he
is mendacious and spiteful--still lingers in some parts. Those formal
pacts with the devil, the first traces of which are found in the
twelfth and thirteenth centuries, have been made in great numbers in
Wales; and tales in which the devil is outwitted by a mortal are still
preserved with much distinctness in various localities. That the myth
of Polyphemus reappears in all accounts of this sort, is pretty well
agreed among students of folk-lore. Hercules and Cacus, Polyphemus and
Odysseus, Peredur and the one-eyed monster of the Mabinogion,
Gambrinus and der Teufel, Jack the Giant-Killer, Norse Jötuns and
Arabian genii tricked and bottled; all these are deemed outgrowths of
the same primeval idea, to wit, the victory of the sun-god over the
night-fiend; and the story of Sion Cent's compact with the diawl is
doubtless from the same root. Certain it is that were not the devil at
times gullible, he never would have been so useful as a familiar
spirit, never could have been made so completely a slave to his mortal
masters. The Pope (Benedict IX.) who had seven evil spirits in a
sugar-bottle, merely subdivided the arch-fiend in the same way the
genii of the old tales are subdivided--now existing as a dense and
visible form, again expanding to blot out the sky, and again entering
the narrow compass of a bottle or a nut-shell; co-existing in a
million places at the same instant, yet having a single individuality.


Tradition relates that Sion Cent was a famous necromancer in
Monmouthshire, who outwitted the devil, not once but many times. He
lives in popular legend simply as a worker in magic, but in reality he
was a worthy minister, the Rev. John Kent, who flourished from 1420 to
1470, and wrote several theological works in Latin. In his native
Welsh he confined himself to poetry, and Sion Cent was his Cymric
pseudonym. Like many learned men in those days, he was accredited with
magical powers by the ignorant peasantry, and of his transactions with
the devil many stories were then invented which still survive. One
relates that he once served as a farmer's boy, and was set to keep the
crows from the corn, but preferring to go to Grosmont fair, he
confined the crows in an old roofless barn by a magic spell till the
next day, when he returned. His compact with the devil enabled him to
build the bridge over the Monnow, near Grosmont, which still bears his
name. The compact gave the devil the man's soul, as all such compacts
do--the stipulation being that if his body were buried either in or
out of the church, his soul should be forfeit to the diawl. But the
shrewd Welshman gave orders that he should be buried exactly under the
chancel wall, so that he should lie neither in the church nor out of
it; and the devil was made a fool of by this device. A precisely
similar tradition exists concerning an old gentleman in


A popular legend giving the origin of the jack-o'-lantern in Wales
deals with the idea of a stupid devil: A long time ago there lived on
the hills of Arfon an old man of the name of Sion Dafydd, who used to
converse much with one of the children of the bottomless pit. One
morning Sion was on his way to Llanfair-Fechan, carrying a flail on
his shoulder, for he had corn there, when whom should he meet but his
old friend from the pit, with a bag on his back, and in it two little
devils like himself. After conversing for some time they began to
quarrel, and presently were in the midst of a terrible fight. Sion
fell to basting the devils with his flail, until the bag containing
the two little ones went all to pieces, and the two tumbling out, fled
for their lives to Rhiwgyfylchi, which village is considered to this
day a very wicked place from this fact. Sion then went his way
rejoicing, and did not for a long time encounter his adversary.
Eventually, however, they met, and this time Sion had his gun on his
shoulder. 'What's that long thing you're carrying?' inquired the
devil. 'That's my pipe,' said Sion. Then the devil asked, 'Shall I
have a whiff out of it?' 'You shall,' was Sion's reply, and he placed
the mouth of his gun in the devil's throat and drew the trigger. Well;
that was the loudest report from a gun that was ever heard on this
earth. 'Ach!--tw!--tw!' exclaimed the smoker, 'your pipe is very
foul,' and he disappeared in a flame. After a lapse of time, Sion met
him again in the guise of a gentleman, but the Welshman knew it was
the tempter. This time he made a bargain for which he was ever
afterwards sorry, i.e., he sold himself to the devil for a sum down,
but with the understanding that whenever he could cling to something
the devil should not then control him. One day when Sion was busily
gardening, the evil one snatched him away into the air without
warning, and Sion was about giving up all hopes of again returning to
earth, when he thought to himself, 'I'll ask the devil one last
favour.' The stupid devil listened. 'All I want is an apple,' said
Sion, 'to moisten my lips a bit down below; let me go to the top of my
apple-tree, and I'll pick one.' 'Is that all?' quoth the diawl, and
consented. Of course Sion laid hold of the apple-tree, and hung on.
The devil had to leave him there. But the old reprobate was too wicked
for heaven, and the devil having failed to take him to the other
place, he was turned into a fairy, and is now the jack-o'-lantern.[86]


[86] 'Cymru Fu,' 355 et seq.


Best known among the natural objects in various parts of Wales which
are connected with the devil in popular lore, is the Devil's Bridge,
in Cardiganshire. Associated with this bridge are several legends,
which derive their greatest interest from their intrinsic evidences of
an antiquity in common with the same legends in other lands. The
guide-books of the region, like guide-books everywhere, in their
effort to avoid being led into unwarranted statement, usually indulge
in playfully sarcastic references to these ancient tales. They are
much older, however, than the bridge itself can possibly be. The
devil's activity in bridge-building is a myth more ancient than the
medieval devil of our acquaintance. The building story of the Devil's
Bridge in Cardiganshire runs briefly thus: An old woman who had lost
her cow spied it on the other side of the ravine, and was in great
trouble about it, not knowing how to get over where the animal was.
The devil, taking advantage of her distress, offered to throw a bridge
over the ravine, so that she might cross and get her cow; but he
stipulated that the first living creature to cross the bridge should
be his. The old woman agreed; the bridge was built; and the devil
waited to see her cross. She drew a crust of bread from her pocket,
threw it over, and her little black dog flew after it. 'The dog's
yours, sir,' said the dame; and Satan was discomfited. In the story
told of the old bridge over the Main at Frankfort, a bridge-contractor
and his troubles are substituted for the old woman and her cow;
instead of a black dog a live rooster appears, driven in front of him
by the contractor. The Welsh Satan seems to have received his
discomfiture good-naturedly enough; in the German tale he tears the
fowl to pieces in his rage. In Switzerland, every reader knows the
story told of the devil's bridge in the St. Gothard pass. A new bridge
has taken the place, for public use, of the old bridge on the road to
Andermatt, and to the dangers of the crumbling masonry are added
superstitious terrors concerning the devil's power to catch any one
crossing after dark. The old Welsh bridge has been in like manner
superseded by a modern structure; but I think no superstition like the
last noted is found at Hafod.


The English have a saying that the devil lives in the middle of Wales.
There is in every part of Wales that I have seen a custom of whitening
the doorsteps with chalk, and it is said to have originated in the
belief that his Satanic majesty could not enter a door thus protected.
The devil of slovenliness certainly would find difficulty in entering
a Welsh cottage if the tidiness of its doorstep is borne out in the
interior. But out-of-doors everywhere there are signs of the devil's
active habits. His flowers grow on the river-banks; his toes are
imprinted on the rocks. Near Tintern Abbey there is a jutting crag
overhung by gloomy branches of the yew, called the Devil's Pulpit. His
eminence used in other and wickeder days to preach atrocious morals,
or immorals, to the white-robed Cistercian monks of the abbey, from
this rocky pulpit. One day the devil grew bold, and taking his tail
under his arm in an easy and _dégagée_ manner, hobnobbed familiarly
with the monks, and finally proposed, just for a lark, that he should
preach them a nice red-hot sermon from the rood-loft of the abbey. To
this the monks agreed, and the devil came to church in high glee. But
fancy his profane perturbation (I had nearly written holy horror) when
the treacherous Cistercians proceeded to shower him with holy water.
The devil clapped his tail between his legs and scampered off howling,
and never stopped till he got to Llandogo, where he leaped across the
river into England, leaving the prints of his talons on a stone.


Where accounts of the devil's appearance are so numerous, it is
perhaps somewhat surprising so little is heard of apparitions of
angels. There are reasons for this, however, which might be enlarged
upon. Tradition says that 'in former times' there were frequent visits
of angels to Wales; and their rare appearance in our days is ascribed
to the completion of revelation. One or two modern instances of
angelic visitation are given by the Prophet Jones. There was David
Thomas, who lived at a place called the Pantau, between the towns of
Carmarthen and Laugharne; he was 'a gifted brother, who sometimes
preached,' in the dissenting way. One night, when he was at prayer
alone in a room which stood apart from his house, there was suddenly a
great light present, which made the light of the candle no longer
visible. And in that light appeared a band of angels, like children,
very beautiful in bright clothing, singing in Welsh these words:

    Pa hyd? Pa hyd? Dychwelwch feibion Adda!
    Pa hyd? Pa hyd yr erlidiwch y Cristnogion duwiol?

    How long? How long? Return ye sons of Adam!
    How long? How long will ye persecute the godly Christians?

After a time they departed; reappeared; departed again; the great
light faded; and the light of Mr. Thomas's candle was once more
visible on his table. There was also Rees David, a man of more than
common piety, who lived in Carmarthenshire, near Whitlands. At the
time of his death, it was testified by 'several religious persons who
were in the room,' that there was heard, by them and by the dying man,
the singing of angels. It drew nearer and nearer as his death-struggle
grew imminent, and after his death they 'heard the pleasant
incomparable singing gradually depart, until it was out of hearing.'

That the dying do see something more, in the last moment of expiring
nature, than it is given to living eyes to see, is a cherished belief
by numberless Christian men and women, whom to suspect of
superstitious credulity were to grossly offend. This belief is based
on exclamations uttered by the dying, while with fixed and staring
eyes they appeared to gaze intently at some object not visible to the
bystanders. But that the bystanders also saw, or heard, voice or
vision from the Unknown, is not often pretended.


Reference has been made to the euphemisms in use among all peoples to
avoid pronouncing the name of the devil. That many good folk still
consider the word devil, lightly spoken, a profane utterance only
second to a similar utterance of God's name, is a curious survival of
old superstitions. No prohibition of this sort attaches to the words
demon, fiend, etc., nor to such euphemisms, common in both Welsh and
English, as the adversary, the evil one, etc. It is an old custom in
North Wales to spit at the name of the devil, even when so innocently
used as in pronouncing the name of the Devil's Bridge. The peasantry
prefer to call the bridge 'Pont y Gwr Drwg,' the Bridge of the Wicked
One; and spitting and wiping off the tongue are deemed a necessary
precaution after saying devil, diafol, or diawl. The phrase 'I hope to
goodness,' so common in Wales and elsewhere, is clearly but another
euphemism for God; the goodness meant is the Divine beneficence.
'Goodness' sake' is but a contraction of 'For God's sake!' The Hebrew
tetragrammaton which was invested with such terror, as representing
the great 'I am,' finds an explanation, according to the ideas of
Welsh scholars, in the Bardic traditions. These relate that, by the
utterance of His Name, God created this world; the Name being
represented by the symbol /|\, three lines which typify the focusing
of the rising sun's rays at the equinoxes and solstices. The first ray
is the Creator, the second the Preserver, and the third the Destroyer;
the whole are God's Name. This name cannot be uttered by a mortal; he
has not the power; therefore it remains for ever unuttered on earth.
At the creation the universe uttered it in joy at the new-born world;
'the morning stars sang together.' At the last day it will be uttered
again. Till then it is kept a secret, lest it be degraded, as it has
been by the Hindus, who, from the three rays created their three false
gods, Brahma, Vishnu, and Siva. Tradition relates that Einigan Gawr
saw the Divine Name appear, and inscribed it on three rods of mountain
ash. The people mistook the three rods thus inscribed for God himself,
and Einigan died from grief at their error.[87]


[87] 'Dosparth Edeyrn Dafod Aur,' 3.


The devil with which we are acquainted is a character unknown to Greek
or Roman mythology; this devil was a later invention; but his identity
with the genii, or jinns of the 'Arabian Nights,' the Dïvs of Persian
history, is clear enough. Ahriman, the evil spirit, king of the realms
of darkness and of fire, was apparently the progenitor of Satan, as
Vritra was of Ahriman. Both these ancient arch-fiends appeared as
serpents in form, and were myths representing the darkness, slain by
the light, or the sun-god, in the one case called Indra, in the other
Ormuzd. The medieval devil with horns and hoofs does not appear in the
records of Judaism. He is an outgrowth of the moral principle of the
Christian era; and traced to his origins he is simply a
personification of the adversary in the never-ending struggle on earth
between light and darkness. That struggle is not, in nature, a moral
one; but it remains to-day, as it was in the beginning, the best type
we have of the battle between right and wrong, and between truth and
error. When God said, 'Let there be light,' the utterance became the
symbol and guide of virtue, of brave endeavour, and of scientific
research, until the end.


    Cambrian Death-Portents--The Corpse-Bird--The
    Tan-Wedd--Listening at the Church-Door--The Lledrith--The
    Gwrach y Rhibyn--The Llandaff Gwrach--Ugliness of this
    Female Apparition--The Black Maiden--The Cyhyraeth, or
    Crying Spirit--Its Moans on Land and Sea--The St. Mellons
    Cyhyraeth--The Groaning Spirit of Bedwellty.


There are death portents in every country, and in endless variety; in
Wales these portents assume distinct and striking individualities, in
great number and with clearly defined attributes. The banshee,
according to Mr. Baring-Gould, has no corresponding feature in
Scandinavian, Teutonic, or classic mythology, and belongs entirely to
the Celts. The Welsh have the banshee in its most blood-curdling form
under the name of the Gwrach y Rhibyn; they have also the Cyhyraeth,
which is never seen, but is heard, moaning dolefully and dreadfully in
the night; the Tolaeth, also only heard, not groaning but imitating
some earthly sound, such as sawing, singing, or the tramping of feet;
the Cwn Annwn and Cwn y Wybr, Dogs of Hell and Dogs of the Sky; the
Canwyll Corph, or Corpse Candle; the Teulu, or Goblin Funeral, and
many others--all of them death-portents. These, as the more important
and striking, I will describe further; but there are several others
which must first be mentioned.

The Aderyn y Corph is a bird which chirps at the door of the person
who is about to die, and makes a noise that sounds like the Welsh word
for 'Come! come!' the summons to death.[88] In ancient tradition, it
had no feathers nor wings, soaring without support high in the
heavens, and, when not engaged upon some earthly message, dwelling in
the land of illusion and phantasy.[89] This corpse-bird may properly
be associated with the superstition regarding the screech-owl, whose
cry near a sick-bed inevitably portends death. The untimely crowing of
a cock also foretells the sudden demise of some member of the family.
In North Wales the cry of the golden plover is a death-omen; these
birds are called, in this connection, the whistlers.[90] The same
superstition prevails in Warwickshire, and the sound is called the
seven whistlers.

Thunder and lightning in mid-winter announce the death of the great
man of the parish. This superstition is thought to be peculiar to
Wales, or to the wilder and more secluded parts of North Wales.[91]
Also deemed peculiar to Wales is the Tan-wedd, a fiery apparition
which falls on the lands of a freeholder who is about to die. It is
described as appearing somewhat similar to falling stars, but slower
of motion. 'It lighteneth all the air and ground where it passeth,'
says 'the honest Welshman, Mr. Davis, in a letter to Mr. Baxter,'
adding, 'lasteth three or four miles or more, for aught is known,
because no man seeth the rising or beginning of it; and when it falls
to the ground it sparkleth and lighteth all about.'[92] It also comes
as a duty-performing goblin, after a death, haunting the graveyard,
and calling attention to some special grave by its conduct, as in the
following account: Walter Watkins, of the Neuadd, in a parish of
Brecknockshire, was going one dark night towards Taf Fechan Chapel,
not far from his house, when he saw a light near the chapel. It
increased till it was as big as a church tower, and decreased again
till it was as small as a star; then enlarged again and decreased as
before; and this it did several times. He went to his house and
fetched his father and mother to see it, and they all saw it plainly,
much to their astonishment and wonder. Some time after, as a neighbour
was ploughing in a field near the chapel, about where the mysterious
light had been seen, the plough struck against a large flat stone.
This the ploughman raised up, after a deal of difficulty, and under it
he found a stone chest, in which was the jawbone of a man, and nought
else except an earthen jug. The bone was supposed to be the remains of
a man who had disappeared long before, and whose wife had since
married; and on her being told of it, she fell ill and died. The
light, which had often been seen before by various persons, was after
this seen no more. It was believed to be the spirit of the murdered
man, appearing as a light.

Listening at the church-door in the dark, to hear shouted by a ghostly
voice in the deserted edifice the names of those who are shortly to be
buried in the adjoining churchyard, is a Hallow E'en custom in some
parts of Wales. In other parts, the window serves the same purpose.
There are said to be still extant, outside some village churches,
steps which were constructed in order to enable the superstitious
peasantry to climb to the window to listen. The principle of
'expectant attention,' so well known to physiological science, would
be likely in this case to act with special force as a ghost-raiser. In
an ancient MS. by Llywelyn Sion, of Llangewydd, there is mention of a
frightful monster called the Fad Felen, which was seen through the
key-hole of Rhos church by Maelgwn Gwynedd, who 'died in consequence.'
This monster was predicted in a poem by Taliesin, as a 'strange
creature' which should come from the sea marsh, with hair and teeth
and eyes like gold. The yellow fever plague, which raged in Wales
during some five years in the sixth century, is the monster referred
to in this legend.

The Scotch wraith and Irish fetch have their parallel in Wales in the
Lledrith, or spectre of a person seen before his death; it never
speaks, and vanishes if spoken to. It has been seen by miners previous
to a fatal accident in the mine. The story is told of a miner who saw
himself lying dead and horribly maimed in a phantom tram-car, led by a
phantom horse, and surrounded by phantom miners. As he watched this
dreadful group of spectres they passed on, looking neither to the
right nor the left, and faded away. The miner's dog was as frightened
as its master at the sight, and ran howling into the darkness. Though
deeming himself doomed, the miner continued to work in the pit; and as
the days passed on, and no harm came to him, he grew more cheerful,
and was so bold as to laugh at the superstition. The day he did this,
a stone fell from the roof and broke his arm. As soon as he recovered
he resumed work in the pit; his death followed instantly. A stone
crushed him, and he was borne maimed and dead in the tram along the
road where his lledrith had appeared, 'a mile below the play of
sunshine and wave of trees.'[93]

The Mallt y Nos, or night-fiend, is a death-omen mentioned by Rev.
D. R. Thomas in the 'Archæologia Cambrensis'; and Croker[94] gives as
the Welsh parallel of the Irish death-coach a spectre called ceffyl
heb un pen, or the headless horse. The marw coel, or 'yellow spot
before death,' is another death-omen which I have been able to trace
no further than the pages where I find it.[95]


[88] 'Dewch! dewch!'

[89] 'Cymru Fu,' 299.

[90] 'Camb. Quarterly,' iv., 487.

[91] 'Arch. Camb.' 4th Se., iii., 333.

[92] Brand, 'Pop. Ant.' iii., 127.

[93] 'Tales and Sketches of Wales,' in 'Weekly Mail.'

[94] 'Fairy Legends of the South of Ireland,' 341.

[95] 'The Vale of Glamorgan.'


A frightful figure among Welsh apparitions is the Gwrach y Rhibyn,
whose crowning distinction is its prodigious ugliness. The feminine
pronoun is generally used in speaking of this goblin, which unlike the
majority of its kind, is supposed to be a female. A Welsh saying,
regarding one of her sex who is the reverse of lovely, is, 'Y mae mor
salw a Gwrach y Rhibyn,' (She is as ugly as the Gwrach y Rhibyn.) The
spectre is a hideous being with dishevelled hair, long black teeth,
long, lank, withered arms, leathern wings, and a cadaverous
appearance. In the stillness of night it comes and flaps its wings
against the window, uttering at the same time a blood-curdling howl,
and calling by name on the person who is to die, in a lengthened dying
tone, as thus: 'Da-a-a-vy!' 'De-i-i-o-o-o ba-a-a-ch!' The effect of
its shriek or howl is indescribably terrific, and its sight blasting
to the eyes of the beholder. It is always an omen of death, though its
warning cry is heard under varying circumstances; sometimes it appears
in the mist on the mountain side, or at cross-roads, or by a piece of
water which it splashes with its hands. The gender of apparitions is
no doubt as a rule the neuter, but the Gwrach y Rhibyn defies all
rules by being a female which at times sees fit to be a male. In its
female character it has a trick of crying at intervals, in a most
doleful tone, 'Oh! oh! fy ngwr, fy ngwr!' (my husband! my husband!)
But when it chooses to be a male, this cry is changed to 'Fy ngwraig!
fy ngwraig!' (my wife! my wife!) or 'Fy mlentyn, fy mlentyn bach!' (my
child, my little child!) There is a frightful story of a dissipated
peasant who met this goblin on the road one night, and thought it was
a living woman; he therefore made wicked and improper overtures to it,
with the result of having his soul nearly frightened out of his body
in the horror of discovering his mistake. As he emphatically
exclaimed, 'Och, Dduw! it was the Gwrach y Rhibyn, and not a woman at


The Gwrach y Rhibyn recently appeared, according to an account given
me by a person who claimed to have seen it, at Llandaff. Surely, no
more probable site for the appearance of a spectre so ancient of
lineage could be found, than that ancient cathedral city where some
say was the earliest Christian fane in Great Britain, and which was
certainly the seat of the earliest Christian bishopric. My narrator
was a respectable-looking man of the peasant-farmer class, whom I met
in one of my walks near Cardiff, in the summer of 1878. 'It was at
Llandaff,' he said to me, 'on the fourteenth of last November, when I
was on a visit to an old friend, that I saw and heard the Gwrach y
Rhibyn. I was sleeping in my bed, and was woke at midnight by a
frightful screeching and a shaking of my window. It was a loud and
clear screech, and the shaking of the window was very plain, but it
seemed to go by like the wind. I was not so much frightened, sir, as
you may think; excited I was--that's the word--excited; and I jumped
out of bed and rushed to the window and flung it open. Then I saw the
Gwrach y Rhibyn, saw her plainly, sir, a horrible old woman with long
red hair and a face like chalk, and great teeth like tusks, looking
back over her shoulder at me as she went through the air with a long
black gown trailing along the ground below her arms, for body I could
make out none. She gave another unearthly screech while I looked at
her; then I heard her flapping her wings against the window of a house
just below the one I was in, and she vanished from my sight. But I
kept on staring into the darkness, and as I am a living man, sir, I
saw her go in at the door of the Cow and Snuffers Inn, and return no
more. I watched the door of the inn a long time, but she did not come
out. The next day, it's the honest truth I'm telling you, they told me
the man who kept the Cow and Snuffers Inn was dead--had died in the
night. His name was Llewellyn, sir--you can ask any one about him, at
Llandaff--he had kept the inn there for seventy years, and his family
before him for three hundred years, just at that very spot. It's not
these new families that the Gwrach y Rhibyn ever troubles, sir, it's
the old stock.'


The close resemblance of this goblin to the Irish banshee (or benshi)
will be at once perceived. The same superstition is found among other
peoples of Celtic origin. Sir Walter Scott mentions it among the
highlands of Scotland.[96] It is not traced among other than Celtic
peoples distinctly, but its association with the primeval mythology
is doubtless to be found in the same direction with many other
death-omens, to wit, the path of the wind-god Hermes.

The frightful ugliness of the Gwrach y Rhibyn is a consistent feature
of the superstition, in both its forms; it recalls the Black Maiden
who came to Caerleon and liberated Peredur:[97] 'Blacker were her face
and her two hands than the blackest iron covered with pitch; and her
hue was not more frightful than her form. High cheeks had she, and a
face lengthened downwards, and a short nose with distended nostrils.
And one eye was of a piercing mottled gray, and the other was as black
as jet, deep-sunk in her head. And her teeth were long and yellow,
more yellow were they than the flower of the broom. And her stomach
rose from the breast-bone, higher than her chin. And her back was in
the shape of a crook, and her legs were large and bony. And her figure
was very thin and spare, except her feet and legs, which were of huge
size.' The Welsh word 'gwrach' means a hag or witch, and it has been
fancied that there is a connection between this word and the mythical
Avagddu,[98] whose wife the gwrach was.

The Gwrach y Rhibyn appears also as a river-spectre, in


[96] 'Demonology and Witchcraft,' 351.

[97] 'Mabinogion,' 114.

[98] Avagddu means both hell and the devil, as our word Heaven means
both the Deity and his abode.


A death-portent which is often confused with the Gwrach y Rhibyn, yet
which is rendered quite distinct by its special attributes, is the
Cyhyraeth. This is a groaning spirit. It is never seen, but the noise
it makes is no less terrible to the ear than the appearance of its
visible sister is to the eye. Among groaning spirits it is considered
to be the chief. The Prophet Jones succinctly characterises it as 'a
doleful, dreadful noise in the night, before a burying.' David
Prosser, of Llanybyther parish, 'a sober, sensible man and careful to
tell the truth,' once heard the Cyhyraeth in the early part of the
night, his wife and maid-servant being together in the house, and also
hearing it; and when it came opposite the window, it 'pronounced these
strange words, of no signification that we know of,' viz. '_Woolach!
Woolach!_' Some time afterward a funeral passed that way. The
judicious Joshua Coslet, who lived by the river Towy in
Carmarthenshire, testified that the Cyhyraeth is often heard there,
and that it is 'a doleful, disagreeable sound heard before the deaths
of many, and most apt to be heard before foul weather. The voice
resembles the groaning of sick persons who are to die; heard at first
at a distance, then comes nearer, and the last near at hand; so that
it is a threefold warning of death. It begins strong, and louder than
a sick man can make; the second cry is lower, but not less doleful,
but rather more so; the third yet lower, and soft, like the groaning
of a sick man almost spent and dying.' A person 'well remembering the
voice' and coming to the sick man's bed, 'shall hear his groans
exactly like' those which he had before heard from the Cyhyraeth. This
crying spirit especially affected the twelve parishes in the hundred
of Inis Cenin, which lie on the south-east side of the river Towy,
'where some time past it groaned before the death of every person who
lived that side of the country.' It also sounded before the death of
persons 'who were born in these parishes, but died elsewhere.'
Sometimes the voice is heard long before death, but not longer than
three quarters of a year. So common was it in the district named, that
among the people there a familiar form of reproach to any one making a
disagreeable noise, or 'children crying or groaning unreasonable,' was
to ejaculate, 'Oh 'r Cyhyraeth!' A reason why the Cyhyraeth was more
often heard in the hundred of Inis Cenin was thought to be that Non,
the mother of St. David, lived in those parts, where a village is
called after her name, Llan-non, the church of Non.

On the southern sea-coast, in Glamorganshire, the Cyhyraeth is
sometimes heard by the people in the villages on shore passing down
the channel with loud moans, while those dismal lights which forebode
a wreck are seen playing along the waves. Watchers by the sea-shore
have also heard its moan far out on the ocean, gradually drawing
nearer and nearer, and then dying away; and when they thought it gone
it has suddenly shrieked close to their startled ears, chilling their
very marrows. Then, long after, they would hear it, now faint, now
loud, going along the sands into the distant darkness. One or more
corpses were usually washed ashore soon after. In the villages the
Cyhyraeth is heard passing through the empty streets and lanes by
night, groaning dismally, sometimes rattling the window-shutters, or
flinging open the door as it flits by. When going along the country
lanes it will thus horrify the inmates of every house it passes. Some
old people say it is only heard before the death of such as are of
strayed mind, or who have long been ill; but it always comes when an
epidemic is about to visit the neighbourhood.

A tradition of the Cyhyraeth is connected with the parish churchyard
at St. Mellons, a quaint old-fashioned village within easy tramping
distance of Cardiff, but in Monmouthshire. It is of a boy who was sent
on an errand, and who heard the Cyhyraeth crying in the churchyard,
first in one place, then in another, and finally in a third place,
where it rested. Some time after, a corpse was brought to that
churchyard to be buried, but some person came and claimed the grave.
They went to another place, but that also was claimed. Then they went
to a third place, and there they were allowed to bury their dead in
peace. And this going about with the corpse was 'just the same as the
boy declared it.' Of course the boy could not know what was to come to
pass, 'but this crying spirit knew exactly what would come to pass.' I
was also told by a person at St. Mellons that a ghost had been seen
sitting upon the old stone cross which stands on the hillside near the


Other groaning spirits are sometimes heard. A girl named Mary Morgan,
living near Crumlyn Bridge, while standing on the bridge one evening
was seized with mortal terror on hearing a groaning voice going up the
river, uttering the words, 'O Dduw, beth a wnaf fi?' (O God, what
shall I do?) many times repeated, amid direful groans. The conclusion
of this narration is a hopeless mystery, as Mary fainted away with her

Much more satisfactory, as a ghost-story with a moral, is the tale of
the groaning spirit of Bedwellty.[99] There was one night a wake at
the house of Meredith Thomas, over the body of his four-year-old
child, at which two profane men (named Thomas Edward Morgan and
Anthony Aaron) began playing at cards, and swearing most horribly. In
the parish of Bedwellty, the wakes--or watch-nights, as they are more
commonly called in Wales--were at that time very profanely kept. 'Few
besides the dissenters,' says Jones (who was himself a dissenter, it
must be remembered), 'had the sense and courage to forbid' this
wickedness, but 'suffered it as a custom, because the pretence was to
divert the relations of the dead, and lessen their sorrows.' While the
aforementioned profane men were playing cards and swearing, suddenly a
dismal groaning noise was heard at the window. At this the company was
much frightened, excepting the card-players, who said 'Pw!' and went
on playing. But to pacify the rest of the company they finally
desisted, and at once the groaning ceased. Soon after they began
playing again, when at once the groaning set up in most lamentable
tones, so that people shuddered; but the profane men again said, 'Pw!
it is some fellow playing tricks to frighten us.' 'No,' said William
Harry Rees, a good man of the Baptist persuasion, 'it is no human
being there groaning, but a spirit,' and again he desired them to give
over. But though they were so bold with their card-playing, these
wicked men had not the hardihood to venture out and see who it was
'playing tricks,' as they called it. However, one of the company said,
'I will go, and take the dogs with me, and see if there be any human
being there.' The groaning still continued. This bold person then
'took the prime staff, and began to call the dogs to go with him;' but
the dogs could not be induced to go out, being in great terror at the
groaning noise, and sought to hide themselves under the stools, and
about the people's feet. In vain they beat the dogs, and kicked and
scolded them, out-door they would not go. This at last convinced the
profane men, and they left off playing, for fear the devil should come
among them. For it was told in other places that people had played
cards till his sulphurous majesty appeared in person.


[99] Jones, 'Apparitions,' 24.


    The Tolaeth Death Portent--Its various Forms--The Tolaeth
    before Death--Ewythr Jenkin's Tolaeth--A modern
    Instance--The Railway Victim's Warning--The Goblin
    Voice--The Voice from the Cloud--Legend of the Lord and the
    Beggar--The Goblin Funeral--The Horse's Skull--The Goblin
    Veil--The Wraith of Llanllwch--Dogs of Hell--The Tale of
    Pwyll--Spiritual Hunting Dogs--Origin of the Cwn Annwn.


The Tolaeth is an ominous sound, imitating some earthly sound of one
sort or another, and always heard before either a funeral or some
dreadful catastrophe. Carpenters of a superstitious turn of mind will
tell you that they invariably hear the Tolaeth when they are going to
receive an order to make a coffin; in this case the sound is that of
the sawing of wood, the hammering of nails, and the turning of screws,
such as are heard in the usual process of making a coffin. This is
called the 'Tolaeth before the Coffin.' The 'Tolaeth before Death' is
a supernatural noise heard about the house, such as a knocking, or the
sound of footsteps in the dead of night. Sometimes it is the sound of
a tolling bell, where no bell is; and the direction in which the ear
is held at the time points out the place of the coming death. Formerly
the veritable church-bell in its steeple would foretell death, by
tolling thrice at the hour of midnight, unrung by human hands. The
bell of Blaenporth, Cardiganshire, was noted for thus warning the
neighbours. The 'Tolaeth before the Burying' is the sound of the
funeral procession passing by, unseen, but heard. The voices are
heard singing the 'Old Hundredth,' which is the psalm tune usually
sung by funeral bands; the slow regular tramp of the feet is heard,
and the sobbing and groaning of the mourners. The Tolaeth touches but
one sense at a time. When this funeral procession is heard it cannot
be seen. But it is a peculiarity of the Tolaeth that after it has been
heard by the ear, it sometimes makes itself known to the eye also--but
in silence. The funeral procession will at first be heard, and then if
the hearer stoop forward and look along the ground, it may perhaps be
seen; the psalm-singers, two abreast, with their hats off and their
mouths open, as in the act of singing; the coffin, borne on the
shoulders of four men who hold their hats by the side of their heads;
the mourners, the men with long black hatbands streaming behind, the
women pale and sorrowful, with upheld handkerchiefs; and the rest of
the procession stretching away dimly into shadow. Not a sound is
heard, either of foot or voice, although the singers' mouths are open.
After the procession has passed, and the observer has risen from his
stooping posture, the Tolaeth again breaks on the ear, the music, the
tread of feet, and the sobbing, as before. A real funeral is sure to
pass that way not long afterwards.

This form of the Tolaeth should not be confused with the Teulu, or
Goblin Funeral proper, which is a death-warning occupying its own


John Clode, an honest labouring man living on the coast of
Glamorganshire, near the Sker Rocks, had just gone to bed one night,
when he and his wife heard the door open, the tread of shuffling feet,
the moving about of chairs, and the grunting of men as if setting
down a load. This was all in the room where they lay, it being the
only room their cottage afforded, except the one upstairs. 'John,
John!' cried his wife in alarm, 'what is this?' In vain John rubbed
his eyes and stared into the darkness. Nothing could he see. Two days
afterward their only son was brought home drowned; and his corpse
being borne into the house upon a ladder, there were the same noises
of opening the door, the shuffling of feet, the moving of chairs, the
setting down of the burden, that the Tolaeth had touched their ears
with. 'John, John!' murmured poor Mrs. Clode; 'this is exactly what I
heard in the night.' 'Yes, wife,' quoth John, 'it was the Tolaeth
before Death.'

Before Ewythr Jenkin of Nash died, his daughter Gwenllian heard the
Tolaeth. She had taken her old father's breeches from under his pillow
to mend them (for he was very careful always to fold and put his
breeches under his pillow, especially if there was a sixpence in the
pocket), and just as she was about sitting down at the table on which
she had thrown them, there came a loud rap on the table, which
startled her very much. 'Oh, Jenny, what was that?' she asked of the
servant girl; but Jenny could only stare at her mistress, more
frightened than herself. Again did Gwenllian essay to sit and take the
breeches in hand, when there came upon the table a double rap, much
louder than the first, a rap, in fact, that made all the chairs and
kettles ring. So then Gwenllian fainted away.

At a place called by its owner Llynwent, in Radnorshire, at a certain
time the man of the house and his wife were gone from home. The rest
of the family were sitting at supper, when three of the servants heard
the sound of horses coming toward the house, and cried out, 'There,
they are coming!' thinking it was their master and mistress returning
home. But on going out to meet them, there was nobody near. They
re-entered the house, somewhat uneasy in their minds at this strange
thing, and clustered about the fire, with many expressions of
wonderment. While they were so seated, 'Hark!' said one, and all
listening intently, heard footsteps passing by them and going up
stairs, and voices of people talking among themselves. Not long
afterward three of the family fell sick and died.


An instance of recent occurrence is given by a local newspaper
correspondent writing from the scene of a Welsh railway accident in
October, 1878. It was at Pontypridd, famous the world over for its
graceful bridge, (now old and superannuated,) and renowned in Druidic
story as a seat of learning. A victim of the railway accident was, a
few days before the collision, 'sitting with his wife at the fireside,
when he had an omen. The house was still, and they were alone, only a
little servant girl being with them. Then, while so sitting and
talking, they both heard a heavy footstep ascending the stairs, step
by step, step by step, as that of one carrying a burden. They looked
at one another, and the husband called, "Run, Mary, upstairs; some one
has gone up." Mary did run, but there was no one. She was told to look
in every room, and she did so, and it was put down as fancy. When the
news was borne to the poor wife on Saturday night, she started up and
said, "There now, that was the omen!"'[100] That his readers may not
by any perversity fail to understand him as alluding to the Tolaeth
before Death, our newspaper correspondent states his creed: 'I believe
in omens. I knew a lady who heard distinctly three raps at her door.
Another lady was sitting with her near it too. The door was an inner
door. No servant was in the house. The two ladies heard it, and yet no
human hand touched that door, and at the time when the knock was heard
a dear brother was dying. I know of strange things of this sort. Of
voices crying the names of half-sleeping relatives when the waves were
washing some one dear away to the mighty deep; but then the world
laughs at all this and the world goes on.' The correspondent is
severe; there is nothing here to laugh at.


[100] 'Western Mail,' Oct. 23, 1878.


The Tolaeth has one other form--that of a Voice which speaks, in a
simple and natural manner, but very significant words. Thus Edward
Lloyd, in the parish of Llangurig, was lying very ill, when the people
that were with him in his chamber heard a voice near them, but could
see no one; nor could they find any one anywhere about the house, to
whom the voice might belong. Soon afterwards they heard it utter, so
distinctly that it seemed to be in the room where they were, these
words, 'Y mae nenbren y t[^y] yn craccio,' (the upper beam of the
house cracketh.) Soon the Voice spoke again, saying, 'Fe dor yn y
man,' (it will presently break.) And once more it spoke: 'Dyna fe yn
tori,' (there it breaks.) That moment the sick man gave up the ghost.

John, the son of Watkin Elias Jones, of the parish of Mynyddyslwyn,
was one day ploughing in the field, when the oxen rested, and he sent
the lad who drove the oxen, to fetch something which he wanted; and
while thus alone in the field, he saw a cloud coming across the field
to him. When the cloud had come to that part of the field where he
was, it stopped, and shadowed the sun from him; and out of the cloud
came a Voice, which asked him which of these three diseases he would
choose to die of--fever, dropsy, or consumption. Being a man who could
give a plain answer to a plain question, he replied that he would
rather die of consumption. The lad now returning, he sent him home
with the oxen, and then, feeling inclined to sleep, lay down and
slept. When he awoke he was ill, and fell by degrees into a
consumption, of which he died one year from the day of this warning.
He did not tell of this apparition, however, until within six weeks of
his death.


One of the most beautiful legends in the Iolo MSS. gives an ancient
tale of the Tolaeth which may be thus condensed: A great and wealthy
lord, rich in land, houses and gold, enjoying all the luxuries of
life, heard a voice proclaim thrice distinctly: 'The greatest and
richest man of this parish shall die to-night.' At this he was sadly
troubled, for he knew that the greatest and richest man of that parish
could be no other than he; so he sent for the physician, but made
ready for death. Great, however, was his joy when the night passed,
the day broke, and he was yet alive. At sunrise the church bell was
heard tolling, and the lord sent in haste to know who was dead. Answer
came that it was an old blind beggar man, who had asked, and been
refused, alms at the great man's gate. Then the lord knew the meaning
of the warning voice he had heard: that very great and very rich man
had been the poor beggar--his treasures and wealth in the kingdom of
heaven. He took the warning wisely to heart, endowed religious houses,
relieved all who were in poverty, and when at last he was dying, the
voices of angels were heard to sing a hymn of welcome; and he was
buried, according to his desire, in the old beggar's grave.[101]


[101] Iolo MSS., 592.


Of the Teulu, or Goblin Funeral, a death-portent of wide prevalence in
Wales, numberless stories are told. This omen is sometimes a form of
the Tolaeth, but in itself constitutes an omen which is simple and
explicit. A funeral procession is seen passing down the road, and at
the same time it is heard. It has no shadowy goblin aspect, but
appears to be a real funeral. Examination shows its shadowy nature.
Subsequently a real funeral passes the same way, and is recognised as
the fulfilment of the omen. The goblin funeral precedes the other
sometimes by days, sometimes by weeks. Rees Thomas, a carpenter of
Carmarthenshire, passing by night through Rhiw Edwst, near Capel Ywen,
heard a stir as of a procession of people coming towards him, walking
and speaking; and when they were close to him he felt the touch of an
unseen hand upon his shoulder, and a voice saying to him, 'Rhys bach,
pa fodd yr y'ch chwi?' (my dear Rees, how are you?) A month after,
passing that way again, he met a funeral in that very place, and a
woman of the company put her hand upon his shoulder and spoke exactly
the same Welsh words to him that the invisible spirit had spoken. Rev.
Howel Prosser, many years ago curate of Aberystruth, late one evening
saw a funeral procession going down the church lane. Supposing it to
be the funeral of a man who had recently died in the upper part of his
parish, yet wondering he had not been notified of the burial, he put
on his band in order to perform his office over the dead, and hastened
to meet the procession. But when he came to it he saw that it was
composed of strangers, whom he had never seen before. Nevertheless, he
laid his hand on the bier, to help carry the corpse, when instantly
the whole vanished, and he was alone; but in his hand he found the
skull of a dead horse. 'Mr. Prosser was my schoolmaster, and a right
honest man,' says Edmund Jones,[102] who is responsible for this
story, as well as for the ensuing: Isaac William Thomas, who lived not
far from Hafodafel, once met a Goblin Funeral coming down the mountain
toward Llanhiddel church. He stood in a field adjoining the highway,
and leaned against the stone wall. The funeral came close to the other
side of the wall, and as the bier passed him he reached forth his hand
and took off the black veil which was over the bier. This he carried
to his home, where many people saw it. 'It was made of some exceeding
fine stuff, so that when folded it was a very little substance, and
very light.' That he escaped being hurt for this bold act was long the
marvel of the parish; but it was believed, by their going aside to
come so near him, that the goblins were willing he should do as he

An old man who resided near Llanllwch church, in Carmarthenshire, used
to assert in the most solemn manner that he had seen the Teulu going
to church again and again. On a certain evening hearing one
approaching, he peeped over a wall to look at it. The persons
composing the procession were all acquaintances of his, with the
exception of one who stood apart from the rest, gazing mournfully at
them, and who appeared to be a stranger. Soon afterwards there was a
real burying, and the old man, determined to see if there would be in
the scene any resemblance to his last Teulu, went to the churchyard
and waited. When the procession arrived, all were there as he had seen
them, except the stranger. Looking about him curiously, the old man
was startled by the discovery that he was himself the stranger! He was
standing on the identical spot where had stood the man he did not
recognise when he saw the Teulu. It was his own ghost.


[102] 'Account of the Parish of Aberystruth,' 17.


The death portent called Cwn Annwn, or Dogs of Hell, is a pack of
hounds which howl through the air with a voice frightfully
disproportionate to their size, full of a wild sort of lamentation.
There is a tradition that one of them once fell on a tombstone, but no
one was able to secure it. A peculiarity of these creatures is that
the nearer they are to a man the less loud their voice sounds,
resembling then the voice of small beagles, and the farther off they
are the louder is their cry. Sometimes a voice like that of a great
hound is heard sounding among them--a deep hollow voice, as if it were
the voice of a monstrous bloodhound. Although terrible to hear, and
certain portents of death, they are in themselves harmless. 'They have
never been known,' says a most respectable authority,[103] 'to commit
any mischief on the persons of either man or woman, goat, sheep, or
cow.' Sometimes they are called Cwn y Wybr, or Dogs of the Sky, but
the more sulphurous name is the favourite one. They are also
sometimes called Dogs of the Fairies. Their origin in fairyland is
traced to the famous mabinogi of Pwyll, Prince of Dyfed; but in that
fascinating tale of enchantment their right to be called Cwn Annwn is
clearly set forth, for they are there the hounds of a King of Annwn.
There are several translations of this mabinogi in existence, and its
popularity in South Wales is great, for the villages, vales, and
streams mentioned in it are familiar to residents in Pembroke,
Carmarthen, and Cardigan shires. Pwyll, the Prince, was at Narberth,
where was his chief palace, when he went one day to a wood in Glyn
Cych. Here 'he sounded his horn and began to enter upon the chase,
following his dogs and separating from his companions. And as he was
listening to the cry of his pack, he could distinctly hear the cry of
another pack, different from that of his own, and which was coming in
an opposite direction. He could also discern an opening in the woods
towards a level plain; and as his pack was entering the skirt of the
opening he perceived a stag before the other pack, and about the
middle of the glade the pack in the rear coming up and throwing the
stag on the ground. Upon this he fixed his attention on the colour of
the pack, without recollecting to look at the stag: and of all the
hounds in the world he had ever seen he never saw any like them in
colour. Their colour was a shining clear white, with red ears; and the
whiteness of the dogs and the redness of their ears were equally
conspicuous.'[104] They were the hounds of Arawn, a crowned king in
the land of Annwn, the shadow-land of Hades.

The Cwn Annwn are sometimes held to be the hell-hounds which hunt
through the air the soul of the wicked man, the instant it quits the
body--a truly terrific idea to the vulgar mind. The Prophet Jones has
several accounts of them: Thomas Phillips, of Trelech parish, heard
them with the voice of the great dog sounding among them, and noticed
that they followed a course that was never followed by funerals, which
surprised him very much, as he had always heard that the Dogs of the
Sky invariably went the same way that the corpse was to follow. Not
long after a woman from an adjoining parish died at Trelech, and being
carried to her own parish church to be buried, her corpse did actually
pass the same way in which the spirit dogs had been heard to hunt.
Thomas Andrew, of the parish of Llanhiddel, heard them one night as he
was coming home. 'He heard them coming towards him, though he saw them
not.' Their cry grew fainter as they drew near him, passed him, and
louder again as they went from him. They went down the steeps towards
the river Ebwy. And Thomas Andrew was 'a religious man, who would not
have told an untruth for fear or for favour.'


[103] 'Cambro-Briton,' i., 350.

[104] Dr. W. Owen Pughe's Trans., 'Camb.-Briton,' ii., 271.


No form of superstition has had a wider popularity than this of
spiritual hunting dogs, with which was usually connected in olden time
the wild huntsman, a personage who has dropped quite out of modern
belief, at least in Wales. In France this goblin was called Le Grand
Veneur, and hunted with his dogs in the forests of Fontainebleau; in
Germany it was Hackelberg, who sold himself to the devil for
permission to hunt till doomsday. In Britain it was King Arthur who
served as the goblin huntsman. Peasants would hear the cry of the
hounds and the sounding of the horns, but the huntsman was invisible.
When they called out after him, however, the answer came back: 'We are
King Arthur and his kindred.' Mr. Baring-Gould,[105] in giving an
account of the myth of Odin, the Wild Huntsman, who rides over the
forests by night on a white horse, with his legion of hell-hounds,
seems to ascribe the superstition to the imagination of a belated
woodcutter frightened by the wind in the tree-tops. William
Henderson[106] presumes the belief in the Wild Huntsman's pack, which
prevails in the North of England, to come from the strange unearthly
cries uttered by wild fowl on their passage southward, and which sound
like the yelping of dogs. These natural phenomena have not served,
however, to keep the old belief alive in Wales.

That the Cwn Annwn are descendants of the wish-hound of Hermes, hardly
admits of doubt. The same superstition prevails among all Aryan
peoples, with details differing but little. The souls of the dying are
carried away by the howling winds, the dogs of Hermes, in the ancient
mythology as in surviving beliefs; on this follows the custom of
opening the windows at death, so that the released soul may escape. In
Devonshire they say no soul can escape from the house in which its
body dies, unless all the locks and bolts are opened. In China a hole
is made in the roof for a like purpose. The early Aryan conception of
the wind as a howling dog or wolf speeding over the house-tops caused
the inmates to tremble with fear, lest their souls should be called to
follow them. It must be constantly borne in mind that all these
creatures of fancy were more or less interchangeable, and the god
Hermes was at times his own dog, which escorted the soul to the river
Styx. The winds were now the maruts, or spirits of the breeze, serving
Indra, the sky-god; again they were the great psychopomp himself. The
peasant who to-day tells you that dogs can see death enter the house
where a person is about to die, merely repeats the idea of a primeval
man whose ignorance of physical science was complete.


[105] 'Iceland, its Scenes and Sagas,' 199-203.

[106] 'Notes on Folk-Lore,' 97.


    The Corpse Candle--Its Peculiarities--The Woman of
    Caerau--Grasping a Corpse Candle--The Crwys Candle--Lights
    issuing from the Mouth--Jesting with the Canwyll Corph--The
    Candle at Pontfaen--The Three Candles at Golden
    Grove--Origin of Death-Portents in Wales--Degree of Belief
    prevalent at the Present Day--Origin of Spirits in
    General--The Supernatural--The Question of a Future Life.


Perhaps the most picturesque of the several death-omens popular in
Wales is the Canwyll Corph, or Corpse Candle. It is also, according to
my observation, the most extensively believed in at the present day.
Its details are varied and extremely interesting. The idea of a goblin
in the form of a lighted tallow candle is ludicrous enough, at first
sight; and indeed I know several learned Welsh gentlemen who venture
to laugh at it; but the superstition grows more and more grim and less
risible the better one becomes acquainted with it. It is worth noting
here that the canwyll, or candle, is a more poetic thing among the
Welsh--has a higher literary place, so to speak--than among
English-speaking peoples. In the works of their ancient poets the
candle is mentioned in passages where we should use the word light or
lamp--as in this verse, which is attributed to Aneurin (sixth

    The best candle for man is prudence.

The candle is the favourite figure for mental guidance among the
Welsh;[107] there is no book in the Welsh language so popular as a
certain work of religious counsel by a former Vicar of Llandovery,
called 'The Candle of the Cymry.' The Corpse Candle is always and
invariably a death-warning. It sometimes appears as a stately
flambeau, stalking along unsupported, burning with a ghastly blue
flame. Sometimes it is a plain tallow 'dip' in the hand of a ghost,
and when the ghost is seen distinctly it is recognised as the ghost of
some person yet living, who will now soon die. This, it will be
noticed, is a variation upon the wraith, or Lledrith. Sometimes the
goblin is a light which issues from a person's mouth or nostrils.
According to the belief of some sections, the size of the candle
indicates the age of the person who is about to die, being large when
it is a full-grown person whose death is foretold, small when it is a
child, still smaller when an infant. Where two candles together are
seen, one of which is large and the other small, it is a mother and
child who are to die. When the flame is white, the doomed person is a
woman; when red, a man.


[107] Stephens, 'Lit. of the Kymry,' 287. (New Ed., 1876.)


Among the accounts of the Corpse Candle which have come under my
notice none are more interesting than those given me by a good dame
whom I encountered at Caerau, near Cardiff. Caerau is a little village
of perhaps one hundred souls, crouched at the foot of a steep hill on
whose summit are the ancient earthworks of a Roman camp. On this
summit also stands the parish church, distinctly visible from Cardiff
streets, so ponderous is its square tower against the sky. To walk
there is a pleasant stroll from the late Marquis of Bute's statue in
the centre of the seaport town. I am thus particular merely for
emphasis of the fact that this superstition is not confined to remote
and out-of-the-way districts. Caerau is rural, and its people are all
poor people, perhaps; but its church is barely three miles from the
heart of a busy seaport. In this church I met the voluble Welshwoman
who gave me the accounts referred to. One was to this effect: One
night her sister was lying very ill at the narrator's house, and she
was alone with her children, her husband being in the lunatic asylum
at Cardiff. She had just put the children to bed, and had set her
candle on the floor preparatory to going to bed herself, when there
came a 'swish' along the floor, like the rustling of grave-clothes,
and the candle was blown out. The room, however, to her surprise,
remained glowing with a feeble light as from a very small taper, and
looking behind her she beheld 'old John Richards,' who had been dead
ten years. He held a Corpse Candle in his hand, and he looked at her
in a chill and steadfast manner which caused the blood to run cold in
her veins. She turned and woke her eldest boy, and said to him, 'Don't
you see old John Richards?' The boy asked 'Where?' rubbing his eyes.
She pointed out the ghost, and the boy was so frightened at sight of
it that he cried out 'O wi! O Dduw! I wish I may die!' The ghost then
disappeared, the Corpse Candle in its hand; the candle on the floor
burned again with a clear light, and the next day the sick sister

Another account ran somewhat thus: The narrator's mother-in-law was
ill with a cancer of the breast. 'Jenny fach,' she said to the
narrator one night, 'sleep by me--I feel afraid.' 'Hach!' said Jenny,
thinking the old woman was foolishly nervous; but she stayed. As she
was lying in bed by the side of her mother-in-law, she saw at the foot
of the bed the faint flame of a Corpse Candle, which shed no light at
all about the room; the place remained as dark as it was before. She
looked at it in a sort of stupor for a short time, and then raised
herself slowly up in bed and reached out to see if she could grasp the
candle. Her fingers touched it, but it immediately went out in a
little shower of pale sparkles that fell downward. At that moment her
mother-in-law uttered a groan, and expired.

'Do you know Thomas Mathews, sir?' she asked me; 'he lives at Crwys
now, but he used to live here at Caerau.' 'Crwys?' I repeated, not at
once comprehending. 'Oh, you must know Crwys, sir; it's just the other
side of Cardiff, towards Newport.' 'Can you spell it for me?'[108] The
woman blushed. ''Deed, sir,' said she, 'I ought to be a scholar, but
I've had so much trouble with my old man that I've quite forgot my
spellin'.' However, the story of Thomas Mathews was to the effect that
he saw a Corpse Candle come out of his father's mouth and go to his
feet, and away a bit, then back again to the mouth, which it did not
exactly enter, but blended as it were with the sick man's body. I
asked if the candle was tallow at any point in its excursion, to which
I was gravely answered that it was the spirit of tallow. The man died
not long after, in the presence of my informant, who described the
incident with a dramatic force and fervour peculiarly Celtic,
concluding with the remark: 'Well, well, there's only one way to come
into the world, but there's a many ways to go out of it.'

The light issuing from the mouth is a fancy frequently encountered. In
the 'Liber Landavensis' it is mentioned that one day as St. Samson was
celebrating the holy mysteries, St. Dubricius with two monks saw a
stream of fire to proceed glittering from his mouth.[109] In old
woodcuts, the souls of the dying are represented as issuing from the
mouth in the form of small human figures; and the Tyrolese peasants
still fancy the soul is seen coming out of the mouth of a dying man
like a little white cloud.[110] From the mouth of a patient in a London
hospital some time since the nurses observed issuing a pale bluish
flame, and soon after the man died. The frightened nurses--not being
acquainted with the corpse-candle theory of such things--imagined the
torments of hell had already begun in the still living body. A
scientific explanation of the phenomenon ascribed it to phosphuretted
hydrogen, a result of incipient decomposition.[111]


[108] It is pronounced Croo-iss.

[109] 'Liber Landavensis,' 299.

[110] Tylor, 'Primitive Culture,' 391.

[111] 'Transactions Cardiff Nat. Soc.,' iv. 5.


It is ill jesting with the Corpse Candle. Persons who have endeavoured
to stop it on its way have come severely to grief thereby. Many have
been struck down where they stood, in punishment of their audacity, as
in the case of William John, a blacksmith of Lanboydi. He was one
night going home on horseback, when he saw a Corpse Candle, and his
natural caution being at the moment somewhat overcome by potables, he
resolved to go out of his way to obstruct its passage. As the candle
drew near he saw a corpse upon a bier, the corpse of a woman he knew,
and she held the candle between her forefingers, and dreadfully
grinned at him. Then he was struck from his horse, and lay in the road
a long time insensible, and was ill for weeks thereafter. Meantime,
the woman whose spectral corpse he had seen, died and was buried, her
funeral passing by that road.

A clergyman's son in Carmarthenshire, (subsequently himself a
preacher,) who in his younger days was somewhat vicious, came home one
night late from a debauch, and found the doors locked. Fearing to
disturb the folk, and fearing also their reproaches and chidings for
his staying out so late, (as many a young fellow has felt before and
since,) he went to the man-servant, who slept in an out-room, as is
sometimes the custom in Welsh rural districts. He could not awake the
man-servant, but while standing over him, he saw a small light issue
from the servant's nostrils, which soon became a Corpse Candle. He
followed it out. It came to a foot-bridge which crossed a rivulet.
Here the young man became inspired with the idea of trying an
experiment with the Corpse Candle. He raised the end of the
foot-bridge off the bank, and watched to see what the ghostly light
would do. When it came to the rivulet it seemed to offer to go over,
but hesitated, as if loth to cross except upon the bridge. So the
young man put the bridge back in its place, and stayed to see how the
candle would act. It came on the bridge, and as it passed the young
man it struck him, as with a handkerchief. But though the blow was
thus light and phantom-like, it doubled the young man up and left him
a senseless heap on the ground, where he lay till morning, when he
recovered and went home. It is needless to add that the servant died.


Morris Griffith was once schoolmaster in the parish of Pontfaen, in
Pembrokeshire, but subsequently became a Baptist preacher of the
Gospel. He tells this story: 'As I was coming from a place called
Tre-Davydd, and was come to the top of the hill, I saw a great light
down in the valley, which I wondered at; for I could not imagine what
it meant. But it came to my mind that it was a light before a burying,
though I never could believe before that there was such a thing. The
light which I saw then was a very red light, and it stood still for
about a quarter of an hour in the way which went towards
Llanferch-Llawddog church. I made haste to the other side of the hill,
that I might see it farther; and from thence I saw it go along to the
churchyard, where it stood still for a little time and entered into
the church. I remained waiting to see it come out, and it was not long
before it came out, and went to a certain part of the churchyard,
where it stood a little time, and then vanished out of my sight. A few
days afterwards, being in school with the children about noon, I heard
a great noise overhead, as if the top of the house was coming down. I
ran out to see the garret, and there was nothing amiss. A few days
afterwards, Mr. Higgon of Pontfaen's son died. When the carpenter came
to fetch the boards to make the coffin, (which were in the garret,) he
made exactly such a stir, in handling the boards in the garret, as was
made before by some spirit, who foreknew the death that was soon to
come to pass. In carrying the body to the grave, the burying stood
where the light had stood for about a quarter of an hour, because
there was some water crossing the way, and the people could not go
over it without wetting their feet, therefore they were obliged to
wait till those that had boots helped them over. The child was buried
in that very spot of ground in the churchyard, where I saw the light
stop after it came out of the church. This is what I can boldly
testify, having seen and heard what I relate--a thing which before I
could not believe.'

Joshua Coslet, before mentioned in these pages, suddenly met a Corpse
Candle as he was going through Heol Bwlch y Gwynt, (Windgap Lane) in
Llandilo Fawr parish. It was a small light when near him, but
increased as it went farther from him. He could easily see that there
was some dark shadow passing along with the candle, and the shadow of
a man carried it, holding it 'between his three forefingers over
against his face.' He might perhaps have seen more, but he was afraid
to look too earnestly upon it. Not long after, a burying passed
through Heol Bwlch y Gwynt. Another time he saw the likeness of a
candle carried in a skull. 'There is nothing unlikely or unreasonable
in either of these representations,' says the Prophet Jones, their

A Carmarthenshire tradition relates that one day, when the coach which
runs between Llandilo and Carmarthen was passing by Golden Grove, the
property of the Earl of Cawdor, three Corpse Candles were observed on
the surface of the water gliding down the stream which runs near the
road. All the passengers saw them. A few days after, some men were
about crossing the river near there in a coracle, when one of them
expressed his fear at venturing, as the river was flooded, and he
remained behind. Thus the fatal number crossed the river--three--three
Corpse Candles having foretold their fate; and all were drowned.


Tradition ascribes the origin of all these death-portents to the
efforts of St. David. This saint appears to have been a great and
good man, and a zealous Catholic, who, as a contemporary of the
historical Arthur, is far enough back in the dim past to meet the
views of romantic minds. And a prelate who by his prayers and presence
could enable King Arthur to overthrow the Saxons in battle, or who by
his pious learning could single-handed put down the Pelagian heresy in
the Cardiganshire synod, was surely strong enough to invoke the Gwrach
y Rhibyn, the Cyhyraeth, the Corpse Candle, and all the dreadful
brood. This the legend relates he did by a special appeal to Heaven.
Observing that the people in general were careless of the life to
come, and could not be brought to mind it, and make preparation for
it, St. David prayed that Heaven would give a sign of the immortality
of the soul, and of a life to come, by a presage of death. Since that
day, Wales, and particularly that part of Wales included in the
bishopric of St. David, has had these phantoms. More materialistic
minds consider these portents to be a remainder of those practices by
which the persecuted Druids performed their rites and long kept up
their religion in the land which Christianity had claimed: a similar
origin, in fact, is here found for goblin omens as for fairies.

That these various portents are extensively believed in at the present
day there cannot be a doubt; with regard to the most important of
them, I am able to testify with the fullest freedom; I have heard
regarding them story after story, from the lips of narrators whose
sincerity was expressed vividly in face, tones, and behaviour. The
excited eye, the paling cheek, the bated breath, the sinking voice,
the intense and absorbed manner--familiar phenomena in every circle
where ghost stories are told--evidenced the perfect sincerity, at
least, of the speakers.

It is unnecessary here to repeat, what I for my own part never forget,
nor, I trust, does the reader, that Wales is no exception to the rest
of the world in its credulity. That it is more picturesque is true,
and it is also true that there is here an unusual amount of legend
which has not hitherto found its way into books. Death-omens are
common to all lands; even in America, there are tales of the banshee,
imported from Ireland along with the sons of that soil. In one recent
case which came under my notice the banshee belonged to a
Cambridgeshire Englishman. This was at Evansville, Indiana, and the
banshee had appeared before the deaths of five members of a family,
the last of whom was the father. His name was Feast, and the
circumstances attending the banshee's visits were gravely described in
a local journal as a matter of news. Less distinguished death-portents
are common enough in the United States. That the Cambrian portents are
so picturesque and clearly defined must be considered strong testimony
to the vivid imagination of the Welsh. Figures born of the fancy, as
distinguished from creatures born of the flesh, prove their parentage
by the vagueness of their outlines. The outlines of the Cyhyraeth and
the Gwrach y Rhibyn sometimes run into and mingle with each other, and
so do those of the Tolaeth and the Goblin Funeral; but the wonder is
they are such distinct entities as they are.


To say that all the visible inhabitants of the mundane spirit-world
are creatures of the disordered human liver, is perhaps a needless
harshness of statement. The question of a future life is not involved
in this subject, nor raised by the best writers who are studying it;
but, religious belief quite apart, it remains to be proved that
spirits of a supernatural world have any share in the affairs of a
world governed by natural law. A goblin which manifests itself to the
human eye, it seems to me, becomes natural, by bowing before the
natural laws which rule in optics. Yet believers in ghosts find no
difficulty in this direction; the word 'supernatural' covers a
multitude of sins. 'What is the supernatural?' asks Disraeli, in
'Lothair.' 'Can there be anything more miraculous than the existence
of man and the world? anything more literally supernatural than the
origin of things?'

Surely, in this life, nothing! The student who endeavours to govern
his faith by the methods of science asks no more of any ghost that
ever walked the earth, than that it will prove itself a reality. Man
loves the marvellous. The marvels of science, however, do not melt
away into thin air on close examination. They thrive under the
severest tests, and grow more and more extraordinary the more they are
tried. The spectroscope and the radiometer are more wonderful than any
'supernatural' thing yet heard of. Transportation through the air in
the arms of a spirit is a clear impossibility; but it is less
wonderful than the every-day feats of electricity in our time, the
bare conception of which would have filled Plato and Aristotle with

The actual origin of the phantoms of the spirit-world is to be found
in the lawless and luxuriant fancy of primeval man. The creatures of
this fancy have been perpetuated throughout all time, unto our own
day, by that passionate yearning in men for continued life and love,
which is ineradicable in our nature. Men will not, they can not,
accept the doubt which plunges an eternal future into eternal
darkness, and separates them for ever from the creatures of their
love. Hence, when the remorseless fact of Death removes those
creatures, they look, with a longing which is indescribably pathetic,
into the Unknown where their beloved have gone, and strive to see them
in their spirit-life.

On this verge the finite mind must pause; to question that life is to
add a terrible burden to all human woe; it need not be questioned. But
to question the power of anything in that life to manifest itself to
man through natural law, is to do what science has a right to do. 'The
living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing ...
neither have they any more a portion for ever in any thing that is
done under the sun.'[112]


[112] 'Eccles.' ix., 5, 6.

  [Illustration: {SPRIG OF LILY OF THE VALLEY.}]



    Where in an agede cell with moss and iveye growne,
    In which nor to this daye the sunn had ever showne,
    Their reverend British saint, in zealous ages paste,
    To contemplation lived, and did so truly faste,
    As he did onlie drink what chrystal [rivers] yields,
    And fed upon the leakes he gather'd in the fields:
    In memory of whom, in the revolving year,
    The Welchman on that daye that sacred herb doth wear.
                    _MS. in Bodleian Library._


    Serious Significance of seemingly Trivial Customs--Their
    Origins--Common Superstitions--The Age we Live in--Days and
    Seasons--New Year's Day--The Apple Gift--Lucky Acts on New
    Year's Morning--The First Foot--Showmen's
    Superstitions--Levy Dew Song--Happy New Year Carol--Twelfth
    Night--The Mari Lwyd--The Penglog--The Cutty Wren--Tooling
    and Sowling--St. Valentine's Day--St. Dewi's Day--The
    Wearing of the Leek--The Traditional St. David--St.
    Patrick's Day--St. Patrick a Welshman--Shrove Tuesday.


Numberless customs in Wales which appear to be meaningless, to people
of average culture, are in truth replete with meaning. However trivial
they may seem, they are very seldom the offspring of mere fooling. The
student of comparative folk-lore is often able to trace their origin
with surprising distinctness, and to evolve from them a significance
before unsuspected. In many cases these quaint old customs are traced
to the primeval mythology. Others are clearly seen to be of Druidical
origin. Many spring from the rites and observances of the Roman
Catholic Church in the early days of Christianity on Welsh
soil--where, as is now generally conceded, the Gospel was first
preached in Great Britain. Some embody historical traditions; and some
are the outgrowth of peculiar states of society in medieval times.
Directly or indirectly, they are all associated with superstition,
though in many instances they have quite lost any superstitious
character in our day.

Modern society is agreed, with respect to many curious old customs, to
view them as the peculiar possession of ignorance. It is very
instructive to note, in this connection, how blandly we accept some of
the most superstitious of these usages, with tacit approval, and
permit them to govern our conduct. In every civilised community, in
every enlightened land on earth, there are many men and women to whom
this remark applies, who would deem themselves shamefully insulted
should you doubt their intelligence and culture. Men and women who
'smile superior' at the idea of Luther hurling inkstands at the devil,
or at the Welsh peasant who thinks a pig can see the wind, will
themselves avoid beginning a journey on a Friday, view as ominous a
rainy wedding-day, throw an old slipper after a bride for luck,
observe with interest the portents of their nightly dreams, shun
seeing the new moon over the left shoulder, throw a pinch of salt over
the same member when the salt-cellar is upset, tie a red string about
the neck to cure nose-bleed, and believe in the antics of the modern
spiritualistic 'control.' Superstition, however, they leave to the
ignorant! The examples of every-day fetichism here cited are familiar
to us, not specially among the Welsh, but among the English also, and
the people of the United States--who, I may again observe, are no
doubt as a people uncommonly free from superstition, in comparison
with the older nations of the earth; but modesty is a very becoming
wear for us all, in examining into other people's superstitions.

Aside from their scientific interest, there is a charm about many of
the quaint customs of the Welsh, which speaks eloquently to most
hearts. They are the offspring of ignorance, true, but they touch the
'good old times' of the poet and the romancer, when the conditions of
life were less harsh than now. So we love to think. As a matter of
scientific truth, this idea is itself, alas! but a superstition. This
world has probably never been so fair a place to live in, life never
so free from harsh conditions, as now; and as time goes on, there can
be no doubt the improving process will continue. The true halcyon days
of man are to be looked for in the future--not in the past; but with
that future we shall have no mortal part.


In treating of customs, no other classification is needful than their
arrangement in orderly sequence in two divisions: first, those which
pertain to certain days and seasons; second, those relating to the
most conspicuous events in common human life, courtship, marriage, and

Beginning with the year: there is in Glamorganshire a New Year's Day
custom of great antiquity and large present observance, called the
apple gift, or New Year's gift. In every town and village you will
encounter children, on and about New Year's Day, going from door to
door of shops and houses, bearing an apple or an orange curiously
tricked out. Three sticks in the form of a tripod are thrust into it
to serve as a rest; its sides are smeared with flour or meal, and
stuck over with oats or wheat, or bits of broken lucifer matches to
represent oats; its top is covered with thyme or other sweet
evergreen, and a skewer is inserted in one side as a handle to hold it
by. In its perfection, this piece of work is elaborate; but it is now
often a decrepit affair, in the larger towns, where the New Year is
welcomed (as at Cardiff) by a midnight chorus of steam-whistles.

  [Illustration: THE NEW YEAR'S APPLE.]

The Christian symbolism of this custom is supposed to relate to the
offering, by the Wise Men, of gold, frankincense, and myrrh to the
infant Jesus. The older interpretation, however, takes the custom back
to the Druidic days, and makes it a form of the solar myth. In the
three supporting sticks of the apple are seen the three rays of the
sun, /|\, the mystic Name of the Creator; the apple is the round sun
itself; the evergreens represent its perennial life; and the grains of
wheat, or oats, Avagddu's spears. Avagddu is the evil principle of
darkness--hell, or the devil--with which the sun fights throughout the
winter for the world's life.

Thousands of children in Wales seek to win from their elders a New
Year's copper by exhibiting the apple gift, or by singing in chorus
their good wishes. A popular verse on this occasion hopes the hearer
will be blessed with an abundance of money in his pocket and of beer
in his cellar, and draws attention to the singers' thin shoes and the
bad character of the walking. In many cases the juvenile population
parades the street all night, sometimes with noisy fife bands, which
follow the death knell, as it sounds from the old church tower, with
shrill peals of a merrier if not more musical sort.

In Pembrokeshire, to rise early on New Year's morning is considered
luck-bringing. On that morning also it is deemed wise to bring a fresh
loaf into the house, with the superstition that the succession of
loaves throughout the year will be influenced by that incident. A
rigid quarantine is also set up, to see that no female visitor cross
the threshold first on New Year's morning; that a male visitor shall
be the first to do so is a lucky thing, and the reverse unlucky. A
superstition resembling this prevails to this day in America among
showmen. 'There's no showman on the road,' said an American manager of
my acquaintance, 'who would think of letting a lady be first to pass
through the doors when opening them for a performance. There's a sort
of feeling that it brings ill-luck. Then there are cross-eyed people;
many a veteran ticket-seller loses all heart when one presents himself
at the ticket-window. A cross-eyed patron and a bad house generally go
together. A cross-eyed performer would be a regular Jonah. With
circuses there is a superstition that a man with a yellow clarionet
brings bad luck.' Another well-known New York manager in a recent
conversation assured me that to open an umbrella in a new play is
deemed certain failure for the piece. An umbrella may be carried
closed with impunity, but it must not be opened unless the author
desire to court failure. The Chinese have the Pembrokeshire
superstition exactly, as regards the first foot on New Year's Day.
They consider a woman peculiarly unlucky as a first foot after the New
Year has begun, but a Buddhist priest is even more unlucky than a
woman, in this light.[113]

Another Pembrokeshire custom on New Year's morning is quaint and
interesting. As soon as it is light, children of the peasantry hasten
to provide a small cup of pure spring water, just from the well, and
go about sprinkling the faces of those they meet, with the aid of a
sprig of evergreen. At the same time they sing the following verses:

    Here we bring new water from the well so clear,
    For to worship God with, this happy new year;
    Sing levy dew, sing levy dew, the water and the wine,
    With seven bright gold wires, and bugles that do shine;
    Sing reign of fair maid, with gold upon her toe;
    Open you the west door and turn the old year go;
    Sing reign of fair maid, with gold upon her chin;
    Open you the east door and let the new year in!

This custom also is still observed extensively. The words 'levy dew'
are deemed an English version of Llef i Dduw, (a cry to God).

A Welsh song sung on New Year's Day, in Glamorganshire, by boys in
chorus, somewhat after the Christmas carol fashion, is this:

    Blwyddyn newydd dda i chwi,
    Gwyliau llawen i chwi,
    Meistr a meistres bob un trwy'r ty,
    Gwyliau llawen i chwi,
    Codwch yn foreu, a rheswch y tan,
    A cherddwch i'r ffynon i ymofyn dwr glan.

    A happy new year to you,
    Merry be your holidays,
    Master and mistress--every one in the house;
    Arise in the morning; bestir the fire,
    And go to the well to fetch fresh water.


[113] Dennys, 'Folk-Lore of China,' 31.


Among Twelfth Night customs, none is more celebrated than that called
Mary Lwyd. It prevails in various parts of Wales, notably in lower
Glamorganshire. The skeleton of a horse's head is procured by the
young men or boys of a village, and adorned with 'favours' of pink,
blue, yellow, etc. These are generally borrowed from the girls, as it
is not considered necessary the silken fillets and rosettes should be
new, and such finery costs money. The bottoms of two black bottles are
inserted in the sockets of the skeleton head to serve as eyes, and a
substitute for ears is also contrived. On Twelfth Night they carry
this object about from house to house, with shouts and songs, and a
general cultivation of noise and racket. Sometimes a duet is sung in
Welsh, outside a door, the singers begging to be invited in; if the
door be not opened they tap on it, and there is frequently quite a
series of _awen_ sung, the parties within denying the outsiders
admission, and the outsiders urging the same. At last the door is
opened, when in bounces the merry crowd, among them the Mary Lwyd,
borne by one personating a horse, who is led by another personating
the groom. The horse chases the girls around the room, capering and
neighing, while the groom cries, 'So ho, my boy--gently, poor fellow!'
and the girls, of course, scream with merriment. A dance follows--a
reel, performed by three young men, tricked out with ribbons. The
company is then regaled with cakes and ale, and the revellers depart,
pausing outside the door to sing a parting song of thanks and good
wishes to their entertainers.

The penglog (a skull, a noddle) is a similar custom peculiar to
Aberconwy (Conway) in Carnarvonshire. In this case the horse's skull
is an attention particularly bestowed upon prudes.

Mary Lwyd may mean Pale Mary, or Wan Mary, or Hoary Mary, but the
presumption is that it means in this case Blessed Mary, and that the
custom is of papal origin. There is, however, a tradition which links
the custom with enchantment, in connection with a warlike princess,
reputed to have flourished in Gwent and Morganwg in the early ages,
and who is to be seen to this day, mounted on her steed, on a rock in
Rhymney Dingle.[114]

The cutty wren is a Pembrokeshire Twelfth Night custom prevailing
commonly during the last century, but now nearly extinct. A wren was
placed in a little house of paper, with glass windows, and this was
hoisted on four poles, one at each corner. Four men bore it about,
singing a very long ballad, of which one stanza will be enough:

    O! where are you go-ing? says Mil-der to
    Mel-der, O! where are you go-ing? says the youn-ger to the
    el-der; O! I can-not tell, says Fes-tel to Fose; We're
    go-ing to the woods, said John the Red Nose, We're
    go-ing to the woods, said John the Red Nose!]

The immediate purpose of this rite was to levy contributions. Another
such custom was called 'tooling,' and its purpose was beer. It
consisted in calling at the farm-houses and pretending to look for
one's tools behind the beer cask. 'I've left my saw behind your beer
cask,' a carpenter would say; 'my whip,' a carter; and received the
tool by proxy, in the shape of a cup of ale. The female portion of the
poorer sort, on the other hand, practised what was called sowling,
viz., asking for 'sowl,' and receiving, accordingly, any food eaten
with bread, such as cheese, fish, or meat. This custom is still
maintained, and 'sowling day' fills many a poor woman's bag. The
phrase is supposed to be from the French _soûl_, signifying one's


[114] Vide W. Roberts's 'Crefydd yr Oesoedd Tywyll,' 1.


Connected with St. Valentine's Day, there is no Welsh custom which
demands notice here; but it is perhaps worthy of mention that nowhere
in the world is the day more abundantly productive of its orthodox
crop--love-letters. The post-offices in the Principality are simply
deluged with these missives on the eve and morning of St. Valentine's.
In Cardiff the postmaster thinks himself lucky if he gets off with
fifteen thousand letters in excess of the ordinary mail. Nineteen
extra sorters and carriers were employed for this work on February
14th, 1878, and the regular force also was heavily worked beyond its
usual hours. The custom is more Norman than Cambrian, I suppose; the
word Valentine comes from the Norman word for a lover, and the saint
is a mere accident in this connection.


St. Dewi is to the Welsh what St. George is to the English, St. Andrew
to the Scotch, and St. Patrick to the Irish. His day is celebrated on
the 1st of March throughout Wales, and indeed throughout the world
where Welshmen are. In some American ports (perhaps all) the British
consulate displays its flag in honour of the day. In Wales there are
processions, grand dinners; places of business are closed; the poor
are banqueted; speeches are made and songs are sung. The most
characteristic feature of the day is the wearing of the leek. This
feature is least conspicuous, it may be noted, in those parts of Wales
where the English residents are fewest, and least of all in the
ultra-Welsh shires of Cardigan and Carmarthen, where St. David is
peculiarly honoured. The significance of this fact no doubt lies in
the absence of any necessity for asserting a Cambrianism which there
are none to dispute. In the border towns, every Welshman who desires
to assert his national right wears the leek in his hat or elsewhere on
his person; but in the shadow of St. David's College at Lampeter, not
a leek is seen on St. Dewi's Day. In Glamorganshire may be found the
order of Knights of the Leek, who hold high festival on the 1st of
every March, gathering in the Welsh bards and men of letters.

Why is the leek worn? Practically, because the wearer is a Welshman
who honours tradition. But the precise origin of the custom is
involved in an obscurity from which emerge several curious and
interesting traditions. The verses cited at the opening of this Part
refer to one of these; they are quoted by Manby[115] without other
credit than 'a very antient manuscript.' Another tradition is thus
given in a pamphlet of 1642:[116] 'S. David when hee always went into
the field in Martiall exercise he carried a Leek with him, and once
being almost faint to death, he immediately remembred himself of the
Leek, and by that means not only preserved his life but also became
victorious: hence is the Mythologie of the Leek derived.' The practice
is traced by another writer[117] to 'the custom of Cymhortha, or the
neighbourly aid practised among farmers, which is of various kinds.
In some districts of South Wales all the neighbours of a small farmer
without means appoint a day when they all attend to plough his land,
and the like; and at such a time it is a custom for each individual to
bring his portion of leeks, to be used in making pottage for the whole
company; and they bring nothing else but the leeks in particular for
the occasion.' Some find the true origin of the custom in Druidical
days, but their warrant is not clear, nor how it came to be associated
with the 1st of March in that case. The military origin bears down the
scale of testimony, and gives the leek the glory of a Cambrian victory
as its consecrator to ornamental purposes. Whether this victory was
over the Saxon or the Gaul does not exactly appear; some traditions
say one, some the other. The battle of Poictiers has been named; also
that of Cressy, where the Welsh archers did good service with the
English against a common enemy; but an older tradition is to the
effect that the Saxon was the foe. The invaders had assumed the dress
of the Britons, that they might steal upon them unsuspected; but St.
David ordered the Welshmen to stick leeks in their caps as a badge of
distinction. This he did merely because there was a large field of
leeks growing near the British camp. The precaution gave the day to
the favoured of St. Dewi.

It cannot be denied that there have been found Englishmen rude enough
to ridicule this honourable and ancient custom of the Welsh, though
why they should do so there is no good reason. The leek is not
fragrant, perhaps; but if an old custom must smell sweet or be laughed
at, there is work enough for our risibles in every English parish.
The following is one of the foolish legends of the English respecting
the leek: 'The Welsh in olden days were so infested by ourang outangs
that they could obtain no peace day or night, and not being themselves
able to extirpate them they invited the English to assist, who came;
but through mistake killed several of the Welsh, so that in order to
distinguish them from the monkeys they desired them to stick a leek in
their hats.' The author of this ridiculous tale deserves the fate of
Pistol, whom Fluellen compelled to eat his leek, skin and all.

    _Flu._ I peseech you heartily, scurvy lowsy knave, at my
    desires, and my requests, and my petitions, to eat, look
    you, this leek; because, look you, you do not love it, nor
    your affections, and your appetites, and your digestions,
    does not agree with it, I would desire you to eat it.

    _Pist._ Not for Cadwallader, and all his goats.

    _Flu._ There is one goat for you. [_Strikes him._] Will you
    be so good, scald knave, as eat it?

    _Pist._ Base Trojan, thou shalt die.

    _Flu._ You say very true, scald knave, when Got's will is: I
    will desire you to live in the meantime, and eat your
    victuals.... If you can mock a leek you can eat a leek....

    _Pist._ Quiet thy cudgel; thou dost see, I eat.

    _Flu._ Much goot do you, scald knave, heartily. Nay, 'pray
    you, throw none away; the skin is goot for your proken
    coxcomb. When you take occasions to see leeks hereafter, I
    pray you, mock at them! that is all.[118]


[115] 'Hist. and Ant. of the Parish of St. David,' 54.

[116] 'The Welchmen's Ivbilee to the honour of St. David, shewing the
manner of that solemn celebration which the Welchmen annually hold in
honour of St. David, describing likewise the trve and reall cause why
they wear that day a _Leek_ on their Hats, with an excellent merry
Sonnet annexed unto it, composed by T. Morgan Gent. London. Printed
for I. Harrison.'

[117] Owen, 'Camb. Biog.' 86.

[118] Shaks., 'K. Henry V.,' Act V., Sc. 1.


The traditional St. David is a brilliant figure in Welsh story; with
the historical character this work has not to deal. The legendary
account of him represents a man of gigantic stature and fabulous
beauty, whose age at his death was 147 years. He was a direct
descendant of the sister of the Virgin Mary, and his first miracles
were performed while he was yet unborn. In this condition he regulated
the diet of his virgin mother, and struck dumb a preacher who
presumed to preach in her presence. At the hour of his birth St. Dewi
performed a miracle; another when he was baptized; and he was taught
his lessons (at a place called The Old Bush, in South Wales) by a
pigeon with a golden beak, which played about his lips. As he grew up,
his miraculous powers waxed stronger; and magicians who opposed him
were destroyed by fire which he called from heaven to consume them.
Thirsty, a fountain rose in Glyn Hodnant at his call, and from this
fountain ran not water but good wine. When he went about the country
he was always accompanied by an angel. On the banks of the river
Teify, a miserable woman wept over her son who lay dead; she appealed
to Dewi, who laid hold of the boy's right hand and he arose from the
dead as if from a sleep. At Llandewi Brefi, in Cardiganshire, as he
was preaching on the surface of the flat ground, the ground rose as a
high mount under his feet, so that the people all about could see him
as well as hear him. A labourer lifted his pickaxe to strike a friend
of Dewi's, which the saint seeing from afar off, raised his hand and
willed that the labourer's hand should become stiff--which it did.
Another friend, going away to Ireland, forgot and left behind him a
little bell that Dewi had given him; but Dewi sent the bell across the
sea by an angel, so that it arrived there next day without the aid of
human hands. And finally, having made up his mind that he would die
and go to heaven, he did so--but quite of his own will--at his own
request, so to speak. Having asked that his soul might be taken, an
angel informed him it would be taken on the first of March proximo. So
David bade his friends good-bye on the 28th of February, greatly to
their distress. 'Alas!' they cried, 'the earth will not swallow us!
Alas! fire will not consume us! Alas! the sea will not come over the
land! Alas! the mountains will not fall to cover us!' On Tuesday
night, as the cocks were crowing, a host of angels thronged the
streets of the city, and filled it with joy and mirth; and Dewi died.
'The angels took his soul to the place where there is light without
end, and rest without labour, and joy without sorrow, and plenty of
all good things, and victory, and brightness, and beauty.' There Abel
is with the martyrs, Noah is with the sailors, Thomas is with the
Indians, Peter is with the apostles, Paul is with the Greeks, other
saints are with other suitable persons, and David is with the

On the summit which rose under St. Dewi while he stood on it and
preached, now stands St. David's church, at Llandewi Brefi. In the
days of its glory--i.e. during nearly the whole period of Roman
Catholic rule--it was renowned beyond all others in Britain. To go
twice to St. David's was deemed equal to going once to Rome, and a
superstitious belief prevailed that every man must go to St. David's
once, either alive or dead. William the Conqueror marched through
Wales in hostile array in 1080, but arriving at St. David's shrine
laid aside the warrior for the votary.


[119] 'Cambro-British Saints,' 402, etc.


St. Patrick's Day is celebrated in Wales with much enthusiasm. The
Welsh believe that St. Patrick was a Welshman. Born at Llandeilo
Talybont, in Glamorganshire, and educated at the famous college of
Llantwit Major, he held St. David's place till the coming of Dewi was
announced to him; then he went into Ireland, to do missionary work,
as it were. This is the monastic tale. Patrick was comfortably settled
in the valley of Rosina, and intended to pass his life there, but an
angel came to him and said, 'Thou must leave this place to one who is
not yet born.' Patrick was annoyed, even angered, but obedient, and
went off to Ireland, where he became a great man.[120] The story of
the Iolo MSS., however, presents the matter in a different light:
'About A.D. 420 the Island of Britain seemed to have neither ruler nor
proprietor.' The Irish took advantage of this state of things to
invade and oppress Britain, robbing her of corn, cattle, 'and every
other moveable property that they could lay their hands on.' Among
other things, they stole away St. Patrick from the college at Llantwit
Major, 'whence that college became destitute of a principal and
teacher for more than forty years, and fell into dilapidation'--a
condition it remains in at present, by the way. 'Patrick never
returned to Wales, choosing rather to reside in Ireland; having
ascertained that the Irish were better people than the Welsh, in those
times.'[121] Still, it is not the native Welsh who are as a rule the
celebrators of St. Patrick's Day in Wales.


[120] 'Cambro-British Saints,' 403.

[121] Iolo MSS., 455.


Shrove Tuesday was once characterised by a custom called throwing at
cocks, now obsolete. Hens which had laid no eggs before that day were
threshed with a flail, as being good for nothing. The person who hit
the hen with the flail and killed her got her for his reward.

The more reputable custom of cramming with crammwythau (pancakes)
still survives, and is undoubtedly of extreme antiquity.


    Sundry Lenten Customs--Mothering Sunday--Palm
    Sunday--Flowering Sunday--Walking Barefoot to
    Church--Spiritual Potency of Buns--Good Friday
    Superstitions--Making Christ's Bed--Bad Odour of
    Friday--Unlucky Days--Holy Thursday--The Eagle of
    Snowdon--New Clothing at Easter--Lifting--The Crown of
    Porcelain--Stocsio--Ball-Playing in Churchyards--The Tump of
    Lies--Dancing in Churchyards--Seeing the Sun Dance--Calan
    Ebrill, or All Fools' Day--May Day--The Welsh Maypole--The
    Daughter of Lludd Llaw Ereint--Carrying the Kings of Summer
    and Winter.


Wearing mourning throughout Lent was formerly common in Wales. In
Monmouthshire, Mothering Sunday--the visiting of parents on Mid-Lent
Sunday--was observed in the last century, but is nowhere popular in
Wales at present. Palm Sunday takes precedence among the Welsh, and is
very extensively and enthusiastically observed. The day is called
Flowering Sunday, and its peculiar feature is strewing the graves of
the dead with flowers. The custom reaches all classes, and all parts
of the Principality. In the large towns, as Cardiff, many thousands of
people gather at the graves. The custom is associated with the
strewing of palms before Christ on his entry into Jerusalem, but was
observed by the British Druids in celebration of the awakening life of
the earth at this season.


In Pembrokeshire, it was customary up to the close of the last
century, to walk barefoot to church on Good Friday, as had been done
since times prior to the Reformation. The old people and the young
joined in this custom, which they said was done so as not to 'disturb
the earth.' All business was suspended, and no horse nor cart was to
be seen in the town.

Hot-cross buns also figured in a peculiar manner at this time. They
were eaten in Tenby after the return from church. After having tied up
a certain number in a bag, the folk hung them in the kitchen, where
they remained till the next Good Friday, for use as medicine. It was
believed that persons labouring under any disease had only to eat a
portion of a bun to be cured. The buns so preserved were used also as
a panacea for all the diseases of domestic animals. They were further
believed to be serviceable in frightening away goblins of an evil

That these buns are of Christian invention is the popular belief, and
indeed this notion is not altogether exploded among the more
intelligent classes. Their connection with the cross of the Saviour is
possible by adoption--as the early Christians adopted many pagan rites
and customs--but that they date back to pre-historic times there is
abundant testimony.

Innumerable are the superstitious customs and beliefs associated with
Good Friday. In Pembrokeshire there was a custom called 'making
Christ's bed.' A quantity of long reeds were gathered from the river
and woven into the shape of a man. This effigy was then stretched on a
wooden cross, and laid in some retired field or garden, and left

The birth of a child on that day is very unlucky--indeed a birth on
any Friday of the whole year is to be deprecated as a most unfortunate


The bad odour in which Friday is everywhere held is naturally
associated, among Christians, with the crucifixion; but this will not
account for the existence of a like superstition regarding Friday
among the Brahmins of India, nor for the prevalence of other lucky and
unlucky days among both Aryan and Mongolian peoples. In the Middle
Ages Monday and Tuesday were unlucky days. A Welshman who lived some
time in Russia, tells me Monday is deemed a very unlucky day there, on
which no business must be begun. In some English districts Thursday is
the unlucky day. In Norway it is lucky, especially for marrying. In
South Wales, Friday is the fairies' day, when they have special
command over the weather; and it is their whim to make the weather on
Friday differ from that of the other days of the week. 'When the rest
of the week is fair, Friday is apt to be rainy, or cloudy; and when
the weather is foul, Friday is apt to be more fair.'

The superstitious prejudice of the quarrymen in North Wales regarding
Holy Thursday has been cited. It is not a reverential feeling, but a
purely superstitious one, and has pervaded the district from ancient
times. It has been supposed that Thursday was a sacred day among the
Druids. There is a vulgar tradition (mentioned by Giraldus), that
Snowdon mountains are frequented by an eagle, which perches on a fatal
stone on every Thursday and whets her beak upon it, expecting a battle
to occur, upon which she may satiate her hunger with the carcases of
the slain; but the battle is ever deferred, and the stone has become
almost perforated with the eagle's sharpening her beak upon it. There
may perhaps be a connection traced between these superstitions and the
lightning-god Thor, whose day Thursday was.


Easter is marked by some striking customs. It is deemed essential for
one's well-being that some new article of dress shall be donned at
this time, though it be nothing more than a new ribbon. This is also a
Hampshire superstition. A servant of mine, born in Hampshire, used
always to say, 'If you don't have on something new Easter Sunday the
dogs will spit at you.' This custom is associated with Easter baptism,
when a new life was assumed by the baptized, clothed in righteousness
as a garment. A ceremony called 'lifting' is peculiar to North Wales
on Easter Monday and Tuesday. On the Monday bands of men go about with
a chair, and meeting a woman in the street compel her to sit, and be
lifted three times in the air amidst their cheers: she is then invited
to bestow a small compliment on her entertainers. This performance is
kept up till twelve o'clock, when it ceases. On Easter Tuesday the
women take their turn, and go about in like manner lifting the men. It
has been conjectured that in this custom an allusion to the
resurrection is intended.

  [Illustration: LIFTING. (_From an old drawing._)]

A custom, the name of which is now lost, was that the village belle
should on Easter Eve and Easter Tuesday carry on her head a piece of
chinaware of curious shape, made expressly for this purpose, and
useless for any other. It may be described as a circular crown of
porcelain, the points whereof were cups and candles. The cups were
solid details of the crown: the candles were stuck with clay upon the
spaces between the cups. The cups were filled with a native beverage
called bragawd, and the candles were lighted. To drink the liquor
without burning yourself or the damsel at the candle was the
difficulty involved in this performance. A stanza was sung by the
young woman's companions, the last line of which was,

    Rhag i'r feinwen losgi ei thalcen.
    (Lest the maiden burn her forehead.[122])

Stocsio is an Easter Monday custom observed from time immemorial in
the town of Aberconwy, and still practised there in 1835. On Easter
Sunday crowds of men and boys carrying wands of gorse went to Pen
Twthil, and there proclaimed the laws and regulations of the following
day. They were to this effect: all men under sixty to be up and out
before 6 A.M.; all under forty, before 4 A.M.; all under twenty, to
stay up all night. Penalty for disobedience: the stocks. The crier who
delivered this proclamation was the man last married in the town
previous to Easter Sunday. Other like rules were proclaimed, amid loud
cheers. Early next morning a party, headed by a fife and drum,
patrolled the town with a cart, in search of delinquents. When one was
discovered, he was hauled from his bed and made to dress himself; then
put in the cart and dragged to the stocks. His feet being secured
therein, he was duly lectured on the sin of laziness, and of breaking
an ancient law of the town by lying abed in violation thereof. His
right hand was then taken, and he was asked a lot of absurd questions,
such as 'Which do you like best, the mistress or the maid?' 'Which do
you prefer, ale or buttermilk?' 'If the gate of a field were open,
would you go through it, or over the stile?' and the like. His answers
being received with derision, his hand was smeared with mud, and he
was then released amid cheers. 'This sport, which would be
impracticable in a larger and less intimate community, is continued
with the greatest good humour until eight; when the rest of the day is
spent in playing ball at the Castle.'[123]


[122] 'Arch. Camb.' 4 Se., iii., 334.

[123] 'Hist. and Ant. of Aberconwy,' 108.


Ball-playing against the walls of the church between hours of service
was a fashion of Easter which is within recollection. It was also
common on the Sabbath day itself in many parishes, in the days when
dissent was unknown and parishioners had long distances to traverse on
a Sunday; 'and that, too, with the sanction of the clergyman, and even
his personal superintendence. Old people can remember such a state of
things, when the clergyman gave notice that the game must cease by
putting the ball into his pocket and marched his young friends into
church.'[124] Nowhere less than in a custom like this would the
ordinary observer look for traditionary significance; yet there is no
doubt our Easter eggs are but another surviving form of the same
ancient rite. Before the Reformation there was a Church of England
custom of playing ball _in_ church at Easter, according to Dr.
Fosbrooke, the dean and clergy participating.

There were other sports and pastimes common alike to Easter and to the
Sabbath day, which are full of curious interest. Some of them no doubt
arose out of the social exigencies of sparsely settled neighbourhoods,
which caused people to remain at the church between services, instead
of returning to distant homes; but a Druidic origin seems necessary to
account for others. That the people should between services gather
near the church to talk over the gossip of the day, is natural enough,
and is a phenomenon which may still be witnessed in remote parts of
the United States. In St. Dogmell's parish, Pembrokeshire, there is a
tump which bears the name of 'Cnwc y Celwydd,' videlicet, the Tump of
Lies. Here were men and women formerly in the habit of gathering
together on the Lord's day in great crowds, and entertaining each
other with the inventing and telling of the most lying and wonderful
yarns they could conjure up with the aid of an imagination spurred to
exercise by rivalry and applause. The custom is discontinued; but
there is still hardly a neighbourhood in Wales so rich in tales of
fairies and other goblins.

The custom of dancing in churchyards was common in many parts of the
Principality in the early part of this century. At Aberedwy, Malkin
saw a large yew tree in the churchyard under which as many as sixty
couples had been seen dancing at once.[125] The dancing was not in
that part of the yard consecrated to the dead, but on the north side
of the church, where it was not the custom to bury. A tradition is
preserved by Giraldus of a solemn festival dance which took place in
the churchyard at St. Almedha's church, Breconshire, on that saint's
day. The dance was 'led round the churchyard with a song,' and
succeeded by the dancers falling down in a trance, followed by a sort
of religious frenzy. This is believed to have been a Druidical rite,
described on hearsay by Giraldus, and embellished by him with those
pious inventions not uncommon in his day.

One of the customs of Easter, at a comparatively recent period in
Wales, was getting the children up early in the morning to see the sun
dance. This exercise the sun was said to perform at rising on Easter
Day, in honour of the rising of our Lord. The sun was sometimes aided
in this performance by a bowl of clear water, into which the youth
must look to see the orb dance, as it would be dangerous to look
directly on the sun while thus engaged. The religious dance of the
ancient Druids is believed to exist in modern times in a round dance
wherein the figures imitate the motions of the sun and moon. The
ball-playing in church mentioned above was also accompanied by


[124] 'Arch. Camb.' 4 Se., iii., 333.

[125] Malkin's 'South Wales,' 281.


The first of April is in Welsh called Calan Ebrill, and an April Fool
a Ffwl Ebrill; the similarity of English and Welsh words may be said
to typify the similarity of observance. The universality of this
observance among Aryan peoples would certainly indicate an origin in a
time preceding the dispersion of the human family over the world. The
Druids, tradition says, celebrated the revival of Nature's powers in a
festival which culminated on the first of April in the most hilarious
foolery. The Roman Saturnalia or feast of fools perpetuated the rite,
though the purpose of the Christian revelry may quite possibly have
been to ridicule the Druidic ceremonies.

The festivities of May-day are in like manner associated with the
powers of Nature, whose vigour and productiveness were symbolized by
the Maypole round which village lads and lasses danced. The rites of
love were variously celebrated at this time, and some of these customs
locally have long survived the Maypole itself. The ordinance for the
destruction of Maypoles in England and Wales, printed in 1644,
declared them 'a heathenish vanity, generally abused to superstition
and wickedness,' wherefore it was ordained that they should be
destroyed, and that no Maypole should thereafter be 'set up, erected,
or suffered to be within this kingdom of England or dominion of

The Maypole in Wales was called Bedwen, because it was always made of
birch, bedw, a tree still associated with the gentler emotions. To
give a lover a birchen branch, is for a maiden to accept his
addresses; to give him a collen, or hazel, the reverse. Games of
various sorts were played around the bedwen. The fame of a village
depended on its not being stolen away, and parties were constantly on
the alert to steal the bedwen, a feat which, when accomplished, was
celebrated with peculiar festivities. This rivalry for the possession
of the Maypole was probably typical of the ancient idea that the first
of May was the boundary day dividing the confines of winter and
summer, when a fight took place between the powers of the air, on the
one hand striving to continue the reign of winter, on the other to
establish that of summer. Here may be cited the Mabinogi of Kilhwch
and Olwen, where it speaks of the daughter of Lludd Llaw Ereint. 'She
was the most splendid maiden in the three Islands of the Mighty, and
in the three Islands adjacent,' and for her does Gwyn ap Nudd, the
fairy king, fight every first of May till the day of doom.[126] She
was to have been the bride of Gwythyr, the son of Greidawl, when Gwyn
ap Nudd carried her off by force. The bereaved bridegroom followed,
and there was a bloody struggle, in which Gwyn was victorious, and
which he signalized by an act of frightful cruelty; he slew an old
warrior, took out his heart from his breast, and constrained the
warrior's son to eat the heart of his father. When Arthur heard of
this he summoned Gwyn ap Nudd before him, and deprived him of the
fruits of his victory. But he condemned the two combatants to fight
for the radiant maiden henceforth for ever on every first of May till
doomsday; the victor on that day to possess the maiden.[127]


[126] 'Mabinogion,' 229.

[127] 'Mabinogion,' 251.


In the remote and primitive parish of Defynog, in Breconshire, until a
few years since, a custom survived of carrying the King of Summer and
the King of Winter. Two boys were chosen to serve as the two kings,
and were covered all over with a dress of brigau bedw, (birchen
boughs,) only their faces remaining visible. A coin was tossed and the
boy chosen was the summer king; a crown of bright-hued ribbons was put
upon his head. Upon the other boy's head was placed a crown of holly,
to designate the winter king. Then a procession was formed, headed by
two men with drawn swords to clear the way. Four men supported the
summer king upon two poles, one under his knees and the other under
his arms; and four others bore the winter king in a similar
undignified posture. The procession passed round the village and to
the farm-houses near by, collecting largess of coin or beer, winding
up the perambulation at the churchyard. Here the boys were set free,
and received a dole for their services, the winter king getting less
than the other.

Another May-day custom among the boys of that parish, was to carry
about a rod, from which the bark had been partly peeled in a spiral
form, and upon the top of which was set either a cock or a cross, the
bearers waking the echoes of the village with 'Yo ho! yo ho! yo


[128] 'Arch. Camb.,' 2 Se., iv., 326.


    Midsummer Eve--The Druidic Ceremonies at Pontypridd--The
    Snake Stone--Beltane Fires--Fourth of July Fires in
    America--St. Ulric's Day--Carrying Cynog--Marketing on
    Tombstones--The First Night of Winter--The Three Nights for
    Spirits--The Tale of Thomas Williams the Preacher--All
    Hallows Eve Festivities--Running through Fire--Quaint Border
    Rhymes--The Puzzling Jug--Bobbing for Apples--The Fiery
    Features of Guy Fawkes' Day--St. Clement's Day--Stripping
    the Carpenter.


Midsummer Eve, or St. John's Eve (June 23rd), is one of the ancient
Druidic festivals, still liberally honoured in Wales. The custom of
lighting bonfires survives in some of the villages, and at Pontypridd
there are ceremonies of a solemn sort. Midsummer Eve, in 1878, fell on
a Sunday. Upon that day the 'Druids and bards' at Pontypridd held the
usual feast of the summer solstice in the face of the sun. There is a
breezy common on the top of a high hill overlooking the town, where
stand a logan stone and a circle of upright stones constituting the
'temple of the Druids.' Here it is the custom of the present-day
adherents of that ancient religion, beside which Christianity is an
infant, to celebrate their rites 'within the folds of the serpent,' a
circle marked with the signs of the zodiac. The venerable archdruid,
Myfyr Morganwg, stands on the logan stone, with a mistletoe sprig in
his button-hole, and prays to the god Kali, 'creator of sun, moon,
stars, and universe.' Then the white-bearded old man delivers a
discourse, and new members are initiated into the 'mysteries,'
Occasionally these new members are Americans from over the sea, and
they include both sexes. Large crowds gather to witness the impressive
spectacle--a shadow of the ancient rites when from Belenian heights
flamed high the sacrificial fires. It was a former belief that these
fires protected the lands within their light from the machinations of
sorcery, so that good crops would follow, and that their ashes were
valuable as a medicinal charm.

The Snake-stone is another striking Welsh tradition, associated with
Midsummer eve. At this time of the year there are certain convocations
of snakes, which, hissing sociably together among one another, hiss
forth a mystic bubble, which hardens into the semblance of a glass
ring. The finder of this ring is a lucky man, for all his undertakings
will prosper while he retains it. These rings are called Gleiniau
Nadroedd in Welsh--snake-stones in English. They are supposed to have
been used by the ancient Druids as charms. There is a Welsh saying,
respecting people who lay their heads together in conversation, that
the talkers are 'blowing the gem.'


The traditions connected with the Beltane fires are very interesting,
but the subject has received so much attention in published volumes
that it need not here be dwelt upon. The lad who in the United States
capers around a bonfire on the night of Independence Day has not a
suspicion that he is imitating the rites of an antiquity the most
remote; that in burning a heap of barrels and boxes in a public square
the celebrators of the American Fourth of July imitate the priests who
thus worshipped the sun-god Beal. The origins of our most familiar
customs are constantly being discovered in such directions as this.
On the face of the thing, nothing could be more absurd as a mode of
jollification, in a little American town, with its wooden
architecture, on a hot night in the midst of summer, than building a
roaring fire to make the air still hotter and endanger the surrounding
houses. The reason for the existence of such a custom must be sought
in another land and another time; had reflection governed the matter,
instead of tradition, the American anniversary would have found some
more fitting means of celebration than Druidic fires and Chinese
charms. (For it may be mentioned further, in this connection, that the
fire-crackers of our urchins are quite as superstitious in their
original purpose as the bonfire is. In China, even to this day,
fire-crackers are charms pure and simple, their office to drive away
evil spirits, their use as a means of jollification quite unknown to
their inventors.) A far more sensible Midsummer rite, especially in a
hot country, would have been to adopt the custom of St. Ulric's day,
and eat fish. This saint's day falls on the fourth of July, and
Barnabe Googe's translation of Naogeorgius has this couplet concerning

    Wheresoeuer Huldryche hath his place, the people there brings in
    Both carpes and pykes, and mullets fat, his fauour here to win.


The Welsh saint called Cynog was one of the numberless children of
that famous old patriarch Brychan Brycheiniog, and had his memory
honoured, until a comparatively recent period, in the parish of
Defynog. Here, on this saint's feast Monday, which fell in October,
there was a custom called 'carrying Cynog.' Cynog was represented by a
man who was paid for his services with money, or with a suit of
clothes--sometimes a 'stranger' from an adjoining parish, but on the
last recorded occasion a drunken farmer of the neighbourhood. He was
clad in dilapidated garments, and borne through the village; after
which he was tumbled headlong into the river amid the jeers of the
crowd, to scramble out as best he might. It was not a very respectful
way of commemorating a saint who had been buried a thousand years or
thereabouts; but such as it was it died out early in the present
century. The ducking which ended the performance has been supposed to
be a puritan improvement on what was before a religious ceremony, or
mystery. It is more than possibly a relic of the Druidic sacrificial
rites; in cases where a river ran near, at the time of the Beltane
fires, a sacrifice by water was substituted for that of flame.

The feast of St. Cynog continued for a week. On the Tuesday there was
a singular marketing in the churchyard; from all about the farmers
brought their tithe of cheese, and taking it to the churchyard, laid
it on the tombstones, where it was sold for the parson's behoof.


All Hallows eve is by the Welsh called 'Nos Calan Gauaf,' meaning 'the
first night of winter;' sometimes, 'Nos Cyn Gauaf,' the 'night before
winter.' It is one of the 'Teir Nos Ysprydnos,' or 'three nights for
spirits,' upon which ghosts walk, fairies are abroad, mysterious
influences are in the air, strange sights are seen, and in short
goblins of every sort are to be with special freedom encountered. They
may be conjured to appear, by certain enchantments, and to give their
visitors glimpses of the future, especially as regards the subject of
marrying. On this night it is customary for the young people,
gathered in many a merry circle, to seek by tricks and charms of
various sort to become acquainted with their future lovers and
sweethearts. Not that it is always necessary to employ such aids, for
on the Teir Nos Ysprydnos the phantoms of future companions have been
known to appear unsummoned. There are many such stories as that of
Thomas Williams, the preacher, who slept in the hills on a Nos
Ysprydnos, and although he used no charms nor tricks of any sort, he
saw his future wife. As he was just about putting out his light,
having jumped into bed, the door opened and the goblin mother of the
young woman he subsequently married walked into the room, leading her
daughter. 'Here, Thomas,' said she, 'I am going, but I leave you
Mary.' And when he came down home out of the mountains he found that
the old mother had died in her bed at the very moment he saw her
goblin. To have done less than marry the girl, after that, would have
been to insult the good old lady's ghost, and cast reflections on the
reputation of All Hallows eve.

The two other spirit-nights, it may here be mentioned, are May-day eve
and Midsummer eve; which with All Hallows were three great festivals
of the ancient Druids, when they commemorated the powers of Nature and
love in the manner which has been alluded to. I have two accounts of
this matter, however, and I know not which is the older in tradition,
as I have both from the mouths of the people; but one account calls
Christmas-night the third spirit-night.

The festivities of All Hallows in Wales are in the main like those of
other Christian lands, in so far as they consist of feasting and
making merry. Bonfires were kindled in many places until recently,
and perhaps are still, in some parts, again in pursuance of the
Druidic rites, which the Christian Church adopted and continued while
changing their significance. In Owen's account of the Bards occurs a
curious description of the autumnal fires kindled in North Wales on
the eve of the first of November, and the attendant ceremonies. There
was running through the fire and smoke, and casting of stones into the
fire, 'all running off at the conclusion to escape from the black
short-tailed sow.'[129] This custom of running through the fire is
said to survive in Ireland. It is no doubt related to the ancient
sacrificial rites. As testimonies to the kinship of our race, all
these customs possess a deep interest, which is increased in this
direction as they lose in the charm of the unique.

On the Welsh Border there prevails a Hallow-e'en custom among the
children of going about to the houses singing the rhymes which follow:

    Wissel wassel, bread and possel,
    Cwrw da, plas yma:
    An apple or a pear, a plum or a cherry,
    Or any good thing to make us merry.

    Sol cakes, sol cakes,
    Pray you, good missus, a sol cake;
    One for Peter, and two for Paul,
    And three for the good man that made us all.

    The roads are very dirty,
      My shoes are very thin,
    I've got a little pocket,
      To put a penny in.
    Up with the kettle and down with the pan,
    Give us an answer and we'll be gan.

    (_A loud rap at the door._)

    _Spoken._ Please to give us a 'apenny.

Some of these rhymes are heard in Glamorganshire and elsewhere at
Christmas and New Year's.

The puzzling jug is a vessel in use in some quarters as a means of
increasing the hilarity of a Hallow-e'en party. It is a stone jug,
'out of which each person is compelled to drink. From the brim,
extending about an inch below the surface, it has holes fantastically
arranged so as to appear like ornamental work, and which are not
perceived except by the perspicacious; three projections, of the size
and shape of marbles, are around the brim, having a hole of the size
of a pea in each; these communicate with the bottom of the jug through
the handle, which is hollow, and has a small hole at the top, which,
with two of the holes being stopped by the fingers, and the mouth
applied to the one nearest the handle, enables one to suck the
contents with ease; but this trick is unknown to every one, and
consequently a stranger generally makes some mistake, perhaps applying
his mouth as he would to another jug, in which case the contents
(generally ale) issue through the fissures on his person, to the no
small diversion of the spectators.'[130]

Another merry custom of All Hallows was--and is--twco am 'falau,
bobbing for apples. A large tub (crwc) is brought into the kitchen of
a farm-house and filled with water; a dozen apples are thrown into it,
and the rustic youths bob for them with their mouths. To catch up two
apples at a single mouthful is a triumphant achievement. Again the
revellers will form a semicircle before the fire, while there depends
above their mouths from a hook in the ceiling, a string with a stick
attached. At one end of the stick is an apple, at the other end a
candle. To snatch the apple with the lips, and yet avoid the candle,
is the aim of the competitors. The stick is so hung that it turns
easily on its axis, and the bobbers often find themselves catching
the candle in their hair while aiming at the apple. This appears to be
a relic of the ancient Welsh game of quintain, or gwyntyn.


[129] Brand, 'Pop. Ant.,' i., 191.

[130] 'Camb. Sup.,' 174.


November the Fifth, the anniversary of the Gunpowder Plot, is much
observed in Wales. 'God grant,' said Bishop Sanderson in one of his
sermons, 'that we nor ours ever live to see November the Fifth
forgotten, or the solemnity of it silenced.' The words are similar to
those used by a great American, of the early days of the Republic,
with regard to the 4th of July--God grant it might never be forgotten.
But the rites by which both days are celebrated are as old as
tradition, and much older than history. As the Americans have given a
historical significance to bonfires and fireworks, so the English
before them did to sacrificing a puppet on Guy Fawkes' Day; and so
again some Catholic nations have made the rite a religious one, in the
hanging of Judas. All three customs are traced to the same
original--the ancient Druidic sacrifices to the sun-god Beal or
Moloch. It is noteworthy that the Fifth of November and the Fourth of
July--or rather the fiery features of these days--are alike voted a
nuisance by respectable and steady-going people in the countries to
which they respectively belong.


On St. Clement's Day (the 23rd of November) it was customary in
Pembrokeshire in the last century to parade an effigy of a carpenter,
which had been hung to the church steeple the night before. Cutting
the effigy down from where it hung, the people carried it about the
village, repeating loudly some doggerel verses which purported to be
the last will and testament of St. Clement, distributing to the
different carpenters in town the several articles of dress worn by the
effigy. After the image was thus stripped of its garments, one by one,
the padded remains were thrown down and carefully kicked to pieces by
the crowd.


    Nadolig, the Welsh Christmas--Bell-Ringing--Carols--Dancing
    to the Music of the Waits--An Evening in
    Carmarthenshire--Shenkin Harry, the Preacher, and the Jig
    Tune--Welsh Morality--Eisteddfodau--Decorating Houses and
    Churches--The Christmas Thrift-box--The Colliers' Star--The
    Plygain--Pagan Origin of Christmas Customs.


We come now to the most interesting holiday season of the year, by
reason of its almost universality of observance among Christian
peoples, and the variety of customs peculiar to it. In the land of
Arthur and Merlin it is a season of such earnest and widespread
cordiality, such warm enthusiasm, such hearty congratulations between
man and man, that I have been nowhere equally impressed with the
geniality and joyousness of the time. In some Catholic countries one
sees more merriment on the day itself; indeed, the day itself is not
especially merry in Wales, at least in its out-door aspects. It is the
season rather than the day which is merry in Wales. The festival is
usually understood, throughout Christendom, to include twelve days;
the Welsh people not only make much of the twelve days, but they
extend the peculiar festivities of the season far beyond those limits.
Christmas has fairly begun in Wales a week or two before
Christmas-day. The waits are patrolling the streets of Cardiff as
early as December 5th, and Christmas festivals are held as early as
December 19th, at which Christmas-trees are displayed, and their
boughs denuded of the toys and lollipops in which the juvenile heart
delights. After Christmas-day the festival continues I know not just
how long, but apparently for weeks.

The characteristic diversions of the Christmas season are, in the
main, alike in all Christian countries. In Wales many well-known old
customs are retained which in some other parts of Great Britain have
disappeared, such as the mummers, the waits, carols, bell-ringings,
etc. Not only do the bell-ringers of the several churches throughout
the principality do their handsomest on their own particular bells,
but there are grand gatherings, at special points, of all the
bell-ringers for leagues around, who vie with each other in showing
what feats they can perform, how they can astonish you with their
majors, bob-majors, and triple bob-majors, on the brazen clangers of
the steeples. At Cowbridge, for instance, on Christmas will come
together the ringers from Aberdare, Penarth, St. Fagan's, Llantrisant,
Llanblethian, and other places, thirty or forty in number, and after
they have rung till the air above the town is black with flying clefs
and quavers from the steeples, they will all sit down to a jolly
Christmas-dinner at the Bear. The bands of waits, or 'pipers of the
watch,' who wake the echoes of the early morning with their carols,
are heard in every Welsh town and village. In some towns there are
several bands and much good-natured rivalry. The universal love of
music among the Welsh saves the waits from degenerating into the
woe-begone creatures they are in some parts, where the custom has that
poor degree of life which can be kept in it by shivering clusters of
bawling beggars who cannot sing. Regularly organised and trained
choirs of Welshmen perambulate the Cambrian country, chanting carols
at Christmas-tide, and bands of musicians play who, in many cases,
would not discredit the finest military orchestras. Carols are sung in
both Welsh and English; and, generally, the waits are popular. If
their music be not good, they are not tolerated; irate gentlemen
attack them savagely and drive them off. Not exactly that boot-jacks
and empty bottles are thrown at them, but they are excoriated in
'letters to the editor,' in which strong language is hurled at them as
intolerable nuisances, ambulatory disturbers of the night's quiet, and
inflicters of suffering upon the innocent. But such cases are rare.
The music is almost invariably good, and the effect of the soft
strains of melodiously-warbled Welsh coming dreamily to one's ears
through the darkness and distance on a winter morning is sweet and
soothing to most ears. Sometimes small boys will pipe their carols
through the key-holes. The songs vary greatly in character, but
usually the religious tone prevails, as in this case:

    As I sat on a sunny bank, a sunny bank, a sunny bank,
                  All on a Christmas morning,
    Three ships came sailing by, sailing by, sailing by.
                Who do you think was in the ships?
                Who do you think was in the ships?
                  Christ and the Virgin Mary.

Both English and Welsh words are sung. Sometimes a group of young men
and women will be seen dancing about the waits to the measure of their
music, in the hours 'ayont the twal.' In one aspect the Welsh people
may be spoken of as a people whose lives are passed in the indulgence
of their love for music and dancing. The air of Wales seems always
full of music. In the Christmas season there is an unending succession
of concerts and of miscellaneous entertainments of which music forms a
part, while you cannot enter an inn where a few are gathered
together, without the imminent probability that one or more will break
forth in song. By this is not meant a general musical howl, such as is
apt to be evoked from a room full of men of any nationality when
somewhat under the influence of the rosy god, but good set songs, with
good Welsh or English words to them, executed with respect for their
work by the vocalists, and listened to with a like respect by the rest
of the company. When an Englishman is drunk he is belligerent; when a
Frenchman is drunk he is amorous; when an Italian is drunk he is
loquacious; when a Scotchman is drunk he is argumentative; when a
German is drunk he is sleepy; when an American is drunk he brags; and
when a Welshman is drunk he sings. Sometimes he dances; but he does
not do himself credit as a dancer under these circumstances; for when
I speak of dancing I do not refer to those wooden paces and
inflections which pass for dancing in society, and which are little
more than an amiable pretext for bringing in contact human elements
which are slow to mix when planted in chairs about a room: I refer to
the individual dancing of men who do not dance for the purpose of
touching women's hands, or indulging in small talk, but for the
purpose of dancing; and who apply themselves seriously and skilfully
to their work--to wit, the scientific performance of a jig.

I chanced to pass one evening, in the Christmas-time, at a country inn
in a little Carmarthenshire village remote from railways. Certain
wanderings through green lanes (and the lanes were still green,
although it was cold, mid-winter weather) had brought me to the place
at dusk, and, being weary, I had resolved to rest there for the night.
Some local festivity of the season had taken place during the day,
which had drawn into the village an unusual number of farmer-folk from
the immediate neighbourhood. After a simple dinner off a chop and a
half-pint of cwrw da, I strolled into what they called the smoke-room,
by way of distinguishing it from the tap-room adjoining. It was a
plain little apartment, with high-backed wooden settles nearly up to
the ceiling, which gave an old-fashioned air of comfort to the place.
Two or three farmers were sitting there drinking their beer and
smoking their pipes, and toasting their trouserless shins before the
blazing fire. Presently a Welsh harper with his harp entered from
out-doors, and, seating himself in a corner of the room, began to tune
his instrument. The room quickly filled up with men and women, and
though no drinks but beer and 'pop' were indulged in (save that some
of the women drank tea), Bacchus never saw a more genial company. Some
one sang an English song with words like these:

    Thrice welcome, old Christmas, we greet thee again,
    With laughter and innocent mirth in thy train;
    Let joy fill the heart, and shine on the brow,
    While we snatch a sweet kiss 'neath the mistletoe-bough--
            The mistletoe-bough,
            The mistletoe-bough,
    We will snatch a sweet kiss 'neath the mistletoe-bough.

The words are certainly modern, and as certainly not of a high order
of literary merit, but they are extremely characteristic of life at
this season in Wales, where kissing under the mistletoe is a custom
still honoured by observance. There was dancing, too, in this inn
company--performed with stern and determined purpose to excel, by
individuals who could do a jig, and wished to do it well. The harper
played a wild lilting tune; a serious individual who looked like a
school-teacher took off his hat, bowed to the company, jumped into the
middle of the floor, and began to dance like a madman. It was a
strange sight. With a face whose grave earnestness relaxed no whit,
with firmly compressed lips and knitted brow, the serious person
shuffled and double-shuffled, and swung and teetered, and flailed the
floor with his rattling soles, till the perspiration poured in
rivulets down his solemn face. The company was greatly moved;
enthusiastic ejaculations in Welsh and English were heard; shouts of
approbation and encouragement arose; and still the serious person
danced and danced, ending at last with a wonderful pigeon-wing, and
taking his seat exhausted, amid a tremendous roar of applause.

Scenes like this are common throughout Wales at the Christmas-time;
and they contrast strangely with the austerities of religious
observance which are everywhere proceeding. But there is not so wide a
chasm between the two as would exist in some countries. The best
church-members frequently do not deem a little jollity of this sort a
hanging matter, and there are ministers who can do a double-shuffle
themselves if the worst comes to the worst. A worthy pastor in
Glamorganshire related to me, with a suspicious degree of relish, a
story about two ministers who were once riding through a certain
village of Wales on horseback. One was the Rev. Evan Harris, the other
a celebrated old preacher named Shenkin Harry. And, as they rode on,
Harris noticed his companion's legs twitching curiously on his horse's
sides. 'Why, what ails your leg?' he asked. 'Don't you hear the harp,'
was the reply, 'in the public-house yonder? It makes my old toes crazy
for a jig.' But the moral tone of Wales is certainly better, on the
whole, than that of most countries--better even than that of Great
Britain generally, I should say. There is, I know, a prevailing
impression quite to the contrary; but it is utterly absurd. It is an
impression which has grown, I imagine, out of English injustice to
Welshmen in former times, allied to English ignorance in those times
concerning this people. Until within the last hundred years, English
writers habitually wrote of Wales with contempt and even scurrility.
But no one can live in Wales and not form the opinion that the Welsh
are, in truth, an exceptionally moral people; and the nature of their
public entertainments throughout the Christmas-time enforces this
conclusion. Stendhal's declaration that, in true Biblical countries,
religion spoils one day out of seven, destroys the seventh part of
possible happiness, would find strong illustration in Wales. It is not
my purpose to argue whether the illustration would prove or disprove
Stendhal's assertion, though one might fairly ask whether religious
people are not, perhaps, as happy in going to church on Sunday as
irreligious people are in staying away.


Let it not be supposed that there is any lack of amusement on
Christmas-day for people who are willing to be amused in a God-fearing
manner. Although you cannot go to the theatre or the circus, you can
have a wide liberty of choice among oratorios, concerts, examinations,
exhibitions, eisteddfodau, and other odd diversions. Concerts
especially thrive. The halls in which they are held are decorated with
evergreens, and the familiar custom is in Wales habitually and
commonly associated with the ancient Druids, who viewed the green
twigs as the symbols of perennial life. Thus a peculiar poetic grace
rests with a custom beautiful in itself, and capable in any land of
being poetized by any one poetically inclined. Many of those unique
gatherings called eisteddfodau are held in different parts of the
principality, when poetry, music, and essays, in Welsh and in English,
are put forth by the strivers in these Olympian games of intellect and
culture, after the prizes which in Hellas would have given them crowns
of olive-leaves instead of gold-coins of the realm. When Pindar and
Sophocles handed in poems, and Herodotus competed among the essayists,
and Phidias and Praxiteles among the cutters of stone, there was no
Christmas,--but it is claimed there were eisteddfodau, here in Wales;
ay, and before that; for has not Herodotus spoken of the British bards
who held them?


In the family circle, the rules which regulate the Sabbath in
Wales--which are almost as repressive as those of bonnie Scotland,
where, by the way, Christmas-day is scarcely observed at all--are
relaxed, and the aspect of the home is as bright as can be. The rooms
are elaborately decorated with flowers and evergreens, holly and ivy,
ferns and rare plants. In Glamorganshire, and other of the southern
counties looking on the sea, roses and hawthorn-sprays may be
sometimes seen in full bloom out-of-doors at Christmas. The decoration
of churches is also elaborate beyond anything I have elsewhere seen.
It is a sight to behold, the preparations for and the work of
decorating a vast pile of ecclesiastical buildings like Llandaff
Cathedral--the huge quantities of evergreens and holly, flowers,
cedars, etc., which are day by day accumulated by the ladies who have
the business in charge; and the slow, continual growth of forms of
grace--arches, crosses, wreaths, festoons; green coverings to font,
altar, pulpit, choir-stalls, pillars, reredos, and rood-screen; panels
faced with scarlet cloth bearing sacred devices worked in evergreen;
the very window-sills glowing with banks of colour--until all the wide
spaces in chancel, nave, and transepts, are adorned.


Of common prevalence formerly, and still observed in numerous
parishes, is the custom called the Plygain, or watching for the dawn.
This consists in proceeding to the church at three o'clock on
Christmas morning, and uniting in a service which is held by the light
of small green candles made for the purpose. Sometimes this ceremony
is observed at home, the people in a farm-house holding a
jollification on the Christmas eve, and sitting up all night to greet
the dawn. If the east wind blew on the Christmas eve the circumstance
was deemed propitious in this connection. This wind was called 'gwynt
traed y meirw,' (the wind blowing over the feet of the corpses,)
because it blew towards the foot of the graves in the churchyards. It
was also believed that the dumb animals paid their tribute of respect
to this night; the bees would hum loudly in their hives at midnight,
and the cattle in the cow-houses would bend their knees as in

A Christmas-eve custom among Welsh colliers is to carry from house to
house a board stuck over with lighted candles, or to wheel a
handbarrow containing a bed of clay in which the candles are stuck.
This is called 'the Star,' sometimes 'the Star of Bethlehem,' and when
stopping before a house the men kneel about it and sing a carol. A
like custom exists in Belgium, among children. The purpose is to
solicit a Rhodd Nadolig, or Christmas gift.


[131] 'Cymru Fu,' 403.


The British Boxing-day is well known, both as to its customs and its
origin. The Christmas-box, or thrift-box, is still to be seen in
barber shops in Wales, fastened to the wall, or standing conveniently
under the looking-glass among the pots and brushes. At one time the
custom became such a nuisance throughout Britain that an outcry was
raised about it. It got to that pass that the butcher and baker would
send their apprentices around among their customers to levy
contributions. The English Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, in
1837, sent a circular to the different embassies requesting their
excellencies and chargés d'affaires to discontinue the customary
Christmas-boxes to the 'messengers of the Foreign Department, domestic
servants of Viscount Palmerston, foreign postmen, etc.' The nuisance
is hardly less prevalent now. The faithful postman in Wales not only
expects to be remembered at Christmas, but he expects to be given a
precise sum, and if he does not get it he is capable of asking for it.
In one case, a postman accustomed to receive five shillings at a
certain office, on asking for his 'box,' was told the usual donor was
absent in London, whereupon he requested the clerk to write up to him
in London immediately on the subject. These things strike a stranger
as very singular, among a people usually so self-respecting. Warnings
are from time to time issued on this subject by those in authority,
but the custom is likely to survive so long as it is not ranked
outright with beggary. Like the Christmas-tree, it is a graceful thing
among the children, or among friends or household servants, if
spontaneous; but as a tax, it is an odious perversion.[132]


[132] Among those who last Christmas applied at my house for 'his box,
sir, if you please' (as my maid put it), quite as a matter of course,
were the postman, the leader of the waits, the boy who brings the
daily newspapers, the bookseller's boy, the chimney-sweep, the
dustman, the grocer's man, etc., etc., no one of whom I had ever set
eyes on. The equal of this I never encountered, except in Paris, on
the _jour de l'an_.


The pagan origin of most of our Christmas customs is undoubted. Even
the cheery Christmas-tree is a symbol of heathen rites in times long
antedating Christ. The early Christian fathers, in adopting the
popular usages of their predecessors, and bending them to the service
of Christianity, made wondrous little change in them, beyond the
substitution of new motives and names for the old festivals peculiar
to several seasons of the year. The British Druids' feast of Alban
Arthur, celebrating the new birth of the sun, occurred at our
Christmas time, and is still celebrated at Pontypridd, Glamorganshire,
every year. It begins on the 22nd of December, and lasts three days,
during which period the sun is supposed to fight with Avagddu, the
spirit of darkness, the great luminary having descended into hell for
that purpose. On the third day he rose, and the bards struck their
harps, rejoicing that the sun had again been found. The Pontypridd
ceremonies are similar to those of Midsummer-day, already mentioned.
The Arch-Druid presides in the folds of the serpent circle--when he
can get there, that is, for he is old, past eighty, and the Druidic
hill is apt to be slippery with snow and ice at this time of the year.
He prays to the pagan god, and perhaps chants a poem in Welsh.[133]
The Druidic fires of the winter solstice feast were continued in
customs like that which survived in Herefordshire until recent years,
when on old Christmas-eve thirteen fires were lighted in a cornfield,
twelve of them being in a circle round a central one which burned
higher than the rest. The circle fires were called the Twelve
Apostles, and the central one the Virgin Mary. In a shed near by was a
cow with a plum-cake between or upon her horns, into whose face a pail
of cider was dashed, with a rhyming address, and the cow tossing her
horns from her unexpected baptism naturally threw the plum-cake down.
If it fell forward, good harvests were predicted; if backward, the
omen was evil. A feast among the peasants followed. In the Plygain in
like manner survives the Druidic custom of going to the sacred groves
before dawn on this morning, to greet the rising of the new-born sun
after his struggle with the evil principle.


[133] I give a free translation of this effort as delivered on Sunday,
December 24th, 1876 (which proved a mild day), and which I find
reported in the 'Western Mail' of the 26th as follows: 'The day of the
winter solstice has dawned upon us; little is the smile and the halo
of Hea. The depth of winter has been reached, but the muse of Wales is
budding still. Cold is the snow on the mountains; naked are the trees,
and the meadows are bare; but while nature is withering the muse of
Wales is budding. When the earth is decked in mourning, and the birds
are silent, the muse of Wales, with its harp, is heard in the gorsedd
of the holy hill. On the stone ark, within the circle of the caldron
of Ceridwen, are throned the sons of Awen; though through their hair
the frozen mist is wafted, their bosoms are sympathetic and they
rejoice. Peace, love, and truth, encircle our throne; throne without a
beginning and without ending, adorned with uchelwydd (mistletoe),
symbol of perennial life. The throne of the British Bard--which
remains a throne while other thrones decay into dust around it: an
everlasting throne! The great wheel of ages revolves and brings around
our festivities; repeating our joys it does perpetually. Muse, awake;
awake, ye harps; let not any part of the year be forgotten wherein to
crown usage (defod), morals (moes), and virtue. The Saviour Hea is
about to be born of the winter solstice. He will rise higher still and
higher shiningly, and we will have again a new year. Haste hail, haste
falling snow, hasten rough storms of winter--hasten away that we may
see the happy evidences of the new year.'


    Courtship and Marriage--Planting Weeds and Rue on the Graves
    of Old Bachelors--Special Significance of Flowers in
    connection with Virginity--The Welsh Venus--Bundling, or
    Courting Abed--Kissing Schools--Rhamanta--Lovers'
    Superstitions--The Maid's Trick--Dreaming on a Mutton
    Bone--Wheat and Shovel--Garters in a Lovers' Knot--Egg-Shell
    Cake--Sowing Leeks--Twca and Sheath.


Welsh courtship is a thorough-going business, early entered upon by
the boys and girls of the Principality; and consequently most Welsh
women marry young. The ancient laws of Howell the Good (died 948)
expressly provided that a woman should be considered marriageable from
fourteen upwards, and should be entitled to maintenance from that age
until the end of her fortieth year; 'that is to say, from fourteen to
forty she ought to be considered in her youth.' By every sort of moral
suasion it is deemed right in Wales to encourage matrimony, and no
where are old bachelors viewed with less forbearance. There used to be
a custom--I know not whether it be extinct now--of expressing the
popular disapprobation for celibacy by planting on the graves of old
bachelors that ill-scented plant, the rue, and sometimes thistles,
nettles, henbane, and other unlovely weeds. The practice was even
extended, most illiberally and unjustly, to the graves of old maids,
who certainly needed no such insult added to their injury. Probably
the custom was never very general, but grew out of similar--but
other-meaning--customs which are still prevalent, and which are very
beautiful. I refer to the planting of graves with significant flowers
in token of the virtues of the dead. Thus where the red rose is
planted on a grave, its tenant is indicated as having been in life a
person of peculiar benevolence of character. The flower specially
planted on the grave of a young virgin is the white rose. There is
also an old custom, at the funeral of a young unmarried person, of
strewing the way to the grave with evergreens and sweet-scented
flowers, and the common saying in connection therewith is that the
dead one is going to his or her marriage-bed. Sad extremely, and
touchingly beautiful, are these customs; but wherever such exist,
there are sure to be ill-conditioned persons who will vent spiteful
feelings by similar means. Hence the occasional affront to the remains
of antiquated single folk, who had been perhaps of a temperament which
rendered them unpopular.

The Welsh being generally of an affectionate disposition, courtship,
as I have said, is a thorough-going business. To any but a people of
the strongest moral and religious tendencies, some of their customs
would prove dangerous in the extreme; but no people so link love and
religion. More of their courting is done while going home from church
than at any other time whatever; and the Welsh Venus is a holy saint,
and not at all a wicked Pagan character like her classic prototype.
'Holy Dwynwen, goddess of love, daughter of Brychan,' had a church
dedicated to her in Anglesea in 590; and for ages her shrine was
resorted to by desponding swains and lovesick maidens. Her
name--_Dwyn_, to carry off, and _wen_, white--signifies the bearer off
of the palm of fairness; and, ruling the court of love while living,
when dead

    A thousand bleeding hearts her power invoked.

Throughout the poetry of the Cymric bards you constantly see the
severest moral precepts, and the purest pictures of virtuous felicity,
mingling in singularly perfect fusion with the most amorous strains.
Among the 'Choice Things' of Geraint, the famous Blue Bard, were:

    A song of ardent love for the lip of a fair maid;
    A softly sweet glance of the eye, and love without wantonness;
    A secluded walking-place to caress one that is fair and slender;
    To reside by the margin of a brook in a tranquil dell of dry soil;
    A house small and warm, fronting the bright sunshine.

With these, versifications of all the virtues and moralities. 'In the
whole range of Kymric poetry,' says the learned Thomas Stephens,[134]
'there is not, I venture to assert, a line of impiety.'


[134] Vide 'Lit. of the Kymry.'


The Welsh custom of Bundling, or courting abed, needs no description.
The Welsh words sopen and sypio mean a bundle and to bundle, and they
mean a squeezed-up mass, and to squeeze together; but there is a
further meaning, equivalent to our word baggage, as applied to a
strumpet.[135] The custom of bundling is still practised in certain
rural neighbourhoods of Wales. To discuss its moral character is not
my province in these pages; but I may properly record the fact that
its practice is not confined to the irreligious classes. It is also
pertinent here to recall the circumstance that among these people
anciently, courtship was guarded by the sternest laws, so that any
other issue to courtship than marriage was practically impossible. If
a maiden forgot her duty to herself, her parents, and her training,
when the evil result became known she was to be thrown over a
precipice; the young man who had abused the parents' confidence was
also to be destroyed. Murder itself was punished less severely.
Customs of promiscuous sleeping arose in the earliest times, out of
the necessities of existence in those primitive days, when a whole
household lay down together on a common bed of rushes strewn on the
floor of the room. In cold weather they lay close together for greater
warmth, with their usual clothing on. Cæsar's misconception that the
ancient Britons were polyandrous polygamists evidently had here its

It is only by breathing the very atmosphere of an existence whose
primitive influences we may thus ourselves feel, that we can get a
just conception of the underlying forces which govern a custom like
this. Of course it is sternly condemned by every advanced moralist,
even in the neighbourhoods where it prevails. An instance came to my
knowledge but a short time ago, (in 1877,) where the vicar of a
certain parish (Mydrim, Carmarthenshire) exercised himself with great
zeal to secure its abolition. Unfortunately, in this instance, the
good man was not content with abolishing bundling, he wanted to
abolish more innocent forms of courting; and worst of all, he turned
his ethical batteries chiefly upon the lads and lasses of the
dissenting congregation. Of course, it was not the vicar's fault that
the bundlers were among the meeting-house worshippers, and not among
the established church-goers, but nevertheless it injured the
impartiality of his championship in the estimation of 'the Methodys.'
I am not sure the bundling might not have ceased, in deference to his
opinions, notwithstanding, if he had not, in the excess of his zeal,
complained of the young men for seeing the girls home after meeting,
and casually stretching the walk beyond what was necessary. Such
intermeddling as this taxed the patience of the courting community to
its extreme limit, and it assumed a rebellious front. The vicar, quite
undaunted, pursued the war with vigour; he smote the enemy hip and
thigh. He returned to the charge with the assertion that these young
people had 'schools for the art of kissing,' a metaphorical
expression, I suppose; and that they indulged in flirtation. This was
really too much. Bundling might or might not be an exclusively
dissenting practice, but the most unreasonable of vicars must know
that kissing and flirtation were as universal as the parish itself;
and so there was scoffing and flouting of the vicar, and, as rebounds
are proverbially extreme, I fear there is now more bundling in Mydrim
than ever.


[135] The Rev. Dr. Thomas, late President of Pontypool College, whose
acquaintance with Welsh customs is very extensive, (and to whose
erudition I have been frequently indebted during the progress of these
pages through the press,) tells me he never heard the word sopen or
sypio, synonymous with bundling, used for the old custom, but only
'caru yn y gwelu,' (courting abed.)


The customs of Rhamanta, or romantic divination, by which lovers and
sweethearts seek to pierce the future, are many and curious, in all
parts of Wales. Besides such familiar forms of this widely popular
practice as sleeping on a bit of wedding-cake, etc., several unique
examples may be mentioned. One known as the Maid's Trick is thus
performed; and none must attempt it but true maids, or they will get
themselves into trouble with the fairies: On Christmas eve, or on one
of the Three Spirit Nights, after the old folks are abed, the curious
maiden puts a good stock of coal on the fire, lays a clean cloth on
the table, and spreads thereon such store of eatables and drinkables
as her larder will afford. Toasted cheese is considered an appropriate
luxury for this occasion. Having prepared the feast, the maiden then
takes off all her clothing, piece by piece, standing before the fire
the while, and her last and closest garment she washes in a pail of
clear spring water, on the hearth, and spreads it to dry across a
chair-back turned to the fire. She then goes off to bed, and listens
for her future husband, whose apparition is confidently expected to
come and eat the supper. In case she hears him, she is allowed to peep
into the room, should there be a convenient crack or key-hole for that
purpose; and it is said there be unhappy maids who have believed
themselves doomed to marry a monster, from having seen through a
cranny the horrible spectacle of a black-furred creature with fiery
eyes, its tail lashing its sides, its whiskers dripping gravy, gorging
itself with the supper. But if her lover come, she will be his bride
that same year.

In Pembrokeshire a shoulder of mutton, with nine holes bored in the
blade bone, is put under the pillow to dream on. At the same time the
shoes of the experimenting damsel are placed at the foot of the bed in
the shape of a letter T, and an incantation is said over them, in
which it is trusted by the damsel that she may see her lover in his
every-day clothes.

In Glamorganshire a form of rhamanta still exists which is common in
many lands. A shovel being placed against the fire, on it a boy and a
girl put each a grain of wheat, side by side. Presently these edge
towards each other; they bob and curtsey, or seem to, as they hop
about. They swell and grow hot, and finally pop off the shovel. If
both grains go off together, it is a sign the young pair will jump
together into matrimony; but if they take different directions, or go
off at different times, the omen is unhappy. In Glamorganshire also
this is done: A man gets possession of a girl's garters, and weaves
them into a true lover's knot, saying over them some words of hope and
love in Welsh. This he puts under his shirt, next his heart, till he
goes to bed, when he places it under the bolster. If the test be
successful the vision of his future wife appears to him in the night.


A curious rhamanta among farm-women is thus described by a learned
Welsh writer:[136] The maiden would get hold of a pullet's first egg,
cut it through the middle, fill one half-shell with wheaten flour and
the other with salt, and make a cake out of the egg, the flour, and
the salt. One half of this she would eat; the other half was put in
the foot of her left stocking under her pillow that night; and after
offering up a suitable prayer, she would go to sleep. What with her
romantic thoughts, and her thirst after eating this salty cake, it was
not perhaps surprising that the future husband should be seen, in a
vision of the night, to come to the bedside bearing a vessel of water
or other beverage for the thirsty maid. Another custom was to go into
the garden at midnight, in the season when 'black seed' was sown, and
sow leeks, with two garden rakes. One rake was left on the ground
while the young woman worked away with the other, humming to herself
the while,

    Y sawl sydd i gydfydio,
    Doed i gydgribinio!

Or in English:

    He that would a life partner be,
    Let him also rake with me.

There was a certain young Welshwoman who, about eighty years ago,
performed this rhamanta, when who should come into the garden but her
master! The lass ran to the house in great fright, and asked her
mistress, 'Why have you sent master out into the garden to me?' 'Wel,
wel,' replied the good dame, in much heaviness of heart, 'make much of
my little children!' The mistress died shortly after, and the husband
eventually married the servant.

The sterner sex have a form of rhamanta in which the knife plays a
part. This is to enter the churchyard at midnight, carrying a twca,
which is a sort of knife made out of an old razor, with a handle of
sheep or goat-horn, and encircle the church edifice seven times,
holding the twca at arm's length, and saying, 'Dyma'r twca, p'le mae'r
wain?' (Here's the twca--where's the sheath?)


[136] Cynddelw, 'Manion Hynafiaethol,' 53.


    Wedding Customs--The Bidding--Forms of Cymmhorth--The
    Gwahoddwr--Horse-Weddings--Stealing a Bride--Obstructions to
    the Bridal Party--The Gwyntyn--Chaining--Evergreen
    Arches--Strewing Flowers--Throwing Rice and Shoes--Rosemary
    in the Garden--Names after Marriage--The Coolstrin--The
    Ceffyl Pren.


Wales retains several ancient customs in connection with weddings,
which are elsewhere extinct. No one who has ever paid any attention to
Wales and its ways can have failed to hear of that most celebrated
rite the Bidding, which is, however, one of several picturesque
survivals less well known to the outer world. The Bidding wedding must
be spoken of as an existing custom, although it be confined to rural
neighbourhoods in South Wales, and to obscure and humble folk. Those
who strive to prove that all such customs are obsolete everywhere--a
thankless and even ungraceful task, it seems to me--will not admit
that the Bidding has been known since 1870. I have evidence, however,
that in Pembroke, Cardigan, and Carmarthen shires, the custom did not
cease on the date named, and there is every probability that it
prevails to-day. Nothing could be of smaller importance, it is true,
than the precise date on which a given custom recently ceased, since
any one may revive it next year who chooses to do so.

The Bidding is an invitation sent by a couple who are about to be
married, soliciting the presence and donations of the neighbours on
their behalf. The presents may be either sums of money or
necessaries. Gifts of bread, butter, cheese, tea, sugar, and the like,
are common, and sometimes articles of farming stock and household
furniture. All gifts of money are recognized by a sort of promissory
note, i.e., by setting down the name and residence of the donor, with
the amount given; and when a like occasion arises on the part of the
giver, the debt is religiously paid. The obligation is an absolute
one, and its legality has actually been recognized by the Court of
Great Sessions at Cardiff. The gift is even claimable under other
circumstances than the donor's getting married. Another sort of
contribution is the eatables and drinkables which are set before the
guests; these are only repayable when required on a like occasion.

The method of bidding the guests was until lately through a personage
called the gwahoddwr (inviter or bidder) who tramped about the country
some days beforehand, proclaiming the particulars to everybody he met.
He usually recited a doggerel set of rhymes before and after the
special invitation--a composition of his own, or understood to be
such, for rhyme-making was a part of the talent of a popular bidder.
Frequently no little humour was displayed in the bidding song. But
since the printing press became the cheap and ready servant of the
humblest classes, the occupation of the bidder has gradually fallen to
decay; a printed circular serves in his place. At the shop of a
printer in Carmarthen I procured a copy of the following bidding
circular, which may be a real document, or a fictitious one:


    As we intend to enter the Matrimonial State, on Wednesday,
    the 30th of July instant, we purpose to make a BIDDING on
    the occasion, the same day, at the Young Man's Father's
    House, called TY'R BWCI, in the Parish of Llanfair ar y
    Bryn, when and where the favour of your good and agreeable
    company is respectfully solicited, and whatever donation you
    may be pleased to confer on us then will be thankfully
    received, warmly acknowledged, and cheerfully repaid
    whenever called for on a similar occasion.

    By your most obedient Servants,

         OWEN GWYN,
         ELEN MORGAN.

    The Young Man, his Father and Mother (Llewelyn and Margaret
    Gwyn, of Ty'r Bwci), his Brother (Evan Gwyn, Maes y Blodau),
    his Sisters (Gwladys and Hannah), and his Aunt (Mary Bowen,
    Llwyn y Fedwen, Llannon), desire that all gifts of the above
    nature due to them be returned to the Young Man on the above
    day, and will be thankful for all additional favours

    The Young Woman, her Father (Rhys Morgan, Castell y Moch),
    and her Brothers and Sister (Howel, Gruffydd, and Gwenllïan
    Morgan), desire that all gifts of the above nature due to
    them be returned to the Young Woman on the above day, and
    will be thankful for all additional favours conferred on

    The Young Man's company will meet in the Morning at Ty'r
    Bwci; and the Young Woman's at Pant y Clacwydd, near the
    Village of Llansadwrn.

The Bidding is sometimes held on the day of the wedding, and sometimes
on the day and night before it; the custom varies in different
districts, as all these customs do. When the latter is the case, the
night is an occasion of great merrymaking, with much consumption of
cwrw da, and dancing to the music of the harp, for poor indeed would
be the Welsh community that could not muster up a harper. This
festival is called Nos Blaen, or preceding night, and is a further
source of income to the couple, from the sale of cakes and cwrw. 'Base
is the slave who pays' is a phrase emphatically reversed at a Welsh

  [Illustration: THE OLD-TIME GWAHODDWR.]

The Bidding is but one form of a feature of Welsh life which
extensively prevails, known by the term Cymmhorth. The Bidding is a
Priodas Cymmhorth; the Cyfarfod Cymmhorth, or Assistance Meeting, is
much the same thing, minus the wedding feature. The customs of the
latter festival are, however, often of a sort distinctly tending
toward matrimonial results as an eventuality. A number of farmer girls
of the humbler sort will gather at a stated time and place to give a
day's work to one needing assistance, and after a day spent in such
toil as may be required, the festival winds up with jollity in the
evening. The day is signalized on the part of those youths of the
neighbourhood who are interested in the girls, by tokens of that
interest in the shape of gifts. The lass who receives a gift
accompanied by a twig of birch is thereby assured of her lover's
constancy. To her whom the young man would inform of his change of
heart, a sprig of hazel is given. An earlier feature of this ceremony
was the Merry Andrew, who presented the gifts in the name of the
lover. This personage was disguised fantastically, and would lead the
young woman he selected into another room, where he would deliver the
gift and whisper the giver's name.

The antiquity of the Bidding as a local custom is undoubted. The
old-time gwahoddwr was a person of much importance, skilled in
pedigrees and family traditions, and himself of good family. A
chieftain would assume the character in behalf of his vassal, and
hostile clans respected his person as he went about from castle to
castle, from hall to hall. He bore a garlanded staff as the emblem of
his office, and on entering a dwelling would strike his staff upon the
floor to command the attention of the group before him, and then begin
his address.


The Horse-Wedding is of more ancient origin than the Bidding, and is
still a living custom in some parts of Wales, especially
Carmarthenshire and western Glamorganshire. It was in other days
common throughout South Wales, and was scolded about by old Malkin
(generally very cordial in his praise of Welsh customs) in these spicy
terms: 'Ill may it befal the traveller, who has the misfortune of
meeting a Welsh wedding on the road. He would be inclined to suppose
that he had fallen in with a company of lunatics, escaped from their
confinement. It is the custom of the whole party who are invited, both
men and women, to ride full speed to the church porch, and the person
who arrives there first has some privilege or distinction at the
marriage feast. To this important object all inferior considerations
give way; whether the safety of his majesty's subjects, who are not
going to be married, or their own, incessantly endangered by
boisterous, unskilful and contentious jockeyship.'[137] Glamorganshire
is here spoken of. The custom varies somewhat in different localities,
but it preserves the main feature, to force the bride away from her
friends, who then gallop after her to church, arriving _toujours trop
tard_, of course, like the carabineers in 'Les Brigands.'

There have been cases, however, when the bride was caught by a member
of the pursuing party, and borne away--an incident which occurred in
the knowledge of an acquaintance, who related it to me. As may readily
be inferred, the bride in this case was not unwilling to be caught; in
fact she was averse to marrying the man who was taking her to church,
and who was her parent's choice, not her own. The lover who had her
heart caught up with her by dint of good hard riding, and whisked her
on his horse within sight of the church-door, to the intense
astonishment of the bridegroom, who gazed at them open-mouthed as they
galloped away. He thought at first it was a joke, but as the lovers
disappeared in the distance the truth dawned upon him: a Welsh custom
had served something like its original purpose.

But usually, the whole performance is a vehicle for fun of the most
good-natured and innocent sort. It begins by the arrival of the
neighbours on horseback at the residence of the expectant bridegroom.
An eye-witness to a certain wedding gathering in Glamorganshire a few
years ago states that the horsemen exceeded one hundred in number.
From among them a deputation was chosen to go (still on horseback) to
the bride's residence to make formal demand for her. Her door was
barred inside, and the demand was made in rhyme, and replied to in the
same form from within. It often happens that a brisk contest of wits
signalizes this proceeding, for if the voice of any one within is
recognized by one of those outside, his personal peculiarities are
made the subject of satirical verses. A voice inside being recognized
as that of a man who was charged with sheep-stealing, this rhyme was
promptly shouted at him:

    Gwrando, leidr hoyw'r ddafad,
    Ai ti sydd yma heddyw'n geidwad?
    Ai dyna y rheswm cloi y drysau,
    Rhag dwyn y wreigan liw dydd goleu?

    (Ah, sheep-stealer, art thou a guardian of the fair one? If
    the doors were not locked thou wouldst steal the bride in
    broad daylight.)

The doors are opened in the end, of course, and after refreshments the
wedding party gallops off to church. The bride is stolen away and
borne off to a distance on her captor's horse, but only in sport; her
captor brings her back to the church, where she is quietly married to
the proper person. Sometimes the precaution is taken of celebrating
the marriage privately at an early hour, and the racing takes place

Obstructions are raised by the bride's friends, to prevent the
bridegroom's party from coming to her house, and these difficulties
must be overcome ere the bride can be approached. Sometimes a mock
battle on the road is a feature of the racing to church. The
obstructions placed in the road in former days included the Gwyntyn, a
sort of game of skill which seems to have been used by most nations in
Europe, called in English the quintain. It was an upright post, upon
which a cross-piece turned freely, at one end of which hung a
sand-bag, the other end presenting a flat side. At this the rider
tilted with his lance, his aim being to pass without being hit in the
rear by the sand-bag. Other obstructions in use are ropes of straw and
the like.

There is a Welsh custom called Chaining, which probably arose out of
the horse-wedding, and still prevails. In the village of Sketty,
Glamorganshire, in August, 1877, I saw a chaining, on the occasion of
a marriage between an old lady of eighty and a man of fifty. The
affair had made so much talk, owing to the age of the bride, that the
whole village was in the streets. While the wedding ceremony was in
progress, a chain was stretched across the street, forming a barrier
which the wedding party could not pass till the chainers were
'tipped.' The driver of the carriage containing the newly wedded pair
was an Englishman, and ignorant of the custom, at which he was
naturally indignant. His angry efforts to drive through the barrier
made great sport for the Welshmen.

The origin of the Welsh horse-wedding may be traced to the Romans, if
no further back, and may thus be connected with the rape of the
Sabines. That the Romans had an exactly similar custom is attested by
Apuleius, and it is said to have been established by Romulus in memory
of the Sabine virgins. It is not improbable that the Romans may have
left the custom behind them when they quitted this territory in the
fifth century, after nearly three hundred years' rule.


[137] Malkin's 'South Wales,' 67.


Among the wealthier classes of Wales, certain joyous and genial
wedding customs prevail, such as are common in most parts of the
British isles, but which do not reappear in the new world across the
Atlantic,--a fact by which American life is a heavy loser, in my
opinion. When the Rector of Merthyr's daughter (to use the form of
speech common) was married, a few months since, the tenants of the
estate erected arches of evergreens over the roads, and adorned their
houses with garlands, and for two or three days the estate was a scene
of festivity, ending with the distribution of meat to the poor of the
parish. Such festivities and such decorations are common on the
estates of the country gentry not only, but in the towns as well. At
Tenby, when the High Sheriff's son was married to the Rector of
Tenby's daughter, in 1877, garlands of flowers were hung across the
High Street, bearing pleasant mottoes, while flags and banners
fluttered from house-tops in all directions. Children strewed flowers
in the bride's path as she came out of church, while the bells in the
steeple chimed a merry peal, and a park of miniature artillery boomed
from the pier-head. This custom of children strewing flowers in the
path of the new-made bride is common; so also is that of throwing
showers of rice after the wedded pair, by way of expressing good
wishes--a pleasanter thing to be thrown under these circumstances than
the old shoes of tradition. However, since fashion has taken up the
custom of rice-throwing and shoe-throwing, the shoes have become satin

As far back as the 16th century, throwing an old shoe after any one
going on an important errand was deemed lucky in Wales. It is thought
that in the case of a bride, the custom is derived from the old Jewish
law of exchange, when a shoe was given in token that the parents for
ever surrendered all dominion over their daughter. But a precisely
similar custom prevails in China, where it is usual for the bride to
present her husband with a pair of shoes, by way of signifying that
for the future she places herself under his control. 'These are
carefully preserved in the family and are never given away, like other
worn-out articles, it being deemed, that to part with them portends an
early separation between husband and wife.'[138] The custom of
rice-throwing is also Chinese, the rice being viewed as a sign of
abundance. In Sicily, as in some parts of England, wheat is thrown on
the bride's head; in Russia, a handful of hops; in the north of
England a plateful of shortcake;[139] in Yorkshire, bits of the
bride-cake. All these customs, while popularly done 'for luck,' are
apparently symbolical of the obedience and the fruitfulness of the
newly-wedded wife. And as in Scandinavia the bride tries to get her
husband to pick up her handkerchief as an omen of his obeying instead
of compelling obedience, so in China the bride tries to sit on a part
of her husband's dress. The vulgar story and adage, 'Bandbox now,
bandbox always,' expresses the superstition succinctly.

There is a saying current on the Welsh border, that when rosemary
flourishes in the garden of a married pair, the lady 'rules the
roast,' as the phrase is--though if there is anything a woman should
rule, one would think the 'roast' is that thing. 'That be rosemary,
sir,' said an old gardener in Herefordshire, pointing to where the
plant grew; 'they say it grows but where the missus is master, and it
do grow here like wildfire.' The idea of feminine obedience to
masculine will, merely because it is masculine, is in itself looked
upon as a superstition by all cultivated people in these days, I
suppose. Sex aside, if the truth were known, it would be found that
the stronger is the ruler, in all lands, under all customs, be the
outward show of the ruling more or less; and it is not always where
the public sees it most clearly, or fancies it does, that the rule of
the dame is sternest. The strength here employed is not virile
strength; there is nothing necessarily masculine about it. The
severest mistress of her lord I ever knew was a feeble little woman
with hands like a baby's, and a face of wax, with no more will-power
apparently than a week-old kitten, but whose lightest whim lay on her
lord like iron, and was obeyed as faithfully as if it were backed by a
cat-o'-nine-tails and a six-shooter.

To return for a moment to our Welsh wedding customs among the
wealthier classes. When the couple return from their bridal tour, the
fun often begins all over again. Thus at Lampeter, on the edge of
Cardiganshire, last September, when Mr. and Mrs. Jones of Glandennis
(Jones of Glandennis, Roberts of the Dingle, Williams of Pwlldu,--such
cognomens take the place in Wales of the distinctive names which
separate Englishmen one from another, and from Jones of Nevada),--when
Jones of Glandennis brought home his bride, the whole neighbourhood
was agog to greet them. Thousands of people gathered in a field near
the station, and passed their time in athletic sports till the train
arrived, when they woke the echoes with their cheers. The Joneses
entered their carriage, the horses were unharnessed, and a long
procession of tenantry, headed by a brass band, dragged the carriage
all the way to Glandennis, two miles off, some bearing torches by the
side of the carriage. Arches of evergreens were everywhere; and when
they got to the house, nothing would do but Mrs. Jones must appear at
a window and make a little speech of thanks to the crowd; which she
did accordingly--a thing in itself shocking to superstitious ideas of
chivalry, but in strictest accord with the true chivalric spirit
toward woman. Then fireworks blazed up the sky, and bonfires were
lighted on the tops of all the adjoining hills. Lampeter town was
illuminated, and nobody went to bed till the small hours.

After marriage, Welshwomen still in some cases retain their maiden
names, a custom formerly universal among them. The wife of John
Thomas, though the mother of a houseful of children, may be habitually
known among her neighbours as Betty Williams. In other cases, she not
only assumes her husband's name, but the name of his calling as well;
if he is Dick Shon the tailor, she is simply Mrs. Dick Shon the


[138] Dennys, 'Folk-Lore of China,' 18.

[139] Henderson, 'Notes on Folk-Lore,' 22.


A custom called the Coolstrin is now apparently obsolete, unless in
occasional rural communities remote from railroads. It resembles the
old custom once known in certain parts of England, called the skimitry
or skimmington, in which a man whose wife had struck him was forced to
ride behind a woman, with his face to the horse's tail, while a band
of pans and cow-horns made music for them. The Welsh custom is,
however, more elaborate, and more comical, while it is less severe on
the man. A husband who is suspected of having a termagant wife, is
made the subject of espionage. If it be found that he drinks his mug
of ale standing, with his eye twinkling toward the door, the
circumstance is considered most suspicious. Efforts are accordingly
made to induce the henpecked man to stay and be merry, and if he can
be made drunk a great point is gained, as then a squad of volunteers
take him inside his own door and critically observe his reception. A
moral point involved appears to be that a henpecked husband is a
disgrace to manhood in general; and the purpose of the coolstrin is to
reform it altogether. However, although it may even be proved that a
woman is in the habit of cuffing her husband, the case does not come
under the jurisdiction of the coolstrin court until she has 'drawn
blood on him.' Then the court is convened. It is composed, no doubt,
of any rakehelly youngsters, married or single, who are ripe for
sport. One of them is chosen for judge; a special point is that he
must be a married man who is not afraid of his wife; and he is
invested with robe and gown, that is to say, the collar-bone of a
horse is set on his head, around the crown of a slouch hat, and a
bed-quilt is made fast to his shoulders. He marches through the
streets, with a youth behind him bearing his bed-quilt train, and
mounts a chosen wall for a judge's bench. Officers with long white
wands range themselves solemnly on either side of him; men are chosen
as advocates; and a posse of rustics with pitchforks keeps order. The
court is opened by a crier who calls on all good men who as yet wear
their own clos,[140] to attend the court. The case is argued by the
advocates; witnesses are examined to prove, first, that the man is
henpecked, second, that his wife has struck him and drawn blood with
the blow. In one case it was proved that the wife had knocked her
beery lord down, and that his nose, striking a stool, had bled. The
wife's advocate nearly gravelled the judge, by holding that blood
drawn by a stool could not be said to have been drawn by the woman.
The judge got over this by deciding that if the woman had taken the
stool by one of its three legs, and hit the man, drawing blood, the
blood would be clearly chargeable to her. 'And where is the
difference,' asked he, triumphantly, 'between knocking the stool
against him, and knocking him against the stool?' The woman was found
guilty. 'For,' said the prosecuting attorney indignantly, 'if a man
shan't drink a blue of beer with a neighbour or so, to what won't it
come?' Her condemnation followed; to be ridden on the Ceffyl Pren. A
derisive procession was formed, and two fellows were rigged up to
personate the husband and wife. The male bore a broom, and the female
brandished a ladle, and the two were paraded through the town. A band
of 'musicians' marched before them, beating frying-pans with marrow
bones, banging gridirons and kettles with pokers, tongs and shovels,
and two playing on a fife and drum. These were followed by two
standard bearers, one bearing a petticoat on top of a pole, the other
a pair of breeches in the same manner. Other orts and ends of rabble
made up the procession, which with antic and grimace marched about the
village and neighbourhood. The orgie ended by the planting in front of
the culprit's house of the pole and petticoat, and the pelting of it
with addled eggs, stones, and mud, till it fell to the ground. The
noble bifurcated emblem of manhood, the clos, was then elevated
proudly aloft, and the woman's punishment was deemed complete.

This is the story of a rural village in Glamorganshire. The custom
was known in other counties, and varied in its details. In
Breconshire, the virago was punished through the ceffyl pren merely by
the moral influence of parading it before her cottage. Quarrelsome
wives were said to stand in great and constant dread of its possible
appearance before their doors. In Cardiganshire, on the contrary, the
custom termed the coolstrin is _vice versâ_, and it is only husbands
who ill-use their wives who are amenable to its discipline.


[140] Breeches.


    Death and Burial--The Gwylnos--Beer-drinking at Welsh
    Funerals--Food and Drink over the Coffin--Sponge Cakes at
    Modern Funerals--The Sin-eater--Welsh Denial that this
    Custom ever existed--The Testimony concerning
    it--Superstitions regarding Salt--Plate of Salt on Corpse's
    Breast--The Scapegoat--The St. Tegla Cock and Hen--Welsh
    Funeral Processions--Praying at Cross-roads--Superstition
    regarding Criminals' Graves--Hanging and Welsh
    Prejudice--The Grassless Grave--Parson's Penny, or
    Offrwm--Old Shoes to the Clerk--Arian y Rhaw, or Spade
    Money--Burials without Coffin--The Sul Coffa--Planting and
    Strewing Graves with Flowers.


With the growth of modern refinement the people of every land have
become constantly more decorous in their grief. The effort of the
primitive and untutored mind to utter its sorrow in loud and wild
lamentations, and of friends and neighbours to divert the mind of the
sufferer from his bereavement, gave rise to many funeral customs of
which we still find traces in Wales. Pennant, while travelling in
North Wales, noted, with regard to one Thomas Myddleton, a fact which
he held 'to prove that the custom of the Irish howl, or Scotch
Coranich, was in use among us (the Welsh); for we are told he was
buried "cum magno dolore et clamore cognatorum et propinquorum
omnium."' No such custom now exists; but there is a very impressive
rite, of a corresponding character, but religious, called the Gwylnos.
It is a meeting held in the room where the corpse is lying, on the
night before the funeral. The Irish cry, 'Why did ye die?' is replaced
by pious appeals to Heaven, in which great and strong emotion is
expressed, the deceased referred to in stirring sentences, and his
death made a theme for warnings on the brevity of earth-life and the
importance of the future life of the soul.

On the day of the funeral, however, the customs are not always in
keeping with modern notions of the praiseworthy. Indulgence in
beer-drinking at funerals is still a Welsh practice, and its antiquity
is indicated by a proverb: 'Claddu y marw, ac at y cwrw'--(To bury the
dead, and to the beer.)[141] The collection of Welsh writings called
'Cymru Fu' refers to the custom thus, (to translate:) 'Before the
funeral procession started for the church, the nearest friends and
relatives would congregate around the corpse to wail and weep their
loss; while the rest of the company would be in an adjoining room
drinking warm beer (cwrw brwd) and smoking their pipes; and the women
in still another room drinking tea together.'[142] The writer here
speaks of the custom in the past tense, but apparently rather as a
literary fashion than to indicate a fact; at any rate, the custom is
not extinct. Occasionally it leads to appearances in the police-court
on the part of injudicious mourners.[143] After taking the coffin out
of the house and placing it on a bier near the door, it was formerly
customary for one of the relatives of the deceased to distribute bread
and cheese to the poor, taking care to hand it to each one over the
coffin. These poor people were usually those who had, in expectation
of this gift, been busily engaged in gathering flowers and herbs with
which to grace the coffin. Sometimes this dole was supplemented by the
gift of a loaf of bread or a cheese with a piece of money placed
inside it. After that a cup of drink was presented, and the receiver
was required to drink a little of it immediately.[144] Alluding to
this subject the Rev. E. L. Barnwell[145] says: 'Although this custom
is no longer in fashion, yet it is to some extent represented by the
practice, especially in funerals of a higher class, to hand to those
who are invited to attend the funeral, oblong sponge cakes sealed up
in paper, which each one puts into his or her pocket, but the
providing and distribution of these cakes are now often part of the
undertaker's duty.'

  [Illustration: GIVING FOOD OVER THE COFFIN. (_From an old drawing._)]


[141] So the Spanish say, 'The dead to the bier, the living to good

[142] 'Cymru Fu,' 91.

[143] 'Two Llancaiach men named Servis and Humphrey were arrested for
fighting. They had _been to a funeral_, had done the customary honours
by the remains of the departed brother or sister who had suffered,
died, and was "chested," and then, after drowning their grief in the
"cwrw," finished up in the police-court with a _finale_ involving the
payment of 5_s._ and costs, and 8_s._ 8_d._ damage, or in default
twenty-one days' hard labour.'--'Western Mail,' Jan. 31, 1877.

[144] Pennant, quoted by Roberts, 'Camb. Pop. Ant.,' 175.

[145] 'Arch. Camb.' 4th Se., iii., 332.


What connection there may be between these customs and the strange and
striking rite of the Sin-eater, is a question worthy of careful
consideration. It has been the habit of writers with family ties in
Wales, whether calling themselves Welshmen or Englishmen, to associate
these and like customs with the well-known character for hospitality
which the Cymry have for ages maintained. Thus Malkin writes: 'The
hospitality of the country is not less remarkable on melancholy than
on joyful occasions. The invitations to a funeral are very general and
extensive; and the refreshments are not light, and taken standing, but
substantial and prolonged. Any deficiency in the supply of ale would
be as severely censured on this occasion, as at a festival.'[146] Some
have thought that the bread-eating and beer-drinking are survivals of
the sin-eating custom described by Aubrey, and repeated from him by
others. But well-informed Welshmen have denied that any such custom
as that of the Sin-eater ever existed in Wales at any time, or in the
border shires; and it must not be asserted that they are wrong unless
we have convincing proof to support the assertion. The existing
evidence in support of the belief that there were once Sin-eaters in
Wales I have carefully collated and (excluding hearsay and second-hand
accounts), it is here produced. The first reference to the Sin-eater
anywhere to be found is in the Lansdowne MSS. in the British Museum,
in the handwriting of John Aubrey, the author. It runs thus: 'In the
county of Hereford was an old custom at funerals to hire poor people,
who were to take upon them the sins of the party deceased. One of them
(he was a long, lean, ugly, lamentable poor rascal), I remember, lived
in a cottage on Rosse highway. The manner was that when the corpse was
brought out of the house, and laid on the bier, a loaf of bread was
brought out, and delivered to the Sin-eater, over the corpse, as also
a mazard bowl of maple, full of beer (which he was to drink up), and
sixpence in money, in consideration whereof he took upon him, _ipso
facto_, all the sins of the defunct, and freed him or her from walking
after they were dead.' Aubrey adds, 'and this custom though rarely
used in our days, yet by some people was observed in the strictest
time of the Presbyterian Government; as at Dynder (_nolens volens_ the
parson of the parish), the kindred of a woman, deceased there, had
this ceremony punctually performed, according to her will: and also,
the like was done at the city of Hereford, in those times, where a
woman kept many years before her death a mazard bowl for the
Sin-eater; and the like in other places in this country; as also in
Brecon, e.g., at Llangors, where Mr. Gwin, the minister, about 1640,
could not hinder the performance of this custom. I believe,' says
Aubrey, 'this custom was heretofore used all over Wales.' He states
further, 'A.D. 1686: This custom is used to this day in North Wales.'
Upon this, Bishop White Kennet made this comment: 'It seems a
remainder of this custom which lately obtained at Amersden, in the
county of Oxford; where, at the burial of every corpse, one cake and
one flaggon of ale, just after the interment, were brought to the
minister in the church porch.'[147]

No other writer of Aubrey's time, either English or Welsh, appears to
have made any reference to the Sin-eater in Wales; and equal silence
prevails throughout the writings of all previous centuries. Since
Aubrey, many references to it have been made, but never, so far as I
can discover, by any writer in the Welsh language--a singular omission
if there ever was such a custom, for concerning every other
superstitious practice commonly ascribed to Wales the Welsh have
written freely.

In August, 1852, the Cambrian Archæological Association held its sixth
annual meeting at Ludlow, under the Presidency of Hon. R. H. Clive,
M.P. At this meeting Mr. Matthew Moggridge, of Swansea, made some
observations on the custom of the Sin-eater, when he added details not
contained in Aubrey's account given above. He said: 'When a person
died, his friends sent for the Sin-eater of the district, who on his
arrival placed a plate of salt on the breast of the defunct, and upon
the salt a piece of bread. He then muttered an incantation over the
bread, which he finally ate, thereby eating up all the sins of the
deceased. This done he received his fee of 2_s._ 6_d._ and vanished as
quickly as possible from the general gaze; for, as it was believed
that he really appropriated to his own use and behoof the sins of all
those over whom he performed the above ceremony, he was utterly
detested in the neighbourhood--regarded as a mere Pariah--as one
irredeemably lost.' The speaker then mentioned the parish of Llandebie
where the above practice 'was said to have prevailed to a recent
period.' He spoke of the survival of the plate and salt custom near
Swansea, and indeed generally, within twenty years, (i.e. since 1830)
and added: 'In a parish near Chepstow it was usual to make the figure
of a cross on the salt, and cutting an apple or an orange into
quarters, to put one piece at each termination of the lines.' Mr.
Allen, of Pembrokeshire, testified that the plate and salt were known
in that county, where also a lighted candle was stuck in the salt; the
popular notion was that it kept away the evil spirit. Mr. E. A.
Freeman, (the historian) asked if Sin-eater was the term used in the
district where the custom prevailed, and Mr. Moggridge said it was.

Such is the testimony. I venture no opinion upon it further than may
be conveyed in the remark that I cannot find any direct corroboration
of it, as regards the Sin-eater, and I have searched diligently for
it. The subject has engaged my attention from the first moment I set
foot on Cambrian soil, and I have not only seen no reference to it in
Welsh writings, but I have never met any unlettered Welshman who had
ever heard of it. All this proves nothing, perhaps; but it weighs


[146] 'South Wales,' 68.

[147] Vide Hone's 'Year Book,' 1832, p. 858.

[148] Mr. Eugene Schuyler's mention of a corresponding character in
Turkistan is interesting: 'One poor old man, however, I noticed, who
seemed constantly engaged in prayer. On calling attention to him I was
told that he was an iskatchi, a person who gets his living by taking
on himself the sins of the dead, and thenceforth devoting himself to
prayer for their souls. He corresponds to the Sin-eater of the Welsh
border.'--'Turkistan,' ii., 28.


Of superstitions regarding salt, there are many in Wales. I have even
encountered the special custom of placing a plate of salt on the
breast of the corpse. In the case of an old woman from Cardiganshire,
who was buried at Cardiff, and who was thus decked by her relatives, I
was told the purpose of the plate of salt was to 'prevent swelling.'
There is an Irish custom of placing a plate of snuff on the body of a
corpse; hence the saying, addressed to an enemy, 'I'll get a pinch off
your belly yet.' The Irish also employ the plate of salt in the same
manner. In view of the universal prevalence of superstitions regarding
salt, too much weight should not be placed on this detail, in
connection with the accounts of the Sin-eater. Such superstitions are
of extreme antiquity, and they still survive even among the most
cultivated classes. Salt falling toward a person was of old considered
a most unlucky omen, the evil of which could only be averted by
throwing a little of the fallen salt over the shoulder. My own wife
observes this heathen rite to this day, and so, I fancy, do most men's
wives--jocularly, no doubt, but with a sort of feeling that 'if there
_is_ anything in it,' &c. Salt was the ancient symbol of friendship,
being deemed incorruptible. In the Isle of Man no important business
was ventured on without salt in the pocket; marrying, moving, even the
receiving of alms, must be sanctified by an exchange of salt between
the parties. An influential legend is noted among the Manx
inhabitants, of the dissolution of an enchanted palace on that island,
through the spilling of salt on the ground. In Da Vinci's picture of
the Lord's Supper, Judas Iscariot is represented as overturning the
salt--an omen of the coming betrayal of Christ by that personage. In
Russia, should a friend pass you the salt without smiling, a quarrel
will follow. The Scotch put salt in a cow's first milk after calving.
Even the Chinese throw salt into water from which a person has been
rescued from drowning. All these practices point either to lustration
or propitiation.


It has been suggested that the custom of the Sin-eater is in imitation
of the Biblical scapegoat. 'And Aaron shall lay both his hands upon
the head of the live goat, and confess over him all the iniquities of
the children of Israel, and all their transgressions in all their
sins, putting them upon the head of the goat, and shall send him away
by the hand of a fit man into the wilderness. And the goat shall bear
upon him all their iniquities unto a land not inhabited: and he shall
let go the goat in the wilderness.'[149] This brings up the subject of
charms and magic, and is illustrated in Wales, if not by the
Sin-eater, by the cock and hen of St. Tegla's Well. This well is about
half-way between Wrexham and Ruthin, in the parish of Llandegla, and
has been considered efficacious in curing epilepsy. One of the common
names of that complaint in Welsh is Clwyf y Tegla, (Tegla's disease).
Relief is obtained by bathing in the well, and performing a
superstitious ceremony in this manner: The patient repairs to the well
after sunset, and washes himself in it; then, having made an offering
by throwing into the water fourpence, he walks round it three times,
and thrice recites the Lord's Prayer. If of the male sex, he offers a
cock; if a woman, a hen. The bird is carried in a basket, first round
the well, then round the church, and the rite of repeating the Pater
Noster again performed. After all this, he enters the church, creeps
under the altar, and making the Bible his pillow and the communion
cloth his coverlet, remains there until the break of day. In the
morning, having made a further offering of sixpence, he leaves the
cock (or hen, as the case may be) and departs. 'Should the bird die,
it is supposed that the disease has been transferred to it, and the
man or woman consequently cured.'[150] The custom is associated with
the ancient Druids as well as with the Jews, and its resemblance to
the scapegoat is suggestive.


[149] Levit. xvi., 21, 22.

[150] Ab Ithel, 'Arch. Camb.' 1st Se., i., 184.


The funeral procession, in rural districts where hearses are unknown,
wends its way graveward on foot, with the corpse borne by the nearest
relatives of the deceased, a custom probably introduced in Wales
during their residence here by the Romans. The coffin of Metellus, the
conqueror of Macedon, was borne by his four sons. The coffins of Roman
citizens held in high esteem by the Republic, were borne by justices
and senators, while those of the enemies of the people were borne by
slaves and hired servants. As the Welsh procession winds its way along
the green lanes, psalms and hymns are sung continually, except on
coming to cross-roads. Here the bier is set down, and all kneel and
repeat the Lord's Prayer. The origin of this custom, as given by the
Welsh, is to be found in the former practice of burying criminals at
cross-roads. It was believed that the spirits of these criminals did
not go far away from the place where their bodies lay, and the
repeating of the Lord's Prayer was supposed to destroy and do away
with any evil influence these spirits might have on the soul of the
dear departed.[151]

The Welsh retain much of the superstitious feeling regarding the
graves of criminals and suicides. There is indeed a strong prejudice
against hanging, on account of the troublesome spirits thus let loose.
The well-known leniency of a 'Cardigan jury' may be connected with
this prejudice, though it is usually associated with a patriotic
feeling. 'What! would you have hur hang hur own countryman?' is the
famous response of a Cardigan juror, who was asked why he and his
brethren acquitted a murderer. The tale may be only a legend; the fact
it illustrates is patent. It is related that in a dispute between two
Cardigan farmers, some fifty years ago, one of them killed the other.
The jury, believing the killing was unintentional, acquitted the
homicide; but 'whether the man was guilty or not, his neighbours and
the people who lived in the district, and who knew the spot where the
farmer was killed, threw a stone upon it whenever they passed,
probably to show their abhorrence of the deed that had been
perpetrated in that place. By this means a large heap of stones, which
was allowed to remain for many years, arose.'[152] They were then
removed to repair the turnpike. This custom is apparently Jewish.
Hangings are almost unknown in Wales, whether from the extra morality
of the people, or the prejudice above noted.


[151] 'Cymru Fu,' 92.

[152] 'Bye-gones,' March 22, 1876.


The legend of the Grassless Grave is a well-known Montgomeryshire
tale, concerning a certain spot of earth in the graveyard of
Montgomery Castle, upon which the verdure is less luxuriant than in
other portions of the yard. One dark November night, many years ago,
a man named John Newton, who had been at Welshpool fair, set out for
home. Soon after, he was brought back to Welshpool in the custody of
two men, who charged him with highway robbery, a crime then punishable
with death. He was tried, and executed, in spite of his protestations;
and in his last speech, admitting he had committed a former crime, but
protesting he was innocent of this, he said: 'I have offered a prayer
to Heaven, and believe it has been heard and accepted. And in meek
dependence on a merciful God, whom I have offended, but who, through
the atonement of His blessed Son, has, I trust, pardoned my offence, I
venture to assert that as I am innocent of the crime for which I
suffer, the grass, for one generation at least, will not cover my
grave.' For thirty years thereafter, the grave was grassless; a bare
spot in the shape of a coffin marked, amidst the surrounding
luxuriance, the place where lay the penitent criminal, unjustly
executed. Then a sacrilegious hand planted the spot with turf; but it
withered as if blasted by lightning; and the grave is still
grassless--certainly an unnecessary extension of the time set by the
defunct for its testimony to his innocence.


A curious surviving custom at Welsh funerals is the Offrwm, or
parson's penny. After having read the burial service in the church,
the parson stands behind a table while a psalm is being sung, and to
him go the mourners, one and all, and deposit a piece of money on the
table. The parson counts it, states the amount, and pockets it. If the
mourner depositing his offrwm be wealthy, he will give perhaps a
guinea; if a farmer or tradesman, his gift will be a crown; and if
poor, he will lay down his sixpence. 'Each one that intended making an
offering of silver, would go up to the altar in his turn, and after
each one had contributed there would be a respite, after which those
who gave copper as their offering went forward and did likewise; but
no coppers were offered at any respectable funeral. These offerings
often reached the sum of ten and even twenty pounds in the year.' Thus
the Welsh work, 'Cymru Fu,' speaking as usual in the past tense; but
the custom is a present-day one. The Welsh believe that this custom
was originally intended to compensate the clergyman for praying for
the soul of the departed. It has now ceased to mean anything more than
a tribute of respect to the deceased, or a token of esteem towards the
officiating clergyman.

In the parish of Defynog, Breconshire, there was a custom (up to 1843,
when it seems to have ceased through the angry action of a lawless
widower,) of giving to the parish clerk the best pair of shoes and
stockings left behind by the defunct.[153]

A still more curious form of the offrwm, which also survives in many
rural neighbourhoods, is called the Arian y Rhaw, or spade money. At
the grave, the gravedigger rubs the soil off his spade, extends it for
donations, and receives a piece of silver from each one in turn, which
he also pockets. In Merionethshire the money is received at the grave
in a bowl, instead of on the spade, and the gift is simply called the
offrwm. 'I well recollect, when a lad,' says an entertaining
correspondent,[154] 'at Llanrhaiadr-yn-Mochnant, seeing the clerk or
sexton cleaning his spade with the palm of his hand, and blowing the
remaining dust, so that the instrument of his calling should be clean
and presentable, and then, with due and clerk-like gravity, presenting
his polished spade, first to the "cyfneseifiaid" (next-of-kin), and
then to the mourners one by one, giving all an opportunity of showing
their respect to the dead, by giving the clerk the accustomed offrwm.
At times the old clerk, "yr hen glochydd," when collecting the offrwm,
rather than go around the grave to the people, to the no small
annoyance of the friends, would reach his spade over the grave. At the
particular time referred to, the clerk, having nearly had all the
offrwm, saw that facetious wag and practical joker, Mr. B., extending
his offering towards him from the opposite side of the grave. The
clerk, as was his wont, extended the spade over the grave towards the
offered gift. The opportunity for fun was not to be lost, and whilst
placing his offrwm on the spade, Mr. B. pressed on one corner, and the
spade turned in the hands of the unwitting clerk, emptying the whole
offering into the grave, to the no small surprise of the clerk, who
never forgot the lesson, and the great amusement of the standers-by.'
It is noted in this connection that the sexton's spade 'was a terror
to the superstitious, for if the gravedigger would but shake his spade
at anyone, it was a matter of but short time ere the sexton would be
called upon to dig the grave of that person who had come under the
evil influence of the spade. "Has the sexton shook his spade at you?"
was a question often put to a person in bad health.'


[153] 'Arch. Camb.,' 2nd Se., iv., 326.

[154] 'Bye-gones,' Oct. 17, 1877.


Until a recent date, burials without a coffin were common in some
parts of Wales. Old people in Montgomeryshire not many years ago,
could remember such burials, in what was called the cadach deupen, or
cloth with two heads. Old Richard Griffith, of Trefeglwys, who died
many years ago, recollected a burial in this fashion there, when the
cloth gave way and was rent; whereupon the clergyman prohibited any
further burials in that churchyard without a coffin. That was the last
burial of the kind which took place in Montgomeryshire.[155]

In the middle ages there was a Welsh custom of burying the dead in the
garment of a monk, as a protection against evil spirits. This was
popular among the wealthy, and was a goodly source of priestly


[155] 'Bye-gones,' Nov. 22, 1876.


Sul Coffa is an old Welsh custom of honouring the dead on the Sunday
following the funeral, and for several succeeding Sundays, until the
violence of grief has abated. In the Journal of Thomas Dinelly,
Esquire, an Englishman who travelled through Wales and Ireland in the
reign of Charles II.,[156] this passage occurs, after description of
the wake, the keening, etc.: 'This done y{e} Irish bury their dead,
and if it be in or neer y{e} burying place of that family, the
servants and followers hugg kiss howle and weep over the skulls that
are there digg'd up and once a week for a quarter of an year after
come two or three and pay more noyse at the place.' The similarity in
spirit between this and the Welsh Sul Coffa is as striking as the
difference in practice. The Welsh walk quietly and gravely to the
solemn mound beneath which rest the remains of the loved, and there
kneeling in silence for five or ten minutes, pray or appear to pray.

The Sul Coffa of Ivan the Harper is a well-known anecdote. Ivan the
Harper was a noted character in his day, who desired that his coffa
should be thus: 'I should like,' said he, on his death-bed, 'to have
my coffa; but not in the old style. Instead of the old custom ask
Williams of Merllyn and Richard the Harper to attend the church at
Llanfwrog, and give these, my disciples, my two harps, and after the
service is over, let them walk to my grave; let Williams sit at the
head and Richard at the feet, of my grave, and let them play seven
Welsh airs, beginning with Dafydd y Garreg Wen,' (David of the White
Stone) 'and ending with, Toriad y Dydd,' (the Dawn.) 'The former is in
a flat key, like death, and the latter is as sober as the day of
judgment.' This request was religiously obeyed by the mourners on the
ensuing Sul Coffa.


[156] Quoted in the Proceedings of the Kilkenny Arch. Soc., 1858.


Reference has been made, in the chapter on courtship and marriage, to
the Welsh practice of planting graves with flowers. There are graves
in Glamorganshire which have been kept blooming with flowers for
nearly a century without interruption, through the loving care of
descendants of the departed. By a most graceful custom which also
prevailed until recently, each mourner at a funeral carried in his
hand a sprig of rosemary, which he threw into the grave. The Pagan
practice of throwing a sprig of cypress into the grave has been
thought to symbolize the annihilation of the body, as these sprigs
would not grow if set in the earth: whereas the rosemary was to
signify the resurrection or up-springing of the body from the grave.
The existing custom of throwing flowers and immortelles into the grave
is derivable from the ancient practice. But the Welsh carry the
association of graves and floral life to the most lavish extreme, as
has already been pointed out. Shakspeare has alluded to this in
'Cymbeline,' the scene of which tragedy is principally in
Pembrokeshire, at and about Milford Haven:

              _Arv._ With fairest flowers,
    Whilst summer lasts, and I live here, Fidele,
    I'll sweeten thy sad grave: Thou shalt not lack
    The flower, that's like thy face, pale primrose; nor
    The azur'd harebell, like thy veins; no, nor
    The leaf of eglantine, whom not to slander,
    Outsweeten'd not thy breath.[157]



[157] 'Cymbeline,' Act IV., Sc. 2.



    Gorgons, and hydras, and chimeras dire.
                    MILTON: _Paradise Lost_.

    Then up there raise ane wee wee man
      Franethe the moss-gray stane;
    His face was wan like the collifloure,
      For he nouthir had blude nor bane.
                    HOGG: _The Witch of Fife_.

                          ... where he stood,
    Of auncient time there was a springing well,
    From which fast trickled forth a silver flood,
    Full of great vertues, and for med'cine good: ...
    For unto life the dead it could restore.
                    SPENSER: _Faerie Queene_.


    Base of the Primeval Mythology--Bells and their Ghosts--The
    Bell that committed Murder and was damned for it--The Occult
    Powers of Bells--Their Work as Detectives, Doctors,
    etc.--Legend of the Bell of Rhayader--St. Illtyd's Wonderful
    Bell--The Golden Bell of Llandaff.


The human mind in its infancy turns instinctively to fetichism. The
mind of primeval man resembled that of a child. Children have to learn
by experience that the fire which burns them is not instigated by
malice.[158] In his primitive condition, man personified everything
in nature. Animate and inanimate objects were alike endowed with
feelings, passions, emotions, moral qualities. On this basis rests the
primeval mythology.

The numerous superstitions associated with bells, wells and stones in
Wales, excite constant inquiries as regards their origin in fetichism,
in paganism, in solar worship, or in church observances. That bells,
especially, should suggest the supernatural to the vulgar mind is not
strange. The occult powers of bells have place in the popular belief
of many lands. The Flemish child who wonders how the voices got into
the bells is paralleled by the Welsh lad who hears the bells of
Aberdovey talking in metrical words to a musical chime. The ghosts of
bells are believed to haunt the earth in many parts of Wales. Allusion
has been made to those castle bells which are heard ringing from the
submerged towers in Crumlyn lake. Like fancies are associated with
many Welsh lakes. In Langorse Pool, Breconshire, an ancient city is
said to lie buried, from whose cathedral bells on a calm day may be
heard a faint and muffled chime, pealing solemnly far down in the
sepial depths. A legend of Trefethin relates that in the church of St.
Cadoc, at that place, was a bell of wondrous powers, a gift from
Llewellyn ap Iorwerth, Lord of Caerleon. A little child who had
climbed to the belfry was struck by the bell and killed, not through
the wickedness of the bell itself, but through a spell which had been
put upon the unfortunate instrument by an evil spirit. But though
innocent of murderous intent, the wretched bell became forfeit to the
demons on account of its fatal deed. They seized it and bore it down
through the earth to the shadow-realm of annwn. And ever since that
day, when a child is accidentally slain at Trefethin, the bell of St.
Cadoc is heard tolling mournfully underneath the ground where it
disappeared ages ago.


[158] A Mississippi negro-boy who was brought by a friend of mine from
his southern home to a northern city, and who had never seen snow,
found the ground one morning covered with what he supposed to be salt,
and going out to get some, returned complaining that it 'bit his


There was anciently a belief that the sound of brass would break
enchantment, as well as cause it; and it is presumed that the original
purpose of the common custom of tolling the bell for the dead was to
drive away evil spirits. Originally, the bell was tolled not for the
dead, but for the dying; it was believed that evil spirits were
hovering about the sick chamber, waiting to pounce on the soul as soon
as it should get free from the body; and the bell was tolled for the
purpose of driving them away. Later, the bell was not tolled till
death had occurred, and this form of the custom survives here, as in
many lands. Before the Reformation there was kept in all Welsh
churches a handbell, which was taken by the sexton to the house where
a funeral was to be held, and rung at the head of the procession. When
the voices of the singers were silent at the end of a psalm, the bell
would take up the burden of complaint in measured and mournful tones,
and ring till another psalm was begun. It was at this period deemed
sacred. The custom survived long after the Reformation in many places,
as at Caerleon, the little Monmouthshire village which was a bustling
Roman city when London was a hamlet. The bell--called the bangu--was
still preserved in the parish of Llanfair Duffryn Clwyd half-a-dozen
years ago. I believe the custom of ringing a handbell before the
corpse on its way through the streets is still observed at Oxford,
when a university man is buried. The town marshal is the bellman for
this office. The custom is associated with the same superstitious
belief which is seen in the 'passing bell,' the notes of pure bronze
freeing the soul from the power of evil spirits.


The Welsh were formerly strong in the belief that bells could perform
miracles, detect thieves, heal the sick, and the like. In many
instances they were possessed of locomotive powers, and would
transport themselves from place to place when they had occasion,
according to their own sweet will, and without human intervention. It
is even recorded that certain handbells required to be tied with the
double cord of an exorcism and a piece of twine, or they would get up
and walk off in the night.

Bells which presaged storms, as well as other disasters, have been
believed to exist in many parts of Wales. In Pembrokeshire the
unexpected tolling of a church bell in the night is held to be the
sure precursor of a calamity--a belief which may be paralleled in
London, where there are still people who believe such tolling on the
part of the great bell of St. Paul's portends disaster to the royal
family. In the Cromwellian wars, the sacrilegious followers of the
stern old castle-hater carried off a great bell from St. David's,
Pembrokeshire. They managed to get it on shipboard, but in passing
through Ramsey Sound the vessel was wrecked--a direct result, the
superstitious said, of profanely treating the bell. Ever since that
time, Pembroke people have been able to hear this sunken bell ring
from its watery grave when a storm is rising.


The legend of the Bell of Rhayader perpetuates a class of story which
reappears in other parts of Great Britain. It was in the twelfth
century that a certain contumacious knight was imprisoned in the
castle of Rhayader. His wife, being devoted to him, and a good
Catholic, besought the aid of the monks to get him out. They were
equal to the occasion, at least in so far as to provide for her
service a magical bell, which possessed the power of liberating from
confinement any prisoner who should set it up on the wall and ring it.
The wife succeeded in getting the bell secretly into her husband's
possession, and he set it up on the wall and rang it. But although he
had gathered his belongings together and was fully prepared to go, the
doors of his prison refused to open. The castellan mocked at the
magical bell, and kept the knight in durance vile. So therefore (for
of course the story could not be allowed to end here) the castle was
struck by lightning, and both it and the town were burned in one
night--excepting only the wall upon which the magic bell was hanging.
Nothing remains of the castle walls in this day.


The bell of St. Illtyd was greatly venerated in the middle ages. A
legend concerning this wonderful bell relates that a certain king had
stolen it from the church, and borne it into England, tied about the
neck of one of his horses. For this deed the king was destroyed, but
repenting before his death, ordered the bell to be restored to its
place in Wales. Without waiting to be driven, the horse with the bell
about his neck set out for Wales, followed by a whole drove of horses,
drawn by the melodious sound of the bell. Wonderful to tell, the horse
was able to cross the river Severn and come into Wales, the great
collection of horses following. 'Then hastening along the shore, and
over the mountains, and through the woods, he came to the road which
went towards Glamorgan, all the horses hearing, and following the
sweet sound.' When they came to the banks of the river Taff, a
clergyman heard the sound of the bell, and went out to meet the horse,
and they together carried the bell to the gate of St. Illtyd's church.
There the horse bent down and loosed his precious burden from his
neck, 'and it fell on a stone, from which fall a part of it was
broken, which is to be seen until the present day, in memory of the
eminent miracle.'[159]

Some thirty years ago a bell was discovered at Llantwit Major, in
Glamorganshire, which was thought to be the identical bell of this
saint. The village named was the scene of his exploits, many of which
were miraculous to the point of Arabian Nights marvelousness. The
discovered bell was inscribed 'Sancte Iltute, ora pro nobis,' and
stood upon the gable of the quaint old town-hall. But though the bell
was unmistakably ancient, it bore intrinsic evidence of having been
cast long after the saint's death, when his name had become venerated.
He was one of King Arthur's soldiers, who afterwards renounced the
world, and founded several churches in Glamorganshire.


[159] 'Cambro-British Saints,' 492.


Among the many legends of Llandaff which still linger familiarly on
the lips of the people is that of the bell of St. Oudoceus, second
bishop of that see. In the ancient 'Book of Llandaff,' where are
preserved the records of that cathedral from the earliest days of
Christianity on this island, the legend is thus related: 'St.
Oudoceus, being thirsty after undergoing labour, and more accustomed
to drink water than any other liquor, came to a fountain in the vale
of Llandaff, not far from the church, that he might drink, where he
found women washing butter, after the manner of the country; and
sending to them his messengers and disciples, they requested that they
would accommodate them with a vessel, that their pastor might drink
therefrom; who, ironically, as mischievous girls, said, "We have no
cup besides that which we hold in our hands, namely, the butter." And
the man of blessed memory taking it, formed one in the shape of a
small bell, and he raised his hand so that he might drink therefrom,
and he drank. And it remained in that form, that is, a golden one, so
that it appeared to those who beheld it to consist altogether of the
purest gold, which, by divine power, is from that day reverently
preserved in the church of Llandaff in memory of the holy man, and it
is said that by touching it health is given to the diseased.'[160]

      (The Bells of Aberdovey.)]


[160] 'Liber Landavensis,' 378.


    Mystic Wells--Their Good and Bad Dispositions--St.
    Winifred's Well--The Legend of St. Winifred--Miracles--St.
    Tecla's Well--St. Dwynwen's--Curing Love-sickness--St.
    Cynfran's--St. Cynhafal's--Throwing Pins in
    Wells--Warts--Barry Island and its Legends--Ffynon
    Gwynwy--Propitiatory Gifts to Wells--The Dreadful Cursing
    Well of St. Elian's--Wells Flowing with Milk--St.
    Illtyd's--Taff's Well--Sanford's Well--Origins of
    Superstitions of this Class.


The waters of mystery which flow at Lourdes, in France, are paralleled
in numberless Welsh parishes. In every corner of Cambria may be found
wells which possess definite attributes, malicious or beneficent,
which they are popularly supposed to actively exert toward mankind. In
almost every instance, the name of the tutelary saint to whom the well
is consecrated is known to the peasantry, and generally they can tell
you something about him, or her. Unnumbered centuries have elapsed
since the saint lived; nay, generation upon generation has perished
since any complete knowledge of his life or character existed, save in
mouldering manuscripts left by monks, themselves long turned to dust;
yet the tradition of the saint as regards the well is there, a living
thing beside its waters. However lightly some forms of superstition
may at times be treated by the vulgar, they are seldom capable of
irreverent remark concerning the well. In many cases this respect
amounts to awe.

These wells are of varying power and disposition. Some are healing
wells; others are cursing wells; still others combine the power alike
to curse and to cure. Some are sovereign in their influence over all
the diseases from which men suffer, mental and moral as well as
physical; others can cure but one disease, or one specific class of
diseases; and others remedy all the misfortunes of the race, make the
poor rich, the unhappy happy, and the unlucky lucky. That these
various reputations arose in some wells from medicinal qualities found
by experience to dwell in the waters, is clear at a glance; but in
many cases the character of the patron saint gives character to the
well. In parishes dedicated to the Virgin Mary there will almost
inevitably be found a Ffynon Mair, (Well of Mary,) the waters of which
are supposed to be purer than the waters of other wells. Sometimes the
people will take the trouble to go a long distance for water from the
Ffynon Mair, though a good well may be nearer, in whose water chemical
analysis can find no difference. Formerly, and indeed until within a
few years past, no water would do for baptizing but that fetched from
the Ffynon Mair, though it were a mile or more from the church. That
the water flowed southward was in some cases held to be a secret of
its virtue. In other instances, wells which opened and flowed eastward
were thought to afford the purest water.


Most renowned and most frequented of Welsh wells is St. Winifred's, at
Holywell. By the testimony of tradition it has been flowing for eleven
hundred and eighty years, or since the year 700, and during all this
time has been constantly visited by throngs of invalids; and that it
will continue to be so frequented for a thousand years to come is not
doubted, apparently, by the members of the Holywell Local Board, who
have just taken a lease of the well from the Duke of Westminster for
999 years more, at an annual rental of £1. The town of Holywell
probably owes not only name but existence to this well. Its miraculous
powers are extensively believed in by the Welsh, and by people from
all parts of Great Britain and the United States; but Drayton's
assertion that no dog could be drowned in its waters, on account of
their beneficent disposition, is not an article of the existing faith.
The most prodigious fact in connection with this wonderful fountain,
when its legendary origin is contemplated, is its size, its abounding
life, the great volume of its waters. A well which discharges
twenty-one tons of water per minute, which feeds an artificial lake
and runs a mill, and has cured unnumbered thousands of human beings of
their ills for hundreds of years, is surely one of the wonders of the
world, to which even mystic legend can only add one marvel more.

The legend of St. Winifred, or Gwenfrewi, as she is called in Welsh,
was related by the British monk Elerius in the year 660, or by Robert
of Salop in 1190, and is in the Cotton MSS. in the British Museum. It
is there written in characters considered to be of the middle of the
eleventh century. Winifred was the daughter of a valiant soldier in
North Wales; from her youth she loved a heavenly spouse, and refused
transitory men. One day Caradoc, a descendant of royal stock, came to
her house fatigued from hunting wild beasts, and asked Winifred for
drink. But seeing the beauty of the nymph he forgot his thirst in his
admiration, and at once besought her to treat him with the familiarity
of a sweetheart. Winifred refused, asserting that she was engaged to
be married to another. Caradoc became furious at this, and said,
'Leave off this foolish, frivolous, and trifling mode of speaking, and
consent to my wish.' Then he asked her to be his wife. Finding he
would not be denied, Winifred had recourse to a stratagem to escape
from him: she pretended to comply, but asked leave to first make a
becoming toilet. Caradoc agreed, on condition that she should make it
quickly. The girl went through her chamber with swift feet into the
valley, and was escaping, when Caradoc perceived the trick, and
mounting his horse spurred after her. He overtook her at the very door
of the monastery to which she was fleeing; before she could place her
foot within the threshold he struck off her head at one blow. St.
Beino coming quickly to the door saw bloody Caradoc standing with his
stained sword in his hand, and immediately cursed him as he stood, so
that the bloody man melted in his sight like wax before a fire. Beino
then took the virgin's head (which had been thrown inside the door by
the blow which severed it) and fitted it on the neck of the corpse.
Winifred thereupon revived, with no further harm than a small line on
her neck. But the floor upon which her bloody head had fallen, cracked
open, and a fountain sprang up like a torrent at the spot. 'And the
stones appear bloody at present as they did at first, and the moss
smells as frankincense, and it cures divers diseases.'[161] Thus far
the monastic legend. Some say that Caradoc's descendants were doomed
to bark like dogs.

Among the miracles related of Winifred's well by her monkish
biographer is one characterized as 'stupendous,' concerning three
bright stones which were seen in the middle of the ebullition of the
fountain, ascending and descending, 'up and down by turns, after the
manner of stones projected by a shooter.' They so continued to dance
for many years, but one day an unlucky woman was seized with a desire
to play with the stones. So she took hold of one; whereat they all
vanished, and the woman died. This miracle was supplemented by that of
a man who was rebuked for theft at the fountain; and on his denying
his guilt, the goat which he had stolen and eaten became his accuser
by uttering an audible bleating from his belly. But the miracles of
Winifred's well are for the most part records of wonderful cures from
disease and deformity. Withered and useless limbs were made whole and
useful; the dumb bathed in the water, came out, and asked for their
clothes; the blind washed and received their sight; lunatics 'troubled
by unclean spirits' were brought to the well in chains, 'tearing with
their teeth and speaking vain things,' but returned homeward in full
possession of their reason. Fevers, paralysis, epilepsy, stone, gout,
cancers, piles--these are but a few of the diseases cured by the
marvellous well, on the testimony of the ancient chronicler of the
Cotton MSS. 'Nor is it to be hidden in the silence of Lethean oblivion
that after the expulsion of the Franks from all North Wales' the
fountain flowed with a milky liquor for the space of three days. A
priest bottled some of it, and it 'was carried about and drunk in all
directions,' curing diseases in the same manner as the well itself.


[161] 'Cambro-British Saints,' 519.


Only second in fame to Winifred's, among the Welsh themselves, is St.
Tecla's well, or Ffynon Tegla, in Denbighshire. It springs out of a
bog called Gwern Degla, about two hundred yards from the parish church
of Llandegla. Some account of the peculiar superstitious ceremony
connected with this well has already been given, in the chapter
treating of the sin-eater. It is there suggested that the cock to
which the fits are transferred by the patient at the well is a
substitute for the scapegoat of the Jews. The parish clerk of
Llandegla in 1855 said that an old man of his acquaintance 'remembered
quite well seeing the birds staggering about from the effects of the
fits' which had been transferred to them.


Of great celebrity in other days was St. Dwynwen's well, in the parish
of Llandwyn, Anglesea. This saint being patron saint of lovers, her
well possessed the property of curing love-sickness. It was visited by
great numbers, of both sexes, in the fourteenth century, when the
popular faith in its waters seems to have been at its strongest. It is
still frequented by young women of that part of the country when
suffering from the woes inflicted by Dan Cupid. That the well itself
has been for many years covered over with sand does not prevent the
faithful from displaying their devotion; they seek their cure from
'the water next to the well.' Ffynon Dwynwen, or Fountain of Venus,
was also a name given to the sea, according to the Iolo MSS.; and in
the legend of Seithenhin the Drunkard, in the 'Black Book of
Carmarthen,' this stanza occurs:

    Accursed be the damsel,
    Who, after the wailing,
    Let loose the Fountain of Venus, the raging deep.[162]

The story of Aphrodite, born from the foam of the sea, need only be
alluded to here.


[162] 'Black Book of Carmarthen,' xxxviii. (An ancient MS. in the
Hengwrt collection, which belonged of old to the priory of Black
Canons at Carmarthen, and at the dissolution of the religious houses
in Wales, when their libraries were dispersed, was given by the
treasurer of St. David's Church to Sir John Price, one of Henry
VIII.'s commissioners.)


Several wells appear to have been devoted to the cure of the lower
animals' diseases. Such was the well of Cynfran, where this
ejaculation was made use of: 'Rhad Duw a Chynfran lwydd ar y
da!'--(the grace of God and the blessed Cynfran on the cattle.) This
Cynfran was one of the many sons of the patriarch Brychan, and his
well is near Abergeleu. Pennant speaks also of a well near Abergeleu,
which he calls St. George's well, and says that there the British Mars
had his offering of horses; 'for the rich were wont to offer one, to
secure his blessing on all the rest. He was the tutelar saint of those


St. Cynhafal's well, on a hillside in Llangynhafal parish,
Denbighshire, is one of those curing wells in which pins are thrown.
Its specialty is warts. To exorcise your wart you stick a pin in it
and then throw the pin into this well; the wart soon vanishes. The
wart is a form of human trouble which appears to have been at all
times and in all countries a special subject of charms, both in
connection with wells and with pins. Where a well of the requisite
virtue is not conveniently near, the favourite form of charm for
wart-curing is in connection with the wasting away of some selected
object. Having first been pricked into the wart, the pin is then
thrust into the selected object--in Gloucestershire it is a snail--and
then the object is buried or impaled on a blackthorn in a hedge, and
as it perishes the wart will disappear. The scapegoat principle of
the sin-eater also appears in connection with charming away warts, as
where a 'vagrom man' counts your warts, marks their number in his hat,
and goes away, taking the warts with him into the next county--for a
trifling consideration.[163]


[163] A popular belief among boys in some parts of the United States
is that warts can be rubbed off upon a toad impaled with a sharp
stick; as the toad dies the warts will go. _Per contra_, this cruel
faith is offset by a theory that toads if ill-treated can spit upon
their aggressors' hands and thus cause warts.


On Barry Island, near Cardiff, is the famous well of St. Barruc, or
Barri, which was still frequented by the credulous up to May, 1879, at
which time the island was closed against visitors by its owner, Lord
Windsor, and converted into a rabbit warren. Tradition directs that on
Holy Thursday he who is troubled with any disease of the eyes shall go
to this well, and having thoroughly washed his eyes in its water,
shall drop a pin in it. The innkeeper there formerly found great
numbers of pins--a pint, in one instance--when cleaning out the well.
It had long been utterly neglected by the sole resident of the island,
whose house was a long distance from the well, at a point nearer the
main land; but pins were still discovered there from time to time.
There was in old days a chapel on this island; no vestige of it
remains. Tradition says that St. Barruc was buried there, and the now
barren and deserted islet appears to have been anciently a popular
place among the saints. St. Cadoc had one of his residences
there.[164] He was one day sitting on a hill-top in that island when
he saw the two saints Barruc and Gwalches drawing near in a boat, and
as he looked the boat was overturned by the wind. Both saints were
drowned, and Cadoc's manual book, which they had in the boat with
them, was lost in the sea. But when Cadoc proceeded to order his
dinner, a salmon was brought to him which being cut open was found to
have the missing manual book in its belly in an unimpaired condition.
Concerning another saint whose name was Barri, a wonderful story is
told that one day being on a visit to St. David he borrowed the
latter's horse and rode across the sea from Pembrokeshire to the Irish
coast. Many have supposed this Barri to be the same person as Barruc,
but they were two men.

This romantic island was anciently celebrated for certain ghastly
noises which were heard in it--sounds resembling the clanking of
chains, hammering of iron, and blowing of bellows--and which were
supposed to be made by the fiends whom Merlin had set to work to frame
the wall of brass to surround Carmarthen. So the noises and eruptions
of Etna and Stromboli were in ancient times ascribed to Typhon or
Vulcan. But in the case of Barry I have been unable, by any assistance
from imagination, to detect these mystic sounds in our day. Camden, in
his 'Britannica,' makes a like remark, but says the tradition was
universally prevalent. The judicious Malkin, however, thinks it
requires but a moderate stretch of fancy to create this cyclopean
imagery, when the sea at high tides is often in possession of cavities
under the very feet of the stranger, and its voice is at once modified
and magnified by confinement and repercussion.[165]


[164] 'Cambro-British Saints,' 336.

[165] Malkin's 'South Wales,' 132.


Another well whose specialty is warts is a small spring called Ffynon
Gwynwy, near Llangelynin church, Carnarvonshire. The pins used here
must be crooked in order to be efficacious. It is said that fifty
years ago the bottom of this little well was covered with pins; and
that everybody was careful not to touch them, fearing that the warts
deposited with the pins would grow upon their own hands if they did
so.[166] At present the well is overgrown with weeds, like that on
Barry Island.


[166] 'Arch. Camb.,' 3rd Se., xiii., 61.


The use of pins for purposes of enchantment is one of the most curious
features of popular superstition. Trivial as it appears to superficial
observation, it can be associated with a vast number of mystic rites
and ceremonials, and with times the most ancient. There is no doubt
that before the invention of pins in this country small pieces of
money were thrown into the well instead; indeed it was asserted by a
writer in the 'Archæologia Cambrensis' in 1856 that money was still
thrown into St. Tecla's well, by persons desirous of recovering from
fits. That the same practice prevailed among the Romans is shown by
Pliny, who speaks of the sacred spring of the Clitumnus, so pure and
clear that you may count the pieces of money that have been thrown
into it, and the shining pebbles at the bottom. And in connection with
the Welsh well of St. Elian there was formerly a box into which the
sick dropped money as they nowadays drop a pin into that well. This
box was called cyff-elian, and was in the form of a trunk studded with
nails, with an aperture in the top through which the money was
dropped. It is said to have got so full of coins that the parishioners
opened it, and with the contents purchased three farms. The
presentation of pins to the well, though now a meaningless rite on the
part of those who practice it, was originally intended as a
propitiatory offering to the evil spirit of the well. In some
instances the heathen faith is virtually restored, and the well
endowed with supernatural powers irrespective of the dedication of its
waters to a Christian saint. Indeed in the majority of cases where
these wells are now resorted to by the peasantry for any other than
curative purposes, the fetichistic impulse is much more conspicuous
than any influence associated with religious teaching.


St. Elian's is accounted the most dreadful well in Wales. It is in the
parish of Llanelian, Denbighshire. It is at the head of the cursing
wells, of which there are but few in the Principality, and holds still
a strong influence over the ignorant mind. The popular belief is that
you can 'put' your enemy 'into' this well, i.e., render him subject to
its evil influence, so that he will pine away and perhaps die unless
the curse be removed. The degree and nature of the curse can be
modified as the 'offerer' desires, so that the obnoxious person will
suffer aches and pains in his body, or troubles in his pocket--the
slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. The minister of the well
appears to be some heartless wretch residing in the neighbourhood,
whose services are enlisted for a small fee. The name of the person to
be 'put into' the well is registered in a book kept by the wretch
aforesaid, and a pin is cast into the well in his name, together with
a pebble inscribed with its initials. The person so cursed soon hears
of it, and the fact preys on his mind; he imagines for himself every
conceivable ill, and if gifted with a lively faith soon finds himself
reduced to a condition where he cannot rest till he has secured the
removal of the curse. This is effected by a reversal of the above
ceremonies--erasing the name, taking out the pebble, and otherwise
appeasing the spirit of the well. It is asserted that death has in
many instances resulted from the curse of this wickedly malicious


[167] 'Camb. Pop. Ant.,' 247. See also 'Arch. Camb.,' 1st Se., i. 46.


Occasionally the cursing powers of a well were synonymous with curing
powers. Thus a well much resorted to near Penrhos, was able to curse a
cancer, i.e., cure it. The sufferer washed in the water, uttering
curses upon the disease, and also dropping pins around the well. This
well has been drained by the unsympathizing farmer on whose land it
was, on account of the serious damage done to his crops by


Wells from which milk has flowed have been known in several places.
That Winifred's well indulged in this eccentricity on one occasion has
been noted. The well of St. Illtyd is celebrated for the like
performance. This well is in Glamorganshire, in the land called Gower,
near Swansea. It was about the nativity of John the Baptist, on the
fifth day of the week, in a year not specified, but certainly very
remote, that for three hours there flowed from this well a copious
stream of milk instead of water. That it was really milk we are not
left in any possible doubt, for 'many who were present testified that
while they were looking at the milky stream carefully and with
astonishment, they also saw among the gravel curds lying about in
every direction, and all around the edge of the well a certain fatty
substance floating about, such as is collected from milk, so that
butter can be made from it.'[168]

The origin of this well is a pleasing miracle, and recalls the story
of Canute; but while Canute's effort to command the sea was a failure
in the eleventh century, that of St. Illtyd five hundred years earlier
was a brilliant success. It appears that the saint was very pleasantly
established on an estate consisting of a field surrounded on all sides
by plains, with an intermediate grove, but was much afflicted by the
frequent overflowings of the sea upon his land. In vain he built and
rebuilt a very large embankment of mud mixed with stones, the rushing
waves burst through again and again. At last the saint's patience was
worn out, and he said, 'I will not live here any longer; I much wished
it, but troubled with this marine molestation, it is not in my power.
It destroys my buildings, it flows to the oratory which we built with
great labour.' However, the place was so convenient he was loth to
leave it, and he prayed for assistance. On the night before his
intended departure an angel came to him and bade him remain, and gave
him instructions for driving back the sea. Early in the morning Illtyd
went to the fluctuating sea and drove it back; it receded before him
'as if it were a sensible animal,' and left the shore dry. Then Illtyd
struck the shore with his staff, 'and thereupon flowed a very clear
fountain, which is also beneficial for curing diseases, and which
continues to flow without a falling off; and what is more wonderful,
although it is near the sea, the water emitted is pure.'[169]


[168] 'Arch. Camb.,' 1st Se., iii., 264.

[169] 'Cambro-British Saints,' 478.


Some of the Welsh mystic wells are so situated that they are at times
overflowed by the waters of the sea, or of a river. Taff's Well, in
Glamorganshire, a pleasant walk from Cardiff, is situated practically
in the bed of the river Taff. One must wade through running water to
reach it, except in the summer season, when the water in the river is
very low. A rude hut of sheet iron has been built over it. This well
is still noted for its merits in healing rheumatism and kindred
ailments. The usual stories are told of miraculous cures. A primitive
custom of the place is that when men are bathing at this well they
shall hang a pair of trousers outside the hut; women, in their turn,
must hang out a petticoat or bonnet.

At Newton Nottage, Glamorganshire, a holy well called Sanford's is so
situated that the water is regulated in the well by the ocean tides.
From time immemorial wondrous tales have been told of this well, how
it ebbs and flows daily in direct contrariety to the tidal ebb and
flow. The bottom of the well is below high-water mark on the beach,
where it has an outlet into the sea. At very low tides in the summer,
when the supply of water in the well is scanty, it becomes dry for an
hour or two after low water. When the ocean tide rises, the sea-water
banks up and drives back the fresh water, and the well fills again and
its water rises. The villagers are accustomed to let the well-water
rise through what they call the 'nostrils of the well,' and become
settled a little before they draw it. Of course this phenomenon has
been regarded as something supernatural by the ignorant for ages, and
upon the actual visible phenomena have been built a number of magical
details of a superstitious character.


The wide prevalence of some form of water-worship among Aryan peoples
is a fact of great significance. Superstitions in connection with
British wells are generally traceable to a Druidic origin. The worship
of natural objects in which the British Druids indulged, particularly
as regards rivers and fountains, probably had a connection with
traditions of the flood. When the early Christian preachers and
teachers encountered such superstitions among the people, they
carefully avoided giving unnecessary offence by scoffing at them; on
the contrary they preferred to adopt them, and to hallow them by
giving them Christian meanings. They utilized the old Druidic circles
as places of worship, chose young priests from among the educated
Druids, and consecrated to their own saints the mystic wells and
fountains. In this manner were continued practices the most ancient.
As time passed on, other wells were similarly sanctified, as the new
religion spread and parish churches were built. Disease and wickedness
being intimately associated in the popular mind--epileptics and like
sufferers being held to be possessed of devils, and even such vulgar
ills as warts and wens being considered direct results of some evil
deed, suffered or performed--so the waters of Christian baptism which
cleansed from sin, cleansed also from disease. Ultimately the virtue
of the waters came to be among the vulgar a thing apart from the rite
of baptism; the good was looked upon as dwelling in the waters
themselves, and the Christian rite as not necessarily an element in
the work of regeneration. The reader who will recall what has been
said in the chapter on changelings, in the first part of this volume,
will perceive a survival of the ancient creed herein, in the notion
that baptism is a preventive of fairy babe-thievery. Remembering that
the changeling notion is in reality nothing but a fanciful way of
accounting for the emaciation, ugliness, idiocy, bad temper--in a
word, the illness--of the child, it will be seen that the rite of
baptism, by curing the first manifestations of evil in the child's
system, was the orthodox means of preventing the fairies from working
their bad will on the poor innocent.


    Personal Attributes of Legendary Welsh Stones--Stone
    Worship--Canna's Stone Chair--Miraculous Removals of
    Stones--The Walking Stone of Eitheinn--The Thigh Stone--The
    Talking Stone in Pembrokeshire--The Expanding Stone--Magic
    Stones in the 'Mabinogion'--The Stone of Invisibility--The
    Stone of Remembrance--Stone Thief-catchers--Stones of
    Healing--Stones at Cross-roads--Memorials of King
    Arthur--Round Tables, Carns, Pots, etc.--Arthur's
    Quoits--The Gigantic Rock-tossers of Old--Mol Walbec and the
    Pebble in her Shoe--The Giant of Trichrug--Giants and the
    Mythology of the Heavens--The Legend of Rhitta Gawr.


In the traditions concerning Welsh stones, abundant personal
attributes are accorded them, such as in nature belong only to
animals. They were endowed with volition and with voice; they could
travel from place to place without mortal aid; they would move
uneasily when disturbed by human contact; they expanded and contracted
at will; they clung to people who touched them with profane or guilty
purpose; they possessed divers qualities which made them valuable to
their possessors, such as the power of rendering them invisible, or of
filling their pockets with gold. In pursuing the various accounts of
these stones in Welsh folk-lore we find ourselves now in fairyland,
now in the domains of mother church, now listening to legends of
enchantment, now to tales of saintly virtue, now giving ear to a
magician, now to a monk. Stone-worship, of which the existing
superstitions are remains, was so prevalent under the Saxon monarchy,
that it was forbidden by law in the reign of Edgar the Peaceable,
(ninth century,) and when Canute came, in the following century, he
also found it advisable to issue such a law. That this pagan worship
was practised from a time of which there is now no record, is not
questioned; and the perpetuation of certain features of this worship
by the early Christians was in spite of the laws promulgated for its
suppression by a Christian king. In this manner the monks were enabled
to draw to themselves the peasantry in whose breasts the ancient
superstition was strong, and who willingly substituted the new story
for the old, so long as the underlying belief was not rudely uprooted.


Among the existing stones in Wales with which the ancient ideas of
occult power are connected, one in Carmarthenshire is probably unique
of its kind. It is called Canna's Stone, and lies in a field adjoining
the old church of Llangan, now remote from the population whose
ancestors worshipped in it. The church was founded by an Armorican
lady of rank named Canna, who was sainted. The stone in question forms
a sort of chair, and was used in connection with a magic well called
Ffynon Canna, which is now, like the church, deserted and wretched.
Patients suffering from ague, in order to profit by its healing power,
must sit in the chair of Canna's stone, after drinking of the water.
If they could manage to sleep while in the chair, the effect of the
water was supposed to be made sure. The process was continued for some
days, sometimes for two or three weeks.

In the middle of this parish there is a field called Parc y Fonwent,
or the churchyard-field, where, according to local tradition, the
church was to have been originally built; but the stones brought to
the spot during the day were at night removed by invisible hands to
the site of the present church. Watchers in the dark heard the goblins
engaged in this work, and pronouncing in clear and correct Welsh these
words, 'Llangan, dyma'r fan,' which mean, 'Llangan, here is the spot.'

Similar miraculous removals of stones are reported and believed in
other parts of Wales. Sometimes visible goblins achieve the work;
sometimes the stones themselves possess the power of locomotion. The
old British historian Nennius[170] speaks of a stone, one of the
wonders of the Isle of Anglesea, which walks during the night in the
valley of Eitheinn. Being once thrown into the whirlpool Cerevus,
which is in the middle of the sea called Menai, it was on the morrow
found on the side of the aforesaid valley. Also in Builth is a heap of
stones, upon which is one stone bearing the impress of a dog's foot.
This was the famous dog of King Arthur, named Cabal, which left its
footprint on this stone when it hunted the swine Troynt. Arthur
himself gathered this heap of stones, with the magic stone upon it,
and called it Carn Cabal; and people who take away this stone in their
hands for the space of a day and a night cannot retain it, for it
returns itself to the heap. The Anglesea stone is also mentioned by
Giraldus, through whom it achieved celebrity under the name of Maen
Morddwyd, or the Thigh Stone--'a stone resembling a human thigh, which
possesses this innate virtue, that whatever distance it may be carried
it returns of its own accord the following night. Hugh, Earl of
Chester, in the reign of King Henry I., having by force occupied this
island and the adjacent country, heard of the miraculous power of this
stone, and for the purpose of trial ordered it to be fastened with
strong iron chains to one of a larger size and to be thrown into the
sea; on the following morning, however, according to custom, it was
found in its original position, on which account the Earl issued a
public edict that no one from that time should presume to move the
stone from its place. A countryman also, to try the powers of this
stone, fastened it to his thigh, which immediately became putrid, and
the stone returned to its original situation.'[171] This stone
ultimately lost its virtues, however, for it was stolen in the last
century and never came back.


[170] Harleian MSS., 3859.

[171] Sir R. C. Hoare's Giraldus, 'Itin. Camb.,' ii., 104.


The Talking Stone Llechlafar, or stone of loquacity, served as a
bridge over the river Alyn, bounding the churchyard of St. David's in
Pembrokeshire, on the northern side. It was a marble slab worn smooth
by the tread of many feet, and was ten feet long, six feet broad, and
one foot thick. Ancient tradition relates that one day 'when a corpse
was being carried over it for interment the stone broke forth into
speech, and by the effort cracked in the middle, which fissure is
still visible; and on account of this barbarous and ancient
superstition the corpses are no longer brought over it.'[172]

In this same parish of St. David's, there was a flight of steps
leading down to the sea, among which were a certain few which uttered
a miraculous sound, like the ringing of a bell. The story goes that in
ancient times a band of pirates landed there and robbed the chapel.
The bell they took away to sea with them, but as it was heavy they
rested it several times on their way, and ever since that day the
stones it rested upon have uttered these mysterious sounds when

Also in this parish is the renowned Expanding Stone, an excavation in
the rock of St. Gowan's chapel, which has the magic property of
adapting itself to the size of the person who gets into it, growing
smaller for a small man and larger for a large one. Among its many
virtues was that if a person got into it and made a wish, and did not
change his mind while turning about, the wish would come true. The
original fable relates that this hollow stone was once solid; that a
saint closely pursued by Pagan persecutors sought shelter of the rock,
which thereupon opened and received him, concealing him till the
danger was over and then obligingly letting him out.

This stone may probably be considered as the monkish parallel for the
magic stones which confer on their possessor invisibility, as we find
them in the romances of enchantment. In the 'Mabinogion' such stones
are frequently mentioned, usually in the favourite form of a gem set
within a ring. 'Take this ring,' says the damsel with yellow curling
hair,[173] 'and put it on thy finger, with the stone inside thy hand;
and close thy hand upon the stone. And as long as thou concealest it,
it will conceal thee.' But when it is found, as we find in following
these clues further, that this Stone of Invisibility was one of the
Thirteen Rarities of Kingly Regalia of the Island of Britain; that it
was formerly kept at Caerleon, in Monmouthshire, the city whence St.
David journeyed into Pembrokeshire; and that it is mentioned in the
Triads thus: 'The Stone of the Ring of Luned, which liberated Owen the
son of Urien from between the portcullis and the wall; whoever
concealed that stone the stone or bezel would conceal him,' the strong
probability appears that we are dealing with one and the same myth in
the tale of magic and in the monkish legend. Traced back to a period
more remote than that with which these Welsh stories ostensibly deal,
we should find their prototype in the ring of Gyges.

The Stone of Remembrance is another stone mentioned in the
'Mabinogion,' also a jewel, endowed with valuable properties which it
imparts not merely to its wearer, but to any one who looks upon it.
'Rhonabwy,' says Iddawc to the enchanted dreamer on the yellow
calf-skin, 'dost thou see the ring with a stone set in it, that is
upon the Emperor's hand?' 'I see it,' he answered. 'It is one of the
properties of that stone to enable thee to remember that thou seest
here to-night, and hadst thou not seen the stone, thou wouldst never
have been able to remember aught thereof.'[174] Still another stone of
rare good qualities is that which Peredur gave to Etlym, in reward for
his attendance,[175] the stone which was on the tail of a serpent, and
whose virtues were such that whosoever should hold it in one hand, in
the other he would have as much gold as he might desire. Peredur
having vanquished the serpent and possessed himself of the stone,
immediately gave it away, in that spirit of lavish free-handedness
which so commonly characterizes the heroes of chivalric British


[172] Ibid., ii., 8.

[173] Lady Charlotte Guest's 'Mabinogion,' 13.

[174] Lady Charlotte Guest's 'Mabinogion,' 303.

[175] Ibid., 111.


In the church of St. David's of Llanfaes, according to Giraldus, was
preserved among the relics a stone which caught a thieving boy in the
act of robbing a pigeon's nest, and held him fast for three days and
nights. Only by assiduous and long-continued prayer were the unhappy
boy's parents able to get him loose from the terrible stone, and the
marks of his five fingers remained ever after impressed upon it, so
that all might see them. There was a stone of similar proclivities in
the valley of Mowddwy, which did good service for the church. A
certain St. Tydecho, a relation of King Arthur, who slept on a blue
rock in this valley, was persecuted by Maelgwn Gwynedd. One day this
wicked knight came with a pack of white dogs to hunt in that
neighbourhood, and sat down upon the saint's blue stone. When he
endeavoured to get up he found himself fastened to his seat so that he
could not stir, in a manner absurdly suggestive of French farces; and
he was obliged to make up matters with the saint. He ceased to
persecute the good man, and to make amends for the past gave him the
privilege of sanctuary for a hundred ages.[176]


[176] 'Celtic Remains,' 420. (Printed for the Cambrian Arch. Soc.,
London, 1878.)


As for Stones of Healing, with qualities resembling those abiding in
certain wells, they appear in many shapes. Now it is a maenhir,
against which the afflicted peasant must rub himself; now it is a
pebble which he must carry in his pocket. The inevitable wart
reappears in this connection; the stone which cures the wart is found
by the roadside, wrapped in a bit of paper, and dropped on a
cross-road; to him who picks it up the wart is transferred. Children
in Pembrokeshire will not at the present day pick up a small parcel on
a cross-road, suspecting the presence of the wart-bearing stone. In
Carmarthen are still to be found traces of a belief in the Alluring
Stone, whose virtue is that it will cure hydrophobia. It is
represented as a soft white stone, about the size of a man's head,
originally found on a farm called Dysgwylfa, about twelve miles from
Carmarthen town. Grains were scraped from the stone with a knife, and
administered to the person who had been bitten by a rabid dog; and a
peculiarity of the stone was that though generation after generation
had scraped it, nevertheless it did not diminish in size. A woman who
ate of this miraculous stone, after having been bitten by a suspicious
cur, testified that it caused 'a boiling in her blood.' The stone was
said to have fallen from the sky in the first instance.


Stones standing at cross-roads are seldom without some superstitious
legend. A peasant pointed out to me, on a mountain-top near Crumlyn,
Monmouthshire, a cross-roads stone, beneath which, he asserted, a
witch sleeps by day, coming forth at night. 'Least they was say so,'
he explained, with a nervous look about him, 'but there you! _I_ was
never see anything, an' I was pass by there many nights--yes, indeed,
often.' The man's eagerness to testify against the truth of the
tradition was one of the most impressive illustrations possible of
lingering superstitious awe in this connection.

A famous Welsh witch, who used to sleep under a stone at Llanberis, in
North Wales, was called Canrig Bwt, and her favourite dish at dinner
was children's brains. A certain criminal who had received a
death-sentence was given the alternative of attacking this frightful
creature, his life to be spared should he succeed in destroying her.
Arming himself with a sharp sword, the doomed man got upon the stone
and called on Canrig to come out. 'Wait till I have finished eating
the brains in this sweet little skull,' was her horrible answer.
However, forth she came presently, when the valiant man cut off her
head at a blow. To this day they scare children thereabout with the
name of Canrig Bwt.


In every part of Wales one encounters the ancient memorials of King
Arthur--sometimes to be dimly connected with the historical character,
but more often with the mythical figure--each with its legend, or its
bundle of legends, poetic, patriotic, or superstitious. Arthur's Round
Table at Caerleon, Monmouthshire, is as well known to every boy in the
neighbourhood as any inn or shop of the village. It is a grass-grown
Roman amphitheatre, whence alabaster statues of Adrian's day have been
disinterred. There is also an Arthur's Round Table in Denbighshire, a
flat-topped hill thus called, and in Anglesea another, near the
village of Llanfihangel. Arthur's Seat, Arthur's Bed, Arthur's Castle,
Arthur's Stone, Arthur's Hill, Arthur's Quoit, Arthur's Board,
Arthur's Carn, Arthur's Pot--these are but a few of the well-known
cromlechs, rocking-stones, or natural objects to be found in various
neighbourhoods. They are often in duplicates, under these names, but
they never bear such titles by other authority than traditions
reaching back into the dark ages. Some of the stories and
superstitions which attach to them are striking, and of the most
fascinating interest to the student of folk-lore; others are merely
grotesque, as in the case of Arthur's Pot. This is under a cromlech at
Dolwillim, on the banks of the Tawe, and in the stream itself when the
water is high; it is a circular hole of considerable depth, accurately
bored in the stone by the action of the water. This hole is called
Arthur's Pot, and according to local belief was made by Merlin for
the hero king to cook his dinner in. Arthur's Quoits are found in many
parts of the country. A large rock in the bed of the Sawdde river, on
the Llangadock side of Mynydd Du, (the Black Mountain,) is one of
these quoits. The story is that the king one day flung it from the
summit of Pen Arthur, a mile away. There is another large rock beside
it, which was similarly flung down by a lady of Arthur's acquaintance,
whose gigantic proportions may be guessed from the fact that this
boulder was a pebble in her shoe, which annoyed her.


Upon this hint there opens out before the inquirer a wealth of
incident and illustration, in connection with gigantic Britons of old
time who hurled huge rocks about as pebbles. There is the story of the
giant Idris, who dwelt upon Cader Idris, and who found no less a
number than three troublesome pebbles in his shoe as he was out
walking one day, and who tossed them down where they lie on the road
from Dolgelley to Machynlleth, three bulky crags. There are several
legends about Mol Walbec's pebbles in Breconshire. This lusty dame has
a full score of shadowy castles on sundry heights in that part of
Wales; and she is said to have built the castle of Hay in one night.
In performing this work she carried the stones in her apron; one of
these--a pebble about a foot thick and nine feet long--fell into her
shoe. At first she did not notice it, but by-and-by it began to annoy
her, and she plucked it out and threw it into Llowes churchyard, three
miles away, where it now lies. In many parts of Wales where lie rude
heaps of stones, the peasantry say they were carried there by a witch
in her apron.

The gigantic creatures whose dimensions are indicated by these stones
reappear continually in Welsh folk-lore. Arthur is merely the greatest
among them; all were of prodigious proportions. Hu Gadarn, Cadwaladr,
Rhitta Gawr, Brutus, Idris, are all members of the shadowy race whose
'quoits' and 'pebbles' are scattered about Wales. The remains at
Stonehenge have been from time immemorial called by the Cymry the Côr
Gawr, Circle or Dance of Giants. How the Carmarthen enchanter, Merlin,
transported these stones hither from Killara mountain in Ireland by
his magic art, everybody knows. It is only necessary that a stone
should be of a size to make the idea of removing it an apparently
hopeless one--that Merlin or some other magician brought it there by
enchantment, or that Arthur or some other giant tossed it there with
his mighty arm, is a matter of course.[177] The giant of Trichrug, (a
fairy haunt in Cardiganshire,) appears to have been the champion
pebble-tosser of Wales, if local legend may be trusted. Having invited
the neighbouring giants to try their strength with him in throwing
stones, he won the victory by tossing a huge rock across the sea into
Ireland. His grave is traditionally reported to be on that mountain,
and to possess the same properties as the Expanding Stone, for it fits
any person who lies down in it, be he tall or short. It has the
further virtue of imparting extraordinary strength to any one lying in
it; but if he gets into it with arms upon his person they will be
taken from him and he will never see them more.


[177] It is noteworthy that most of the great stones of these legends
appear to have really been transported to the place where they are now
found, being often of a different rock than that of the immediate
locality. To what extent the legends express the first vague
inductions of early geological observers, is a question not without


The gigantic stone-tossers of Wales associate themselves without
effort with the mythology of the heavens. One of their chiefest,
Idris, was indeed noted as an astrologer, and is celebrated as such in
the Triads:

    Idris Gawr, or the Giant Idris;
    Gwydion, or the Diviner by Trees;
    Gwyn, the Son of Nudd, the Generous;
    So great was their knowledge of the stars, that they could foretell
            whatever might be desired to be known until the day of doom.

And among Welsh legends none is more familiar than that of Rhitta
Gawr, wherein the stars are familiarly spoken of as cows and sheep,
and the firmament as their pasture.


    Early Inscribed Stones--The Stone Pillar of Banwan Bryddin,
    near Neath--Catastrophe accompanying its Removal--The
    Sagranus Stone and the White Lady--The Dancing Stones of
    Stackpool--Human Beings changed to Stones--St. Ceyna and the
    Serpents--The Devil's Stone at Llanarth--Rocking Stones and
    their accompanying Superstitions--The Suspended Altar of
    Loin-Garth--Cromlechs and their Fairy Legends--The Fairies'
    Castle at St. Nicholas, Glamorganshire--The Stone of the
    Wolf Bitch--The Welsh Melusina--Parc-y-Bigwrn
    Cromlech--Connection of these Stones with Ancient Druidism.


Paleographic students are more or less familiar with about seventy
early inscribed stones in Wales. The value of these monuments, as
corroborative evidence of historical facts, in connection with waning
popular traditions, is well understood. Superstitious prejudice is
particularly active in connection with stones of this kind. The
peasantry view them askance, and will destroy them if not restrained,
as they usually are, by fear of evil results to themselves.
Antiquaries have often reason to thank superstition for the existence
in our day of these ancient monuments. But there is a sort of
progressive movement towards enlightenment which carries the Welsh
farmer from the fearsome to the destructive stage, in this connection.
That dangerous thing, a little knowledge, sometimes leads its imbiber
beyond the reach of all fear of the guardian fairy or demon of the
stone, yet leaves him still so superstitious regarding it that he
believes its influence to be baleful, and its destruction a sort of
duty. It was the common opinion of the peasantry of the parish in
which it stood, that whoever happened to read the inscription on the
Maen Llythyrog, an early inscribed stone on the top of a mountain near
Margam Abbey, in Glamorganshire, would die soon after. In many
instances the stones are believed to be transformed human beings,
doomed to this guise for some sin, usually an act of sacrilege.
Beliefs of this character would naturally be potent in influencing
popular feeling against the stones. But on the other hand, however
desirable might be their extinction, there would be perils involved,
which one would rather his neighbour than himself should encounter.
Various awful consequences, but especially the most terrific storms
and disturbances of the earth, followed any meddling with them.

At Banwan Bryddin, a few miles from Neath, a stone pillar inscribed
'MARCI CARITINI FILII BERICII,' long stood on a tumulus which by the
peasants was considered a fairy ring. The late Lady Mackworth caused
this stone to be removed to a grotto she was constructing on her
grounds, and which she was ornamenting with all the curious stones she
could collect. An old man who was an under-gardener on her estate, and
who abounded with tales of goblins, declaring he had often had
intercourse with these strange people, told the Rev. Mr. Williams of
Tir-y-Cwm, that he had always known this act of sacrilege would not go
unpunished by the guardians of the stone. He had more than once seen
these sprites dancing of an evening in the rings of Banwan Bryddin,
where the 'wonder stone' stood, but never since the day the stone was
removed had any mortal seen them. Upon the stone, he said, were
written mysterious words in the fairy language, which no one had ever
been able to comprehend, not even Lady Mackworth herself. When her
ladyship removed the stone to Gnoll Gardens the fairies were very
much annoyed; and the grotto, which cost Lady Mackworth thousands of
pounds to build, was no sooner finished than one night, Duw'n catwo
ni! there was such thunder and lightning as never was heard or seen in
Glamorganshire before; and next morning the grotto was gone! The hill
had fallen over it and hidden it for ever. 'Iss indeed,' said the old
man, 'and woe will fall on the Cymro or the Saeson that will dare to
clear the earth away. I myself, and others who was there, was hear the
fairies laughing loud that night, after the storm has cleared away.'


The Sagranus Stone at St. Dogmell's, Pembrokeshire, was formerly used
as a bridge over a brook not far from where it at present
stands--luckily with its inscribed face downwards, so that the
sculpture remained unharmed while generations were tramping over it.
During its use as a bridge it bore the reputation of being haunted by
a white lady, who was constantly seen gliding over it at the witching
hour of midnight. No man or woman could be induced to touch the
strange stone after dark, and its supernatural reputation no doubt
helped materially in its preservation unharmed till the present time.
It is considered on paleographic grounds to be of the fourth century.

In Pembrokeshire also are found the famous Dancing Stones of
Stackpool. These are three upright stones standing about a mile from
each other, the first at Stackpool Warren, the second further to the
west, on a stone tumulus in a field known as Horestone Park, and the
third still further westward. One of many traditions concerning them
is to the effect that on a certain day they meet and come down to
Sais's Ford to dance, and after their revel is over return home and
resume their places.


There is a curious legend regarding three stones which once stood on
the top of Moelfre Hill, in Carnarvonshire, but which were long ago
rolled to the bottom of the hill by 'some idle-headed youths' who dug
them up. They were each about four feet high, standing as the corners
of a triangle; one was red as blood, another white, and the third a
pale blue. The tradition says that three women, about the time when
Christianity first began to be known in Britain, went up Moelfre Hill
on a Sabbath morning to winnow their corn. They had spread their
winnowing sheet upon the ground and begun their work, when some of
their neighbours came to them and reprehended them for working on the
Lord's day. But the women, having a greater eye to their worldly
profit than to the observance of the fourth commandment, made light of
their neighbours' words, and went on working. Thereupon they were
instantly transformed into three pillars of stone, each stone of the
same colour as the dress of the woman in whose place it stood, one
red, one white, and the third bluish.

Legends of the turning to stone of human beings occur in connection
with many of the meini hirion (long stones). Near Llandyfrydog,
Anglesea, there is a maenhir of peculiar shape. From one point of view
it looks not unlike the figure of a humpbacked man, and it is called
'Carreg y Lleidr,' or the Robber's Stone. The tradition connected with
it is that a man who had stolen the church Bible, and was carrying it
away on his shoulder, was turned into this stone, and must stand here
till the last trump sets him free.

At Rolldritch (Rhwyldrech?) there is or was a circle of stones,
concerning which tradition held that they were the human victims of a
witch who, for some offence, transformed them to this shape. In
connection with this circle is preserved another form of superstitious
belief very often encountered, namely, that the number of stones in
the circle cannot be correctly counted by a mortal.[178]

It is noteworthy that the only creature which shares with man the grim
fate of being turned to stone, in Welsh legends, is the serpent. The
monkish account of St. Ceyna, one of the daughters of Prince Brychan,
of Breconshire, relates that having consecrated her virginity to the
Lord by a perpetual vow, she resolved to seek some desert place where
she could give herself wholly up to meditation. So she journeyed
beyond the river Severn, 'and there meeting a woody place, she made
her request to the prince of that country that she might be permitted
to serve God in that solitude. His answer was that he was very willing
to grant her request, but that the place did so swarm with serpents
that neither man nor beast could inhabit it. But she replied that her
firm trust was in the name and assistance of Almighty God to drive all
that poisonous brood out of that region. Hereupon the place was
granted to the holy virgin, who, prostrating herself before God,
obtained of him to change the serpents and vipers into stones. And to
this day the stones in that region do resemble the windings of
serpents, through all the fields and villages, as if they had been
framed by the hand of the sculptor.' The scene of this legend is
mentioned by Camden as being at a place near Bristol, called Keynsham,
'where abundance of that fossil called by the naturalists Cornu
Ammonis is dug up.'


[178] Roberts, 'Camb. Pop. Ant.,' 220.


Our old friend the devil is once more to the fore when we encounter
the inscribed stone of the twelfth century, which stands in the
churchyard of Llanarth, near Aberaeron, in Cardiganshire. A cross
covers this stone, with four circular holes at the junction of the
arms. The current tradition of the place regarding it is that one
stormy night, there was such a tremendous noise heard in the belfry
that the whole village was thrown into consternation. It was finally
concluded that nobody but the diawl could be the cause of this, and
therefore the people fetched his reverence from the vicarage to go and
request the intruder to depart. The vicar went up into the belfry,
with bell, book, and candle, along the narrow winding stone staircase,
and, as was anticipated, there among the bells he saw the devil in
person. The good man began the usual 'Conjurate in nomine,' etc., when
the fiend sprang up and mounted upon the leads of the tower. The vicar
was not to be balked, however, and boldly followed up the remainder of
the staircase and got also out upon the leads. The devil finding
himself hard pressed, had nothing for it but to jump over the
battlements of the tower. He came down plump among the gravestones
below, and falling upon one, made with his hands and knees the four
holes now visible on the stone in question, which among the country
people still bears the name of the Devil's Stone.


The logan stones in various parts of Wales, which vibrate mysteriously
under the touch of a child's finger, and rock violently at a push from
a man's stronger hand, are also considered by the superstitious a
favourite resort of the fairies and the diawl. The holy aerolite to
which unnumbered multitudes bow down at Mecca is indeed no stranger
thing than the rocking-stone on Pontypridd's sky-perched common. Among
the marvellous stones in Nennius is one concerning a certain altar in
Loin-Garth, in Gower, 'suspended by the power of God,' which he says a
legend tells us was brought thither in a ship along with the dead body
of some holy man who desired to be buried near St. Illtyd's grave, and
to remain unknown by name, lest he should become an object of too
reverent regard; for Illtyd dwelt in a cave there, the mouth of which
faced the sea in those days; and having received this charge, he
buried the corpse, and built a church over it, enclosing the wonderful
altar, which testified by more than one astounding miracle the Divine
power which sustained it. This is thought to be a myth relating to
some Welsh rocking-stone no longer known. The temptation to throw down
stones of this character has often been too much for the
destruction-loving vulgarian, both in Wales and in other parts of the
British islands; but the offenders have seldom been the local
peasantry, who believe that the guardians of the stone--the fairies or
the diawl, as the case may be--will heavily avenge its overthrow on
the overthrowers.



Venerable in their hoary antiquity stand those monuments of a
long-vanished humanity, the cromlechs which are so numerous in Wales,
sharing with the logan and the inscribed stone the peasant's
superstitious interest. Even more than the others, these solemn rocks
are surrounded with legends of enchantment. They figure in many
fairy-tales like that of the shepherd of Frennifawr, who stood
watching their mad revelry about the old cromlech, where they were
dancing, making music on the harp, and chasing their companions in
hilarious sort. That the fairies protect the cromlechs with special
care, as they also do the logans and others, is a belief the Welsh
peasant shares with the superstitious in many lands. There is a
remarkable cromlech near the hamlet of St. Nicholas, Glamorganshire,
on the estate of the family whose house has the honour of being
haunted by the ghost of an admiral. This cromlech is called, by
children in that neighbourhood, 'Castle Correg.' A Cardiff gentleman
who asked some children who were playing round the cromlech, what they
termed it, was struck by the name, which recalled to him the Breton
fairies thus designated.[179] The korreds and korregs of Brittany
closely resemble the Welsh fairies in numberless details. The korreds
are supposed to live in the cromlechs, of which they are believed to
have been the builders. They dance around them at night, and woe
betide the unhappy peasant who joins them in their roundels.[180] Like
beliefs attach to cromlechs in the Haute Auvergne, and other parts of
France. A cromlech at Pirols, said to have been built by a fée, is
composed of seven massive stones, the largest being twelve feet long
by eight and a half feet wide. The fée carried these stones hither
from a great distance, and set them up; and the largest and heaviest
one she carried on the top of her spindle, and so little was she
incommoded by it that she continued to spin all the way.[181]


[179] Mr. J. W. Lukis, in an address before the Cardiff Nat. Soc. in
July, 1874.

[180] Keightley, 'Fairy Mythology,' 432.

[181] Cambry, 'Monuments Celtiques,' 232.


Among the Welsh peasantry the cromlechs are called by a variety of
names, one interesting group giving in Cardiganshire 'the Stone of the
Bitch,' in Glamorganshire 'the Stone of the Greyhound Bitch,' in
Carmarthenshire and in Monmouthshire 'the Kennel of the Greyhound
Bitch,' and in some other parts of Wales 'the Stone of the Wolf
Bitch.' These names refer to no fact of modern experience; they are
legendary. The Cambrian form of the story of Melusina is before us
here, with differing details. The wolf-bitch of the Welsh legend was a
princess who for her sins was transformed to that shape, and thus long
remained. Her name was Gast Rhymhi, and she had two cubs while a
wolf-bitch, with which she dwelt in a cave. After long suffering in
this wretched guise, she and her cubs were restored to their human
form 'for Arthur,' who sought her out. The unfortunate Melusina, it
will be remembered, was never entirely robbed of her human form.

    'Ange par la figure, et serpent par le reste,'

she was condemned by the lovely fay Pressina to become a serpent from
the waist downwards, on every Saturday, till she should meet a man who
would marry her under certain specified conditions. The monkish touch
is on the Welsh legend, in the medieval form in which we have it in
the Mabinogi of 'Kilhwch and Olwen.' The princess is transformed into
a wolf-bitch 'for her sins,' and when restored, although it is for
Arthur, 'God did change' her to a woman again.[182]


[182] 'Mabinogion,' 259.


In a field called Parc-y-Bigwrn, near Llanboidy, Carmarthenshire, are
the remains of a cromlech destroyed many years ago, concerning which
an old man named John Jones related a superstitious tale. It was to
the effect that there were ten men engaged in the work of throwing it
down, and that when they were touching the stone they became filled
with awe; and moreover, as the stone was being drawn away by six
horses the road was suddenly rent asunder in a supernatural manner.
This is a frequent phenomenon supposed by the Welsh peasantry to
accompany the attempt to move a cromlech. Another common catastrophe
is the breaking down of the waggon--not from the weight of the stone,
but through the displeasure of its goblin guardians. Sometimes this
awful labour is accompanied by fierce storms of hail and wind, or
violent thunder and lightning; sometimes by mysterious noises, or
swarms of bees which are supposed to be fairies in disguise.


A very great number of fanciful legends might be related in connection
with stones of striking shape, or upon which there are peculiar marks
and figures; but enough of this store of folk-lore has been given to
serve present ends. If more were detailed, there would in all cases be
found a family resemblance to the legends which have been presented,
and which lead us now into the enchanted country where Arthur reigns,
now wandering among the monkish records of church and abbey, now to
the company of the dwarfs and giants of fairyland. That the British
Druids regarded many of these stones with idolatrous reverence, is
most probable. Some of them, as the cromlechs and logans, they no
doubt employed in their mystic rites, as being symbols of the dimly
descried Power they worshipped. Of their extreme antiquity there is no
question. The rocking-stones may be considered natural objects, though
they were perhaps assisted to their remarkable poise by human hands.
The cromlechs were originally sepulchral chambers, unquestionably, but
they are so old that neither history nor tradition gives any aid in
assigning the date of their erection. Opinions that they were once
pulpits of sun-worship, or Druidic altars of sacrifice, are not
unwarranted, perhaps, though necessarily conjectural. The evidence
that the inscribed stones are simply funeral monuments, is extensive
and conclusive. Originally erected in honour of some great chief or
warrior, they were venerated by the people, and became shrines about
which the latter gathered in a spirit of devotion. With the lapse of
ages, the warrior was forgotten; even the language in which he was
commemorated decayed, and the marks on the stones became to the
peasantry meaningless hieroglyphics, to which was given a mysterious
and awful significance; and so for unnumbered centuries the tombstone
remained an object of superstitious fear and veneration.


    Baleful Spirits of Storm--The Shower at the Magic
    Fountain--Obstacles in the way of Treasure-Seekers--The Red
    Lady of Paviland--The Fall of Coychurch Tower--Thunder and
    Lightning evoked by Digging--The Treasure-Chest under Moel
    Arthur in the Vale of Clwyd--Modern Credulity--The Cavern of
    the Ravens--The Eagle-guarded Coffer of Castell
    Coch--Sleeping Warriors as Treasure-Guarders--The Dragon
    which St. Samson drove out of Wales--Dragons in the
    Mabinogion--Whence came the Red Dragon of Wales?--The
    Original Dragon of Mythology--Prototypes of the Welsh
    Caverns and Treasure-Hills--The Goblins of Electricity.


In the prominent part played by storm--torrents of rain, blinding
lightning, deafening thunder--in legends of disturbed cromlechs, and
other awful stones, is involved the ancient belief that these elements
were themselves baleful spirits, which could be evoked by certain
acts. They were in the service of fiends and fairies, and came at
their bidding to avenge the intrusion of venturesome mortals, daring
to meddle with sacred things. This fascinating superstition is
preserved in numberless Welsh legends relating to hidden treasures,
buried under cromlechs or rocky mounds, or in caverns. In the
'Mabinogion' it appears in the enchanted barrier to the Castle of the
Lady of the Fountain. Under a certain tall tree in the midst of a wide
valley there was a fountain, 'and by the side of the fountain a marble
slab, and on the marble slab a silver bowl, attached by a chain of
silver, so that it may not be carried away. Take the bowl and throw a
bowlful of water on the slab,' says the black giant of the wood to
Sir Kai, 'and thou wilt hear a mighty peal of thunder, so that thou
wilt think that heaven and earth are trembling with its fury. With the
thunder there will come a shower so severe that it will be scarce
possible for thee to endure it and live. And the shower will be of
hailstones; and after the shower the weather will become fair, but
every leaf that was upon the tree will have been carried away by the
shower.'[183] Of course the knight dares this awful obstacle, throws
the bowlful of water upon the slab, receives the terrible storm upon
his shield, and fights the knight who owned the fountain, on his
coming forth. Sir Kai is worsted, and returns home to Arthur's court;
whereupon Sir Owain takes up the contest. He sallies forth, evokes the
storm, encounters the black knight, slays him, and becomes master of
all that was his--his castle, his lands, his wife, and all his

The peasant of to-day who sets out in quest of hidden treasures evokes
the avenging storm in like manner. Sometimes the treasure is in the
ground, under a cromlech or a carn; he digs, and the thunder shakes
the air, the lightnings flash, torrents descend, and he is frustrated
in his search. Again, the treasure is in a cavern, guarded by a
dragon, which belches forth fire upon him and scorches his eyeballs.
Welsh folk-lore is full of legends of this character; and the curious
way in which science and religion sometimes get mixed up with these
superstitions is most suggestive--as in the cases of the falling of
Coychurch tower, and the Red Lady of Paviland. The latter is the name
given a skeleton found by Dr. Buckland in his exploration of the
Paviland caves, the bones of which were stained by red oxide of iron.
The vulgar belief is that the Red Lady was entombed in the cave by a
storm while seeking treasure there--a legend the truth of which no one
can dispute with authority, since the bones are certainly of a period
contemporary with the Roman rule in this island. Coins of Constantine
were found in the same earth, cemented with fragments of charcoal and
bone ornaments. In the case of Coychurch tower, it undoubtedly fell
because it was undermined by a contractor who had the job of removing
certain defunct forefathers from their graves near its base. Some
eighteen hundred skulls were taken from the ground and carted off to a
hole on the east side of the church. But the country folk pooh-pooh
the idea that the tower fell for any reason other than sheer
indignation and horror at the disturbance of this hallowed ground by
utilitarian pickaxe and spade. They call your attention to the fact
that not only did the venerable tower come crashing down, after having
stood for centuries erect, but that in falling it struck to the earth
St. Crallo's cross--an upright stone in the churchyard as venerable as
itself--breaking it all to pieces.


[183] 'Mabinogion,' 8.


A hollow in the road near Caerau, in Cardiganshire, 'rings when any
wheeled vehicle goes over it.' Early in this century, two men having
been led to believe that there were treasures hidden there (for a
fairy in the semblance of a gipsy had appeared and thrown out hints on
the fascinating subject from time to time), made up their minds to dig
for it. They dug accordingly until they came, by their solemn
statement, to the oaken frame of a subterranean doorway; and feeling
sure now, that they had serious work before them, prepared for the
same by going to dinner. They had no sooner gone than a terrible storm
arose; the rain fell in torrents, the thunder pealed and the lightning
flashed. When they went back to their work, the hole they had digged
was closed up; and nothing would convince them that this was done by
any other than a supernatural agency. Moreover, but a little above the
place where they were, there had been no rain at all.[184]


[184] 'Arch. Camb.' 3rd Se., ix., 306.


There is a current belief among the peasants about Moel Arthur--a
mountain overlooking the Vale of Clwyd--that treasure, concealed in an
iron chest with a ring-handle to it, lies buried there. The place of
concealment is often illuminated at night by a supernatural light.
Several people thereabouts are known to have seen the light, and there
are even men who will tell you that bold adventurers have so far
succeeded as to grasp the handle of the iron chest, when an outburst
of wild tempest wrested it from their hold and struck them senseless.
Local tradition points out the place as the residence of an ancient
prince, and as a spot charmed against the spade of the antiquary.
'Whoever digs there,' said an old woman in Welsh to some men going
home from their work on this spot, after a drenching wet day, 'is
always driven away by thunder and lightning and storm; you have been
served like everybody else who has made the attempt.'


So prevalent are superstitions of this class even in the present day
that cases get into the newspapers now and then. The 'Herald Cymraeg'
of September 25, 1874, gave an account of some excavations made at
Pant-y-Saer cromlech, Anglesea, by the instigation of John Jones of
Llandudno, 'a brother of Isaac Jones, the present tenant of
Pant-y-Saer,' at the time on a visit to the latter. The immediately
exciting cause of the digging was a dream in which the dreamer was
told that there was a pot of treasure buried within the cromlech's
precincts. The result was the revelation of a large number of human
bones, among them five lower jaws with the teeth sound; but no crochan
aur (pitcher of gold) turned up, and the digging was abandoned in
disgust. Is it credible that between this account and the following
yawns the gulf of seven hundred years? Thus Giraldus: In the province
of Kemeys, one of the seven cantrefs of Pembrokeshire, 'during the
reign of King Henry I., a rich man who had a residence on the northern
side of the Preseleu mountains was warned for three successive nights
by dreams that if he put his hand under a stone which hung over the
spring of a neighbouring well called the Fountain of St. Bernacus, he
should find there a golden chain; obeying the admonition, on the third
day he received from a viper a deadly wound in his finger; but as it
appears that many treasures have been discovered through dreams, it
seems to me probable that some ought and some ought not to be


[185] Sir R. C. Hoare's Giraldus, 'Itin. Camb.' ii., 37.


In a certain cavern in Glamorganshire, called the Ogof Cigfrain, or
Cavern of the Ravens, is said to be a chest of gold, watched over by
two birds of gloomy plumage, in a darkness so profound that nothing
can be seen but the fire of their sleepless eyes. To go there with
the purpose of disturbing them is to bring on a heaving and rolling of
the ground, accompanied by thunder and lightning. A swaggering drover
from Brecknockshire, though warned by a 'dark woman' that he had
better not try it, sneered that 'a couple of ravens were a fine matter
to be afraid of indeed!' and ventured into the cavern, with a long
rope about his waist, and a lantern in his hand. Some men who
accompanied him (seeing that he was bent on this rash and dangerous
emprise,) held the coil of rope, and paid it out as he went further
and further in. The result was prompt and simple: the sky cracked with
loud bursts of thunder and flashes of lightning, and the drover roared
with affright and rushed out of the dark cavern with his hair on end.
No coaxing ever prevailed on him to reveal the terrible sights he had
seen; when questioned he would only repeat in Welsh the advice of
'Punch' to those about to marry, viz., 'Peidiwch!'


In the legend of Castell Coch, instead of a raven it is a pair of huge
eagles which watch the treasure. Castell Coch is an easy and pleasant
two hours' walk from Cardiff Castle, with which it is vulgarly
believed to be connected by a subterranean passage. A short time
ago--well, to be precise, a hundred years ago, but that is no time at
all in the history of Castell Coch, which was a crumbling ruin then as
it is now[186]--in or about the year 1780, a reduced lady was allowed
to fit up three or four rooms in the ruin as a residence, and to live
there with two old servants of her house. One night this lady was
awakened from her sleep to receive the visit of a venerable ghost in
a full dress-suit of an earlier century, who distressed her by his
troubled countenance and vexed her by his eccentric behaviour, for
when she spoke to him from the depths of her nightcap he at once got
through the wall. He came on subsequent nights so often, and
frightened the servants so much by the noise he made--in getting
through the wall, of course--that the lady gave up her strange abode,
and was glad to pay house rent ever after in other parts. This old
ghost was in the flesh proprietor of the castle, it appears, and
during the civil wars buried an iron chest full of gold in the
subterranean passage--which is still there, guarded by two large
eagles. A party of gentlemen who somewhere about 1800 attempted to
explore the passage saw the eagles, and were attacked by the birds of
freedom so fiercely that they retreated in disorder. Subsequently they
returned with pistols and shot the eagles, which resented this
trifling impertinence by tearing the treasure-seekers in a shocking
manner. After having recovered from their wounds, the determined
Welshmen renewed the attack--this time with silver bullets, which they
had got blessed by a good-natured priest. The bullets rattled
harmlessly on the feathers of the terrible birds; the ground shook
under foot; rain descended in torrents; with their great wings the
eagles beat out the gold-hunters' torches, and they barely escaped
with their lives.


[186] It is at present being entirely restored and made habitable by
its owner, Lord Bute.


The shadowy Horror which keeps vigil over these hidden treasures is
now a dragon, again a raven or an eagle, again a worm. In the account
of the treasure-seeker of Nantyglyn, it is a winged creature of
unknown nature, a 'mysterious incubus,' which broods over the chest
in the cave. The terrible Crocodile of the Lake, which was drawn from
its watery hiding-place by the Ychain Banog, or Prominent Oxen of Hu
Gadarn, is also sometimes called a dragon (draig) in those local
accounts which survive in the folk-lore of several different
districts. It infested the region round about the lake where it lay
concealed, and the mighty oxen so strained themselves in the labour of
drawing it forth that one of them died and the other rent the mountain
in twain with his bellowing. Various legends of Sleeping Warriors
appear in Welsh folk-lore, in which the dragon is displaced by a
shadowy army of slumbering heroes, lying about in a circle, with their
swords and shields by their sides, guarding great heaps of gold and
silver. Now they are Owen Lawgoch and his men, who lie in their
enchanted sleep in a cavern on the northern side of Mynydd Mawr, in
Carmarthenshire; again they are Arthur and his warriors, asleep in a
secret ogof under Craig-y-Ddinas, waiting for a day when the Briton
and the Saxon shall go to war, when the noise of the struggle will
awaken them, and they will reconquer the island, reduce London to
dust, and re-establish their king at Caerleon, in Monmouthshire.

Dragon or demon, raven or serpent, eagle or sleeping warriors, the
guardian of the underground vaults in Wales where treasures lie is a
personification of the baleful influences which reside in caverns,
graves, and subterraneous regions generally. It is something more than
this, when traced back to its source in the primeval mythology; the
dragon which watched the golden apples of Hesperides, and the
Payshtha-more, or great worm, which in Ireland guards the riches of
O'Rourke, is the same malarious creature which St. Samson drove out
of Wales. According to the monkish legend, this pestiferous beast was
of vast size, and by its deadly breath had destroyed two districts. It
lay hid in a cave, near the river. Thither went St. Samson,
accompanied only by a boy, and tied a linen girdle about the
creature's neck, and drew it out and threw it headlong from a certain
high eminence into the sea.[187] This dreadful dragon became mild and
gentle when addressed by the saint; did not lift up its terrible
wings, nor gnash its teeth, nor put out its tongue to emit its fiery
breath, but suffered itself to be led to the sea and hurled
therein.[188] In the 'Mabinogion,' the dragon which fights in Lludd's
dominion is mentioned as a plague, whose shriek sounded on every May
eve over every hearth in Britain; and it 'went through people's
hearts, and so scared them, that the men lost their hue and their
strength, and the women their children, and the young men and maidens
lost their senses.'[189] 'Whence came the _red_ dragon of Cadwaladr?'
asks the learned Thomas Stephens.[190] 'Why was the Welsh dragon in
the fables of Merddin, Nennius, and Geoffrey, described as _red_,
while the Saxon dragon was _white_?' The question may remain long
unanswered, for the reason that there is no answer outside the domain
of fancy, and therefore no reason which could in our day be accepted
as reasonable.[191] The Welsh word 'dragon' means equally a dragon and
a leader in war. Red was the most honourable colour of military
garments among the British in Arthur's day; and Arthur wore a dragon
on his helmet, according to tradition.

    His haughty helmet, horrid all with gold,
      Both glorious brightness and great terror bred,
    For all the crest a dragon did enfold
      With greedy paws.[192]

But the original dragon was an embodiment of mythological ideas as old
as mankind, and older than any written record. The mysterious beast of
the boy Taliesin's song, in the marvellous legend of Gwion Bach, is a
dragon worthy to be classed with the gigantic conceptions of the
primeval imagination, which sought by these prodigious figures to
explain all the phenomena of nature. 'A noxious creature from the
rampart of Satanas,' sings Taliesin; with jaws as wide as mountains;
in the hair of its two paws there is the load of nine hundred waggons,
and in the nape of its neck three springs arise, through which
sea-roughs swim.[193]


[187] 'Liber Landavensis,' 301.

[188] Ibid., 347.

[189] 'Mabinogion,' 461.

[190] 'Literature of the Kymry,' 25.

[191] Mr. Conway, in his erudite chapter on the Basilisk, appears to
think that the red colour of the Welsh dragon, in the legend of Merlin
and Vortigern, determines its moral character; that it illustrates the
evil principle in the struggle between right and wrong, or light and
darkness, as black does in the Persian legends of fighting
serpents.--'Demonology and Devil-Lore,' p. 369. (London, Chatto and
Windus, 1879.)

[192] Spenser, 'Faerie Queene.'

[193] 'Mabinogion,' 484.


For the prototype of the dragon-haunted caves and treasure-hills of
Wales, we must look to the lightning caverns of old Aryan fable, into
which no man might gaze and live, and which were in fact the attempted
explanation of thunderstorms, when the clouds appeared torn asunder by
the lightning.

Scholars have noted the impressive fact that the ancient Aryan people
had the same name for cloud and mountain; in the Old Norse, 'klakkr'
means both cloud and rock, and indeed the English word cloud has been
identified with the Anglo-Saxon 'clûd,' rock.[194] Equally significant
here is the fact that in the Welsh language 'draig' means both
lightning and dragon.

Primeval man, ignorant that the cloud was in any way different in
structure from the solid mountains whose peaks it emulated in
appearance, started back aghast and trembling when with crashing
thunders the celestial rocks opened, displaying for an instant the
glowing cavern whose splendour haunted his dreams. From this
phenomenon, whose goblins modern science has tamed and taught to run
errands along a wire, came a host of glittering legends, the shining
hammer of Thor, the lightning spear of Odin, the enchanted arrow of
Prince Ahmed, and the forked trident of Poseidon, as well as the
fire-darting dragons of our modern folk-lore.

  [Illustration: {THISTLE DECORATION.}]


[194] Max Müller, 'Rig-Veda,' i. 44. And see Mr. Baring-Gould's
'Curious Myths of the Middle Ages,' etc.



    Aberdovey, the Bells of, 339, 344

    Aderyn y Corph, the, 212

    All Fools' Day, 274

    All Hallows, 280

    Alluring Stone, the, 367

    American Ghost Stories, 139, 185

    Angels, Apparitions of, 208

    Animals' Terrors at Goblins, 171

    Annwn, the World of Shadows, 7, 34

    Antic Spirits, 180

    Aphrodite, the Welsh, 350

    Apple Gift, the, 253

    Arian y Rhaw, 333

    Arthur, the Mythic and the Historic, vii.

    Arthur's Dog, 363
       "     Pot, 369
       "     Quoits, 370
       "     Round Table, 369
       "     Seat, Bed, Castle, Stone, etc., 369

    Ascension Day, Curious Superstition concerning, 25

    Aura, the Human, its Perception by Dogs, 172

    Avagddu, 219

    Avalon, 8


    Ball-playing in Churchyards, 272

    Bangu, the, 340

    Banshee, the, 212
       "      "   in America, 247

    Banwan Bryddin, the Stone of, 374

    Barnwell, Rev. E. L., cited, 324

    Baron's Gate, Legend of the, 127

    Barry Island, Mysterious Noises on, 353

    Basilisks in Mines, 27

    Beer-drinking at Funerals, 322

    Bells, Superstitions concerning, 339
      "    of Aberdovey, 339, 344
      "    "  St. Cadoc, 339
      "    "  Rhayader, Legend of the, 341
      "    "  St. Illtyd, 342
      "    "  St. Oudoceus, 343

    Beltane Fires, 278

    Bendith y Mamau, 12

    Betty Griffith and the Fairies, 115

    Birds of Rhiannon, the, 91

    Blabbing, Penalty of, 119

    Black Book of Carmarthen, the, 350
      "   Maiden of Caerleon, the, 219
      "   Man of Ffynon yr Yspryd, 178
      "   Men in the Mabinogion, 178

    Blue Petticoat, Old Elves of the, 132

    Bogie, the, 32

    Boxing-day, 295

    Branwen, Daughter of Llyr, 91

    Bread and Cheese in Fairy Mythology, 44

    Brownie, the, 186

    Bundling, or Courting Abed, 300

    Buns, 267

    Burial Customs, 321

    Bush of Heaven, Legend of the, 73

    Bute, the Marquis of, cited, 136

    Bwbach, the, 30
       "    and the Preacher, the, 30


    Cadogan's Ghost, 149

    Cadwaladr's Goat, the Legend of, 54

    Cae Caled, the Dwarfs of, 28

    Cae Mawr, the Mowing of, 61

    Caerau, the Woman of, 239

    Caerphilly, the Green Lady of, 132

    Calan Ebrill, 274

    Cân y Tylwyth Teg, the, 99

    Canna's Stone, 362

    Canrig Bwt, the Legend of, 368

    Canwyll Corph, the, 238

    Caradoc the Bloody, 348

    Caridwen's Caldron, 88

    Carols, 288

    Carrying the Kings, 276
       "     Cynog, 279
       "     Mortals through the Air, 157, 163

    Castell Coch, the Eagles of, 390
       "    Correg, 380

    Catrin Gwyn, the Legend of, 144

    Catti Shon, the Witch of Pencader, 77

    Cavern of Ravens, the, 389

    Ceffyl Pren, the, 319

    Chained Spirit, the, 168

    Chaining at Weddings, 313

    Changelings, 56

    Cheese in Welsh Fairy Tales, 44

    Christmas Observances, 286

    Classification of Fairies, 11
          "        "  Ghosts, 141
          "        "  Customs, 252

    Coblynau, 24

    Cock-crow, Fairy Dislike of, 112
        "      a Death Omen when Untimely, 213

    Colliers' Star, the, 294

    Colour in Fairy Costume, 131

    Compacts with the Diawl, 202

    Conway, Mr., cited, 393

    Coolstrin, the, 317

    Corpse, an Insulted, 146
      "     Bird, the, 212
      "     Candle, the, 238

    Courting Abed, 300

    Courtship and Marriage, 298

    Craig y Ddinas, a Fairy Haunt, 6

    Criminals' Graves, Superstitions concerning, 331

    Crocodile of the Lake, the, 392

    Cromlechs, Superstitions concerning, 379
        "      Legendary Names of, 381

    Cross-roads, Stones at, 368

    Crown of Porcelain, the, 269

    Crumlyn Lake, Legend of, 35

    Curiosity Tales, 86

    Cursing Wells, 355

    Customs, Superstitious and Traditional, 250

    Cutty Wren, the, 257

    Cwm Llan, the Shepherds of, 121

    Cwm Pwca, Breconshire, 20

    Cwn Annwn, 233

    Cwn y Wybr, 233

    Cyhyraeth, the, 219
        "      of St. Mellons, the, 221
        "      "  the Sea-coast, the, 221


    Dancing Stones of Stackpool, the, 375

    Dancing in Churchyards, 273
       "    with Fairies, 70

    Death Portents, 212

    Devil, when Invented, 210
      "    as a Familiar Spirit, 197
      "    exorcising the, 199
      "    in his Customary Form, 202
      "    measured for a Suit of Clothes, 202
      "    his Stupidity, 202
      "    as a Bridge-builder, 206
      "    at Tintern Abbey, 207
      "    and the Foul Pipe, a Legend, 204

    Devil's Bridge, Legends of the, 205
       "    Nags, the, 170
       "    Pulpit, the, 207
       "    Stone at Llanarth, the, 378

    Dewi Dal and the Fairies, 61

    Didactic Purpose in Welsh Fairy Tales, 44
      "         "    "  Spirits, 145

    Dissenters, Fairy Antipathy to, 6

    Divination, 302

    Dog of Darkness, the, 168

    Dogs of the Fairies, 234
      "  "  Hell, 233
      "  "  the Sky, 233
      "     Fetichistic Notions of, 172
      "     Ghosts of, 167

    Dracæ, 47

    Dragons, 391

    Dreams of Flying, 164

    Druidic Fires, 278

    Druids, Fairies Hiding, 129

    Duffryn House, the Ghost of, 143

    Duty-compelled Ghosts, 146

    Dwarfs, 27

    Dwynwen, the Welsh Venus, 299, 350

    Dyfed, the Ancient, 5


    Early Inscribed Stones, Superstitions concerning, 373

    Easter Customs, 269

    Egg-shell Pottage, Story of the, 60

    Eisteddfodau, 293

    Eithin Hedges, a Protection against Fairies, 115

    Elf Queen, the, 14

    Elfin Dames, 34
      "   Cow, the, 36

    Elidurus, the Tale of, 65

    Ellylldan, the, 18

    Ellyllon, 12

    Elves, 13

    Enchanted Harp, the, 94

    Epimenides, 89

    Equestrian Fairies, 107
        "      Ghosts, 174

    Eumenides, 12

    Euphemisms, 12, 114, 209

    Excalibur, 53

    Exorcism of Changelings, 57
       "     "  Devils, 199
       "     "  Fairies, 112, 116
       "     "  Ghosts, 165
       "     "  Child-stealing Elves, 62

    Expanding Stone, the, 365


    Fair Folk, 12

    Fairies, existing belief in, 2
       "     King of the, 6
       "     Welsh names of, 12
       "     at Market, 9
       "     of the Mines, 24
       "     of the Lakes, 34
       "     of the Mountains, 49
       "     Dancing with, 70
       "     of Frennifawr, Legend of the, 82
       "     on Horseback, 107
       "     the Red, 127
       "     hiding Druids, 129
       "     why in Wales, 132
       "     their Origin, 127
       "     Bad Spirits, 134
       "     on familiar terms with Ghosts, 157
       "     of the Cromlechs, 380

    Fairy Land, 5
      "   Queen, 14
      "   Islands, 8, 45
      "   Food, 13
      "   Gloves, 13
      "   Coal-mining, 27
      "   Father, the, 45
      "   a, captured by a Welshwoman, 78
      "   Song, 99
      "   Rings, 103
      "   Conversations, 106
      "   Battle, a, 107
      "   Animals, 108
      "   Sheepfold, the, 109
      "   Gifts, 119
      "   Tales, débris of Ancient Mythology, 135

    Falling of Coychurch Tower, 386

    Familiar Spirits, 187
       "        "     in Female Form, 191

    Family Ghosts, 142

    Fatal Draught, the, 83

    Fetches, 215

    Fetichism, 338

    Fetichistic Notions of Lower Animals, 171

    Ffarwel Ned Pugh, 99

    Ffynon yr Yspryd, 178

    Ffynon Canna, 362

    Fiend Master, Legend of the, 86

    Fire-damp Goblins, 27

    Fires, Mysterious, 213

    First Foot on New Year's Day, 254

    First Night of Winter, 280

    Flowering Sunday, 266

    Food at Funerals, 322

    Forest of the Yew, Legend of the, 73

    Foul Pipe, Story of the, 204

    Fountain of Venus, the, 350

    Fountains Flowing with Milk, 356

    Fourth of July, 278

    Frennifawr, the Fairies of, 82

    Friday, its Bad Reputation, 268

    Frugal Meal, Legend of the, 58

    Funeral Customs, 321
       "    the Goblin, 231

    Future Life, the Question of a, 247

    Fuwch Gyfeiliorn, the, 36


    Gallery under the Sea, 10

    Gast Rhymhi, the Legend of, 381

    Ghosts, Existing Belief in, 137
       "    in America, 139
       "    Classification of, 141
       "    with a Duty to Perform, 146
       "    of Ebbw Vale, 142
       "    on Horseback, 154, 174
       "    Exorcising, 165
       "    of Animals, 167
       "    Grotesque, 174
       "    Gigantic, 176
       "    their Origin, 247
       "    of Bells, 339
       "    Stories of--
              The Weaver's Ghost, 147
              Cadogan's Ghost, 149
              The Ghost of Ystradgynlais, 157
              The Admiral's Ghost, 143
              The Miser's Ghost, 152
              The Ghost of St. Donat's, 143
              The Pont Cwnca Bach Ghost, 144
              The Ghost of Noe, 147
              Anne Dewy's Ghost, 153
              The Clifford Castle Ghost, 155
              The Ghost of Ty'n-y-Twr, 155
              The Ghost of the Silver Spurs, 156
              The Tridoll Valley Sprite, 181
              The Mynyddyslwyn Sprite, 187

    Giants, 370

    Giants' Dance, the, 371

    Gigantic Ghosts, 176

    Giraldus Cambrensis, 65

    Gitto Bach, the Legend of, 119

    Gnomes, 24

    Goats, Strange Beliefs concerning, 53

    Gobelin, the French, 32

    Goblin Animals, 167
      "    Funerals, 231

    God's Name as an Exorcism, 112
      "    "   in the Bardic Traditions, 209

    Good Friday Customs, 266

    Good Old Times, the, 252

    Grassless Grave, Legend of the, 331

    Green Lady of Caerphilly, the, 132
      "   Meadows of the Sea, 8

    Groaning Spirits, 222

    Grotesque Ghosts, 174

    Guest, Lady Charlotte, 5

    Guy Fawkes Day Customs, 284

    Gwahoddwr, the, 307

    Gwenfrewi, Legend of, 347

    Gwerddonau Llion, 8

    Gwion Bach (Taliesin), 88, 394

    Gwrach y Rhibyn, the, 216

    Gwragedd Annwn, the, 34

    Gwraig of the Golden Boat, the, 41

    Gwydion, the Wizard Monarch, 5

    Gwyllgi, the, 168

    Gwyllion, 49

    Gwyn ap Nudd, 6, 372


    Hafod Lwyddog, Legend of, 124

    Hallow E'en Customs, 280

    Hares, Mythological Details, 162

    Harp Music among Welsh Fairies, 94

    Haunted Bridge, the, 144
       "    Castles and Houses, 143
       "    Margaret, 165

    Headless Horse, the, 216

    Hecate, 49

    Hermes, 236

    Hidden Treasures and Perturbed Ghosts, 151
       "       "     Dragon-Guarded, 386

    Hobgoblin, 32

    Holy Thursday, Superstition concerning, 25, 268

    Horse-Weddings, 310

    Hot-cross Buns, 267

    Household Fairy, the, 31

    Howell Dda, 298


    Iago ap Dewi's Seven Years' Absence, 88

    Ianto Llewellyn and the Fairies, 123

    Idris the Giant, 370

    Incubus, 193

    Inscribed Stones, Superstitious Dread of, 373

    Iolo ap Hugh, the Legend of, 99

    Islands, the Enchanted, 8


    Jack-muh-Lantern, 18

    Jennet Francis and the Fairy Child-Stealers, 62

    John the Red Nose, 258

    Jones, the Prophet, 104

    Juan White, the Spirit of, 50


    Knife, Exorcism by the, 52

    Knockers in Mines, 24

    Kobolds, 29


    Lady of the Fountain, 178, 385
      "    "    Wood, Legend of the, 193

    Lake Fairies, 34

    Lang, A., cited, 197

    Language of the Fairies, 106

    Lapse of Time under Enchantment, 89

    Laws of the Welsh Spirit-World, 148

    Leek, Wearing of the, 260

    Lenten Customs, 266

    Levitation of Mortals, 157, 163

    Levy Dew, 255

    Lies, the Tump of, 273

    Lifting at Easter, 269

    Lightning Caverns, 394

    Linen, its Ancient Value, 133

    Listening at the Church Door, 214

    Lisworney-Crossways, the Legend of, 169

    Living with Fairies, 65

    Llandaff Gwrach y Rhibyn, the, 217

    Llechlafar Stone, 364

    Lledrith, the, 215

    Llwyd the Magician, 159, 190

    Llwyn y Nef, the Bush of Heaven, 72

    Llyn Barfog, the Fairy Maiden of, 36
      "  y Dywarchen, the Lady of, 44
      "  y Fan Fach, the Sirens of, 38
      "  Glas, the Shepherd of, 124
      "  y Morwynion, the Maidens' Lake, 47

    Logan Stones, Superstitions concerning, 378

    Lord and Beggar, Legend of the, 230

    Love Charms, 302

    Lucky Days, 268

    Lukis, J. W., cited, 3, 380

    Luther and the Changeling, 57


    Mab, 14

    Mabinogion, the, 5, 14, 91

    Magic Carpet, 164
      "   Harp, 95

    Maidens' Lake, the, 47

    Maid's Trick, the, 302

    Making Christ's Bed, 267

    Mallt y Nos, the, 215

    Marget yr Yspryd, 165

    Mari Lwyd, the, 256

    Marketing on Tombstones, 280

    Marriage Customs, 306

    May-day Customs, 274

    Meddygon Myddfai, Legend of the, 38

    Melerius, the Legend of, 192

    Melusina, the Welsh, 381

    Memorials of Arthur, 369

    Men of Ardudwy, the Legend of the, 47

    Merlin the Enchanter, as a Stone Remover, 371
      "     "      "      and the Red Dragon, 393
      "    an Early Myth, viii.

    Mermaids, 35, 47

    Merthyr, the Rector of, cited, 3

    Methodists, Banishers of Fairies, 6

    Mid-Lent Sunday, 266

    Midsummer Eve, 277

    Milford Haven, the Fairies at, 9

    Milk from Fountains, 356

    Milk-white Milch Cow, Legend of the, 37

    Mine Goblins, 24

    Miner's Wraith, the, 215

    Mirage, 173

    Moel Arthur, the Treasure-Chest of, 388

    Moelfre Hill, the Women of, 376

    Mol Walbec the Giantess, 370

    Monacella's Lambs, 162

    Money thrown in Wells, 354

    Morgan, Born of the Sea, 47

    Morgana, 7

    Mothering Sunday, 266

    Mountain Ash, the Three Rods of, 210
       "     the Old Woman of the, 49

    Mourning in Lent, 266

    Music in Welsh Fairy Tales, 91, 98

    Myfyr Morganwg, 277

    Mystic Wells, 345


    Nadolig, 286

    Names of Welsh Fairies, 12

    Nant yr Ellyllon, 79

    Narberth in Mythic Story, 198, 234

    New Year's Day Customs, 252

    Night Fiend, the, 215

    Nights for Spirits, the Three, 280

    Nis, the, 186

    Noises, Mysterious, on Barry Island, 353

    North Wales, Fairyland in, 5

    Nos Calan Gauaf, 280


    Oaks, Superstitions concerning, 105

    Odin's Spear, 395

    Offrwm, the, 332

    Old Woman of the Mountain, 49
     "    "     "    Torrent, 216

    Origins of Fairies, 127
       "    "  the Devil, 210
       "    "  Death Omens, 245
       "    "  Customs, 251
       "    "  Spirits, 247
       "    "  Mystic Well Superstitions, 359
       "    "  Superstitions regarding Stones, 383
       "    "  Dragons, 395

    Owen Lawgoch and his Enchanted Men, 392

    Owl's Screech a Death Omen, 213


    Palm Sunday Customs, 266

    Pant Shon Shenkin, the Legend of, 75

    Pant-y-Madoc, the Gwyllgi of, 170

    Pant-y-Saer, the Treasure-Hunter of, 389

    Parc-y-Bigwrn, the Cromlech of, 382

    Parson's Penny, 332

    Pebble-Tossers, Gigantic, 370

    Pembrokeshire a Land of Mystery, 10

    Peredur, the Legend of, 202, 366

    Phantom Horseman, the, 174
       "    Ships and Islands, 173

    Pigmies, 24

    Pins in Enchantment, 354

    Place of Strife, the Legend of the, 59

    Plant Annwn, 34

    Planting Weeds on Graves, 298
       "     Flowers on Graves, 299, 336

    Plentyn-newid, the, 56

    Plygain, the, 294

    Poetico-Religious Theory of Fairies' Origin, 134

    Polly Williams and the Fairies, 81

    Polyphemus, the Welsh, 179, 202

    Pontypridd, Druidic Ceremonies at, 277

    Preacher and Bwbach, the, 30

    Prolific Woman, Legend of the, 133

    Pronunciation of Welsh Words, Preface

    Propitiation of Goblins, 12, 114

    Psyche, 86

    Puck, the Welsh, 20

    Puzzling Jug, the, 283

    Pwca'r Trwyn, Account of, 187
       "     "    chastises a Servant Girl, 22
       "     "    travels in a Jug, 118
       "     "    a Proscribed Noble, 128
       "     "    was it a Fairy, 190

    Pwyll, Prince of Dyfed, 234


    Quintain, the, 284, 313

    Quoits, Arthur's, 370


    Ravens, Cave of the, 389

    Realistic Theory of Fairies' Origin, 129

    Red Book of Hergest (Llyfr Coch), 5
     "  Fairies, the, 127
     "  Lady of Paviland, the, 386

    Rhamanta, 302

    Rhitta Gawr, the Giant, 372

    Rhys and Llewellyn, the Story of, 70

    Rice at Weddings, 314

    Richard the Tailor, 160

    Rip Van Winkle, the Original of, 89

    Robber's Stone, the, 376

    Rocking Stone, Superstitions concerning, 378

    Rowli Pugh and the Ellyll, 15


    Sabbath-breakers Turned to Stone, 376

    Sacred Wells, 345

    Sagranus Stone, the, 375

    Sailors' Superstitions, 9

    St. Barruc's Well, 352

    St. Ceyna, the Legend of, 377

    St. Clement's Day, 284

    St. Collen, the Legend of, 7

    St. Cynfran's Well, 351

    St. Cynhafal's Well, 351

    St. David the Introducer of Death Portents into Wales, 245
        "     his Day, 259
        "     his Legendary Character, 260

    St. Dogmell's Parish, 69, 273

    St. Dwynwen's Well, 350

    St. Elian's Well, 355

    St. George's Well, 351

    St. Gwenfrewi, the Legend of, 347

    St. Gwynwy's Well, 353

    St. Illtyd's Well, 357

    St. John's Eve, 277

    St. Mary's Well, 346

    St. Melangell's Lambs, 162

    St. Patrick and the Elfin Dames, 35
         "      a Welshman, 264
         "      his Day, 264

    St. Samson and the Dragon, 392

    St. Tegla's Well, 329, 349

    St. Tydecho's Blue Stone, 367

    St. Ulric's Day, 279

    St. Valentine's Day, 259

    St. Winifred's Well, 346

    Salt at Funerals, 328

    Sanford's Well, 358

    Scapegoat, the, 329

    Science, the Marvels of, 248

    Seeing the Sun Dance, 273

    Serpents Turned to Stones, 377

    Seven Whistlers, the, 213

    Sgilti Yscawndroed, the Lightfooted, 164

    Shakspeare, his use of Welsh Folk-Lore, 14, 44
         "      his Visit to Wales, 20

    Shepherds of Cwm Llan, the Legends of the, 121

    Shoe-throwing, 314

    Shon ap Shenkin, the Story of, 92

    Showmen's Superstitions, 255

    Shrove Tuesday, 265

    Shuï Rees and the Fairies, 67

    Sin-eater, the, 324

    Sion Cent the Magician, 203

    Skulls, 145

    Sleeping Saints, the, 73
       "     Heroes, Legends of, 162, 392

    Snake Stone, the, 278

    Soul, its Future Destiny, 249

    Souls of Dogs, 167

    Sowling, 258

    Spade Money, 333

    Spectral Animals, 167

    Spirit Fountain, the, 178
      "    Life, the Question of a, 249
      "    Nights, the Three, 280
      "    World, Laws Governing the Welsh, 148

    Spirits' Antics, 180

    Spiritual Hunting Dogs, 235

    Spiritualism, 139

    Spitting at the Name of the Devil, 209

    Stanley, Hon. W. O., cited, 19, 115

    Stone-throwing Spirits, 180, 185

    Stone-tossing Giants, 370

    Stone-worship, 361

    Stone of Invisibility, the, 365
      "   "  Remembrance, the, 366
      "   "  Golden Gifts, the, 366

    Stones, Curious Superstitions concerning, 361
       "    at Cross-roads, 368
       "    of Healing, 367

    Storms, Baleful Spirits of, 385

    Stripping the Carpenter, 284

    Suicides, Superstitions concerning, 146, 331

    Sul Coffa, 335

    Summoning Spirits, 199

    Supernatural, What is the, 248

    Superstition, its Degree of Prevalence, 138, 251
          "       in the United States, 139, 252

    Sweethearts' Charms, 302


    Taff's Well, 358

    Taffy ap Sion, the Shoemaker's Son, Legend of, 75

    Tailor Magician of Glanbran, the, 200

    Taliesin, the Tale of, 88
        "     his Dragon, 394

    Talking Stone, the, 364

    Tan-wedd, the, 213

    Teetotallers, Fairy Antipathy to, 6

    Teir-nos Ysprydnos, 280

    Terrors of the Brute, Creation at Apparitions, 171

    Teulu, the, 231

    Thief-catching Stone, the, 366

    Thigh Stone, the, 363

    Thomas, Rev. Dr., cited, 300

    Thor's Hammer, 395

    Three Blows, the Story of the, 40
      "   Losses by Disappearance, the, 9
      "   Nights for Spirits, the, 280

    Throwing at Cocks, 265

    Thunder and Lightning as a Death Omen, 213

    Toads and Warts, 352

    Tolaeth, the, 225

    Tolling the Bell, 340

    Tooling, 258

    Toriad y Dydd, 125

    Transformation of Human Beings to Animals, 167, 381
            "           "       "     Stone, 374, 376

    Transportation through the Air, 157, 163

    Trichrug, the Giant of, 371

    Tricking the Diawl, 203

    Tridoll Valley Ghost, the, 181

    Tudur of Llangollen, the Story of, 79

    Tump of Lies, the, 273

    Twelfth Night Customs, 256

    Tylwyth Teg, the, 12


    Unknowable, the, 138

    Unlucky Days, 268


    Vale of Neath, the, its Goblin Fame, 6

    Vavasor Powell and the Devil, 198

    Veil, the Goblin, 232

    Venus, the Welsh, 299
      "        "      her Well, 350

    Villemarqué cited, 58


    Walking Barefoot to Church, 266

    Walking-stones, 363

    Warts, 351, 367

    Water Maidens, 47
      "   Worship, 359

    Wedding Customs, 306

    Wells, Mystic, 345

    Wesley's Belief in Apparitions, 141

    Whistlers, the, 213

    Whistling Goblin, the, 178

    White as a Fairy Colour, 132
      "   Catti of the Grove Cave, 144

    Whitening Doorsteps to Keep off the Devil, 207

    Wife of Supernatural Race, 38

    Wild Huntsman, 235

    Will-o'-Wisp, 20

    Witches Sleeping under Stones, 368

    Wonder Stone of Banwan Bryddin, the, 374

    Wraiths, 215


    Ychain Banog, the, 108, 392

    Yellow Spot before Death, the, 216


_A Catalogue of American and Foreign Books Published or Imported by
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_Crown Buildings, 188, Fleet Street, London, April, 1879._

A List of Books




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  _Government of M. Thiers._ By JULES SIMON. Translated from the
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  _Gower (Lord Ronald)._ _Handbook to the Art Galleries, Public and
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  _Greek Grammar._ _See_ WALLER.

  _Guizot's History of France._ Translated by ROBERT BLACK.
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    "Three-fourths of M. Guizot's great work are now completed,
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    "M. Guizot's main merit is this, that, in a style at once
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  _Guillemin._ _See_ "World of Comets."

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  _Habitations of Man in all Ages._ _See_ LE-DUC.

  _Hamilton (A. H. A., J.P.)_ _See_ "Quarter Sessions."

  _Handbook to the Charities of London._ _See_ LOW'S.

  ---- _Principal Schools of England._ _See_ Practical.

  _Half-Hours of Blind Man's Holiday; or, Summer and Winter Sketches
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  _Hans Brinker; or, the Silver Skates._ _See_ DODGE.

  _Heart of Africa._ Three Years' Travels and Adventures in the
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  _Heath (F. G.)_ _See_ "Fern World," "Fern Paradise," "Our Woodland
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  _History of a Crime (The); Deposition of an Eye-witness._ By VICTOR
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  ---- _England._ _See_ GUIZOT.

  ---- _France._ _See_ GUIZOT.

  ---- _Russia._ _See_ RAMBAUD.

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  ---- _United States._ _See_ BRYANT.

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  _How to Live Long._ _See_ HALL.

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  _Hunting, Shooting, and Fishing_; A Sporting Miscellany.
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  ---- _Child of the Cavern._

  ---- _Two Supercargoes._

  ---- _With Axe and Rifle._

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Transcriber's Note

Minor punctuation errors have been repaired.

Hyphenation and accent usage has been made consistent throughout.
Capitalisation of items in the Table of contents and chapter headers
has been made consistent.

On page 181, following an account of the damage caused by spirits is
the line "This pleasant experience was often repeated." The word
'pleasant' may be an error on the part of the author or typesetter,
and 'unpleasant' was actually intended, or it may be deliberate on the
part of the author. Since it is impossible to be sure, it is preserved
as printed.

The following amendments have been made, addressing typographic errors
or inconsistency:

    Page xi--Llwellyn amended to Llewellyn--"... Ianto Llewellyn
    and the Tylwyth Teg ..."

    Page 17--reducable amended to reducible--"... all household
    tales are reducible to a primeval root ..."

    Page 45--hurrry amended to hurry--"... in her hurry to
    remount, ..."

    Page 49--Llanhyddel amended to Llanhiddel--"... the guise in
    which she haunted Llanhiddel Mountain ..."

    Page 75--acccustomed amended to accustomed--"... the barren
    mountain he was accustomed to."

    Page 106--Mammau amended to Mamau--"... Ni chytunant hwy mwy
    na Bendith eu Mamau, ..."

    Page 117--Dolgelly amended to Dolgelley--"But first
    consulting a wise woman at Dolgelley, ..."

    Page 117--gods amended to goods (based on reference to same
    further up the same page)--"He was flitting with the
    household goods, ..."

    Page 125--Mammau amended to Mamau--"... as Bendith y Mamau
    was poured down ..."

    Page 135--hape amended to have--"... may desire to know why
    these fairies have appeared ..."

    Page 137--Shakespeare amended to Shakspeare--"SHAKSPEARE:

    Page 176--Lantarnam amended to Llantarnam--"... who lived in
    the parish of Llantarnam."

    Page 241--Landavenis amended to Landavensis--"In the 'Liber
    Landavensis' it is mentioned ..."

    Page 275--Llud amended to Lludd--"... the daughter of Lludd
    Llaw Ereint."

    Page 276--VIII amended to VII--"VII. In the remote and
    primitive parish ..."

    Page 314--IV amended to III--"III. Among the wealthier
    classes ..."

    Page 317--V amended to IV--"IV. A custom called the
    Coolstrin ..."

    Page 338--Faery amended to Faerie--"SPENSER: _Faerie

    Page 343--Taf amended to Taff--"When they came to the banks
    of the river Taff, ..."

    Page 358--well amended to Well--"Taff's Well, in
    Glamorganshire, ..."

    Page 399--Gwin amended to Gwyn--"Catrin Gwyn, the Legend of,

    Page 400--Wybyr amended to Wybr--"Cwn y Wybr, 233"

    Page 404--Howel amended to Howell--"Howell Dda, 298"

    Page 408--Dyved amended to Dyfed--"Pwyll, Prince of Dyfed,

The frontispiece illustration has been moved to follow the title page.
Other illustrations have been moved where necessary so that they are
not in the middle of a paragraph.

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