Welsh Christianity

In one of this season’s earlier videos, we talked about ‘early’ Welsh Christianity and religion. Today we are talking about what was different about Christianity in Wales in later eras. Christianity in the first centuries AD was in still to some degree competing with paganism, particularly following the fall of Rome. While Rome had officially become Christian in 388, not only was Britain located at the end of the Roman Empire at that time, Rome completely abandoned it by 410. That meant that the Christianity that developed in Wales was organized around small cells of believers, led by inspired leaders who came to be known as saints. That’s why the period was called ‘the age of Saints’, where men and women formed monasteries and convents, but with little to none of the hierarchy and oversight that came later. By 800 Read more…

St. David’s Cathedral

St. David, or Dewi Sant in Welsh, was one of the original saints of Wales in the 6th century, along with St. Kentigern and Gwenffrewi. St. David’s Cathedral has always been Norman, but it stands on the site of a monastery Dewi Sant founded around 500 AD. Like the other saints we talked about earlier in this season of videos, he was known for miracles, the most famous of which was the rising up of a hill on the spot where he was preaching. His symbol is the leek, which is why Welsh soldiers in the middle ages were known to go into battle with a leek pinned to their clothing and the leek remains a national symbol of Wales. Such was the renown of the monastic community, even hundreds of years after David’s death, that King Alfred is said Read more…

Santa Claus and the Wild Hunt

The origins of Santa Claus, like most Christmas traditions, are rooted in a blend of Christian and pagan traditions. ‘Santa Claus’, as he is currently represented in the United States, most resembles Sinterklaas, the Dutch St. Nicholas. “In the year 303, the Roman emperor Diocletian commanded all the citizens of the Roman Empire, including the citizens of Asia Minor, to worship him as a god. Christians, who believed in only one god, resisted the emperor’s orders and as a result were imprisoned. Saint Nicholas was among the many imprisoned. He was confined for more than five years, until Constantine came to power in 313 AD and released him. Later in life, Saint Nicholas became the Archbishop of Myra and the guardian of merchants, sailors and children. He performed many good deeds including miracles. It is said that Saint Nicholas stopped storms Read more…

The Anam Cara

The role of the anam cara or ‘soul friend’ in Celtic pre-Christian religion appears to have been that of a spiritual advisor.  I say ‘appears’ because I’m not sure that the position isn’t the product of a neo-pagan/new age spiritual tradition. This post is a product of a long discussion with a hospital chaplain (waiting for my husband’s colonoscopy–all is well).  We shared an interest in history and Celtic people, and he brought up the existence of the ‘anam cara’.  He stated that within the pre-Christian tradition among the Celts, the ‘anam cara’ was a spirituall leader or ‘soul friend’ who saw a person through birth (even perhaps, as a midwife), maturity, and death.  ‘Anam cara’ were true spiritual advisors. With the coming of Christianity, the Catholic church encountered significant resistance against conformity to Rome and one way to co-opt the Celtic Read more…