As I sit here munching candy corn (which my 14 year old declares ‘the best candy’–even better than chocolate–though he can’t have any because he’s allergic to corn), I’m thinking about the Gareth & Gwen Medieval Mystery, The Fallen Princess, which takes place at Halloween. Except that during the Middle Ages, it was called ‘All Hallow’s Eve’, the day before All Saint’s Day, and it was less about candy and more about a belief in actual spirits.
All Hallow’s Eve, or Halloween, has its roots in an older, pagan tradition, called Nos Calan Gaeaf , Welsh for Samhain, a Gaelic word meaning ‘Summer’s End’. This is the most well-known Halloween tradition in Wales. http://www.controverscial.com/Samhain.htm The Welsh translation, interestingly, is ‘the first of winter’.
From the National Museum of Wales: “A pagan holiday dating back to the Iron Age Celts, Samhain was considered to be the Celtic New Year. It was adopted by the Romans as their own festival when they invaded Britain. Many parts of this festival are echoed in our modern Halloween parties.
Jack O lanterns were originally made from turnips and used to guide the dead back to earth, and the Celts also dressed in costumes much as we do today, but they would use animal skins! The Romans believed that monsters, gods and magic spells were all around them.” http://www.museumwales.ac.uk/en/whatson/?event_id=3734
“November 1 was considered the end of the summer period, the date on which the herds were returned from pasture and land tenures were renewed. It was also a time when the souls of those who had died were believed to return to visit their homes. People set bonfires on hilltops for relighting their hearth fires for the winter and to frighten away evil spirits, and they sometimes wore masks and other disguises to avoid being recognized by the ghosts thought to be present. It was in these ways that beings such as witches, hobgoblins, fairies, and demons came to be associated with the day. The period was also thought to be favourable for divination on matters such as marriage, health, and death. When the Romans conquered the Celts in the 1st century ad, they added their own festivals of Feralia, commemorating the passing of the dead, and of Pomona, the goddess of the harvest.” http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/252875/Halloween
“November was also the month of death in the Celtic calendar, where animals were slaughtered to provide meat for winter. Indeed, the Modern Welsh for November Tachwedd literally means ‘The Month of Slaughter’. This often began with a feast on November 1st where pigs were slaughtered (part of this folklore is preserved in the Cymric (Welsh) legend of Arawn and Hafgan, as told in the Mabinogi of Pwyll, Prince of Dyfed.” http://www.celtnet.org.uk/recipes/halloween-recipes.php
With the coming of Christianity, these traditions were converted to blend in more with the Christian calendar and Christian sensibilities. “In 601AD, Pope Gregory made an important directive. He announced that Christian missionaries were to take a new tack when attempting to convert pagans to the Christian religion. Christian missionaries he said, where possible, should incorporate the beliefs, festivals and sacred sites of pagan beliefs into the Christian religion. This directive meant that the important Celtic festival of Samhain had to be marked in a Christian manner.
In the year 609 AD, All Saints Day was officially designated a Church feast, which was celebrated in May and was later moved to November by Pope Gregory in 835 AD. The Christian Church may have intended that people would spend their time praying for the souls of the dead on an important holy day. However, the fact that this was a day off from work gave many people even more of an excuse to celebrate Halloween with more excitement and excess than ever.
In the eleventh century, a further festival was added to the church calendar; All Souls Day on 2 November. The three festivals of All-Hallows Eve, All Saints and All Souls were together known as Hallowmas.” http://suite101.com/article/halloween-in-medieval-times-a71922
“Despite the Church’s success in establishing a Christian foundation for the autumn celebrations, many of the ancient customs and traditions associated with them were still practiced by the population. The carving of gourds and the wearing of costumes and masks to scare away malevolent spirits are typical of the superstitions carried over from these celebrations into the All Hallows Eve observance.
The custom of “trick-or-treating” has its origins in a ritual wherein the elders of a village or town would go from house to house and receive offerings of food and gifts for the souls of dead friends and relatives thought to visit on this night. This practice evolved during the Middle Ages, when beggars would travel from village to village and beg for “soul cakes”. Villagers would offer prayers along with the cakes to those who had died in the past year for their transition to heaven.” http://www.sharefaith.com/guide/Christian-Holidays/all_hallows_eve.html
For more customs of Calan Gaeaf:
Open a door to the world of the After Cilmeri series! With chapters on historical context, the Welsh language, characters, places in the books, and the writing process, and including hundreds of photographs, maps, timelines, and family trees, this guide highlights the characters, places, and worlds brought to life by the series’ first fifteen novels.
Release date: November 6, 2018
Worldwide Amazon Link to digital version: https://www.books2read.com/corneroftime
After November 6th, the book will be available in paperback at other Amazon stores as well as through payhip.com in a navigable PDF , which can be read across devices, including in the Kindle app, Google Play app, Adobe app, or other PDF readers on any smartphone, tablet, or computer.
I very much wanted the book available directly from retailers besides Amazon, but none of them are set up to sell high quality, fixed, photograph heavy epubs. Fortunately, all color tablets, smartphones, and computers support both PDFs and Kindle apps. I didn’t want to sell readers a book that I wasn’t happy with ? Hopefully everyone can find a product that works for them!
Dafydd ap Gruffydd was the younger brother of Llywelyn ap Gruffydd, the Prince of Wales who ruled portions of Wales, to a greater or lesser degree, since the death of his uncle (also named Dafydd) in 1246. The younger Dafydd was born in 1238, at least a decade after Llywelyn. This Dafydd spent the majority of his life in England, to which his family was forced to come when his father was imprisoned at the Tower of London by King Henry. At the time, Llywelyn had refused to leave Wales with the rest of his family, and thus was on the spot, so to speak, when his uncle Dafydd died. The family itself, however, was not imprisoned, and Dafydd grew up as a close companion to Prince Edward himself, a fact which could explain much of his later behavior.
At that point, Dafydd ap Gruffydd was only 8 years old, and in no sense prepared to put forth a claim to his patrimony. When later he did, Llywelyn refused, and the lands that he acquired were given to him by his older brother, Owain, who had split Gwynedd equally with Llywelyn. In 1255, believing he deserved more, Dafydd conspired with Owain to gain control of all of Gwynedd for themselves and were defeated by Llywelyn in the Battle of Bryn Derwin. Llywelyn imprisoned them both initially, but then accepted Dafydd back into his favor a year later and gave him lands in eastern Gwynedd centered around Denbigh,which Llywelyn had taken from the English during the Rising of 1256. Over the next five years, he brought Dafydd more and more into his confidence until suddenly, in 1263, Dafydd defected to the English (and Prince Edward). To this day historians have no idea why though various apologists for Dafydd have suggested that he was dissatisfied with what he’d acquired from Llywelyn for his five years of loyalty.
To say that Dafydd had a problematic relationship with Llywelyn is woefully understate the case. Llywelyn kept Owain Goch imprisoned until forced to release him in 1277, but he released Dafydd after Bryn Derwin and gave him lands, ultimately bowing to his younger brother’s rightful claim as a prince of Wales. He was also, throughout his life, Llywelyn’s sole heir, as Llywelyn never had a son in or out of wedlock. At the time, Llywelyn perceived Owain, the elder brother, as the greater threat.
From Brynne Haug: “Dafydd’s choice to turn to Edward in 1263 and again in 1274 was self-serving in that he believed his chances better with the king than with Llywelyn. Llywelyn had little choice but to accept Dafydd back when he changed his mind: in 1267 Edward I stipulated it in the Treaty of Mongomery, and it was again a condition in 1277.”
What’s more, in late 1274, Owain ap Gruffydd ap Gwenwynwyn confessed to Anian, the Bishop of Bangor, a man, by the way, who was not an ally of Llywelyn and often opposed him, that he had conspired with Dafydd to assassinate Llywleyn, the attempt being thwarted by a snowstorm. As J. Beverly Smith writes:
“The fullest account comes from a letter which the dean and chapter of Bangor addressed to the archbishop of Canterbury in the spring of 1276. Much of the substance of the letter is, however, corroborated by two documents from the critical year itself and by an entry in the Brut y Tywysogyon. The dean’s letter relates that Gruffydd ap Gwenwynwyn and his eldest son, Owain, plotted with Dafydd ap Gruffydd to kill Llywelyn. The conspirators had agreed that Dafydd should remain in his brother’s entourage until 2 February 1274 when Owain would bring armed men by night to accomplish the deed, but a snowstorm on the night in question confounded their plans.”
Gruffydd acknowledged his guilt and actually retained much of his lands. Owain was imprisoned, as hostage to his father’s good behavior. Dafydd’s part in the plot appears to have been unknown to Llywelyn until late in 1274, when Dafydd was called to account for his actions (which he denied). It was only after Dafydd fled to England that Owain confessed to the bishop the entire plan, and Llywelyn understood fully what had been intended (Smith 1998 p. 369-373). Given Dafydd’s behavior in the past and future, particularly his pride and unwillingness to take second to anyone, Smith argues that Dafydd was the true instigator of the conspiracy (p. 376).
What must have been most aggravating to Llywelyn was that Dafydd was one of the impetuses for all of the wars against England: in 1267 and 1277 when Dafydd fought against Llywelyn on the side of the English, and again in 1282, when he forced Llywelyn to throw his weight behind Dafydd himself after Dafydd launched an attack on Edward’s castles in Wales.
Whatever his motives, Dafydd did stay true to Wales after Llywelyn’s death. In June 1283, English soldiers captured Dafydd, took him to Shrewsbury, and, in October, executed him. He was hung, drawn, and quartered, and his head displayed in the tower of London alongside Llywelyn’s.
J. Beverly Smith, Llywelyn ap Gruffydd: The Prince of Wales.
Brynne Haug, Captive Cymru: Llywelyn and Gwynedd in the Wars of King Edward.
Peniarth MS 20, The Chronicle of the Princes
Before I learned of the Danish role in the assassination of Anarawd, King of Deheubarth, I had no idea that the Danes had ever conquered parts of Ireland.
The Danes, as a group, were part of a vast migration of men of the North to other regions of the world, initially for plunder and eventually for settlement. Coming from regions that now make up Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Denmark, these men went a Viking, and created widespread settlements: to the south, in Normandy and Sicily; to the east into Russia; and to the west in England, Ireland, Iceland, Greenland, and the coast of Newfoundland.
The Dublin Danes were part of that tradition, and Ottar and Brodar were real people as described in The Viking Prince, both ruling Dublin in the mid-twelfth century. Brodar and Godfrid were part of an extensive lineage of rulership of Dublin called the Mac Torcalls, whose hegemony was briefly usurped by Ottar, but then reestablished. Scholarship is confused about some of the specifics, but it is clear that members of their clan ruled Dublin until the arrival of the Normans under the leadership of Richard de Clare (Strongbow) and ultimately King Henry, who defeated the Danes and expelled them from Dublin for good in 1171 AD.
The ruling family of Gwynedd, as led for most of the twelfth century by Owain Gwynedd, had both Danish and Irish ancestry. Through Gruffydd ap Cynan, Owain’s father, Prince Hywel is descended from both Sitric Silkbeard, King of Dublin; and Brian Boru, High King of Ireland.
The character Godfrid, Prince of Dublin, makes his first appearance in the Gareth & Gwen Medieval Mysteries in the first book, The Good Knight. He comes to Anglesey at the behest of Prince Cadwaladr of Gwynedd, but quickly realizes that the deal he’s made is not quite what he thought, and Cadwaladr is not worthy of his allegiance. He takes it upon himself to keep Gwen safe and gives her up to Gareth when he comes to Ireland in search of her.
He and Gareth grow to respect each other, and Godfrid returns to Gwynedd in The Fallen Princess, on a quest to find the Book of Kells, which has been stolen, and again in The Lost Brother, in search of allies in his conflict with Ottar of Dublin. In both instances, he ends up aiding Gareth and Gwen in their investigations.
It is the dispute with Ottar that, in the late 1140s, drives Godfrid and his brother, Brodar. They seek to overthrow Ottar, whom they believe usurped their father’s, and now Brodar’s, throne.
With the approach of the summer solstice and the coming thing, the great meeting of the Danes in Dublin, Godfrid is faced with a mystery of his own, which he must solve if his brother’s victory is ever to come to pass …
The Viking Prince is his story.
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One of the greatest kings of Gwynedd was Owain Gwynedd, but his father Gruffydd ap Cynan can equally lay stake to such a claim. His rule was certainly eventful.
Gruffydd ruled in Wales on and off since he was a young man, in between his flights to Ireland when the English—or other Welsh barons—ousted him from Gwynedd. Gruffydd’s grandfather had been the King of Gwynedd once upon a time, and Gruffydd had claimed the throne as its lawful heir.
But staking his claim hadn’t been easy. That first time, Gruffydd landed on Anglesey with an Irish and Danish, not Welsh, force. After he defeated Trahaearn, the man who’d usurped his throne, Gruffydd led his army eastwards to reclaim territories the Normans had taken over during the unrest. Despite the prior assistance given to him by the Norman, Robert of Rhuddlan, Gruffydd attacked and destroyed Rhuddlan castle.
Unfortunately for Gruffydd’s tenure on the throne, tensions between Gruffydd’s Danish-Irish bodyguard and the local Welsh led to a rebellion not long afterwards in Ll?n. Trahaearn, the previously ousted King of Gwynedd, took the opportunity to counter attack—with a helpful Norman force—defeating Gruffydd at the battle of Bron yr Erw.
Not giving up, six years later in 1081, Gruffydd allied himself with Rhys ap Tudur, Anarawd’s grandfather, and tried again. This time with a combined Dane, Irish, and Welsh force, he and Rhys marched north from Deheubarth to seek Trahaearn and his allies from Powys. The armies of the two confederacies met, Gruffydd and Rhys emerged victorious, and Trahaearn and his allied kings were killed. Gruffydd was thus able to seize power in Gwynedd for the second time.
But then the Normans counter-attacked, lured Gruffydd into a meeting near Corwen, and captured him. They imprisoned him for sixteen years. He finally escaped in 1197 and led a third invasion from Ireland. After some ups and downs, and with the timely intervention of King Magnus of Norway, Gruffydd stumbled to victory, came to terms with the Norman Earl of Chester, and began to consolidate his power. By the time his three sons were of age, he’d been King of Gwynedd for twenty years and had negotiated a peace with King Henry of England, who’d tried twice to conquer Gwynedd and failed.
This was the kingdom Owain Gwynedd inherited and the one he strived to defend and expand.
June 21, 2018 is the summer solstice this year, celebrated at Stonehenge and across the globe, for the longest day of the year. “Sol + stice derives from a combination of Latin words meaning “sun” + “to stand still.” As the days lengthen, the sun rises higher and higher until it seems to stand still in the sky.” http://www.chiff.com/a/summer-solstice.htm
Within Welsh mythology, there is very little discussion of the solstices or what holidays were celebrated within the celtic/druid year. This is not the case of Stonehenge, which archaeologists and historians have studied extensively.
“When one stands in the middle of Stonehenge and looks through the entrance of the avenue on the morning of the summer solstice, for example, the Sun will rise above the Heel Stone, which is set on the avenue. If one stands in the entrance and looks into the circle at dusk of that day, the Sun will set between a trilithon.”
There are a couple of stone circles in Wales (more than a couple, but many are ruinous and not properly documented). One, Bryn Cader Faner, is a small cairn 8,5m (28ft) wide and less than 1m (3ft) high, with fifteen thin slabs leaning out of the mass of the monument like a crown of thorns, near Porthmadog.
A second is Carn Llechart near Swansea. It “is one of the largest ring cairns in Wales. It is an unusual circle of 25 stones leaning slightly outwards and surrounding a central burial cist. Aubrey Burl in his “The Stone Circles of British Isles” wrote that such rings were thought to be the first stage of development of stone circles, but that these cairns, however, are almost certainly too late to provide such an ancestry. The reverse seems likely, that the existence of stone circles elsewhere impelled people to place tall stones around the bases of their own round cairns, a fusion of traditions resulting in monuments like spiky coronets. Such cairns may be seen on North and South Uist, and in Wales at Carn Llechart and Bryn Cader Faner. The circle is 12m (40ft) in diameter, and the central cist has its east side stone and capstone missing. It seems that there is no entry to the circle and no trace of covering mound. A possible date for the site is the 2nd millenium BC. In the area there are also a Neolithic burial chamber and some Bronze Age cairns.” (http://www.stonepages.com/wales/wales.html),
Archaeologists are of the opinion that these stone circles have more to do with burial sites than worship, giving them less kinship to Stonehenge than one might think at first. This site (http://www.geodrome.demon.co.uk/megalith/stone.htm), however, argues strongly for a similar rationale for stone circles in Wales, in which the author has documented the alignment of a number of stone circles.
When we were in Ireland in 2016, we found that many of the barrows, burials, and circles were oriented to the sun, either the winter and summer solstices or the spring equinox in particular.
Taken from Basic Welsh: A Grammar and Workbook by Gareth King
Welsh Lesson Two: Nouns and noun plurals
Nouns are sorted by whether the word denotes man or woman
Tad – father mam – mother
When the two vowels in a word are a/e: feminine
When the two vowels in a word are o/y: masculine
Masculine endings: Feminine endings:
-ad -iad -aeth -as
-der -did -dod -en -es
-od -ed -edd -oedd -ydd
-ys (English loanwords)
Words that change internal vowels:
Words that change internal vowels and endings:
Dail – leaves/foliage deilen – leaf
Moch – pigs mochyn – pig
Exercise 1: Plural or Singular (circle the plural words)
Exercise 2: Assigning Gender (circle the feminine words)
Taken from Basic Welsh: A Grammar and Workbook by Gareth King
Welsh Lesson One: Identification Sentences
hwn this hwnna that
y rhain these y rheina those
e/o he hi she
hwn this person (m) hon this person (f)
hwnna that person (m) honna that person (f)
hwnnw that person who honno that person who is out of sight (m) is out of sight (f)
dw i I am
Pwy who Beth what
ydy is/are athrawon teachers
enw name enwau names
prifddinas capitol llyfr book
Query sentences are constructed such that the reply is created by replacing the pronoun in the initial question with the answer to that question.
Pwy dach chi? Who are you?
Taran dw i I am Taran
Pwy ydy hwnna? Who is that?
Dafydd ydy hwnna That is David
Pwy ydy’r rheina? Who are those people?
Athrawon ydy’r rheina. Those people are teachers.
Beth ydy prifddinas Ffrainc? What is the capitol of France?
Paris ydy prifddinas Ffrainc. Paris is the capitol of France.
Beth ydy enwau’r plant? What are the children’s names?
Mair a Sioned ydy enwau’r plant The children’s names are Mair and Sioned.
Who is that (m)?
Who is this (f)?
What is that?
What are these?
Who are those?
What is this?
Who is this (m)?
Who is that (f)?
Exercise 2: Fill in the blanks (rheina, ‘r, pwy, ydy, beth, llyfr, ydy)
Exercise 3: Match the sentences
Beth ydy’r rhain? Who are these?
Pwy ydy hon ? Who is that?
Beth ydy hwn? What is this?
Pwy ydy’r rhain? What are these?
Beth ydy hwnna? Who is this?
Pwy ydy honna? What is that?
Sparked by a post yesterday, in which a historian commented that King Edward had a Welsh guard and didn’t ‘hate’ all Welsh as some people seemed to think, I feel compelled to comment.
First off, Edward was an English king who had the interests of the English crown and the English people first and foremost. He conquered all these countries from that position, with the idea that English law/church/language/culture (and that means Norman, really) was far superior to the barbaric north and west. That doesn’t mean he hated all Welshmen. A lot of what he did initially, in fact, was because he loved Dafydd, Llywelyn’s brother, in particular, and felt horribly betrayed by him when he started the rebellion in 1282.
And really, fine that he had a guard of Welshmen, but really, what were their choices? Nobody can prove or disprove that the Welsh did or did not like Edward, but back home, they were taxed to high heaven–deliberately to cripple them–their right to govern themselves was completely absent, and gradually their laws and way of life was disappearing. When Edward built all those castles, he ‘planted’ English towns next to them into which Welsh people were forbidden to live. He razed whole Welsh towns to the ground, including Aberconwy, where Llywelyn had a palace and one of the largest monasteries in Wales (Edward did the same 10 years later at Beaumaris). He proportioned out land to English lords, preventing the Welsh from herding their sheep and cattle (remember, herders were viewed as barbaric compared to farmers) and making a living.
This isn’t because Edward hated Welsh people, and any student of history knows that conquered people are exactly that–conquered. You didn’t see the Saxons murdering English kings either! The Saxons, in fact, were extraordinarily fortunate (after the initial conquest in 1066) in that they were the people at the forefront when the Normans came (like the Welsh/Britons had been when the Romans came) in that they were wholly coopted into the mythology of English superiority. Truly, the Romans had done the same thing to the Welsh back in 43 AD when they came, once resistance had been stamped out. It’s called being complicit in your own subjugation.
Here’s a Scottish example from my own family: My ancestor, Donald McKay fought FOR the English in the American revolution in one of the highland regiments. He was a McKay, from the nosebleed north, and returned home to discover that his lands had been ‘cleared’ by a rival clan that had allied with the English. The McKays were even protestant. Didn’t matter. Anyway, he came home to no land, no status, and no ability to earn a living. The English realized almost immediately that having all these displaced and resentful highlanders roaming Scotland was going to cause trouble, so they gave them land in Nova Scotia (New Scotland, heh), to get them out of their hair. It worked. Eventually Donald’s grandson made his way to Boston, and voila!
So did Edward ‘hate’ the Welsh. No. Did the Welsh ‘hate’ him? Many did, clearly, and perhaps some did not. And really, all through Welsh history, Welsh lords and men colluded with the English against their compatriots. But the fact that he had a Welsh guard and the Welsh fought for him against the Scots doesn’t indicate any kind of love either. Edward’s goal was to extract resources from the Welsh and subjugate their country. Of that there can be no question. I don’t see the point of arguing whether or not they loved him for it.
It is a matter of record that the ‘Saxons’ invaded Britain in the last years of the Roman occupation, and then in full force after the Romans left the island in 410 AD. They marched away, seemingly without a backward glance, leaving the Britons–after 400 years of occupation–to fend for themselves. Map retrieved from: http://historiarex.com/e/en/225-anglo-saxon-invasions
These invaders, as the map to right shows, were not in fact all ‘Saxon’, but a combination of Jutes, Angles, Saxons, Franks, and Frisians, each hailing from a different region of the western coast of Europe.
The Angles, Saxons, and Jutes were Germanic peoples. From Wikipedia: They were “originally a small tribe living on the North Sea between the Elbe and Eider Rivers in the present Holstein. Their name, derived from their weapon called Seax, a knife, is first mentioned by the Roman author Ptolemy (about 130).
In 3rd and 4th century Germany, great tribal confederations of the Alamanni, Bavarians, Thuringians, Franks, Frisians, and Saxons arose. These took the place of the numerous petty tribes with their popular tribal form of government. With the exceptions of the Saxons all these confederations were ruled by kings; the Saxons were divided into a number of independent bodies under different chiefs, and in time of war these chieftains drew lots. This leader the other chiefs followed until the war ended.
In the third and fourth centuries the Saxons fought their way victoriously towards the west, and their name was given to the great tribal confederation that stretched towards the west exactly to the former boundary of the Roman Empire, consequently almost to the Rhine. Only a small strip of land on the right bank of the Rhine remained to the Frankish tribe. Towards the south the Saxons pushed as far as the Harz Mountains and the Eichsfeld, and in the succeeding centuries absorbed the greater part of Thuringia. In the east their power extended at first as far as the Elbe and Saale Rivers; in the later centuries it certainly extended much farther. All the coast of the German Ocean belonged to the Saxons except that west of the Weser, which the Frisians retained.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Saxony
From then on, there are differing views about how rampant the Saxon spread was. Certainly, it happened (language alone tells us that), but the exact timeline for the spread is not clear. The Battle of Mt. Badon (whether or not fought by Arthur) is said to have occurred around 500 AD, which held back the Saxon tide for a generation.
After that, however, it was unstoppable.